RE: DITA possible for start-up/lone writer?

Subject: RE: DITA possible for start-up/lone writer?
From: "Cathy MacDonald" <camacdonald -at- core -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 2006 18:58:46 -0600

Joe Malin's post about DITA and DocBook has piqued my interest. And it's
not only because I'm trying to implement XML for data exchange with a
well-known U.S. airplane manufacturer. This manufacturer is so huge that
not only does the right hand not know what the left hand is doing...but the
index finger doesn't know what the thumb is doing!

So, I'm trying to follow their rules and procedures, but am heartily
confused about what they've given me in the way of direction. They sent me
several documents containing what look like tables full of data definitions,
comments, and, surprisingly, data fields that are limited to 2 characters or
4000 characters, alphanumeric or numeric, etc. This seems contradictory for
an XML document where elements could contain entire novels. There are no
attributes, entities or notation.

Also surprising is that the manufacturer has sent me the rather
hacked-together data definitions, but no DTD or schema. Every one of the
data definition tables (of which there are 30) are identical, but just track
different sorts of data; e.g. nonconformance complaints, parts that don't
match the spec, short shipments, and things of that nature.

I feel compelled to retrofit a DTD to the list of elements they gave me
(about 35 in each "table") because I can't imagine how the XML can be valid
if there is no governing DTD or schema. Our fine firm is too busy pinching
pennies to actually give me any tools to use for this effort, so I'm relying
on stuff I dig up on the internet (which, as we know, is about as reliable
as the local weatherman).

Has anyone ever been asked to provide XML data to a customer like this?

P.S. Pointy-haired Boss suggested that there should be just one element in
the 30 documents: <data> ALL THE DATA IN THE KNOWN WORLD </data>. I've
tried a thousand times to explain to P-H B about how structured documents
work, but honestly, I've had more insightful conversations with dogs.


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