The Future of Accessibility Weekly

After the new year, I started Accessibility Weekly back up.

It feels good to be writing and curating again. Since starting back up on January 10, I’ve only missed one issue due to travel.

Keeping a newsletter going on a regular basis turned out harder than I thought. It takes time to convert the excitement of a new project into an everyday reflex. I’ve hit that point though, and am thinking about the future of the newsletter.

Right now, Accessibility Weekly has 872 subscribers, a 56 percent open rate and a 22 percent click-through rate. It’s not bad, but the subscriber base remains small. They seem engaged though, and I’ve received good feedback thus far.

I’m thinking about a few goals for the rest of the year:

Think through changes in format, if necessary. Lately, I haven’t included many news links because those have been harder to come by. Plus, I’m more interested in resources, tools and tutorial links. They center on teaching and learning, which is one of the reasons why I started this in the first place.

Explore advertising and revenue possibilities. I’m not looking to make money from the newsletter. I would like to cover costs though. Especially when I eventually will need to start paying for Mailchimp once I hit a certain number of subscribers. I don’t really want to traditional ads, so I’m thinking either:

  1. Monthly sponsorships. Just one featured sponsor section in the newsletter, running monthly.
  2. Patreon. Since I don’t need a ton of money to cover the costs of Mailchimp and any other miscellaneous expenses, a donation platform might work.

Setting up a site to catalog the resources. I thought about publishing the resources on a site initially, and integrating with Mailchimp’s automated RSS publishing feature. I decided not to do it because it wasn’t the minimum viable product. I wanted a way to let people into the world of accessibility and educate. A newsletter did all that. Plus, sites like WebAIM, A11y Project and A11y Buzz do a good job of educating via a site. But lately, I wish I had a more reliable way to know exactly what I’ve featured before without searching individually through issues. I’m undecided here.

Running a survey. I’d like to know more about what my readers want. So I’m considering a short survey to help answer the above questions.

I’ve loved watching the newsletter grow organically. I get a rush when I see people subscribing with domain names I recognize, like IBM, Google, Microsoft and others. And It’s always thrilling when people you admire recommend your work. Mostly, I’m looking forward into making this thing a continued go-to resource for diving into accessibility!

Theme Team in Montréal, 2017

This past week, my team at Automattic – the Theme Team, met in Montréal for a week of work, planning for the future and team bonding. We worked hard, had fun and charted a path for the future of the team.

Sadly, I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do. My phone started acting up. It turns out, its battery went bad. The entire phone became swollen and mostly inoperable. 🙁 But I did take a few.

Poutine (fries, gravy, cheese curds and bacon)
Real poutine.

I’m excited to get the projects we worked on launched soon. I’m more excited for the future of our team. It comes with some changes, but I think those will work out in the end.

We went to a few activities as a team, including a spoken story event, painting ceramics and more. As much as I love my work, I love my team even more.

Themers as Shipbuilders

Working with WordPress themes can often be misunderstood. How could you build sites without knowing the content? I love building themes because I believe that a good WordPress theme can open up a new world to those using it. In turn, also reveal something unique about the site’s owner to the world. I read a quote from Henry Rollins on creativity, success and failure that reminded me of how I feel about themes, especially  when I finish one:

I’m a shipbuilder. I don’t want to sail in them. I want you to sail in them. I’m just happy that they leave the harbor so I can have an empty workplace.

I feel the same way when I launch a theme. I’m more excited to start the next one than continue work on something from the past.

Thoughts on Frontend Design

I’ve often said to colleagues that at times I don’t feel like I’m a designer or developer. Most of the time, I feel like I’m right in the middle.

I personally think that people who are skilled at frontend design are in a great position to help bridge the divide between the design and development worlds. They are mortar that help hold the bricks in place.

Brad Frost recently shared thoughts on fronted design, and a front end developer’s role in the design process. It resonated with me in a lot of ways, Besides identifying with the being in the middle of design and development, he points out everyone falls somewhere different in the spectrum. That’s the great thing about being a front ender – there’s so much interesting stuff to do and many ways to find it.

Progress on the Backyard

We’ve been working on the backyard, slowly making progress.

Backyard with moss on the ground, deck, and plenty of trees
The backyard, before we started.

Before we started, the backyard had a ton of leaves toward the back. and many small trees, bunched together. This made for a mess, and rendered much of the yard unusable. So we’ve cleared out the leaves and small trees, making way for a garden. We’re planning to have a few apple trees, strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins, potatoes and more.

Backyard with mostly dirt, and garden area divided by red bricks
The left side of the backyard today.
Backyard with mostly dirt, and garden area divided by red bricks with a deck.
The right side of the backyard. The back corner had the most small trees and leaves.

The next big projects, beside slowly planting the garden, is to eradicate the English ivy along the fence line and replace the fence. We’ve taken out about half the ivy so far. What a job! Slow and steady, but it’s starting to look good.

Number 38

I missed my annual birthday post – I must be getting old. 🙂

I had a great birthday – a fun taco and beer dinner at Crafted: The Art of the Taco. For the record, it was March 2nd.

I spent most of the last year looking at houses. No lie! We bought one in Greensboro, and have been improving it ever since. I’m excited to make it our own, little by little. I do wish I could start over on the bathrooms from scratch though. But like I said, little by little.

At work, I’ve been tackling leadership roles more, being in that role with Twenty Seventeen and Components. I’m enjoying stretching myself there.

Beyond that, I’m writing and reading more, two habits I think will help me grow more than anything else. I’ve also started getting deeper into minimalism, questioning my purchase decisions with thoughtfulness and looking to live more with less.

I also began a simple bodyweight workout regimen for ten to fifteen minutes, five days a week. I’ve been at it for more than two months, so it feels good to have it sticking as a habit. I’m feeling better physically, and enjoying the fact that everything I’m doing can be done without a trip to the gym or lots of equipment.

I’m looking forward to a more focused year. We’ll see how it goes!

Related: Number 37Number 36Number 34.

The Story of One New Bathroom Fan

Okay, I get it. A blog post about a bathroom fan lacks the excitement you might be looking for in your reading on the web. But I promise the story of how this bathroom fan ended up looking just right has a few twists and turns.

It started one Sunday afternoon while I was on vacation. After some research, I decided I wanted to tackle replacing the semi-functional fan in our master bathroom. I say semi-functional because it worked, but didn’t do a good job of lifting the moisture out of the room.

I tracked down a fan at Home Depot made by the same vender as the current mode. It also fit perfectly in my current hole, about a nine inch by nine inch space. So far so good.

I started to take the old one out, and began running into problems as soon as I pulled out the old motor, unhooked the electrical wiring and had nothing left but the metal housing. I couldn’t get the thing out no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t see any screws either. So I did what anyone else would do. I started bending the heck out of the housing, to try and see what I was dealing with behind it. After fighting with it for about an hour, I gave up for the day.

The next day, I came at it with a fresh perspective. After bending the metal housing up more, I could see the problem. It was nailed to the joists in multiple spots, instead of screwed. That posed a problem because I couldn’t get anything in the space with enough leverage to pry out the nails. Plus, one corner of the housing sat between two joists, fastened with a nail. That made it near impossible to get this thing out.

After yet more research, and a chat with my dad, I decided to saw it out. To Lowes I went in search for a hacksaw small enough to fit in the space and cut through metal and nails. I found one and a few hours later I had the housing out. Success!

Disassembled bathroom fan, badly damaged
The old fan.

You might think I was close to done. You’d be wrong. Once I examined the duct work in the ceiling, I discovered it was three inches in diameter, not the four inches in diameter needed for the new fan. That meant I had to buy an adapter or “reducer” to make the everything fit. I did. Twice. First a plastic one, then a metal one. The plastic one proved impossible to make fit. The metal one fit, after I learned how to crimp it. However, it wouldn’t stay once I tried to attach the fan to it.

At this point I nearly gave up. I’d fought with trying to install this new fan for the better part of a week. I called it quits for almost another full week as I debated my next move. My wife showed incredible patience while we had a giant hole in the ceiling, used flashlights to find stuff and dealt with my indecision. She kept encouraging me though, saying I could finish it.

I believed her. And decided to replace the existing duct work for an easier fit, thanks to more advice from my dad and family. The old stuff turned out to be flume pipe, not flexible and not great for connecting to the fan. I had the old duct work out and the new stuff in in less than an hour. I finished that same day! Better yet, it worked perfectly!

Bathroom fan, installed in ceiling
The new fan – working!

Now, I’m plotting my next home improvement project with more experience and confidence.

Jan. 20, 2017

So this happened. Plus, a lot more since, of course.

I’ve gone through my own set of feelings after Donald Trump’s election. Sadness. Anger. Fear. Apathy. But right now, I’m somewhere between resilience and hope.

Why, you ask? History tells me that we, as a country, have overcome many extraordinary challenges. Having electoral power shift from one end of the spectrum to the other from time to time can be a good thing. And I do believe that people possess more good in them than bad. Somewhere in there exists a path to find common ground.

I’m not going to lie, I have my reservations. Many of them. I don’t believe anything Trump says. He hasn’t given me a reason to do so. His rhetoric carries much hate and falsities. His actions back this up. I want my daughter to grow up in a world where climate change is real and addressed. Where basic healthcare is a right. Where people look at her for her ideas and contributions, not her body. Where, no matter her sexual orientation, she’s treated with dignity and respect. He doesn’t support any of those values.

All that said, I realize that being white and a man, I’m not in real danger of losing any of my own rights. All the more reason for me do more of what needs to be done in a world where Trump commands the highest office in the land. Engage with people. Listen to them. Take action. Show empathy.

That last piece may be the most important. I believe it’s what many Americans have forgotten. Regardless of your political leanings, showing empathy matters. Its nature requires displaying respect for others and acknowledging differences. Those differences give our democracy strength. The thing that fuels my resilience and hope hasn’t changed because of the election. I still want to help accomplish the same ideals for all of us. Now, I just need to be more vigilant and work harder to help get there.