Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters


Published on

Presented at DocTrain East 2007 Conference by Joe Gollner, Stilo International -- As every author knows, working with content has always been challenging. Now that we need to develop content that can be used in multiple ways, some we do not expect, makes this task even more demanding. The early experiences of working with structured XML markup have been difficult and not just because it is new. As the technology stabilized and practices were worked out, authors not only had to master new writing techniques but they often could not see a compelling benefit being returned on this effort. Least of all, their customers, the users of the documentation products, did not seem to be benefiting in any material way. At times, it even seemed that the move to structure resulted in less effective publications. But now that the technology is being worked out and as new technologies are thrusting structured content into the limelight, authors are entering a time when several things will change for the better. On one hand the challenges of working with structured markup have largely been addressed and on the other the content they produce can now be moved, rapidly into people's hands whether that be a high quality book or a blackberry.

XML was hard. DITA has emerged as a technique that makes XML much easier to work with. And the wired marketplace is ready to consume structured content as soon as you hit save. This is in fact where the history of markup has been heading.

Published in: Business, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters

  1. 1. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters Content in the Wild: DocTrain East 2007 Why DITA Matters Joe Gollner 19 October 2007 Copyright © Stilo International plc 2007 Topics Current Trends in the Content Landscape A Brief History of Structure Entering the Age of Full-Spectrum Publishing How DITA fits in Why DITA Matters
  2. 2. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters Content Management Pop Quiz In building a system to manage & process content… Meticulously capture the business requirements. a. b. Rigorously document the structural rules that apply. c. Carefully define a detailed system architecture. d. Industriously build processing components to address the requirements given the structural rules and the realities of the system architecture. e. All of the above. f. None of the above. E or F? Sadly “F” may be the right answer… Current Trends in the Content landscape There are two relevant, but apparently divergent, trends: Simplicity wins, again. Web 2.0 phenomenon is expanding & accelerating An era of interactive openness with users and communities Huge volumes of very simple, but still structured, content Dominant feature: Uncontrolled growth. Complexity endures, again. Enterprise applications are becoming content aware Integration of content in all forms is accelerating Applications are appearing that consume high-precision content Dominant feature: Uncontrolled growth. Prescriptive design methods cannot handle this growth
  3. 3. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters The Good News and Bad News about Content These trends bring change The Good News The demand for content is expanding rapidly The Not So Good News The complexity confronting authors & publishers & technology providers is growing rapidly Structured Markup Has evolved in this context Investments have been made over 20 years Many lessons have been learned A Brief History of Structure Why did structured content emerge? Why has it been challenging to adopt? What is happening now? Why has DITA become so popular? Why does DITA matter?
  4. 4. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters In the Beginning …was the book. Memex Adapting to the Exponential Growth in Knowledge Resources 1940 1960 1980 2000
  5. 5. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters Communication & Control Systems Leveraging Knowledge through Automation 1940 1960 1980 2000 The Internet Connecting Knowledge Organizations 1940 1960 1980 2000
  6. 6. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters Proprietary Formats Limiting the Interchangeability of all data types CALS – Tackling the Interchange Problem PROBLEM INTERIM SOLUTION GOAL STDS Supplier Client Supplier Client Supplier and Client 1940 1960 1980 2000
  7. 7. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters Standard Generalized Markup Language 1940 1960 1980 2000 SGML SGML Reflected human communication patterns Provided absolute flexibility Difficult to implement Adopted in documentation-intensive sectors Military, Aerospace and Commercial Publishing Yuri Rubinsky The Real Father The Key Innovation of SGML: of XML naming something (understanding) is different than describing what should be done with it (behaviour) naming something is the important part naming something and defining its behaviour benefits from sophistication
  8. 8. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters The World Wide Web Where there’s a Will there’s a Way 1940 1960 1980 2000 World Wide Web – The Success of Simplicity Original Objective (1989) “to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams” HTML: a simple use of a complex standard The Key Innovation of the Web: deciding what to do (intention) is different than determining how it should be done (execution) deciding what to do is the important part communicating an intention and successfully executing it benefits from simplicity
  9. 9. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters Extensible Markup Language (XML) Source: Microsoft 1940 1960 1980 2000 XML offered Simplicity XML sought Simplicity XML is an application profile constraining the use of SGML delivered expanded application support Simplicity led to Adoption the potential for knowledge sharing becomes a reality simplicity turned out to be a double-edged sword Wide-scale Adoption led to Complexity previously isolated systems became connected all data types entered the era of open standards XML promised Simplicity and delivered Complexity
  10. 10. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters The Key Innovations of XML The Key Innovations of XML: Fusing the innovations of SGML and the Web naming something (understanding) is different than describing what should be done with it (behaviour) deciding what to do (intention) is different than determining how it should be done (execution) XML exhibits an unresolved tension between Sophistication to meet the needs of application integration Simplicity to meet the needs of people interacting with technology XML – An Incomplete Revolution? Initial focus of XML was directed to technology issues addressing the challenges facing application integration & facilitating data interchange the result has been spiraling complexity Other issues emerged XML protocols proliferated at a startling rate the sophistication of XML became an implementation challenge Implementers were often left asking: Where did the simplicity go? Why are the authors complaining? Why are my applications so slow? What do I do with all this data?
  11. 11. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters Web 2.0 – The Social Web Explosive growth that is changing how we will work and live 1940 1960 1980 2000 2010 Web 2.0 – All About Engagement Web 2.0 has been called “The Participatory Web” Key technical elements include: AJAX – Asynchronous JavaScript and XML simple syndication protocols – RSS / ATOM simplified web services – Aggregator APIs Folksonomies – collaborative tagging Processable content – XHTML / CSS / Microformats Addressable, traceable, dynamic, collaborative content – wiki / blog Much closer to the original idea behind the ‘web’ The centrality of XML in making this possible is often missed Web 2.0 is providing a new venue for content Rapid delivery of tailored views assembled from granular content
  12. 12. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters Entering the Age of Full-Spectrum Publishing XML Multi-Format Automatic Publishing Authoring with Structured Markup DITA – A Fundamentally Sound Architecture Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) Online Access Wireless Access Customers Call Centre Staff Print Manuals PDF Sources Topics Repositories Maps Products Providing a proven framework for addressing the challenges posed by full-spectrum publishing.
  13. 13. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters The Tao of DITA: Specialization Adaptability in each area provides implementers with great flexibility when building and most importantly adapting solutions. DITA in Action Iterative implementation allows adaptation of technology & practices The DITA base models & Open Toolkit were key tools
  14. 14. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters What XML has meant for Content Authors Authoring in XML exhibits to contradictory challenges Too much markup Gets in the way of creating content Forces a reliance on unfamiliar tools Adds a level of technical complexity to what is a creative task Not enough markup Some content demands precision Authors need clear guidance and useful feedback in order to satisfy this demand As more content is delivered to applications, this is more common What DITA means for Authors Promoting simplified markup for most content Providing a start-up solution for publishing (Open Toolkit) Allowing specialization to be introduced When more detailed markup guidelines help authors When precise markup is essential for downstream use
  15. 15. Content in the Wild: Why DITA Matters Why DITA Matters The initial focus of XML has not been on content The focus of XML on enabling application integration has added markup complexity DITA represents a serious effort to direct attention towards the challenges of content DITA specifically provides ways to address the contradictory challenges of XML authoring What’s Next DITA is an Opportunity The technology providers can focus on solving key problems We can work together to refine a good shared solution for creating high quality content DITA must become even more open DITA has more growing to do DITA deployments should avoid the “complexity trap” DITA could be critical Communicating knowledge effectively has never been more important…