This week I attended my first conference held entirely in Second Life. The event was a Symposium on the Evolution of Communication sponsored by the New Media Consortium (NMC). I’ll admit, I was quite skeptical about the value of attending a two day conference in a virtual world, but I was willing to give it a whirl.

A little background on my so called Second Life: Spring 2007, I had zero desire to stick even my little toe in SL. I’m not a gamer and this “world” seemed so pointless. The graphics looked like something out of the 80’s. What could I possibly learn there?

Then, the fated day came, when my fav curator asked, “Glenda, what should we be doing in Second Life for museums?” I gritted my teeth, and responded that I would investigate (sigh). As I explored this strange new place it was anything but love at first sight. I forced myself to keep going back. My goal: to try and find something meaningful on each trip down the rabbit hole.

19 months later with just a handful of hours of in SL I was still far from enamored. But each trip in, I kept thinking, “there is potential here, I can feel it.”

I never would have guessed that NMC virtual conference would be so mentally stimulating and interactive. As the first day drew to a close I was trying to explain to my peeps how amazing this experience was. My RL friends eyed me warily, claiming that Second Life was just another way geeks withdraw from the real world. To which I responded, “I think SL is an opportunity to reveal your authentic self.” After the peels of laughter subsided, I continued:

I’m not saying that SL is perfect. Far from it. What I’m saying, is that SL is a place that gives us a blank slate that begs the question, “who am I”. You can take the question seriously, or not. That is up to you.

As you create your avatar, do you choose to recreate your own image or do you choose to explore the other side? In RL, so many things can inhibit us from being who we want to be, but in SL, the only thing stopping you is your own imagination. Freed from earthly limitations including gender, appearance, disabilities, social judgments and even gravity you can choose to spread your wings and soar to your potential.

If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.
If you can dream it, you can become it.
– William Arthur Ward

my teddy bear wearing a blue beanie

Do you remember when you first became a web standards believer? (or do you want to know why web standards are important?) Whether it was last week, last year or last decade, it forever changed the way you create for the web. But, when was the last time you helped someone else understand the value of web standards? Until web standards have completely permeated our industry, it is important for us to continue to spread the word while producing content that illustrates the point.

If you haven’t heard, Monday, November 26th is “Blue Beanie Day”. What in the world is “Blue Beanie Day”? It is a great idea dreamed up by Douglas Vort of Detroit, Michigan to show support for web standards and accessibility. Here is an excerpt from the Blue Beanie Day Event Page in Facebook:

Monday, November 26, 2007 is the day thousands of Standardistas (people who support web standards) will wear a Blue Beanie to show their support for accessible, semantic web content.

It’s easy to show your support for web design done right. Don a Blue Beanie and snap a photo. Then on November 26, switch your profile picture in Facebook and post your photo to the Blue Beanie Day group at Flickr.

Next Steps

  1. Make a personal commitment to fight Web Standards Apathy. Show solidarity with the Standardistas on November 26th, 2007.
  2. Buy, beg, or borrow a Blue Beanie (blue hat or cap, even a black or grey one will do in a pinch.)
  3. Take a photo of yourself wearing the Blue Beanie. Or take a cool group photo of you and your friends wearing Blue Beanies.
  4. Post your photo, or photos to Facebook, Flickr, and other social networks on November 26th, 2007. Remember to switch your Facebook profile photo that day. While you’re at it, switch all your social network profile photos. Flickr, Twitter,, iLike, Pownce, you name it.
  5. Promote Blue Beanie Day in your blog or wiki starting today, and tell all your friends to get ready for Blue Beanie Day. Start by inviting all your Facebook friends to this event.

So, what are you waiting for? Go find, make, or photoshop your Blue Beanie. Tell your friends and see how many new people you can introduce to the way the web should will be.

Why are web standards important?

For a quick introduction, I recommend starting with the W3C goals. I swear, every time I read them I get goosebumps. Once you have “web for everyone. web on everything.” as your personal goal, you could head to the W3C’s Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case or read the difinitive text by Jefferey Zeldman, Designing with Web Standards.

It was my first time in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. The atrium was overflowing with an elegant cocktail party. I love when a museum is transformed into a vibrant gathering. Suddenly I turned and found myself at the edge of an empty room. Behind me was a party packed with people. In front of me was a large room with orange carpet and blank white walls. I took a sharp intake of breath, the empty room had hit me full force. “Art!” my creative side exclaimed. Then I shook my head and my logical side said, “Silly girl, it is just an empty room, not art. Don’t be ridiculous.” And I turned and walked away.

Later that evening, Matt (an artist and docent) was offering tours of the Rudolph Stingel exhibit. He began the tour by explaining that Stingel likes to stretch the concept of painting and the idea of art. Stingel refers to many of his works as paintings even when he uses no paint at all. A wall covered in carpet that I am invited to touch, a ‘canvas’ of pink insulation that looks like Stingel carved randomly with an ice cream scoop; a large self-portrait that I could have sworn was a photograph.

  • Paintings
  • Art
  • Ideas
  • Participation

From the moment Matt (the docent) said I could touch the white carpet on the wall, I was hooked. I pressed my hand deep into the thick pile, leaving my mark on that work, at least for a moment. The act of touching and changing the work opened my eyes and mind to Stingel’s message.

“This had all the intellectual qualities that I ask from a painting. It’s aggressive, it’s against the system, it’s against the usual way of doing a painting. Once in a while, it’s good to freshen up the air with these kind of things.”

Then Matt led us into the orange carpeted room. My inner voice shouted, “Art! I knew it!” Matt asked us to consider that not only were we walking on the canvas but we were also being painted by it. Indeed, we were all bathed in a warm orange glow.

As the tour continued, I lingered in the orange room. I sat on this canvas and reveled in its playfulness. I saw the color painting the white walls. I breathed in deeply, soaking in the simplicity and courage, allowing this moment to transform who I am and how I see the world.

Cross-posted to the Blanton Blog.

Postscript: Later, I laughed when I realized that only a girl from the University of Texas (where it seems everything is burnt orange) would ever look at an empty museum gallery with orange carpet and think it was just a room.

I believe that to reach our full potential we need to find work that is challenging and satisfying, work that you can’t imagine not doing. I know, I know…that is a lot to ask for. Or is it? I mean, look at the amount of time you spend at work. For me, I can’t stand the thought of wasting that much of my life doing something I don’t love.

And while I’m not advocating that everyone should immediately quit a job they don’t love, I do council friends to ask yourself if you can find your bliss in your current work. If not, I urge you to begin designing your perfect job in your mind. Once you can clearly envision your dream job; you can begin to map out a realistic plan to make it happen. The first step is always seeing and believing.

As a manager, I love to coach and grow my colleagues. It gives me great joy to see them spread their wings and soar. Even when that means they leave. I can’t stand to see a caged bird.

So today, as one very talented developer, CJ Barker, leaves UT for Symantec, he reminded us of why people stay and why people leave. The original text is below. The text scratched out was added by my silly boss :)

Why People Stay (from Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em)

  1. Career growth, learning and development
  2. Exciting work and challenge
  3. Meaningful work, making a difference and contribution
  4. Great people
  5. Being a part of a team
  6. Good boss
  7. Recognition for work well done
  8. Fun on the job
  9. Autonomy, sense of control over my work
  10. Flexibility – for example, in work hours, dress code
  11. Money, Money, Money

Why People Leave (from Christian & Timbers study)

  1. Boredom or lack of challenge
  2. Limited opportunity for growth and advancement
  3. Lack of appreciation
  4. Low expectations and standards for the position
  5. Inferior / ineffective co-workers
  6. Lack of leadership or poor supervision
  7. Because they’re mean
  8. Because they don’t care

So, (looking you deep in the eyes), Do you love your job? if not, what are you going to do about it?

An awesome group of technology professionals gathered today at the Texas School for the Blind to kick off the 10th year of the Accessibility Internet Rally in Austin… people like Sharron Rush (executive director of Knowbility), Hugh Forrest (SXSW-interactive event directory and 2006 AIR Austin Chair) , Teenya Franklin (AIR program manager) Jim Thatcher and Jim Allen (judge brothers). The room was pulsating with a passion for making the web available to everyone. And surprises awaited discovery. You’d think after 10 years that it would just be “the same ole thing”, but let me assure you, it was anything but that. Here are just three things that everyone was buzzing about:

  • Tri-city Texas Shoot Out – Accessiblity Internet Rally with a new Twist:
    For the first time not only will teams be competing to build accessible, standards compliant web sites for local non-profits, but the web sites developed by local winners will also go on to compete in a statewide “shootout” to see who has built the most accessible web sites in Texas! Teams from Austin, Houston and San Antonio will vie for the Champions of Accessibility crown. Bring it on!
  • Amazing Assistive Technology:
    Imagine a camera (Zoom-Ex) that can instantly take the pages of a book and convert it to speech. The OCR on this device is so fast that every time I turned the page of the physical book, the device would begin reading the top of the new page to me, immediately! And I thought I had seen it all. Thanks to my friends, Marci Tamez and Jack Hickman from Crystal Vision, who help open my eyes to the latest and greatest in assistive technology. Now I need to get one of these babies on campus for our community to use!
  • Accessible Art Performance:
    I can’t wait for the upcoming event, “Arts: No Boundaries – Sight. Sound. Soul.” On Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at La Zona Rosa. The evening promises to be a multimedia and sensory experience with live music, visual artist capturing the sense of the music in real time on canvas, audio descriptions, open captioning and sign interpretations. This event will benefit VSA Arts of Texas and Knowbility.
  • I wish you could have been there to explore and discover all this with me. In fact, what are you waiting for? Head to Knowbility-AIR Austin and get involved. Remember

    “For most people, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.”
    —President’s Council on Disability

Today I had lunch with a dear friend, John Slatin. Little did I know that today was his 1st Birthday.

About half-way through lunch our conversation went like this:

John: “Today is my second 1st Birthday”.

Glenda (clearly puzzled): “It is?”

John: “Yes, one year ago today I received my bone marrow transplant. So today is my re-birthday.”

(see John’s blog post from 8/22/2006, one year ago today.)

Hard to believe a year has passed. John is doing well. He is coming back this fall to campus to teach a class. And while there are still many challenges he faces, he remains ever so brave and full of hope and positive energy.

Reminds me of a quote from Richard Bach’s, “There’s No Such Place as Far Away

Gifts of tin and glass,
Wear out in a day
And are gone

While true friendship is a treasure that lasts forever.

i’ve found a new way to explore art museums. with ipod in hand, i head to my favorite muse. my plan is to experience one work of art…deeply. i listen for the work of art that is calling my name as i wander freely through the galleries. i know when i’m in the right place…it is as though time has stopped.

today, it happens in front of Anselm Kiefer’s Sterenfall (Falling Stars). i take a deep breath and sit on the floor in front of the piece. i instinctively reach for my ipod and select the album “The Earth is Not a A Cold Dead Place” by Explosions in the Sky.

for this moment, there is nothing in this world but Sterenfall, me and the music. i am in awe of the vastness of this piece. i find beauty, peace and courage washing over me.

i always find what i need in this space. here, i am home.

have you ever felt this way? what works of art call you to come rest a while in their company?

Cross-posted to the Blanton Blog.

One of my designers handed me a mind altering book the other day, Analog In, Digital Out: Brendan Dawes on Interaction Design. This boy is a twisted, brilliant, genius, my favorite kind ;) He uses the most amazing things as input devices for his systems. Can you imagine:

  • Using Play-Doh as a user interface to control the speed of a video
  • Creating sonic paintings based on the sound-frequence of jazz music
  • Transforming the movement of people walking on a crowded street into visual creations

How does this guy turn science fantasy into reality? He believes:

  1. “Everything is number.”
  2. “There is all this invisible potential being generated in public spaces by people going about their everyday lives. It’s all just input waiting for you to manipulate into some kind of fascinating output.”

I was captivated by his Snow Globe Project. You see, Brendan buys snow globes as souvenirs from his travels and he had this crazy idea. Wouldn’t it be cool, if when you picked up and shook one of his snow globes, the digital photos that Brendan took on that particular trip would be displayed on his Mac. Using the Making Things Controller Kit, Brendan soon turned his Snow Globes into triggers for a walk through his digital scrapbook.

Read this book and forever change your perception of what a user interface can be.

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