Metadata syntax (was Universal syntax for Markdown)

M Harris mark at
Wed Aug 17 18:17:47 EDT 2011

So, hi all. First time commenting on the list.

I personally think having tags (whether of type "author:" or type "by")
is useful for two reasons.
One: It allows multiple tags to be entered. Two, it clears up the
potential problem listed by Fletcher regarding tags.

by Christoph Freitag
Affiliation: XYZ
by Fletcher T. Penney
Affiliation: ABC
tags: Markdown, Standardization, MMD, Metadata
desc: An interesting discussion of how metadata could be included
usefully in Markdown, whilst being readable etc.

Regarding the localisation problem then, I thought that this was a
solved problem when it came to computing? (At least in the cases of the
major world languages.) A parser could have a table of equivalent words,
so in English "by", en français "de" (pardon my French*).

* By which I mean, I'm not sure that's correct, because I'm only a

> From: Christoph Freitag <mail at>

> Fletcher, sorry, but personally -- despite loving MMD (and even having used MMD CMS for a diary) -- I have never liked the way MMD handles metadata. Partly this is because, not being a native English speaker, I dislike English meta descriptors. A localization could resolve this -- but I still think it looks ugly. However, do you actually need descriptors at all? I doubt it:


> * The title could be anything "at the start" of the document. Blosxom is a good example. Anything up to the first blank line is the title.

> * After that, anything between the first blank line and the second blank line would be treated as additional metadata.

> * Instead of the "Author:" descriptor, explicitely stated, it should suffice to write "by". What follows is the name of the author. (Localization would be easier as only this "keyword" would have to be known to the parser in a number of languages.)

> * Dates would be self-explanatory, to a clever parser.

> * Any list of words separated by commas on a single line would be treated as tags.

> * Any more fanciful meta descriptors might be given explicitly just as in MMD before. This could be left to non-standard, personalized variants of Markdown.


> Thus the following would be a valid document:


> ---

> Test Document for Automatic Metadata Detection


> by Christoph Freitag

> 08/17/2011

> Markdown, Standardization, MMD, Metadata


> A Markdown document may contain metadata in a human readable form that the parser converts to a machine readable form of metadata automatically. A casual reader will understand the content directly and without distraction. Bowerbird will love this.

> From: "Fletcher T. Penney" <fletcher at>

> You mention the English-centric nature of MMD metadata. This is certainly true, but no more so than HTML itself. One could certainly localize MMD to use any language you like (the beauty of open source), but to match your proposal in multiple languages would be quite complicated.


> For example, the following are valid MMD metadata dates, and easily used:


> date: 8/17/2011

> date: August 17th, 2011

> date: 2011-08-17

> date: 17/8/2011

> date: 14. Juni 2001

> date: 8 avril 2000


> Writing a parser that would correctly catch all of these dates in any language would be quite difficult, and prone to error.


> You mention tags as being easily recognized, but that this is not always true:


> A sample document


> by John Smith, MD

> Director of Palliative Care, Division of General Medicine, Medical University of Somewhere


> While perhaps not the best example of potential problems, this would be incorrectly interpreted as tags, when the author probably implies that this represents his academic affiliation and would like it to be properly placed after his name on the title page, or on the slide deck if generating via beamer.

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