Friday 3rd April, 2009
10:05am to 10:05am
The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) has emerged over the last few years as a new standard for managing and developing technical content. Originally developed by IBM, DITA is now managed by OASIS (the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) a not-for-profit consortium that drives the development, convergence and adoption of open standards for the global information society.
Information typing is at the heart of DITA. This means that each unit of information is classified as either a Task or a Concept or a Reference, and that this classification determines the topic content. For example, a Task topic can contain procedural steps, while a concept or a Reference topic cannot. A key principle of DITA is specialization, which means that new information types can be created from the basic types and that these new types automatically inherit the processing rules of the basic types.
From an author's point of view, using DITA to produce standardised units of information facilitates content re-use and so brings the goal of "single-sourcing" (writing once and publishing many times in multiple formats) that much closer. There are difficulties too, as using DITA forces writers to stop thinking about books and chapters, and instead to think in terms of smaller chunks or topics. DITA also turns back the clock on the WYSYWIG world of desktop publishing, by separating content development from presentation, just as you would expect from a mark-up language.
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