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Why Markdown?

Last week I finished a pull request that moved some documentation from mozilla's wiki to a github repository. It took a couple of hours of editing and toying with pandoc to get right, but when I was done, I realized the benefits were difficult to see. So, I decided to write them out for posterity.

Better Process

The only way to edit our wiki is through the web front end which causes some major problems.

For one, You're always editing the production version and there's no way to get review before publishing. That's obviously not great.

Second, your edits need to be submitted quickly - like within an hour, usually. Since you're editing in a web form there's no good way to save your edits locally. Even worse, there's no good way to settle merge conflicts.

With markdown, I can develop my revisions over the course of weeks and preview them locally. When it's time to publish I get review from my peers, which makes my documentation more readable and helps me improve as an engineer.

Better Tools

I have powerful tools for manipulating text so using a simple web form to edit technical documentation seems absurd to me. With markdown, I get the joy of using my favorite text editor in my favorite development environment

One less tool

Our team is already using Markdown for our README's and Github provides a much better UX for revison control. By moving to Markdown for our user facing documentation, we have one less tool and syntax we need to depend on.

The documentation sits next to the code

Storing your documentation with your code has a lot of great benefits.

Syncronization

Pull requests can include simultanious changes to code and documentation, which makes it more likely they'll stay in sync. Both because you don't need to go edit them elsewhere and because it can become a review requirement.

Discoverability

Keeping the docs next to the code helps with discoverability. Your code and your documentation should supplement each other. Keeping them close together is only reasonable.

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