Monthly Archives: May 2012

Getting your talk accepted at Semtech, Zendcon & conferences in general. Redux.

I’ve already written a post about how to get accepted at a major conference. But since I was invited back to be on the advisory boards of Semtech and Zendcon again, why not add a couple more insights…

  • Note the policies of the conference in terms of remuneration and freebies. It’s unfortunate that money has anything to do with which talks are accepted, but life costs money. And running a conference costs a LOT of money. If you can help out with the costs because your cousin lives next door to the hotel, don’t neglect to mention it!
  • Contribute to open source projects. A core developer on the topic will be chosen ahead of anyone else offering that talk, 9 times out of 10.
  • This is something I’ve neglected to pay much attention to in the past, because once the advisory committee votes, the organizers make the final choices…but basically, each track often has X number of slots. Many of the final choices relate to juggling the speaker costs and filling up the tracks appropriately.
    I don’t think you’d have to work hard to figure out which slots will tend to have less competition. Your goal may be to get into a competitive track 1 talk, and on the strength of the abstract alone, would get rejected.
    But if your track 4 talk helps fill that track, and your expenses are already covered, you may turn that rejection into an approval.
  • If you’re going to be a show-offy know-it-all in your proposal, then you better make it one hell of an abstract. A couple of them were so sure they’d get in that they didn’t bother to provide detail on their talk. Us dummies can’t just trust it’ll all be wonderful. You need to tell us what your talk is about. I’d say the #1 cause for rejection of talks was lack of a detailed enough abstract.
  • Spell check dammit 🙂 Write EVERYTHING you plan to give us down on a notepad at the least. Check it. Double check it. Spell check it. Wait a day. Check it next day to see if it’s still clear to you. When you’re totally happy, THEN show it to someone else. THEN submit it. That’s the difference between a professional abstract and a sloppy one.
  • Pay attention to the goals of the organizers. They usually have goals and a focus. Tailor your talk on that focus. For example, semtech is now called semtechbiz. So consider submitting a talk about how the Semantic Web is useful to business.

That’s it for now…

Post GAAD recap and what’s next

Cal Evans, a PHP luminary, is interviewing me today for his Voices of the ElePHPant podcast. We will be discussing among other things, how the GAAD event was. As I’m writing some notes about it, I thought it time to discuss reaction to the event and what’s next.

  1. As expected, developers and designers have told me how eye-opening it was to see what it means to surf the net in a whole different way than they’re used to. Which is, of course, the whole point of GAAD.
  2. There were loads of articles and blog posts on #GAAD. I gave up reading them all after clicking on link after link after link on a Google search. That, in and of itself, is overwhelming and beyond expectation.
  3. Despite all that clicking, I almost missed this (too) humble post by my friend, Tim Wright, who in fact helped make the Boston event happen. An important read, but what the whole event really boils down to is this quote:Going into last night, I knew a lot about accessibility because it’s been a focal point of my career for years. But there is a huge difference between reading a blog post about Web accessibility and watching a visually impaired person go through 20 minutes of struggling to reach the main content of a Web site you would normally find in under a second if you could see.
  4. While the event was happening, a couple of people asked why #GAAD has to be an annual event. It should be monthly. My initial reaction to this was exasperation. People are probably unaware that the event took a lot out of my partner in crime, @Jennison and I. We’re just two busy people, trying to start a grassroots movement. But as Victor started presenting his talk, I changed my mind. I realized that even once a month isn’t enough. It inspired me to take this to another level.

Where to from here?

Although GAAD is an important day, one day a year isn’t enough to make the kind of difference we need. Accessibility needs to be at the forefront of developers’ and designers’ minds. And the only way to achieve this is to have them aware of it on a daily basis. This is my new “mission”.

You can’t achieve your goals if you don’t define them, so here are the goals:

  1. Front end developers need to include screen readers as part of their accessibility *toolset. Just like they open IE to make sure the site looks good, they need to open a screen reader. And for that to happen, an expensive proprietary tool cannot be the best device for people to use. Nothing against JAWS, but browser makers need to do a better job in fulfilling this need. Google is developing a free tool from what I hear, and that is awesome. Let’s inspire the open source community to make this happen. We need hardcore, core developers to begin some projects.
    (FYI, Jennison pointed out to me in reviewing this post, that there are free toolbars like http://wave.webaim.org that help identify accessibility issues.)
  2. To inspire developers and designers, we need to expose them to the situation. Here is how to achieve that. A. Let’s create a YouTube channel devoted to… B. 5 minute videos, made by members of the accessibility community (YOU), every time a major new website is launched or updated. For example, if Google makes a change to gmail, do screen capture video and spend about 5 minutes showing the repercussions of the changes. C. Find local dev and design meetups and ask them to have the first speaker show one of those 5 minute videos before their talk. To get started, every single meetup I run from here on out, will begin with such a video. We’ll probably tape a little #gaad intro before the video to explain the purpose of it in a succinct manner.

It’s not “just” semantics

Another positive development that came out of GAAD, was the realization that the Semantic Web community and the Accessibility community are natural allies that should be working together (but aren’t, yet!). For those who are unaware, I’m pretty involved in the Semantic Web. A co-organizer of LASemWeb and 2-time member of the advisory board of Semtech.

Eric Franzon wrote an excellent article about GAAD on SemanticWeb.com that explains it pretty well. To boil it down, at TED, Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, made an impassioned pitch for bringing to life the second part of Tim’s vision for the web. Getting computers to talk to other computers. This isn’t a trivial problem to solve. Many don’t even see the point. It seems like the Semweb community was looking for a good use case. Well now you have it. If a computer can understand a web page, then a screen reader can share that device with people who need to use a different type of browser to surf the web.

Conferences and more

So Jennison and I are mulling the idea of a joint TED talk. To discuss how GAAD came about. And how we can join Tim’s call for linked data now along with Global Accessibility Now.

Additionally, it looks likely that there will be a GAAD discussion at Semtech. I’m also on the advisory board of Zendcon and Kevin Schroeder has said that they would consider a talk on this topic. And one of the best speakers I know, Brian Sletten, is adding an accessibility talk to his repertoire.

Today I rollerbladed alone

Yesterday I started a new Meetup. Santa Monica Techcersizers. I know. The name sucks. The wording on the page is bad. I’m old. I’m fat. I’ve been told this is crazy. Daily is too often. It’s too early. This won’t succeed.

You know what? Who cares? I woke up at 7am. Knowing I’d rollerblade alone. But just in case someone showed up, I had to be there. Not for myself. Not to get in shape. Not because it was easy. But because I owe it to whoever else might by chance show up.

So I rollerbladed alone. About 8 miles. From here to here. And back. I will probably rollerblade alone again tomorrow. And the day after.

Who cares? In one month I’ll be a month older. And a bit thinner. And I won’t be rollerblading alone. Because one of you reading this will join me.

You’re in the tech business. You live around Santa Monica. The best place in the world to exercise. You will meet like-minded people. You will improve your health. This will be good for mind, body, spirit and yes, even wallet.

The only things stopping you are excuses.

So see you at SaMoTech Beach one of these days. I won’t be rollerblading alone forever.

How did you mark the first Global Accessibility Awareness Day?

Logo for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

First, thanks for getting involved in the first Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
We’ve created this blog space to let you share with the world how you took part in
GAAD. Perhaps you went mouseless for an hour. Maybe you tried NVDA or another
adaptation. Some of you may have used the WAVE toolbar on a page or set of pages that
you developed and learned just how accessible (or not) these are to users with different disabilities. And if you attended an event, let us know what you thought.

Get talking and sharing!

Open letter to the people of Brevard County who were laid off from the Shuttle Program

I am posting this as a result of a private Facebook exchange kicked off by Heather Meeker. She was saddened by this 60 Minutes report about all the people of Brevard County who are being devastated by the Shuttle cancellation. A fellow named Ben, whose post got dropped somehow by Facebook, wrote something that inspired me to eventually write this. My thanks go out to them.

I want this post to inspire all the great people of Brevard County, who should be proud of everything they achieved with the Shuttle Program.

Do not despair. Do not give up. Take control of your lives for your sake. For the country’s sake. For the pride of the people of The United States of America.

I know it sucks. Who cares?

It’s depressing. Who cares?

“The Man” let us down. Again….. Who cares?

Someone. Anyone of you, put a stake in the ground. Start a company. You don’t even need to spend a penny upfront. Form it in your head. And invite every other employee that was laid off to join you. In their heads.

Just write a blog post. Get everyone to add their names in a moderated comment section. That is your employee list. Then start the second SpaceX-style company. Watch some Elon Musk interviews to inspire you.

He did it. So can you. NO. So WILL you.

Get that started and you will have Venture Capital behind you. You will get press. You will get the people. Their hearts. Their minds. Their wallets. In fact. Put it on Kickstarter. You will have the LARGEST project in the history of Kickstarter.

Still reading? Well what are you waiting for? Just DO IT!