Re: PLink availability/feature requests

From: Eric Armstrong (
Date: Wed Apr 25 2001 - 15:10:17 PDT

Murray Altheim wrote:
> ...One of our engineers did a fairly comprehensive study
> of document "components" with an eye on reducing translation costs.
> Sun localizes its document pool across quite a number of languages,
> which is very expensive, so the idea was to try to save some money
> hiring translators.
> What he found was that the cutting and pasting of such components
> was frought with difficulty, as they were originally written by a
> [supposedly] intelligent author for a particular purpose in a
> particular context. That these components (let's really call them
> "document fragments") are somehow modular and reusable seems rather
> suspect to me...
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but I totally agree with
you. When a document is written, transitions play such a key role
that the idea of "modular reuse" is effectively moot.

Another way of saying that is: Given the tools we have at our
disposal, the work products we have created are ill-suited for
modular reuse.

However, not all classes of documents fall into that category.
Here are three that do not:

  * A granular email system.
    Rather than quoting an existing email, my replies would be
    interspersed among the original paragraphs -- indented, and
    highlighted as "new" until they were read, in that same way
    that documents show revisions and email folders show new
    messages. In such a system, unique node ideas are critical.
    (And note that the same user could respond from different
     systems, at the same point in the message.)

  * An automated (ideally human-mediated FAQ system)
    In such a system, the instructions might read:
      * Check your revision.
      * If revision < 2.3, download the xyz patch
      * Install the patch
      * Restart the software

    Each of the steps might be links to specific instructions
    for downloading and installing patches, installing them,
    and so on. That way, sophisticated users aren't burdened
    with excess detail, and naive users get the information
    they need to carry out instructions.

  * A DKR
    Given any sort of "knowledge-indexed" information, various
    howTo hints, tips, and tricks of the trade may well be
    *automatically* linked into a variety of documents. The
    users "familiarity index" -- a semantic network that
    identifies the topics the user is familiar with, could well
    determine whether detailed information is transcluded or
    linked in a particular "document". So the FAQ response
    above might actually include the detailed instructions, for
    a naive user.

Now, these are systems that *could* benefit from modularly
reusable material. When systems exist which expedite the
authoring and access of such material, we may well see a shift
towards more modular writing. (Much material will still depend
on sequencing and transitions, however, so not everything will
fit into that category.)

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Tue Aug 21 2001 - 17:58:05 PDT