Lambda the Ultimate

inactiveTopic Drafting Legislation Using XML
started 1/29/2004; 1:48:04 PM - last post 2/2/2004; 3:57:03 PM
Mark Evans - Drafting Legislation Using XML  blueArrow
1/29/2004; 1:48:04 PM (reads: 10934, responses: 2)
Drafting Legislation Using XML

A well-written case study in XML usage. Connects to Ehud's recent questions about user-friendly XML.

The development of an XML authoring environment for drafting legislation has provided the opportunity to create a "smart" editing environment based on the context provided by the underlying XML structure. In addition, small changes in the drafting approach have provided opportunities for improved efficiencies. The goal for the new environment has been:

  • Minimize drafters' attention to the typesetting product,
  • Maximize drafters' consideration of the legislative language itself,
  • Provide "just-in-time" knowledge support during the drafting process, and
  • Provide all this within a WYSIWYG (non-Tags-On) environment.

These goals may seem difficult, if not impossible, to most of us who have been working with SGML and XML. Even XML evangelists don't seem to boast that XML will make life easier for authors. The advantages usually focus on the consumers of the underlying information (i.e., publishing to any device, content-format separation, improved searching) and long-term platform independence. Performing an Internet search for "advantages of authoring in XML" as a phrase produces disappointing results, but authoring itself can be improved when using XML as illustrated in this application. The following features of the application illustrate this point.

Posted to xml by Mark Evans on 1/29/04; 1:51:08 PM

Ehud Lamm - Re: Drafting Legislation Using XML  blueArrow
1/30/2004; 2:51:26 PM (reads: 155, responses: 0)
Notice that I was mostly concerned with end-user XML programming, hence the questions about XSLT authoring.

Pseudonym - Re: Drafting Legislation Using XML  blueArrow
2/2/2004; 3:57:03 PM (reads: 97, responses: 0)

Legislation is an interesting problem because it's inherently dynamic. The overwhelming majority of legislation is amendments to existing legislation. The old stuff is important, though, because legal cases are tried on the law as it existed at the time, not as it is at the trial date.

There are a number of interesting papers on this topic by Tim Arnold-Moore, some of which deal with the systems in use in most places in Australia, as well as in Canada.

Multi-lingual jurisdictions, such as Canada, have even more interesting issues. In Canada, legislation is in both French and English. Both versions must be written together (not written in one language and translated into the other), and neither takes precedence. In that situation, legislation is actually a three-dimensional problem. There's the "space" dimension (text goes from left-to-right), the "time" dimension (it changes over time) and the "language" dimension. Needless to say, authoring three-dimensional documents in XML is a difficult problem for a non-programmer. They use a custom editor (IroXML) written at Irosoft. It would be interesing to know more about it.