Nicoleta-Oana Diaconu, Globalization Partners International

Why would a DTP Specialist, working in a translation company, attend a Content Management Strategies/DITA Conference?

I am working as Senior DTP Specialist with Globalization Partners International (a translation company based in Washington, DC, United States) and I started to work with DITA structure more than a year ago. GPI was asked by many of its customers to help them convert documentation from an unstructured format into a more structured one, so we developed a XML/FrameMaker/DITA based solution, with a single structured template controlling all language specific formatting for more than 27 target languages (Notes, Warnings and other hanging indent paragraphs automatically substitute correct text and change indent values to accommodate text expansion, via logical format rules in the FrameMaker EDD). Since then, I wanted to know more about DITA, why is everybody so excited about it, why companies are so keen to adopt a Content Management System and ask their technical writers to learn writing in DITA.

Therefore, I felt it was time to go where the documentation specialists go: to a DITA conference.

I decided to attend the Content Management Strategies/DITA Europe Conference which, this year, took place on November 7-8, in the wonderful city of Prague, at the elegant Prague Marriott Hotel. One factor helping me make my choice is the one and only JoAnn Hackos, Director of The Center for Information-Development Management, whom I consider to be a true DITA guru (and I have a strong feeling I am not the only one).

Even from the first moments I felt I am being introduced to a true community of professionals, gathering once in a while, in a friendly atmosphere, to share ideas, solutions and experiences, all related to implementing and working with Content Management Systems/DITA.

The agenda was very offering, with a large number of presentations, interesting subjects, which made me want to attend all of them. A couple of times, it was very difficult for me to decide which one to choose.

From all of the presentations I attended, some made a real impression on me. I could see the passion these professionals put into their work, it was like I was listening to parents talking about their children.

Constant Gordon and John Walker from NXP Semiconductors opened the first day (at least my day) with a presentation about how they rearranged their company’s internal website for writers after learning about the powers of DITA, making it more task and role based, and more interactive. We could see how important the feedback from the users (technical writers) was for them.

Another presentation I enjoyed was held by George Bina, one of the founders of Syncro Soft/oXygen XML Editor, talking about the types of reports you can obtain from DITA Maps. DITA is not just an instrument for managing content; it is an instrument which can also generate statistics, like how much text is reused or how many topics you have (and we all love statistics and reports, don’t we?). I loved the interaction with the audience which participated with questions, remarks, and it turned into a group discussion everybody felt sorry it was interrupted by the lunch break.

The presentation made by Henrik Evanth from Sony Ericsson was my Eureka moment, the moment when I understood how a Content Management System is implemented, the preparations needed for this. He explained so clearly how a Content Management System and DITA work together, what should be taken into consideration when implementing a Content management System. Everything sounds so easy in the beginning and everybody expects fast results, but for this to actually happen some factors should be considered, some questions need to be answered.

While listening to all the DITA specialists presenting their ideas and solutions, I felt something is missing. But this was not for long, because a pair of great professionals came to tell a different side of the story: DITA and translation. Eef Blommaart from Yamagata Europe and Luc Mastelinck from Scripto made a very vivid and attractive presentation about the difficulties a translator encounters when the DITA structure is not carefully developed, when the reuse of the text is done to extreme (now I see where the extra “s” after some tags comes from or why some words convert into tags when the file is processed with a translation tool and they remain “untranslated” when the file is cleaned after translation). Yamagata is doing an excellent job showing technical writers and their companies the effects of badly reused content.

I was talking about the passion put into each presentation, but the passion Keld Jellesen from advice2u and Dorthe Iwan Sonne from Siemens Wind Power A/S put into their presentation is rare. They presented the difficulties they had to deal with while moving to XML/DITA/Topic Based Authoring from an unstructured book paradigm and how they managed to learn and implement everything fast; they now have a smooth working system which makes life easier for those who maintain the wind turbines (even saves lives, as Dorthe said).

On top of attending such an interesting and eye opening conference, I was luckyenough to spend the entire week in the beautiful city of Prague. So many palaces, it almost makes you feel like a royalty. Of course, it is impossible to see everything, but there are some things one should not miss when visiting Prague. The Municipal House is really impressive, with Art-Nouveau architecture, a jewel to be admired. Lobkowicz Palace should not be missed; such an impressive art collection is rare, especially considering it is a private collection. Plus the palace’s architecture is remarkable.

Contrasting with the grandiose architecture of the palaces, the Golden Lane Street offers a view of how castle riflemen and craftsmen were living back in the 16th century (very small and modest houses, almost makes you feel like Gulliver in Lilliput).

Prague and the DITA Europe conference are definitely a match made in heaven.

Thank you, CIDM!

Nicoleta-Oana Diaconu
Globalization Partners International
Senior Multilingual DTP Specialist
1600 Tysons Blvd, 8th Floor
McLean, VA 22102