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A photo of Marisa Bowers, CSOFT's Business Development Manager for APAC

Guest blog entry by Marisa Bowers, Business Development Manager at CSOFT

Hosted by the Center for Information-Development Management (CIDM), the CMS/DITA North America conference was held last week in Baltimore, Maryland. Content Management Strategies (CMS) and Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) joined forces for the thirteenth year to execute a great conference. From April 4th to 6th, individuals from fourteen different countries and across industries came together to participate in dialogue about increasing productivity, decreasing costs, time management, and strategies for producing dynamic, succinct content. I went, along with our very own Uwe Muegge who also served as one of the presenters, and despite unpredictable and varied weather conditions, it was a very satisfying conference.

This Year’s CMS/DITA Presentations

This year’s conference was organized into four tracks—management, information design and development, technical solutions, and tools. Keynote speaker Scott McCloud’s presentation, “Effectively Communicate Content through Comics,” was certainly an out-of-the-box choice for a room full of technical writers, but it nicely weaved together creativity, intelligence, and communication alternatives that should be considered. McCloud talked about how visual representations—comics included—are able to provide shortcuts to insight and understanding, as seen from Hans Rosling’s TED talk on poverty. It was a very winning argument: graphics of all kind seem to be underused, even though they are useful and can sometimes generate a more powerful impact than the written word.

AMD representative Keith Shengili-Roberts was also there, presenting on “DITA Metrics in Production: How, when, where and why (and how much?)”. I sat in on this one and listened to Shengili-Roberts outline the metrics and ROI results from four years of using a content management system. The talk focused not only on why it is encouraged to purchase a content management system, but also on writing productively and efficiently.

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There were also, for the first time that I can remember, translation-specific presentations, which was an appreciated acknowledgment. One of these included a presentation led by Comtech (“Taking control of your translations: Designing an in-house process to optimally manage your translations”), which was full of good information. The other was by CSOFT’s very own Uwe Muegge: “Beyond Google Translate: The future for machine translation”.

CSOFT at CMS/DITA

Uwe’s presentation on a timely topic went smoothly and was well-received by the audience. He talked about the Google Translate phenomenon and how people have begun identifying Google Translate as an equivalent to machine translation, and how this is a mistake. Uwe also expanded on the limitations of free machine translation services, such as the lack of control users have over the translation output, and offered some suggestions and solutions for guaranteeing greater quality in machine translation, including employing rules-based systems and using only domain-accurate data.

A photo of Uwe Muegge, Chief Terminologist and Co-Director of MedL10N, presenting at CMS/DITA North America 2011.
Uwe during his presentation on Google Translation and the future of machine translation.

It is a refreshing surprise to see translation-related topics begin to infiltrate CMS/DITA, as source content management and localization often go hand and hand; as this trend continues, the weight of translation, and the importance of being able to understand the translation process, will begin to climb towards its true value in the product development cycle.

Personal Reflections

One thing I was especially pleased to see was Kristof Van Tomme from Pronovix present on Drupal and DITA’s co-existence and how they can learn from each other. Typically DITA is the structured authoring tool that tech writers need to create user manuals or similar documents, while Drupal is the open source publishing tool for websites, blogs and the like. By combining forces, DITA documentation-centric principles can provide Drupal with an infrastructure that would allow for collaboration, documentation generation, and a more intuitively organized and flexible interface.

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Another interesting thing of note is that, since CSOFT first began attending this conference almost three years ago now, it seems to me that the CMS/DITA conference has really come together to provide a sharpened, more assured focus to a calm yet attentive attendance.

A few years ago, it seemed as if everyone was trying to take everything in all in at once. A localization company that understood how to handle segmentation and use DITA to write documents had too many things going on simultaneously. During this conference, there was a noticeable calm from those who have been using or work alongside DITA, and there was clear recognition and understanding that a savvy, engineering-focused LSP can be a genuine asset as a localization partner.

Baltimore itself was lovely. There’s nothing to complain about when you are breathing in salty air and listening to schooner ships! Most people had at least one belt-loosening seafood dinner, and I also heard tales of crabcakes and macaroni and cheese topped with crab. We had every type of weather for the three days. One very balmy day out of nowhere, then pouring rain the next. A stunning, crystal-clear late afternoon and sunset was followed by a crisp, windy spring day the next. We were located right on the historical harborwalk, and there were runners going by taking in the spring air at every hour of the day. Not a bad way to complement a conference if you ask me.

A photo of the docks and schooner ships at Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, with several different historic ships on display.

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  1. Next year’s CMS/DITA North America conference will be held in La Jolla, California.

  2. Very interesting comment on a calmness over the conference. DITA implementation & content segmentation are not easy to grasp, so it seems that a maturity has been reached.

  3. Hmm… I would be really interested to know about the metrics related to CMS since our company is working in web development.
    If somebody has it, shoot me a personal email; it would be much appreciated and I will send you some “saucisson” from France! You have my word! 🙂

    I second you Kenneth! I would love to know where and when would be the next conference!

  4. If I may ask, do you have a recording of Uwe’s presentation on machine translation? I would love to hear what he has to say on the subject. Maybe a webinar one of these days?

    Also, thanks for a rundown of the event! I’m a technical writer myself, and I’m looking into attending next year’s CMS/DITA. Hopefully it’ll be somewhere with food as delicious as Baltimore’s 🙂

  5. I’m totally bummed that I missed out on Scott McCloud’s presentation. I really wanted to be there for it — big fan of his.

    In any case, VERY cool choice of keynote speaker on CIDM’s part. Can’t wait to see who’s gonna be at the next conference 🙂

  6. Good insight – look forward to going to the next DITA show now!

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