Re: Structure vs. Substance?

Subject: Re: Structure vs. Substance?
From: "Tim Altom" <taltom -at- simplywritten -dot- com>
To: "Giordano, Connie" <Connie -dot- Giordano -at- FMR -dot- COM>, "TechDoc List" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 12 Jun 2000 15:22:32 -0500

I'm sorry, Connie, but I must disagree. Structure can exist quite
independently of content, and often does. This is the basis for all of SGML,
in fact. Databases aren't developed with content, but with structure...the
content comes later. If you can work with DocBook, the mammoth DTD developed
for SGML documentation, you'll find that it works for just about every
possible situation...all with no content being added yet. Haven't you ever
written an outline for an English class before you started writing? That's
structure predating content.

Structure can and should come before content, because the entire
documentation cycle can be defined and tested before you write word one.
Structure definitions also make it possible for various writers to work
together without bumping too badly into one another. It permits single
source technology to be deployed without having to wait for content to be
written. I've done several projects in which I knew IN ADVANCE how my links
were going to be distributed in a help file, despite having not written a
single topic. That permitted me to create a shell file, which in turn
permitted developers to work on both linkage and output issues, and let me
design and test templates, styles, mappings, and other hooks.

Tim Altom
Simply Written, Inc.
Featuring FrameMaker and the Clustar(TM) System
"Better communication is a service to mankind."
Check our Web site for the upcoming Clustar class info

> It really is a "chicken and the egg" thing folks. You can't have
> unless you understand at least something about the content. Both
> and content evolve as you become more adept with whatever you document.
> Structure without content is null, content without structure is void. Way
> too many writers out there are either null or void or both.

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