The Gilbane Advisor

Curated content for content, computing, and digital experience professionsals

Category: XSL-FO, CSS, & Style Sheets (page 1 of 2)

multi-purpose content

Content that is created to be re-used in different contexts. Typically structured using declarative markup such as XML. Originally for publishing in print or digital, then in multiple digital formats and devices for human and machine processing. Also describes the raw material of single-source publishing systems. 

Some current examples.

Once Upon a Time…

… there was SVG. People were excited about it. Adobe and others supported it. Pundits saw a whole new graphical web that would leverage SVG heavily. Heck, I even wrote a book about it. 

Then things got quiet for a long time…

However, there are some signs that SVG might be experiencing a bit of a renaissance, if the quality of presentations at a recent conference is a strong indication. It’s notable that Google hosted the conference and even more notable that Google is trying to bigfoot Microsoft into supporting SVG in IE, a move that would substantially boost SVG as an option for Web developers.

So a question for those out there interested in SVG. Where are some big projects out there? Are there organizations creating large bases of illustrations and other graphical content with SVG? I would love to talk to you and learn about your projects. You can email me or comment below.

UPDATE: Brad Neuberg of Google, who is quoted in the InfoWorld article linked above, sent along a link to a project at Google, SVG Web, a JavaScript library that supports SVG on many browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. According to the tool’s website, using the library plus native SVG support, you can instantly target ~95% of the existing installed web base.

UPDATE: Ruud Steltenpool, the organizer for SVG Open 2009, sent a link to an incredibly useful compendium of links to SVG projects, tools, and other resources though he warns it is a little outdated.

XML Communities on LinkedIn

Just spent an excessive number of hours perusing the XML and related community groups on various Web community sites.  There are several social community tools and sites, but even just LinkedIn ( seems to have dozens of community groups that at least mention XML in their descriptions, and several have it prominent in their names and logos. I joined several. Let’s see what happens. Stay tuned… </>

Winds of Change at Tools of Change

O’Reilly’s Tools of Change conference in New York City this week was highly successful, both inside and outside the walls of the Marriott Marquis. The sessions were energetic, well-attended, and–on the whole–full of excellent insight and ideas about the digital trends taking a firm hold of nearly all sectors of the publishing business. Outside the walls, especially on Twitter, online communities were humming with news and commentary on the the conference. (You almost could have followed the entire conference just by following the #toc hash tag at Twitter and accessing the online copies of the presentations.)

But if you had done that, you would have missed the fun of being there. There were some superb keynotes and some excellent general sessions. Notable among the keynotes were Tim O’Reilly himself, Neelan Choksi from Lexcycle (Stanza), and Cory Doctorow. The general sessions  covered a fairly broad spectrum of topics but were heavy on eBooks and community. Because of my own and my clients’ interests, I spent most of my time in the eBook sessions. The session eBooks I: Business Models and Strategy was content-rich. To begin with, you heard straight from senior people at major publishers with significant eBook efforts (Kenneth Brooks from Cengage Learning, Leslie Hulse from Harper Collins Publishers, and Cynthia Cleto from Springer Science+Business Media). Along with their insight, the speakers–and moderator Michael Smith from IDPF–assembled an incredibly valuable wiki of eBook business and technical material to back up their talk. I also really enjoyed a talk from Gavin Bell of Nature, The Long Tail Needs Community, where he made a number of thoughtful points about how publishers need to think longer and harder about how reading engages and changes people and specifically how a publisher can build community around those changes and activities.

There were a few soft spotsin the schedule. Jeff Jarvis’ keynote, What Would Google do with Publishing?, was more about plumping his new book (What Would Google Do?) than anything else, but was also weirdly out of date, even though the book is hot off the presses, with 20th century points like “The link changes everything” and “If you’re not searchable, you won’t be found.” (Publishers are often, somewhat unfairly, accused of being Luddite, but they are not that Luddite.) There were also a couple of technical speakers who didn’t seem to make the necessary business connections to the technical points they were making, which would have been helpful to those members of the audience who were less technical and more publishing-product and -process oriented. But these small weaknesses were easily outshone by the many high points, the terrific overall energy, and the clear enthusiasm of the attendees.

One question I have for the O’Reilly folks is to ask how they will keep the energy going. They have a nascent Tools of Change community site. Perhaps they could enlist some paid community managers to seed and moderate conversations, and also tie community activities to other O’Reilly products such as the books and other live and online events.

O’Reilly has very quickly established a very strong conference and an equally strong brand around the conference. With the publishing industry so engulfed in digital change now, I have to think this kind of conference and community can only continue to grow.

Podcast on Structured Content in the Enterprise

Traditionally, the idea of structured content has always been associated with product documentation, but this is beginning to change. Featuring Bill Trippe, Lead Analyst at The Gilbane Group, and Bruce Sharpe, XMetaL Founding Technologist at JustSystems, a brand new podcast on The Business Value of Structured Content takes a look into why many companies are beginning to realize that structured content is more than just a technology for product documentation – it’s a means to add business value to information across the whole enterprise. 

From departmental assets such as marketing website content, sales training materials, or technical support documents, structured content can be used to grow revenue, reduce costs, and mitigate risks, ultimately leading to an improved customer experience.  

Listen to the podcast and gain important insight on how structured content can

  • break through the boundaries of product documentation
  • help organizations meet high user expectations for when and where they can access content
  • prove to be especially valuable in our rough economic times
  • …and more!

A Strategic Roadmap for Structured Content

We are wrapping up our project with JustSystems. In total, we created three papers, three companion webinars, and the the interactive ROI blueprint. I will also be producing a podcast shortly with Bruce Sharpe, JustSystem’s Founding Technologist. You can download the papers and view the recorded webinars here (registration required).
A tip of the hat to Gilbane colleagues Geoffrey Bock, Mary Laplante, and Dale Waldt who did most of the work. It was a big project!

DITA for Blogging?

We had a great discussion last week in our session, Using DITA for Enterprise Publishing. One of the themes was about using DITA for business documents; two of the speakers, Michael Boses of Quark/In.Vision and Eric Severson of Flatirons Solutions, are on the DITA Enterprise Business Documents Subcommittee. We didn’t get to talking much about blogs, but then this announcement caught my eye today: DITA for WordPress.

A few days ago I released the DITA-OT and the WordPress plugins that enable me to publish part of the (almost inexistant) DITA-OP documentation on this blog. I am talking about the About, Download and Getting Started pages that appear in the menu up here. The DITA-OT plugin transforms a map into a single file, suitable for publication, and automatically call the xmlrpc API of the blog to publish it. The DITA WordPress plugin adds a css (a slightly modified version of the DITA-OT commonltr.css) to your WordPress theme to properly render the standard domains. You can download both plugins here, they are released under the GPL license.

Here and There

So a number of client projects recently have me looking for certain info and tools. If you have some thoughts about any of these, please do get in touch or post a comment here.
In no particular order:

  • Does anyone have experience with the XSL-FO stylesheets that have been created for previewing content encoded with the NLM article DTD? In addition, has anyone extended the stylesheets to work with the book tag set?
  • In a related note, has anyone tried the Word 2007 add-in for the NLM DTD? Experiences? Good, bad, or indifferent? I also wonder if anyone has tried extending it to reflect customizations to the DTD/schema?
  • Finally, I am looking to talk to users who have created DITA content with Microsoft Word, either one of the commercial add-ins like Content Mapper or a custom add-in.
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