OASIS tackles modular documentation

A Web services standards body wants to make technical documents modular so they will be easier to update and reuse.

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards has launched a technical working group to develop an Extensible Markup Language-based standard for formatting technical documentation.

The Darwin Information Typing Architecture group will hold its first meeting in early May, said David Schell, a senior IBM Corp manager who convened the technical working group.

Representatives of the Defense Information Systems Agency and the National Library of Medicine have joined the group. Private- and public-sector organizations are welcome to participate, Schell said.

The working group will take up the growing difficulty of incrementally updating long technical documents. Often entire new copies are posted online or disseminated to organizations, when “we may be only updating one or two key pieces,” Schell said. “We want to look at how to do that more effectively.”

The group will design what Schell called a topic-oriented architecture, under which sections of documentation would be broken down into topic units that could be updated as information changed, or reused in multiple documents.

Schell said he could not speculate about when the new standard would be ready, but he did say IBM has built its own basic topic-based framework that would be available through OASIS. The international consortium has committees working on XML, ebXML,LegalXML, TaxXML and other Web services schema.

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