Monday, September 8, 2014 at 1:25 PM

So I'm siding with Gruber

I posted a link on Facebook to a section of a Reddit discussion about the future of Markdown. In that thread, a programmer laments that there is no formal grammar for Markdown. This was totally predictable. Once the format is in play, the extent to which theorists will want to debate it is almost boundless. By the time it's over, Markdown will be Lisp. Maybe that should be a corollary for Godwin's Law, except about format wars on the Internet.

Dan Lyons, tech writer who was Fake Steve Jobs and most recently a writer for Season 2 of the HBO show Silicon Valley, asked if I was siding with Gruber. I wrote a string of Andreessen-like comments (only in format, not in substance) and thought it would be good to put them here verbatim.

Dan Lyons: So you are siding with Gruber?

Yes, completely.

Really what I'm doing is siding with Markdown.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Gruber, for creating Markdown and doing such a great job of getting it established.

Now it is what it is. A bunch of programmers fighting over who gets to be the Holy Father of Markdown is only going to create confusion, it won't actually change what Markdown is.

Programmers always underestimate deployment, and think they can wave a magic wand and get everyone to upgrade.

It's actually nothing like that. Once the investment is made, and years have gone by, no one wants to go back and dig out old infrastructure and replace it with something else. Esp when there's doubtful improvement.

There are still water pipes running under the streets of NYC that were put here by the Dutch (I might be exaggerating, but not by much).

Markdown is like that. Installed.

For better or worse.

Even huge companies like Microsoft, who can hire consultants and analysts, make these kinds of mistakes.

You know the people who wanted to changed RSS blamed me for not being willing to bend. I kept telling them it isn't me, go try to convince eveyrone who's got RSS generators or readers that they need to change everything. If you can do that, then you can have your way. I have nothing to do with it.

Except that I happened to be one of the people with generators and readers of RSS, and the last thing I wanted to do is rip up the pavement and start over just cause some people on a mail list thought there was a "better" way to do it.

Once they finished with their rewrite, it was remarkably like the thing they were trying to replace.

Except with different names for the same things. BFD.

Last built: Sun, Mar 22, 2015 at 5:50 PM

By Dave Winer, Monday, September 8, 2014 at 1:25 PM. We don't need no stinkin rock stars.