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XML Trials and Tribulations

Last week, the STC San Diego chapter hosted Walter Hanig and myself presenting on XML Trials and Tribulations. This was a case study of the implementation at Walter’s company, which Scriptorium was involved in several years ago.

If you’re looking for a rah-rah XML presentation, this isn’t it. But if you’re interested in seeing what conditions make for a very, um, challenging implementation, take a look at the slides (PDF, 500K).

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“Perception is reality”

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a wise manager told me this in response to some whining from me. Things were happening, life was unfair, and I couldn’t understand why my wonderful contributions weren’t being appreciated.

“Perception is reality.”

The perception was wrong, and reality was irrelevant. Never mind whether I was doing a fantastic job — upper management didn’t see it that way, and their evaluations are based on their perception.

It seems that RoboHelp has a similar problem. Ellis Pratt writes on the Cherryleaf Technical Authors’ Blog: “The challenge for Adobe, I believe, is to develop a better product and to try and rebuild relationships that haven’t been nurtured properly for the past four or five years. Maybe it’s time they read ‘The Tipping Point’.”

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Driving Miss DITA

Over on the Adobe Technical Communication blog, Aseem Dokania compares DITA to transportation infrastructure:

In the XML authoring paradigm, the document is split into structure, content and style, which are analogues to Driving Rules (structure), car (content) and road network (style).
DITA is […] based on the premises that the same set of driving rules cannot be applied to all terrains (desert, mountains, city, etc.). Therefore, DITA allows each country to specialize the driving rules for its own unique requirements. In addition, DITA also has recommendations on the content (car) design – i.e. topics.

Great analogy. Perhaps unintentionally, it also provides an excellent entry point to discuss DITA’s limitations. It’s not that hard to customize cars — left-hand or right-hand drive? two doors or four? red or blue? — but what if you really need a bulldozer? Or a tank??

DITA specialization does have its limits. Before you dive into DITA, spend some time assessing whether DITA’s idea of a topic matches your requirements. How much customization/specialization will be required? If DITA is a good fit for your content, you can probably cut the cost of structure implementation. But if you attempt to shoehorn your publication workflow into a structure that Simply Does Not Fit, life could get pretty unpleasant.

For more on this, take a look at our white paper, Assessing DITA as a foundation for XML implementation. It’s free with registration through our online store.

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Oh, this is not a good idea

[Update: According to Aseem, comments are back on and turning them off was unintentional.]

In an earlier post, I linked to a blog posting from the Adobe Product Manager for FrameMaker, who requested product suggestions via meetings and email. But, unsurprisingly, the requests went into the comments. And most of the commenters are asking for a Mac version. And now we have this (from a comment on my post):

It appears the ability to comment on that post has been turned off. If I had been allowed to comment, here is what I would have written.
[another request for Mac support with a detailed recommendation on how to do it]

I suppose that it’s possible that Adobe’s blog system limits each entry to 16 comments?


Probably not.

I don’t think that a flood of “gimme back my Mac” was what Aseem was looking for. (Hi, Aseem!)

Blogs are a two-way conversation. Sometimes, the person you’re talking with changes the subject. And hitting the mute button is really not the best way to deal with that.

[I will now await a flood of comments that will make me eat my words.]

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And now, a word from FrameMaker product management…

Posted today on the Adobe TechComm blog by Aseem Dokania, FrameMaker product manager:

I have noticed discussions on some blogs and mailing lists regarding the future of FrameMaker. Let me assure you, as the Product Manager of FrameMaker, that FrameMaker is here to stay. We would do what it takes to keep FrameMaker at the leading edge of technology.

Aseem also requests feedback, and I know my readers have opinions, so get those comments going, either here or directly on his post.

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Pod people and RoboHelp

The RoboHelp reviews keep coming, and they’re getting ugly. DMN Communications says in their podcast that the new release of RoboHelp shows “almost contempt” for RoboHelp users (approximately 12:30 into the podcast).

On a more constructive note, the podcasters speculate about the lack of integration of RoboHelp with FrameMaker. They point out that RoboHelp’s competitor, Flare, imports native FrameMaker files, whereas RoboHelp requires use of the intermediate MIF (Maker Interchange Format) files. One of the speakers then muses, “Does Adobe’s agreement with Quadralay [to include WebWorks Publisher Standard Edition in the box with FrameMaker] preclude them from integrating RoboHelp?” (11:40)

I don’t know the answer to this question. Random guesses are so much more fun than the generally mundane truth (whatever that might be).

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