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Subject: Re: [dita] Nested Sections

Paul Prescod wrote:

> If topic-based authoring means anythng then it means that you don't
> arbitrarily shred everything with a title into a topic. Topics are
> things that have meaning ON THEIR OWN. A section that is inherently
> embedded in its context should not become a topic to fulfill an
> arbitrary requirement of a framework.

I think this is the crux of the discussion: some things *must* be topics 
and some things *must not* be topics--that is the distinction between 
topic and section.

In particular, if the information is titled but cannot stand alone then 
it *cannot be* a topic and therefore must be a section. If it can stand 
alone and it is a candidate for re-use (in the sense that it is not 
explicit disallowed as a re-use target) then it must be a topic.

Whether or not a section has sub-hierarchies is irrelevant: either it 
stands alone if it doesn't. Just having sub-hierarchy doesn't affect its 

Therefore I submit that, from the standpoint of topic-based writing it 
doesn't matter whether sections nest or not, the problem is the same: is 
what I'm writing obligated to be or not be a topic? This is the 
fundamental challenge of topic-oriented writing.

It is also the case that allowing nested sections allows abuse by 
authors, but that cannot be our concern: we are not responsible for 
enforcing authoring policy, only for enabling satisfaction of 
requirements. If nested section is a loaded gun then we have an 
obligation to provide gun safety training but we can't simply outlaw 
guns because some people might shoot themselves.

That is, given that we understand the distinction between topics and 
not-topics and the implications of making that distinction correctly we 
have an obligation to educate the community on how to make that 
distinction clearly.

I have heard from others, who shall be nameless, that they have abused 
other elements specifically in order to get the effect of nested 
sections. This is additional strong evidence that there is a legitimate 
and compelling requirement for such a structure.

It's also important to keep in mind that the very beauty of DITA is that 
specializers can impose any constraints they want (consistent with the 
base content models), so if people want a world where nested sections 
are not allowed they can easily build that world.



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