Reading List

A11y Rocks – the album!

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?

Reading List

Seashell in a box (Moments 6)

Number 6 in a series of poems I’ve been writing for 30 years. Amsterdam, October 2015.

Locked in this box
I have a seashell
that whispers to me
of white foaming surf and starfish,
of sirens and islands,
of sails and whales
and a voyage to see
a ballet of almond trees.

When there is no melody to be heard,
when this silence crushes,
I listen to my seashell —
it reminds me how to sing.

And I can smell oysters and dead fish;
And I can hear the wind groaning in the rigging;
And I can touch seaweed slime and driftwood;
And I can taste salt spray on my lips.

Then I hide it in this box, away, again.

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Ensuring a High Performing Web for the Next Billion People

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)

giant room full of people

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.

There’s a 5MB PDF of the slides, too, containing links to resources. I also wrote an article Making websites that work well on Opera Mini.

The Ordinary Miracle (unmixed)

Here’s a song I started writing in Pokhahra, Nepal, under a skyline dominated by the Annapurnas (hence the Nepalese temple bell sample), while thinking about childbirth: how the delivery of my kids felt like a miracle, yet it’s so commonplace – millions of babies are born every year.

Then I thought about the unconditional love one has for one’s kids, and then the ordinary miracle of feeling love for anyone. So it’s about all of that, and joy and sorrow, related hippie bollocks, and mountains too. I love the sea, and I love mountains.

The second verse was completed in March this year in Barcelona. I’d hoped to have it recorded and mixed before my friend had her baby, but a month of travel prevented mixing and he was born at the weekend. Hurray!

Title suggested by Brian Patten’s Fruitful Lady of the Dawn.

It’s for you, please don’t think twice.
No words are wasted in this offering;
Take it now; no sacrifice;
freeing me, it’s freely given.
These gifts won’t fade;
It’s renewed every day

This may seem commonplace and unremarkable –
it’s the ordinary miracle:
Mundane, banal and trivial;
Comic-fodder for the cynical.
I give my unconditional love to you.
I do.

I never saw a clearer moon
from the Annapurnas to the Pyrenees.
I hope you don’t learn too soon
that freedom that is granted doesn’t set you free.
This light will glow –
I hope you see it when you go.

It’s for you – hold out your hands.
I’ll waste no more words in this offering.

Reading list

Reading List

Reading List