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I posted this idea a couple of years ago. Over the holidays I was thinking about how I actually would really like this to be a real thing. So now it’s got it’s own GitHub project and am going to try and make it happen.


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    This doesn’t look useful to me. The upside of markdown is that it’s readable as plaintext and it rarely gets in the author’s way. This looks like word soup as plaintext, and it would be frustrating to write as well.

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      If you replace all the names with weird acronyms it reminds me of troff. XD

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        It sure is a dumbdown version of troff. I prefer troff macros.

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        I think this is a great idea. I don’t think I would use it as a full-time replacement for Markdown, but it would be a nice alternative for when I am typing on my phone or something like an ASETNIOP keyboard, and just want to hammer out as much text as possible without worrying about symbols and other syntax junk.

        Like @vakradrz said, throw in some syntax highlighting and readability would not be much of an issue.

        It’d be great though if, in addition to compiling to HTML, it could also just compile into Markdown. When I imagine myself using this, it’s usually in the context of wanting to take advantage of, or at least produce Markdown, but not wanting to deal with the syntax’s symbols and other hard-to-reach characters.

        I agree that you should drop the paragraph keyword and maybe make the syntax even shorter, but I’d drop the periods from that example and just use letters.

        I’d also just use letters for inline syntax. So instead of having to type <b> and </b>, just let me bold some text by stick it between two b characters: b bold b

        That probably doesn’t help readability, but it’s a breeze to type (so long as autocorrect behaves).

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          I had never seen ASETNIOP before. Thanks for sharing! I love ideas like that. Made a todo for me to dive more into that.

          throw in some syntax highlighting

          Agreed. Once this is real, it is not going to be good if you are using an editor that does not support it. But in editor’s that will have support, they will be able to do some really cool things that you just can’t do with markdown, because of the simplicity and extensibility of the underlying Tree Notation. At least, that’s my prediction anyway.

          it could also just compile into Markdown.

          Yes, I think this is what we should do. I believe this is what the original prototype did, but I changed it to just compile straight to HTML (why I did that can’t remember without looking it up).

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          It is funny looks like a python-ish version of latex or html. However I am not sure how to manage inline statement like bold, italic, etc. Maybe putting them they own line, that may give a weird flow to the raw text, ie

          paragraph Foo foo foo
          bold bar
          foo foo. 
          paragraph another paragraph.
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            This question about inlines has come up a lot. Thanks for asking!

            I started an FAQ with a more in depth answer here: https://github.com/treenotation/dumbdown/blob/master/README.md#faq

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              Lots of ways to do inline statements.

              Dumbdown is infinitely extensible.

              Tree Notation languages concatenate, so you could solve this problem in all sorts of creative ways:

               Someone can define a markdown
               node type and then you can just use markdown
               like you normally would *embed* _markdown_.
               And this whole sentence would be bold if you added
               your own mini language, "emojiDown", which
               defined your own node types❗
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              I can’t tell if it’s a joke or not. The ridiculously verbose markup looks like a joke but since the rational seems serious maybe it isn’t.

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                This looks brilliant and I think with syntax highlighting of the keywords in editors the possible problem in readability caused by keywords being next to content could me minimised.

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                  That means we’ve reinvented WordStar, which I guess isn’t the worst thing in the world.

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                  That looks like it could work but consider providing shortcuts. item is too long to type but i seems acceptable. Having the left side cluttered makes the documents a bit hard to read, maybe making the keywords left-associative would look better

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                    Does this actually compile to HTML like it says, or is it just a sample of a notation?

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                      The old working prototype is still up here: https://jtree.treenotation.org/designer/#standard%20dumbdown

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                      God I hate this decade.

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                        Feels like it’s been like this since 2006

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                            Dont get me wrong, this particular “alternative to markdown” seems less awful than most of them, I’m just tired of the constant pendulum from “X is too verbose, let’s all jump to Y because it’s ‘simple’” through to “Y is too sloppy, lets all jump to Z because we need structure and error reporting” and back again. It’s the exact same thing as the swing from “our configuration language is too custom just use code” through to “we can’t analyse configuration data any more lets build a declarative non-turing lang” and back.

                            All of which are constantly happening because we (collectively) fucking refuse to agree on anything providing “text plus structure”, and are all clinging to terminals and 1-dimensional ASCII and hordes of slightly incompatible parsers and pretty-printers as if it’s suddenly going to be 1975 again any day now and we need to be ready. On top of this base conservatism, everybody wants to be the guy/gal who invented the next big thing because that’s how you become a nerd superstar, so we endlessly churn while the pendulums swing.

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                          I think the name of this project and the repeated use of the word “dumb” is ableist.

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                            A reasonable point.

                            I like the word “dumb” as in, “we’ve spent a lot of time making this thing powerful but also as simple as possible, so even if you are tired and groggy—aka in a dumb mode—you will be able to use it safely.”

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                              please don’t

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                              code is bad. rest is ok