European eAccessibility report

I’m not sure I like the fact that they’ve taken the hyphen out of e-Accessibility, or for that matter the fact that they’ve e-ed the word in the first place (there are too many goddamned e- prefixes), but the e-Government Unit has done well to put this report together. (On a separate note, there seems to be an online war being waged over the plural of prefix. I’d like to think it’s prefices, but I think prefixes has the edge.)

I’ve skimmed the report, and it seems to strike a good balance between automated testing and manual validation. As the RNIB once told me, a site can pass all automated tests but be hugely inaccessible. Likewise, a site’s failure against automated tests does not make it inaccessible, although certain tests are unquestionable. SiteMorse has dined-out on automated testing for some time now, which has helped raise the profile of accessibility, but has missed an important part of the puzzle.

I was immensely proud that the Department of Health site was one of only three sites referenced as displaying evidence of good practice, demonstrating at least ten of the twelve features cited. At the time, I believe we pushed the boundaries of accessibility, particularly in the context of a CMS implementation, and this citing is a great achievement.

The government (both in the UK and across Europe) has a long way to go to be where it should be in this field. I’m sure accessibility is often seen as a ‘nice to have’, an area from which features and functionality can be chopped when budgets get tight.

This is an area which would benefit hugely from the use of a common platform. By building DotP, all of the sites that came on board (albeit not that many) benefited from a highly accessible platform. While this doesn’t guarantee an accessible website (good writing and appropriate alt texting can’t be enforced by technology), it gets you 90% of the way there.

On a related note, for the government to have 3,500 accessible websites would not make it e-accessible. If each site works in a different way, has different navigational techniques, highly different visual indicators and conflicting nomenclature, then where’s the fun in that for the user? On this, I will write a separate post when I have the time discussing what the government can learn from MS Office.

Last game of the regular season

Last night saw the last game of the regular football (soccer) season. There was a good show of people. Coming in at half-time tied at 7-7, the game finished 14-13 when the floodlights went out at 11.15pm. More like American Football scores, some might say. Unfortunately, I was on the 13 team, although I did score our first and last goals.

The expiry of the permit may not mean the end though, as by all accounts the floodlights will continue shining of a Saturday night, and the keys are still available. So the only things to prevent play over the winter will be snow and people’s willingness to show up in unseemly conditions.

Shake-up of the NFL

It happened a few years back, but having four divisions in each conference, each with four teams, is quite a new concept for me. I remember a time when Denver were accompanied in the AFC Central by the L.A. Raiders (who have now moved to Oakland), the Seattle Seahawks (now heading up the NFC West) along with the Chiefs and the Chargers. Their division is now called the AFC West.

The old structure had a West, Central and East division in each of the conferences, each with either four or five teams. The introduction of expansion teams means that we now have more symmetry: a North, South, East and West in each of the conferences, each with four teams.

The transitory nature of the NFL franchises, along with the uneven distribution of teams across the country, makes the geographical definition somewhat bizarre. Indianapolis are in the AFC South, St. Louis in the NFC West and Dallas in the NFC East.

The good part about this is that Seattle no longer accompany Denver. Thanks to Jay Feely missing all three would-be game-winning field goals (from 40 yards in regulation, and 54 and 45 yards in overtime), Seattle were able to pull off a 24-21 win against the Giants, matching Denver’s similar OT win against Dallas, taking them to 9-2. During their time in the AFC Central, it was almost unheard of for Seattle to achieve a positive record at the end of the season, something that tonight’s win guarantees.

Broncos go 9-2

After four weeks of the regular season, Stephen questioned my enthusiasm for the Broncos’ then 3-1 record, arguing that they would not be able to maintain that form to end the season 12-4.

They went into tonight’s Thanksgiving game against Dallas 8-2, and came out of it 9-2 a few moments ago. In regulation, they traded touchdowns – three each. In overtime, Jason Elam converted a 24-yard field goal following an impressive 55-yard run from Ron Dayne to set it up. 24-21 Broncos.

Jake Plummer’s franchise record of unintercepted passes came to an end at 229, short only of Bernie Kosar’s 308 for the Browns.

Last week, we achieved our first shut-out (albeit against the Jets) since 1997.

We have three relatively tough away games remaining, against the Chiefs next week (Arrowhead is always a daunting place to go), Buffalo and at San Diego on New Year’s Eve. I would hope that the two home games, against Baltimore and Oakland, will be more straightforward.

The music that closed the match was the Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony. Not sure why, but it was nice to hear.

290 million km for a one second visit

If I were to travel 290 million km to get somewhere, I’d like to think it was worth staying around, at least for a cup of tea. The Japanese probe that has just completed this distance to reach an asteroid called Itokawa only planned to land for one second before heading home. In the event, it hung around for a full half hour before lifting off again, such was the draw of the asteroid.

Its original plan equates to popping over to New York from London for 0.00002 seconds (from a distance travelled vs. time spent at destination perspective), while its revised schedule equates to loitering around for an unseemly 0.35 seconds.

The Father Christmas project is a comedic coup on the part of all involved. DNA scientists are trying to figure out whether there was a single male ancestor for all of the people with a surname of Christmas, thus making him the ultimate Father Christmas.

As an amusing aside, for Father Christmas to visit everyone on Christmas day, he would spend around 0.000013 seconds administering the needs of each person, that is of course assuming that everyone’s been good. I’ve only given him 24 hours to get round to everyone, although in reality, he may get around 32 hours if he were to start in Oz and get back to the date line before people woke at 8am.

Look! No jumping links!

Thanks to Mr. J. Reay of Pimlico (I think) for solving the annoying jumping links issue. I’ve changed the padding in the #links section of the stylesheet to make the left padding pixel- rather than percentage-based. I don’t think I would have thought of that in a proverbial month of Sundays.

The issue has now disappeared, which I’m pleased about. The disconcerting thing is that the issue never presented itself in Firefox.

Coloured bubbles are finally a reality

I picked up this story from Francis, and it makes fascinating reading. Tim Kehoe’s passion, and the numerous set-backs make the story all the more compelling. The idea is wonderful, and the pictures are great.

Language and music

A slightly odd journey from Puck Fair to Sarah’s new apartment on 48th Street last night. I took the R train from Prince Street to Union Square, then went express aboard the Q to 42nd street and then back to the R up to 49th. When you have the option of express or local trains, there’s always a dilemma about which to take, particularly when the local train shows up first. On arriving at Union Square, should I stay aboard the R or cross the platform and wait for an express train to arrive? Last night, the gamble paid off.

Anyway, while waiting at Prince Street, there was a xylophonist busking away on the platform – not the easiest instrument to carry around, I’m sure. It was quite pleasing to the ear.

Then, on boarding the first R train, one of those romantic Italian singers with a guitar boarded, to woo the captive audience with his dulcet tones and to collect a little cash along the way. His singing was quite nice, but what surprised me was that he definitely used the word dorito in the middle of one of his songs. I’ve tried looking it up today, but can’t find any reference.

And finally, aboard the Q train, there was what appeared to be a Japanese family speaking fluently to one another in Spanish.

A slightly surreal journey, I have to say.

In God and Meebo We Trust

A couple of lovely links, one that tickled me, and one that’s a great idea which I wish I’d thought of.

Firstly, an atheist in California is suing over the use of the words In God We Trust which appear on the back of dollar bills of all denominations over here. In many respects, I see his point, as you shouldn’t have to share the prevalent religious mindset in order to use the local currency, right?

Next, to Meebo, a link that was sent to me by my friend Francis. In the past, the likes of Trillian and Gaim have done relatively good jobs at aggregating messenger services into a single location. Meebo has developed a web-based offering allowing you to IM without the need to download client software. Using AJAX, you can drag your panes around the web page that acts as the interface.

It’s quite light in terms of features, but the concept and the UI are both beautiful. While staying at my parents’ house last weekend (before the Meebo revelation), I went through the rigmarole of downloading Yahoo! Messenger in order to IM with someone to ask a single question. The download and install process took way longer than the IM conversation itself. Meebo would have got me around it nicely.

Office 12 beta

So, the new version of MS Office (Office 12) is out in beta mode. I’m relieved to see that they’ve included vari-shading of cells in Excel. That’s a feature I’ve been aching for for as long as I can remember. (How on earth did that get on to the requirements list???)

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