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Open DITA: Making DITA Reuse More Accessible

July 13, 2017

One of the main drivers in Open DITA is allowing writers with little or no XML skills to benefit from the most important reuse capabilities of the DITA standard. So let’s cherry pick from the rules of the Open DITA manifest and explain how they achieve reuse of your content.

But before we get to that, let’s take a step back and consider WHY we want to reuse. Let’s be honest. Reusing content creates a certain amount of complexity. For that reason we had better make sure that this complexity is worth our while.

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Starting Small with Structured Content Management

May 23, 2017

Getting started with structured content management can be daunting: you’ve been tasked with completely overhauling your organization’s content strategy. There are so many things to consider that deciding where to begin can seem like one of your biggest challenges.

There are plenty of clichés appropriate to this situation: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, don’t try to boil the ocean, and so on. By thinking about the project as a whole, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. 

In this article, I’ll give you some ideas for getting started in small, manageable steps, without ever losing sight of your vision.

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Open DITA: Let’s Make Structured Writing for Everyone

May 10, 2017

DITA XML makes advanced content development and management possible, but DITA XML itself is a complex thing. For some, this complexity makes DITA XML inaccessible, and for others, the complexity over time becomes a chaotic cobweb of references and dependencies. Just looking at all these tags and attributes scares some writers off.

In a recent survey, we uncovered strong indications that the complexity of DITA XML is hindering the spread of structured writing across departments. For this reason, we created the Open DITA Manifest to make a framework that allows other ways of achieving some of the most important benefits of DITA XML, even for those who do not want to work with the complexity of XML. Open DITA is meant to allow everyone access to the power of structured writing.

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Let’s Help Our Colleagues Who Refuse to Work in XML

April 20, 2017

“Looks cool, but couldn’t we just stick to what we have?”

“Being able to grab a piece of content like that would be nice, but I don’t have the time to learn this new tool.”

“Yes, I’d like to be able to publish a white paper using parts of your updated documentation, but all these tags and attributes? I don’t know…”

We have all heard these complaints. 

Since DITA XML became an open standard and DITA 1.0 was released in 2005, people have been trying to spread the use of modular and structured content beyond the traditional documentation department. Some have been successful, but many have been hitting a brick wall when they present XML templates and XML tools to Marketing and Development departments.

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Bot-Enabled Content?

December 14, 2016

This year at the LavaCon conference in Las Vegas, I followed some very exciting presentations about the very near future role of bots (software robot/intelligent agent) in our efforts to bring exactly the right piece of content to the right person, at the right time.

Current prominent bot examples are Microsoft’s Azure Bot Service and IBM’s Watson Virtual Agent.

Some excellent presentations also talked about the fact that bots need to have access to enormous amounts of rich, structured, modular content that is tagged with metadata. In other words, bots feed on rich structured content and they just cannot get enough of it.

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It’s the Readers, Stupid!

November 17, 2016

A few years ago, I gave an interview about structured writing to a Swedish journalist. I talked (probably far too much) about consistency, modularity, content reuse and all the other goodies of structured writing.

She asked me, “But what about the writer? Isn’t it terribly boring, being all modular and consistent?”

My answer was – and still is – the following:

“When I am trying to make my new cable TV box work, manual in hand, desperately looking for the information I need – in that situation, nothing in the entire World concerns me less than how the writer felt when creating this manual!”

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