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Challenges of a Compliance Scheme

DITA is a standard. Many standards have some sort of regulatory compliance requirements. For example, windows fitted in Australian houses must comply with an Australian and New Zealand standard. Third party certification bodies, such as SGS, provide a mechanism for formal notification that a product complies with the standard.

In this case, the broad industry develops a standard, the standard is published by a neutral standards body, the Government legislates to require the standard to be met for particular applications, third party certification bodies provide the evidentiary requirement of compliance, and the manufacturer displays the certification on its products and in its marketing. A manufacturer cannot claim compliance with the standard without certification. A company deliberately mis-labelled a product as complying when it does not can be prosecuted.

In the DITA world, the broad industry develops a standard, and the standard is published by the neutral OASIS standards body. But that's where it stops. It seems a manufacturer of a blender can claim DITA compliance, because there is no certification or testing authority, and there is no force of law underpinning compliance.

While it's hard to foresee a day where a government mandates compliance with DITA standards for particular products or industries, the idea of certification is not far-fetched. In fact, it may be possible to use existing third party certification organisations for this purpose. For example, SGS may certify that AcmeAuthor produces XML documents that comply with the DITA standard. AcmeAuthor can then include the SGS standards mark on their product packaging.

Before we reach this stage, however, the standards organisation (OASIS), presumably through the Adoption TC, must produce detailed definitions of what a DITA document must be in order to comply, and what a software tool must be able to do to be “DITA compliant”. There has to be some sort of scale, along the same lines as energy efficiency or car safety marks, where “four stars” is both measurable by a certification body and comprehensible by a consumer.

Developing a DITA compliance definition document is a big project, and may need to have lawyers involved in the drafting. Perhaps some sort of matrix of features and characteristics would be a starting point, and a star rating system for documents, authoring tools and publishing tools would be the end point. AcmeAuthor may end up achieving 4 stars for authoring, 2 stars for publishing, and producing 5 star documents.

DITA Authoring and Reviewing Tool Feature Matrix



Required for Star Rating

conref management

Allows use of conrefs by selecting elements to transclude from a list


ditamap editor

Has a ditamap editor (separate from a topic editor) which represents the ditamap as a tree


Bookmap editor

Has a ditamap editor (separate from a topic editor) which represents the bookmap as a tree



Allows editing of base and constrained information types



Allows editing of base and specialised information types



Allows editing of relationship tables in a tabular view



Supports editing of simple tables and full (CALS) tables



Uses OASIS DTD or XSD schema files for validation



Allows application of filters in the editor



Allows browsing for target when creating cross-references


DITA Publishing Tool Feature Matrix

TBA, but including:

DITA CMS Feature Matrix


ComplianceScheme (last edited 2010-04-25 18:15:16 by tself)