Just a Theory

By David E. Wheeler

Posts about comments

Now with Markdown!

Lately I’ve been fiddling a bit with Markdown, John Gruber’s minimalist plain text markup syntax. I’ve become more and more attracted to Markdown after I’ve had to spend some time using Trac and, to a lesser degree, Twiki and MediaWiki. The plain-text markup syntax in these projects is…how shall I put this?…gawdawful. Why do I hate these wiki syntaxes? Becaus they’re unnatural. Maybe it’s just because I’m most familiar with it, but Trac’s syntax is just completely random and inconsistent. Trying to get anything other than simple paragraphs formatted just right is just a giant pain in the ass. Just try have multiple paragraphs in a hierarchical bulleted list and you’ll see what I mean. If I wanted to worry about space this much I’d hack Python! I mean, seriously, there’s a reason I write my blog entries in pure HTML. It’s not so user-friendly, but at least I know exactly how something will be formatted when I’m done.

But Markdown is different. It’s syntax is almost exactly like what I’ve been using in lain-text email messages since the mid-1990s. It’s humane in a way that Textile only approaches in its inline markup (as long as you don’t use attributes, of course). There are a few oddities, such as the definition list syntax used by PHP Markdown Extra and MultiMarkdown is a bit unnatural. But overall, it’s quite close to what I type anyway. I’ve been writing the pgTAP documentation in Markdown, using Discount to generate the HTML you see on the Web site (plus my own custom hack to create the table of contents), and it’s just a thrill that it’s so easy to maintain: I can easily read and edit the README file like any other text file, and then generate the HTML for the Web site with a simple make target. It has been such a great experience that I’m tempted to stop writing documentation in POD!

So in my next app, I’ll likely be making use of MultiMarkdown for the end-user management of content. It has nearly everything I want, formatting-wise, and I can likely get used to the few cases where its syntax seems a bit weird to me. Plus, I can then use the generated HTML to output PDFs and other formats from the same document. I expect it to be a dream to work with. (Oh, and thanks to Aristotle Pagaltzis for patiently putting up with my questions about markdown in private email messages; they’ll help keep me from saying anything too embarrassing on the Markdown mail list!)

In the meantime, I’ve modified the comment system on this blog to support Markdown. You can still use HTML in comments, same as always, as Markdown passes HTML through unmolested. But few of you ever did that, and I was always adding HTML tags to the comments. Now maybe I won’t have to: Markdown is so easy and natural to use, that the vast majority of commenters will just leave paragraphs and they’ll look beautiful.

At any rate, you now have one less reason not to leave a comment!

Looking for the comments? Try the old layout.

New Just a Theory Blog Policy: Limited Comment Period

I’ve had an open policy on comments on this blog since it started. A couple years ago, I added a timeout on trackback pings, so that you can’t trackback ping a posting more than two weeks after I wrote it. But I left manual comments in, along with the simple math bit, since comments and spam have been low volume.

Curiously, though, although this is not a popular blog, and I’ve posted to it all of twice in the last six months, I’ve been getting a lot more comment spam in the last few weeks. I’ve been having to manually delete upwards of 100 spam comments a day. Well, I’m bored with that. So I hereby announce a new comment policy: You can comment on a blog post for up to two weeks after I post it. After that, the comment period will be over. I’m sorry to have to do this, and maybe it will change if I ever switch to Word Press or something, but for now, I think it will do.

The vast majority of non-spam comments I get on any particular post after two weeks or so is a request for support. So I don’t think that the new policy will hamper anyone much, and for those looking for support, well, this is not the appropriate forum. But if you do feel compelled to comment on something after the comment period, just email your comment to me and I’ll add it in as I deem appropriate.

Thanks for understanding. I really appreciate getting this time back every day. And, of course, if you’d like to respond to this new policy in any way, well, you have two weeks to leave a comment on this post. ;-)

Looking for the comments? Try the old layout.