Markdown: The Spec

Standards processes are not to be missed. They are grand spectacles that unfold in real-time. They are fraught with personalities, big egos, and grand ideological dialogs. It’s like West Wing, but you get to see everything between the snappy dialog. Even if you only read a little bit about standards its easy to see how all of this can be quite entertaining. All of this spectacle would be okay if it wasn’t of any consequence. Except, that it is of consequence. It’s tragic that some of the most important pieces of technology get wrapped into these odd structures of control.

Here we are though, and we might be gearing up for an interesting era in standards “Markdown: The Spec”. Yesterday, I wrote about how Markdown could be incredibly important in the near future. In that post I mentioned that Jeff Atwood has made a call for a standard. Here is what he wrote:

“I propose that Stack Exchange, GitHub, Meteor, Reddit, and any other company with lots of traffic and a strategic investment in Markdown, all work together to come up with an official Markdown specification, and standard test suites to validate Markdown implementations.”

In large part I agree with this. I see standards as helpful, but I was less focused on a potential standard and more focused on broad trends that might bolster the future of Markdown. Others though, reacted more pointedly. On Macdrifter Gabe Weatherhead said:

“I don’t understand the obvious omission of Fletcher Penny’s MultiMarkdown (MMD). MMD has a very clear specification. It also has an openly available test suite. Is the issue that it is not a consortium of companies that Jeff likes? Nowhere does he mention MMD and it seems very unlikely that he does not know about it.”

So, the stage is set. If there is going to be a standards process we are already seeing the gears working. One question I am sure many people are asking is what role Markdown’s creator will take. John Gruber hasn’t said much, but there has been a few things said on Twitter over the last week or so. The Coding Horror blog post was published on October 25th:

@gruber: @briandigital If you liked the original, which I created dictatorially, what makes you think you’d like a sequel from by a committee? 7:06 PM - 25 Oct 12

@codinghorror: well, no response from @gruber on the Future of Markdown. Looks like the new name for Markdown is gonna be YankeesSuck. - 12:29 PM - 27 Oct 12

@gruber: @codinghorror When you tell me to jump, should I ask “How high?” - 1:18 PM - 27 Oct 12

@gruber: @codinghorror Next step is for you to offer a $5m donation if I release my college records, right? - 1:19 PM - 27 Oct 12

@codinghorror: @gruber I just wanted a response yea or nay with maybe 1 para of elaboration. That did not seem unreasonable. - 1:33 PM - 27 Oct 12

@codinghorror: ok @gruber did respond, finally – he’s gonna think about it. I would love to continue with the name Markdown in some form. 9:37 PM - 27 Oct 12

and then today:

@codinghorror: An open letter to open letters: http://www.lateenough.com/2011/08/an-open-letter-to-open-letters/ - 2:14 PM - 29 Oct 12

@asherlc: @codinghorror Like your letter to @gruber? - 2:57 PM - 29 Oct 12

@gruber: @asherlc @codinghorror Ha! - 3:12 PM - 29 Oct 12

@codinghorror: @asherlc maybe, but but my letter was to Markdown, and @gruber was cc’ed out of respect. Already underway! - 3:45 PM - 29 Oct 12

@gruber: @codinghorror You realize that “Markdown” is not a person and can’t read, right? - 4:03 PM - 29 Oct 12

@codinghorror: @gruber I’m just trying to help make sure Markdown, the concept, is still alive when the rest of us… aren’t. Isn’t that the point? - 4:33 PM - 29 Oct 12

Sometimes spread out over a couple of days its hard to see the whole thread of a conversation on twitter. Also, there is probably a much larger off-line dialog going on that isn’t leaving a public trail.

It’s clear to me that this is completely precedented and is starting out just right for a standards process of this scale.

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Tagged under markdown, specs, standards