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Your Document Is Going To Die

(Or it just sucks.) IdeaLogging: All existing electronic document formats are broken to a greater or lesser degree; most of the obvious paths to doing something about this only worsen the problem. On a longer timeline, physical documents are also vulnerable.

<Brennen> So we know paper documents are flawed. They're physical objects, after all. Hard to reproduce, lossy, space consuming, and difficult to amend. Paper kills trees and then turns to dust. Clearly, there are problems.

Electronic documents are a whole 'nother ball of wax. I am not sure we understand how truly fucked we may well be. Nevermind the (huge, raging) physical issues with long-term storage and the decay of media; what about the files themselves? Microsoft owns the desktop, while HTML and its ancillary languages have degraded into a horrible write-only stew of an intermediary display format (SteveYegge makes this point).

XML? Well, at least it's text, but it sure as hell is not pretty text - how separable is this from the realm of HTML & its problems in the long run? (Also, really ugly plaintext or HTML slapped inside some XML tags is still really ugly.)

PDF? Maybe, but you can't tell me they're any fun to work with. Highly portable in some ways, but they suck for screen reading, they're less editable than just about anything, and they deliberately discourage extraction/transformation of their textual contents.

Wikitext? Which one of approximately 708 superficially viable alternatives do you mean by that? And what percentage of perfectly readable wikitext is stored in a database that will be easily recoverable 50 years from now?

TeX: Longevity maybe. Too bad TeX and its variants are visually unappealing and hard to learn.

E-mail. E-mail wasn't bad for the better part of its history. Plaintext with relatively simple headers, highly portable storage. Then it all turned into HTML with Office document attachments & moved to servers run by Microsoft, Yahoo, & Google.

(I'm probably wrong about most of this stuff.)

<Brennen> Further, YourDataIsGoingToDie.

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