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.

Conclusion

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 Magnolia.com 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?

South by Recap – Part 2

Ok, we are now heading into the busy part of SXSW, that is if there is a slow part at all from the time you get there until you leave days later.

Sunday – (2008/03/09)

Managed to get up and make to see Rob Weychert and Jason Santa Maria do their talk on “Everyone is a Design Critic“. They had a few main point to be made. the first is that a critique should be broken up into three parts. The parts are before, during, and after the presentation of your ideas.

The other main point was the “Top 5 Client Requests”:

  1. My unqualified friend has a different idea.
  2. Purple is my favorite color, why don’t you use it?
  3. We need more stuff above the fold. (People do scroll now.)
  4. There’s so much empty space, can’t you fit it in?
  5. Cant’ you make the logo bigger?

One of the most interesting points was when Rob realized that they were being displayed on the two big screens. So while Stan was talking he just started dancing around behind him.

One of the best presentations that I saw was the next one by Derek Featherstone. His talk was titled “Everything I learned about Accessibility I learned from Star Wars“.

Before Derek started his presentation he came on stage wearing all black with a brown hooded cape. While setting up he turned “Mac Saber” on his laptop, which now made it sound like a Star Wars light saber. By using the MacBooks built in gyroscope yo can pick it up and make it sound as if you had a really light saber in your hands. Ok, now on to his talk.

A few keep points are:

  • “You think you know everything and others know more”.
  • “Storm Troopers are all the same”. Real life things are different.
  • “No, matter what you can see on the surface does not matter to what is underneath”. I think what pretty stuff your page has does not matter as long as your code under the pretty is accessible.
  • “Living people is what matters not validators or screen readers”.
  • “Pass on what we learn to others to channel the FORCE”.
  • “You have to believe it can be done”.
  • “Do or Do Not there is No try”. – Yoda
  • “I don’t believe it, that is why you fail”. – Yoda

The other amazing part of his presentation were the digital Star Wars drawings by Aton Peck.

Went to an internationalization talk by Stephanie Troeth and Stephanie Booth. This was one of those core talks that they added this year. It was interesting and I learned a few things about how to internationalize websites. It was more a discussion between them and the audience of about 25 around one table.

The final big event of Sunday was the “Geeks Love Bowling” event put on by the nclud guys and real hard work of Cindy Li. Cindy and the nclud crew were able to in a few short weeks get enough sponsors to be able to rent out all 52 lanes at the bowling alley and get buses to transport all the people and a bunch of peole that just wanted to watch. On top of all that they had prizes for all the top bowlers for each team and the top three winning teams. The prizes were free copies of the new 2008 Mac Office suite.

The Refresh DC team I was on did not do to badly. I believe we finished in like 14th place we needed only 4 more pins to come in 12th place. Maybe next year we will do better, not that it matters, since we out to have lot of fun and meet new people. We shared a lane with an all woman team from England. I believe most of them had never bowled before. Fun was had by all.

After bowling a lot of people went out and I decided with a few other the Brits and others to go back to the Hapmton Inn and sit in the second floor lounge and talk. it was great time to be able to relax with Cindy, the Matt Harris, John Hicks, Richard Rutter, Anton Peck, and others.

Monday – (2008/03/10)

I attended a few different panels that I normally might not go to see. The first was “Scalability Boot Camp“, were they talked about make sure to monitor your system early and often. That is everything from Disk I/O, memory, and bandwidth.

Another one was the”Design Eye by South By” where they went over how they would re-design the SXSW website to make it better and more usable. What they talked about and showed was really nice, but the build up was to much for what they showed.

Attended the Annual public WASP meeting. Very interesting to see what they are up to and planning on doing in the future.

It was out for the “Great British Booze Off” and the “NXSW” party. I like the Brits party a great deal and had a wonderful time meeting a lot of new people and meeting up with others I had met last year or earlier this year.

Tuesday – (2008/03/11)

I went to a bunch of panels I normally would not have. I first went to the “How to RAWK SXSW and Stay Inspired“. A few key points from this panel was to:

  • Go through businees cards on plan.
  • No, idea is to silly.
  • Read “Cluetrain Manifesto” – cluetrain.com
  • Look for other ideas, etc. at aftersxsw.pbwiki.com – Password – POPRAWKS

The “Secrets of JavaScript Libararies” panel was cool, since it seemed to have all the people that started the different big JavaScript libraries.

The main thing that was said was before picking one of the main JavaScript libraries is to figure out hwat you need them for. Each different one has strengths and weaknesses.

At another panel a cool thing I saw on the person in the row in front of me was a photo application. After the panel I asked him what it was and he said it was PicLens (Firefox plug-in). The following is the description of PicLens from the plug-in page – instantly transforms your browser into a full-screen 3D experience for viewing images across the web.

There was a bunch more stuff that happened during these six great days in Austin, TX. I hope to get to the full set of notes I took in the next few weeks.

Any further explanations or questions please leave a comment.

South by Recap – Part 1

I know I should have done this at least two weeks ago, but here goes my overview about what was interesting at SXSW 2008. I will give you the top most memorable things of each day.

The first two days follow with the other four days to follow in two more posts with two days in each. Finally, the notes from all the different talks will be posted once I get them typed up in about two weeks.

Thursday – (2008/03/06)

Arrived in Austin around 12:30 PM. got luggage and stopped at the information booth to find out where to pick up the fifty cent bus (Route 100). It stops at 6th Street and Brazos, which is one block back and then down like 4 or 5 blocks to the Hampton Inn.

I grabbed a chicken burrito at the Taco Shack on the way to the hotel. When I got to hotel I was able to check in and then grabbed my laptop and wnet downstairs to the second floor lounge, to eat and check e-mail and twitter. Sat around and visited with people as they got into the hotel.

Went to dinner with 20+ people to Moonshine. Had a very nice dinner of flat iron steak with mac and cheese. Left Moonshine to head over to Buffalo Billiards. On the way there we were all walking along and there were two people ahead of me walking along the curb. I was turned to my right talking with someone when the two people in front of me parted. When this happened Patrick Haney yell “Look out!” at which point I turned back to him first and then forward again at which point I walked straight into a parking meter. This made a great thud as my rib cage hit it. Everything was okay, just a little sore. It was nice that everyone checked to see if I was okay before letting a a bit a laugh. It was funny, at least from my point of view and I’m the one that hit the parking meter.

Spent a bunch of time at Buffalo Billiards talking with people I met last year and to new people I just met. I even watched and listened to some great karaoke upstairs.

Friday – (2008/03/07)

Slept into until like 8:00 AM and went downstairs for breakfast. It was nice seeing even more people that I had missed the day before. Later in the morning I headed over to the Austin Convention Center. It took about 25 to 30 minutes to walk over get my badge, grab the big bag of stuff, and then back to the hotel. Once I got back to the hotel I got rid of at least 85% to 90% of the stuff in the bag. I wanted to keep the bag so I could use it for grocery shopping back home.

After all that was done I started working on loading up Parallels on my 13″ White MacBook, since the weather was a bit cold and over cast and it was something I needed to do. I got it loaded pretty easily. Once that was done I worked on getting XP Pro installed. Once XP Pro was installed I spent a good half hour to forty-five minutes downloading and installing like 90 plus patches and fixes to the software.

Around 2 or 3 PM met up with a bunch of DC people and headed to convention center to go see “Respect!” with mostly people from the Happy Cog team. But first we ended up catching the second part of How to Rawk SXSW: The Basics presentation.

After the talk was over went back to hotel to drop off stuff and then headed over to the Iron Works for dinner. I got the mixed meat platter, which came with a smoked sausage, smoked beef brisket, smoked beef rib, and some pork BBQ. If that was not enough the platter had potato salad, beans, and a slice of plain white bread. Great dinner and the perfect satrt to getting back into BBQ after years of being a vegetarian.

After Iron Works I can;t remember what I did. I think I called it an early night and went back to hotel and checkedĀ  e-mail and twitter.

Tell me what you did on the first two days of SXSW 2008 or any of the days.

Interesting Adventures on the Way to/at SXSW

Left for Washington National Airport (Reagan) at like 6:10 AM. The walk to the metro was not that bad. It took a while like 30 minutes to get to the Continental check in and it went very quickly, since no one was in line at all. Then I got to the security line and there were about fifty to seventy-five people in each line. There was a guy that was behind me that had a 7:10 am flight and it was like 6:52 am. I let him get ahead of me, since I had over an hour to kill. Hopefully he made his flight, since he seemed really worried about it. I would suggest tha tnext time he might leave a bi earlier to make sure he makes his flight.

While waiting for the plane I ran into three Refresh DC people. It was the guys from Politico (Ryan, Andrew, and ??). They were going to be on the same plane from National to Houston and then from Houston to Austin as me. Both flights were uneventful. The only thing that was odd was the woman next to meet on the second flight was taking her thin red licorice and tying it into knots before eating it. The other thing was the couple behind me that were both snoring before we even left the terminal gate.

Once we landed it only took a little while to get luggage. While I waited I went over to the information desk and asked them where I should go to catch the 50 cent bus. The lady told me to go to the center island and head down to the column that has the “4” on it and wait for the bus. I got lucky again this year by only having to wait like 10 minutes to to catch it.

The trip from the airport to the Hampton took about twenty minutes. As last year at the first stop on the trip into Austin we stopped and thy changed bus drivers. It was about the same time I took it last year. I guess the first driver must have started at 6:00 am, since we were stopping there at like 1:00 pm.

Got dropped at off at the corner of 6th and Brazos. On my way to the Hampton I stopped at the “Taco Shack” for a chicken burrito. I got it to go so I could have it over at the Hampton and sit in the lounge and relax. When I got there my room was ready so i was able to drop off all my stuff and grab my computer. Took computer down to the lounge and ate while I checked e-mail, blogs, and twitter.

While checking Twitter I started see a great deal of messages about people being getting stuck in Dallas do to snow(?). A bunch of the Brits are stuck there, since none of them have there licenses with them or do not have one to begin with. A few people here were taking about renting a car and driving to Dallas to pick them up.

This is my SXSW adventures so far.