Ms. Herr when online

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Archive for November, 2008

window shopping Christmas wish list

Posted by Ms. Herr on 11.24.2008

Which means Christmas is just around the corner. I love the holiday season. The parties, the traveling, the hot spiced wine (a family tradition), the rum balls. And the giving. Oh, the giving. Every year, with Budget in mind, I compile a list of who I’m shopping for, what I think they’d like, and cap on what I want to spend. With out fail, I not only exceed Budget, but wring its neck and bury it six feet underground. Some might call it manslaughter, but I call it justifiable homicide. After all, it’s about the high of being able to give cool stuff to my peeps.

Budget gets a stay of execution this year as financial limitations equal giving limitations. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t do my part to help stimulate the economy. Other people will be shopping for gifts (including my parents who buy me stuff even if I tell them not to). So starting on Black Friday, I’m going to [try to] write about one thing each day that I think would make a cool gift. I’ll [try to] keep it unique and interesting. It’ll all be stuff I like, but I’ve heard that if you really like something, then chances are someone you know will really like it too. My hope is that you’ll discover something that’ll be loved by a sibling, friend, parent, spouce, or yourself. And when you do, buy it, wrap it, & put it under the tree.

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building accessible websites

Posted by Ms. Herr on 11.12.2008

Gabe Vega of The Blindtechs Network gave a presentation on accessibility and usability at Refresh Phoenix last night (download PDF version here). The age-old wisdom is that you don’t know what you don’t know, and many of us sighted folk have probably never given a second thought as to how accessible our sites are to individuals who need screen readers and other assistive technologies to use our sites. We evaluate sites based on visual, functional and user experience aesthetics. Gabe is blind, which mean he evaluates sites based on accessibility aesthetics.

Gabe’s presentation walked through a handful of sites with various accessibility and usability issues. One example was the site of a local businessperson built using WordPress. The primary critique of the site was that blog post titles were not tagged as headers in the source code, meaning that a screen reader has no way of discerning its importance. All users skim headings to find the content we are most interested in. Sighted users look for changes in text size, font, and color. Blind users, via screen readers, look for demarcating tags. Thus, a screen reader ‘skimming’ the site completely skips over the post title to the comments section. And what good are comments if you don’t know what people are commenting on.

I mention the WordPress site because it is most relevant to my own sites, namely the one you’re reading right now. Ms. Herr when online is a WordPress.com hosted site using one of their standard theme templates. Curious if the title-not-tagged-as-header problem varied by theme, I turned on VoiceOver (fn+command+F5) and tried to navigate this site. The result: TOTAL FAIL. Katy, my reader, spoke the name of my blog, but nothing else. I’m guessing it’s one (or two) of two things:

  1. The theme I’ve selected doesn’t not include the proper tags for accessibility.
  2. I suck at using VoiceOver.

I have plans to redesign Ms. Herr when online in the near future. Even though I’m not a developer, I’m going to attempt to do it myself (wish me luck). After Gabe’s presentation, you can bet I’ll be testing the design for accessibility (assuming I can figure out how to not suck at using VoiceOver).

Bottom line, a basic understanding of accessibility and usability is important to anyone involved in the creation of websites. As a client, you need to know to ask your web designed and development provider to integrate usability into your site’s design. As a provider, you need to know how to design for accessibility.

And if you haven’t done it already, I’d encourage you to look at your own sites for accessibility. Check out W3C Web Markup Validation for one great tool (thanks @scottyj). If you don’t have the time or the know-how to make the fixes, or the time to self-teach, hire someone who does.

Posted in blogging, marketing & advertising, Phoenix events, the biz side | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

highs & lows from the Maricopa County Democratic Party election party

Posted by Ms. Herr on 11.5.2008

Tonight, I was Kevin Spidel’s guest of at the Maricopa County Democratic Party’s election party. I was very excited as I headed toward the Wyndham Hotel. I’d never been to a political party event, yet tonight was a night the media and yet-to-be-written books would consider historic. As I got there, the enthusiasm of my fellow party-goers was greater than my own. Cheers ensued each time a state was called for Obama; boos when called for McCain. As the electoral votes grew in Obama’s favor, the excitement mounted. It was so easy to get caught up in the energy.

Shortly after the election was called…

tweet tweet (1) in a room w/ Obama supporters ecstatic bout the win. one minute you say “imagine, our first African-American prez” then boo when McCain says (2) he recognizes tonight marks a significant achievement for Black-Americans. you say “why bring race into it,” but didn’t you moments ago? (3) why the hypocrisy? what makes it OK for you to say something that you would spurn McCain for? don’t be so mighty. don’t be so righteous.

Thus, hours after voting for Obama myself and minutes after the election was called in his favor, in the room of a political action organization, two statements of similar sentiment by two individuals on opposing sides soured my night. Party allegiences that open the mouth and close the mind piss me off.

Posted in events, Phoenix events, politics | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

What if Obama…? What if McCain…?

Posted by Ms. Herr on 11.3.2008

I think I’ve been decidedly quite quiet on who I support in the upcoming election, quite honestly because I don’t feel that I’ve paid enough attention to each candidate’s position to have an informed discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of their respective platforms. However, today I received the following in an email, and I think the use of hypothetical role reversal creates an interesting case.

Ponder the following:

What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review? What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?

What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?

What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many occasions, a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama’s family had made their money from beer distribution?

What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are? Some might say that this is what racism does. That it covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

The use of hypothetical arguments can be incredibly powerful to expose the default biases, the prejudices and potential blindnesses, that we intentionally or unintentionally subscribe to given assumed contexts. When we redefine those contexts, our views of right and wrong can shift dramatically. Consider the closing arguement from the movie A Time To Kill, as performed by Matthew McConaughey.

Educational Background

Barack Obama:

  • Columbia University – B.A. Political Science with Specialization in International Relations.
  • Harvard – Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:

  • University of Delaware – B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
  • Syracuse University College of Law – Juris Doctor (J.D.)

John McCain:

  • United States Naval Academy – Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:

  • Hawaii Pacific University – 1 semester
  • North Idaho College – 2 semesters – general study
  • University of Idaho – 2 semesters – journalism
  • Matanuska-Susitna College – 1 semester
  • University of Idaho – 3 semesters – B.A. in Journalism

Clearly, this list was complied by Obama supporters, and as such is written to color perspective in his favor. Certainly McCain supporters could compile a similar list. Indeed, if you are a McCain supporter, and you’ve made it this far in my post, I encourage you to create the counter argument in the same format. Post it or a link to it in the comments. Let any readers who are as of yet undecided see both side.

Posted in politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »