Adobe DITAWORLD 2020 – Day 3 Summary by Kyra Lee and Grace Smith

by Stefan Gentz

Posted on 10-12-2020

Greetings to all! We are Kyra Lee and Grace Smith, the “resident bloggers” at Adobe DITAWORLD 2020.

The third and final day of Adobe DITAWORLD 2020 (what – already?) started off just as powerful as the two days before it. Stefan Gentz and Matt Sullivan greeted all the excited attendees in the event chat as the minutes counted down to the start of Day 3. It is our pleasure to recap what the presenters had in store for all of us through our Day 3 summary. Let’s get right into it!

In this post:

  1. [Welcome Note] Kumar (Adobe): Welcome to Adobe DITAWORLD 2020, Day 3
  2. [Keynote] Schengili-Roberts (Precision Content Authoring Solutions): Structured Content is dead. Long live Structured Content!
  3. Jensen (Grundfos): Connecting Worlds
  4. Carter (Bounteous): Building the Brain
  5. Singh (Adobe): A look behind Quality Content Experiences
  6. Graat (Smart Information Design): DITA Authoring and Publishing for Everyone
  7. Clauset (Typefi): Marketing and Technical Communication at Velocity with DITA and InDesign
  8. Eberlein (OASIS): DITA, where art thou?
Portrait Photo of Vivek Kumar
## Welcome Note### Welcome to Adobe DITAWORLD 2020, Day 3Vivek KumarDirector of Products at Adobe

Vivek Kumar, Director of Products at Adobe, welcomed all the attendees to day three of DITAWORLD 2020. Vivek started off the welcome note by introducing the talking points for his presentation: Amazon Alexa and computer science.

Amazon Alexa’s components:

Whenever you say “Alexa,” a blue ring lights up, and Alexa wakes up to begin recording and listening for your command. Due to the sound waves, no matter how you may pronounce “Alexa,” the minicomputer can to pick up their name through most accents and begin listening.

Vivek gives us a great analogy to break down how this is possible using two photos: One full photo of a cat and a photo of a cat through a hole in the wall. On the one hand, the computer can see the cat in the full photo. However, the computer is unsure regarding the cat photo where the cat is peeking out of the wall.

Now, if you provide the computer with several pictures of different cats, this increases the computer’s confidence and will allow it to provide you with a percentage of confidence: “Yes! This is X% likely a cat!” This shows that the computer is working through the “fuzziness” to give you the most informed answer possible. The machine is learning and getting better as time goes on. This can be applied to Alexa, as this minicomputer also gets better as time goes on while Alexa learns more.

Computers understand code best, so how do we get computers to work with human language? Through natural language processing. The evolution of NLP has been here for decades. NLP began as a very rule-based function where specifics had to be given. Decades later, the next stage of evolution was the statistical model. This is where things are grouped together with a probability associated with the groups. Machine learning with the statistical model gave very rapid rise to natural language processing. This has helped to get us to where we are now with the rise of natural generation.

We see and use examples of these in our everyday life through Cortana, Siri, Chatbots, Hey Google, etc. On the Adobe side, Adobe Sensei is their AI platform that runs behind the scenes integrating with programs such as Adobe Stock, Adobe Experience Manager, and more to provide the same experience and feedback to users. Vivek’s quick and informative session provided us with the information we needed to continue to learn more through the great lineup of presenters.

Portrait Photo of Keith Schengili-Roberts
## [KEYNOTE] Structured Content is dead. Long live Structured Content!### From Structured Content today to Microcontent and Artificial IntelligenceKeith Schengili-RobertsContent Specialist and Information Architect at Precision Content Authoring Solutions Inc., Canada

Keith Schengili-Roberts, Content Specialist and Information Architect at Precision Content Authoring Solutions, gave us an excellent presentation on how structured and unstructured content evolved. He shared his thoughts on where it is headed. Keith mentions that he was first asked to speak about the future of technical communications. He admits that he is skeptical by nature but plans to survey what we currently know and highlight some industry trends due to his need to find data that backs up his opinion (sounds fair!).

Keith does not believe that structured content is “dead” per se, but he does think we will see significant changes in how it will be used. Keith notes that unstructured content is not necessarily as unstructured as we may think. Although DITA is a niche market, it is a sizable niche worth noting for sure.

Keith’s quick history lesson on technical writing:

The Rise of Desktop Publishing (and unstructured content) in the ’80s:

Non-structured but allowed for the creation of content quickly and easily. Over time, it was possible to output content to various formats, including PDF and web. This is the beginning of the unstructured VS. structured content dichotomy: ease of use + low overhead VS. significant value add but higher upfront processing.

So, that is the past that brings us to … today!

DITA has continued to evolve:

Note: Keith also believes there is real promise in Lightweight DITA!

Keith points out that most content today is unstructured content. A study he uses as an example notes that unstructured content is thought to make up roughly 80% or more of all enterprise data. The world’s most popular technical writing tool to date? Word (spooky!). However, Keith informs us that unstructured content has more “structure” than we may think. He provided us with an example of MS Office’s version of XML. While it does not separate content from formatting per se, it does contain a semblance of structure that can be extracted and used for other applications.

To show us who uses DITA, Keith showed us a pie graph that provides data that may not be surprising to many. DITA usage by industry sector, Q4 2020:

So, which firms get the most benefit from using DITA? Keith took all the firms from the previous slides and classified them to gather this information: DITA appears to work best at scale.

Who is not using DITA: smaller firms? Since structured content requires a substantial investment of time and money, the benefits of using DITA, albeit worth it, may not be apparent at first. Many of these smaller firms are also adopting a hybrid approach. This approach is hard to find in a large firm that it is using DITA exclusively.

DITA’s primary “superpower” is its content reuse, but it has several! The chief business strengths of DITA outlined by Keith include:

However, we must pay attention to the less obvious benefits of DITA:

Customer experience has become a business imperative. Before the digital transformation, key business interactions with customers happened in the physical world. However, our customers moved online (so our physical content followed!). Technical documentation has come to the “fore” since it often contains targeted information that the customers are looking for.

As we moved on to discuss chatbots and AI, Keith noted that although we are in the early days, these methods have the potential to become facets within the industry. Chatbots take one of two paths when working with external content (including technical content):

  1. Digests existing material which it incorporates directly within itself, or
  2. It refers to appropriate material a user wants via metadata.

Think of chatbots as a new complementary channel for content delivery that works best with structured content. Although DITA has a role here, it is not directly in the chatbot “conversation” but provides technical content when and where it is needed. Although we are still within the early days, it is worth noting that IA and chatbots are not being used exclusively with structured content. Also, the role of the “technical writer” is changing. People claiming to use DITA are not just employed as traditional technical writers these days. There are so many more titles now! Some include:

For larger companies working at scale, it makes sense to have these roles. Efficiency is worth it. Keith’s final prediction: we are still in the early majority phase but at the end of this stage.

A few of the notable questions from the Q&A pod:

Lara asked: Does lightweight DITA mean fewer available elements? Matt answered: Yes, LwDITA is a limited subset, easier to understand, producing fully compliant DITA content.

Lara also asked: Any idea when DITA 2.0 will be out? Stefan’s answer: This is a good question for Kristen James-Eberlein from the OASIS Committee during the last session today.

Portrait Photo of Bo Jensen
## Connecting Worlds### From Adobe Experience Manager to Microsoft Azure Blob Storage AppsBo JensenIT Coordinator at Grundfos, Denmark at 3M, USA

Bo Jensen, IT Coordinator at Grundfos, brought us another interesting customer story by sharing how Grundfos is connecting their DITA content to AEM and Microsoft Azure for reuse, and why he believes that cloud-based editing is the way to go.

To start, Bo gave a short introduction about himself and Grundfos, a company in Denmark that has been producing pumps since 1945. As you can imagine, their pumps have gone through many years of innovations, and their latest products can be connected to your smart devices and be fully controlled using the Grundfos remote app!

In the “old” days, user manuals were only published as PDFs, and users had to flip/scroll through pages to find the information they needed. Bo thought that the lack of usability and findability made their content highly ineffective in today’s standards. However, he was not allowed to switch to DITA authoring right away as there were many different departments at Grundfos. Doing so might create an issue of an inconsistent brand image. He had no control over any output formats (i.e., web content) except for PDF files. To combat that, he created DITA Merge XML files.

What is DITA Merge XML?

DITA Merge XML files are created when you use the DITA Open Toolkit to produce a merged output from the entire DITA Map structure without further processing. When you generate a PDF from a DITA map with DITA-OT, it first goes through a merging process where DITA-related items are resolved, and then it converts the information into a PDF file. Bo stopped the output and ended up with a merged XML file that is completely solved and has all the content.

How is DITA Merge XML used at Grundfos?

Then, Bo gave us a live demo of his workflow (woohoo!), so we could better understand the benefits of using DITA Merge XML files to drive content. If you are interested in seeing how he edits content and publishes with AEM, feel free to watch the recorded session. To keep this summary short and sweet, I am just going to list some of the main takeaways from his demo:

A few of the notable questions from the Q&A pod:

Q: What are your goals for DITA for your company?

A: The goal is to be able to use DITA as a common language across departments. There are a lot of possibilities with DITA, and many departments could leverage its potential.

Q: Where do you see the future for cloud-based editors?

A: I’m a big advocate of cloud-based authoring because writers can just work on a thin and portable machine from anywhere. When you update content in a browser, that edit automatically applies to every single system inside the company.

Portrait Photo of Steven Carter
## Building the Brain### XML Documentation for Scalable Technical KnowledgeSteven CarterAssociate Principal Architect at Bounteous, USA

Steven Carter, Associate Principal Architect at Bounteous, USA, covered XML documentation for scalable technical knowledge with his presentation “Building the brain.” Bounteous is composed of engineers, data scientists, marketers, analysts, strategists, designers, and digital specialists. Their combined expertise, ideas, and innovation allow them to succeed.

Steven’s presentation began by giving a brief overview of DITA and Adobe Experience Manager. He emphasized that Adobe Experience Manager is a comprehensive content management solution that is powerful and fully extensible. It provides technical communicators with a straightforward authoring interface. It enables companies with a high technical documentation volume to map complex information at scale and create consistent customer experiences by bringing marketing and technical content onto the same platform.

Steven then takes us through the interesting and inspiring F5 story. In collaboration with F5, Bounteous began the Adobe Experience Manager wesite migration. They leveraged XML Documentation for Adobe Experience Manager to generate Adobe Experience Manager pages from easyDITA documents. This resulted in resource efficiency, improved user experience, and increased engagement with the F5 Knowledge Center.

Their challenge was to facilitate increased engagement with the F5 Knowledge Center by efficiently managing resources and improving the user experience. Their solution: upgrade to AEM 6.4 and leverage the XML connector. Bounteous partnered with F5 to migrate all technical documentation pages for legacy CQ 5.3 to AEM 6.4 and create new templates for easyDITA documents.

Their implementation goal: implement XML Documentation for Adobe Experience Manager to automatically generate AEM web pages out of technical documentation from easyDITA. Through their key implementations, they successfully completed the migration process: this increased engagement and lowered maintenance requirements. The robust platform was built using AEM to improve the way F5 and its customers engage with its Knowledge Base.

Steven began the XML Documentation section of his presentation with a quick overview of AEM DITA support. Everything standard = works OOTB immediately! An example AEM site output was shown to include breadcrumbs for navigation, references to other related articles, and build-in search capabilities all OOTB.

Then, together, we took a closer look. Steven showed us how DITA authoring in AEM looks like with a web-based resource example within both the Author and Source mode. Some of the many DITA authoring in AEM benefits he outlined were as follows:

Key Takeaway and Tips

Just a few of the many advantages that Steven outlines:

Portrait Photo of Divraj Singh
## A look behind Quality Content Experiences### How globally distributed teams can collaborate to create Quality Content ExperiencesDivraj SinghSenior Solutions Consultant at Adobe, USA

Divraj Singh, Senior Solution Consultant at Adobe, explained why AEM is the best CCMS tool for globally distributed teams to collaborate and create quality content experiences.

He started his presentation with a question for the audience: “What determines the quality of content?” I am sure we all have different definitions and standards for “quality.” And the truth is that there is no one way to measure the quality of content. The bottom line is that high-quality content is valuable for users and helps businesses reach their goals.

According to Divraj, three factors drive good content experience:

Typically, we create the content and send it for review. This turns into an iteration of editing and re-editing, and finally, the content is approved for publishing. To reduce the costs and improve outcomes, Divraj said that we should answer these questions: Why are we reviewing? What are we reviewing? How should we review it?

Why: driven by business goals

Reviewing content adds value and helps personalize customer experiences. It also prevents information silos as team members are encouraged to share ideas freely. Ultimately, a content review should help your team meet its business objectives.

What: driven by consumer experience

What you review should be driven by consumer experiences. What do they like and need? Consumers nowadays need content in different formats (i.e., PDF, HTML, Word, etc.), which could increase reviewers’ workload as they are required to review the same content in various formats. But Divraj said there’s a better way to review: Structured authoring.

Structured authoring (like DITA) allows you to focus on only the content’s quality, not its layout. Since the content is free of presentation, reviewers are freed from reviewing the same content in multiple formats.

How: driven by process and tools

Traditionally, reviewers must manually review content and send edited files back to authors. The authors then must incorporate the comments into their copies and send it for review again. This not only wastes resources but also time and effort. Sometimes, manual errors like missing an edit could also happen. This is impractical in every way.

The main message is that you must have the right tool and process to effectively review content. This is why XML Documentation for Adobe Experience Manager is the ideal CCMS tool for authoring.

AEM is a web-based collaboration space that helps you manage structured content, create and track review tasks, review content, and collaborate with team members.

Notable Review Features:

When Divraj was giving a live demo on how to leveraging AEM’s full potential for review and collaboration, the Q&A section of the chat was properly blowing up! There were so many questions (all good questions too!) that the session went around 10 minutes overtime – for the first time during the conference.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, Divraj was not able to answer all the questions. But again, if you have any questions about AEM, you can always contact or check out their website.

A few of the notable questions from the Q&A pod:

Q: Can we review a topic that is re-used in multiple locations at the same time?

A: Yes, because it is being reviewed in different contexts.

Q: What tool is used for reviews? Can reviewers use a free tool to review content, or will everyone have to buy a license?

A: AEM is a web-based CCSM tool, so you would need a license to access the tool.

Portrait Photo of Jang Graat
## DITA Authoring and Publishing for Everyone### Adobe FrameMaker: What Adobe offers the DITA Author that no other tool can matchJang GraatCEO at Smart Information Design, Netherlands

Jang Graat, CEO at Smart Information Design, Netherlands, presented us with key information that thoroughly explains what Adobe FrameMaker brings to the DITA authoring space that no other tool can match. Jang begins by outlining some of the common problems people may face while using DITA:

Number 1: Moving to DITA can break production

Jang provided us with a quick demo to show us this with the sample UserGuide book. He showed us the DITA version of the same document, which showed the true WYSIWYG experience FM provides. Jang then excluded the file, added the Systems.dita file to the book, then generated an updated TOC to see the changes. This shows that everything still works and the content was able to be updated smoothly.

Number 2: DITA is complex

Number 3: Customizing DITA is hard

Number 4: Customizing DITA output is hard

Number 5: Reuse in DITA takes (extra) time

DITA Reuse (currently):

  1. Click “Insert Conref” or “Insert Cross-Ref”.

  2. Open the file containing the reuse item.

  3. Search for the reuse item in the file.

    1. If not found, open another file (repeat until found).
    2. If the file is already in use/someone is editing it, it may be locked: impossible to insert at this point.
  4. Click on “Insert”.

Why is it this way? Well, it was made by software developers. The developer looks at the technique and says, “the goal is inserting a Conref.” However, the user’s goal is to create content. This is where the disconnect is.

So, what should reuse for an author look like? (great question! If only I could take credit for asking it…)

  1. Decide that a note is needed in the topic.
  2. Selecting <note> from the elements catalog.
  3. See that there are ready-made notes to reuse (neat!).
  4. Think to yourself: “Hey, this is easier!”.
  5. Click on “Insert”.

Sounds easy, right? This process is exactly what Jang’s plugin (currently in progress) aims to do soon.

Donna, a DITAWORLD 2020 attendee, mentioned thoroughly enjoying Jang’s FrameMaker based session, saying: Jang is outgoing and positive. We need that in these weird pandemic times.

Another comment, from Sally, in agreeance: Yes, it is nice to see a FrameMaker related session, my company is just not big enough to make the jump and expense of AEM work for us, and I was worried FM might be going away. Glad to see a FrameMaker session.

Stefan and Matt quickly assured Sally (and us all) that FrameMaker is there to stay! With the recent Summmer 2020 release of Adobe FrameMaker just three months ago, and the new subscription-based model that allows faster, more agile development and quicker release of new features, FrameMaker is stronger than ever!

Portrait Photo of Caleb Clauset
## Marketing and Technical Communication at Velocity with DITA and InDesign### XML Documentation for Adobe Experience Manager and InDesign Server unitedCaleb ClausetVice President of Product at Typefi, Australia

Caleb Clauset, Vice President of Product at Typefi, captured everyone’s attention with his engaging and informative presentation. He talked about how easily we can manage DITA content within Adobe Experience Manager, publish it to the Adobe InDesign Server, and how Typefi can be used to unite Adobe Experience Manager with InDesign. Caleb’s work focuses on InDesign automation and figuring out how to expand InDesign’s use outside its traditional strongholds (magazine, newspaper, books, etc.).

Customers are more informed and empowered today, and what matters to them is a beautified experience. Content management and reuse across channels are even more important today. Therefore, AEM is the next generation of digital asset management. It is a full tool with features that help its users understand how content can be reused, relocated, and managed. It promotes the idea of experience-driven documentation that reacts to customer needs like a living, breathing thing.

InDesign, despite it being traditionally overlooked in tech comm, remains THE tool for professional design. In 2019, Adobe estimated that the market potential for InDesign is a minimum of 45 million users worldwide.

But there is a problem! There is a disconnect between AEM and InDesign. There is no direct channel to integrate the two tools. AEM would pull content out of the InDesign file, and you cannot natively reuse AEM assets in InDesign files.

So, how do we integrate InDesign with AEM? How do we extend our reach with our content? The answer is with Typefi.

Typefi is an automated publishing system that could be built onto Adobe InDesign Server. It allows you to pull XML from AEM through a workflow and work with DITA directly within InDesign. It is a complete, end-to-end delivery solution for superior print and PDF outputs. Using Typefi also reduces time to market by up to 80%!

Caleb then gave a live demo on how Typefi works. These are the main takeaways:

What a glorious labor saver!

To end, Caleb noted that this work is never finished. Information architecture and business processes will need to change over time to adapt to changing business.

A few of the notable questions from the Q&A pod:

Q: How can you automate the application of a style within your content? Perhaps with something like metadata?

A: Accessibility is one thing we stress at Typefi. We want everyone to be able to consume our content, so we have spent a lot of time figuring out how to use XMP to add elements like ALT text or format to the design. That is what we do to automate that.

Q: Can authors make edits in InDesign and flow that back into AEM?

A: It can be done, but it can be quite painful. Therefore, InDesign is mainly used as an output server.

Portrait Photo of Kristen James Eberlein
## DITA, where art thou?### A Retrospective from the OASIS DITA CommitteeKristen James EberleinOASIS DITA Technical Committee

Kristen James Eberlein, part of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee, provided a useful retrospective of where DITA has been and where it is going.

Questions to consider:

  1. What was DITA designed for?
  2. Have other problems emerged since DITA was designed and donated to OASIS? New expectations?
  3. How is the landscape different now than it was in 2004?
  4. Has DITA addressed the problems that it was designed to resolve?

History of DITA: IBM

DITA: What it IS and what it is NOT

Landscape at IBM at the turn of the century: a huge and custom SGML markup: IBMIDDOC. By using this, IBM was locked into an expensive tool stack.

This meant that if you were a new-hire at IBM, there was a long ramp-up time as you learned everything.

Familiar these days (yet uncommon back then), IBM did:

Products began to merge into solutions; however, it was difficult to absorb content from business partners and acquisitions.

So, what did DITA need to do to solve IBM’s problems?

(Think: Does any of this sound familiar to you?)

The rationale for DITA: What did it need to support?

Kristen then took a step back to go over their history specifics:

2001: Made available through developerWorks

2004: Donated to OASIS (The DITA Tech Committee was born, 2004 to present)

Approved as a standard across DITA 1.0 in June 2005 to DITA 1.3 in December 2016.

Kristen then shifted back to the present and urged us to look at how different things are now.

It is worth noting that these many services are quite inexpensive compared to 1998/99.

We then investigated the authoring resources available in 2020:

Regarding the landscape in 2020, there has been a quiet (yet thorough) adoption by large companies, especially those for whom information is a revenue-generating product:

Unfortunately, this is more of a pain for small implementations, where documentation is a cost center. Luckily, there is support for topic-orientated authoring also in some non-XML tools like Adobe RoboHelp.

To wrap up: Has DITA delivered on its promises? Kristen says: Yes!

However, that does not mean that there are pain points in DITA, even present day:

Kristen then provided us with a DITA reality check: DITA is XML. XML is inherently complex. It’s a good idea to build XML and XSLT skills in-house or retain a consultant for support. The benefits of content reuse hinge on solid and thoughtful information architecture and a more in-depth business process analysis. This work is not free.

So, where is DITA going?

Some highlights of DITA 2.0:

Kristen’s advice: Find out if your company is an OASIS member. If they are, think about whether you (or whoever represents your company’s interests in DITA) could be involved with the DITA Technical Committee!

If your company is not currently a member of OASIS… perhaps consider joining? This creates a wide range of possibilities that may be very cost-effective. For any further questions, feel free to reach out to Kristen for more information.

A great question from Lara: Can we participate as individuals in OASIS? Kristen’s answer: Absolutely! companies can buy an associate membership that allows one person to represent the company for $1200 a year, or an individual member can participate with their own intellectual property for $300 a year.


There you have it! Just like all of life’s best things, this conference must come to an end. The last day of Adobe DITAWORLD 2020 was packed full of content. The presenters undoubtedly went all out to ensure the content was clear, informative, and plentiful. Cannot say we are surprised – this is Adobe DITAWORLD, after all.

All presentations and experiences shared throughout all three days were very well-received by the audience, other presenters, moderators, and us, too! As this conference was a lot of great information to take in, having access to the recordings, slide decks, and blog posts (ha-ha) will prove to be very useful tools for reflection. So, please do take advantage of these resources. We know we will!

It was a great pleasure to watch the conference from the comfort of our own homes, and a privilege to write these daily blog posts for all 5,857 of you (whoa!) in the over 90 countries worldwide. Now, please ensure that you:

1. Take care

2. Stay safe
And … (drum-roll)

3. Register for Adobe DITAWORLD 2021!

See you all next year!

Read also:

  1. Adobe DITAWORLD 2020 – Day 1 Summary by Kyra Lee and Grace Smith

  2. Adobe DITAWORLD 2020 – Day 2 Summary by Kyra Lee and Grace Smith

Topics: Technologies, TechComm, TechComm Import