What’s Hidden in Area 51? DITA!

Area 51 - DITA on StackExchange
Area 51 – DITA on StackExchange

Last month Anders Svensson proposed setting up a dedicated Q&A forum specific to DITA XML on StackExchange. He suggested this to members of the popular DITA-related forums on Yahoo and LinkedIn, and people responded enthusiastically to the idea. The staging area is called “Area 51” and is still in the developing stage, having finished gathering and assessing the value of various popular questions about using DITA.

For those who are not familiar with StackExchange it is a set of question and answers websites that focus on a given topic, ranging from various programming languages and software applications, to patent advice, bicycles, project management, Lego, cooking, and more. The one for DITA is still considered to be in the development stage, but it has rapidly gained a significant following from some senior members within the DITA community and there appears to be considerable momentum that ought to make this a site worth keeping an eye on. Some of the top-voted questions that the experts are committing to answering include:

  • What is the best way to create SVG images for DITA when transforming with DITA OT?
  • What is the best way to embed multimedia and non-DITA XML in DITA topics, and provide suitable transforms that enable its use?
  • How do I use Antenna house or RenderX engines instead of the default open toolkit PDF render?
  • What’s the best approach to reusing DITA content in a version control system (not a CMS)?
  • When would you use a relationship table as opposed to adding relationship links to topics?

So as you can see, some good nitty-gritty questions having to do with DITA implementation. Some people have already taken a stab at providing summary answers, but the focus at this point is having people sign up and commit to providing their expertise in order to get things going on the site.

Anders has said that one of the reasons for wanting to start up this Q&A site for DITA is that older forums, such as the still-popular DITA-users group on Yahoo is showing signs of its age: there is a concern that the extensive code samples once posted to the site are disappearing, and that some posts are disappearing altogether. Hence the desire for something that is (hopefully) more permanent.

If you think you can lend a hand, or are just interested in seeing the answers to some of the questions that have already been posed, please check out the site!


"DITAWriter" is Keith Schengili-Roberts. I work for IXIASOFT as a DITA Specialist/Information Architect. And I like to write about DITA and the technical writing community. To get ahold of me you can email me at: keith@ditawriter.com.

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6 thoughts on “What’s Hidden in Area 51? DITA!

  1. Keith, I just want to reiterate that the new DITA Q&A site is primarily modeled as a knowledge base. As such, it is not as usable for discussions and mentoring in the same way as the Yahoo dita-users group. So I encourage all members of dita-users to stay connected there for the sake of maintaining that active, advice-giving community. But if you have specific questions about DITA that the watching experts might be able to answer in a way that adds to a definitive knowledge base, THAT is the particular role of this new Q&A site. Please do put in your membership there–we need more committers now to help ensure that this new community will be well cared for!

    1. @Don, I completely agree, as you know. The new DITA site is meant to complement the Yahoo forum, which has been very useful for a long time, and will surely continue to be so even if we get the new Q&A site to take off. The Q&A site is as you say meant to be an efficient site for getting clear answers to specific questions and a knowledge base, but is not really intended for more general lengthy discussions.

      And thanks again to you too for your continued support of the Q&A site!


    2. Good points Don! I also understand that it is designed to be complimentary to forums such as the DITA users group on Yahoo though I am concerned if things like code samples are evaporating from the latter site. It’s also good to see the community coming together on StackExchange to answer people’s questions, and also interesting to see what people are trying to find answers on.

    1. Thanks Don — my spam filter flagged it as a “probable”. That spam comment is now officially nuked!

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