SXSW 2009: Accessible AJAX

Sunday, March 15th, 2009 11:30 AM
Sharron Rush, Knowbility
Becky Gibson, IBM

Assessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) is a spec that is going through the w3c. Form controls, links and such all have roles. However, when you start making complicated controls such as tree controls you can use ARIA to add those symantics into your HTML. Additional attributes are being proposed for these elements which will allow accessable software (such as a screen reader) to use these fields. Jaws reads off rather these tree elements are open/closed, rather there are children, and how many elements there are in a list. Keyboard control is also necessary to navigate this tree. The attribute tag “role” on a block element tag will allow Jaws 10.0 to navigate sections of your website very easily. It almost gives them a chapter view of every section on the website they’re viewing.

Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has a navigation that you must tab through all of the links, and it becomes difficult. A simple rewrite using the ARIA attributes made the Education, Research, Patient Care, etc. tabs become menu controls that can be opened, closed, and tabbed into with keyboard inputs.

For Ajax you can set a region as “live” and thus if the region’s data changes when Ajax loads it will then re-read that section.’s Timeline is also an impossible tool to use with a screen reader. Using the Yahoo’s User Interface (YUI) Library Gibson broke these pages up into panes, added left and right arrows, and added Jaws controls. It no longer uses the mouse controls, but it is a very accessable solution.

SXSW 2009: Edupunk: Open Source in Education

Sunday, March 15th, 2009 10:00 AM
Jim Groom, University of Mary Washington
Stephen Downs, National Research Council of Washington
Barbara Ganley, Digital Explorations
Gardner Cambell, Baylor University
George Lester

Watch the Edupunk SXSW Trailer on youtube.
View the online session chat.
View the wikipedia article on Edupunk.
View the twitter hash #sxswed.

Edupunk is an approach to teaching and learning techniques that uses main stream tools that brings 70s rock bands to the classroom.

Cambell Speaks. In the 1990s schools started catching on that they needed to start putting things on the web. Although faculty didn’t know what they were doing, they did find some tools that allowed them to easily put things on the internet. However, this was a very standard way of transactional changes. So far the transactions have been point and click template driven, and opressive would be a good way to describe it.

Groom Speaks. Edupunk came about as a commercialized transaction. We want to sell what we do through a certain system, instead of giving people a tool they can express themselves in. When Groom started using an open source tool, there was a huge documentation on how to do everything they needed without a vendor. At some point we have to ask ourselves, “Do we need twitter, myspace, facebook?” Are social networks a concept of “progress?” Although we’re all looking at our computer screens are we moving to the next step? Is technology a way to educate, or are we all going to become zombies driven to the control of our computers? As technology removes libraries’ need, we’re loosing places for people to meet and gather in a social environment.

Downs Speaks. Education technology so far has reserved power of authority in the school. But what education teaches us is we do not need this power of authority to learn. And this becomes a very ironic situation. Education facilities should do this for their own benefit, and not for the benefit of governments. There is a tendency for us to go to twitter, myspace, and facebook. And then to be surprised when they’re using our input for their advertisment purposes. We should do more of this for our own benefit. Down’s university offered an online course that anyone in the world could take. This course was offered for free, but if you wanted credit then you’d have to pay for tuition. This allows for anyone, no matter their financial background, to get free higher level education. 24 people paid for tuition and took the course for credit, but a total of 2200 people signed up. This, in result, was an astonishing outcome which Downs feels technology is heading.

Ganley Speaks. Her school was using small tools that were all intertwined. In June she left formal educaiton to work in communities to take a different aproach to think of themselves as learners. We need to stop and think, “What does it mean to be educated? What does it mean to be a person? What does it mean to do the common good?” How does education help learn different perspectives if all you do is work with students your age throguhout your educational experience? We need to get people out into the world and have them work with other people. Librarys are a good portal for this, because they can connect community to community through its knowledge. Life is starting to be dumbed down to a menu of how life is supposed to be, and does not open up the student’s eyes to more.

Campbell Speaks. Twitter is a corportate enterprise. But there is a way where a school can be at its best where a meeting can occur. If they whole school buys into a vendor type product, then it becomes harder for a school to change that in the future.

SXSW 2009: Building a Bridge with Barcodes – The QR Code Invasion

QR Code for

QR Code

Saturday, March 14th, 2009 5:00 PM
Margaretta Quinuis
Anthony Dey, QR Codes of Australia
Even Jones, Stitch Media
Dustin Haisler, CIO of the City of Baker
Daniel Switkin, Developer at Google

iCandy is a desktop scanning tool for QR Codes. You can generate QR codes on some websites, such as this one. Google has an open source API for reading QR codes. BeeTagg is a reader application for your cell phone (many models accepted).

Using Australian handsets they become hard to read over 25 characters of text in a QR code because they become so complex.  Even under 25 characters the codes shouldn’t be smaller than 2.2cm in width/height otherwise the handsets will have issues with it.

In Australia they sent out 6000 invitations of a party to magazine subscriptions. On this invitation was information on how to obtain a QR code reader on their cell phone, and a QR code with more details about the event. There was also wording that said, “This is a QR Code. It is very popular in Japan and you should get a reader.” 400 people scanned that QR code.

SXSW 2009: From Freelance to Agency: Start Small, Stay Small

Saturday, March 14th, 2009 3:30 PM
Kristina Halvorson, President of Brain Traffic
Roger Black, President/Designer of Roger Black Studio
Whitney Hess, User Experience Designer
Jeffrey Zeldman, Founder/Exec Creative Director of Happy Cog Studios

If you can stand in front of a room of 20 very intelligent people for 10 minutes and talk about just one thing, that one thing is what you should go into. Whatever that one thing is, you can make money off of it.

The great thing about freelancing is you can be scattered anywhere, be all on your own with your own websites and own clients. But pooling multiple freelancers together makes for a great global network for projects. Hiering a freelancer for a company is typically cheaper too. Having an enterprise scale agency build a website adds substancial costs.

Accepting that you cannot fully do an entire development process (Such as the Design aspect) is a great milestone. Trying to do everything if you’re not good at something is a bad idea. It is probably better to hire out the Design then attempt it yourself.

As a freelancer you should blog, tweet (twitter), and participate in the online community. This online interaction will cause some of the best networking. Your portfolio typically does not get you the gig, but its the process you take when producing that final product. People care more about how you work, not what the final product will look like… At least when wooeing the client.

When they were charging less for projects than what they thought they were worth they were getting poor projects. When they then started charging more for new projects the clients respected that and they started getting better projects. It is almost like if you charge a lot, you’re “more experienced” in their mind. And essentially the people who don’t want to spend a lot of money, they wont come to you. It works as a really good filter. It is becoming standard to be able to ask what their budget is, and then undercut it by 10% or so.

“Date Phononom:” Just like in dating, not being available will make you more desirable. So telling them you do not have time right now will make them even more excited to work with you when they can.

When you don’t want a client then charge him a ridiculous amount of money, and the worst thing that happens is they stop contacting you.

One of the freelancers, Hess, does most of her work between 12am and 4am. She does meetings in the day time with clients, but then does most of her work late at night. She doesn’t really have a set schedule, but sets deadlines so they’re realistic and can flow with her other clients’ work. When she procrastinates she seems to be more productive at last moment. Realizing that there were no managers overwatching her, and she could set her own schedule, she starting realizing what made her happy. And this happyness is what she surrounded herself in to become more efficient. I’m jealous. 🙂

SXSW 2009: So, you want to be a Game Developer?

Saturday, March 14th, 2009 2:00 PM
Snider, Game Developer
Ted Langdell, Edge Games
Scott Jenning, Game Developer
King Shin, Arkane Studios
Michael Baird

Game Developers are not Game Designers. Artifical Inteligence takes up a lot of development time, and is crutial for game play. Scripting and Physics is also another big category of game development. “Every game developer has three ideas in their pocket for games.” If a Game Developer wants to become a Game Designer too, then it is possible. In order to fully create a game you’ll need to be both a Game Developer and a Game Designer.

Jennings believes that knowing the coding side of game design greatly helps them understand what he can or cannot do. Shin says you typically end up developing to the design.

Why is it easier to get a job as a developer for a Health Care company than it is for a Game Development company?

  • There are very few people who know what makes a great game. And although you can do great code, you cannot make great games.
  • Game Development companies do not want to teach you how to work on games, so you basically need to know everything before getting into the entry-level game programer field. The reason for this is there are just so many other Game Developers who would over qualify you.
  • Knowledge of SQL will make you stand out in an interview, because not a lot of game developers know much about it.
  • Flash runtime is also being started to be used a lot in game development. Very few people know flash’s action script and thus flash programers could easily get a Game Development job.

To be a Game Developer what do i need to learn above and beyond my Computer Science degree?

  • Look at the job requirements for applying online. Take this tasks into hand to learn.
  • Educational classes typically look down upon teaching classes in game development.
  • In school, teaching AI is totally different than the skill set required in game development AI.
  • Have a good demo of something you’ve created. This is absolutly necessary and will put you far ahead of the other people.
  • In an interview they’ll ask what games you play because they want you to play games, and understand how they work. Believe it or not but there are game developers who do not play games.
  • People skills are very important in game development. Games are a Team effort to develop.
  • You’ll need to know C++ unless you’re doing Flash.

When making a demo, what do you exactly do to show you can program a game?

  • You can always mimic a game you like. Like Tetris.
  • Make sure your demo works and does not crash. Make sure you’ve heavily tested it across computer platforms.
  • Since companies wont always want to run your demo on their internal computers for security reasons, you may want to give them a website with screen shots and details about it.
  • Be very clear about what you did in the game. If you didn’t do the graphics, or didn’t program all of it, tell them.

Do not use a recruiter if you want to be a Game Developer. With a recruiter it will cost them more to hire you than if you didn’t have one. Attending a Game Developer conference to network with companies that may be interested in hireing you. Game companies will talk among each other and may be talking about you; so don’t do something stupid.