What isn't DITA?

Move over, "age ofmiracles and wonder." It seems that everyone is having epiphanies these days. I can teach you how to have one, as well. It's just a matter of concentration and visualization!

Don Daymigration, editing

First, in reading the title and initial paragraph of this post, you just read a DITA1 topic. You see, DITA is capable of miracles and wonder, if that is what you need it to do. But it can be sublimely simple too. That is the epiphany I want to share with you.

In fact, the simplest possible DITA topic is just a title in a topic wrapper:

<concept id="grover">
   <title>Me Spartacus!</title>

Data mavens will recognize that this example is rich with semantics: a typed container (concept), an identity ("grover"), a content payload (the "Me Spartacus!" title), and even a Sesame Street meme. Anything else in a DITA topic is completely optional. Optional!

So my point is just that you might realize how drop-dead simple DITA can be. Throw in some paragraphs, and you're on your way to much more:

  • a blog post
  • a blurb in a blog post
  • a newspaper article
  • a harlequin novel
  • a serving suggestion on a soup can
  • something as small as a tweet all the way up to a politician's filibuster speech.

Add some highlighting, lists and simple tables, and we are talking about most kinds of written discourse that you read every day.

I will look into DITA's darker reputation as a difficult taskmaster later. The main point for now is that even though DITA can be pretty much whatever you need it to be, simple is good enough for much of what we write about. And by using DITA, your content is automatically signed up for benefits down the road. Which is why, for something that can start out so simple and yet be so versatile, I ask that epiphanic question, "What isn't DITA?"

By the way, if you are in the neighborhood of London in late May or Amsterdam on June 1, come find me at either the Congility 2011 conference or NLDITA 2011 conference. DITA will come under the lens of usability, and I'll try to explore whether DITA can be made simple enough to cure the common cold, make water run uphill, or make childbirth a pleasure. Perhaps that should be "the lens of hyperbole..."

1 DITA, which stands for Darwin Information Typing Architecture, is a popular document format like HTML or Powerpoint, only different.