RE: Online vs. print: two types of content

Subject: RE: Online vs. print: two types of content
From: HALL Bill <bill -dot- hall -at- tenix -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 7 Aug 2002 17:30:33 +1000 (EST)

Geoff Hart and Eric Dunn make good points about the fundamental differences
between print and electronic delivery. Their clear thinking also reminds me
why I think the terms "single source" and "content management" create more
difficulties than they solve when we are discussing the central issue of how
to most cost effectively assimilate, distil and deliver useful knowledge to
the customer.

What I am striving to achieve in the structured authoring systems I am
implementing is the concept of a "virtual document" where all text is
indexed down to the paragraph level and available for reuse via index
pointers (the concept works very well in a native XML database, but is
unwieldy in relational databases).

The virtual document from which the deliverable is produced is a shell
containing high level and unique elements down to levels in the hierarchy
where reusable content exists. At this point the shell contains an index
pointer to the unique location of the shared text. A single virtual document
is created and managed for each individual deliverable.

Documents started from preexisting documents already know where the
duplicated materials exist, so it is an easy matter to eliminate unused
content and add unique content. When you are starting from scratch, all you
need to do is write a string of text to see if that already exists somewhere
in the repository. Even if you have written text, on saving it the system
will check to see if close matches already exist, so you can choose to reuse
and thereby avoid the need for separate maintenance of common texts in the

The amount of text able to be reused can be greatly increased by including
variable elements or entities in the concept of a reusable block. These are
populated with document specific information based on a setting at the top
of the virtual document.

To me "single sourcing" is to maintain all variants as conditional texts in
one master file that is resolved to a particular output condition at the
time of delivery. Here, several to many deliverables are produced from he
one master file. This is conceptually quite different from the "virtual
document" approach described above, although in a fully capable system both
techniques might be used in the one document.

To me, a content management system is vastly different from the kinds of
file management systems used to deliver HTML to the Web that people are
calling "content management systems". A real content management system has
the intelligence to do the things described above plus indexing, check
in/check out, versioning, release etc. in a workflow management environment.

Tenix is already doing many of these things, but we are still working to
find or assemble a system that we can profitably use for our smaller

Bill Hall
Documentation Systems Analyst
Strategy and Development Group
Tenix Defence
Nelson House, Nelson Place
Williamstown, Vic. 3016
Tel: +61 3 9244 4820 (Direct)
+61 3 9244 4986 (Office)
Mailto:bill -dot- hall -at- tenix -dot- com

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