Re: Single-sourcing, sort of

Subject: Re: Single-sourcing, sort of
From: "Dick Margulis " <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 20 Jul 2002 10:56:57 -0400

Doc <dlettvin -at- attbi -dot- com> wrote:

>Here's another that might be a little simpler and less dependent on
>You say that the numbering system changes as new answers are
>interpolated. It's not clear whether this numbering actually appears
>in the document. If it does not, a simple fix is to redo the system to
>allow interpolations without requiring renumbering.
>A simple example is the old line numbering system in BASIC:


>By jumping the numbering by 10s, you can add lines into the sequence
>without renumbering.

<aside>Hey, Doc, that system predates BASIC by about 50 years, maybe more. It was widely used in manual systems (such as giving customers or students or patients account numbers while keeping them arranged alphabetically) long before the advent of programming languages, and IBM promoted it for numbering Hollerith cards when the most advanced machine they produced was a sorter. Early compilers (symbolic languages like SPS and later FORTRAN and COBOL) reserved a sequence number field in columns 76-80 where all the books suggested the same system. BASIC is a johnny-come-lately.</aside>


>The number of discrete answers will inform the size of the numbers you
>use. These numbers can also help you track down answers more quickly.
>For example:
>Assign the number range of 20000 to 29999 to questions on flanges.
>20000 to 21999 - questions on pricing.
>22000 to 23999 - on manufacturing materials
>The idea is to narrow the categories, but leave plenty of numbers
>between those assigned to answers to allow for interpolation.
>This consistency will make retrieval much easier.

Nice suggestion. But create a simple index document that says what the number ranges represent. Or name the subdirectories to give a clue, such as answers\20000-29999_flanges\

Otherwise the first person who touches this system when you're on vacation will totally screw it up.

>If the numbers do appear in the document then I would recommend that
>you separate the catalog numbers from the answer numbers. Even typing
>in new para numbers for a document will be less hassle.
>You can use a spreadsheet or database to track the numbers.

That's the key. You can set this up easily enough in Access.

>Now for the mildly tricky stuff.
>I suggest that you create each answer as a separate document. The name
>of each document file is the catalog number.
>Then create a master document containing all the answers by reference.
>This will give you a visual cross-check of the content.

This is logically equivalent (although not identical) to what The RFP Machine does ( It puts the Word chunks into a database as binaries. It's clunky, and I'm not suggesting running out and buying it. In fact, I like Doc's approach better.

>Then create a master document containing all the boilerplate that will
>always be included and save it as a template.
>Each time you create a new document, you open the template and enter
>the sub docs in the order they should appear.

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