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> It seems
> clear to me that we should be trying to figure out how to modularize and
> our documentation. For lack of a better term, I think of this as object
> oriented documentation.
Back in 1995, I coined the term "Component Based Information Development" to
describe this process. (See the Proceedings of SGML 96 for a paper
describing the basic idea.)
Component based is a better term than object oriented, since documentation
is not amenable to object oriented features such as inheritance or
However, the basic principles of object oriented or component based
programming apply here. Each object or component must be of a well defined
class and that class determines the rules for the construction of that
component and the interface between that component and others of the same
class or other classes.
You cannot implement well defined classes of information components in a
word processing or desktop publishing system, even one with a database back
end and the ability to chunk documents. These systems simply don't support
the required meta-data. A chunk of a document does not an information
component make, any more than a chunk of a program makes a object or a
I have successfully implemented a number of component based information
development systems using databases, markup and programming languages like
VB and OmniMark. It can be done with reasonable efficiency, but you cannot
buy it off the shelf.
The other systems that you and others have mentioned have great merit in the
much simpler process of developing new documents by managed borrowing and
revision. This process is easier to implement but does not scale well as the
number and variety of different outputs grows or the size of the information
Senior Technical Communicator
OmniMark Technologies Corporation
1400 Blair Place
Canada, K1J 9B8
Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com