Elizabeth Patterson: 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.
E. Patterson: In episode 51, we talk with vendors at the CMS DITA North America Conference about how they have seen DITA evolve during their time in the industry. This is part two of a two-part podcast.
E. Patterson: Hi, I am Elizabeth Patterson and I am joined today with Gretyl Kinsey.
Gretyl Kinsey: Hello.
E. Patterson: We are going to do a couple highlights from the DITA North America Conference. We took the time to interview some people about their experiences with DITA, trends that they’ve seen with DITA. So, in full disclosure, you will hear some background noise because we did record these during the actual conference.
E. Patterson: We are joined with Ulrike Parson. Hi Ulrike.
Ulrike Parson: Hi.
G. Kinsey: We wanna talk to you about a few DITA related things so, my first question is what role does DITA play in your work and how has that changed throughout your career?
U. Parson: DITA is part of our consulting project, so we help clients in Germany or in Europe in general to get from unstructured content to structured content, and DITA is always one option that we consider in the consulting project. So it has a big part in the consulting branch that we have, and it has increased actually the use of DITA, especially for people who do not work with a CCMS.
G. Kinsey: What kinds of trends have you observed in the way people are using DITA? I also want to kind of get into some of the differences that maybe you’ve seen and how those trends work in the U.S. versus in Germany or kind of throughout Europe in general.
U. Parson: In the U.S., there is no question whether you use DITA or not. In Germany that’s a big question. So, when you go for a CCMS, that doesn’t mean you go for DITA, it means you just pick a system which works with XML under the hood, but not necessarily DITA. So that is the biggest difference. So, when German machinery manufacturers or others use or want to use a CCMS they write down their requirements, and having a standard format is actually not really a very important requirement right now for them, so that is one of the main differences.
U. Parson: What I’ve seen about DITA is that the use of DITA is increasing. It has gone up from 4% to 7% in the German market, which is good, and it’s especially useful for people who need standards for exchange or who are not considering using a CCMS. The other trend I’ve seen is that we have more CCMS around using DITA which is nice like IXIASOFT or EasyDITA or the Empolis Content Management System.
G. Kinsey: What kinds of advancements do you hope to see in DITA in the future?
U. Parson: Oh, I’ve seen Lightweight DITA at this conference, and I like it very much because for Docs as Code approach, you need Markdown to get the developers to write. So, this is actually what I was hoping for and they’ve done it, and I really love that development. Oh, and I would like to see development in the metadata approach of DITA because we are working on the standard for content delivery, iiRDS, and I would … that is a good match for DITA and I would see, would like to see more development in that direction.
E. Patterson: Okay, great. Well, thank you for talking to us today Ulrike, we really appreciate it.
U. Parson: You’re welcome, thank you.
E. Patterson: Thank you.
E. Patterson: So we’re joined today with Tulika Garg and Divraj Singh. I wanted to talk to you guys a little bit today. Have you noticed any patterns in the types of the customers or industries using Adobe Experience Manager specifically for XML documentation.
Tulika Garg: Sure, so this is Tulika and probably I can get started with that one. So, as you would expect that with DITA since it was born in the tech docs to mean and that where it’s getting used most. That’s where we’ve seen the most traction and most of the uses coming to us, and it’s across industry [inaudible 00:04:30](vertical?) so be it finance and software, hardware, and manufacturing. So I’m sure those are the most common ones that you hear, but it’s interesting to see a great penetration of DITA in finance industry too. These are the industrialized segments, but what we’re also seeing are very interesting patterns are spread across the functional segments.
T. Garg: So, DITA or structured authoring has been adopted in the tech docs domain for quite some time now. The other content domains like marketing are also coming to us and asking about structured formats. Not necessarily DITA, but since DITA has reigned really strong in the structured space, that’s definitely one of the formats they are actively looking at, and a lot of it’s based on the foundation or the strength of structured formats and that’s where that interest is generating from.
T. Garg: I wouldn’t say it’s substantial in terms of actual production deployments, but that interest is definitely there. And if you would like to add something Divraj.
Divraj Singh: Yeah. I think very well covered, but just wanted to bring up the strength of DITA. It’s around reuse, which is actually bringing up maximum traction around it, like domains like marketing or any of the commercial segments. They have a lot of things to reuse on the product side. So, they see reuse as the framework where DITA is providing all the strength, and they want to leverage that strength into their product or commercial line of streaming, I would say. They want to reuse the content and I think that DITA is the way they see they want to do it.
G. Kinsey: That actually leads really nicely into our next question because I wanna ask what kinds of patterns that you predict in the future for the types of customers or industries that you see adopting DITA. So how do you see DITA adoption evolving?
T. Garg: So, okay, I’ll go first. One pattern that we are seeing a lot is that, now that people are not using content in a silo in a single system. So, while authoring is always the biggest requirement and that’s where the system requirements come from, that authors want to be able to author, and the tech pubs managers want to be able to manage the content. The ultimate goal of the content is to get delivered right? To get used by the consumers and that’s where the new wave of challenges are because on the authoring side on, the content management side, I feel those challenges have been talked around, solved, and beaten to death and it’s pretty much taken care of but the delivery channels and the challenges on that front, those are new.
T. Garg: So, that’s where most of the challenges and open questions are and the new innovations are happening. And content managers or authors most of the time, they cannot separate themselves from those requirements, so it’s not just about writing the content they also have to think about how they can use the right tools and right formats to enable the content to meet these new challenges.
T. Garg: For example, we have seen the mobile app and the proliferation of the those devices and now the Whitespace assistant, Trackboard, and a lot of integrations that are required to stream the content to many downstream systems that organizations have. So, that’s where I think the next set of innovations will be happening.
D. Singh: Yeah. I think I just will add to that, that as we see the content is getting segregated around in different systems, the one who is managing the content is looking for consolidation of the system, so that they can see everything in the same system. That is where I think from authoring through translation to review or to publishing, if all that can happen in a single system. I think that’s where we are leading to from the content management system whereas the system should be capable to deliver that content anywhere, anytime. So I think that’s where we are leading to, I feel.
G. Kinsey: What are some unique or interesting things that you’ve seen customers doing with DITA and what new features is Adobe developed to help meet those customers needs?
T. Garg: Okay so, one of the interesting patterns that we’re seeing more and more recently is that … and we have to look at in context of how DITA came about. So, earlier people used to do editing of large monolithic documents and then the rule is that it’s really unwieldy not a good design, they need to get modular, and break it down to topics. It gets to topic-based publishing or topic-based authoring mode, but now what we’re also seeing a pattern is, that from authoring perspective too, while topics are a good way do modularize the content for reuse and for easier management reducing translation costs and all, that single document view to have the context while authoring and while doing other content management tasks, is really good to have.
T. Garg: So people are looking for a glimpse of that old world way of being able to see the whole document at the time of authoring or at the time of the content management while maintaining the individual modular topics and while maintaining that strength of reuse, which for the author gives the benefit. So, we’ll have to find a fine balance and how to enable both these use cases while maintaining the goal fundamental aspects of topically republishing, but giving that ease of use which was there with the document or the whole-guide-based authoring.
T. Garg: So that’s an interesting development we’re seeing and I think we’ll see some [inaudible 00:11:02] innovations around that.
D. Singh: When I think as they learn, when they deliver the content, they want to understand how this content is getting used so they want to associate analytics around it. Obviously, they have not explored yet how that content is getting used after it is published, so there is a lot of options right now, dynamic publishing, and generating the output based on user request, and delivering it to multichannel. Right now there’s a lot of options out there, but to explore that I think they want to start with analytics. This is something which we have noticed so far so I think the publishing part is where we are exploring now.
G. Kinsey: Great. Well, thank you guys so much for joining us today.
G. Kinsey: We’re here with Radu Coravu. Radu, could you tell me a little bit about how you’ve seen DITA evolve during your time at Oxygen?
Radu Coravu: Hi Elizabeth, I’m Radu from Oxygen. Nice to have this talk with you. Well, I think that DITA was initially adopted companies who had lots of people to do customizations and to take care of the publishing. And also tools: some have focus on the editing part of DITA. But right now, maybe as a tool vendor, we are pushing toward adoption of DITA for small teams and teams of 1 or 2 writers who want to do structured content, but they may not have the technical capabilities to customize DITA. They might not have the capabilities to customize the publishing part of DITA.
R. Coravu: So, one thing I think that should change with the tools and DITA is that tools should offer easier customizations for outputs and for the editing part of DITA, reducing the number of elements in the vocabulary for example or restricting the user actions.
G. Kinsey: So would the types of customers you have, you’ve mentioned that you’re kind of targeting these smaller teams. Have you seen any sorts of patterns as far as the types of industries that those customers are in? How has that changed over time?
R. Coravu: Well, I think that’s still most of our clients come from the software industry. I think this is a trend which continues so, yeah.
G. Kinsey: What kinds of trends do you envision for the future? Do you think it will continue to be software or do you see maybe other types of content creators in other industries jumping onto this bandwagon and using DITA more?
R. Coravu: It depends on what DITA has to offer probably, so as DITA allows you to obtain multiple outputs yeah, maybe. Maybe people in marketing will be able to use certain topics created by documentation. Or maybe people in other industries like automotive and industries which create microchips, hardware industries. They’re also moving to DITA. They need structured content to publish to multiple outputs. They need to reuse content for different products which are very similar but may differ in certain small ways.
R. Coravu: Yeah, I think the market should be growing. We are, as a tool vendor, we want to grow with the market. We do not want to obtain a huge amount of money right now, we want to grow the market, and to expose everybody to the possibilities that using DITA, to ease the effort of migrating to DITA. Maybe create migration tools, maybe help them with tutorials, videos, and so on. Have some rich set of resources available for people who do not know what DITA is, but maybe they might need DITA to accomplish their goals.
G. Kinsey: What kinds of advancements have you seen happen in DITA and what do you want to see in the future?
R. Coravu: So, the DITA 1.3 standard added quite a lot of features like key scoping, branch filtering, they’re features for heavy-duty users in my opinion. So, for most users I think DITA is quite enough as it is. It has so many features that maybe users use only 50% of the reuse and linking potential that DITA has. So the way the standard is going, I think they are going to try to eliminate, deprecate it, and parts of the standard which are most clearly specified. So, I think it’s a good way to be heading, trying to simplify the DITA standards in a way.
G. Kinsey: And along those lines, what kinds of advancements do you think that you’ll have to make with Oxygen to keep up with all the things that might happen with DITA in the future?
R. Coravu: I think we need to bring an integrated solution. If we do our job right people will not know that they’re editing DITA, they will just be editing like in an office application, they will just publish to multiple formats. The good thing that is that they will be using a standard but we will do things in a way in which we would hide all the complexity of the tags and try to expose people who are less technically inclined to write in technical documentation in a structured fashion.
E. Patterson: Well great, thank you so much for talking with us today.
R. Coravu: Thanks for inviting me.
G. Kinsey: Thank you.
G. Kinsey: We’re joined today with Val Swisher. Hi, Val.
Val Swisher: Hi there! How are you?
G. Kinsey: Doing great. So, the first question that I have for you: How have you seen the DITA landscape evolve during your company’s time in the industry?
V. Swisher: Well that’s a great question. My company’s been in business for 25 years, so there was no such thing as DITA when we started. We started with Framemaker 3 back in the day. So, the landscape has completely evolved from zero to everything that we have today. But I would say that the first 12 years, maybe even 14 years there was talk … well the first 10 years, there was nothing, but then about 15 years ago we started talking about is, and we kept waiting for XML to happen. We had SGML we were trying to get there and then there was, of course, the battle of the standards.
V. Swisher: Kind of like the Sony BetaMax battle from way back when. Was it going to be DocBook? Was it going to be DITA? But still it was like everybody was standing back and watching companies to see what was going to happen. I think the OASIS committee really took it and moved it forward so that more companies started adopting DITA and I would say that, from my perspective, it’s really been the past 7 to 8 years that I’ve seen more and more companies really moving to DITA and past 5 years has really been an explosion.
V. Swisher: What I’m seeing today is what we’re calling the second wave, which is companies who started early on–maybe 10 years ago, some started in DocBook, some started in just XML, all specializations–and they are realizing that they can’t keep up with technology, they can’t take advantage of the things that have come now. Or they never quite implemented it properly because we really didn’t know what we didn’t know.
V. Swisher: So, not only are there a lot of new companies coming in and new industries coming in, there’s the second wave of early adopters that are going, “Hmm, I think we need to actually straighten this out and fix it to move forward and to be able to integrate with some of the other advances that are happening.”
G. Kinsey: So based on everything that you’ve seen changing in the world of DITA over these past 20-25 years. Where would you like to see DITA go in the future? What advancements would you like to see happen?
V. Swisher: So, I really am looking to the standards bodies to start embracing the kinds of changes that we need to accommodate AI and cognitive systems. Not just Chatbots, I mean, I’ve been talking about needing something for intents and actions, special tags, special structures, for a couple of years now. As cognitive systems are really coming into the mix, we’re really going to need to look at content on a larger scale because we need to look at Corpus’s… Corpi as a whole.
V. Swisher: Then, on a teeny tiny scale, because we need to look at very quick, very easy answers as well. So, we need to evaluate what the cognitive systems need, and we need to adjust and we need to grow, and we need to be planning for it, and I don’t necessarily know that we’re doing that right now.
G. Kinsey: So what are some of the patterns that you’ve seen, and the kinds of problems that DITA has helped companies solve? I also wanna tie that in to this vision that you have of the future, where do you see that going?
V. Swisher: Yeah, so, DITA solves lots of problems. It solves the issue of I’ve written the same thing 17 times, and they’re all kinda sorta the same, but they’re not the same, they’re just a little bit the same. So, all the inefficiency in creating content, all the confusion in creating content, in ingesting reading content, tons of issues that go into the translation world, we can solve much more easily with DITA with writing short concise, say the same thing the same way every time, translate it once, use it every place.
V. Swisher: I see now more and more regulated industries really adopting and embracing DITA, and it makes sense if something is already past a standards body. Well by all means, don’t change that, leave that the same. You have something new to say, start something new, small. Don’t reinvent that wheel every time. It’s extremely expensive to have reviewers start messing around with things that are ready regulated and stamped and signed and delivered. So there’s just a lot of problems that is multichannel publishing, omnichannel delivery, personalization. All the things that we talk about companies are finally starting to do.
V. Swisher: And then future wise, it’s a really good question. In the systems that I’ve been trying to design now, we’re not ready yet with the cognitive systems to have them be ubiquitous. Where DITA, it has become ubiquitous. So, I’m seeing a combination when we’re looking at vision of having a CCMS and DITA in the mix, but having it be part of a repository that a cognitive system can go into and grab the content that it needs and bring it out. And then merging with other systems because for good or bad, other kinds of groups, engineering groups, even knowledge base, as much as they could be in DITA, are often not.
V. Swisher: So, if I can bring my CCMS into the big river of content, then it’s available with all of the other content for these advanced AI systems to use.
G. Kinsey: Thank you so much.
V. Swisher: Yes, thank you.
E. Patterson: Thank you for listening to the Content Strategy Experts podcast brought to you by Scriptorium. For more information, visit Scriptorium.com or check the show notes for relevant links.