RE: The Wave of a TW's Future: (was RE: Tools & Technologies)

Subject: RE: The Wave of a TW's Future: (was RE: Tools & Technologies)
From: HALL Bill <bill -dot- hall -at- tenix -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2001 08:56:42 +1100 (EDT)

Re Mats Brodberg's original question about some concrete experience using
SGML or XML when it comes to creating and maintaining technical
documentation, I have made a number of postings to Techwr-l and other forums
re Tenix Defence's experience using SGML for ANZAC Ship maintenance
procedures. Rather than repeating myself again, check out the following
references: for my May, 1991
Technical Communication article. A number of forum postings and conference
presentations can be located via Google: Be sure to
check the "More results from..." entries to see the full list.

Also try the "real value" string in the Techwr-l archives if you want an
extended debate (and flame war) over the future of structure authoring
technologies: myself and several others on the pro side, Andrew Plato and
several others on the con side. The flames got so hot that Eric Ray banned a
couple of participants.


Re: The Wave of a TW's Future and Chris Knight's XML & the future of tech
writing (topic from last week).


Yes, I believe that the new technologies will in time have a major impact on
the way we write and the number of positions available in the various

As it structured authoring and content management technology develops the
technical writing discipline will likely change even faster and more
radically in the near future than it has up to now. Where we used to write
books and manuals, we will be capturing corporate knowledge in a form where
it can be readily managed and processed by content management and delivery
systems. Tenix is already started down this path in the way we are authoring
and managing maintenance procedures used on our ships, and we are currently
working on moving technical manuals into the same kind of regime with the
goal to turn many of them into interactive electronic technical documents
(IETD) and interactive electronic technical manuals (IETM). The ideas for
doing this and reasonable delivery systems have been around for close to a
decade. The technology for practically authoring, marshalling and assembling
the knowledge required to produce such deliverables is just now becoming
economically practical.

We are also now beginning to apply such technologies to the formative stages
of the project cycle, where knowledge captured there in a semantically
useful structured format can be flowed down over the entire 30-50 year
life-span of a major defence project. Specifically, the LegalXML
Organisation ( and several workgroups in
OASIS and the United Nations/CEFACT are working to develop XML constructs
for managing metadata associated with contractual transactions and to
develop XML interface DTDs to capture the content of the contractual
documents in a form that is directly linkable to requirements
development/tracking systems such as Telelogic's DOORS systems and readily
parseable in content management environments such as RMIT's SIM system.

In Melbourne Australia we have formed a consortium comprised of CSIRO
Manufacturing Sciences and Technology's Manufacturing Systems and Automation
group ( who have a major interest in
developing knowledge management technologies for "single project virtual
enterprises" such as are formed to complete major defence and engineering
projects, RMIT University's Multimedia Database Systems
( - developer of the SIM native XML database
system who also have substantial experience implementing XML-based
legislation drafting, management and delivery systems; SpeedLegal
( who have developed an XML based contract
precedents management and contract authoring system; Tenix Defence
(; and the Australian Industry Defence Network
( which is the national industry association
representing small and medium enterprises involved in defence contracting.
We have been shortlisted for a National Office of the Information Economy
grant to fund a project where we will attempt to demonstrate the flow and
development of contractual information up and down the supply chain from the
major client to the small suppliers. The Google search listed above will
also find a presentation or two on this initiative.

The impact of such knowledge capture and management tools will flow through
the entire corporate structure of large organisations - and will also affect
those who supply to such organisations or use their products.

As some contributors have already said, the bottom line is that skilled
thinkers will always be required to capture knowledge in a form that others
can use and comprehend. Many new opportunities will also be opened for those
of you who can think analytically and who can understand how elements of
knowledge can be processed and made available to those who need them
wherever they are in the organisation. In any event, I think it is clear
that we are on the threshold of a major revolution in our tools of the trade
and the ways in which we have to think about the work we do.

Personally, I am in the process of making just such a shift. Now that my
work with the ANZAC Ship maintenance procedures is complete (i.e., securely
managed in an easily used and stable system that should continue working for
a long time), I am moving into a cross-divisional knowledge management role
where I am working at extending the kinds of technologies discussed above
across the entire Tenix organisation. There is a long way to go yet, but at
least the corporate executive has acknowledged that the world is changing.


Bill Hall
Documentation Systems Analyst
Strategy and Development Group
Tenix Defence
Level 10, Yarra Tower
World Trade Centre
Flinders Street
Melbourne Victoria 3005
Tel: +61 3 8662 7939
+61 3 8662 7600 (switchboard)
Mailto:bill -dot- hall -at- tenix -dot- com

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