Re: Virtues and Vulnerabilities of SGML

Subject: Re: Virtues and Vulnerabilities of SGML
From: Chet Ensign <Chet_Ensign%LDS -at- NOTES -dot- WORLDCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 12 Dec 1994 11:00:20 EDT

I had to give thought to George F. Hayhoe III's article "Virtues and
Vulnerabilities of SGML" before responding. He made several assertions
with which I disagree, but none of those points addressed my
underlying feelings about his message.

I finally realized that my real concern was the tone of his article,
which he made clear with his opening sentence:


Let me state where I stand: I am an advocate for SGML. I use it,
I like it, and I believe that it makes sense as a technology for
managing document-based information. Bu it is not the answer for
everybody. Mr. Hayhoe is correct; it is not simple to
implement with today's technology (although it is not as difficult
as he suggests). At our company, we develop many types of systems
for many types of clients. SGML is a major component for some,
not even on the horizon for others. The key question is always
"What solution is right for this customer."

But just as I won't push SGML where it is not warranted,
I must take exception to those who get on a soapbox and portray
it as a technology that technical writers should actively resist.
Much of the discussion on TECHWR-L has been focused on where our
profession is going. We are working in an era of immense social change;
we are no more immune to economic trends than any other profession.
Abstract arguments about the value we add to our companies' products
won't help us if we are perceived as a costly indulgence that adds
nothing to the bottom line.

SGML is an approach to document-based information offers us
the opportunity to add value to our product. We owe it to
ourselves to investigate it, learn what it can do, even take
the initiative to introduce it before someone else does. If
we resist it -- or any other promising technology for that
matter -- we risk finding ourselves marginalized, outsourced
or off-shored with increasing frequency.

Maybe I misunderstood what Mr. Hayhoe meant to say from his
soapbox. Maybe he was simply saying "Don't bite at the hype."
If so, then he and I are in complete agreement. One should
not buy into any solution just because it is "hot." You don't
need a soapbox to make that point.

Best regards to all,


Chet Ensign
Director, Electronic Publishing
Logical Design Solutions, Inc.

Phone: (908) 771-9221
Fax: (908) 771-0430
Email: chet -at- lds -dot- com
Email: censign -at- interserv -dot- com

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