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Who's afraid of the DITA wolf?
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Who's afraid of the DITA wolf?


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DITA can be intimidating to those who attempt to learn it on their own. There’s an awful lot of theory and unnecessary jargon surrounding DITA. …

DITA can be intimidating to those who attempt to learn it on their own. There’s an awful lot of theory and unnecessary jargon surrounding DITA.
However, there is another way to learn DITA--by approaching it from the practical side and not the theory side. This presentation provides a rough guide to that approach.

Presented at AODC 2010

Published in: Technology

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  • 1. Who’s afraid of the DITA Wolf?
    Suchi Govindarajan, MYOB
    Presented at AODC 2010
  • 2. An origami exercise
  • 3. Valley, mountain, and crease are the three types of folds from which all origami springs.
    But even a valley fold is not necessarily the same as another valley fold if the layers of paper do not lie flat.
    When models move into three dimensions, both valley and mountain folds can vary in another way: the fold angle, which can take on many values.
    [Origami Design Secrets, Robert Lang]
    What if we’d started with this bit of theory instead?
  • 4. There are four mathematical rules for producing flat-foldable origami crease patterns:
    crease patterns are two colorable
    at any vertex the number of valley and mountain folds always differ by two in either direction
    Kawasaki's theorem: at any vertex, the sum of all the odd angles adds up to 180 degrees, as do the even.
    a sheet can never penetrate a fold.
    Or this?
  • 5. Theory versus practice
  • 6. "I actually made something straight away“
    No more fear
    "I remember doing something like this before“
    Builds on what you know
    "I wonder how it works”
    Piques your curiosity
    "How did they come up with that? How would I make my own designs?”
    Path to more learning
    Practice is fun for beginners
  • 7. Barriers to learning DITA
    You already know DITA
    The secret road
    Go further
    And now to DITA
  • 8. Barriers to Learning DITA(Theory & Jargon)
  • 9. Let’s look at some DITA material
    “In this tutorial, you will learn the basic elements in a DITA topic and how they are specialized to become the three core DITA information types:
  • 10. DITA material (continued)
    “Darwin because its topics can be specialized to inherit properties of basic topics.
    Three basic Information Types are Concept, Task, and Reference topics.
    The Architecture is an XML standard, with Schemas and DTDs (document type definitions) maintained by OASIS.
    Topics can include other topics and sub-topics for flexible content reuse.
  • 11. DITA material (contd.)
    “Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an XML-based, end-to-end architecture for authoring, producing, and delivering readable information as discrete, typed topics.”
    “A method for organizing and publishing content based on reusable content components.”
  • 12. “The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an XML-based method for writing and delivering information in a variety of forms....”
    DITA is a standard for technical documents that’s designed to be used with XML. It comes with some free publishing tools. 
    A good, jargon-free definition for beginners
  • 13. You already know DITA
  • 14. DITA buzzword bingo
    DITA Buzzword
    Pre-DITA usage
    Content re-use
    Content model
    Multi-channel publishing
    Topic-based authoring
    FrameMaker and friends
    Madcap Flare
    Tech writing principles
  • 15. Separation of content and form
  • 16. DITA versus Frame
  • 17. The Secret Road
    Or “Just Do It"
  • 18. DITA Users need not install anything1 or know XML to begin topic-based structured writing today.
    The other way to DITA
  • 19. XML editor
    WYSIWOO view
    So DITA is just a matter of File> New
    So DITA rules are embedded
    So you can look up the DITA specifications in context
    Examples: XMLMind, XMetal
    The tool for this hike
  • 20. Theory
    The barest idea of Concept, Task, Reference
    How to use the ID attribute
    Quirks of using the ENTER key
    Using the Insert options
    Things you need to know
  • 21. Specialisation
    The DITA “topic" topic
    Relationship tables
    XML rules, validation, well-formedness (really?)
    Things you don’t need to know
  • 22. DITA OpenToolkit
    A closed mind
    Wolves on this road
  • 23. Doubts?
  • 24. In one hour, nine writers were able to:
    Write a concept and a task
    Create a map to pull them together
    They didn't know what elements were available
    They discovered them
    They guessed what they were for
    The XML Editor used was critical
    Used insert options to learn DITA rules
    DITA in a day workshop
  • 25. Elements, attributes
    DITA being topic-based
    Authoring mechanics
    Basic structures
    No memory of previous DITA tutorials
    Minimalist introduction
  • 26. Start with a great example
    Learn simple things first
    The task/concept/reference decision
    My rough guide
  • 27. Download and analyse sample topics:
    Follow the tutorial in DITA for Solo Writers:‐dita/ditaguide.pdf
    Sample topics
  • 28.
    Contained by
    Refer to the DITA specification
  • 29. Go further
  • 30. WinANT
    It took 1 hour for the writers in my workshop to install DITA-OT, WinANT and publish to HTML, CHM and PDF
    XMLMind DITA Converter
    Publishing tools you may already own
  • 31. Reinforce your learning
    Let your requirements guide you
    Let the possibilities guide you
    Don’t get taken in by the hype
    Don’t be cynical about the hype
    Iterations of theory and practice
  • 32. Picture credits:
    Title credit: Ron Tierney