Geeks Don't Sell DITA

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This presentation was delivered at DITA Europe 2009 in Munich. It is about trying to sell technology to an audience who might not be interested in technology for technology's sake.
It was the most fun presentation I ever gave. People in the next room were wondering what all the applauding and laughter was about.

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Geeks Don't Sell DITA

  1. 1. Geeks don’t sell DITA JANG F.M. GraatJang F.M. Graat is an independent tech writer, trainer and consultant living in Amsterdam,Netherlands. This talk was created for DITA Europe 2009 in Munich, Germany.
  2. 2. Hello, I’m HansMeet our hero. He is a technical writer at a medium-sized company and takes his professionseriously.
  3. 3. I’m the BossThis is Hans’ employer. He is a gentle, open-minded man in his early sixties. He has built hisbusiness single-handedly and is proud of that.
  4. 4. Hans spends his own money on membership of a professional organization. And now he hasdiscovered something that he has been waiting for a long, long time...
  5. 5. DITADITA will solve all the problems Hans has been having in meeting deadlines and keeping thedocumentation up to date. Hans decides to go to his boss to ask if he can use it.
  6. 6. The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an XML-based method for writing Gee and delivering information in a variety of kSp forms. DITA consists of a Document Type Definition (DTD), which specifies how the elements that make up a DITA document can be defined. There’s also a set of XSLT eak stylesheets that control the look and feel of the output documents. Writers use the stylesheets in conjunction with an XML processor to convert a DITA document to more usable formats, such as HTML or PDF. Like HTML or other variants of XML, DITA consists of a set of tags. There are around 200 tags in the DITA specification. The tags are easy to understand, and many of them are similarHans has no doubttags. For understand the benefits of this great new technology. He to getting intothat hisgives his boss the short techie<p> denotes [...] HTML it and boss will example, introduction to DITA.is really
  7. 7. DITA ? transformation ? conref ? XML ? tags ? XSLT ? processor ?Hans’ boss hears all kinds of lingo that he does not recognize. He asks Hans to give him apractical example. After all, he is open-minded and not afraid of change.
  8. 8. <task id="washcar" xml:lang="en-us"> <title>Washing the car</title> <taskbody> <steps> Sil <step> Gee ly <cmd>Move the car onto the kSp driveway.</cmd> </step> <step> eak <cmd>Attach the water hose to a spout and pull the free end over to the car.</cmd> </step> <step> <cmd>Fill a bucket with soapy water.</cmd>So Hans comes up with one of the standard examples from the DITA toolkit: procedures for </step>washing the car. Unfortunately, this does not really help him convince his boss...
  9. 9. NOT WO RKFirst of all, most people do not associate washing the car with work, or not paid work anyway.You either have your kids do it, or do it yourself and make it fun.
  10. 10. And second, the boss feels that he is being treated like a total moron - he knows how to washhis car, so you do not need to write a manual for him about that.
  11. 11. DITA ?Hans’ boss feels that Hans has taken enough of his precious time and decides that DITA is notsomething they should go for. “When in doubt, don’t jump” is one of his mottos.
  12. 12. what went wrong ?Hans is totally surprised by this, as he was convinced that DITA was the way to go for hiscompany and he expected his boss to see it, too. After all, it is so obvious !
  13. 13. Where’s the money ?But Hans’ reasons to go for DITA are not the ones his boss is sensitive to. Hans should followthe money and find a way to talk business to his boss and “sell” him DITA.
  14. 14. ROIHans learns to think along the same lines as his boss - which means he discovers the magicacronym ROI. This is vital to any change in any organization.
  15. 15. So Hans starts reading up on financial aspects of business and finds business cases for DITA.Now he has the material needed to convince his boss.
  16. 16. no DITA DITAHans now presents a business case that shows how DITA brings short-term profits with onlysmall investments. These are the kinds of things managers love to hear.
  17. 17. DITA ? saving resources cutting costs ROI free extrasHans’ boss gets interested in DITA now, but he has not built his business believing justanyone, so he asks Hans just how such wonderful ROIs are possible with DITA.
  18. 18. First, we need to create a DTD and buy an Gee XML editor. Then we define a specialisation for our company and the translation rules from the standard DITA DTD to ours. Also, we kSp create read-write rules and an XLST file to translate the sources to various outputs. After the topics are defined we create one eak bookmap for each publication. Using conrefs we can reuse content from one XML file in another. With the XSL-FO that is included in the DITA-OT we can create simple PDF files. To control the process we write ANT scripts and call libraries to include server-side includes. When that is finished, the output can be processed into online help and using XSLT can be made to fit on a PDA screen.Hans feels he has already won and gets all excited about implementing DITA again. He revertsto “geekspeak” and forgets that his boss does not share the same techie background.
  19. 19. DITA ?Again, Hans’ boss hears too many technological terms that he does not understand. He doesnot want to take the risk. Surprisingly (or not), he gives Hans another clear “No”.
  20. 20. what went wrong ?So, what went wrong this time ? Hans thinks about it hard and does not find the answer. Afterall, he did give a clear business case. So why did his boss back out after all ?
  21. 21. he just doesn’t see itHans feels that his boss is just being blind to all the potential that DITA brings. He seems soopen-minded, but he is really too old and slow to understand that he is wrong.
  22. 22. who just doesn’t see it ?But Hans, can you see that your own preconceptions about technology might not be theultimate truth - that there are different kinds of truths you can choose from ?
  23. 23. What is Real ?After all, what is real and what is not depends on how you look at it, right ? You do not needto be Neo to know that there might be different possible views on reality.
  24. 24. Maybe you took the red pill and your boss took the blue pill. And you can discuss who is rightand who is wrong for a very long time: that question cannot be resolved.
  25. 25. I’m still the BossThe bad news for you is that your boss needs to pay for the whole thing, so he is going to beright, even if he is wrong.
  26. 26. So Hans needs to really think about presenting the concepts of DITA to his boss in a languagethat his boss understands. Use examples from the world in which his boss lives and thinks.
  27. 27. Many machines are built from complex subassemblies, which may vary from one machine toanother - his boss does not pay engineers to reinvent the wheel again and again.
  28. 28. So if this is true for all those modules the engineering department is creating and reusing,why can’t this be the same for the documentation department ?
  29. 29. Hans uses the engineering style of his own company to explain what he would like to do forthe documentation, using DITA. Document modules and assemble them into manuals.
  30. 30. DITA ? higher quality modular design reuse ROI various outputsUsing this strategy, Hans convinces his boss that modular documentation design is notdifferent from modular machine design. This is something his boss can relate to.
  31. 31. DITA ?Hans’ boss does not need to know technical details of DITA. He just needs to understand thebasic concept enough to run a pilot project. After that step, the rest is a walk in the park.
  32. 32. The Future of DITA ? Special Edition Today, clouds part, more “All the News sunshine, recent gloom pass - We Hope to Print” es. Tonight, strong leftward winds. Tomorrow, a new day. Weather map throughout. VOL. CLVIV . . No. 54,631 NEW YORK, MONDAY, JULY 4, 2011 FREE DITA 2.0 OUT NOW Industry Sets Its Sights On Reusable Documentation True Cost Reduction, Increased Trust In DITA By T. VEBLEN Governments To The President has called for swift passage of the Safeguards leader and our religion. No won- der the median standard of infor- Adopt DITA for a New Economy (S.A.N.E.) bill. mation has been declining for so By JUDE SHINBIN The omnibus economic package long.” includes a federal DITA toolbox, Krugman said that the new WASHINGTON — Operation mandatory “True Cost Reducti- Treasury bill seeks to ensure the User Freedom and Operation En- on,” a phased withdrawal from usability of all information, rather during Documents were brought complex documentation tools than simply supporting large cor- an unceremonious close today and other measures intended to porations and wealthy users. “The with a quiet announcement by the improve life for ordinary Tech- manual is supposed to serve us. Department of Information that all Writers. (See highlights box on p. Unfortunately, we have ended up new documents will use DITA. A10.) He also repeated earlier calls serving the manual. That’s very “This is the best that could have for passage of the “Ban on Copy- bad.” happened in the development of ing” bill currently making its way Much as Roosevelt, after the usability in user documentation,” through Congress. Great Depression, put the brakes DoI spokesman JoAnn Hackos Treasury Secretary Paul Krug- on C.E.O. wages and irresponsible said at a special joint session of man stressed the importance of banking practices, administration Congress. “Today, we can finally the bill. “Manuals make great ser- officials claim that today we need enjoy information whenever we vants, terrible leaders, and absurd to rein in the industry that has need it, and wherever we can use religions,” said Krugman, quoting caused such chaos and misery. it in the best possible way.” Paul Hawken, an advocate of cor- “The building blocks of true As U.S. and European govern- porate responsibility and author information are simple enough ments are rewriting their texts, of “Cut-Copy-Paste, How the Larg- to create, once the technology is the United Nations will move in to est Movement in the World Came in place,” said House Speaker perform duties and aid in rebuild- into Being and Why No One Saw It Nancy Pelosi, who initially op ing legacy knowledge bases. They Coming.” will be responsible for keeping the “At this point, the manual is our Continued on Page A10 knowledge available; coordinatingIf DITA users start using less “geekspeak” and learn how to sell DITA to their managers, theirworld might become a better place to work in.
  33. 33. JANG Communication www.jang.nl jang@jang.nlJang F.M. Graat is a very experienced presenter and trainer and loves to travel. If you areinterested in his presentations or consults, check out his website and/or send an e-mail.

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