Here are some things I try to watch out for in meetings.

  • 1️⃣ One conversation at a time. We want all the content of the meeting to be relevant to all the people in the meeting.
  • 🏠 Pay extra attention to remote people. We want to involve them regularly.
  • Have breaks if the meeting is more than an hour. We ideally want (short!) breaks every half an hour.
  • ⏲️ End on time. If we don’t cover everything, we set a fresh meeting for later.

See also: Five tips for better meetings

Originally published at on April 19, 2021.

The 25th March is World Retrospective Day. I’ve just had my annual performance review at work. I thought I’d combine bits from both on the subject of “strategic pessimism.”

Arrows going around and away from the Happy Path

I got some great feedback from my colleagues as part of my review. But one thing surprised me: people thought of me as positive. I didn’t think of myself that way. I see myself as a pessimist. Not a doom-and-gloom, everything is terrible, kind of pessimist. A strategic pessimist: it’s a good idea to be aware of what might go wrong, so we can plan for it, and keep it in…

Last week I took some days off and (virtually) attended axe-con, Deque’s conference for building accessible experiences. I picked a few talks to watch and made sketchnotes.

I usually learn a lot from conferences. The problem for me tends to be trimming the list down to something actionable and achievable 😬. For axe-con, I’ve picked three things to do:

  • Counter “we don’t have time to cater to special needs” by focusing on the core human need. E.g. “Eating is not a special need!”
  • Make an a11y Acceptance Criteria library (maybe using the Given / When / Then format).
  • Use the coach model instead of the Subject Matter Expert model: it implies teaching and training, and transferring of skills.

Day one

Here are my sketchnotes:

Sketchnotes from “difference drives innovation and disability inclusion benefits us all“"”. My top takeaway: counter “we don’t have time to cater to special needs“ by focusing on the core human need. “Eating is not a special need!“
Sketchnotes from “difference drives innovation and disability inclusion benefits us all“"”. My top takeaway: counter “we don’t have time to cater to special needs“ by focusing on the core human need. “Eating is not a special need!“

I’ve just finished working my way through “Scrum Master Workbook Part 1”. It’s really well paced and there was lots to learn.

Here are some of the things that I’ve picked up and am either doing already or have a concrete plan to start doing soon.

Things for me to do for myself

After every meeting, do a tiny mini-retro on my own. Look at:

  • was it valuable;
  • whether people (including myself) were paying attention;
  • what I might change.

Every month do a Proactive vs Reactive retro to see:

  • balance or proactive vs reactive actions;
  • what low value things can be stopped or delegated;
  • what high value…

As part of UX South Africa 2020, I contributed to a short thank you video for Don Norman, who was speaking at the conference.

Here’s the final compilation video:

And here’s my 45 second video:

The video has embedded captions. Here’s the transcript:

Don Norman broke my brain. In a good way.

I started my career as a front-end developer and I was working at a human-centred design agency.

While I was there I started learning more and more about UX and that broke my brain for interfaces. …

I joined the online version of UX New Zealand this year. Here’s one thing that stood out for me from each of a few of the talks.

Day one

  • Stop looking for who to include and start looking at what practices and mindsets are exclusionary (from “Consider the periphery” by Elizabeth Lang).
  • Make sure you don’t stop at the MVP: keep refining it (from “More than an MVP: The case for continuous improvement in the COVID era” by James Ford and Pete Lister).
  • IRACIS model — Increase Revenue; Avoid Costs; Improve Service. …

I managed to catch a few of the talks at this year’s A11y Camp. Here are three of my top takeaways from three of the talks. The first one in each list is something I’ve turned into a TODO for myself.

Alexis Lucio: From Nothing to Something: How A Team of 2 Kickstarted an Accessibility

  • Have a11y one-page guidelines (for bite-size learnings)
  • Have a monthly a11y hour (to share some knowledge)
  • Benchmark everything (so you can see improvement)

Ross Mullen: Not another checklist! — A testing methodology which explains the what and how of manual accessibility testing

  • Distill WCAG into something easier to test
  • Test should have a clear pass / fail / not applicable result
  • If your organisations a11y maturity is low, start with just a few tests to set a baseline

Stewart Hay: How to create a kick ass business case for accessibility

Like many people, over the years I’ve been in a lot of meetings. Here are five things that I’ve found tend to make for better meetings.

  • 🙋‍♀️ Facilitator. To help us stay on topic and stay on time. (Example: jazz hands to signal off topic)
  • 📅 Agenda. So we know why we’re there and what our goal is. (Can be only one thing!)
  • 👍 Ground rules. So we know what we can expect from each other. (Examples: the retrospective prime directive, phone use outside the room only)
  • 🤫 Silent brainstorming. To let all the ideas surface, and to let everyone have their say. (Usually with sticky notes)
  • 🖼 Visual note taking. To record what happened. Visual because images are better for memory and understanding. (Ideas, not art: doesn’t have to be fancy!)

That’s it!

Originally published at on October 7, 2020.

I’m a big fan of human-centered design (which I think of as inclusive design and accessibility) and human-centered development (which I think of as progressive enhancement). When talking about these things, it’s not uncommon to be confronted with “yeah but”s.

I’ve found that the way to address these is to dig a little bit first (using a five whys map or a cause and effect map or a similar structure) to find the underlying reason for the objection. Here are some common objections and ways that I’ve addressed them (with varying degrees of success, of course!). These aren’t complete arguments…

Accessibility and usability have a lot in common. In fact, I’d argue that they have so much in common that they’re just a different lens on the same thing.

When we talk about usability, we talk about making our work understandable, clear, consistent, flexible. We could easily talk about making our work perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Those sound like excellent ways to make our work usable! They’re also the four WCAG principles.

When we talk about usability, what we usually mean making it usable for a particular slice of our users. …

Steve Barnett

Web Site Maker, Picture Taker, (Ex) Shop Maintainer. Max Barners is just my stage name.

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