Archive for November, 2005

If you’ve ever celebrated Thanksgiving in America, you are likely to have heard this song:

Over the river and through the woods,
To grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,
Through the white and drifted snow, O!

All my life, I’ve been told that I’m related to the woman who wrote these words. Her name is Lydia Marie Child (1802-1880). And while I love the idea of being related to her, I wasn’t completely convinced of this fact without doing a bit of geneology research on my own.

I dove into the task thinking, “this should be simple.” With resources like Family Tree Maker and ancestry.com, how hard could this be? Within two generations, I was already sure of my ties to the Child family name (for those who know me well, I can hear you snickering). But as I climbed further up the tree, the exponentially increasing branches soon had me quite light headed.

A dear relative, Betsy, who has done scores of geneology research, helped me find just the branch I was looking for. Now, I know for sure. I’m related to Lydia Marie Child. And with that new found knowledge, came a surge of inspiration and a personal challenge. For as I read more about my ancestor, I came to know a courageous woman. A published author in the 1800’s and a brave abolitionist, she joined the anti-slavery movement when it was dangerous to do so. Her strength and resolution to do what was right, no matter how unpopular or difficult the task, cast an interesting perspective on my own life.

Would I have been as courageous if I had lived in 1800’s? Today, when I’m up against difficult challenges, I think, “Glenda, you’ve got Marie’s blood in your veins, don’t let her down!”

Little did I know that my quest to convince myself of my relationship to the this women would inspire me so. Now I’m off to download Marie’s first published novel in ebook format. God, I love the internet!

I’m a Wizard of Oz girl, through and through. I’ve seen the movie 15 times and been introducing myself as “Glenda the Good Witch” forever. Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of where Glinda the Good Witch ends and I begin.

So, when the novel, Wicked, came out, and I heard that Glinda was not such a good witch after all, I had to know more. While some of my friends loved the book, I’ll admit I don’t. And I swear it isn’t because it paints a less than pretty picture of Glinda. The story is just a bit too dark and twisted for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like dark and twisted when it really adds to the story…but I felt some of the darkness was gratuitous. And yet, the themes and storyline were brilliant.

And then, my dear friends (Rhonda and Lindsey) invited me to a Wicked Weekend in Houston. How could I possibly resist?

Suffice it to say, my Wicked Weekend was a precious gift. I’ve been struggling this year…with unfulfilled dreams and a reality painfully out of sync with my principles. I only remember feeling this low one other time in my life.

I had no expectation that this weekend would be so healing. Oh, I knew I’d have a blast and create delightful new memories…but I received so much more. Was it being invited inside the home of two people so deeply in love? Or seeing one of my best friends in the whole world blessed with such happiness? Perhaps the luxury of a lazy girl’s weekend filled with delicious coffee, amazing conversations and hours and hours of art museums? Or the moment the magic hit me as I experienced “Wicked” with my eyes, mind, heart and soul?

Wicked” turns all that I knew about Oz upside down. Elphaba is intrinsically good (despite being green) while Glinda is shallow, self-centered and blonde. The undercurrent of discrimination, rejection, intolerance and broken dreams resonated with my aching heart. Tears streamed down my face as Elphaba rose above it all, defying gravity.

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap

It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down…
 
 

I’m through accepting limits
‘Cuz someone says there so
Somethings I cannot change
But till I try I’ll never know

How do you thank friends for a gift like this? I know…I’ll just have to defy gravity!

I was just catching up on my blog reading and Ian’s interview with Andy Clarke on Accessify got me to thinking about “web accessibility snake oil salesmen”. As more and more people wake up to the concept of accessible web sites, is there a need for official accessibility certification?

I like the idea of accessibility certification. In fact, I quite like the idea of web designer/developer certification. Of course, liking the idea and turning it in to useful reality are two different things.

How can you determine a web designer’s accessibility expertise? I always think the best way is to ask them to submit a site for review. I’d then run their site thru my gamut of accessibility testing tools

  • Test with my browser – turn off images, don’t use the mouse, turn off speakers, increase font size, change window size, turn off CSS, turn off Javascript, set to greyscale
  • Run online accessibility tests on representative pages using more than one tool, example: WebXact & Wave
  • Listen to representative pages using JAWS
  • Run a sitewide accessibility report tool like LIFT or WebXM
  • Conduct hands on accessibility testing with users who have visual, auditory, motor, speech and cognitive disabilities

But, if I didn’t have accessibility expertise and needed to rely on someone else’s opinion, where could I turn? With a little help from my friends, a few places I could think of were:

Right now, I’m just wanting to know if you think accessibility certification for web designers has merit or not. I’d also like to hear what concerns or ideas you have related to accessibility certification.

I have high hopes that the browser wars on the desktop will soon be over (yes, I’m an optimist). The power of web standards is becoming so clear it is impossible to resist. Whew, now we can all focus on quality design based on web standards and be more productive. Right?

Castle drawbridge creaks open to reveal thousands of different mobile devices each running a different mobile browser.
Wait, before you faint, let’s practice this breath prayer (breathing in: “Web”, breathing out: “Standards”). Repeat breath prayer at least five times.

Don’t fear those mobile devices, and for heaven’s sake, don’t pretend like they aren’t there! It is a brave new world, let’s get started on our mobile adventures.

To keep from getting too dizzy, I focus my first rounds of testing on these devices and their pre-installed browsers:

Palm
Windows Mobile (Pocket PC)
Blackberry

I recommend purchasing at least one palm, one ppc and one blackberry for your team and assigning one person to each device. Their mission? To become an expert on their mobile device. They should become addicted to their device, carrying it with them every where they go and using the hell out of it! Why do I think this is important? Because, honestly, until you’ve got someone inside your team truly using mobile devices to consume the web, I don’t think you can design well for this experience.

I’ve always wondered what I would have done when faced with really tough decisions. Would I have been brave enough to step foot on the Mayflower in search of religious freedom? Would I have thought Jesus was the messiah, a prophet or delusional if I had met him in person? Would I have opened my doors to a Jewish family seeking safe refuge during the holocaust? Would I have stood up for civil rights in the South by offering Rosa Parks a seat at the front of the bus?

Oh sure, it is easy, from the safety of the present for me to think I’d have made the courageous decision. But what would I really have done?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to vote on the controversial constitutional amendment to define marriage in the state of Texas. There is no question where I stand on this issue. And in my naiveté, I believed with all my heart that human rights would prevail.

This morning, the headlines broke my heart. “Gay marriage ban affirmed” Nooooooooooooooooooooooo! My state let me down yesterday. But I believe the world can change and will change for the better. I’m deeply sorry for any one who is being denied their equal right to marry. Don’t give up the fight.

Just last week, I had the honor of visiting the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) to discuss the future of technology in museums. This museum is boldly discovering ways to engage their visitors while opening the vault of curator knowledge for public access. From the XRoom to the handheld museum guide with wireless location sensing, I’m blown away by what they’ve accomplished in such a short period of time.

In preparing for this visit, I’ve been thinking long and hard about my own visions for the future of technology in museums. In my work with museums, I always start with these foundational principles:

  1. The original work of art is primary
  2. The physical work of art is sacred
  3. Nothing is better than being in the presence of the actual work of art

And the next step is to give each of you the key to discover the treasures of ideas, interpretations and history that are hidden within the brilliant minds of you, the artists, art historians, curators and museum staff. Treasures that add layers of meaning and open more doors to connecting with these precious works of art. But I can’t stop there. No, my mission is even larger than making the art and the museums knowledge available to everyone. My mission is to enrich the museum experience by tapping into the collective wisdom of everyone who crosses into the gallery space, both physically and virtually.

As I stood in the lobby of IMA, I witnessed part of my vision. A father and his young son were at the front desk. The son had obviously been crying. He didn’t want to go to an art museum. He just wanted to go outside and play. The museum staff warmly greeted them and prescribed a trip to the X Room. Imagine that you are the child, being hauled upstairs against your will.


As you enter the X Room, your eyes are drawn to a large table in the center of a dark room.

Small images of art are projected onto the table surface.


You notice an oval object resting on the table with an “?” on it. Reaching for the “?”, you move it along the table, like a wireless mouse, until the “?” is sitting on top of an image of art that interests you. Suddenly the images on the wall next to you change in response to where you just placed the “?” on the table.

Your tears are long forgotten. You are fascinated and reach for another “wireless mouse” and look carefully at the art displayed on the table. You show your father how you can select a work of art and everyone in the room turns to see the information about this work displayed on another wall of the X Room.

Pictures and words can’t begin to describe the X Room. The table is visually engaging. You are immersed in the collection. You are in control and choose what is displayed on the wall. The experience is socially and intellectually stimulating. And my mind doesn’t stop here. Applying what I’ve learned about Web 2.0 and Falk & Dierking’s “Learning From Museums”, I’m developing goals for what I call Art 2.0. For me, these Art 2.0 goals are the key to making sure that technology truly enhances the museum experience as opposed to detracting from it. When I put technology in your hands, I want it to support your ability to discover, connect and share your museum experience digitally.

Discover

  • Does the information technology (IT) ignite your personal interest in the art?
  • Does IT trigger deeper exploration of the art.
  • In the gallery and with the IT, is yourbehavior non-linear and emergent (not predetermined).
  • Are you unaware of fatigue / unaware of passage of time.

Connect

  • Do you make meaningful personal connection with the art?– Aha! moments
  • Is the experience emotionally, intellectually, socially and/or spiritually satisfying to you?

Contribute

  • Do you want to share personal meaning and discoveries with others?
  • Did you add a valuable layer of interpretive information to the system that others find interesting and/or inspiring?
  • Does the IT system become richer the more people use it?

Care to join me on this adventure? Or do you think technology doesn’t belong in the gallery? Can a system that encourages everyone to share their experiences have value? Do you care what others see, feel or think when they look at a work of art? Would you rather just know what the artist was thinking? Or, would you really just rather go outside and play?