What does Markdown do with HTML comments? Recommendation on Markdown file extension?

Seumas Mac Uilleachan seumas at idirect.ca
Mon May 9 17:20:36 EDT 2011

On 05/09/2011 11:34 AM, bucephalus org wrote:



> On Mon, May 9, 2011 at 3:30 AM, Dr. Drang <drdrang at gmail.com

> <mailto:drdrang at gmail.com>> wrote:


> On Sun, May 8, 2011 at 7:28 PM, bucephalus org <bucephalus.org

> <http://bucephalus.org>@gmail.com <http://gmail.com>> wrote:

> > I think, even Markdowns own plurality, e.g. that

> > _this_

> > and

> > *this*

> > are identical, is not helping anybody, but only increasing the

> learning and

> > reading problems.


> Is anyone really confused by this? Or by the two ways of doing

> headers? I doubt it.


> I'll bet most people on this list will agree that Markdown's

> flexibility is a prime reason for its success. It accommodates what

> people are already doing.



> Sorry, but I disagree.

> The success of Markdown is just not its flexibility, but its

> simplicity and convenience.


> There may be one good reason for the double syntax in some of its

> features (like <strong> and <h1>), and that is history. If there are

> communities that use different standards, then it can be a good choice

> to import that in a formal language, because it integrates standard

> conventions and that is convenient for (new) users. I am not sure how

> this worked in case of the Markdown syntax.


> But in a clean design of a new formal syntax, flexibility is a bad

> choice. This is what I think I learned by making this mistake myself

> on several occasions.


> You say, "Is anyone really confused by this? Or by the two ways of

> doing headers? I doubt it." Well, I was confused. Of course, the

> double rule for say *this* and _this_ is simple and is not that hard

> to understand. But I had neither a history or habit with either *this*

> or _that_. So, I spend some time on the question, what the best choice

> would be and which one I should make my own default. You may say,

> "whatever you prefer". But this is what I exactly don't expect from a

> standard: to be left with this choices. When people read my markdown

> and when I read other peoples texts, I rather want us to use the same

> conventions.

> And more important for me was the other "freedom" I mentioned: that

> there is no standard file extension. I did spend one or two hours

> trying to find an answer to which extension I should use for my own

> texts. And not only did it waste my time, this ambiguity really makes

> my life more difficult, because the tools I wrote don't know how to

> deal with it.


> What you call "flexibility" will lead to the same problems, that many

> mainstream programming languages suffer from. When they grow from tiny

> tools to big systems and communities, people ask for standards. And

> then, all these "good style" recommendations need to be agreed upon

> and have to be learned on top of the syntax itself. What you call

> "flexibility" is counter-productive in standards and as a general

> feature, it is a misunderstanding of the way a formal language works

> in time.


> Well, Markdown is a nice design. And, as I said, the few "double

> standards" might be well motivated and actually a good choice. And for

> the rest, Markdown is not ambiguous in principle. I used the

> ".markdown" extension in the past, and I probably stick to the habit

> until the Markdown community comes up with a decision and helps me out

> of my misery. ;-)



The original intent for Markdown was a tool to add formatting to text
without having to use html. As such it relied heavily on the existing
conventions used in email. That is why there is more than one way to add
markup for certain things (emphasis, strong, headers) because there was
more than one way in common use at the time. There were in some cases
more than two or three, and I believe all were considered by John Gruber
and Aaron Swartz as they developed the original syntax. But Markdown is
not a "formal syntax" and was never intended to be. It is not a
replacement for html and was never intended to be. It is a way to
unobtrusively add syntax to text while leaving the text highly readable.
And part of the success of that lies in the flexibility of the syntax.
If I need to emphasise a sentence with asterisks I can use _..._,
otherwise I tend to use *...*. Thus the multiplicity of options for
syntax for me is a feature.

If you need a formal syntax, consider creole. It is almost as
unobtrusive as Markdown.
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