Christian Heilmann

Posts Tagged ‘unconference’

I had an accessibility hacking dream – RIP Scripting Enabled

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Scripting enabled

About two years ago I had a dream and made it reality: I wanted to mix the crazy world of hackdays and unconferences and the world of accessibility.

In hackdays and unconferences developers show in a very short amount of time that they can solve a lot of problems and create great proof of concept products. These proofs can then be taken forward and changed into real products.

In the accessibility world we constantly complain that developers do not care enough about the needs of people with disabilities. We also complain about new technology not being helpful to disability needs or needs of the elderly.

I wanted to marry the enthusiasm of hackdays and the existing urge of developers to solve problems with the real life problems people who use the web have. I also wanted to dispel some myths around accessibility and show that you can be cool and innovative and also care for the needs of everybody.

Therefore I organised Scripting Enabled, a one day conference in which people with different disabilities showed the barriers that keep them from using the web and inviting a group of developers on the following day to build solutions to remove these barriers.

I was successful – I managed to pull off a free conference with a lot of attendees with only £200 out of my own pocket and caused some media attention and recorded a few good videos (which are on Yahoo Video – so I need to move them soon, drat!) raising awareness about disability needs on the web.

What I failed to do was my second agenda: to break down the barrier between the accessibility world and the development world and start a constant flow of hack and accessibility innovation.

I opened the idea of Scripting Enabled to everyone and invited people to hold their own. One other SE was held at Adobe in Seattle but that was it.

I started a mailing list and a Wiki – both dying of spam now and without any activity.

Probably this is all my fault – you just can’t start a new movement and build a community in a very saturated market like the internet is today with Facebook, Twitter, various mailing lists, Quora, Reddit, Stackoverflow and others all competing for our attention.

If I had constantly pushed for Scripting Enabled it might have hit off. I relied on the accessibility community to do that for me – alas, they didn’t and I actually have a hard time naming a working accessibility community that does not revolve around trying to push “accessible products”.

That is why I will archive Scripting Enabled as soon as I have time. I spend a lot of time deleting spam and I feel that there is no point in kicking this horse to trot on. It was a nice dream and a good first run. I am happy I did it but I don’t feel there is a point to try to repeat when there is no communication in two years.

Leancamp London – a new outlook on startups

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

After spending the past weekend at Warblecamp I went up to the construction site that is the Great Western Studios to attend Leancamp. In essence, Leancamp was an unconference trying to promote a new, more agile and leaner approach to starting your own business. Instead of trying to dazzle investors with great visuals and random predictions of future prosperity you concentrate on what you want to build for whom first and then spend as little as possible to achieve as much as possible. Being nimble, agile and lean is more important than showing impressive numbers and burning through a lot of cash before hopefully being bought by somebody.

leancamp scheduleLeancamp attendees.

With me being very oblivious to the pains and ideas of having an own startup my part in Leancamp was two-fold: giving a talk introducing Yahoo technologies that startups can benefit from (YQL, YUI, Design Patterns) and interviewing David Heinemeier Hansson of 37 Signals about their new book Rework for the YDN Theatre.

The latter came as a bit of a surprise as I neither knew anything about the book or much about 37 signals really (never having had a small company I never used BaseCamp). So I spent my weekend reading the book to prepare myself for the interview. For me it was a bit of a blast from the past as I used to work for a radio station constantly interviewing people before becoming a web developer.

My talk had – after a few initial planning hickups – a lot of people in the room and covered all the things Yahoo offers for companies to use for free to build quick prototypes that can easily be turned into full blown products without worrying about scaling and them working in an environment as hostile as the internet. The slides are available on SlideShare and the audio at

I once again was fascinated just how many of Yahoo’s tools are not known to people. I do think I am doing quite a good job promoting them but clearly not enough :)

I will write more about the interview with David Heinemeier Hansson and the book once the video is out.

All in all Leancamp was an interesting (un)conference for me as it meant I met people from environments I normally don’t hang out in. The organisation was good (exception was the lack of food as it ran out very quickly – although @farhan was nice enough to get me a sandwich while I was preparing my talk).

There were some really good discussions going on and I am sure a lot of the material that was recorded will show up on the Leancamp site sooner or later.

Barcamp5 London will be at the ebay office in Richmond

Friday, July 4th, 2008

Dees Chinniah just emailed me with details about Barcamp London 5 on the 27th and 28th of September in the ebay offices in Richmond.
It is quite a trip to get there from Central London, but if the weather will be nice the location is the bomb – and there is enough space to park if needed.

More information on the BarCamp Site and of course on Upcoming

Let’s give Dees and of course Jonathan from ebay our support and make this a great unconference.

The struggle for web standards – my presentation for Coder’s Saturday in Montreal

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

This is the presentation I have just given at the Coder’s Saturday in Montreal, Canada. The theme revolves around the adoption of standards and why this is important not only in a technological sense but much more necessary to appear as a professional developer. Most standards we talk about are really recommendations and we need to find convincing arguments why people should follow them or even why they are important to us.

Open Source Jam at Google UK

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Me posing with my mobile at Open Source Jam

Last Thursday I went to the Google offices in London Victoria to attend a bi-monthly unconference called Open Source Jam. I was running a bit on autopilot as I was in Leeds the day before talking about the YUI at the Geekup meeting and originally wanted to skip the session as I was pretty knackered. It was great though that I didn’t follow my instinct, but instead have a nice unconference with Pizza, Beer and lots of 5 minute+5 minute Q&A sessions revolving around creating interfaces for humans.

In comparison to other barcamps the Open Source Jam was a lot more technical and speakers were more coders than web developers. I’ve learnt about a chess program for the iPhone, how to write APIs to make them more accessible to humans, UXON - a User Interface Object Notation (more on this coming soon), Behaviour Driven Development, holes in the Flickr API and a lot of other things.

My initial idea of staying for an hour and then leaving for a speaker’s dinner of a company-internal conference was foiled and I took the last tube back from Victoria.

My own talk was a preview of a session I will give at the Abilitynet Accessibility conference in April, talking about how accessibility is not an extra task but – if taken into consideration from the beginning – an opportunity to build better products for everybody.

I want to thank the organizers and will very likely be there for the next jam.

Photo by Adewale Oshineye