Judging by Social Media last week, there were many strong opinions at the tekom tcworld conference towards the DITA authoring standard and the associated tools. It seemed, as the philosopher Swift once said, “Haters gonna hate”, and, by inference, “Hypers gonna hype”.
Eliot Kimber provided an interesting summary in a post to the DITA users group forum (Trip Report: Tekom 2015, DITA vs Walled Garden CCMS Systems):
“For background, Germany has had several SGML- and XML-based component content management system products available since the mid 90’s, of which Schema is probably the best known. These systems use their own XML models and are highly optimized for the needs of the German machinery industry…These products are widely deployed in Germany and other European countries. DITA poses a problem for these products to the degree that they are not able to directly support DITA markup internally, for whatever reason, e.g., having been architected around a specific XML model such that supporting other models is difficult. So there is a clear and understandable tension between the vendors and happy users of these products and the adoption of DITA…
…It’s clear to me that DITA is gaining traction in Europe and, slowly, in Germany but that the DITA CCMS vendors will need to step up their game if they want to compete head-to-head against entrenched systems like Schema and Acolada. Likewise, the DITA community needs to do a better job of educating both tools vendors and potential DITA users if we expect them to be both accepting of DITA and successful in their attempts to implement and use it.”
This may have led those who are asking, do I need DITA?, to come away from the conference more confused than before. So, we thought it might be useful to provide a rough guide to whether it’s worth adopting DITA:
You probably don’t need DITA if:
- The way the content looks to the user is the most important issue.
- You have fewer than four writers.
- You write narrative content.
- You have limited budgets for tools, training and migration.
- You don’t have the time to deal with the issues around changing working methods.
- Your content has a “shelf life” of less than two years.
- You use a lot of graphics with annotations.
- You need to customise outputs [added] for individual documents [added] (such as PDFs).
- The cost of migrating existing content will be expensive.
- You want the presentation layer embedded with the content layer.
- You don’t want to work within strict rules regarding how topics are written (where content is marked up semantically).
- You need to use the tools used by developers or the marketing department.
- You want a simple information architecture.
You might need DITA if:
- You need to write to (and enforce) a standard.
- You need to localise content into many languages.
- You have more than four writers.
- You want to write semantically.
- You need a more efficient authoring, [added] reviewing [added] and publishing process.
- You create many variations of the same document.
- You want intelligent content that can adapt to different users and contexts.
- You are spending too much time on formatting content.
- You need to re-use content in different projects and different contexts, and make those topics accessible to other writing teams who might want to re-use them.
- You need to establish a controlled vocabulary and taxonomy.
- You want content validated for consistency.
- You want automated publishing.
You probably do need DITA if:
- You need to share content with other organisations.
- Your content will need to last more than 30 years.
- You want content to be stored in an open data standard, independent of any tool.
- You don’t want to be tied into a specific authoring tool, content management system or publishing/rendering engine.
- You need transclusion (where an element can replace itself with the content of a like element elsewhere) across a range of media.
- You want to have a way of generalising back to a common standard.
Do you agree?
Please share your thoughts below.