Sunday, 25 March 2012

Madrid Accessibility Meetup

Since January this year a group of people interested in the accessibility of the Web and other information and communication technologies has been meeting each month in Madrid.

As far as I know this is the first group of its kind in Spain. I started it after having positive experiences with group such as the London Java Community and the Madrid Java Users Group, and I was interested in the trend toward community self-organisation in the IT field and how professionals are taking more responsibility for their own development. There were already other IT groups in Madrid around JavaScript, Java, Ruby and mobile development. By organising the group using meetup.com the accessibility group was automatically promoted to users of that platform as “other meetups in your area,” and as so many of the groups are IT-oriented the promotion was generally relevant to them. I posted announcements of the group's first two meetings to the AccesoWeb Spanish-language accessibility mailing list, and since then others have announced meetings to other Web technology mailing lists.

Audience listening and tweeting during a talk at the accessibility meetup
There are over fifty members of the online group at meetup.com, but only around eighteen have attended meetings. One person travelled from Alicante for the first meeting. There are also non-attending members from other parts of the country who I assume are interested in keeping up with the news about what we are doing. Most of us are web accessibility specialists or web content designers. I had hoped to involved users with disabilities to promote dialogue between users and producers, but this does not seem to be happening. There are a number of people who are Web designers new to accessibility. There are also many veteran accessibility specialists like myself who are glad to have some face-to-face interaction with people we mainly know online.

The first three meetups have been held at the Centro de Innovación Ballesta (Ballesta Innovation Centre) a small but active venue in downtown Madrid. This venue is, or rather was, funded by grants from the Spanish Ministry of Industry and the Madrid City Council. It hosts a variety of events with (as its name suggests) the common theme of innovation, mainly in the field of technology. Use of the venue is free of charge, which is vitally important for small groups starting out. Office workers in Madrid generally leave the workplace at six, and so we start the meeting at seven. Dinner time in Madrid is around 21:30, so we continue until 20:30 and still allow time for those who have to return home for dinner. The programme for the meetings is to have a couple of technical talks, which would ideally be followed by a discussion but in practice time constraints have prevented much discussion. After the event at the meeting venue we go on to a local pub. This does allow time for discussion, and for informal networking, and for people to stay as long as they want.

Some of the topics for the talks have included:
  • The upcoming WCAG 2.0 update to the Spanish Web accessibility standard
  • Common mistakes with text descriptions for images
  • Case study of the National Stock Market Commission aiming for AA compliance
  • Agile methodologies and accessibility
  • Developing accessible iPad apps
  • A demonstration of assistive technologies and browsing strategies
  • The WAI Before and After Demo, and
  • The effects of the economic crisis on accessibility
My hope is that in the future we can encourage those who have not yet done a presentation to start off in a comfortable setting before moving on to larger audiences.

There are other accessibility meetup groups around the world although they do not seem to be very widespread. They seem to be mostly in the eastern USA, Australia, UK and New Zealand.

Although I'm writing this partly in the hope that it can serve as a resource for others thinking of organising such a group in other places, it seems to me that it would be useful to have an authoritative online resource

If you are intending to visit Madrid you're welcome to come along to one of our meetings even if you don't speak Spanish. You can check the meeting dates on our group page on meetup.com. If you have an interesting area of expertise and would like to give us a talk we could also organise a specific meetup on some other date.

More information in Spanish on the group's website, Madrid Accesibilidad TICs.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Madrid Java Users Group (Madrid JUG), Meeting of

View of meeting room with audience
Go to university campus here in Madrid for the (second? third?) meeting of the Madrid JUG. Two presentations, "Groovy for Java programmers" by Alberto Vilches, organizer of the upcoming Greach event for Groovy people, and "Architecure for a scalable vertical search engine with Hadoop" by Iván de Prado Alonso of Datasalt.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Oracle Enterprise Java Developer Day Madrid

The Java Developer's Day event consisted of two "community" speakers, and three from Oracle Spain. The community participation was first by Alvaro Sánchez Mariscal from Cuore, the Spanish Oracle Users forum, and then by Alfredo Casado of the online forum javaHispano. I wonder why they do their presentation slides in English when they speak in Spanish. found this rather confusing, especially when they skip from one slide to the next. Enrique Martín of Oracle evidently knows all about in-memory data grids, but it seems a difficult subject to bring to life for an audience. There were two "hand-on" sessions using Oracle VirtualBox. Yesterday I spent an hour downloading the massive amounts of data needed for this and installing the system on my laptop, only for DVDs to be handed out during the session so people could install it on the day, and then to find that the sessions were so rushed that there was hardly time to follow it on the speaker's screen let alone get any hands-on experience.

The room was cramped with twice the number of people it should have accommodated, and most people had to use their laptops, yes, on their laps, many sitting in the aisle. There were no partner trade stands in the lobby. It seemed a rather half-hearted affair, like Oracle was trying to avoid being seen to do nothing rather than showing any enthusiasm. The real action lately has been around the newly-formed Madrid JUG which is planning a meeting again this month after the summer break.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Workshop on Agile Project Management, Madrid

Attended a workshop here in Madrid on Agile Project Management, given by Ángel Águeda Barrero of QRP Management Methods International. After so many years now of the trend towards agile development, I still hear so many people here in Madrid complain about clients' reluctance to embrace it. I wonder whether it's a cultural thing, about Spanish corporate culture, or whether it's the same elsewhere. Interestingly, Ángel mentioned that some Spanish government ministries have done projects using agile methodologies. He also mentioned it's use for some defence projects in the UK. The talk covered the different methodologies especially DSDM Atern and Scrum, but not much about Lean, or Extreme Programming, though, as it was more about methodologies with a wider scope. QRP offer training courses in Agile Project Management.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Reading Java Peristence with Hibernate

Cover of book Java Persistence with HibernateI just read the first chapter of this book. The field has become much more complex since I read the previous edition, Hibernate in Action way back in 2006. Now there it covers EJB 3.0 and Java Persistence API. And twice as long. And I think I need to read it all again, as so much has changed, and now with annotations. What with the new third edition of Spring in Action winging or sailing its way across the Atlantic I won't be short of summer reading this year.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Spanish Software Company Caught Up In Fraud Investigation

One of Spain's leading software development companies, Microgénesis, has been caught up in action by Spanish anti-corruption investigation. The Spanish performing rights, royalties collection and anti-piracy body SGAE saw its board of directors arested and taken away for questioning and their files seized during a raid on their headquarters in Madrid last week. The president of the SGAE was taken away in handcuffs by the police but later released pending charges. Microgénesis, which boasts many large and well-known clients, was part of a network of companies run by the organisation and members of the directors' families, which received funds from the SGAE. According to reports in online newspaper Público the directors of the firm, which has been operating for 19 years, and is well known for open-source solutions and use of agile methodologies, were arrested as part of the investigation.

Blog Resuscitated

After three years of silence I feel the urge once again to communicate through the medium of this blog. Once more I have something interesting to say, and I'm free to say it. At the time of the last post it was the management of my then employer, Fundosa Technosite who obliged me to desist from writing anything more. That decision was symptomatic of the increasing "dumbing down" of the Accessibility Department, and the drift away from any kind of innovation, into an endless run of monotonous and not very useful reports on website accessibility, and the loss of the pioneering spirit that had motivated the team in the preceding years. In the end I was glad to have been given the push earlier this year, and the opportunity to move into more interesting fields.