Re: Giving up on XML

Subject: Re: Giving up on XML
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- westnet -dot- com -dot- au>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 11:03:54 +0900

Another benefit of structure is that it's easier to get new value from
old manuals.

To give one example, IBM is implementing a clever advanced search
capability across a library of several hundred old books. These books
are maintained by different groups around the world using different
editors, but because the source files are SGML the tags are structured
in a predictable order. This means that the people responsible for the
search project could say to the doc groups, "For each instance of X
insert a tag in this format between the </Y> and <Z> tags."

For the books that I looked after (4,500 pages), the changes took a
morning to implement, most of which was thinking, experimenting and
checking. The actual find/replace took about ten minutes. If the books
had been unstructured I doubt the project would ever have started--it
would have been just too much work.

These benefits obviously accrue mainly to large companies with big
libraries of documentation, but it would be shortsighted to say that XML
is therefore only for the IBMs and Suns of the world. The idea is to
reduce the cost of entry so that the benefits are available to smaller



Janice said:
We used to use FrameMaker and constantly were telling
writers that they needed to use the catalogs for formatting
and not apply bold or italic through the menus. Guess what?
When it came time to convert the documents to SGML,
some of the formatting in some documents vanished
because the writers had used the menus.

I'd rather have structure imposed from the beginning for
the sake of consistency and clearer documentation for our
readers. Getting the writers to incorporate editing markup
of the text itself is challenge enough. Having inescapable
structure rules means one fewer thing that will be inconsistent.

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