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Subject: RE: [dita] who complains about complexity of DITA?
i'm afraid we may have caused some of this ruckus! We recently presented a session at DITA Europe focused on bringing DITA to the enterpirse at large. The presentation and our concept of "Simply DITA" has been extremely well received, even by some organizations who had previously turned away from DITA because of its perceived complexity. We are thrilled at the level of interest we have generated in DITA.
At Simply XML, we have been pushing the opportunity for DITA outside of Tech Pubs organizations. While we fully appreciate the elegance and scope of possibilities of DITA within large Tech Pubs organizations, we also see the potential for DITA to become a standard for single source publishing and multi-channel publishing across the enterprise at large. For this to happen organizations need to adopt both XML and topic-based authoring. DITA has great potential here, but many non-tech pubs organizations have evaluated DITA and found the realities of implementation to be too costly for the return involved.
To make DITA and enterprise standard, it needs to be embraced outside of Tech Pubs. For this to happen, tools and processes must be simple and business-oriented. We know that the milions of authors outside of Tech Pubs will not spend the time to learn all the complexities of DITA, nor will they embrace the powerful XML Editors. They want a better, easier way to author the content they are familiar with. They and their organizatons will not learn all the intracacies of DITA, only to determine and use an acceptable subset. They want smeoneo to decide for them and provide them with relevant tools and training..
It is our premise that implementing a subset of the DITA standard is an acceptable way for large, diverse organizations to (at least initiallly) embrace DITA and to achieve the required ROI to justify the investment beyond Tech Pubs. We further propose that the very large number of authors who generate structured and semi-structured content (polices and procedure, training materials, documentation from small groups, marketing materials and sales materials) will not find it cost effective to both learn about DITA and author with a traditional XML editor. These authors work in MS Word which may be as powerful as an XML, editor, but it is known and used.
So, we are helping our customers implement DITA from MS Word and aim to allow transparency of DITA and XML with Tech Pubs. This includes perfect round tripping from MS Word to the more complex DITA editors and back, when a Simplified DITA Schema is used. It includes one-way MS Word to DITA when elements beyond Topic, Task, Reference, Concept and DITA Map are needed. We are also suggesting that, for some applications, organizations would benefit by initially embracing only the DITA Topic.
Our customers are rapidly embracing what we call Simply DITA which is an XSD that permits the vast majority or even all Documentaiton, Policies and Procedures, Training materials, etc. to be authored with a subset of the DITA Standard. The Simply DITA schema is a subset of DITA the elements we feel are necessary to creat DITA Topics, DITA Tasks, DITA Concepts, DITA References, and DITa Maps. It is important for authors to understand the architecture behind their writing, but they are focused, not on the underlying standard and XML, but rather on the efficient generation of high quality content. As a tools vendor, having our cusotmers work with MS Word and the DITA stnadard is not as simple as using the schema with XMetaL, or Arbortext Editor, or FrameMaker 9. We are doing our best to hide the XML and DITA from the content creator, but to always generate Valid DITA. To do this, we are deep inside MS Word, controlling what the author can do at a number of levels.
We do not want to in any way hinder the work being done with DITA in larger or more technically focused work groups and we applaud the work being done by the DITA Committees. It is our hope that our DITA solution beyond Tech Pubs is complementary to this effort and we truly believe that the DITA standard will endure once entire organizations adopt it on a large scale.
Like most of you, we fully believe in the promise of DITA and want to do everything in our power to have it succeed as a very broad standard where similar historical effort in the SGML and DocBook world have failed.
We welcome your comments and input. I have enclosed an outline of the elements we have implemented with Simply DITA and a related White Paper.
From: Michael Priestley [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, December 06, 2010 9:16 AM
To: Bruce Nevin (bnevin)
Cc: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: [dita] who complains about complexity of DITA?
I'm also curious about this. Even before we had constraints, we had basic DITA modularity, which lets you include or exclude whole domains of elements at a time. And the doctypes we package with the spec do exactly that.
Simple number of elements in the spec as a whole shouldn't be a measure of complexity for either authors or architects, since you only include or work with the elements that matter for your domain. For example, the learning and training specializations don't increase complexity for authors or architects in basic tech comm.
So do we really have a complexity problem, that is it's too hard to use DITA or create new DITA specializations? Or do we have a communication problem, about how to use DITA (start small, include what you need, don't try to use stuff you don't need)? Or are there other problems, outside the domain of the spec, like customizing processing flows, that get reflected back on the spec even though it's really something outside our control?
I don't mean to dismiss complaints about complexity, but like you I think we need to understand the actual motivations/causes of the complaints before we can usefully react.
Michael Priestley, Senior Technical Staff Member (STSM)
Lead IBM DITA Architect
Are we entirely clear about the use contexts in which users find the number of elements onerous or confusing? Obviously, the authoring environment is one. But do architects also object? Do the tools vendors object? This seems less likely to me, but it's not something to guess, we should find out. And is that (the number of elements) the only complexity that they object to?
The constraints mechanism can neatly address the perceived complexity in the authoring environment. (Be it noted that existing mechanisms provided by [some?] authoring tools to hide elements from authors apparently do not reduce these complaints, maybe because the complaints come from users who don't make use of them.) But creating and managing constraints is another layer for architects and designers to deal with.
Simply DITA Schema Outline.docx