AdaCamp 2013: San Francisco

9034667768_b6fa52060e_cI recently had the chance to attend AdaCamp in San Francisco. It was a great experience and I was able to meet so many positive and inspiring people involved in the tech community. It was also my first time attending an unconference. After attending so many conferences where speakers are scheduled and topics are announced ahead of time, attending an unconference like Adacamp was a breath of fresh air. Instead of having a preselected group of conference speakers, AdaCamp made it possible for anyone to host a workshop and share knowledge. Everyone was also encouraged to share their experiences and thoughts in each session instead of waiting for a Q&A.

A Few Session Takeaways

Learning to Code — There was an interesting discussion on ways of staying motivated while learning to code. Some great suggestions were to set small, reachable goals with interesting projects. Have accountability partners who you check in with each week. Go to local meetups and discuss what you are working on. But my favorite was the suggestion of getting a cat! One attendee had a cat who woke her up early every morning (I can relate to this). She used this time to take an hour or so to learn to code.

X-Ray Goggles — I previously wrote an article on the process of using Firebug to learn code. Another attendee pointed out another excellent tool from Mozilla called X-Ray Goggles. Like Firebug, you can edit a website directly in the browser, but X-ray Goggles also allows you to save your changes on their server so you can continue to play around with the code.

Challenges & Solutions — Many of the sessions were dedicated to discussing how the tech community can become a more inclusive place for everyone. This is such an important issue that I think more people in the tech community need to address. There are many problems that still exist that attempt to silence women and minorities and make them feel as if they do not belong. Among some of the solutions discussed was the need for more allies. In short, a change in culture is needed in order to solve this issue and it can’t only be dependent on those who are affected by exclusion.

Accessibility — Since inclusivity is so important, I would be amiss to not mention accessibility in tech. There were a few discussions on how important creating accessible websites. There have been many positive changes in terms of the technology that web designers/developers use. These include using web fonts (Google Fonts & Typekit) instead of images for headers, the decreasing use of Flash, the use of semantic code in HTML5, etc. Designer and developers can also be conscious of the color choices we make to ensure there is enough contrast. Apps like Color Oracle are also useful in testing sites for color blind users.

It was an great experience to be surrounded by so many intelligent people with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. I also have to commend the organizers of AdaCamp, they created an amazingly supportive environment that encouraged so many amazing discussions.

KCMO: Home of the Biggest Bookshelf

I have so many memories of Kansas City, Missouri growing up. We would fly stand-by on TWA from DC to St. Louis to Kansas City which meant we always had to dress our best (a big change from the usual dress code on today’s flights). We recently made a quick trip there and after a long hiatus from visiting. It was great to see my relatives and also interesting to see how Kansas City had changed. The busy Metro North Mall from my childhood is now a seemingly abandoned mall with only a few stores left (but they still have the balloons!). And Penguin Park, which has been around since the 1970’s has made quite a few changes, including updating the Penguin slide.

But one of the most recent changes that I wanted to highlight was the Kansas City Public Library on 10th Street. Not only did they have an interesting postcard display inside the library, but they also have a “Community Bookshelf” which consists of twenty-two 25-foot tall books.

 

The postcard exhibit featured 200 Kansas City themed postcards from 1900-1950.
KCMO Library - Postcard Exhibit

 

The “Community Bookshelf” is actually the parking garage adjacent to the public library. On the inside, it is just your average 4 level parking garage. On the outside, it is pretty amazing! The book stairs were also a nice touch.

KCMO Library

KCMO Library

Be on the lookout for more posts from me in the future. I’ve recently decided to make some big changes and I have a lot to share. In the meantime, take a look at photos from Kansas City, Missouri & Atchison, Kansas.

Thoughts from a RSS Feed Addict

I am a bit of a RSS feed addict. My most visited site is Google Reader and I keep tabs on over 100 sites/blogs on it. There is no way I would be able to receive the same amount of content if I had to visit each of these sites just to check if they had new content. Safe to say, RSS feeds make online content more accessible.
So I am one of the many people questioning Google’s decision to discontinue Google Reader on July 1st. I know this wasn’t a sudden decision on Google’s part. Google has had a history of taking Reader off of their main navigation. After complaints, Google briefly conceded to users and placed it back, only to quietly move it to their sub-navigation permanently.

The Internet’s Reaction

I find it fascinating when super-giant internet companies like Google commit the cardinal sin of internet culture: Do not piss off the internet! After the death of Google Reader was announced, it became a trending topic on Twitter (over the announcement of a new Pope). Thousands of users expressed their disappointment and dismay. A Change.org petition was started and is now at 48,000 signatures and counting. This Tumblr page seems to showcase the internet’s reaction best in animated gif form. It remains to be seen whether Google will bend to any of this backlash.

The Good News

Undeniably, the best news is that this leaves other companies room to explore new solutions for RSS readers. This will lead to new innovations and better user experience as each company will be sure to compete for users looking for Google Reader replacements. Google has also made it easy for us to move all of the data we’ve been storing on Google Reader, you can download your data here.
Feedly has already proved they are on top of their game by releasing a statement to users to let them know they are prepared for the switch. Feedly gets my vote for now since I’ve been using it on my iPhone for a few months now. There are also other alternatives such as Bloglovin, The Old Reader and Reeder. I also think many more RSS readers will pop up in the up and coming months. And this is a good thing. More competition equals more innovation. The death of Google Reader may be a blessing in disguise for users.

New Project: Inspire [Her]

I’m excited to unveil one of my latest projects, Inspire [Her]. Last December, I attended the White House’s first codeathon which was organized to promote the Equal Futures App Challenge. We were encouraged to brainstorm reasons why women would be discouraged from running for office or accepting leadership positions and how we could utilize technology to solve this problem.

One of the themes that came up in our brainstorm was the lack of visible female public leaders for girls and young women to look up to. There have been so many women who have helped propose laws that have shaped the United States for the better but not everyone could name many of these women. The solution seemed clear: these leaders needed to be highlighted in a way where young women (or anyone, really) would notice them, share their message and be encouraged to learn more about them.

I thought sharing quotes by these amazing women would be an effective way of increasing the visibility of women as leaders. The idea was prompted by the popularity of sharing quote images on social media (just look at the popularity of Some Ecards!).

inspAs you can see, the site is also responsive! Lately, all of the sites I have designed and built have kept mobile users in mind but I thought it was especially important for this project. Check out Inspire [Her] and share one of the quotes!