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Subject: Re: [docbook] Loss of faith -- somewhat rantish

John Levon wrote:

>On Sat, Jul 12, 2003 at 06:13:03AM -0400, Daniel Veillard wrote:
>>>Again, sorry for the rant,
>>If you can't understand the framework, then don't. You don't have to learn
>Scot, the XML stuff, and the available free tools currently, *are* hard
>to use. The relevant syntax *is* obscure, and the multitude of related
>standards is confusing. But the question you should ask yourself is
>this: "Would things be better without using the current standard stuff
>such as XML and XSLT etc. ?".
>I think the answer here is a clear "no". Use of the current technologies
>and standards is a *major* benefit for DocBook users. This is simply
>because the use of open, well-defined standards incurs all the usual
>benefits. All the tools can agree on what format files should be in.
>People conversant with the technologies can easily handle all the nasty
>details, instead of re-learning them for some "simplified DocBook XMLish"
>and associated tools. Standard tools can work with these documents.
>Documents can be exchanged in the surety they will be inter-operable.
>The information is well-structured and clearly defined. Documents in
>these standard formats can be handled in a very flexible and extendible
This is all true, but Scot seemed to focussed on the authoring activity. 
Most of the benefits that you list -- and they are real -- come in at 
what I call the design and management levels, and with respect to the 
sub-document (or content) and publication processes. I didn't see him 
being primarily concerned about those aspects.

>I think all you are really asking for is more usable tools. I don't
>think anybody would deny that the current toolset is relatively immature
>in terms of "polish".
I think he should also be asking himself "how much do I need to know to 
professionally, responsibly or reliably use this system?" If his 
questions are other than hypothetical, they tell me that he hasn't yet 
come to terms with the fact that there is a lot of theory -- no matter 
how convenient, well-wrapped or hidden the details -- that must be 
understood to use an XML system and DocBook in particular.

I don't think it is responsible advice to say, "just forget the 
details"; saying so is roughly equivalent to saying, "you don't need to 
know how to set the timer on your VCR to tape your favorite show" or, in 
another direction, "it's OK to let your favourite word processor vendor 
define 'easy to use' and 'convenient'; and you don't need to know or 
care what impact those definitions have on your writing productivity and 
the shareability of what you create." For my part, I've wasted enough 
time cleaning up the mess in the Word files of semi-trained authors to 
know there is a hidden and very-large productivity sink created by 
people's not knowing how their systems work or how to work their systems.

In fact, it may be a virtue to have these issues surface and demand to 
be dealt with. You really can't get very far beyond the generic with 
DocBook unless you deal with these questions of "customization." As the 
answers emerge, each person and organization actually *knows* what they 
think and want to do about their documents. This is an aspect of 
knowledge management. My experience tells me that organizations and 
their management that actually *want to* and *do* confront these 
questions are few and far between. I think of this situation as a form 
of "organizational illiteracy" and it generates a significant and often 
hidden opportunity cost for those organizations.

But I wander into a rant of my own. My apologies. 
rgrds.                                      ...edN

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