In the beginning, there was Textile, Dean Allen’s web application that allows you write using email-ish plain text, like this:

*bold* and _italic_ text

and generate valid HTML output, like this:

<strong>bold</strong> and <em>italic</em> text

It was very well received, one of those ideas that people looked at and instantly liked.

Many people wanted to use Textile to write entries for their own web sites, but without having to copy-and-paste their text through Dean’s Textile web application each time. And so other implementations sprung up. Most notably, Brad Choate’s MT-Textile, a plug-in for Movable Type.

Which in turn went to show that “Textile” is in fact two things: (1) an easy-to-read, easy-to-write markup language; and (2) a software implementation that translates the language into HTML. That’s an important but easily overlooked distinction. For example, Dean’s original Textile is written in PHP, and in addition to performing Textile-to-HTML markup translation, it also performs certain punctuation translations, including curly quotes and proper em-dashes. Brad’s MT-Textile was written from scratch in Perl, and only performs Textile-to-HTML translation; for the punctuation fun, it hooks into my SmartyPants plug-in.

There are several other Textile implementations, including PyTextile, Mark Pilgrim’s Python port.

Brad’s MT-Textile supported a few clever ideas for additional syntax beyond Dean’s original Textile. And then he (Brad) got some more ideas, implemented them in a new version of MT-Textile, and announced a beta version of MT-Textile 2.0.

This is where things get a little funny, see, because it blurs the distinction between Textile-the-language and Textile-the-implementation. E.g. what is the “official” language? That supported by Dean’s original implementation? Or the expanded version implemented by Brad? The whole thing is a little seat-of-the-pants (and I mean that in a good way): Dean just wanted to write a tool to make it easier to write for the web; Brad just wanted to use Dean’s clever idea with Movable Type; and Mark ports software to Python for kicks.

The good news is that it looks like everything is going to be worked out. Brad stopped talking about his 2.0 beta for a few weeks, but it ends up it’s because he and Dean are collaborating on the syntactical improvements. Writes Brad:

With all the improvements, Textile is going to be better than ever. I appreciate Dean’s willingness to work with me on this, since it’s his baby.

Excellent news. (And a Textile filter for BBEdit would be cool, no?)

Hire Ron and Win

While I have your attention, Brad is currently featuring an article about his friend Ron Pacheco. The gist:

  • Ron is a very smart guy, looking for a technology job in southwest Connecticut or New York City.
  • His family’s current medical insurance runs out at the end of August.
  • Ron’s son Thomas has a medical condition, and so it’s extremely important that Ron get a new job (and thus health insurance) before their current coverage expires.

Those of you who live in civilized nations may not be aware of the depraved state of health insurance here in the U.S. Most people get health insurance through their employers. This works out OK if you have a job and keep it.

This does not work out OK if you don’t have a job, or have a job that doesn’t provide you with insurance, in which case you’re looking at footing the bill yourself, which runs upwards of $400 or $500 per month for decent coverage. That’s for a single, young, healthy person. Double it for family coverage.

Worse is what happens if you ever experience a discontinuity in coverage. You can switch from one policy to another without problems, but if your coverage lapses, you’re fucked. Anything that happens when you’re without insurance — illness or accident — will be deemed a “pre-existing condition” and may not be covered even if you obtain health insurance again. (This varies from state to state.) So if you lose insurance coverage, then get sick, then get insurance again, your new insurance very likely will not pay for any of the expenses related to your illness. If your illness is serious and requires major surgery or expensive treatments, you are looking at going into debt tens of thousands of dollars. Or more.

I have some personal experience with exactly this sort of situation, and though I do not know Mr. Pacheco, I know how he must feel. This is not a sob story (it makes me angry more than anything else, frankly). He’s just looking for a job. Brad is asking for help finding him one, and linking is the best I can offer. As a bonus, Brad is offering a free video game console (with games) — your choice of PS2, GameCube, or Xbox — to anyone who does find Mr. Pacheco a job. See Brad’s site for details.