Jamie's Blog

Lessons from a life of startups, coding, countryside, and kids

The tools we use, are the tools we use

2014 08 25 at 12.30

because writing and formatting Markdown is smooth and natural — shit HackerNews says

Well, they’re partially right: Markdown is a pretty natural format for programmers to use. After all, our primary tool is the text editor, and we are familiar with tools to process that text into presentable formats. I got into writing Markdown after writing papers in LaTeX and loving the focus on the content, the ability to version control, merge, backup, share, etc. Markdown is an easier LaTeX for everyday use.

This blog posts is being written in Markdown. The presentation I gave a week ago was entirely written in Markdown (using the fantastic Deckset app). I write my README’s in Markdown. I keep all my notes in Markdown. I have more ways to edit/preview Markdown then is strictly healthy (SublimeText, Byword, iAWriter, Marked, Mou, Macdown, …). So, yeah, Markdown is pretty familiar to developers.

But do non-developers use it? Not in my experience. In fact, non-developers are far more likely to use the tools that they’re familiar with. They probably don’t even have a decent text editor installed but I bet they have Word or Excel. And that’s why we get screenshots pasted into Word documents and requirements documents written in Excel spreadsheets. In fact, my boss has an accountancy background and I can tell you that his default application, for everything, is Excel.

Markdown isn’t superior. It just plays to the tools that us programmers are familiar with and we should probably cut non-developers some slack when they default to the tools that they’re familiar with.

Rant: Markdown is supposed to be readable by everyone and I think it almost succeeds but the link syntax is a piece of junk: A lot of visual noise that’s hard to process and even harder to write because you have to remember to open the square brace before typing (assuming you remember the order is square braces then brackets)