Death to Recipes!
I love food. I enjoy cooking and I especially enjoy eating. One of my favorite web sites is epicurious.com, and the kitchen shelf devoted to cookbooks sags alarmingly. Many Saturday mornings, you will find me here.
But I am not happy about how recipes have insinuated themselves into my work life. For some reason, the recipe is the default example of structured content. Look at what happens when you search Google for xml recipe example. Recipes are everywhere, not unlike high fructose corn syrup. Unfortunately, I am not immune to the XML recipe infiltration myself.
I understand the appeal. Recipes are:
- highly structured content
- well understood
But I think the example is getting a little tired and wilted. Let’s try working with something new. Try out a new kind of lettuce, er, example. This week, I’m trying to write a very basic introduction to structured authoring, and I’m paralyzed by my inability to think of any non-recipe examples.
I’m considering using a glossary as an example. After all, it’s a highly structure piece of content whose organization is well understood. Maybe I’ll use food items as my glossary entries. Baby steps…
PS It’s totally unrelated, but this article about two chefs eating their way through Durham (“nine restaurants in one night, at least five hours of eating and drinking”) is quite fun.
Stuck with recipes…? Ho-hum… 🙂
Ann Rockley at DocTrain West (R.I.P. – the conference, not Ann) mentioned sonnets which I thought was a really cool example. Or haikus.
Or how about most anthologies (a foreword, a general introduction, and structured entries). Or a dictionary (entry title, pronunciation, word type, explanation, usage). Or restaurant or music guides.
Yes, nothing as clear cut and easy to grasp as the ole recipe. But I bet any example you choose will have insightful virtues of its own! 🙂
A glossary brings the added fun of discussing that this stuff must be sorted after translation, which is usually not done by any translation tool. And implementing localized sort orders with a weak XSL processor is no fun…
How about resumes?
Oh yes, at my university every student of technical writing remembers the “deer goulash” lesson 😉
Now you tell me! I just sent my UXmatters column in on reuse and DITA. And what is my prime example? A recipe for DITA Grits Casserole. I am like so yesterday.