Meeting: DITA and Drupal — the “Dynamic Duo”

Anna van Raaphorst and Dick Johnson (the Dynamic Duo!) presented an update to their work on developing “mash-up” websites using DITA and Drupal. We had a good turnout for both in-house and virtual attendees.

» Presentation (PPT)

The presentation was a discussion and demonstration of three of our rich-text, model websites:

What motivated us to create the model websites?

We kept hearing this story over and over again from our clients. Does it sound familiar to you?
As the owner, manager, or creator of technical information, youíre constantly trying to figure out how best to achieve accurate, useful, and accessible information solutions of high business value to your clients and customers. You also worry a lot about how to take advantage of the best standards, tools, and publishing environments available, and how to do it all on a shrinking budget.

In particular, you want the information you produce to be of professional quality, accurate, and essential. You would like to offer it to your users in print, on the web, and on multiple popular devices.

Structured information written to the DITA or DocBook standard often demonstrates these characteristics. However, depending on the experience level of the professional staff, the published result may fall short in solving your users’ day-to-day problems, and it may be expensive to produce.

Yes, you also want your information to be relevant, popular, and accessible. How could you attract some sharp subject matter experts (SMEs) willing to share their “in-the-trenches” knowledge as an altruistic endeavor? And wouldn’t it be nice if they were also capable writers and more than willing to update the information over time?

Unstructured information can be all of these things, but it can also be poorly written, out-of-date, and unruly to manage.

Is it possible to achieve ALL of the objectives with NONE of the common problems?

We created our model websites with this goal in mind. We decided to call our solutions “information mashups,” because they contain both structured and unstructured information that is collocated and is displayed to users as a content “collection.”

After about a year into this project we believe that this kind of DITA/Drupal content solution offers exciting and compelling possibilities, and we are pleased to share our thoughts and also learn from your experiences.

What questions will be answered in the presentation?

  • On which publishing platforms did we prototype our solutions, and how did they compare?
  • How did we develop our Drupal sites into mature models?
  • What are the key DITA and Drupal 7 features that we believe have contributed the most to our information solutions?
  • How could you make use of our models and lessons learned to build your own publishing solutions using DITA and Drupal?

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:  (WordPress) and (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 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

A model DITA on Drupal web site

We have just published our DITAinformationcenter on a Drupal 7 web site. It contains information about DITA and the DITA Open Toolkit at the 1.2 standard level. Now that we have published it on Drupal, you can search the topics by metadata tags or text and you can also see how to combine formal structured documentation with informal blog posts on a single site and at a reasonable cost.

Dick and Anna

Meeting: DITA/Web Mashups

Anna van Raaphorst and Dick Johnson lead a very interesting discussion about techniques for leveraging DITA content on websites. Dick has created a Python script that “publishes” DITA content into two different web CMS systems, WordPress and Drupal. This content is treated as the “reference” material, and once published it appears as integrated content on the website. They have two different websites that make use of this technology ..

Handout: DITAmashups_20110209.pdf

Scott Prentice mentioned that he had implemented a method for exporting DITA content from a WordPress website. This was used to create a book honoring a retiring professor. Past students were informed about the website and they contributed comments to the WordPress blog. Scott was then able to export all of the comments (including pictures and formatting) to a single DITA file that was opened in FrameMaker, where it was then exported to PDF. The PDF was sent to to create a small hardbound book as a present for the professor.