The administrator of a blog I follow recently asked the question, “should I force our blog’s authors to use Markdown?”
I then read a completely unrelated post on another blog that advised WordPress users to get rid of the visual text editor because “it makes you lazy” and you should “force yourself to learn some basic HTML.”
When I got into a heated discussion with another developer about the above two items, he used the same word to describe non-Markdown/HTML-writing, WYSIWYG-dependent online content authors: lazy.
This isn’t the first argument I’ve had with a technologist who likes to play the lazy card, and it won’t be the last. I’m not disputing that everyone in today’s workforce should always be learning; the days of doing the same job the same way for thirty years are over. But to imply that a blogging co-worker isn’t holding up her end of the learning bargain because she doesn’t want to learn HTML or Markdown is arrogant.
As technologists, we explore and experiment with new technology. Our content-creating colleagues presumably explore and experiment in their respective areas of expertise. Who are we to dictate that they should increase their cognitive overhead by worrying about valid XHTML markup?
Yes, WYSIWYG editors are pretty terrible. They puke out Microsoft Word detritus and let you change the font color to cyan. Forcing people to write in Markdown, however, shifts a technical problem from the technologist to the user, which is the opposite of ideal.
This rant isn’t about blog authors or Markdown. It’s about acknowledging that technology isn’t everyone’s primary concern, nor should it be.
Of course there are appropriate times to force technology changes. But even in those situations the resistors aren’t lazy–they just have a different job than you. In today’s hectic and stressed workplace, shouldn’t we give colleagues the benefit of the doubt and help them succeed with technology rather than slapping a label on them?