Making markdown opt-in rather than default

BK Benjamin Knight Public Seen by 48

I've seen some cases where markdown has badly messed up the formatting of the discussion context panel, particularly when people cut and paste text in from other places.

I think markdown is awesomely useful when people know how to use it, but that's a small minority of our users. Would be super keen to switch it to opt-in. I'm suggesting this as a short-term quick fix - ideally it would be awesome to have a basic formatting GUI like Gmail, so ability to format text isn't limited to the tech-literate.



Jon Lemmon Wed 14 Nov 2012 6:24AM

Agreed. Can we think of a user-friendly way to do this? So this would apply to both comments and the context panel?


Paul Smith Wed 14 Nov 2012 11:17PM

Would it work if we just added a small tick box next to the save button for the context panel?


Jon Lemmon Wed 14 Nov 2012 11:20PM

Yeah, not a bad idea... maybe something like "Enable improved formatting for this post (see more)"?

See more could be a link to our markdown guide...


Scott Lemmon Thu 15 Nov 2012 12:05AM

I really like the way the Stack Exchange sites do it. There is a preview pane of your post and a really formatting bar for basic controls such as bold, italic, quote and such.

I found a ruby gem the other day for markdown preview that should plug in to the post comment area pretty easily.

If we had this functionality it would not only allow people to preview their posts to make sure the formatting isn't messed up, but also would encourage the use of markdown... which can really serve to make a post much more readable.

In other words, I think instead of disabling the functionality and then making it have to be enabled manually, we should make it easier to use and learn about, and then perhaps have a "disable improved formatting" button instead. I definitely feel that by default formatting should be on, not off, to encourage good formatting and better posts.

I really think the way to go is to emulate the Stack Exchange sites.


Paul Smith Thu 15 Nov 2012 12:23AM

Scott makes a really good point. One of the reasons I thought red carpet was a good choice initially was there's this:


Which is a library that fancifies your text area (wysiwyg) and comes with out of the box markdown preview support.

Would a WYSIWYG with preview and a help button be enough to solve most of the issues?


Benjamin Knight Thu 15 Nov 2012 12:38AM

Awesome ideas!

I'm suggesting making markdown opt-in as a short-term quick fix - ideally it would be awesome to have a basic formatting GUI like Gmail, so ability to format text isn't limited to the tech-literate.


Jon Lemmon Thu 15 Nov 2012 10:10AM

Indeed, Scotty and Paul bring up good points.

However, I do also hear what Ben is saying that maybe we should make it opt-in for now until an elegant, dummy-proof solution is implemented.

The problem is that we've got a lot of non-tech-literate people who are starting to use Loomio and get really confused when their comments look like this for some odd reason. And it could take a while before we craft a really nice solution that is opt-out worthy. It would need to be uber clear. The thing is that the majority of stackoverflow users are programmers, whereas we have people using Loomio who are the type that get apprehensive just about using a computer to check their email.


Jon Lemmon Thu 15 Nov 2012 10:12AM

I also think if we had the ability to edit comments it'd could make it less necessary to make it opt-in...


Richard D. Bartlett Fri 16 Nov 2012 1:27AM

I agree with everything!

Right now it's fair to say it is doing more harm than good, so I'd switch over to opt-in, and just put the option on your settings page, unless someone can think of a really unobtrusive way to display it on the various text input forms.


Jon Lemmon Fri 16 Nov 2012 1:44AM

I think a check-box next to "Post comment" might not be unobtrusive as long as it had a link and/or tooltip explaining in more detail. It would also help to educate users (e.g. "ooh, i want improved formatting! what's this?"). And it would also be a bit of a nag to us to think of a better way to do it long-term.

My gut tells me it would be weird putting it in the user's setting page (from a feature design perspective).

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