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sorting question

Bruce D'Arcus
cross-posting here ...

I'm working on sorting configuration, but am running into a fundamental
design question:

When dealing with reference lists, is the first field always the sort
key?

For example, in a typical reference list, the creator name will be the
sort key.  If there is no creator, there needs to be rules to specify
substitutes.  For a book, it might be to substitute the phrase
"Anonymous."  For an article, it might be to substitute the periodical
title.

In a cite key style citation class, likewise, it seems the sort key is
the citation key; e.g.:

[doe99] Doe, J. ...

Is this a reliable general rule then?  Or should instead the layout and
the sorting be seen as completely separate?

I'm leaning towards a structure like:

<reftype name="article" sort-key="creator"
alternate-sort-key="container-title">

It's possible for me to do some RELAX NG magic and condition the layout
of the following elements based on the sort-key value, but I'm not sure
I should do that or not.

The other issue I've not resolved is how to handle CDATA, though one
solution is to have:

<reftype name="article">
   <sort>
     <primary>creator</primary>
     <secondary type="variable">container-title</secondary>
<!-- "variable" is probably not the right value name, but I can't think
of a better one -->
   </sort>

<reftype name="book">
   <sort>
     <primary>creator</primary>
     <secondary type="text">Anonymous</secondary>
   </sort>

Bruce