MDN is therefore important, so when troubled Mozilla laid off many of the MDN documentation team back in August it caused consternation among web developers. At the time Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker wrote vaguely about a "new focus on product" while also informing employees of a reduction in the workforce of about 250 heads.
It was obvious that for MDN to continue it requires more voluntary contributions than before and senior tech writer Chris Mills made a "communication call for participation" last month. He also said that MDN is migrating to GitHub, with content currently in a MySQL database moving to a Git repository, the aforementioned Project Yari.
More details came last week and yesterday Yari went into beta and its repository is now public. Mills said "the exact form of the platform is yet to be finalized" but also that "the first release will happen on December 14." The team must have considerable confidence in the beta to deliver version 1.0 in just six weeks.
Mills said that the existing platform is "complex and hard to maintain" and that Yari will be simpler to manage. It also moves MDN from a Wiki model to one based on pull requests, which Mills said is "much better for contribution," one of the reasons being that contributors can edit using whatever code editor they prefer. It also means that content edits are reviewed before approval, unlike the Wiki approach where they appear instantly and are reverted if someone notices an error or spam.
Mozilla has also created a new Sass (CSS pre-processor) for MDN, called mdn-minimalist, which is used for styling. Mills said that many accessibility issues will be addressed by the new design.
Translation and localisation is another tricky area, again constrained by limited employee resources. While it appears that no final decision has been taken, the plan is to use "machine learning-based automated translations" for the most important MDN content, and to allow community members to improve the automated translation manually.
Mills said that "machine translations are an acceptable solution in most cases, if not a perfect one." In testing, Mills said that users preferred content that was badly translated but up to date to better translation of out-of-date content. In practice, users can also turn to services like Google Translate or Microsoft Translator to get content in their language – though automatic translation is hazardous when it comes to technical content because precision is required.
The unknown question is the extent to which MDN will attract the resources it needs to maintain its good track record. Mozilla is providing the platform, but it will still require extensive community input for the Yari project to deliver on its goals. ®