DITA as Interchange Format for Acquisitions and Crowdsourcing

Traditional (XML-based) DITA is a big-iron approach. To gain the benefits of robust control and comprehensive semantics, it generally requires pricey and complicated tools and specialized skills. The tragic consequence is a content silo, or perhaps many silos in an enterprise despite a common foundation. The docs-as-code approach using markdown and Git, by contrast, opens the possibility of crowdsourcing with open reviews (as wikis before it), but at the cost of flabby control and impoverished semantics. These are the same issues found with unstructured authoring, which still retains the advantage of a low barrier to entry.

Lightweight DITA (LwDITA), under development by the DITA Technical Committee, can help to alleviate the drawbacks of the big-iron and docs-as-code approaches. Word-to-DITA has a complementary role. The tech comm community has struggled for decades with diffs and reviews, which are definitively solved by GitHub. Laissez-faire information structure and information product assembly are addressed well by topic-based structured authoring.

This presentation will focus on two use cases for LwDITA and Word-to-DITA. First, smaller, younger companies are more likely to employ either unstructured writing or docs-as-code than DITA. If a company using markdown is acquired by one using DITA (as has happened more than once at our company), LwDITA is a bridge for integrating the acquired company’s content into the mainstream of the acquiring company’s content practice.

The second use case overlaps with the first. Rather than completely wrest control of an acquired company’s content, with LwDITA and Word-to-DITA it is possible to let them retain some control within specified guidelines. In any case where the tech writer is reduced to mere transcription, such as reference material, LwDITA offers the possibility of letting SMEs update certain areas within the information structures defined by professional content-creation groups. Word-to-DITA can be used by more-than-casual but less-than-professional authors for cohesive documents such as course material and reference architectures.

What can the audience expect to learn?

For organizations that have existing DITA implementations, this presentation will demonstrate new avenues for solving business problems and breaking down silos.

For organizations that are not using DITA, this presentation will demonstrate new use cases where they could benefit from adopting DITA.

Meet the presenters

Ben’s technical publications department is responsible for all product documentation at Nutanix. This domain covers private and public cloud products in addition to APIs and hardware platforms. Ben grew the technical publications team from two content creators (including himself) to 20 in the US and Bangalore, developing practices along the way. Previously he worked at Citrix and Sun Microsystems.


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