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Unstructured information can be all of these things, but it can also be poorly written, out-of-date, and unruly to manage.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

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.