Nolwenn Kerzreho, THOMSON (Thales Services)

New elements and important facts

I was eager to attend the DITA Europe 2009 Conference in Munich, November 16-17. Last year’s conference enabled me, new to the standard, to implement DITA confidently within my customer’s team.

The presentations in 2008 confirmed that DITA was not only a good solution to address the issues, but also offered a lot of practical advice and help.

This year, my expectations were high. I wanted to know more on trends, DITA project team management, good practices and even more practical advice…

I was not disappointed! During these 2 days, from Europe and as far as Australia, techies and engineers, technical writers, information architects, translators and localizers, OASIS representatives, decision makers, teachers, DITA fans and detractors exchanged ideas on the many subjects arising from the use of DITA.

What I found out

Amongst the numerous subjects addressed in the presentations, the most relevant for me were:

  • Implementation experiences from companies involved in the DITA process, especially Sony Ericsson, Motorola, IBM, STMicroelectronics, ITT Fluid and Alcatel-Lucent
  • Technical presentations with an overview of constraints, limits and plug-in possibilities, including an Eclipse plug-in which adds a search box in the XHTML output
  • The DITA Presentation for Decision Makers was also a success for me. This was a clear and perfect example of why it is important to speak your customer’s language. This is even more important when this internal customer is your boss.
  • The panel of OASIS experts presenting the soon-to-be released1 DITA version 1.2

To some extent, as a teacher and technical writer in an international environment, I was curious about the tools presented for Simplified English by Tedopres International.

Dr. JoAnn Hackos, Director of the Center for Information-Development Management (CIDM) and organizer of this conference, opened and closed the sessions, with a lot of excellent feedback and discussions, including the suggestion to hold a webinar before the Conference for newbies and distributing the survival vocabulary to attendees.

Play on Words

During the conference, I came across words and concepts which surprised me, made me laugh and also made me think. Let me share a few with you:

  • Sherpa (Don Bridges): the expert who’s been where you want to go. Meaning: get a DITA expert as your “Sherpa” down (or up?) the DITA road.
  • Vegetarian Butchers: someone who does not consume what he or she is selling. Meaning: don’t take advice from some who doesn’t use their own product/doesn’t use DITA. Or apply what you advocate.
  • Silos of Information (Nokia/SDL XySoft): Segregation of contents. Meaning: you can find reuse opportunities inside the company. Check your information silos.
  • Geeks don’t sell DITA (Jang Communications). If you are a tech writer or a technician and want to sell DITA to your management, speak their language.
  • SVG (Tektronix, Inc): XML format for images. Meaning: using SVG and other XML standard makes sense in the DITA environment and will help your language service providers.

In & Out?

The contents this year were less centered on tools (especially CCMS or CMS). Maybe this is due to the crisis, but I very much enjoyed very much the presentations on the basics in DITA and open source tools such as the DITA Open Toolkit, the WinANT Echidna (building help from Tony Self), XLIFF and SVG.

The agenda also included two presentations from vendors Alfresco (GED) and Componize, the Alfresco corresponding module for component management.

Version 1.2

I was delighted to hear more about the next standard version on the excellent OASIS panel. The release of version 1.2 has shifted with an expected release to mid-2010. The new features made complete sense to me, including a machine specialization feature on maintenance which is perfect “as is” for software/hardware maintenance (migration, patch installation and so on). I was impressed by the dedication of the team at OASIS.

What now?

After this year’s conference, I have my hands full with new subjects and ideas to promote DITA:

  • Reassurance on the future DITA V1.2 migration
  • XHTML plug-in with an integrated search
  • A few ideas for new DITA implementation (including using the API specialization)

I am eager to apply what I learned during the DITA Europe Conference to my customer’s department and discover more at DITA Europe 2010!

Plug-ins:

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/dita-users/files/Demos/

http://sourceforge.net/projects/dita-ot/files/

1Now expected second quarter 2010.

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