Content management and information design expert JoAnn Hackos discusses moving legacy documentation to the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) in this interview with Data Conversion Laboratory. Hackos defines legacy content, why and when converting content to DITA is desirable, how to decide what to convert (and what not to), and why writing content and designing new structures are a critical success factor when moving to DITA.

Hackos says: “Do not accept the old structures for the future. The new structure not only should be DITA; it’s going to be more structured and more effective. In the process you may find information that can move to DITA and information that could be dropped. You could devise a fairly sophisticated conversion script to do some of the work.”

“You might have content that is already well structured in the original,” says Hackos. “Conversion to DITA is going to give you a lot of value. Then you have some content that is so badly done that you don’t want to use it. This information may have to be completely rewritten. You might even need to start from scratch.”

“You will likely have a considerable middle ground-that’s where most people are. You have valuable information with good content. You want to move to DITA but in the process of getting there you want to make some intelligent decisions about using that content in the future. Put all your decisions about your content in at least three buckets: what to leave back as legacy, what to convert, and what to rewrite. One caution, if you convert information that is badly structured, it becomes even harder to fix later.”