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Subject: RE: [dita] Two proposals for nested sections

"Paul Prescod" <paul.prescod@blastradius.com> wrote on 11/07/2005 07:14:02 PM:

> But it will make your life as spec editor much harder (as well as
> making the lives of readers harder). According to my understanding
> of the proposal, we would have to go through the entire DITA spec
> and everywhere it says "topic" (as in maps point to topics through
> "topicref" elements), we would have to say: "topic or thingee"
> (depending on what we call the thingees).

We went through a similar change earlier changing "topic type or map type" to "structural type".

>The topicref attribute
> would be a misnomer because it could point to topics or thingees.

It can already point to maps, PDFs, and websites, so it's arguably already a misnomer. If necessary we can introduce a domain specialization for <articleref>

> We'll have to add "thingee" to the "type" attribute.

I'm suggesting it will be a base type, same as map and topic. And same as map and topic, when an element already exists in topic, we could just keep the topic class attribute.

>What module
> will the shared elements be in? That seems like a lot of painful
> reworking to me.

Since <article> would contain all the same elements as topic plus some additional ones, the shared elements would be in the topic module files (topic.mod etc.).

>It also implies that things with a certain
> organization are "topics" (even if they nest deeply!) whereas things
> with a slightly different organization (even if they have only one
> level of nesting) are not topics! They aren't articles. So I don't
> know what to call them.

This is the crux of our problem. I can propose all the compromises I want, but you and I seem to fundamentally disagree on the nature of a topic in DITA. So regardless of whether my proposal addresses your immediate issue, I suspect you will not be satisfied with anything short of changing the current definition of topic.

For me it comes down to how much control we put in the hands of the map author versus the content author. On the one hand, I want the content author to have considerable freedom in how they author content: one per file or multiple per file, nested or flat, etc. On the other hand I want the map author to have considerable freedom in how they reuse and integrate content: whether it's in one file or many, nested or flat etc. The topic is a handshake between the two formats: no matter how complex the content gets, it will be consumable in topic-sized chunks that have a maximum complexity determined by the limited nesting depth of topic.

The topic is also the unit of reuse in design and processing, allowing for shared design elements and processing modules at the topic level, across multiple complex document types and applications.

Changing the size of the basic unit of reuse - on both the content, design, and processing dimensions - is not trivial. Adding even one level of nesting increases the potential complexity of a topic exponentially, with a corresponding decrease in the potential for reuse across document type and system boundaries. Allowing unlimited nesting destroys the entire idea of a topic, in the DITA architecture - the unit of reuse becomes essentially unlimited in its complexity.

I would rather simply preserve the existing architecture; my compromise proposal is article as a peer of topic. You would rather allow unlimited nesting of sections in topic; your compromise proposal is to add one level of nesting. It sounds like neither of our compromises is acceptable to the other. Perhaps the only thing we agree on is that we disagree. I suspect we need input from others, and ultimately a decision from the TC.

Michael Priestley

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