Aug 152012

Last week, the core MDN team of writers (Mozilla staff writers as well as a few contributors) and our development team met in Toronto to talk about planning for the next few months of work on the MDN wiki, Kuma. Today, I’m going to share some information about what we discussed and what we’re hoping to do to make the system even better.

Launch retrospective

First off, our launch went remarkably smoothly. It took a matter of minutes, and while the development team and at least one IT representative hung around waiting for something to go wrong, nothing ever did. Gradually they wandered off to find less boring things to do.

Now that, my friend, is a successful launch. Boom.

How we think about prioritization

There are basically four key priority areas:

  1. Security concerns.
  2. Stuff that makes reading and using the site better.
  3. Stuff that makes writing content better.
  4. Stuff that makes administrating the site better.

Now that we’ve reached basic functionality, remaining security concerns are of course top priority. After that, on average, group 2 is the most important. If something actually breaks content, that’s a serious issue and one we want to address relatively quickly, by and large. Group 3 is the second most important. A documentation site isn’t much good if you don’t have documentation, so making the creation and editing of content work well is key. The fourth group is typically the least important, unless failing to address an administration issue means one of the others is jeopardized.

What’s next, then?

So let’s talk about what we’re going to do next. Obviously, there’s lots of stuff we want to do. However, we can (and did!) prioritize this list, at least to some extent. This doesn’t result necessarily in a list of exactly what will happen in what order, because it turns out that if you throw all the really important, really hard stuff at your development team all at once, they tend to freak out. Go figure!

Instead, what we’ll be doing is picking a couple of big things off the list, and a few smaller but also pretty important things, and mixing it up a bit over time. The team works on one-week sprints (although they might go to a different sprint length sometime in the future). For example, today they’re starting on a sprint that ends on August 22nd. You can take a look at that link to see what they’re going to be tackling between now and then, as well as the status of each item. There’s some excellent stuff on there, which covers a wide selection of users. A few key items that I’m particularly excited about:

  • For reading and using the site
    • Breadcrumbs on different languages can be wildly different, even if the hierarchy is the same.
    • Pages that have special characters in their slugs are missing (they’re actually there, but hidden in the UI right now).
  • For writing and editing
    • Make logging in work even on languages without a BrowserID localization.
    • Add the edit summary so you can comment when saving changes.
    • Improvements to the revert UI.
    • Improvements to the RSS feed for recent changes.
    • Many, many localization improvements.

Note that we’re not doing anything site admin related in this sprint. That’s because you, the user, are more important. That and we’re also site users! This stuff drives us nuts too.

The next few months

Over the next few months, we’ll be continuing to work on things like:

  • Support for moving pages (and hierarchies of pages).
  • A system for displaying live examples, with support for letting the user experiment with and try out changes to the code.
  • Editing just a section, instead of the entire article; this is mostly finished but has some bugs that need to be resolved.
  • Support for embedding SVG diagrams.
  • An API for allowing software to add content to the wiki using a POST API, with a token system for security.
  • Improvements to administration, especially user management features.

There are other things that are likely to be worked on too, but it’s too early to know which they’re liable to be.

At any rate, this gives you a good idea of where we are and where we’re going. Feel free to drop into the #mdndev channel on IRC, where you can watch our valiant development team at work!

 Posted by at 5:16 PM

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