Re: Trapping your content in HTML

Subject: Re: Trapping your content in HTML
From: Mark Baker <mbaker -at- OMNIMARK -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 26 Mar 1998 18:20:20 -0500

Bill Burns writes:


>When I was at Documation 98 two weeks ago, the number one caveat I heard
was
>"Don't use HTML as a storage format." In other words, if you have
>data/content that needs to be reused or simply has to be maintained long
>term, you should develop in a tool that allows you to filter to HTML rather
>than developing in HTML itself--especially if you have to have multiple
>deliverables.

Good advice as far as it goes, but the debate about formats obscures the
essential point. What matters is how much structure you want to store with
your data. Once you have answered that question, find a data format capable
of expressing that structure. Any format that expresses that structure is as
good as any other. Why? Because any format that expresses that structure can
be translated into any other format that expresses the same structure. If
you don't store any structure that cannot be expressed in HTML then there is
nothing wrong with storing in HTML.

This is not to say that you should be content with storing only that amount
of structure that you can express in HTML. Most people should probably be
storing a great deal more structure than that. But it is structure that is
at issue here. Too many people have spent too many millions translating RTF
or HTML or some other format into an SGML or XML based format that stored
not one bit more structure than they had before.

Transforming unstructured rtf or html to unstructured XML gains you nothing.
Formats are irrelevant except in so far as they enable you to express
structure. Any format that expresses a given structure is equivalent to any
other format that expresses that structure. (There is some reason to believe
that some formats may have better tool support in the future, but no
certainty. Tools will always be available that can transform one expression
of a given structure into any other conceivable expression of the same
structure.)

---
Mark Baker
Manager, Corporate Communications
OmniMark Technologies Corporation
1400 Blair Place
Gloucester, Ontario
Canada, K1J 9B8
Phone: 613-745-4242
Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com




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