Tag Archives: accessibility

Assorted bits and pieces

As we wrap the year and my brain is kind of hazy with the extra food, and the total shock to the system caused by staying in Spain these days, I thought it would be a splendid moment to collect a few things that I haven’t blogged about yet. So there we go:

Talks

In Hacks

We were brainstorming what to close the year with at the Mozilla Hacks blog, and we said: let’s make a best of 2014 post!

For some reason I ended up building a giant list of videos from talks that had an impact on me, whether technical or emotional, or both, and I that thought would be great to share with fellow developers. And then the planets aligned and there was a call to action to help test video playing in Firefox, so we ended up with You can’t go wrong watching JavaScript talks, inviting you to watch these videos AND help test video playing. Two birds with one stone! (but figuratively, we do not want to harm birds, okay? okay!).

Since it is a list I curated, it is full of cool things such as realtime graphics, emoji, Animated GIFs, Web Components, accessibility, healthy community building, web audio and other new and upcoming Web APIs, Firefox OS hardware hacking, and of course, some satire. Go watch them!

Mine

And then the videos for some talks I’ve given recently have been published also.

Here’s the one from CMD+R conf, a new conference in London for Mac/iOS developers which was really nice even though I don’t work on that field. The organiser watched my CascadiaJS 2014 talk and liked it, and asked me to repeat it.

I’m quite happy with how it turned out, and I’m even a tad sad that they cut out a bit of the silly chatter from when I jumped on the stage and was sort of adjusting my laptop. I think it was funny. Or maybe it wasn’t and that’s why they cut it out :-P

Then I also spoke at Full Frontal in Brighton, which is not a new conference but has a bit of a legendary aura already, so I was really proud to have been invited to speak there. I gave an introduction to Web Audio which was sort of similar to the Web Audio Hack Day introduction, but better. Everything gets better when you practice and repeat ;-)

Podcasts

Potch and me were guests in the episode 20 from The Web Platform, hosted by Erik Isaksen. We discussed Web Components, solving out problems for other developers with Brick, the quests you have to go through when you want to use them today, proper component/code design, and some more topics such as accessibility or using components for fun with Audio Tags.

And finally… meet ups and upcoming talks!

I’m going to be hosting the first Ladies Who Code meetup at London of the year. The date is the 6th of January, and here’s the event/sign up page. Come join us at Mozilla London and hack on stuff with fellow ladies who code! :-)

And then on the 13th of January I’ll be also giving an overview talk about Web Components at the first ever London Web Components meetup. Exciting! Here’s the event page, although I think there is a waiting list already.

Finally for-reals I’ll be speaking at the Mozilla room at FOSDEM about Firefox OS app development with node-firefox, a project that Nicola started when he interned at Mozilla last summer, and which I took over once he left because it was too awesome to let it rust.

Of course “app development with node-firefox” is too bland, so the title of the talk is actually Superturbocharging Firefox OS app development with node-firefox. In my defense I came up with that title while I was jetlagged and incubating a severe cold, so I feel zero guilt about this superhyperbolic title :P

Merry belated whatevers!

JSConf.eu 2014

I accidentally ended up attending JSConf.eu 2014–it wasn’t my initial intent, but someone from Mozilla who was going to be at the Hacker Lounge couldn’t make it for personal reasons, and he asked me to join in, so I did!

I hung around the lounge for a while every day, but at times it was so full of people that I just went downstairs and talked hacks & business while having coffee, or simply attended some of the talks instead. The following are notes from the talks I attended and from random conversations on the Hallway and Hacker Lounge tracks ;)

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On CSSConf + JSConf 2014

TL;WR*: a mostly social event, great for meeting the authors of those modules you see scroll past when you run npm install and it installs half of the internet. Also, lots of presentations on somewhat hipster stuff which I not always understood, but that’s great–I like not understanding it all from the get go, so I can learn something. And some discussion about physical and mental health and better community building and other important non purely technical stuff that usually never gets the chance to be discussed in tech conferences.
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Being understood

(This is an extended version of the minispeech I gave at BarCampLondon2, “Being understood”, and here are the slides just in case you’re willing to see some bullet points goodness).

We are failing to make ourselves understood. We can be speaking the same language as our listeners and failing miserably in communicating even simple concepts properly.

I’ll show you a couple of real life examples, taken from a web design and development forum:

  1. Thread A: New website by xyz.
    When approaching a new website by xyz announcement, different people pay attention to different stuff. Designers which need to work with HTML tend to focus only on the design and the flashiness of the end result. On the other hand, developers and people which are really involved with the bare bones web tend to look minuciously at the implementation details and the use of technology, kind of ignoring the end users of the websites.Hence, you get answers like these ones:

    • Designer: it’s so cool! I like the design!
    • Concerned-with-standards person: it sucks! they use tables and it is not valid! they should use layers and CSS only!

    In truth, that website was visually great but the implementation was a terrible abomination.

    Normally there are lots of lurkers in the forums and they tend to read way more than they write. Occasionally, someone which is just starting in web development read this thread and got confusing information, which led to the next thread:

  2. Thread B: Help with a CSS design!!!
    I’m trying to do a CSS-with-layers-only design but I’m stuck on something. I’d like to show a list of prices, it should be something like this:

    LOREM IPSUM
    Dolor 10
    Amet 12

    I thought of solving it with something like this:

    <div class="table">
    	<div class="first_cell">
    		<div class="blue_3px_border">
    			LOREM
    		</div>
    		<div class="blue_3px_border">
    			IPSUM
    		</div>
    	</div>
    	<div class="row">
    		<div class="value">
    			Dolor
    		</div>
    		<div class="value">
    			10
    		</div>
    	</div>
    	<div class="row">
    		<div class="value">
    			Amet
    		</div>
    		<div class="value">
    			12
    		</div>
    	</div>
    </div>

    … but I’m having some problems for getting it all well aligned…

    Obviously someone got terribly confused here. There are real examples, like the main page of any forum using phorum’s default skin, which is built using div’s instead of using a table for what is a good table use.

And then we also have the magic word: accessible. That word. Each time it’s used nobody gets its meaning right. You can find discussions like this one:

  • this site is not accessible
  • … but I can access the site, what’s wrong with it?

… which should start ringing all the bells in our brains but instead of stopping and trying to clarify things before it’s too late, we just contribute to increase the uncertainty and fear with more misunderstandings, like for example these ones which are very common:

  • cookies will steal all the data from your computer
  • javascript will steal and publish your compromised pictures in flickr
    • and tag them
    • and geotag them
    • and send an e-mail to all your friends
    • ok, just joking!

There are multiple sources of confusion for each person, even technically savvy ones. While browsing any website, we get bombarded with lots of acronyms and terms which not only can be completely unknown to us but also increase the probabilities of misunderstanding the rest of the content, because we get confused and our brain is still trying to figure out what those terms mean. Think of things like:

  • RSS
  • CC
  • XFN
  • ATOM
  • Tag cloud
  • XML
  • AJAX
  • Web 2.0
  • W3C
  • WSG
  • WAI
  • etc

Is this something to worry about? I would say definitely YES, specially if we look at some absolutely subjective facts that I’ve come up with:

  • Only 5% of sites do not make my eyes bleed when looking at their source code
  • 60% of people claiming they follow standards do not really understand what it means
  • Is the result of trying to follow standards worse than a step backwards? Look at all the cases of:
    • divitis < div class=”table”>< /div>, because someone understood he should just use div’s in a tableless design
    • classitis < h2 class=”title02″> < /h2>, < div class=”h2″> </div>, because people don’t understand html semantics nor css really
    • self proclaimed “valid html generators” CMS’s and alike, e.g. Joomla!/Mambo, Postnuke, vBulletin, phpBB, subdreamer, etc – the default template from each one of them may pass an automated test but it’s not “valid HTML”, and not semantic HTML either (which I believe is way more important than passing an automated test). Unfortunately, people with limited technology knowledge may choose one of these believing they are doing the right thing, thus contributing to the global disaster.
  • W3c icons are perverted. Most of the times you find them in sites generated with the aforementioned CMS’s, when not in governmental websites, and a simple test shows zillions of errors, which creates these two feelings amongst concerned users:
    • they are kind of useless
    • they guarentee nothing

    Ultimately, non-technology people do not have a clue about the meaning of those icons, which are part of the confusing elements I referred to before

So what can we do?

I think we, as technologists, need to take a different approach. Although we are responsible for building the www, it’s not us who are going to use it most of the times. Common people are going to enter the content, to play with the systems, to use them, and maybe extend them. If we don’t make ourselves understood and aren’t able to educate them on how to do things properly, we are failing.

We need to think out of the box, putting ourselves in their place, and trying to understand their goals and concerns. And while some of their concerns may look ridiculous to our eyes, we must be patient and not overreact. It’s like the “THIS SITE SUCKS” response to a posting in a forum. It doesn’t help, it’s not constructive, and just produces frustration.

But convincing people to use something abstract is very, very hard. Nobody’s going to take your new and shiny standards-based approach if they have something which works for them and you just have philosophy and words theorising about the benefits of standards and all that stuff. You need to demonstrate movement: be an early adopter, stop theorising and start building practical solutions right now. Show real applications of standards which give real advantage over the old practices.

(Obviously, you’ll need to assume risks but that’s part of the game.)

Finally, the most important rule of all is: be accessible – yes, YOU! Do not scare people away with a cloud of meaningless (for them) words when they come to you, and speak their language, not yours.

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Some context:

This was inspired by an article which Ricardo wrote, “The accessibility is inaccessible”. After lots of comments and the discussion which followed outside the blog comments, and reaching a point in which I was almost getting angry I realised there was something very wrong about the whole discussion, and the “Think outside the box” sentence made me understand why me and the rest of the people which was against Ricardo had got it wrong, because we were failing to think in “non developer terms”. Extrapolate it a bit more and you’ve got a fantastic source for a BarCamp talk :-)

The techie grandma

Watching that video that trace found yesterday I can’t do less than wonder if one day I’ll be a grandmother like the one that appears in it.

The ideal grandmother that every technological addict kid would like to have!!

This is simply incredible… technology evolves a lot and, now avoiding the simplest fun, all of us should try to encourage people of all ages to use computers and not to remain obsolete on their ignorance of technology. A cool aim could be to have lots of techie grandma’s in the future, able to communicate with and use the newest devices and platforms available. And for this all everybody has to collaborate: developers and users :)

So, get ready for the next generation of grandma’s !!

UPDATE: I have just found this post about the increasingly amount of people surfing the web …. which belong to the techie-grandpa’s range :)