Welcome to the Boolshop

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Welcome to the Boolshop

"I'd like to buy a NO." 

"We're out of those, but we've got FALSE, NIL and NSNULL"

The disappointment on my face when I realised it was a bookshop...

Photo taken in Venice, Italy - December 2015

 

 

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Looking beyond a code of conduct

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Looking beyond a code of conduct

 

A code of conduct isn't just something you can add and then say you’re done. A code of conduct is just one part of creating an inclusive environment for everyone.

As a potential attendee or speaker, it can be hard to know how inclusive a conference/event might be. I was thinking maybe we need something like a Joel test for conferences? (If you are unfamiliar with the Joel test, you can read about it here).

I’ve devised a set of qualities for conferences/events that I think make them awesome and inclusive. The qualities are purely my opinion, I would love to hear what qualities are important to other people. With the Joel test, each quality is simply a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, but the list of qualities I’ve come up with for conferences are probably best rated on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 being bad, 5 being super-awesome.

Here we go.

 

Inclusive qualities for conferences (in no particular order)

 

IS THERE A DIVERSE SPEAKER LINEUP?

This is one that gets talked about a lot—speaker diversity. Diversity is not just about gender but also age, background, job type, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. If the speakers are all white men, then this would get rated a 1. If there’s loads of diversity, give it a 5.

 

IS THERE A DIVERSE AUDIENCE?

I feel like this one isn’t worked on as much as speaker diversity. It’s incredibly difficult to be the only ______ in the room, especially when the room is ~200 people. This can be a difficult one to judge, but you could look on twitter/laynrd/meet-up/etc. who’s attending, you could look at who attended previous years. It’s also worth reaching out to the organisers about what kind of mix of people they’re expecting. Again, 1 if it looks like no diversity, 5 if it looks incredibly diverse.

 

ARE SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE?

Scholarships are very important, they help people who may be new to the community and anyone who wouldn’t be able to attend for financial reasons. This totally helps increase diversity. I would rate a conference a 1 if there were no scholarships offered, a 3 if the scholarships are only for students, and a 5 if there are scholarships for students and financial-hardship. Maybe they get a 6 if they help out with travel or expense too. On the subject of financialswhy don't conferences offer payment plans? If your ticket vendor doesn't offer it, then maybe ask for it.

 

DO THEY OFFER CHILDCARE?

This one is incredibly complicated but definitely needs to be talked about more. Some people have children and this can make it seriously difficult to attend events, especially events that last days and might be far from their homes. Offering childcare to attendees again helps increase diversity. Ultimately, this one can be tricky to judge, the need for childcare differs greatly depending on the family, duration, location and time of the year. To me, I think it’s essential that the organisers help out in some way. Whether that’s talking to and providing information about local nurseries, offering childcare for a cost, covering childcare completely, providing a separate room where attendees can watch the talks (link) or even planning events specifically for children. As a side note, I would love for conferences that have been successful in making sure people with families are included to write up what they’ve done to make it work.

 

ARE THERE EVENTS THAT AREN’T CENTRED AROUND CONSUMING ALCOHOL?

There are all sorts of problems around having alcohol at events. It excludes younger attendees/speakers. It might be against someones religion. People might not feel comfortable around drunk people. It’s also just not healthy to think the only way people at the conference can enjoy themselves is if they have a drink. If it’s all drinking, especially at a bar/pub shared with the public—this gets a 1. If it’s in a private venue where drinks will be served but there’s non-alcoholic options and under 21’s can attend, then maybe rate it a 3. If they have events with no alcohol and have put some creativity behind it, give them a 5.

 

DO THEY OFFER FOOD FOR PEOPLE WITH VARIOUS ALLERGIES/INTOLERANCES?

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Not everyone can eat everything. The conference should ask about any needs around this. If the conference/event doesn’t provide food, they should give attendees/speakers a list of local restaurants and what kind of food options they have. If there is only pizza served, give it a 1. Vegetarian options, maybe a 3. If all the drinks/snacks/meals cater for any sort of intolerance or dietary restriction, give them a 5. I heard UIKonf had vegan ice cream sandwiches—they totally get bonus points for that.

 

DO THEY HAVE A CODE OF CONDUCT?

Things to factor into the score: Is the code of conduct on the website? Does it have strong visibility on the website? Do you have to agree to the code of conduct to purchase a ticket? Will it be posted at the conference/event? Will it be easy to contact someone if you feel like the code of conduct has violated?

 

ARE THERE VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE?

Volunteer opportunities are great, some people might really want to attend a conference but maybe the conference doesn’t offer scholarships or maybe they feel like they’re a bit too new to the community to want to fully-attend the conference/event. 1 for no volunteers, 3 for some volunteers, 5 for an open call for volunteers. Bonus points if they compensate volunteers.

 

IS THE EVENT ACCESSIBLE?

Can anyone with any sort of impairment access the venue? If an attendee is deaf, would the conference provide a sign-laungage interpreter? Is there a quiet room where people can go if they need some time alone? Do they add subtitles to the videos they release?

 

ARE THERE ADEQUATE BREAKS DURING THE EVENT TO NETWORK WITH SPEAKERS AND ATTENDEES?

Interacting with other people is why people go to conferences. Talks are important, but if you don’t get a chance to engage with other attendees/speakers then why wouldn’t you just stay home and watch the videos? 1 for no breaks, 5 for lots of breaks and ample time to ask the speakers questions.

 

DO THEY HAVE A CALL FOR PAPERS?

There are lots of great conferences where speakers are hand-picked and this is fine but they should also offer the opportunity for attendees to submit a lightning talk. If a conference/event offers no way for attendees to submit a talk, I would give them a 1. If they provide attendees the chance to submit proposals for lightning or full-length talks, then give them somewhere between a 3-5. I know for some conferences this isn’t viable, like WWDC, in these cases I’d give them a 3.

 

Add it up

So that’s 11 qualities:

IS THERE A DIVERSE SPEAKER LINEUP?

IS THERE A DIVERSE AUDIENCE?

ARE SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE?

DO THEY OFFER CHILDCARE?

ARE THERE EVENTS THAT AREN’T CENTRED AROUND CONSUMING ALCOHOL?

DO THEY OFFER FOOD FOR PEOPLE WITH VARIOUS ALLERGIES/INTOLERANCES?

DO THEY HAVE A CODE OF CONDUCT?

ARE THERE VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE?

IS THE EVENT ACCESSIBLE?

ARE THERE ADEQUATE BREAKS DURING THE EVENT TO NETWORK WITH SPEAKERS AND ATTENDEES?

DO THEY HAVE A CALL FOR PAPERS?

 

If a conference scores between 11-30 then it sounds like the organisers have some work to do. Everyone has different thresholds for what they’re comfortable with, so I’m not going to say you should only go to a conference if it scores above a certain point, but I do think it’s something everyone should be aware of. I don't think I've attended a conference that would score "perfectly" against these qualities. That doesn't mean they were bad conferences or that they weren't inclusive, it just means there are some areas that can probably be improved. It's good to iterate.

As an exercise, think about the last conference/event you went to and rate it using the above qualities or qualities that matter to you. If you feel like a quality that’s important to you is lacking, then you should give the organisers some constructive feedback so they can improve. Equally, if the conference/event scored super-highly, then give them that feedback 😄

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Speaking & inspiration

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Speaking & inspiration

I love going to conferences and meet-ups. They inspire me, I get to learn new things and I get to meet more amazing community members. I also love to speak at conferences and meet-ups. One of the things that I love the most about speaking is you never know what your talk will inspire. This year alone, speaking and attending conferences has resulted in The Inclusive Toolkit and Side Project Sunday. And Cat Wearables, but that's for a much later post 😉 

New beginnings

On New Years day, I had no idea what I’d be doing after January. The job I had for three years was ending and I knew I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something I found meaningful and something I would be more passionate about. My plan was to freelance and consult, and if that didn't work out then I’d get a “proper job”.

With all the stress of leaving my job and getting a new visa, I felt like I needed to decompress a bit and take a step back from everything. My first two weeks of being unemployed resulted in me watching all of 'Breaking Bad'. 

The Inclusive Toolkit

After my 'Breaking Bad' marathon, I spoke at and led a discussion group about accessibility at London Mobile Forum. What came out of the discussion group and the Q & A afterwards was very interesting and is what inspired me to come up with The Inclusive Toolkit.

I speak about accessibility and inclusiveness frequently, it’s something I’m passionate about and I feel like it’s not prioritised often enough in apps. I would usually spend a large chunk of my talk on material that was really just there to convince developers that the time needed to make their app inclusive was worth it. Developers want their apps to be inclusive, but the work involved can be discouraging. Implementing APIs isn’t where most of the problem lies—it’s in testing and verifying accessibility. If it takes a developer a week to make their app inclusive, more than half of that is spent on testing it. It’s much easier to digest 2 working days to make your app inclusive versus 1 week. One of the main goals of The Inclusive Toolkit is to make the testing phase of accessibility as trivial as possible so you can focus solely on implementing the accessibility APIs. 

I spent the rest of February and March working on solutions to cut down testing time. Everything started coming together, and I was super excited about making The Inclusive Toolkit. I wanted the tools to be free so every developer can use them. I also wanted to make sure I had time to work on the tools, I didn’t want client work to overshadow my ability to work on the tools. So I thought I’d turn to Kickstarter to get some funding. The response has been amazing so far. I ❤️ what this community is enabling me to do! The Kickstarter met it’s initial funding with two weeks to go. Now I’m working towards the stretch goals.

This project wouldn’t have been possible without me speaking at conferences and events. My favourite part of speaking at a conference isn’t being on stage but engaging with the community—answering questions, sharing advice, and offering support. This is what speaking is about to me.

Side Project Sunday

Another great part of speaking is inspiring others. At Swift Summit, Alex Akers did a great talk about side projects and the difficulty in finishing them. After his talk, I was speaking with some other people and the resulting conversation has led to starting Side Project Sunday. It’s an informal meet-up where we get together, work on our projects, help others out and hopefully finish our side projects 😄

This meet-up wouldn’t have happened if Alex hadn’t done that talk. Side Project Sunday is still new, but I’m so excited about what it will enable more people to achieve.

TL;DR-ish

I encourage all of you to try to speak at meet-ups or conferences, you have no idea where it might lead. I subscribe to Technically Speaking—it’s a great newsletter filled with tips on speaking and always features a few call for papers (you should definitely subscribe too).

Regardless of how much experience you may or may not have, you offer a unique viewpoint and it’s always worth sharing.

 

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Testing your app with a wireless keyboard and Switch Control

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Testing your app with a wireless keyboard and Switch Control

The 21st of May is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (#gaad) so I thought I'd write a quick blog post about one of my favorite accessibility features on iOS—Switch Control. Switch Control was introduced in iOS 7 and enables users with physical/motor impairments to use iPhones and iPads though the use of switches. My mom had ALS and if this had been out when she was alive, it would have made an immense difference for her.

This truly amazing feature is still relatively unknown by most iOS developers. In the spirit of Global Accessibilty Awareness Day, I thought I'd provide a quick guide on how to test your app with Switch Control. 

Setting up switches

There are three options for switches: external bluetooth switches, the front-facing camera and the screen of the device. I was doing a demo of Switch Control for a talk, and I wanted to to use an external switch so the audience could see just how usable Switch Control makes an iOS device. I was chatting with an Apple engineer during the accessibility lab at WWDC last year, explaining how I wanted to use an external switch but I didn't know where I could get one on short notice. She told me about how you can use a wireless keyboard as a switch, which was perfect to demo with, and is something I'd highly recommend to other developers to build empathy with Switch Control users.  

The first step is to set up a switch. For this tutorial, I'll be using an Apple wireless keyboard.

To start, pair your keyboard with your iPhone or iPad.

  • Go into the Settings app, then choose Bluetooth.
  • Your keyboard should appear in the list of available devices, tap on it in the list.
  • Enter the four digit code that shows up.

Screenshots from pairing a keyboard

Now that your keyboard is paired, go back to the main Settings screen.

Switch Control settings

Next, we'll add a switch! 

To access the Switch Control settings choose General > Accessibility. Scroll down to the section titled 'Interaction' and tap on 'Switch Control'. 

Before turning on Switch Control, we'll need to add a switch.

  • Tap on the 'Switches' row, then select 'Add New Switch'.
  • From here you can choose between External, Screen and Camera. For those of you who have paired your wireless keyboard, select 'External'.
  • You should now see a screen that asks for you to activate your external switch. Press whichever key on the keyboard you want to use as a switch.
  • You'll then get a list of actions that switch can perform, go ahead and choose 'Tap' from this list.  

If you don't have a wireless keyboard, you can choose Screen from the list of sources, then choose 'Full Screen' and then 'Tap' from the list of actions.

Screenshots from adding an external switch

Congratulations, you've just set up a switch!

You can set up some more switches if you'd like, I personally like to set up a second switch that performs the 'Home Button' action so I can use the iPhone completely hands free.

You can adjust the speed of Switch Control, I recommend starting with a slower speed then increase it as you get more confident with it.

With your switch(es) set up, you can now turn on Switch Control.

Testing your app

When you turn Switch Control on, it will start cycling though the items on the screen. Items are grouped together to speed up navigation. When the group your item belongs to it highlighted, tap the key on the keyboard you set up as the 'Tap' action. If you make a mistake and go into a group of items you didn't want, don't worry. Wait until it cycles around and before it returns to the first element, it will show a highlight with a dotted line. Performing the 'Tap' action at this point will back you out of that group.

Using Switch Control, open your app and try to use it. Go through any test plans or user stories you might have and see how you get on.

I've made a short video showing what it looks like to compose a tweet in Tweetbot using Switch Control:

 

Thank you so much for reading this post, I hope you found it informative :)

 

I'm trying to make testing app accessibility easier - check out The Inclusive Toolkit on Kickstarter!

 

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24 hours of @InclusiveTools on @Kickstarter

24 hours of @InclusiveTools on @Kickstarter

WOW!

I am so blown away by how amazing everyone has been! 

In the first 24 hours of The Inclusive Toolkit being on Kickstarter, 46 backers have pledged £1,750!!! That's 31% funded in one day!!! I'm looking forward to what the next 29 days of the campaign will bring :)

This also totally made my day yesterday:

Launching this project on Kickstarter was very scary for me. It's a project that means an incredible amount to me and I'm so overjoyed by how quickly people have embraced it.

When I started speaking about accessibility, I thought I needed to convince people to want to make their apps accessible. But the more talks I've done and the more developers I've spoken to, I realised this is something everyone already wants to do. So why doesn't it get done? The reasons why are a lack of resource, knowledge and empathy. These are the areas I'm tackling with The Inclusive Toolkit. Check out the Kickstarter page if you want more information about it.

Keep spreading the word about The Inclusive Toolkit!

Coming soon to Kickstarter!

Coming soon to Kickstarter!

It’s been just over two and a half months since my last post, oops, but that means there’s just that much more for me to share!

If you're short on time, here's a TL;DR:

What I’ve been up to in the last two months: I spoke at London Mobile Forum, NSConf, Swift Summit and Úll - they were all fantastic and truly inspiring in completely unique ways.

What I'm working on now: I’m focusing on two main projects: The Inclusive Toolkit for iOS/Mac developers and the "Internet of Cats". The Inclusive Toolkit will be launching on Kickstarter on the 13th of May! The "Internet of Cats" project will be launching on Kickstarter in July. I’m also doing a bit of client work too, and am always on the lookout for interesting short-term projects - get in touch if you think you have one :)

I’ll be in San Francisco/Bay Area/Seattle/Portland during May and June: Mostly for Signal and AltConf, come hang out with me :)

 

Non-TL;DR version:

It’s been a busy two and a half months for me. I’ve started two incredible projects and spoken at four conference.

In February, I spoke at the London Mobile Forum about accessibility and ran a discussion group, and what came out of it has inspired me to start an awesome new project. The discussion group confirmed a lot of the challenges surrounding accessibility I was already of and it also helped me think of some possible solutions. This has cumulated in a project I'm calling the Inclusive Toolkit, tools for iOS and OS X developers, QAs and designers for making apps more inclusive. I'll be blogging in more detail about what this project specifically will be in the next week. It will be launching on Kickstarter on the 13th of May.

Why am I putting it on Kickstarter? A few reasons: 

  • I want to make sure the project can be continuously supported in addition to getting the time needed to develop the tools
  • I don't want to charge for the tools, I want everyone to be able to use them
  • Making it so public will provide a lot of motivation and responsibility/accountability for me to complete it

I'm really excited about the rewards I've come up with, they range from t-shirts to accessibility app reviews to workshops. If you're a conference organiser and would like to donate some tickets that I can use as rewards, please get in touch. I’m also looking into options where if you donate around £1,000 worth of tickets, I’ll come do a workshop at your conference for free, contact me so we can work something out.

 

"Internet of Cats" prototyping

"Internet of Cats" prototyping

Also at the London Mobile Forum, I made a joke about wearables for cats, and through a series of very funny conversations - my other project the "Internet of Cats" was born. I've been prototyping this since March, I've still got quite a bit more to do, but it will be launching on Kickstarter in July. I'll definitely blog more about this in the upcoming month. I did a lightning talk at Úll on the beginnings of this project: ‘User testing with cats’ - it was such an awesomely fun talk to give!

 

The week of NSConference and Swift Summit is a bit of a blur - it was a week filled with meeting some amazing new people, hearing loads of inspiring talks and hanging out with many great friends. I love being part of this community, it’s full of so many wonderful people doing such fantastic things :)

 

In addition to working on these projects, I have a few trips coming up during May and June. I’ll be in San Francisco/Bay Area from the 17th-24th of May for Signal - I'm super excited to be speaking there.

I'll be in Seattle from 29th-31st of May, Portland for the 31st of May to the 3rd of June, San Jose from the 4th to the 7th of June, then San Francisco from the 7th until the 13th for AltConf and WWDC shenanigans.

 

That’s all for now - thanks for reading!

Exciting things to come

After three years at Dennis Publishing, I've left. It's a very strange feeling for me, it's the first time in about four years I haven't had a job to go to. I've got a shiny new visa, which allows me to start my own company or work for anyone I'd like to.

So what will I be doing now? I'll be working on some exciting projects I've wanted to do for a while but never got around to due to having a full-time job. I'll be doing updates to my apps which haven't had updates in, well, too long.

For the next month I'll also be working on my talk for NSConference, which I'm extremely honoured and excited about. If you haven't already, go purchase a ticket to NSConference - it will be an incredible conference.

I'll be writing about my new projects on here, so stay tuned :)