Oct 302013

We’ve had a few more improvements to our new design land over the last couple of days. Key among them is improved responsive design; our layout now works better both at very small and very large screen sizes, and should provide more of the viewport’s area for article content.

Specific changes of interest:

  • On small desktop screens, the left sidebar is now kept visible, but the article’s TOC and tags are nudged up above the body of the article instead of being in a right sidebar.
  • On the first page of search results, the “View all” link has been removed.
  • Fixed alignment of the MDN logo with the rest of the left-aligned content on the page.
  • Back-end work to allow analytics to know the difference between users that are logged in and not logged in, so we can get real statistics about contribution rates.

This is a pretty small set of changes, but they should improve usability noticeably, if subtly in some cases.

I do think we have a few more column width issues to resolve; in particular, I think the maximum width of our sidebars is still too large. We’ll see what we can do about that.

My last post about Kuma updates mentioned that page moves had returned; unfortunately, we uncovered a bug in that feature just minutes after I posted, and had to disable it again. However, a fix has been devised and is in testing now. I hope to see page moving land again in the next day or two.

 Posted by at 4:53 PM  Tagged with:
Oct 252013

Big progress today on MDN! Support for moving pages has returned, now refactored to run as a background task, alerting the person that initiated the move by email once it’s complete. This feature is only available to site administrators for the time being. Still, this is a huge, huge deal! Deleting pages should come along soon; it shares a lot of code with page moving.

It’s worth noting that we’re still testing the page move functionality, so we’ll be starting with small numbers of pages and working our way upward.

So here’s a brief overview of the changes of note for the last few days:

  • Page moving, available to administrators. This lets us move one page or an entire tree of pages, leaving behind redirects.
  • Site redesign progress
    • On mobile devices, the TOC at the top of the page is initially collapsed (closed). Tap on it to open it up.
    • The languages menu, formerly hidden in the “gear” menu, now has its own menu, adjacent to the “gear” menu.
    • The “quick links” section in the left sidebar now includes a “See also” heading, since that’s how those links are typically used.
    • The buttons to expand and contract things like the TOC are now plus and minus icons rather than arrows.
    • Zone subpage titles are no longer italicized.
    • Styles while editing content should more closely match the way it will appear when rendered for reading.
  • Assorted adjustments to layout and padding.

So, lots of great progress here, both on site functionality and on the new design. I think our international community will especially appreciate the more discoverable language picker.

As always, don’t hesitate to post to the dev-mdn list if you have concerns with the design.

 Posted by at 3:05 PM  Tagged with:
Oct 252013

It’s common for the teams working on parts of the various Mozilla projects to have periodic work weeks or in-person meetups, wherein the teams travel from all over the world to sit in one place and work together or talk for a few days. These are a great way to sync up, bond, and exchange information face-to-face.

There’s a lot of information to be gained at these events. More importantly, perhaps, they’re a great way for people to meet and find out who knows what about which topics. As such, there’s a lot of potential value in having a representative of the MDN writing team attend your work week. By having a writer attend, you can share with them your concerns about the quality or state of the documentation, share valuable insights about how the code works, or even simply guide the writer to where all the best design notes and discussions are archived.

As such, we’d really appreciate being looped in if you have a work week planned. We can’t necessarily send someone to every work week every team has, but we’d sure like to try to at least drop in for a day or two to the ones we can get to.

In addition to our writing team gathering useful information, we can provide useful information to your team, such as:

  • Guidance on how to get your project’s changes into the pipeline for developer documentation work.
  • Training on how your development team can contribute to the documentation (you don’t have to write great docs; just giving us the basics can reduce the time it takes to build great docs by an enormous percentage).
  • We can help you find docs for related technologies that already exist.
  • We can offer insights into ways your APIs could behave more consistently with existing APIs when consistency might be helpful. Since we document a lot of APIs, we can have great ideas in this area.

Whenever your team schedules a work week, please feel free to email me and ask if we could send a writer to join you. Like I mentioned before, we might not always be able to do so, but we will try to when it’s possible and makes sense to do so.

 Posted by at 11:44 AM
Oct 242013

It’s a strange thing, having a nervous system that doesn’t quite work right. I’m fortunate, I suppose, that my problem is an excess of sensation rather than a lack of it. But it doesn’t generally feel like good fortune when the misfiring, overactive nerves throughout my body are randomly and incorrectly informing my brain that something is terribly wrong.

It’s a condition that, for lack of a more specific diagnosis, is referred to as peripheral neuropathy.

I live day to day with pain. It’s not “real” in that there are no knives or fire or crushing blows to my arms, legs, neck, and face. But it feels real. Right now, as I type this, it feels as if I’m being clubbed behind the legs over and over again, and like fire ants are swarming under my skin in my arms, shoulders, and neck. The nerves in my feet are signaling my muscles that they should be contracting hard, for no good reason, so my feet are partly curled under, unless I fight against it, which at this moment I’m doing by pushing my toes against the floor.

It’s terrifying to me to know that this is a moderate amount of pain compared to what I feel without medication. Skip one dose of the medications I take to calm my nervous system, and a few hours later, I’m literally writhing on my bed in tears from the pain. Skip more doses than that, and I don’t even want to think about how it would feel.

I take an assortment of pills every morning, a few at midday, and more at night. These are my thin line of defense.

We don’t know why my nerves do this. We probably never will. I have recently discovered that adding a small amount of ibuprofen to my regimen makes a huge difference in how I feel, but after my gastric bypass surgery a few years ago, I’m not supposed to take any of the NSAID-class medications like that, so I’m playing with fire by doing so. I don’t, at present, care. It helps so much that I’m willing to risk it.

The level of my pain ebbs and flows over the course of the day. It’s usually worst in the two hours before my medication times and an hour or so afterward. The rest of the day, I usually can function okay, depending on various factors.

Cold is one of those factors; the cooler the air around me, the worse my nerves get. I dread the oncoming winter; already, the nippy fall air is causing taking my daughter to school in the mornings to be difficult.

Another interesting aspect of all this is that a side effect of overactive nerves is that contact, even gentle contact, can at times be painful. This is why you often see me show up to video meetings in my oldest T-shirts and soft exercise shorts or sleep pants: these clothes are soft, so they feel less like sandpaper. It’s not always enough, but it helps.

All this said, I’m incredibly glad that science has led to medications that help. There are times when they’re not enough, and we continue to look for the perfect cocktail of meds that keep me functional even more of the time, but I know from past experience that without these drugs, I would be in sad shape indeed.

In general, I know I’m a lucky guy. I have a family that helps me cope, colleagues that tolerate all the random downtime I have to take, and am able to afford medical care and the medications that keep me going. I’m fortunate to live in a time when there’s any form of treatment at all for this problem, even if it’s not a cure. There are times when I don’t feel lucky (it’s hard to be chipper when you’re in agony), but I know deep down that I really am.

 Posted by at 8:43 AM
Oct 212013

It’s been many months since my last status report on the state of Kuma. There are many reasons for this; some technical, some personal. I’ll be trying to do this more regularly again going forward. Obviously, the big project is the redesign of MDN. Most of our fixes apply directly to that project right now.

Here’s a quick list of the things that landed in the last few days:

  • The new search results page has a big search box on it.
  • Menu font sizes have been improved on search results pages.
  • Fixed a bug that caused double vertical scroll bars to appear on zone landing pages with short content areas.
  • Use of the content space within the body of articles is improved.
  • Performance of the localization dashboard is improved.
  • Other improvements for the wiki and home page, including fixes for RTL and text overflow problems.
  • KumaScript warning messages now use preformatted styling for easier reading in the redesign.

Also, several internal fixes building up toward upcoming big features have been committed.

We should be getting the ability to delete and move pages very soon. The code is finished and committed; I’m trying to sort out why it’s not enabled yet so we can fix whatever remains to be done so it can be switched on, at least for a few people to test.

 Posted by at 5:25 PM  Tagged with: