I had a lively discussion with Cory about using typographic quotes in reaction to Rael's post about a SmartyPants plugin for Blosxom. I want to use fancy Unicode characters like U+201C and U+201D (“smart quotes”) in my blog. Cory hates that idea because non-ASCII characters behave badly when you paste them into your email or text editor and that they don't work well in RSS.

The underlying problem is an impedence mismatch between new Unicode oriented tech like the Web and XML and old ASCII oriented tech like email and text editors. Browsers and RSS readers should mediate between the two but software often gets it wrong. For instance on a cut and paste MSIE translates U+201C into the byte 0x93, which I guess means something in some proprietary Microsoft encoding but is not valid ASCII. If it just turned it into a proper ASCII 0x22 quote life would be so much better. So because of buggy software we're left with poor typography.

This may all seem a bit pedantic for a design nicety, but handling non-ASCII correctly really matters if you write in almost any language other than English. Unicode and UTF-8 really are the right things.

The ironic thing is that in this blog's preferred font (Arial 12pt) smart quotes don't really look any better than normal quotes. So for now I can ignore the whole issue.

  2003-02-20 19:09 Z