Every wiki and documentation site fights against a big problem: Content outdates pretty fast as the software or the technologies evolve. This is more than true for MDN.
When we switched to the rapid release model, the way we document on MDN changed as well. A process for having release notes every six weeks has been set up by Jean-Yves Perrier (teoli) and our old tools like the “DocTracker”, which gets us dev-doc-needed bugs per release, were helpful. However, writing detailed documentation for all these changes in six weeks, is no longer achievable. There are a lot of more changes in six weeks today than in six weeks two years ago.
In the old days, “yes, we are documented yet!”, meant that the dev-doc-needed bug counter was near to zero for a given release.
I thought about building new tools that could answer how are doing today. Fortunately Kuma and KumaScript are open source and hackable, so that I was able to build new tools directly into MDN.
Introducing documentation status pages
So, how can we measure if we are documented yet, today?
The MDN documentation team switched to concentrate on content topics rather than to document everything belonging to a release. Several Topic Drivers started to maintain specific parts of MDN.
If you look at a content section on MDN, you can definitely identify more “health indicators” than just the dev-doc-needed bug list. To make the state of the documentation visible, we started to build documentation status pages for sections on MDN.
- No tags: Every page should have a tag so that our search displays pages based on that information. For most sections there is also a tagging standard.
- Needs* tags: Did you know that you can add a Needs tag to every MDN page to indicate that something is missing? E.g. NeedsExample or NeedsBrowserCompat? Pages tagged like this will appear here.
- Editorial and technical reviews: You might have seen banners on several MDN articles asking for review. These pages are now listed here to get addressed at some point!
- Outdated pages: If the last edit date of a page is more than a year ago or older than a specific date we chose, a page should be considered as outdated and will need a check.
- Dev-doc-needed and documentation requests: Sure, let’s not forget about one of the main sources of information: Bugs!
- (…) This is the current set of “health indicators”, but we might find more in the future and expand this list. Let me know if you have ideas!
Open to do list
Introducing localization status pages
When localizing MDN, we are speaking of 11,000 pages. This is a huge task and not all docs are worth translating. So, with the idea of content sections, we are also looking into making smaller lists of pages in need of localization.
To keep track of the localization work, a localizer needs to know if a translation is available and whether it is up to date with the English source. So, for each documentation status page there is also a localization status page.
With these status pages for both, English documentation and the translations, a lot of work becomes visible. If you have expertise in one or more of the topic sections, please have a look and help us with documenting. If you are a localizer and would like to have a status page for your language, feel free to add one or contact us to help you.
In general you can find us on irc.mozilla.org in #mdn.
You can also reach me at fscholz@moco or Jean-Yves at jperrier@moco.
The first iteration of these tools is now finished. The different documentation status pages we have right now, are monitoring around 40% of all MDN pages. We are looking into increasing that number.
Let’s document the Open Web!
PS: Pretty graphs using the doc status API