I was going to call this “HTML considered harmful” but not only would that be woefully clichéd, but it’s not really what I mean. Template designers and people writing XML-to-HTML converters (for instance) need to write HTML. But most people – especially authors – shouldn’t.

I’m not being condescending. A lot of people are perfectly capable of learning HTML. I’m saying that I think that writing in HTML is a mistake because it’s too “low-level”. It’s about how to display things rather than what they mean (though it has gotten better).

One of the reasons it has taken me a long time to “get going” on putting my thoughts online was that I knew I wanted to write in something other than HTML. I knew HTML was going to morph and change, and, being a programmer, I considered it “object code” – something that is generated automatically by a compiler, from some higher-level description. This is especially nice when the format of the object code is a moving target. You simply update the compiler and recompile all your pages.

Writing in object code is something I did in 1976 when keying tiny 6800 programs (in hexadecimal!) into an evaluation board; it doesn’t make sense any more, but it was a lot of fun!

Since I spent a lot of time thinking about my “ideal HTML compiler” and researching how others were solving this problem I didn’t write much HTML, and, consequently, my Web projects languished.

I have since discovered XML and wiki markup. Both have their appeal, but they are suited for different things. An XML DTD like DocBook is great for writing books and other complex documents with lots of hierarchic structure and diagrams and so on. Wiki markup is great for day-to-day jotting. I think some flavor of wiki markup would be great for blogging, and in fact that is what I plan to do with my wiki engine.