Swedish Developer Dreams @ Microsoft TechDays Stockholm

In October I attended and spoke twice at Microsoft TechDays in Stockholm, Sweden. As I made the engagement to make a blogpost of each conference that I attend as a speaker or as an attendee I give you a rewrite.

And I know 23rd and 24th of October is a while ago. But Last month I had a lot of conferences (and I love it!) But of course, a day has only 24 hours. So, in the future weeks I will post a lot of conference reports.

Drinking AI invented Whiskey wtih Magnus Mårtensson

For me Microsoft TechDays Sweden was the conference linked to a big huge community feeling. I met a lot of other Microsoft MVP’s that I didn’t met since I am a Microsoft MVP.

I also met my Community Manager Tina Stenderup. I had wonderful talks. At this conference I had more networking and skipped more talks that I am used to do. But I had a great time and build on my Microsoft / Conference / Speaker Network! This is for me also very important.

But to be sure, I attended some nice talks. Here I highlight a few of them.

Work-Life Integration: 7 Effective Ways to Achieve Healthy Balance

As I am active in the Microsoft Diversity and Inclusion Community and the Microsoft Humans of IT Community, I do know Dux Raymond Sy from online life. And even before Microsoft TechDays I was already a big fan of Raymond!

Raymond presented a talk about Work-Life integration. Raymond’s vision fits completely in my vision. My key take-aways is that you must be your whole self. Bring your whole self to work and to private life.

Another key vision is to be real! Be authentic and be real in your complete life.

And mix both with being innovative and use tools like MyAnalytics in Microsoft Office 365 and you are on the good way!

Thanks Raymond!

Inclusive workplaces – a room for all

This was a panel session about inclusive workplaces. Which adjustments at the workplace are needed to be more inclusive? The were board members with gender diversity, people with migration background, LGBTQ+. In this board the board members spoke about the need of inclusive workplaces for this people and what you can do.

I did like the board, but advice that in future board they also invite a board member on the neurodiversity / disability spectrum (like autism). I missed this group in the discussion. But I have good news, I know somebody who invited himself to be in the board next time. (And that’s me!)

And of course, my talks

The Power of Inclusion

I presented my talk The Power of inclusion, the talk that started my speaker career. I did quite a big rewrite. I still see the need of inclusive apps and inclusion of people with disabilities in normal life of everyone else. And I believe the best way to achieve this is via accessible software. So I am proud and happy to share my slides here.

Autism: From Bullying to MVP

I was also invited to do a ‘Tech Talk’ a concept of talks of 20 minutes. I presented my personal life story Autism: From Bullying to MVP. I got a lot of emotion with this talk and I am going to work this talk out to a full 60 min talk for conferences starting 2020!

Wrap up

I had a good time, I really loved TechDays Sweden! I learn nice insights and have new ideas to investigate deeper. Thanks for everyone made this possible.

My 4th Future Decoded was with me!

My 4Th Future Decoded in a Row! I really enjoyed this Microsoft conference. Each year this conference is marked in my agenda months in advance. It’s big! (I know there are bigger conferences in US). At this time Future Decoded was the biggest conference I’ve been to. In November I work on this and go to visit and speak at Microsoft Ignite! and I know it’s way bigger. But I love Microsoft Future Decoded and call it a big conference until November.

This year Future Decoded has some extra magic. I went to the conference with my best friend and General Manager of Scorpius IT Kenny Liard. Nice to know, Kenny is also part of my nonprofit DDSoft. Traveling with your BFF together is always fun!

Like last year Future Decoded was pretty much AI focused. I love it to see what’s possible with AI and how Microsoft is putting input into this field.

Sustainability

I was overwhelmed with the initiatives Microsoft takes on sustainability. Microsoft advised Future Decoded attendees to bring re-usable water bottles. There were no recyclable water cups. In stead of water cups they used cardboard cups if you didn’t brought your recyclable bottles.

At Day 1 Keynote Dr. Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Officer gave a keynote. It made me think. Think a lot. Dr Lucas Joppa told about the actions Microsoft is taking for a more environmentally conscious approach. I don’t know for sure but Future Decoded changed my mind and I am more environmentally conscious since my last trip to Future Decoded!

Beyond earth

If you think beyond earth I loved  the keynotes from Major Tim Peake CMG and Helen Sharman CMG OBE. I love talks form outer world. Talks form outer world does me think at people changing their life completely. The astronauts have to switch their life completely in the 2 year period before the expedition to space. When they return on earth, they life is never the same as before their trip.

This types of talks make me think at attitude, different structure, planned structures. And be honest, as a person with autism this topic is never too far away.

Thanks for inspiring me!

Accessibility

Microsoft’s big efforts on accessibility are also very visible at Future Decoded for years. This year Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft was keynoting for the second year in a row at Future Decoded. I love her way of public speaking. I love her vision

But the keynote for Jenny Lay-Flurrie wasn’t the only accessibility effort from Future Decoded. There were even Braille maps of the expo hall!

Back to the Basics!

Start with the basics! A sentence that’s been said a lot of time. But an important message. At Future Decoded I learned to start with the basics in Accessibility. at DDSoft I am focusing for years on accessibility for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. But there are already a big set of basics accessibility guidelines to include and empower everyone. .The main message at this year’s conference was start with the basics in accessibility. Color Contrast, Dark Mode, captions and subtitles. use POUR principles: make Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust applications and you are inclusive! My mission is to go further on this basic accessibility and include it in my mission! And I am already started to bring this in my mission! As I am!

Power Platform and Power Apps

Microsoft is putting a lot of effort in accessibility in Power Apps and in the Microsoft Power Platform in broader sense. Microsoft is putting a lot of accessibility effort in this platforms. I’m not used to work with this platforms but I love the effort!

Microsoft Office 365

Another Microsoft product where Microsoft is putting a lot of effort for Accessibility is Office 365. Microsoft works with AI to make accessible documents and documentation.

After I said that Future Decoded gave me a drill into sustainability consciousness, Microsoft also gave me a ‘Use Accessibility tools in Office 365 drill! I love this drills.

BTW Office 365 has a great suite of AI solutions, they have even a PowerPoint trainer mode for speakers! I am so sure I am going to start using this tool!

The massive expo hall

And of course conferences mean networking at the expo hall! This year the expo hall was the biggest edition I saw at Microsoft Future Decoded. I loved the expo hall. Some booths were worked out pretty well. With plants, screens, huge screens, coffee trucks and this year the expo hall has 2 floors!

So I (we) really had a blast!

My journey at DevConf

This was my second stop at my magic Fall, my Fall conference season. I had the amazing opportunity to speak at DevConf in Krakow, Poland. A nice conference in an amazing cinema; What means: having the opportunity to project your slide deck on a huge cinema screen. This was a dream for me, and I believe this is an awesome dream for a lot of speakers.

I had good talks with other speakers like Callum Whyte, Spencer Sneidenbach and Dylan Beattie. Meeting the same speakers during conferences throughout the year feels like a family reunion. This all because speakers at conferences are a big family!

I also met a new speaker: Johan Öbrink. I am happy that I met this person! I like his vision. So, starting from DevConf Johan is also part of my family

I like to share you some insights from some of the talks I attended:

Social topics

Privilege as a Technical Debt

Did you consider how people from all over the world use your app? Is your service accessible from all over the world? If you plan to make apps and services on a global scale, then it’s important that you consider that not everyone has a first and a last name. Which gender are you? Male / Female / Binary? Do you realize that some people can being sentenced to death because their sexual orientation?

Amr Abdelwahab is providing us insights how decisions made from our own privileges can cause negative results for other people in the world! Thanks Amr to open my eyes!

A full list of awesome falsehoods developers believe can you find here: https://github.com/kdeldycke/awesome-falsehood#human-identity

My talk: Designing Accessible Apps

I had my talk Designing Accessible apps. I was very happy to see how many people that were interested in this topic! I had a good time while presenting and I love some reactions if I show people how you can make apps for people with disabilities! It was the 3rd time I spoke this talk in specific and the talk had a big rewrite!

My Motivation

Next three talks gave me energy to work within my nonprofit. Made me think why we made which choices. If we made the right choices? And of course, gave me insights into my future both as a speaker, Microsoft MVP and President of DDSoft

Three Rewrites – One Start Up, an Architects journey

Spencer told his story about how he went from a project in a company to a startup and even with a few rewrites in the Start Up. How do you go from Visual Basic 6 to C#? Of course, via vb.net! An important message was sharing is that you must be a consistent learner. Always learn something new. Be curious.

Architecture: In the past I went to a lot of conference talks that always taught me something new. But most sessions covered most technologies as a silo. You learn about Xamarin, about web API… In this session Spencer showed how he architected their solution. I loved these insights on architecture.

From Monolithic Monster to Majestic Microservice App

Another real-life war story was from Callum Whyte. He described how you go from a monolith to a microservice app. Also, a talk with a lot of architecture. Loved the scheme’s and the theory. Loved the insights and was inspired again.

The Art of Code

Dylan talking and preforming on a guitar during his talk.
The last part of Dylan’s talk.. With Guitar!

Dylan showed the beautiful parts of coding. The art parts. Dylan talks about coders making code for fun. Really inspiring! A good coder does not only code for work but codes free time / hobby projects. I love it, it inspires me. Dylan talked also about his own programming language ‘Rockstar’. Of course, Dylan doesn’t only talk about his projects but also about what other coders doing in their free time. Inspiring!

Wrap up

I want to wrap up my talk blogpost about DevConf with saying (again) that I had a really great time. I inspired people and got inspired by other people. As a speaker we were treaded very well, so what do I want more?

#DreamingIsBelieving #7ThYearMagic #MagicFall

 

Simplify The Layout

Image of an application to communicate about emotions. The app don't have a name right now and is not published. It's a proof of concept.

In this blogpost I’d love to talk about ‘simplify the layout’. In other words this means making the lay-out easier to understand. In this blogpost I am going to tell you how to make a layout for an app that’s really accessible. Easy to use.

I am going to focus on people with autism, learning disabilities (in other words intellectual or cognitive disabilities) and people that are distracted very often. An example is people on the ADD / ADHD spectrum.

How to start with simplifying the layout?

You can start  simplifying  the layout of your application with cutting down the content of your application. Simplifying the lay-out is making the screen easy to understand. This can be done with less content par screen. Big busy screens with lot of divided content isn’t easy for everyone.

And I know, a lot of developers want to build applications with as much as possible options. Eye – catchers. For people that have difficulties with understanding the basic usage of your application are this options eye – killer.

Another adjustment to make an accessible lay-out is a bigger font. Of course, a bigger font is helpful for people with vision loss. But also for people with intellectual disabilities it’s easier to recognize words and text if the font is bigger.

For many people with disabilities it’s easy to have enough contrast. Use dark text on a white background. Specific for people with intellectual disabilities a white or light background is easier.

But if you really want to be accessible and inclusive for a lot of people you can add the option to switch to a dark background with a light text-color scheme. Some people with autism prefer this combination. They have the feeling to have less sensory overload with a dark color scheme.

Color By Function

Let’s introduce you to Color By Function. The vision of Color By Function is that you color the controls in you app by function and not or not only by control type or the place that makes the layout most beautiful.

Specifying functions by category

First you have to separate functions of an application. You need to make categories of functions. There can be similar tasks in each category.

Here an examples:

Category ‘navigate to another page’. Different tasks in this category:

–  Navigate to Settings Page.  

– Navigate to About Page

Our Main categories

We have currently following categories:

  1. We have button’s that read-aloud some text. This is called text-to-speech. (Yellow)
  2. We have buttons or other controls that navigate within a dataset. In fact you change the content of some controls but you stay in the same view. (Dark Gray)
  3. We have buttons or other controls that navigate you to another view/page in the application. (Blue)

At this time I made apps with 3 these main categories. If I need an application with another main control function I have to link another color.

Multiple app approach

It’s also important if you plan to develop different apps for people with disabilities always make the same color by function color choices.

 

JavaZone kickstarted my Magic Fall

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at JavaZone in Oslo, Norway. It was my first conference this Fall. And I know.. Officially Fall start next Monday but for me, last week Fall is kicked-off for me. This Fall I do a lot of conferences as a speaker and at least one conference as an attendee.

So let’s talk Java?

Most of you know that I am a Microsoft MVP and developing on the Microsoft stack (in .NET and Azure). Right! I am still the same Dennie, the same Microsoft MVP and developer on the Microsoft stack. But I really want a big reach on accessibility and quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities and / or autism.  At JavaZone I presented a session about autism and communication.

And what for session? My first co-talk with my lovely mom, Ivette Marchand. We have found ways for communicating about work, limits and borders. This starts from my autism and is helpful for a lot of people.

Although even as a .NET developer I visited some talks that are really helpful. Here below I do a little series “What does a .Net developer at a Java conference?” As you will see I learned lot!

What does a .Net developer at a Java Conference:

I went to the psychologist!

Visit to the psychologist with Rosanne Joosten..

What’s better to start the conference with a visit to the psychologist? Rosanne Joosten is a psychologist that transformed into a programmer. Rosanne talked about the link between how developers write code and their personality. Some parts were really confronting…

I learned about Web Assembly

Web assembly is a project started form the browser companies. Web assembly is a way for native code in the browser. Blazor, Microsoft’s implementation of Web Assembly was also covered, of course this was between the other Web Assembly solutions.

Accessibility!

Accessibility hero's Tom, Lotte and Tor-Martin

And yes, there were sessions about accessibility! And this makes me happy! I saw 2 refreshing talks. I like accessibility talks with people with disabilities involved as a presenter. Tom is a person who’s blind. He was surrounded with 2 other speakers (Lotte and Tor-Martin). If I see how a blind person is learning other people how to make the web accessible then I shiver from respect! I saw interesting Aria ideas and other refreshing ideas for navigation.

Another session about accessibility was on the 2nd day from Kamilla. Kamilla did a lighting talk about accessibility. I loved that she was including a variety of disabilities and not just the most spoken ones!

I learned to hack a cat

Hacking a cat with Nail Merrigan

Nial Merrigan is also a Microsoft MVP, he’s a specialist into security. He presented a cross code  /cross platform introduction into security. Where do you need to be aware off? He gave us insights beyond traditional attack vendors. Sometimes the talk was scary, sometimes it was laughing out loud! I like this kind of talks!

I went on a survival

Patricia Aas presented “Survival Tips For Women in Tech”. This talk was my opportunity to go to a talk together with my mom. A no – code talk about woman! As an inclusive developer I like to go to a lot of talks about diversity and inclusion in the broad scene. This talk showed me how difficult it can be for women in tech as a minority. The talk opened my eyes but I saw also equal situations as for me as a person with autism in tech. The way Patricia introduced this talk, and why she needs this introduction is very equal to my intros. I love the openness how she talked about a lot of topics in being different to “white man between 30 – 50 in Tech”!

And then.. Finally.. Our talk!

I presented “How do I help my son?” the inaugural of my mom! Our first co- talk! We had a blast and ended with a standing ovation! I loved it!

In this talk I was very open about my past, why I am a volunteer in tech? We also talked a lot about the fact that I was bullied a lot in the past. How bullying, educational choices and a hard period in a factory lead to a volunteering job in tech?

People love this openness and it feels more comfortable to talk about bullying, maybe just a bit more comfortable because my mom is on my side. Or not? In the past talks I presented a few talks about autism, every time I was also about at lot of things. But being bullied is not always a topic in my talk. With my mom on my side it’s more easy!

So folks, my magic fall is started, up to the next one!

Overview expo

The Need of Accessible Apps

At this time many people around the world are using apps, computers and smartphones. Most of this people can do a lot of interesting stuff with this modern communication.

This modern communication made many people their life easier. So I going go tell you a story to show how modern and mobile technology helped our family and myself.

Center Parcs

“We are 1995, I was a child and went on vacation with my parents to a family resort in my own country. There were business people and just working- life families. I was in the scene of a normal life family, my dad was working in the metal industry and my mom was selling pizza’s at a market. We walked to the swimming pool and we saw a business man calling with a mobile cell phone. We found it funny, my dad was laughing out loud with the  ‘mobile phone’ and in our family we made a role – playing – theater about calling with mobile phones.

4 Years later, my parents had a mobile phone. 7 Year later I had a mobile phone. After a while I switched do a PDA. Internet enabled device. And since quite long time we all have an smartphone, and are continuously connected to the outer world. I even have a Twitter account and via digital media I worked myself into a worldwide well known conference speaker.”

Dennie Declercq

Without this technology my speaker life wasn’t there. I have a lot of QoL (Quality of Life) improvements due to this modern technology.

Image of an application to communicate about emotions. The app don't have a name right now and is not published. It's a proof of concept.

So let me make the link through people with disabilities. Not all the people with disabilities have a smartphone yet. I have proven that it’s possible to make special-made apps that are user friendly for people who can’t read or have difficulties with most of the apps in Market Place / App Store.

Shouldn’t it be nice if we can open up the world also for those people. If we can not only make the impossible possible for people without disabilities, but also for people with disabilities?

This is the point were “Inclusion” comes in. People with disabilities (PWD) are living the same life as people without disabilities. All people together have a good life and a good QoL. This is inclusion this is my pride!

How do you to this? Well on this http://accessibledreams.home.blog I post a lot of blog about accessible software. I even share my speaker schedule. I am going to do a lot of blog posts ant talks about accessible software.

To give you a sneak preview: I talk a lot about Simplify the Layout, Color By Function and Text To Speech. More about this terms in following posts.

Yours, Dennie