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Monthly Archives: July 2010

[This is a continuation of the post “Redesigning the MDN (part 1).”]

In my previous post I mentioned our fundamental goal is provide web developers with a central hub for documentation and discussion. I’ve talked a bit about how we plan to achieve the former, but what of the latter?

For this reason, we added yet another tab to the MDN’s header, called “Community.” In the newest iteration of the MDN, this tab will primarily serve to host a UserVoice-based forum where web developers can congregate and discuss anything open-web related. As we get that finalized, I’ll update this blog with a list of initial topics so that you can start to think about things to talk about.

Again, when the new MDN goes live sometime in mid-August, expect a more in-depth tour of the Community tab. Also, note that the Community tab will eventually encompass more than forums. Eventually there will also be community-provided news articles and other community engagement efforts via Mozilla. Those should be coming in later iterations of the MDN.

Thanks for reading! As usual, if you have any questions, comment or shoot me an email.

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(Redesigning the MDN is a complex project that’s going to take more than one post. In this post, I discuss the reasoning behind some of the more superficial changes I’ve made to the Network.)

Another one of my big projects here at Mozilla has been working on redesigning and re-branding the Mozilla Developer Network (MDN). If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ve already seen some of the work that Jay and I have done with regard to graphically redesigning the network. As I’ll discuss in a bit, we’ve made some important changes since then.

First, it’s important to understand the impetus for change. The Mozilla Developer Center (the current name for the MDN), as it stands, can be found here, if you’re not already familiar with it. Although it certainly looks better than it has in years past, it could still use some fixes here and there. Or all over the place. You can find the slide deck with some pictures of our first draft of the redesign here.

Underneath the superficial overhaul, however, lies a deeper paradigm shift. Although content is pretty well spread out to cover various domains of the open web, the focus currently concentrates on developing on the Mozilla platform specifically. While certainly we want to reward and help those who develop with the tools that we provide them, we feel that perhaps this mindset is a little close-minded. Mozilla’s goal is to advance the open web in every way possible, Mozilla-inspired or not. Consequently a solely inward focus on only Mozilla’s tools is unintuitive and does not allow us to optimize the progress of the open web.

Ultimately, the goal of the Mozilla Developer Network is to provide a central hub for discussion and documentation for open web developers, regardless of platform. The redesign of the MDN cannot lose sight of this goal.

With this goal in mind, we took the original .psd files from our web designers and started making tweaks. As previously mentioned, there are four main documentation headers: Web, Mobile, Add-ons, and Applications. In the currently released design, all of those headers are given equal weight, which runs against our fundamental goal.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a way to change these headlines without breaking the entire header, so we instead decided to revamp the site’s home page to place a greater emphasis on open web technologies at-large. When the new site is live, you’ll be able to see for yourself. There have been several other changes as well; I’ll tour through them on this blog when the new Network goes live.

One thing I’d like to emphasize: though our presentation of information has changed to fit our goal, none of the documentation has changed. You will still find all the information found on the current MDC, from Gecko to info about Mozilla-specific APIs. These articles will continued to be updated as well. Only the presentation of the information has changed.

Expect the site to go live mid-August. Tomorrow, I’ll write about some of the awesome new features that we can expect to see in the next iteration of the MDN and how we plan to facilitate communication between developers.

A quick aside from my summary posts: download the Firefox 4 beta 2 to check out application tabs and a sweet new Mac OS X interface. The alpha for Tab Candy is also available as an early build of Firefox, if you’re interested in trying that out as well.

For a more detailed rundown of the new beta, check out the Hacks blog for a sweet demo from our very own Paul Rouget!

Happy developing!

Hey there! Sorry for the long delay since my previous post; it’s been a busy past few weeks. Since coming back from the summit, my internship has been full of twists and turns, leaving me little time to write.

I’ve been assigned to work on a whole lot of different things. To give equal exposure to all of them, I’ll write several posts to update you on my work these past few weeks.

One of my big projects thus far has been designing an industry-wide web developer survey. Some of you might have seen one of my previous blog entries about the results of the survey we distributed this past March. The findings, while interesting, don’t paint a complete picture of the state of the open web and the developer tools you all like to use. Thus far the surveys we’ve released – the one previously mentioned and one that was released last November – have been distributed via Mozilla channels and have only really inquired about Mozilla platform technologies. We hope to change that.

We hope to get a wider snapshot of the web development community, not just for us, but for you. A panorama, if you will.

The survey will be released in a few weeks – sometime before the end of August – so check back frequently for the opportunity to take the survey and help us paint the picture of the open web. Thus far I’ve iterated through several drafts of the survey and talked to several market research consultants to determine how to best distribute and design the survey. It will be ready soon!

On a more interesting note, I’ve also been reaching out to infographic designers. Although the data obtained from the survey will certainly help us, we want it to help you, too. We want to present our data and conclusions in an aesthetically awesome way. Right now, I’m talking over our goals and the possibilities of an end design with several artists. They all have some pretty good stuff going on; they’ve won awards and made some pretty interesting designs. Stay tuned!

Because we expect such a large audience to be taking the survey, there has been a lot of pressure to get every word and every question right. I never realized just how much goes into designing a questionnaire: figuring out the average time spent to read and answer each question, the best way to structure a question, the most efficient reconciliation of details and the big picture, etc. Given the impact we expect this survey to have on our engagement efforts, the survey must determine with exact precision the information that we’re looking for. Such a statistical conquest, I have discovered, isn’t as easy as it looks.

More blog posts about the other things I’m working on will be coming soon! Thanks for reading.

The final day was a little shorter than the first two, but it was arguably the most memorable of the trip.

We woke up to a few lightning talks, which are five-minute demonstrations of various things that Mozillians have been working on. The lightning talks also featured the work of fellow intern John Wayne Hill, who has been working in user experience. Check out his blog at planet.mozinterns.net for more info.

Afterward, we went to our penultimate round of breakout sessions. Today I decided to stray from the usual engagement stuff to check out a session on web gaming. We were treated to demos of non-Flash-based games, including one that a fellow Mozillian had coded up on the plane on the way to Vancouver. It was, in short, a good time.

We then had one final round of lightning talks – featuring another fellow intern, Kyle Huey – followed by two more sets of breakout sessions. One of the most interesting breakout sessions featured my mentor, Jay Patel. As I mentioned in a blog post a week or two ago, one of our big projects has been working on the expansion and the redesign of the Mozilla Developer Network (previously called the Mozilla Developer Center). We’ve finished designing the new static pages, which should be going live by the end of the month. Most important in the redesign of these static pages is the categorization of documentation pages into four parts: web, mobile, add-ons, other.

If you want to see what the MDN looks like right now, check out the site. As you can tell, it could use quite the graphical overhaul.

We also hope to clean up the documentation and improve the way people navigate the site. As indicated by the heated discussion at the session, the most difficult obstacle will be localization: it’s hard to coordinate translation of documentation and to keep all of those different translations updated. We plan to keep the site constantly updated with the most updated version of an article in at least one language and to offer incentives for localizers to contribute. Furthermore, we plan to pinpoint contributors’ areas of expertise to streamline the technical review process so that articles are updated in a timely fashion.

If you want more details about the redesign of the MDN, check out the site for a copy of the PowerPoint deck that Jay and I made and also the priorities and requirements documents. If you have anything you’d like to contribute or suggest, please feel free to comment on this article or to contact me at blouie@mozilla.com. Any feedback is much appreciated!

Equally important is finding ways to get people to contribute to original documentation. Eric Shephard and Janet Swisher gave a great presentation about the implementation of so called “doc sprints,” which will bring together developers and experts in a particular field to draft documentation about a particular topic. If you have ideas to do so, definitely email Eric or Janet at sheppy@mozilla and jswisher@mozilla respectively.

After quite the busy day and an inspiring closing address by Jay Sullivan, we were corralled into gondolas that took us up to the peak of one of the highest mountains in Whistler. There was a great dinner and dance party up there; it was the perfect way to wrap up this opportunity to learn so much awesome stuff and meet so many awesome people. As they said at the closing address, there was “too much awesome.”

I can’t find a better way to describe it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my chronicles of the summit. If you have anything to say, don’t hesitate to talk to me!

Day two was equally as eventful, interesting, and informative as day one.

After starting the day with a breakfast highlighted by muffins and yogurt with berries and honey, we were treated to a couple of keynote addresses from Mitchell Baker and Mike Shaver, two of the most prominent Mozillians. They were inspiring; I’ve never felt safer and prouder of Mozilla’s future.

Soon after, breakout sessions continued. The first breakout session I attended was pretty unique: it compared Mozilla to other nonprofit movements, from the Boy Scouts to Alcoholics Anonymous. Though clearly Mozilla is different from these movements – the difference is especially apparent when analyzing certain of these organizations – but nonetheless there are certain core values that make each of these decentralized organizations successful, from having a unified mission to delineating a specific list of principles. Because precedence has been established, it’s easy to follow these examples and cultivate an effective call to action.

A few hours (and a delicious lunch with ravioli and peach upside-down cake) later, Mozilla threw a “science fair” in which Mozillians from various departments showed off demos of their hard work. The exhibits were diverse; there were some WebGL demos, some mobile demos with Nokia N900s, and there were Bugzilla-related demos. My favorite was Paul Rouget’s usage of HTML5 in Firefox 4 to do crazy things in his web page, like play videos on rotating cubes and scroll along 3D photo walls, all using just HTML, CSS, and a bit of JavaScript. The hall was clogged around Paul’s table; be sure to take a look at it online after the summit is over!

The next breakout session I attended discussed the the telling of the Mozilla mission. The session featured consultants from Engine Company 1, a market research firm. With the help of some data they’ve been collecting over the past couple years, the consultants offered some interesting and rather surprising insights, from the “people” Mozilla and its competitors convey to the branding association between parent company and browser to even the way people look at the Mozilla mascot. The main takeaway is that although Mozilla has awesome products (try out the Firefox 4 beta if you haven’t!), its brand image is not as well defined as its offerings. I accepted this as a personal challenge with regard to the developer community. I’ll update my blog as I continue to make progress over the next couple of months.

Afterward, we were treated to the summit’s World Expo, in which Mozilla branches from countries all around the world set up tables and talked about their countries. I’ll be honest: I really only went to the tables that had free snacks, including some rather interesting salted licorice. But the people were equally interesting! I met programmers from Sweden, marketers from Japan, and community developers from Chile. In short, Mozilla is EVERYWHERE.

The highlight of the event was definitely the dinner. In honor of the international theme of the event, Mozilla set up three dining rooms, each geographically themed. One room was for Asian, one was for Europe, and one was for the Americas. There was so much food that I got full after eating in just one room! But the food was delicious. Despite being full, I couldn’t help but stuff myself a little bit more.

The expo more or less marked the rest of the day, minus some barhopping and such. Stick around for updates on day three!

Sorry for the long absence! It’s been a busy past few days, especially since I had a flight at 6am yesterday morning to Vancouver. Mozilla is throwing its summit in Whistler this year, and it started yesterday and ends tomorrow. On Tuesday we were treated to a luxurious reception dinner replete with seafood and Canadian beer, along with free shirts and the like. And then after that…well, that’s probably not appropriate for a blog post. (Hooray for not being underage in Canada!)

Yesterday began with a series of keynotes and demos from the likes of Mitchell Baker and Jay Sullivan. The demos of Firefox 4 were, in the tersest of forms, extraordinary and mind-blowing. They boasted TabCandy and application tabs, along with rapidly quickened JavaScript rendering (especially in relation to Chrome) and the capabilities of WebGL for 3D graphic rendering. Perhaps the most impressive demo was the five-minute, ad hoc creation of a text translation API that took a grand total of fifteen lines of code.

The rest of the day certainly didn’t disappoint. The day was divided into three breakout sessions; for each session slot, we had to pick from a whole list of diverse choices. The decisions were difficult. My first breakout session discussed the cultural implications of messaging and how messaging can be incorporated into the Mozilla message. Many of you are probably familiar with the Mozilla manifesto and thus recognize the ideological differences that separate us from our competitors in the open web. We discussed the advantages of desktop-based messaging clients and the importance of aligning our interests with those of the user. In response to this need, we talked about prototypes of UI’s and new add-ons for Thunderbird and Raindrop (a web-based email client ala Gmail that is flexible and dynamic).

About an hour later, I headed to my second breakout session, which talked about product marketing for Firefox: how to “keep Firefox sexy.” In light of growing browser competition and the recent release of beta 1 for Firefox 4, market position is key, especially as product differentiation has become scarce. As the speakers noted in the presentation, it’s not about beating the competition; it’s about positioning them. Thus devising taglines and branding for Firefox 4 has been a long and arduous process.

The final breakout session discussed the unification of the Mozilla web universe. Mozilla has so many resources online that are largely disconnected to each other. As a result, branding Mozilla is difficult and accessing its resources in a simple, convenient way is even more so. To address this problem, several Mozillians talked for about an hour and a half or so devising brain maps and diagrams to configure potential layouts of Mozilla’s web universe. Be on the lookout soon for layout changes! The call to action at the session was powerful and will surely be a priority for Mozilla’s engagement team in the near future.

Afterward we went to dinner at Bavaria, a ridiculously awesome (and expensive!) fondue restaurant. Thanks again to Mozilla for paying for all of it!

Stay tuned for updates on day 2!