March 05, 2010

DITA topics = Interchangeable parts

I'm working on a presentation about DITA, and thought up a great analogy from my days in manufacturing engineering.

DITA is just like the discovery of interchangeable parts.

Interchangeable parts, if you remember from Manufacturing 101, got a big boost in the USA when Eli Whitney did his famous demo in front of Congress back in 1798.

Picture of Eli Whitney from Wikipedia Commons

As the legend goes, Whitney, the Demo God of his day, dumped a pile of parts onto a table and proceeded to assemble 10 working muskets, picking a part at random each time.

This was totally revolutionary (pun intended, it was just a few years after 1776, right?). No longer did you need a craftsman to hand-shape the entire product from start to finish. You could divvy up the work to multiple contributors and still come out with working product when everything came together.

DITA does the same thing--reuse a topic anywhere you like, to produce as many different outputs as you like (it's just XML after all).

I could probably title the presentation The Book of Eli but I think that title's been taken recently. :-(

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