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CALC 2013

Cape Town Presentation!
WWT4 attended the CALC conference 2013 in Cape Town. Our presentation, in conjunction with the Isle of Man staff, covered all the latest innovations by WWT4 in the field of legislative publishing and legislative drafting.

Should you need any further details on the iLAWS system, and how it can benefit your jurisdiction, just EMAIL us here.

Simple - Self Managed

Screen to create a New Principal Act :: Enter a new Act by clicking on the toolbar button. Screen to create a New Principal Act :: Input dialog box uses a consistent user interface. Screen to create a New Principal Act :: Most input is via point and click and uses a standard calendar for date input. Screen to create a New Principal Act :: Help buttons are included on every page and reveal a pop-up window with on-line help that is centrally updated. Screen to create a New Principal Act :: Pop-up lists aid data input and are populated by data entered in other areas of the database. Screen to create a New Principal Act :: All fields requiring text input have guidelines displayed when the field is rolled over. 

The buzzword (or acronym) in the legislative publishing community today is XML. Only a few short years ago legislation was stored in proprietary formats, and almost every time the main program was updated the files had to be converted, often with disastrous consequences. Without "re-reading / re-proofing" the files there was no guarantee of accuracy. To many this process was too hard or expensive so they remained locked into old technology that only became more difficult to break away from as the years went by.

Then along came XML, and finally we has a way to store text that was device and application independent. But with it came a slew of expensive XML editors such as XMetal, FrameMaker, XMLSpy, Arbortext etc. These in turn were used by a number of integrators to produce expensive solutions for legislation that only the richest of jurisdictions could afford, some running into millions of dollars.

The main problem with most of these implementations was they required employing specialist technical and IT staff, and they insisted on the strictest form of XML, namely valid XML. Valid XML was a subset of SGML, a very complicated mark-up language that had been around for decades, but was never adopted by the masses due to its complexity. The main problem with SGML and valid XML was the need to have a document type definition (DTD), a file which defined the structure of the data, and would not allow even the smallest deviation from that structure. Also technical people writing DTDs commanded figures with six digits due to the specialised nature of the syntax and a need to understand the drafting process, and were constantly being recalled to modify the DTD to allow for new unique circumstances. If the XML editor was based upon styles then those styles needed to be mapped to the DTD. In most cases this was a one step forward two steps backward scenario, and well outside the budget and resources of most small countries.

iLAWS adopts a very simplistic but effective approach to legislative drafting (the KISS principal), by using Open Office as the drafting tool. Open Office styles generate well-formed XML text automatically as part of the (Open Standard) Open Document Format. Well-formed XML has 99% of the capabilities of valid XML, with only 1% of the cost and complexity since it does not rely on a DTD. Drafters can continue to work in a familiar and very basic "word-processing" environment, completely shielded from the intricacy of XML itself via the use of styles. In many drafting offices styles are a new concept for drafting legislation, and some are fearful of the change. But our extensive training and industry change-management experience has shown us that once the "fear" hurdle has been overcome, the drafters quickly embrace the concept once they realise how easy applying styles actually is, and also the many productivity and consistency advantages that follow. We even make the application of styles a one (keyboard function) key press process.

Additionally the inclusion of process macros to the legislative drafting process ensures that all files are consistent. The drafter is freed up to concentrate on the content only, and not be frustrated by the requirements of a highly technical document structure. The simple approach is used throughout iLAWS. In the administration of the web publishing component of iLAWS, the application prevents users from inputting incorrect information into the system, and assists the user every step of the way via extensive on-line help. The web site help pages are centrally managed to ensure the information is up-to-date for all users of iLAWS. All the data, whether it be legislation or normal web site content, is managed by the user of the system. All web site textual content is presented in a friendly "word-proccessing" environment so having to learn any special language such as HTML is unnecessary.

In Summary iLAWS does not force legislative drafting offices to radically change their current environment. Any new capabilities added to the data produced are completely invisible to the user. Additional processes (such as web administration) are simplified and fully explained to ensure users are able to easily adapt (click on the examples at the top of the page).

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