As a technologist, I cannot tell you how many files I have recovered or converted for people. I’ve seen the rise and fall of Lotus notes, the ever changing Word doc with and without Clippy, and fly by night website hosts that never make it easy to save out user content when they close their doors.
For this reason, I wanted to look at writing today; publishing on the web of tomorrow so it is readable for years to come. We need to look at our writing apps, look through their formats, and strip out any creative interfacing and look at the building blocks we create and want to preserve; text.
#Why are we writing?
We spend time to create content and then share it on the internet, to be expressive, to inform, sometimes even to effect revolution.
Recently I was watching the 2014 remake of The Cosmos; A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by the American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. He pointed out in the episode entitled “The Immortals,” the story of Princess Enheduanna (Christiane Amanpour). This 2280 BCE queen is credited to be one of the first to sign her name to her literary works. He pointed out, that for the first time in human history, our species found a way to become immortal. Our writing allowed for a person’s views, opinions, observations, beliefs, and more importantly, knowledge, to transcend time. This has been seen from the works of Beethoven to Leonard Da Vinci. However, just as it was true then, it is important now for our thoughts to be read and used in the future; that the language they are written in be readable tomorrow. What if the 9th Symphony was created in a format we were unable to read today? Music is written in a universal format to be reproduced by others despite the instrument. Our online content today should be no different. The plethora of digital formats causes a problem. If someone looses the ability to read the format, the work may become lost as well. The web can be preserved and published in a universality, regardless of format.
Something I teach to each university student who comes to my office is the importance of creating and curating their online presence; exposing them to the idea that their online presence can make them Google-abel, in a good way. I stress the importance of their name online and give them techniques and technologies that can best showcase more than their diploma. Two things are vital for any college graduate, or for that matter content creator, who is making a name for their creativity online; owning your own name and content online. An individual is defined by their name in the real world; and in the digital world it is no different. I am AJ Barse. Online I am also AJBarse.com. This, much like Princess Enheduanna, is how we can begin to sign our name on internet history. I teach that we are not a Facebook.com/, or “twitter.com/“; we are our own individual names. Our thoughts and content belong to us, not to those networks that profit from the data we knowingly and unknowingly give them. Having our written content on a site that is our own, signed with the name of our own domain, is a way of claiming and protecting our digital sovereignty.
Respected friend, prolific writer, and fellow technologist, Kevin Dixey (@kevistopheles) says to this extent that,
>”It’s important to exercise a certain level of control over how your work is presented and with the web being such an available conduit for your work using a technology that is compatible with the browser is incredibly important.”
#How are we writing?
For many students, they are unsure to what and where they should put their professional content online, and hesitate to pour money into a website host. This is where the language Markdown become valuable. We also have to realize, we don’t just write anymore; we capture and present our lives with mixed media posts. We embrace these multiple personalities in many places, and aggregate them in a single post. Having our name online by way of our domain, and using an open language like Markdown, helps ensure our stories are readable and attributable for others tomorrow.
Often I see a timid or anxious response to the thought of “learning a computer language;” and honestly, I don’t blame them. Historically, languages can be complicated because of the requirement of knowing syntax and keeping track of tagging. But then, Markdown was born. As John Gruber describes in the philosophy behind Markdown’s syntax
>”Markdown is intended to be as easy-to-read and easy-to-write as is feasible.”
Gruber created the language in 2004, with a creditable amount of contributing to the late Aaron Swartz.
Dixey continues this thought as he best explains the lowest common denominator in the digital world when,
>”your work becomes flexible enough to share with a variety of web and print media and even in the face of constantly changing technologies you won’t find your work locked up in a proprietary file format or inaccessible because the tool you once used is no longer available (or bought by Microsoft and summarily killed off).”
Markdown makes things non-propriatary, and in combination with services like Svbtle and Postach.io (now a non freemium service) it makes publishing on the web flexible.
#”I’m game! So, now what?”
# #Big headline 1 (H1)
## ##Smaller headline, good as a sub head (H2)
### ###Even smaller headline (H3)
#### ####and so on…
Unordered list: putting a “-” infront of your list of things
– Item 1
– Item 2
– Item 3
Ordered list: putting a “number and period” infront of your list of things
1. Item 1
2. Item 2
3. Item 3
(http://that website you named.com/)
Pull quote: <br>
Put a ‘>’ infront of what you want quoted
Quote code box; tab in one level (see below)
!(location on the web or in a dropbox)
(location on the web or in a dropbox =200x) if you want to scale up or down a photo by a fixed size
HTML embed <br>
Because Markdown reads like HTML, if you wanted to even embed an HTML snippet (like from popular sites of 500px, YouTube, etc), a user can use those sites’ embed generators and copy and paste them into their note or their .md file.
If you want a hand with seeing what Markdown does as you write, sites like http://socrates.io/ and http://dillinger.io/ allow you to preview what the language is doing as you write. If you want a simple lesson, this walkthrough is a great learning companion; http://markdowntutorial.com/. And, if you can’t figure out how to make something happen, Gruber put the syntax on his site: http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/syntax
>My personal and professional thanks to Kevin Dixey (@kevistopheles) for introducing me to this Markdown writing rabbit-hole