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Subject: Re: [dita] What Is A Topic

Defining a topic is, I suspect, going to be as slippery as any other "you know it when you see it" thing.  It's clear from the responses so far that some have a functional definition (it answers one question or described one thing), others have a content-model definition (what the DTD permits), others have a unit-based one (to be authored, or read, in one piece).

Being a fan of specialization, and being a programmer first, my perspective on what a Topic is is based on heredity.  That is, my working definition of Topic is as the ancestor of *all* DITA document types, past, present and future.  The existing core specializations (task, concept, reference) are fairly light reworkings of Topic, but so much more is possible with specialization.  I don't find it difficult to imagine a specialization which benefits from, or perhaps relies on, the minimal content model of a topic with neither shortdesc, abstract nor body.

Case in point: look at how Topic allows non-sections to follow sections.  It's hard to justify this content model in Topic by itself, but in the context of a Task, it's perfectly natural to follow a prereq with steps.  Another example has already been referred to, with the body-less glossentry specialization.

I'd hate to render some future specialization impossible because of a failure to sufficiently imagine the diversity that specialization can bring.

[Oh, BTW, Hi everybody.  I'm new to OASIS but I've been kicking about on the dita-users and DITA-OT lists for quite a while.  I'm a programmer-turned-writer at a software-for-the-plastics-industry company, and I'm inflicting DITA onto my co-workers mercilessly.]

Deborah Pickett

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