Re: On-Line Vs. Print, Single-Sourcing, and how to ignore the obvious

Subject: Re: On-Line Vs. Print, Single-Sourcing, and how to ignore the obvious
From: eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 5 Aug 2002 17:35:49 -0400

All excellent points Bill, and your projects are great examples of how
single-sourcing can work at the high end of the scale in terms of complexity of
output and subject matter.

<<Part of the problem with this debate is that most people think of
"single-sourcing" in a way that is limited by technologies for managing
conditional texts in a single master document. However, there is much more to it
than conditional texts.>>

That's part of the problem. But I find a larger part of the problem is even once
it has been accepted that various chunks can be reused, the sheer volume of
tracking required scares many away.

Explaining content management and getting support for it is very much like
trying to get someone to comprehend database design. They get lost in a "but
there are thousands of things to track" panic. A simple database solution can
serve as a rudimentary content management system with little fuss. And all that
has to be correct is the details for one piece of content. (If you can cut down
one tree, you can cut down the forest.)

But that all being said, I think at the level of complexity that most software
writers on the list are concerned with a conditional text, text inset, and
variable single-sourcing solution is exactly the place to begin.

<<The conclusion (that I have argued previously with Andrew Plato on this forum)
is that new technologies are (and will increasingly radically) changing the way
we write. <snip> What shouldn't change (and here I totally agree with Andrew) is
that this technology should focus totally on giving the end reader the necessary
information presented in a way that is correct, appropriate and usable by that

I commend you for once again offering your sage advice and experience despite
the vehement opposition you have faced on-list. Surprisingly the last statement
is probalby agreed upon by all supporters of single-sourcing. And dispite the
hyperbole and the luddite cries of "that's why there's cut and paste" I don't
think anyone on list has ever said that the end user and presentable information
shouldn't be the first concern. And while the impossibility of creating usable
documents from single-source work-flows seems to be the number one argument in
the arsenal of the anti-sinle-source crowd, there are a number of great examples
of small simple projects and large complex projects to show that it can be done.

Also, despite claims and hot-air to the contrary I don't think any honest
supporter of single-sourcing will claim any one solution or approach is 'one
size fits all' or that single sourcing is even appropriate in all situations.

Eric L. Dunn

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