Russ West says: "It is so important for any tech writer to learn about
structured content..."

The funny thing is, in the majority of cases, we are not in a position
to proselytize for or against structured documentation. That's usually
decided several pay grades higher by contract deliverable or other
edict. We rarely. If ever, get to choose or even recommend! But a TW who
wishes to remain employable should be able to respond to structured or
unstructured requirements by being able to work in both. The general
trend in technical publishing, I predict (duh!), will require more
automation, more reusability, more interchangeability of data, not less.
If I had to bet on a winner in that horse race, my money would be on
more structured documentation, not less, in our collective future.

-----Original Message-----
From: at
[ at lists.frameuser] On Behalf Of russ at
Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2007 8:09 AM
To: framers at
Subject: [BULK] RE: Reasons to structure
Importance: Low

Jeremy, I don't think that is harsh at all. What I think is harsh is the
constant discouragement from learning and professional development from
certain members of this list.  It is so important for any tech writer to
learn about structured content, and I do not think I am any smarter than
anyone else just because I have expertise in structure. The only
difference with me is that I just spent the last five years being
interested in it, and I would like others to be interested in it as
well. And that excuse about "not having time" is really quite worn out.
If you work in the tech industry and don't have time to learn, your fate
is sealed.

And by the way, HTML is a perfect example of fully structured content,
and the web is a good example of the miracles that are possible with it.
Thanks for bringing that up.

Message: 29
Date: Wed, 14 Feb 2007 17:46:00 -0800
From: "Jeremy H. Griffith" <>
Subject: Re: Reasons to Structure
To: framers at
Message-ID: <2ib7t2p94cn4i7lv0j116s5svf7bhpld1u at>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1

On Wed, 14 Feb 2007 04:56:49 -0700, russ at

>Jeremy Griffith wrote [referring to semantic markup]:
>>You can do the same with paragraph formats, too.  But you can do all 
>>that in UNstructured docs just as easily as in structured.
>>Maybe *more* easily, when you factor in the time to set up your 
>>structure, and to modify it when you make changes, which is major.
>>I've only been able to identify one situation in which structured 
>>Frame can do this better than unstructured, and that's when you'd want

>>nested element tags within a paragraph, since you cam't nest character

>>formats.  (There are easy workarounds for creating the equivalent of 
>>nested paragraph formats, such as using start/end formats and/or 
>>markers.)  OTOH, I have yet to see a non-hypothetical case where such 
>>nested char formats were really needed...
>>Structured Frame is designed for large pubs groups where standard 
>>document designs are required, perhaps for ISO 9000, perhaps for other

>>corporate policy reasons.  For smaller groups, and especially for lone

>>writers, the setup costs (time and consultants) are likely to exceed 
>>the benefits, much like a CMS (Content Management System) can.  There 
>>are excellent consultants around, many on this list, for whom it is a 
>>breeze.  If you decide to go this way, hire one.
>>It will prevent much anguish and hair loss.

>This is misinformation, on nearly all counts. 

Isn't that a tad harsh, Russ?  My point, which you appear to have
missed, is that (as Richard said) semantic markup is good, *and* that
you can do it in unstructured Frame.  Do you deny this fact?

I also said that for small groups, "the setup costs (time and
consultants) are likely to exceed the benefits".  I'll stand by that
assessment, based on using Frame in both its unstructured
*and* structured (formerly known as "FrameBuilder") forms over many,
many years, originally on a Sun 2...  I didn't say there are *no*
benefits, just that the costs may be greater.  Do you assert that the
costs are always insignificant, then?

>I am a lone writer who is completely dependent on structured Frame. 
>Without it, I would need at least twice the manpower to handle the 
>busywork that it does. Furthermore, I adhere to no industry standard 
>and make changes to my structured template frequently.

All well and good... but what *else* are you?  An expert in structure,
perhaps?  How long have you worked with structure?
As I said, "There are excellent consultants around, many on this list,
for whom it is a breeze."  You are one of the four or five I'd think of
first...  Here's the first line on your home page: "Welcome to West
Street Consulting, your home for structured FrameMaker(r) plugins and
other utilities."  I've also written plugins that work with structured
Frame (Mif2Go does, just fine), but I hardly consider myself a
representative Frame user... nor would I assume that everyone would have
as easy a time as I do.  Do you say it's easy for everyone?

>Granted, the setup costs for me are minimal now, because I have the 
>skill set.

My point exactly.  That's why I said "hire a consultant".
Do you think consultants are unnecessary?  <vbg>

>But that is the whole point of these occasional rants... you just have 
>to get in there and learn, because that's when it becomes a breeze.

Assuming, that is, that you *have* the time.  Many of our colleagues,
having survived downsizing from ten writers to two with no decrease of
workload, do not.  And if you do, is that time better spent on learning
nifty new tools, or on improving the docs you're paid to write?  One
size does
*not* fit all.  If you have a genuine *business* case for going to
structured Frame (or if you are a hacker at heart, like you and I), go
for it.  ;-)

>Of course it takes time to ramp up, but when it is so obviously the way

>of the future, ...

This makes me feel old.  <g>  Well, I *am* old... old enough to remember
any number of "obvious" advances that went nowhere.  The future has many
ways... most of which we won't recognize until we get there.  Here's a
little related snippet from [XML-DEV] today:

> [Michael Chanpion:] On the other hand, this is more or less the story 
> of CORBA - lots of time and money spent on something that has vastly 
> underperformed relative to its initial hype.

> [Elliotte Rusty Harold:] Exactly, and that's hardly the only example 
> of lots of corporate money being fed into the shredder.

That's in the current "More predictions to mull over" thread...

>Two final points...
>- I'll retract much of what I said if you can provide a single recent 
>example of anything groundbreaking in the area of techcomm that 
>specifically involved unstructured content.

The Web?  You don't consider HTML an example of structured content, do
you?  It qualifies in only the most technical sense... and most pages
violate even its simple DTDs grossly.
Or maybe it's not recent enough for you?

>- Always beware of the typewriter salesman when you are reading the 
>computer brochure.

You consider me a "typewriter salesman"???  LOL!  It's true that when I
was first a pubs manager, we did our output (for power-plant manuals) on
IBM Model C's, but then the Selectric came out.  I also worked with MTST
and MTSC systems, wrote the first screen-oriented editor for CP/M (and
the first Z-80 symbolic debugger), wrote software for the first
"affordable" ($9,995) dedicated word processor, and did typesetting on
an XDS-940 mainframe driving a Mergenthaler V-I-P photocomposer.  I've
always been on the bleeding edge of tech publications... not the
trailing edge.

However, more to the point, unlike the typewriter salesman I make
*nothing* when people stay with unstructured Frame.
You, OTOH, make your living from people who go structured.
Perhaps it's the *computer* salesman you need to watch?  ;-)

-- Jeremy H. Griffith, at Omni Systems Inc.
 <jeremy at>


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