From data and documents to data in documents

quill-weeklygeekshow.jpg The Document as Application: The Convergence of Document Publishing and Application Development. Jake Sorofman of JustSystems makes some sharp observations in this ContentWrangler article. Here's a sample:

Data and documents have generally been isolated from one another. Data is stored in relational databases, mainframe systems, and data warehouses. Documents are kept in content management systems, shared file servers, and local drives.

Data is structured and empirical. It tends to focus on the “what” of business — financial information, inventory, etc. Documents are unstructured and contextual. They focus on the “why” and the “how” of business — manuals, policies, reports, analysis, etc.

And so do business writers: that's our job.

But Sorofman goes way beyond the concept of XML-based authoring, and even that is a mystery to most business writers. He describes the document-as-application, where

structured data in documents has direct, persistent links back to its native sources, ensuring the documents and the systems of record are always in sync.

This is essential information for everyone who writes documents at work. It's the next level of a mighty change which has been sneaking up on us for years. But the people noticing and stating these truths are always technical experts, never writers.

Data and documents may be in sync, but not writers and technology. Behind every technical development that affects our work are 20 more, all greedy for our attention. Tough life.

Image from Weeklygeekshow.

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