Taking notice of change in public service XML documentation

Thanks to innovation in the last 50 years we no longer need to sit in front of huge stacks of paper sifting through thousands of words to find where a paragraph or two have been changed. Not only have pdfs and other applications helped in viewing documents, the introduction of languages such as XML have helped manage content in a more organised and practical way. 

Content change within industry 

It is guaranteed that documentation will change within its lifecycle. It used to be that you were handed two versions of a document and then by staring at each version you had to work out where the changes occurred. Today with the digitalisation of documents, specialised markup languages and clever code it needn’t be time consuming. Not only can change be found quicker, it can be shared with other parties. 

In the financial sector, for example where the standardisation of XBRL means more regulatory information is published or shared, there is a real need to show where change has occurred. The educational publishing industry, where content is ever-changing, can also save valuable time by having the change shown to them rather than having to search for it. 

Health legislation is an example where although content may not change frequently, when it does it carries huge ramifications, one small mistake could have serious consequences, so changes needs to be accurately identified and displayed. ISO and country standards bodies such as UK, Denmark, Sweden and Norway not only manage change in XML but pass these changes on to their consumers. They believe it’s just as important to share with customers how content has changed rather than just publishing a new version. 

The value of change 

It is not enough to say, ‘this content has changed’, the real value comes through visualisation.  An area of significance is regulatory and compliance-based markets where the ability to show evidence of change to regulators is needed and operators must ensure that practices are up to date. 

When these changes then get passed on to service workers that need to act on the information, they are easily able to identify new or missing text. For example, an engineer is given an updated manual they must adhere to, instead of needing to flick through hundreds of identical pages, a brief sheet at the beginning highlighting just the changes saves time, reducing the risk of missed information and keeping frustrations low. 

XML and change 

One of the main benefits of XML is that it provides structure. Instead of documents being made up of a continuous stream of words, the document structure is defined unambiguously using elements and attributes. This makes it easier to process automatically and apply special processing to any part of the document using technologies like XPath. Being able to address specific parts means that you can easily specify any areas in the source documents where changes should be ignored or processed in another way. 

All the ‘standard’ benefits of XML apply to change as much as they do to the rest of the content. It’s simple to repurpose the change that’s been identified in the document – whether that’s to display the change in the main body of a document or extract the changes into a separate document, like a change report. 

Change and the public services sector 

The public service sector not only communicates with professionals working in the field but also the general public. Many forms of documentation are freely available online; showing how content has changed elevates not only understanding but demonstrates that the public service sector is progressing forward. 

Sasha Hayden is Marketing Manager at DeltaXML

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