Day: September 5, 2014

Mark Down will make you a great deal on formatted text

New Rule For the Internet: Let’s not get overly worked up over things that won’t matter in 24 hours.

It’s a rule I’m trying to live by more. It is very easy to get pulled into the Internet Outrage Machine™. Everyday there is something absurd to get all worked up over. Then, the next day, it won’t matter to anyone. This is also why I do not cover tech news on this site. There is no point in speculating over upcoming hardware. We’ll see what it is when it’s released. I stay out of petty internet drama.

The latest drama took over Twitter yesterday. And within the course of the day, the cause of the drama was resolved. It would have been much quieter if the two people involved would have worked things out privately. But that’s not how the internet works.

I tease my wife for watching The Real Housewives of ______ or Keeping Up With The Kardashians. But this week I was reminded, nerds are no better when it comes to drama. One guy invented Markdown, a way to style plain text. He made it a decade ago and hasn’t done much with it since.

As a result, there are a number of implementations of it. Adding or changing different parts of it to suit the needs of the different groups of people.

Well, a group of well-meaning people got together and decided to create a version called Standard Markdown. This made the creator, John Gruber, unhappy and got a lot of nerds up in a tizzy. Many words were written. Sides were taken

I summed it up like this.

Joe Rosensteel has a nice piece about what this is all about.

Standard – This is like telling everyone you’re cool. “Hi everyone, I’m Cool Joe! Come hang out with me!” Congratulations on jinxing yourself? The iPhone is not called “Standard Phone”. Also, as I’ve established above, this is only standard in name only. A few guys made this in secret to scratch their own itch.
Markdown – Lots of things use “Markdown” as part of the name of their implementation of Markdown. The Python library I’m using does this. It’s usually not paired with “Standard”, “Official”, “One and Only”, or “Legal” to imply it holds some special place. This is, after-all, a fork.

As he notes, the name has already been changed from Standard to Common Markdown to comply with the creator’s wishes.

Joe makes a great point.

For someone that says he loves Markdown, Jeff doesn’t seem to understand anything about why it is popular. Or why attempts to rein in the wild sprawl are bound to fail.

See how silly all of this already has gotten? Did you follow this?

The problem is one group of people wanted to do something. They asked the creator’s opinion on it. Since they didn’t get a response, they assumed no response was an OK to move forward. The creator, John Gruber, asked for three things.

  • Rename the project.
  • Shut down the domain, and don’t redirect it.
  • Apologize.

All three have been done. No harm, no foul. At the end of the day, adults were adult about the situation.

But I have to ask, why did this become a public spectacle? Jeff Atwood and John Gruber could have sorted things out behind closed email clients.

But it was public.

I would absolutely be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention Sid O’Neill‘s post on the topic.

A Tale of Two Markdowns

“Oh, Sir Knight,” said she, “I am come bearing sad tidings from the fair Lady Markdown. Her Lord, the evil giant Gruber, has kept her imprisoned for ten years, to great lament. She wishes her freedom, and calls for a brave knight to rescue her.”

Then did Sir Atwood take heart, for he saw that here was a quest deserving of his mettle. Turning to his companions he bade them prepare themselves for the journey. With them as they travelled they took a cart filled with Standards, pulled by two white palfreys. They would need these if they were to defeat the giant.

The troubles that Sir Atwood and his noble band suffered as they journeyed are too many to set down here, but suffice to say that at length they arrived at the castle wherein the evil Gruber made his abode.

Tech drama as medieval tale should be the new standard for tech drama reporting.

Reality TV has nothing on the drama nerds can create on Twitter about something like plain text formatting. Yes, this is the kind of thing nerds get upset about. Insane, isn’t it?

Dispatch from the Trenches #8

XKCD is the only web comic I’ve managed to be continually challenged and delighted by every single time I read it. Today’s is no exception.


When you’re finished reading, hold your mouse over the screen and wait for the alt text to appear. It adds to the comic.

Read the Alt Text.

Josh Ginter’s reviews are like tasty roast chicken for the eyes. The photography is beautiful and the writing thoughtful. His latest review of Overcast is one such experience. His views on Overcast mirror my own. I’ve used it since it was released and haven’t looked back. The Smart Speed and Voice Boost features are as indispensable as they are seamless.

Overcast 1

Smart Speed analyzes the downloaded episode and shortens areas of downtime or pauses in speech to speed up listening time. This is handled brilliantly. Conversations sound smoother and less robotic than a generic speed boost option. There is even an indicator in the settings menu to indicate how much time you have saved by using Smart Speed. I would wager Smart Speed alone is worth the in-app purchase.

Voice Boost is equally impressive. Voice Boost also analyzes the downloaded file and boosts areas where speech is quieter. This eliminates the need to manually up the volume when a quiet speaker takes the mic and, generally speaking, makes the whole listening experience easier on the ears.

These two hallmark features are what sell Overcast for me. They are so well executed and act so invisibly that I usually forget I have them turned on.

Overcast 2

Another feature I love is the Twitter-based recommendations.

y recommending a show, Overcast can use your Twitter account to send your recommendations to your followers. Overcast doesn’t tweet on your behalf, but rather reads the recommendations of the people you follow and shoots the results into the “Recommendations from Twitter” section in the podcast directory.

I’ve found some great new podcasts I’d never heard of based on the recommendations from Twitter. I love this app and you’d be nuts not to read Josh’s review. If podcasts aren’t your thing, he takes equal care with the same spectacular photos on his reviews of pens like the TWSBI Diamond 580AL and paper like the Field Notes: Night Sky edition.

So That’s It Then

I was turning right onto James, from Broadway, in Seattle. And I said it, as if I felt like I just pulled off some great heist as I mumbled under my breath: “So, that’s it?”

I struggled with what to say about this piece. Just go read it. It’s a beautiful story.