Darwin and Linnaeus: Implementing a content taxonomy in DITA

Often, migration of legacy documentation to DITA is approached as a conversion problem, but bulk conversion is usually a long and difficult operation that affects your productivity, requires a lot of cleanup, and leaves your content no better than it was before. You don’t even have any DITA reuse or semantic structure to show for your efforts!

What if instead, you could start delivering your most valuable content — with the benefits of structure and reuse — in the next sprint? Learn how to leverage your legacy content as source material for new and better content, starting with the information your users need most. Taking cues from Agile practices, we’ll talk about how the concepts of MVP docs, vertically sliced user stories, and iteration can help you maintain productivity and start seeing DITA benefits immediately.

What can the audience expect to learn?

Attendees will learn about an Agile alternative to wholesale conversion of legacy documentation to DITA, an approach that focuses on reimplementing the most valuable content in DITA first and iterating until the business and customer needs are met.

Meet the presenters

A technical writer who has been using DITA since 2005, Shane Taylor is manager of technical communications at Cengage and a convert to agile development methodology. Shane is still looking for that perfect balance between writing; developing DITA Open Toolkit customizations, scripts, and Jenkins jobs to improve content creation and delivery; and managing the work of his team. Shane is an occasional contributor to the DITA Open Toolkit, an AT section hiker, and a volunteer with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Rocky Top trail crew.


Andrea Shanahan is a technical communicator (and UX content aficionado) with 30+ years in the field. She is well-versed in structured writing using a variety of tools, including DITA authoring with XMetaL and oXygen. Taxonomy implementer is a newer role with exciting possibilities. Andrea’s guiding principle is that words matter. Her creativity and passion is for words that are thoughtfully conceived, beautifully arranged, and intuitively expressed in an information architecture that guides, illuminates, and delights users. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst in psychology, a fascinating discipline in harmony with her interests and career.


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