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Subject: Re: Review of AIR = ASIS, possibly mandatory policy?

At 2006-02-22 17:01 -0800, jon.bosak@sun.com wrote:
>Forwarded as requested.
>------- Start of forwarded message -------
>Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 16:11:17 -0800
>From: James Bryce Clark <jamie.clark@oasis-open.org>
>Subject: [chairs] Draft ASIS under review:  mandatory policy?  Please review
>  and  comment by 1 March
>To: chairs@lists.oasis-open.org



Line 352 - this is an action item for OASIS staff, not an aspect of 
this standard ... the "SHALL" in this jumps out at me as totally 
unnecessary.  By the time most people have read this document, this 
action item should have long been acted on.  Unless, of course, I'm 
misunderstanding the sentence in which case it should be 
rewritten.  But, if this updating is a one-time action, is it on the 
part of those who maintain the The OASIS Document Templates?  When 
will the decisions be incorporated into the templates (note in my 
postscript below that I've been working on the DocBook XML 
templates)?  A lot of UBL 2.0 is already in development ... will a 
change in the templates while writing a new specification mean that 
work in progress would become non-conforming?

Lines 354-386 - I'm not sure what is meant by "consistent tabular 
form", especially since it looks like the RFC822-styled prompts and 
values (which is distinctly not "tabular" (I interpret this as 
systematic aligned rows and columns; the columns are not aligned in 
RFC822-styled mail headers).  I don't see guidelines as to how this 
"consistent tabular form" is to be rendered in various 
renditions?  Should it be an HTML table?  If in a PDF table, with 
visible cell borders (perhaps, somewhere in the front 
matter)?  Should it be also in HTML <meta> elements (I think so; 
though I don't know how I'll do this in DocBook)?

Line 408 - I think ECMA-6 is a poor choice for a 128-byte character 
set because of the two ambiguous "alternative graphic character 
allocations" (6.4.2) ... I suppose this is covered because the 
exclusive list is indicated, so I guess this isn't a problem.  Why 
use ECMA and not, say, ISO-646?  Actually, I guess it has the same 
issue.  Therefore, why bother citing anything and not just list the 
characters ... would this in fact cause problems with a mainframe 
tool that happens to be using EBCDIC?  The fact that it is the 
correct ECMA/ISO characters when it is being mounted in the 
repository is fine regardless of how it was written, but given that 
this is a *naming* standard and not an *encoding* standard, then just 
listing the characters should be sufficient and any mention of 
character set is probably unnecessary embellishment.

Oh, I just found the reference to <meta> in HTML in section 6.4.1 ... 
though it isn't an exhaustive list of the metadata.  If ASIS is going 
to the trouble of listing all of the metadata components, then 
perhaps these should be mandatory XHTML metadata entries as 
well.  Actually, not *just* XHTML, but for every rendition an example 
is needed of what it is to look like ... otherwise, how would I be 
able to modify the DocBook XML templates in a conformant fashion?

Line 532 - Absent here are ZIP and TAR/GZ files (though I don't know 
what to do about them) ... I think they should be recognized ... 
perhaps have a companion ".txt" file (though I hate the idea of 
having information in more than one file)?  Though perhaps having a 
companion ".txt" file for all binary file types will be both 
sufficient and consistent, but line 350 provides a list of required 
metadata elements "The following metadata MUST be associated with 
each Artifact...", so it would have to be documented that for every 
binary file (or file without a human-readable rendition) that one can 
expect to find a .txt file with the meta data.  That could add a lot of files!

Line 596 - Shouldn't this be a reference to Section 7.1?

I think it is going to be difficult to get Joe and Jane 
StandardsWriter to accurately divine what values for properties in 
these guidelines apply to documents they create for their committee 
... could the guidelines require each TC to publish somewhere visibly 
in their work pages what the choices are for metadata properties 
related to all documents for that particular committee?  That way two 
people in one TC don't end up making different decisions based on 
their respective interpretations of these guidelines.  I'm learning 
that one really has to spoon feed stuff like this to people who are 
made responsible for creating things ... they won't take the energy 
to have to interpret administrivia and distract them from their 
technical writing.

So, I then took a look overall at ASIS and I realized that I really 
couldn't effectively distill what the important guidelines would be 
for, say, the UBL TC or my HISC subcommittee of UBL.

Consider for example the tree of file with the following directory at the apex:


... the artifact in that directory has to be named "index.html" in 
order to be properly displayed by the server when the directory is 
referenced.  Does this mean that the directory has the artifact 
name?  Probably, but there are 244 files in that tree.  Are *all* of 
them (except the necessary exceptions for the directory "index.html" 
files) to be named with these ASIS guidelines?  If none of them are 
used outside of the context of UBL 1.0, why would the artifact naming 
guidelines apply?  I can see them applying to the apex directory and 
to any ZIP file that would be used out of context of the 
directory.  That's it!  The difference is, when is a committee 
artifact found *only* in a given context and when is a committee 
artifact allowed to live outside of that context?  The apex directory 
can be found in any context, so its name follows the artifact naming 
guidelines.  The ZIP or TAR/GZ packages of the directory can be found 
in any context, so its name would also follow the guidelines.  And, 
as above, I suppose also an associated text file with the metadata 
for those compressed packages.

This would greatly simplify a committee's work.  I had the 
responsibility for creating the directory at the apex:


There are 99 files just in my subtree.  BUT my subtree isn't ever 
found outside of the context of the UBL 1.0 deliverable, so none of 
the artifacts in that subtree would be out of context (or should be 
out of context, of course they might be if someone made copies them 
without copying the other files, but when they are in context on the 
UBL web site inside of the UBL 1.0 deliverable, they are 
correct).  The burden of going through all 99 files of my subtree and 
renaming each and every file to follow the artifact naming guidelines 
(examples, graphics, linked specifications, etc.) would deter me from 
going through the effort to produce everything that is needed by the 
readers.  I ended up with 99 files because that tree of hyperlinked 
documents and examples is what I felt the reader needed.  If I had to 
go to so much effort for all 99 files, I would have produced fewer 
files without as much information and the reader wouldn't have been 
as well served.

I believe OASIS has to make the process of writing specifications 
*easier* in order to help people with limited time involved in the 
already lengthy process of writing to produce something that can be 
used.  Therefore, the burden should be focused to accomplish the goal 
and not so broad as to deter contributions.  As I said above, I think 
it is sufficient that the burden of identifying artifacts at the apex 
directory and any files that might be found outside of the context of 
the apex directory.

Perhaps it is easier than I thought and I was just confused by the 
lack of examples.  In particular, since I chair two subcommittees and 
one task group below the UBL umbrella, are these distinctions 
irrelevant?  Are my work products just considered UBL work products?

. . . . . . . . . . Ken

p.s. regarding the templates, I put 33 hours into modifying Norm's 
former DocBook guidelines for OASIS standards into a new set of 
guidelines to try and help writers using XML, by including all the 
sections matching the Word and OOo templates found in:


You can find these new stylesheets and complete publishing package details in:


In order to try and get my UBL colleagues to use XML to create the 
standards documents, I tried to make this environment as turnkey as 
possible with detailed examples of what to do.  Hopefully by doing 
so, members would be more encouraged about writing specification 
documents since the environment would produce the desired 
presentation without the writer having to think about it.  To prove 
to myself the environment is functional, I've since used the 
environment to create the two work products announced in:


So, your decisions impact on me by bringing my latest work to the new 
ASIS standard, and I don't see enough information in there to do a 
complete job.

Upcoming XSLT/XSL-FO hands-on courses: Washington,DC 2006-03-13/17
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G. Ken Holman                 mailto:gkholman@CraneSoftwrights.com
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