DITA linking best practice at IEn2015

Infomedian of the YearThe three days at Information Energy 2015 in Utrecht have passed too quickly. Everyone seemed to feel at home, the sessions were interactive and fun, speakers and attendants eager to share information and show how they create and publish content in most diverse forms and channels… that’s what makes an infomedian. To round up the experience, apart from teaching a master class and giving a presentation, I had the honor of giving a short interview and being part of the jury in one of the workshops.

The venue also gave it special “energy” – first, Master Classes and presentations at Uni Utrecht, a historical site with classical and retro chambers where the eyes of scientists, professors and artists watched us from old paintings or billboards, followed by workshops at Seats2Meet, a very interesting concept with themed lounges in vintage look.

After the full-day Master Class on the pre-conference day, I also gave a short presentation the next day about DITA Linking Best Practice. We have seen examples and done exercises in the workshop. We have also talked about structured, topic-oriented writing and about DITA architecture: map structure, reuse strategy, authoring environment and publishing pipelines. The presentation afterwards was just the shorthand version of the workshop, but it served to start further discussions. Thank you all for attending! It was great meeting everyone in Utrecht.

Enjoy the prezi and let me know your thoughts:

DITA Linking - prezi

Click the image to open the Prezi slideshow

For the advanced use of keys on topic references, don’t miss the contributions of Gnostyx and┬áEliot Kimber to the dita-community repository: dita-demo-content-collection

So how are you managing your content linking?

Related posts ­čśë

Mit Legos in Stuttgart

Auf dem Weg nach XML-Prag, habe ich versucht meine Artikel-Reihe ├╝ber die letzten Konferenzen weiter zu schreiben. Ich schreibe diesen Artikel auf Deutsch, weil es gerade um die tekom Jahrestagung 2014 in Stuttgart geht. Ich hatte die Tagung in den vorigen Jahren schon besucht, diesmal aber habe ich meinen ersten Vortrag und einen Workshop auf Deutsch und nacheinander sogar gehalten.

Mein Workshop – Das DITA-Implementierungsprojekt – und der Vortrag – Verstehen Sie DITA-Architektur? – haben erst am dritten Tag stattgefunden. Nichtdestotrotz waren sie gut besucht. Ich h├Ątte mir gew├╝nscht, dass die Workshopr├Ąume besser isoliert w├╝rden und jeder Teilnehmer einen Platz am Tisch h├Ątte, sodass man bei den ├ťbungen mitmachen konnte… So mussten wir Vieles ├╝berspringen, aber die Gruppe war trotzdem aktiv und stellte gute Fragen.

DITA Implementierung - Folien

Gleich danach d├╝rfte ich mehr ├╝ber DITA-Architektur im riesigen Plenum-Raum berichten… was so komisch auf mich wirkte, dass ich f├╝hlte wie mein roter Faden dahinschwindet. Die Blokade war gl├╝cklicherweise nicht von Dauer, da gleich in der nechsten Woche habe ich noch einen Vortrag gehalten und es lief alles prima. F├╝r den Teil ├╝ber DITA-Architektur hatte ich eigentlich ebenso einen Workshop vorgeschlagen, d├╝rfte aber diesmal nur einen Vortrag daraus machen. Vielleicht klappt es mit dem Workshop bei der Jahrestagung 2015 ­čÖé So w├╝rde ich meinem Publikum durch konkreten Beispielen und ├ťbungen beibringen, was ich ihnen noch schulde.

DITA Architektur Folien

Dar├╝berhinaus war ich in Stuttgart zum ersten Mal als Aussteller mit meinem neuen Arbeitgeber PANTOPIX dabei. Wir haben Freunde und Messebesucher eingeladen, mit uns ├╝ber ihren Datenmodellen zu reden und dabei mit den Lego-Steinen zu spielen. Au├čer einer Reihe von Firmenlogos, entstanden ein paar einzigartige Objekte aus der Zusammenarbeit der Standbesucher. Danke f├╝rs Mitmachen!

PANTOPIX Legosteine

IA and TechComm at EUROIA14

Continuing my flashback notes, after Brighton and Bucharest, let me take you to the third B-named city I had visited within a month: Brussels. I finally managed to attend EUROIA, the Information Architecture conference in Europe last September. They closed the 10-year loop back in Brussels and I joined just in time to celebrate and received a cool anniversary T-shirt.

This was quite a change from the usual techcomm conferences. In my “scrapcloud” attempt I mentioned only a few of the terms that stuck with me from EUROIA14, but it was so much more. It took me to the… “liminal”-zone ­čÖé

EUROIA14 scrapcloud

We were shown the artistic side of information architecture through presentations about design, architecture, innovation, anthropology and psychology. But in the same time, workshops and presentations confirmed that info architects and user experience designers are facing similar challenges technical communicators do. Lots of familiar images: spreadsheets for content auditing, models to sort, chunk and reuse information. One page per thing was an often mentioned rule, as well as MRUs (minimum reusable units). Ontologies and linking are of course vital, since they are the very mechanism that keeps the web running. Does CORE model sound familiar to tech writers yet? It should: Create Once, Reuse Everywhere. And the statement that probably got just as much ovation and Twitter coverage as the marriage proposal in the end, was the reminder that Content is f*** King!

What also seemed a d├ęj├á vu, was the effort of info architects to establish their role and responsibilities within companies and workflows. we are all in the center

After seeing in various projects and books those diagrams with all team members or skills in their little circles, all pointing to the project manager (call it scrum master if you will) in the center, then seeing the same in slides trying to define the technical writers’ job and how they should position themselves and communicate with all other roles in their projects… it was the IA and UX designers’ turn to flip the charts.

Good to know we’re not alone and interesting to see we are trying to connect with the same roles in our projects: managers, developers, engineers, testers, etc.

Can hardly wait for the next EUROIA and I hope to see some more conferences adopting their agenda model:  workshops every morning, presentations and lightning talks in the afternoon, dozens of books to give away each evening.

DITA is here to stay

or better said… to grow with us

It is seldom that I hear news about XML/DITA application in the DACH region (the German-speaking countries), so I was glad to attend the TIM Users Conference in Constance last week. TIM is the XML authoring and content management system developed by Fischer Computertechnik.

The two-day conference was indeed an intensive knowledge exchange between TIM users, the FCT team, and their partners. As I expected, most of the attendees and speakers are using TIM in manufacturing and machine building enterprises, as well as on-site support services. Adobe FrameMaker and Microsoft Word are still broadly used as editors, but it is encouraging to hear about well established German tools joining the DITA world.

Last year I was reading in the DITA community about concerns that the standard was not being supported enough in Germany, but I must say it does not look that bad to me. As long as DITA is on academic curricula and major conference programs, no one can say it’s being discouraged. New and well-known, local CMS providers are offering and promoting DITA modules. When corporations as large as SAP are adopting a standard, the rest of the world has to follow.

As Prof. Wolfgang Ziegler was saying at tekom 2013 in Wiesbaden during his talk about information portals, DITA and XML have been around for 20 years… we don’t even talk about reasons for doing XML anymore – we just do it! (“Macht man einfach!“)

Prof. Sissi Closs is also talking regularly about DITA and single sourcing. In Constance she was presenting DITA Information Architecture as a relatively new and absolutely necessary discipline, functioning as a continuous, agile process of information management.

Dr. Walter Fischer was declaring himself convinced by the advantages DITA brings to the technical communication, especially considering what the Internet of Things triggers in the emerging Industry 4.0 age.

In workshops, presentations, lightning talks, over coffee, football ­čśë WM public viewing or on a boat trip on Lake Constance, “TIM-players” from Austria, Switzerland and Germany were in agreement: We need more collaboration with industry partners, when it comes to exchanging content and integrating tools. Partner content providers are hiding behind a copyright clause and would only send a PDF or a protected copy of an illustration, instead of sharing the sources with integrators of their products and documentation.

Machines are talking to machines and to humans, yet humans are still reluctant to comply to standards and to exchange information. XML is everywhere around us anyway, so why do we have to wait and be forced to switch at the last moment, when it’s obvious we need to work with a standard like DITA, to collaborate and manage information?

Darwin is in the DITA name for a reason: it’s an XML standard that’s evolving with us.

Happy DIT’ing!

The DITA Architect’s role

What does it take to be your team’s DITA Architect? Naturally, you have to thinkDITA, understand Information Architecture, use DITA for some time and know what you can do with it.

If in addition to being a DITA Author, you find yourself addicted to it, like there were no other way to do technical communication, if you read and try out all ideas you can find about DITA and related tools, then… you’re on the right path to being a DITA Architect.

There is one more thing, though. As I learned from Eliot Kimber (@drmacro), there is a difference between a geek and a nerd: the geek likes to talk about his nerdiness.

If you’re serious about the Architect role, you know it’s not enough to set up the authoring environment for the Writers in your team, especially if they are new to DITA. Apart from someone dealing with tools configuration, XML, XSLT, XSL-FO, CSS, jQuerries and Ant scripts for them, what the team needs, is answers to their questions, assistance, guidelines, code reviews, and even more answers.

You may thinkDITA and breathe DITA, but as an Architect, you have to lead and inspire DITA.

Happy DIT’ing!