SGML and Technical Writing

Subject: SGML and Technical Writing
From: Anatole Wilson <awilson -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 12 Apr 1994 11:18:56 PDT

First, I'd like to thank Liora Alschuler for her long and comprehensive
posting on SGML.

While I don't want to make it seem like I'm reducing her post to one theme,
it bothered me when she said that SGML makes us write in a way that
computers can understand.

I've never written for an audience of computers,
and I think it's unlikely I will in the near future. (Ten years from now,
however, I'd say all bets are off.)

It disturbs me when the medium controls the message, and this is one of the
concerns we need to address while SGML is still in its infancy. If we must,
in a sense, be "document programmers," then the medium *is* taking some of
the focus away from the content.

What I'm really concerned with is how SGML affects our audiences. Does writing
in a structure that computers understand really help us structure information
in a way humans understand? Artificial intelligence paradigms have
worked towards getting computers to think like humans. But here we're
taking a step back--trying to make ourselves think like computers--until,
presumably, the computers are "intelligent" enough to think like us.

As far as I'm concerned, the jury on SGML is still out, because I haven't
seen enough examples of SGML in use--from information creator and user
perspectives--to make an infromed decision. I have been convinced by the
many posts here, that I need to do some more reading and research on the

So, remembering that "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," I
am hereby reserving the right to make up my mind and heartily endorse/condemn
SGML sometime in the future. And as I gather information, I'll continue to
comment and try not to put my foot in my mouth...

Anatole Wilson "An invasion of armies can
Sr. Assoc. Information Developer be resisted, but not an idea
IBM, Santa Teresa Labs whose time has come."
awilson -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com --Victor Hugo
all company disclaimers apply

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