Too hard is the worst excuse

Untold hours are spent by web designers and developers to make sure their creations work in different browsers and platforms. They may curse and mutter and otherwise cast aspersions upon the creators of various browsers - in fact, I think it's in the job description - but they do it.

They research and experiment to learn workarounds, which are then used on their future work. All this is to be sure as many people as possible have the best experience using the website.

On the other hand, accessibility is seen as some special extra feature that must be cost justified, and then isn't addressed because it is "too hard" so it "costs too much".

Accessibility is no harder and no more expensive than any other part of web development. Everything is hard and expensive if you don't know how to do it, and it's not hard when you know how. So learn how to do it, just like you learn to do anything else on the web. There is no shortage of useful information on the web; for instance, here's a place to start: WaSP InterAct Curriculum: Accessibility.

If you can't be bothered to learn what it takes to make websites accessible, then don't bother to call yourself a professional.

Note: Accessibility means making sure your sites work for people who use screen readers, speech-to-text software, specialized hardware, and other adaptive technologies. It means taking into account color-blindness and eye fatigue. It means taking into account people working in noisy rooms and moving vehicles. All told, accessibility features accommodate the needs of up to 20% of your users, and perhaps even more.

Don't let your account tweet without you

There are so many nifty Twitter tools out there, but my enthusiasm was always dampened for the ones that asked for my Twitter username and password. Why on Earth would I trust them? If they were really that good, I would use them and then immediately change my password.

Then Twitter introduced OAuth, named for a shortening of "open authentication". Instead of giving them my credentials, I told Twitter that it was okay to access my account. Very clever, and so much less risk.

Or so I thought. When you grant access to your account, you are not granting it for just that one time. Your permission continues, even if you change your password. Some of the recent "DM" account hacks have been attributed to a service taking advantage of permission granted via OAuth, so we are back where we started: we have to trust a service before we can find out if it is worthwhile.

Fortunately, there is a fix.

Log in to your Twitter account on the web and select the "Settings" link. See the tab on the right for "Connections"? That lists all of the third parties to whom you have given access with OAuth. Now go through the list and click on the "Revoke Access" link under the description for each service. This isn't blocking: you can give permission again if and when you visit that service the next time.

The integrity of your Twitter stream is entirely up to you, so remember to:

·       Use strong passwords.

·       Change your password periodically.

·       Revoke access to third party services immediately after using them.

Thank you for listing me

I just read my first article on Twitter List etiquette.(Twitter List Etiquette by Matt Churchill, aka @geetarchurchy, )  I always strive to be polite and be sociable, so I am always interested in social media etiquette articles.

But he almost lost me on the first recommendation: thank everybody who has put you on a list. I'm no @scobleizer or @chrisbrogan, but individually thanking everybody would flood my stream, annoying my friends and followers no end. Oh, no, I won't be going there.

And yet, I am grateful, so this is my "thank you" to everyone who has added me to one of their lists. I find it fascinating to see the variety of prisms through which I am seen, and am almost pathetically happy that that many people think my tweeting is worthwhile.

Twitter Lists: what I've learned

A bit over a week ago, I logged on to the Twitter website and was astonished by an invitation to start using their new "Lists" feature. I have long wished for tagging in Twitter so I could add some keywords to help me remember why I followed someone. Lists seemed like a fine solution, so I was excited to get started.

What are Lists?

When you get Lists, you'll see a new button when you go to someone's page, in the box under their name. When you click on it, a box pops up with a link to make a new list; later you'll see the lists you've created with checkboxes. Selecting a checkbox adds that person to the list.
Lists you've created are displayed on the right hand side. When you click on one, it shows the most recent tweets of everyone on that list. (This might be familiar to you if you have used a Twitter client like TweetDeck or Seesmic.) When you visit someone's Twitter page, you'll see any lists they've created. You will also see that there's a new metric next to "following" and "followers", "listed", that shows how many lists they are on. Clicking on it will show you what those lists are.
There are two kinds of lists: public and private. If you designate a list "private", no one else can see it but you. People who are on that list do not know about it, either.
And one more thing: you can add people to lists even if you don't follow them yourself.

List Strategy

Like Twitter itself, you can use lists any way you like. What I wanted to do was to make sure everybody I follow is on at least one list, which would serve as a reminder of why I followed them. My public lists are on particular topics, such as "accessibility" and "education". I also have two private lists that are geographic: "local", meaning pretty close to where I live and work, and another one for New England. I could have made them public, too, but thought they would not be terribly useful for anyone else, and they might be mistaken for topics.
But frankly, my motivation and is totally personal. I've set my lists up so they would have value for me. They might be useful for other people, which would be awesome, but that's not what I was thinking about when I created the lists and decide who to put on them. Everybody on my lists is someone I am following, and everyone I follow is on a list or will be soon.
Other people are creating authoritative lists. I've seen one listing every hospital on Twitter, for instance. They may have a personal reason for doing that, but it seems more likely that it's being done as a public service.

Learned along the way

  • You can only have 20 lists in all. Figure out beforehand what lists you want to have.
  • For my first list, I went through my "following" list and picked out the people that belonged on it. I missed a lot that way. So I stopped and...
  • I decided on my strategy and created my lists, and now am going through my "following" list and putting each person on one or more lists. This is very time-consuming, but more accurate.
  • It's a great opportunity to clean up, such as unfollowing abandoned accounts. If you've been thinking about cleaning up, wait until you have lists so you can do it at the same time.
  • It might be polite to keep a list private while you're putting it together, and make it public when it's pretty much done. Otherwise, people might be shocked to find the list suddenly including hundresd of people, for instance.
  • The widget for adding people is very balky. Sometimes it works right away. Most of the time, though, it pauses for a while... and then unchecks the box. It commonly takes four or five tries to get your choices to stick. I hope they get that fixed; it's really annoying

Crystal ball

  • Government accounts should probably focus on creating authoritative lists. The @massgov account, for instance, might create lists of Massachusetts state agencies and officials on Twitter. This would serve as authentication for those accounts.
    Expect a mad scramble in third-party Twitter tools to be able to handle basic Lists functionality.
  • Expect brand new tools to do super nifty things. For instance, I'd love a tool that can search for lists, compare who's on them, and generate a "super list" of all the people in common on all of them - authoritative lists by crowdsourcing!
  • Lists will be immensely helpful for new users. You can follow other people's lists, so you can start getting a valuable stream right away. Seeing a well-curated stream is what most people need to figure Twitter out. Also, following a list will answer a common question, "How do I find people to follow?"
  • You will be able to see clearly what someone is using Twitter for. If they bother to make a list for something, then they obviously care about it.
  • Those tools that calcualte how popular, how social, etc., you are will have to make some big changes. The new metric will be how many lists you're on.
  • If you can add people to a list without following them, and if you can subscibe to a list, then why follow people? As Twitter users answer this question, the social dynamic of Twitter is going to radically change.

Email is the tool people are most comfortable with

People like to use the tools they know best, because they want to use them, not think about them. The folks at Posterous have apparently realized this, and have created a service where people can "blog" using the tool that everyone knows how to use: email.

Another benefit for those of us who have to worry about public records laws is that the "original" is the email used to send the post, and we already have ways of meeting those requirements for email.