Friday, May 01, 2015

Highlights from the CMS/DITA NA 2015 Conference

The Content Management Strategies/DITA North America 2015 conference was held April 20-22 in Chicago, Illinois. Over 350 attendees learned best practices in four tracks: Information Design & Development, Technical Solutions, Management, and Emerging Technologies.

As a member of the CIDM staff, I was fortunate to host the Emerging Technologies track and got a chance to learn about a few new technologies, myself! If you missed it, I tried to Live Tweet the key points from each of the sessions here: #cmsconference #emergingtechnologies

Several "game changer" presentations included:
So what was game changing?

The guys at oXygenXML have developed a series of pipeline transforms (Project DITA Glass) that let you, for example, use a topicref (with a special url) to an Excel spreadsheet directly. That URL is transformed on-the-fly directly to DITA, which can then be rendered directly in a table as part of your document! It also can round-trip, so any changes made in the DITA are written back into the Excel sheet.

This is important for those times when you need information from a subject matter expert, but don't want to teach them DITA or have to manually convert their content so you can use it. It's a one-stop shop! They are working on many more transforms. My hope is that they will create one for PowerPoint to DITA for all of the Learning and Training folks out there. Most course developers still work in PowerPoint, but it would be much more powerful to use the DITA publishing tool chains for various outputs while letting the developers still create in their familiar tool.

Another one-stop shop technology is the Dynamic Information Model. Comtech and oXygenXML have partnered together to create an XML-based Information Model, where a company can document their editorial and content structures, while also enabling the automatic enforcement and expression of that Model in the authoring environment! It basically generates the schematron rules and tool tips for authors from the Information Model itself. Very powerful!

A consistent theme in emerging technologies and technical solutions was the dynamic rendering of DITA content (server-side and client-side). There were several approaches presented, but they basically eliminate the DITA-OT publishing step by using CSS+XSL to render DITA content directly or on-demand.

Another particularly interesting theme was presenting technical information in an Augmented Reality environment. In fact, there is a new technical committee being formed at OASIS to address this very subject area! There are some tools available today for creating AR, including DAQRI 4d Studio, Metaio creator and SDK, Wikitude SDK, nGrain. The benefits of this technology include: reduce quality errors, contextual instructions at point of use, remote expert support, increased productivity. AR statistically has been proven to improve first time quality on assembly tasks, with fewer errors. AR can provide procedural steps, along with an overlay of task location, assembly info and more to assist in the completion of a task.

Did you know that by 2020, 103 million cars will be AR-enabled? Are you aware of AR devices, such as Google Glass, Microsoft Hololens, and DAQRI? Now is the time to start preparing your technical content for use with these types of devices. The future is so bright, we need to wear AR shades!

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