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Subject: RE: [dita] Audience of the arch spec

I like JoAnn’s suggestion of a readable overview to the functionality followed by the technical details. Unless someone writes a comparable document in “user speak” DITA remains inaccessible. This could be a job of the greater community and certainly offers book opportunities, but a short overview would certainly aid in dissemination of information.


From: Michael Priestley [mailto:mpriestl@ca.ibm.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 01, 2009 11:12 AM
To: Joann Hackos
Subject: Re: [dita] Audience of the arch spec


We already have a crisp definition of the audience:

  • The intended audience of the architectural specification is not a typical author or end user; the intended audience is people designing tools that work with DITA. Such people need to understand how the core elements of the DITA architecture work together. While the architectural specification is not intended to provide step-by-step instructions, it needs to contain enough topics that describe the overall flow, so that tools vendors 1) will understand how people will use DITA, and 2) will be able to properly implement the standard as intended ("spirit not just letter of the law.")

There are always going to be places where the spec needs to be geeky. One of the comments logged against DITA 1.0 as I recall was that the description of how conref worked was horribly complicated, and would scare users off, and that actually conref was really simple to use. (Which hopefully it is, precisely because all that complexity is implemented by the geeks who have to read that section).

If the learning and training spec is directed at users, rather than implementers, that may actually be a problem for it. Docs directed at users have different concerns from docs directed at implementers (you can afford to be blurry about the line between can/should for users - not so for implementers). I say this from my own experience, adapting the DITA users guide I wrote for internal IBM users into the first draft of the DITA spec aimed at external implementers.

If you read the sections on conref, specialization, etc. from the perspective of a user, they will be horribly unusable. But if we modified those sections to make them end-user friendly, we would render them horribly unusable for their actual intended audience: the programmers who will implement the behavior for those end-users.

Michael Priestley, Senior Technical Staff Member (STSM)
Lead IBM DITA Architect


Joann Hackos <joann.hackos@comtech-serv.com>


DITA TC <dita@lists.oasis-open.org>


10/01/2009 11:00 AM


[dita] Audience of the arch spec


Hi All,
I continue to be concerned about our definition of the audience of the arch spec. We seem to have two camps: the XML geeks and the user community advocates. Certainly, the Adoption TC needs to direct explanations to the user community, but does the arch spec need to be so completely obtuse?

In fact, it is quite schizophrenic. Read the Learning and Training arch spec. It’s actually in plain language and speaks to the user community. Compare that with some of the other sections, which should communicate to a broad audience. Each section of the arch spec should have a user-friendly introductory explanation of the feature (at least).

It seems that we are getting to sound more and more like software developers who insist that the users know what wonderful, magical work they did in creating the software. Makes the documentation unusable.

Just ranting, of course.

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