Find out more about our Firehead course instructor: Dr. Tony Self

Skyline view of Paris with Eiffel Tower in background.

At Firehead, we’re extremely proud of the exceptional quality authors we’ve gathered in our training centre. They are top names and thought leaders in their fields.

Tony Self is our DITA concepts course author. Tony is an internationally recognised expert in structured authoring and DITA. He’s been a technical writer since the 1980s.

Along the way, he’s taught technical communication at Swinburne University, got involved with the OASIS DITA Technical Committee, wrote The DITA Style Guide as part of his PhD project, won the ISTC Horace Hockley award for his contribution to technical communication, directed the tekom TCTrainNet programme, and delivered lectures and conference papers around the world.

Why is this course important?

This course is specifically for technical communicators who need, or would like to, work within a DITA environment. Writing within the DITA standard where there is separation of content and form is both challenging and exciting. It’s very different to the writing methods that technical communicators have become used to over the past few decades.

A lot of DITA training ends up focussing on the tools, and ends up being tools training. An important piece is sometimes overlooked, and that is the fundamentals of the DITA approach. DITA is not an authoring tool. It is a methodology expressed as a standard. Learning the methodology, the principles, and the ideas that surround DITA will make any subsequent tools training a lot more understandable.

How will this information help you two years from now?

If you are about to embark on a DITA project, or have joined a DITA team, or are looking for a job working with DITA, you have a very bright and interesting time ahead of you. The more you work with DITA, the more opportunities you will find to streamline processes and remove drudgery from your work life.

This may sound like I’m selling you a dream, but DITA makes document engineering possible. And that means that you can start doing things previously impossible, provided that you have the imagination and innovative drive to do so.

Two years from now, I’m hoping this course will have given you the theoretical understanding, and the enthusiasm, to be designing really clever documentation solutions. I can’t say exactly what they’ll be, because you haven’t invented them yet. But I have seen some great, simple, easy-to-implement ideas that others have dreamed up. For example, turning a glossary page that an engineer created in Microsoft Word into a properly structured DITA glossary, within an hour.

Here’s a little bit about Tony

Tony got into techcomm through working on aircraft manuals. Aviation and writing have always been passions, but writing tends to pay the bills and aviation creates the bills. He gravitated towards leading-edge documentation tools and techniques, and was involved in hypertext and computer-based training in the early days of those technologies. In 1993 he founded a hypertext documentation company in Melbourne, Australia, named HyperWrite, and still works under that company name.

Aviation remains a strong interest for Tony, and he gets to fly some amazing aircraft, including an 80 year old Tiger Moth, a classic Airtourer trainer, and a Super Decathlon aerobatic aircraft. When he can, Tony tries to merge his aviation and communication interests, and is a feature writer for Australian Flying magazine. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Here’s a little bit about the course

This is a self-paced workshop of ten lessons totalling around 10 hours of instruction that can be completed over a four week period. Each lesson builds on the previous to build a strong fundamental understanding of the principal concepts of DITA.

Topics covered include:

  • The nature of open source standards.
  • The basics of XML technologies.
  • The principles of structured authoring.
  • How topic-based architecture and modularity promotes content re-use.
  • The practical benefits of separation of content and form.
  • The role of maps in organising and structuring content.
  • The effect of information typing on readability and finability.
  • How DITA specialisation works to support different content models.
  • The logic and importance of semantic mark-up.
  • How conditional publishing is enabled through metadata.
  • How DITA maps are key to document engineering.
  • The way in which DITA tools are used to manage and publish content.

It’s for any technical author, writer or editor who is ready to engage in a topic-based documentation project. No previous knowledge of DITA is required or expected. Find out more about the course here.

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CJ Walker

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