What do you think about Markdown?

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JoshyPHP
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What do you think about Markdown?

Post by JoshyPHP » Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:01 am

Hello,

I'm the author of a text-formatting library named s9e\TextFormatter. It handles BBCodes, HTML and other markup. If you're curious, there's a RFC about it at Area51.

I'm currently working on a Markdown plugin and doing research about Markdown usage in general, and in forums in particular. It's easy to see how Markdown is used in commenting system such as the ones used on Reddit, StackExchange or GitHub, where comments tend to be short and not reference each other, but it's harder to figure out how it relates to forums.

I have a few questions for the community at large, if you can answer any of those I'd be grateful :)
  • Would you want to use Markdown in your own forums? Provided it does not pose a security risk such as allowing unchecked HTML.
  • Would you want to decide between BBCodes and Markdown globally, or should it be a preference for each user? It would be complicated for a Markdown user to quote a BBCodes user, and vice-versa. Or would you want to use both at the same time?
Also, if you have (or know of) a forum that uses Markdown by default, please feel free to post a link to it. Thanks!

While I'm at it, I don't want to influence the replies but here's my personal opinion. As a user, I like Markdown. It's great for quickly setting things bold or italic, using inline code with backticks, the link syntax is easier, and paragraphs look nicer than using two <br/>. On the other hand, unlike BBCodes it's not extensible, the quote syntax suuuuuuuuuucks for forums (it's alright on Reddit) and having to escape some characters with a backslash is a bit annoying.
I wrote the thing that does the BBCodes in 3.2. Unless it broke yours, in which case it was somebody else with a similar name.

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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by Arty » Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:21 am

I find it to be very inconvenient and confusing. It uses certain keywords that are often used normally, such as > at start of line. It also replaces html entities with html code, so pasting < would convert it to < which is not what posters usually want.

It makes up syntax that is hard to remember and doesn't make sense. For example, syntax for links:

Code: Select all

[foo]: http://example.com/  "Optional Title Here"
[foo]: http://example.com/  'Optional Title Here'
[foo]: http://example.com/  (Optional Title Here)
Does that make any sense? Not to me.

BBCode is much simpler and logical.

BBCode can be extended easily if correct syntax is used from start, like

Code: Select all

[quote] <-- no parameters
[quote="User"] <-- quoting user as it is now
[quote user="User" post="123"] <-- extendable syntax
not mess that some forums use:

Code: Select all

[quote="User,123"] <-- bad syntax, not extendable
I don't know what you mean about escaping characters with backslash. Maybe you've confused bbcode implementation on forums with some bad implementation?

Also I think it would be much easier to use BBCode with WYSIWYG editor than Markdown because BBCode structure is logical like HTML structure.

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JoshyPHP
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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by JoshyPHP » Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:34 am

The quote syntax with > is a sore point of mine as well. Especially when nesting quotes, and because the > character is optional after the first line.

Markdown has two link syntaxes: reference-style and inline. The one you posted is the reference style and I agree that it really sucks. (although it might be good for big documents that use references such as white papers) The inline syntax goes like this: [link text](http://example.org).

The backslash is used to escape special characters in Markdown. For example if you want a word between literal asterisks you have to use \*foo\*. Or if you want to use the emoji ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ you have to escape the first backslash because it's a special character plus the underscore so that it doesn't trigger italic and therefore you have to use ¯\\\_(ツ)_/¯.
I wrote the thing that does the BBCodes in 3.2. Unless it broke yours, in which case it was somebody else with a similar name.

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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by MichaelC » Tue Oct 01, 2013 3:29 pm

I'm currently working with the W3C to create a Markdown standard so I'm an advocate of it but I do believe that BBcode is more extensible. Markdown is designed for simple formatting (bold, headings, lists and a few other small things).
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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by JoshyPHP » Tue Oct 01, 2013 4:41 pm

Do you expect any activity from that W3C group? In early July this year I enquired about future Markdown/Rockdown on Meteor's mailing list (if you remember, David Greenspan of Meteor is the one who prompted Jeff Atwood to post about The Future of Markdown) but it must be a sensitive subject for them because my email was summarily deleted with no explanation. I contacted Jeff Atwood a few days later and the response I received indicated that whatever they(?) are doing, they are doing it in private. Shortly after, he tweeted this.
I wrote the thing that does the BBCodes in 3.2. Unless it broke yours, in which case it was somebody else with a similar name.

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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by MichaelC » Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:23 pm

We'll see in time. It might work, it might not.
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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by imkingdavid » Wed Oct 02, 2013 2:41 am

I like markdown on Reddit but I'm not sure it's really practical on a bulletin board, where posts are likely to be longer and may require more complex formatting. With BBCode you know what each tag does at a glance ( is always italics and is bold, but with markdown I'm stuck counting asterisks and crossing my fingers that I placed enough in the right spots). Also, given our Custom BBCode system, markdown would be limited in that it would be (as far as I know) unable to support those added codes.

Ultimately, if we drop the requirement of wrapping BBcodes in square brackets prefixing a forward slash to signal the end of the bbcode, it probably wouldn't be hard to emulate some of the markdown syntax. For instance, if we allowed a bbcode to be simple a backtick `, one could create a BBcode using that which would do the same thing that the bbcode currently does, or * would do the same as [*], etc. The tricky one would be ** because * would already be matched. An order or precedence would solve that issue, I guess, but anyway...

Ultimately I think if it were a plugin that could be added as desired, that would be fine, but I'm not sure it's something I'd want to support being in the core.
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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by Dugi » Wed Oct 02, 2013 3:42 pm

I have not seen many websites implementing this feature; I've only tried it in the stack network. It's quite good, but I'm not sure if it would fit a bulletin board. I'm not gonna go through the words everyone above said, they express my thoughts very well, but I'd like to add that a feature like this one would cause confusion to a lot of users who are used to the BBCode system.

phpBB is known for its current BBCode system and many would get dissatisfied with its replacement/removal, while only a little amount would be happy (if any). And as David said: phpBB also has the custom BBCode additions feature, which would be pretty tough to integrate with the markdown system.

I don't see the markdown system bringing a lot of benefits to phpBB. These are just my 2 cents.
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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by Pony99CA » Wed Oct 09, 2013 8:02 pm

Thumbs down to Markdown (at least in phpBB). BBCode is easy (mostly) and familiar to many phpBB users. For users not familiar with BBCode, they're probably not familiar wtih Markdown, either, and a WYSIWYG editor would benefit them more.

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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by Ger » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:03 am

Pony99CA wrote:Thumbs down to Markdown (at least in phpBB). BBCode is easy (mostly) and familiar to many phpBB users. For users not familiar with BBCode, they're probably not familiar wtih Markdown, either, and a WYSIWYG editor would benefit them more.

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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by CarstenF » Thu Nov 21, 2013 1:37 pm

I like Markdown a lot, and have often wished it would be present in phpBB (as an alternative or in addition to BBCodes).

This is mostly because Markdown much easier to write / to type than all the square brackets and backslashes that BBCode requires. For example, typing

Code: Select all

[i]Hello[/i]
in the normal German keyboard layout requires these keystrokes:

Code: Select all

AltGr + 8   // for [
i
AltGr + 9   // for ]
Hello
AltGr + 8   // for [
Shift + 7   // for /
i
AltGr + 9   // for ]
I don't know if this is better with the normal US / English keyboard layouts, but for me this kind of cumbersome text input is what makes me strongly dislike BBCode.

Lists are another example in the same spirit: Personally, I love them and use them frequently, but I frequently feel like I'm the only one. Working through the process of getting all the opening and closing tags right seems a burden that most users don't have the patience to. What they rather write is

Code: Select all

1. First item

2. second item
thereby completely foregoing and (consciously or unconsciously) ignoring the fact that that is not a list at all.

Of course, BBCode is more powerful than Markdown, but at least a subset of Markdown that complements it would make the writing of posts much easier and enjoyable. :D
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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by callumacrae » Wed Apr 30, 2014 12:44 pm

Sorry for the bump but Google brought me here.

I <3 MarkDown. I write posts on my blog in MarkDown, and I wrote my book in AsciiDoc, which is fairly similar.

I think one thing to consider is that MarkDown is easily readable by non-technical users. Headers are created using hyphens:

Code: Select all

Header
--------
People have been using *asterisks* to emphasise text longer than MarkDown and BBCode have been around.

- This
- is
- readable (and doesn't require HTML knowledge)

Code: Select all

| Syntax        | How easy is it to make tables? |
| ------------- | ------------------------------ |
| MarkDown      | Easy. Even readable.           |
| BBCode        | You're joking, right?          |

> This is a quote.
> Does it remind you of anything?
> Oh yes, *emails*! People are used to this syntax.


----


Another section. [hr]? lol.
Arty wrote: It makes up syntax that is hard to remember and doesn't make sense. For example, syntax for links:

Code: Select all

[foo]: http://example.com/  "Optional Title Here"
[foo]: http://example.com/  'Optional Title Here'
[foo]: http://example.com/  (Optional Title Here)
Does that make any sense? Not to me.
Did you just take a syntax that doesn't even exist in BBCode and say that it was too complicated? Nice.
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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by EXreaction » Sun May 04, 2014 4:25 am

Markdown is not as easy to read as BBCode. What will '''this''' look like? Will it look like this or this or something else? Writing it is even worse--I need to reference a help page every time I want to write anything in Markdown on any site.

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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by CarstenF » Sun May 04, 2014 5:29 pm

EXreaction wrote:Markdown is not as easy to read as BBCode. [...] Writing it is even worse--I need to reference a help page every time I want to write anything in Markdown on any site.
Uhhh... are you really saying that this:

Code: Select all

*Hello*

  - this
  - is
  - a
      - nested
  - list
is not as easy to read, and even worse to write, than this:

Code: Select all

[i]Hello[/i]

[list]
[*] this
[*] is
[*] a
[list] [*] nested [/list]
[*] list[/list]
? Well, I'm shocked. :o :shock:
What will '''this''' look like?
Does it matter?

You'd not have to use it if you don't know it. In fact, it seems quite obvious that the introduction of Markdown to phpBB would have to be done in a backwards-compatible manner, so that all those who used to use BBcode and want to continue to use it, can do so without negative side effects.

If BBcode, Markdown or both are used could e.g. be a setting for the board admin or even to the individual user.
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Re: What do you think about Markdown?

Post by PayBas » Sun May 04, 2014 8:15 pm

If it can somehow be used alongside normal BBcodes, I'd definitely use it :).

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