Massively automated Intranet?

Subject: Massively automated Intranet?
From: M -dot- Anderson -at- epixtech -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 09:52:31 -0700

(this *is* related to tech-comm; bear with me for a sec)

I've been following the recent discussions about XML,
single-sourcing etc., with some interest. As it happens,
I'm presently confronted with a situation that y'all might
be able to shed some light on . . .

. . I've been asked to advise, and possibly set up,
a "web system" that enables internal technical article
authors (or SME's) to post mid-length (a few pages)
articles on technical topics. The submission process
must be completely online (no paper), and should
ideally be platform & software independent.

These articles would then be passed to one of several
editors (as appropriate for the subject area), edited
by the appropriate human editor, and returned to the
system. Once edited and approved, the article would
have to be automatically converted into HTML, PDF,
Postscript, and possibly TeX and/or XML.

There would be diagrams and mathematical equations
in some/all of these articles.

The article, in all of the various formats, would then
be automatically posted & indexed on an internal web
server, where it would remain eternally-available at
a specific URL (ie., I can't store the files in a database,
I'm supposed to use a "real" URL path).

Ack! I can see how this would work with extensive human
intervention, but I'm supposed to figure out a way to do it
with a maximum of one person running the whole process,
and up to several hundred potential authors, with perhaps
a half-dozen articles submitted per day, max.

I have no problem insisting on some kind of standardized
input format (ie., I could require all authors use DocBook,
or TeX, or whatever) -- but I'm not at all sure how to

I've looked into a few "web application frameworks" and
they all seem interesting, but largely require programming
skills beyond my level (I can handle Perl, but not C/C++ or
Java). In particular, Zope looked intriguing, and the Apache
Cocoon project seems like it might be useful in a few years.

Has anyone tried this sort of system? Ideas? Suggestions?
Should I just say that it's impossible? This is still at the
"gee wouldn't it be nice" stage, so I *could* just say that it's
an impossible dream, but I'd really like to find a way . . .

Martin Anderson
epixtech inc.

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