March 25, 2008
Highland Fling 2008
I should have posted about this ages ago when it was announced, but better late than never. The second Highland Fling is taking place on 3rd April at Edinburgh's Symposium Hall, and I'm chuffed to have secured a ticket. Kudos to Alan White for taking on the task once again.
Like last year's event it's got a great line-up of speakers and a theme which is refreshing and just a little bit different:
In the world or modern web development we can no longer consider the browser as the end point of our product which is our content. More and more devices and applications are being released that can access our information and more importantly do not even require a browser to do so.
For The Highland Fling 2008 we're bringing into focus how the landscape is changing. API's, desktop apps, ambient devices, mobile and much more are helping us break out of the browser and potentially reaching an entire new audience as a result.
How do we embrace this, how do we take our existing skill set and transpose it into new mediums? How do we expand our skill set? What is our skill set going to be? Where is it all going?
There are still tickets left (at only 125 quid, a veritable bargain) so if you're anywhere near Edinburgh or an airport you owe it to yourself to attend.
February 29, 2008
SPiN Annual Conference - 24th April 2008
The SPiN Annual Conference takes place on the 24th April this year at the British Library Conference Centre in London (looks like a fantastic venue). Titled "Hitting the spot - engaging with your customers", I've got a short slot at the conference to talk about the Public Sector Web Management Group, its aims and activities.
This will be the last SPiN conference since the organisation is winding down this year. I've worked in and around UK government for over 14 years now, mostly in information roles, and SPiN have been a constant through that time. It is testament to their awareness that the decision to wind down has been taken now, and absolutely fantastic that they are actively seeking to promote new organisations like the PSWMG and SOCITM who can continue to represent the interests of SPiN members.
Looks like a fine line-up, you can register at the SOCITM website.
October 5, 2007
Today I had the pleasure of presenting at Techshare . I saw some great talks, made a lot of new friends, saw a lot of old friends and my presentation seemed to go down well.
My presentation, "Influencing government web accessibility policy: advocacy vs. militancy", is now on the site and available to download with speaker notes:
August 13, 2007
Speaking at Techshare 2007
I was extremely chuffed today to receive confirmation that I'll be speaking at this year's Techshare conference in October in London. The Techshare conference is organised by the RNIB and "highlights the role of technology in the everyday life of people with disabilities, looking not just at the web but also software, mobiles, standards, compliance and much more." Lots more info at the Techshare site .
There was a danger, I feared, that the paper I proposed might prove to be a bit contentious - "Government web accessibility policy - advocacy vs. militancy" - but fortunately the committee deemed it appropriate, so roll on 5th October.
Real World Accessibility London
We had a re-run of our Real World Accessibility event last week, this time at the Barbican in London. The day went off extremely well, and the feedback has been excellent.
For those of you who attended here are links to some of the resources that were mentioned during the day's proceedings, if I've missed anything please let me know and I'll add them:
- User-defined accesskeys
- Expanded links for screenreader users (view source for details)
- CastingWords podcast transcription
- Browsercam and fundable to make it more affordable
- Colour contrast analyser Firefox extension at Juicy Studio
In a slight departure from the Birmingham event we set aside 30 minutes for exhibitor presentations, and an hour before lunch to discuss the possibility of forming a public sector web management group.
This latter idea has been met with a generally positive response, and a forum's been setup at pswmg.org.uk to facilitate discussions at this very early stage. If you're involved in the web in the UK public sector in any way at all please drop by, register and let us know what you think.
July 2, 2007
Real World Accessibility
After a successful outing in Birmingham in May, we're bringing this one day accessibility workshop to London on 8th August. The main thrust of the day is to get away from a dry, box-ticking approach to web accessibility, and closer to what you really need to think about and do to produce accessible sites.
The same cast of speakers - Bruce Lawson , Ann McMeekin , Pat Lauke , Grant Broome, Ian Lloyd and myself - will each present a 40 minute session, and sit as a panel for open questions. If Birmingham was anything to go by it should be another great day.
The event is being organised by my company, Champion IS, in association with Public Sector Forums. Despite their monicker, and unlike last time around, this event is open to all and sundry, not just public sector delegates.
June 8, 2007
@media 2007 London: day one retrospective
A quick take on the talks I saw yesterday at @media:
Jesse James Garrett, Beyond Ajax
He's clearly a very smart and successful bloke, and it was a tough ask to follow Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer in delivering the keynote, which is maybe why I was somewhat disappointed. Some great snippets of content and ideas, but a little lacking in focus, no clear central theme, and no real conclusion or summary. The lack of audience questions may have been a result of shock and awe, or more likely a lack of challenge.
Jason Santa Maria, Diabolical Design
Enjoyed this one a lot. Jason provided some excellent insights for non-designers like myself into the processes he and other visual designers go through when working on a design.
Nate Koechley, High Performance Web Pages
Probably my favourite talk of the day. I'm a sucker for quick-fire, technique and knowledge-based presentations, and this fitted the bill exactly. The great thing about the stuff Nate presented was that it was backed-up by the might of Yahoo! and had clearly been extensively tested. So when they say that the optimum number of hosts-per-page is between 2 and 4, you should listen.
YSlow looks like a fantastic tool (integrating it into Firebug is a master stroke), so here's hoping it will be released into the wild later in the year as Nate intimated.
Dan Cederholm, Interface Design Juggling
Dan's a great presenter: relaxed, funny, and personable. This started very well, with the genius ToupeePal , but then suddenly we were into 20 minutes of Microformats. Shame - if I'd wanted to hear the Microformats pitch again I'd have gone to see Tantek's talk (and heckled about the abuse of abbr). So A+ for entertainment in the first half, D- for interest in the second half.
Mark Boulton, Five Simple Steps to Better Typography
Great stuff. Had a strong learning element, interweaved with a martial arts story culminating in a one-inch punch . Delivered in a conversational style that worked brilliantly.
Joe Clark, When Web Accessibility Is Not Your Problem
Announced the release of the WCAG Samurai WCAG 1.0 errata, and two peer reviews. Go read it now, you have 3 weeks to email comments that may be considered before a final version.
Made mildly controversial statements about certain matters of accessibility, most of which I agreed with, and at least one of which I didn't, at least in the context in which it was illustrated.
This was that we shouldn't trouble ourselves to ensure link texts are unique on a page, even when they lead to different destinations, or to ensure they make sense out of context. We know the link list is a commonly used feature in JAWs, and it doesn't take much effort to accommodate, even if you want to present visually identical link texts.
Can't remember what the other point was, didn't take notes for some reason.
Unfortunately Joe over-ran: he should have been prompted to wind-up at least 10 minutes earlier, then he himself could have made the judgement call as to whether to take the time delivering, or to wrap-up and let the questions come. As it was there was no time for questions, which caused a little consternation in some quarters.
Despite the atmosphere feeling a bit flat (and it might just have been me, although speaking to some other third-timers it didn't seem to be), looking back now at my notes it was generally as high-class as in previous years. Maybe my expectations of some of the speakers were unrealistic?
The food was delicious (no mean feat on that scale), the free bar lasted a lot longer than anyone except the most tight-fisted could have hoped for, and there were plenty of networking opportunities all day and night. Music was still too loud at the party though.
Sadly due to other commitments I couldn't make any of the sessions today, so I'll need to rely on the slides and hopefully podcasts.
April 6, 2007
Highland Fling Flung
Yesterday I attended the eagerly anticipated Highland Fling , the first Scottish web standards conference evar. Alan White did a great job of attracting top speakers, and they didn't disappoint on the day. Even Mark Norman Francis struggled manfully on despite obvious discomfort from what sounded like a savage throat infection - what a pro. I'm sure his description of Flickr as "criminally inadequate" can be blamed on medication.
All of the sessions featured high quality content expertly delivered, but my personal pick was brothercake's session, "What has Ajax done for us anyway", telling it like it is where Ajax is concerned. Jeremy Keith gets the intellectual award, for his historical allegory, and the explanation of memetics, the origin of the (apparently misnamed) concept of web "memes". And he mentioned Revish, which was nice.
The audience seemed to take a little while to warm-up - if it had been a comedy gig at least one of the acts would have uttered the words "tough crowd tonight" under their breath. That said I heard nothing but positive comments from the other delegates, which bodes well for the future of the web standards community (or industry) in Scotland, and the prospects for Highland Fling II next year. A fine evening of drink and food followed, although I have to confess to missing the last pints of the night (morning?) as I retired to my hotel to prepare for this afternoon's Refresh Edinburgh .
- Mark Norman Francis - Graded Browser Support
- Andy Budd - The Future of CSS
- Drew McLellan - Can your website be your API?
March 2, 2007
Tomorrow I'm off to Edinburgh for BarCampScotland the first ever BarCamp to be held in Scotland. It's also my first BarCamp, so I've had a read through the rules and some tips on what to expect but I'm still excited by how unknown it all is to me.
The event's wiki has some names familiar to me - Blair should be there, Tessa Darley (who is forever a star in my eyes, if only because her dad sent me some horseradish roots to plant last year), and John Sutherland , one of the organisers of Refresh Edinburgh .
Haven't decided what I'll talk about yet - probably Revish , but other possibilities are where we're headed with accessibility (Isofarro has sparked a much needed debate which might be worth pursuing), setting up a company (I'm going through this right now, and many of the basic things that need doing are news to me), or maybe curing and smoking bacon.
February 5, 2007
Highland Fling 2007
Highland Fling is an annual one-day conference in Scotland aimed at web developers and businesses with an interest in web standards and accessibility. This is its inaugural year, and I have to say Alan White has done a fantastic job attracting some of the biggest names to Scotland, including Jeremy Keith, Andy Clarke, James Edwards, Andy Budd, Chris Heilmann, Drew McLellan and Mark Norman Francis.
The theme of the day is progressive enhancement, and it's only 99 quid for early birds. I'll say that again. Only 99 quid!
January 26, 2007
PSF Web Workshop review
On Wednesday I spent the day in Birmingham with a great bunch of people at the Public Sector Forums Web Workshop. Personally I had a very good day, and the feedback forms from the event suggest that almost all of the delegates did too. The few gripes about the time-keeping and the catering were well-founded, so we'll learn our lessons should we do something similar in the future.
I definitely shared the frustration about not being able to do the Information Architecture session full justice - it was planned to be the most interactive session, and together with the session on web strategies was one many people had expressed an interest in before the event. In the end time was against us and I had to rattle through it far too quickly. At least we had a bit of fun with the card sorting exercise.
We had a great presentation about Search Engine Optimisation and how it relates to government from Teddie Cowell of Neutralize and Search Engine War , which I found fascinating. It's already had repercussions on DirectGov , where less than 2 days later the previously obfuscated outbound links to local government sites are now real links, which means Google will love us more than they already do. Definitely a result.
And Jack Pickard helped me out during the QA session with an excellent demonstration of some of the tests we should all be performing regularly using nothing more than a decent browser and the Web Developer Toolbar.
Most of the delegates were from local government, with a few bods coming from the private sector and other government agencies like Transport for London . In my experience, when I've been a delegate at this type of event, the networking with and contributions from colleagues in other authorities are just as useful as anything the speakers have to say, and I suspect this one was no different. We're still not very good in local government at sharing best practice, experiences or horror stories, even in this internet age, and often it's not until we get in company that we start to open up. The contributions from the floor were top notch, even with the south-west seeming to dominate at times. You know who you all are. ;-)
The wiki that was setup for the event might help a bit. It will probably go one of two ways - either folk will use it, contribute to it and it will grow into a useful resource, or they will come, take what they need and never darken its door again. Whatever happens I'll continue maintaining the links pages on the wiki, and adding anything interesting or new I come across (like clickdensity , but I'll post about that at the weekend).
If you were at the event there will be an email winging its way to you soon with the wiki access details. If you weren't there, and you think you might be interested in contributing to a wiki loosely focussed (is that possible?) on government web stuff, drop me a note and I'll let you in.
January 17, 2007
Registration is now open, over at the @media site .
I've signed up, the cast is stellar again, and it will be two streams again. So just like last year the only downside to the whole shebang will be having to decide between Malarkey and Tantec. Sort of like a bizarre web superstarTop Trumps type of thing.
June 21, 2006
Next stop - East Midlands Conference Centre
If you work in the public sector and are interested in web accessibility and broader web development issues for government sites, you might be interested in this event:
Currently in production and back by popular demand is a forum to showcase the leading edge of public sector website development highlighting innovation, usability and compatibility. Government Websites 2.0 - The Next Generation will be held on the 15th August at the East Midlands Conference Centre (Nottingham).
Not sure about "leading edge", but you'll get to hear me bang on about accessibility for half an hour or so, and participate in the panel, discussing the question "What is the purpose and function of a local authority website?". If anyone knows the answer please email me, otherwise I'll just have to talk bollocks and hope no-one notices...
June 14, 2006
Website Accessibility 2006 thoughts
Just a very quick post to say a big thank you to the organisers, speakers and delegates at the Website Accessibility 2006 conference which was held in Edinburgh yesterday. As I mentioned previously I signed up to give a talk about the lessons I learned when redeveloping ClacksWeb.
I had a great time, enjoyed giving my talk, met a lot of very nice people who were very enthusiastic about and committed to web accessibility, and I learned a lot too. It seemed that most other people had a good time too, and found it worthwhile (but then I didn't see the feedback forms!). There was good, informed participation from the audience, and a very wide range of organisations represented, including government, charities, the BBC and large corporations. It was very encouraging to see that accessibility was clearly on their radar.
I'm still in Edinburgh, preparing to travel down to London for @media - I'll post my presentation on this site or on ClacksWeb early next week, and will catch-up with those people who requested a copy of my development plan.
May 4, 2006
Website Accessibility 2006
From the blurb :
Website Accessibility 2006 is a major UK conference on public sector website accessibility, giving the latest guidance and best-practice including the new PAS 78 guidelines.
Apart from the fact that I'm speaking at the event, I'm excited on three counts:
- It's being held at the wonderful Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh, without doubt the best hotel I've stayed in in the UK. We were there two years ago for my birthday , and again last year before Christmas. It'll be strange being there without my wife, but I'll survive.
- It's a damned good cast , and I'm delighted to have been invited to share the stage with them all.
- It's a major UK public sector event, and it's being held in Scotland. This happens all too infrequently IMHO, and given the venue there's the real possibility that this event will set a trend.
The only downside is that it's the day before I travel down to London for @media - I could really have done with the chance to observe the top quality speakers there first to get a few tips.
April 4, 2006
GAWDs Meet 2006
On Saturday I popped through to Glasgow to meet with fellow members of the Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDs) including the founder of the guild, Jim Byrne. While there were only 9 in attendance (7 members, one spouse and a kindly minute-taker) the discussion was lively and good-humoured. Apart from myself the members who made it were:
- Gareth Alexander of Sense Scotland
- Jim Byrne of Jim Byrne & Associates
- Paul Crichton of De Montfort University
- Blair Millen of Doepud and The Letter
- Renato Uccellini of Newcastle College
- Damian Watson of Greenhouse Design
It's always nice to put faces to names, and the thumbnail portraits on the GAWDs site just don't do some members justice! Kudos to Gareth and Sense Scotland for hosting the event and for providing refreshments. I'll not go into any great detail here about the discussion that ensued, for fear of misrepresentation - hopefully there will be a minute produced and published, thanks to Anne-Marie, again of Sense Scotland.
Discussion during the morning session concentrated on the background of GAWDs, how it is constituted, its aims and objectives, and how it might develop in future. A few personal highlights (or things I remember), but please note these are my recollections and may not reflect the views of the other members who were in attendance or GAWDs itself:
- There's an obvious tension between requiring members to have already demonstrated a commitment to and some degree of knowledge about accessible web design, and the need to accommodate those who may just be starting to learn about accessibility.
- The guild is currently run as a private company limited by guarantee. Alternative organisational models were discussed, although there seemed to be broad agreement that the alternatives weren't fundamentally any better or worse than the status quo, but that increased transparency and openess would be a good thing.
- Administrators spend a lot of time screening applicants who aren't able to demonstrate the necessary commitment - it seems that a high percentage of applicants are turned away at the first hurdle. Suggested strategies for improving this situation included introducing an application fee; introducing a 'junior' membership for those who were starting our in accessible design; introducing a higher level (professional?) membership category.
- The possibility of an education programme for propsective members, students, lifelong learners and existing members was discussed. This is obviously a huge topic but with Renato and Paul coming from the education sector there is a clearly identified need and an opportunity for GAWDs to be involved in some way in the development and provision of such a programme.
- The Association of Accessibility Professionals (AAP) was mentioned, a body I was blissfully unaware of until Saturday. I'd urge anyone with an interest in web accessibility to check out their website, they seem to be doing some excellent work and are working towards an accreditation scheme for accessibility professionals.
- I took the opportunity to spread the word about the Scottish Chapter of the Usability Professionals Association (UPA). It's based in Edinburgh and holds some excellent monthly events, and if you're not in Scotland there is a broad-based UK chapter . I've found particular value in events and presentations covering usable and accessible design for non-web-based projects, with the different perspectives offered opening my eyes to potential alternative approaches in my work.
Unfortunately I had to leave shortly after lunch due to domestic commitments, but I assume that the afternoon discussion was as lively as the morning, and that the evening activities were undertaken responsibly! Apologies for the lack of photos, my camera battery died after two shots, but there were other, better-prepared snappers there so we should see some pictures soon.
October 18, 2005
World Usability Day
3rd November 2005 is World Usability Day and to mark the occasion the Scottish UPA is running a Scottish Usability Showcase in Edinburgh. It's a series of short, 15 minute presentations, and I'll be speaking about my experiences redeveloping ClacksWeb using web standards, and the process of trying to build in accessibility and usability.
If you're in or around Edinburgh why not come along? In my experience SUPA events are always interesting, and cheap - free for members, and a tenner for non-members (a fiver for students). Bargain.
Update: SUPA have just announced that to celebrate WUD this event is now free of charge. So you've got no excuse for not coming along.