“We are not living in the universe we thought we lived in yesterday. We have to start learning the world all over again.”

Ken MacLeod, “Learning the World”

Ich kandidiere

Nachdem die Europa- und die Kommunalwahlen in vielen Bundesländern nun vorüber sind und der politische Alltag mit seinen Anträgen und Anfragen in der Stadtverordnetenversammlung wieder Einzug gehalten hat, möchte ich mich der Zukunft zuwenden. Ein Teil der Zukunft ist, den neuen Fraktionen mit der kommunalen Erfahrung der letzten drei Jahren zu helfen. Ein paar haben […]

Excuses for Data Hugging

At the Open Knowledge Conference on Open Data that was held recently in Berlin (more to follow), Andrew Stott, who led the work on data.gov.uk, shared a sample of “data hugging” excuses you need to brace against when working on opening data. […]

More CSS Drop Shadows For All Browsers

Thanks to the unstoppable advancements of web standards aiding mankind to overcome the real burdens of the 21st century, adding drop shadows to boxes became much easier in recent years! No more PNG background images! Leaving the question aside whether drop shadows are really progressive and appropriate for a flat medium (anybody remember the fad of “3D” bulging buttons in the 1990ies?), I was confronted with the challenge of adding box shadows in Internet Explorer for a client project. […]

Guest Lecture on Accessibility

Last week I was invited to hold a guest lecture at the Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz about accessible websites. After the successful barcamp at the University of Mainz in November the executive director of the institute for informatics at that time, Prof. Dr. Herbert Göttler, had the idea to continue that contact. So now there is a small series of talks about current Internet practices. […]

Web Performance Optimization (WPO)

Yesterday I held a talk at the Webmontag in Frankfurt about web performance optimization. According to the prophecy WPO will become an industry like SEO in the near future. Tenni Theurer and Steve Souders began to examine the performance of websites at Yahoo! in 2003, I learned about it in 2006 from Nate Koechley and subsequently blogged about it. […]

Heroes – Transmedia Storytelling

Another inspiring panel at SXSW featured Tim Kring as interviewee. He is a screenwriter and began his carrer with episodes for Knight Rider, achieved his breakthrough with the cult series Crossing Jordan and since 2006 with Heroes: in an alternative reality the protagonists discover they have super-powers. […]

The Long Tail: Kids With Homemade Flamethrowers

One of the most entertaining panels at SXSW last week was What We Learned Watching Kids With Homemade Flamethrowers. For those of us who are unfamiliar with that microgenre here is a short introduction […]

Ada Lovelace Day 2010

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science. This post is to commemorate my grandfather’s grandmother, Antonia Odenweller (1848-1911).

Embedding YouTube Video with iPhone Fallback

Just a quick note as a reminder to myself how to embed YouTube videos in a standards compliant, valid XHTML syntax. It works across all current browsers, doesn’t use <embed>, and has the elegant fallback displaying a still image that is linked to YouTube, thus enabling iPhone users without Flash to view the video.

HTML 5 Accessibility at SXSW Interactive

SXSW is an enormous web conference in Austin / Texas with hundreds of panels squeezed into four days. The panelpicker application opened today and yours truly is hosting a panel on HTML 5 Accessibility. Please vote for me and twitter about it! If the panel is chosen I’d like to invite a few people (will […]

Amazon Plugin Authorization

Starting August 15th, the AWS Product Advertising API, as the former E-Commerce Service is now called, will only accept signed requests. The plugin will stop working if you don’t update. Thus I needed to re-engineer a few functions of my WordPress Amazon Machine Tags Plugin. […]

HTML 5 Haiku Contest

When I saw this picture of Bruce Lawson taken in a very poetic pose at London’s Standards.Next meetup, I remembered a haiku contest my favorite record label Bloody Fist hosted during the 2000 Australian Summer Olympics. People were asked to write haikus about the Olympic Games, and I almost wet myself reading some of the entries. […]

Enhanced Keyboard-accessible Google Maps

Patrick H. Lauke wrote an excellent article about keyboard-accessible Google Maps on the Opera Developer website. Still I was able to improve it slightly when I implemented an accessible map myself. I would like to share these modifications with you.

Please Provide Padding

There are other websites were you can buy train tickets, but if you live in Germany it's most likely that you will book a ticket on the website of Deutsche Bahn (German railways). Much has been said about accessibility on that site, and sure there's room for improvements in future updates. But some things just work well […]

European Accessibility Forum Frankfurt

So it’s been a little quiet here, the reason is that I’ve been busy organizing the European Accessibility Forum Frankfurt on March 27th. The main idea is to present leading innovators and their perspectives on eAccessibility from the technical, political, and economic side. Experts on seven panels will briefly describe their own work and their view of accessibility and then discuss the issues. […]

Accessibility Day in Vienna

Last week I talked at the Vienna Accessibility Day (“A-Tag”) about the emerging W3C standard for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA). I half expected a crowd of suits as the event was co-organized by the Austrian Ministry of Health, Family and Youth, instead there were many young faces and a fair percentage of women. […]

Little Brother

I just finished reading Cory Doctorow’s book Little Brother the second time, this time on my iPhone using the plugin Stanza, an incredibly useful tool that turns your iPhone into an e-book. That’s so convenient because I have my mobile phone with me anyways and get the chance to read a few pages during the four stop ride to work, where the hardcover book would be too bulky. […]

The Accessible iPhone Cometh

One flaw of the iPhone is its inaccessibility for visually impaired users, despite some built-in accessibility features for other users. Now there’s light at the end of the tunnel: a few days ago Apple filed a patent for multi-touch in combination with features such as voice commands and speech recognition, facial recognition, gestures, fingerprint input, body temperature, heart rate, skin impedance, and pupil size. […]

Accessible Drop-Down Menus

A few days ago a co-worker asked if DHTML drop-down menus pose a problem with accessibility. Since the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG) declared all JavaScript evil in 1999, assistive technologies (AT) have made significant progress. So we cannot condemn pull-down menus altogether, but there are various reasons to keep an eye on them buggers. […]

Upcoming Talks: ARIA and Canvas

Allow me a little self-promotion while pointing you to interesting conferences where I will hold presentations. […]

Better Foreground Sprites

A while ago I wrote about using CSS Sprites in img tags — Foreground Sprites. Thus you avoid HTTP requests, but the page turns really ugly when CSS is switched off because the sprite image will be displayed in its full size. Now Google’s accessibility specialist T.V. Raman explained their idea of using sprites for foreground images — a much better solution!

@media 2008

I had the chance to visit the @media conference in London again, for the third time. Again it was different than the last times. Perhaps less spectacular, a little less people, no real revelation. There were excellent talks inside the halls, but the best talks happened outside. Like speaking with Nate Koechley about […]

A Revision of the Federal Ordinance on Barrier-Free Information Technology

At the BIENE award ceremonies in December 2006 the Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Franz Thönnes, announced that the Federal Ordinance on Barrier-Free Information Technology (BITV) will be revised in accordance to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG). Ever since I was trying to find out who would be participating in that working group, to no avail. […]

Farewell, XML declaration

The XML declaration is not required as long as you encode in UTF-8 or UTF-16, you are only strongly encouraged to use it. So as long we are stuck with IE6 I will refrain from using it. […]

W3C Mobile Web Best Practices Course

In what is to my knowledge the first W3C online course, the Mobile Web Initiative offers a free introduction to mobile web best practices starting May 18th 26th. […]

Extend the Searchbar with OpenSearch

OpenSearch is known as an open source format to syndicate and aggregate search results. It was developed by Amazon / A9 and quickly gained support from the big search engines. Their involvement is somewhat intimidating — your site’s not Google, so who wants to syndicate your search results anyway? But if your blog or a client has a loyal readership, it would be convenient if they could just use their browser’s searchbar as a shortcut. […]

Crowdsourcing YouTube Video Captioning

When Chris Heilmann had the splendid idea to add captioning to YouTube videos with Google’s JavaScript API, I asked myself if there wasn’t a better way. There is, but to my surprise neither YouTube nor Yahoo! Video take advantage of that capability. […]

Oh, won’t somebody please think of the children!

A little known W3C standard is the Platform of Internet Content Selection (PICS). PICS is a system for self-labeling. Think of an early predecessor of the Semantic Web. Or in microformats it would be hPorn. […]

Death in the Social Web

John Slatin is dead. In more than two decades he published numerous articles about making digital information accessible to people with disabilities. As co-chair of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Working Group and as founding director of the Institute for Technology and Learning at the University of Texas in Austin he contributed greatly to web accessibility as we know it. […]

Accessible Rich Internet Applications Update

Gez Lemon and I had our core conversation at South by Southwest (SXSW) on Sunday, and it went really well. No wonder, we had Shawn Henry from W3C WAI in the audience as well as Lisa Pappas who is one of the authors or WAI ARIA, plus Becky Gibson from IBM who initiated the whole thing with Rich Schwerdtfeger a couple of years ago. […]

Back to Earth

Today was my last day at BlueMars where I worked for a total of about five years. Then came the day when Web Standards Project colleague Glenda Sims asked in her blog “do you love your job?” And I had to admit I wasn’t challenged anymore. My new employer is the Swiss company namics, in particular the branch office in Frankfurt. […]

Accessibility Tools for Quality Assurance: Color Contrast

Accessibility testing tools are great for quality assurance (QA), even when the website doesn’t have to be accessible. For example, color contrast is a very subjective thing. It depends on technical factors like the quality and settings of the screen, environmental factors like glaring sunlight, and the physical abilities of the person viewing it. It’s literally subjective in the eye of the designer. Color contrast analyzers give us an impression how fore- and background colors are perceivable by other people. […]

The XHTML Access Module

I would like to introduce the XHTML Access Module, a new working draft released by the XHTML 2 Working Group of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The module is intended to improve accessibility and extend XHTML Roles. […]

WordPress Goodies with InlineRSS

Christmas is over, but I thought I might share a few of the scripts used on this site with you anyway. The key is an incredibly useful plugin called inlineRSS that pulls everything you throw at it into your site. You only need some XSLT magic. Since XSLT isn’t everyone’s strength, just copy my files. […]

Web Accessibility Toolbar 2.0 for Internet Explorer

A couple of days ago the German version of the Web Accessibility Toolbar 2.0 for Internet Explorer was released. It was developed by Steve Faulkner and translated by Benjamin Grießmann from Web for All with contributions from your humble host. Which reminds me that I also translated Gez Lemon’s new and improved Colour Contrast Analyser for Firefox earlier this year.

Amazon Machine Tags Plugin for WordPress

I always wanted to implement one thing since I started the blog: a simple inclusion of Amazon items. I didn’t want to search through results that existing plugins provided. When I wrote about something like a book, I already used machine tags to identify the subject! So I found the inspiration to write my first real WordPress plugin: Amazon Machine Tags. […]

World Usability Day 2007

Today is World Usability Day! In honor of this day my colleagues and I would like you to take a photo of any item or application whose usability you appreciate. Upload it on flickr with a short description what you like about it and (machine) tag it with bluemars:event=wud and worldusabilityday so they will appear here. […]

The Dalai Lama and Microformats

His Holiness the Dalai Lama visits the Hessenpark near Frankfurt on September 22, and as our agency is involved in the organization of that event, we sponsored the website Friends for a Friend. […]

SXSW 2008: Get Rich, Remain Accessible

South by Southwest (SXSW) is a huge conference for interactive media as well as a film and music festival in Austin, Texas. Every year it attracts the best designers and developers, and there is an immense number of panels to choose from. Exactly 128, out of which 80 are chosen from an open submission process. Gez Lemon and I plan to run a panel about WAI ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications). Please vote for us. […]

Foreground Sprites

Most rollovers have become obsolete because they can be performed on background images with CSS sprites. However, there are those rare cases when there is just an icon without text, like a “play” or “pause” button. This article discusses how to apply CSS sprites for foreground images. […]

Cost-Effectiveness of Accessibility

Last week I talked at a geek meeting about the cost-effectiveness of accessibility. Inspired by Dave Wilton’s talk at the European Accessibility Forum about their most impressive redesign of the Legal & General website, I decided to do some research and adopt it to the German market. The presentation is now available in German or English. […]

Anti-Fascism 2.0

Several groups of out-of-town neo-Nazis have called for a demonstration in Frankfurt tomorrow. To my surprise the website of the Anti-Fascist Coordination Frankfurt features a clean design with a tag cloud-like navigation, sliding animations with jQuery, YouTube videos, and a very basic microsite for mobile access. What rocks most is the creative use of twitter to keep protesters informed through their mobile phones. Brilliant! […]

Website Performance Tweaks, Part Two

Nate Koechley presented the research results of the Yahoo! Exceptional Performance Team two weeks ago in London. The traditional focus of performance optimization has been on the backend, i.e. system efficiency. But comparing a number of high profile websites, the Yahoo! team found that frontend performance is responsible for 80-98% of the perceived response time. Therefore doubling the frontend performance gains more than doubling the backend performance. […]

“Euracert” European Accessibility Label

Accessibility organizations from three countries agreed on the mutual recognition of their respective labels. That will lead towards a harmonization of accessibility in Europe. So far AnySurfer (Belgium), Technosite (Spain), and BrailleNet (France) partnered to create the “Euracert” label. If a website is already certified with one of their labels, an additional review grants the European level. […]

@media 2007 Wrap-Up

Sum-up of the @media conference in London that I attended June 7th-8th, 2007. Read about Jesse James Garret’s keynote, passionate evangelists, and how to get great design ideas on the loo […]

@media 2007 Slides

Like last year I will try to link all presentation slides and podcasts from the @media conference in London, June 7th-8th, 2007. I hope you find it as convenient as I do. […]

When Accessibility is Not Your Problem

Joe Clark’s talk at London’s @media was the most controversial today. To add insult to injury, there was no time for comments or questions from the audience. […]

Raising the Standards: European Accessibility Guidelines

At the dawn of a new version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the inevitable ensuing updates of national anti-discrimination laws and eAccessibility guidelines, it is time to review the state of current accessibility legislation. There are two generations of models: one that sticks to the book, and another with a more holistic approach. […]

Graded Browser Support Q2 Update

Based on Nate Koechley’s concept of graded browser support we terminated support for Firefox 1.5 because it’s no longer supported and upgraded by Mozilla. Also we changed Opera support from 9.0 to 9.x, where “x” stands for the latest stable version. […]

A-listed

Web 2.0 applications can enhance usability, alas a lot of issues remain to make them accessible. Gez Lemon has come up with scripting solutions to inform screen readers about the change of content, but when I talked with Jan Eric Hellbusch he deemed it rather confusing because the user’s work flow is interrupted. The W3C’s standards draft for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) addresses those limitations. I held talks about the upcoming standards in Cologne and Frankfurt, which resulted in writing a blog entry about the topic that eventually became an article for A List Apart. […]

Quantitative Methods of Usability Analysis

In his recent article Three Hypotheses of Human Interface Design Tantek Çelik came up with some interesting hypotheses about the usability of computer interfaces. It was a brilliant idea, but I’m afraid the well-established method for Human Computer Interaction KLM-GOMS describes his hypotheses pretty well. Unfortunately somebody came up independently with that, 27 years ago. […]

WaSP International Outreach

The Web Standards Project (WaSP) has a new International Liaison Group (ILG) of which I’m a member now. […]

XHTML 1.1 Second Edition with Target Attribute

When I switched from HTML 4 to XHTML 1.1 a couple of years ago, I soon found the target attribute was missing. I have never been in love with the target attribute anyway, but some clients insisted that their links should open in a new window. So I did some research. […]

First European e-Accessibility Forum

The First European e-Accessibility Forum in Paris was organized on January 29th by the French accessibility initiative BrailleNet in cooperation with the European Design for All e-Accessibility Network (EDeAN). Some 270 participants attended the conference. There were some remarkable presentations and a couple of things I would like to share with you. […]

Website Performance Tweaks

In the last six months I became more aware of techniques for optimizing website performance. I learned about memory leaks and JavaScript performance, but what impressed me most was Nate Koechley’s presentation about large scale website performance issues in “Yahoo! vs. Yahoo!” at the @media conference 2006. In the meantime there have been more blog posts about particular aspects of performance optimization, so I wrote a summary. […]

Brain Food

There are two (un)conferences on January 29th that I can recommend, and a third in June: the 7th Webmontag in Frankfurt, the First European e-Accessibility Forum in Paris, and @media 2007 in London. […]

Graded Browser Support Q4 Update

Nate Koechley introduced Yahoo!’s smart concept of graded browser support nine months ago. Until then we did test on a lot of browsers, but all browsers were supported equal. Now came this man who suggested distinctions... Almost unnoticed were two updates of the browser matrix in August and a couple of days ago. […]

Reforming HTML

Many good people have expressed their concern about the state of the W3C. Tim Berners-Lee responded earlier, now he announced reforms in his blog. […]

5th Conference “Accessible e-Government”

Yesterday I went to a conference near Frankfurt with the title “Accessible e-Government: Current Trends in Web Development,” because some of the speakers were competent people I met in London at the @media conference. To my disappointment it seems the target group were in fact IT professionals working for local municipalities. Most lectures focused on rather basic principles of accessibility although their topics would have had the potential for more advanced details. […]

To Hell with Joe Clark

Joe Clark’s article “To Hell with WCAG 2” was an eye-opener. It raised critical awareness for the last-call W3C working draft, which lead to the extension of the comments period. Still the degree of concern and fear didn’t need to be raised. He exaggerated many issues, distorted them by omission, or in some cases he’s plain wrong. […]

Best Practices in Web Development

Roger Johansson and Sean Fraser recently reviewed websites which were submitted for the CSS Reboot Spring 2006, and they seemed to be quite shocked when 71.8% failed to validate. While this is sobering and to a degree surprising — one might expect better results from CSS aware developers on a relaunch — it confirmed my own results from reviewing a couple of high profile websites for clients. […]

@media 2006 Slides and Notes

All available slides from the @media conference in London are linked on the write-up pages, but for your convience (and mine) I gathered them here. […]

My @media 2006 Day Two

Day two of the @media conference included talks about microformats, Yahoo!’s new technical strategies, browser memory leaks and performance tweaks, some information about accessibility, the mobile web, and meeting Molly Holzschlag. […]

My @media 2006 Day One

@media is a web conference in London with a focus on web standards and accessibility, and impossible to google. I missed last year’s conference, thus I was looking forward to finally meet all the people whose articles, web publications and more recently blogs provided my literature and inspiration for the past seven years or so. […]

Why “Learning the World”?

Why “yet another blog” when there are already so many good blogs about web standards, accessibility, usability, CSS, and DOM scripting? Basically because we needed a place where we could keep and share our knowledge. […]