Importance of Natural Resources

IEEE Implementing an XML Workflow in a Standards Environment


PATRICK GIBBONS: Yeah, so,
we’ve been working with eXtyles and Typefi for about– I want to say about
four or five years now. So I’m going to walk you
through what we’ve been doing and how we got there. So just a start of
a little background. IEEE Standards Association–
we have over 1,100 active standards and publish
about 120 per year– anywhere from between 5 pages
of content to 5,000 pages. But the average is about
100, and the vast majority are in Word. But there’s a good number– I’d say about 20% or
so that are still– at least page count wise–
that are still in FrameMaker. And we support over
500 working groups. And we’re not just a
publishing department. My director likes
to say that we’re standards professionals who do
publishing versus publishing professionals who do standards. We have to be very involved
in the whole process of development. We have to check and
make sure they’re following the procedures
and that they’re using the correct terminology
or for legal issues. So there’s a whole lot more to
what we do than just publish the journals. We’re not part of the larger
IEEE Publishing Group. They have thousands
and thousands of journals and transactions. But we do need to coordinate
with them because we’re both on the same IEEE platform,
the IEEE Xplore, which is our online presence. And though we’re a very small
part of the IEEE published content, a lot of our
stuff is pretty important. If you’re distracted
and want to look at your laptop or your
phone while I’m talking, the IEEE standard 80211,
the ethernet standard, it’s made the Wi-Fi available
for everyone to do that. So you can thank
the IEEE for that. So around– I want to say
around 2011, 2012 or so, the IEEE made a
mandate that we needed to start providing
XML simultaneously with our PDF content. They were going ahead. And on their dime, they
converted our legacy content. But they wanted us to
simultaneously deliver PDF and XML, so they could
display HTML of our standards on the IEEE Xplore
platform and also so that we would be able
to develop apps and e-books and also data mine the
content for internal use and maybe to even sell as IP
outside– it’s yet to happen, but it could. And while we’re at it, we were
hoping to reduce inefficiencies in our process– be able to publish
our standards quicker and to streamline our production
and publishing process. This was a big challenge to
us because the old way we used to do things– which we really,
really liked and were really very good at– as has already been
explained, we got a Word file from the working group. It came into the IEEE. And either an in-house
editor or a freelancer would punch it up, fix
the formatting, edit it, and then we’d get that
final MS Word document, make a PDF out of it, send
it off for conversion. And then we’d pretty much just
tweak that final Word document and give it back to the group. Everything was fine,
but then we were told we needed to change
the way we do things. So we thought while
we were at it, if we’re going to have to
go to XML, why don’t we do it right from the get-go. And as we’ve talked about,
the holy grail for everyone– it’s, of course, an
XML first platform. And it just wasn’t doable. This was in 2014. We looked into it. We actually spent a bit of money
trying to develop something. But the more we dipped into
it, the more the consultants said, “Wait, you do that? Oh, now you’re doing that?” It just became more
and more expensive. The platform was very rigid–
way too rigid for our users. There’s this saying
we say in-house– there’s no standards
in standards. You think that everyone is
going to do things the same way and that they’ll
follow our rules. But everyone’s got their own
thing that they want to do, and it doesn’t always fit. And you have to make
allowances for that. Also, again, it was
mentioned the inability to work offline was a big deal
for some of our volunteers. We actually had some of
our higher profile users take a look at the
system, and they said, this just isn’t going to work. And also returning a
draft to them out of it was seeming to be
impractical, and it was getting too expensive. We just kind of bagged
the whole thing. And that’s where we
met Bruce and Inera. And we’ve been using them for– I want to say about
four years now. And so we have a new way
that we’re doing things. It’s invisible to the
groups, which is nice. They still work in Word. This is only for Word. We still send out our
FileMaker files for conversion. We don’t have a
solution for that, yet. But in Word, the groups still
create their standard draft. It comes to us,
and, to some extent, we do a little bit of
reduced formatting, editing. And then it goes through
the eXtyles system. Some of the things that the
eXtyles plug-in does for us– it strips out all the fields
and flattens everything. And it goes through,
and it matches up the bibliographic
references to Crossref and corrects them if
they’re not quite right. It tags them all. And it’s colour-coded. It looks very nice. It lets you know exactly
what you’re looking at. It also tags all the
cross-reference links. It also verifies
the URL addresses to make sure that they’re
working and tags them correctly and whatnot. And then we take that XML,
and we send it to Typefi and make a really
nice PDF out of it. And we also have to
send the XML to Xplore, and they put it up on– it’s not there yet– but it will
be used for HTML on the Xplore system. Now one thing that we’re still
trying to figure out– one is how much are we having
the freelancers and editors format the document? A lot of it gets taken care
of in the style sheets, and you don’t really
need to have things look exactly right in the Word file. That’s kind of a
hard thing for people to wrap their heads around. And to a large
extent, we’re still kind of having them do a lot
of that for another reason I’ll get to in a minute. Also, there’s other
editing things, like the eXtyles
will go through, and it’ll find when you’re
not abbreviating a unit of measurement the right way. If you have centimetres
spelled out, it will change it
to cm consistently throughout the document–
that kind of thing. And that’s something an
editor typically does, but you don’t really need
that with the new processing. The biggest hurdle that we’re
coming very close to solving– working with Inera–
the Word file once it’s done being
processed by eXtyles is not really something we can
give back to the working group. All of the cross-references
are gone. Everything’s been flattened. You can’t really
go back and link to them using the
old Word methods for inserting cross-references. So for now, we’ve kind of
been working in parallel. We keep our Word
document pretty clean, so that we can then send
that back to the group. And we have to apply
changes if they come up in between the
processing of eXtyles. But, again, we’ve been
working very close with Robin and Bruce. And we’re very
close to a solution, and I feel pretty good
about getting there. So we expected a
lot of challenges in going to this system. Number one that
people hate change. Like I said, we were a
pretty well oiled machine. We knew what we were doing. We liked it. We didn’t want to hear
we were going to have to do something different. We were a little leery about
the turnaround document, which has borne out to be
a little bit challenging. The skills gap– of course,
you have to train everybody on how to use the new system. We were going to start
having to pull out– treat our figures differently. It used to be it’s embedded
in the Word file, make a PDF. Nine times out of ten it’s fine,
as far as we were concerned. There was also
issues– we had to deal with coordinating
with the larger IEEE, particularly loading our
documents in to Xplore. Now, the unexpected challenges– people really, really
don’t like change. I mean the resistance
to some of this is– it still, to an extent, exists. It’s a whole different
way of thinking of things. People are very used
to seeing it look how it’s supposed to look in Word. And it’s very hard to
get people to accept that, yes, this indent is off. It doesn’t matter. We’re not publishing
this Word file. We’re sending it through a
style sheet and InDesign, and it’s going to
look fine in the PDF. Or you don’t have to
have a continued table header when your table
goes to the next page. That’s going to
be taken care of. And you have to
break people’s habits of thinking of the final
document as the Word document. There’s also issues with
software– the Microsoft instability. Any of you, if
you’re using eXtyles, are aware of a Microsoft
update suddenly making things not
work– and everyone has to scramble to
figure out how we’re going to either go
back to the last update or get a patch from Microsoft. So that’s been
challenging– something we weren’t quite ready for. And, again, we’re getting a lot
more involved in the figures. We never used to really
be too concerned. But for the Typefi PDF, we
need to get EPS files or TIFFs and also for Xplore– I think that’s more of
an Xplore requirement. But we never used to have to be
concerned about separate file figures. And it’s also for now,
our time to publish has actually increased a little
bit because people are still learning what they’re
doing and how to do it and how we’re going to take
care of some of these things. With time, I see that changing. But right now, we’re
still up a couple of weeks from where we used to
be as far as our average time to publish. And also the working groups– believe it or not– as
nice as the PDFs look, they don’t like to see
something different than what they turned into us–
or why isn’t this figure where I put it? Why is this table breaking? I don’t want it to break. It’s like, why are
you worrying about it? Especially, when
things are on HTML, you don’t care
about these things. So it’s a learning curve
for everyone involved. Overall, though, I think
the benefits definitely outweigh the challenges. We’re up to 80% of our
standards documents are now in the new workflow. And for our Word documents,
that’s 90% to 95%. So we’re saving a whole lot on
the outside vendor conversion. The PDFs look great. Images float better. There’s less white space,
the table breaks are nice. We get highlighted
internal links, which is something we
didn’t have in Word. The figures look
better because we’re paying more attention
to them and having them taken care of better. And we also now have
the ability to take XML, create mobile apps, and do
all kinds of things with it. So that’s our experience
with the growing pains of implementing
an XML workflow. I’m happy to answer
any questions. I’m here tomorrow,
too, if anyone wants to see some examples that
I couldn’t really show you. But that’s all I’ve
got, so thank you. AUDIENCE MEMBER: Great
to hear your input, but you mentioned
something I would like to hear a few more words about. And that is your work
with the graphics because now we’re
moving to vectorised graphics for everything. And have you provided additional
staff to do work internally? And when you’re talking about
better looking graphics, what we’re seeing a lot of times
is that things are converted to the correct formats
but that you actually have to do internal work to
create the proper graphics. And also in the
formats used, we’re all talking about using EPS,
which is mainly a Photoshop product, whereas the
dot Illustrator file is the real proper vectorised
format that should be used if you’re using Adobe
format, or the dot SVG, which is a structurised vector
graphic that moves us into a more flexible space. So what considerations
have you done when it comes to graphics
in terms of that? PATRICK GIBBONS: As
far as SVG files– I’m not 100% on this– I believe our TIFF/EPS
requirement comes from Xplore. I’m not 100% sure on that. And I think there might
have been an issue. I don’t remember. I know there’s a
reason we’re doing it. I don’t remember
what that reason is. As far as conversion,
this is actually a slight added expense. We send a lot of our figures
out to be redrawn, actually. So it’s not just a matter of
upgrading the file format. We actually have a lot of
them redrawn if they’re in really bad shape. AUDIENCE MEMBER: Third
party or internal? PATRICK GIBBONS: Third party. Yeah, we don’t currently
have internal staff to take care of that.


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