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Markdown vs WSYWYG

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Posted by Chris Murtland
Sep 12, 2013 at 09:56 PM


22111 wrote:
>This triggered lots of comments, and in fact it’s the recurrent problem.
>WHERE is the problem? Two things: Most of the time, it’s not really
>smooth to get your data forth and back; and this would be needed because
>of the basic problem: What is reference material now, becomes writing
>material later, and vice versa, which means, so many consultants in
>office management and all this claim you must divide your things into
>“material, data, and so on” and “what you write/create”, and this
>distinction is simply not possible, so you need tools for both, and
>that’s why you then need better transition, and especially forth and
>back, and this interaction between tools is not smooth enough, so in the
>end, you would need “something better for both”: A UR with a better
>editor, or a Scrivener with better data repository/management - and both
>will not bring the respective missing parts to their game.

I have thought a lot about the transition/transformation problem, and the fact that material can morph into different things over time (reference material becomes writing material, correspondence becomes tasks, etc.).

It *seems* like something generic like a user-designed database similar to UR would be ideal for managing these types of transitions all within one software. However, I have come to believe this isn’t true, or rather, that it starts out as being true when you have a fresh, clean database, but quickly devolves into not being true.

I think the problem comes from the fact that PIMs or personal databases or tree-based info managers:

1. simply can’t reasonably handle the volume and diversity of information on an ongoing basis
2. are “spread too thin” to develop every conceivable feature you might want to have in regard to your information
3. give equal weight to each item

A little more on each item:

1. Take email. If you really wanted a single, global information store, you’d certainly want email to be part of that. Yet, the sheer volume of email tends to make it untenable (or at least tedious) to continuously do manual imports into UR or forwards to your Evernote account - if you’re trying to capture ALL of them. (Note - only Zoot comes close to being intriguing here, with its built-in mail client and RSS feed reader)

2. This is the big benefit to things like Markdown in my mind. You can have one standard, lightweight format that is easily shared among a lot of different apps that can conceivably have a lot of different and specialized features. It’s the opposite of proprietary formats, and it really ends up separating the storage format from the features/manipulation.  If you want one package to do it all, well is it going to make charts and graphs? Is it going to do spreadsheet formulas? Can it resize an image, crop it, and make it black and white? Can it generate a PDF? Can it search Wikipedia? I think you see the problem.

3. A global tree of everything in my life sounds good in theory, but in reality each item has a potentially vastly different weight/importance and that also changes depending on time and context. Using different apps actually makes it easier to let some info recede into the background or limit the information you are currently working with to a manageable subset. I may want some way to search completed tasks, but do I want that cluttering up my global search results each time or do I just want a specific, separate place to go to search those? Do I need every tweet or blog entry I might be interested in later instantly at hand if I’m working on a work project? Do I need a bunch of technical work info in my face if I’m trying to write a novel? Etc.

So even if the interaction between tools isn’t smooth enough, I still think I’d rather deal with that than the issues above - which seem to multiply the longer you try to shoehorn everything into one single tool.