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This page displays entries posted by all DITA bloggers in chronological order. You may also view entries by author or blog name as well as a list of DITA-related blogs on external sites.


Getting started with DITA

I attended the STC conference a few weeks back, and that was the first place I had ever heard of DITA.  A lot of companies at the conference were using it, and I was very intrigued to find this much information exists.  That is sort of the problem...I am trying to figure out where to start.  I want to be able to both explain it and use it.  Any tips?  I am trying to implement it here at work as a capability.



Just getting started

I attended the STC conference in Las Vegas last week. It was the first time I ever heard the term DITA. One of the seminars I sat in had a presentation on how using DITA aided in their translation work. At first, I was willing to dismiss DITA as nothing more than an attempt to standardize the methods of writing well. Now, I'm not so sure.

I'm downloading the Priestley Windows Media file, and I'm going to schedule use of the video projector for this Friday to watch it. I'm hoping that with it and the book I'm requesting to be purchased will be a good start to learning what DITA is and how we can use it. As I explained to Kay Ethier yesterday:

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About: The OASIS Symposium, or worth its salt

"I have met with a philosophical work in which the utility of salt has been made the theme of an eloquent discourse; and many other like things have had a like honour bestowed upon them."
Plato's as translated by Benjamin Jowett

Most conferences serve a particular community. For instance, the attendees at Content Management Strategies are all on the same wavelength. ("We want reuse!")  Not so at the OASIS Symposium, where attendees have a common means (XML standards) for a multitude of goals. The diversity of human endeavor can be a bit mind boggling. NIST naming and design rules, SAML swimlanes, Business Process messaging -- who knew?  Which has a less delightful dark side: who could know it all?  And without a know-it-all, does this important work end up constructing an acronymic Tower of Babel?  Does a standard that solves a specific problem in isolation creates integration problems elsewhere?  That question came to the front more than once.

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Michael Priestley

STC 2006, day 1 - so far so good

Blogging from the conference center at STC 2006, where we just had a great keynote presentation from Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn, two of the founders of the Internet.  Got into an interesting discussion afterwards about how to manage the uniqueness of IDs - a problem I'm still trying to understand in the context of DITA. While a globally unique identifier clearly has advantages, including persistence and reliability, it does have some disadvantages, such as length and lack of scoping. Does the ID need to be globally unique, if all references are scoped by membership in a plugin architecture, as in Eclipse?

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dynamic reuse

the current version of DITA data model supports several complementary implementation of reusing data.
reuse of topic as complete information object
conref to reuse within fine structure of an information object (useful for common used structures like warnings)
and profiling of information objects.

all of these methods are static, means the reused content cannot be adopted even if life cycle of information requires this (thats what ann rockley called a locked reuse).

if you talk about the life cycle of information this kind of reuse has strong limitation. if you want to "reuse" a use case provided by a analyst / software developer into a task (which would be very common) you have to force the analyst to specify in a way further usage of this use case (information object) can be provided as is.

thats has one major drawback. the analyst must focus on the specification and must provide information in a way the engineering team can work with. if he spend to much time in generalize the information object his skills are "wasted" and overall ROI will not be positive.

on the other hand the information created by the analyst must be adopted for service documentation, training documentation, user documentation.....means the use-case and corresponding topic in user documentation are the "same" information object from an information architectural point of view.

each time the use case changed the associated user documentation task must be adopted or at least approved.

this kind of approach can be perfect supported by a "dynamic reuse" or ann rockley would call it 

"derivative reuse". this means that the content of the information object is copied into the derived information object but there is still a connection to the information provider available. thus connection can be used to provide processing support for "dynamic reuse" e.g. an change notification each time the information provider changed, .....

what needs to be done to introduce dynamic reuse in DITA. a special kind of attribute is required which maintain the link to the information provider. this attribute must be specified (e.g. dynref) as well as the associated elements the attribute is required. similar to conref. the semantic of this reference must be specified as well.

thats simple for a standardization point of view, but provides many advantages. if this is standardized all people working on the processing chain (incl. DITA OT) can provide / improve support for this and somehow in the future most tool vendors implemented support for this.

in my personal point of view this is the missing gap in most information architectures that everything is based on static reuse. thus the life cycle of information objects are limited and therefore the usage of information objects are as well limited.

feedback welcome,



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