Dead bits

Documents should be more than dead bits. Writing documents is still a lot like shovelling snow, even with tools to help build indices and so forth.

Skribe is an interesting attempt to combine programming (in Scheme) with document formatting. It’s been done before, with TeX (“the TECO of typesetting languages”) and, arguably, PostScript (though you’d have to be out of your mind to author a large document in PostScript).

More thoughts on this later. I’ll leave you with one from the 80s. Doug Crockford, reflecting on the new(ish) WYSIWYG paradigm, objected to all the hidden state behind the scenes that was responsible for formatting stuff, and came up with the phrase “What you see is all there is.” In other words, make all state visible to the user. In many environments there are lots and lots and lots of controls, hidden behind buttons in nested, tabbed dialogs, and this “Secret 747 flight deck” model of user interface doesn’t scale very well. What if it was all in your face?

I don’t know how to do it, either… 🙂

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