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Check out this page from Server Fault. This is a really weird and confusing render of the version diffs. I imagine it is a Markdown problem - diff of answer on Server Fault.

The weird thing is specifically the horizontal scroll bars.

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that's so cool! how did you do that?? –  quack quixote Feb 2 '10 at 23:54
I'm pretty sure it's related to putting code blocks in an unordered list. It's a bug in the C# implementation, the JS preview looks fine. –  Andreas Bonini Feb 3 '10 at 0:23
@Koper: The answer (C# Markdown) looks fine too (well, there's some odd syntax highlighting due to the use of code formatting instead of quote formatting, but that's correct as far as the parser is concerned...) It's just the diff shown in the revision list that's screwed up. –  Shog9 Feb 3 '10 at 0:27
OMG upvotes? Must be because you're not trolling in this post. –  random Feb 3 '10 at 0:55
I'm not a troll. –  Evan Carroll Feb 3 '10 at 1:24
Probably related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/19624/… –  sth Feb 3 '10 at 2:32
@Evan: That's what a troll would say. –  perbert Feb 3 '10 at 3:09
Oh, man... Why did you edit this? What does a bug in the diff tool have to do with the editor and markup?!! –  Shog9 Feb 3 '10 at 3:12
It was an upvote tarp! @sho –  random Feb 3 '10 at 3:14
Well, screw that. @Evan: It's a perfectly good bug report, please leave it be. If you have a feature request, post it separately. –  Shog9 Feb 3 '10 at 3:16
what is my edit being reverted for? –  Evan Carroll Feb 3 '10 at 3:18
Because you added a discussion topic / feature request to a bug report. Start a separate thread if you want, don't try to cram everything that comes to mind into one. –  Shog9 Feb 3 '10 at 3:19
When I removed your edit, someone gave me a "Cleanup badge." –  Evan Carroll Feb 3 '10 at 3:23
So is this a feature request or a bug report? Different things to vote on. –  random Feb 3 '10 at 3:24
You get the Cleanup badge for a rollback. Doesn't check to make sure you've got your head screwed on right. –  random Feb 3 '10 at 3:29

3 Answers 3

This is an interesting, but not a show stopper. I hope that Jeff addresses it.

I think it is time to replace Markdown with something easier to parse and format, like WikiText. The PHP parser for Wikitext works really well and the new beta version of wikipedia has a javascript WYSIWYG editor with Office 7 style ribbon. Their editor is a lot more powerful than the one SO uses. I think this would be a great improvement. Any ideas?

Yes. This I don't agree. At all. I'll try and give you 10 reasons why:

  1. Markdown is easy to parse for humans, which is something I'd like over something that is easy to parse for computers. Programming is hard lets go yadda yadda yadda.

  2. This is not a bug with Markdown per se, but with the implementation of the diff system.

  3. This is not a showstopper bug, so making such a big implementation change to another templating system for this one bug

  4. Can you imagine what the change would entail? There is already an enormous body of data in Markdown. What do you propose? Keeping both backends meaning double the code for no real gain? Change the existing data to be able to parse it with the new backend, potentially loosing information in a non easely recoverable way?

  5. Seriously? A ribbon interface? Even ignoring the fact that some (many?) people, including me don't like/hate the ribbon interface, we'd like the site to be kept simple. This is unnecessary complexity.

  6. We are developers. We should be able to understand Markdown rules to use it effectively and fall back to HTML when needed.

  7. We are developers. We like to edit the source by hand. Most/all Javascript Rich Text Editors suck, big time. Also, having this as a requirement would make it harder for mobile devices users to use the site.

  8. WikiText has a lot of features that make it incredibly more complex than Markdown. Although we are smart enough to learn it, learning something new is a burden, in this case for no real gain. Also, it sets the bar to entry higher. If you are going to propose a Rich Text Editor, see 7.

  9. This site is done in C#, not PHP. You are asking the team to reimplement another parser?

  10. Why do you think that there would be no problems with a different parser?

  11. Do you really need all the power of WikiText?

The last one is free.

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Don't get me wrong I completely agree with you, but point #6 and #7 are really not valid. THERE ISN'T ONLY STACKOVERFLOW. On superuser.com the people asking questions are computer savvy as much as my grandma. And then there are all the stackexchange websites. –  Andreas Bonini Feb 3 '10 at 3:10
@Koper: but this feature request is being made in meta.stackoverflow.com, not meta.stackexchange.com. Make it optional in stackexchange, not in the stackoverflow engine, which are by now completely different products/code bases. I doubt your/my grandma is asking questions in superuser.com. Power users used to love the ´see source´ of WordPerfect, we like to be able to edit the source to make complex things and to fix it when the parser FUBARs it. Also, Markdown is easy. –  perbert Feb 3 '10 at 3:23
Yes, I agree that markdown is much more easier than that "thing" wikipedia uses which seems more like a programming language. I was simply arguing that not everyone who uses this software is a programmer. –  Andreas Bonini Feb 3 '10 at 3:52

Huh... Looks like the diff tool forgets to close <pre> blocks. So every time a new code block appears in the change, it nests.

Haven't been able to reproduce it though. It's not just <pre> blocks, or <pre> blocks in lists...

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Probably because nothing changed close to </pre>, and the diff shows only the parts that did change or the parts nearby –  Andreas Bonini Feb 3 '10 at 0:51
I donno... Maybe that's what set it off, but there was a whole section added, with multiple <pre> blocks, and nary a closing tag to be found in the diff. –  Shog9 Feb 3 '10 at 1:16

We have improved the revision diff algorithm.

We're currently testing it here on Meta; once we're certain there are no problems, it will go out to the other sites as well. Your example was one of those I tested, and it is handled correctly by the new version.

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