13 min

Markdown Wars - September 2014

Maybe this will be a new reality TV show. I'm glad that I have been writing in Textile, nearly every day since 2005.

My Junco and Grebe codebases allow markup writing in Textile, MultiMarkdown, and some HTML.

I've created my own flavor of Markdown/MultiMarkdown by adding some formatting commands that I want.

And I've added custom, Textile-like formatting commands to both apps that are available, regardless of which markup is used.

Old post about typing in plain-text, which has been my preferred way of typing for many years.


When I worked at the BSBO and NFO, I got frustrated with apps like Microsoft Word when I created a lightly formatted text file.

I disliked the way that Word would format my writing in unexpected ways. Many times, I had no idea how additional spacing appeared between lines.

The fancy pants wordprocessor was way overblown for most of my needs, so I would use Notepad or a simple blog tool.

I prefer to create plain text that gets formatted to HTML. I'm disinterested in Word and PDF files.

Old related posts

GitHub's Markdown flavor:

Markup language for screenwriters

2009 post:

2012 post:

Markdown test suite

Markdown, Gruber, and Atwood discussion from a couple years ago:


Sep 4, 2014

Hilarious. The geeks have crapped their pants.


wake up, log in to twitter, everyones pissed about markdown

I wonder if anyone got upset with MultiMarkdown, or did the creator of MultiMarkdown get permission to include "Markdown" in the name?




Sep 7, 2014 update - http://commonmark.org







http://talk.standardmarkdown.com/ http://talk.commonmark.org/



I apologize for any drama, I dislike drama, I like resolutions and forward progress. That is what I am aiming for.


It's good to object and debate, but some of the A-list geeks needlessly wigged out.

Verbal pissing matches occur in the Internet tubes. Sometimes, it's fun to be on the field participating, and other times, it's better to be a spectator.

After reading through posts from the past to the current, I agree with Atwood's standard initiative, and I think that Marco and Gruber knee-jerked and behaved disappointingly.

And the attempts at sarcastic humor were futile at best.

It appears that Gruber has shown no interest in advancing the Markdown movement in this decade.

Atwood has shown interest in improving and standardizing Markdown since 2007.

The new markup initiative will continue, regardless what Gruber thinks because too many other intelligent people from popular web services want this to happen.

Gruber can continue to write about Apple products while others continue to make it easy for people to write to the web.

Markdown's Perl code looks much less professional than Textile's Perl code.

Markdown needs a modern touch, regarding its development, standardization, testing, roadmap, etc. It needs to be a "real" project. What's wrong with that?

It's 2014 not 2004.


Sep 5, 2014


Winer commented:

Markdown is great, as-is.

For him, but not for me when I compare Markdown to Textile and MultiMarkdown.

For some reason, these geeks overlook the main reason for Atwood's desire to standardize how Markdown is suppose to work. Atwood gave a simple example in his blog post:

Consider this simple Markdown example:
# Hello there

This is a paragraph.

- one
- two
- three
- four

1. pirate
2. ninja
3. zombie

Just for that, I count fifteen different rendered outputs from 22 different Markdown parsers.

And the Perl module for Markdown fouls up the formatting when processing the above markup. I encounter this foul-up in my own Markdown typing, and it's annoying. But is this foul-up the proper way to format? I'm guessing not, but who knows for sure.

15 different rendered outputs from 22 Markdown parsers??

That's what the geeks need to focus on and quit wasting their brain cycles about parser names.

More from Winer's Sep 5, 2014 comment

I'm not going to read the piece about Atwood because I don't care. I used to think he was a pretty smart guy, and that maybe I'd like to work with him someday, but what I've seen now, I'm pretty sure I don't .

That's hilarious considering who wrote that. So Winer resorts to passive aggressive trash talking with his backhanded remark, "I used to think he was a pretty smart guy ..."

So Atwood helps create StackOverflow / StackExchange. He helps create a modern message board in Discourse. He helped design a new keyboard in the past couple years. But Winer with his classless remark thinks that Atwood has lost his smarts.

These guys are all infuriating and make me want to drop them from my reading list. They act like petulant children. They are so full of themselves sometimes. They also act authoritative as if what they say is the final word on the subject. They like to dish it out, but they cannot take it back.

Long live Textile, at least the Perl version, and whatever flavor of Markdown that I want to create.

I wonder if Atwood helped popularize Markdown among geekdom because StackOverflow.com incorporated its version of Markdown.

If StackOverflow had chosen Textile, would the markup world be different today?

I think that I'll continue to modify my version of the Perl Markdown module to follow the proposed standard and fix the flaws.

It's interesting that Atwood's so-called standard uses a couple defaults that I implemented in my version of Markdown.

  • For text lines separated by a return key, I have Markdown format those lines as separate lines like Textile does and not the default Markdown way of displaying the text on one line.
  • I have raw URLs automatically converted to a link. The default for Markdown is surround the URL with less-than and greater-than symbols to make the link.

Both of those default behaviors, however, can be reversed in my apps by using my own custom commands:

  • newline_to_br = no
  • url_to_link = no

Set to "no" and the formatting will work like the so-called normal Markdown.

Sep 8, 2014

Sep 8, 2014 - Scripting News - Reporters or press release writers?

Tomorrow 2000 reporters and bloggers will visit Apple in Cupertino, watch a stage performance with Apple's top execs, and write in gushing terms, the exact same story, every one of them, exactly as dictated by Apple Computer, Inc.

Meanwhile, there's been a rebellion in Markdown-land, a real story, not a press release rewrite, but there has been, as far as I can tell, not one story by any tech reporter. Confirming the belief that they only write stories that are sanctioned by big companies. Or news about their stock prices. Or rumblings from competitors about eating their lunch.

No conspiracy. The reason tech reporters don't write about Markdown-gate is because it's an insignificant issue even among tech journalists. I'm guessing most tech reporters don't use Markdown.

The general public, the holiday shopping and want-list crowd are interested in Apple's new products. So are all of the other tech companies competing against Apple.

Apple's big announcements on Tue, Sep 9, 2014 are worldwide news that interests millions of people. Comparably, a nearly undetectable amount of people are following Markdown-gate. It's a non-story, except for hard core geeks.

"... and write in gushing terms, ..."

Like Gruber? He'll probably be orgasmic about Apple's new product announcements. So will gazillions of other people around the globe. So what?

Both geeks and humans are interested in what Apple will be releasing. New iPhones, an iWatch, new laptops, new tablets, TV-something?, etc. It's going to be huge.

The iWatch is the one the product that I'm most interested in learning about.

When Apple's iWatch eventually goes on sale, how many companies with already existing similar products will disappear in a couple years?

The Pebble watch looks interesting. $150. C API for building apps. But will it still exist beyond 2015?


Ooo, sides.

I took the time to play around with Markdown again. I use it more at my other blog sites: MakeToledo.com and BirdBrainsBrewing.com. But I also use Textile too.

I only use a few basic commands from both markup languages. Whatever.

I've created enough other custom formatting commands, such as embedding media, template includes, etc., that I don't care what happens with Markdown or Textile because I learned basic HTML in 1996, so that's always a viable fall back option for me. And sometimes, I write HTML in my web posts. I prefer, however, the shortcuts provided by Textile and Markdown/MultiMarkdown.

From Dave's post:

I posted a link on Facebook to a section of a Reddit discussion about the future of Markdown. In that thread, a programmer laments that there is no formal grammar for Markdown. This was totally predictable. Once the format is in play, the extent to which theorists will want to debate it is almost boundless. By the time it's over, Markdown will be Lisp. Maybe that should be a corollary for Godwin's Law, except about format wars on the Internet.

As Jerry or George might say, "Sweet fancy Moses."

WTF? I'm convinced that hard core geeks search for reasons to hold Internet fights.


People who write web posts only in HTML are probably laughing.

More from Dave:

Really what I'm doing is siding with Markdown. We owe a debt of gratitude to Gruber, for creating Markdown and doing such a great job of getting it established.

In all that I've read, I've never seen anyone mention Aaron Swartz's contribution to Markdown. Only Gruber gets mentioned. Why is that? He created it, but he also worked with Aaron early on.

I have not seen Gruber mention Aaron during this recent spat, but then again, I've not tried to read every word created by everyone.


The Markdown language was created in 2004 by John Gruber with substantial contributions from Aaron Swartz, with the goal of allowing people “to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, and optionally convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML)

Mar 19, 2004 - Markdown - at Aaron's blog site

More from Dave:

Now it is what it is. A bunch of programmers fighting over who gets to be the Holy Father of Markdown is only going to create confusion, it won't actually change what Markdown is.

First of all, two major programmer sites have created their own flavors of Markdown: GitHub and Stack Overflow. One of those flavors may become the de facto standard.

GitHub provides a blogging environment. GitHub wants to make it easier for non-techies to use its site and products. GitHub offers paid services to businesses. GitHub employs a lot of developers who can create and/or maintain a markdown language.

I could see the GitHub-flavored Markdown being copied by other parsers. If I was creating or deploying a markup parser from scratch, I would copy all or most of what the Github-flavor offers. Syntax highlighting for programming languages may be unnecessary if the majority of content producers were not programmers.

MultiMarkdown contains a lot of features that are intended for writers who create research papers or other lengthy documents that may need footnotes, an index, or a glossary.

It would be tough to create one markup to rule them all. A Github-flavored Markdown may work for the IT department, but it could be lacking for the HR department.

I should analyze a significant number of my posts at JotHut and ToledoTalk to determine what markup formatting options that I use most. I can think of the obvious ones listed below in approximately most used to least used order.

  1. links
  2. bullet points
  3. embedding images with changing the display size of the image
  4. bolding
  5. underlining
  6. italicizing
  7. blockquote
  8. increase font size
  9. decrease font size
  10. strikethrough
  11. headers 1,2,3
  12. numeric lists
  13. tables
  14. footnotes

my own formatting commands:

  1. q. / q..
  2. br.
  3. hr.
  4. code. / code..
  5. embedding youtube

I should probably use definition lists more, but I don't. Textile supports DLs, but Markdown does not. I would need to use MultiMarkdown.

I support embedding other media, such as Gist, Vimeo, Facebook video, and Kickstarter video.

I'm not positive, but it seems that Markdown supports more sophisticated mixed-formatting, such as with lists.

I generally produce simple bullet points that are mostly one level and occasionally nesting down to two or three levels.

I don't want to get bogged down in complicated formatting markup within a web post.

I like GitHub's fenced code block feature in its Markdown.


traditional 4 space indent code blocks should be replaced entirely by fenced code blocks

Good idea. The above line was simply an example for something else and not a real suggestion.

My code. / code.. block command is a fenced code block, but it has a max width and height, so a large blob of text is displayed with scrollbars within a page. This has merit too.

I'll keep my code. / code.. setup and maybe add the opening and closing three backtic code block.

I added some additional formatting commands to the Markdown Perl module, such as strikethrough and underline, but most of my custom formatting commands reside in their own module, so that they can be available when I write in Textile or Markdown.

As of Sep 8, 2014:

May as well learn the HTML spec.

I think the Geeks will overthink it and make it a blobby mess, which is probably what Dave Winer has been talking about.

Maybe check with how IA Writer uses Markdown in its writing apps.

Check with how Medium.com allows formatting. They don't call it Markdown, but some syntax seems similar. Or more importantly, just learn what simple formatting commands Medium.com offers.

I don't like the fact that Markdown provides numerous ways to do the same kind of formatting, such as for bolding, italicizing, creating headers, and creating lists. Textile is more specific.



With Markdown, I use:

  • pound signs to create headers
  • asterisks to create bullet points
  • the number one followed by a period to create all numeric list lines
  • asterisks for bolding
  • underscores for italicizing

Old discussion

New discussion

#writing - #markup - #markdown - #textile - #design - #blog_jr

By JR - 2359 words
created: - updated:
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