Re: XML & Technical Writers...(long)

Subject: Re: XML & Technical Writers...(long)
From: Lani Hardage <lhardage -at- RMTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 14 Apr 1998 16:35:04 -0700

Yes and no.

Deborah Ray wrote:
> >* 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.
Mark Baker wrote:
...This is rather optimistic.... Simply tagging
> documents in a tagging language based on XML will not give you easy
> reuse... And
> you do have to deal with changing formats, because your XML based
> language
> will not be directly displayable in any media. You will need to create
> an
> application to process your tagging language into the format
> appropriate for
> each media you address. You will probably also need to create
> applications
> to translate between different XML based tagging languages used by
> different
> parts of your company.
Actually, XLL (extended linking language, a part of XML) does allow
reuse rather easily. And changing formats is also provided for in XSL
(extended style language, a part of XML): e.g. you can insert tags
specify which font to use for print, which font for display. And I think
other output options such as audio and video will also be standardized
in the near future.

Mark wrote:
...The more specific to your
> particular business needs you [sic] XML based language is, the more
> you will need
> to provide your own processing application to process that language.
> The key
> to successful and useful applications of XML or SGML lies in the
> quality and
> sophistication of the processing applications that act on the markup.
Most technical documentation will only need a DTD, which is not that
complicated to create. There will probably be standard DTDs created for

Mark wrote:
...a DTD (the XML statement which
> defines your tagging language) can't express all the business rules
> you are
> likely to want to achieve meaningful consistency. This again is the
> province
> of the processing application that processes the markup created by
> developers. Secondly, DTD's get big in a hurry and you will quickly
> find
> that the number of possible combinations of things that are legal in
> your
> DTD will make you consistency more technical than real.
Again, we are not necessarily creating processing apps, just
documentation. But you can bet that developers will also get into
creating DTDs for XML, because it means that inventory, ordering,
accounting and many other apps can be done over a secure,
platform-independent network. The business applications of XML far
outweigh the documentation applications.

Mark wrote:
> All an XML or SGML based
> tagging language gives you is a way to recognize tags, a list of valid
> tag
> names, and rules about what order that tags can occur in. They say
> nothing
> about what the tags mean.
As I understand it, when you have a DTD (and any browser you use
currently has one), you know what the tags mean.

Mark wrote: itself, XML does not eliminate the
> proliferation of formats, it contributes to it. (Everybody and his dog
> can
> now create their own tagging language.)
Then why are chemists now able to read and interpret and share
information based on the DTD for chemistry (and there is one for math
and one for pharmaceuticals) with the aid of an XML parser?

Mark wrote:
> The tools available for server side
> XML conversion are far more powerful and easier to use for this
> purpose than
> Java or XSL (okay, guess what my company makes).

Mark wrote:
...XML alone will not do much for you.

I'm not convinced. Sorry if I misinterpreted any of your statements, and
perhaps this will encourage a further dialogue. But I tend to agree more
with Deborah Ray's enthusiastic evaluation of XML's potential.
(Sources: O'Reilly's XML book _XML Principles, Tools and Techniques_,
The next page is at Caltech and has hundreds of XML links:
w3c's XML page:
Tim Bray's page (father of the Internet):

Lani Hardage
Documentation Manager
Risk Management Technologies
lhardage -at- rmtech -dot- com

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