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Subject: Keith's Notes from the Seattle DITA Listening Session

Here are my notes from the Seattle session earlier this week. Am hoping Scott will make additions/changes/corrections as needed:

Seattle DITA Listening Session
January 24, 2017
In attendance:
Scott Hudson (Jeppeson), Anthony Apodaca (XEditor), Tracy Baker (F5 Networks), Clarissa Feist (Amazon)
Virtually: Joe Storbeck (JANA), Kathy Madison (ComTech), Kim Wickens (Paccar), Keith Schengili-Roberts (IXIASOFT)
Scott Hudson (Jeppeson)
- works at a large company (Boeing) but DITA is only used within small pockets in the company; there are 3 groups of maybe 3-4 people apiece who work with it, along with a few others who do their work using an older version of the DITA OT
- the language of aviation is English, so not a lot of content is being translated on the Boeing side, but on the Jeppeson side they work with pilots and have recently translated some content to Simplified Chinese; this will likely be followed by audiences for South America, and will likely see more for  this going forward
- work mainly with DITA 1.1 and some DITA 1.2; one group is looking to do DITA 1.3 at Boeing; Jeppeson works in DITA 1.3
- using oXygen 18.1
- Boeing is using DITA OT 1.8; Jeppeson is using 2.3, but hopes to move to a more recent version shortly
- content management is more of an issue, Jeppeson is using Subversion; Boeing is using an in-house CMS built on top of Alfresco, as they use S1000D as well
- what's worked well: biggest win in moving from unstructured frame to DITA, topic-based content is great for the audience of pilots who need info in a just-in-time environment
- Scott has spent a lot of time bringing people up to speed in terms of DITA training
- keyscopes are often over the heads of writers; if he can get them to use conrefs / keys it is useful 
- would like to see some help in terms of change management; what are the key use cases and set the business cases to help drive change that he can take to upper management?
- would also like to have more get-togethers with other DITA users to share the knowledge, perhaps also work more from the STC
- later mentioned that they spent 6 months in meetings to create and then implement Schematron rules that are used
Tracy Baker (tools and technologist at F5 Networks)
- been using DITA for 10 years
- starting in 2008 helped company move from Frame to structured authoring environment (DITA)
- "have to get rid of book brain" in the writers; also mentioned that it is easier for younger/new writers to work natively in DITA than those with experience in non-structured “book building”
- no translation except for some hardware that has to be translated into Simplified Chinese
- two years since they first started publishing in DITA, took 5 1/2 years to fully convert over to DITA/XML; flagshop product has 140 deliverables; old Perforce repository had 180,000 objects in it so they had a large volume to work with
- currently using DITA 1.2, and a very old version of the toolkit as the CCMS they are using has not kept pace
- have 35 writers total plus a few managers and are globally dispersed; with people in San Jose, Boulder, Tel Aviv, etc.
- mainly document hardware and software
- has been an oXygen user for 15 years
- all publication outputs used to be handled on her laptop at one time ;)
- is concerned that DITA doesn’t move fast enough, and feels like it is now falling behind; did not know how to change this 
- moving into XML has worked well, particularly in terms of reuse and selling componentized content, mostly built from conrefs
 - it is now easy to work with the marketing people, in that her team can easily gather info and package it up for them 
- tools are expensive
- she does all of the training for the team; this is expensive and it means she is not planning for the future
- DITA Users List on Yahoo is her lifeline; there's not much in the way of a DITA community here in Seattle
 - she is willing to put herself out there and pay it forward
- they chose not to specialize as she didn't want to stray from the specification; there are times when she would like to constrain things but she doesn’t have the time
- even if we could just templatize things that would be helpful
- not using L&T; have a large Training Group and they paled when they looked at DITA as they are not technical writers; currently they reverse-engineer the PDFs her group puts out for their own purposes
 - learning the technology has a steep learning curve
 - is aware of Markdown
 - there is a parallel XHTML and Markdown documentation process which by-passes DITA; for those using this process it is currently not cost-effective at the moment to bring DITA into the picture
- would like to round-trip to Confluence wiki
- frustrated by having PDF as default output tool as people still review based on style
- is hoping that DITA 2.0 will better handle the needs for documenting software code
Clarissa Feist - Sr. Information Systems Architect, Customer Service Global Knowledge Management at Amazon
- recently moved to digital device team
- have about 150-200 writers around the world
- produce help for the various retail sites in 12-20+ languages
- publications are help, which are published to the retail site, apps like Alexa,
- migrated help from HTML to DITA which was comprised of thousands of help pages; this took about a year to accomplish
- are using an older version of DITA (1.1)
- with migration to DITA were able to reduce time to launch from months to often the same day; now do simultaneous ship in various languages 
- use in-house publishing tools to publish the online help
- are using an old version of the SDL CCMS
- don’t have a lot of communication between the teams, so having a set workflow is not a strong requirement
- what's proven to be expensive are the third-party tools
- have had to implement lots of workarounds; many people started out not as tech writers but support people who only knew HTML
- not using constraints; she is the only IA for (external, customer-facing) help and they have another one for internal help
- currently use an old version of XMetaL for authoring
- would like to see new ways to move away from static help and move to string-based material for more conversational purposes, have thousands of strings that does not fit into a DITA architecture
- customers are less and less inclined to wade through the help pages, so customers are beginning to skip our content
- would also like to see more of an associative metadata model, in order to apply it in bulk after the content has been published
- need little pieces of DITA for the conversational format; full DITA topics are too heavy for what they would like
- we are planning to migrate to DITA 1.3 later this year; while we like the troubleshooting topic, want something more dynamic and conversational
- DITA doesn’t map very well to conversations
- one element request: in a code block there is no way to highlight what needs to change from one example to another; code highlighting would be a great addition

Kim Wickens - Knowledge Management Manager at Paccar
- just getting into DITA in her group, though other divisions in her firm have been using DITA for a while
- for our engines we have to submit a 2,600 page document to regulatory agencies in North America and Europe
- her team also writes tech docs for the software that monitor emissions
- big challenge is finding people with experience DITA, XSL, Information Architecture; it is hard to find people in Seattle who have actually worked with DITA: “now I look for people who I can train and who are open to learn” 
- she and one other person are learning DITA right now, plus some people in the Netherlands location
- group that is currently using IXIASOFT is in another division
- since we don't have a lot of experienced DITA writers, we will be leaning on content contributors to use the DITA CMS
- not planning to use any translations
- their current CCMS uses DITA 1.2 but they want to use DITA 1.3 so that they can incorporate MathML
- “unfortunately” will be heavily specializing due to their table data needing to be semantically marked up
- content reuse is at the element level rather than the topic level
- what would she like to see added to DITA? Would like to see a running change / diff to content added  
- are currently using oXygen 18
- would like to see a local DITA user group, would be nice if the local STC got more involved in that
DITA Usage Survey:
DITA 1.1 = 2
DITA 1.2 = 1
DITA 1.3 = 2
Specializations = 2
Constraints = 2 want to, 1 (Jeppeson) has ("would love to", "writers get overwhelmed by the [tagging] possibilities" "the job of being a writer using DITA is not easy")
Filtering = 3; also use otherprops a lot; want to be able to categorize and label the filters more easily
Branch filtering = no, one using SDL condition model? OR filtering needed (current is include/exclude)
Content libraries (conref/keyref libraries) = 2 are, 3 plan to
Keys = 2, 3 planning to
Troubleshooting = 1 yes, 1 plan, 3 no
Release management = 1 yes, 3 plan (internally), 1 no
MathML = 1 yes, 4 no
Translation = 2 yes, 2 no
Linking videos = 2 (hack/workaround), 3 (no)
Learning and Training = 3 no, 1 maybe, 1 yes
Machinery task = 5 no
Hazard statement = 2 yes, 3 no
Highlight element constraints = 1 yes, 1 would like to, 3 no
Separate DITA vocabulary release schedule? = 5
DITA 4 Publishers = 2 aware (none in production), 3 no
Dynamic Publishing = 2 researching




Keith Schengili-Roberts
Market Researcher and DITA Evangelist
825 Querbes, Suite 200, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H2V 3X1
tel  + 1 514 279-4942  /  toll free + 1 877 279-4942 

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