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Subject: Re: [dita-busdocs] draft outlining the 'specialization guidance' proposal

Hey, Bruce.

Good stuff! I think I only have an exception with your final paragraph stated here:

"A disadvantage is that the existing base topic types would be 'orphaned' from this scheme. The recommended specializations from the abstract layer include three simplified topic types with the same core semantics as the three base topic types. These new specializations are for BusDocs whereas the base topic types are primarily for technical documentation and user assistance."

While tech pubs are typically limited to Concept, Task, and Reference - this should not imply that they are not used outside of tech pubs. In fact, they are prominent in all other types of business documents -- from procedures for filling out an expense report to providing terms of reference for a contract.

Second point is that I think we'll need to compromise a little to make Concept, Task (simplified), and Reference the basis for specializing new related information types for business documents. At least until the abstract layer is incorporated into a future release. The TC acknowledges that it cannot guarantee full backward compatibility with major releases of the standard. At some point, the content will need to be overhauled to conform to a more mature standard. If we make headway with the abstract layer in the meantime, the business document information types created from Concept, Task, and Reference can be overhauled to derive from their abstract types.

We will encounter some less-then-ideal work arounds (particularly with descendants of Reference) but I think it will be worthwhile to ensure that our content is fully interchangeable with all of the legacy tech pub content in existence.

On a final note, I think that we are missing a strong argument for the creation of these new information types. I don't think we need convincing but adopters may. 

As we know, many users seem to be quite happy shoehorning all content that isn't a procedure into a Concept and calling it a day. A typical user is looking to get rid of tags to select and isn't necessarily going to embrace the idea of facing twice as many. I fear that users will shut down very early in the conversation of DITA for business documents if we cannot convince them very quickly of the need for strong information typing.

I like to tell people that Information Typing is at the heart of D(IT)A. But for many it is the least understood and most academic.

For me, I believe that the strongest arguments for separating information types is because different types of information have different behaviours and styles of presentation. This is backed up by Robert Horns research that resulted in Information Mapping.

Would you all mind sharing your thoughts and justifications for information typing? Perhaps we can distil this into an easier concept for people to grasp. Or maybe we will find out that we need to gather and present more research on the subject.


Rob Hanna

Ask me about the Society for Technical Communication (STC) to learn more on how the STC serves your business and professional needs. Visit http://www.stc.org/story.

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