Sneaking up on writers (was Into the fray...)

Buss, Jason A jabuss at
Tue Jan 12 20:15:07 GMT 1999

Actually, this solution is one of the proposed ideas for bringing our legacy
data into our SGML publishing system.  Once we really get to sit down with
the writer and try out the software with them and walk them through it, they
are surprised at the ease of authoring.  The idea I was trying to convey is
that normally you don't switch a publishing group to an all new concept of
creating documents without giving them heads-up, information, some time to
learn and understand before springing the new software on them.  All the
resources and materials I can find on the subjects seem to fill most writers
(and myself, originally) with a mixture of loathing and abject terror.  What
I am suggesting for the folks who are developing XML standards and apps is
creating documentation and books/papers/tutorials that are friendly to the
non/unprogrammer.  To ease them into the concept and syntax of XML without
making them confused or stupefied by technical jargon or allusions to
various programming languages/techniques.  Something they can read through,
absorb, then pick up a more technical, in-depth book or paper, and really
have an understanding of what is being offered.  When you start with
intensely technical materials, you find yourself going round and round with
various materials, reviewing the same ideas and concepts, looking for the
one that is presented in a manner that finally causes the epiphany.

Thanks for everyone's input,

Jason A. Buss
Single Engine Technical Publications
Cessna Aircraft Co.
jabuss at
"I don't have your solution, but I do admire your problem..."

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Dave Winer [SMTP:dave at]
> Sent:	Tuesday, January 12, 1999 11:32 AM
> To:	xml-dev at
> Subject:	Sneaking up on writers (was Into the fray...)
> We've been working on this! 
> Here's the solution. Come up with an editorial system where people write
> the initial versions of their texts with a plain text editor, whatever
> they
> like best. As it enters the publishing database, create an XML wrapper for
> it, automatically assigning default values for all the tags, since none
> were specified by the author. 
> Then, when the piece is to be edited, either by the original author or
> another member of the team, give them the XML text, with the tags.
> They figure out what's expected of them, and when they see the original
> copy under the <BODY> tag, the lightbulbs go on. It's the sneaky way to
> get
> XML into the hands of writers. They get it.
> Dave
> At 11:15 AM 1/12/99 -0600, Buss, Jason A wrote:
> >Hello to everyone.
> >
> >I just subscribed to this mailing list over the last couple of days and
> it
> >appears I have walked into a very interesting discussion.
> >
> >I just thought I would share a few things with everyone regarding the
> >impressions and hopes that I have for XML.
> >
> >I could be considered a relative newcomer to XML.  I have been working
> with
> >SGML for the last 7 months or so, as part of a team that was formed to
> >implement an SGML publishing system for our company.  The team went
> through
> >some reorganization, and I sort of got in at the tail end, implementation
> >side of things, as most of the research, conceptualizing, and development
> >had already been completed.  Basically, I learned SGML by working with
> >various public tools as well as the commercial software we ordered, and
> the
> >internet.  There just isn't a whole lot out there other than the
> materials
> >generated by the individuals and organizations committed to SGML
> >
> >Basically, we did evaluation after evaluation of commercial software,
> >decided on a publishing package from a very respected vendor.  Showed it
> to
> >our technical writers, and watched them turn on us.  The lack of real
> >information that came from the team to the publishing group only helped
> to
> >exacerbate the feelings of paranoia and helplessness from writers.  They
> >were terrified that we were going to force everyone to learn programming.
> I
> >have, over time and vendor improvements, shown most people that this is
> not
> >the case.  Most people hear "metalanguage", but think "language".
> >
> >I am no programmer by any stretch of the imagination.  I was a technical
> >writer and illustrator before being coaxed into SGML publishing.  I was
> put
> >off by the whole thing until I took a really close look at it.  And that
> >brings me to a real sore spot that I think would love to see addressed
> when
> >people write white papers and abstracts to explain XML for the rest of
> us.
> >The concept of SGML (and XML) is no challenge for most people to grasp,
> but
> >the majority of published texts are so weighted down that most technical
> >writers come away either crushed or confused.  Many of them need to see
> it
> >applied before they can fully grasp the application (particularly the
> >syntax).  I personally had to read almost ten white papers before I came
> >away with everything I needed to get the whole picture.
> >
> >I know there are some people who are in the process of building SGML
> >publishing systems who are terrified because as the information and
> >resources for XML increases, the information and resources for SGML has
> >trailed off somewhat.  A lot of people, for whatever reason, have missed
> the
> >XML/SGML connection, and are worried that SGML will fall out of favor,
> and
> >not have the support it once had.
> >
> >And hopefully, something, or someone, will bring XML to the forefront of
> >public awareness.  Be it a well-branded vendor such as Microsoft (I am
> >personally banking on Netscape/Sun/IBM;  AOL stands to gain hand over
> fist
> >from XML implementation), or the next Gates or Andressen or someone who
> can
> >really push XML not only into the office for production, but into the
> home
> >for delivery.  Even the beginning web surfers quickly understand that it
> is
> >HTML and Java applets that make all this information visible within their
> >browser.  Many people pick up on the concepts and syntax of HTML from
> there,
> >going on to create their own documents/pages, but the ones who choose not
> to
> >still understand the benefit of HTML.  XML would probably be most likely
> to
> >succeed if it has the groundswell of support or at least understanding of
> >benefit from the public at large as it becomes implemented.
> Unfortunatlely,
> >I can ask 20 people familiar with HTML, and maybe two of them have heard
> of
> >XML.  Almost none of them understand that HTML is a doctype of SGML.
> There
> >needs to be a really simple, straightforward PR blitz aimed not only at
> >publishers and document managers, but at webmasters and the general
> public.
> >It is very commendable of Microsoft to embrace XML like they have, but it
> >seems most of their papers are geared towards the industry, and promises
> >support in their products, as opposed to informing the general public of
> the
> >benefits to be gained from XML.  People clamored for a way to share,
> >transmit, and display information in an inexpensive, easy-to use format
> that
> >could be accessible to anyone or everyone, Hence HTML, and the internet.
> >Customer-driven solution.  Now the challenge is to convince everyone who
> is
> >comfortable with HTML that XML will better serve their needs and offer
> them
> >the most benefit.  Industry-driven solution.
> >
> >Like I said before, I have recently entered the area of metadata, but I
> have
> >gone through most of the resources I could, and unless I am missing some
> >things along the way, this seems to be where some additional focus could
> be
> >used; explanation of benefit as well as concept and use.  And to bring
> the
> >introduction of application up to speed with the introduction of
> information
> >and concept.
> >
> >BTW, has anyone noticed the variance of how techmedia has perceived XML?
> I
> >have seen articles that say XML is the direct replacement for HTML, while
> I
> >have seen others that say XML is a compliment to HTML, and HTML will
> never
> >really be phased out at this point.  With this in mind, I got a somewhat
> >panicked phone call from someone who came across the W3C draft for
> rewriting
> >HTML 4.0 as an XML application recently.  I was able to dispel his alarm,
> >but the concern was somewhat understandable.  Any comments?? 
> >
> >Jason A. Buss
> >Single Engine Technical Publications
> >Cessna Aircraft Co.
> >jabuss at
> >
> >
> >
> >
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> >
> >
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