yet more harmful

bowerbird bowerbird at
Sun Nov 24 15:27:07 EST 2013

christoph said:

> Thanks for that article, bowerbird,

> I found it quite entertaining.

you're welcome. i'm glad.


i wrote the "harmful" piece as my personal "goodbye",
to markdown in general, and this listserve in particular.

so i'll answer here, but let's not make it too protracted.
so, if you respond in any lengthy way, go backchannel.


christoph said:

> Fragmentation of Markdown specifications

> probably isn’t a great problem for most people

> because most texts are short-lived.


> Most texts are also short-form

this, all by itself, in a reverse-field sort of way,
touches deep and important issues that would
surely cause this thread to go entirely too long.

so let me just answer your points with a question:

"what is society's current solution as its file-format
for historical archive and re-use of its documents,
and how well is it now serving those dual purposes?"


christoph said:

> I would like to play with zml — however,

> have you even published an app or some script?

i've built, coded, researched, and recoded a whole system.
then tore it down and built it again. and again and again.
then ported in to perl. then rebuilt it again. and again.
then ported it to python. then javascript. then rebuilt it.

i've got offline versions (cross-platform) and web-apps.
i've got server-side, a.p.i., client-side, and all-in-a-page.

i can load-and-save from local-storage, your hard-drive,
dropbox-and-5-other-cloud-services, or one of my sites.

i am now beginning a phased release of all these things.

i must confess that i am confused about how to do this,
but here is one of the initial thrusts toward that direction:


i'd appreciate any feedback you have on any of that.
goes for anyone here. if you wanna see stuff, ask me.


christoph said:

> I tend to disagree on your opinion on split screens

> for input and output. I find it very distracting

> to see what my text will be rendered as while I

> try to concentrate on its structure and content.

the preponderance of wysiwyg is an indication that
you're the one who's out of step with the mainstream.

but i understand your position, because i often share it.
most markdown users are comfortable without preview,
or they wouldn't be using markdown.

so i am not advocating a preview should be "required".
(as if we could even do that.) especially on a first-draft.

still, terpstra's "marked" has proven a definite demand.

> Also, since I care a lot about typography, too

in a sense, that refutes what you just said right before.

unless the reason it is "very distracting" is _because_
you "care a lot about typography". which i understand.

either way, you can just turn off the preview.

or -- better yet -- learn to ignore it selectively.

i've learned that the people who care about typography
generally care about it too much, and that they would be
good to let go of a little of it, for their sake, and for ours.

> seeing a — for the most part —

> preliminary and incomplete rendering

> of the final output immediately

i'm not sure why you think the rendering will be
"preliminary and incomplete". you see some text
-- perhaps a couple paragraphs -- and their output.
and if the text doesn't change, the display is "final".

but yes, again, if your text is still in a jumble, then
a preview won't mean much. so simply turn it off.

> makes me want to work on the displaying rules

> (CSS, in most cases). Where’s that different

> from fiddling with styles in Word etc.?

the system doesn't make it easy to fiddle with .css.

it only makes it easy to edit the text. that's by design.

at some point, you have to develop the self-control.

> I do like the way some editors give me a hint of

> what the text will be like in the final output

> by way of syntax highlighting or semi-wysiwyg

i see you've made it to the half-way house in your
quest to reach the goal of full self-control. good job! :+)

half-way has always seemed half-assed to me, but
to each his own.

> à la Byword or Writer. What is your take on those?

my attention-span is too large for one line at a time. ;+)

heck, i don't even like the systems which require me
to chop up books into _chapters_. too reductionistic.

but the world of writers is large and highly variegated.
i value the final product, not the way it was generated.
so as far as tools and processes go, i say it's all good.
if it works for you, _use_it;_ don't let anyone sway you.

> the bigger problem we face today is the _output_

> of electronic texts. A good looking Kindle book,

> for example, has yet to be shown to me.

i agree with you on the main point.

then again, almost everyone agrees on the main point.

but once you try to go deeper, most people cannot say
what it is that would _make_ a "good-looking e-book".

(and often their inarticulation becomes _so_ engulfing
it can lead them to strike back at you for even asking,
as if you'd asked them to justify some religious tenet.)

as for kindle e-books, we'd have to decide _what_
specifics to discuss, from how output is a result of
transitory factors (e.g., the chip, the screen) that will
certainly improve in later/future models, rather than
factors that might be more slow to change (such as
the file-format, where we might be stuck with kf8 for
longer than we want, like we were stuck with mobi),
versus things that will never change (like the sheer
impossibilities of screens the size of an index-card).

> Why can’t ebooks look as nice as printed books?

e-books can look as nice as printed books.

indeed, we can make an e-book that looks
_exactly_ like the printed-book, a clone,
where the small deviations are because
the digital one is _closer_to_perfection_
(e.g., the leading is far more consistent).

heck, these .pdf examples were created using ms-word:




more at:


also see:


those were .pdf, yes, but you can do it with .html.

as long as you are working with one screen-size,
and don't allow the font-size to be changed either
-- which, remember, held true for printed-books --
it is possible to make e-books that look quite nice,
especially now that we have "retina" quality screens.

but we want our e-books to do more than that today.

i'm not defending today's e-book apps, because they
are crap, but a simple comparison with "printed books"
ignores a lot of the complications of the actual situation.

> See an exception here:

i think betteridge is full'o'crap too. but no need to discuss.
not here, for sure. but all his main points are throwbacks.

> Probably because html, epub, mobi and the like

> are not adequate?

"adequate" is a relative term, so it's difficult to decide.

but we can easily decide they are far too far from ideal,
and that anyone with a moderate amount of book-sense
(like me) and a moderate level of coding-skills (like me)
can do a better job than the bureaucrats in charge so far,
whose monstrosities were matched only by the sad state
of general library software in toto, and now

> When writing some longer texts years ago

> I quite liked Tex.

try "multimedia composer", from fletcher penney.


let me know how it works for you, i'm curious.

> Wouldn’t it be possible for ebook readers

> to render TeX documents?

too many complications there, at the moment.

insufficient chip speed, no rendering library,
very little demand, and no programming skill.

heck, the current batch of idiots can't even get
_margins_ straight, and you want them to do
_mathematical_equations?_ ain't gonna work.


again, i'd appreciate any feedback, backchannel.


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