Re: Chet's Comments on Document Database

Subject: Re: Chet's Comments on Document Database
From: "Fernandez, Ray" <AMS!SOLUSPONJ1!rfernand -at- ATTSOL1 -dot- ATTMAIL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 1997 14:08:00 +0000

Chet Wrote:
Last summer I didn't have much experience, but I've gotten a lot since.
Just to give you the benefit of my learning curve, here is one
concreteexample of such an application.

I developed a document database for a client in the semiconductor
industry. The underlying tool I used was BASISplus, and BASISwebserver
from Information Dimensions in Dublin, OH. (Web site is at
This client wanted to make information about their products available to
engineers and product designers from a password controlled portion of
their public Website. They wanted to be able to list them by product
(ASIC products, Communications products, etc.) and document type (white
paper, technical manual, application note, etc.) as well as by title.
wanted users to be able to search the database by title, by text within
document, by text within headings or subheadings, and they wanted to be
able to filter by product family, subfamily, and/or document type.
Lastly, they wanted to be able to maintain the collection automatically,
because this will eventually encompass thousands of documents. (You can
imagine what it would take to maintain several toc's with thousands of
entries by hand!)

We handled this by converting the documents into a modified HTML markup.
In the head element, we defined several non-HTML elements that the BASIS
engine would use. There was dtype, pfam, psubfam, and a couple of others.
So the head element of an application note might look something like

<TITLE>Performance statistics for 600K Core</TITLE>
<PFAM>coreware communication</PFAM>
<DTYPE>application note</DTYPE>

Knowing what you went through on this project, I can sympathize with your
plight. You took on and completed a Herculean task with only Mickey
Mouse-like resources and support. You sir are "the Man" -- or should I
say the document database man. Just curious, what percentage of the
difficulties you encounter were tool based (i.e., BASISplus) and how much
were client or resource related? On that note, can you tell me if
BASISplus and BASISwebserver are SGML savvy?

Food for Thought:
Like you Chet, I too believe that document databases are the future of
our profession. I also believe that having the technical and managerial
skills to implement and maintain such databases will be crucial in
tomorrow's information job market. But all the skills in the world won't
mean much if we can't convince the powers that be of the
importance of document databases.

For example, I worked on a command reference manual for software company.
Maintaining this manual was difficult to say the least. The information
was constantly being updated and changed, and the information was coming
to me in variety of formats and via a variety of delivery methods (email,
hardcopy, and floppies).

Needless to say a multi-user database would have been the ideal solution
for this information need. Unfortunately, I was a mere intern at the time
and my suggestion fell on deaf ears. It seems that all too often
decisions about information management a left to those who know little or
anything about the topic and have no desire to learn about it. Instead of
asking about information management, they (the powers that be) ask about
tools (i.e., what word processor or page layout program to use). Is this
a common problem in corporate America?

BTW, I have a relative who works at Prentice Hall and she's getting me a
copy of your book this week. I look forward to reading it.



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