My name is Tim Steele and I’m a DITA virgin. Oh, you’d never have guessed. When others talked about content models, tags, and information types, I’d nod knowingly as though I had plenty of experience myself. Listening carefully to my peers, I learned to use the words in full sentences. I sounded like I’d actually done all those things myself. But it’s time for me to come clean.

I’ve never written content using structured language. I’ve never broken existing content into manageable and reusable blocks. I’ve never lived through a DITA implementation. And I know I’m not alone. Some of you are in the same boat. You’re in the content industry. You’ve attended the conferences. You’ve discussed structured authoring in meetings, meetups, and LinkedIn groups. But you haven’t actually used the tools nor done any of the actual authoring. Just like me. You’re not alone.

I’ve decided it was time to do something about this. First, I spoke with Val Swisher, the CEO of our company – certainly no DITA Virgin herself. She was a bit surprised but quickly realized that my job in a different practice area just didn’t give me much opportunity to get my hands into DITA. (Most of the people in our company are DITA experts, since Content Rules offers extensive content strategy services including helping our customers move to XML/DITA using The Rockley Method .) Then, I had the opportunity to participate in a class about DITA. Even though I’m not a writer these days, I wanted to take the class to learn the basics and get my hands on some of the tools to see how things really work. In the class, I gained a better understanding about how all those terms fit together. I even became pretty comfortable navigating around tags in the actual code. And I’m happy to share what I learned. I can tell you why structured authoring is better than unstructured (and when it’s actually not). I can describe the categories of tools that are involved. I can ask the experts if I don’t know something.

So, write to me, The Data Virgin, and tell me what you’d like to know more about. Write your questions in the comments below. Or, if you’d like to keep your questions anonymous, you can reach me at tims@contentrules.com . In any case, I’ll answer them here in the coming weeks.

–The DITA Virgin