Monday, July 9, 2007

Katriel of Method M says that DITA is the least worse approach to documentation. I sadly agree. I don't know DITA, so what I am actually agreeing to, is the concept of "least worse". Whenever I find myself telling my managers about the poverty of the tools I use, I end up frustrated. They are willing to open up their check-books, it is me who tells them to save their money, as to be able to write, circulate for feedback and deliver 2000 topics/year, MS-Word is the only tool available.
Yes, I answer, exactly because it is the least worse tool. Although I write with RoboHelp as a primary source, and CHM a primary output, I admit it is no better than Word.
But there is a solution, say the DITA people.
DITA, they say, will save me from myself. I admit that I don't exactly know what DITA does. It is said to ease the ability to deliver multiple types of outputs. However, I ask, why deliver multiple types of output in the first place? No one read printed documentation anymore, and for on-line readers, no one can tell the difference between PDF and CHM. They're both easy to navigate, search, and find what you are looking for.
Let's take a different angle. Suppose I throw everything I write to a single website. Suppose that this website is well protected (acceessible only to registered users, for example) and well accessible (it takes a fraction of a second to perform a search, and the search returns excellent results). Now, looking, for example, for installation guidelines for some product of mine, wouldn't it be safe to assume that the readers won't mind whether the piece of information they're after is titled "installation guide" or "installation notes for version" or "fix to defect #35022"?
If my assumption is correct, piling everything I write onto a single website will eliminate the entire single-sourcing empire (an empire of pit-falls, if I may). No more DOC-to-CHM, RoboHelp-to-PDF. Wow. This is a Wow, no less.
So, this leave me with what Katriel calls "DITA is a standard — and is implemented using topic-centered and minimalism (methodology)". I'd buy this guidlines anytime.