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RE: Something I would like to see

Everything herein is my opinion, and may be strong, rough, harsh, or
otherwise undesirable.  If you can't handle it, don't read on.  I am
obviously not perfect, and this is definately open for debate, but please
make sure it's intelligent, and not a flame.  Thanks,

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Joshua Drake [mailto:poet@linuxports.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2000 9:08 PM
> To: ldp-discuss@lists.linuxdoc.org
> Subject: Something I would like to see
> One of the constant drawbacks for the LDP in getting new 
> authors is the
> requirement that they submit with SGML. We all know the 
> benefits of SGML
> but a lot of us tend to ignore the drawbacks. Some of these are:
> Learning curve

True, it's big.  But it can be overcome, and the benefits are enormous,
especially in terms of intelligent searching.  I JUST (as in today) started
to talk to some people about this, and I guess I'll have to write something
on why I feel it's so important for everybody to look at.  In the meantime,
look at Cocoon (just to a search on http://www.google.com/linux).  They have
some very impressive stuff there.  

> Image handling (in linuxdoc)
> Ease of editing - Most of us are very comfortable at the 
> command line. A
> lot of new - very intelligent Linux users are not.

What's wrong with emacs?  I don't touch the command line for any of my
editing and validation stuff.  Anybody running with a major distribution
should be able to get emacs, and the setup for psgmls is relatively trivial.
I'm an RPM guy (not necessarily RedHat, but anything with RPM), and there
are pretty complete RPM packages of all the stuff that you need to get going
with DocBook.  I don't really think that people should be "learning"
LinuxDoc at this point, it's fine for people who already know it, but
DocBook is quite a bit more powerful.  

> Processing - SGML can be a pain to process and a pain to find 
> errors in.

Processing is a pain, I'm with you there, but finding errors hasn't been
very tough for me.  nsgmls does a pretty decent job of pointing out your

I think that a lot of this will be easier with a good authors section to the
LDP site, and a good Authors Guide.  Perhaps there will need to be more
resources devoted to this in the way of a mailing list, and perhaps more, I
don't know.

> It's ugly

It's ugly, but powerful.  Apache is ugly, but it's the most robust webserver
anywhere.  Sendmail is absolutely hideous, but it runs something like 80% of
the mailservers on the net.  Ugly isn't necessarily bad, although it is

> I suggest the following:
> I would like to see the LDP start accepting more than SGML as a file
> format. My personal taste would be Word Perfect. Why?
> Word Perfect 8 has the ability to open just about any document format,
> including Frame Maker.
> It has the ability to save to HTML, Postcript, Text and RTF..
> Wordperfect 9 has the ability to save to PDF, HTML, Text, and RTF.
> They both run on Linux. Wordperfect is free.

That's Free as in Beer, and not as in Libre.  I won't go any more into why I
don't like WP anylonger, as it doesn't belong here.  Let me quote from a
couple of emails that I've had in the past several days:

Here's a message to and from a fairly new HOWTO author:
> > As this is a mini-HOWTO, it is written in HTML.
> The original was done in SGML, is there any way you can provide
> it to us in that format. We are trying to move to getting
> SGML for everything, if at all possible.

Hi there

The instructions indicate that it's okay to submit mini-HOWTOs in HTML.

"The mini-HOWTO submissions may be made in either SGML or HTML"

I didn't have the time to figure out why the sgmltools failed to compile
on my standard RedHat6.1 box. Also, I know HTML and I don't know SGML.
Dealing with the new format represents a time committment above that
which is required for working on the HOWTO itself, and I basically am
working on the HOWTO only when my wife is asleep. I hope it will be okay
to continue working on it in HTML, since that's the final format anyway.

And a message as part of a chat with someone else in reply to this:
What The Author misses is that HTML is _not_ the final result; HTML is
lossy, a shadow on the ground cast by shining one possible lamp over
the DocBook source.

Note that the needle has been changed to protect the record...  err,
something like that anyway.  

The point is that this person (PLEASE don't be insulted) doesn't understand
why SGML is better than HTML, or any of the other "output formats" or
"binaries" as I like to call them.  The SGML source allows you to be
intelligent about what you do with that information.  It allows you to
specify WHAT a part of the document is, and NOT how it looks.  By specifying
what pieces of our documents are, we can create a terribly intelligent
document search feature, that can find every document that would help me in
configuring my Sun SPARCstation to run the Apache webserver, PHP4, custom
CGI/bin, and a web-based mailing list manger, by just a single search.  It
can even return intelligent sections of those documents, or just the
abstracts, so that I know which documents I want to look into further.  

> They both have the ability to create internal linking and table of
> contents. They both can handle just about every image format widely in
> use.

While this is important, it's only a small part of what we get from

> I just don't believe that we can continue to grow the LDP 
> without having
> a simple way for people to contribute. People should be able to just
> type something up in Wordperfect.(we could start accepting others as
> their export filters become better... StarWriter is an example). They
> can spell check with a single button.

Just one key series in emacs.  I'm sure it's similar for vi.  I'm sure that
somebody has made a GUI frontend to ispell where you can just drop your
document and get it spellchecked (if not, somebody go do that right now :).

> They can grammar check
> (reasonably) with a single button. They can save to multiple formats
> with a single button.
> Am I suggesting that we dumb some stuff down? You're damn right. :)

I agree that we should "dumb some stuff down", but I don't think that moving
away from SGML/XML is the answer.  I think that we just need better
documentation, and perhaps better help for people who are intimidated by
SGML, or by DocBook.  I know that at least one of my favorite authors is a
little worried about the proposition of moving to DocBook, and until we can
make them comfortable, we've got a LOT of work to do.  

Anyway, that was kind of long, but as you can see, personally I'm opposed to
using things other than SGML or XML.  But that is just ME, and I'm not
speaking for anybody else (except maybe my alter ego).  Please arm
yourselves with information, and form your own opinion.  If you've got
questions, email the list, or if you're not comfortable, email me, and I'll
do my best to answer them (not that I'm qualified, but I like to talk).
Thanks for reading,

P.S.  Josh, going to make it to PLUG on Thursday?  Err, it's supposed to be
Thursday, anyway.  

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