Monthly Archives: October 2003

Austin is my Second Office

I at least spend enough time up there for it to be. Been mighty busy.

Slow on the entries. During the last two weeks I have been up in Austin a total of at least 4 full days (and one night). Here's a run down on what I've been up to.

The Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) Austin

While they don't have us on the page for some reason, we were there!

This event was fun. Got to build a Web site in a day. Got to work with a group of folks from outside of my team. Got to learn a little more about accessibility (especially access keys.

We worked on the Neighborhood Longhorns Program site and set them up with a site that was a dramatic improvement over the previous. The major goal was to make the site accessibile and make it livelier and "dynamic".

The clients seemed very happy with the finished product and hopefully we will win the accessibility competition.

The System Seminar

A professional development conference for development, public affairs, governmental relations, and community relations staff at System components and System Administration.

Fun to say the least. 2 seminar packed days (and one night) in the Austin Hilton, sharing ideas about how to get the word out to Texans about all the great things going on within the UT System.

I attended seminars on communications, learning in the process many nuggets about the UT System that are truly amazing.

  • The &quot:system" is comprised of 15 component institutions (6 medical/health and 9 academic).
  • The system's total budget is 7+ billion dollars
  • 60% of the budget goes specifically to health/medical institutions
  • 1/3 of all students in the public education system are go to UT schools.
  • We all share the same problems.

The best part by far was the chance to network, especially at Chancellor Yudolf's "mansion". I'kin still taste that BBQ n' wine!

WebTrends Seminar

Though I had hoped to get the opportunity to learn more about the features available in our mid level version, we were mostly shown how great the upgrade was. The communications and marketing aspects though were great. Came away with lots of great buzz words. I do appreciate their support too.

The highlight though was the chance to meet with the pricinipal Web Administrator from SanAntonio.gov, Armando —. He didn't have a card, though I am definitely planning to get in touch with him.

Governor's Web Site Manager

Jon Wiley, the Governor of Texas' Web Site Manager recently gave an excellent presentation on Zope, Plone and Apache.

At a recent PESO meeting, the figurative state leader on Web design gave us some insight into the inner workings of his site.

Though I am still not sure how Zope is helpful, the Zope/Plone application as a whole does not seem to meet the needs of an organization as large as UTSA.

I was happy to see however that Jon is using XHTML and CSS for the site. I didn't however get a chance to ask him what happens if a new governor gets voted in… does he keep his job?

Here is the agenda of the October 8, 2003 meeting.

Topics:

  1. Jon Wiley, Governor's Office, will discuss their implementation of Zope and Plone, discuss why it was chosen, focus on the challenges of implementation, focus on some of the benefits, and conclude with a review of feedback we've received.
  2. “Know Your Users: Web Accessibility from the User's Prospective.” A 27 minute video created by Fresno State features computer users with disabilities discussing and demonstrating the tools they use to access the Web — Dragon Naturally Speaking, WindowEyes, Zoom Text, JAWS, and a refreshable Braille display — as well as the common problems these users with disabilities encounter when they try to access different Web pages.

Accesify PDF, Powerpoint, Word and More

The University of Illinois' Center for Instructional Technology Accessibility has made an excellent tool for converthing those pesky Office and PDF documents into an accessible format.

I haven't had a chance to use this tool yet but the reviews (and the possiblities) have pushed me to get a mention of it up now! The Center for Instructional Technology Accessibility has managed to create a "Wizard" that will walk you through the easy conversion of PDF and Office documents (including Powerpoint).

The software is called the Web Accessible Publishing Wizard for Microsoft Office.

I will be testing it over the next couple of days and plan to report back on whether or not it is able to produce XHTML code.

Here are some of the features I've weeded out as especially valuable:

  • Step-by-step conversion of images, tables, diagrams, and charts in Microsoft Office documents to accessible HTML formats
  • Assists in creating valid HTML and WCAG compliant web presentations.
  • Lists, both unordered (bulleted) and ordered (with decimal, roman, or arabic numerals), are supported, with a best-effort to preserve the semantic, nested structure of those lists.
  • Automatic conversion of Word and PowerPoint tables to HTML tables is supported. (“table” meaning a grid-like layout of text, including table cells with row spans and column spans.)
  • Automatic conversion of MSGraph and Excel charts. MSGraph is the Office application that makes the pie charts and so forth in PowerPoint when you select “Insert a chart”. This adds both an image of the chart, as well as a data table of the chart data automatically extracted from the chart. Data table here has proper HEADERS and SCOPE attributes set.
  • User-assisted conversion of bitmap graphics representing a chart. Basically, the Wizard asks the user for all the information that is automatically extracted when a “rich chart” is used. A “best authoring practice” is that users should use the “rich charts” like Excel and MSGraph as much as possible. Some users might not have Excel, but MSGraph comes as part of every version of Office and PowerPoint. Again, SCOPE and HEADERS attributes are set correctly.

Sounds pretty nice!

Zeldman Interview and Some Nice Blogs

Lounge 72 interviewed Zeldman. Check out some of these great resources too.

Zeldman Interview

Zeldman is still hot. This guy has been with Web builders through it all and continues to prevail as one of the best Web people around. lounge72.com recently interviewed him. Recomended reading in lieu of current Web political events (Eolas patent).

Cookies and Air?

Cookiecrook.com, the personal site of James Craig, looks like a keeper. This guy was recently selected to give classes and presentations for Knowbility, the Austin based Web accessibility group directed by Sharron Knowles. The classes will be given as part of the AIR Competition this Saturday, which we will be attending and participating in.

CSS Layouts

Don't reinvent the wheel, grab it from somebody else!

Shameless!

During the AIR Competition this weekend, I will shamelessly hijack a layout from one of the following sites:

There won't be time to invent my own. I want something that's quick and works. Shameless!

Publishing to the UTSA Web

I had a great class yesterday on Web publishing guidelines for the UTSA Web. It was full and people were engaged.

Entirely neglected on campus have been the people that make Web pages at UTSA (thanks yoda). Ranging from secretaries to full fledged developers, the UTSA Web is made up of talented rogue developers and administrators, all lacking direction. The class often took the aura of an AA meeting, as talent stepped forward and expressed their solitude and bottled questions and emotions.

"We're all in it together now folks."

It was fun though. People are talking Web, and the demand speaks to the lack of support available on campus. There is much energy and surprising enthusiasm, undeniably years in the bottling. Hopefully through various grass roots efforts, us grunts can make a difference at UTSA.

Check out the presentation!

Spy-ware Inspired Industry

2 years ago, technical support guys usually handled hardware and software trouble shooting and installation. Since the internet has become so prevalent though, I bet that 80% of the time tech-support means Spy-ware and Ad-Ware removal.

I recently helped a friend in dealing with her problem. I spent at least 3 hours trying to figure out what programs were causing all of the heart-ache. It was truly embarrassing, as we received pornographic pop-ups more than once. There is still more to do. I am almost ready to install Mozilla and do a clean install. Mozilla yes, and I found a better solution than clean install.

Great Spy-ware Removal resources:

Web People Skills, Need a Job?

The Web is made by 3 different kinds of people–Writers, Designers and Engineers. What is my makeup?

I was contacted today about what kind of Web person a department should hire. This is a person that would upkeep the design and content for a couple of small and medium sized sites. What typically has been referred to as a “Webmaster”.

I suggested that they find someone with the following makeup:

  • Designer: 45%
  • Writer: 35%
  • Engineer: 20%

This was assuming that the person would not need to administer a server. I also placed less emphasis on the writing portion because universities typically have a plethora of individuals that can write (albeit not well for the Web sometimes). Our sites usually however look terrible.

In fact, a qualified Web person is not a technophile. A writer/artist (content producer) with some technical skills is a closer fit.

Everywhere I go, hinting at the fact that I work on the Web gets me tiresome requests for tech-support. No, I'm not familiar with Windows 98 and I can't fix your printer! Web people are an entirely different breed. In fact, a qualified Web person is not a technophile. A writer/artist (content producer) with some technical skills is a closer fit. There is a certain ratio of skill set that rarely changes and can apply even to a team.

This is me:

  • Designer: 30%
  • Writer: 25%
  • Engineer: 45%

I find my self doing more Engineering type stuff because I am the most qualified in our department. I am trying to move away though from this area and become a better writer (can you tell from my blog!). I typically use templates and thus confine my design moments to typography and readability on individual pages.

On a quick note, if were were going to hire someone tommorrow, I would want them to have these skills:

  • Good understanding of HTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
  • Familiarity with Accessible Site design, WCAG specifications and Section 508
  • Dreamweaver (Especially Template use)
  • Photoshop, Fireworks or equivalent image editor
  • Scripting Language knowledge is helpful (Coldfusion,ASP,Javascript, etc.)

Have you visited the UTSA jobs page yet?

2 Keys to Success for a University Web Office

No fancy work or magic. I am killing myself for not figuring this out earlier.

  • Lots of solid templates
  • Interdepartment Communication

It really isn't that difficult. I think my problem is what I used to call in others the "Maverick" sydrome. This syndrome was the creative energy behind the "dot-comers". It basically drives delusional 20-somethings to perform acts of programming that "break all the rules" and save the world. I wanted to save the world, and I probably could have, for a couple of months… at least until I went crazy or got fired for neglecting all of my other duties.

I wanted to save the world, and I probably could have, for a couple of months… at least until I went crazy or got fired for neglecting all of my other duties.

I was going to save us by designing a Content Management System. Have you ever designed a serious application with hundreds of users? Do you know how many lines of code and database calls and mess would be involved? Not to mention the learning curve involved with real users, the kind that are not even familiar with the general workings of file management! You have to support the application, get phone calls for broken features, etc., etc., etc. It is a full time job.

I leave you with the forementioned commandments. This is the best way to get your university on track, as before accessibility, usability and maybe even information architecture there is an actual Web site to be created. Withought some good templates, both willing and unwilling Web people will spend most of their time on a design. The communication part involves regular (monthly) events and email/forums where ideas can grow around the budding community.

Note to self: Make lots of templates like East Carolina University does.