Re: Writing for on-line

Subject: Re: Writing for on-line
From: Sonja Draeger <sdraeger -at- NORMAN -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 1998 11:18:05 +1100

>>Agreed almost completely -- I'd just like to change "content" to mean
the ideas, and add "expression" to cover the words used to convey the
content. So you have content, expression, structure, and format.

>>The distinction between content and expression is important because,
even if you want to convey the same information in two different
contexts (say a reference guide and a tutorial), the expression still
needs to be different, to take account of differing readers' needs.

>>This, of course, requires great care in the multiple use of slabs of
text. The database option is a powerful one, but like most powerful
solutions it has to be used with discretion

Absolutely. To offer an example, although I don't write online help, for
each product we produce I write various types of paper documentation:
User's Guide, Features Summary, and two-page flyer. Each contains the same
'content' about features, but the 'expression' is different: detailed,
simpler, simplest. A database approach to this type of single-sourcing
wouldn't really help that much.


sdraeger -at- norman -dot- com -dot- au
Norman Data Defense Systems, Australia

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Lewis [SMTP:lewism -at- brandle -dot- com -dot- au]
Sent: Friday, February 20, 1998 10:48 AM
Subject: Re: Writing for on-line


Mark Baker wrote:

> ... we have to go beyond the distinction we
> have learned to make between content and format and understand that there
> really a three fold distinction we need to make, the distinction between
> content, structure, and format.
> Content is simply the raw words that express thoughts.
> Structure is the selection, ordering, and behavioral characteristics of
> content for a particular presentation in a particular medium.
> Format is the specific visual display choices made in presenting that
> structured content.
> ...
> Separating structure from content is no great trick, once you learn it.
> Databases have been doing it for years. Your ATM slip, your monthly bank
> statement, and your bank's annual report all draw data from the same
> database. Different structure is applied to each information product as
> is drawn from the database.
> The bank does not store bank statements, it generates them as needed. We
> should not be storing web pages, help files, and documents. We should be
> creating them as needed. From a database.
> ...
> This is true single sourcing, with true media independence, and it lets
> exploit the full potential of every media we use, rather than confining
> ourselves to the lowest common denominator of media capabilities.

Michael Lewis
Brandle Pty Limited, Sydney, Australia
PO Box 1249, Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012
Suite 8, The Watertower, 1 Marian St, Redfern 2016
Tel +61-2-9310-2224 ... Fax +61-2-9310-5056

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