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Subject: RE: [dita] How much flexibility do specializers have to make exceptions to behaviors that are outlined in the DITA standard?

This is a note that Don Day asked me to send out during yesterday's DITA
TC call.

About a week ago I restarted the discussion about what the DITA Standard
REQUIRES, strongly RECOMMENDS, and what is OPTIONAL.  So far the
restarted discussion has been between just me, Michael, and Eliot.  What
I'd like to find out from others on the TC is if these issues are
important enough to continue to spend time on them or not?

So please let me know by sending a short reply either to me or to the
DITA TC list.  I'll summarize the responses before next Tuesday's DITA
TC call.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Eliot Kimber [mailto:ekimber@reallysi.com]
> Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 4:11 PM
> To: dita@lists.oasis-open.org
> Subject: Re: [dita] How much flexibility do specializers have to make
> exceptions to behaviors that are outlined in the DITA standard?
> Ogden, Jeff wrote:
> > JO: Allowing a reference of the form "#elementid" to reference
> > content.
> > MP: if someone's using a CMS and assigning GUIDs to every element,
> > may actually have one unique identifier per element, rather than per
> > topic+element.
> > JO: Using a single GUID to reference DITA sub-topic content should
> > be allowed. No exceptions.
> > MP: That said, I see your point - it would be preferable for the
tool to
> > externalize the reference as properly formed DITA, even if it is
> > internally managed differently. I can easily see the syntax of the
> > and conref attributes, along with the domains and class attributes,
> > being immutable. That said, if someone wants to override what they
> > with that syntax (for example, fetching the linktext for the
> > from its parent topic), I would think that's reasonable.
> I agree that all the addressing has to be as it is defined in the DITA
> spec, which explicitly disallows this case.
> Note that MP says "override what they do with that syntax"--but it's
> the *syntax* they're overriding, it's rendition of the *link*
> represented by the element that uses the address, not the address
> itself. This is a very important distinction that we often don't make
> because we've become trained (mostly by HTML) to equate the address
> the link. But the address is just plumbing. The real thing is the
> abstract link established by the elements and attributes involved. To
> keep with the plumbing analogy: it doesn't matter whether you use
> or PVC or a bucket brigade (addressing) what's important is the
> relationship established:  the relationship between the tub and the
> water: how you got to the water is immaterial. But at the same time,
> want the same result every time from a particular *type* of pipe--you
> don't want turning the tap in the tub to sometimes return fresh water
> and sometimes return sewage and sometimes return nothing. [The other
> implication is that you should be able to change the pipes without
> breaking the relationship: if I replace iron with PVC I should still
> water to the tub.]
> Addressing syntax and semantics is absolutely a syntax issue, not a
> processing issue, any more than the rules for parsing start tags and
> tags is a processing issue.
> If DITA wants to define a way to declare the addressing scheme you're
> using, that would be different, but DITA 1.x does not and therefore
> valid DITA applications are obligated to use DITA's addressing syntax.
> Whether or not a CMS assigns globally unique IDs to elements is
> irrelevant: the spec says elements are addressed by ID within the
> of their containing topic. If a CMS stores data with non-DITA
> then it has an obligation to change them back to DITA addresses on
> demand, or it can't claim to be a DITA CMS.
> In addition, in this particular case, there's no way to distinguish a
> bare element ID reference from a topic ID reference since topics and
> elements *could have the same ID* (because topic IDs and element IDs
> distinct namespaces in DITA).
> The address and the thing addressed (and what you do with it) are two
> entirely distinct domains of both semantics and processing. The only
> place in DITA where they are tightly bound (or can be seen to be
> bound) is conref, where the processing effect of a conref is,
> notionally, applied before any other processing, such that it should
> both consistently applied and effectively transparent to downstream
> processes (that is, renderers). Of course that doesn't preclude
> things like "conref report generators" that produce renderings that
> expose the details of the conreffing done, but the result they report
> must be consistent with the "normal" result.
> That is, the whole point of conref, as distinct from all other link
> semantics in DITA, is that it defines effective content structures
> independent of rendering applied, rather than establishing
> that can usefully have different rendered expressions.
> By contrast, xrefs may be rendered in an infinite number of ways, but
> the *thing referenced* by a given href value is invariant (or, with
> keyref, deterministic in the context of a given map).
> In both cases, conref and xref, the addressing syntax and semantics
> identical but the processing implications for the addressed result and
> the relationship established by the elements involved are very
> > JO: See my comment below that starts out "I just think that if we
> > everything overrideable ...".
> >
> > JO: Allowing specializations to give new meanings to or ignore the
> > meanings of existing attribute/value pairs (scope="external").
> > MP: maybe there's a difference here between "meaning" and
> > For example, current behavior for scope="external" might be to open
up a
> > new browser window - but in a particular delivery context they might
> > actually want to popup an intermediate window that says "you're
> > the website and everything after this is unwarrantied" or something.
> > changing the meaning, but definitely changing the behavior.
> I agree with MP here: the meaning of scope is fixed, the rendition
> effect is variable. In any case, we can think of things like scope= as
> falling into the zone of "hints" for which no hard and fast semantic
> processing result can really be defined precisely because they cover
> cases where the boundary conditions are inherently fuzzy.
> > JO: The specific example given here seems fine to me.  But take a
> > related example, that uses scope="peer". Today scope="peer" is used
> > say that the referenced item isn't currently available for
> > but it is part of the same document set.  I think this definition
> > be true in all cases.  What one does with items that are part of the
> > "same document set" could be customized, but not the fact that the
> > is considered part of the same document set.
> I think this is a case of bad spec writing: "same document set" cannot
> be defined because we have no formal definition in DITA of "same",
> "document" (other than "XML document") or "document set". In that
> it's just handwaving (and thus falls at least back to hint status).
> But if the notion of "document set" was formally defined then authors
> and implementors would be able to tell with some confidence whether or
> not what they had was a "document set" and therefore both what "peer"
> means in their environment and whether or not its relevant.
> For example, if by "document set" we mean "set of topics and maps
> managed in the same storage or management scope such that it is
> to get immediate knowledge of the properties of any topic in thet set"
> then we can see that peer can map into things like "all the topics my
> CVS working set or my Oxygen project or within my CMS or known to be
> available on these servers with this range of base URIs".
> > JO: Allowing specializations to ignore @lockmeta.
> > MP: I can imagine a draft review process that pulled in "author"
> > from the target topics, even though lockmeta was set, because they
> > wanted to use a single map for both review and for final
> > and they only wanted the author info for review... So in this case,
I am
> > imagining a process that would ignore lockmeta to do a particular
> > metadata fetch based on business need rather than specialization.
> > JO: Wouldn't it be better to honor lockmeta and always push or not
> > the metadata values from the map into the topic, and then using an
> > output appearance customization render or not render the "author"
> > as appropriate for review or for final publication?
> >
> > JO: Or wouldn't it be better to define lockmeta as an attribute that
> > inherit its value and then add lockmeta to the map root element,
> > topicref, topichead, and topicgroup so that someone that wants this
> > behavior can change the value for an entire document or portions of
> > document as desired?
> >
> > JO: Or to define a way to set, change, or delete attribute values
> > conditional processing and ditaval?
> >
> > JO: Allowing properties that normally cascade from a map to a topic
> > not cascade depending on the specializations in use.
> > MP: if a group was doing extensive customization in a map, and was
> > tracking authorship of the map at a chapter level, I can imagine
> > overriding the normal cascade of metadata from map to topic to stop
> > author from cascading and implying authorship of the actual topics
> > rather than of the referencing map sections.  Again, a customization
> > based on specialization, but still definitely an override of default
> > behavior.
> This may be a case where we need to distinguish between "actual" and
> "effective" values. That is, a processor should know both what the
> actual value of any given metadata value is as well as what the
> effective value is and give the option of reporting one or the other
> both, as appropriate.
> In query terms (which is where this will be important for me as a
> DITA-aware CMS implementor), I would like to be able to find both all
> topics whose effective author value is "MP" as well as all those
> whose actual author value is "MP". To determine the first value I have
> to take @lockmeta into account but to determine the second I have to
> ignore it.
> Cheers,
> Eliot
> --
> Eliot Kimber
> Senior Solutions Architect
> "Bringing Strategy, Content, and Technology Together"
> Main: 610.631.6770
> www.reallysi.com
> www.rsuitecms.com
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