DITA Europe, Prague 2011

Luc Mastelinck, Scripto

DITA, Darwin Information Typing Architecture, an acronym with a huge impact on all content production. It is not new, it already exists since the second half of the last decade but still, only a “few” persons know about it.

There can be a couple of reasons I can imagine why this still is the case:

  • Is DITA really something you can use or is it still nothing more than a very interesting mindset?
  • Who is using DITA and how?
  • What companies use DITA on a daily basis and what do they do with it?
  • Are there really customers who benefit from the advantages of DITA you often hear about in webinars and at conferences?
  • Isn’t it just for a special breed of writers working deep down in the company?

Well, this DITA conference has certainly proven that DITA is mature and that a lot of companies are using all the features of DITA.

The conference in Prague was the first one where I met such an international audience and we all had a common ground to discuss: how can we improve the way in which a company handles its content, its translations, its publications and how can we show the advantages of DITA in a real business case?

For me, as a business development manager and thus a non-technical writer, this conference has shown me some interesting business cases. That content inspired me in my day-to-day conversations with managers, IT people and users and I must say, I have gathered some mind-blowing information I can spread. I really like facts and figures because that is what decision makers want to see and these figures were there. Did you know that 80% of HP customers buy an HP product, only based on the product info? They don’t even touch the product anymore. This means that all marketing power lies in the documentation set!

We’re always trying to convince the decision makers that documentation is not an expense. If it is created according to the latest possibilities, it will provide a specific answer to a specific question, and thus the documentation department will help to achieve the business goals and targets. It was also interesting to see that our own experiences at Scripto matched the experiences of other international DITA experts. We are after all a communication consultancy organization specialized in technical writing, content creation, content strategy and training and we teach and use DITA. The business cases presented from our colleagues proved that the expectations of companies wanting to implement a content management strategy and DITA are globally the same.

During our presentation about DITA structured writing and the advantages for translation (I think it was the first time a sales flyer in Klingon (a Star Trek language) was presented at a conference) we were able to interact easily with the audience. They told us after our presentation that they face similar issues as the ones we presented and that the session offered practical information. Not about translating DITA content into Klingon, of course, but the facts and figures we presented were very useful and provided food for thought.

DITA Prague had a mix of some familiar ideas about DITA, real business cases and corporate solutions. At the same time, we’ve gathered interesting ideas about DITA content and publishing content to all kinds of fancy devices. Manuals may be dead, topics are certainly alive and kicking.

Conclusion: DITA Prague: where the past, the present and the future of content creation met in real-time.

About the Author:
Luc Mastelinck is the business development manager at Scripto. Scripto is a communication consulting company specialized in technical writing, user documentation design, and information modeling according to DITA.
T: +32 497 31 91 52
luc.mastelinck@scripto.nu

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