For those who don’t know, “a11y” is short for “accessibility” — the practice of ensuring web sites (and apps) are usable by people with disabilities.
Anyway, Heydon Pickering, a chum of mine from Bury St Somerset O’Groats in rural England, has collected some music made by people from the accessibility (and wider web standards) world, and is selling an album of it for £3, all of which will go to two worthy causes: NVDA, a free open-source screen reader to help people with visual disabilities access the web, and Parkinsons UK.
The track list is pretty varied, from novelty to folk to psychedelia. There’s even a song by me on it, called Imprecise and Infrared, which Heydon described: “Your song has been stuck in my head 4 days out of 5 for the last four months, you catchy fuck.”
It would make a lovely Xmas prezzy, and owning it will make you (up to) 74 times more sexually desirable. So why not buy it?
The Web Payments Browser API– a proposal for an API that “enables web developers to register payment instruments (credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, etc.), initiate requests for payment, and acknowledge requests for payment.
Here’s a video of a keynote talk I gave on Friday at Velocity Conference, Amsterdam. It was my last conference talk of the season, and the end of 4 weeks on the road.
I’m quite proud of it, for a number of reasons; firstly, because I was nearly sick with nerves but I look quite relaxed. (Look at how many people were there – and this is only half the room! Photo by Scott Jenson)
The second reason I’m pleased with it is because it explains why I (personally) do what I do. I was born in Yemen, lived in Africa and Asia and lament the Western-centricity of so many organisations, which manifests in their websites. It took a great deal of research, but it was worth it – some of the numbers, demographics and facts startled many audience members, and made a fair few of them realise that it truly is a worldwide web, not a wealthy western web.
Many people came up and expressed shock at the image of the true size of Africa. When people hear that the United Nations predicts the population of Africa will increase from its 1 billion now to 2 billion by 2050 and peak at 5 billion in 2100, they have visions of some Malthusian mass-starvation catastrophe. But, because of the Mercator Projection, few realise how damn big Africa is. For a fascinating and encouraging look at population trends, I thoroughly recommend Dr Hans Rosling’s 1 hour presentation Don’t Panic – The Facts About Population. It’s entertaining, evidence-driven and deeply, deeply humane.
The Big News: Deprecating our AJAX crawling scheme – Google’s recommended SEO tactic is “following the principles of progressive enhancement”. I know that non-Chrome browsers will be thrilled at the immediate removal of browser-sniffing from Google’s own properties as they implement their own “best practice”.
Easy content organisation with HTML5 – Steve Faulkner’s refresher on using HTML5 structural elements to define page regions, in which he uses long words like a native English speaker
Screen Reader strategy survey – Heydon “Interesting Nuggets” Pickiering hopes to get qualitative data on how screenreader users approach “a new, unfamiliar web page, for which you have no prior knowledge or expectations”
Script-Based Web Accessibility draft proposal for a set of User Intention Events that build on ARIA to extend accessibility functionality to complex, scripted web applications, by Cynthia Shelley of Microsoft
Adapting without assumptions – “We need better ways to adapt content to the user’s current conditions.” Yoav Weiss writes a LongTweet (“a blogpost”) about it.
Xerox scanners/photocopiers randomly alter numbers in scanned documents – “Because of a software bug, loss of information was introduced where none should have been … For PDFs that were scanned with the named Xerox devices during the last 8 years, it cannot be proven what characters were on the original sheet of paper”. According to a BBC report, Xerox Vice President Rick Dastin “said that oil rigs, the military … were among the owners most likely to have switched their copiers to the setting”
A previous version of Anachronistic Beard has been available, built into the very design of the web, for decades. But it was called “Progressive Enhancement”, which is boring, and it didn’t have a logo.
So, encouraged by the success of things like Moustache, it’s been rebranded by a team of expensive Birmingham-based Consumer Insight Engineers. With this new name, those of us who are too old to be hipsters can legitimately claim that we were doing Progressive Enhancement, before it was cool.
Join our revolution, before everyone else hears about it. Happy Bearding!
The venue was Conway Hall, which I’d heard of but couldn’t remember the context. It turned out to be the HQ of the Conway Hall Ethical Society, “the oldest surviving freethought organisation in the world”. So a historic venue (for bleeding-heart Guardianistas like me) with great acoustics and “To thine own self be true” inscribed above the stage.
State of the Browser this year had a wide variety of talks; from Seb Lee-Delisle amiably talking about lasers to Martin Jakl talking about WebKit’s garbage collection bugs on Raspberry Pi, with animation jank, keeping learning and modular design in between.
I enjoyed all the talks, but there were some standouts for me (not because any talks were “better” but some were more immediately useful to me in my browser geek-end of the spectrum). I want to congratulate Laura Elizabeth, who did her first ever public speaking with assurance and aplomb that suggested much more experience. There were shocks, too: for example, non-Jake Archibald people talking about Service Worker.
I was particularly agog/ aghast at Edd Sowden’s talk on what makes a <table> not a <table> in assistive technologies. There are lots if heuristics baked into browsers to guess which are data and which are layout tables. border-bottom and background-color makes it a table, border-collapse stops it being a table, display:block stops it being one (except in IE…). More than 20 rows, or zebra striping in CSS makes it a table, etcetera.
Isn’t it tremendous that the UK government cares about assistive tech users on its new web properties?
I also learned a lot from Ada Rose Edwards who surprised me by explaining that reflowing text, if you animate widths of things that cause the browser to re-layout lots of words, is really slow – because of kerning, hinting etc. See her slides for more (video coming soon). I’d assumed because text is small (eg, 1024 letters of Latin text is 1K) that there’s no performance hit. But laying it out isn’t trivial. Throw justification into the mix, too (but please don’t) and you have a recipe for a hot phone battery.
There were lots of old chums in the audience, and new chums like Seren Davis and Claudia. Synergies were leveraged, too – I’ve got an Opera bug moving after being gently prompted by an attendee. There was even a party afterwards, with a free bar, and all for £30. So go next year!
State of the Browser is organised for love by the London Web Standards crew: Morena Fiore, Nick Smith, Dave Letorey, Ginestra Ferraro, Steve Workman, Rupert Bowater and Marco Cedaro. Morena wrote up the day too. Thanks very much to all of them, and all who came to listen.