Some Thoughts from SXSWi 2009

The last few days I have been trying to recover from SXSWi in Austin, TX, and also figure out what I learned this year at SXSWi, lack of sleep being the biggest problem. It might take a few more days to figure it out to a greater degree. Right now I have to spend sometime getting in contact with those that I met to try and cement a strong bond/new relationship. Final set of notes on SXSWi will follow in a few days.

Things I Learned

Some of the big things that I learned was that it is about the people, the relationships, and the contacts. That’s not the only reason I go to SXSWi, I do enjoy going to panels to learn new things. I went to one that talked about WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications) and felt like I did not know anything really compared to others in the room. That was until I thought about it and realized that most of the people had helped right the specification or might have helped review it. That kind of makes me feel like being a BIG fish in a SMALL pond back home and then a SMALL fish in a BIG pond/ocean out in the real world. It just gives me more drive and reason to learn more and put myself and my ideas out there to help others learn.

As my last blog post mentioned I have a few ideas I want to accomplish in the next few months. I will need help getting a bunch of them completed, but was able to run a few of them by others while at SXSWi and get their opinion of them. While trying to explain what I was thinking of doing with the Accessibility Camp idea one person that works for Knowbility suggested I just put the accessibility talks into the next BarCampDC event we run (hopefully May or June). To which I explained that I’m usually the only one talking accessibility at these type of events and that I thought if we did an event that focused mainly on accessibility we might get more people that were just interested in web accessibility to come and participate, that have not as of yet.

Who Can Help

Going to try and make an announcement at Refresh DC on Thursday night, that we are starting to plan the next BarCampDC and the new Accessibility Camp. Hopefully while talking at Gov 2.o Camp on Friday and/or Saturday I can mention it to others to get some more interest of those not normally attending the local tech events. Being a government based BarCamp might get a great deal of people interested or not.

Later on another member of the Knowbility team suggested that I (we) might want to run an AIR Interactive contest, which is were a group of developers, designers, etc., get together to create an accessible website in one month for local non-profits and they give out awards and prizes (have to check on that part) to the most accessible ones. They also suggested doing something that Wendy Chisholm and others did in Seattle, called “Scripting Enabled Seattle“, which had non-profits pitch example problems they had to developers, designers, etc. and then have them create stuff to solve the problems that night and the next day.

Here is more information on how to run your own “Scripting Enabled” event. This is a great way to do “Pro Bono” type work with a group to help people/organizations that might not know how to go about getting the work done or can not afford it. Was even able to talk to Wendy Chisholm herself at the event and hope to get more pointers from her later on.


I went to a bunch of panels and found a few interesting ones. The one that got me thinking the most had nothing to do really with my everyday work (web accessibility). The one that stick in my mind right now the most is “What Can We Learn From Games“, whose panelist where Henry Jenkins, James Gee, and Warren Spector. Their panel got me thinking about how to make a game one of the guys at work made, accessible or to be able to change tiles. This game is similar to four across or one that give you points for all like squares that are touching each other.

Lots to think about from what I learned and talked to people about at SXSWi now it’s time to get started finishing up a plan and getting to work on it.

What did you learn at SXSWi, while you were there or while the rest of us were gone that you can start doing the web better place?

My Plans for the Next Few Months

The last few months have been busy with helping run the last BarCampDC, interviewing and getting my current job as “Web Content Accessibility Manager” (big fancy title) for ARMY.MIL, and a bunch of other things.

BarCamp and AccessibilityCamp

In the near future I’m looking into when we might have the next BarCampDC, along with contemplating, doing an Accessibility Camp here in Washington, DC. I saw a twitter a few weeks ago about a group in San Antonio, TX, that did an accessibility camp.

We have started talking with the powers that be about getting a venue for the next BarCampDC, which we are thinking of doing in May or June. Hopefully we can get even more people to come out and enjoy the fun of BarCamp and maybe even give a talk on what they are passionate about. I’m going to try and get some more information about dates and locations for both events early next week before heading to Austin, TX, for SXSWi.

The other event I’m thinking of trying here in DC, is an Accessibility camp, which will probably be a lot smaller, with only two, maybe three rooms, depending on the number of people interested in attending. This one could go either way, meaning that a ton of people will want to come or just a dozen or two, I will have to wait an see.

The first item of the other three I need to start back working on once I’m back from SXSWi is a whole bunch of blog posts further explaining slides from my “Is Your Website Accessibile? If not, practical ways to make it so.” presentation.

Adding Video to Posts

The next item on the list would be to start using Clearleft‘s SilverBack application to create a bunch of tutorials explaining and showing how to use things like JAWS, other accessibility coding issues, and additional information for my blog posts. Silverback is spontaneous, unobtrusive usability testing software for designers and developers, uses the Apple iSight to record the person and all their movements and clicks on the screen. Seems to me to be a great way to create tutorials.


The final project would be to finish the two applications that I have been working on for the last year or so off and on. The two applications are an accessible version of and a wine inventory system. It will be a way for me to learn both PHP and MySQL, along with creating more real world examples of how to do coding, using web standards and making your web application accessible.

What is everyone else looking to do in the next few months, especially after getting all pumped up after SXSWi?