New Year (2017)

I started doing New Year posts back in 2010, and despite my highly irregular and low volume of blogging I’ve published every January 1st since then.

Until last year.

At the start of 2015 I challenged myself to blog once a month for the year. It’s not the first time I’ve set similar challenges, and having failed all previous attempts it should come as no surprise that I failed once again. This time was a bit different though. I wrote a blog post titled Setting an example, that covered some of my views on example code, and the level of quality that needs to be considered to avoid propagation of accessibility, security, and performance. One of the comments I received for this post was so mean-spirited that I really lost interest. I plan to address this some time in the future. After that I blogged twice more in 2015, about a change in job, but otherwise my Writing Resolution failed at the first hurdle.

Because of this I’ll cover a few things in 2015 as well as 2016, but mostly I want to look forward to 2017.

2015

Highlight of the year was becoming an Uncle for the second time. My sister gave birth to Sophie Joy in June of 2015, and she’s since grown in to

In this year I also left the BBC and started work at The Paciello Group. While I’ll always have fond memories of my time at the BBC, and will be grateful of the opportunities I was given there, I’ve been very happy working with the wonderful people at TPG and I’m look forward to 2017 with the company.

2016

Other than the trauma of political upheaval, the rise of fascism, and the deaths of so many creative and pioneering people, 2016 was a rather simple year for me.

Life has mainly revolved around work, but I’ve also continued playing violin, have played quite a lot of Dungeons & Dragons (yeah, I’m a nerd), and watched new Star Wars films numerous times.

My weight has finally translated in to a minor (and correctable) health issue, and this has so far been the motivation I’ve needed to do something about it in a sustainable way.

2017

Resolutions and me don’t get on very well, so I’ll try forfeits and rewards instead.

As in 2016, I need to continue to lose weight. One of my biggest temptations is to order takeaway instead of cooking, and I always over order. I pledge to match any spending on takeaways that I eat alone in charitable donations. Because I want to donate some money I need a reward – if I manage to go the full year without any takeaways alone I will donate £1000.

I’d like to reduce my spending on unnecessary purchasing of gadgets and gizmos. My small flat is cluttered with things I really don’t need. It’s not that I want to live a life without cool toys, but I want to have a better balance and to reduce my impulse buys. 10% of my spending in this category will be donated to charities. I’ll use my best judgement as to what offers genuine benefit versus nice-to-have buy unnecessary things.

In the same vein, I spend most of my money with large retailers. The convenience of Amazon is hard to resist. I plan to buy a lot more from independent retailers, particularly books. Bookshops need our support, so I intend to give mine.

For a variety of reasons I missed my last violin grading. In 2017 I will take (and pass!) grade 3, and will work towards the grade 4 exam at the end of the year. This one doesn’t need a forfeit or a reward, I play for my own satisfaction.

I’m not going to make a resolution to blog more, but I do have a few things I’d like to write, both here and on the TPG blog. Hopefully this post ends the drought, but don’t expect too much!

Inspired by Heydon and people offering their time over the holiday period, I plan to give some of my time to mentoring in 2017. I’ve not worked out the details, but I’ll post again when I’ve figured it out.

I hope you have a very happy 2017.

The Paciello Group

So, what’s next for me after leaving the BBC? I’m very pleased to be joining The Paciello Group as a Senior Accessibility Engineer.

Among several reasons for joining TPG is the opportunity to work with many of the best people in the field of accessibility, including my former BBC teammate Henny Swan.

I’m hoping to be able to learn huge amounts from my new colleagues, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to some interesting projects over the next few months.

Farewell BBC

Today was my last day as an employee of the British Broadcasting Corporation

I started working there on the 24th January 2011 and for 2 years 2 months and 1 week I worked with the team that at the time was responsible for most of the client side framework at the BBC. There were personnel changes along the way, but it was always one of the most talented teams I’ve worked on, and where I feel I’ve done some of my best development work to date.

After that I was given the fantastic opportunity to join the Accessibility team for a 1 year attachment. That year has turned in to 2 years and 3 months, and a new career working in the field of accessibility full time. For that I must give thanks to Gareth Ford Williams and Henny Swan who gave me a chance.

I may be leaving but I’m still proud of the BBC.

Writing Resolution

Or should that be, in honour of Sir William Curtis, ‘Riting Resolution’?

I’ve neglected this blog in the last 12 months and I’d like to change that. I’ve said the same thing in previous years of course, and it hasn’t really worked out before so why should this year be any different? Well, I had an idea of listing up front what I’m going to write about.

My goal is to write something at least once a month, and to put a bit of pressure on myself I’m going to list what it’s going to be about ahead of time. In the case of the first three months I’m going to put those subjects right here in this blogpost:

  1. January – the problem with examples
  2. February – accessible web design
  3. March – being an introvert

Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions about what else I can write about for the remaining nine months. And please remind me if I’ve got a deadline coming up.

New Year (2015)

Warning: this isn’t going to be a cheerful look back on 2014. I’ve struggled with a general malaise that has affected almost everything I’ve done. There is a good reason for this but I am hoping that I can start to get my life back together.

I’ve broken promises that I’ve made in good faith, and this bothers me more than anything else. If I’ve said I’d do something for you and haven’t in the passed year, or have behaved badly towards you I can only apologise. I will try to make 2015 the year I put things right.

Life

For the last 13 months it has taken an effort of will to get enthusiastic about anything. Walking out of the front door of my flat has been a chore. Nights out, music festivals, and concerts have been just another thing I have to do even if I end up enjoy them. Practicing violin, something I used to do almost every day, has been something I’ve had to force myself to do even though I finding it relaxing. At work, especially at the start of the year, I have been brusque and uncivil at times.

I miss my Dad but he wouldn’t want me to behave like this. That should be all the motivation I need to fix things.

Work

Work has been hectic, frustrating, and rewarding. It can be hard to accept that you can’t help everyone, and in fact sometimes the best way to improve accessibility at a large organisation is to step back a bit. It’s better to provide guidance than to take over, although it’s very tempting to dive in and do everything for people (especially when they are more than happy for you to do so) instead of providing support but ultimately giving them responsibility.

In August Henny Swan left the BBC, a huge loss to our team both professionally and personally. We’ve since been joined by Jamie Knight, who is doing a great job kicking off a major piece of work that we hope will change the way we handle web accessibility at the BBC.

Next year should see an increase in work on a project that I am very excited about, and that I will hopefully be able to talk about (and perhaps even show something) at CSUN 2015.

Health

I started the year at my lowest weight for about 10 years. I’ve ended it at somewhere close to my highest ever. For the first time I’ve felt the effects of my obesity, nothing serious yet, but a general lack of wellbeing.

I’m at a stage when I need to lose weight, I need to get fitter, when before it had always been just a good idea. As this is a problem that is more psychological than physical it’s hard to know how to change things for the better.

I’d like to ask anyone who cares and is willing to call me out on my over eating and under exercising over the next year if they see things going in the wrong direction. I won’t be offended, I won’t be upset. You’ll be doing me a favour.

Final thoughts

These annual posts are primarily for my benefit, with a readership of between zero and few, but I feel the need to make a record on the first day of each year.

Regardless of how this last year has been, I am lucky to have a loving family, friends who care about me, and as much security in work and shelter as any of us do.

I’m not a believer in New Year Resolutions, but today is as good a day as any to start making my life a better one. Hopefully next years post will be a more positive one.

New Year (2014)

2013 has been a year of extremes, a year of gain and loss, but ultimately as bad a year as it could be.

While it is a year I’d like to put behind me, it will do no good not to recognise the better parts of 2013, and to look forward in hope of a better 2014, so a few positives first.

In January after a search of several years I finally became the owner (albeit with a mortgage to pay off) of my own home, a flat in North London. I’ve got plans for redecoration and changes, but so far I’ve managed to do nothing. Although the decor is not entirely to my taste it is clean and tidy, and it’s surprising how quickly you can get used to something, which does nothing to motivate me to get to work.

In April came the birth of my nephew, with whom my Dad and I now share William as a middle name.

Also in April I changed my role at the BBC to Accessibility Specialist. I’ve enjoyed my time to date, although sometimes I feel that I can’t get enough done. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in again next week.

In November 2012 I started learning to play violin. I’m not a natural musician and I find it quite difficult but very enjoyable and relaxing. In November I took the ABRSM Grade 1 exam and just about got a distinction pass score. This has motivated me to practice harder and hopefully get better faster.

As usual I wanted to lose weight over the last 12 months. After putting on weight during the first half of the year leading to a high point in July, I have subsequently lost weight and today I’m 5.7kg (12.5lbs) lighter than on the 1st January 2013 and the lightest I’ve been for years. I know weight is not necessarily the best measure of progress but I’m also feeling healthier and fitter with it. Next year hopefully I can continue with the current downward trend and plan to work on improving my activity level on top of the improvements to diet that I made last year.

Now the negative. The painful, life-changing negative.

In the first hour of Monday 2nd December 2013 my Dad passed away. He had been ill and in hospital for some time, but nothing prepared us for this. My Mum, sister, and I were able to spend his last hours with him and tell him how much we loved him, until he fell asleep and peacefully left us.

I miss him every day.

Web Accessibility Professional

As of today I have a new job and a new job description. Possibly a new career as well.

I’ve not left the BBC, a company I am very proud to work for, but instead of working for the GEL team (part of Platforms, in turn part of the Online Technology Group), starting tomorrow and for the next 12 months I will be joining Gareth Ford Williams and Henny Swan on the Future Media Accessibility team as a Senior Accessibility Specialist.

For some time now I’ve been considering the possibility of working full time within the web accessibility field and I’ve been very fortunate in being offered that chance at the BBC.

It’s going to be a big change for me. For the last 13 years I have been a full time web developer. For much of that time I’ve been interested and involved in web accessibility. Now the roles are reversed. I will be working in accessibility full time, my technical skills being the main contribution I make to the team. I’ll be writing a lot less code. None of the code I do write will be for complete features or go to production, except via developers. I’m also going to miss working with a team of developers, particularly those I’ve been with for the last 2 years. I’ve got 12 months to decide if this is right for me, and then I will either go back to my web development job or I can try and make the change permanent. Either way I’ll be giving it my best shot.

I can’t think of any job I’d rather do or anywhere I’d rather work right now. I’ll be on a team with a couple of great people who I have a lot to learn from, helping very smart developers make what in my view is one of the most important collections of sites on the web today as accessible as possible.

In other words, I have my dream job.

Thank you Henny and Gareth for making this possible for me.

Happy New Year (2013)

Goodbye 2012, hello 2013.

It has been exactly a year since my last blog post, but I thought I should carry on the routine of writing about the year that has gone and the one to come as an aid to my own memory rather than the expectation of anyone reading this.

I’ve had basically the same goals for the last few years, so to start let’s take a look at them.

  • I’ve lost some weight. After losing some towards the end of 2011 I slowly put it all and more back on, reaching probably my heaviest ever weight. Since that point I’ve lost 15.9kg / 35lb / 2 stone 7 pounds, and that is after a fairly indulgent Christmas. Hopefully I can keep this weight off and lose more this year.
  • I’ve finally found a flat to buy. Contracts have been exchanged, and completion will be on the 8th January.
  • I’ve not started playing bass again, but have taken up the violin.
  • Another new hobby is fencing (the bladed weapon variety). I’ve completed a beginners course and plan to do a lot more this year.

Not bad going really. I have a few new goals for this year, which I’ll hopefully be able to (and have the will to) write about at a later date.

The highlight of the past year was my sister’s wedding, which was the best I have ever been to (a completely unbiased opinion, of course), and it was wonderful to be able to play a role in it.

Professionally, I find myself involved more an more in accessibility work. This is a very good thing, and I hope to carry this in to 2013. I’ll be speaking at the CSUN conference for the second year in a row, this time on the subject of Accessibility and the Web Development Process. The last year has seen lots of good work in my day job at the BBC, and I plan to write a bit more about that in the coming months. I’ll have been working at the BBC for 2 years come the end of January, and there is lots more I want to do there so I guess I’ll be sticking around for a while longer.

So long, 2012. Bring on 2013. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year (2012)

Another year gone by, and once again it has been a great one.

In January I started a new job, web developer on the Frameworks team at the BBC. Five years or so ago I came up with a list of three companies I would like to work for. Yahoo! was one of them. Tick. BBC was one of the others. Tick! I’m pleased to say that my expectations have been exceeded, I work with a great bunch of people and enjoy (almost) every day. Starting on Tuesday, my first day back after a Christmas break, I’m going to start work on a very exciting accessibility related project, making my job for the next month or so even more interesting.

In March I co-presented ‘Inclusive Design: Creating Beautiful, Usable & Accessible Websites’ at SXSW Interactive, and the following week had the best conference experience I’ve ever had at CSUN 2011. This year I will be attending again, and also speaking on the subject of Cyberethics and Accessibility.

In July, my first book was published. I’ve had enough time away from writing it to think that I’d like to have a go at the 4th edition, but this time write it from scratch instead of revising a previous edition.

After all that the second half of the year seemed quite quiet, but passed just a quickly.

This year there is one other big occasion I am looking forward to, the wedding of my sister at the end of April.

So, what else has been going on?

  • I finally started to lose weight, still a long way to go, but I’m getting there. My sisters wedding is a big incentive to lose a lot more.
  • Still no place of my own, but I’m a bit more hopeful of buying somewhere this year.
  • I attended a few more gigs in 2011 than I did in 2010. Best of them were: Iron Maiden, Iron Maiden (saw them twice in just over a week), Within Temptation, and Terrorvision (the second time I saw them, although they were good the first time as well).
  • On a related note, I’ve not picked up my bass for an entire year. I really need to buy a new one, but that has been the case for years.
  • Now I’ve started to lose weight I’m hopeful that I can take up Judo again, without damaging my knees every time I play.

So, life is good, and I hope yours is too. Have a great year, everyone.

Published

Today my first book, Beginning CSS: Cascading Style Sheets for Web Design, was released. Published by Wrox, this is the 3rd edition of a popular book that was previously written by Richard York, and I can only hope it is reviewed as favourably as his editions.

Richard gets author credit on the 3rd edition because this a revision, albeit one with lots of new stuff, rather than a rewrite. When Wrox offered me the job of creating the 3rd edition they let me make the decision on whether to revise or rewrite – I choose to revise it as I had no idea of what I was getting myself in to and figured it would be easier than starting with a blank page. In fact I found editing another persons words harder than writing the original copy in the book. If there is a next time, I’ll know better.

The process of writing / revising a book was interesting, a combination of frustration, hard work and satisfaction. I spent over 6 months knowing that whenever I was doing anything in my spare time other than writing that I had something I should be doing. At the same time browser vendors don’t have the good grace to stop working on their products (not even Microsoft!) so that the book doesn’t get out of date so quickly. While everything I wrote applies perfectly well to the latest versions of browsers, the deadline for the last chapter was just before the release of both IE9 and Firefox 4, and I knew nothing about IE10 or Firefox 5.

When I was done it was a great relief, but only a few weeks after I was already missing it, and couldn’t stop myself working on a chapter outline for another book. Whether I’ll ever write it is a different matter.

For now I can only hope that someone, somewhere, learns a thing or two about CSS from this book, and that they go on to enjoy creating websites as much as I do.