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DITA

Darwin Information Typing Architecture, a means of deciding what sort of information you're dealing with and – consequently – how best to organise it. A huge challenge for me, professionally, but a very exciting one.
D/001

As anyone who knows me or who has encyclopædic total recall of this site will remember, I have a high opinion of IBM's now retired publishing environment BookMaster. I realised that the habits inculcated into me while documenting mainframe networking packages many years and many miles from the here and now have stuck.

Now they become something familiar to cling on to as I force myself into exploring a radically new way of constructing documentation. "Radically new" is not a phrase I throw around unconsidered. "Paradigm shift" is not one I would ever use; but Don Day chose it for a presentation I was lucky enough to attend, and justified it completely. (He's one of the IBM team closely involved with developing DITA and the man indirectly responsible for my having my very own printed copy of the BookMaster user guide) No more leisurely, "narrative" documentation with its sequence of chapters and sections: instead, topics. No more three-course meal with silver service: instead, an information buffet where the reader goes for what he fancies, and back for more as necessary.

Delivering information like this can only work with tools for identifying and validating a consistent structure so that topics become comparable and complementary. There'll be a lot to learn about what you can do, probably a lot more to learn about what you can't do and what you mustn't do. But to my mind DITA is not a straitjacket. It's an powered exoskeleton, and once I'm comfortable with it I'll be clearing tall documents with a single bound ;-}

January 2016

Progress report ‒ yup, as hoped: proof of concept, an unusably long paper document remodelled into accessible, navigable on-line help! Especial thanks for this successful endeavour go to the developers and helpdesk of XML Mind, an IDE for DITA that fits my hand as comfortably as FrameMaker. Frivolously, XML Mind also lets me easily create epub books from unproofed scans and other sources out there on the Internet.


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