Thursday, January 31, 2008

Does this mean that creationists can't use text formatting technologies?

KMWorld sent me an email that discussed its DITA Maturity Model Seminar:

UNLIKE THE “BIG BANG” ENTERPRISE INITIATIVES of the past, XML and Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) hold the promise of incremental adoption — using select DITA capabilities to start quickly and easily, then investing more over time as your content strategy evolves and expands. But every enterprise is different and every organization is at a different level of readiness for full DITA adoption. How do you know where to begin? How do you plan for and manage the required investment and associated ROI? How do you move the enterprise content strategy from the back room to the board room and develop a framework for success?

In this timely webcast, Amber Swope of JustSystems, and Michael Priestly of IBM Corporate User Technologies, co-authors of the DITA Maturity Model, will provide you with first-hand insights and a hands-on framework for implementing DITA and organizing for success. Learn how to manage DITA adoption and investments, understand how to mitigate the risk of project failure and accelerate the time to full migration.

I love things that assume that you know what they're talking about. At least KMWorld spelled out what the acronym meant. But what is the Darwin Information Typing Architecture, and why should I care? At least JUST Systems provided a little bit more of an explanation:

DITA, or Darwin Information Typing Architecture, is one of the most popular information models to suit today's content-rich, multi-channel environment. It provides a standardized, technological foundation, which helps organizations better control and manage the creation, translation, workflow and publishing of information as a business asset.

But does it let us optimize our potential and synergize our externalities? I don't know, but JUST Systems went on and bragged about incremental adoption capabilities.

Luckily for me, there was also a FAQ. Here are some excerpts:

What is DITA?

The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is a comprehensive framework for authoring, managing, and distributing topic-oriented information in XML.

First developed by IBM, DITA goes beyond any previous approach in helping organizations overcome barriers to XML adoption, maximize content reuse, and reduce information redundancies.

Today, DITA is a widely supported specification managed by OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), the industry body responsible for many other business-oriented XML standards....

What kind of deliverables is DITA best suited for?

DITA is suitable for any kind of deliverable, including printed books, but is best suited for topic-oriented content such as:

Online Help
Computer-based training and testing

IBM says a little more:

The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an XML-based, end-to-end architecture for authoring, producing, and delivering technical information. This architecture consists of a set of design principles for creating "information-typed" modules at a topic level and for using that content in delivery modes such as online help and product support portals on the Web....

At the heart of DITA, representing the generic building block of a topic-oriented information architecture, is an XML document type definition (DTD) called "the topic DTD." The extensible architecture, however, is the defining part of this design for technical information; the topic DTD, or any schema based on it, is just an instantiation of the design principles of the architecture....

This architecture and DTD were designed by a cross-company workgroup representing user assistance teams from across IBM. After an initial investigation in late 1999, the workgroup developed the architecture collaboratively during 2000 through postings to a database and weekly teleconferences. The architecture has been placed on IBM's developerWorks Web site as an alternative XML-based documentation system, designed to exploit XML as its encoding format. With the delivery of these significant updates, which contain enhancements for consistency and flexibility, we consider the DITA design to be past its prototype stage.

I figured that someone named Darwin was in on the creation of this standard, but IBM's listed experts are Don Day, Michael Priestly, and David Schell. So I guess that there was no creator named Darwin, which leads me to believe that the standard just spontaneously appeared and evolved over time to best deal with the technical environment. Presumably, non-flexible and useless portions of DITA became extinct as the standard evolved.

But if I wanted to truly find out how Darwin got involved in DITA, I had to go to the authoritative, inerrant source for such matters - Wikipedia.

The name of the architecture was derived as follows:

Darwin: Named for the naturalist Charles Darwin, DITA uses the principles of specialization and inheritance.

Information Typing: DITA capitalizes on the semantics of topics (concept, task, reference) and of content (messages, typed phrases, semantic tables).

Architecture: DITA provides vertical headroom (new applications) and edgewise extension (specialization into new types) for information.

Which brings us to Vernon Kellogg (and yes, I'm still absorbing this, inasmuch as I've never heard of Lamarck):

Sixty years of active study since Darwin, of evolutionary phenomena and of technical discussion among specialists, do not leave evolution just where it was when Darwin and his coadjutors had to drop it. For example, Darwin saw in natural selection a satisfying explanation of the origin of species. We do not see this now. We see in natural selection an important factor in the control of evolutionary lines of plant- and animal-development, and a restraining sieve for the too unfit species, but not a sufficient unaided cause of species-transmutation and -adaptation. There is no mere 'survival of the fittest'; there is a survival of all not too unfit.

But this does not mean returning whole-heartedly to an acceptance of Lamarck's proffered explanation of species-transmutation as caused by adaptive individual modifications and the inheritance and cumulation of these 'acquired characters.' Nor does it mean accepting exclusively the mutations explanation of species origin, despite the general agreement that mutations (rather large, immediately heritable variations) do occur and do make some new, plant and animal forms. Nor, finally, does it mean seeing in, the. Mendelian juggling and recombining of unit characters in the ease of hybridizations a sufficient explanation of new species and adaptive specialization.

What it does mean is that, despite the much additional that has been learned confirmatory of the actuality of evolution, and the new wealth of knowledge that has been gained about the manner and mechanism of some of the principal basic factors of evolution, notably heredity and variation, biologists to-day are less agreed among themselves, or, better put, are more agnostic concerning the causal explanation of evolution now than they were just after Darwin and Huxley had made evolution a household word and natural selection its widely accepted explanation. Of course, natural selection, or Darwinism, never was a unanimously accepted evolution explanation. There were always Lamarckians; but after Weismann, the post-Darwinian champion of Darwinism who out-Darwined Darwin in his insistence on the All-macht of natural selection, had made his fight on the inheritance of acquired characters, Lamarckism went largely into eclipse. Yet there have always been Lamarckians since Lamarck, and are to-day, although there are but few who adhere to Lamarck's own naive form of Lamarckism, with its assumption of the direct inheritance, in photographic replica,' of bodily modifications acquired during the, lifetime of the individual....

The Lamarckians of to-day are Neo-Lamarckians, with various forms of explanation of how parental modifications may cumulate in successive generations by heredity. And new examples of such claimed inherited modifications are every now and then put forward. Among the more recent and important of these claims are those of Kammerer of Vienna; whose accounts of his experiments in inducing changes by environmental influence in the mode of reproduction of various salamanders and in the color of various amphibians and reptiles, with a claimed definite hereditary transmission of these changes in later untreated generations, excited much attention at the last meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Also those of the Americans, Guyer and Smith, who have reported the positive inheritance of certain eye-defects induced in rabbits by a toxic serum, and whose unusually carefully conducted experiments and elimination of alternative explanations give their claims a very serious importance. And, finally, those of Pavlov the great Russian physiologist, whose white mice, trained to come to their food by the ringing of a bell, produced young who learned their lesson much more quickly, and in turn produced young still more quickly responsive to the signal. However many carelessly claimed instances of modification of species-character by an inheritance of acquired characters can be proved to be uncertain, and thus to be useless as evidence for the Lamarckian explanation of evolution, any single one that cannot be, otherwise explained will have the gravest consequence in the search for the actual causes of evolution.

As a matter of fact, despite the inability of the Lamarckians, or of biologists in general, to offer any indubitable cases of Lamarckian inheritance (unless the most recently advanced cases are of this character), and despite. the heavy weight thrown against the Larmarckian explanation of evolution by almost all that has been learned in the recent years about the physical basis of heredity — in spite of all this, many reputable and thoughtful biologists remain convinced in their own minds that any satisfactory causal explanation of evolution, especially adaptive evolution, must contain as an important fundamental element some form of the Lamarckian assumption. There must be more than just chance variation in successive generations out of which adaptive modification and specialization are to arrive. Almost all the paleontologists believe, on the basis of their knowledge of animal and plant series extending through long periods of time, in some form of orthogenesis, or determinate variation. There must be something, they believe, that drives evolution on in more or less fixed lines, even though these lines lead, as they have led in the case of the crinoids, the ammonites, the great dinosaurs, and various other highly specialized lines, to over-specialization and extinction. Now unless the paleontologists accept some mystic inherent driving factor, such as the Èlan vital, or other, to explain this phenomenon, they must find in environmental influence and the impression on heredity of the changes caused by it, the explanation of the initiation, if not the maintenance, of this evolutionary movement.

But there's another view of specialization:

"Darwin did not know how heredity really works," wrote Dr. Carl Wieland in 101 Signs of Design: Timeless Truths from Science, "but people today should know better. He did not know, for instance, that what is passed on in reproduction is essentially a whole lot of parcels of information (genes) or coded instructions." Dr. Wieland continues:

"It cannot be stressed enough that what natural selection actually does is get rid of information. It is not capable of creating anything new, by definition."

"The price paid for adaptation, or specialization, is always the permanent loss of some of the information in that group of organisms."

"Natural selection, by itself, is powerless to create. It is a process of 'culling,' of choosing between several things which must first be in existence."

"Perhaps if evolution's 'true believers' really had convincing evidence of a creative process, they would not feel obliged to muddy the waters so often by presenting this 'downhill' process (natural selection) as if it demonstrated their belief in the ultimate 'uphill' climb--molecules-to-man evolution."...

In other words, natural selection can only select options from the pool of information already available. Only God could create this world from nothing and design its amazing creatures -- each with its own set of instructions or DNA. He alone has watched our beginnings and measured our changes through the millennia.

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