Google please adopt a humane markup language

What do Google Pages, Blogger and Google Sites have in common? A rubbish HTML WYSIWYG editor component is what. Using the WordPress editor I am consistently impressed at how good the HTML generated is and how rarely I need to go from the Visual view to the raw HTML.

With Google’s version though you never know when you’re going to be dealing with a set of <br> instead of the paragraphs that you might have thought you were working with. In fact sometimes when the visual editor is going wrong I dread to switch views and find out what has actually been going on behind the scenes.

There are two ironies in this, firstly Google Docs actually has a decent HTML editor dressed up as a word processor. It still suffers from switching between paragraphs and break returns but it is generally pretty good at keeping in the same mode once you’ve manually set it.

The second irony is that I have been using Markdown in both and Tumblr and I have to say that while there is some overhead in learning the syntax the truth is that Markdown pretty much gets everything right from a HTML point of view and is much quicker to right than a WYSIWYG component that you have to keep double-checking.

Please Google, if you really cannot cooperate internally to create one HTML editor that does the right thing could we please have an option to use a humane markup language. I don’t mind which one: Textile, Markdown, Wiki Creole – take your pick. Throw a power user a bone!


Let’s hear it for the Groovlets

I am a big fan of Groovlets, the Groovy wrapper around servlets. Although it is theoretically possible to do this with any scripting language Groovlets are definitely the easiest to get working and the most powerful to use quickly, in my experience, as unlike Jython and Jruby you don’t have to deal with the original languages packaging system to get access to templating and data access.

I’ve created a little wiki (and it is quite small currently) to record my experiences of using Groovlets and to provide a few examples that I felt were lacking in the official pages. If you haven’t already seen it you may also want to have a look at my Gant wiki too.

Web Applications

Nicely Couched is the new wiki application on the block. I got pointed towards it because it is running on top of CouchDB. But having mucked around with it for a bit I have to say that it’s not just a good example of the kind of thing you can do with Couch, it is also the most exciting take on Wiki software I’ve seen for a while.

What is there to like? Well firstly there is the idea of the anonymous wiki that you can create on the fly. Products like GitHub have significently reduced the barrier to setting up an open source project. Just choose a name and that’s it you are away coding and sharing your code. is the same, got some text that you need to organise? Got some ideas you want to get down? Just create a wiki, write some stuff and then if it is working out claim it and give it a decent name. just feels totally spontaneous.

It also totally resolves the issue between using a wiki-syntax (in this case Markdown) and having the pretty WYSIWYG interface. The near-realtime preview is fantastic and makes you wonder why you have ever had to click on another tab or button to see your preview.

The site has a really unfussy design (except for the goddamn rounded corners (stop it, this isn’t 2006)) but gives you a few customisation options.

The support has also been great and turnaround has been good on issues.

The subdomain naming is really easy to use, compare how easy it is to mucking around with settings in something like Google Sites.

If you are looking for a wiki or you want to see some CouchDB in action I totally recommend this site.

Web Applications

Google Sites: What I would like

I am not going to deny that the basic Wiki functionality is all there but there are a few things that I would like to see. Now I know it is a free service but I would actually be prepared to pay for some of this on a WordPress model (i.e. buy what you want when you need it).

  • Categories or page tagging
  • The ability to send a page to Google Docs or alternatively the ability to export to external formats as you can for a Google Document.
  • The comments section should collapse if there are no comments; ditto the attachments. If something does not apply to my page then I just need a simple text link to add it.
  • Most of all, proper HTML markup rather than a massive paragraph consisting of my whole page, with a BR tag… if I’m lucky. If I want to reuse my content then I cannot export it and its not even decent HTML. Blogger is no better but crazily Google Pages does the right thing!

As with Blogger I think Google is having some major integration issues with all the companies it has bought up. If one of the applications or systems has a cool feature then I think it is natural to assume that it will be available in all Google branded applications.

Web Applications

Try our new, new services!

So on Friday not one but two long awaited beta service invitations arrived. The first was the announcement of the addition of Jotspot to Google Apps (finally) and the other about the Amazon Simple DB service. Typical buses…

I didn’t have a lot of time this weekend so I plumped for signing up for Google Apps and trying the new wiki functionality as I was hoping for a beefed up version of Pages. The Simple DB service also needs me to beef up my Web Service scripting fu.

It is too early to say much about either service but after signing up for a Google Apps account (apparently you cannot simply drive one off your regular Google Account). I was slightly underwhelmed by the new Google Sites service. It has taken how long to make a basic and acceptable wiki service available?

Still you can have a lot of separate wiki sites and you have a lot of flexibility on how you share and collaborate on them so maybe I need to build up some content first and then try to share it around. I would like to know whether you can hook Analytics up to some Sites content. That would be useful for some of the content that otherwise would go on something like a WordPress page.

Java, Software


I downloaded XWiki and gave the standalone application a whirl. I’m in the market for a simple wiki, I have used JSP Wiki before and it is fine but it can be a pain to setup correctly and I would also need to figure out how to secure editing offline first (as this is meant to be a public-read, private-edit wiki). My first impression is simply one of sluggish performance. It has a lot of nice features and it does arrive locked down but viewing and editing the pages is very lethargic and the Ajax is painfully slow. This could be the server but other servers are proving snappier.

Interestingly it seems to create a database in memory and import/export the data to file on startup/shutdown. I’m not sure what the advantage of that is, it seems counter-intuitive. Looking at options for a standalone database I am unsurprised to find a not saying that Hibernate does not play well with Derby. The lack of support between products built for either Derby and HSQLDB is annoying and seems unnecessary. However from past experience I know not to try and swim against the tide on this. If the developer worked exclusively on one or the other than chances are it is going to work better with the intended platform.

I also spotted a release note about a bug that requires Tomcat Security to be switched off. That doesn’t seem to be something you want to ship with. It’s not exactly the way you play with others.