Links: Python tools, accessibility, racism in tech, toxic masculinity, unwanted JavaScript, and sweaty robot butts

Flat: a Python library for creating and manipulating digital forms of fine arts.

Stanford’s Online Accessibility Program: a comprehensive explanation along with tools for making your web projects more accessible. Not only is this the ethical thing to do, but it increases your audience size and user base.

Not a black chair: A tech worker reflects on an overtly racist experience she had at a well-known tech company. “Every day, marginalized people are punished for simply existing. They are harassed, discriminated against, insulted, and disrespected repeatedly.”

‘Traditional masculinity’ deemed ‘harmful’ by American Psychological Association: according to the report, “traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health.”

GoDaddy is sneakily injecting JavaScript into your website and how to stop it: apparently designed to monitor site reliability and performance, this unsolicited feature can deteriorate site reliability and performance.

Ford’s robot butt for testing car seats can now sweat: the RoButt has been given a upgrade so it can more accurately conduct durability testing on car seats.

Links

The Ethics of Web Performance: a compelling discussion about the modern web’s impact on accessibility and the environment.

Nefarious LinkedIn: It turns out that LinkedIn scans’ users browsers for extension usage. Why is that? Why encrypt and bury the information it finds? I don’t know the answers, but this plugin will help you detect what LinkedIn is looking for.

The Norwegian Art of the Packed Lunch: while a traditional Norwegian lunch of bread with cheese or meat is completely off limits for me as someone with celiac disease and food allergies, the concept of eating the same simple lunch every day on a set schedule as a means of alleviating decision fatigue is very appealing.

Tennessee doctors are paid to review applications to the federal disability program. How much they earn depends on how fast they work. Some doctors work very fast. Highlighting the corruption and flaws with the disability system… Tennessee is not unique, but The Tennessean did a hell of a job investigating that state and the harm it’s caused to disabled people who need benefits.

Stop The Rock Stacking: There’s a recent trend for tourists to stack rocks randomly in nature, which is disrespectful and can be downright harmful to nature. Stop it. Visit Aruba also explains why rock stacking is harmful.

I Was Pregnant and in Crisis. All the Doctors and Nurses Saw Was an Incompetent Black Woman: “What I remember most about the whole ordeal, groggy from trauma and pain and narcotics, is how nothing about who I was in any other context mattered to the assumptions of my incompetence. I spoke in the way one might expect of someone with a lot of formal education. I had health insurance. I was married. All of my status characteristics screamed ‘competent,’ but nothing could shut down what my blackness screams when I walk into the room.”

link blog: diversity in tech

Just one link today, but I have some feelings about it:

The 10 most in-demand skills of 2019, according to LinkedIn: Saving you a click, here they are: time management, adaptability, collaboration, persuasion, creativity, UX design, people management, analytical reasoning, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing. “Instead of emphasizing the need for specific titles and experience, organizations are shifting towards a focus on the skills that a potential employee may bring.”

They irony (and forgive my pessimism here) is the number of resumes I’ve sent out with this in mind (and many matching skills)… without so much as an interview.

Here is my challenge to employers:

If you’re dedicated to improving diversity in tech, you need to lower the barriers for entry. We need more entry-level and early-mid-level positions, with the expectation that we are going to knock your socks off because of how quickly we’ll pick up the extra skills and experience you’re looking for, by just giving us a chance to prove it.

The tech industry is historically and overwhelmingly white, straight, (cis-)male, able-bodied, neurotypical, young, and middle-class. This means that the vast majority of people with the vast majority of experience are going to be all of these things– making them more competitive in the job market. Because the industry has historically excluded marginalized people, the majority of the minority cannot compete with those who’ve historically had most of the opportunities in tech.

And so, we’re passed over for job opportunities, because we lack the experience of our less marginalized colleagues, through no fault of our own.

This isn’t about lowering your standards or expectations for us when we apply to your companies. This is about recognizing the historical and systemic prejudice that permeates the tech industry.

If you want to improve diversity in tech, we need to have a frank conversation about how marginalized people remain on the margins because of systems that were put in place many generations ago.

I challenge you to look beyond the surface, and critically examine the systemic issues that lead to tech’s lack of diversity.

We marginalized people could make your company wildly successful… if you’d only give us a chance.

Links

Brutaldon: a brutalist web interface for Mastodon, which is a decentralized social network.

Why policing self-diagnosis of disabled folks is classist: “There can be many barriers to obtaining a diagnosis, and they often tie right in to some form or other of systemic marginalization. Yet there are still people in our own communities who treat undiagnosed or self-diagnosed people like outsiders, as if no matter how hard your disability makes your life, it isn’t real until you can prove it.”

The Economics of Tidying Up: about Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and how the arguments for decluttering our lives correlate to many economic theories, such as the sunk cost fallacy (we often keep things just because we spent resources acquiring them), and status quo bias (we often keep things just because we can’t think of a good reason to get rid of them).

I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America. “Thirty-five inches is a lot of snow. A state trooper told me to get the fuck off the road. My supervisor said, ‘We can’t. We do phone so we’re considered emergency service.’ I didn’t have any phone jobs. No one else I talked to did either.”

We Should Replace Facebook With Personal Websites: “Personal websites and email can replace most of what people like about Facebook—namely the urge to post about their lives online.” While I agree with this, there’s still an accessibility barrier. Sites like WordPress.com and Neocities offer free services with user-friendly interfaces, but it’s still not quite as easy as signing up for a facebook account, and entering some text in the status update box. That said, I think it’s a noble goal to give up facebook, and the next article is one of the best arguments for it:

The Cost of Living in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet Empire describes how facebook has negatively impacted internet culture, with plenty of links to examples of facebook’s ethical failings. I’ve been thinking a lot about this article in the last two weeks, because it’s really resonated with me. I grew up in an isolated rural part of the United States, surrounded by bigotry rooted in both fear of the unknown and genuine hatred. It was difficult feeling so alone. Finding the internet was like finding freedom. Like finding home. I haven’t felt that sense of belonging and community in years.

But I am hopeful that we can get it back.

Happy New Year!

I am still looking for a job, and one thing that both amuses and saddens me is that the more time passes without finding the right job, the more experience I’m getting to qualify for the right job. Ironic.

So here’s what’s new:

  • The University of Michigan and Coursera have created another fantastic Python 3 specialization, building on the Python for Everybody specialization. I’ve finished the first three courses and am waiting for the last two to open.
  • Lollipop Cloud Project is going well. We are working through some hardware issues with our board of choice, and deploying more cool stuff like Plume, a federated blogging platform.
  • I don’t do New Years resolutions, but I’ve decided to start talking more openly about being disabled, and specifically about being a disabled job seeker.
  • I’ve also decided to start posting links (perhaps weekly) that I find interesting. I don’t care for Reddit (too much bigotry and abuse), and I’m not so active on social media, but I like to save links I find interesting.

WordPress vs…. well, everything else

I’ve been looking for another content management system for my site, but I was hoping to find something I would feel comfortable recommending to friends and family who want to self-host but don’t want anything labor-intensive.

There’s a reason WordPress is powering a third of all websites: it’s easy to get started, it’s easy to maintain, and it’s well-documented. There’s certainly a learning curve (sometimes a steep one) if you’re looking to really dig in and customize the look of your site or add unique features or apps, but if you want to use one of the countless beautiful pre-made themes and plug-ins already available, WordPress is probably going to serve you well.

My site is powered by WordPress, using a highly-tweaked version of the GeneratePress theme, which I’ve been using in its vanilla flavor on my Faer Forensic Investigations site for about 5 years now. It’s lightweight for a theme and loads quickly. They’ve also got top-notch support.

However, I was hoping for something even lighter, faster, and free of JavaScript. I love JS– it’s powerful, fun, and you can make cool stuff with it. I’d love to get paid to play with it someday, too. But why does a site like this need JS? It’s just words. I want to return to HTML’s simple roots. Let’s stop wasting data and bandwidth, and let’s remember that not everyone is accessing your website from a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro with a Google Fiber connection. Pretty web apps are awesome. But just because we can do something, that doesn’t mean we should.

It’s about using the right tool for the job.

So I looked at Hugo, which is quite nice. You can run it locally and see changes in real time, and then if you’re looking for “just get it online right quick,” just dump the contents of the /public folder into your host’s public_html (or whatever) folder. Easy peasy, and there’s GitHub Pages integration, too. Complexity goes up from there. Sites also load super fast. But the easy version still requires you to work with a good text editor and know how to upload files somewhere. It’s no example.com/wp-admin UI.

I also looked into Grav, which is pretty great. I had a beautiful Grav version of this site running locally within a couple hours. But I still felt like I was over-complicating things, and I didn’t feel confident about the process of making a local site and taking it online. I believe this is a common theme in CMS options, and one reason WordPress has done so well– there’s a built-in UI, and its target audience is not developers who already have a ton of experience and skills under their belts.

I will continue playing with Hugo and Grav, and there are a few others I’d like to explore, too. But my quest to use something I’d feel comfortable recommending to someone who isn’t a techie continues.

In the meantime, I’m back to using this lightweight theme with pure JS (no jQuery) and remembering why I liked GeneratePress in the first place.

By the way, a lot of these CMS tools use Markdown. I’m a big fan of Markdown, and I find myself using Markdown before I use a standard word processor (like Word or Libre Office). By the way, if you’re interested in learning Markdown, this Markdown Tutorial might be up your alley.

Coursera, Hacktoberfest, and site updates

After putting it on hold for awhile because I was having too much fun with Lollipop (and still am!), I finally finished the entire Google IT Support Professional Certificate, a 5-course specialization through Coursera.

I’ve also contributed a little to Debian and mUzima, after learning about (and applying to) Outreachy, which seeks to give paid internships to marginalized people looking to work with free and open source projects. It would be pretty exciting to be awarded an internship, but I met tons of great fellow applicants through this process, so the competition is pretty stiff!

Now that I’ve been getting more comfortable with Git, I was able to complete Hacktoberfest this year. If you’re new to coding and not sure if you can or should participate, here’s Quincy Larson telling you why you should and how you can get your own Hacktoberfest tshirt.

What have I learned from all of the above? I really love documentation and improving user experiences. I still love Python and I want to keep up with that, but my job hunting is shifting towards documentation and roles where coding overlaps with documentation and support.

Site housekeeping: Originally, I set up jmf.codes with WordPress because it’s what I know, and I had fun hacking and tweaking a theme I’ve used elsewhere for years (GeneratePress). But it’s far more powerful than I need, and it’s pretty resource-intensive for a few pages of mostly text. I’d like to load faster and with a smaller resource footprint, so I’ll be switching over to something else soon. (Probably Hugo, but I keep making versions I love and can’t settle on just one!) I’ll keep you posted.

My lovely friends reading this through an RSS reader should keep an eye out for an updated link once I’ve moved everything over.