Bringing documents to life…


Have you noticed I seem to be commenting on email a lot? I have, and maybe that means something. Anyway, the title for today comes from an AIIM offering for some XML-related training.


This raises two questions in my head: 1) I never knew documents had died; and 2) why does the computer world employ biological metaphors, analogies, and models?


Documents are dead…long live the_______________!

Documents do not have to be snapshots of a point in time. By pulling together technologies such as XML-based authoring and publishing tools and connecting to live data, documents can become dynamic and interactive — alive in a sense. Rather than creating and then updating the same document with different versions, a document can really begin to work for you by pulling live data so that it’s always up-to-date.


OK, here’s the tagline from the AIIM website for those of you leery about following this link – as far as I can tell it’s safe and won’t affect your spam.


Immediately my thoughts ran to the extreme: what if the Constitution was written in XML. Admittedly absurd, but what’s the deal with XML that brings a document to life like no other tool? The idea behind XML is creating interchangeable blocs of content that can then be reused (or repurposed in the jargon of the day) and available across a variety of potential platforms. I’m not an XML expert, and some of the resources available online are better places to start. As an open source format, the best place to start on XML is the World Wide Web Consortium XML Homepage. W3C is not the easiest or friendliest website to navigate, but it’s very straightforward and very informative.


So…Documents are dead, long live the XML?


Analogies, metaphors, and models (sounds like a Jimmy Buffet song title)!

Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake, but it hit while sloshing through another page-burning article late last night. If I can find the quote again I will definitely use it, but it is something like this: “a metaphor or analogy is only as good as the supporting evidence for linking the claims to that mental model.” Or something along those lines.


Life-cycle, viruses, immunizations, sanitized are common points of reference in the computer sciences (and other areas too – business for example). Is it possible to perform CPR on a document (I do recall vaguely an old software program called First Aid – general utilities programs, long since sucked up by Microsoft Windows)? What do they all have in common? They are SYSTEMS – and this was my big duh moment last night! More interestingly though, they are systems of systems, or complex systems. This makes a difference in thinking about computer hardware, software, or biology.


So, instead of thinking about the medicalization (a word according to my anthropologist wife) of documents, or the simple systemization of documents, maybe we should be thinking about the SYSTEM OF DOCUMENTS. What constitutes a document?








And speaking of To Tell the Truth, would the real document please step forward…but first I have some other writings I need to finish today. I do hope to come back to this idea because at the heart of my interest in knowledge management is ultimately a collection of documents – and it would probably behoove me to better understand what a document is (or just to play around with the words and ideas).


“Say goodnight, Gracie.”



2 Responses to “Bringing documents to life…”

  1. 1 Doc Martens

    At this point, you might want to take a look at Steve Morris’s website, as he too is fascinated by collections of (mostly scientific) documents:

  2. 2 Fox

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Fox.

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