Jan 132015
Updated: May 16, 2015

This post describes the January 2015 program

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series 2014-15 Program Chronicles

On January 21, Dr. Stan Doherty, a member of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee, presents a DITA State of the Union Address to the New England chapter of the STC.

Doherty currently works as a Senior Information Architect at Akamai Technologies, but he has been involved with the DITA Technical Committee since its inception in 2004. DITA, the Darwin Information Typing Architecture, was originally designed by IBM for creating and delivering technical information during 2000. In 2004, IBM donated DITA to the OASIS, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards. Since that time, the OASIS DITA Technical Committee has been responsible for its development. As a committee member, Doherty has been an active part of of the process.

“At the time,” Doherty said, “I worked for Sun Microsystems, and we were a DocBook shop. When OASIS put out a call for people to join the DITA Technical Committee, it was suggested that I join because, frankly, my colleagues wanted me to torpedo the thing, to find problems with it.” Over time, however, Doherty became convinced of its merits. “Six months later, when I understood its inner workings, I realized they were onto something. I could see that DITA had a lot of potential.”

Ten years later, DITA is firmly established in the Technical Communication community. “It took about a year for editing tools to support DITA, and then another year or two for companies to start adopting it,” said Doherty. “As you might expect, big enterprise companies use DITA, driven by the need to reduce translation costs. However, DITA is also being adopted by small groups and startups who have a lot of odd and interesting integration requirements.” For example, a startup was trying to determine how to make Microsoft® Word or other tools interact with software. Those tools weren’t able to meet the integration requirements. However, DITA was chosen because it could be customized.

Now the technical committee is preparing to release DITA 1.3. “In version 1.3, we are further evolving the metadata that was added for versions 1.1 and 1.2. The metadata allows the content to interact with any system on the planet.” In his presentation on January 21, Doherty will describe these and other new capabilities coming in DITA 1.3.

After the release of the DITA 1.3 specification, the committee plans to introduce a lightweight version of DITA, which will be optimized for exchanging data with HTML5, wikis, Microsoft® Word, Salesforce®, and other tools and frameworks. “With lightweight DITA, you can trigger a database to do a query from inside a help topic, perform a delayed process on it, and then return results.” These capabilities mean that you can use DITA for interactions between the system and the content, offering exciting possibilities for future applications of the technology.

Technical writers and other professionals who are currently using DITA should plan to attend the presentation to learn what’s coming in DITA 1.3 and in the lightweight version.

Even if you’re not using DITA now, however, you might still want to come. “You might just be curious about DITA or want ammunition about why you should not use it. But you should keep up to date on how DITA is evolving. With the current rate of acquisitions and how quickly new tools are supporting DITA, you probably want to start taking a serious look at it. For example, Framemaker 12 has a new DITA mode that is surprisingly easy to use,” said Doherty. He plans to give a quick demo of Framemaker during the presentation. He’ll also describe other editing tools and content management systems (CMSs) that work with DITA.

Doherty will present his DITA State of the Union Address on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Burlington, Massachusetts. You can register to attend the dinner and presentation, starting at 6:00 p.m., or register to attend the webinar remotely, starting at 7:30.

Doherty encourages people to send questions ahead of time. As an example, he offers this question: “My love life has been ruined by DITA…is this true for everyone?” If you have these or other burning questions about DITA, send them to stan@modularwriting.com by January 19. We look forward to seeing you on the 21st!

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