RE: DITA possible for start-up/lone writer?

Subject: RE: DITA possible for start-up/lone writer?
From: "France Baril" <France -dot- Baril -at- ixiasoft -dot- com>
To: "Joe Malin" <jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 09:15:08 -0500

Hi Joe,

I work for a company that helps other companies implements their DITA

When I first started with DITA, there was nothing except the dtds and a
few examples. I did not start with the whole CMS/WYSIWYG editor
structure. I was a lone writer and I wrote my content with a simple XML
editor, I saved my topics and maps on my own file system, I created my
own XSLs and XSL-Fos (I learned a lot from

I worked like that for almost 2 years, producing online help for 4
products with 6 different audience types, training manuals for those
same product and audiences and my API documentation was created
automatically from XML code comments in C# classes and WSDLs from the
web services. All that with my 'almost free' toolset.

Then the local training team wanted to be able to modify their own
content and add more screen captures, the team in France wanted to have
access to the system to create their own PDF after customizing their
training guides for each client (reordering maps), the technical support
team wanted to maintain the FAQ to follow up with the most current bugs
or difficulties... so we moved to a complete CMS solution that controls
access to documents, supports the approval process (draft, review,
approved), provide a GUI tool for map manipulation and helps
authors/trainers/tech support staff find the topics they need. It does a
lot more than that now, but that's how it started.

I encourage you to start with something simple if you feel comfortable
working from what is provided in the public Open toolkit and if you feel
comfortable learning languages like XSLT and XSL-FO. I got all my own
knowledge from the web, so I know this can be done.

Chances are your project will be successful and you might contaminate
other teams. At that point, you might want to explore more complex or
expensive toolsets to support less technically incline individual and to
keep some control over your content and processes once everyone wants to
play with it. Moreover, at that point, you'll have the means to justify
the investment. Lone writer vs multiple teams...

In conclusion I say, go for it, don't invest more then you need to get
started and enjoy the process. As your project grows, become aware of
what tools could help you. You'll be able to better identify your needs
as you go along and therefore ask for a system/toolset that makes sense
for your situation.


France Baril
Documentation Architect/Architecte documentaire
tel.: + 1 514 279-4942 (new extension number 350)
+ 1 877 279-IXIA (new extension number 350)
fax: + 1 514 279-3947
france -dot- baril -at- ixiasoft -dot- com
[ ]
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