MDN Product Talk: Introduction

This is the first of a series of blog posts about MDN, the product I am product manager for. The series discusses MDN’s business case, product strategy, and a series of experiments we can run on MDN in 2015 (and beyond) to help it continue to serve its audience and the web. Many people familiar with MDN will consider some of the following posts obvious; to them I say, “stay with me.” Not all of this will be obvious to everyone. Some may be novel to everyone. Any of it may need clarification or improvement, which I will learn from gentle comments.

mdn_logo-wordmark-full_colorAs a new member of the MDN team, I taxed my colleagues in pursuit of answers to such questions as…

  • What is MDN?
  • Whom is MDN for?
  • What are their problems?
  • How does MDN solve those problems?
  • What does solving those problems accomplish for Mozilla?

I posed such questions to almost everyone I could corner, from members of Mozilla’s steering committee to random web developers I met at kids’ birthday parties. I interrogated historic mailing list threads. I scanned through hundreds of enhancement requests in our bug backlog. I read books about product management. I doodled architectural diagrams and flowcharts. And finally I think I came to an understanding. I hope sharing it is helpful. So what is MDN? Is it a documentation site? A developer program? A wiki? A network? A suite of products? A single product? A brand? A railway station? It depends on whom you ask and when. Few of the people I cornered could say exactly what MDN is or ought to be. Most had an idea of what MDN ought to accomplish, but their ideas varied wildly. One thing is clear: MDN is successfully serving a large portion of its potential market and has been doing so in its present form for nearly 10 years. Which is great. But… what is MDN? For most of MDN’s primary audience — web developers — MDN is a documentation wiki (i.e. a user-generated content site or UGC) serving trustworthy information about open web technologies (primarily HTML, JavaScript and CSS). And of course the audience is correct. But MDN is also a brand that resonates with its audience and fans. And MDN is also a community of contributors who care about MDN. And MDN is also a platform where all these things mingle and mix. All told, MDN includes (at least) 6 product offerings in operation or development and (at least) 8 significant enhancement projects underway, as well as numerous activities and projects that sustain the documentation wiki. The interplay between these activities is complex. OK, great; but what is MDN?!? Considering its scope — the variety of its critical stakeholders, the complexity of its value chain, the number of supporting activities underway — I think MDN can only be considered a product ecosystem. MDN_product_ecosystem

  • MDN is a strong brand supported a number of products and activities.
  • Chief among these is a platform, the documentation wiki, which is also called MDN.
  • Within the platform content is huge: MDN’s primary audience visits solely for the content, because the content is valuable. The MDN brand’s authority and the MDN platform’s scale both depend on the MDN content’s quality.
  • As an open-source web application serving user-generated content about open standards, contribution overlaps almost every aspect MDN — especially content creation. The MDN content’s quality depends in large part on contribution.
  • Various marketing efforts support MDN, strengthening its brand, attracting new visitors, and activating contributors. MDN marketing efforts among developers also support Mozilla’s brand.
  • In response to a clear market need, the MDN team is experimenting with some developer-facing services that will be partly supported by the content and platform.

That’s a lot of moving pieces — and we haven’t even begun talking about whom MDN serves and what problems MDN solves for them! Look for answers to those questions and much more in coming posts. As we go I’ll use the above diagram to help contextualize things. More to come! :wq

MDN Product Talk: The Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Business Context
  3. The Case for Experiments
  4. Product Vision
  5. Reference Experiments
  6. Learning Experiments
  7. Services Experiments
MDN Product Talk: Introduction

One thought on “MDN Product Talk: Introduction

  1. I like this “Product Ecosystem” mindset. It opens us up to try new products (like Services! 🙂 that deliver our core value (knowledge about web development) with innovative user interfaces – editor or browser plugins, code repository hooks or services, pro-active site code monitoring, etc.

    Technically, I’d love to make the underlying platforms and systems of our products loosely coupled. Like the GitHub product ecosystem that has grown around its webhooks & services architecture.

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