current projects of interest

# I just got back from the HighEdWebDev 2004 conference, and my (insanely copious) notes are online. Summaries and recommendations coming later this week.
# I’m working on a few things for “The Kitchen” and the Weblogger Wikipedia, Shelley’s two-week blogging clinic and ongoing webloggers’ resource. This could be really interesting for anyone interested in weblogging in any of its myriad aspects.
# I’m expanding my expertise outward from my work life. Okay, so that’s vague. More details coming eventually. 🙂

notes for more presentations

intro to web accessibility

* basic principle: make web content and services available to as many people as possible
* various guidelines: WCAG, Section 508. (mention international laws.)
* what to ask/look for re: accessibility in working with a web designer (beyond Bobby)
* how to learn more (Joe Clark is DA MAN!)

intro to weblogs

* what makes a weblog different from a normal web site?
* ways to use weblogs
* tool options
* IT Kitchen 🙂

must give examples, of course. for accessibility, make sure C has the laptop so I can use the Web Developer Extension. for weblogs, log into this thing, plus one of my Blogger accounts. (kinda wishing I still have a Movable Type blog, just for that reason.)


I think I just realized that I can’t design on the laptop. I can program, surf, and write, but I can’t design. So at some point I need to kick C off of the shuttle so I can work on two projects for him and one for me.

then again, it would help if I turned up the brightness on this thing, too.

for the HEWD people

here’s my conference notes category:

(I don’t usually use categories here, so there’s no listing for it in my archives.)

these notes represent my summaries, intuitions, inspirations, and opinions. they are certainly not either a transcript nor an authoritative record. oh, and I’m an opinionated bastard.

also, at some point, I’ll clean it up and post a version more like my webvisions notes from this last July.

leaving rochester

I’m in the hotel lobby, doing one last sweep of both email & blogs, and at the same time listening to KUOW. (local news from thousands of miles away!)

a bit of a headache this morning, not sure of the origin, but I’ll probably remedy it with some caffeine once we get going. (strange: the little coffee shop/gift shop in the lobby is closed.)

I watched the debate last night. as Rebecca Blood said, my guy could’ve come up & puked on the podium and it wouldn’t have changed my vote. however, it’s the first time I’ve seen Kerry speak for any length of time, and I was more impressed than I thought I’d be. he sounds like a guy who’s president.

Bush, on the other hand, had the usual effect he has on me, namely the impulse to run screaming from the building.

I’m sort of glad I got to see one of them, although I think it’s a good thing I was in a space by myself, where I could argue with the TV w/out anyone else around. yeah, it’s a terrible habit; I think I got it from Mom, who argues with the Sunday morning political talk shows.

know your limits

today I rented a car and drove around Rochester for a bit by myself. I got lost. twice.

it’s an interesting-looking town; I got to see Lake Ontario, the Kodak plant, lots of cemeteries, and a park where Frederick Douglass used to live. didn’t get as many photos as I’d want, because I was driving.

I don’t drive much, and I’m realizing that I’m not a particularly confident driver…although I did manage it reasonably well, I think. I did finally get un-lost and work my way out to where I wanted to go.

two things about traffic here were rather distressing…

# people honk. not a lot, but certainly more than I’m used to.
# people jaywalk. now I understand why they say people in Seattle don’t jaywalk…we sometimes slip out across the light early, or cross against the light at a crosswalk when there’s no traffic. but dude. there were people just walking out wherever, in the middle of the blocks inbetween the cars.

but I’m looking forward to going out again tomorrow…mostly because we’ll be going by the rental car place to get Susan (TESC web manager) signed up as a driver too.

(tomorrow’s itinerary is the Farmer’s Market, Eastman House, and Lake Ontario, before we drop off the car and fly home. on the same flights, even; how weird is that?)

some thoughts on the effects of wifi

this week is the first time that I’ve had access to always-on wifi ‘net access, and while I hang out waiting to go to the airport (just to pick up a rental car, I’m not leaving until tomorrow), I thought I might muse about the experience.

it’s not good for my hands/arms, that’s for sure, at least not in this configuration. something about using the touchpad is torquing my thumb, and it’s very uncomfortable to type with the computer on a table. on the other hand, it’s very comfortable on my lap.

the power on this particular laptop is not that great, but then again, the seats w/out tables were all in the back near the power outlets.

I love being able to take notes with this thing, and then to post them right away. I was also able to share my notes immediately, with the caveat that I am a quirky note-taker. I wonder, come to think of it, if I would have taken better notes, and maybe even done better in college, if I’d had one of these things. although it’s entirely likely that in the same way I used my notebooks in college for journaling, poetry & stories, I’d’ve just used a laptop for those things or for surfing the net.

that’s kind of a crazy thing, too, having that access all the time. I purposely chose not to check work email except once or twice a day, partially to stay away from it psychologically, partially because our web email access sux on firefox. but I always had a gmail tab and a aggregator tab open even while I was typing. a few times, I did get distracted by those things, but if the material & presentation was sufficiently engaging, then it wasn’t a problem.

and I could look up the presenter’s materials, those that were online, or even reference things they talked about, as they were talking. nothing like looking at the project that was being described, in real time, while the presenter’s still talking about it. (easier to come to your own conclusions about things, too.)

today at lunch I even booked my rental car online while I was still at the lunch table. it starts to move, at that point, beyond the gee-whiz factor into something that’s just the way it is.

I can see how it would be distracting, and I do try to look at the person, even while I’m typing/surfing. being able to touch-type really comes in handy in these situations. my mom did me a big favor by insisting that I take a typing class in junior high; it also turned out to be one of my early exposures to computers (basic on trs-80s!). at the time, I was a crummy typist, and I only got a C, but over the years, I’ve gotten better — and error rates have gotten less important — so that I can type 99% of the time w/out looking at the keyboard, and fairly fast. even my error rate is not what it once was. 🙂

right now, this is still a minority experience: popping open a computer wherever you have a chair and being able to get online instantly. but I can see how, if it does continue to spread, that it could be world-changing, in the same way that the near-ubiquity of cell phones has the same strange effects. (Adam Greefield’s piece on use cases, which I just read last night, points to some interesting possibilities.)

and once you’ve had this experience, I think, it’s hard to go back to any other way. heck, I was bummed that I couldn’t get wifi in my room! as people have these experiences in hotels and airports (although I hear that’s expensive) and coffee shops, they’ll take that to other aspects of their lives, in particular to work, where there’s a real convenience factor in being able to get to anything from anywhere: why shouldn’t I be able to decamp to the cafeteria or a break room and work, or get my files while I’m in a meeting in a conference room?

which is all very flighty of me, and I tend to not be much of an early-adopter. I’m a gadget freak by nature, I think, but I don’t get much chance to indulge it.

best of track: a class (year) site

came in a bit late. 2 guys from URochester. I can see why this did so well in the reviews: they have a good presentation style, maybe one of the best I’ve seen all week.

establish unity, provide communication, basic resource.

URL sent with admittance letter. content added as needed.

first done for class of ’05, started in their sophomore year (was then an incoming student site). that would’ve been 2002, I think. class of ’07 was launched 4 weeks before start of school (2003); ’08 got the early date like they described up front.

this is definitely aimed at the four-year process; I’ll be listening for things we can do in *our* environment, which is significantly less uniform.

calculation of “creative hours” which is a growing trend, but levels off now, because they know what they’re doing. 🙂

benefits, started by calculating site traffic. drawing people back by adding info gradually.

used Yahoo groups, then converted to an inhouse message board where students’ user ids were the same as email addresses. nice.

quotes from faculty/staff on the success of the project. parents said it reduced stress. downward trend in phone calls with questions, quote from orientation staff. heading off questions before they’re asked.

going thru look/feel of various years. 2nd one had a calendar as the centerpiece.

they did some work to sell on having a look/feel that’s different from the main templates, with the goal of differentiating from previous/next years.

all done with Dreamweaver/Fireworks/Photoshop. no dynamic stuff. student/volunteer webmaster in coordination with “dean of freshmen” (?!) also head of orientation.

asked us what we’d wanted to know before we got here. (51% of their students are out of state)

then added more staff, brought in admissions office. lots more content, communication opportunities, downloadable forms.

then added orientation system using college-wide login for filling out forms electronically.

q: why not just use a portal? (so much obsession with portals!) most of their staff is focused on getting content. followup question: keeping it going after the start of school?

had to use school colors for the ’08 site.

(ugh. this is interesting on its own merits, but only vaguely related to our environment. and that spot inbetween my thumb & first finger is starting to ache. weird stuff with using the trackpad, I think.)

they upgraded to CSS2, but forced people to upgrade browsers. said nobody had problems, but I just don’t see any reason why they should’ve.

more technical & content improvements the next year. more connections between depts. moved to PHP/mySQL. selling the university…used article about the class site in promotional materials for prospective students.

class site hand-off…their goal is not for an incoming students site, but for a site that’s connected to the actual class. they hand it off on Sept. 1 to Student Activities. they get to keep the site until the very last person in the class *dies*. jesus christ on a crutch.

ew, he just quoted back the idea that gets slammed in “conference presentation judo”: — which I used to some extent as my guide for my presentation.

some wireframes of what they’re looking at for next year. quick facts, live weather, rss (! “we don’t touch it, it changes daily, we like that”), hot topics (from the message board).

q: who gave signoff on showing weather? wow, weather is a big deal here.

q: what about transfer students? a lot of info works for them, but they also can use the orientation site. (I’m not thrilled with their answer.)

q: what does your site look like now? (to one of the students) not too bad.

I’m finding the discussions related to non-standard students, not just transfers, but 5-year (engineering majors).

q: what about content policing? no administrators moderating. these two guys moderated. followup: student life questions, who answered? some other year students, but they gave some misinformation.

my q: were students informed of policy? yes, and it’s their basic acceptible use policy.

q: how did you find problem messages? he was just there all the time.

I’ll need to think about how/whether any of this has an application to us.

best of track: conversion to web standards

Daniel from UWisconsin Platt

talk about changes in methodology, along with concepts, reasons to make the switch.

zen thing: is standards, aren’t standards.
if you think of the W3C as the UN… if the countries in the UN don’t want to play well, they don’t. but the UN at least has an army; maybe the W3C should?

XHTML, CSS, DOM, ECMAScript 262 (he keeps pronouncing ECMA as a word rather than an acronym, makes me crazy)

“HTML is dead.” (okay, whatever.) if there’s no HTML, then what the heck is XHTML? (digression: SVG got merged into XML) huge freaking quote on what XHTML is.

how to convert to XHTML: doctype, lower case, quoted attributes, end tags everywhere, proper nesting, validation. “validate first before you ask me a question; it’ll save us both a lot of time.”

benefits? accessibility (at least more so), eliminate silly mistakes — works well in old browsers, because it’s tight (my word) no guessing needed.

XHTML is our future, moving from HTML to XML. now he’s tripping; XHTML 1.0 transitional/strict is doable I think for most people, but 1.1?! and talking about 2.0, you might as well be smoking crack.

q: why transitional? I don’t know about his answer.

HTML structure. most corporate is going to use table design (except not so much anymore): nice layout, predictable. hard to find stuff (although his example is faulty, I think, because it’s the kind of thing that would likely be drawn from a db). don’t do it.

div is alternative to table. huh? this sounds like the road to divitis. separation of structure from layout/presentation. divs as the skeleton.

*now* he says don’t overuse, talks about divs for major sections.

browsers: as long as we point back to W3C, we should be prepared. rant vis a vis WYSIWIG editors, the “hi mom” effect: HTML generated in word, which makes Baby Jeebus cry.

then CSS “skinning concept” like face plates for a cell phone. “we just swap out the CSS” — well, in the best of all possible worlds. 1st css design is painful, but then redesigns are easier, faster.

ah, the zen garden; he mentions Dave & Molly’s book.

suggests using lots of stylesheets: base, @import, layout “separate from skin” (huh?), print.

print view of Slashdot. didn’t the user just want the content? I wonder about print stylesheets: they’re a sweet idea, but do “average” users understand the idea?

“information superhighway” not “design superhighway” (photo of Al G) info should come first, design isn’t important. hrm.

backward/forward compatible. ready for the future!

he very briefly alludes to the slashdot makeover. (in ALA?)

bandwidth savings.

oh, hey, he’s the guy who *wrote* the article about redoing Slashdot with web standards. he’s talking about that now, but then again, I read that article when it first came out. talks benefits: not originally impressed with bandwidth savings 2-9 K…but it adds up. 14GB daily.

personal bandwidth story. freakout by server people because of drop in load with CSS implementation. y’know, we’ve done this so gradually, and without ever really having done a big-ass table design, that I can never show those kinds of numbers. sigh.

a journey not a destination, not a quick fix, but lots of benefits.

tells how he ended up writing the story for ALA. “I thought you were kidding.” and getting slashdotted. 🙂

recommends Meyer’s definitive guide to CSS, talks about speaking with Eric. more books, Zeldman, More EM on CSS.

he has 12 minutes, so he’s going to…demo the FIR technique. I mentioned the negative margin technique. (Dave Shea has a whole page full of techniques.)

demo also of a student project, another rework, playing with firefox web dev extension. (which rocks my world)

last night

[written in my room, so when no net access]

Just got back from going out on the evening excursion. Started out at an art place in Rochester, with little snacks and cool art. Interesting conversation with a woman from UMichigan and a guy from Albert Einstein Medical. Then ran into some younger (my age) folks from the University of Chicago, one of whom used to live in Olympia and interned at the Olympian!

Talked to them for a while, some personal stuff, some professional stuff, and then they said they were going to a bar that one woman’s friends had recommended. They invited me along, for a moment I thought maybe not, that I’d go home & go to bed, but it sounded like something I wouldn’t want to pass up.

We caught a cab, crowded in 4 in the back, one up front, then got to the Lux, which is at 666 something or another, and has sort of a hell theme. We found seats in sort of a loungy zone up in the front corner. Several of us had spiked cider: hot cider with butterscotch schnapps & vodka. Very tasty.

A game of Taboo, of all things, and to my own later detriment, I mentioned the most famous Taboo clue of the old Middle Sunday crowd (?donkey mistake? for ?asphalt?). Asphalt came up later, and all she could get out with out giggling was ?donkey,? but of course that was enough. Even better was the word ?fame? coming up just as the David Bowie song of the same name came up on the jukebox. 🙂

Following that was a game called Salad Shooter (or Salad Bowl, it was called both), which I’ll describe just so I can remember it to play again sometime:

Everybody writes up names of famous people/characters on little pieces of paper and tosses them in a bowl. Then the group divides into 2 teams. One person on each team grabs a name out of the bowl and describes that person until the team guesses it, continues picking names for 1 minute, then switch to the other team, and so on until the bowl is done. (points given to the team for each name correctly guess.)

Then you start over again, but in the 2nd round, you only get two words to describe the person. Then there’s a third round, but as charades.

The interesting thing about it is that over the course of the game, the descriptions that worked in the beginning ? as well as those that didn’t ? end up being part of the charades, etc. So that, for example, because I got the other girls to guess Susan Sarandon with Thelma & Louise, by the charades round, it was a person driving and falling.

An odd thing, we had three people who showed up twice: Jane Eyre, Madonna, and god help us, Eric Meyer. Is that mega-nerdy or what?

And by the time we finished up with that, it was 11 pm, and we’ve all got another long day ahead of us tomorrow, so another cab back to the hotel.

But of course by now I’ve gotten my second wind, and it’s only 9 pm pst…so I’m up blogging, watching TV, and maybe now I’ll start playing around with that design idea….

[my 2nd wind lasted all of ten minutes.]