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RE: Are the semantic tags really useful?

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  • rob.cavicchio@emc.com
    ... Markup can be processed for a variety of purposes. Layout is just one of them. Others include filtering, searching, and sorting. As a simple example, with
    Message 1 of 6 , Apr 26 1:25 PM
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      "emma.lilin" emma.lilin@... emma.lilin wrote:

      > People were asking in my organization that if the tags are only used
      > for layout, why shouldn¡¯t we simplify them to <b> <p><section> and
      > several other tags? It can be much easier and in fact, we can use a
      > very simple editor to write topics. So the idea is, we keep topics in
      > XML for reuse but use very constrained tags, e.g. less than 20.
      > So the question is, do the semantic tags really matter? How do you use
      > them?


      Markup can be processed for a variety of purposes. Layout is just one of them. Others include filtering, searching, and sorting. As a simple example, with the right processing tools in place, a user could search your documentation for all references to UI controls that deal with files. The markup would allow the system to distinguish the word "file" as part of a control name from the word "file" being used as a common noun in a sentence. That could tremendously improve the relevance of the search results.


      *************************
      Rob Cavicchio
      rob.cavicchio@...

      Principal Technical Writer & Information Architect
      Information Intelligence Group
      EMC Corporation

      The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by EMC and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of EMC.
    • Ben Colborn
      I d go back to this statement: if the tags are only used for layout . While output formatting is the most visible impact, there is a lot more opportunity.
      Message 2 of 6 , Apr 26 2:52 PM
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        I'd go back to this statement: "if the tags are only used for layout". While output formatting is the most visible impact, there is a lot more opportunity. Even in your case, if you need to change the typographical rendering, it's a frustrating manual exercise rather than a simple stylesheet change.

        In the last organization I was in, the first stage of the DITA migration sort of was just changing authoring tools. Instead of the FrameMaker paragraph tags, we used corresponding DITA elements.

        But then we realized we could do so much more. Some examples follow.

        Terminology checking. You can look just inside certain elements to make sure you are complying with current terminology, and exclude others. Let's say the marketing name of something changed, but that change isn't reflected in the product yet. So you can check the term but ignore elements like codeblock, uicontrol, and wintitle to avoid a bunch of false positives.

        Spell checking. As above, you can ignore certain elements for spell checking so the editor doesn't flag elements that the spellchecker is likely to detect as incorrect.

        Auditing. Let's say you change standard phrasing or tagging and want to find instances that need to be updated. Or you want to summarize certain aspects of your repository, like filename, topic title, and shortdesc. At the request of the development team in my company, I created some task complexity metrics so they can work to improve the more complex procedures. That would be impossible if I was using b instead of uicontrol, and i instead of varname, and ol/li instead of steps/step.

        Transformation. There are opportunities for transformation beyond page layout. You can create other types of documents--how about authoring command references in DITA then changing them into man pages as well as PDF and XHTML? Or you can automate cleanup. Perhaps you decide to settle on one element to the exclusion of others, like you decide to use only systemoutput instead of msgblock. Then you can easily write XSLT to change all occurrences of systemoutput to msgblock.

        I doubt anyone is going to say that you shouldn't constrain the tags that are available; most groups are going to need only a subset. But it would not be a good idea to throw out all the semantic tags and keep only typographical ones. You might as well use HTML in that case.

        Ben Colborn | Training & Documentation | Nutanix

        --- In dita-users@yahoogroups.com, "emma.lilin" <emma.lilin@...> wrote:
        >
        > People were asking in my organization that if the tags are only used for layout, why shouldn¡¯t we simplify them to <b> <p><section> and several other tags? It can be much easier and in fact, we can use a very simple editor to write topics. So the idea is, we keep topics in XML for reuse but use very constrained tags, e.g. less than 20.
        > So the question is, do the semantic tags really matter? How do you use them?
        >
      • matthew_stern
        Tagging is also important for localization. Our translators look for the element to look for field labels that should match what is in the
        Message 3 of 6 , Apr 27 2:10 PM
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          Tagging is also important for localization. Our translators look for the <uicontrol> element to look for field labels that should match what is in the application.

          It also provides flexibility in generating output. When we use the <example> element, it appears under an expanding and contracting heading in browser-based Help and has a slightly different format for PDF. By using the semantic <example> element, we can reuse text without having to change the formatting for different types of output.

          These are among the reasons why semantic tagging is more flexible and useful than format tagging.

          --- In dita-users@yahoogroups.com, "emma.lilin" <emma.lilin@...> wrote:
          >
          > People were asking in my organization that if the tags are only used for layout, why shouldn¡¯t we simplify them to <b> <p><section> and several other tags? It can be much easier and in fact, we can use a very simple editor to write topics. So the idea is, we keep topics in XML for reuse but use very constrained tags, e.g. less than 20.
          > So the question is, do the semantic tags really matter? How do you use them?
          >
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