October 28, 2004

HTML in posts

After quite a lot of debate about the pros and cons of allowing HTML in blogs, we intend to remove this facility in the next few weeks. Posts which have already been created using HTML will still be displayed correctly, but after the switch-over date, new posts will allow only Textile for markup, and HTML will appear literally rather than as markup.

We're interested to hear from any users for whom this could be a problem. If you've used HTML in a post to achieve an effect which can't be done in Textile (and which you think it's important to be able to do), please comment here, ideally with a URL to your post containing HTML, and a note of why you think the markup used is valuable. Thanks.


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  1. I think this is good news.

    One thing though, is it possilble to quote stuff that contains blank lines yet?

    28 Oct 2004, 17:44

  2. John Dale

    Right now, Textile doesn't support this well. The easiest way to do it today, therefore, is to use the 'blockquote' tag to open and close your multi-paragraph quote. Obviously when we withdraw support for HTML this will no longer be possible, so we'll also be looking into extending the Textile syntax to support multi-para quotes.

    28 Oct 2004, 17:52

  3. Sounds sensible, the only thing I've ever wanted to do is set a float property on an image (which itself is not without problems, since it's too easy to accidently cause subsequent entries to not line up properly). Any plans to put something in that let's you float images left or right of text within textile (it's not part of it as far as I know?)

    It's a trivial thing in the grand scheme of things mind you and not something I care that much about!

    28 Oct 2004, 21:50

  4. I would have thought the only time it might be useful is when you complete one of those online test thingys (like personality tests etc) that give you the html to post straight into blogs etc, not a huge loss though, people will just have to do their own formatting of the results.

    28 Oct 2004, 23:39

  5. Robert O'Toole

    Before you switch it off we had better check that the learning object code used by me and by Alison (to automatically create entries as a result of an activity) doesn't break.

    The only other instance of html that i'm using is the citation tag.

    30 Oct 2004, 20:26

  6. I can understand making Textile markup the default option when composing a blog entry, but it'd be a shame to take the ability to use HTML away from those who do want to use it (personally I find it a lot more intuitutive that Textile).

    Is it not possible to have a drop-down at the bottom of the create new entry form, specifying whether you want your mark-up to be interpreted as Textile or HTML?

    30 Oct 2004, 20:46

  7. John Dale

    Chris – we'll probably extend the Textile syntax for images so that they can be floated and positioned in other, useful ways.

    Rob – code which tries to insert HTML into a post will need to be rewritten so that it inserts Textile-marked-up text instead. Inserting HTML programmatically will result in it rendering literally just as if you'd typed it. As far as the cite tag goes, Textile syntax allows it by wrapping text in a pair of question-marks. We don't currently support it, but it could be added, I would have thought.

    Will – the problem with HTML is that as long as we allow it, we remain open to security exploits and other hacking. We could try to strip out anything we regarded as dubious, but the problem with this approach is that you can never prove that you've caught everything that could be mis-used. Obviously given that logic, it's not workable to make HTML optionally allowed.

    30 Oct 2004, 21:24

  8. That's a real shame, in my opinion. There isn't a lot of things which can directly affect me, right now… but I can think of things like the "Nanowrimo progress bar" eg. link and other such things which now cannot be done. There would I expect always be special cases not anticipated by Textile.

    Instead of HTML optionally allowed, how about allowing users to submit posts containing HTML to be checked by the admin, or some team of volunteer checkers or something. They can then enable HTML on the page if it does not do anything harmful, and lock the page from further editing. Just to cover special circumstances, which should be very rare.

    01 Nov 2004, 04:07

  9. Steve Rumsby

    The main thing I put in blog entries that needs HTML is tables.

    Other textile engines have a syntax for tables, but ours currently doesn't. I'd find it a bit of a pain not to be able to include tables. I haven't done it often, but there are times when only a table will do!

    01 Nov 2004, 10:24

  10. John Dale

    Zhou - I think it's unlikely that we'd support hand-checking of entries for suitable HTML; it would be unscalable, and the argument to support it seems to be no more than "There might be things that require HTML". That doesn't seem terribly convincing.

    Steve – Tables is the one thing we thought might come up as a requirement, and I agree that it would be useful to support it in Textile, though it would be quite a lot of work. We'll be watching to see if more users come forward with a requirement for tables.

    01 Nov 2004, 11:23

  11. John: I can understand not allowing any kind of HTML in comments, but surely you guys can trust the majority of University members not to post malicious HTML code in their own blogs?

    Admittedly HTML may have been misused on WB in a small number of cases (where HTML was put in blog titles IIRC - something I believe has been stopped now), but it seems a shame to stop everyone using it just because of the misguided actions of a small minority of users.

    01 Nov 2004, 12:26

  12. John Dale

    Will, the key word in your post is majority. Of course we can trust the majority of users, but unfortunately that's not enough; it would only take one user to decide to try some ingenious hack to fool people into clicking some link that isn't what it appears to be, and there could potentially be significant problems. And even trustworthy users mislay their passwords, or leave their PC unattended, so there are more opportunities than we are comfortable with for HTML to be mis-used if it's available at all.

    01 Nov 2004, 15:25

  13. Tables is the one thing we thought might come up as a requirement, and I agree that it would be useful to support it in Textile, though it would be quite a lot of work. We'll be watching to see if more users come forward with a requirement for tables.

    Yes please – tables would be really, really useful for the learning objects!

    03 Nov 2004, 10:36

  14. Steve Rumsby

    I've just had the need to post some code in a blog (in a comment, in fact) and I could really do with a <pre> </pre> equivalent to make the layout look right. Any thoughts?

    03 Nov 2004, 11:37

  15. Just a comment… doesn't the image layout wizard currently give you HTML code to stick into your blog?

    04 Nov 2004, 12:31

  16. John Dale

    Alison – We know that tables support would be useful for learning objects. We'll be investigating how hard it would be to add it before we withdraw HTML.

    Steve – As you know, we've done some work to introduce escaping, which I'll discuss in more detail in a separate post.

    Mark – Good point; we'll need to change the way the layout wizrd works so that it returns Textile markup when you select an image.

    04 Nov 2004, 14:10

  17. I have just seen this posting. I'm sorry to hear this decision, but I know it's an important issue.

    There is one thing I need HTML for at the moment, though I think you would be able to provide it in Textile quite easily, and that is to force links to open in a new window. I find nothing loses you a reader like them accidentally closing the window, and after one or two clicks you can be lost anyway.

    I have also made several postings using tables, and I find that an extremely useful way of showing information, as I imagine it would be for many people.

    I also find the current image placement is unhelpful and so I use left and right alignment. I hope you would provide that.

    I also use BIG and SMALL and I like that effect. Any hope of that?

    13 Nov 2004, 03:01


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