Promoting DITA without promoting DITA

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Recently Scott Abel posted a heartfelt plea to get people all psyched up about how to better promote DITA to the rest of the world. He backs the idea of the DITA Adoption Technical Committee, stating that:

“we need excellent communicators with the gumption, know-how, and network to get the word out about the many ways DITA impacts the world and those who live in it.”

I’m a fan of DITA and as I read his post I could feel myself getting quite excited, he makes some excellent points about finding real world examples of the benefit DITA can bring but something just doesn’t quite fit. It’s taken me a while to get my head around this but, isn’t a standard supposed to be a technical implementation detail, not the main focus of life changing events? Ahhh but wait, Scott agrees:

“DITA cannot be the focus of DITA adoption and publicity efforts.”

OK, so we can’t focus on DITA itself and, as Scott rightly points out, the software vendors will soon turn discussions away from DITA and towards their own feature set, so we can’t look there for an example either. In fact it’s not until the latter half of the post that Scott really hits on what he would like us to do, and in my opinion the following sentence is the key to his entire argument:

“Let’s strip away all the noise that prevents normal humans from understanding what we technology addicts find so wonderful about DITA, XML, content reuse, content management, dynamic content, personalization, and so on. … The focus has to be on the human impact. How does DITA help make the world a better place? How does it make it possible for humans to interact with one another? How will it help everyday humans in their everyday lives? How can it help governments better serve their citizens?”

Big questions.

Whilst Scott is aiming at a top-down view of the world, there are lessons there for those of us who are trying to push these things upwards. Selling DITA as the fundamental part of a single source solution now seems a little odd, particularly when most business cases are focussed on ROI and the whys and wherefores surrounding the choice of tooling, so if you can detach the tool from the business case, and focus thinking on the benefits of DITA (rendering the tooling generic rather than specialised) you can start to really crack the story behind how adopting DITA as a content standard will benefit the customers of your company, THEN you have a much more powerful argument.

So, if anyone has any answers to those big questions, do let me know…