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What They Won't Tell You About DITA


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What They Won't Tell You About DITA

  1. 1. What They Wont Tell YouAbout DITA Alan Houser Principal Consultant and Trainer Tel: 412-363-3481 Group Wellesley, Inc.
  2. 2. About Me• Consultant and Trainer in Publishing Tools and Technologies• Member OASIS DITA Technical Committee• Society for Technical Communication, Liaison to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)• Fellow, Society for Technical Communication• Conference Manager, Society for Technical Communication Summit, Sacramento, CA, May 15-18 2011• Candidate for Vice President, Society for Technical Communication, 2011-2012
  3. 3. Overview• Key differences between open-source and common off-the-shelf (COTS) software solutions in cost, maintainability, and typical feature set• Key differences between standards-based and proprietary solutions• Surprising and under-publicized pain points when working with DITA• Issues to be aware of when considering DITA or other XML-based publishing solutions• Indicators for and against DITA or other XML-based publishing solutions
  4. 4. But Open-Source is Free!• Purchase may be free, but…• When configuration, customization, and support costs are considered, total cost of deployment tends to be similar to COTS solutions.
  5. 5. Standards-Based vs.Proprietary SolutionsStandards-Based Proprietary• Slow • Fast• Compromised • Optimized• Consensus-driven • Market-driven
  6. 6. What about DITA?• You may be solving problems that you didn’t know were problems.• Some things that were once easy will become hard. Some will become very hard.• If your organization shares publishing requirements with IBM, you’re probably in luck. If not, good luck.
  7. 7. Important DITA Features?• The DITA Prime Directive: Universal source file interoperability. Specialization/generalization model.• Explicit support for variables? Not yet. Maybe DITA 1.3.• Output formats from the DITA Open Toolkit: Eclipse Help? Check. Context-sensitive HTML Help or WebHelp? No.
  8. 8. DITA: Ease of Deployment andMaintenance“Armies”Well-known technical communication conference presenter and thought leader, when asked about the resources his company devotes to publishing his DITA content.
  9. 9. DITA: The Hard Stuff• Graphics with annotations• Equations• Customizing output (especially PDF, which is Really Hard)• Specialization (harder than you might be led to believe)• Topic management, especially without a CMS• Legacy content migration
  10. 10. PDF Publishing:The Achilles Heel of DITA?“We have invested megabucks in a CMS and collaborative writing and DITA, were on the cutting edge and making it happen - and our PDFs look like sh*t!” Employee of DITA adopting organization
  11. 11. The Problem with DITA and PDFPublishing to PDF is generally through a two-step process:• XSLT (transformation) > XSL-FO (formatting)XSL-FO: “A very powerful language for creating ugly pages.”• XSL-FO is highly complex, unforgiving• Any formatting changes will require programming skills• Processing and presentation are inextricably combined• No opportunity for manual formatting intervention
  12. 12. DITA Tools:Features and Capabilities“Gee, this tool has a lot more features than <our former XML authoring tool>.” Student learning popular help authoring tool after working in an XML environment• Tools tend to provide basic features for authoring• Project management features tend to be punted to the CMS
  13. 13. Migrating to DITA“Migration will cost a fortune. If your information is consistent and implicitly structured, it will cost a small fortune.” Well-known publishing consultant• Migrating legacy content to DITA is a difficult, resource- intensive (e.g., time and/or $$$) problem. There are no easy solutions.
  14. 14. But XML is the Future, Correct?• Not on the Web• W3C has ceased XHTML activities• Efforts of splinter group (WHATWG) has become HTML5. “Pave the cowpaths” trumps “pedantic correctness.”• Draconian error handling, complexity, remain major issues for XML
  15. 15. Where Does DITA Work?• Reuse. Real Reuse. Topics appearing in multiple contexts. Not “copyright statement” reuse.• Translation, where benefits of automated publishing outweigh development costs and lack of control. Usually this means many languages.• Small organizations, that need a low-barrier entry to single-source, multi-channel publishing, who can easily adapt to DITA limitations and don’t have large bodies of legacy content.
  16. 16. DITA: More that they won’t tell you• Many COTS tools support content reuse (topic, chunk, and phrase-level), automated and semi-automated publishing, multi-channel publishing, content filtering.• COTS-based workflows can be optimized for translation efficiency. There’s little “magic” about XML for translation, except automated publishing.• Desktop publishing, like all technologies, can present inefficiencies. But these are often exaggerated.
  17. 17. What’s Next for DITA?• Will vendors support DITA 1.2?• Will adopters use DITA 1.2?• Do we need a WHATWG-style alternative to DITA?
  18. 18. Contact Us!We hope you enjoyed this presentation. Please feel free tocontact us:Alan Houserarh@groupwellesley.comGroup Wellesley, Inc.933 Wellesley RoadPittsburgh, PA