Categories
Personal

Leaving W3C

About a year ago, I announced I was joining W3C as a full-time staff member, to work on Developer Relations and education. Working at W3C was a dream come true and I can’t say I was disappointed. Over the past year I’ve worked with some amazingly brilliant people, hopefully increased awareness for web standards in the developer community and helped materialize the vision behind WebPlatform.org. It’s been a fun ride and working for a non-profit was very fulfilling. If somebody told me a year ago that I would decide to leave W3C on my own free will, I would’ve asked them what they were smoking. However, our future selves often surprise us and although it was the most difficult decision of my life, I recently decided to leave. July 31st will be my last day at W3C. I will attempt to describe the reasons below for anyone interested, but in no way does me leaving mean that I don’t deeply appreciate W3C or that I regretted joining. If I could go a year back, I would make the same choice.

Reason #1: I want to focus on other projects

I didn’t have much time to work on my pet projects, as my job was consuming pretty much the entire me. This is absolutely not W3C’s fault, it’s mine and a pretty common side effect of working from home. Pull requests kept piling up on Github, I didn’t have many ideas for new side projects or time for research & to come up with new techniques. I was able to work a bit on Dabblet and a WPD Prism plugin, as they were useful for WebPlatform.org, but for the most part, I wanted to work more on open source projects, do more research, blog more etc. I also recently signed a book deal with O’Reilly for a book on advanced CSS techniques (“CSS Secrets”, ETA Spring 2014) and I wanted to take some time off and write a great inaugural book, not just a decent one (and design it too!). I also kinda missed doing workshops or even client work, who knew!

Having more time will also mean I will be able to focus more on standards work, which is a huge passion of mine. I know it sounds odd to leave W3C to work more on …standards, but standards work was never a part of my job at W3C. If I wanted to devote time to actively participate in the CSS WG beyond the weekly telcon, or to the specification I edit, I would have to do it outside work hours. Obviously, I will still have to do it in my free time, but I recall having more of that when I was self-employed.

Reason #2: I want to grow

I want to be in a job that’s a challenge, that helps me grow and become a better professional. While I appreciate WebPlatform.org, I didn’t feel that doing front-end development & design on it made me particularly better at what I do, at least compared to other things I could have been doing in the past year. It could be a perfect opportunity to grow for someone else, but it wasn’t for me.

I did become a better public speaker over the past year, but I would likely be doing as many talks anyway. I got some valuable conference organizing experience from W3Conf, which I thoroughly enjoyed working on, but that was only a small part of my work.

Reason #3: Different direction

Had I stayed, my job description for the upcoming year would have a slightly different focus. Since W3C Developer Relations was a new activity, neither Doug (my manager) nor I were quite sure how we could make the biggest impact, so we were experimenting to some degree. A few months after I joined, WebPlatform.org launched and we slowly concentrated our efforts on that. If I had stayed for another year, my job would have an even stronger WebPlatform.org focus. Half of it would be front-end design & development and even writing documentation for a day per week. That meant I would have to cut down many parts of my job that I enjoyed and wanted to concentrate more on, such as public speaking and event planning, and though it includes some public-facing activities like gathering feedback from developers, I’d like to do even more of that. This was not a bad decision on W3C’s part — WebPlatform.org needs somebody concentrating on those aspects of it. However, although I strongly believe in the vision behind the project, this was not what I would personally enjoy doing.

Thank you, W3C

Even though I’m leaving W3C, it will always have a very special place in my heart. I met & worked with the most brilliant people I have ever met. Special mention to Amy, who did not just prove to be an intelligent, interesting and kind person, but also a great friend in the past couple of weeks that I got to know her better. I got to visit MIT and work from there for a while, which was an incredible experience. I got to contribute to WebPlatform.org which is a very ambitious and honorable project that I strongly believe in. I got to co-organize W3Conf, which turned out to a successful and fun conference.

Me leaving is a personal decision that has less to do with W3C and more to do with what I want out of life. But I’m going to sorely miss the W3C Team, the culture, the technical discussions. It’s been a fun ride and I’m grateful for the chance and the trust W3C placed in me. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself working for W3C again at some point in the future, in some way or in a different role.

But for now, here’s to the future! I’m thrilled.

Want to work at W3C?

As you can imagine, there is one more opening now. 🙂 Are you a great designer with front-end development skills? Are you passionate about creating the best open web platform documentation on the Web? Apply now! You will be able to work from wherever in the world you want, whatever hours in the day you want, you will have great autonomy and a pretty cool boss. Sweet, huh?

Categories
Speaking

W3Conf in San Francisco, February 21-22

You might have heard about W3Conf, W3C’s conference for web designers and developers. This year, I have the pleasure of not only speaking there but also organizing it, along with Doug Schepers and designing the website for it.

Alongside with yours truly, it features an excellent lineup of amazing speakers like Eric Meyer, Alexis Deveria of caniuse.com fame, Nicolas Gallagher and many others. You can use coupon code VEROU to get $100 off the already affordable Early Bird price of $300. But hurry up, cause Early Bird prices are only valid until January 31st!

Hope to see you there!

 

Categories
Personal Speaking

Dive deep into CSS3 (and Bolognese!) in Bologna, Italy

I don’t usually like to advertise my talks or workshops through blog posts, and even though I’ve given a lot, I’ve only posted about less a handful. However, this one is special: It might be my last. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE giving workshops, teaching people new things and seeing them put them in use right away is fantastic. However, I also find them incredibly exhausting. Speaking for an entire day (or sometimes two!) is pretty much the most tiring thing I’ve done. So, given my new job at W3C, I’m not sure if I will do one again. Of course, it goes without saying that I will still do plenty of talks! 🙂

The last workshop on my schedule is in FromTheFront conference in Bologna, Italy on September 20th (in 7 days!). There are still some spots available, so grab yours while you still can! It only costs €329.00. It will be very hands-on, with interactive exercises that help you gain first-hand experience with small but advanced use cases. It will not be your usual CSS3-overview kind of workshop. Instead, we will dive really deep into a handful of CSS3 aspects that I think are most useful for your everyday work.

While you’re at it, I’d also recommend getting a conference ticket as well. The line-up has some excellent speakers and it’s only €110 more, so totally worth it!

Apologies that my last two blog posts were personal, the next one will be more technical: I have a very useful tool in the pipeline that I’m gonna release soon 😉

Categories
Personal

lea@w3․org

In my recent post describing how I got into web development I wrote that I’m in the verge of some big changes in my life. The main one of them starts tomorrow. As of tomorrow, the above will be my professional email. Yes, you guessed it right; I’m joining the W3C team! Yes, the same W3C you all know and love 🙂 I decided to title this blog post with it, as I like how a 10 letter string manages to neatly summarize so much.

Working at W3C had been a dream of mine ever since I learned what a web standard is. As you probably know if you’ve been following my work, I’m a strong believer in open web standards. Even though proprietary technology might offer some short term benefits, in the long run only open standards can allow the Web to reach its full potential.

I’d like to especially thank the two people below (in chronological order). If it wasn’t for them, this dream would have never materialized:

  • Oli Studholme: I still remember our IRC conversation back in January. I was telling him how much I’d love to work for W3C, but “I’m not that good”. He repeatedly encouraged me to contact W3C and express my interest, despite my strong reluctance to do so. “Don’t be like the 15 year old boy that is too shy to ask the girl out” was the argument that finally convinced me. He even asked around to find which person I should contact.
  • Doug Schepers: If it wasn’t for Doug’s heroic efforts, this would have never happened. He believed in me from the start and did everything he could to for this to go through. He spent an incredible amount of time trying to help me, although I repeatedly bombarded him with a cornucopia of silly questions. 🙂 Over the course of these 6 months, he didn’t just become a colleague, but also a friend.
Thank you both. I’m deeply grateful.

I will be part of the W3C developer relations and web education efforts, working a lot with Doug (aka @shepazu). In practice, this means:

  • Help developers understand where standards are headed, and solicit early feedback on upcoming features.
  • Help Working Groups understand what developers need.
  • Help plan W3C developer events, including conferences
  • Speaking about open web technologies at conferences and other events
  • Writing articles and documentation about open web technologies
  • Making demos and tools that demonstrate and help authors understand web standards

In addition, I will be helping with the design of many W3C-related things, as I will be the only designer at W3C.

As you can see I’ll be wearing many hats, which is exactly what I love about this role! I had many tempting offers from big US companies that offered salaries with more digits and a lot of perks. However, my heart wanted W3C and this role was practically tailored to my talents and interests.

I’m honored to be a part of W3C and I’m looking forward to helping out.

<voice type=”fangirl”>I have to admit I’m also really looking forward to meeting Sir Tim Berners-Lee in person! :D</voice>

 

Categories
Personal Speaking

So, you’ve been invited to speak

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to do about 25 talks over the course of the past few years and I have quite a few upcoming gigs as well, most of them at international conferences around Europe and the US. Despite my speaking experience, I’m still very reluctant to call myself a “professional speaker” or even a “speaker” at all. In case you follow me on twitter, you might have noticed that my bio says “Often pretends to be a speaker”, and that captures exactly how I feel. I’m not one of those confident performers that don’t just present interesting stuff, but also can blurt jokes one after the other, almost like stand-up comedians and never backtrack or go “ummm”. I greatly admire these people and I aspire to become as confident as them on stage one day. People like Aral Balkan, Christian Heilmann, Nicole Sullivan, Jake Archibald and many others. Unlike them, I often backtrack mid-sentence, say a lot of “ummmm”s and sometimes talk about stuff that was going to be later in my slides, all of which are very awkward.

However, I’ve reached the conclusion that I must be doing something right. I do get a lot of overwhelmingly positive feedback after almost every talk, even by people I admire in the industry. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a negative comment for a talk, even in cases that I thought I had screwed up. Naturally, after all these conferences, I’ve attended a lot of technical talks myself, and I’ve gathered some insight on what constitutes a technical talk the audience will enjoy. I’ve been pondering to write a post with advice about this for a long time, but my lack of confidence about my speaking abilities put me off the task. However, since people seem to consider me good, I figured it might help others doing technical talks as well.

All of the following are rules of thumb. You have to keep in mind that there are exceptions to every single one, but it’s often quicker and more interesting to talk in absolutes. I will try to stay away from what’s already been said in other similar articles, such as “tell a story” or “be funny” etc, not because it’s bad advice, but because a) I’m not really good at those so I prefer to let others discuss them and b) I don’t like repeating stuff that’s already been said numerous times before. I will try to focus on what I do differently, and why I think it works. It might not fit your style and that’s ok. Audiences like a wide range of presentation styles, otherwise I’d be screwed, as I don’t fit the traditional “good speaker” profile. Also, it goes without saying that some of my advice might be flat out wrong. I’m just trying to do pattern recognition to figure out why people like my talks. That’s bound to be error-prone. My talks might be succeeding in spite of X and not because of it.

Categories
Personal

Why I bought a high-end MacBook Air instead of the Retina MBP

After the WWDC keynote, I was convinced I would buy a new MacBook Air. I was looking forward to any announcements about new hardware during the event, as my 13″ 2010 MacBook Pro (Henceforth abbreviated as MBP) was becoming increasingly slow and dated. Also, I wanted to gift my MBP to my mother, who is currently using a horrible tiny Windows XP Netbook and every time I see her struggling to work on it, my insides hurt. All tweets about my shopping plans, or, later, about my new toy (I bought it yesterday) were met with surprise and bewilderment: I was repeatedly bombarded with questions asking why I’m not getting a Retina MacBook Pro, over and over again. The fact that I paid about $2200 + tax for it (it’s the best 13″ Air you can currently get) made it even more weird: If you could afford that, why wouldn’t you possibly get the Retina MBP at the exact same price?

At first, I tried to reply with individual tweets to everyone that asked. Then I got tired of that and started replying with links to the first tweets, then I decided to write a blog post. So, here are my reasons:

Categories
Personal

How I got into web development — the long version

I’m often asked how I got into web development, especially from people that haven’t met many women in the field. Other times it’s people with little kids and they are asking for guidance about how to steer them into programming. I promised them that I would write a long post about it at some point, and now that I’m in the verge of some big changes in my life, I’ve started reflecting on the fascinating journey that got me here.

Rebecca Murphey wrote something similar a while back (albeit much shorter and less detailed), and I think it would be nice if more people in the field started posting their stories, especially women. I sure would find them interesting and if you give it a shot, you’ll see it’s quite enjoyable too. I sure had a blast writing this, although it was a bit hard to hit the “Publish” button afterwards.

Keep in mind that this is just my personal story (perhaps in excruciating detail). I’m not going to attempt to give any advice, and I’m not suggesting that my path was ideal. I’ve regretted some of my decisions myself, whereas some others proved to be great, although they seemed like failures at the time. I think I was quite lucky in how certain things turned out and I thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster daily for them.

Warning: This is going to be a very long read (over 3000 words) and there is no tl;dr.

Categories
Personal

Vendor prefixes, the CSS WG and me

The CSS Working Group is recently discussing the very serious problem that vendor prefixes have become. We have reached a point where browsers are seriously considering to implement -webkit- prefixes, just because authors won’t bother using anything else. This is just sad. 🙁 Daniel Glazman, Christian Heilmann and others wrote about it, making very good points and hoping that authors will wake up and start behaving. If you haven’t already, visit those links and read what they are saying. I’m not very optimistic about it, but I’ll do whatever I can to support their efforts.

And that brings us to the other thing that made me sad these days. 2 days ago, the CSS WG published its Minutes (sorta like a meeting) and I was surprised to hear that I’ve been mentioned. My surprise quickly turned into this painful feeling in your stomach when you’re being unfairly accused:

tantek: Opposite is happening right now. Web standards activists are teaching
 people to use -webkit-
tantek: People like Lea Verou.
tantek: Their demos are filled with -webkit-. You will see presentations
 from all the web standards advocates advocating people to use
 -webkit- prefixes.

Try to picture being blamed of the very thing you hate, and you might understand how that felt. I’ve always been an advocate of inclusive CSS coding that doesn’t shut down other browsers. It’s good for future-proofing, it’s good for competition and it’s the right thing to do. Heck, I even made a popular script to help people adding all prefixes! I’m even one of the few people in the industry who has never expressed a definite browser preference. I love and hate every browser equally, as I can see assets and defects in all of them (ok, except Safari. Safari must die :P).

When Tantek realized he had falsely accused me of this, he corrected himself in the #css IRC room on w3.org:

[17:27] <tantek> (ASIDE: regarding using -webkit- prefix, clarification re: Lea Verou - she's advocated using *both* vendor prefixed properties (multiple vendors) and the unprefixed version after them. See her talk http://www.slideshare.net/LeaVerou/css3-a-practical-introduction-ft2010-talk from Front-Trends 2010 for example. An actual example of -webkit- *only* prefix examples (thus implied advocacy) is Google's http://slides.html5rocks.com/ , e.g.
[17:27] <tantek> http://slides.html5rocks.com/#css-columns has three -webkit- property declarations starting with -webkit-column-count )

That’s nice of him, and it does help. At least I had a link to give to people who kept asking me on twitter if I was really the prefix monster he made me out to be. 😛 The problem is that not many read the IRC logs, but many more read the www-style archives. Especially since, with all this buzz, many people were directed into reading this discussion by the above articles. I don’t know how many people will be misled by Tantek’s uninformed comment without reading his correction, but I know for sure that the number is non-zero. And the worst of all is that many of them are people in the CSSWG or in the W3C in general,  people who I have great respect and admiration for. And quite frankly, that sucks.

I don’t think Tantek had bad intentions. I’ve met him multiple times and I know he’s a nice guy. Maybe he was being lazy by making comments he didn’t check, but that’s about it. It could happen to many people. My main frustration is that it feels there is nothing I can do about it, besides answering people when they take the time to talk to me about it. I can do nothing with the ones that won’t, and that’s the majority. At least, if a forum was used over a mailing list, this could’ve been edited or something.

Categories
Personal

My new year’s resolution

Warning: Personal post ahead. If you’re here to read some code trickery, move along and wait for the next post, kthxbai

Blogs are excellent places for new year’s resolutions. Posts stay there for years, to remind you what you’ve been thinking long ago. A list on a piece of paper or a file in your computer will be forgotten and lost, but a resolution on your blog will come back to haunt you. Sometimes you want that extra push. I’m not too fond of new year’s resolutions and this may as well be my first, but this year there are certain goals I want to achieve, unlike previous years were things were more fluid.

So, in 2012 I want to…

  • Land my dreamjob in a US company/organization I respect
  • Get the hell out of Greece and move to the Bay Area
  • Strive to improve my english even more, until I sound and write like a native speaker
  • Find a publisher I respect that’s willing to print in full color and write my first book.
  • Stop getting into stupid fights on twitter. They are destructive to both my well-being and my creativity.
  • Get my degree in Computer Science. This has been my longest side project, 4 years and counting.
I wonder how many of those I will have achieved this time next year, how many I will have failed and how many I won’t care about any more…
Categories
News Personal

Dabblet blog

Not sure if you noticed, but Dabblet now has a blog: blog.dabblet.com

I’ll post there about Dabblet updates and not flood my regular subscribers here who may not care. So, if you are interested on Dabblet’s progress, follow that blog or @dabblet on twitter.

That was also an excuse to finally try tumblr. So far, so good. I love how it gives you custom domains and full theme control for free (hosted WordPress charges for those). Gorgeous, GORGEOUS interface too. Most of the themes have markup from the 2005-2007 era, but that was no surprise. I customized the theme I picked to make it more HTML5-ey and more on par with dabblet’s style and it was super easy (though my attempt is by no means finished). There are a few shortcomings (like no titles for picture posts), but nothing too bad.