On Writing

The Problem

I used to write in word processors and use formatting, but I found that most of the time all I really want is words. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make your meaning clear with only text and a few simple pieces of markup. We learned to do this many, many years ago with early email systems that only allowed text, and we learned to do it well. When I first started to work with the web, I worked in text as well, though I “coded” my HTML by hand.

Now, though, we want WYSIWYG text editors, complex blogging platforms, and similar things to do all the heavy lifting for us. The problem is, as I have discovered, is that eventually the maintenance of those complex editors and platforms greatly reduces the pleasures of just creating and sharing great content.

I admit that my own content may not meet the standards of truly great content, but the general feeling is still there. Although posting to Wordpress is relatively easy, and it does handle image uploading and related tasks for me fairly well, I shudder every time I am forced to dig into the software at all:

I really respect what the creators of Wordpress have managed to do, both in creating software that works (most of the time) and that is immensely popular, but I’m in the market for something simpler. Something that cares more about the content, images and words, than about plugins, whiz-bangery, and complication.

Something that won’t fall flat on its face if a bunch of people come knocking. Or that won’t result in my web site being compromised because morons wrote one of the PHP scripts that was included with a theme.

The Way Forward

I need to find or create something new, simple, based in text and mostly static rendering. Something without uneccesary complication. Since I don’t know exactly the best way to accomplish that, research is necessary.

Ideas include writing something of my own, in PHP, or a Python or Ruby framework. Other options include relatively simple scripts calling a few processors.

Either way I think I’ll do the majority of my writing in Markdown or one of its derivatives and avoid raw HTML for simple things as much as possible.

Take this example from my own Wordpress site for a reason why:

<p><a href="http://steveblock.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Morning-Facade.jpg"><img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-3741" title="Morning Facade" src="http://steveblock.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Morning-Facade-600x450.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" /></a></p>

<p>I took this picture while standing in front of a building.</p>

In Markdown, on a site that wasn’t badly designed, I could write that as:

[![Morning Facade][2]][1]

I took this picture while standing in front of a building.

[1]: /images/2011/10/Morning-Facade.jpg
[2]: /images/2011/10/Morning-Facade-600x450.jpg (Morning Facade)

Definitely not perfect, but at least it is clear, and the image links can happily live out of the main flow of the document. I don’t want to read tags, I want to read documents.

And with some careful CSS (I don’t do a lot of fancy things with my images but Wordpress doesn’t care) avoid any of the other annoying style-isms. And that’s all I’m really looking for. Imagine this document with all the <p> and <hr /> tags intact. Terrible.

— Steve

Posted on 27 October 2011