Time to follow a new technology path?

In his keynote talk at the recent TC World conference in Bangalore, Tom Johnson makes the case for creating customer documentation through the use of modern web-development platforms that treat content as code.

Jekyll software logo

Jekyll (software) Logo – source: Wikipedia

Tom invites us, the Technical Communication community, to get past our fascination with XML, which many web developers regard as dated. Instead, he wonders if the time is right to start developing content on popular platforms like Jekyll.

Tom being Tom, he backs his words with action. He’s about to embark on an experiment in which, using Jekyll, he’ll try to replicate the features of DITA. He describes this experiment in the comments section of the same blog post that contains the recording of his keynote talk.

DITA logoI’m an old Tech Comm guy, more a dabbler than a true programmer, so I’m a bit intimidated by the idea of tossing aside my comfortable tool set for something I’ve never used. In fact the phrase “treating content as code” sends a chill down my spine.

Yet I believe Tom is onto something. At a time when we talk about breaking down silos, about leading the effort to unify content throughout the organization, why would we want to wall ourselves off by using our own specialized, peculiar tool set?

I encourage you to listen to Tom’s talk. Then, I’d like to know:

  1. Whether you agree with him — and why.
  2. If you have experience developing documentation using one of the web platforms Tom is talking about. If so, were you successful? What advantages did you find to using the web platform? Disadvantages? Problems you overcame?

I’m sure Tom would like to hear about your experiences too.

I can’t wait to hear about the progress of Tom’s DITA vs. Jekyll experiment. And I hope we can have a fruitful and sustained conversation in our profession about the pros and cons of using web-development platforms — and of using collaborative approaches like GitHub — for creating documentation.

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