Kathleen McMahon Accessibility in React components

I recently had the pleasure of attending Kathleen McMahon’s talk on Accessibility-flavored React components make your design system delicious!. Accessibility on the web has been a big topic in our office for a while. It’s a part of the web development skill set that often goes overlooked and it is something we can all work on being better at. Kathleen’s talk was two-fold. She showed us examples of what the web is like for users with adaptive needs and how we (designers and developers everywhere) are failing these users. It’s good to note that accessibility is not just screen readers. There are font sizing, zooming, contrast, and other issues to keep in mind. Then she gave us a look into good methods for constructing reusable react components with a focus on keeping the final output properly accessible. This was a refreshing glimpse into the problem and path forward with making the web usable for everyone.

Millennials & The Dinner Party

In a recent article published by Vox, author Nisha Chittal explains how millennials “killed” the traditional dinner party and how (and why) it’s been reinvented and replaced by more casual gatherings. There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the behavior of younger generations and how that behavior is directly driven by values (shameless plug for our Sustainable Insights Report!) and the way that we gather together over a meal is no exception. For so many years, dinner parties were formal, multi-course affairs and, as Chittal writes, “having a dinner party was a way to show off your extensive social connections, your wealth, your place in society. It was a sign of having good taste — which is ultimately all about class anxiety.” Many millennials, on the other hand, were coming of age during/just after the Great Recession and had far more financial stress than worry about anything else. And with home ownership at a record low, people had neither space nor funds to throw anything lavish. Instead, entertaining has become more focused on time spent together and connection, rather than which fine china is on the table, and millennial or not, that’s something worth celebrating.

How Gen Z is Dealing With a Looming Climate Apocalypse

Vice recently sat down with 9 Gen Z’ers to discuss the innvitable climate apocalypse. It seems like in this day and age, only doing the bare minimum when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint is not enough and often times leads to “eco-anxiety – the stress associated with facing a climate crisis and uncertainty about the future”. 

Recently, there have been enormous outcries from Gen Z’ers with a sense of urgency to act now for the future of our planet. Many of the interviewees have changed their diets (many becoming vegans and vegetarians) and waste consumptions (eliminating packaged goods and bicycling as a form of transportation) in efforts to make a change. However, the majority still experience eco-anxiety when thinking of our world vanishing before their eyes. Most feel paralyzed with sadness and grief of not being able to do enough or completely overwhelmed as this is a much larger issue. In many cases, as children they were exposed to an environment that sparked eco-anxiety, once they understood the consequences of the world’s waste. “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly” summarizes the exact steps we, as a society need to take in order to protect our planet.

It is hard to not get stuck in a nihilist fashion of thinking that days on this planet are numbered, so why do anything or bother at all. The problem begins as a refusal to accept there is a need for any of this change, be it on a personal, social, and global aspect. Change can only happen with shake-ups in power through activism and voicing these concerns. According to an article published in The Nation, as Gen Z comes closer to the voting age in 2020 they could force many politicians into dealing with climate issues compared to any previous generations. A recent study found “42 percent of millennial Republicans recognize that climate change is caused by humans, while only 30 percent of conservative boomers do” which would profoundly impact choosing the right candidate on either side. Furthermore, climate change was ranked among the top 10 issues that would influence their decision in the upcoming election. With recent public polls showing many becoming increasingly more anxious about the inevitable climate apocalypse, failing to address this on the political fronts will hurt a party’s ability to succeed. Gen Z have stepped up to take the reigns and continue to be a driving force within the climate change conversation.  

Hacktoberfest 2019

Hacktoberfest is here to help make it easier to give back to the open-source projects and communities that help power our digital lives. To get started you need to register on their site, then start submitting quality PRs to any public GitHub repository. The first 50,000 participants that meet their four-PR threshold in October get a free t-shirt.

Using Art to Fight Climate Change

Art has long been an outlet for social commentary and as climate change continues to dominate the news cycle, more artists than ever are using that outlet to inspire people to action. Valentino Vettori’s immersive Arcadia Earth installation is one stunning example of how artists can come together to create something at once beautiful and thought-provoking. With a full lineup of additional experiential artists, Arcadia Earth sprawls a massive 15 rooms, each focusing on an individual environmental threat. And because they’ll partnered with Oceania Global, visitors can rest assured that the money spent on the ticket will help conservation efforts as well. Running through January 2020 at 718 Broadway.

All photos via TimeOut, by David Mitchell.

Our phones aren’t safe

This isn’t news or a panicked overreaction, just a reminder that our phones aren’t inherently safe and we can’t pretend they are. The years of thinking phones aren’t as vulnerable as a computer or one brand is safer than another are over. Google’s Project Zero has recently posted about sustained targeted attacks against iOS devices over the past two years. A flood of 0-day iOS exploits for sale has pushed their market price below that of 0-day android exploits. A popular app on the Google Play store with over 100 million downloads contained malware that scams advertiser clicks.
Image by Thought Catalog, downloaded from Flickr/stockcatalog.

Celebrating the Software that made the Apollo 11 mission possible

Fifty years ago a crew of three astronauts rocketed out of our atmosphere with the goal of landing on the moon. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and command module pilot Michael Collins are immortalized for landing on the moon. Numerous technological advancements helped NASA achieve its mission, but the work of hundreds of thousands of engineers on the software to control the command and lunar modules was the foundation that made this fantastic adventure possible. Their 145,000 lines of code is surprisingly terse compared to modern software projects. The abort routines written by Margaret Hamilton became one of the more important sections of the code. Aldrin and Armstrong encountered the 1202 “system overloaded” error while attempting to land on the moon. This error nearly stopped their mission short, but the astronauts and command crew back on Earth trusted their software and let the on-board computer reset itself and ignore non-essential routines so all available resources could be focused on the landing.
The moon landing was as much a software engineering project as it was a rocket flight. Happy 50th anniversary to the Apollo 11 mission and everyone that helped all of mankind take that giant leap.
HT WSJ

New Apple Watch Updates Will Protect Your Ears Too

With the new rollout of the Apple Watch updates, users will be able to track their activity trends over time, get alerts to harmful levels of ambient noises, as well as track their menstrual cycle. However small these updates may seem, they actually place a significant importance on turning a user’s Apple Watch as the control center of their health. Since its launch in 2015, Apple has made quite the improvements to its watches that in turn has made it one of the best health and fitness trackers out on the market. Other trackers such as Garmin and FitBit provide dozens of tracking models, whereas Apple is able to pack its few devices with a plethora of features that make it so appealing. Until now, for users that wanted to track their menstrual cycles FitBit has been the obvious choice and for those who want to monitor long-term fitness trends, Garmin has been theirs; with Apple’s expansion making the choice of which tracker to purchase will be far more difficult. The stand out feature on the new Watch will be its noise-monitoring capability. In the US alone, hearing loss affects tens of millions and is slow and gradual; the ability to avoid it with just one alert from a user’s wrist can decrease that number exponentially. It is of no surprise that Apple wants to be the main contender in monitoring personal health and we can expect other health developments in the very near future.

Thrones traffic straining Dragonstone filming location

If you’ve had the opportunity to work on an app or website with a big push on TV then you’ve probably had the fun of dealing with the resulting traffic surge. Good planning, a focus on availability and scaling in your platform, and a responsive hosting provider can help a team cope with that type of visibility. But what if instead of an app or a website, the sudden traffic growth is at a small 10th century church on an islet in Spain?

The Basque islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe’s chapel in Bermeo, Bizkai which serves as the filming location for Game of Throne’s Dragonstone castle has seen a dramatic and possibly overwhelming increase in tourists this past summer. According to EL PAÍS at least 75,000 tourists visited the site in July, averaging out to 2,419 people per day that scaled the long slender stairs to reach the top. Local officials are dealing with plans on how to handle the increase in visitors while supporting their tourism economy, preserving the historical significance of the site, and maintaining the unique biotope that extends from Bakio to Cape Matxitxako.

This isn’t a new problem for the TV and film industry though. Other fan favorite locations such as Luke Skywalker’s island from the end of The Force Awakens or the Walsh family house that almost got sold off for a country club expansion have drawn similar attention.

Here Lies iPod Nano and Shuffle

After more than 400 million products sold, Apple has pulled the iPod Nano and Shuffle off its website. The iPod Touch can still be found online however its more similar to an iPhone than its standalone music playing cousin. RIP to a generation of click wheel whirring and waiting for iTunes to sync. I think we can all remember the rise of the iPod, correlating with sites such as Napster and LimeWire, because we well know no one had that kind of money to download several hundred songs. No one will argue its convenient size and ability to create playlists that I usually ended up skipping 10 songs at a time to find the one I was in the mood for. This beginning definitely helped urge in numerous streaming services and algorithms that we all use now that have left the iPod to the curb. The remaining iPods will be sold in stores at least for a little bit longer for those of us who want to relive the glory days.