Re: Real value (was implementing single-source) - demonstrated!

Subject: Re: Real value (was implementing single-source) - demonstrated!
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 12 Nov 2000 20:48:45 -0800

HALL Bill wrote:

> By designing an SGML DTD to meet our content management requirements (it
> would have been XML had the original specs been developed a year later),

It might be worth stressing that the conversion from SGML to XML
should be relatively trivial. Bill implies the fact in part of his
message that I've snipped, but anyone interested in the process
should look up DocBook: The Definitive Guide, which has about a page
on the changes necessary.

> Andrew argued that the cost of training authors to work productively in such
> a system would be prohibitive. The fact is that it took us one day to teach
> authors (who had no prior contact with either SGML or FrameMaker) the
> mechanics of using the SIM-based work flow environment and the basics of
> structured authoring in FrameMaker+SGML's authoring interface, and a week or
> less of ad-hoc support before the authors were exceeding their productivity
> in the WordPerfect environment.

I think that a distinction has to be made between writing in a
markup language on one hand and designing the DTD, the style sheets
and checking that a document is well-made and valid on the other. In
many cases, you could probably get a tech writer started with about
an hour's instruction. The actual design work takes longer to work.

>We had a major authoring task to convert 4000+ Australian and New Zealand texts to ~1,800 single class >documents - particularly since we had also accepted the obligation to review and substantially beef up the >use of warnings and cautions at the element level in the documents.

So far as I'm concerned, Bill's concrete example is very welcome in
this discussion. And, obviously, on a project of this size, a very
high level of organization is needed. However, I'm curious how Bill
(or anyone else) would answer these questions:

At what point is a project large enough to justify the effort? Would
the switch to a mark up language be worthwhile for every project? Or
is it possible that, on much smaller projects, the effort and the
cost wouldn't be worth the results?

I have no opinion on these points; I'm only asking them because I
can't help suspecting that the project in Bill's example is probably
much larger than many tech writing projects, and I wonder whether
this observation is relevant to the discussion.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
604.421.7189 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

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