Web Platform Doc Sprint – Amsterdam, October 12

Lady Blogger with Her Maid, After Vermeer

Amsterdam, if reluctantly, is arguably one of the world’s premiere party towns. But the infamous Dutch modesty prevents the city from ascending (or descending) to the ranks of Rio De Janeiro, Bangkok, New Orleans, or Goa, to name a few. No, the Dutch would redirect us to take stock of their fine art, their rich cultural history, and their sober, reliable industry before casting them in with the lot of debauched metropolises where the party is not only the thing, it’s the only thing.

We could never get away with a doc-sprint-slash-birthday-party in a town the likes of Mykonos or Cabo San Lucas. Even Las Vegas or Monte Carlo might be pushing it.  No, for the first birthday celebration of Web Platform Docs we needed a place that can get down to business as well as get down and boogie.

So, last February in Berlin (another modest party stronghold and doc sprint site), when our man in the Netherlands, Paul Verbeek, offered to host a doc sprint to follow the Fronteers conference in October, the birth month of Web Platform Docs, we were wildly enthusiastic – well, as wildly enthusiastic as one may properly be in Northern Europe.

This will be our third European doc sprint as well as our first birthday. There will be cake! We’ll celebrate the work we’ve done this year, which is quite a lot when you stand back and look at it, and rededicate ourselves to building the best technical documentation for the web community.

Register Here

  • If you’re new to the web community or new to Web Platform Docs, we’ll help you get started with contributing to the documentation. This is a great way to learn about web development and meet other web professionals.

  • If you’re an old pro on the web, but new to Web Platform Docs, you’ll easily get up to speed and start contributing your expertise to the benefit of the whole community.

  • If you’re coming to Amsterdam for the Fronteers conference, you can stay an extra day and drop by the doc sprint for a few hours or the whole day.

  • If you’re already a member of WebPlatform.org, you can help the newbies or just jump right in and start contributing.

  • We’ll have specific areas of content for you to work on, and if you have other content that you want to contribute or other projects that you want to work on, you’re certainly welcome to do that, too.

Prinsengracht_Amsterdam

Paul has set us up to work in The Hub, the perfect collaboration and community workspace, right in the heart of the Jordaan neighborhood of central Amsterdam. There will be food and drink provided. Of course, there will be cake. We’ll have a raffle and prizes for outstanding efforts, as well as plenty of t-shirts, stickers, and other swag.

We hope to see many of you who have attended other European doc sprints. Julee from Adobe and I (Scott from Google) have booked our flights. Paul Irish said he would try to be there – if he survives the post-Fronteers party. (I should mention here that past doc sprints have proven to be an excellent diversion whilst one is recovering from a night’s libations, or even just couple of days at a conference.)

Netscher_laptop

This is an excellent opportunity to connect with other web professionals, collaborate on ideas and problems, do some great documentation, and celebrate!  We hope to see you there!

Oh, did I mention there will be cake?

And, because we love CC BY and attribution:

 

WPW: Reading, writing, and CSS properties

Are you finding it difficult to think about reference documentation when fall is in the air?

I stood in the playground at my son’s school this morning, watching the kids kick balls, play hopscotch, and text each other across the school yard. The leaves on the trees were beginning to show the autumnal colors that mark the end of summer. The bell rang, marking the start of the day, and the children grabbed their shiny backpacks from where they had dropped them. They headed off into the school, toward their individual classrooms, prepared to face their lessons and assignments.

hopscotch

Likewise for us, the halcyon days of summer have drawn to a close. I left the playground and travelled until I walked up to the front door of my office building and took note of the leaves changing colors (as well as my coworkers kicking balls around the parking lot and playing hopscotch on the sidewalk). I though about the kerjillion leaves I will soon have to rake up, and I literally sighed as I opened the door, my laptop weighing heavily in my backpack.

But I am an optimist, my friends, and so I soon turned my frown upside down. For the beginning of fall means heading back to school and work to dig into those special projects we’ve recently neglected in favor of frivolous summer pursuits. But which projects to tackle first?

“Why, what a lucky day,” I thought!  “There are CSS properties just waiting for our WPW fall cleanup!”

When you’ve finished your lunch (don’t forget to drink your milk), grab your coat and join me out in the WPD school yard. We’ll head to the Web Platform Wednesdays page where we’ll see that for the 2013 Sep 4 entry, we’ve got this pithy request:

Go through the Web Platform Wednesday past reports and choose one that hasn’t been completed. You might want to start with last week’s list, revisit summer with all of August, or look for outliers in July!

Oh, but I know that you’re a tetherball champion. And you–yes, you–didn’t you swing over the top of the bar last spring? So sign up for two CSS properties! Heck, I double dare you to choose three. And let’s see how many of the properties we can get cleaned up before the last leaf hits the ground.

Thanks so much for your help. And thanks for indulging my inner child.

WebPlatform Wednesday, Week 14: Grids

A lot of folks are vacationing now, far away from gridlock. But wait! Grid layout needs your help!

Up to this point, our main focus was to edit content graciously donated by Microsoft, updating it to match the latest specs, and adding more examples and details. With this week’s properties, we’re mostly starting from scratch. We’ve created the pages, but there’s no content at all. So when you go to contribute, you have a tabula rasa – a blank slate – or should we say a template rasa, because the template is there. You get to fill it in.

As NicdaCosta mentioned in an earlier blog post, these new properties allows developers to create fluid grids without having to resort to older techniques. And here’s a great article to get you started on Grid Layout. Also, make sure to check out a fantastic new editor’s draft on CSS Grid Layout that explains the background and motivation, and provides many enlightening examples.

What’s better than a fresh start and a good reference? Well, maybe a few things, but here at WebPlatform.org, we rank these pretty high.

So, head on over to the Web Platform Wednesday page and see where you can help. If you find any properties that you want to help contribute to, have any questions or even are not sure where to start, come and chat with the coordinators in the #webplatform IRC Channel or via email on the mailing list, as there is always someone who will be happy to help.

Web Platform Wednesday, Week 7: More text properties, shapes and exclusions

This week, we continue to work on text properties, but we’re adding some interesting properties. So if you know how to break out an experimental browser, and test the limits of features such as CSS Exclusions and Shapes, this is the week for you to jump in! And just in time for the latest Editor’s Draft. If you have an experimental browser available, such as Chrome Canary or WebKit Nightly, you can view demos such as The Raven and create your own.

There are some great explanations of CSS Exclusions out there, such as Hans Muller’s Growing and Shrinking Polygons: Round One and Bem Jones-Bey’s Freeing the Floats of the Future From the Tyranny of the Rectangle.

But also, if you happen to be going to the Seattle Doc Sprint this Saturday, June 22, you can ask questions of Alan Stearns, one of the editors of the CSS Exclusions and CSS Shapes specs. He’ll be there, along with other special guests.

Not in Seattle this weekend? No problem. Come chat with us on the #webplatform IRC Channel or on our public-webplatform@w3.org email list. However you join, do join Web Platform Wednesday this week as we continue to provide foundational and experimental content for our community.

Doc Sprint Mountain View

A splendid time was had by all! On Wednesday, December 12th we gathered at Google in Mountain View, California to work on Web Platform Docs. We had over 35 attendees who worked on the site for a whole day. Google provided snacks, beverages, lunch, and a wine/beer reception afterward with live music. There was, of course, the usual t-shirts, and other cool swag – see below.

Premium Web Platform Doc Sprint Swag

Many of the attendees were new to Web Platform Docs – we registered 15 new users. So we spent some time early on walking them through the site and the Getting Started pages. Once they got going, they caught on pretty quickly. Having a group of folks doing a small task across a broad area really makes a big improvement. This is the power of a doc sprint, turning what would be a tedious and daunting chore into something doable; having company makes it fun and many hands make light work.

Matthew and Tony

We also had several people who just knew how to pick up a shovel and start digging. Many of these folks follow this forum, the e-mail list, the IRC channel, and other forums; they and you are lending your expertise where it really matters. One area of expertise you may have that we can really use is in the domain of user testing, heuristics, and user experience design. These docs sprints provide a perfect laboratory – albeit without the one-way glass. If you’ve been behind the glass, you probably would prefer the chummy doc sprint to that sterile, Observer effect-infected environment. The data is bound to be better, too.

As it is, we have only a limited amount of data from this doc sprint, and none of it scientifically sanitized. Here’s what we got:

  • Attendees: 35+
  • Commits: 375 (apprx.)
  • New WPD members onboarded: 15
  • Pictures: see: G+ event and Meetup.

Dilip, Dickson, Scott Eliot, and Ming Ming

Search

  • Renato developed a Web Platform Search Companion search extension to Chrome. Install this extension from the Chrome Web Store. Just type “wpd”+space on your Chrome omnibox (that box where you type URLs) and the extension will be activated. Then, type whatever – a CSS property, for example, and you will get direct URLs to the corresponding webplatform.org pages.
  • Dan implemented a MediaWiki search extension, helping to resolve bug 19401. This, too, provides pop-up results, but in the Search field on the wiki page.

New articles

Other Updates

Impressions

Lacking any methodology whatsoever, and while at the same time juggling three questions at once – I know, you’ve been there, too – I gathered the following impressions from the session.

  • Most of the attendees were familiar with web development concepts and technologies
  • Some attendees were exploring web development for career opportunities
  • Some attendees were attending the doc sprint looking for business opportunities
  • Some attendees were here to help build the barn – pure generosity (yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus)
  • Many people had trouble reading the Getting Started documentation
  • Most people were forgiving of the site’s usability shortcomings (like the infamous session ID loss).

And on. I have more, and I’m sure you do, too. Point is, we need to set out to prove or disprove some of this stuff and develop some metrics around our community, how much they know, why they’re in this, how well our documentation reads and works, how well our user interface performs.

Next steps

Part of our doc sprint methodology should include appointing someone (or some many) to gather user feedback – go around asking pointed questions, challenging participants to solve specific problems, just like one of those highly-paid consultants in there with the (bribed) user test subject in the room with the big mirror that everyone tries to pretend isn’t there. This person should be dedicated to that task, gathering user feedback only, and to reporting the findings – not like this blog post, but much better. We could develop a standard questionnaire, assign points to ranges, the whole nine yards. The goal is to figure out how well our site works for contributors, and we don’t need to be too data-centric to accomplish that, but if we could chart our progress against changes, that would be a bonus.

With each doc sprint we do, we’re getting better at running these, and @peterlubbers is developing a “Doc Sprint in a Box” that captures some best practices and provides tools to make it easier for any of our members to start a doc sprint. We welcome any pointers from attendees and others running doc sprints as well. We need to keep having an active conversation about how to best use our doc sprints to develop the site and its content.

Thanks to everyone for their dedication and contributions!

—Scott Rowe

Live examples coming soon

Many of you have asked for live code examples that allow you to tweak the code and observe what happens. We agree that a feature like this would be of huge educational value and are actively working on providing it.

We plan to use a hosted (and probably customized) version of dabblet, an open source project built by yours truly. We decided to use dabblet because it’s a mature project that has been extensively tested in the community by a couple thousand users every day for almost a year, and because of its unique features, such as its CSS value previewers.

Before we integrate dabblet with WPD, we will need to make a few changes to it and add some features, most of which will be pushed to the dabblet.com website as well. The most significant of these changes is adding JavaScript integration, a long overdue feature. Also, we’ll have to fix a few bugs, improve cross-browser support, and strengthen security.

This work will take some time, but we are confident that when it’s out you will agree with us that it was absolutely worth it.