tools for document interoperability


This is the web diary for nfoWorks and realization of the Harmony Principles. Pursuing Harmony tracks nfoWorks research, analysis, specification, and implementation of tools for document interoperability. There is commentary on related activities that address conformance, interoperability, and harmonization of document formats.

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Cover Pages: W3C Multimodal Architecture and Interfaces

[update 2008-11-06 I don’t know how I failed to see that the very first sentence didn’t carry the sense I intended for it.]

A current weakness in the open-document standards arena is the poorly-specified and tacit coupling of format provisions to behavior in various document processing contexts (creation, viewing, editing/manipulation, and various “final-form” renderings and, these days, interactive performance governed by the document, whether slide-show or something more elaborate).

We’ll get to that some day, and the ways that such aspects are layered into specifications and their allowance for application innovation and conformance novelty remain to be discovered.

This Cover Pages Daily Newslink item from 2008-10-21 leads to an account of the W3C Technical Report on Multimodal Architecture and Interfaces Fifth Working Draft.  

I’m putting down an nfoWorks marker because of these intriguing passages in the Newslink:

“The main difference from the previous draft is the addition of the rules and guidelines which will allow modality experts to describe the features, capabilities and APIs for specific modality components in sufficient detail so that the components will be interoperable in implementations of the Multimodal Architecture. … The specification describes a loosely coupled architecture for multimodal user interfaces, which allows for co-resident and distributed implementations, and focuses on the role of markup and scripting, and the use of well defined interfaces between its constituents.”

I am hesitant about the following:

“This framework places very few restrictions on the individual components or on their interactions with each other, but instead focuses on providing a general means for allowing them to communicate with each other, plus basic infrastructure for application control and platform services … At runtime, the MMI architecture features loosely coupled software constituents that may be either co-resident on a device or distributed across a network. In keeping with the loosely-coupled nature of the architecture, the constituents do not share context and communicate only by exchanging events.”

There are some wise words about keeping straight the different design-time and run-time considerations.

I suspect that this is not going to bear directly on realization of the Harmony Principles, but it might provide useful conceptual underpinnings for an account of the behavioral aspects that are at least as important in document-mediated interoperability as the standard document format.

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DITA for Technical Standards Publishing

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From the Cover Pages: XML Daily Newslink for 2008-10-14, there is announcement that the OASIS Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) Technical Committee has formed a new subcommittee.   The DITA for Technical Standards Subcommittee has the ambitious purpose of furthering and promoting DITA use for the creation, maintenance, and support of technical standards specifications.  The idea is to have a “common standard for the creation and publication of … technical standards specifications:” 

“The first effort will be to assess and define common requirements for the maintenance and publication of technical standards.  This will provide the common requirements for the specific capabilities that DITA should provide.  Finally, the group will create necessary enhancements to DITA standards and deliverables, including the DITA Open Toolkit with a Toolkit for Technical Specifications.”

There is more in the announcement of subcommittee formation on the (semi-official?) DITA online community site.  The official subcommittee operation is to be set up on the OASIS DITA TC page.

I’m not sure that this has any near-term benefit, but it does arouse my interest in another way.  I am finding it very difficult to wrap my head around the current and in-progress OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Office Open XML (OOXML) specifications.  I need some way to wrestle out my understanding in a way that allows me to surface a conceptualization of the functions of either in a way that their reconciliation at the Harmony Principles level can be grasped and described in some useful way.

DITA surfaces on my radar from time to time.  It is something I think I should know more about.  I don’t know how to apply it in the context of standard document formats, nor am I clear how it is applicable to the conceptualization and expression of document-format standards.  It does strike me that some help is needed, based on my early efforts in the analysis of ODF specifications.   (At this point, concept-mapping software might be even more useful, and I will look into that as well.)

It is time to dig deeper into DITA to see how it can support a harmonization effort with regard to office document formats and their harmonizable specification.

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