Month: December 2005

The Case for the Darwin Information Typing Architecture

In Topic-Oriented Information Development and Its Role in Globalization, Bill Trippe (The Gilbane Report) examines software developer Information Builders and their experience implementing the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) to manage a large set of localized product documentation. “IBI made a strategic decision to adopt DITA, has implemented it, and is already realizing benefits from the decision,” Trippe writes. Trippe documents some of the benefits IBI enjoys since implementing DITA including: Elimination of formatting and reformatting tasks Manipulation of content in ways previously unavailable Modular, reusable, topic-oriented content Significantly reduced translation turnaround Read Topic-Oriented Information Development and Its Role in...

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Avoiding DITA Roadblocks

Technical writers hoping to implement the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) can avoid costly project delays and other snafus by following the advice in Get Ready for DITA: Bypass Four Costly Roadblocks, a white paper from Innodata Isogen. The four roadblocks include: Inefficient processes Organizatinal boundaries Technology limitations Resource utilization The paper also addresses what the authors call “the significance of specialization”, pointing out (among other things) that the process is measurable. “When new requirements appear, such as a new product that needs slightly different documentation,” the authors say, “managers can accurately determine the cost of satisfying those new requirements with additional specializations and then make an informed business descision.” While DITA is a hot topic in technical communication circles these days, not everyone can or should author technical content in DITA, the authors say. “Not all technical writers are willing or able to write in the modular context-free way DITA tends to require. Using DITA can require more sophisticated authoring and content management tools than are typically needed for doing non-modular books. Thus, for some enterprises, DITA may be overkill.” The authors also advise organizations with legacy content that cannot be easily mapped to DITA that it may be better to “apply DITA ideas of modularity and specialization” without trying to conform to the standard. Moving some types of legacy content can require a lot of rework and...

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S1000D: The Future of Technical Manuals

In Documentation Spec Makes DOD Inroads, Federal Computer Week columnist, John Moore asks: Will S1000D be the future of tech manuals? S1000D promotes a modular approach to content creation and makes it possible for organizations to deliver both printed and electronic technical manuals from a Common Source Database. While it originated in Europe in the 1980s, S1000D is currently in use by the U.S. Army, primarily to create documentation for the Global Hawk unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle and for the F-117A Stealth Bomber. The U.S. Navy is also said to be have several S1000D projects in progress. A number of civil aviation organizations are examining S1000D and several international transportation equipment manufacturers (makers of cars, boats, trains, and other vehicles) are looking to S1000D as a potential solution for their content creation woes. Federal Computing Week reported that the “potential cost savings” S1000D can provide is what “grabbed the Pentagon’s attention.” Yet, there’s not been a mandate from the DOD to use S1000D across the board. The article points out the strengths and weaknesses of S1000D and identifies some of the challenges preventing widespread adoption. Data Conversion Laboratory offers Five Reasons Why S1000D might be the right technical documentation specification for military, aerospace, and other “technically-oriented” industries. They also offer a great article on S1000D and its impact on the development of Interactive Electronic Technical...

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2005 Worst Manual Contest Winners

Chuckle at the winners of the 2005 Worst Manual Contest. This year’s top spot goes to HDD Assembles Elucidation, which is actually worse than the incorrectly translated title implies. Of course, there are some pretty bad images and artwork being produced today, as this honorable mention award amply illustates. Previous Worst Manual Contest Winners 2004 2003 2002...

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The Effect of DITA on Information-Development Roles

In The Effect of DITA on Information-Development Roles, Jen Linton provides an overview of the changing roles and responsibilities needed when a documentation team moves to the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA). Linton proposes roles including: information-development manager, information developer, editor, information architect, and production manager. She provides a short description of each role and why it’s needed. “Before making the change to DITA,” Linton says, “think about assigning roles and responsibilities so that one person...

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