Re: Impact of information explosion on our profession

Subject: Re: Impact of information explosion on our profession
From: Chet Ensign <Chet_Ensign%LDS -at- NOTES -dot- WORLDCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 1996 14:10:56 -0600

Tim:

You're right, Chet. We've been staggering toward that future for decades
now. Just as the first cars were buggies with internal combustion engines,
we're still producing manuals and other materials with linear capabilities.

> Of course, SGML comes to mind as the sort of thing you're talking about, but
> I sense that you're looking deeper than a tool. Rather, you're searching for
> a (buzzword alert!) paradigm that shifts us from DTP just as surely as
> aerodynamics changed the shape of the car and ergonomics changed the insides
> of it.

Yes, although I don't see anyway that the paradigm shift can happen without a
change in the tools. SGML is of course on the forefront of my mind as well, but
not as an end in itself. It is just that I don't see anyway this sort of change
can be accomplished without structured data underneath the hood.

> Getting the data
> into the thing isn't the problem. It's finding it and getting it back out
> and then incorporating it in the right spot.

That's definitely one of the problems, although I think that versioning of
information is possible. More possible, in fact, with a system that manages the
version control than without. However, as you point out, if a writer is going
to reuse a piece of information then:

... s/he has to stop and think that it might already exist
... s/he has to look for it
... s/he has to distinguish the **right** information from **similar**
information -- probably a bigger problem with graphics than with text, and then
finally
... s/he has to use and be able to make any local modifications required for
the current context.

Item 1 in that list alone is enough to give anybody headaches.

> Or is this just another example of the 2-D thinking you're seeing as the old
> way of doing things?

No, its a practical example of the practical kinds of problems we have to
surface and think.

> Is there a way to incorporate chaos into this to
> simplify matchups? We've been using the brute force method for years,

Hmm, now **that's** an interesting idea. Wonder how that could be done. In
another posting, I described how BookManager READ/VM will take any word you put
the cursor on and compare it to certain document structures (index entries,
glossary terms) looking for a match. If it finds any, it pops them up as
implicit hypertext links. Hypertext linking without the links. You are right;
the brute force method works only so far and that's exactly the approach that
is reaching the limits. I'll have to think about that.

Thanks for provoking some thought.

Best,

/chet

Chet Ensign
Logical Design Solutions
571 Central Avenue http://www.lds.com
Murray Hill, NJ 07974 censign -at- lds -dot- com [email]
908-771-9221 [Phone] 908-771-0430 [FAX]


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