Ms. Herr when online

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Archive for the ‘the biz side’ Category

now holding open community office hours

Posted by Ms. Herr on 11.18.2009

Ms. Herr offers open community office hoursLong, long ago in a land far, far away… Or rather longer ago than I want to admit to <sound effect: cough cough>April</cough> in pretty much the geographic location I am today, I had the idea of holding open community office hours. At the time, I was unemployed underemployed and yet somehow extremely busy. My weeks were marked by coffee and lunch dates with people who had heard from someone who had heard from someone that I was the person to talk to about whatever it was that they needed help with. My dates would pick my brain, asking questions about social media, community events or business startup ideas.

I could have ranted about how these meetups were essentially free consulting sessions, how they didn’t yield either contract work or employment offers, or how my dates would then run off to implement things we talked about while I still had to scrape together money to pay my gas bill if I wanted to keep taking hot showers. But for the most part, I was enjoying myself for four key reasons:

  1. I love social media.
  2. I love the local Phoenix social-web-tech community I’ve become immersed in.
  3. I love meeting and talking to new people, many of whom seem to find me though this very same social-web-tech community.
  4. And I love coffee.

From something that was naturally occurring, and something that I was enjoying, came the idea to give in and hold open community office hours. Akin to a college professor’s office hours, these are times when people could join me at a local coffee shop or eatery to talk about anything that interests them, whether it be social media, current events or name ideas for the family’s new goldfish.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Every week, I’ll choose 1-2 days to hold office hours, typically in the mornings before the workday kicks off.
  2. I’ll publish the dates, times, and location of these office hours on this public Google calendar.
  3. If you plan to join me, you’ll drop me an email at heather lynne herr at gmail dot com with “office hours” somewhere in the subject line. (I guarantee there will be mornings when that email verification that someone is expecting me will be the only thing that ensures I don’t sleep in an extra hour.)
  4. We’ll meet, chat, and enjoy some good coffee and/or noms.

One very important do not:

  1. Do not come with the intention of talking about anything that you want a NDA, written or verbal, to discuss. I am by default a very open person and I don’t want the pressure of keeping your secrets.

I’m kicking things off this Friday, November 20th at Liberty Market. If you want to join me, holla!

Posted in community, events, marketing & advertising, social networks, the biz side | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

ordering more biz cards today…

Posted by Ms. Herr on 10.28.2008

I’m really good at procrastinaaa… just-in-time processes. With PodCamp AZ right around the corner, and being newly self-employed on the hunt for projects/contracts/employment, I’m madly trying to get various things updated/printed/launched. Last week I managed to get minicards printed for merciless flirt. My first thought was to use Moo, but they have a 10 business day turnaround that didn’t fit my schedule. I did however, find MyMiniCards. I think the service has some definite limitations that were frustrating (file dimension requirements, cropping feature, back side text and layout), but they are competitively priced and have a quick 2-3 day turnaround. And I’m happy enough with the merciless flirt cards that I’m going to try to place another order for Ms. Herr when online. If I place the order today, they should arrive Friday. I don’t know if it’s the best solution, but not too shabby if you’re in a pinch.

Posted in marketing & advertising, the biz side | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

What did I do this weekend? ummm…

Posted by Ms. Herr on 10.20.2008

This one time… at Phoenix Startup Weekend… a whole group of guys and a lone girl (that’s me), came together to create a new company called Reserve Chute. The basic concept is a personal data backup app that enables users to grab their data from online sources like GMail, Delicious, yada, yada, and save them locally on their own machices. Think about how much stuff you have online, stuff you’ve used to manage your projects, build your online reputation, and communicate with all the really cool people in the world. Thank about what you happen if any one of the services or apps went offline, temporarily or permanantly. Poof. Gone. Bye bye. Wouldn’t it be nice to know you had a money… errr, data jar… in your backyard just in case Web 2.0 becomes web two point OH NO!

The code ninjas (that’s not me) hacked some elegant sweetness for last night’s demo. We should have a working JumpBox prototype in a couple of days (see Sean’s comment below about timing), but the site is live and you can sign up for beta.

Do it. Do it. NOW!!!

Shout out to all the peeps involved in this project: Sean TierneyBrent SporeJustin CrossmanSunny ThaperJose DiazCurtis MillerBrian RoyByron BowermanRemi TaylorPatrick HarterJim Barrows

And major thanks to Adam Nollmeyer (Acme Photography) and Chris Lee for the pics.

Posted in events, Phoenix events, the biz side | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »