Misspelling My Name

Jason bemoans the ignorance of many persons in misspelling his name. While I certainly cannot say I have experienced the same issues given that I have a single last name, I have experienced many issues with my name.

My full name is Kim Jason Joseph Benoit Siever.

By far the most common misspelling of my name is people calling me Tim, Jim, Cam or Ken when speaking with me over the phone.

Another complaint I have is when correspondence I get has only my second name as my middle initial. The other two are rarely included. If you’re not going to include the other two initials, don’t include any. I’d rather be known as Kim Siever than Kim J. Siever. In fact, when I graduated from college, they had me down as Kim Jason Siever. When I arrived at the rostrum to walk across and shake the college president’s had, I requested that the announcer repeat my first and last names only.

I abhor filling out application forms that have a very tiny space for a single middle initial. I usually just leave it blank unless I can fill it all in.

Speaking of my last time. I once worked for a company in Vancouver that needed to set up a username and password for the call taking software. They already had a Kim working there, so my boss put me in the system as Jason. It wasn’t long before everyone—call takers, dispathcers, couriers, everyone—was calling me Jason. I got tired of it, and asked my boss to change it. I told him that if I was going to be called by something other than my first name, I would rather be known as Bubba.

My third most common issue is being referred to as Ms. Kim Siever. It has become so bad, that I have changed my email signature to read Mr. Kim Siever and to have my email headers to read Mr. Kim Siever. Now I come off as pretentious. So be labeled as pretentious or be referred to as female. I have to pick.

What’s very funny is when someone phones who has both me and my wife as account holders—like the bank, for example. If my wife is talking to them, occasionally she is asked, “Is this Kim”. If they think my wife is Kim, who do they think Mary is? Actually, I get customer service and account reps always confirming “Is this Kim” when I phone them, as if they are thinking “he doesn’t sound like a girl”.

For what it’s worth, “Kim” is actually a boy’s name. Always has been. It became attached to girls when Kimberly became popular. When Kimberly was shortened, it overshadowed the less used boy’s version.

Finally, I am frequently dealing with my last name being misspelled. It has been spelled in many different ways, including the following: seaver, seiver, sievre, sevier, fiever, liever, sieber and severe. My favourite was “sykes”. Not sure where that came from.

I feel sorry for my daughter, Sinéad Aurora Fève Siever. She has many of the issues I do but with the accents. At six years old, she is already correcting people: “With a D”, “Sheh-nay-DUH”, “There’s an accent on the E”.

What Do You Look Like?

I enjoyed the flurry of activity that Cameron Moll inspired by asking everyone to post cropped screenshots of their current projects (version 1 and version 2). I received a lot of inspiration from what I saw.

Veerle has asked for everyone to post photos of where they work. Some of the workspaces are very cool and I covet them. I am grateful for my workspace, but I sure could use a better desk and a chair with arms. 🙂

Anyhow, I was inspired while testing out our digital camera at work to invite others to post photos of themselves. Part of me wants to put faces to all of the faceless designers out there whose work I have been admiring and blogs I have been reading. Another part of me wants to see what people look like when they do not have time to freshen up.

To start things off and hopefully discourage others from prepping themselves before posting, here’s my photo.

Kim Siever

I haven’t cut my hair since I shaved it in the summer. My winter beard has been growing since the last week in September. My wife keeps threatening me with a haircut this week or next.

For posting your photos, please be sure the photo is 300 pixels wide and 225 pixels high. Please also host the photo on your own webspace. You can use regular XHTML to post your photo.

Oh, and if anyone is shocked at my ad-lib photo, you can find a prepped me over here.

(Thanks to Jonathan Hollin for the hat tip.)

Database Integration with Flash

I had a project I was working on that required me to import events from a database and import them into a Flash movie. After searching for a long time for a method that was easy and quick, I discovered Getting Data Into Flash by Dennis Baldwin.

Dennis’ solution was exactly what I needed. Well, actually, not quite what I needed. His solution worked for getting the data from the database and importing it to Flash. That was the biggest hurdle. What it did not do was allow for importing separate records. So I modified it.

The first thing I did was to modify his ColdFusion variable line into a sort of loop (make sure everything between the cfoutput and cfset tags are all on line).

<cfset x = 1>
<cfoutput query="qDates" maxrows="5">
&eventDate#x#=#DateFormat(qDates.EventDate,'dd mmm')#
<cfset x = x+1></cfoutput>

The qDates query is the one that queries the database in order to pull the events I want. The maxrows attribute is how many events to return. If I only wanted three, I would change the “5” to “3”.

What the above code does is creates a very long variable line that includes the date, title and time of five events.

Now, we switch gears into ActionScript.

I took the ActionScript on the container movie clip in Dennis’ example and modified it to run another loop.

onClipEvent(data) {
total = "";
for(i=1; i<6; i++) {
eventDate = eval("eventDate" + i);
eventTitle= eval("eventTitle" + i);
eventTime = eval("eventTime" + i);
total += eventDate + " - " + eventTitle + ", " + eventTime;

You will also noticed that I assign the variables to the container clip instead of the root. In addition, I needed to evaluate the three variables because of the addition of the use of the loop’s index variable. If I had left it as eventDate = "eventDate" + i; for example, it would not have recognised "eventDate" + i as a variable.

Finally, I set the variable on my text field to be _root.mContainer.total so that it will import the values from the container’s (in my case, I renamed container to mContainer) variables.

There you go, a simple way to import multiple records from a database into Flash.

Don’t Design for Full Screen

Stop making your websites go to full screen automatically! I mean it. Stop it.

People do not take into consideration how different website users set up their operating system, software and hardware.

First, making a window auto maximize without giving the user the option to do it or not is irritating.

Second, making a window auto maximize without giving the user notification what will be happening is inconsiderate.

Third, not every user has a single monitor. Many users have set ups with multiple monitors. It allows them to work on more than one application at a time more efficiently. When a window goes to full screen, it spans all monitors—not just one. Since most full screen designs are centred horizontally and vertically, the content ends up being split evenly between both screens, with the left half being on the left monitor and the right half on the right monitor. If the first two issues I listed above were irritating and inconsiderate, this issue is very irritating and very inconsiderate.

Don’t make designs that expand to full screen automatically. Give the user a choice. If you have to make it full screen, at least learn how to constrain it to a single monitor.

Creating VCS Files in ColdFusion

One thing I have been trying for months to do on the Faculty of Management website is to create VCS files on the fly. VCS files are what Outlook and other calendaring software use to pass calendar items between each other. When I added an event to our database with ColdFusion, I wanted it to create a VCS file that the user could then download to his/her calendar.

Earlier this week, I came across Chris Wigginton’s vCal UDF. This ColdFusion UDF outputs the necessary information to a string. All that is needed is to write the string to a file. I used the following code to accomplish this:

<cffile action="write" file="/root/folder/folder/file.vcs" nameconflict="overwrite" output="#vCalOutput#" mode="777" />

The cffile tag is used for creating, modifying and deleting files with ColdFusion.

The action attribute is pretty self-explanatory.

The file attribute contains a path to where the file is/will be stored. This is not a URL. It is a direct server path. It should also be noted that some servers will require a drive letter (such as C:).

The nameconflict attribute is used to tell ColdFusion what to do if it encounters a file named the same as that referenced in the file attribute. I used overwrite simply because I was using the cffile tag in an edit page. In this regard I was making changes to the event in the database, so I wanted those changes reflected in the VCS file.

The output attribute is what is sent to the file referenced in the file attribute.

The mode attribute is the permissions given to the file. Our server does some pretty funky things sometimes, so I gave read, write and execute to the owner, group and world. Anything else would probably result in a ColdFusion server error.

One other thing to keep in mind with VCS files is that times are based on GMT. In order for me to create times for the Mountain Time Zone, I had to add 6 hours to the start and end times. For this, I used the following code:

stEvent.endTime = "#DateAdd('H', 6, CreateODBCTime(FORM.TimeEnd))#";

The first parameter of the DateAdd function is which element of the date/time value you want to change. In this case, ‘H’ corresponds to the hour. The second parameter is the number of hours to use. If you live east of the GMT, you would simply use a negative value. The third parameter is another function that converts the time-only value I use in my database to a date and time value needed for the VCS file. If you use a date-time value in your database already, you don’t need to use the CreateODBCTime() function.

There you are. A complete solution to making VCS files in ColdFusion.

Update: For some reason, VCS files do not seem to currently work in Firefox.

New iMac and Windows XP

Last week was like Christmas in my office. I received an iMac and Windows XP.

For those who might be thinking, “How did he get XP on an iMac”, I am talking about two different machines.

The Faculty of Management bought a bunch of IBMs this year and I received one of them. They came with windows XP. I have been waiting for awhile to be able to use this OS and I am very impressed.

For my double pleasure it also came with Office 2003. There are not too many changes in most of the Office suite apps; although I do like the new Reading View in Microsoft Word. The most impressive changes were in Outlook. The Reading Pane and the collapsible menus are a hit with me. I only wish I can make my IMAP folder the default inbox. That would make my job a lot easier.

A member of our faculty, for whatever reason, decided to bring back his iMac. Since it is still fairly new, our department didn’t want to get rid of it. At the same time they didn’t want to have to provide support for a single Mac. It was decided that I would get it and I could take care of myself.

It was set up on Friday, and I am pretty stoked about it. Despite what Jon thinks, it’s not because I have converted to a Mac. It is because I get to test my sites on more platform/browser combinations. As well, it allows me to keep my Mac skills up to date.

A pleasant week as far as technology gifts go.

Paving Paths and Website Accessibility

I have been working my legs too hard over the last couple of weeks with my non-stop cycling. Last weekend certainly was not enough time to let me legs recuperate. I decided to drive to work this morning in hopes that a third day will be enough to get my legs back to normal.

Anyhow, while walking from my truck to the University of Lethbridge on one of the new paths, I was reflecting on how the path has a lot to do with web design.

Before the fall of 2002, students travelling to the University of Lethbridge from the corner of University Drive and Columbia Boulevard had two choices to get to the University. They could travel down Valley Drive and then turn at the West Lot, travelling across the West Lot until they got to Anderson Hall or the PE Building. This was the longer option. The second option was to cut across the field, over the berm and across the Far west Lot and West Lot. This was the shorter option—albeit muddier in the winter and when it rained.

In 2002, the University of Lethbridge decided to pave the path students had worn down across the field and over the berm. They also added lighting. This made sense. After all, why not create a paved, lighted path right where people will use it?

As I reflected on this, it caused me to wonder why so many people do not do this when setting up information architecture on a website. So many websites make it very hard to find things. I do not know what the developers were thinking when they put it together, but I do know what they were not thinking. They were not thinking about the value in holding focus groups and watching how visitors use the website and what paths they try to access information.

So many developer think, “Oh, this looks cool” or “This looks good to me”, and give no thought that it needs to be cool and work; it needs to look good to you and everyone else.

If there is one thing website developers need to get into their thick, obtuse, close-minded heads, it is this: websites need to work for your users more than they need to work for you.

Internet Explorer 6.5?

Microsoft released Windows XP Service Pack 2 yesterday. Part of the service pack includes updates to Internet Explorer.

On the plus side, IE now comes with a native pop-up blocker. It also requires user authentication for drive-by downloads. Another cool feature is the “Add-On Manger”, which is similar to Firefox’s extensions manager.

On the minus side, these improvements are only for Windows XP users. As well, there appears to be no change in its level of compliance with web standards. Of course, there is still no tabbed browsing.

The changes are welcome, but I do not know why IE is so intent on letting the competition slowly gain market share. Microsoft seems unusually content in its current market share of the web browser market, but its failure at innovation and adoption of web standards and consumer-drive conventions is causing a slow but steady exodus to better products.

I will stick with Firefox at home.

Firefox is the Coolest Browser

I downloaded Firefox two days ago. What a cool browser.

I ditched Internet Explorer at home a few moths ago for Netscape. Every time I opened IE for the first time, it would take nearly a minute to load the first page. That was simply unacceptable and since I could not find the problem, I simply switched to another browser.

While I was using Netscape, I became addicted to tabbed browsing. It has come to the point where I detest using IE at work because I always have to open new windows instead of new tabs. There were some other cool features as well.

I heard a lot about Firefox and decided to try it. It was a nice download; less than a minute on DSL. It automatically imported my Netscape bookmarks, favourites, links and passwords. Very cool.

After I installed it, I checked out all the extensions that were available. Wowee. What a find. Now, not only do I have tabbed browsing, but I have the following:

  • Tabbed browsing manager
  • Drag and drop tabs to the order you want
  • Undo closed tabs
  • Target=”_blank” links open in new tab
  • URLs typed in address bar open in new tab
  • Links clicked on from email or IM open in new tab

Some other cool features include GMail notification, spell check (similar to IESpell), web developer toolbar, auto search by typing words, view source for a selection of text, mailto links open in the e-mail application I indicated as my system’s default application. The list goes on.

I am never going to another browser.

Get Firefox

Television, Remotes and Accessibility

An experience earlier this week established for me that electronics manufactures need a lesson in usability and accessibility. It also helped solidify my conviction to make my websites more accessible.

We rented a Hello Kitty DVD Monday for our children to watch. As usual, I turned on the TV, popped in the DVD and went to switch to “Game” mode, which allows the output from the DVD player to display on the TV.

Nothing happened.

I started my troubleshooting A/V products process.

  1. Repeatedly press the button
  2. Press random buttons repeatedly
  3. Move closer to TV
  4. Repeat steps 1-3

The process put me no further ahead to determining the problem. This left me to think either the batteries were dead or the TV was malfunctioning. Here is where things became frustrating.

My remote control was not designed to include a battery indicator. My cell phone was designed with one. My PocketPC was designed with one. My digital camera was designed with one. Nearly every electronic device I own that runs on batteries was designed to include a battery indicator to let me know when the batteries are low. The remote control was not. Why is this a problem?

First, I had no forewarning there was a power supply issue with my remote control. Had I known the batteries were getting low, we could have bought some batteries when we were out shopping earlier that day.

Secondly, without any forewarning, I am doomed to experience a barrier at the exact time I do not want it. I want to use the DVD, but because of this unforeseen barrier, I cannot.

It is no different from a wheelchair-bound customer not being able to get past a store’s front step or a blind person not being able to read text on a website that is only available in an image. As I wanted to watch the DVD, both of these individuals also want something. The wheelchair-bound person would like to purchase something from the store and the blind person wants information from the website. Yet because of barriers unforeseen by businesses in the design process, the three of us cannot access the things we want.

This is only one part of the frustrating equation.

If I am using my computer and the mouse stops working, I can usually navigate through many applications with only my keyboard. The software creators designed it in a way that allowed more than one method of input.

Not so with the TV manufacturer. There is no “Game” button on the TV. In fact, all I can do with the TV is turn it on or off, scroll through the channels one at a time linearly, bring up the settings menu and raise or lower the volume. Most of the features of the TV, however, were designed to be accessible with only the remote control. If the remote is not working, then the TV is only partially accessible.

Since I couldn’t check if there was a problem with the TV—although someone could argue given what I’ve mentioned that there was something inherently wrong with the TV—my only other choice was to take the batteries out of our phone (we had no other AA batteries in the house), put them in the remote, go back to the living room and try the remote again.

Luckily it worked. But did I have to experience all this frustration just to find out my batteries were dead? Is it any wonder why I support accessible websites?