Posted on October 2016
Halloween is a fun holiday. It happens once a year. While there has often been historical discussion around evil and the banishing of evil spirits, Halloween is mostly a fun time for people of all ages. I do not want to minimize that there are scary things that happen on many levels to many people all year round. But Halloween is broadly a fun holiday late in the fall in the Northern Hemisphere. In an acknowledgement of the need for marital bliss, I have some interesting "things" that I only display around my house during the Halloween season.
Many of you know my Dachshund, Frank, who works as VP of Security and as my occasional Muse at Simply XML. He loves Halloween. Over the years, he has been an actual hot dog in a roll, a mummy, a professional football player, and more. This year he has a friend who has joined him to make some fun. Here is his new Halloween friend.
There's actually something that's a lot scarier than Halloween. It can happen all year round when organizations try to move the use of DITA beyond TechPubs. It has to do with well-intentioned technical staff or consultants who attempt to move DITA to the enterprise at the same level and on the same basis that they implemented DITA in TechPubs. They make the mistake to trying to add elements and functions of DITA that go far beyond the realistic needs of ROTO, the "Rest Of The Organization."
To TechPubs, DITA may be powerful, simple, and useful. It is relatively easy and even rewarding for technical staff to learn how to use a hundred or more elements and the nuances of implementation. They are usually comfortable with technical XML editors. These editors are powerful and can even be called easy to use, once you take the time to learn them and have a job function where you use them every day. To technical people, DITA is simple and the DITA logo is a great picture of this.
To ROTO, DITA seems very complex, expensive, and almost impossible to implement. The DITA 1.13 Specification is 455 pages long. There are 176 pages of explanation and almost 300 pages of descriptions. This can be scary stuff.
When you look below the surface, this one is really scary and it might come out at any time of the year. The following graphic shows most of the element categories and approximately how many elements are within each.
Our friends at Arconics in Europe have a name for this monster bird. They call it "FrankenDITA." FrankenDITA tries to come to life when technical people are solely leading the charge of implementing writing standards, content reuse, and multichannel publishing across an enterprise using DITA. They may fail to see the ease of use and simplicity required by other groups. And it is our observation that, in the absence of unlimited time and unlimited funds, this effort just doesn't fly.
FrankenDITA is not a Halloween treat!
At Simply XML we offer two standard document structures, Simply DITA and Simply Structured. Non-technical organizations who don't know XML look at Simply DITA and Simply Structure and almost universally choose to evaluate our Simply Structured document type. Among the last organizations that have approached us half have started with the blanket requirement, "We don't want DITA." Most often, we let them see a simplified version of DITA and it is just what they need.
While Simply DITA includes five basic structures, many of our customers can get the job done with DITA Topic and DITA Map only. We applaud the movement to Lightweight DITA, but our guard goes up with talk of specializations and authoring facilities like Markdown.
Our advice this Halloween and throughout the year is that, if you decide to use DITA ultimately as an enterprise content standard, schedule implementation in smaller chunks and Keep IT Simple, Smart-Person.