Re: QUESTION: Using Information Modules

Subject: Re: QUESTION: Using Information Modules
From: "Michael A. Lewis" <lewism -at- BRANDLE -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 1997 09:49:17 +1000

Joe Miller wrote:
> We're starting to use modules because we're responsible for about
> 160 spec sheets and an equal number of user manuals which often
> reuse common parts. It's not yet an automatic process, so we're
> doing it manually where necessary.
> Do any of you have stories about how you stopped worrying and
> learned to love "information modules"?

Here's one nail that's been hit squarely on the head. We already use a
modular approach to writing: we're just not very consistent or
disciplined about it. Every time something like "Refer to Chapter 13 for
..." appears more than once in the same book (or, really, even once),
it's modularity at work in the form of a "subroutine". Every time we
lift an existing passage (even a single paragraph) from a reference
manual and slot it into a user guide, it's modularity at work again.

Some time ago, I developed (using Clipper) a "Content Management System"
that facilitated precisely this kind of multiple use (though that wasn't
the primary purpose). Because there's no way of predicting what text
elements will be re-used, the whole approach was based on the idea of a
paragraph as a module. That product is a touch out of date now, and one
day I'll get around to rewriting it in VB or something.

It's also worth noting that Interleaf has an "effectivity" facility,
which also allows reconfiguration; that also has to be based on a
modular idea.
Michael Lewis
Brandle Pty Limited, Sydney, Australia
: PO Box 1249 : Suite 8, The Watertower :
: Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012 : 1 Marian St, Redfern 2016 :
: Tel +61-2-9310-2224 : Fax +61-2-9310-5056 :

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