Weekly Link Roundup #6

It’s been 6 days since my IAAP Web Accessibility Specialist exam and I’m still recovering from the marathon study session the led up to it.

I feel OK/good about my performance, but I’m still unsure about what the results will be. A couple things are for sure though: after studying for the exam, I’ve felt far more confident in my understanding of expected widget interactions, and my fear of the official WCAG and WAI-ARIA documentation has subsided a bit. 🧛

One of my new favorite haunts is the Web a11y Slack. If you’re at all interested in delving into web accessibility, there are some great teachers in there who are always available for questions. 👩‍🏫 Join us!

Web Accessibility

  • Accessibility Events
    “If you’re not furious at this change, you should be—not just for what it means for users, but what it foists upon you. Apple has burdened you with the knowledge that, now, yes, you can know whether a user has a disability. We can use this information to serve up a limited alternative version of a website, into which we can very easily opt people of a protected class. And once we choose to start listening for “accessibility events,” well, we can capture that information, as anything else broadcast to the web. A user’s disability can and will be reduced to a single data point—a cold, impersonal true, inexorably bound to their name, stored in a database, perhaps destined to be sold, leaked, passed along to insurance providers, reduced to a targeted marketing opportunity. All under the auspice of inclusivity.”
  • Top 5 Questions Asked in Accessibility Trainings
    “While lawsuits may initially unlock the door for digital accessibility, once more tech professionals and companies learn about the value of adding inclusivity to their products, the hope is that the door remains unlocked and open to change for all – not just when forced by litigation.”

Tools + Goodies

  • The Gender Spectrum Collection
    “The Gender Spectrum Collection is a stock photo library featuring images of trans and non-binary models that go beyond the clichés.”
  • Git Standup
    A quick summary of yesterday’s commits to present in morning meetings.

Utopia/Dystopia

  • Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?
    “I saw the greatest minds of my generation log 18-hour days — and then boast about #hustle on Instagram. When did performative workaholism become a lifestyle?”
  • The Machine Stops
    “There is no privacy and apparently little desire for it in a world devoted to non-stop use of social media. Every minute, every second, has to be spent with one’s device clutched in one’s hand. Those trapped in this virtual world are never alone, never able to concentrate and appreciate in their own way, silently.”
  • One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority
    TIL that China has a government program called Skynet with the goal of computerizing surveillance. Nothing can go wrong there.

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Weekly Link Roundup #5

Oh Wednesday, glorious Wednesday. This week has been a perfect emotional storm of work deadlines, impostor syndrome/panic attacks, wet weather, and npm issues (I’m talking to you, v3). But I’m making it through (read: barely hanging on) with the support of many a vitamin D tablet and green smoothie.

On a more positive note, tomorrow will be my one-year anniversary at my current company, and I’m feeling so grateful that I magically ended up here after a long and windy road following my dropping out of grad school. It’s amazing to be part of such a tight-knit, supportive group doing work I love.

Next week I’ll be taking the IAAP WAS certification exam so that we can highlight our expertise in web accessibility and serve our clients and their customers better. ✌️I’ve got those pre-exam jitters — wish me luck!

Coding

  • Manifesto by a female open source contributor
    “I will not stop speaking up and setting boundaries if this is necessary to make me feel safe and standing up for the moral values that are important to me.”
  • App Ideas
    A GitHub repository featuring a collection of beginner to advanced project ideas to help you improve your coding skills. Each idea features clear objectives, user stories, resources, and bonus features to stretch your skills.
  • Making Video Games Is Not A Dream Job
    “Worker exploitation has always been part of the video game industry’s DNA. Executives with multimillion-dollar stock packages often treat their employees like Tetris pieces, to be put into place as efficiently as possible, then promptly disposed of.”
  • 10-Step Guide to Local Shopify Theme Development Using Slate
    This week was my second time getting downloaded theme files set up for our development workflow. I was tempted to use Theme Kit but decided to push my comfort level — and thank goodness for this tutorial. Five stars for human-readable language and screenshots. 👏

Accessibility

  • Apple’s new feature a step towards digital apartheid
    “From my own experience, one of the most common questions I get as an accessibility consultant is ‘Can’t we just create a special site for people with screen readers?’ I say that you can’t, and even if you could it would be a really bad idea. Inclusive design is about inclusion, not separation. The problem is that with this new tool from Apple, well-meaning people with this common, but terrible idea of separate ‘disability-sites’ now can implement it, whereas in the past they couldn’t.”

Utopia/Dystopia

  • Trusting Driverless Cards
    “The car’s lidar (light detection and ranging), cameras, and sensors capture a mind-boggling amount of data on surrounding roads and traffic conditions, but the passenger doesn’t—and probably doesn’t want to—see everything the car sees. Instead, a series of interfaces translate that data into tidy visuals and updates for the rider that better match how we process the world, reassuring passengers that the car is making safe, sound decisions.”

Soundtrack of the Week

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Weekly Link Roundup #4

Accessibility

CSS

Utopia / Dystopia

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The Best Free React Course for Beginners

React has on my to-learn list for what seems like ages. I’ve tried diving in numerous times over the last few years, but either the time wasn’t right or I couldn’t find the right course or project to work through. Some courses were too hands-on, while others were too hands-off and quickly led to frustration.

So I just sat with my skill set and waited to find the motivation to jump back in.

However, with work projects on the horizon that will most likely be built using React, I decided it was high time to jump on the framework bandwagon.

Now, you all know I’m obsessed with free online courses. 🏫 Sites like Udacity, edX, and Coursera make learning new skills accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

I always hit up these sites first when I want to learn something. As a novice, I do my best learning when I’m following a solid, foundational plan. Otherwise, I’m likely to:

  • Become engulfed in a maze of documentation trying to figure out how to prep my development environment for said new technology
  • Experience full-on analysis paralysis when deciding on what to build

So when I finally landed on this course, I knew I had to spread the good news. 🎈 I haven’t completed the course yet, but the instructor is awesome and the project you’ll be working through is a great example of how you might use React in the “real world.” 🌎

Course Overview

Front-End Web Development with React is taught by Jogesh K. Muppala, an associate professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

There are 4 parts to this course:

  1. Introduction to React
  2. React Router and Single Page Applications
  3. React Forms, Flow Architecture, and Introduction to Redux
  4. More Redux and Client-Server Communication

While this course is the second part of a 4-course Full-Stack Web Development with React specialization, it’s a great entry point even if you haven’t taken the first course, Front-End Web UI Frameworks and Tools: Bootstrap 4. As long as you understand grid systems and feel like comfortable learning Bootstrap 4 on the fly, feel free to dive right in.

But is it free?

I also want to clarify something about Coursera courses. While you can pay for certificates of completion, you can take any of their courses for free by auditing them.

The Audit option can be easy to miss. If you click on the ‘Enroll’ button for a class, a window pops up that prompts you to start a free trial. Ignore that gigantic call-to-action, and click the ‘Audit the course’ link at the bottom instead.

Screenshot of the enroll popup with an arrow pointing to the 'Audit this course' link

Course Projects

The course is based around building a single page React app for a restaurant called Ristorante con Fusion. Your app will feature restaurant information, an interactive menu that displays details and customer comments for the user-selected dish, and a form (with validation) that enables users to submit their comments.

Screenshot of the 'About Us' page from the Ristorante con Fusion app you'll be building

A lot of times, getting set up is one of the hardest parts of the development process. Where this course really shines is in its ability to simplify the process of setting up your development environment. You’ll get a handle on everything from setting up Node.js and NPM to using Yarn Package Manager to install dependencies.

Muppala also shows you how to install the Reactstrap component library, which you’ll be using to flesh out your app components. Because you’re using Bootstrap 4, you can really focus in on learning the React without having to take the time to mess with CSS and general beautification of your app. (CSS is my jam 💖, but my brain can only handle one thing at a time!)

Course Improvements

I think a lot of courses leave a lot to be desired in terms of teaching web developers to comply with accessibility guidelines. This is one of them.

I’m currently building out the interactive menu as instructed, and it lacks many accessibility considerations. For starters, the clickable dish cards aren’t accessible to keyboard users. Also, aria-live attributes are lacking so screen reader users aren’t alerted when dish information and comments are printed to the screen.

So if you’re looking for the holy grail of courses that incorporates all the best practices (wait — do those exist?), this seems to be lacking some essential info about making your app a11y-friendly.

However, if you’re looking for a deep dive on React and are willing to learn how to incorporate accessibility into your app on your own time, give the course a shot!

 

Front-End Web Development with React

A Note To Beginners: Your Discomfort Means You’re On The Right Path

You’re wondering if you’re smart enough — talented enough — to make this career change into web development. You try hard for a week and then your motivation finally takes a nosedive when you can’t get your code to work.

You can’t wait until you’re confident in your skills and feel equipped to tackle any problem.

Let me tell you something.

It will never feel like that.

Part of the job is learning to be OK with feeling ill-equipped, underprepared, and like you’re just barely scraping by. It’s called impostor syndrome, and we all have it.

In this field, there’s so much to remember and things are amorphous and ever-changing, and The Right Way™ is up to interpretation.

You’ll grow the most when you’re wedged in that uncomfortable spot where ‘what you know’ juts right up against ‘what you don’t know.’

So don’t stick with what’s comfortable.

Don’t avoid a certain popular technology because, in your opinion, it’s a nightmare to work with.

That probably means you haven’t worked with it enough. You haven’t gotten to know it well enough to appreciate its quirks, nuances, and special powers.

(Hey you!Yeah you! I know you want to just give up on understanding CSS! And that vanilla Javascript scares the bejeezus out of you. Keep on trying.)

Never stop learning, and you’ll never stop exceeding your own self-imposed limitations.

Taking A Cue From Perfumers: Pre-Diluting Essential Oils For Blending Fragrances

One of the most difficult parts of blending essential oils for perfume is olfactory exhaustion.

A perfumer's organ with pre-diluted fragrance oils at-the-ready
A perfumer’s organ with pre-diluted fragrance oils at-the-ready

When you’re blending essential oils to try and find *just* the right proportions of each, it’s not uncommon to completely overwhelm your nasal passages.

On top of it being probably not too healthy for you to huff undiluted EOs for extended periods of time, it can be:

  1. Wasteful: when you’re experimenting with neat (i.e. undiluted) essential oils and you don’t like the result, your blend will probably end up gathering dust on the shelf
  2. Misleading: once you add a carrier, your blend might not even smell the same as it did undiluted

Enter the wisdom of perfumers-by-trade.

Continue reading “Taking A Cue From Perfumers: Pre-Diluting Essential Oils For Blending Fragrances”