For this month’s Central Texas DITA User Group meeting we played host to Eliot Kimber. I took some scattered notes, mostly jotting down the great phrases Eliot handed out while nodding and chuckling.
He’ll be doing this presentation as a webinar for Really Strategies, Inc. on March 10th, 2010 and you can sign up on the Really Strategies website.
Eliot is explaining why DITA makes sense for publishing outside of tech comm – because most all publishers need to get ePub out of their legacy content. NEED.
DITA should take over everything – Eliot has an evil plan. He tries not to put his pinky to his chin, though. He uses strong statements, though, like:
“No reason to choose any other XML standard but DITA.”
DITA for Publishers is built on/with/using:
- Topic types: article, chapter, subsection, sidebar, part
- Map domain: pubmap
- MS Word to DITA framework – XSLT-based framework
- ePub transform for Open Toolkit
- Pubmamp support for PDF transform, which enables creating quick drafts for review while people offshore the XML-izing of the content
Example of just how exacting and demanding editors at publishers can be: Quark to Indesign migration blocker (years ago) was that a particular hyphen character wasn’t automatic with Indesign.
Eliot on publishers deciding to go with XML: “If they’re really lucky, they have an IT group that won’t help them with decisions on XML solutions.”
What Publishers need that DITA brings: (bold emphasis mine)
- Low cost of entry for sophisticated XML solutions
- Blind interchange of content
- Flexible markup design
- Strong support for modularity and reuse
- Wide support by free and commercial tools
He got tired of reinventing the same thing over and over – DITA for Publishers makes his implementation job easier – more clients farther along a path of success.
Doesn’t DITA require modular writing?
Most people implementing DITA have one topic, one file – but that is not necessary – he could have an entire book as a single XML document with one root “topic.”
Who’s using DITA for Publishers?
- ASTD is using it for their publishing of books and magazines
- Upper Room – Methodist church – publishing arm of major No. American church for books and magazines
- Publisher of test preparation manuals – including TAKS test – using learning and training specializations for test questions as well
- Any Really Strategies client who doesn’t already have schemas (or who is willing to migrate to a DITA-based solution)
He usually can get at least one output that they can’t currently get out of their current XML schemas
Publications are very simple – except when they’re not. One differentiator that publishers can use is the design of the book – unique, attention-getting designs are valued.
DITA enables iterative design and development – when you come across something more sophisticated than the “norm” you just keep adding features – and interchange is always ensured.
Map / Content distinction is essential – chapter, sections, subsections, but publication structures can be very complicated with appendices, glossaries, indexes. Maps can impose the semantic meaning within the context of a map structure. So you may have one kind of division element, but 18 kinds of topic reference (yow, but that makes sense.) Means he can convert easier to generic topics, but add sophistication through the map.
Lots of publishing content is highly modular -
magazine articles – reusable, valuable, can send through email, post to web
travel and nature guides – can be recombined in interesting ways to provide additional value – also batch consistency over a large number of pubs makes sense (automated composition is a-okay)
Sidebars – by its nature it’s a standalone thing
Educational materials such as textbooks
Standards – people make money publishing info about accounting standards, for example
Business rules apply to element types in their CMS – so there’s a practical aspect to article, chapter, subsection, sidebar and their nesting
Bookmap is way too limited for technical manuals that don’t conform to IBM standards
Bookmap doesn’t give publishers what they need, so he built a publication map domain – provides more structuring options, more licensing options (nothing to do with copyright), he can also mix it in with other map domains, e.g. learningMap
structural module vs domain module – you can pick and choose in a domain module the things that are specifically useful
Provides publishing-specific structures, such as “page” – can have a topic with an empty title element
+ Formatting domain
- supports capturing of arbitrary formatting (example: 9th grade biology text book – lots of nutty formatting)
- Integrates MathML
-Can embed raw InDesign interchange data
+ Pub content domain – elements contained in typical publications, e.g. epigram
+ Verse domain: markup for poetry
+ Classification domain: container for classifying metadata (specific taxonomy, Upper Room has this for all the ways their content relates to the domain of spiritual “stuff” he used a DITA map for the taxonomy)
General purpose Docx to DITA XSLT transform – authors are writing magazine articles in Word and then submitting. Transform configured by separate style-to-tag mapping. Everything from magazine articles to entire course scripts, all with different configuration parameters. Must have consistently tagged styles in the Word document.
XML-first workflows are pretty rare in the publishing industry among publishers.
Too much variablity in the business process – eight different biz processes through which they get books to publish at an association, for example.
Typify can “remember” where things came from and automate composition, but it costs a bunch.
DITA to InCopy generates InCopy articles from DITA topics – InCopy is used for manuscript preparation (writing with no layout).
The ePub open toolkit plugin generates HTML-based ePub packages from maps
Uses output of the base XHTML transformation type
What he wants to continue after DITA 1.2 is done:
- Documentation of vocabulary modules
- Refinement and extension of tools an infrastructure
Community of DITA for Publishers users is building – he wants to propose it as a DITA Subcommittee once he gets enough community behind it.