Monday, November 11, 2019

Drool, Patch Notes & a11yTOConf

Weekly Update 2019-44: Catchy music from interdisciplinary duo Drool, a rap-king who isn't too big to fix his own mistakes and many lessons learned from this year's big conference on accessibility in Toronto.

Music: Drool
Something a little different this week: interdisciplinary artist Cara Stricker and musician John Kirby collaborate for the second time to bring you a beautifully catchy song and its very own music video for their song End Girl.

It's so rare that I take the time to watch music videos these days, so I figured that a video made specifically with its song rather than being an afterthought would be a good place to break back in. All filmed as a one-shot in California, I found it similar to walking dazed through a weird house party, trying to find a spot to get lit.

Warning: NSFW due to nudity.

Since Drool is a special project with only two songs, they've gotten themselves lumped together in Spotify with what appears to be TWO other bands of the same name (one is thrash metal, the other experimental noise electronica). Keep in mind I can only endorse this song and Down.

I have now learned that class 4 of the UI semester is basically a real-life YouTube tutorial for Sketch. While it certainly is useful to the students' learning, there are so, so many recorded YouTube tutorials that already offer the same information for free. I told this class on day one that they should check out Pablo Stanley's wonderful Sketch Together tutorials, because they're easy, free, and effective. It's how I learned to use Sketch and I have never gone back to Adobe since.

Of course there are benefits for the students; they'll stop me and ask to go over something again or I might let them pick the examples I use to show the skills so it becomes more relevant to them. Like showing them how to create a symbol component, but they choose which component I make. A student did mention to me that my style of tutorial allowed her to finally stick with Sketch after she didn't click with it during previous sessions. What a nice compliment!

I was very lucky to have my work foot the bill for me to attend two days of #a11yTOConf - an amazing lineup of speakers on all things accessibility. More on that below.

After a whirlwind week, I took my mother out on the town to check out a special exhibit on the Masters of Modern furniture design. Works by Mies Van Der Rohe, Marcel Breuer and Florence Knoll, alongside the wondersome textiles of Anni Albers, warmly filled the first-floor meeting areas of the Toronto-Dominion Centre (also architected by Van Der Rohe).

Some of Anni Albers's textile strips.

Foreground: installation furniture.
Background: cheap knockoff(?) downstairs for everyday use.

Some of the Nuit Blanche sculptures from the MaRS building were also hanging out.

Their attention to form and function together as a joint problem to be solved is forever inspirational to me. If we can provide satisfaction in having a product work as expected, why not do the same for its aesthetic appeal? The two aspects forever enhance each other, and just make for a very comfortable chair to sit in. Others agreed, because the exhibit furniture was being used by various business people as we explored through all the iconic pieces.

After that, we walked over to a restaurant called Chotto Matte - a feast for the eyes as much as the mouth. They specialize in Nikkei, the combination of Japanese and Peruvian foods. Of course, both cultures have the staple of fresh raw fish, but the magic is in the mixture of Japan's complex-yet-subtle flavours with Peru's bright spices and prized starches of corn, yucca and potato.

The restaurant didn't look too bad, either. It had a really cool layout with a second-floor bathroom beyond a corridor filled with blacklight abstract art.

The weekend was equally filled: attending a church sale with Larissa and then helping her with her annual Halloween party. The next day I took Emilia and Jess around Kensington for the last Pedestrian Sunday of the year.

In the spirit of cleaning and refreshing with the seasons, I decided to rearrange my furniture a bit again ... and I found a mouse. Having to dispose of it was probably the scariest thing I've had to do in a while, I had to psyche myself up to it for a few minutes so I'll call that an accomplishment, too.

Next weekend Ruth-Ann is taking me back to Kitten and the Bear for another lovely round of afternoon tea. This will be my first visit to the new, bigger location. I can't wait to pick a jar off their wall of jams...all their new flavours always make my mouth water.

Yes, the seasons are changing and I have stuff to do around the house. I want to apply some window insulation film to a window as a test, put away my summer clothes and fish the space heater out of the closet. I still aim not to turn it on in earnest until it gets colder out, but I've already had one weirdly cool October night trying to sleep with a cold nose...not my favourite thing to do.

Random Thought: Patch Notes
Within twelve hours of releasing his ninth album, Kanye West's producers are releasing fixes and patch notes to Apple Music. For an artist who declared himself "the greatest human artist to ever exist," I gotta respect the creative will to strive forever toward an unattainable perfection.

This isn't the first time Kanye has released fixes to his music post-release, which I guess is a thing musicians can do now in the age of streaming music that can't be physically owned by fans. If someone had purchased a physical copy of this release, it would have those mistakes on it forever. I hate to mention Tr*mp on this blog for the piece of crap that he is, but it looks like he got the one with the mistakes...

Maybe you can ask your friend Kanye for a refund on your presidential vinyl record.

Inspiration: #a11yTOConf
There were so many good talks at this year's Toronto-grown accessibility conference. I appreciated the variance in subject matter from applying accessibility to design and development to problem solving, accessibility and government, politics, and so much more.

Tatiana Mac gave a particularly impactful talk on the importance of understanding the power we wield as content creators, building small pieces that combine up into overarching systems - these systems often unwittingly force us to comply for the benefit of the modern-day emperors and kings (the tech CEO makes an average of 287x their worker's salary). We can make choices in our work not to comply with rules set by people who will never experience the negative outcomes of their haphazardly-made decisions. Check out her slides here.

Tatiana's slide showing how exclusionary societies and ecosystems are cyclical in nature - we must break free of the positive feedback loop.

Chancey Fleet's talk contained a total of zero slides - as a person with sight loss herself, she wanted to provide a bit of immediate understanding from the audience about the importance of alternatives to sight-based drawing tools for creativity. All humans need the outlet of creation (the way many of us are taught to draw at a young age) in order to grasp concepts and apply them to new ideas. Chancey explained some really wonderful advancements in technology that aim to bridge this gap, like the Swellform machine that can sense where ink exists on a page, automatically raising it up to give texture and understanding through touch as well as sight.

Chancey onstage with her support dog, as well as a sign language interpreter.

Shell Little gave a Dungeons & Dragons-themed presentation on the underrepresentation of accessibility guidelines surrounding people who are neurodiverse (a range of cognitive disabilities). I tend to find trouble reading through content on a webpage filled with flashing ads or filling out a form when I can see a blinking timer ticking down. Many of Shell's examples felt like underserved areas of user experience design, and gave me further hope that accessibility and usability can be achieved together.

Shell showing us the D&D Roadmap for her presentation.

Shell also discussed the Spoon Theory, the idea that we each only have a certain amount of energy (or spoons) at the start of any day. Various tasks will take away a certain amount of one's spoons until they are left with none. One cannot complete any more tasks until one's spoons are replenished through rest. Yet another reminder that design should be as simple as possible so as not to require any more spoons from the user than what are absolutely required to get the job done.

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