Post Formatting

I was thinking, as long as the WYSIWYG editors in browsers still, well, aren’t ideal, and we have to keep using plain text boxes to type our stuff in, what would be the best way to do mark-up stuff? Stuff like making text bold, adding links and create headings.

When you look at the bulletin board world you seem to get the idea that tags like [url=]link text here[/url] are most convenient. I wonder why that is. I kind of assume it was made up by [Infopop]( (then still UltimateBB). Personally, to me it seems like an idea that was invented something like this:

“Hey Pete.”

– “Yah” (This dash-guy talks without punctuation, don’t ask me why, I just made this up. Note how annoying it gets, though.)
“I was thinking, what if our users want to do some kind of lay-out stuff and not just text?”

– “Well we could just let them type HTML”
“Nah. Too risky, they could do dangerous Javascripts.”

– “Oh yeah ok what if we check the HTML for dangerous stuff first”
“Nah. Too much work.”

– “OK so what if we replace the <s with [s and the >s with ]s That way we only have to parse valid code and leave the rest alone”
“Yeah, that sounds like a simple solution.”

– “But wait we dont have to do it all HTML-ish for example [a href=”bla bla”]…[/a] would be too long and weird we could just use like [url=blabla]…[/url] for that”
“Cool, good idea!”

– “Cool back to the selling price we could easily add $200 and still get away with it”

But is this really the friendliest way to do markup in posts? Since I’ve been using Wikis a bit, I noticed those Wiki codes are much easier to type. Sadly, the codes kind of differ from Wiki to wiki implementation. But generally you can boldify text by just surounding it by * and *, you can italicize (is that even a word?) by surrounding it by _ and _, and you create links using something like [ link name here]. There are a couple of free PHP libraries that can parse such codes and turn them into HTML. For this weblog I use [Textile]( which works quite fine. But there are others such as [Markdown]( (available in many programming languages).

So, coders of bulletin boards (I’ll exclude myself), I challenge you. Break the tight grip of old “UBB-codes”. At least offer a wiki-code like alternative. It won’t even be such a big problem to write converters to convert UBB-code to Wiki-code. (Don’t ask me to do it though, it’s the stuff that you’re supposed to like.)