open DITA Code Sprint following DITA Europe 2011

If you plan to attend DITA Europe 2011 in Prague, watch for my session on “Integrating social media into new DITA workflows” on Tuesday November 8. In addition, on the 9th, I’ll be helping to facilitate the following related activity, also in Prague:

open DITA Code Sprint

Following the DITA Europe conference in Prague, we are planning an open DITA code sprint. This is an event you should not miss if you are interested in getting some hands-on experience working with open source tools for DITA. Anybody is free to suggest topics but we’ll most likely have at least a few people working on Drupal tools for DITA and on the Open Toolkit.

If you are around after the conference but had not planned to take one of the post-conference workshops, this event might be worth your time.  If you are interested, please visit this site and sign up! I hope someone might find this alternative post-conference opportunity useful.

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Harnessing user contributions for wiki-based documentation

Creating documentation using wikis or wiki-like software is inherently all about collaboration between various parties: programmers, testers, technical writers, and even informed users.  More than any other form of cloud-based collaboration, wikis are a natural way to enable your extended “team” to collect and organize their respective contributions to the knowledge already documented. This would be an ideal picture, except that users are typically not under your management or your company’s IP agreements; they have their own goals, and they tend to go after loose ends in the documentation in their own way. A strategy of “good fences make good neighbors” can help keep user-contributors engaged in your goals for improving the knowledge in your wiki-based documentation.

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What HTML5’s most-discussed benefits mean for DITA

While some of the new features of HTML5 have a direct bearing on its future relationship with DITA (per my previous two posts on the subject, What HTML5’s parsing algorithm means for DITA and What HTML5’s outlining feature means for DITA), its other new features tend to be featured more often in other blogs and discussions. I’ve just done another pass through the list to see what I was missing.  A few features relate in some way to DITA content, but I’d categorize most as relating to Web development and general end-user benefits.

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What HTML5’s parsing algorithm means for DITA

“Tag soup” is neither satisfying nor nutritious. This pejorative name describes the form of unstructured HTML that browsers have had to consume since day 1 of the World Wide Web. As the name implies, it is a mixture of markup in various states of unclosed, misused, or badly nested elements. The expectation on the Web is that everything should just work, so browsers dutifully consume all content and try to give out a rendering without complaint. Until now, each browser has had its own approach to the problem, with correspondingly different results for some types of tag soup formulations. HTML5 effectively brings a certified chef back into the kitchen.

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What HTML5’s outlining feature means for DITA

Before XML and SGML, IBM’s Generalized Markup Language (GML) represented document structure in a tag-like way, expressing the semantics of the content while separating that content from the underlying formatting controls. GML’s structural elements included the express heading level tags, :h1. through :h6., which informed on HTML’s early use of those same names for its visual heading elements. Both markup languages lacked formal containers for the scope of content under a heading, but GML had a run-time capability that writers could use to check the organization of their content: a generated Table of Contents (or ToC) view.

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HTML5 in the world of DITA

My new blender has a programmed mode in which the ingredients initially swirl around just before it goes into a surge of power that brings everything together into something new. HTML5 is like that: buzz about this mysterious upgrade first came on our radars several years ago via preliminary demos and fuzzy projections for the future, but lately we’re seeing more articles about best practices for its use coming into place. HTML5 truly is becoming “cooked,” in developer parlance.

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Style vs Structure: the crossover mashup in documentation

I was listening to Steve Erquiaga’s Windham Hill version of Faure’s Pavane and noticed the poster’s comment that Steve is a Jazz and Classical crossover artist. It struck me that Steve’s seamless performance, blending styles in a single stream, is not unlike a mashup artist blending streams in a single style. Moreover, these techniques apply to writing appreciation as well as to music appreciation!

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Links, Likes, and the Social Document

The Implications are upon us! In the past month, I’ve seen a surge of discussion about the rising impact of social networks on the traditional habits of Web users. One of the most trending articles has been “The Web is Shrinking, Now What?” In it, Wetpaint founder Ben Elowitz noted the historical rise of Facebook visits against a declining trend of Google visits. While his comparison is not quite an apples to apples (one doesn’t linger to read at the domain, for example), Ben’s article does tease out some implications of this recent discourse for DITA users.

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The case for “simpler DITA” editors

I’ve been tracking the growing scope for “simpler DITA” editors for several years. I’m not surprised that the trend exists–I’ve helped encourage it, in fact. In her post on The devolution of DITA editors, Sarah O’Keefe asks, What is the case for what she calls babyDITA editors? Of course, I have an opinion.

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Posted in collaboration, DITA adoption, map editing, topic editing, Uncategorized, XML | 2 Comments

The Good Revolution: The Book is Dead!

I chuckled at Mark Baker’s recent post where he surmised that The Reader is the Enemy because I agreed that the cues he listed all do seem so damning (haven’t we all said or heard, “grab the reader” and “hold their attention”?).

While Mark reminds writers how we often speak of readers as enemies, there’s the comic strip character Pogo reminding us, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” And that’s a good thing because we ought to be self-policing our own work, being as critical about our craft as we presume our reader enemies to be, testing our products in their shoes, if that were at all possible. When we fail to empathize with our readers, we fail them. But there is more than this behind the tension between writers and readers.

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