What does a DITA “topic” have in common with Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum, “Peacekeeper?” Don’t dig too deeply for an answer. It’s just that in both cases, the names are descriptive euphemisms for something much more banal: guns and proses.
For the purpose of representing the minimalist-informed methodology of topic-oriented writing, “topic” is a perfectly good name. “Article” might have been just as good a name except it signifies somewhat more development than the atomic chunk of text that we call a DITA topic. For a technical writer, the classic definition is still apt: “a topic is a unit of information with a title and content, short enough to be specific to a single subject.” But for a novel writer, a topic is a titled portion of prose; for a journal writer, it is a nested hierarchy of scholarly exposition that we call an article; for the responsible owner of a business web page, it is possibly an excerpt from a white paper or marketing copy deck.
What would you call the basic, titled chunk of any of those kinds of discourse? If you are feeling lucky, you could call it anything you want. But Dirty Harry might ask you to reconsider your luck.
Did you know?
The first demonstration of the derivation of an archetype topic into its initial concept, task, and reference child specializations was done by an IBM XML Workgroup in the latter half of 2000. After realizing that the same design pattern in the DTDs could be used to introduce element specializations across the child specializations, the workgroup published the amended design for public critique in March, 2001 on IBM’s developerWorks site.