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Subject: RE: [dita] Nested Sections

1. The questions are not topics because they are not (in this customer's context) designed to be meaningful _on their own_. They could refer to the content above them or the question above or below them.
2. The customer wants the wrapper for the reasons I described below. The wrapper simplifies authoring. The wrapper simplifies formatting. The wrapper guarantees that the questions are always together (there might be other kinds of sub-topics).
3. Your model requires the questions to be the last thing in the topic, except for another subtopic. But the customer might want "back matter" for a topic that also makes no sense as a standalone topic. e.g., they think of the related-links element as following the questions (both for authoring and publishing).
We're contorting the way they model and think about their system and I don't really understand how they or we benefit.

From: Michael Priestley [mailto:mpriestl@ca.ibm.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2005 7:54 PM
To: Paul Prescod
Cc: dita@lists.oasis-open.org
Subject: Re: [dita] Nested Sections

If you modeled each question as its own topic, you would not need a container topic called "Questions".


<learningobject id="x">

Underneath the covers, there'd be two specialization modules, integrated into a doctype that specifies "learningobjects contain questions". But to the user, this would be very similar to the structure you described below, just without the container element.

Michael Priestley
IBM DITA Architect
SWG Classification Schema PDT Lead

"Paul Prescod" <paul.prescod@blastradius.com>

11/02/2005 07:48 PM

[dita] Nested Sections

In a previous discussion, Michael asked why nest sections when you can
nest topics. My opinion is as follows.

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.

Our customer is in the e-learning domain. He has "questions" that are
directly related to the surrounding content. The questions are richly
structured like sections. The set of questions needs a wrapper element
to supply a title and organize the authoring experience.

Reusable Learning Object
                                 Question title

So in this case I'm not looking for infinitely nested sections. I just
need two levels hard-coded into the specialized topic type. I don't
think that this design is controversial, innovative or unique.

If I turn "Question" into a topic type then I also need to turn
"Questions" into a topic type and its only purpose is to wrap up other
topics. Plus I cannot default the title. Plus there are content
management and policy implications, because the customer wants all
topics to be content managed objects and all content managed objects to
be topics (in the sense of being inherently designed for reuse). (which
seems quite reasonable to me)

My other use case is wrapping up multiple elements to supply a single
conditional attribute on them.

Section audience="expert"
                Section product=""

I would also use this mechanism to conref more than one element at a
time. (I personally prefer this to a range-start/range-end model).

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Eliot Kimber [mailto:ekimber@innodata-isogen.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2005 12:00 PM
> To: Michael Priestley
> Cc: Paul Prescod; dond@us.ibm.com; ehennum@us.ibm.com; Jerry
> Silver; joann.hackos@comtech-serv.com
> Subject: Re: [dita] Thoughts On Sections
> Michael Priestley wrote:
> >
> > What is it about nested sections in particular that makes them more
> > suitable for your purposes than nested topics?
> The distinction is that the sections do not meet the
> requirements for topics, namely that they are not suitable
> for standalone use, that they cannot stand by themselves.
> This is not just a semantic distinction for information
> content but could have content management implications. For
> example, a likely content management scenario is that all
> topics are managed as separate storage objects. Using topics
> simply to get the effect of nested sections would interfere
> with this as it would require either additional business
> rules based on something like an outputclass attribute value
> or other distinguishing metadata value or some other,
> non-DITA-defined, way of distinguishing *real* topics (those
> that are inherently re-usable) from "section" topics (those
> that are not inherently re-usable and that should not be made
> available for re-use by default).
> Again, I agree with Paul that in a standard as general as
> DITA it is simply inappropriate to impose this degree policy
> constraint--it is imposing an editorial policy that is not
> universally accepted.
> And I do not agree that nested sections some how destroy the
> essential nature of DITA. It simply requires, as DITA already
> does, that you think clearly about what are topics and what
> are not and what your editorial policies for them are.
> And as there are ample mechanisms for imposing constraints
> (either through specialization or through the new constraint
> mechanism) anyone who feels strongly that sections should not
> nest can impose that constraint.
> In any application standard there is great temptation to
> impose policy decisions. In standards with very specific uses
> that can be appropriate, but the more general a standard is
> the less appropriate it is. This is something we struggled
> with in HyTime.
> > My personal feeling is that at the lowest level an
> architecture like DITA should impose almost no constraints,
> serving primarily to establish the names of things with only
> those context constraints needed to have a sensible base,
> with all other constraints being imposed at higher levels of
> specialization. This helps ensure the widest applicability in
> the future and avoids unnecessary constraints.
> Cheers,
> E.

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