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User-Controlled Wiki Formatting

created 2005-03-17 10:38:36

This just came out of a quick explanation of Wikis to someone that had never used them before: Telling people that wiki uses a new mark-up format is one thing. Telling them that there are lots of different wikis, and each of them use their own, slightly-different format is another completely - it's as if the lessons of the horrors of learning cross-browser Javascript have been completely forgotten overnight.

So while a wiki-format standard is being decided upon, I'm going to fantasise about a different method, that allows a standard "level" of flexibility instead.

Statement 1: FOAF is a decentralised way of controlling details and information about yourself.

That's all the statements we need. The important thing is that the details are decentralised and under user-control. So why not apply the same paradigm to Wiki formatting? Assuming that there's a standard set of functionality (e.g. "enclose bold text within two instances of a string", or "list items start with a string") or some such (and maybe that's the tricky bit), it seems pretty feasible to allow anyone to set their own "format definition file" up. This file says "use this character for bold, use this one for italics, this for lists, etc, etc. Then, so long as the wiki you're editing supports this, you don't have to worry about what the wiki's default format is - just set your preference to point to your file, and edit away. The wiki should also be able to use the file to map its content (stored in whatever format it likes) back to your own preferred format. In fact, in order for this to happen, I suspect the wiki wouldn't use a simple wiki format to store its content anyway, as it'd have to be an easily-transmutable structure. In fact, the wiki engine and the philosophy behind it would be irrevocably changed. Hmm. Or would it?

See also...

Elsewhere... * Fletcher T. Penney is extending Markdown to take Markdown's conversion out into a config file, so you can specify your own markup - latex, etc.

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