Mozilla broke Firefox

Yesterday, after an update, all my Firefox add-ons stopped working. Even the ones owned by Mozilla.

The newest update seems to have broken all plugins. This has made Firefox completely useless to me, because I rely heavily on ad-blocking and a default zoom adjuster in order to keep webpages from giving me migraines.

Nice job, Firefox.

April Fool’s Day

I hate this day. The vast majority of pranks aren’t funny, and almost always rely on social or cultural differences and naïveté in order to be considered “a good prank.”

Personally, I use this day as a way to make my inbox more manageable, but unsubscribing to every list that sends out an April Fool’s joke. It’s extremely effective, and I’ve never regretted any of my unsubscriptions.

Links: Amazon’s bizarre world of returns, sick-shaming at the office, more accessibility fail

Where Amazon Returns Go to Be Resold by Hustlers: “Every box is a core sample drilled through the digital crust of platform capitalism. On Amazon’s website, sophisticated sorting algorithms relentlessly rank and organize these products before they go out into the world, but once the goods return to the warehouse, they shake free of the database and become random objects thrown together into a box by fate. Most likely, never will this precise box of shit ever exist again in the world.”

You sneezed, go home: talking about “sick shamers,” who push people to go/stay home from work if they’re displaying cold symptoms. Sadly, the article doesn’t stress the lack of adequate sick time offered to most workers. Nor does it highlight how many chronically ill and immune-compromised people are in the workplace: staying home might literally save your coworkers’ lives.

Learn to do it yourself: a valid critique of the (lack of) concern for accessibility in open source.

Links: screen reader accessibility, lab notebooks, and brutalist WordPress

How to Design Website Layouts for Screen Readers: A great tutorial on making your web design more accessible.

Lab Notebooks and Software Development: As a former laboratory chemist, there’s a special place in my heart for a good lab notebook and thorough documentation. Sure enough, whenever I’ve tripped myself up in this process of learning to code, it’s almost always because I failed to document my work, resulting in duplicate or useless efforts. Since adopting more of a laboratory notebook style of learning and project tracking, I’ve been less stressed, and creating more useful, reliable code.

BrutalPress theme for WordPress: is finally functional enough to include in my link list.

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.

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.

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.

a quick update: wordpress, plugins, css

  • The Whisker Shop has grown a bit… and then I realized the Responsive Lightbox plugin I’m using for the catalogue has stripped all my alt-text from the thumbnails. I think of “responsive” as more than just screen size: it’s about how the screens are being used. So that was disappointing.
  • So I’m working on getting my favorite Lightbox, from Lokesh Dhakar running manually. It’s been tricky, but a test page is semi-functional, although it needs work. (The images don’t cycle through, even when tied to a common gallery name.)
  • CanITowThis.com got a mini-makeover to simplify some text styling and to get fancy with a wide-screen view, where the definitions are side-by-side to the form. Thank you to everyone for the feedback about not seeing the definitions when they’re so far down on the page below the form.

#100DaysofCode Day 13

For the last two days, I’ve been working on a website for The Whisker Shop, my spouse’s cat furniture store we’ve been talking about making for ages. This started out as my capstone for WD4E, but it’s turning into a pretty awesome project: my spouse is also doing a Coursera capstone, but it’s for the project management specialization. So he’ll be focusing on implementing the business’s online presence, and I’m focused on making the website happen. If anyone from Coursera ever reads this, I hope you get a kick out of this capstone crossover collaboration. 🙂

Here is the link to The Whisker Shop’s Codepen, and I post this with the caveat that it will change over time, and will eventually be migrated to a live site. Some features so far:

  • Responsive design: mobile first, with an alternate wide screen view
  • Currently only utilizes HTML and CSS
  • Monochromatic color scheme for accessibility

    Wishlist and future plans:

  • Lightbox for displaying photos
  • Must pass validators, including accessibility validators
  • Minimal JavaScript for simplicity and ease, with a noscript option
  • I need to start taking some photos to display!