Archive for November, 2006

Ever have one of those delightful days…where you seem to be moving with the rhythm of the world? When things you’ve dreamed about really happen? When unexpected gifts lead you to wonder…is this real?

Here are the things that made my day so very, very good:

  • Boston Meesh spontaneously invited me to Boston for New Year’s and then promptly scheduled and paid for my airline ticket. (thump…that was me hitting the floor…sorry for those of you who had to tolerate my skipping up and down the halls…or my valiant attempt to dump the extra adrenaline.)
  • B2evolution at UT – I’ve been dyin’ to install a multiuser blog at UT. Check out Longhorn Confidential running on b2e!
  • Blanton iTour – My favorite museum project (at least to date) got her link resurrected. My precious iTour…I’ve missed you.

And all of this…before lunch! I won’t list all the other delightful suprises that emerged. But I will ask you about your good days. What makes you smile (all the way down to your toes) or jump up and down with glee or perhaps even skip down the hall???

What was it like to step on the Mayflower back in 1620? Such a tiny ship to sail across the huge Atlantic. Would I have been brave enough to step on board and leave the solid ground behind? My relatives were. I’m 12 steps away from those courageous souls who boarded that ship almost 400 years ago.

As I look at the list of pilgrims I’m descended from…it is like discovering I’m part of a myth. The pilgrims and Thanksgiving have taken on mythical significance as a creation story for America. Brushing aside the quaint stories I was told in elementary school, I dig deeper to find the real connection to this moment in time.

I close my eyes and imagine that I am Remember Allerton, a 6 year old little girl on the Mayflower with her parents, Isaac and Mary Allerton, and her older sister, Mary.

After a sea voyage of 2,750 miles over 66 days, through fierce storms, sea sickness and a bowed and cracked main beam that made me fear the ship and our lives were in great peril we joyfully sighted land (which is called Cape Cod).

As my feet touched solid ground for the first time in over two months, I fell to my knees and thanked God for bringing us safely over the vast and furious ocean to my new home.

What would Remember have said she was thankful for that first Thanksgiving? I found this quote from a play entitled “The pilgrim that didn’t care”,

Though I am young, a little one,
I lift my voice in grateful praise
For wondrous works that hath been done
To bless me in so many ways.

Thus at our feast, I take my part
And speak from true and thankful heart.

I am most thankful to be alive…

And I give thanks to Remember and all my relatives aboard the Mayflower. Their brave choice to live their dreams gives me courage.

As I approach a new and challenging project at work (code name Lansa) …I think, “What an adventure!” and I look to my fellow shipmates and grin…”Let’s set sail for the new world!”

Joe Clark MicropatronageJoe Clark is the king of captioning.

Joe’s quest: To run an independent accessibility research project focused on captioning, audio description, subtitling, and dubbing. After reading the clear and achievable goals of his research, I thought, “ya know, this is a great idea and I believe Joe is the perfect man for the job.” (click, enter dollar amount, submit)

You see, the web that I first saw in 1994 through the lens of Mosaic, was mostly text with a few pictures. But today’s web is chock full of rich media. Captioning and audio description are critical ingredients not only for accessibility but for the semantic web.

Think about it. Why are you buying that latte…when you could be paying Joe to do research? The Joe Clark Micropatronage Project

One of my muses (chainsaw panda) shared a priceless video clip with me this morning. After I got up off the floor from laughing, I just had to share it with you.

So…if you want to know why I love being a woman born into a time and place where I’ve been given opportunity, inspiration and the belief that anything is possible…then look, listen and take heed…watch “Women: Know Your Limits” (which portrays the antithesis).

What if we were to remake this clip to portray the atmosphere at SXSW-Interactive? I imagine it would say:

Women! Take Heed!

  • No Limits!
  • Think outside the lines!
  • Don’t ever stop learning.
  • Learning keeps you young, sexy and irresistible.

So, my dear, sweet, adorable women…let your brilliance shine through!

If you’ve ever been to SXSW, you may have had the good fortune to meet Hugh Forrest, the event director of SXSW-Interactive. Hugh is a real prince of a guy, ever so humble, hard-working and full of heart.

I think part of the magic of SXSWi is Hugh. And this year, Hugh also served as chair of the Knowbility Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR). For many years, Hugh has recognized the importance of accessibility and web standards, making sure these topics have a voice at SXSW. At the AIR Awards ceremony this week I learned how accessibility has personally touched Hugh’s life. I asked Hugh if I could share an excerpt of his speech:

Statistics tell us that 1 in 5 of us will experience some form of disability during our lifetime, either from disease, injury, birth complications or other life event. Indeed, I think everyone in this room can relate some kind of story about how accessibility has made things easier for themselves or a loved one. To that end, let me sidetrack for a few minutes to tell you how this concept has impacted me.

I grew up in Austin — went to Casis Elementary, then O’Henry, then graduated from Austin High. I have two older sisters who also followed the same academic trajectory. My oldest sister now lives in California and we have always had a pretty good relationship. As for the sister who is closer to me in age, we went through a painful period beginning in the mid 1990s. As family issues sometime go, what started off as a relatively minor conflict soon elevated into a larger problem. And, eventually, it became something that was big enough that we weren’t talking to each other any more. Complete silence. This went on for maybe three or four years. My sister made several efforts to reach out to me. But, for whatever reason that seemed appropriate at the time, I rejected these efforts — and the stalemate between us continued.

Finally, one day, some kind of light-bulb turned on in my head and I decided to grow up a little. After so many years of actively avoiding her, I located her phone number and I called. This was a huge step, a step that I’m proud I finally had the courage to make. But, of course, that first step is nothing without a second and a third step to followup with. More specifically . . what do you talk about to someone when you haven’t talked to this person in several years? How do you make small talk when you have done everything possible to avoid all talk for so long? Well . . as it turns out, my sister had been doing some work with John Slatin — work that I knew about through various SXSW-related channels. So . . the first time my sister and I talked again after years of silence . .. much of the conversation was focused on accessibility. She talked about why she thought accessibility was important. I talked about why I though accessibility was good. I talked about the accessibility programming we had done at SXSW and the reasons we had done this. She told me how much she admired the work of Dr. Slatin.

As I recall, there were quite a few awkward silences in the course of that first conversation. But, armed with the always-relevant topic of accessiblity, we made it through. And, we also made it through the next conversation — and the next conversation and the next conversation. That was about three years ago. These days, we talk for about an hour every two weeks. We’ve grown a lot closer and this is a relationship which I value a ton.

Of course, other people in this room probably have much more relevant stories about the power of accessibility. But, I think what I have told you about my relationship with my sister is a telling metaphor. Think about it. Accessibility allows for a basic connection between people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to talk to each other. Accessibility starts a conversation, which is the first step to communication and real understanding and a real relationship. As with me, accessibility can bring together families that have suffered through years of separation. Of equal importance, it can bring together complete strangers in connections that range from the totally mundane to the incredibly profound. In other words, do not ever ever ever underestimate the value of what you are doing with accessibility. You are increasing the possibilities for real communication — and thereby making the world a much better place, one connection and one website at a time. Yes, I think the work you are doing here is absolutely essential in the delicate balance of humanity. For all of what you do . . .thank you, thank you, thank you.

And, likewise, thank you for allowing me to be involved with Air Austin in 2006. I am so proud to be part of an event that pulls together so many creative people who are doing so many good things to make our community so much better.

Hugh took a risk and shared his very personal story…and he is so humble that he doesn’t realize how deeply he touched us and inspired us.

From the moment I saw Jeffrey Zeldman, Eric Meyer, Jason Santa Maria and Molly working the conference registration desk, I knew that this truly was “An Event Apart“. Imagine walking in to the Alamo Drafthouse and having Zeldman hand you your badge and thank you for coming.

The dynamic for the day was really set at that registration desk and the funky movie theatre venue. It was almost like sitting down with your favorite web heroes for a comfy chat. Jeffrey, Eric, Jason and Molly shared recent lessons learned and asked what we wanted to know. The atmosphere was laid back and comments and questions were frequent, welcomed and clearly shaped the conversation.

A few of my favorite moments from AEA-Austin:

  • Seeing inside Jason Santa Maria’s sketchbook. Watching a design idea develop from pencil and paper to finished product.
  • Being able to talk to Jason and Eric about how they work together during the design process.
  • Enjoying the mental exercise of thinking from the content out from Molly (who never fails to inspire me with her creative and agile approach to web design).
  • Watching the CSS Master explain the One True Layout…helping us all see the way to become one with the code (while looking like an Oompa Loompa).
  • Learning how Jeffrey squeezes the best out of every word when writing the user interface.
  • Realizing how lucky we are to have leaders in this industry who are so genuinely friendly and interested in making a personal connection with people who make websites.

And in true geek fashion, the day ended with a happy hour and a half, sponsored by Knowbility at the Belmont. Tune in next week to hear who won the battle in Eric (Oompa Loompa) Meyer vs. Glenda the GoodWitch!