Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Testing Accessibility Feature: aria-describedby

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

As I discussed on Monday, I’m working towards making this site more accessible. I’m starting with creating access to the comic for visually-impaired visitors, although I know that’s likely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making something truly accessible.

Today I finally set up a system for linking a transcript of the comic via an aria-describedby attribute on the comic’s image tag. As I learned, making a transcript is a time-consuming process. So far, only the most recent comic has a transcript, and it took me well over a half hour to do with little outside distraction. I can understand, then, one major barrier to accessibility being more common on the Internet: laziness.

It’s easy enough for me to consider that my comic has a very small cross-section of people that it’s targeting: web designers and developers. Of that demographic, even less have accessibility issues significant enough to prohibit them from enjoying the comic (or in some cases like deafness, the comic doesn’t have any feature that they’d be missing out on without added support). But the fact is, if even one person is interested in my work, and they can’t experience it because of a barrier that I should be trying to help overcome, then I’m doing something wrong.

Over the next few days or weeks (depending on how much free time I have for the project) I’ll continue to make transcripts for the past comics. All future CSSquirrel comics going forward will have a transcript created when it is first made.

If you’re a person who makes use of screen readers, can you take a chance to examine comic #34 (Squirrel in the Dark) and tell me if the feature is working correctly, or if there’s any other work I should make to enhance it? I’d appreciate that very much.

Postmortem: July’s Refresh Bellingham

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Last night was the inaugural session of Refresh Bellingham, which is something like a cross between a single-presentation micro-conference (for FREE!) and a bar/grill social event for web geeks. Taking place at Extremes Sports Grill (yes, their website terrifies), it turned out to be a blast!

The speaker was Jeff Croft, who is some sort of hybrid between a super-designer and a karaoke megastar. His presentation was on grids in web design, and was a speedy trek through the history of grids in typography and the ways to apply them to your websites in this day in age. He’ll have slides at some point, so I’ll put them up as soon as I get the link. It was great to watch, and now I’m closer to understanding what the point is for line-height.

It’s for conga lines, right?

After the presentation, the crowd (I saw at least 45 people there, we had people standing during the presentation) walked across the way into what I’ll call the “party room” and proceeded to eat, drink, or do a combination of both while chatting away with people from Bellingham to Mt. Vernon to Seattle.

If you live in or near Bellingham, and want to have a great opportunity to learn more about web standards, talk shop with people who care about such things, or just have an excuse for a night out, I suggest you take the opportunity to come to the next Refresh (we’re on the third Wednesday night of every month. Check out the website for more.)

Comic Update: Manners After the XHTMLacolypse

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Last week, it was declared that the XHTML2 WG was being discontinued, so the resources could be focused on HTML5. I briefly mentioned it here, and Jeffrey Zeldman spoke about it here. It’s a simple enough matter, and drew a lot of mixed responses. That in itself isn’t surprising.

What was surprising was how all of a sudden it seemed that it became open hunting season on insulting developers that used XHTML 1 (which is not XHTML2) and gloating over the corpse of the standard before it had even cooled. As two examples, Henri Sivonen produced an unofficial “Q&A” complete with snark, and Mark Pilgrim invented a taunting childish rhyme that reveled in the folly of those he disagreed with. Pilgrim in his case even named Jeffrey Zeldman directly in his taunts (and got even worse in behavior in his comments on that post.)

This sort of behavior annoys me on two levels. One, it’s not a great way to treat your professional peers, as it crosses the line from attacking a technology to attacking people. Two, it confuses (in some cases intentionally) XHTML and XHTML2, making it seem as if the death of the latter somehow invalidated the former, which isn’t the case at all.

Fortunately, good men didn’t let that sort of behavior slide. John Allsopp rightfully called some of the taunters out for their snark (as recorded in this tweet here), and that became the basis for today’s comic, which imagines a post-apocalyptic world where this sort of poor manners must be corrected by brave warriors in the wasteland.

Also helping correct misconceptions and bad behavior were good posts by Jeremy Keith and Jeffrey Zeldman. If you’re confused about the whole XHTML issue this week, take a look at what they’ve written. It’s instructive.

Was XHTML2′s death a good thing? I don’t know. I do know that we can discuss the technology in a fashion that doesn’t involve insulting the people involved, though. Keep it clean, folks.

Note: I wrote this in about eight minutes at the end of my lunch. As such, it might expand later when I have the chance to be more verbose and thoughtful.

Poll: If You Design and Develop, What Do You Call Yourself?

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

I’ve talked about web career job titles in the past, and how confusing they can be. However, yesterday on Unmatchedstyle’s first monthly design panel podcast (vidcast?), Jason Beaird used a word to describe himself that I’d never heard before: designeloper.

I immediately liked it.

(I also liked the fact that he read a quote from my Cuddling With Cufon post. It made me all warm and sappy.)

I liked the title so much, with its jackalope-like nature, that I tweeted about it. Immediately Jin Yang fired back with the fact that Jason was wrong, and the proper term was devsigner.

As a skills-hybrid (granted, very developer-heavy and designer-light in my case) I like the idea of fun terms to help describe those of us that simultaneously try to comprehend typography use as well as learning the newest AJAX trick. So the question that remains is what term is best? Designeloper or devsigner?

Obviously the only way to know for sure is to put the terms in a cage match on a deserted isle where they’ll determine the fate of two dimensions in a tournament to the death. But since we don’t have that option, I’ve made a poll. Please consider taking the time to answer on it.

(Poll after the jump.)


An Event Apart Seattle In Absentia

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Bellingham is not too distant from Seattle. In fact, it’s less than a two-hour drive for most of my friends (who may or may not be driving like maniacs. I’m not sure how long of a drive it is for people obeying traffic laws.) So when I learned that An Event Apart would be in Seattle this year, I wept openly (but in a manly fashion, like an action star weeping over the death of his partner in an explosion-filled cop movie.)

Why? Because I knew I wouldn’t be going, mostly due to finances. The budget allotted to conferences already had been committed to Web Directions North. Now, WDN was worth it in every way, and a great experience. But as it lacked the notable Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman, it left me craving.

As AEA: Seattle drew nearer, I concocted a plan. I would not be going to AEA, but if I arranged a road trip with some Mindfly co-workers, I could attend one of the fabulous evening parties, perhaps, rubbing elbows with important web folk and picking up some new CSS tricks by osmosis. I discussed this in a post last week (having contemplated abducting speakers in this comic) and managed to round up a full squad of Mindfliers to roll south with.

Then, on fateful Monday, things started to go wrong. Like the Fellowship of the Ring, things seemed peachy at first, but then like Gandalf toppling into a pit the first person canceled. After a brief pause people started jumping ship left and right, with Boromir stepping in front a few arrows and Samwise and Frodo ditching on the group. I felt like Aragorn, stuck with an elf and a dwarf, and instead of Seattle decided to head to Isengard… er… home.

The Twitter stream of AEA attendees that night was like a punch to the gut. However, it’s presence illustrated the next best thing to attending: cyber-stalking.

Thankfully due to the presence of web-geeks at a web standards conference (surprise surprise) a great deal of the material and experiences of An Event Apart Seattle are present for downloading and consuming. You can’t taste the lunches or feel the giddiness of standing in a crowd of people as far down the rabbit hole as you are, but you can learn quite a bit about what was said and how it went.

Here’s a skimming of offerings from the hearty soup of the Internet:

Zeldman’s AEA:Seattle After-Report

Warren Parson’s Massive Photostream of An Event Apart: Seattle

Think Brownstone’s AEA Sketches

Twitter Stream of AEA (With All the Numerous Hashtags Used)

Dan Cederholm’s Presentation Slides

Dan Rubin’s Presentation Slides

Aaron Walter’s Slides

Tara Hunt’s Presentation Slides

There’s probably many more sources out there. If you know of ones I missed, feel free to link them in the comments, please. As for you, AEA, maybe next year!