DITA Specialization Tutorial Now on Xiruss.org
The tutorial itself is published on my xiruss.org site here: http://www.xiruss.org/tutorials/dita-specialization/, including a package with all the source materials as well as the generated HTML version.
The source materials are managed for development in the XIRUSS Subversion repository here: http://xiruss-t.svn.sourceforge.net/viewvc/xiruss-t/specialization_tutorial/ should you for some reason want to track the development of the files or get the very latest stuff (can't imagine why but who knows?) or just get a particular file without downloading the whole package.
The tutorial includes an improved version of the DITA attribute domain specialization tutorial I posted here a while back.
It is of course written as a set of DITA topics, which is interesting in and of itself because a tutorial is a type of document for which the DITA concept/task/reference and highly fragmented presentation paradigms are not necessarily a good match. For example, I discovered that the only way to get prev/next links from one topic to the next within a logical narrative sequence of topics is to set their parent container in the organizing map to "sequence". However, this has the effect of numbering each topic in the sequence, which makes sense for the topics that represent a logical sequence of steps within the tutorial, but not for the purely conceptual overview of what DITA specialization is. (This is what the DITA Open Toolkit does today--whether this behavior is required by the DITA spec is a more subtle question.)
So it raises some issues, like do we need a tutorial-specific set of specializations and corresponding rendering customizations to get the effects I want as a tutorial author, or does the DITA spec need to be refined to reflect these sorts of more subtle rhetorical distinctions? Are my topics that describe a sequence of steps to be performed really task or concept topics (I've coded them as concepts because even in DITA 1.1, the task topic type is too restrictive in the way it represents sequences of steps)?
This makes the activity more fun than it would otherwise be--I always like it when the things I do result in both concrete products (a useful tutorial) and help to advance the state of our understanding and, hopefully, the supporting infrastructure, in this case, by serving as an experiment in applying DITA to a type of information for which it was not directly designed (not that I'm the first to create tutorials in DITA, or even the first to think about it--see discussion around this on the DITA Users Yahoo group--but as an informal, spare-time activity, this tutorial provides more opportunity for both introspection about the process and methods and, because it's public, more opportunity for community involvement).
I've also learned a lot about using DITA and hacking the Toolkit and stuff, which makes it fun.
Now if I could just stop waking up at 5:30 a.m. to work on the thing (It's not that I want to wake up at 5:30, it's just that once I am awake and my brain starts spinning I can't go back to sleep, so I am compelled to start working. Good for productivity, bad for physical and mental health.)