Seven things: Shelley Bernstein

1. Who are you?
I’m a thinker who believes people and community can change everything…if we listen.

2. What do you do?
I work at the Brooklyn Museum on projects that explore the intersection of public participation and digital.  We’re often developing projects that use crowdsourcing as a means to learn more and we aim for deep participation among our visitors with the hope they will own projects as much as we do.

3. How did you end up here?
I have a love of art, so working at a museum gives me inspiration every day.

4. What current issue(s) is/are most important to you right now?
Meaningful interaction with the people we serve.

5. Tell us more about your talk at Webstock – why should folks come listen?
I’m going to talk a lot about change.  It’s not an easy thing any project that we work on, but it’s fundamental to getting things right.   I’ll profile three former projects and the big lessons we learned from them. Those lessons are driving our current initiative, ASK Brooklyn Museum, and we’re building ASK in a way that allows for great change as we run up to our launch in June.

6. Who are your greatest influences?
My girlfriend, Sasha, and my dog, Teddy; both remind me of the value of staying present and mindful every single day.

7. Tell us three things you love (eg movies, albums, songs, poems, artefacts) and why.
I love where I live in Red Hook, Brooklyn, because it’s a community and that’s rare in a city this large.  I adore the open sky owing to my Texan heritage.  I love vintage things because they speak volumes about time and place.

Shelley will be presenting at Webstock on Thursday 19th Feb at 2.30. Details here

Seven Things: Cory Doctorow

1. Who are you?
Cory Doctorow.

2. What do you do?
I am currently working on a project with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to end all DRM, everywhere in the world, within 10 years. It’s called Apollo 1201.

I write science fiction novels for adults and kids, as well as graphic novels and nonfiction books. Some recent ones: HOMELAND (a sequel to LITTLE BROTHER); INFORMATION DOESN’T WANT TO BE FREE (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer); RAPTURE OF THE NERDS (with Charlie Stross) and IN REAL LIFE (with Jen Wang).

I co-own and co-edit Boing Boing.

I am involved with many tech/activist groups, including the Open Rights Group, which I helped found.

3. How did you end up here?
I was a computer kid, started a software company during the first dotcom bubble, moved to San Francisco (writing, blogging and publishing all the while) and ended up at EFF (which made sense, because I was raised by activist parents).

4. What current issue(s) is/are most important to you right now?
Global wealth disparity.

The remaking of information infrastructure as a tool of control, rather than liberation.

Surveillance, privacy and crypto usability.

5. Tell us more about your talk at Webstock – why should folks come listen?
I’m going to explain the secret history of how your world got stuffed full of computers that are designed to treat you as an adversary, what this has done to the state of freedom, justice and equity in the world, and how we’re going to change it.

6. Who are your greatest influences?
Seratonin, dopamine… (I kid).

Bruce Sterling, Shari Steele, Cindy Cohn, William Gibson, Abbie Hoffman, Rosa Luxembourg, Ian McDonald, John Gilmore, Woody GuthrieJoe Hill, Thomas Piketty.

7. Tell us three things you love (eg movies, albums, songs, poems, artifacts) and why.
Aeropress: makes better coffee than pretty much anything, with less fuss, and fits in a suitcase.

Volante Designs: they make coats for superheros.

Ubuntu: an OS that Just Works and gets out of your way.

Cory is speaking at Webstock 2015 on Friday 20th Feb, at 4.35pm. Details here

Seven things: Harper Reed

1. Who are you?
Harper Reed

2. What do you do?
I am a hacker. That, obviously, could mean anything. Right now it means that I am the CEO of a startup called Modest. We build delightful commerce experiences for mobile. Before this, I was the CTO of the Obama Campaign. We helped re-elect the President.

I really like to program computers and do pranks on my friends and family (

3. How did you end up here?
Not really sure where here is. Usually when I think of this question, I imagine the answer is because I was the CTO of the Obama Campaign. We were very innovative and pushed the limits as to what tech had accomplished before in political campaigns.

4. What do you reckon are the most important issues currently in your field?
I think there are a couple BIG issues in the technology field. They are all related to access.

– Internet freedom  – Global access to uncensored, unmanipulated and cheap internet
– Access for everyone – Gap of access between wealthy and poor
– Diversity – Lack of diversity within the technology industry. The people that build tech don’t look like the people who make tech.
These are nuanced issues and are not easy to solve. However, we ALL need to put work in to solving for these things.

5. Tell us more about your workshop – why should folks go? And tell us more about your talk at Webstock – why should folks come listen?
My workshop is going to be awesome. I will talk a bit about how we build teams, what we do to make them successful and some tips and tricks that we use to both make the team more resilient and help the team make the tech resilient. We used this to successfully build an insanely successful team and ship really solid tech.

My talk is going to be awesome. A lot of people talk about how Big Data is a revolutionary idea and will solve EVERYTHING. I am going to talk about how YOU can use big data TODAY!

6. Who are your greatest influences?
Influences are hard to define. I try and learn from every interaction and thing I do. However, there are handful of people who I can think for helping me survive and giving me the hope that i need to make things happen. Many are not influencers in the typical sense.

7. Tell us three things you love (eg movies, albums, songs, poems, artifacts) and why.
I really love books. Books Books Books! I grew up without a television so I read voraciously. Reading has been the constant companion in my life. I mostly read for pleasure, but there are a few books that stand out as favorites: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. I also really enjoy Vernor Vinge, Alastair Reynolds and Iain m Banks for scifi. You can see more about my books here:

I also listen to a LOT of music. My current favorite song is: Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie. I am also listening to a lot of Frank Zappa lately.

Harper is speaking at Webstock 2015 on Thursday 19th Feb, at 1.55pm. Details here. He is also doing a half day workshop, How to build resilient teams who build resilient technology, on Wednesday. 

5 things – Hannah Donovan

The brief: Tell us about 5 songs *and/or* films. It could be the ones you think are the greatest. Or that move you most. Or that are under-appreciated. Something along those lines.

The people: Webstock speakers and assorted Webstock people.

Today with Hannah Donovan, who writes, “Here’s five songs – most of which have also been my jams – that say “Hi Webstock People!” by way of introducing myself, and also relate to what I’ll be speaking about. Enjoy!”

Goldberg Variations 15 by J.S. Bach – performed by Glenn Gould

To me, Bach represents order, structure and peace. The Goldberg Variations in particular. People who know me well call this my “morning music” because I only listen to Bach at that time of day. Often while I write. It’s music for starting off with, gathering your thoughts, restoring balance. I’m also a big believer an habit for creativity.

***Flawless by Beyoncé ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

This, because it was the biggest musical surprise to happen to me in 2013. Beyoncé is one of the most interesting musicians working today and an incredible role model. Love. A much younger me would have eschewed pop music for not being cool enough or whatever, but that’s totally against my core beliefs about creativity today – that you need to let the unexpected in. Also, the message, the aesthetics, that dancing.


Musician by Homeboy Sandman

Besides discussing the hard stuff that anyone who creates for a living thinks about: legacy, aspiration and prolificacy to name a few – the main subject is something I’m sure we’ve all felt – being put “in a box” for what you make. (Sorry pop music! I’m making up for it now!) Related to the issue of conformity and acceptance within one’s area, is an anecdote I heard from Congolese-Belgian hip hop artist Baloji the other day on NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast (featured at 20:45) – he says “hip hop is the most conservative genre of music I’ve ever encountered”. I love hip hop, and I also think that’s a wonderful lens to look at the industries we work in and the art we consume.

Dirty Laundry by Kelly Rowland

This dark tune for the sheer courage it must have taken for Kelly to show this much vulnerability and record this song. ‘Nuff said.

Luda Goes To Church And I DL Lex Luger’s Drum Kit by Jonwayne

I love the irreverence of this track, and I also love it for its unconventional use of organ. There are two times in my life I thought, Damn, pipe organ! One was playing in the cello section of Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings, the other was listening to this. Doesn’t it just make you want to run into one of those old European cathedrals, crank this, and get down?

Sponsor interview – AccessibilityOz

We’re delighted to have AccessibilityOz involved with Webstock as a sponsor this year. Accessibility has been at the heart of Webstock’s interests since our first conference, way back in 2006. We talked with Gian Wild, founder of AccessibilityOz.

1) Tell us about AccessibilityOZ, how you came about and the work you do.

I’ve been working in the accessibility industry since 1998. I had run my own company before – but it was ten years too early to run an accessibility consultancy! I was working at Monash University as head of their Usability and Accessibility Services division when the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) released their National Transition Strategy in 2010. Basically it required all Government sites and applications to be Level A accessible by December 2012 and Level AA accessible by 2014. After that was released I was constantly fielding requests from clients, and of course there was only so much I could do while holding down a full-time job! Monash was great, and they were happy with me doing outside work, but by March 2011 I had to choose between the two!

2) What are the major accessibility issues on the web right now? And have things improved over the past 5 years?

In Australia, accessibility compliance has improved exponentially. In the 2010 baseline report AGIMO said only 5% of Government web sites were accessible. When the report was repeated two years later, accessibility compliance had jumped 500%! Certainly accessibility is on everybody’s radar now. There are actual roles in Government for accessibility specialists (that was another reason I ran my own business – there just weren’t jobs for an accessibility specialists!)

One of the biggest accessibility issues in the web right now is video. We continually see accessibility problems with video players – in fact in all our research we never found an accessible video player! So we decided to build one! To see what I mean, try using your current video player with the keyboard only (by tabbing from link to link). You’ll find that the video player traps the keyboard (so that the user cannot go anywhere with the tab key and has to close the browser and start again), or really important functions, like turning on captions or audio descriptions, can’t be accessed by the keyboard. If you’d like to know more about inaccessible video players, have a look at our video. Captions and audio descriptions are also an issue, as both are required if you want to meet Level AA of WCAG2.

Another big accessibility issue is mobile. It’s a complex accessibility issue as following WCAG2 in your site won’t necessarily create a mobile-friendly site, and there are other accessibility requirements (such as the ability for everything to be touch-accessible) that just aren’t covered in the W3C Guidelines. We have to use a combination of the W3C Mobile Web Best Practice Guidelines and the Draft BBC Mobile Accessibility Guidelines to test mobile sites.

3) If you could give web designers one piece of accessibility advice, what would it be?

Test colour contrast! We’re continually going back and forth with designers about the colours they use. It’s not particularly onerous to meet colour contrast requirements; it still allows for some impressive use of colour (have a look at Victoria’s Volunteering Portal if you don’t believe me!). There are two great tools to test colour contrast and they’re completely free. The first one is Juicy Studio’s Luminosity Colour Contrast Analyser, which allows users to enter hexidecimal colour values for testing. The second one is The Paciello Group’s Colour Contrast Analyser which has a colour picker so you can select colours and determine their contrast.

4) If you could give web developers one piece of accessibility advice, what would it be?

Use our Accessibility Factsheets on OzWiki. We have some great accessibility factsheets that are free to access under Creative Commons. There are twelve accessibility factsheets in OzWiki:

  • Images factsheet
  • Content factsheet
  • Keyboard factsheet
  • PDF factsheet
  • HTML5 factsheet
  • Source order factsheet
  • Video factsheet
  • JavaScript factsheet
  • Tables factsheet
  • Interactive Maps factsheet
  • Coding factsheet
  • Forms factsheet (not yet online)

Each factsheet contains the following:

5) You’ve developed OzPlayer, the world’s first fully-accessible video player. Can you tell us a little about what it does and how it works?

It’s an HTML5 video player with a Flash fallback for older browsers (or videos hosted on YouTube). Most Flash video players contain a keyboard trap in FireFox, so we worked really hard so that wouldn’t happen. It has synchronised audio descriptions (extended audio descriptions will be added later this year), captions and a moving transcript that follows the video content. It also has skip links, allowing the user to safely skip the video or go directly to the transcript. We also added native keyboard shortcuts which screen reader users love! It’s really easy to move the video back and forth and change the volume (as well as standard video requirements such as play and pause, mute, turn captions and audio descriptions on and off) using only the keyboard. We also have looked at fallbacks for when JavaScript is disabled and it works on a wide variety of operating systems and browsers (including mobiles and tablets). And you can skin it in seven different colours!

For more information, have a look at our video.

6) What are you most looking forward to at Webstock this year?

It’s my first time at Webstock. I have been meaning to attend for years, and I’m just glad I finally made it happen!

I’m really interested in the opening keynote: Scott Berkun and The Year without Pants. Our offices are distributed around Australia and a number of us work from home. It’s heartening to see a big company doing the same; I really think that is where work is headed. I’m also looking forward to Stick Around and Fix It, because we are definitely not a startup anymore (we’ve been around three years in April), and there are different challenges to running a business once it has been established. And, personally, I’m very interested in Sometimes You Need to Draw Animals, because running a small business always seems to lead to burnout! The New Literacies looks great – as I’ve constantly wondered how the medium makes the message. And, of course, I can’t wait for the closing keynote: The Meaning of Life! One of the world’s great questions, and it’ll be answered by the end of next week!

Thanks Gian! We look forward to seeing you at Webstock next week.