Thursday Dec 04, 2008

Information Architecture and Planning

JoAnn Hackos' course on "Minimalism" (user-centric, task-focused documentation) had useful guidelines for information architecture design. That topic-tracking tables she showed us became the foundation for the approach I now use. They made it possible to organize my work and keep track of what I was doing.[Read More]

Wednesday Dec 03, 2008

Creating Topics: Where do you Draw the Line?

It's hard to look at a page of text and try to decide where to divide things to create individual topics. That "bottom up" approach is kind of pointless, in fact. There are better ways.

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Tuesday Oct 14, 2008

DITA OT Customization

This paper outlines a course given by Adena Frazier of Suite Solutions--a course which is highly recommended for anyone who wants to get the most of the OT. This paper outlines the most important processes, but it leaves out many of the details, tips, and debugging notes that were included in the course. Note, too, that errors easily could have crept in, and some details are bound to change for later versions of the toolkit. (We used version 1.4.1) So it makes a lot of sense to take the course, even if you find the outline useful.[Read More]

Monday Oct 06, 2008

Modular Docs Part 2: DITA vs. DocBook

This is the second in a two-part series. Part 1 describes the motivations for modular documentation. Part 2 zeros in on the reasons for choosing DITA.

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Modular Docs Part 1: Why You Want Modular, Topic-Oriented Documentation

This is the first in a two-part series. Part 1 describes the motivations for modular documentation. Part 2 zeros in on the reasons for choosing DITA.

[Read More]

Tuesday Jul 01, 2008

My Apache WebDAV/Windows Nightmare

Subversion is WebDAV-ready. Cool! "Just enable WebDAV in Apache". Riiigght... Like it was really that simple! But even after you get it working, there are problems: DreamWeaver's synchronization mechanisms leave a lot to be desired, and XMetaL access depends on mapping a drive in Windows--a mechanism that simply doesn't work--unless you manage to get SSL working in your WebDAV server, so you can make an https connection (something I never managed to do in Apache).


  • Initial Installation
  • Access Path Issues
  • Browsing Issues
  • DreamWeaver's Synchronization Model
  • XMetaL's Dependency on Windows
  • Conclusion

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Monday Apr 28, 2008

My Experience with Daisy: Installation and First Use

I'm still a fan of the functionality that Daisy has implemented. But after having played with it for a bit, it seems to be somewhat less than optimal with respect to error handling and documentation.[Read More]

Sunday Apr 13, 2008

Daisy: WYSIWYG Wiki for PDF Books

If you need the collaborative aspects of a Wiki combined with DITA's modular topics and publishing capabilities, then DAISY might just be the system you need--and it's free. DAISY provides WYSIWYG editing for Wiki pages that can be combined to publish books, either in a PDF or as a single HTML page.


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The Value of Semantic Tags

So what's wrong with using <b>, <i>, and <tt>, anyway? What's so useful about identifying things as menu items, , or filenames? Here's the list of reasons that surfaced at the recent 2008 DITA/CMS Conference. What are your thoughts? [Read More]

Highlights of the 2008 DITA CMS Conference

The 2008 DITA CMS Conference was informative, educational, and in many cases surprising.  My personal highlights include Daisy, DITAStorm, WebWorks ePublisher, and more...

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SVDIG Notes: AirHelp and DITA File Names

Notes from the March meeting of the Silicon Valley DITA Interest Group, covering AirHelp and DITA naming conventions.[Read More]

Saturday Mar 01, 2008

DITA Production Maps -- A Proposal

The DITA topic hierarchy that goes into a production system invariably does not match the desired hierarchy of documents coming out of it. And in any mixed-document system where not all docs are in the DITA format, it is invariably the case that xrefs to external documents need to resolve to different locations when documents are published in different contexts. They may require absolute links in some contexts, but be able to use relative links in others--but the relative location may change, depending on context.

This post contains a proposal for production maps. The goal is to control link generation at production time, automatically insert xrefs at authoring time, and automate link management in Content Management Systems when document names and locations change.

Since it touches the DITA standard itself, and all aspects of the tools ecosystem that surrounds that standard, any attempt at implementation will require a significant amount of time. (In the process, the proposal will undoubtedly undergo significant modification, as well.) But at this point, I don't see any alternative that will successfully divorce the output hierarchy--and link resolution--from the input hierarchy.

[Read More]

Monday Feb 11, 2008

Structured Document Formats, Part II

After writing, Are Structured Docs Really Necessary?, I was asked:
> Having written up that interesting discussion, what is your gut feeling at this time?
> If you had to make an authoring recommendation to a group to make life easier
> going forward, what would it be?
Well, I found myself going back and forth, as you can tell. That post reflected two weeks of thoughts that kept surfacing after a particularly stimulating discussion. This post is an attempt to come up with an answer.[Read More]

Saturday Feb 09, 2008

Do We Really Need Structured Document Formats? (Is Real Reuse Possible?)

Do we really need structured document formats? In one meeting, every reason we came up with that made them seem necessary, was answered by a convincing counter argument. "Reuse" would seem to be the most important reason. And maybe there are some compelling cases. But  maybe all-out reuse isn't needed. Maybe we really only need a very restricted form that solves those cases.

This post summarizes the arguments we considered. Do they demolish the case for structured documents and reuse in a highly fluid setting like the software industry? Are they wrong in some important respect? Or do they overlook some vitally important point that makes structured document formats irreplacable?

You be the judge. And please let us know. We really want to know.[Read More]

Monday Jan 14, 2008

Towards a Coherent Voting Advice System

Get the voting advice you need, when you need it, all in one place! The parts are all in place. We just need to bring them together.[Read More]

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