taking a break

I decided to sit out this session. nothing really trips my trigger, and I need a bit of a space where I’m not trying to write a million words a minute.

one of the interesting things about this conference, much better than the sessions so far, has been the networking. I’ve met more web people from Washington state in the last 2 days than I have in the last 4 years, and I know there are at least 2 more of us kicking around. (2 other presenters!) so perhaps this little experience will be the nub of a conclave in our neck of the woods. I’m hoping, anyway.

and even the people I’ve met from outside of WA have been, well, neato. lots of good stories & chit chat: last night I hung out in the hospitality lounge and ended up talking D&D, old kid’s TV shows, early geek culture, video games, and world religions with a bunch of nerds.

our gender-concerned members of the audience will also note that there are lots of women here; so far, all the presenters I’ve seen have been men, but that’s just been my luck. the total ratio looks closer to 40% women presenters, which is nice to see after all the other conferences one hears about. maybe it’s the education focus.

fyi: I actually added a category for all this stuff, so you can get to all my HEWD notes at http://www.epersonae.com/ew/index.php/categories/hewd-2004

csd 3: accessible forms

a little more awake post-lunch. Andrew from Indiana U is a library guy!

had a quick chat with the woman from the W3C. (cool tiny laptop.) she encouraged me to complain to MS about the FP/Word thing.


hey, he’s using S5 too!

why accessibility…if I were him, I’d just refer back to the keynote, since she covered all that stuff. damn, why do these presenters always spend so much time on the introductory stuff?

table-based layout for forms: can be problematic linearizing. a code example would be useful here. css layout is better; why? because closer. place text/labels to the left of controls. (I thought that radios & checkboxes should have labels to the right?)

not as hard as you think (css layout) — but no resources for how to make it less hard. that’s the overall problem with css advocacy in general, and I’m as guilty of that as anyone. it is hard once you get into it.

(if I were doing this presentation, I’d do 2-5 examples, making inaccessible forms accessible. oh, wait, it looks like that’s what he’s getting ready to do.)

3 examples of the same form layout: one with inaccessible tables, one with accessible tables, and the third with spans.

labels, increasing clickability, Fitt’s law. another example.

and then he shows a form with the radio buttons: yeah, the labels are on the right here. and then another example using the label tag. interesting: he changes the pointer for hovering on the labels. which browsers does that work on?

alternate text on image buttons (not that I ever do that).

on error messages, don’t just use color (same deal with required fields, I would assume) — but color can be useful, too. change field color on focus. (our directory does that.) interesting in that usable/accessible forms can include enhancements: the general concept of progressive enhancement.

more tags! fieldset, legend, optgroup. “most modern support” — I think they all do, it’s just a question of whether you can restyle them. nested fieldsets. question about optgroup and screenreaders: he doesn’t know, no regular access to screenreader. complains about pricing of Jaws.

the keynote speaker talked about what they can do, apparently there’s an email forum thread on the topic.

make sure forms function w/out JavaScript. as with color, some good things you can do and some things are just evil.

he like the cursor being focused via js; I *hate* that, because I use the backspace so much for navigation.

question: do these techniques validate? yes, and they’re what you’re supposed to be doing.

question: dropdown example to not use, what would you do instead? wouldn’t do it anyway, but if he did, would use a real form, cgi & button. more general question about dropdowns (list of states), ’cause it’s not navigation, it’s not necessarily evil, this is an issue with scripting, not the actual tag. (on the other hand, it’s not that hard to validate a 2-item text box.)

quick discussion of tab order. only need to set if your “natural” tab order doesn’t make sense. (I think it’s easier just to make sure your tab order is logical naturally.)

and then accesskeys. oy, they are just a nightmare, is what I remember. (we used to use them and I’ve given up on them.) and he brings that up: the conflicts between the builtin programmatic keys and accesskeys. “in theory, communism works” essentially.

favorite form pages? see links on the page that goes with his presentation.

question from keynote speaker: can you tell what is required and what is optional? he rambles, but basically mentions all the HTML stuff as more important, other stuff is just nifty.

mea2 (open source)

Jason Moore, URochester, undergraduate (again!), also works at college writing center. all his campus jobs have been unrelated to programming, but have all ended up involving programming.

lots of projects out there. wacky logo montage.

okay, I’m not really paying attention. there’s nothing here I don’t know, really. history of open source, stallman, yadda yadda. I’m gonna go play around with IT Kitchen stuff for a bit.

I wish he were giving more tight examples; this is the classic bad-style presentation as per presentation judo. detailing licenses now. there’s nothing that his verbage is adding to the slides. reinforcing my hatred of powerpoint presentations.

why develop? good reasons, nothing terribly new and exciting, and no examples.

citing cathedral/bazaar. business models. but as schools, we don’t care about business models. I should go hand him a copy of the article I have printed out…oh, but it’s in my room.

example: slimdevices. again, nothing to do with education.

another example: red hat. damn, this is boring.

he’s talking to an audience other than the one in this room, I think.

did I bring my camera? I don’t think so…which is unfortunate, because I’d like to play around with some of my sunflower pictures, looking for shapes & colors.

ah, finally getting to open source in eduation, halfway through the session.

would rounded tabs be cool for the wiki? would certainly go with the theme Shelley wants to use. oooh, but hey! it’s really clean html, I could do all sorts of crazy css stuff with it…which is a little scary, having that kind of blank slate.

online writing center control panel. hm. now that I’m paying attention again. online tutoring software: they hired a programmer, it’s broken and/or they wanted to change it. list of features: that actually looks pretty cool. what language?

list of lots of projects: shit. I just missed the two course management systems I hadn’t heard of before. but someone else asked: opencourse, segue.

question: good gallery program? he mentions gallery; I might tell her about photostack, which I like.

what about when you graduate? bad answer. my answer? open source means having access to the source so you can give it to anybody with those skills OR if it’s being developed elsewhere, then even a nontechnical person can talk to people working on the project.

being stuck with any particular language. does happen.

hewd: csd1

(I’m going to do the rest of these with the title as the acronym for the conference, followed by the code for the presentation. just so’s you know.)

sitting in the back row so I can charge up the laptop; if I’m lucky, I’ll get up near a full charge by the end of this session. although I think I like sitting back here: lap height is much more comfortable for my wrists.

it looks like they’re holding all the sessions for each track in the same room…which means this is the room I’ll be in this afternoon. long, kinda narrow, fairly dim. I will definitely need to project. (yipes!)

difficulty of creating & maintaining web sites in higher ed

Johnny Won, senior at U Rochester
has been working on student org & dept sites, also working as consultant, private work. his slides are going on their own…must be the pointer in the next room. (that’s why I’m glad my slides are essentially incidental.)

prospective of both a student & a designer. roguerobots.com

it’s the difficulty that’s the hard part (!?)

why is it so hard? home page: has best people, best design, best photos, most professional. but not always standard, doesn’t trickle down to subsites. (duh.) it’s not easy for people technically, and design itself is challenging. the process is foreign to most people. (someday I’d like to do some research into vernacular design: why do people always do the same things with publisher, frontpage, etc.? or even email: so many colors, fonts, clip art? what does it mean?)

even on a good site, people are spending a lot of time that’s not necessary. and that’s all luck.

lots of acronyms. does anyone outside the room know what they mean? shows example of prof: he has lots of experience in his field, but doesn’t know anything about web design.

how do we make it easier? the usual answers: training, templates, assistants, CMS.

CMS: he lists WebCT as a CMS? Open source systems (Plone, Drupal, Geeklog, Typo3 — what about Veen’s complaint?)

Plone. Valid, etc. out of the box. Powerful. (but requires Zope.) simple, rss, scalable, lots of extensions. (I’ve heard good things about plone before.)

Shows normal instructor site, then lecture site with plone. (completely unreadable, btw. not that that’s necessary, but I wish he’d picked something more impressive.) RSS for assignments, which sounds hype-tastic, but might actually be a good idea.

problems: something can go horribly wrong in set up; learning curve; overkill.

blogs: hey, I’m all meta now. 🙂 examples. he doesn’t even mention existing educational blogs, which is a shame. lists some packages, incl. wordpress; I just got called out. what he doesn’t mention is that WP isn’t ideal in multiple blog environments, which most colleges would be.

shows blogs @ harvard, but doesn’t mention radio userland, which is what I thought they were using. but at least he’s finally talking about how they are already being used in education. my extra 2 cents: don’t have to use this tool in a blog-like way.

question: have there been negative feedback about the school on these blogs? long roundabout thing. (is there a policy? he should’ve prepared for that question. I like what Tim Bray posted about Sun’s policy.)

shows another example. empowers people to share their expertise. (and ain’t that what it’s all about.) but most schools aren’t doing this on a massive scale or in general.

classes need simpler tools. (what about when blackboard et al are being pushed, like with us, UWT). what if you give people simple tools? empowerment!

students need…easier ways (rss: but how many students know? outside of super-geeks. but will be in longhorn, maybe, assuming it ever comes out. I think it’s just the hot new thing, tho it’s good to offer. multiple intelligences & all that.); get more info, get a broader perspective on the professor’s knowledge.

what about communities? they already exist. (but he’s talking about the living-on-campus 4-year experience. what’s different in our environment?) but they need to be nurtured. forums: hard to set up. (again this brings up the question of … crap, my brain just lost the word.) what if it was easy?

conclusions: simplify, get better tools, build value.

it’s getting easier outside of the university. $5 isps are beating the university. (no kidding.) why can’t we just…. what happens when our students have spent a third of their life on the ‘net? (again, differences in audience: the biggest group of our students — at FS: PY is more typical straight-outta-high-school — is middle-aged people going back to school. (don’t forget, my assistant, a former student, is the same age as my mother.)

the open question at the end of this is how to evaluate all the things that are out there, because you can’t support everything.

comment from audience re: lots of frequently accessed stuff is non-official, products of learning. people out there aren’t making neat distinction between professional and amateur development.

people w/out easy tools get complaints about tools not being available; people with tools get complaints about not being able to program.

somebody from UR talks about his POV. some technical stuff is handed down from “on high” — some people who shouldn’t design want to.

question about plone, have you done it? yes. but somethings still have to be done in DW, etc. and when he graduates, no guarantee that the next person comes along will have same interest, skills?

what I see is the fundamental tension between student empowerment and CYA.

comment from a registrar: many staff underestimate how much students are using the web.

same comment from someone at a cc from this area. you have to show them (staff) what it’s going to do for them: time savings, fewer complaints, etc. (ah, the lines.)

innovateonline.info (looks interesting)

question: differences between forum & blog? forum is multi-dimensional communication, blog is one-way. (not too bad, not exactly what I’d say, but it works.)

will blogs take over normal faculty web space? no, always need for innovation. (or something. I think that for profs who have a lot to say, blogs are entirely the way to go. the important point about blogs is they require a desire, willingness & effort to communicate.)

god i’m tired. drifted out of the presentation entirely.

like the keynote: academia can lead the revolution. (sigh.)

answer from the audience (woman from UTexas): it’s not good for static stuff. *that’s* more like what I would say. (met her on the van last night, quite articulate.) he piggybacks with value of CMS because of not needing to know tags or something.


damn it’s early. the clock on my computer says 5:03; the clock in the room says 8 am.

so far I’ve met 3 people from washington state, including the webmaster from evergreen, and I know there are at least 2 more. which would mean I’m meeting more web people from washington here in new york state than I have in almost 4 years in my job.

listening to the introductory remarks, which mostly have to do with how this conference merged with some other conference. some good conversation at the table this morning…lots of people are doing some of the same things we are. I don’t know if that makes me more or less confident about my presentation. I may do some last-minute tweaking to focus on what made our project unique.

now the keynote speaker: Shawn Henry (?) from the W3C, talking about accessibility.

[note for later “the worm ouroboros”? a book.]

what do we use the web for? what if everyone else could, but you couldn’t? and that’s how it is.

how many have looked at their sites with mobile phones? (actually, that’s a good question. I should find somebody on campus who actually uses the web bits of their phone, since I don’t. too expensive for what it is, I think.)

this table is too tall to type very comfortably…my wrists are going to hate me later.

if you were going someplace and could only take 3 things…but you can’t understand the weather page because no alt text. she used a screen reader to demo. (this is pretty intro level stuff.) then a demo with the alt text — yay, she just says “text” not attribute. but what would you expect, e? everybody here seems to know about this.

she brings up cnn to look at alt text…only we discovered en masse that christopher reeves died. ow. amazon is painful. interesting contrast between the attitude I see in this room: of course we all use alt text vs. commercial sites with none.

that we can be an example.

question from the audience about laws: NY has a state law, most don’t. but what about 508, ADA…mostly just elided over that point for now. will we come back later?

video of a friend of hers typing with a pointer. too often we think about just blindness.

why isn’t stuff accessible? callouts from the audience: design driving development, people w/out skills, word & frontpage, understaffed. early standards not incorporating accessibility. awareness & understanding: people don’t think about or don’t understand.

myths. “that’s not our market” but might actually be the opposite, people w/disabilities using web maybe more than others. (yep, it’s easier when you don’t have to actually go anywhere to do stuff.) small number of people? [materials will be online]

shows W3C document on developing a business case for accessibility. I think I’ve read/skimmed that before. social, technical, financial, legal/policy benefits. if you can make your registration (!) accessible, save money by needing less human interaction. (oh, I need to see someone from CIS here.)

it could be you! (disabilities) includes not just congenital, but disease, illness, accident. (and then there’s age…Mom A’s eyesight is deteriorating gradually, vs Dad losing an eye) ah, she just mentioned it “enlightened self-interest” nice exercise with people standing, sitting down when “your person” gets a disability. by 75, 2/3 have a disability.

more myths: complicated & expensive. retrofitting is more expensive. she shows off the quick tips card (I have a stack on my desk) — she brought some with her. “the basics are extremely easy” (I think lots of technology stuff is like that; I found sql that way, same with css. but then the hard stuff is just crazy, IMHO.) whenever you hear of a new project, get in at the beginning. of course that assumes you *know* about a project….

tools. little chart showing how developers connect to users. developers -> authoring tools -> content < - browsers, media players, assistive tech <- users. so much is being put on developers that should be put on authoring tools...burden should shift to those tools. oy, use of acronyms...different guideline-setting groups. okay, I need way more caffeine. is there someplace I can get a mocha? I'm starting not to track, and she's talking about stuff I know already: priority levels of wcag vs. section 508. she wasn't prepared to talk about this.... go to your vender: how do you meet ATAG. as if. like I'm gonna go to redmond and say: make it easier to make word/frontpage generated content accessible. question from the audience: how do you make that graph accessible: she goes there with HPR. just really good alt text. other way is with longdesc. what if the graph's content is described in the main text? only if it's really equivalent. on this particular document, it's still being worked on and some committee members are blind, so they really need to know exactly what's being representative. text-only version? product being promoted to make text-only! related point: accessible design is dull & boring. digression on 508 re: yes, if you can't do anything else, text-only is okay, same thing in WCAG, but that's a problem. basic assumption: everybody disabled is blind & using screen-readers. whereas for some text-only is a problem. "let's look at cnn: no, I'll get sad again"! different colors identify different groups of information (U Buffalo business school). crazy stuff, some of which I missed: link between normal site and accessible version (spelled wrong!). "so many points here I don't know where to start" ouch. text-only is almost never equivalent. plus we have limited resources, so often forget, can't add, to text-only. and it's an excuse not to make main site accessible. sidebar conversation at our table re: css. I think there's a gap in terms of methodology using css effectively. for temporary disabilities, loss of context. for cognitive, colors and shape are important. screen maginification. demo of weather.com magnified. again, color and shape can provide signposts. (what she doesn't mention is that having 2 sites takes up twice as much space.) ah, the zen garden. is there anyone talking standards, css, etc. *without* the zen garden? (dave shea is THE MAN.) what is our role? educators: incorporate into the curriculum. plus workshops, etc. developers: do it right, up front. demand that your authoring tools meet the guidelines. (hrm.) little things: involved in awards? don't forget accessibility. make it business as usual. (which I think is where I'm at 95% of the time.) if you use a site that's not accessible, tell them! (she mentions opera, I told susan about the web developer extension. which, of course, rocks my world.) she shows a tiny bit of a video clip of a blind guy talking about how the web makes a difference for him. personally, I like the way the image insert thing works in wordpress because of that: always a popup asking for an alt attribute when you post an image. "attitude" and yep, that is the difference: grudging vs. enthusiastic. lead a revolution in higher ed. www.w3.org/2004/Talks/0911slh/revolution.html