The recent Dev8D Developer Happiness Days provided an environment for developers in the JISC development community (and more widely) to engage in rapid software development. As the “Dev8D produces rapid results” post described “Day three of Developer Happiness Days is only just beginning but two ideas have already been made real by the keen coders here“.
As I attended only for parts of the first two days of the event I’ll not blog about the event – if you’d like to hear more about what happened I suggest you look at some of the search results for the ‘dev8d’ tag. However the enthusiasm I came across from developers who could see tangible outputs being produced over a period of a few days (although the more significant outputs will probably have been finalised over the following week) I’ve recently seen echoed in another context.
David Sloan, a researcher based at the University of Dundee (and co-author of several of our joint papers on Web accessibility) recently announced, on Twitter, the launch of his blog. And in a post entitled “Sad Professors” David described his frustration with “the slow process of peer reviewing” and went on to add that “If I find accessing the research I need can be challenging what about the people who are making day to day decisions that might affect the accessibility of the resources they produce, and who could benefit from the results of research?” This is a heart-felt plea from someone who sees clearly the tangible benefits that his accessibility research can have for people with disabilities.
Coincidentally a few days after reading David’s blog post in which he criticised slow peer-reviewing processes, I received an email saying that a paper on “Accessibility 2.0: Next Steps For Web Accessibility” authored by myself, David and several others had been published in the Journal of Access Services, Vol.6 Issues 1 & 2, 2009, pp. 265-294. That was the good news – the bad news was that the deadline for submissions was 30 September 2007:-(
However rather than simply complaining about the seemingly glacial processes of engaging in publishing research findings in peer-reviewed publications David has decided to engage in guerilla accessibility research. This is “work typically done in a short period of time, to answer a very specific question, or target a very particular group of web users and published online in a (usually) easy to find place, such as a blog“.
David goes on to add that:
As a bonus … research written for the web is generally easier to read than an academic paper, and easy to extract the key points. It will be peer-reviewed, but after publication. If the work is good, people talk about it; if it’s of poor quality, reaction in the blogosphere will be swift. And more and more often, the results of this work are referenced in academic literature, yet I’ll bet is of more direct impact to the people it aims to inform – web designers and developers, assistive technologists, policy makers and anyone else who needs accessibility information quickly.
In David’s first post on his blog he admitted: “I succumbed! After resisting a blog for years, joining Twitter made me realise that I do actually have things to say on a fairly regular basis, things that other people just might be interested in reading” He went on to confess that “Yep, I work in a university, where there is a culture of publishing information at conferences and peer-reviewed journal papers – not always the easiest (or quickest) way to share information. This means we sometimes neglect more direct (and to be honest, probably more effective) routes – such as blogs like this“.
Perhaps we could say, to paraphrase a recent post, that in the research community “slowly, one by one, the lights are switching on“. David’s “The 58 Sound” blog should be a must read for anyone with interests in Web accessibility and usability.