Sometimes the sheer volume of information on the internet is overwhelming. Even with the help of Google Alerts and RSS feeds, it’s easy to miss interesting news. That’s likely the reason we failed to notice this especially interesting offer from the folks at Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL). It’s called the DITA Test Drive Challenge, a program that allows content-heavy organizations a shortcut to DITA. For $3000 (okay, $2995, technically), DCL will convert 500 pages of legacy content to DITA and perform a Content Reuse Analysis on 2500 pages of legacy content. Wow! That’s quite an offer.

Why would you want to take advantage of this offer? Because there’s a dirty little secret in XML authoring land. It’s next to impossible to evaluate an XML authoring tool without actually using some of your own content in it. Testing an XML editor with your own content will help you avoid selecting the wrong authoring tool for your organization. Those who skip this step generally purchase software based on the opinions of others and sometimes after having downloaded a free trial version of the software (which is pretty useless without your own DTD and some real content).

Add to the mix that many folks shopping for XML authoring tools are also, for the very first time, going to attempt to move their staff toward structured XML authoring, increasingly with DITA as the underlying architecture. So, if you were able to actually test the software you plan to launch with your own content, you’ll be able to better understand the major changes in work habits the new tool, new architecture, and new authoring approach will introduce—changes that vendors seldom highlight in their marketing materials.

The second big reason this offer is a good one: the content reuse analysis. Without the help of an analysis, you’ll never know exactly how much reusable content you currently have. The folks at DCL have developed an automated process for identifying content that is identical, as well as content that is nearly identical (only slightly different). Knowing this information is often very revealing. Organizations that undertake analysis know much more about their content (how much is unique, how much is reused, where it is reused, where its not) and can therefore make informed business decisions based on real metrics (not the wild ass guesses too often employed to calculate return on investment). Content reuse metrics also help with the move to structured authoring and to DITA. When making such moves, it is critical to understand your content as it exists today in order to instruct XML authoring tools to help your content creators do their jobs most effectively. And, perhaps more importantly, knowing more about your content helps you plan how to improve its value to your customers.

DCL says their service usually costs $10,000. If you’re interested, they want to hear from you.