XML for the Masses

 The Content Wrangler: In 2008 Quark acquired In.vision, which brought you and the In.vision XML authoring tool to Quark. Why is XML so important to people who create and publish content?

Michael Boses: XML documents offer tremendous value for an organization because XML creates "intelligent documents" that are more easily searched, can be integrated with enterprise business processes, and — most important for us — support dynamic publishing. While this sounds fantastic, there is a hitch: XML is a very technical successor to HTML, and most business people don’t even know what it is, let alone have the technical interest (or time) to learn how to use it. We realized that authors needed a way to create content right in Microsoft Word, using any XML standard without learning anything about XML.
In 2002, In.vision released the first version of XML Author for Microsoft Word, and it changed the XML authoring industry. It enabled an organization to have hundreds or even thousands of users create XML documents without disrupting their business processes.

TCW: You mentioned XML’s role in dynamic publishing. What is dynamic publishing, exactly?

MB: Over the past decade the Internet has fundamentally changed the way people find information. Whereas we used to rely
on books, magazines, periodicals, and other printed materials for information, we now start our search on the Web and then reference printed materials for more detailed information. The prevalence of mobile devices and their ability to deliver information to the palms of our hands also has changed our expectations about the immediacy in which we receive information. Today people expect to get information fast, they want it to be relevant or customized to them, and in many cases they want to be part of the communication process.
These demands have put pressure on traditional print paradigms and evolved into today’s dynamic publishing approach, which is characterized by the rapid delivery of customized information in multiple formats. In other words, dynamic publishing is a different way to create and share information. Its basicpremise is built on the creation of reusable components of information that you can easily combine for different uses — different types of documents and different audiences.

TCW: What types of organizations would benefit from adopting a dynamic publishing solution?

MB: Broadly speaking, any organization that communicates with its customers or is required by law to provide the customer regulated information can benefit from dynamic publishing. For example, today’s news organizations are redefining themselves as media companies; most daily (printed) newspapers also serve breaking news, video clips, and other news on their Web sites. By adopting a dynamic publishing approach, these organizations can create content for articles that are pushed to the Web and then reused in their print editions, without having duplicate staff rewrite the news served in the other medium — whether it be print or online.

TCW: Is there an example of a non-news organization that has adopted Quark XML Author and made the change with minimal pain?

MB: The Irish government is a really good example because it has been a very transparent process. It also involves users and challenges that almost any reader can relate to. Basically, the prime minister’s cabinet meets each week to review legislative and other memoranda that have been produced by workers across the 16 departments and offices of the government. Creating these documents is highly collaborative, with both informal and formal processes that must be followed. The documents themselves are created in XML using XML Author for Microsoft Word.
What is interesting about this project is that there are thousands of potential authors from every level and area of the Irish government. A few of the users access the system daily; however, the vast majority is called upon to author or review these types of documents only occasionally. Usability was critical to success because when you are asked to work on documents for the prime minister’s cabinet, speed and accuracy are essential, and you cannot afford to stumble around with new technology.
It was a huge milestone for the XML industry as a whole when the Irish government announced that in less than one year after its launch, there were 6,500 users on the system performing 1,000 document routings each week for a typical cabinet meeting.

For more of Scott Abel’s interview with Michael Boses, director of XML products for Quark, visit The Dynamic Publisher at www.thedynamicpublisher.com/subscription.html.