Re: XML & Technical Writers...

Subject: Re: XML & Technical Writers...
From: Mary McWilliams Johnson <mary -at- SUPERCONNECT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 14 Apr 1998 14:02:03 -0500

Deborah, this is very interesting. I'm trying to get a handle on how XML is
actually used on the Web. Everything I read says you can make up your own
tags. How does this work out in practice? How will I know if the browsers
can understand my code?


Mary McWilliams Johnson
McJohnson Communications
Documentation Specialist
Web Site Design, Development and Graphics
"One must learn by doing the thing; for though you think you know it,
you have no certainty until you try."
--Sophocles, c 496-406 B.C

At 12:44 PM 4/14/98 -0600, Deborah Ray wrote:
>Hi, Dan,
>You've hit on a topic that should prove worthwhile to tech writers
>in the very near future. Following is a (VERY brief and cryptic!)
>rundown of what XML offers tech writers.
>In addition to the data definition and exchange stuff that
>you mentioned, XML
>* Combines SGML's power and scope with HTML's ease of use,
> giving you the best of both technologies. You can think of
> XML as being "SGML-lite" or "HTML on steroids."
>* Makes reusing information relatively easy and inexpensive--that is,
> you can develop information to include in a product's documentation
> and easily reuse it for training materials, product descriptions,
> or whatever. You don't have to deal with recreating information,
> changing formats, or addressing platform compatibility issues.
>* Lets you create documents that meet very specific needs--
> you create your own document structure and rules as well
> as your own tags and attributes.
>* Can help you develop consistent document sets. XML not only
> lets you organize documents and information very precisely, but
> it also can force developers to comply with the structure
> and organization outlined in the DTD you create.
>* Is great for creating large document sets, especially ones that
> are developed by teams of people or developed over months or years.
> As mentioned above, XML can force compliance with the DTD (so even
> long, drawn-out projects can include consistent documents), and
> it's text-based, meaning that the information will be readily
> transferrable in the long term.
>* Lets you identify contexts for words on the page--that is,
> this is a figure caption, this is a figure reference, etc.
> Because you create your own tags and attributes (and are not forced
> to use ones that the W3C specifies), you can specify exactly how
> words are used.
>* Lets you address a potentially large audience using a
> variety of platforms. As XML tools and technologies develop,
> XML should help eliminate cross-platform, cross-software,
> and browser-specific issues.
>At this point, all signs indicate that XML offers the potential
>of being an ideal tool for tech writers to learn and use. In fact,
>tech writers are ideal candidates for using this technology because
>we already have the information development, design, and presentation
>skills necessary to develop these structured document formats.
>Of course, all of XML's great potential for tech writers is just that--
>potential. XML is still very new, and currently you won't find
>many tools to develop or browse XML documents.
>BTW (as I think Eric mentioned to you off line?), we are currently
>working on an XML book, and we have just recently completed an
>article on what XML offers tech writers--apparently a timely topic!
>Hope this brief summary helps, and feel free to holler with
>specific questions.
>>I am attempting to do some research, in the form of in-person interviewing,
>>on the subject of XML and its impact on technical writing. So far, while
>>there is a lot out there about XML, I have found little about how technical
>>writers might use it, or the possibilities it may open up in the field. XML
>>seems to be targeted more towards business and information exhange, and
>>less toward content creation, which may explain why there is little out
>>Does anyone have any ideas about it this or leads to an interview?
>>I am in the San Francisco Bay Area, but would be willing to interview via
>>email, if necessary.

>* Deborah S. Ray, debray -at- raycomm -dot- com,
>* co-author _Mastering HTML 4.0_, _HTML 4 for Dummies Quick
> Reference_, _The AltaVista Search Revolution_, and others.
>* RayComm, Inc., currently accepting contract inquiries.

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