Identifying the locations of errata/corrigenda changes

Francis Cave francis at
Sun Jan 10 23:33:43 CET 2010


I much appreciate your thoughts, as well as the historical background. 

Unambiguous location of a correction is obviously the key, and I find that
often it is the original text that provides the most effective locator. I
have tended to find that "replace 'x' with 'y'" works as effectively as
anything, even for quite large chunks of text 'x' and 'y'. So much more
effective than the likes of "insert following the fifth word of the second
line of the third paragraph...". The drawback, of course, is that quoting
possibly large chunks of text makes the whole Corrigendum / Errata document
much longer.

Legislatures, such as the UK Parliament with which I am familiar, tend to
use line-numbering on draft legislation and other important texts, but this
works only so long as the texts are formatted as pages. With the increasing
demand to publish draft legislation on the web, where there are many good
reasons for NOT fixing line and page ends, finding an acceptable way of
locating text for Amendments becomes a significant challenge.



> -----Original Message-----
> From: sc34wg6-bounces at [mailto:sc34wg6-bounces at] On Behalf
> Of Dennis E. Hamilton
> Sent: 10 January 2010 21:00
> To: sc34wg6 at
> Subject: RE: Identifying the locations of errata/corrigenda changes
> I concur that the critical requirement is sufficient location
> information so
> that the passage subject to any erratum/corrigendum change is
> unambigously
> and *confidently* located.
> It is therefore extremely valuable to establish sufficient context that
> location of the "before" and the "after" are unequivocal and easy to
> place.
> If the context is a bit excessive or redundant, that can be very
> valuable in
> ensuring that the correction item is not itself in error, incorrectly
> stated, or too easily misapplied.
>  - Dennis
>  1. If line numbers were printed in the margins of pages, some but not
> all
> of the difficulties around line numbering would have been alleviated.
> If
> section numbering had been taken to a fine level, whether or not
> reflected
> in the table of contents (preferably not) there would also be more
> reliability in locating passages even on documents with differing
> pagination, although this is still not a cure-all when dealing with
> tables,
> figures, code snippets, and examples.
>  2. When we were working on OASIS ODF 1.0 Errata 01, there was a lot of
> recycling around getting the pages and line numbers right.  In a number
> of
> cases there was no matchup and it took a while to make sure that the
> same
> way of determining a line was being used for all items.  In a few
> cases, we
> found that we corrected a place having the reported defect, but not the
> place identified in the defect report (and there are problems with
> defect
> reports not locating the relevant passage, or even section, precisely).
>    While this was a painful experience, it did catch problems where
> errata
> items were too easily not locatable or easily mislocated.
>    My conclusion is not about reducing the difficulty of being so
> meticulous
> but about the importance of having enough information that the accuracy
> of
> the errata item can be inspected for and confirmed and that erroneous
> application of the item is mitigated.
>  3. I was at Sperry Univac at a time not long after some ex-Univac folk
> founded Control Data Corporation.  There was a certain special tinge to
> our
> competitive feelings about that, not unlike the one I noticed years
> later at
> Xerox Corporation over the founding of and competition from Adobe.
>     One story that engineers at Univac liked to pass around was over
> the
> lack of parity checking on the memory system of the CDC 1604 and other
> products.  The way we heard it, attributed to Seymour Cray, was that
> parity
> checking on the core memory then being used was not provided because of
> false positives that resulted from failures in the parity-checking
> circuitry.  The claim was that the memories were fine, it was the
> parity
> circuits that were failure-prone.  I have no idea how apocryphal this
> story
> is, but I think all of us with much experience have seen approaches
> that
> were more about removal of an irritant or an undesired expense or
> simply
> avoiding work rather than addressing the problem.
>     My experience to date is that producing errata and handling defect
> reports is one of those places that is certainly an intrusive irritant
> and
> also something where mitigating the risk of further error or even
> degradation requires a painfully high level of care.  I find it
> remarkably
> similar to software maintenance, and specifications of standards are,
> to me,
> much more like code than literary narrative (and readability and
> understandability is a high requirement for both code and standards
> documents).
>     I suppose there is a lesson here about specification
> maintainability
> that parallels the same experience with computer hardware (when it was
> maintained at a rather fine level) and certainly with computer
> software.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: sc34wg6-bounces at [mailto:sc34wg6-bounces at] On Behalf
> Of
> robert_weir at
> Sent: Saturday, January 09, 2010 08:14
> To: sc34wg6 at
> Subject: Re: [Fwd: New ODF errata document - page & line numbers]
> Hi Svante,  From the OASIS perspective, the only requirement is that
> errata consist of a "set of proposed the form of a
> list
> of changes".
> So anything that clearly and unambiguously indicates what the change is
> should be fine.
> IMHO, line numbers are problematic when dealing when you have changes
> to
> tables or images, since indicating a line number is not always easy
> there.
> But if you reference merely the clause number, makes sure that you give
> enough context to make it unambiguous.  So if you say "insert 'foo'
> before
> 'bar' in section 1.2.3", then be sure that 'foo' occurs only once in
> that
> section.
> -Rob
> sc34wg6-bounces at wrote on 01/08/2010 06:38:31 PM:
> > Subject: New ODF errata document - page & line numbers
> > Date: Fri, 08 Jan 2010 16:47:17 +0100
> > From: Svante Schubert <Svante.Schubert at Sun.COM>
> > To: sc34wg6-request at
> >
> > Hi,
> >
> > I took over the role as an editor of the next ODF errata document and
> > would like to ask in my role of a WG6 participant if there is an
> urgent
> > need for page & line numbers in the OASIS errata document as an
> > additional reference aside of the section and paragraph reference.
> [ ... ]
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