Jen Linton, Comtech Services, Inc.

DITA Europe 2006 proved to be a huge success for the second year in a row. Held in Frankfurt, Germany on November 2-3, individuals from 13 countries contributed, learned, and networked about using DITA as their standard for creating technical documentation.

This year, the Center for Information-Development Management decided to expand the conference into a two-day series of sessions, panels, and networking meetings. We had a fantastic group of conference sponsors/exhibitors including, CIDM, OASIS, Comtech Services, Inc., Trisoft, Antenna House, Comet Computer, DocZone, Elkera,, Information Mapping, Mekon, PTC, SDL, XMetaL, and XyEnterprise.

Speakers included leaders in the DITA community from IBM, IXIASOFT, SeicoDyne, Mekon, Trisoft, and XMetaL. We learned of DITA case studies at ATI, KONE, Schlumberger, and more.

Michael Priestley, Chief DITA Architect at IBM, presented an outstanding keynote about the increasing growth of DITA, its future direction, and the excitement of DITA populating throughout the world. He contrasted the existing capabilities with a vision of the future capabilities for the DITA 1.1 specification.

Following Michael’s presentation, JoAnn Hackos and Jennifer Linton from Comtech Services provided overviews about the management and technical benefits DITA promises. They introduced key terminology, methodology, and insight for the participants to keep in mind while listening to the following presentations. Because DITA is starting to peak interest in Europe, these sessions proved to be quite helpful for those who hadn’t heard much about DITA until the DITA Europe 2006 conference.

We continued through the first day with Andrzej Zydron from XML-INTL speaking about Best Practices for translating DITA content. Andrzej has been a key contributor to the DITA translation sub-committee for developing standards for translation. These standards will be presented with the DITA 1.1 specification.

John Cornellier from Schlumberger described his implementation and presented a case study of their requirements development, why DITA was chosen for their standard, and their experiences with a successful implementation. He also explained the challenges they met during their implementation. Noz Urbina from Mekon co-presented with John about the system integration for their DITA implementation.

We learned about quite a few content management system implementations and the new features added to these systems. France Baril from IXIASOFT proved that their high quality system built on the Eclipse platform could handle any DITA content. She explained how IXIASOFT provided additional features to ease the transition to DITA. Harvey Greenberg from XyEnterprise compared the product’s CMS functionality for a proprietary DTD versus the DITA DTD and the benefits of each. He also included information about their high-level XPP publishing engine.

To end the first day, everyone gathered to hear Christian Kravogel’s famous presentation about specialization. Engaging the audience through entertaining pictures of evolution and inheritance, Chris explained one of the most powerful features of DITA is specialization. He even brought Swiss chocolate to share with everyone at the end.

The second day was just as exciting. We started off the day with an excellent demonstration by Trisoft. They integrated the majority of the other exhibiting vendors’ systems into the demo. We were able to view a complete authoring lifecycle from planning through translation and publication. There were many detailed questions and answers to contribute to a thorough discussion of best practices, methodology, and vendor tool functionality.

The participants also heard from ATI representatives Graydon Saunders and Keith Schengili-Roberts about their implementation of DITA in the IXIASOFT CMS. They included information about their migration strategy, change management methods, and development of a future state process.

Kylene Bruski from Comtech Services presented an overview of the DITA Open Toolkit. Bret Freeman, a new employee to XMetaL, added a presentation on content reuse with DITA. And, Peter Meyer ended the track by wowing the attendees with Elkera’s ability to publish DITA using Microsoft Word templates.

Miel de Schepper and JoAnn Hackos closed the two-day conference by bringing us all back to the essentials. JoAnn emphasized the importance of change management. She described the challenges a DITA implementation presented to the information-development industry. Her talk summarized the new skills that we must bring to this enterprise.

All together, the conference was a success, and many individuals walked away with a bit more knowledge about DITA than they had before. If you weren’t able to come to the conference this year, we look forward to having you attend in November 2007—location and dates to be announced.