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

by Tom Johnson on Oct 15, 2007
categories: technical-writing

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.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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