Wednesday, August 29, 2007

First Rove, now Gonzales - it feels like Christmas!

When Karl Rove resigned, I was busybusybusy with my head full of FullCodePress stuff, so I didn't get a chance to blog about it. But I was, needless to say, very happy. The Prince of Darkness (aka Bush's Brain) is gone! Woohoo!

My absolute favourite response was the official statement which appeared on Presidential candidate John Edwards' website soon after Rove's announcement. It simply reads:

"Goodbye, good riddance."
Heh. Hehehehehehe!

Although I don't for a moment believe that the influence of KKKarl will disappear the day he leaves the White House, it's still nice to see the back of him - officially at least.

Mike Keefe - Gonzo resigns. And now we have Gonzo. Goodness me! I thought he was going to hang on until the bitter end! Even though the entire country had already written him off as a liar and an incompetent fool, it seemed that Gonzales hadn't gotten the memo. Or perhaps he had, but simply "couldn't recall" having received it. Ha.

Interesting that there was absolutely no explanation from him as to why he was leaving, and why now. I wonder whether the WH rug was finally pulled from beneath him, or if it was the hot breath of impeachment on the back of his neck that finally did him in.

Either way, I'm convinced that the resignations of both Rove and Gonzales so close together cannot be any type of coincidence. This has Department of Justice investigation written all over it. Maybe it's the Hatch Act violations? Those have pretty serious consequences for anyone convicted.

We may never know what was the final nail in the coffin for Karl and Alberto. We can certainly be sure that they will rewrite history anyway, in an attempt to absolve themselves from any responsibility for this, the Worst Presidency Ever.

They're not the only Loyal Bushies to leave the sinking ship, either. Just to refresh your memory, here's a little list. We like lists:

Bush insiders who have quit the administration

  • Paul Wolfowitz. Resigned as deputy secretary of defence in 2005.

  • Andrew Card. White House chief of staff. Resigned in March 2006.

  • Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, chief of staff to vice-president Dick Cheney. Resigned in October 2006 after being indicted in the Valerie Plame scandal.

  • Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defence. Resigned in November 2006.

  • John Bolton. Stepped down as US ambassador to the UN in December 2006.

  • Harriet Miers, White house counsel. Resigned in February 2007.
  • Dan Bartlett, counsellor to the president. Resigned in June 2007.

  • Karl Rove, political strategist and close confidant to George Bush. Leaving at the end of August 2007.

  • Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General. Stepping down September 17 2007.

Farewell Turd Blossom and Fredo (and the rest). You disgusting people. Impeachment's (almost) too good for you. You should all be marched off to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes.

[Cartoons borrowed from Bilicki Blog (Bad Rover) and Mike Keefe at the Denver Post. Thanks, guys! Click for larger versions...]

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

20 things I learned at FullCodePress

Hmmm. I've been thinking again... and these are just some of the many things I learned at FullCodePress, based on how the Code Blacks peformed:

1. Great teammates

Jeffrey, Zef and Steve. When they pick you for the team, pray very hard that your teammates will be people you can get along well with - especially under stress. The Code Blacks were incredibly lucky in that, not only did we mostly know each other already, we also like each other - and I can certainly say that I like all the boys even more now that we've gone through FCP together.

I work with Thomas every day at Shift and we get on really well; Zef is one of my best friends - I've known him for years; Zef had worked with Jeffrey at Provoke for a couple of years before Jeffrey moved to Xero; I've worked with Mark at Shift in the past and we knew each other before that through the Welli dance scene; and I first met Peter a few months ago. In fact, the only person none of us knew before the event was Steve, our wonderful designer from Hamilton.

2. The project manager

Thomas in full flow. Hope for a geek as your project manager - it'll make all the difference in the world. Thomas has been using computers and doing internet stuff since before it was invented (almost!) - which meant that within moments of the final team-member (me) being announced we had a wiki, a blog, a bunch of domain names for the blog, a chatroom and even a Skype linkup with Steve for when we had planning meetings in Welli.

Thomas also twittered and blogged throughout the event itself, which kept us in touch with the outside world, and allowed people to see something of what we were doing, even when there was nothing to see on the server.

3. Team identity

The Code Blacks before the show. As soon as you can, figure out your team name, your team logo, style your blog to match, and get those T-shirts printed. It may not seem like much, but I think it gives you a tiny psychological edge, helps you to feel like a team, looks great in photos (and there will be many, many photos!), and gives you a web presence through which you can communicate.

I expect we'll pass our Code Blacks name, logo and assorted paraphernalia on to the next NZ team next year - although we might keep the T-shirts - but there's a screen made and paid for now, so they can always have more printed...

4. Know your judges

The very very pretty Kiwi judge, Natasha Hall. Take very careful note of who the judges are, what their specialisation is, and (most importantly) what they think about any potentially controversial issues they might be judging you on. Go read their blogs. Check out their websites, and for gawd's sake, if they have taken a stand about something in the world of, say, accessibility, make sure you use the methods they recommend. Or have a really really good reason why you have chosen to do it differently, and be prepared to defend it.

This one could have really bitten us in the bum - as we found out during our "judges grilling session" when a disembodied voice from a laptop (Derek Featherstone, accessibility consultant from Canada) asked us whether we were aware of the controversy over access keys - and why we had decided to use them. Ulp! Derek's not convinced they're a good idea - and we had to do some fast talking to show we'd thought about it and why we'd decided to use them anyway.

5. Setting up your workspace

Aim to set up your workspace so it resembles your RL workspace as closely as possible. Again, this might not seem very important, but believe me, after 24 hours of high-stress coding, it really makes a difference.

Me, my workspace, my robot arms, our client Debbie (and MrDebbie). And my saggy face. At about 6am. No-one looks good at 6am. If you're taking your laptop, and it's not the one you use at work, make sure you have the same software installed (and same versions if possible) that you're used to using at work. Ensure that your teammates know what software you're using, and check that everyone's versions are compatible.

If you need a test machine with stand-alone versions of IE - and you're the one who's good at bug fixing - take an extra PC laptop with you. I made a big mistake here and didn't take one with me - and my laptop is a Mac. I had to rely on using Steve's PC for testing, which was a stoopid idea because he was using it pretty much the whole time. I do have VirtualPC on my Mac but it's slower than a very slow thing - and therefore pretty much useless.

Take a mouse and keyboard with you if you're using your laptop. It might be fine messing about on the lappy at home while sitting on the floor watching TV, but when you're going 24 hours straight on a conference table that's not ergonomically designed to be a used as a desk, you really need your nice big external keyboard and your mouse. Borrow the bibles or the phonebooks from your hotel room to raise up your laptop so you're sitting comfortably. There's nothing worse for your back than crouching over a laptop on a table that's too low for 24 hours.

If you use any kind of ergonomic stuff for comfort and to combat RSI/OOS at work - take it with you if you can. I use Ergo Rests (aka 'robot arms'!) and I'm VERY glad I took them with me. I think my arms would have fallen off if I hadn't had them. Note that many conference tables are built with the base frame very close to the edge of the table top and that your Ergo Rests might not fit properly. Take the extra-high clamps with you just in case (as well as your normal ones) and be prepared to swap tables if you can find a better one, or beg the organisers for a piece of MDF to put on top of the table that you can attach them to.

6. Losing the plot

T.A.S.M.A.N Superhero (aka Thomas). Accept that somewhere around 2am your team will pass through an hour-long period of losing the plot. The work pace will slow to a crawl, things will start to get silly, Thomas will get a little too in-your-face and Ali will snap at him (considering this was the ONLY time during the entire 24 hours that there was the slightest bit of tension between team-members, I think we did pretty well - love ya, T-dog!).

Don't panic, though - the team will eventually break through the doldrums to get their second (or third or fourth) wind, and all will be well.

7. The timewarp

Collaboration. Thomas, Steve and Jeffrey - and the back of my head. Plan in advance for the fact that the first 12 hours will move at a normal pace - but that during the second 12 you will slip down an interplanetary wormhole, and end up in a place where time speeds up to twice or three times as fast as normal. You will NOT have enough time to do everything you want to. As time ticks down, start prioritising like mad, and use your time wisely.

8. Be nice to everybody

Duh! Yeah of course you're all nice people and this goes without saying, but there's more to this that simply representing yourself and your country in the best possible light.

For a start being nice to everyone (whether they be client, organiser, judge or volunteer) certainly won't do your cause any harm. In fact you never know when someone might wander back into the judges' room and say "Gosh those Kiwis are such nice people - they really deserve to win on sheer niceness" - and the message (especially if it's delivered at 4am when the judges have had a few red wines and are suffering from sleep deprivation) might stick in someone's subconscious just enough so that they give you an extra point when it comes to the marking - and that might make all the difference :)

Zef, MrDebbie and Debbie. Being nice to your client also goes without saying (and of course we're ALWAYS nice to our clients!) - and it really helps if you strike up a great bond with your client straight away, like the Code Blacks did with Debbie and MrDebbie (they were LOVELY!). Remember that, in the context of the FullCodePress competition, your client will be grilled by the judges and if she likes you, and if she feels that you "got" where she was coming from and delivered what she wanted (or more!) she's gonna say positive things about you - and that's a Good Thing.

Knowing deep in your soul that you're being nice to everyone will also help when you're too tired to think straight, and it might just help you to get through the meltdown at the 23rd hour when everything goes pear-shaped and you've got 5 cameras right in your face hoping to catch you completely losing it. Mark - you did an amazing job - if it'd been me I think there would have been blood on the floor (or me in a corner, weeping...)

9. Information out... and information in

Think about what you want the judges (and the watching world) to know about, and what you don't.

There will be many and varied volunteers and judges mooching in and out of your room as you work. They will catch you unawares and chat to you during dinner. They will then blog about your conversation and tell the judges what you said. They will drag you out of the workroom when you're least expecting it and interview you on camera when you're dog-tired and have no idea what you're saying. By the wee small hours you will no longer remember who's a judge and who's a volunteer and who's an organiser, and you won't really care either, because the pressure will be well and truly on.

If you're planning some amazing thingamybob for the website and you don't know if you're going to have time to implement it, it's a good idea to mention it to someone - anyone - because it's bound to get back to the judges. If they know you've thought about doing something, even if you didn't quite get it finished, at least they'll know it was in your head (and possibly in some state of (in)completion on the server). While we didn't consciously plan to do this, I think it might have happened anyway, and when there are only a couple of points separating the teams, that bit of extra information might just make a difference. Who knows if it did - but there's no harm in getting it out there anyway.

Conversely, if you have a completely brilliant idea at 4am and you don't want the other team(s) to know about it - don't mention it to anyone who's not on your team. It will be blogged or twittered about, and if the other team is on their toes (and you know they might be), they'll read about it. And you don't want them nicking your idea at 5am and doing it better than you did. Not that this happened - but better safe than sorry.

10. Sleep

Don't expect to get any sleep. You won't.

11. Food and drink

G - not V. Don't eat too much dinner - it'll make you sleepy and you will lose focus for an hour or so afterwards. Better to snack throughout the 24 hours to keep yourself going.

Keep your fluid intake up. Coffee (a must-have), water (another must-have), your choice of other caffeine-enhanced power drinks (not for me - I hatesss 'em!), alcohol (probably not until afterwards...).

Remember that there's no way you're going to want to stop for breakfast on the second morning, because by that time there will be only a couple of hours to go and you'll be panicking like mad trying to get it all done.

12. Get there early

Peter, Steve and Zef doing the touristy thing near the Opera House. If you can, get to the venue a couple of days beforehand. If you're coming from overseas you'll need a day or so to acclimatise and get your body clock somewhat sorted. It's also good for the team to have some time to kick back, do some touristy exploring stuff and generally relax before the Big Day. You'll all be feeling a bit stressed and keyed-up before it starts, so take some time-out and chill out.

13. Setting-up time

Give yourselves the maximum amount of time to get set up in the venue. You know the networks will be a nightmare to sort out, and that it will take you at least three times longer to get ready than you thought it would. Getting there as early as possible will also give you a chance to rush out and buy anything you forgot or couldn't bring with you - even an extra laptop if you have to.

14. Winding-down time

Flaked out. After the competition is over, plan to stay an extra day at least, otherwise you'll be totally buggered. Remember that once the 24 hours is over you won't be able to crash out straight away because you'll have to wait a few hours for the judges to deliberate - and you want to be awake when they announce you've won :)

Thomas and I flew home from Sydney on the Sunday night, which meant that by the time we got home we'd been awake for about 40 hours. Not a good look if you need to get to work the next morning (needless to say, I failed dismally on that score...). The rest of the team stayed until Monday afternoon, which meant they got 18 hours' sleep from Sunday afternoon until Monday morning - and were already sleeping soundly in their comfy hotel beds while Thomas and I were trying desperately to stay awake in the airport lounge...

15. In-your-face - and not looking your best :)

Horrendous picture of me. Don't look! DON'T YOU LOOK! Recognise that, as an international celebration of all that is geek, part of FullCodePress is that your every move, thought and inspiration must be blogged about, twittered about, photographed and Flickr'd or filmed and stuck up on YouTube. That's part of what makes FullCodePress so special, and you just have to accept it, and go with it.

It means they will be in your face when you have a meltdown (see point 8), it means they will be constantly taking pictures of you and trying to interview you when you're trying to concentrate, and it means that you are guaranteed to see bloody awful pictures of yourself looking your most haggered at 3am when most normal people would be tucked up in bed with no-one to see them but the moon, their SO and their cats. You will look like shit, you will seem to make no sense when you review those videos on YouTube the next day, and you will wish you'd at least smiled when the cameras came round - and that you didn't look so serious and/or double-chinned and saggy when you're concentrating.

It's part of the fun - and honestly - who wouldn't look like shit after 24 hours of coding?

16. The dreaded brain-freeze

Frozen Peter. Accept (and expect) that you will suffer complete brain-freeze for at least the first hour after you get stuck in to whatever it is they selected you to do. I know that Mark, Jeffrey and myself all experienced this when we each began coding/programming during the competition.

Something that you could normally do without breaking a sweat suddenly becomes an impossible task which you can't figure out for the life of you. You can waste half an hour trying to see why something isn't working, only to realise that it's 'cos you made a typo 30 minutes earlier. The simplest bit of coding is beyond you - you start to panic and think "Oh my God! I can't do this! I'm going to let the team down! The whole country is going to hate me once they find out I was completely crap!"

Do not panic. This too will pass. Stick your iPod on and disappear into the music that you work by. Do something so easy that even brain-frozen you can manage it, and move on from there. Go for a walk around the block, or a cigarette, or whatever you normally do when you need time-out. Surf the net for 5 minutes and laugh at the crappy photos of all your team-mates. Run up to your room, scream into your pillow, and come back down again.

You know you can do it. You do it every day. You're one of the best in the country - that's why they picked you. After a while your brain will stop doing "deer in the headlights" and it'll start clicking back into gear. It's scary when brain-freeze happens, but it will get better. I promise :)

17. Give yourself time to fix the bugs

How do you do an unordered list again? I forget... This is a tough one, because it all depends on how long it takes to get things up-and-running, but... we learned that trying to tidy up pages of text with 20 minutes to go, when you've been coding for over 23 hours and you can't actually see straight any more - is not an easy task. You will not complete it if you don't have enough time - and that's annoying 'cos it'll look messy when it should look perfect.

One extremely useful thing we discovered is that using the same HTML/CSS techniques can be invaluable when you're pressed for time. With an hour to go we finally got to see Jeffrey's templates in IE6 - and they looked a bit sorry for themselves. You know what IE's like - it's a nightmare for bugs! The nav was all over place, and half the links were missing. However he'd used the Sliding Doors technique to build the main nav, so it was a two-minute job for him to add a couple of things to the stylesheet (cribbed from my own website where I've also used Sliding Doors) and bingo! He'd recreated his perfect main nav in IE6. Phew!

18. Courting controversy

Mark - who, me? Realise that if you do something unexpected - like attempting to build a full CMS, database management system and website from scratch in a single day (as opposed to adapting an existing CMS), people will not only think you're completely mental (and will tell you so), they'll also talk about you (and it) all over the internet for days afterwards, and demand that you explain yourself.

This is a good thing. You will be forever known in geek circles as "that crazy Kiwi who built an entire custom CMS during the inaugural FullCodePress" - and you will be able to put it on your CV and explain that, yes you were insane to even consider doing it - but you made it work.

19. It's supposed to be FUN!

Happy Jeff and Steve. Do not take yourself (or the competition) too seriously. This is supposed to be FUN. If you are too intense and serious about it, you will lose the fun-ness of it.

Yes, yes, I know if you're a Kiwi you will suddenly understand how the All Blacks feel before a big game, and if you're seriously into your work and set great store by how well you do it this will be difficult but... Just a bit.

Just enough to enjoy the experience and get the most out of it that you can (while putting the most into it that you can). This the most intense thing I've done since the days of The Gathering, and once I got over myself, I had a ball.

20. Win or lose, we're all winners really

As the judges deliberated in their secret enclave, I think most of us Code Blacks didn't think we had won. We hadn't finished everything, there was stuff broken on the site, and there were a bunch of things we'd wanted to do that we hadn't been able to do in time. Jeffrey was confident (he says it's because he's an Arrogant American!), but I'm not sure any of the rest of us were. I certainly wasn't.

Victory dance. So when they announced that the Code Blacks (NEW ZEALAND!!!!) had won by 2.7 points out of 100, I about fell off my chair in shock. (I was actually sitting on the floor at the time, but you get the idea).

I felt really sad in a way that there had to be a team that didn't "win". The Aussies (Koding Koalas? Web-savvy Wallabies?) did an awesome job and they were all lovely people, so I felt sorry that they didn't get to jump around for joy at the end.

In the end, though, we were all winners because we'd achieved amazing results in just 24 hours.

And the MOST important thing - which was at the forefront of our minds from the moment we each applied to take part in FCP - was that two charities got a brand-new website built by some of the best web professionals in Australasia.

We've developed a really strong bond with Debbie, and we're going to maintain and grow that relationship over the next year at least. In the short-term we're tidying up and finishing off the site, ready for their big launch in October.

In the longer term we want to see how we can use the website to develop and strengthen the work that the Grampians disAbility Advocates Association already does, and leverage their web presence to create a real community amongst disAbled people and their carers in Victoria. That way, as well as standing beside the people that they help, the GdAA can help them to help themselves, and to support each other in their daily lives.

And that's truly winning, however you look at it.

The Code Blacks and Debbie Verdon.
From left to right: Thomas, Mark, Steve, Ali, Jeffrey, our client Debbie Verdon, Peter, Zef

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Media release: Code Blacks bring home the trophy

Kiwi geeks win trans-Tasman 24-hour website building competition

After an intense 24 hours in Sydney, Australia, at the inaugural FullCodePress international site in a day competition, the New Zealand team - the Code Blacks - have emerged triumphant.

The team of Thomas Scovell (project manager), Zef Fugaz (information architect), Steve Dennis (designer), Jeffrey Wegesin (HTML/CSS coder), Mark Rickerby (programmer), Peter Johnston (writer) and Alison Green (all-rounder) beat their Aussie rivals in a photo-finish - with only 2.7 points out of 100 separating the teams.

The Code Blacks and their client, Debbie Verdon.
From left to right: Thomas, Mark, Steve, Ali, Jeffrey, our client Debbie Verdon, Peter, Zef

Judges commented on how well both teams performed, especially given the nature of the competition - clients they'd never met before, 24hr deadline and incessant interruptions to be photographed, interviewed and videoed.

The competition could be viewed live as it unfolded, and was followed by members of the web industry around the world. The organisers of the competition provided a constant stream of blog posts on their website, as well as Twitter comments, photos uploaded to Flickr, and professionally edited videos of the teams in action and interviews with team members, which were posted on YouTube.

The Code Blacks' website client was a small non-profit organisation - Grampians disAbility Advocacy Association (GdAA) - who advocate on behalf of people with disabilities and their carers living in the large and relatively isolated rural Grampians region of Victoria, Australia. They've never been able to afford a website, and at the start of the competition had only a vague idea of what could be achieved by having a web presence.

The t-shirt and the trophy. 24 hours later they had a brand new website designed and built for free by some of New Zealand's top web professionals; a content management system through which they will be able to edit and add to the site themselves; and a database with which they can manage their membership list and put members with similar interests and/or disabilities in touch with each other. Here's the winning website.

Thomas Scovell (Shift), the team's project manager, says "It was certainly a challenge to build a website in only 24 hours. Most sites take weeks, if not months, to complete. Traditionally a website is built in stages, water-falling through the range of roles we have on our team on its way to completion. For FullCodePress we had to approach the process in a much more agile fashion, where we collaborated and worked on parts of the process simultaneously in order to get the end result. It was real team work!"

Flaked out at the end of 24 hours. Grampians disAbility Advocacy Association co-ordinator, Debbie Verdon, was absolutely thrilled with her new website, and sees it as an opportunity for her organisation to become leaders within their field, and to raise their profile amongst both clients and potential clients, and within the advocacy and disabled communities as a whole.

The Code Blacks will be smoothing the rough edges of the new site over the next couple of weeks and have made a commitment to Debbie that they will provide ongoing support and technical expertise for at least the next year, donating 15 hours of their time each month towards improving and developing the website.

Useful info

Code Blacks team members:

Competition location and dates:
Sydney, Australia - 18-19 August 2007


  • Google (sponsor)

  • Adobe (Australian team sponsor)

  • Red Square (supporter)

  • SitePoint (supporter)

  • Mort Bay Communications (supporter)

  • Gian Sampson-Wild - Manager Usability and Accessibility Services, Monash University - Melbourne, Australia

  • Derek Featherstone - Director, FurtherAhead - Canada

  • Matthew Magain - Technical Editor, SitePoint - Melbourne, Australia

  • Matt Voerman - Senior Consultant, Adobe Systems

  • Natasha Hall - User Experience, Trade Me - Wellington, New Zealand

  • Steve Baty - Director, UX Strategy, Red Square - Sydney, Australia

  • James Magill - Google Australia

Useful links:

Contact for further info:
Thomas Scovell - Code Blacks team captain

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Scrabulous is fabulous!

Jeffrey's got me hooked on Scrabulous - and it took about 5 seconds...

The other day when we still in Sydney and we were completely wasted, I seem to remember Jeffrey telling me about Scrabulous - the Facebook Scrabble app. I was so tired I wasn't really paying attention, and I just remember him enthusing about it and me going "uh huh..... mmmm... yeah" and not taking any of it in.

But it must have stuck because today (or was it yesterday?) I remembered. I checked out his Facebook profile and saw that he'd started a game with me - so I though I'd better take part...

We've been playing all day, and we've nearly finished our first game. I'm in the lead, but I'm not counting my chickens until the final tile goes down. You never know, he might put down some crazy combination of tiles right at the end.

I found myself checking regularly today to see if he'd made his move - I was hooked pretty much immediately. I love Scrabble in RL, so this is great! We've been messaging wall-to-wall about our moves this evening, which is another aspect of Facebook I hadn't used before. I'm such a Facebook novice :)

I've worn him out now, so we'll finish the game tomorrow. I've decided: Scrabulous is fabulous!

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Monday, August 20, 2007

FullCodePress - we won!!!

Jeffrey on the front page of Stuff. Woohoo!! Woohoo!! Woohoo!!

The Code Blacks won FullCodePress!

Check out the pic of Jeffrey that appeared on the front page of Stuff! Click to see a larger version. Kewl!

I'm still a bit in shock actually. Just got home - have now been awake for 40 hours (I think - my maths skillz seem to have deserted me) and I'm pretty much wasted. I keep on remembering that we won and I get a great big grin on my face.

We were doing pretty well until the wee small hours when time just seemed to speed up and we still didn't have the content loaded - but Mark's CMS was brilliant and we were able to get (most) of the content loaded and coded in about an hour.

And then with about an hour to go we pretty much had a meltdown, when the server started caching Mark's old files and somehow changed the time setting on him so he appeared to be looking at files he'd written over hours before. Chaos ensued, and for a while pretty much everything on the site was broken. Thomas was a very calming influence and got Mark through it - Mark rewrote a bunch of stuff because he was just too tired to see what had gone pear-shaped with his code and it was all up again with only minutes to spare.

Meanwhile Jeffrey and I were madly bug-fixing in IE6 (thank God for shared techniques such as sliding doors!) and we got the site looking reasonable in IE6 by about 8.30am. I have no idea how it looks in IE5...

Then with literally 5 minutes to go we were finally able to see the news section and realised that the rich text editor wasn't quite working properly and there were errors in a bunch of the pages. Steve and I rushed around trying to fix them (which is not easy when you're pretty much hallucinating through lack of sleep and you only have 5 minutes to fix 20 pages), and we ended up fixing some but not all of them.


And then it was all over. Apart from the judging, that is...

We had a couple of hours of waiting while the judges went through their deliberations - and a pretty full-on grilling from them when they interviewed us. I think at that point most of us felt we probably hadn't won.

Eventually they emerged from their enclave with the results. We were so knackered we were all flaked out on the floor and didn't even have the energy to stand up while the judges talked about the criteria they'd been marking both teams on.

It was interesting though. Maybe it was my imagination, but did I see Natasha give us a big grin as she came out of the judging room? And did the other judges seem to be smiling rather a lot in our direction? My spirits lifted somewhat as they explained that there were 10 areas that were being examined and judged - because although we knew we hadn't completed everything we'd wanted to do on the site, and there were broken things and stuff that wasn't perfect, we knew we'd done really well in some other areas...

And then they announced the winner and it was...


Yeehaaarrrr!!!! OK, so we suddenly got all our energy back and all jumped up and leaped around and hugged each other madly. Amazing! It was INCREDIBLY close - only 2.7 marks out of 100 divided the teams in the end. Wow. The Aussie team did an amazing job (and turned out to be really nice people, too!), and in some ways I feel sad that someone had to come second.

The true winners, though, were the clients. We'd formed a really strong bond with Debbie and Mr Debbie from Grampians disAbility Advocacy Association, and it was all quite teary at the end. Thomas gave a lovely speech and we presented Debbie with a thankyou card from all of us - and a promise in writing that in addition to "smoothing out the rough edges of the site" (as Thomas described it) over the next couple of weeks, we will also provide them with 15 hours per month of Code Blacks time for the next year at least - to grow the site and to show them what web 2.0 is all about. We're really looking forward to it.

The boys are going to do some initial training with Debbie in Sydney tomorrow (they are all staying an extra day - Thomas and I were the only ones to come home tonight) and we'll also put together some training documentation for them. There's so much stuff we want to add to the site (quite a bit of which we'd either finished or nearly finished over the 24 hours but just didn't have a chance to implement), and we hope we can really make a difference with this website - both for Debbie and her team, and for the people she helps. It's an awesome organisation. I'll write more about it tomorrow.

So there you go. We went to Sydney, achieved (most of) our goals, and came home victorious. Phew! Here's the website we created in 24 hours..

Thanks SO much to the organisers, the volunteers, the sponsors, the Aussie team, and all the people around the world who followed the competition on Twitter, YouTube, the FullCodePress website, and on Flickr.

Thanks to Debbie for being one of the nicest clients we've ever had - and for inspiring us all.

And thanks most of all to my fellow Code Blacks. Jeffrey, Thomas, Steve, Peter, Mark and Zef. I'm very tired, not particularly coherent, and probably way too emotional right now - but DAMN you were all so great to work with.

I think I love you. :)

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

FullCodePress - 2:41am

It's 2:41am - we're a little over two thirds of the way through our 24 hours...

I think everyone's pretty tired, but we're all still working doggedly away. Things are looking good.

Steve completed the design hours ago, and Jeffrey (who is THE MAN when it comes to incredibly speedy coding) has built all the templates. They are looking awesome. Pixel-perfect match to Steve's design - and in about a third of the time I think I would have taken. I realise I am SO NOT a speedy coder. Slow and steady (and as perfect as I can get them), but definitely not jet-propelled. I think I'm the tortoise, rather than the hare.

Zef did an awesome job on the information architecture. I don't know how he did it, but he managed to work through pretty much the entire process (including personas and beautiful schematics) even though he had only a fraction of the time he would normally take. The FullCodePress online viewers voted for the Kiwi personas as their favourites - which was very nice to see.

It was SO cool when our client, Debbie Verdon of Grampians disAbility Advocacy Association, first saw Steve's design. He put it up on the big screen for her to see, and there was this intake of breath, and a long drawn-out "ooooh!" - she loved it. It's bloody brilliant to be doing this for such a deserving cause. I'm sure I'll get all teary once we finish it.

Mark's been doing an incredible job on the programming. He's had SO much to do - creating a CMS and database system from scratch, getting it all working - he's now in the middle of coding up Jeffrey's templates so that we can put them up and start loading content. I'm in awe of what he's achieved in such a short time.

Meanwhile Peter has been working quietly away on writing the content for all the pages - it's been a big task, and I think he might be nearly finished. He got a bit tired for a while after dinner, but I think he's got his second wind now.

Thomas has been racing around motivating us all, sorting out who's doing what, making sure we're all on track, and letting us know if we're keeping to the schedule (we pretty much are, I think!). He's been the powerhouse behind us all, I think.

And me - well I've built the forms, added a whole bunch of online newspapers to a Google reader that Thomas set up, had a first go at the Privacy page (Peter's finishing it off), helped out where I could, made notes at client meetings and generally tried to be as useful as I could without getting in anyone's way. It's been quite weird not having a clearly defined role - but a very interesting change, for sure.

I'll be testing the site against the WCAG Guidelines once Jeffrey's finished putting the forms into his templates, and Steve will be doing some browser testing soon.

Once Mark's got the templates under control we'll all be inputting content. Fun fun fun!

I'll do another update later....

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Sydney calling!

ShiftiesHere we are at the really rather nice Citigate Hotel in Sydney. We arrived yesterday evening, all raring to do our thing at FullCodePress. Go the Code Blacks!

The Shifties all wore black yesterday to inspire me and Thomas - don't they look cool? I love Shift!

Peter, Steve and Zef - reviewing the view. It's been a lovely day today - most of us did the touristy thing and walked all the way down Pitt Street to Circular Quay, checked out the Opera House (it's still one of my favourite buildings in the whole wide world) and then Jeffrey, Peter and I took the ferry to Manly. I just love the Manly ferry. Andy and I used to go on little day-trips to Manly all the time.

Jeffrey, Peter and I had just enough time to race across to the ocean beach, pootle across the sand, paddle in the ocean (Jeffrey only - he said it was cold!), take pictures, then race back to the ferry and jump on it again. We took the train back uptown, and got back in perfect time for our briefing. Yaay!

Sydney Opera House detail. We've been having a bit of an interesting time with the network - the guys who paid to get online in their rooms last night have a different IP address cached on their machines from those of us who didn't - we are now on two different networks and can't see each other. haha. Thank goodness for Flash drives, CDs, iPods and other mobile devices.

Anyway, I need to log off now and go have dinner. Maybe we'll figure it out later on... very weird.

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Geeks gearing up for website Olympics

Code Blacks logoIt's not often that the geeks get to represent their country in a team sport. That's an honour usually reserved for the rugby types, the netballers, and the all-round action stars.

But for seven self-confessed computer nerds, the embarrassment of always being picked last in PE is now a distant memory. This group of hand-picked web professionals is currently planning their team tactics for the 24-hour website building competition, FullCodePress, which is also known as the 'geek Olympics'.

It's the first year of the competition, so organisers have decided to begin with a trans-Tasman clash on August 18. In 2008 there will be a worldwide challenge - to be held in Wellington New Zealand alongside Webstock - the biennial web standards conference.

The 2007 competition pitches a team from New Zealand in a head-to-head battle with a team from Australia. Each team has just 24 hours to design, develop and build a fully-functioning website from scratch. The teams' clients will be two non-profit organisations, whose names will be announced the morning of the competition.

Thomas Scovell (Shift), the team's project manager, says "It's certainly a challenge to build a website in only 24 hours. Most sites take weeks, if not months, to complete. Traditionally a website is built in stages, water-falling through the range of roles we have on our team on its way to completion. For FullCodePress we have to approach the process in a much more agile fashion, we'll be collaborating and working on parts of the process simultaneously in order to get the end result. It's real team work!"

"I think it's a great idea," says Steve Dennis (Enlighten), "Not only do we get to test our skills in a high-pressure competitive environment, but a couple of charities get a $25,000 website at the end of it, which is pretty cool. The emphasis is on usability and accessibility, which makes the challenge even more interesting."

"Our team name, Code Blacks, follows the grand tradition of the All Blacks, Black Caps and Tall Blacks - while also reflecting the web industry's notorious appetite for consuming copious quantities of short blacks, long blacks, and whatever other caffeinated beverage is at hand," says Peter Johnston (Sorted), the team's writer, "and as an added geeky extra, our logo features the hexadecimal code for the colour black, styled as Olympic rings."

Selected from hundreds of applicants, the team represents some of the best and brightest talent within the New Zealand web industry.

Web professionals from across the country were invited to enter, and applicants were whittled down to a Top Three for each discipline. The final selection was done randomly, by picking a name out of a hat for each position. A seventh team member, the 'Captain's Choice' was then chosen by the project manager from a list of the top three all-rounders supplied by the organisers.

The selection process for the team has not been without controversy, however. Code Blacks HTML/CSS coder Jeffrey Wegesin (Xero), who hails from the USA, explains: "I’ve been having a bit of a battle on my blog with someone who thinks only New Zealanders should represent the New Zealand team. I pointed out that Joe Rokocoko, Sitiveni Sivivatu, and Irene van Dyk might have an opinion on that."

With six men on the team and only one woman, Alison Green (Shift), who is the team's all-rounder, is feeling somewhat outnumbered. "I was a bit dismayed when the first six places were announced, and there wasn't a single female amongst them - so I'm honoured to carry the flag for all the webgrrls out there. The web industry does skew somewhat towards the guys, but it's generally not 6: 1," she laughs.

The competition has attracted overall sponsorship by Google, and the Australian team is also being sponsored by software giant Adobe. The New Zealand team is hopeful of finding a sponsor of their own, because, as programmer Mark Rickerby (Coretxt) explains, "it's a bit embarrassing that the Aussie team has one and - as yet - we don't!"

The Code Blacks are currently working through a range of web design scenarios, figuring out how they are going to achieve a fully-functional website in only 24 hours, and planning what they hope will be a winning strategy. Information architect Zef Fugaz (Provoke) sums up the team's attitude: "For us this is like a geek version of The Bledisloe Cup. A winning team takes a strong sense of culture, technical competency and clever design - and we'll be ready because we know the Aussies need to fill a few gaping holes in their trophy cabinet!"

Useful info

Team members:

  • Steve Dennis (Enlighten) - Designer
  • Zef Fugaz (Provoke) - User Experience/Information Architecture
  • Alison Green (Shift) - All Rounder
  • Peter Johnston (Sorted) - Writer
  • Mark Rickerby (Coretxt) - Programmer
  • Thomas Scovell (Shift) - Project Manager
  • Jeffrey Wegesin (Xero) - HTML/CSS

Competition location and dates:
  • Sydney, Australia - 18 August 2007


  • Google (sponsor)
  • Adobe (Australian team sponsor)
  • Red Square (supporter)
  • SitePoint (supporter)
  • Mort Bay Communications (supporter)

  • Gian Sampson-Wild - Manager Usability and Accessibility Services, Monash University - Melbourne, Australia
  • Derek Featherstone - Director, FurtherAhead - Canada
  • Matthew Magain - Technical Editor, SitePoint - Melbourne, Australia
  • Matt Voerman - Senior Consultant, Adobe Systems
  • Natasha Hall - User Experience, Trade Me - Wellington, New Zealand
  • Steve Baty - Director, UX Strategy, Red Square - Sydney, Australia

Useful links:

Contact for further info:
  • Thomas Scovell – Code Blacks team captain

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Press Release: Kiwi team gears up for Geek Olympics

Code Blacks logo. On Saturday 18 August 2007, web teams from Australia and New Zealand will compete in Sydney to build a fully-operational website for a non-profit organisation in 24 hours.The All Blacks have held on to the Bledisloe Cup. Can our 'Code Blacks' match their success and come home winners?

All will be revealed in the FullCodePress 'site in a day' competition, when New Zealand's top web talent take on the best Australia has to offer.

Also known as the 'Geek Olympics' the trans-Tasman event is the first of its kind and will be followed by an international competition, to be held in Wellington in February 2008.

The Kiwi team was announced on 16 July, the final seven selected from hundreds of applicants. Reflecting the Capital’s reputation for creativity and innovation, all hail from Wellington - apart from Hamilton designer Steve Dennis.

The full team is:

  • Steve Dennis (Enlighten) - Designer
  • Zef Fugaz (Provoke) – User Experience /Information Architecture
  • Alison Green (Shift) – All Rounder
  • Peter Johnston (Sorted) - Writer
  • Mark Rickerby (Coretxt) - Programmer
  • Thomas Scovell (Shift) - Project Manager
  • Jeffrey Wegesin (Xero) - HTML/CSS
(Bios available at

Team Captain Thomas Scovell says the 'Code Blacks' will be going into the challenge with the attitude of a sports team.

"Rather than each of us just doing our bit we're all going to work together as a team and help each other out for the whole 24 hours. That's provided we can find enough good coffee in Sydney to get us through the weekend..."

The team is currently working hard to refine their strategy, get to know each other, design that all-important t-shirt and secure sponsorhip.

"The Aussie team is sponsored by Adobe so we are keen to get some big local names on board to support us," says Thomas. "We're open to offers!"


For more information visit

Or contact Thomas Scovell, Team Captain, for all enquiries:

Cell: 027-4555-910
MSN Messenger:


The team name and logo

The Kiwi team's name "Code Blacks" follows the grand tradition of the All Blacks, Black Caps and Tall Blacks - while also reflecting the web industry's notorious appetite for consuming copious quantities of short blacks, long blacks, and whatever other caffeinated beverage is at hand.

The team's logo (warning - geek talk ahead!) features the hexadecimal code for the colour black, in the style of the Olympic rings to give it a sporting feel.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Killing off the Yangtze river dolphin

Yangtze river dolphin. RIP. The Yangtze river dolphin is dead.

The Yangtze river dolphin has been declared extinct.

It's been 50 years since the last time we caused the extinction of a large vertebrate like this, and it's only the fourth time an entire evolutionary line of mammals has vanished from the face of the Earth since the year 1500. Mind you, as we are causing the extinction of a unique species every 20 minutes, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that this has happened.

It's not even as if we caused the extinction of the Yangtze river dolphin entirely through active hunting or other forms of "persecution", although, God knows, that would be bad enough. What's completely ironic about the way we wiped out this rare and precious creature is that it was at least partly done through a combination of factors including unsustainable fishing and mass shipping.

It was an "accident". It was "careless". How unspeakably sad.

Chinese fishermen used to view the Yangtze river dolphins as reincarnations of drowned princesses, and they were much revered. Mao's Great Leap Forward changed all that, and as "false idols" they were no longer protected. The fishermen who worshipped them began to hunt them for food and skins instead.

In the 1950s there were thousands of freshwater dolphins living in the Yangtze river and nearby watercourses. Since then, China has changed dramatically, and gone through massive industrialisation. These days the Yangtze is a polluted, crowded artery of mass shipping, fishing and power generation. A survey in 1999 estimated the population of river dolphins was close to just 13 animals...

And now there are none.

We are such ruthless uncaring bastards, we who are the human race. How appalling that we've ended up 'in charge'. My God. The planet will breathe a massive sigh of relief when we finally wipe ourselves out. Assuming, of course, that there's anything left of the planet by then.

May we be forgiven for our brutal lack of concern towards our beautiful world and everything that lives within it.

Here's some more stuff to read:

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Facebook for cats

Winnie. Up until today I had successfully managed to avoid creating a profile on any of the social networking sites. I'm finding it hard enough to find time to write my blog (apologies for that, btw) without having to do all this making friends and poking people all over the internets as well.

I say "up until today" because I've just spent half an hour setting myself up on Facebook.

Bailey. It's not for me, you understand. Oh no, it's simply so that Winnie and Bailey can each have their own little Catbook profile and so that they can make lots of kitty friends from the safety of my lap, in front of the computer. No more getting beaten up by the mean cat next door! Let's make friends with some virtual cats instead!

As they each have each other on their "friends" list, they currently both have more friends than I do. *sob*

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