Archives for April 2008

April 30, 2008 - Comments Off on New event compatibility tables at

New event compatibility tables at

Peter-Paul Koch has released a new version of his browser event compatibility tables (the last major version dates to 2005) at He has data on IE 5.5, 6, 7, and 8 beta 1; Firefox 2 and 3 beta 5; Safari 3.0 and 3.1 on Windows; Opera 9.26 and 9.5 beta; and Konqueror 3.5.7

Jeffrey Barke is senior developer and information architect at theMechanism, a multimedia firm with offices in New York, London and Durban, South Africa.

Published by: jeffreybarke in The Programming Mechanism

April 30, 2008 - 4 comments

Q&A from the NY Web Standards Meetup—WCAG Samurai Errata

During last week's New York Web Standards meetup on the WCAG Samurai errata, the group generated a few questions that no one could answer. Joe Clark, who led the WCAG Samurai, was kind enough to help out.

All of the WCAG Samurai errata we had questions about are listed below, in <blockquote>. They are organized by WCAG guidelines in bold.

You can download the PowerPoint presentation and listen to the event at this post: NY Web Standards Meetup—WCAG Samurai Errata for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0, published on 25 April 2008.

Guideline 6.
Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully

A page that uses digital-rights management or copy protection of any kind cannot be claimed to comply with WCAG+Samurai, as its compatibility with adaptive technology and future technologies cannot be independently proven.

While this seems straightforward, none of us could think of an example. Joe Clark suggested an eBook.

Guideline 10.
Use interim solutions

Do not cause pop-ups or other windows to appear and do not change the current window without informing the user.

Does not apply to JavaScript modal windows created in an unobtrusive way (obviously, no <a href="#" onclick="javascript"></a>). Check out WAI-ARIA for ways to make JavaScript applications more accessible.

Do not add non-link, printable characters (surrounded by spaces or not) between adjacent links unless the semantics of the document naturally would include such characters.

Navigation schemes marked up like this are a no-no:

<li><a href=""></a> Link 1 |</li>
<li><a href=""></a> Link 2 |</li>
<li><a href=""></a> Link 3</li>

Use the CSS pseudo-element :after, background images, or borders.

Guideline 12.
Provide context and orientation information

Do not use frames. (You may use iframes.)

I was curious why iframes were allowed and wondered how assistive technologies handle them. Joe let me know that assistive technologies handle them "quite well. … Everything inside the <iframe> and </iframe> is the alternative content, plus it's inline or block so you can do whatever you want with it."

Do not place distinguishing information at the beginning of headings, paragraphs, lists, etc. unless it is significantly harder to understand the document without it. (We do not define "significantly harder.")

We weren't sure what the WCAG meant by "distinguishing information." According to Joe, the WCAG wanted us to front-load everything (headings, paragraphs), so people wouldn't have to read more than a few words to understand what the meaning.

Hidden structural information (e.g., heading elements positioned offscreen) is permitted when document semantics warrant it.

None of us were familiar with this technique or could think of a reason to hide structural information. Joe suggested Googling "offscreen positioning" accessibility:

"In cases where we need to hide content from a visitor but still make it available to the screenreader, we position it offscreen."
Accessibility Tips. "Positioning content offscreen."
"The advantage of offscreen display for iTV captions it that the captions can be much larger and easier to read. The minor disadvantage is that they will be unfamiliar to most viewers for the first few minutes."
Joe Clark. "Captioning and iTV."

Jeffrey Barke is senior developer and information architect at theMechanism, a multimedia firm in New York City and London.

Published by: jeffreybarke in The Programming Mechanism

April 29, 2008 - Comments Off on Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA)

Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA)

Thanks to John Resig, I just heard about WAI-ARIA, which, "defines a way to make Web content and Web applications more accessible to people with disabilities. It especially helps with dynamic content and advanced user interface controls developed with Ajax, HTML, JavaScript, and related technologies" (WAI-ARIA Overview).

At the moment, I don't know anything about ARIA, but, according to John, it's currently implemented in Firefox 2 and will be supported to a greater degree in Firefox 3. I was also impressed to learn that the Google Reader team has recently added full ARIA support to their application.

So it seems that learning about ARIA is the thing to do and I intend to speak about my findings at the June meeting of the New York Web Standards meetup group.

Published by: jeffreybarke in The Programming Mechanism

April 27, 2008 - 2 comments

Chris Heilmann on accessibility

Slides from Chris Heilmann's talk at AbilityNet's Accessbility 2.0 conference. Heilmann's presentation was on how we try to sell accessibility and the mistakes we make while doing so.

From "Fencing in the habitat—doing things right and getting the accessibility wrong" on Wait till I come! by Chris Heilmann, published on 26 April 2008 at 12:09 AM.

Update 2008-04-29: Chris posted a summary of AbilityNet's Accessibility 2.0 conference on the Yahoo Developer Network blog.

Published by: jeffreybarke in The Programming Mechanism

April 25, 2008 - 4 comments

NY Web Standards Meetup—WCAG Samurai errata for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0

Notes and links from last night's discussion of the WCAG Samurai Errata for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 at the New York Web Standards Meetup Group. Thanks to everyone who made it!

During the meeting, Lydia mentioned Automated Sync Technologies, a transcription and captioning services she found. They are the best priced, easiest, and most flexible transcription and captioning service she has found. Check out their help page for useful how-to videos.

Lydia also provided the following links on Adobe Flash CS3's captioning component:

Update 2008-04-30: There is a Q&A from this meetup posted at

Listen to this event


Please contact us if you'd like to present at the June or July meetup.

Jeffrey Barke is senior developer and information architect at theMechanism, a multimedia firm in New York City and London.

Published by: jeffreybarke in The Programming Mechanism

April 9, 2008 - Comments Off on Upgrading to WordPress 2.5

Upgrading to WordPress 2.5

Just got finished with my first WordPress 2.5 upgrade and I'm happy to report that everything (except a !@%$#%@ spotty internet connection which made the process take at least three times at long!) went smoothly. Contrary to my expectation, none of the plugins broke!

The admin interface certainly is different—it's better, but still odd after so many years with the old one. However, I love the new one click plugin auto-upgrade feature. It downloaded, unzipped, and installed the latest version of Akismet without any problems.

Update 2008-04-06: I also like the new "modal" window approach to file upload. While the old file upload tab on the "Write Page" page was definitely usable thanks to an <iframe> and JavaScript, the interface was still a bit clunky. The new UI is definitely faster and slicker.

Update 2008-04-07: While doing another upgrade (from 2.0.9 to 2.5) I broke my first plugin: Category Visibility. However, since I'm not sure what version (other than the 2.0 series) it was last compatible with, this may not be a 2.5 issue.

Update 2008-04-07: It appears that query_posts() (or at least the way I've always used it!) is broken in 2.5. More on this to follow…

Update 2008-04-09: query_posts() is not broken, but the Adhesive plugin is.

Jeffrey Barke is senior developer and information architect at theMechanism, a maxi-media firm in New York City and London.

Published by: jeffreybarke in The Programming Mechanism

April 7, 2008 - 2 comments

“HTML validation” is a tool

I'm curious what other standardistas think about this essay by Jukka "Yucca" Korpela that I stumbled upon this weekend. I thought it was pretty interesting, particularly having recently read Martian Headsets and Understanding HTML, XML and XHTML.

This is a rant that promotes validation and puts it down. The point is that if you don't know what validation really is, it won't be of much use to you, and could even be waste of time. Validation is simply a way of getting reports about complying with some formal rules. What would you do with the results if you don't know those rules?

While the whole document is probably of interest, there were a lot of things I already knew and that seemed fairly basic. However, the things I didn't know seemed particularly choice, such as:

Although there is really not much to be gained from using XHTML at present, many people have started using it. Then it becomes relevant that validation means different things for XHTML. The reason is that the metalanguage, XML, is considerably less powerful than SGML. For example, the XML DTD for XHTML 1.0 declares the tabindex attribute as CDATA, which allows virtually anything. In the SGML DTDs of "old" HTML, the attribute is declared as NUMBER. This means that in validating against "old" HTML, tabindex="-1" is reported as an error (as it is), in XHTML validation it passes. On the other hand, XML imposes restrictions that forbid constructs that are formally correct in SGML-based HTML but not actually supported by browsers, such as the shorthand <em/text/ for <em>text</em>, and this means that XHTML validation is pragmatically more useful in some ways.

And Korpela's conclusion comes down hard on the use of "Valid HTML" icons put out by the W3C:

It's useful to write valid markup, in most cases. But it's hardly useful to make a noise about it.

Analogously, it's useful to use proper punctuation when you write in English. This makes texts somewhat easier to read and understand, and it adds to the literary quality a bit. There are slightly different styles of punctuation, and you should choose one and stick to it. But it's hardly useful to make a noise thereof. Would you like to include an icon like "Checked SGUFDFY 42.5!" onto your pages and expect users to decipher that SGUFDFY 42.5 means some particular convention on punctuation?

So what do y'all standardistas out there think?

"HTML validation" is a good tool, but just a tool. Jukka "Yucca" Korpela

Published by: jeffreybarke in The Programming Mechanism

April 6, 2008 - Comments Off on—A very cool service—A very cool service

For we non-designers out there, offers a very cool service: automated creation of animated loading .gifs in three easy steps. Simply choose your indicator type (35 options!), set the background and foreground color, and generate it. View the preview and then download your .gif, ready to use.


Very simple and useful. Thanks for designing this, Kath

Jeffrey Barke is senior developer and information architect at theMechanism, a maxi-media firm in New York City and London.

Published by: jeffreybarke in The Programming Mechanism