I have a lot of thoughts on this rich text deal and I have put a lot of them down on GitHub but I still need to vent more


Mastodon isn't a Twitter clone but it was made to fill that exact niche. Short posts with mentions, hashtags, and URLs. Such details give the feel of a platform. The velocity, the atmosphere. On a personal level that's just what I like. And I think it would be reasonable to assume many of those who signed up do, too.

A social network is also a kind of common playground. Individuals have the capacity to spoil it for others. For example, when there was a bug in Mastodon that allowed you to make links spin, many made use of it for fun, which spoiled the experience for people with motion sickness. The more vectors there are for how information is transmitted, the more pronounced this is.

Right now, there is not a whole lot of ways that individual posts can escape their boundaries to affect the whole experience. They can use lots of line breaks or a wall of text, but it's limited by a maximum height. They can use caps, but they don't stand out that much. Custom emoji are one of the weaker spots when people use them as fonts, and that's annoying.

But adding more elements to the mix? More control over visuals? People WILL make it look ugly, that's a guarantee.

There's another angle to this. The fediverse is large, and its participants who are not Mastodon have different ideas and design philosophies. Some of them are publishing all sorts of lists and quotes and strike-through items. And when those posts show up on Mastodon, those visuals are lost.

That is not ideal, when it happens! But interoperability between systems with different goals and capabilities can't ever be full, it's a spectrum.

Unless you seek to emulate every system you interoperate with, you have to draw lines. And drawing the line at what Mastodon was designed to do, kind of makes sense to me. The text is the most important part, and we've got that.

What does not necessarily make sense to me is the urgency and fervour with which this issue has been discussed. Although it is not uncommon for Mastodon--for whatever reason--to frame every feature request as a question of life and death, when Mastodon is ultimately a place where we make a meme out of someone's name for a day, and then someone posts a picture of What Must Not Be Named

@Gargron Yup. Please keep it plain text only. Or at least keep the option of _displaying_ plain text only.

@Gargron Exactly, strong agree. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea of putting rich text in, but it isn’t what I’m after here and would make the platform less appealing to me.

@a @Gargron markdown syntax and style it yourself on your own instance?

@Gargron folks will do that. experimentation is good, though. as long as the 'content' tag is serializable as text (converting things that aren't understood to text via 'alt' attribute), then all kinds of content extensions are possible. nobody should be surprised if their site sanitizes away some of the more visually invasive features. (perhaps they turn them off themselves) it's good to just be up-front about that policy.

@Gargron it boggles my mind that people care so much about this, honestly. isn't the entire point of open source software the ability to make your own modifications? if people want it so bad, why not add it themselves? pleroma already has it, why not create an alt on a pleroma instance to... do italics, i guess?

it's really draining to have people be so aggressive about something that ultimately will go unnoticed by a huge majority. i'm with you here.

Mastodon, rich text 

@Gargron “And I think it would be reasonable to assume many of those who signed up do, too.” the polls seem to tell that assumption was incorrect anyway.

Wrt. potential for abuse, I don't think there is significantly more. If you are afraid of headers for instance, we could have them be displayed with the same font size and weight than regular bold text, and it wouldn't be more disruptive. Things like emoji and unicode abuse is more disruptive.

You are right that perfect compatibility with every possible other software is not reasonable, as AP allows full HTML. However, I don't think this means we should draw a line and never move it. We can reassess the situation when it changes. Currently, software such as pleroma makes reasonable use of some HTML elements, which, once stripped, change the meaning of the statuses. We have an opportunity to change that.

Mastodon, rich text 



Are you sure? Right now it is only 54% who want it fully implemented.

The issue, I think, is not if it will be implemented or that it is discussed... but how it was discussed.

re: Mastodon, rich text 

@shellkr oh, you mean, like how it was not discussed, then partially reimplemented after someone made the work differently, and the initial version continuously mocked right after posting a poll?

re: Mastodon, rich text 

No, I was thinking on how it got down to such a low level. It was a feature request. The discussion should have been purely technical. It wasn't.

...and it was said that all want this when it clearly is not.

re: Mastodon, rich text 

@Thib @Gargron

Maybe a way to make the rendering of the new text format optional (at user and instance level) would soothe fears of abuse?

@Gargron Also to add to the counter arguments why all that rich text is bad... The richer the experience, the harder the parsing the more prone it is to bugs (both functional and security ones). So I strongly prefer to keep things the way they are currently.


> Mastodon is ultimately a place where we make a meme out of someone's name for a day, and then someone posts a picture of What Must Not Be Named

Do you really mean that?

For lots of people (incuding me) social networks are places were people meet, connect, love, build friendships, find jobs, money, advices, news... Having fun is a part of this list, of course!

The features built into Mastodon directly affect the ability to pursue such goals.

@Gargron it's easier to understand why people are so passionate when you have that in mind :)

@Gargron A lot of people want "pretty" text regardless of context.
It's like how Epub "needs to" support JavaScript, because… uh. PDF supports it? I guess?
Couldn't use PDF or whatever instead for when you need JS support though, because reasons.

@Gargron (The real excuse for JS in Epub is because "somebody might want to make an interactive book someday and want it to run through a ebook reader app".)

@Gargron If you're so incredibly concerned people will abuse it, you could just have rich formatting as an option. That way, people who like it can see it and people who don't won't, and if an issue breaks out (as with the spinning links) users could switch it off until the troublemakers were dealt with and the issue was patched, if possible.


Right, and next time I post something on Mastodon I have to think about "How will this look like for people who filter richtext?" We know this problem from email and as someone who uses plaintext mails basically since ever, I can tell you, people have no interest in providing useful plaintext versions when they have richtext.

Keep in mind each option just adds exponential likely hood to break things that have to be tested. When you can, avoid.


@sheogorath @Gargron I never said anything about posting with it, only displaying it.

@Gargron > Some of them are publishing all sorts of lists and quotes and strike-through items. And when those posts show up on Mastodon, those visuals are lost.

That is not ideal,

Ah, if only there were a PR to help.

@kai Are you not reading the thread you are responding to?

@Gargron the PR was not a "full spectrum." It was a fixed set of formats - incoming only. Definitely not a big deal, but nice to have. I think you are blowing this way out of proportion.

@kai I'd say 168 comments were blowing it out of proportions--besides, of course once those things could be displayed, the authoring wouldn't be far behind. Glitch-soc already added it and it is part of the discussion now.

@Gargron I'm not talking about comments; I'm talking about the PR.

@kai Anything that touches CSS is a big deal for me.

@Gargron fair enough. All you have to do is explain that to people.

Maybe the approach might be akin to how the spoiler tags work now. Maybe as it shows up in the summary, a post is always plain text. And maybe only the first few words show. But when a button / UI element is tapped, that post’s full text with rich text formatting shows.
It would prevent rich text from being an annoying attention-grabber while providing its usefulness for longer posts.

@Gargron so can we keep the elements but strip the visuals?
- you can override h1-h6 margins, weights, sizes, etc. to be the same as p.
- you can keep ol/ul/li without mangling it into a run-on sentence; if you want, you can reset the margin-left to 0px as well.
- use a monospace family for code/pre, draw a border for blockquote or don't.
is that *really* so much to ask? imo i'd do this much, and no further. i'm not even personally concerned with authoring rich text, although nice as an option.

@Gargron as it currently stands, the sanitizer is horribly broken when it comes to tags like lists and headers because it just removes them instead of replacing them with something else. lists in particular are unreadable. this is probably the biggest point of contention for most people who commented on the original pr.

@trwnh @Gargron yes, replacing incoming lists with asterisks would satisfy 70% of my concerns. With strike through and bold (with again can be rendered *as text*) it would be around 98%. They're enough to convey the meaning, headers are not so important, people wouldn't have broken statuses, interop would be there.

@charlag @Gargron what's the difference between an asterisk and a circular / square bullet point? imo the standard list decorators are fine; the only thing that is contentious is the indent / margin-left.

@trwnh @Gargron visually? Not much. It's more to the "keep it plain-text".

@Gargron In my darker moments, I've thought that people who use custom emojis as fonts should have all their fingers broken and their computers confiscated.

@gargron I'm not a fan of adding rich text, but either way, it's small potatoes compared to other, much more significant design choices that I think Mastodon does perfectly.

Filling the niche that Twitter created and then screwed up, is exactly what I want from Mastodon, personally.

I hope Mastodon keeps making choices with that goal in mind, which isn't exactly the same as the goal of giving users more freedom or flexibility.

Yep im also more on the keep it text only. Maybe only allow rich text as an option.

@Gargron I agree that these short posts should always be what Mastodon focuses on, though I don't think adding certain rich text features would necessarily detract from that

@Gargron I always thought of Mastodon as a competitor to Twitter rather than a clone. They're the same market, but i feel saying Mastodon is a clone is like saying Ubuntu is a clone of Windows.

@Gargron fwiw rich text gives me some optimism about Mastodon for this same reason - it's kind of a lame Twitter clone, but since I hate Twitter there honestly aren't many alternatives, and so here I am.

Mastodon as something that's not just a Twitter clone, maybe there's actually something there? A reason why this space can be constructive and not just reactive...

@Gargron then why did you market Mastodon to Tumblr users? Tumblr has a completely different set of capabilities and features.


Maybe you could separate your work on "the fediverse locomotive" and on "mastodon, my personal ActivityPub server"?
That way you can still tell people to fork off when they're unhappy with your decisions about Mastodon while still giving the greater Fediverse the possibilities they'd like to have?

With two separates Liberapay/Patreon accounts you could even know what's more importants to the good people that contribute financially to your work...

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