I’m Not Dead Yet (In a British Accent)

I know a few of you have asked if I had written anything on my blog in a while and I have had to say no I have not. After reading @Nacin‘s blog post yesterday about it being months, since his last post I figured I might as well work on one myself.

After checking I found the last time I blogged was on September 19, 2010, and it was about “Accessibility Camp DC – October 9, 2010”, which was a great time in case anyone wanted to know. I had wanted to write a blog post a month or so ago, but it probably would have been about Accessibility Camp DC 2011 and it would have looked like I only post when I’m pushing one of my own events, which I actually need to do more of so we get more people attending. By attending the monthly event was so people can learn from each other as well as make new friends.

For those wondering how long it’s been, since I blogged last it has been 443 days or 1 year, 2 months, and 17 days.

To give you a better idea of how long it’s been, we have had our third Accessibility Camp DC, started our third year of monthly Accessibility DC meetings, and I even started working on my web based event registration prototype “Hold An Event”.

Information about Hold An Event

Hold An Event” is going to be an accessible web based event registration application. The most important part of the application is that it will be accessible as possible when completed, since the event registration system we are currently using now is not accessible. Need to make sure this web application is usable by screen reader users, those, using voice recognition software, voice over (iPhone and iPad), and any other assistive technology.

I’m starting by building the mobile part first. I figured if you can register for an event or even create an event on your cell phone, then it should be even easier to do those tasks in a browser or on a tablet. I have spent most of the last two plus years gathering information about the different people that are likely to use the system and what types of functions they will need from the start and those that can wait until later.

More to come about “Hold An Event”, once the prototype is a bit further along, so I can get feedback on it from others.

Events Attended

During 2011 I attended the following events/conferences:

That’s enough for now.

P.S. For those that don’t know the blog post title was a play on the Monty Python skit “Not Dead Yet”.

2009 Has Come to an End

2009 was a very interesting year of change and learning new things. Looking forward to 2010 to even be more fun and productive.

Some of the 2009  highlights for me were:

January

Started new job as “Web Content Accessibility Manager” (big fancy title) for the United States Army, which means that I’m responsible for making sure the Army’s main website www.ARMY.MIL and the 45+ micro websites we are responsible for are accessible to as many people and devices as possible.

March

Attended SXSWi (spring break for geeks) for the third year in a row now. Had  great time as usual speaking with old friends and new ones I made this year. Still continue to learn each year that I attend. A lot of the new things I learn is from having conversations in the hallways, at dinner, in the bars late in the evening, or just relaxing in the Hampton Inn’s lounge on the second floor.

Upon returning from SXSWi needed to start planning for the next BarCamp DC, along with another event I heard about on twitter a few weeks before SXSWi. A small group in San Antonio, TX, did an accessibility camp. I spent a great deal of time and some conversations while in Austin, TX, about doing one here in Washington, DC.

Upon my return I spent more time I’m looking into when we might have the next BarCampDC, along with contemplating, doing an Accessibility Camp here in Washington, DC, in more detail. These events took over a lot of my spare time trying to find venues for both events that were both free and cost to metro.

April

Took a trip out to Denver to visit my brother and his family, along with attend BarCamp boulder which got canceled do to 18+ inches of snow the day before. That is a lot of snow for even the Denver area for mid April. Ended up still having a nice time visiting with my brother’s family.

May

Attended “Access U” put on by Knowbility in Austin, TX, in mid May. Again it was a great place to meet new friends and learn more about accessibility. Spent an extra two days down there after the conference was over so I could see Austin, when it was not filled up with over 10,000 web geeks from around the world.

July

In late July got a direct message from @v (William Lawrence) another local accessibility person and a good friend about going to an accessibility event at Ben’s Next Door. Decided to go and hoped to meet some new local accessibility people. Got to meet and talk with a lot of new people throughout the evening. Later in the evening I got to talk to my good friend Patrick Timony who is a great resource of information about Adaptive Technology equipment and software. He works at the Martin Luther King library here in DC.

During that conversation a big old light bulb went off in my head. Why not I ask Patrick about having Accessibility Camp DC at the MLK library.

August

After a bunch of talking with him later in the month to explain more what BarCamp style events are, we started looking into what it would take for us to have the event at the library. Normally the library only lets you have one room for a few hours, we were looking to use at least two spaces besides Patrick’s for an entire Saturday. Luckily Patrick and his boss were behind the event so we were able to secure the space.

While working on final preparations for Accessibility Camp DC, also started looking into having BarCamp DC at the MLK library. Planning and attempting to get rooms for this was even more involved, since we were looking at getting six spaces for a Saturday. In the end we managed again to get what we needed with the help of Patrick and his boss.

October

On October 10, 2009, which was the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend we had the first Accessibility Camp DC event. We had 110 people sign-up and over 80 people attend, which was just great. Most other BarCamp events we have run 40% – 50% of the people sign-up but never show up.

People came from all over the country (Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and a few other states I can’t remember) and even Jennison (@jennison) from Toronto, Canada. Even Shawn Lawton Henry, who leads worldwide education and outreach activities promoting Web accessibility for people with disabilities at the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) attend.

She even did a talk that was attended by about half the attendees and widely talked about as one of the best talks of the day. Was sorry, I missed it because I was running around doing work to make sure the rest of the day ran smoothly. I gave my “Is Your Website Accessible?” talk, along with a peared down version of Jared W Smith of WebAIM’s WAI ARIA talk.

We had 13 planned talks and one or two impromptu screen reader demonstrations during the day. There were like 30+ people at the first one that a few people mentioned opened their eyes to what people with visual issues go through to do things on the internet. Jennison did the first one and Leslie Bobbitt (@DreamWeaver78) did a wonderful one the second time as well.

End of October attended Peter Corbett’s (iStrategyLabs) Tech Art’s – Spooky Union, Halloween event. Had a great time and met a lot of new people, along with seeing a bunch of old friends.

November

On November 14, 2009, we (Justin Thorp (@thorpus), Shaun Farrell, Patrick Timony, Peter Corbett, and a few others) had our third BarCamp DC. It was a rousing success with over 125 people attending. We did not have to many problems.

If memory serves me correctly I think we had 36 talks on great many different subjects. We instituted a Twitter swear jar, that meant if you mentioned twitter in your talks it cost you a dollar, which was then donated to charity. I think we ended up collecting over $125.

We also attempted to have people not use PowerPoint and the like slides so there were discussions at the event than people just talk at or present information to others. This made the event more active than years before.

Only three days after we got done with BarCamp DC, Patrick and I put on the first monthly Accessibility DC event at the MLK library on November 17, 2009. We will be meeting every third Tuesday of the month for those wanting to attend.

December

nclud started the holiday season off right with their annual end of year holiday party. There were a ton of people as usual. I don’t think I got a chance to talk to half of the people I wanted to. Still had a great time none the less. Got into a little trouble, since I had another wine event at a friends and brought extra wine after they had to go get more from local store down the street.

Spent Christmas weekend with different friends and just relaxing.

New Years Eve was a quiet affair with some friends at a Japanese Steakhouse, with a few of them coming back to my place for wine, cheese, cure Italian meats, shrimp, and some Creamant de Bourgogne to usher in the New Year. All while watching the Food Network most of the evening. Creamant is a champagne style wine from another region of France that is not from Champagne.

2010

This years looks to be an even more exciting one than last year, with more monthly accessibility meetings, SXSWi, working on my different web applications (more on my change of plans later), hoping to attend Access U again, and attending An Event Apart DC when Jeffrey Zledman, Eric Meyer, and their great speakers here Washington, DC, on Sept. 16–17, 2010.

More details of me plans for this coming year to follow over the next few weeks. I am participating in Project 52, that my good friend Anton Peck started, which is to do a blog post or some equivalent each week for a year. When I signed up I figure he would get a hundred or so people to sign-up. Last time I checked he had 488 people signed up.

So how did your 2009 go and what are you’re plans for 2010?

Finally My Notes from An Event Apart Chicago 2007

Finally got around to finishing up my post about the actual two days at the An Event Apart conference in Chicago on August 27 – 28, 2007. I had  a great time both at the conference and at the different gatherings each evening. I learned as much if not more at the evening events as I did during the day at the conference.

Please download all my notes, below is just an overview of some of the things I learned. The following is a summary of what happened by day ad speaker.

DAY – 1

The first speaker of the conference was Eric Meyer and his topic of discussion was “Secrets of a CSS Jedi“. He showed that you could use tables and CSS to create pages that end up displaying graphs. I had seen his earlier article about this and had worked on creating forms to allow you to enter the amounts and then put out the graphs. It is now time to work on this again, since Eric has changed the graphs from being pixel based to now be EMs based.

The next presenter was Jeffrey Zeldman and he talk3d about “Writing the User Interface“. His three big points were:

  1. Content is King.
  2. Design helps people read less.
  3. When people read less every word counts.

Next to speak was Jason Santa Maria on the topic of “Designing Your Way Out of a Paper Bag“. His main topics were:

  1. Branding.
  2. Layout.
  3. Hierarchy and focal Point.

Jason also recommended three different books during his talk.

  1. Thinking with Type” Ellen Lupton
  2. “Grid Systems (Raster Systeme)”
  3. Making and Breaking Grids“ – Timothy Samara

After Jason finished talking we had like an hour and a half  lunch break. The food was great and I ate way to much.

This made the first afternoon talk by Lou Rosenfeld (“Search Analytics for Fun and Profit“) a bit uncomfortable because I ate a great deal. Lou talked a lot about making sure you review your website search information to see what people are looking for and where they go once they have searched. You might be able to make a few changes to your website that will greatly improve peoples ability to find certain information. Here are a list of his points:

Querying you Queries and Getting Started

  1. Most frequent unique queries.
  2. Frequent queries retrieving quality results.
  3. Click through rates.
  4. Most frequently clicked results/query.
  5. Frequent queries with zero results.
  6. What are referrer pages for frequent queries.

You should look for what type of meta data people are looking for in their searches.

By typing “site:jfciii.com” into Google’s search box will give you search results from the website you put after the”site:“.

Next, Liz Danzico talked about “The Seven Lies of Information Architecture

  1. Navigation should be consistent between pages on a website give or take a little bit.
  2. Allow users may need to get to any part of the website at any given time or place.
  3. User experience must be seamless.
  4. Shorter is better.

Dan Cederholm – “Interface Design Juggling

He suggests starting with colors and use two colors or less. Meaning stay in the same color range just use different tones and hues. He sometimes just goes to Photoshop and starts dumping paint using the paint can.

Two add texture use noise filter.

Make sure you read “Web Design is 95% Typography“.

Get on mailing lists for type foundries.

  1. Hoefler & Frere-Jones
  2. myfonts.com
  3. veer.com

Dan was the final speaker for day 1.

DAY – 2

Jermey Keith – Adactio.com and ClearLeft.com

Presentation slides

Be Pure with how you write your code and do your work.

You need

  1. content
  2. structure
  3. presentation
  4. behavior
  5. HTML
  6. CSS

Be Vigilant and try not to put in extra stuff to your code or content.

To build an AJAX website first build a plain website and once working correctly then add in the AJAX.

Show where things were changed or updated when using AJAX. Look at 37 signals “Yellow Fade“.

Test early and test often.

Luke Wroblewski – “Best Practices for Form Design” – Yahoo

Why Forms Matter?

  1. They make money.
  2. Give access to communities.

Label Alignment depends on what you are doing.

  1. Top alignment is better for familiar data.
  2. Right alignment is better for more difficult data. It makes you think before answering the questions.
  3. Left alignment is better for unfamilar information.

Matteo Pemzo has a great article on “Eye Tracking Data“.

Group data on forms of like kinds together using fieldsets.

Take data user gives you and format it yourself. Only give error if completly incorrect.

Derek Featherstone – “Accessibility Lost in Translation” – Box of Chocolates and FutureAhead

Presentation slides

Create an accessible user experience.

Remember to use keyboard and mouse interaction.

Require fewer page refreshes.

Screen readers need “alt text”if there is none, it reads source attribute which can be very weird.

Size forms and everything in EMs to make it scale for even borders, padding, etc. this makes it better and does not break pages easily.

Submit button should be last in code order.

Eric Meyer – “The State of CSS in an IE7 World”

He talked about IE7 adding the followig items.

  • min-width, max-width, min-height, and max-height
  • Attribute selections
  • Child selector
  • :first child
  • Alpha channelin PNG images
  • they fixed FIXED Â

and  a whole lot of other things.

Jeffrey Zeldman- “Selling Design”

Jeffrey mentioned that you should have a process. Be calm and methodical.

Remind client each time you see them of what you talked about at the last meeting, phone call, or last week.

Learn to translate what they said into something you and they understand.

Sell design not pixels.

Last but not least was

Jim Coudal – “Dealing With the Both of You” – coudal.com

He talked about

  • You need a cool flash of insperation for your projects or websites.
  • Learn quickly and be curious.
  • Value taste over everything else.
  • Work with others and have adult conversations.

He also showed three movies that he and his cmpany made.

  1. Copy Goes Here
  2. Regrets I Have a Few – Hobbies
  3. Subway – Ad Agency video

Please download all my notes, below is just an overview of some of the things I learned. Hopefully they are helpful to you and anyone else yu pass them on to.

Road Trip to Chicago – Part 3 & 4

Here is how the rest of the trip from Chicago to Columbus, OH went after the conference ended. Sorry, this has taken so long but I was in Buffalo, NY for one of my best friends wedding and just after I got back home to DC my mother went into the hospital. I will talk about that another time.

I stayed up way to late on Tuesday night go for drinks and Chicago deep dish pizza with Maria, Derek, Jeremy, and Dan at Giordano’s Pizza. It was interesting that between the five of us we ordered three small deep dish pizza’s. Dan ordered a sausage and cheese, Derek ordered a pineapple, ham, and I’m not sure what else Hawaiian style pizza, and I ordered just a plain cheese. Jeremy and Maria both were going to try some of ours since they were not that hungry. Once we placed our order the waiter told us it would be 40 minutes since they made their pizzas fresh for each order.

We were all like 40 minutes how can it take that long. After talking about it, it made sense since you have like and inch of cheese in each pizza and to cook it through it would have to low and slow so not to burn the crust. I suggested to Derek to time it to see how close to 40 minutes it would be. We kept talking about a whole lot of different things and after about30 minutes the waiter brought plates, knives, and extra napkins.

Finally the pizzas arrived so we could get at them. Jeremy even commented that he might be able to eat a whole slice now that he was hungry from waiting. Derek looked at his watch and it had been exactly 40 minutes from the time the waiter had left until he brought us our pies. I guess clients should listen to the people doing work for them like we ended up doing with the waiter. Most times the professionals know what they are talking about. We tried to eat as much pizza as we could between us and we ended up with just under two pizzas worth of food left to be boxed up and taken with us.

The next morning I got up, by about 7:00 AM, got dressed and walked over to the conference hotel and asked the concierge where they would suggest for a good breakfast at mom and pop type place. She suggested I go to Mary’s Cafe’. It was a great little place just a few blocks from the hotel. I ordered a cheese omelet with home fries, toast, and OJ, for under like $8.00 not including tip.

Once I got done with breakfast I headed out down Michigan Ave. to take pictures of the “BEAN” in Millennium Park. This a great art sculpture that looks like a giant mirrored bean. After taking about 25 photos I walked over to the “L” and took a ride for a few stops and turned around and came back to where I started so I did not get lost. It was cool riding over the street and on such an old and rickety tracks.

After all that I went back to the conference hotel to cool of f some before heading to Giordano’s Pizza to pick up the three frozen half baked cheese and pepperoni pizza’s for my sister, brother-in-law, and my three nephews. Once I got back to my hotel I finished packing, got the car, paid my bill and headed to Columbus, OH.

The trip was pretty uneventful. I did not know there were so many Wal-Mart’s in the mid-west. Got to Columbus around 7:30 PM. I called ahead so they could heat up the oven so we could put the pizzas in as soon as I got there, since it was a school night and my nephews needed to go to bed.

The next morning I woke up around 7:00 AM and went downstairs to sit with my oldest nephew while he ate breakfast. He asked if I would walk with him to the bus stop. I said sure no problem, his younger brothers heard this since they were now awake and asked if I would do the same for them. Again I said no problem, not realizing that they did not catch the bus until like 8:45 AM. I guess that ruled out and early departure from Ohio.

At that point I started out for home. I stopped at this little place called the “The Tea Cup” somewhere on the edge of the Ohio and West Virginia border. I ordered the chicken fried steak, with home fries, biscuit, and OJ. At the table in front of me was a group of four older people (husband and wife and two other women). On the way back from the restroom I stopped to talk to them since everyone knows I’m the shy, quite, introverted one. Anyway as we talked I found out they were from Columbus and were heading to some inter-national quilting gathering and they had family in the DC area.

After I finished breakfast on my way to pay and then leave I stopped at the groups table to ask if I could get a picture to put on my website (blog). The only man in the group (in his later seventies) asked if I was going to write in my blog that I had sex with all of them. I told them no that was no going to happen and them they said I could take their picture. After paying and leaving I wondered why he seemed so eager about the sex thing. It gave me a good laugh for most of the rest of the trip and still does now and then.

Once I left the restaurant things were moving along until I hit West Virginia. Once I got there the road went from two lanes both way  and 65 mph down to one lane each way in really curvy up and down hill roads. This part of the trip only got longer when two, not just one, but two tracker trailers with double wides on them tried to go up and down the hills for over five or ten miles. I was so glad when they finally got on the interstate road I was on. After that the trip went along as planned and just seem to drag on until I got home.

The next post will be about the different conference sessions and the main points I got out of each. I will even link to all the notes I took.

Road Trip to Chicago – Part 2

I know this post is a little late, but I have been really busy since I got here for An Event Apart Chicago.

I left South Bend , IN around 10:00 AM Sunday and headed towards Chicago. Instead of taking the main route which was route 90 directly there and only two hours I took the more scenic route (3 hours). This took me through or near Michigan City, IN, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Ogden Dunes, Gary, IN, and East Chicago.

Some of these places where really cool. While going near Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore you passed right by a huge steel plant the was right on the edge of lake Michigan. It makes sense for the shipping part but for the environment it probably was not as good back 10 or 20 years ago as it might be now.

With going through a lot of the small towns, especially Gary, IN I saw a lot of what seemed to be abandoned homes and buildings. A good amount of the homes and businesses had either boarded up or broken windows and the lawns looked like fields. I guess things are not so bad at home as I thought, compared to other parts of the county.

On a brighter note, when I finally got to Chicago they were running a triathlon in downtown near lake Michigan. This closed up a lot of the main streets to get to my hotel. I tried a few different ways to get there and it took awhile since I was not familiar with Chicago. I tied going down one of the streets that my hotel was off of and found out I was on South State street instead of North State street. I turned myself around and started in the right direction only to find that the road was being torn up for major construction. I took the detour and finally got the the hotel. Once I registered at my hotel  the Comfort Inn of downtown Chicago, I realized I was staying a half block from the original “Uno’s Pizzeria”.

I went over to the conference hotel which was the Chicago Marriott Downtown on the Magnificent Mile and found out we could not register until after 4:00 PM. I had planned  on meeting another person that is from the DC area that I had being sending messages to through the An Event Apart meet up and information website. Once they got to the hotel we walked down to the “Art Institute of Chicago“. They have some great works by Jackson Pollock, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte–1884 (1884–86) by Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso, modern furniture, armor from the great wars, and a ton of other stuff. we spent a few hours walking around.

That’s enough of the trip so far for now. I have to get ready to go over to the conference for the second day. I can not wait to see Jermey Keith and Derek Featherstone talk this morning. More to come about the conference later in the week when I have more time to write a post about each day.