Mar 242009

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be doing some infrastructure work on MDC.  The biggest thing is that we plan to install the new 9.02 version of Mindtouch Deki sometime in April, about two weeks after it gets released.  The release is scheduled for the end of March.

That will get us a ton of nice improvements that we’ve been eagerly awaiting.

There are also some customization things in progress.  I’m working on code that will let us automatically move some pages around to start building a site hierarchy that will make certain tasks easier to do in the future.  That’s not all that interesting, so I won’t dwell on it right now.

Another task coming up is that I’ll be putting together some code to automatically generate interface reference pages for interfaces we don’t already have documented.  This should help us quickly fill in some holes in our docs, and will kick-start getting proper documentation into place for all interfaces.  I plan to work on that very shortly after my impending vacation.

Once these things are done, we’ll be working on setting up automatic notifications so that subject-matter experts can automatically be notified when pages are edited that they ought to review.  Hopefully this will help ensure the accuracy of our content, by making sure that the guys that know the code inside and out review the docs.  Infrastructure to enable this sort of notification is integrated in the new Deki we’ll be installing, but we’ll be doing some code on top of that to make it work just the way we want it to.  I’ll be blogging more about that soon.

 Posted by at 4:27 PM
Mar 202009

One thing that we need to do with MDC is to find content that’s missing — especially as XULPlanet starts winding down — and make sure it’s added to MDC.  This constitutes both migrating anything not already migrated from XULPlanet but also writing new material where stuff is missing.

Please file bugs against Mozilla Developer Center in Bugzilla if you find any missing articles that you think are in need of immediate attention, so that we can prioritize getting them written or migrated!  Let’s fill in those holes!

Of course, you’re also more than welcome (in fact, “urged” would be appropriate) to write or migrate the material yourself — there’s enough to do that I can’t do it all, so the more help the better!

 Posted by at 8:24 PM
Mar 172009

The new menu hierarchy for MDC is mostly done now, and I’d like to get your opinion.  The main page leads to a series of submenus that help guide readers to the documents they need.

There’s also a “documentation hot links” page, referenced from the main page, which is mostly a clone of the current MDC main page; it’s intended for people who already know what they want, and want to quickly navigate to a specific topic or technology.

Let me know what you think!

 Posted by at 6:09 PM
Mar 132009

The more I work on this MDC menu hierarchy, the more I realize this is a bigger job than I originally expected.  MDC badly needs to be better organized.  The mockups I’ve been posting about are just the beginning.

If you keep your eye on the proposed main page, you’ll find that I’m working on an entire hierarchy of menus that will help guide people to the information they need.  These pages are going to be changing as I work on sorting out the organization.

For the experts, I’m now planning an “expert mode” page of sorts, which will be more like a tidier version of the current main page, with lots of links to key articles that people already involved in the project use frequently.  I’ll try to post a proposal for that page soon.

I think once all is said and done, it’s going to be a lot easier to find information on MDC.  I’m very excited about that!

 Posted by at 4:09 PM
Mar 122009

I’ve got a couple new mockups now.  The “Developing Mozilla” page offers links to information about working with the code, Mozilla platform documentation, and subjects including localization, security, and mobile.

Because it’s of keen interest to some of you, I’ve also put together the proposed new “The Mozilla platform” page.  This page offers the links that many of you have wanted to be sure would all be in the same place, with links to information on all our APIs and toolkits, as well as SpiderMonkey and JavaScript documentation.  This is the page I’d expect seasoned Mozilla developers to use as a start page on MDC.

Both of these pages will be tagged appropriately to generate the correct IRC links in their Table of Contents areas.

As before, please feel free to comment.  Your input has been very helpful so far!

Before I go, I do want to point out that it’ll be impossible to satisfy everyone.  It’s the nature of the beast; MDC needs to cater to a wide variety of people with varying needs and skill levels.  My guiding concept is that when in doubt, I’ll cater to the newcomer, because they need the most help.  However, I don’t want to make finding information tedious to seasoned developers either, so if anything is too painful, I’ll try to rein that in!

 Posted by at 4:03 PM
Mar 122009

I’ve got a mockup for a main page that has a sidebar that would offer quick links to specific topic areas.  I personally don’t like this but mocked it up because a couple of people wanted to see it.  I haven’t actually connected the links in the sidebar, but this at least offers a look at what it would look like.

My personally preferred approach to having access to the smorgasbord of technologies would be to have a “Supported technologies” page that’s linked to from the main page; people that like having that set of quick links to specific technologies could then bookmark that page if they want to.  I’ve added that to the original mockup of the new main page.

What do you think at this point?  Is the idea of a separate “here’s all the technologies we document” page enough to satisfy you, if you’re among the folks that likes that list on the current main page?

 Posted by at 11:07 AM
Mar 112009

Right now, when you go to the Mozilla Developer Center web site, you’re presented with a page full of acronyms, technologies, and miscellaneous stuff that makes it very difficult to find what you want, even if you know what you want in the first place.

This is a problem we’ve been aware of for some time, but that hasn’t kept us from making it worse by periodically adding even more obscure technologies to the list shown there.

It’s time, at last, to clean this mess up and redo our front page.

I’ve got a proposed design for the main page, which you can see by clicking here.

As you can see by looking at that, we basically replace the entire table of contents with four links.  These links will take the reader to a topic page that provides additional links for a given subject.  For example, clicking the “Developing Mozilla” link will take you to a page that offers links to articles on QA, localization, embedding, XUL, building, XPCOM, SpideMonkey, interfaces, and so forth.

Clicking the “Extending Firefox” would take you to coverage of XUL, JavaScript, themes, extension and plugin development, and the like.

Obviously some of the individual articles will overlap between these topic areas, but this reduction in the number of links off the main page will help us guide readers to the content they want.

The “Web development” section will be an area we’ll need to work on.  It’s always been a goal of MDC to offer top-notch documentation for developing on the open web, from HTML to CSS to AJAX and all the latest open web technologies.  Much of that content is as yet unwritten.  I hope that we can start making serious headway there in the post-Firefox 3.5 documentation timeframe.

Please feel free to comment on my thoughts here.  I’m excited to finally have time to think about and work on this, and hope to start making these changes soon.

 Posted by at 6:48 PM
Mar 112009

As has been noted in many other blog posts, tweets, and so forth, the new Firefox addons developer guide has been posted.  This is a great new resource for new add-on developers, starting with an introduction to the basic technologies behind add-on development, and progressing into actual development of extensions.

There are some to-do items left, including additions of screenshots and diagrams.

I’m working on a copy-edit pass to clean up the text a bit, as there are places where the fact that it’s a translation to English from its original Japanese is fairly obvious.  I’m also doing some style tweaks to make it fit the style of MDC a bit better, from a visual standpoint.

 Posted by at 2:15 PM
Mar 092009

I just checked into our SVN some skin revisions that will improve a couple of things on MDC, although they won’t work until we upgrade to Lyons, hopefully in April.

One of the revisions will improve our diff displays, removing some extra stuff we don’t need, leaving just the new side-by-side view of the changes.

The other big change is that I’ve moved the “Talk page” link out of the More options menu into the main toolbar, and when you’re looking at the talk page, it turns into a link back to the original article.  This not only improves discoverability of the talk pages, but makes it easier to get out of them once you’re there.

We should now be in good shape, skin-wise, for the upgrade when the time comes.

 Posted by at 4:47 PM