Taxonomy for DITA: A powerful magnifier with a harsh lens
Content is wasted if users can’t find it. With a metadata framework, you can build the links, keywords, and filters that get users to the information they need. It helps authors manage content and allows your whole organization to start defining terms and categories consistently.
However, like a powerful magnifying glass, a metadata initiative reveals your current weaknesses. It is not sufficient to apply a superficial layer of taxonomy to arbitrarily chunked-up sections. For users to find specific, relevant pieces of information, you must establish each topic’s unique purpose and tag it accordingly. Your metadata must go beyond the needs of output formatting and into the webs of meaning conveyed by your content.
Writers must follow the framework diligently. DITA itself does not mandate writing topics with a defined purpose and style. A metadata framework, to be of any use, does. To be sure, there is no perfect taxonomy, no controlled vocabulary that can’t be challenged and improved. But those who apply it must do so consistently at any point in time.
The demands of controlled vocabularies stretch our technology too. CMSs and authoring tools enthusiastically add taxonomy features, but real-world requirements often find those features lacking. Drawing from the wider world of dedicated taxonomy tools provides a route to greater power and control.
In this presentation, Joe Pairman gives a practical guide to the challenges, improvements, and opportunities that a serious taxonomy initiative can bring to any structured content implementation.
What can the audience expect to learn?
Many organizations using DITA have not yet adopted a consistent, implementation-wide taxonomy and metadata framework. Without such a framework, they may miss some of the profound benefits of structured content in terms of information findability and also clearly purposed topics. Pairman shows how taxonomy and truly effective information typing go hand in hand.
It also focuses on some best practices and lessons learned in terms of technology. Organizations that have already started using a taxonomy with their DITA content may struggle to do so effectively with the tools they have. Airman discusses promising routes to taxonomy implementation (including learning from the wider world of taxonomy tools beyond DITA).
Meet the presenters
Joe Pairman is Lead Consultant at Mekon Ltd., helping clients realize the full potential of structured content and taxonomy. Before joining Mekon, he led the implementation of a DITA XML-based component content management system at HTC, driving development of the information model, solving numerous publishing and localization challenges, and designing the support content architecture for HTC’s help app and responsive website.
Dawn Stevens is Vice President of Operations and partner at Comtech Services and Associate Director of the Center for Information-Development Management. With over 25 years of experience, including 15 years at Comtech, Dawn has practical experience in virtually every role within a documentation and training department, including project management, instructional design, writing, editing, and multimedia programming. With both engineering and technical communication degrees, Dawn combines a solid technical foundation with strong writing and design skills to identify and remove the challenges her clients face in producing usable, technical information and training.