This paper was submitted for publication and is copyright to Barry Schaeffer© 2005.
Published here May 2006.

Editor's Note | Introduction | First Things First | The Heart of Today's Effort
Markup Protocols | Pressure to Produce | The Consumer Side is the Most Important
Holistic Markup Design | Stakeholder Involvement

Markup Protocols

Markup protocols are part of an integrated information life cycle that contains creation, management, organization and delivery components. In fact, significant changes to any portion of this life cycle will inevitably impact the others. Because information is both a conceptual and a concrete part of civilization, these impacts often have both logical and operational consequences.

Markup protocols, although focused on the improvement of information access and delivery, usually have their most significant and immediate impact on the creators and managers of the information. These information managers often have had little warning or involvement in the decision process. As with most human devices, changes coming "over the wall" are often perceived as threatening and tend to be resisted. Consequently, providers' and managers' of content often view markup "resources" as un-funded, unintelligible and unwanted responsibilities. It is the task of the project manager to anticipate these impacts, mitigate their negative influences and ensure that all participants in the effort work together. This can be a major challenge, and fixing the problems that result from neglect early in the project is not a viable management strategy in today’s fast moving information world.

We have seen that information is the product of a life cycle that includes thinkers, authors, organizers, managers, distributors and consumers. Changes in any one of these phases inevitably impact the others, often in dramatic ways. So it is with the development of markup protocols. Although often conceived as resources for the management and delivery of information resources, markup has its most pronounced and immediate effect on the thinker and provider portions of the life cycle. Indeed, no markup scheme, no matter how elegant or valuable in operation, can be fully successful unless it is widely understood by the communities that must use it.

Unfortunately, markup schemes are usually created by individuals and groups operating at a higher level of logical and structural sophistication than the thinkers and authors that use it, however capable they may be in their own chosen fields. The results often resemble the fate of a product design introduced well ahead of the necessary manufacturing techniques to support its mass production. It looks great and works great but remains the stuff of plans and symposia because there is no way to make it widely available at a price the market will bear.

Hence, in developing markup protocols, we must remember that they are intended for the productive use of those who may be operating well below the required level of abstraction or three-dimensional thinking required in their making. Such content providers typically work in organizations with a management structure that is chronically starved for funding, and staff that look unfavorably on new requirements unless a clear benefit is apparent.

Moreover, professional authors who are paid to research, organize and create unique and innovative content do not behave in the same way as input clerks. If a new markup protocol is too far beyond the capacity of the available authoring population, or if it lacks a migration path for gradual adoption, it will fail. If the protocol is perceived by consumers as having little value, or is too sophisticated for the authors' managers, then the same is true and the work put into it will be wasted.

The Heart of Today's Effort  The Heart of Today's Effort

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