Events Archive

March 25, 2008

Highland Fling 2008

@ 10:59 AM

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

@ 11:08 AM

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

Techshare presentation

@ 5:54 PM

Today I had the pleasure of presenting at Techshare  (external link). 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

@ 8:36 PM

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 (external link).

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

@ 8:02 PM

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.

The presentations are available to download from the Public Sector Forums site (external link). Also worth a mention are Pat Lauke's photos of the event (external link).

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:

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 (external link) 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

@ 7:11 PM

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 (external link), Ann McMeekin (external link), Pat Lauke (external link), Grant Broome, Ian Lloyd (external link) 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.

Full details of the day are available on the CIS website (external link), with online booking via the PSF site (external link).

June 8, 2007

@media 2007 London: day one retrospective

@ 8:10 AM

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 (external link), 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 (external link). Delivered in a conversational style that worked brilliantly.

Joe Clark, When Web Accessibility Is Not Your Problem

Announced the release of the WCAG Samurai (external link) 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.

In summary

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

@ 11:21 AM

Yesterday I attended the eagerly anticipated Highland Fling (external link), the first Scottish web standards conference evar. Alan White (external link) did a great job of attracting top speakers, and they didn't disappoint on the day. Even Mark Norman Francis (external link) 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 (external link) session, "What has Ajax done for us anyway", telling it like it is where Ajax is concerned. Jeremy Keith (external link) 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 (external link).

Some slides:

March 2, 2007


@ 4:22 PM

Tomorrow I'm off to Edinburgh for BarCampScotland (external link) the first ever BarCamp to be held in Scotland. It's also my first BarCamp, so I've had a read through the rules (external link) and some tips on what to expect (external link) but I'm still excited by how unknown it all is to me.

The event's wiki has some names familiar to me - Blair (external link) 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 (external link), one of the organisers of Refresh Edinburgh (external link).

Haven't decided what I'll talk about yet - probably Revish (external link), but other possibilities are where we're headed with accessibility (Isofarro has sparked a much needed debate (external link) 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

@ 1:00 PM

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 (external link) 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!

I'm signed up, and am looking forward to a cracking day. It's on 5th April at the Symposium Hall in Edinburgh. Full details over at the Highland Fling website (external link), or at (external link).

January 26, 2007

PSF Web Workshop review

@ 2:27 PM

On Wednesday I spent the day in Birmingham with a great bunch of people at the Public Sector Forums (external link) 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 (external link) and Search Engine War (external link), which I found fascinating. It's already had repercussions on DirectGov (external link), 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 (external link) 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 (external link). 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 (external link) 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 (external link), 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

@media 2007

@ 7:06 PM

Registration is now open, over at the @media site (external link).

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

@ 9:45 AM

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  (external link) 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

@ 11:26 AM

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

@ 5:44 PM

From the blurb (external link):

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:

  1. It's being held at the wonderful Scotsman Hotel (external link) in Edinburgh, without doubt the best hotel I've stayed in in the UK. We were there two years ago for my birthday (external link), and again last year before Christmas. It'll be strange being there without my wife, but I'll survive.
  2. It's a damned good cast (external link), and I'm delighted to have been invited to share the stage with them all.
  3. 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

@ 7:18 AM

On Saturday I popped through to Glasgow to meet with fellow members of the Guild of Accessible Web Designers  (external link) (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:

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:

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

@ 12:51 PM

World Usability Day logo3rd November 2005 is World Usability Day (External link) and to mark the occasion the Scottish UPA is running a Scottish Usability Showcase (External link) 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.

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