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The Rockley Group Blog Is Here! I have a couple of DITA questions

Oct 15, 2007 • general

The Rockley Group

At the last STC Summit, I ran into the legendary Ann Rockley and interviewed her briefly about the goings-on at the Rockley Group. One of the new projects she mentioned was the upcoming launch of their stylishly-designed blog. I asked her if blogs were becoming an expected norm, and she said that yes,

People expect to see a blog, they expect to see information provided in this way.

Ann and others at the Rockley Group are interested in content re-use, which leads them into XML and DITA territory. In their latest post, they talk about a recent DITA conference they attended in Raleigh.

This brings me to the topic of DITA, which I haven't gotten into too much in this blog. I feel like a latecomer to DITA, but two main obstacles about DITA have held me back from otherwise diving in.

In the spirit of interactive blogging, maybe Ann or Steve can write a post that answers the two following objections? Here they are:

1. DITA does not have a Webhelp format, but rather just an .chm file, which won't display over networks. This limits DITA's web output (apart from the network-banned .chm file) to basic HTML pages. How can DITA be so popular when its online help offering is so crippled?

2. Creating DITA content requires a detailed knowledge about the nesting of different tags (what tags are allowed in what topics, and how the tags are nested). Manually coding these tags seems very tedious. Are DITA tools still too primitive to automate the code, putting it behind the scenes? And if you have to dive into code, doesn't it create problems for large tech pubs groups that may have many members resistant to getting so technical?

A few months ago I started reading Introduction to DITA: A User Guide to the Darwin Typing Information Architecture, but these two obstacles held me up. I was searching for a tool to replace RoboHelp, trying to decide if our content re-use was heavy enough to merit an entirely new system like DITA. Thanks Ann and Steve (and anyone else) for any thoughts you may have.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.