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February 15, 2018

Full transcript of LearningDITA Live 2018 podcast

00:03 Gretyl Kinsey: Welcome to the Content Strategy Experts podcast, brought to you by Scriptorium. Since 1997, Scriptorium has helped companies manage, structure, organize and distribute content in an efficient way. In Episode 23, we discuss LearningDITA Live 2018. Hello and welcome to the Content Strategy Experts podcast. I’m Gretyl Kinsey, and I’m agoing to technical consultant at Scriptorium.

00:28 Alan Pringle: And I’m Alan Pringle, I am COO at Scriptorium.

00:32 GK: And today we’re going to be talking about a special event that we have coming up very soon, which is LearningDITA Live 2018. I wanted to just start out by talking about what this event actually is and what all you can get out of it.

00:46 AP: Sure, this event is a free web event. It is an extension of our site. For those of you who don’t know about that, has free courses that tell you the ins and outs of the Darwin Information Typing Architecture, that’s an XML Specification, and it’s used a lot particularly for technical information, training information and even more and more things like marcom. What we’re doing is extending the whole web based classroom sort of thing, the web based course thing into a live event. It is web based. It’s what, the 26th of February through March the 1st, I believe.

01:34 GK: Yes. So the event takes place February 26th through March 1st. There are going to be sessions going on on each of those days from 10:00 AM to noon, and then there’ll be a little break and then more sessions from 01:00 PM to 03:00 PM. It’s a four day event and it’s basically kind of a mini web conference and e-learning live web based event all rolled into one. It does extend on those courses. What we’ve offered so far on are a basic survey of using DITA. We talk about what DITA is, how you author and create content in DITA, and we’ve gone a little bit into reuse and publishing as well. What this event is designed to do is take that a little bit further and cover some topics that we don’t have on as of yet.

02:27 AP: Right. And I think one thing to really point out, in addition to giving presentations, and it’s not just Scriptorium folks doing this, we’ve got several DITA experts from some of the sponsors of the website. We have corporate sponsors and from some of our colleagues in the industry. This is not just Scriptorium and I want to make that very clear. There are also some case studies in here. It’s very hard to translate a case study in the course format, but we have some presentations that explain how people have implemented DITA and how that has benefited them. If you’re looking for some really real world how does this work information, you’re going to have some case studies here that will give you that. You’re actually doing one of those case studies yourself Gretyl.

03:12 GK: I am. I’m doing a case study and we’ve actually had a podcast about this that we’ll link to in the show notes. I’m presenting a case study with Laura Meyer Vega of the American Joint Committee on Cancer. We did this session at LavaCon and this is going to be our first time presenting it online as well. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to do it again. It’s a case study, it’s called Faster Content, Better Healthcare. It’s about a particular DITA implementation that’s had some really good impact on cancer diagnostics. It’s a project that we did with the AJCC last year, and we’ve now kind of this year, as they’ve put forth an API where they’ve used DITA to tag all of their content and make it available through API, we’ve now gone and started presenting a case study on that information. That’s going to be one of the sessions that’s included in Learning DITA Live.

04:05 AP: You’re not going to get much more real world than cancer, unfortunately. If you have not heard that podcast episode, Gretyl will link it in the show links, I highly recommend it. It is very interesting. I’m really proud that we’ve been part of that project and I think what they’re doing at the AJCC is so vital. DITA is not just for techcom, [chuckle] I think that’s really important to realize and this is a good example of that.

04:29 GK: Exactly. That’s why I wanted to also ask who all can benefit from attending these sessions? ‘Cause like you said, it’s not just people in techcom, that it’s all sorts of people, right?

04:40 AP: Right. We’re seeing more and more convergence, you’re hearing this word a whole lot in the content industries, where all of these barriers, some of which are artificial, between techcom and marcom and training and support are really starting to break down. So you’re not having all this siloing of information, you’re starting to share information and write things once and use it across all of those groups. We have some sessions that are going to touch on that. For example, if you’re in marcom, DITA can be very useful to you. And a lot of people think, “Oh, marcom they don’t want to use XML editors,” etcetera, etcetera, and that is to a very high degree the truth. They don’t. They use tools such as InDesign. Well, there are ways to suck DITA content into InDesign and have it flow in beautifully formatted and virtually ready to go. Our coworker, Jake Campbell I believe, is doing a session on how you can pair DITA and InDesign and give you some information on how that whole process works. And it actually does work, I’ve seen it.

05:52 GK: It does. We actually did a podcast about that topic as well. This session’s going to expand on that. If you’ve listened to that podcast or read any of our blog posts about it, then you’ll definitely want to check out that session and kind of get a much better idea of how that actually works.

06:08 AP: I think another aspect that’s important to realize, this is also good if you are in management and you’re trying to figure out ways to make your content process more efficient. We have sessions that will help you get a handle on DITA basics, what it’s for. Actually, you’re doing that one too.

06:30 GK: I am, yes. [chuckle]

06:30 AP: I think it’s the first session of the entire event.

06:32 GK: It is. The very first session is just an overview of DITA and if you’ve never used DITA before, you can go to that session and then you’ll be less lost for everything else. That will kind of be the way to get your feet wet and it kind of is analogous to our introductory course on DITA.

06:50 AP: And to kind of add on to that, we also have Sarah O’Keefe presenting on making a business case for DITA. That’s also important, whether you’re in the trenches doing the writing or if you’re the manager helping to present to upper management, “We need funding for this.” It will give you a kind of baseline or background, however you want to say it, into the key particulars you’re going to need to demonstrate the value of how this is going to help your organization so you can get that funding to do an implementation. So it’s not just how-to about DITA at this event. There’s also case studies that we’ve just mentioned. There’s some big picture business development type things. So it is not just all in the weeds tech, because no implementation is going to succeed when you’re looking just at the tech. You have to look at the bigger picture and we’re presenting all sides of a DITA implementation here.

07:52 GK: Exactly. One of the things that we have been stressing a lot about this event is that we offer beginner, intermediate, and advanced level sessions and we cover a wide range of topics, so that really no matter how you’re coming into DITA or what your need for learning it is, there’s going to be something in this event for you. I know another group of people who may benefit is people who are kind of just starting off their careers or maybe who are even still students. We have a session from Dr Carlos Evia from Virginia Tech and he has a really unique perspective because he actually has been teaching DITA to a lot of his students. And we had some interns on last year as well who were students of his, and I got to kind of go up there, talk to them, and get an idea of how people are actually learning about DITA before they get out into the real world, which is really interesting. And so this event may help people in that situation too, especially if you don’t have a program like Dr Evia’s where you’re going to be learning it in school. If you want to learn this stuff on your own this may be a really good starting point.

09:02 AP: Yes. My hat is off to him, because a lot of times, from what I’ve seen, a lot of curriculum… A lot of curricula. I will be using the correct plural there. They focus on oftentimes theory and not so much get into the particulars, and I think it’s very important to get a firm grounding what’s really going on, to get some of that nitty gritty, and DITA is really now a big part of the techcom world. So I think it’s really great that his students are seeing that perspective.

09:33 GK: I agree. And I know that this is something that’s come up in a lot of discussions lately for me at conferences and other things, but as people get out into the real world and need these skills, there’s not really a basis of where to get started in DITA. And that’s kind of what we’re trying to do with the Learning DITA project and in particular also with this event. But it’s very important, I think, more and more so as technology evolves, to kind of really get ahead of where your career path is going, and do as much self education and proactive learning as you can. And I think this event is definitely a step in the right direction for that.

10:19 AP: I know a lot of people just do not have budgets for travel, much less conferences. This event is free, it is web-based. So we are trying to reach out to people whose employers, or maybe you’re self employed and just do not have the funds, which is completely understandable, this is a way to get some of that conference goodness without making an enormous financial investment.

10:47 GK: Absolutely. We talked a little bit, I talked a little bit about the sessions I’m doing, but I wanted to ask you, Alan, about the session you’re presenting and what all’s going to be involved in that one.

10:58 AP: Sure. We keep talking about the real world and DITA and that’s quite a bit what my session’s about. My session is on managing DITA projects in the real world. I have managed quite a few DITA projects and helped companies implement over the past few years, and I’ve rolled all of that information up into a presentation that touches on not just the tech, and I mentioned this earlier. A DITA implementation or any kind of implementation is not just about the technology. It is not just about the tools. You really have to think about soft skills, change management, things like that. If you buy the best tools in the world that are a beautiful fit for what you need, yet you don’t train people on how to use them, you’ve just thrown away a tremendous amount of money. So you have to look at all the various facets of a project, and that includes keeping people updated, and it’s not just the writers. You need to talk to your IT Department because they are going to be managing the tools. You need to talk to upper management because they have the money. So there is this enormous… A lot of times an enormous lack of attention on the soft skill aspect, and part of my presentation is, “Look at all these various things that you have to think about and don’t just focus on buying a tool, because that is not a DITA implementation.”

12:23 GK: Exactly, and it’s really, really easy for a DITA implementation to take a different direction or go off in two different areas than you anticipated, exactly because of those soft skills issues. So for example, if you’ve got things like mergers or acquisitions that happen, if you have even just something like an internal conflict between two departments or even two people, something like that can veer your DITA implementation off the rails a little bit if you’re not careful. So knowing how those real world elements might affect things is good to think about that upfront so you can get a handle on it when it happens. And I say “when” not “if” because it will happen.

13:04 AP: Absolutely, and I think some of the case studies, I’m back on that again, are going to show you some real world applications of DITA. So you’re going to get both this is how we apply the tech, and then with my session and probably a few others, the more project management, change management aspects that are vital to the success too, so you’re going to see all sides of DITA here.

13:31 GK: We’ve talked a little bit about what sorts of people may be interested in this event. And I wanted to get your perspective also on what you think people are going to get out of it the most. So what do you think are going to be the big take-aways?

13:45 AP: I’m hoping they’re going to get a well-rounded view of DITA. Not just techcom and not just tool-based. There is a little bit of everything in here. Once again, case studies, which I think are so important. And really, I think conferences in general now really understand the importance of case studies because they show real life applications of whatever tech there may be. And it doesn’t really matter what level you are. I think that’s something we really need to drive home here. We’ve touched on it a little. Whether you have had some experience with DITA or not, there are going to be sessions here that will probably be helpful to you regardless of your level of knowledge right now.

14:28 GK: Exactly. I think that if you’re coming into this as a completely new person to DITA, what you’ll get out of it is a better understanding of how DITA works and whether it may or may not be a good fit for either your company, your department, or maybe a skill for yourself to learn in your career. And I think if you’re coming at it from more of a… Already have some background knowledge or maybe you’re even at expert level, there is still all kinds of things you are going to learn such as from those case studies, lessons learned from DITA implementations. And then when it comes to those advanced sessions that we’re offering such as when we mentioned with InDesign, you may learn some unique or different applications of DITA that you haven’t thought about before even if you’ve been using it for a while. So I think there really is something that everyone can get out of this event.

15:21 AP: Yeah, it’s very easy to get stuck on your own track and get kind of put blinders on, and we’re bringing lots of different people into this to give different perspectives. And I think that’s always vital when you’re talking about any kind of technology.

15:35 GK: So speaking of technology, what is the tech like behind this event and how does that all work?

15:42 AP: Okay, is a WordPress site. We have a WordPress-based LMS, Learning Management System, and they’re called LearnDash. So for this event, we thought it would make sense to just keep everything in WordPress so we didn’t have another thing we would have to maintain. And I don’t know how many of you out there are WordPress users, but I am constantly amazed. There are plug-ins available for practically every single use you can think of.

16:16 GK: Yes there are. [chuckle]

16:17 AP: That people have developed and offer for free. And we found a WordPress plug-in for handling conferences where we create the sessions, we created the speaker list, and it all put it together very nicely for us. And then, as far as the actual tech for the event, we are using GoToWebinar and there are plug-ins that help integrate the registration for GoToWebinar directly into the site. So we have basically done that. So it’s a WordPress thing, all of it.

16:45 GK: Yeah. And for those of you who are going to attend… I know, you may or may not be able to get to all of the sessions, so we wanted to make sure to let you know we are going to be recording all of the sessions. So if you’re only able to make it to some or if you really want to see them all but you’re not able to make it to any of them, as long as you register, those recordings will be there and will be available to you.

17:07 AP: Right. We tried to schedule this timezone-wise to accommodate everybody at least a somewhat reasonable hour that’s unfortunately next to impossible in this global environment that we live in now. So we know that and we also know that you have real work you have to do. So we are going to record as many of the sessions as we can and we will be posting them so you can catch up on the things that you were unable to see later on after we post those recordings.

17:38 GK: And how can people register for Learning DITA Live?

17:42 AP: Go to There. And If you’ll look at the main navigation, you’re going to see a Learning DITA Live 2018 menu item up in the top navigation. Click on that and you will go to the registration page. We will also put that link in the show notes, so you’ll see that there. But like I said, go to and look for the Learning DITA Live 2018 link in the top navigation.

18:10 GK: And registration is completely free, and all you have to do is register once, and you get access to all of those sessions across all four days. So it’s really quick and easy. Minimal effort to sign up, and then you get all these great sessions out of it.

18:25 AP: Yeah. And it’s free, as we’ve already said. And we’re hoping that everybody finds at least some of the content useful for what you need for your particular situation.

18:38 GK: Thank you for listening to the Content Strategy Experts podcast. For more information, visit or check the show notes for relevant links.