RE: single sourcing in Intercom

Subject: RE: single sourcing in Intercom
From: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- ca -dot- stilo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2003 15:25:06 -0400

Eric L. Dunn wrote:

> Single-sourcing, database publishing, customising output, can indeed
> all be done using XML systems. But they can also be done without any XML
> at all. The very good combination of tools such as FrameMaker and WWP or
> MIF2Go are just some of the methods possible.

There are, in my experience, three kinds of useful applications of markup
technology (SGML and XML):

1. Systems so vast, with such a quantity of documentation to mange, process,
and integrate, that desktop tools do not suffice. The cut-off point for "so
vast" is certainly changing, but this category certainly still exists.

2. Prototypes. These are systems that could be implemented as desktop
applications and/or packaged CMS, but have not yet been packaged. Much that
is now possible in desktop applications in terms of effectivity and the
targeting of multiple media was prototyped and pioneered in SGML. Some of
those systems still use SGML or XML for data representation, though the user
has no exposure to it. And, of course, many of those prototype systems are
still in productive use today.

However, once desktop apps have reproduced the functionality, there is
little reason to begin new systems using markup technologies. (Another
reason not to expect a big growth in the use of DocBook.) On the other hand,
if you want system behavior that you can't get today from a package
application, markup technologies may be the perfect foundation for building
your own.

3. Systems which, to be effective, require custom semantics. That is,
systems in which you need to identify subjects, structures, and
relationships that are unique to your business and your products or
services. This includes any single sourcing system that sets out to
systematically eliminate all significant duplication of information across
an extensive information set. But it certainly does not include all the
activities to which we currently give the name single sourcing.

It is worth noting that you can implement some custom semantics on top of
the models provided by desktop applications. Using Word style names to mimic
XML element names is one example. The semantic naming of variables used in
Frame's conditional text is another. However, there is a limit to the amount
of semantic sophistication you can achieve this way and a more important
limit on the amount of custom processing you can do based on this
information without resorting to custom tools.

Actually, once you understand content modeling and the use of XML tools, you
can put XML solutions together very quickly, making them perfectly
economical for small scale solutions. We do this in house here all the time.
However, the understanding is the key, and it is the cost of gaining that
understanding, not the cost of tools or systems that is the real barrier to
entry in the markup space.

For now, at least, markup technologies remain a niche application. We may
see increasing productivity pressures on documentation groups driving more
and more people into higher levels of single sourcing applications that
require custom semantics and therefore markup solutions. If that happens, we
may tip over into a state where markup skills are sufficiently widespread
that markup solutions will be used for smaller projects. Until and unless
that happens, however, high-end single sourcing seems to be the major
compelling reason for documentation people to venture into markup
technologies today.

Mark Baker
Stilo Corporation
1900 City Park Drive, Suite 504 , Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1J 1A3
Phone: 613-745-4242, Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- ca -dot- stilo -dot- com

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sourcing tool for FrameMaker that lets you easily publish your content
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RE: single sourcing in Intercom: From: eric . dunn

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