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Subject: career change

My friends and colleagues,


As I am leaving Cisco, I will not be able to continue as a member of the TC.


Briefly, the context. For some time, I have been contemplating a move to an academic career. This got my more focused attention when Cisco offered an early retirement package this winter. I turned it down by the deadline in June, thinking it well to have more than the year's grace that it provided, and accepting the calculated risk. As it turns out, the terms of my present departure are nearly equivalent to that package. (It helps that I live in Massachusetts where we have the kind of insurance that the whole country should have.) The effect is to parse the transition in a different way than I had envisioned--and of course, I accept the shorter time frame.


My last day at Cisco is Friday, August 19. Officially, I am not expected to be in the office and working between now and then, putting my attention instead on my transition, but I will be able to attend the TC calls on the 9th and 16th if that will be helpful. Don and Kris will be asking for a volunteer to add the title of TC Secretary to their résumé.


I aim to persuade at least one other representative from Cisco to attend and achieve voting member status. There are a number of good candidates. I have spoken with one, and am presently waiting to hear from two others. If they can get the bandwidth they will be excellent contributors; and by dividing the effort among several, bandwidth will be less of a challenge. I hope to have resolved that soon into good news for the TC.


I am speaking to them also about my participation on the SCs for Busdocs, Help, and Technical content, and on the Adoption TC. They will of course follow their own interests and express their own strengths.


Several interests of mine have been rather too long-term in scope for consideration as we wrestled 1.2 through the OASIS process and even now as we bring 1.3 into focus, but they may merit future reference.


1. Harvesting glossary terms from the topics in which they occur and assembling from the per-topic collections a glossary per map. Register such terms in the index as well. I mentioned this once early on in my attendance, apologized for leading down a rabbit hole, and Michael said "Yes, but there's shiny stuff at the bottom". Clearly out of scope for 1.2 at the time.


2. Pushing the creation of content back from the tech writer world into the world of requirements and specifications. We saw something like this in the discussion of scripts to generate spec descriptions from the DTDs so that they are automatically in synch, and Bob Beims' SC report today (8/2/2011 minutes) touches on allied opportunities. In a product development organization, Specs and even requirements are not always maintained up to date as development thinking evolves, so there is value in having specs developed and maintained in a wiki environment; I know some folks have worked on support to transition content from the more fluid wiki environment to managed DITA content. Lots of value propositions follow: specs are kept current; tech writers contribute to clear spec language; tech writers aren't misled by out of date specs; a great deal of tech review can happen seamlessly even prior to formulation of deliverable documents. There is an obvious connection to the BusDocs SC work on doc types such as specifications and requirements and on a metamodel within which such types can be specialized in an orderly and mutually commensurate way.


3. Automated text generation, as discussed in Chapter 9 of vol. 2 of this book


and as exemplified by the products that the author's company makes: http://www.cogentex.com/ (Dick Kittredge was a fellow linguistics student at Penn.)


4. The formal similarity of tables and lists. A table is a list of table rows. By manipulations related to those of text generation (#3), the telegraphic text in the cells of each row could be expanded to sentences that include text in column (and row) headings, suitably tagged so that the reverse operation was also possible.


I have not been on the job market since 1981. At that time, I went out spurred by necessity with my heart in my mouth. Now, I and my circumstances are much changed, and my heart leads. There are two main branches of my academic interests in linguistics. One is to carry forward work on a Native American language on which I did fieldwork 1970-74 and 1991, and to return useful results to that community in N.E. California and to the community of linguists. The other is in a new understanding of linguistics within that unifying science of life, Perceptual Control Theory. A neuroscience researcher who shares the same commitment for his field may be able to open a place for me at his university. If not, "way will open", as the Quakers say.


It has been a great pleasure collaborating with such intelligent, intellectually honest, and public-spirited people. The DITA TC is a worthy example of how all standards bodies should comport themselves. May that happy condition endure. I wish you well, and I know you will all do well, doing good.



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