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Subject: RE: [docbook] Add topic element to DocBook?

Mike -

There are a lot of organization which have based their XML
authoring/publishing infrastructure on DocBook.. They've been writing books
all this time.. Now with DITA coming to the fore and the fact that the
TechPubs groups need to provide customized content - based on new markets or
even to improve search results to find the exact topic/article that solves
customer's issue - they are forced to consider modular writing..

The way to go about solving the issue is to provide a mechanism within
DocBook to continue producing books - as collections of topics - as well
have these individual topics available for re-use or stand-alone..

This is a very real scenario.. And has caused a lot of confusion over
whether to switch over to DITA despite having DocBook.. And I think DocBook
would be missing the point if they didn't address how to support modular
writing as well have a mechanism to assemble topics into a book (it does
that current with the DTD v/s a map in DITA)..


-----Original Message-----
From: Michael(tm) Smith [mailto:smith@sideshowbarker.net] 
Sent: Friday, October 27, 2006 6:53 AM
To: docbook@lists.oasis-open.org
Subject: Re: [docbook] Add topic element to DocBook?

Chris Chiasson <chris@chiasson.name>, 2006-10-27 00:28 -0500:

> I am afraid of this new <topic> element. However, I don't want DocBook
> to stagnate while DITA grows just because some people are afraid of
> change.

Substitute the word "wary" for "afraid". The thing about changes
is that they often have unforeseen consequences. For example, we
decided to add Task as a child of section, and a year or two
later, we've got to figure if/how to allow Task content in places
where by design it's currently not permitted.

And I don't think there's any risk of DocBook stagnating. It's
soundly designed and is meeting the needs of its target user base
quite well. It's going to remain just as useful a solution as it
always has been: A common vocabulary and processing infrastructure
(the DocBook XSL stylesheets) that even users/groups with very
limited resources can learn and use productively -- without the
need or time or money to do stuff like customizing/extending the
schema/DTD or to write their own sets of stylesheets.

And as far as DITA goes, I guess some might argue that it's tuned
for a different target user base: organizations that manage large
and complex sets of content and that can save a lot of money by
using a system that's specifically built, from the ground up, to
faciliate extensive content reuse and to faciliate creation of
custom markup specialized to their particular needs.

Anyway, in spite of the possibility that the information-mapping
topic-based authoring approach may not really be the right
solution for many organizations (especially those that aren't
smart enough or careful enough about avoiding all the possible
pitfalls around it), it is what a lot of them in the corporate
tech-writing world seem to want. And I suspect that many
organizations who want that were not using or considering DocBook
to begin with; I'd guess many had some legacy system based on
authoring in, at best, Framemaker -- and at worst, MS Word or
RoboHelp or whatever. A move by anybody away from that stuff and
into any XML and XSLT-based system is a win for all of us.


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