Looking for DITA/Drupal Volunteer Opportunity

Would one of your DITA-based, structured projects benefit from being published along with related, unstructured content as an information mashup on a Drupal-based website? Do you have the time and energy to participate in such a project on a short-term basis?

Dick and I are interested in working on a volunteer basis (no cost to you) on such a content-rich solution. We would like to start the project by mid-August and complete it by the end of September.

To see what we mean by “DITA/Drupal mashup” see our model sites: www.XMLdocs.info  (WordPress) and www.DITAinfo.info (Drupal). Some of our blogs on those sites explain our vision, and you can click through the structured and unstructured information (the information domain is DITA itself).

Benefits to you: (1) Opportunity to experiment on a project you judge to have future business value (2) Opportunity to take advantage of all we have learned so far on these kinds of projects.

Benefits to us: (1) Opportunity to expand our knowledge and skill in this area (2) Opportunity to better understand client requirements and preferences.

If you are interested in exploring the possibilities, please contact us at 408-832-4212 or avanraaphorst@gmail.com. This is a one-time offer to an organization with the right profile and the ability to act quickly.

-Anna van Raaphorst and Dick Johnson

Start Thinking Like a CCO (Notes)

The November meeting of SVDIG was held Wednesday November 10 at 7:00pm at Dell KACE, 1981 Landings Drive, Mountain View, CA. Presenting were Cynthia Canino and Tim Bombosch of Astoria Software (a Windows-based, object-oriented content repository). Approximately 25 people attended.

The talk was very interactive, with many audience members asking questions and participating in the discussion, especially to debate the appropriate metrics of the ROI calculator.

Cynthia and Tim began by stating that the title of “Chief Content Officer (CCO)” is a common title in the broadcast industry (in which “content” has high acknowledged value) but is rare in high technology. They suggested that content should (or DOES) have higher value in the technological realm, and that exploring and surfacing the value is in the best interest of both users and content producers.

According to Cynthia and Tim, some of the important values that drive CCOs are efficiency, branding, quality, compliance, and revenue.

The last part of the meeting consisted of a run-through of a spreadsheet set up to calculate ROI resulting from a typical move from unstructured (and unmanaged) content to structured (and well managed).

-Anna van Raaphorst

Release 6.0 of DITAinformationcenter (a free DITA resource)

Release 6 of DITAinformationcenter was published today.

This version of our free DITA information and modeling resource supports DITA Open Toolkit 1.5.1 (final build) and the DITA 1.2 language standard (still to be approved).

New features include:

  • We have eliminated the code distribution. We recommend that you install the DITA Open Toolkit instead.
  • We have added topics on how we automated the creation of DITA files to document WSDLs (web services) using a Python script.
  • We have added topics on using Python code to do machine translation using Google Translate and Microsoft Translator (Bing).
  • We have added information on using Simplified English to improve the quality of translated content.
  • We are providing sample translations in Spanish and German of the garage and grocery shopping samples done using Google Translate and Microsoft Translator.

You can download the DITAinformationcenter from either vrcommunications.com resources page or xmldocs.info, which has been converted to a WordPress site.

-Anna and Dick

Meeting: DITA without a CMS, Ben Colborn (Citrix)

Business: Remote access and virtualization, infrastructure products

Organization: Training (also Technical Publications)

Objectives: Temporarily add to functionality of XMetaL and the DITA Open Toolkit, eventually purchase a CMS to handle the same tasks (they have since moved to DocZone)

Requirements, Issues: Automate edit/review of training material, translate into multiple languages, PPT a required target, SCORM package required, search and link management issues

Key Tools: XMetaL, svn, custom tools produced in-house by Ben and others

Sample Custom Solutions: Excel/VBA macros, script to create stub topics to get writers started, search facility using JEdit, script to build SCORM package, semi-automatic transformation to PPT from DITA source

Sample Challenges: Customizing PDF output, multi-volume books, SCORM requirements, instructor requirement to use PPT

Possible Future Challenges or Barriers to Reuse: Training and publications departments are now using different CMSs (DocZone on Alfresco and Astoria)

Conclusions: You don’t need $1 million in tools to achieve some of the key CMS functionality required/useful in a DITA environment. What you learn doing custom tool production will help you choose the right commercial CMS when that opportunity presents itself.

Free Resource: Fifth Edition of DITAinformationcenter (DITA 1.2, Toolkit 1.5.1)

Hi, All —
Dick Johnson and I have just released the fifth edition (publishing date June 30, 2010) of our DITAinformationcenter code distribution, documentation, and DITA project sample source files, available at:

This release focuses on DITA 1.2 features and DITA Open Toolkit 1.5.1 (final build).
The code distribution contains:
– DITA Open Toolkit 1.5.1 (final build)
– PHP interpreter 5.1.4
– A number of PHP debugging and reporting tools (also available in prior editions)
– A new Python repair tool (DITArepair) that fixes bad references (for example, if files have been moved and links broken) and also serves as an example of how Python can be used effectively in the XML/DITA environment
The documentation contains several DITA 1.2 features:
– Extensions to conref, conaction pushreplace: A Python script run in a preprocessing step to put keywords into shortdescriptions, both keywords present in the topic itself and also those keywords “inherited” from container topics
– Keyref: The values for publisher, copyright, and vrm version now have a single definition in a resource topics (instead of being defined separately in each topic)
– Coderef element: We have replaced some of the inline code examples with coderef elements that point to items in a code directory
Information describing how we implemented the 1.2 features are described in one of the topics (published as an appendix in the PDF output target).
Other documentation features:
– Added a section on trends in global communication and why DITA helps to solve some of the current challenges
– Information about our recommended DITAworkflow methodology based on the agile software development process
– New localization and translation topics and core vocabulary items
Sample DITA projects:
– As before, our grocery shopping and garage samples (garage is an expension of the garage sample available with the Toolkit)
– The current DITAinformationcenter source files, possibly useful as a model project of moderate size (350 topics) and complexity, and for testing processing tools. It contains a wide variety of DITA features, both from 1.2 and prior standards.
As always, comments are welcome. We hope the resource is useful to members of the DITA community.
-Anna and Dick

Meeting: WebHelp, Eric Armstrong

Eric Armstrong, Treelight Enterprises
eric at treelight dot com

When? Where?
June 9, 2010 at NetApp

Context-sensitive WebHelp using a “preview feature” in XMetaL

No user download required

Uses Javascript, XMetaL target (beta code)
Some customization required

Features (Pros)
Collapsible TOC
Index, search, browse
Print (but only single topic)

Does not launch if WebHelp already open
Links work (go to appropriate page), but framework not operational
XMetaL IDs are long and complex; Eric created his own unique IDs

For More Information

Tutorial by Su-Laine Yeo of JustSystems: http://forums.xmetal.com

Presentation: http://www.treelight.com/dita/CS_WebHelp.ppt

The demo page, to launch the CS help: http://www.treelight.com/dita/cs_webhelp/