Writing & Things of Interest

March 22, 2019

On Digital Self-Reliance

a digital campfire

I was listening to The Ground Up Show podcast the other day and one part of the conversation jumped out at me. I completely forget who Matt D’Avella was talking to (sorry!) but they got on the topic of being able to do a bunch of digital work yourself. Things like record audio, produce video, set up a website, or send an email. Both agreed that starting side projects were immensely helpful because it forced them to learn new skills. I’ve found the exact same thing happen to me.

Related: My wife routinely asks me how I learned how to do something. Building emails, designing websites, fixing things around the house, etc. I almost always respond, “By doing it and looking something up when I need to.”

Also related: When one of my kids has a question about how to do something, I try to encourage them to figure it out on their own before asking me for a simple solution. When I do give them a solution, I try to walk them through how it works so that they can do it on their own next time around.

Finally: The world is increasingly connected through any number of digital paths. Workers are increasingly called on to do digital jobs for which they haven’t been trained. Even outside of work, people are increasingly relying on digital platforms to manage every aspect of their lives.

All of this points to the need for people to become digitally self-reliant.

What is digital self-reliance?

Digital self-reliance is the ability to accomplish important tasks online (or locally), on your own.

For me, that means being able to figure out how to create websites, create and send emails, record audio, use social media, produce videos, write and publish online, and talk to people with empathy and understanding without being face-to-face. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I immediately know how to do those things, but that I can learn and acquire those skills for future use.

It’s been a struggle to learn a lot of those skills, but it’s always been worth it. Without learning those skills and becoming largely digitally self-reliant, I never would have been able to write and release a few books on email, a video course on the same, or most of the things I do during my day at Litmus.

I’m still thinking about what this means and what skills are necessary for most people to be considered digitally self-reliant, but I do think it’s a very important topic.

What do you think? What skills do you think are necessary for digital self-reliance? How have you used your skills to accomplish something important to you? Email me and let me know. I’d love to hear about it.

March 14, 2019

Link: The web we broke.

A sobering post from Ethan Marcotte. I somehow missed the WebAIM report he referenced, but fully agree with his conclusion that web accessibility is absolutely vital. I also agree that the best way to fight for it is by starting small, but (hopefully) ramping up quickly. Focus on your areas of interest, connect with a few people, and get the work started. If we get some momentum going, I think we’ll all be able to build a better, more accessible and inclusive web for the world.

My personal area of interest happens to be email, and accessibility and inclusion has been the focus of my last few talks (and a few upcoming ones, too). I’ll keep writing about it (new book perhaps?) and evangelizing the good stuff. I hope you’ll join in, too.

Check it out →
February 1, 2019

Link: HTML, CSS, and Our Vanishing Industry Entry Points

This post from Rachel Andrew has been making the rounds and for good reason. It sums up a lot of what too few of us are thinking about (or at least being vocal about). A few choice quotes:

Everyone is angry about CSS again. I’m not even going to try to summarize the arguments. However it always seems to boil down to the fact that CSS is simultaneously too easy to bother with, yet so hard it needs to be wrapped up in a ball of JavaScript in case it scares the horses.

I have done this before within the last year or two and it’s still very powerful:

There is something remarkable about the fact that, with everything we have created in the past 20 years or so, I can still take a complete beginner and teach them to build a simple webpage with HTML and CSS, in a day. We don’t need to talk about tools or frameworks, learn how to make a pull request or drag vast amounts of code onto our computer via npm to make that start. We just need a text editor and a few hours. This is how we make things show up on a webpage.

And finally, this:

I might be the “old guard” but if you think I’m incapable of learning React, or another framework, and am defending my way of working because of this, please get over yourself. However, 22 year old me would have looked at those things and run away. If we make it so that you have to understand programming to even start, then we take something open and enabling, and place it back in the hands of those who are already privileged. I have plenty of fight left in me to stand up against that.

Check it out →