Category Archives: code

Inclusive design presentation, now on TV

I’ve been told my presentation at last July’s WordCamp Sydney 2012 has finally made it to WordPress TV. Even though I don’t really like the sound of my voice or my annoying ticks and gestures, I thought it would be a good companion to the page of Inclusive Design resources I posted at the time.

A friend told me that it is now listed as a “Popular Video” on the front page of WP TV, so I thought I’d take advantage of the SEO love while I can. I apologise for the video being Flash and not HTML5, but if you visit the site you can also download the H264 version from the site.

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The year of coding

NB: updated July 24, 2013

A recent WordPress Sydney meetup got me thinking. Is it useful for writers, designers, journalists, or any other people who do stuff that touches the web, to know how to code?

One of the presenters was guiding some people through what it takes to create a WordPress Theme. For the uninitiated, a WordPress theme is the part that sits between the WordPress application (which is a Content Management System) and the user’s browser, to pull the content and page elements together for the webpage.

Dee Teal mentioned there are courses available on teamTreehouse for Web Design, Web Development and iOS development. It’s a great service where you pay by the month and take as much tuition as you can handle. It’s a great service but if you’re uncertain of your commitment level before paying anything, I have a few free suggestions below to dip your toe in to ignite your developmental spark.

Before you start though it is useful to understand a few basics about coding for the web.

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Beautiful simple solutions

I was getting frustrated, as were others, about the Mac OSX default column width in column view.

Yes, you could handily double-click the column handle and it would expand that column to the width of the longest file name (you knew that one right?), but I often have to use long filenames.

So I recently decided to change the default column width, opened Terminal and steeled myself to having to hack some core setting with some command-line arcane incantations. After a search of a few seconds I came across this video from Jason Glaspey

Change default column widths in Finder (Mac OSX) from Jason Glaspey on Vimeo.

What I love about this control of the interface is that I could have discovered it by accident but it was also put there on purpose, by an interface designer who thought about (or paid attention to user testing about) the sorts of thing a user might want to modify globally. In addition, the change is shown in real time, across all windows, communicating very simply and elegantly, the results of the change to the user, immediately, without text or technical explanations.

That is what good design, and good user experience is about.

Money where your site is

The web began as a communication and collaboration tool but soon evolved into much more when someone sorted out how to pay for stuff through it. A secure protocol and security certificates helped make it happen but ultimately it was coders and credit card companies who put payment processes online.

Today the most well known payment process is undeniably PayPal, helped in no small part by the boom of eBay a few years back. I generally had no problem with paypal so long as I kept feeding it money to use for me and people happily paid for my eBay stuff through it. However, problems started when I migrated to Australia from the UK and both eBay and Paypal failed to move with me. Perhaps because Americans think no-one leaves the USA by choice, to move countries permanently, and their view is a world view, that this was not something worth catering for. I have to say it was easier to open a new bank account in my adopted country than to get paypal or eBay to acknowledge my move. I was told that i could change my address, of course, just not to another country.  Neither would accept that I should be able to keep my account open but update it with new address and payment information for another country.

The only answer was to open up a new account in my new country (with a new email address I might add since email is a unique identifier, of course). So goodbye eBay history and PayPay previous payments, and hello newborn newbie accounts. I suffered through the awkward separation and divorce and settled into newly-wedded bliss. Problem was though, my old relationships kept popping out through the cracks like a horror film zombie, to haunt my new babe with my past discretions.

This manifested itself in occasional top level domain redirection ( from the .com or I originally typed) or the refusal to buy an item restricted to aus addresses, even though my address and ip address clearly show Aussie-ness.

It would have been OK if the excuse I received made any sense, that it is to avoid international money laundering. That would suggest the system is incapable of managing a decent log of transactions or monitor accounts opening and closing rapidly. But confusingly for me, I don’t understand why it is incapable of understanding a person’s history online is important to them and in many ways, their own property.

Hopefully it’s not an excuse to increase the account count.

So even though it may be off topic, these are the kinds of questions I will be asking at the PayPal Developer Day in Sydney on Monday.

Basically, what is changing in the pay pal interface to make it easier and better for humans to get their tasks done?

Analogue with a digital on top

Bought a guitar on eBay last week, out of some sort of desire to be a bit more analogue, and realised I had no good way to know if it was in tune. So back to eBay for a tuner from the US.

Now who’s an eejit!

Completely forgot I have an iPhone and that there’s an app for just about everything (there’s three fart apps FFS!!). So my new dilemma is do I just use the tuner coming in the post eventually from the US, or repost it on eBay and buy the app?

My loyalties to analogue are in conflict with my loyalties to my lovely new iPhone.

Guess who’s going to win!

Commuter pic of the day to follow.

BTW: played guitar for 40 minutes last night in an attempt to strengthen my fingertips. Can I just say the left side of the keyboard is my enemy this morning? fingertips over on the left of QWERTY is ouchy!

Just sayin’!

community and coding fun at WordCamp Australia, day 2

WordCamp Australia day2

After a great day at Word Camp Australia, my personal highlight of day two was definitely Harley Alexander of Baffle! inc who gave a fun and entertaining presentation on a simple but complex (yes, I just wrote that!) concept, WP_Query versus Query_posts.

The great thing for me was that he is 15, has been using WordPress since he was 12, and has several tutorials and tips on his blog and a forthcoming book, How to Be a Rockstar WordPress Designer.

His significant height belied his modest age, and his comfort and confidence with talking about coding issues made his presentation very charming. I liked that he was teaching his teachers about WordPress as well as that his teachers were confident enough to let him do so.

Once again, a committed, interested and passionate disseminator who will definitely go far if he manages to not let the attention get to his head. I look forward to reading more of his stuff as well as his book, when WP2.7 actually ships so he can complete the screen grabs.

The second great thing today was the formalising of the WordCamp Association Australia and its’ committee which I hope to support once I get this little matter of gainful employments sorted. (offers and introductions, both contract and permanent, welcome!) I have a 2 week gig till Christmas so looking to line up some work for the new year.

Saying that, it was definitely not just these few people who impressed me, it was everyone, with their own individual passions driving their creative and business ideas, who floated my boat. Thanks everyone; rom the presenters to the Twitter backchannel chatter, loved it!.

Shattered, neighbours’ late night kitchen renovations kept me up all night, going home probably. Thanks everyone! Now to go home and shave this effing ‘tache off so I can kiss my missus proper-like!

The Tribe at WordCamp Australia

WordCamp Australia, Day 1

Only about 75 people here, in a small hangar like cavern, quite appropriately called the big red box in canal street, Sydney. (Sorry, gotta complete my wordpress upgrade before I add the images!)

On the bus home, hired macbook on my lap (don’t get me started on how my MacBookPro died after a simple Safari update on Wednesday!!), reflecting on a good day at #wordcampau.

Instead of some florid exponation of how cool it feels to be here (v!) and the quality of the people attending (high!) I thought I’d riff on Matt Mullenwag whom I never met before but got a good feeling from the second I met him.

If there is anyone I would like to run my business (or organisation) or run a business I depend on, it’d be him. Calm, humble in the face of talented critics, open-minded to everything that is mentioned, charming to both the thoughtful and ignorant in equal measure, I beleive Matt is a example of a good leader (in the Seth Godin definition) of a tribe. His real passion in both and, and in the desires and aims of the people who use the tools he and his company Automattic create and drive for us is tangible.

Contrast that with the arrogant, obnoxious, controlling nature of people like Steve Ballmer and it becomes very clear who inspires and influences grass roots passion and who is intent on control and manipulation.

Good to see and truly inspiring of confidfence in the WordPress future.

On a side note, special thanks to Adam Makda at Next Byte / Rushcutters Bay who got me an excellent mac to hire at a decent price for a week while their techies at Broadway branch repair my sick Mac Book Pro. Advice on how to restore from Time Machine and even an offer of his personal mobile number in case I needed tech support during he weekend. Another truly helpful, committed and passionate person who cares about what they do.

Contact me if you want to know how easy it is to restore a disk from Time Machine in record time with a minimum of fuss.

On to day two at Word Camp Australia!

barCampSydney4, fragrantly remarkable day at U of NSW

Sydney is one of those cities that carries its own perfume, one you get a whiff of from open bus windows, moments stuck in traffic jams, or just walking down the street. It is the unmistakeable scent of gum trees, the eucalypt sweet-citrus that is as much a part of the city as the Harbour Bridge or the Opera House.

I thought about this as I got my coffee with @neilphillips the morning of barCamp Sydney 4, hosted at the Roundhouse, University of New South Wales, my partner’s alma mater, and wondered how I got to this place, something I regularly do since migrating here only a few weeks ago.

I already noted, I’m sure, how friendly and open I find this city, and it was very evident at BarCamp, where even passionate and aggressive debate was accompanied by true camaraderie and mutual respect. This was my first barCamp, 160 people concentrated in a strangely cat-litter scented music/meeting venue, and I am definitely going to the next one, and definitely presenting something having gotten over my initial shyness and wariness.

For those not in the know, barCamp is a unique type of dedicated conference focussing on web applications, open source platforms and next generation web environments, roughly speaking. I was attracted to it as it is a real User Generated Content (UGC) environment, where you show up and add your topic of interest, what you want to lead a discussion or presentation on, to a schedule board first thing in the morning, or even hijack a rebuttal space later in the day, as happened in the Roll your own / Don’t roll your own CMS debate I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s open to whomever adds their name to the wiki roll call, fantastically dynamic, and thoroughly free to boot! There is some sponsorship but corporate presentations are not permitted and, it is a participatory, not spectator environment.

I enjoyed the entire day, but had to mention some highlights. (great pictures by JJ Halans available on flickr) There are hashtags feeds at #bcs4 and #barcampsydney for those interested in the copious chatter.

The speed networking was very helpful to this new soul trying to meet like-minded people in my industry, everyone friendly and open and engaged. Then the “Why it make sense to create your own CMS” session from Tom Voirol (as well as the impassioned rebuttal from Plone and Drupal experts) and Mick Liubinskas from Pollenizer talking about focus was gratifying to hear. Journo Katherine Small’s talk on how to get media attention (hope she distributes her presentation online!) and Scott Drummond’s discussion, “WTF is a Community Manager” were well presented, inspiring and enlightening. The passions around Dave Field’s presentation on “HCI failure” showed real insight and cross-platform passion.

And that was all before lunch! (hope to post a picture here once I debug my image upload issues with WordPress). in the meantime check out these two pictures of me: and from JJ Halans. Yes, it is a truly frightful Movember I’m sporting. Also found a pic on ZDNet’s bootstrappr site if you’re interested.

The afternoon session contained a great talk about the OLPC project from Pia Waugh and what is in the damned thing, both hardware and software, as well as availability and upcoming deployments in Australia. Calling it a collaboration and education tool is about right. There was show-stopping mind-hacking session, A.K.A hypnotism, from Melinda Hall @headwellred that, among other things, showed us that it doesn’t have to be digital to be both fascinating and powerful. Nic Hodges led an interesting talk about idea generation and as the late afternoon fast approached, we wound up with an open discussion on how to battle the government’s desire to implement an unworkable, expensive, ill-considered blanket content filter across all Australian ISPs. It sounds like there is now a URL: and some real activity around it. It was discussed that talking about #nocleanfeed wasn’t helping and we need to speak to non-techie people about it, not the “preaching to the converted” we now have.

So now it’s back to networking and job-hunting, looking for dynamic companies who might be interested in, in conversations about strategy, User centred design, end-to-end iterative project planning and management, future-focussed website creation and good places to have coffee. Hope to see some of you at WordCamp Sydney at the end of the month and please try to remember I am fundraising for Movember, raising awareness about men’s health issues like Prostate cancer and Depression, so your generous donation will be very appreciated and help justify me having to grow this ludicrous ‘tash.

Now off for a cycle round Sydney Park to clear my head and recirculate the blood round these laptop bearing knees.