Re: Two questions for single-sourcing practitioners

Subject: Re: Two questions for single-sourcing practitioners
From: "Dick Margulis " <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2002 11:23:58 -0500

Char James-Tanny <CharJT -at- helpstuff -dot- com> wrote:
>I use AuthorIT for single-sourced projects. I don't have to deal with your first issue (content management tracking), as I'm typically the only one working in my database. That said, I can still try to answer your question ;-)

If I'm the only one involved, I don't really need any system. I need a solution that enables a number of pathologically process-averse, tool-averse individuals (sales reps, for example) to participate--along with others who are more savvy.

>The Workgroup and Enterprise versions of AuthorIT let library administrators assign permissions and release states to all objects. You could use a combination of these to make sure that a) folks could only change the objects you wanted them to and b) topic changes are indicated. When someone changes an object, ask them to change the release state so that changes are readily evident to anyone else looking at the database.

I don't think this is getting at the root issue for me. It isn't so much about my assigning changes to others as it is about my knowing when changes need to be made in the first place.

>Since this isn't totally fail-safe, you can also take advantage of AIT's Search feature, which displays a list of all objects changed within a specified date range.

Again, this is looking at the situation from the wrong end of the horse. However, if the system were linked with the Help development system, then every time a Help topic changed, that could be reflected in the SSDB, right?

>Let Marketing only change the marketing topics...don't give them permission to change anything objects assigned to product development. (However, you can let them view those objects if you want.)

Again, the problem is different from what you are envisioning. Our marketing people are too busy to bother stepping on anyone else's prose. The question is how do we know to notify responsible individuals that their chunks need updating? What is the triggering event, and how is it tied to specific entries?

>>>How do we track the timeliness of those chunks in the SSDB?
>Try to implement a system that everyone must follow. Use the Search feature to verify that folks are following it. You can also take advantage of AIT's versioning feature to retain older copies of topics.

"A system that everyone must follow" is a non-starter in our company. Too many that-doesn't-apply-to-me narcissists. We can institute rules and policies until we're blue in the face, but nobody is going to follow them. Instead, we need to have benefits that incent people to cooperate and a system that is tolerant of a high level of nonconformance.

>The second question is much easier to answer :-)

>With AIT, you work in a database. Every object includes multiple property settings (these depend on the object). Therefore, when you modify a style, you'll see tabs for General (how text with this style displays in the AIT editor), Document (how it displays in Word, for printed output), WinHelp, and HTML (which covers HTML, XHTML, HTML Help, Oracle Help, and JavaHelp).

Unfortunately, this doesn't address the question I posed. I'm well aware that a style tag can trigger different behaviors in different contexts. But I'm not sure that a style tag applied at the paragraph level can deal with typographic niceties.

Here's a concrete example. If I want to indicate a registered trademark, I use character 174. In a Windows app, I type Alt+0174 to generate the character itself. In HTML, I represent this as &#174;. Okay, that part is straightforward. And text editors are smart enough to degrade an 8-bit character to something consistent (like "(R)," in this example), when rendering as 7-bit text. But in a print document, I make that character a superscript, in order to make it less obtrusive. But if I mark it as a superscript in HTML, it becomes MORE obtrusive, so I don't do so in that environment.

By the same token, I use typographer's left and right quotation marks in print, but if I specify those characters in HTML, I run into rendering issues, so I just use &quot;. Other than tagging every left and right quotation mark, every en dash, every em dash, and every other special character individually--something that other users wouldn't even begin to do--can an XML style tag applied at the paragraph level manage these issues, or do I have to manage them manually every time I grab text out of the database?

>And you can also control the graphics for any output. Include a black & white photo for print output, a 256-color bitmap for WinHelp, and a gif or jpg for HTML. Link to the graphics so that you can replace the existing graphic and know that it will be correct the next time you generate the output (which also updates the size of the graphic, so you don't have to worry about finding all instances and modifying the width and height properties).

Now that's interesting. We can update our screencaps in one place. Excellent.

>I know that AIT uses XML, but to be honest, I'm not sure when or how. Everything is stored in the database and output as needed (and as designed).

Thanks for getting the ball rolling, Char.


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