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HomeRants > Goodbye documents, hello objects! > Modeling informative objects > What is an informative object?



Informative objects occur at many levels

So what can we call the top-level objects?


You reuse an object in many places.

What is an informative object?

A piece of content that has a distinct name and purpose is an informative object. Examples:

  • Press release
  • Annual report
  • Product Name
  • ISBN number
  • Retail price

Informative objects occur at many levels

In architecture, the building is a large object containing smaller objects such as doors and windows, and those objects contain even smaller objects, such as door knobs, glass panels, and locks. Similarly, in content architecture, we have objects at various scales:

  • At a high level, you have large objects such as articles, product descriptions, ebooks.
  • At an intermediate level, you have components, objects such as author name, feature description, chapter.
  • At a lower level, you have the objects inside those objects, such as product names, product codes, prices.

Strictly speaking, when we model information, we are always dealing with objects--some big, some not so big, some tiny. To a content management system, they are all objects.

But as human beings, we come to content from a world of paper documents, so we are used to thinking of the large objects--the documents, or the web pages.

We might continue to call those things "documents," but we are no longer creating documents. We generate content out of a vast collection of objects.

Related articles:

A rhetoric of objects

How rhetorical objects resemble programming objects (PDF 400k)

Complexity theory as a way of understanding the Web

Structuring complex interactive information

So what can we call the top-level objects?

And if we use that term for the high-level objects, what do we name the components?

In XML terms, then, every content object is an element, but the root elements are more important than other elements, which they contain.

So I use the words object and element interchangeably.


A Language Command Reference is a giant object. It contains several Language Command Groups, and each group contains an overview, followed by a series of Command Descriptions, each of which contains many components.

You reuse an object in many places

Some objects, such as a product name, appear in thousands of locations. You want reusable objects so that you can write once, and use many times.

Reuse is one of the major ways in which content management saves you money. But you can only reuse objects if they are rigidly standardized, so you always know what to expect, when you plug one into another object.

Next: Define each object.























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