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Thursday, September 2

  1. page Bill Albing edited Bill Albing is presently employed at Paragon Application Systems as an Senior Information Architect…
    Bill Albing is presently employed at Paragon Application Systems as an Senior Information Architect and is co-founder and editor-in-chief of KeyContent.org. He had been working as a knowledge developer for FarPoint Technologies (since purchased by GrapeCity) when the Rhetorical XML book was published. Bill has over 15 years experience in engineering and technical writing and applying his interests in wikis, XML, and other aspects of Web 2.0 to his work at Paragon. He enjoys selling books on Amazon.com and editing content on Wikipedia in his spare time.
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    be reached by email bill.albing@keycontent.org, or on Twitter at bill.albing@keycontent.org.@BillAlbing, or on his blog at http://www.billalbing.com
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    6:55 pm
  2. page home edited ... MG = Michael Gourlay, FIEA, EA TG = Thomas Gorence, I.D.E.A.S. ... Bill Albing, FarPoint …
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    MG = Michael Gourlay, FIEA, EA
    TG = Thomas Gorence, I.D.E.A.S.
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    Bill Albing, FarPoint TechnologiesKeyContent.org
    SS = Sherry Steward, DEI
    Questions
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    6:49 pm
  3. page Bill Albing edited ... Albing is working presently employed at Paragon Application Systems as a knowledge develo…
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    Albing is workingpresently employed at Paragon Application Systems as a knowledge developer for FarPoint Technologiesan Senior Information Architect and is
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    of KeyContent.org. He had been working as a knowledge developer for FarPoint Technologies (since purchased by GrapeCity) when the Rhetorical XML book was published. Bill has
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    work at FarPoint.Paragon. He enjoys
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    reached at bill.albing@keycontent.org.bill.albing@keycontent.org.
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    6:48 pm

Friday, December 21

  1. page Q10 - Other Thoughts edited ... Portals within an organization, the next generation of intranet, allows employees to access co…
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    Portals within an organization, the next generation of intranet, allows employees to access company info throughout an org.
    Genome project and ongoing DNA research is an example of huge amounts of info that are being tagged. Medline is a comprehensive literature database of life sciences and biomedical information.
    SS: In the case of electronic technical manuals, I think XML is better suited for tech doc collections or tech manuals that require constant revisions rather than one time developments.
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    1:14 pm
  2. page Q8 - Strengths and Weaknesses edited ... TG: The strengths of XML would be its open text format, ability to be edited using standard te…
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    TG: The strengths of XML would be its open text format, ability to be edited using standard text editors, and the ease of reading / editing the information. The weaknesses are directly related to its strengths: being a physical file format, it can create issues with performance, especially if many different applications are trying to read from the same file at once. This is where a standard database would be ideal.
    BA: XML, as we use it, is great for human use -- it's a tagging language that makes sense. And it is scalable. We only need a few elements, so we can use a small DTD that we wrote in-house. We don't need a behemoth like DocBook. XML is flexible and easy to work with. We wrote our own XSLTs and avoided using third-party software that would have cost the company lots of money. XML is about putting content in containers with meaningful names. A topic contains a subtopic that contains a paragraph. Simple stuff.
    SS: The strengths are flexibility, portability, and the ability to use it without buying expensive tools.
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    1:11 pm
  3. page Q6 - Stylesheets & Transformations edited ... BA: Yes, we wrote our own DTD to handle a small set of elements in our procedural documentatio…
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    BA: Yes, we wrote our own DTD to handle a small set of elements in our procedural documentation (User's Guide). And we wrote our own XSLT that transforms the XML of our procedural documentation into HTML.
    We also use a separate XSLT to transform many snippets which are in XML into individual text files that are pulled into a larger process that inserts the text (code snippets) into pages of automatically generated documentation. We can share examples of the DTD and the XSLTs that we use.
    SS: Yes, we use both DTDs and stylesheets in the documentation. Any formatting or manipulation is done using the style sheet editor.
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    12:14 pm
  4. page Q5 - XML Process edited ... myNode = myXML.trivia[0].question[1].answer; BA: We use the SAXON processor with our home-gro…
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    myNode = myXML.trivia[0].question[1].answer;
    BA: We use the SAXON processor with our home-grown XSLTs to convert our raw XML into either finished HTML files or text files (snippets) that are brought into generating HTML files later in the process. We also use Innovasys Document! X to automatically generate a lot of HTML documentation of the product. We then compile the automatically generated HTML along with the XML-to-HTML files of human-authored content to make a complete compiled online help system for our customers.
    SS: Our authoring environment is furnished by the government. The environment includes a built-in editor, parser, reader, and style sheet editor. These tools are basic; they don't include many of the convenient functions found in high-end commercial authoring environments. They work well, but the author needs to know the document markup language and structure fairly well in order to make the tools efficient.
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    12:12 pm
  5. page Q3 - Why XML? edited ... TG: XML tends to be more of a “standard” format, in that an XML has a definitive structure, an…
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    TG: XML tends to be more of a “standard” format, in that an XML has a definitive structure, and a definitive set of data, no matter what is accessing the XML file (whether it be a website, flash animation, software, notepad, etc.) Using the aforementioned E4X function library can also bring many of the benefits of a relational database to XML (specifically, search queries and linking multiple entries to each other). While XML will not replace relational databases, it can emulate their function, so in most cases, I choose to go with XML, unless there are performance issues.
    BA: For two reasons. First, the industry is moving toward more machine-independent and platform-independent, semantically meaningful way of tagging content. Second, the tools we are using, that are generally used by our industry, are using XML and HTML. For instance, we use FrameMaker because it's an industry-accepted authoring tool for large amounts of content. And we spit out XML from there because we can easily transform it into HTML without the need for third party tools. You used to have to buy Quadralay WebWorks or other tools (and some people still do) but we found we can get around that by transforming (using XSLTs) the raw XML ourselves and making HTML. Another example, is that Microsoft Visual Studio (the development environment used by software developers) uses XML in the source code for putting in comments, so tools such as Innovasys Document! X that generates documentation automatically, grabs the XML and generates HTML. So it's natural for us to work with XML since it's part of how software developers do their code comments.
    SS: Our choice is based on customer requirements and standards.
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    12:07 pm
  6. page Q2 - XML Project edited ... TG: A recent example project involving XML would be a trivia application. Basically, a list of…
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    TG: A recent example project involving XML would be a trivia application. Basically, a list of multiple-choice questions, and feedback depending on whether the person got the question right or wrong. The purpose of the project was to create an interactive educational exhibit, that could randomly select a question from an external file, which could easily be updated by someone without knowledge of programming. The design process usually starts with planning, followed by design of the XML file structure itself. A common tool I use for almost all XML applications is known as ECMAScript for XML, or for short, E4X. It makes parsing and searching the information within an XML file much easier. For most trivia projects, the format stays the same. The main element tags are TRIVIA (the main “wrapper” tag), QUESTION (to “wrap” each question) and ANSWER (child nodes of QUESTION tag). For each set of ANSWER tags inside a QUESTION tag, one of those elements has a “CORRECT” attribute. This format is extremely simple, and rarely needs any revisions. If a revision is needed, it would only be for a special case, such as adding time limits to certain questions.
    BA: The product documentation and the automation of its generation is based on the use of XML. From the source code comments in C# code files, which are done in XML tags, to the import of snippet example code, which is kept in XML tagged text files, to the transformation of FrameMaker authored content from XML to HTML, XML is key to the product documentation process. Much of the XML process is standardized and defined. The source code comments are Microsoft conventions. Some of the XML was developed by me and somewhat resembles the organization of types of documentation that is now seen in DITA, with Tasks, Reference, and Topic types. We regularly extend the XML format with an eye toward having the new parser continue to accept older files. Most of the time, we add to the existing XML format and rarely change something so drastically that old files fail to work with the new parser.
    SS: The development of an electronic tech manual using Internet Explorer as the browser is based on the use of XML. Our process begins with requirements analysis and planning, design of the XML structure and interactive features, XML tagging and DTD development, test, and implementation. We generally have a technical writer who collects and analyzes the data for the technical manual, but we may have another person setup the XML structure and actually tag the content. Most of the time, this process is driven by schedule, cost, and complexity. Our design and audience approach is based mostly on military specifications and the user environment. Sometimes, we do make adjustments to the structure after the document is tested by the user but rarely anything substantial.
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    12:05 pm

Thursday, December 20

  1. page Q9 - Skills and Competencies edited ... TG: A good understanding of the concepts of database redundancy and database design are essent…
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    TG: A good understanding of the concepts of database redundancy and database design are essential in being efficient with XML, or any database at all. A working knowledge of HTML would also be extremely helpful, since XML could be easily considered a regular HTML page, with custom tags as opposed to predefined ones. XML has so many uses, that additional fields of study are too numerous to count, however I will emphasize some of the particulars aforementioned. ECMAScript for XML (E4X) is one of the most powerful tools for dealing with XML data, and learning how to use it should be a top priority for anyone involved with XML. XML also allows you to emulate any number of database designs, including single-linked-lists, double-linked-lists (also known as graphs) and many others. Understanding the differences between various database structures is the best recommendation I could give. Sometimes database design (or in this case, XML file structure) is such a blank sheet of paper, it's hard to know where to start.
    BA: The challenge with using XML and content is to know how to structure your content. What is each piece of content and in what container does it belong. Once you have figured out that, then you can reuse content, you can organize the content, you can transform and filter the content. Whether you have a database or a content management system or just raw files, you can work with XML in a myriad of ways. But being familiar enough with the content to know how to structure it into what containers -- that's the essential skill with XML. The tools will grow and will help you with that task, so there are no specific tools you need to know up front.
    SS: In the case of designing electronic manuals, users are looking for user-friendly interfaces and useful information. A working knowledge of document markup languages is extremely useful, including how to design and develop DTDs, style sheets, interface prompts, and dialogue. An XML or SGML electronic technical manual is a technical information database that stores data in modules and it provides access to numerous media and external databases. It would be beneficial for students to learn how to develop structure diagrams so that they can see the hierarchy and sequence and nested elements visually. I believe database design or basic IT principles would be highly beneficial to students who are interested in doing more than just tagging and manipulating text in XML.
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    7:41 am

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