DITA 2007 Conference Observations …

The DITA 2007 conference took place last week at Raleigh NC. It wasn’t quite as big this time as it was the last time it was held in Raleigh; that’s probably because there was a DITA West version on the West coast back in February. But it was still a very interesting conference, with a mix of newbies and those who have been using DITA for a year or two. A couple of observations:

There is an increasing push to postion DITA as an approach for component-based authoring for any kind of content, and not just technical documentation. This will be interesting as DITA looks like a help-system and is easiest to understand in the tech-docs world. But, you can use DITA to document anything you want.

A lot of people still do not understand the value of specialization. I heard a couple of comments like “I don’t understand why anyone would specialize.” They don’t understand why, because they probably don’t need to for their situation. But for others, there can be real advantages to specialization … I’ve blogged about this before.

On the other hand, vendors are starting to pick up on the need to provide more support for specialization. Well, at least a couple of them are. This is an area of DITA support that I have found lacking in tools for a long time.

One vendor, who serves the publishing world, has been working on their support for DITA specialization. (While I got lots of detail from the vendor rep on the plans and a demo of an in-development version, I’ll hold off on the vendor name until they publish more product detail.) Their pitch is that loading anyone else’s specialized DITA topics into your system should be a matter of a couple of button clicks. It’s based on a business scenario of sharing content that is not so common in tech. docs (except for acquisitions where you need to take over someone else’s content), but is very common in publishing. The demo I got was pretty cool and very realistic. It will be interesting to see how the product evolves as it reaches a shippable state.

Another vendor talked about the ability to create specialized DTDs — in other words do the actual specialization work through programmatic means. I expect to find out more about that in the next couple of weeks.

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