Darwin’s Notebook

Presentation Abstract

As DITA practitioners, we work with people whose job it is to document things. We analyze their organizations’ requirements in order to design an effective information architecture and efficient processes. We advocate for the use of standards, and DITA in particular, because of the many benefits that can be derived from it.

We define DITA customizations to support the information structure and processes. We should be documenting what we do, and we should be using a standardized approach.

This presentation will describe a project that began as an effort to automate the steps required to define DITA specializations. From a simple script that parsed schema files, ensuring specializations were implemented correctly, it has evolved through its use with various clients. Interactive requirements analysis and rapid specialization development were added to the project, and due to the iterative and often speculative nature of these tasks, we defined a file format that allows persistence of the specialization details and supporting information. It has been extended to support configuration and constraints as well.

The file structure defines a set of transactions that can be applied to a set of DITA schema modules, whether the modules are from the OASIS standard or an organization’s existing customized DITA schema. Supporting scripts allow generation of a complete set of DITA schema files, incorporating the customizations, as well as a human-readable digest of the customizations. The end result is to make DITA specialization and constraints more accessible, fully repeatable, and self-documenting.

What can attendees expect to learn?

Attendees will see one approach to making DITA customizations more accessible and self-documenting, and its potential extended uses. The intent is to raise awareness of the benefits of a structured documentation approach, and possibly move toward a common and widely accepted approach.

Meet the Presenter

Tom Comerford is senior consultant with Supratext, providing expertise in all aspects of the content lifecycle. He has worked with content technologies in various industry segments for three decades. His particular areas of interest are content quality and localization. He has worked with several clients on DITA implementations, including specializations.

Tom is co-secretary of the OASIS XLIFF Technical Committee.

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