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Re: Frame+SGML Tutorial?

At 11:21 AM 12/21/99 -0800, Michael Rubinstein wrote:
>Does any one know of a Frame+SGML tutorial.  We are considering going from
>Frame to Frame+SGML and I would like to get comfortable using the tool to
>understand better what kind of DTD will work for us.
There's a true story about some outfit (might have been a think tank) which
commissioned five of the top SGML experts to independently develop document
type definitions (DTDs) for a popular magazine (I seem to recall it was
either The New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly). The premise going in was:

	If SGML has any validity as a discipline, the results produced
	by the five experts should have a common core, since, after all,
	the structure is predefined.

Each expert was given a year's worth of the magazine's issues, and was asked
to estimate how long it would take to develop a DTD. Each of them took more
than twice as long as their estimate. When the finished products were
analyzed, virtually no resemblance was found among the five resulting DTDs.

Most government- and industry-sponsored DTDs were designed by committees,
and are nightmares of mediocrity, DocBook being a prime example.

Being able to construct a brick wall doesn't mean you're an architect. And
although there are schools of Architecture, there are no schools (or even
books) on the subject of DTD/EDD design. The 500+ page FM+SGML Developer's
Guide tells you how to build an EDD, but not how to design one.

You've got to learn the hard way. The Developer's Guide provides the best
road map, but the only way to learn how to do it ("it" being the design of
both structure and formatting) is to do it. Starting about 6 years ago I
began "doing it" with FM+SGML's predecessor, FrameBuilder. I'd build an EDD
for some purpose, then I'd test it in the only way that works, namely using
the EDD to create real documents. Then, I'd add to the EDD the things I
realized were missing, and fix the things that weren't working the way I
thought they would, and tested it again. It's a highly iterative process,
even after you've acquired mastery of the toolset.

I've written an opinionated 20+ page paper (hardly comprehensive) on the
subject of FM+SGML information design. It appeared in the first issue of the
InFrame magazine (http://www.inframe-mag.com/).

So, here are my conclusions:

1. No one has written a tutorial on FM+SGML EDD design, and it's unlikely
anyone ever will.

2. The only document you can rely upon to get started is the on-line
Developer's Guide. The first thing you must do is print it out, because it
is a prime example of the kind of document that will never work when it is
used on-line.

3. After you've printed the Developer's Guide, read it. If you don't
understand something, keep plugging at it until you do (understand it that is).

4. When you feel you understand enough to get started on building an EDD,
try your hand at it. Then take your designer's hat off, put on your writer's
hat, and flog the hell out of your EDD while creating real documents. Then
go back to the EDD, fix the things you learned didn't work, add things that
were missing, and test it again. Repeat until you're satisfied with the result.

5. Keep practicing, keep learning, and keep thinking about the proper design
of structure and formatting. Eventually, if you keep at it long enough and
diligently enough, some day you might be able to say: "I think I'm beginning
to understand what it is that I'm doing".
     | Nullius in Verba |
Dan Emory, Dan Emory & Associates
FrameMaker/FrameMaker+SGML Document Design & Database Publishing
Voice/Fax: 949-722-8971 E-Mail: danemory@primenet.com
10044 Adams Ave. #208, Huntington Beach, CA 92646
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