OASIS Mailing List ArchivesView the OASIS mailing list archive below
or browse/search using MarkMail.


Help: OASIS Mailing Lists Help | MarkMail Help

dita message

[Date Prev] | [Thread Prev] | [Thread Next] | [Date Next] -- [Date Index] | [Thread Index] | [List Home]

Subject: RE: [dita] Revised content model options for #12011 - Generic Task Type

This is an interesting conversation.


I can see a lot of value in allowing authors to use <ol>, <ul>, and <section> elements instead of using the <step> elements. First, the need to use the <cmd> element and the <info> element make authoring more complicated. When I train people on how to write tasks, we have to go over the “the <info> element is your friend” thing about five times. Second, the constraint that substeps cannot contain substeps is unacceptable for some types of documents. Third, conversion of legacy documents and copy/paste from other formats such as HTML are far simpler and more robust for <ol> elements than for <step> elements.


Some of the objections seem to be saying, “a process isn’t what you proposed, a process is this other thing.” Can these objections be met by renaming the proposed <process> element to something else, such as <steps-generic>?


Best regards,



Su-Laine Yeo
Interaction Design Specialist

JustSystems Canada, Inc.
Office: 778-327-6356






From: Troy Klukewich [mailto:troy.klukewich@oracle.com]
Sent: Thursday, November 13, 2008 8:46 AM
To: dita@lists.oasis-open.org
Subject: RE: [dita] Revised content model options for #12011 - Generic Task Type



I have some thoughts and observations on the process versus task distinction, at least from my own history and bias.

On a previous, pre-DITA implementation using structured principles and XML, we found that there was a clear semantic difference between process and task descriptions. Basically, in the legacy we found an incredible number of pseudo-procedures masquerading as tasks, which no one could actually perform on their own. After the conversion, we made a clear distinction between high level processes that do no describe discrete, literal steps and tasks, which do.

So, a process might be (off the top of my head):

Creating a database

1. Drop a connection component on the design surface
2. Connect to a data source
3. Configure the data adapter

In the old doc, that would be it. Writers thought they had written a "task." It looks like a task, right? But when we analyzed the actual steps involved in this apparently simple process, there were at least 15 discrete steps involved, any one of which would prevent success if not done properly.

In this particular case, we received numerous support calls because customers could not in fact build a database application following our old instructions. When we separated out high level processes from tasks, adding literal steps where needed, the support calls for this issue vanished.

So, personally, I like to make a hard distinction between processes and tasks. There is a place for both, but I do not like mixing them together, especially in a mission critical context. Ideally, all high level processes map to more detailed tasks, which articulate the actual steps, including case scenarios with sample data in steps for otherwise abstract, generic processes.

In particular, I like a model where the process items map to task headings to articulate the step details involved. For more complicated processes that involve a huge number of steps, there is inevitably a break-out into distinct sequences, perhaps by screen, object, table, or even an entire application in a multi-application process. I personally cannot stand gigantic tasks that have twenty-plus sequential steps. They get tedious to follow and the eye begins to swim. A process overview is needed in these cases and the steps should be broken out into related tasks, each heading mapping back to a point in the process overiew.

Here's the kicker. While I believe that task steps should always be constrained in a task topic with a specified output, I do not believe that processes should be constrained to task topics, as I can see a conceptual discussion around high level processes in conceptual topics as a typical application in enterprise doc.

On the other hand, complicated tasks may well require a short process overview in the task itself, assuming that multiple task headings are contained in one file, which I generally avoid unless the tasks are distinctly related (perhaps in a case scenario with sample data). This approach is similar to the classic thesis approach in essay writing where the author would traditionally outline major points in a preceding paragraph before delving into the (massive) details within the essay itself. (General to specific.)

While it seems that the process element was created for a number of reasons, this is how I would implement it myself. I would rather use a process element than say, an unordered list for a generic process, as there is semantic relationship to tasks that is worth tracking and keeping separate from the plethora of other unordered lists that do not describe processes.

Troy Klukewich
Information Architect


From JoAnn Hackos <joann.hackos@comtech-serv.com>

Sent Thu 11/13/2008 5:53 AM

To Bob Thomas <bob.thomas@tagsmiths.com>; Michael Priestley <mpriestl@ca.ibm.com>

Cc dita@lists.oasis-open.org

Subject RE: [dita] Revised content model options for #12011 - Generic Task Type


Hi Bob,

I tend to agree with you. I cannot find any rationale in the memos (so far) for the <process> alternative in task. I can't think of what it's supposed to handle that cannot already be handled by steps or steps-unordered. Haven't heard back from Alan Houser, however, who originally proposed it.


Michael is also checking the email archives.


I'd be in favor of your proposal to chuck it at this point. I think it just creates confusion for authors.





JoAnn T. Hackos, PhD
Comtech Services, Inc.
710 Kipling Street, Suite 400
Denver CO 80215




From: Bob Thomas [mailto:bob.thomas@tagsmiths.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 1:02 PM
To: JoAnn Hackos; Michael Priestley
Cc: dita@lists.oasis-open.org
Subject: RE: [dita] Revised content model options for #12011 - Generic Task Type

Please pardon my intrusion (I'm a TC observer). I have a couple of objections to adding 'process' as specified in #12011.

There really needs to be a rationale for this that includes the semantic intent for 'process'. If allowing 'ol' and 'ul' inside of 'task' is the only rationale, then you would be better off adding 'section' to 'taskbody'. In any event, I would rather do neither.

My other objection is a bit more fundamental. In Information Mapping®, process is considered to be an information type just like concept or task (procedure). While I do not think that the TC necessarily needs to honor that distinction, it ought not to lightly dismiss it. The notion of process as an information type suggests that a section-level implementation of 'process' in DITA would be inappropriate. If the TC goes ahead and implements 'process', as proposed in #12011, it would preclude anybody else from creating a topic-level specialization for process.

In the Information Mapping® compatible DTD that I worked on 10 years ago, the content model for process was quite similar to the one for procedure (task); the key difference being that a process had 'stage' elements rather than 'step' elements.


Bob Thomas
Tagsmiths, LLC
+1 720 201 8260

--- On Wed, 11/12/08, Michael Priestley <mpriestl@ca.ibm.com> wrote:

From: Michael Priestley <mpriestl@ca.ibm.com>
Subject: RE: [dita] Revised content model options for #12011 - Generic Task Type
To: "JoAnn Hackos" <joann.hackos@comtech-serv.com>
Cc: dita@lists.oasis-open.org
Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 11:00 AM

Hi JoAnn,

The rationale below is to allow <ol> and <ul> into taskbody. In other words, if someone wants to create a task with a simple <ol> instead of the more prescriptive <steps>, the <process> element allows them to do so.

Michael Priestley, Senior Technical Staff Member (STSM)
Lead IBM DITA Architect

"JoAnn Hackos" <joann.hackos@comtech-serv.com>

11/12/2008 12:06 PM


Michael Priestley/Toronto/IBM@IBMCA, <dita@lists.oasis-open.org>



RE: [dita] Revised content model options for #12011 - Generic Task Type


Hi Michael,
The email from Alan provides no rationale for the <process>, just shows the syntax. Let me know if any of the minutes show the rationale or any examples. I’ve written Alan but haven’t received a response as yet.
JoAnn Hackos PhD
Comtech Services, Inc.
Skype joannhackos


From: Michael Priestley [mailto:mpriestl@ca.ibm.com]
Tuesday, November 11, 2008 9:22 AM
Fw: [dita] Revised content model options for #12011 - Generic Task Type


Re discussion today about elements in general task - found this, which provides a bit of background on process - will check meeting minutes from around this time.

Michael Priestley, Senior Technical Staff Member (STSM)
Lead IBM DITA Architect

----- Forwarded by Michael Priestley/Toronto/IBM on 11/11/2008 11:21 AM -----

Alan Houser <arh@groupwellesley.com>

12/11/2007 11:01 AM







[dita] Revised content model options for #12011 - Generic Task Type





I submit this message for possible discussion at today's
(11-December-2007) DITA TC meeting. Below is a summary of proposed
content models that will support proposal #12011 -- Generic Task Type.
These content models are the result of recent discussion on the DITA TC

- Optional, repeatable <note> allowed before <cmd>
- <taskbody> allows only a single <steps> element
- New <process> element to permit <ol>/<ul> constructions in <taskbody>

Proposed content models:
(steps | steps-unordered | process),
(Issue: allow <section> before and after <steps>?)

Support <section> between steps:
(section?, step)+

Support optional, repeatable <note> before cmd:
(info | substeps | tutorialinfo | stepxmp |  choicetable | choices)*,
Issue: allow <itemgroup> in <step>?

(section?, (ol | ul))+
Issue: this would allow multiple ol/ul elements.

To unsubscribe from this mail list, you must leave the OASIS TC that
generates this mail.  You may a link to this group and all your TCs in OASIS


[Date Prev] | [Thread Prev] | [Thread Next] | [Date Next] -- [Date Index] | [Thread Index] | [List Home]