Re: [EXT]: [dita-users] Visualizing reltables


I guess it is time for the Geek Philosopher to chime in here… :-)

I agree with Wayne that relationship tables do not really reduce the workload of associating topics and helping customers to find other relevant information. But adding links into topics does not reduce that workload, either. In fact, as long as we still feel the urge to point to other relevant information, we keep hanging on to an old paradigm in a world where documentation meant a manual, tech writers were the experts and a large part of support was meant to be education.

Just ask yourself in all honesty whether you often - if ever - click a link titled ‘further reading’ or ‘relevant information’. I hardly ever do, as I simply do not want to invest the time to read more than I need to know. I have things to achieve, and the only reason I consult any help media is to get a quick and clear answer. If the topic cannot give me that, it may be the case that the information was not mapped out well enough into clearly answerable questions and topic types. Most of all, the metadata that makes it findable at the right time by the right person was probably not defined well enough.

Since the very first time I started using DITA, I have been searching for a way to drive it forward as much as I possibly can. Design the future of technical information, not re-create the past with slightly more modern tools. As far back as 2013, I have delivered a presentation titled ‘Driving DITA Off the Map’ - proposing a software layer that would link topics together based on topic metadata, search terms, a history of user actions etc. In 2015, I followed up with a presentation titled Out of Control - a New Paradigm for Content Management’. In this I developed my vision further and I depicted topics as little animals that would be kicked out into the world - alone, with no friends, no links to relevant information. Those links would appear automagically through usage data (which is basically how all of the internet works today).

I dont see why we need maps, relationship tables, branch filtering and even version control, other than in the old paradigm of the documentation department being in complete control of what is being handed to the clients. Even in such cases, clients do not read your stuff cover to cover: those days have long passed and good riddance to them. We need to move forward and ditch the old habits. We are devoting way too much time to defining the totality of information the users need from us. That is simply fighting a lost battle. We could be having much more success, and much more fun, when devoting all our attention to making our content as dynamic and alive as we possibly can.

Just my 2 cents.


Smart Information Design
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Cell: +31 646 854 996

On 30 Jul 2020, 16:11 +0200, Wayne Brissette <wbrisett@...>, wrote:

This is very, very nice!

I do think though that if we're really honest one of the statements in
this document isn't entirely accurate.
The relationship table frees the topics from imbedded links making
topics more reusable and aids maintenance of links.
You've stated the party line here. But for those of us who have done
this for a long time will tell you all we've done is moved the headache
of link maintenance from the topic to the map level. Have we freed the
topic? Yes, but we've not really created an easier way to maintain the
links. I liken it to sweeping the dirt under the rug. Does the room look
clean? Yes, but we've just moved it somewhere else. Reltables in that
way too.

In fact, after years of internal debates, we've decided it's no easier
to maintain reltables vs. sticking a link in a topic itself. As long as
you use keys wisely, in some cases it can be easier to have the link in
the topic. Now, that's not always the case, but as is often the case in
DITA, there's no one size fits all.


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