I am proud to be able to say that from tomorrow, 24th January 2011, I will be an employee of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

I will be working as a web developer on the Frameworks team, part of the Future Media and Technology Group. The BBC have long been on the list of organizations I wanted to work for (a list that included Yahoo! incidentally) so I am very excited about this new job.

I’ll be on the same team as one former colleague from the Yahoo! Front Doors team, Andrew ‘Bob’ Brockhust, and will hopefully get to work with other former Yahoo!s Neil Crosby, David Dorward and Mike Whitaker, who have also joined the BBC over the last few years. I’m also looking forward to meeting many more smart and talented people, and to having the opportunity to develop some great things with them.

Happy New Year (2011)!

Another year has passed, and I’d like to look backward and forward in time, to the year gone and the year yet to come.

While 2010 was another great year for me it feels as if it has been a lead up to what I hope is an even better 2011. Some of the good stuff has been as a consequence of writing on this site, so let’s start there.

As with the previous year I started strong with the quantity (and hopefully improving quality) of my posts, with 3 posts in January receiving favourable reactions. Arguably more important in terms of my future however was a post titled Accessibility is a human right. This led to Sandi Wassmer getting in contact with me, asking if she could quote me in an upcoming presentation. Of course I agreed, and eventually we met and found that we have a common cause. Thanks to Sandi I have become involved in the Department for Business Innovation & Skills e-Accessibility Forum. You can read all about it on the site, and I will write further on this in the future, needless to say I am excited to be involved.

Even more exciting is that Sandi and I will be co-presenting at SXSWi on the subject of “Inclusive Design: Building the Web for All“! This is a topic that Sandi proposed, so it is an honour to be asked to work with her on it. Right now it’s hard to believe that this is happening, in time I expect that feeling to be replace with abject terror.

On the subject of conference speaking it was a great pleasure for me to talk at Think Visibility back in September. I think the small number of people who made the decision to miss one of the main attractions to hear me talk enjoyed and appreciated what I had to say about web accessibility, which is not bad going at a conference predominantly about SEO, so it was a very enjoyable and useful experience for me. Thanks Dom.

I also spoke at London Web on the subject of accessibility in large companies as warmup for a presentation from Remy Sharp. Remy is a seriously nice guy and I sincerely hope that 2011 treats him better than 2010.

During the year I started working on my first book, revising Beginning CSS: Cascading Style Sheets for Web Design for its 3rd edition. I must thank my former colleague Nicholas Zakas for suggesting me to Wrox for this work. It has not been easy at times, but it has been another great experience. There is still plenty more to be done on it, but it should be released sometime in May.

In August I said farewell to Yahoo!. Working for Yahoo! was a life changing experience. None of the great things I have already talked about would have been possible with out my time there, a list which I must add my evolvement in the W3C Education and Outreach Working Group. I’ll have more to say on my career after Yahoo! very soon.

Looking back on my goals for 2010:

  • I’ve not written a whole lot more (although having Opera publish an article on “Web accessibility for cognitive disabilities and learning difficulties” was quite satisfying);
  • I’ve still not found a flat;
  • I’ve not lost any weight, although I did briefly take up Judo before it became clear that my knees can’t take the strain, I need another way to lose weight first unfortunately;
  • I’ve met many people I’ve only previously known online;
  • If anything I’ve spend less time with offline friends, but more time with new and previously online friends;
  • I haven’t bought a new bass guitar yet, and my old one is beyond the point at which it is playable;

So although I’ve achieved rather a lot in the last 12 months it is not what I expected. I think most of these goals will remain in 2011, but with the added excitement of SXSWi, a book release, influencing government policy and who knows what else!

FInally let me wish you a very happy new year. Many thanks to everyone who has helped me or offered me opportunities this last year. If there is anything I can do for you in 2011, just ask!



Today is my last day working for Yahoo!

Rather than write a farewell email to my current colleagues I thought I’d write a blog post that former colleagues could also read and comment on, and also serve as a place to give some of my thoughts about working for Yahoo! in general.

I started working for Yahoo! on the 24th of September 2007. Before this I had worked for a small agency style company in the North of England for 7.5 years. It had taken me a long time, but I was excited to be working for a company like Yahoo! for my second ever full time job.

It was clear from day one that I was going to be working with very smart people and while everyone was very welcome it was also clear that I was going to have to prove myself. I think I was able to do that, and soon settled in the job.

I have worked both on Spirit, the previous version of the Yahoo! front page, and also Metro, the current page. On the Metro project I was able to experience working with a large international team on one of the most visited page on the web.

Over time I was able to get involved with YDN who do really fantastic work which is often not appreciated by developers, and the EU Accessibility Task Force which is a group of developers in the Yahoo! London office who have a strong interest in web accessibility. While I don’t think we changed the world we certainly made a nuisance of ourselves within the company, and this group inspired other task forces to be set up around the world, notably in Sunnyvale and Bangalore.

Later I became a representative for Yahoo! on the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Education & Outreach Working Group which I will continue working with as an Invited Expert for at least the next 6 months.

Working for Yahoo! has also led to opportunities outside of the office, conference speaking, book writing and government advising amongst them. More on all of this another time.

The point of all of this trumpet blowing is that it is only because I have worked for Yahoo! that any of this has been possible for me. Regardless of what anyone may say about the company it is a truly great place to work. I can honestly tell you that I don’t regret a single minute of my time here. It opens doors for developers, and would advise any web dev who wants to make a name for themselves to spend part of your career here.

At the time I started it was possible to make a strong case for the team of web developers in the London office being the best in the world. Sadly many of the people who made it such a joy to work here have moved on, either to other companies or to the Yahoo! mothership in Sunnyvale. Trust me, the quality is still here but we are losing the quantity, and currently there seems to be little desire to build up the team again. This is why I have decided to move on, and seek a new challenge somewhere else.

To everyone who I have worked with over the just-less-than 3 years I have been here, both in London and in the US, I thank you for everything you have done for me and the friendship you have shown me. I hope that many of you will be lifelong friends and that we will work together again in the future.

I am genuinely saddened to be leaving, but the time is right. Maybe one day I will be back.

Thanks again,



On Monday I start work at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. If it is only half as great as Yahoo! I will be in a good place.

2010 Q1 report

A quarter of the year has been and gone so now seemed a good time to see how my 2010 has panned out so far.

The biggest news I have is that back in February my employers, Yahoo!, nominated me as a participant in the W3C Education and Outreach Working Group. I’ve been interested in joining this group for some time so it is great to be accepted. As I said at the beginning of the year ‘Education and sharing of knowledge is increasingly becoming important to me’ so this is definitely a step in the direction I want to take.

March marked my tenth year as a professional web developer, a job that I love and can’t imagine not doing. I don’t remember the exact date I started that first job unfortunately, but I can remember how bad I was as it back in March 2000! Luckily for me what we consider bad code now seemed perfectly normal in those days (although there are still people coding like it’s 1999). Since then I’ve gone through several stages of improvement, to the point that I think I can consider myself pretty good at making more internets. There is always room for improvement though, always new things to learn – this is part of the reason that it remains interesting.

Goals update

I had talked about a few other goals back on January 1st:

Speaking more

So far I have been to one BarCamp from which I have had interest to speak at a conference later in the year. Not a bad start, I hope the conference works out.

Write more

I made a good start on this, for some time I managed to post every week. Unfortunately I only managed to keep this up until the 3rd week of February. What I did blog about received favourable responses which is very encouraging. I’m hoping this post will kick start another writing spree.

Flat hunting

Unless I want to live next to a train line (with trains at 3-5 minute intervals) this has not gone any better this year than last. Oh well, nothing to do but carry on looking.

Lose weight

Maybe. Trousers are certainly looser than they were, but I haven’t weighed myself so I could have just changed shape somehow. I haven’t started martial arts training yet, which is a bit disappointing, but I’ll try and find the time over the coming months.

Meet up with people I follow on Twitter

Last week I was able to meet up with David Sloan in Dundee. He is a nice chap, and I hope I’ll get to talk to him in person again sometime soon. Who’s next?

Spend more time with offline friends

If anything I’ve spent less time with people outside of work than usual. This should improve in April as I’ve got plans already.

Learn to play guitar.

I’ve listened to lots of guitar playing, does that count?

Q2 and beyond

I still have plenty to do to succeed with my 2010 goals, although overall I’m quite pleased with progress so far. Writing seems to be key to success for several, so it is where I should focus most of my efforts. There are several pieces of work that I need to complete for other people, so they need to be my priority, but this web log needs attention as well.

Other than that life is, as usual for me, taking care of itself.

Goodbye 2009, hello 2010

Now that 2009 is over and done with and 2010 is here it seems a good time to take a look at what I got up to in the last 12 months and what I plan to do in the next 12.

1 year ago I wrote that I was hoping to average a post a week on this blog. How did I do? Well, terribly actually, making only 7 posts. This year I’m going to make a similar commitment, but instead of averaging a post a week (which let me off the hook somewhat because in theory I could always publish lots of posts late on to take the average to 52) I will try to post each week. Starting with this one. For a bit of extra motivation I’ve signed up to Project 52, which is a list to sign up to if you want to make the same commitment. I have to admit I’m not really a fan of forcing blog posts to a schedule like this as it can easily promote quantity over any measure of quality, but I really want to improve my writing ability in 2010 and I feel that writing lots is a good starting point. It will at least give me a body of work to review when looking for ways to improve. Even poor quality content is better than no content at this stage.

Professionally 2009 was an exciting year for me. Metro, the latest version of the Yahoo! homepage was launched. This is by far the biggest project I have ever worked on, and quite likely ever will. It has taken close to 2 years of my working life. While not perfect I’m quite proud of what we have made. As one of the people responsible for the accessibility of the page I am particularly pleased. With such a complex project (even if it is only one page) it is difficult to get everything right, particularly when there are other competing factors such as performance, but I think that overall it is in good shape, and will hopefully be improved over the coming months as we get more user feedback and peform further testing.

Working on Metro led to my first published article in an international web development magazine, a short piece about WAI-ARIA enhanced tabs in issue 195 of .net magazine. This was part of a wider article on the build process and implementation of Metro, and was followed up with a post on the YDN blog.

Also in 2009 was my first speaking gig at the fantastic event on the subject of cognition and accessibility. While I was incredibly nervous to start with I think my presentation went well, and I really enjoyed it. Many thanks to Henny Swan and Bruce Lawson for giving me the opportunity. It is something I would like to do more of in 2010.

On the downside more good friends have left the London office of Yahoo!, either to work in the Sunnyvale head office or to other companies. All are doing well though, and I will be staying in touch.

Outside of web development not much has changed for me in the last 12 months. I’ve been looking to buy a flat in North London for most of the year, without much success. I had an offer accepted on one flat but that was then taken off the market the following day. The year was been rounded off with an epic 19 day holiday, which sadly ends on Sunday. I’ve spent most of this time with my family in Neston, Cheshire, with many lazy mornings and walks with my dog Milly. I was hoping to be rather more productive than I have been, but it has been nice to take a break. It’s going to be tough going in to work on Monday morning, but I’m looking forward to seeing work colleagues and friends again.

One highlight was being best man for my good friend Marco van Hylckama Vlieg when he married Pam. It was an honour to be involved. In September they welcomed their son Elijah Rhys van Hylckama Vlieg in to the world, so that gives me another excuse to visit them in Calafornia sometime in the next year or so.

For 30 minutes on a September morning I helped out with fundraising for the Royal National Institute of Blind People on Paddington Station. I would have liked to have spent longer there but I had work to go to. What surprised me most is how much fun it was and how generous the British public can be. I’m not usually the sort of person who would stand in a busy main line station trying to persuade commuters to part with their cash, but I soon got in to the swing of it. I heartily recommend it to anyone with a bit of spare time. Take a look at the RNIB collections page if you decide to give it a go. I have to admit to being slightly conflicted though – in general I don’t give to collections in pubs, supermarkets and stations, preferring to decide who I give my money to on a more selective basis than who waves a tin under my nose first. I have given to the RNIB in the past though, and no doubt will in the future, so I was happy to ask others to do the same.

So, what do I want to get out of 2010?

Education and sharing of knowledge is increasingly becoming important to me so I’d like to do more speaking, at Barcamps at least, and hopefully at some bigger events if people are interested in what I have to say.

I want to write more, and this blog is where I’m going to start with that.

I will continue the flat hunting, and will hopefully have a bit more luck than last year

As usual I want to lose some weight – I’ve done it before and can do it again. I just need harness a bit of will power. And maybe stop eating so much and start getting some excersise. I think the key to this is to get back in to martial arts, I’m just not sure which one. I’d love to give Sambo a try, but there are no clubs near where I live. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is another possibility, or maybe I should go back to Judo or traditional Jiu-Jitsu. Aikido is yet another possibility, but I’m in two minds about it at the moment.

I’d like to meet up with some more of the people I follow on Twitter, in particular members of the web accessibility community who are doing such great work.

I also want to spend more time with offline friends as well. I have a bad habit of isolating myself in the evenings and at weekends. This is partly due to my terrible sleep patterns, but is also part lazyness and a dislike of having my schedule outside of work too tightly constrained.

I bought a guitar about 2.5 years ago now, it might be time to learn how to play it. Also I want to get back in to playing bass guitar, something I’ve been missing for a while. I’m a little fed up of soldering bits back on to my current (and first) bass so I should probably invest in a new one.

Hopefully I’ll be a little more successful in achieving these goals, which I refuse to upgrade to the status of resolutions, than last years single goal. Check back in another year (sooner would be nice as well) if you want to see if I have.

Happy New Year, I hope 2010 is a happy and prosperous one for you.

Being a Web Developer

Before I start blogging about some more technical matters I want to write a little about being a Web Developer.

I love it.

For me it is just about the perfect job, exactly the right mix of science and art to keep me interested and focused. Over time I have come to appreciate it in other ways as well, and this is what I really want to write about.

As a bit of a lefty socialist type I like to think that I can make the world a little bit better. When I started Web Development as a professional back in the year 2000 I felt that I had in some ways just become part of a machine. I was working at an agency (although they didn’t call themselves one) and more often than not my work was just a way for people with money to make more money. Such is capitalism.

Over time my skills improved, my knowledge of usability and accessibility increased, and I realised something. My work could dramatically improve people’s lives. And that is pretty damn cool.

I’m having problems with blogging

This blogging malarkey is not going well.

On the first day of this year I wrote that I hoped I could average a post for each week of the year. So far I have managed 3 posts. Including that first one. I did at least say it would be an average, but with 18 weeks already passed I need to up my game.

I have a few subjects I want to blog about, ranging from the last London BarCamp, and the experience I have had with speaking at BarCamps, to how to markup and style an accessible basic form (a seemingly simple topic, but something I still see people doing wrong).

However I’m not happy about the format. It feels a bit messy for me to write about a range of topics in one place. I think this might be part of why I haven’t posted much. Including this one, 3 of my 9 posts have been about politics in one form or another, 3 about BarCamps, and 3 about the blog itself. While I am fairly sure that most, if not all, of the people subscribed to my feed are also people I work with or have worked, with in general I don’t think that a combination of politics and BarCamps is going to appeal to many.

I’d like to write much more about politics, particularly human rights, but this is preventing me from wanting to post technical subjects, such as web development, in the same place.

I have a decision to make then. Either I leave everything as it is, and get over this idea of separation; or I create multiple sections to this blog each with their own feed; or, as I have alluded to before, I follow a Neil Crosby approach and have several separate places to blog and use this site as a portal to my presence on the web, which could host a combined feed for anyone who, for some reason, just wants to read what I have to type.

The latter feels more right, but involves thinking of names for the other domains or just subdomains ( for example), and I’m not certain that apathy won’t set in and I’ll just end up with multiple blogs with no activity.

This is the same over-thinking that stopped be from starting a blog years ago. I have to put up with it though, my mind just doesn’t seem to work any other way.

If any of the < 20 people likely to read this have any advice please comment. You'll be part of an exclusive group if you do - so far I've had five comments. Two of them were made by me.

Happy New Year!(?)

To anyone who may actually read this blog, may I wish you a very happy 2009, and I hope you had a great Christmas.

After 5 posts in the space of a week or so I seem to have lost the initial impetus I had when this blog was shiny and new. On a more positive note I have more of an idea of where I would like to go with it, probably more along the lines of a central point for anything else I do online. As with much of what I have done online recently I’m stealing this idea from Neil Crosby. Thanks Neil.

Anyway, what better way to get some momentum back than a post of the first day of the year. I don’t think I’ll be able to keep this going in the same way that The Hodge has planned, but hopefully I’ll be able to average a post for each week.

First Post!

After many years of procrastination, I have finally started my first blog.

What it is going to be about remains to be seen, but I suspect I’ll be writing about web development, particularly accessibility and usability, and might include the odd political rant and my views on various human rights issues.

This is a weekend for firsts for me. First blog. First blog post. And also my first BarCamp, which will hopefully involve my first crack at technical public speaking. I’m attending BarCamp Liverpool, the first in the city and billed as the biggest in the UK so far. Post #2 will in all probability be about day 1.