[Gllug] Getting Linux to work with Freeserve (Wanadoo) Broadband

Bruce Richardson itsbruce at uklinux.net
Mon Jul 5 11:06:22 UTC 2004

On Mon, Jul 05, 2004 at 11:21:37AM +0100, Pete wrote:
> Fair call, but I reckon there's a real potential for a human-readable markup
> languages.

Humans can read XML.  I suspect that most people would find

<section><title>What this means</title>
  This is the important information.

more clear than

>> What this means

This is the important information

If by "human-readable" you mean simple, then Doco is simpler but it is
a) completely meaningless until you learn the rules, in contrast to the
Docbook snippet, b) limited and c) inflexible.

I think the Doco people have produced the wrong solution to the wrong
problem.  They would have been better off producing a simple XML DTD or
good documentation for some of the existing DTDs and XML tools.  The
rules for writing XML itself are little more complex than those for Doco
and rather more consistent.

I have had no trouble teaching non-technical staff how to use HTML (most
of them loved the simplicity of it) and I doubt I would have much
trouble teaching them to write simple Docbook.  If they then wanted to
progress to more complex things, DocBook would offer them plenty of
scope.  If they had learned Doco, on the other hand, they would simply
have to discard it and find another tool.

I think people are prone to underestimate the capacity of non-technical
staff to understand concepts like markup.  Many of the staff here were
using Wordstar on DOS before they switched to Word/Windows and they had
no trouble with the idea of inserting a "bold" marker, which made
everything bold until another marker was inserted.  They certainly had
fewer problems untangling messy formatting than they do with a WYSIWYG
editor that hides the actual formatting from them.

Personally, I think that anybody who cannot understand simple markup
should be using a GUI wordprocessor because they're every bit as likely
to mess up Doco.  I also think more people are capable of dealing with a
proper markup language than the Doco designers realise.


What would Edward Woodward do?
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