Christian Heilmann

Posts Tagged ‘open source’

GeoMaker update – new features and source available on GitHub

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Over the course of the weekend I finished polishing GeoMaker and uploaded the source to GitHub. So now you can use GeoMaker or its API and also host them on your own server.

The new features include:

  • Embedding of Geo microformats into a text when originally you wanted to analyse a text and intermediate text display.
  • Turning RSS feeds into maps (much like RSS2Map) with an intermediate filtering step
  • Total re-code (includes instead of one massive chunk, configuration and labels file)
  • Help and About and Developer docs

See the changes in action in the following screencast (the design of the RSS preview has changed since – more obvious now):

The next steps will be to allow for multiple map providers. Got any other ideas?

Open and Accessible – my talk at the OSDC in Taipei, Taiwan

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Yesterday I gave a presentation at the Open Source Developer Conference in Taipei, Taiwan about a different view of accessibility called Open and Accessible:


[slideshare id=1309350&doc=1309350]

As part of my Taiwan trip I had an interview with Ray Wang of IThome about accessibility and he was pretty impressed with me telling him that accessibility shouldn’t be about trying to comply with a law but is an opportunity to build massively successful and better usable products for everybody.

In this talk I am covering the same topic for an Open Source audience. I do believe that free and easily available and usable assistive technology is the future of accessibility as with commercial products we are running in circles. Screen readers are expensive pieces of information and far too hard to install and upgrade. The accessibility world’s technical set-ups are stuck in a woefully outdated state that developers despise having to support and the only way out is to make easier, upgrading and self-maintaining products built on systems like Mozilla’s Firefox.

I hope I managed to entice some people of the Open Source community to give accessibilty a go and maybe organize an Asia Pacific Scripting Enabled.

The talk was filmed, so there will be a recording soon.

AEGIS – Sun sponsors open source solutions tailored for accessibility

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Just got this via the webaim mailing list:

I am very pleased to share with you news about the AEGIS project, a 12.6m investment in accessibility, with the vast majority of it focused on open source solutions.
Rather than repeat here all that I have written about AEGIS already, I will instead invite you to read about it in my blog: or check out the AEGIS website at: I have worked in the field of accessibility for nearly 17 years, and on open source accessibility almost a dozen of those years. In that time, open source accessibility has become a deep and abiding passion.
I’m very proud that the techniques we have pioneered in the open source community have since been adopted by Apple with the Macintosh & VoiceOver, and are being adopted by Microsoft with UI Automation. These same techniques are enshrined in the report a 42 member committee delivered to the U.S. Access Board earlier this year (and which at this very moment being reviewed by them as they work on their refresh of the Section 508 accessibility standard). And these techniques are at the core of the AEGIS project. With AEGIS, over the next 3.5 years we will attempt to bring programmatic accessibility more fully to the web, and to the mobile world. With AEGIS we will also address a number of issues that still remain inaccessibility on the open desktop. And while we’re at it, we will bring a bunch of new and talented people into the open source accessibility community (you should start seeing them showing up on our mailing lists and wikis in the coming months). We will also fund a number of the experts who have already made tremendous open source accessibility contributions – to enable to them to continue and to do even more. I’m sure they will shortly make their voices heard on these lists and in the blogosphere. And we will explicitly fund a number of European disability organizations. These organizations and many dozens of their members will be providing their expert input on our work, and thoughtfully evaluating our prototypes, and perhaps adopting the solutions we come up with because they do a great job of meeting their needs. Oh, and we’ll also write a bunch of open source accessibility code.
This Sunday the 19th of October marks the 8th anniversary of the GNOME Accessibility Project. AEGIS helps bring a fantastic 8th year to a
close, and also serves to inaugurate the next 3.5 years!
Peter Korn
Accessibility Architect & Principal Engineer,
Sun Microsystems, Inc.

How cool is this! It is great to see that the open source world is going full steam with accessibility and now we need to make sure that what they do reaches the people that need what they built and doesn’t get lost in IT department red tape.

I’ll get in contact with Peter and see how we can collaborate

Release early, release often is not as easy as it seems

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Ben Collins-Sussman, Subversion godfather and one of the men behind Google Code wrote an interesting article about Programmer insecurity in which he realizes that the whole concept about “Release early, release often” is not as common as we think it is.

And yet over and over, I’m gathering stories that point to the fact that programmers do not want to write code out in the open. Programmers don’t want their peers to see mistakes or failures. They want to work privately, in a cave, then spring “perfect” code on their community, as if no mistakes had ever been made. I don’t think it’s hubris so much as fear of embarrassment. Rather than think of programming as an inherently social activity, most coders seem to treat it as an arena for personal heroics, and will do anything to protect that myth. They’re fine with sharing code, as long as they present themselves as infallible, it seems. Maybe it’s just human nature.

Yes it is, and overcoming the barrier to allow people to point out your mistakes to you for fixing is quite a hard step for a lot of people.

One main reason is that the job market doesn’t necessarily help us in getting there: bad managers still promote developers in terms of what they can produce in a certain amount of time or how much they know themselves. Clever managers encourage knowledge sharing and make sustainability of your code a necessity for promotion. If you can deliver good code and you can make yourself replaceable by people reporting to you, that is good for the company and the product. It also means that you can have a holiday once in a while. However, far too often this way of progressing is seen as weakness or “losing touch” or “becoming a manager and not a coder” by your programming peers. Coalfaces we ain’t, so let’s stop with this.

Back to opening up your code early and often and invite feedback all the time. I do appreciate that some people don’t want to do that. It is not about releasing “perfect code” but it actually is about protecting your idea or principles.

Say you wanted to create a JavaScript library that only does one thing right: patching browser bugs in DOM and CSS support and allowing developers to really use the W3C recommended methods instead of branching for browsers. Releasing this library would more than likely result in a flood of requests to “add animation – everybody needs that!”, “make it like jQuery – just smaller” and similar requests. Developers are amazingly gifted in listening to the “feature creature” (think of Jabba’s little evil cackling mate in Star Wars) on their shoulder instead of keeping what they deliver down to the bare necessities. Feedback like that early in the process is very distracting and also disheartening. It is not about how much you pack in – it is about fulfilling the task you set out to fulfil.