Friday March 22, 2013

No WYSIWYG, Please. I Prefer Markup

I recently applied for a writer/editor position with a company that looks like a good match for my interests. As part of their application process, they ask candidates to complete a few writing exercises. That seems like an excellent idea to me. There was just one small gotcha.

Although the company uses a wiki for all of the internal writing, the exercise was to be completed in Google Docs. When I asked why, I was told they assume most people don't start out with a lot of experience using wiki markup. They are "mostly interested in people's ability to express themselves well, and learning a markup-based editing system might be a distraction from that."

That makes sense... for most people. I, however, am unusual. I have 10 years of wiki markup experience, but never used Google Docs before yesterday. For me, Google Docs posed a distraction. It didn't help that I managed to trip a surprise UI issue that offset the insertion point a bit to the left (or was it to the right) of where the cursor appeared to be. Distraction compounded by frustration is a bad combination.

It's not just Google Docs. Generally speaking, I don't use WYSIWYG (aka Rich Text) editors any more than I must.

I admit we used MS Word for a book I co-authored. I also worked, for a year, in a technical publications team that used FrameMaker (on Mac OS; RIP). And...
... my resume is in Pages (which exports easily to either PDF and .doc (aka "Word") format. Word is the format of choice for recruiters and HR departments.

But, that's about it.

Before the web, I created most documents in troff. I've been coding HTML by hand in BBEdit since the WWW became a "thing". For the past 8 years, I've done a lot of writing in TWiki markup. There's a WYSIWYG editor in TWiki; I disable it. I use TextEdit, on Mac OS X, as a notepad, generally in the Monaco font.

I prefer markup.

This is a good thing for me to recognize, because I've been looking for a job. One of my preferences for a desirable job description is that the position use a wiki. I like working with wikis.

One of the popular "enterprise wikis" is Confluence. As of version 4, Confluence no longer stores content in wiki markup format. That means you can create content using markup but you can't edit content using markup.

That's a non-starter for me. Good to know.

My next job needs to allow me to edit in markup.

No WYSIWYG, Please. I Prefer Markup ( in category Random Thoughts , Trivial Pursuits ) - posted at Fri, 22 Mar, 10:42 Pacific | «e»

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