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 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.

@nuttgodd @Gargron the reasoning behind all the care and discussion about it is that mastodon is the only remaining software that refuses to acknowledge any formatting, and it leads to broken and illegible posts from those people. its almost like its intentionally obscured too: if you put a link inside of a post, it renders the same color as the rest of the text and has no url preview! which is madness because it still works perfectly if you do happen to notice it!

@desvox @Gargron well, out of all the posts from the 1.2K people i follow, i've never once seen a broken/illegible post due to formatting. also, twitter certainly doesn't have italics or bold or anything like that to my knowledge, so it's really not unheard of for similar platforms to not have this. i also have no idea what you mean about the links, i definitely see preview boxes on urls.

@nuttgodd @Gargron about the link preview thing, apparently it does generate a url preview but with a delay? it didnt generate until i clicked i opened the post in the view column, but anyways, the color for the link in the css has really bad contrast for a link, so when the url preview hasnt shown yet its not visible as a link. the second picture is the same post but on my pleroma instance, where it adds good contrast so that its obvious.

as for twitter not having it: why not improve? twitter never had content warnings, but we do! we have longer posts too! why not add some basic rich text functions too, at least adding enough support so that posts made with them are legible? why is mastodon is the only active ostatus/activitypub frontend that doesnt support some form of html formatting?

@desvox @Gargron why? because: eugen doesn't want to put it on his platform, and people who want it clearly already have it on pleroma. it's fine. CWs are a fantastic, wonderful feature that make a noticeable difference. formatting is an afterthought that is already available through other means.

@nuttgodd @Gargron well i suppose its a bigger issue that causes people to get riled up about it, that having mastodon as the prominent implementation is extremely limiting to the growth of the fediverse as a whole when its a one-man project that wont consider the features supported by the rest of the network. when it concerns something as basic as text formatting, the legibility of posts is at stake here. people use these features and mastodon breaks them, perhaps intentionally at this point. and mastodon wont accept user contributions for features the majority of people clearly want, like configurable character limits and text formatting.

honestly, thats why i care about text formatting. what else will mastodon try to hold us back from doing in the future?
@desvox @nuttgodd @Gargron

Mastodon does not hold back the rest of the ecosystem. Pleroma was the only project that remotely cared about how posts looked on Mastodon, and we no longer care based on the rejection of the PR that made those features look decent.

Use the features or not. If Mastodon users complain because their software does not comply with the spirit of the ActivityPub standard (which is the basic HTML subset defined in ATOM), then refer them to the MR that added support for the basic HTML subset defined in ATOM. If they mansplain why you should not do it for their sake, there's always the block button.

Mastodon, rich text 

Mastodon, rich text 

re: Mastodon, rich text 

re: Mastodon, rich text 

re: Mastodon, rich text 

@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.

@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.

@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.

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