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

As a member of a group who is currently switching from unstructured
Frame to an XML based authoring system, I think the familiarity of terms
like section and book make the move smoother. They ease the semantic
shift because we understand what a book, chapter, section, etc are.
Having read through much of the Docbook literature, I don't see any
reason why I could not write my content at the section level and then
reassemble the sections into any form that I need. It may be called a
book in mark-up, but the end result is whatever I want it to be.
Maybe a <map> element could be a useful tool to make it easier to build
a larger unit of content out of section. However, it sounds like the
current debate is about duplicating <section> with a <topic> element for
purely marketing reasons. Will the <topic> element have a different
content model? Will it be usable in ways that the current <section>
element is not? How will it make creating reusable content easier?
I'm not saying that marketing is not a good reason for adding stuff, but
it is not a great one.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Rajal Shah [mailto:rajal@meshsoftware.com] 
> Sent: Friday, October 27, 2006 11:33 AM
> To: 'Michael(tm) Smith'; docbook@lists.oasis-open.org
> 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)..
> Regads.
> --
> Rajal
> -----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.
>   --Mike
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