Mar 032010

As I’ve blogged before, we’re trying to upgrade the Mozilla Developer Center to the “Noatak” release of MindTouch (version 9.12).

Unfortunately, we’re still having trouble getting the RSS feeds on the staging server to work and so far nobody can figure out why. We’re still working with the support guys at MindTouch, trying to figure this out. It’s the last remaining hold-up; once this is resolved, we’ll be throwing the switch, so to speak.

I’ve blogged in the past a little about what we expect to gain with the Noatak upgrade, but MindTouch has updated their release notes since then, so I’m going to go over it some more.

Performance and Scaling

One of the big wins (we hope) for us will be performance. MindTouch refactored their API to help reduce the number of database hits needed to get things done. In addition, they implemented a new caching module that in their tests speeds up page performance by up to 10x.

They’ve also further improved their support for running across multiple application servers, which we do, although it’s unclear how much of this work we don’t already have, since we’re running a custom build that already integrates several of these changes. However, one additional benefit that most people won’t see — but will be helpful for administration purposes — is that the control panel now shows the status of the Lucene indexer, so I’ll be able to tell if an index pass is underway and if so, how far along it is.

UI improvements

I’ve mentioned before that they’ve added preliminary support for CKEditor 3.0. By default, however, it will still be using the FCKeditor 2.6.x that we’re currently using. We’ll look at switching over sometime after we get deployed, in order to deal with these things one step at a time. Because CKEditor support is new, there may be additional risks involved in switching to it, so we’re not in a hurry to do so.

Once we do, though, we expect the editing experience to be noticeably improved, as it’s faster and more accessible, and offers more customization options that we’ll be able to leverage.

Also, one problem many people have reported is data loss when they try to save but have gotten logged out or lose their internet connection. While over the long term, the ideal solution would be some kind of AJAX-based saving solution, Noatak adds a check where if the save would fail, you get a warning message but don’t lose your edit. Instead, you can — at least — copy and paste your work into another document, then log in and return to the editor to paste your edit back in and save. It’s not a perfect solution but is vastly better than silently losing your work!

Improvements have also been made to file attachment management, making it easier to avoid accidentally attaching multiple copies of the same thing instead of new versions superseding older ones.

Wrap up

So this is all pretty good. It’s not an enormous release in terms of user-facing features, but should be a win for performance and reliability. Of course, we won’t really know for sure how much of a benefit we’ll get out of it until we’ve deployed it and see how it fares when pounded on by our many gazillions of users.

 Posted by at 2:12 PM