Michael Priestley's blog

My blog ate my homework

My initial commitment to daily blogging during the conference pretty much fell apart along with my psyche after day 2. For anyone who saw my presentation on day 3 and thought it made sense, it's probably only because we were all in the same sleep-deprived, adrenaline-fuelled, caffeine-overloaded state of laser-light-show synaesthesia, and it won't make sense again until next year.

That said, the presentation seemed to be well-received, and I always enjoy doing a practical demo of specialization just because it utterly deflates both hype and counter-hype: you can do it in an hour, it works, it's just a technique and the mechanics are actually pretty simple.

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DITA and DocBook (Day 2 of DITA North America 2006)

The day kicked off with Susan Carpenter of IBM - one of DITA's first real users, and a big influence on its evolution - talking about process, and how DITA maps can be used to distribute workload among writers, manage reviews, manage translation - in her words, the maps become the process currency of the team. As always an excellent presentation with lots to chew on.

The highlight was Norm Walsh's speech on DITA and DocBook. He noted that they do they have different characteristics: DocBook is large but very flexible, DITA is more constrained and explicitly focused on topic-based authoring. All good so far.

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The structured web (day 1 of DITA 2006)

Scroll down to the bottom if you're wondering what the post title means. First comes my reaction to the sessions I attended.

The day kicked off with Dave Schell sharing some reuse statistics and case studies from IBM, showing DITA reuse at ca.70-80% in sharing content across similar products, with substantial savings being invested back into documentation improvements, such as more tutorials and sample development. In addition he talked about some projects using DITA in IBM outside of the traditional tech doc realm, including e-learning, and on-demand publishing for business partners of customized configuration guides using generated DITA maps.

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(Still a)live from DITA 2006 (post-workshop)

After a rocky start with technical difficulties on the projector front, did get going - lots of questions, a very interactive audience. I'm always happy when there's lots of questions, because I think that's the real value of having me there in person as opposed to reading an article or listening to a recording. Unfortunately the slow start combined with such active interest did mean I fell behind and scrambled a bit in the afternoon, trying to jam all the DITA map and information architecture content into just a couple of hours, at the expense of coherence and of the schedule (I ended up running a good hour or so over the original closing time).

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Looking at the future, focused on the present

This morning we discussed DITA feature design for DITA 1.1, and this afternoon I spent brushing up on my DITA authoring workshop, which I'm delivering tomorrow. It's a bit of a weird feeling: one eye on the future, as the Technical Committee expands DITA's capabilities for book publishing and conditional processing; and one eye on the present, making sure that DITA still fits into best practices and processes that can deliver improved quality, not just reduced cost.  DITA is good technology, but all it can do is reduce the pain of doing the right thing: it can't do the right thing for you.

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