[Wikipedia-l] New wiki markup

lcrocker at nupedia.com lcrocker at nupedia.com
Thu Aug 1 19:24:21 UTC 2002

There have been a lot of good suggestions for new wiki markup 
elements, and the arguments about whether or not to continue 
using/relying on HTML have brought up some good points on both sides, 
but I think I'm growing more firmly entrenched in the "simplify, 
simplify" position.

There is a tension of goals here: (1) the primary goal of our wiki, 
as I see it, is to encourage the totally computer-inept to write and 
edit articles.  Getting people like that to parse the text out of 
<table> syntax and get the tags to match up right will just drive 
them away.  (2) The goal to have pretty-looking articles.

We can solve the problem of tables by using a clean, easy to read, 
and forgiving table markup syntax--I rather like tarquin's, although 
I'd make it optional whether to put the cells of a row on one markup 
line or subsequent lines, and it needs to do things like produce an 
accurate table with sloppy markup that leaves out cells, and so on. 

That still leaves us no way to specify headings, caption, spans, and 
cell backgrounds, and the like.  We would also like to be able to do 
things like float images, colorize text, and so on.

So here's a radical proposal: take more advantage of CSS to allow us 
gurus to prettify articles without complicating the wikitext.  Create 
some method of attaching an inline stylesheet to a page or group of 
pages, and put things like image floats, table backgrounds, padding, 
fonts, and so on in the style sheet, and leave the wikitext alone.

Of course, that will require some way for the stylesheet to identify 
elements in the wikitext.  We can auto-number things like images and 
tables, and use IDs, e.g., "#image1 {float:left; padding-
right:10px;}", etc.  But that leaves things like inline quotes, 
formulas, and other needs.  We can probably take care of most of that 
by coming up with a clean, unobtrusive way to indicate "span" 
and "div" IDs in the wikitext.  Then that will be the only odd 
markup, and everything else can go into the stylesheet.

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