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July 13, 2006

Cleaning up Democracy

Part of democracy committees job for next year is to clean up whats called the 'web constitution'. This is basically the part of the Union's website under the 'democracy' button. Part of this includes having a copy of the University of Warwick Students Union Constitution. Having read this document many times, I thought I'd sit down and think about what needs to be done. It struck me that the biggest problem about the constitution, and further almost all union output, is that its a word document. Now I think Word is a great program, it does have its uses, and does some things very well. But when it comes to web integration, it really sucks. Its not semantic, uses proprietary styles, and is a pain to search. Also, having to maintain, word files, pdfs and html copies of everything is really lame.

When looking over all the documents a few things are apparent:

  1. Documents are highly repetitive within themselves
  2. There are repetitions across documents
  3. They are hierarchical
  4. Only the content need be stored, not the styling

It seems clear that one format would be perfect for storing the Union's documents, XML.

It would be very easy to output to documents in a variety of formats, especially the web, where we could leverage the power of style sheets. It would be easier to maintain, as the content would be in one place, not three different files (word, pdf, html).

I think it would be great for Warwick to lead the way in this, if it ever happened.


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