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The Unheard Word

One woman's slightly skewed views

8 things you didn’t know about me

Ben Winter-Giles, a webdev friend I met at Web Directions South in 2006, tagged me a while back but, true to form, I’m very late to the party! However, better late than never. (Perhaps!)

For those who haven’t heard about it yet:

The rules :

  1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
  2. List EIGHT random facts about yourself.
  3. Tag EIGHT people at the end of your post and list their names.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

This is pretty hard cos I’m very open about myself, and everyone knows the most important things about me, for example, what I eat, what I drink… ;-)

OK, so eight random facts about me:

  • Since I was a child, I have wanted to learn French. I started at high school but couldn’t continue because of my hearing difficulties. After my cochlear implants (due June, 2008) if possible I want to study French and one day fulfil my dream to live in France for a few years.
  • I’m city bred but I’m a country girl at heart. My idea of heaven is to live on an acreage (the bigger the better) with horses (of course) and grow my own produce. It would be amazing to be self-sufficient for all the essentials, and to only have to shop for life’s little luxuries.
  • I have a black thumb. :-( I’m told watering plants helps, but have yet to test this theory.
  • I am a member of Slow Food Perth and the OGAWA. I support Slow Food because of its value both socially and environmentally, on many levels — and organic producers, because of their wonderful stewardship of the land and of animals, and the resulting benefits to my health and my taste buds!
  • I’ve trained as an equine massage therapist (think sports massage for horses who, after all, are athletes) but sadly the standing around for the course brought on crippling (literally) sciatica that took 8 months to resolve, and so I never finished the externship. After my cochlear implants I would love to repeat this course and follow it through. I look forward to being more “hands-on” with my beautiful, noble steeds.
  • Within the web industry, my ambition is still to be like Molly when I grow up.
  • I am a passionate person. I am passionate about the web, and web standards and web accessibility in particular. I am passionate about horses and their wellbeing. I am passionate about my family and their wellbeing. I am passionate about the food we eat. I am passionate about maintaining culture and traditions (whatever they may be, including and especially those of the Australian Indigenous people, who are so undervalued in our society) instead of just adopting whatever the USA does as many Aussies seem inclined to do, without even giving it a thought. I am passionate about promoting thinking, rational, healthy human beings rather than pseudo-human sheep…
  • I have never experienced it, but my idea of pure bliss is to bathe in Baileys Irish Cream and then… uh.

I won’t be tagging anyone specifically, because I think the meme is well and truly over — it seems everyone I know has already done it. If you haven’t, please consider yourself tagged! It’s been very interesting — thanks folks!

Vicki’s Vapours

Posting on this blog slowed right down a long time ago, and I’m finding it hard to find fresh things to write about from a technical and web development perspective. When something interesting does come along, I always seem to be too busy to post about it when it’s fresh. Such is (my) life.

So I have started up a new, personal blog I’ve called Vicki’s Vapours, that is more about my thoughts and what is happening in my life (and what yummy food I happen to be eating, too!) than tech stuff. From time to time I’ll post here when I feel I have something to say, but mostly you’ll find me over at Vicki’s Vapours.

WebJam Perth

That’s right folks, WebJam is finally coming to Perth. Whoo hoo!

So, what is WebJam?

To put it in Myles’s words, WebJam is an event where:

…we have a number of presenters who get 3 minutes to show us what they are working on, why it is cool and why we should vote for them.

Here are the details:

What:
WebJam Perth
Where:
Velvet Lounge (at the back of the Flying Scotsman), Beaufort St, Mt Lawley
Date:
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Time:
6pm
Description:
WebJam is a night of fun and informative 3-minute presentations. When they’re all done, we’ll vote on them. Come join us! This event will be presented by AWIA

Sadly, the event coincides with the August Perth Weblogger Meetup but I’m sure the members will all come and support WebJam instead, just this once…. WebJam is for everyone who uses the web!

It will be just two days before the WA Web Awards (WAWA) so it really will be (to snitch more of Myles’s words) “WA Web Week”.

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MailTags 2 Workflow

MailTags is probably the single most productivity-increasing plug-in/utility I use, and I thought it might be useful for other folks to get an idea of how I integrate it into my workflow.

MailTags is a plug-in for Apple’s Mail application. It allows the user to assign keywords, project names, notes (and you can even replace the subject line of an email with whatever note you assign… particularly useful for emails without subjects or with subjects that lack meaning) and add iCal “to-do” and “event” items.

MailTags makes great use of OSX’s ability to integrate with other OSX applications such as iCal, and also integrates with other applications such as iGTD, MailSteward, TagBot, EagleFiler, and DockStar.

Folders pre MailTags

I organise my email into folders, via Mail’s Rules (or filters). The folders are primarily organised according to the sender or mailing list. For example, I have a Clients mailbox incorporating folders for each of my clients. This is fine, except Rules can be limiting. For example, one of my clients is an independent public relations contractor, and as such might be associated with more than one of my projects at any given time. But under my system, any mail sent by him goes into a single mailbox when relying solely on Mail’s Rules.

And for another client, I work with a colleague who is also a friend. A lot of our correspondence has nothing to do with this client, but there is no easy way to separate the different categories of emails from him (either friendship or business), because even in mail associated with the client, the client’s name or the project name or any other common work-defining characteristic around which I can build a Rule around, may not be mentioned anywhere in the email.

Enter: MailTags.

Using Mailtags, which inserts a pane in the message window (which can be opened or hidden either manually or automatically), all I have to do is to allocate keywords and/or a project for each incoming (or outgoing) email I think may need such a filter. Then I can either search or — my preference — set up a Smart Mailbox for keywords and/or projects as required, independent of sender or receiver if necessary, and see at a glance any correspondence relating to my criteria. It is absolutely brilliant, simple to set up, and very time-saving.

MailTags keywords and projects can be saved for re-use, and are also be included in the Rules dialog box so Mail Rules can utilise them as well.

To Dos and Events

But it doesn’t stop with keywords and projects and changed subject lines. Right inside the message window, MailTags (with a very nice HUD, I might add) makes it possible to add To Dos and Events directly into iCal. Simply click on whichever of the To Do or the Event buttons you require in the MailTags pane of the message window, fill in the details in the HUD that pops up, and a corresponding To Do or Event will be added to iCal — along with a link back to the email from which you created the To Do or Event, so you can always find it again easily when in iCal.

You can also go back to the email message at any time and edit the To Do or Event.

MailTags 2.0 Edit Event

Editing an event within the Mail message using MailTags. (Click on the image to open a larger version.)

Differences between MailTags 2 and MailTags 1.3

For MailTags 1.3 users, Tim Gaden of HawkWings does a great job of explaining the benefits of version 2.0 — and I must add that, having been part of the beta testing team for this new version (now out of beta), developer Scott Morrison is extremely dedicated and right on top of every issue, and he genuinely welcomes feedback (and fixes issues promptly).

I am using MailTags in conjunction with several .Mac accounts and a couple of other IMAP accounts in addition to I-don’t-want-to-know-how-many POP accounts, and it is just brilliant for my needs. A free 21-day trial is available (it will cost US$29.95 to purchase) and I encourage you to try it and see if you can live without it once you incorporate it into your own workflow!

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Should

The word “should” is one I took a dislike to years ago, ever since the man I married at 19 (when I was too young and naive to know better) would say to me, “You should not do this. You should not feel like that”. By definition, “should” is unrelated to reality, except to exemplify what reality is not.

Yet “should” is very much a part of our lives. Our lives are lived according to what someone, or one entity or another, tells us. Our relationships, and our work, and just day to day — well — life, are about rules and guidelines.

From an early age we are taught what we should and should not do. This could be for safety reasons or for sociological reasons, but either way it’s meant to be for our own good. Yet, either way it’s someone else’s (collectively or individually) idea of what’s right that has been imposed on us (collectively or individually) and we react to this in a few different ways:

Attitude We think or feel
Take it on board “I understand this is what I’m meant to do. I will try to make sure I do it.”
Acceptance and/or resignation “I’ll never be able to do that. I guess I’m just a failure. There’s not much point even trying. I’ll never measure up.”
Rebellion and/or resentment “Who are they to tell me what I should and should not do? I am capable of making my own decisions. How dare they?”
Rejection “They don’t like me, don’t accept me, think I fall short of what they want from me.”
Indifference “What’s your point? I’m fine with what I am and/or what my business is doing. Get over it. I’m cool!”

Sometimes we know in ourselves we “should” do something that is right, but don’t. Other times, we’re told (either by an individual, a business, or by the rules of our society) what we should or should not do, but don’t really know deep within ourselves whether or not someone else’s idea of what we should do is actually right for us. And yet other times, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the other person’s (or business’s or society’s) idea is wrong — at least for ourselves as individuals or as businesses.

Whichever feelings are invoked, or whichever reaction to “should” is chosen, there is a reaction, be it to the issue about which the word “should” is being used, or to the dynamics of the situation itself. We have no control over emotions (though we do over actions) and it’s important to be careful when dealing with other people to keep things positive. Where there is a reaction, there are consequences.

Actions and reactions determine self-esteem

We react to “should” according to our beliefs and the sum of our pasts, all of which are closely tied to our self esteem. Our reactions in themselves can determine how we subsequently perceive ourselves. If we suffer from low self esteem and react with anger or aggression or with hysterics (thus in some way demeaning ourselves) our self esteem will suffer an additional battering when we review our behaviour later (as ya do). Whereas, if we react carefully and with dignity, we’ll like ourselves a whole lot better for it later.

With clients

In our dealings with clients, I think it’s a Good Thingâ„¢ to avoid using the word “should”. Like it or not, people react to being told what they “should” do, and occasionally in such a negative way (even if they don’t actually say so) that your relationship with them is dented. When we know a client should do a thing, or a web site should adhere to certain guidelines, or if we prefer that procedures follow a different format, let’s find another way to put it. There are a gazillion ways we can do this. Some of my favourites:

  • “I may be wrong, but I’ve found that [xyz]… do you think it’s a good idea to consider…?”
  • “I understand what you are saying and you have a point. However, if we take that path we run the risk of…”
  • “In my experience, it has proved better to… because…”
  • “In isolation, that certainly does seem like a reasonable path. But when considered with the other site elements and overall goals…”

There are any number of non-threatening variations. And these also work as nice response when a client tells us what we should do, and we may be feeling prickly as a result.

And yes, I’m guilty of using the word “should” from time to time but it’s something I consciously avoid and I’m getting better. :-)

I’ve focused on the word “should” here but in all of our dealings, if we take an assertive but non-confrontational appraoch, we can exert a great deal of control over the kind of feelings and reactions resulting from either personal or client dealings, and enhance our own self-esteem and that of the people we deal with at the same time.

Viewing web pages in NetNewsWire’s preview pane

Quite by accident, I just figured out a neat new trick in NetNewsWire, which (for the uninitiated) is a fantabulous newsfeed reader for OSX — the best I’ve tried, and I’ve tried every one on the market that I have come across. Bearing in mind that I’m a software junkie, that’s more than a few!

When viewing posts in NetNewsWire’s preview pane, sometimes only the extract is provided and the bulk of the post is on the blog’s web site. Or else the post’s author refers to something on the web page (an ad, for example) that doesn’t appear in the preview. To view the post on the blog’s web site, you can click on the post title in the preview pane, which will take you to the web page in your default brower. Or, upon right-click, NetNewsWire provides the option to open in a new NetNewsWire tab, download the linked file, or copy the link.

But there’s no option to open the web page right there in the preview pane.

Enter Vicki Fumble-Fingers! I accidentally dragged a post title from the News Items list into the preview pane… and whaddaya know… the post’s web page loaded right before my eyes in the preview pane.

Coolios… I’m going to be using this a lot.

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TextExpander for web development work

There are a lot of coding tools available these days that offer some form of snippets. The idea is to save sections of code that are re-used often, in an easily accessible format. Dreamweaver, for example, has a snippets panel. But it can still get tedious to locate the snippet you need, especially when it’s one you use a lot.

TextExpander is a nifty Mac OSX Preference Pane utility that, upon a trigger or pre-defined keystroke combination, inserts “snippets” of text anywhere in the OS. I have saved as “snippets” text strings such as my mail server (how tedious it can be to constantly add in mail.server.com a dozen times when setting up email addresses), my various signatures, my most-used email addresses, my web site addresses and my name in different formats. TextExpander can even use variables to insert, for example, the current date and time. It is hugely time-saving and I always get a buzz from seeing the desired text appear with just a couple of keystrokes. :-)

Therefore, TextExpander fits in beautifully with web development, and no doubt any kind of programming work. Whether your development application of choice supports snippets or not, TextExpander is a great way to quickly re-use code without interrupting your workflow.

TextExpander is available as a 30-day demo, after which you will be reminded to purchase and register it. The purchase cost is US$29.95, so it would be worth trying out the demo to see if the productivity benefits are worth it to you, as they have been to me.

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Updates for the new year

Ok! I’m back. It’s been several months of major upheaval (marriage break-up, selling the property, finding a home for the horses, moving house twice, and so on) but I’m finally settled in my own home and just loving it.

I’m working on a new business website, getting new business cards made up (having reverted to my maiden name. Professionally it makes sense to stay consistent, whatever my marital status!) and am generally feeling great about life and work. It’s been a while!

One less-than-ideal piece of news is that recent hearing tests show a sharp decline. I’ve apparently lost most of the speech frequencies in the last few years. My audiologist said, “You don’t hear speech.” I said to her, “Well I’m talking to you, aren’t I?” and she told me, “You just don’t know how good you are at guessing. You do not hear what I am saying. You can’t.” She tells me a cochlear implant will give me my speech frequencies back so I’ve set wheels in motion to look into that. There is apparently a years-long waiting list as it’s an extremely expensive operation, and then 12 months of intensive (like 3x a week) speech therapy to get through, but maybe then I will hear?

Aside from all that, I have quite a few things planned for 2007, including some of the things that were meant to happen in 2006 except that circumstances got in the way! Onwards and upwards, etc etc! I’ll be able to update on at least some of these things within the next couple of weeks.

That’s about all in the way of updates for now. I will keep this blog going, and will provide some meat to consume… it’s just been a really tough year or so. Roll on, 2007!

The people of Web Directions South ’06

It’s already two weeks after the event, so it’s about time I put pen to paper (so to speak) and blogged about Web Directions South. (Actually, it’s about time I blogged about anything at all, it’s been so long!)

Plenty of people have talked about the sessions and how much they gained from them. I’ve found it fascinating to see the different areas in which different people found value.

For myself, because of my hearing (or lack thereof) it’s not so much about the sessions: it’s about the people.

Having attended Web Essentials in both ’04 and ’05, I had already met quite a lot of really lovely people associated with the conference in varying capacities. Of course, when attending conferences like this one, with a large bunch of fellow geeks, I know I am going to meet people with whom I will have quite a lot in common. Nevertheless with some people — well, you just “click”, more so than with others. It is great to look back on how these friendships have developed and matured over time, and on the new ones in the making. I have made some very special friends and met some very special people.

Take Lisa Miller and Lisa Herrod, for example. I met these two beautiful young women at Web Essentials ’04 and over the last two years have developed the utmost respect and admiration for them both. They are beautiful inside and out, but not only that, they’re super smart and super knowledgeable — but neither is one who tends to blow their own trumpet. They are both awesome Australian women who belong in the forefront of our industry.

Maxine Sherrin: a heart of gold and an acutely sharp businesswoman, and a web standards and CSS expert. She is totally on the ball — one of those exceptional, switched on people on whom you just know you can count. And she has really been “there” for me in a special way.

Molly Holzschlag: oh, what can I say? I consider every minute spent in her company to be something precious. She is simply lovely: strong and honest and with the most amazing mind, and as I said before, I want to be like Molly when I grow up…

Sarah Isaacson: we met for the first time this year in the capacity of roomies. Thank goodness, we clicked from the word Go. It could so easily have been a disaster but we got on soooooooooo well and I believe I’ve made a friend for life. She is beautiful, smart, strong, thoughtful and loyal — and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to become close to her.

Sara Lander: totally gorgeous, so easy to talk to, so darned smart, simply awesome. (I told her hubby, John Allsopp, he has competition. He didn’t seem worried. He’s pretty awesome too. :-) )

Laurel Papworth: I really enjoyed her presentation (what I heard of it!) on building online communities. She is a great speaker with some interesting and clever ideas. And a fun person. She utterly delighted me when I got a chance to talk with her personally. We have such gems in our web women and so many of us are totally unaware they even exist… until people like Maxine and John make it possible for them to share their knowledge and themselves with us.

Gian Sampson-Wild: her freshness and enthusiasm almost took me by surprise. She is great company, great to talk with. Her expertise in the area of web accessibility (my own area of specialisation) meant we would have a fair bit in common… I can tell you, I really regret not being able to hear well because I would love to have spoken in greater depth with all these wonderful women of the web.

So far I’ve really only mentioned women — and there are more that come to mind but if I mentioned them all I’d be writing forever. But truthfully, it’s for the women I went. Due to other stuff happening in my life right now, I really craved the company of women, especially like-minded women. Actually I was thrilled to see such a large proportion of female conference attendees. And I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have had the privilege of getting to know some of them.

Of course I met some fantastic men too, such as Andy “Malarkey” Clarke, Jeremy Keith and Thomas Vander Wal, and I got to see my dear (if evil) friend Derek Featherstone again. They are all exceptional speakers and we were very lucky to have them with us. The guys from SitePoint were all awesome too (and boy do they know how to give a great party!) and it was a treat to meet The Man in Blue and Toolman Tim. How amazing to meet all these “names” in real life! And lovely people I’ve met before like Gavin Jacobi, Amit Karmakar and many many more. But I can’t say too much about what I really think about these wonderful and gorgeous men for fear of upsetting their partners or whoever… Suffice to say, I’d like to say more! ;-)

There are lots more special people that I met and spent time with (and one in particular, Peter Firminger, who I missed a lot) but this would go on forever if I mentioned them all.

It all brought home to me in a major way that the web industry is about people. It’s about us, the people who work in it, and it’s about the people who use our products and creations. We know that already, of course, but there is nothing like experiencing a conference like Web Directions ’06 to make it sink in.

I’ll upload my photos (the publishable ones, anyway!) onto Flickr after I get around to uploading the second half of my TODCon pics…

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Perth Web Standards Group Meeting — Thursday 31st August

For those of us in Perth, this is just a reminder that the Perth WSG meeting will be tomorrow night. Nick Cowie is presenting on making web forms both attractive and accessible. Nick is a great guy who really knows his stuff, and together with the networking fun (and the nibblies! and the cheap drinks available at the bar!) it will be a great evening.

Details of the event are on the WSG website. If possible, RSVP to Kay and myself so we have an idea of how many to cater for.

Hope to see you there!

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