2005-08-30: redesign juice in the water?

Three redesigns in the past week:

I have a feeling there are more, I just haven't found them yet...

Update: yep, here we go - Relapse's Cupboard just got a spiffy new design (commissioned from Retrorocket Design, I believe).

short roundup: wanau brisbane

  • 70 attendees based on a head count, the sign-in list was voluntary so it has a slightly lower count.
  • Five presentations from four speakers; plus an official opening from the Griffith University PVC Information Services and a welcome from the Chair.
  • A few minor panics for the organiser (all resolved).
  • No take-up of the IRC option; I'm thinking this is a result of not promoting it well enough, low usage of IRC amongst attendees (many didn't know what IRC was) and the event's short duration. No big deal :)
  • I'm told it went rather well, although as the organiser I didn't get to actually sit down and enjoy it :)
  • Overall... success!

Here's hoping next time I run an event I don't have to spend the previous week trying to coordinate it from a laptop in a hotel lobby :)

2005-08-28: monday: live from wanau brisbane...

For anyone who is unable to physically attend Monday's WANAU forum, we are planning to have attendees on the IRC channel #wanau on irc.freenode.net ... feel free to drop by and join in! :)

The IRC channel for OZeWAI '04 was a great success and we are hoping to have a similar experience with the WANAU forum. Obviously this depends entirely on participants running with the idea; you can lead a laptop user to wifi but you can't make them liveblog. Or something.

I guess we'll get to test whether wifi is a help or a hindrance for a short event like WANAU :)

2005-08-16: laptops at conferences: boon or curse?

Jeff Veen has posted regarding something I've pondered myself... Is anyone listening? WiFi and the new ADD (see also Stopdesign | Speaking and wifi at events which responds).

I've seen how much of a boon laptops can be at a conference - a small group of dedicated scribes repeating the flow of presentations out to an IRC channel, taking a small group to a global audience. It's not exactly a new idea, but the reality is that all the "global village" crap never really came true. It's nice to see real, honest connections being made; although it was amusing when the keynote speaker fielded a question from her home town after travelling halfway across the world to speak at the event!

It was interesting that it took user buy-in combined with one of the oldest, more bare-bones internet technologies: IRC. No video streaming, no multimedia, just text. Suddenly people are slipping into their net identities, too - you have their business card, but right now they're on your screen with their chosen handle. Geeks are like cats. They have their everyday name, then they have their real name.... :)

If you focus on the speaker and their content, having a wifi-connected laptop becomes a way to enrich the experience. You can view their presentation slides at your own pace, browse the websites they're discussing, post questions and discuss things with other attendees without talking over the speaker. Plus, for those people with a fear of public speaking, being able to participate without 'facing the mic' includes people who would otherwise sit quietly and feel marginalised.

The flip side is when people stop listening and start playing games or whatever. That's probably ok if they zone out and stay zoned; but Jeff gives an example of what can happen: [S]omeone from the audience asked a question almost verbatim to one asked just five minutes before. There was a bit of nervous laughter, and I tried to be graceful...

Of course, it's just more obvious than someone zoning out and doodling in the margins of their note paper. Does wifi really increase the problem, or does it simply let people go from zoned-out to alternatively-focussed? Would they lose focus so easily if they didn't have all the shiny distractions of the 'net ready to hand? Probably not actually.

In general, we have become very used to multitasking, fast switches and interruptions. We take phone calls, emails, instant messages; regardless of what we were just doing, now we're focussing on something else. Perhaps wifi ADD is just a symptom, not a cause.

2005-08-15: WANAU Brisbane Web Accessibility Forum 2005

WANAU is holding a series of forum events across Australia this year. The Brisbane event is now open for registration at Brisbane Web Accessibility Forum 2005: Date: Monday August 29, 2005, Time: 1.00pm to 3.00pm, Venue: Eco Centre (Building N68), Nathan campus, Griffith University.

Attendance is free and open to all university staff and students. The Brisbane event includes an informal afternoon tea from 3pm for general chit-chat, or as people like to say, networking. To attend, you simply need to register! Get on over to the site and sign up.

While on this topic, since I'm running the event you don't need to forward the emails to me - I am aware of it ;) I've lost count of the number of times the information has been forwarded back to me! It's good though, the grapevine works...

2005-08-08: OperaHandhelds: Still hard to defend!

Joe Clark's post Opera: Still hard to defend! may not actually have anything to do with Opera, but it sure does illustrate the sad state of mobile browsing.

Handhelds, mobiles and other small-screen devices are still steaming piles of manure when it comes to viewing web content. The handheld media type is ignored in nearly all of the software laughably being called 'browsers' on handhelds, suggesting an industry-wide disregard for standards... even including the ones that would massively benefit the industry.

It's hardly surprising that mobile phone browsers suck, of course. Mobile phone manufacturers realised years ago that consumers don't care if it's easy to use, so long as it's prettier and smaller than the next guy's phone. Why improve the software when they can just jam in a shitty pinhole camera and sell another million units?

Handhelds are a pain since every single one seems to have a different operating system (or version), each with an entirely different interface. Of the four different handhelds we tested at work, only one was capable of running Opera - the boss's Sony Ericsson P900. That's the only one anyone really wants to play with during meetings.

Frankly, creating handheld stylesheets is a waste of time. There is absolutely no consistency between any of them and unless a client specifically asks for it, they won't get anywhere near a requirements list.

It's not that I don't think handhelds could be great. Quite the contrary - I'd love a fully net-ready wireless device in my pocket. But currently they're unreliable, unusable and incredibly overpriced.

colourblindness resource linkfest

By the way, in case you ever wondered... colourblind drivers can tell the difference between red and green traffic lights by their position on the pole.

2005-08-03: endnotes, not footnotes

Le blog personnel de Joe Clark | Footnotes are like unicorns, continuing a discussion on how to mark up footnotes. Clark briefly mentions Gruber's thoughts on whether they are footnotes at all; or endnotes. I have to say, they are endnotes. On the web, we do not have have “pages” in the same sense that a book does; so all notes will be at the end of the document. So they're endnotes.

As for a glyph... I wonder how many people truly know what most glyphs mean. But in any case, the hooked arrow reminds me of the Enter key on my keyboard. Meaning start a new line, or submit something and go elsewhere. So, while it might look nifty it doesn't really describe what's happening. Up arrow seems a little “iffy” to me since I'm not totally convinced it has semantic meaning along the lines of “return to a specific place”. To me it just says “go up in a nonspecific way”.

Perhaps an up arrow with a horizontal line would work. Like |← but vertical. I'm afraid I have no idea what that is actually called, nor whether there's a glyph.The glyph is “Upwards Arrow to Bar” (as Zeldman would say, hat tip to Joe Clark :)). However, I've seen that sort of notation used to describe the precise limit of a measurement (my father was an architect so I saw lots of plans) and that does seem to describe the concept of “return to a specific place above”.

On an unrelated note, I cannot understand why people think we standards advocates are obsessed with minutiae.

2005-08-01: slashdot discovers css

Journal of CmdrTaco (1): If you visit Slashcode.com you will notice that it is now running a brand spanking new CSS template ... I expect that soon after [implementing it for slashdot] we'll actually be ready to give the tired old design a facelift. Slashdot is one of those sites that evangelists have frequently recreated in CSS/XHTML as a proof of concept, along with Google, Amazon, etc. For a geek website, it's been slightly surprising that they never actually accepted any of those designs for use; or at least did it themselves.

But then, it's not really that surprising. It seems that the /. crew are mostly coder types and not designers or web developers (or journos, for that matter). Coders are not web developers and rarely produce best-practice markup since their attention is on the application. The markup their applications spit out is generally an afterthought so that the plebs who can't just read the source code can actually see something.

There is nothing actually wrong with that so long as there is a web developer working alongside the coder. But, sadly, most of the world's management is yet to understand that they need to pay someone to do the interface.

So anyway, well done to Slashdot for coming around the CSS way of life. I hope they reduce page weight, save bandwidth and get better search ranking; not to mention all the other benefits :)

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