Improving The Accessibility Of Your Markdown marks the hundredth post I’ve written. 100 is a bit of an arbitrary number, but we’ve mostly decided to be a base 10 society, so it also represents an opportunity to take pause.
I’ve written ~143,500 words since 2015, not counting alternative descriptions, code examples, videos that contain text, or MDN contributions. The average novel length is around 50,000‒80,000 words, so this number kind of blew my mind.
I thought I could write about writing, as well as share some history, advice, and some self-indulgent facts.
The Kivikosking part
I never set out to write. In fact, I was kind of terrified of it.
The idea of doubling down on a concept and screaming it to the entire world is daunting, especially in an industry that is both fast-paced and full of career-ending snap judgements.
Enter Mike Kivikoski. Mike is what you’d get if a friendly mountain came to life and decided to become a product designer. I worked with him a few jobs ago, and consider myself a better person for it.
Mike and I liked to talk shop. Whenever I mentioned some problem I was working through, he told me, “That’s cool. You should write about it.”
Eventually, Mike wore me down.
I hit publish and waited to get roasted on Hacker News. And nothing happened. Just another post syndicated on a blog on the internet, adrift in an endless sea of content. It was amazing.
Kivikosking is the practice of shutting out all the myriad concerns and anxieties and just putting something out there. It takes your inner feelings of doubt, grabs them by the scruff, and calmly escorts them out of the establishment.
Now, any time I encounter something interesting, I think to myself, “That’s cool. I should write about it.” And I do.
I’ve been roasted on Hacker News, dragged across the internet, scoffed at in tech forums, subtweeted, concern trolled, sent hatemail, you name it. But you know what? The positive interactions I’ve had because of my writing far outnumber the negative ones.
It’s also a weirdly small internet—you’d be surprised at how many things you put out into the world in good faith come back to you in a positive way.
I want to read your work. So do countless other folks. Embrace your own inner Kivikoski and write about it.
The advice part
Before I dole out this list, I need to acknowledge the privileges inherent in who I am and how it shapes the advice I give. With that said, here’s what’s helped me:
- Write about the topic, even if it has been covered elsewhere. Your perspectives, experiences, and understanding are the unique bit. People want to read your work.
- Pitch everyone, even if their industry presence seems intimidating. They’re hungry for new content, and will help make your writing the best it can be.
- Respect their time and expertise by reading their contribution guidelines beforehand.
- Submit outlines or drafts that meet submission requirements, and provide as much detail as you can about what you’ll be covering and how. This helps the publication know if what you want to discuss is a good fit for them.
- If it’s not a good fit, it might not be you. Pitch that outline elsewhere.
- Learn to identify the difference between constructive criticism and unproductive harassment. It’ll help you focus on what matters and not waste time and energy.
- Understand that the social media hype cycle is really good at inflating ego, and that doesn’t translate to real-life scenarios. People with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers still have to punch tickets and navigate office politics, same as you.
- Get comfortable getting rejected. While the sting never really goes away, you do grow a thicker skin.
- Sometimes your topic doesn’t fit what the publication is looking for.
- Sometimes someone else has already pitched it and work is already underway.
- Sometimes you just make a good point in a bad way.
- Don’t dwell, and move on. Each rejection is a lesson, as well as practice on how to more clearly articulate your ideas.
- Change your reviewing context a couple of times when proofreading and editing. Use a different font, background color, or device to get your brain to consider it fresh.
- Read your writing out loud to yourself before publishing it.
- Read it out loud again.
The navel-gazing part
This is mostly for my own edification, but here’s some tidbits about the 100 posts in aggregate.
The long and short of it
I know my work is almost always too long for web content.
I’m most proud of my Equivalent Experiences series, and most embarrassed by How accessible is your website for the disabled? Consider doing an audit to find out.
The top 10 words I’ve used are:
I’ve been trying to move away from the word “user,” so it’s a little depressing to see the list bookended this way.
The top 5 tags I have are:
The breakdown of the places I’ve written for is:
- This website, 35 posts
- thoughtbot, 20 posts
- CSS-Tricks, 15 posts
- Cantina, 10 posts
- The A11Y Project, 6 posts
- Smashing Magazine, 6 posts
- 24 Accessibility, 2 posts
- Envato Tuts+, 2 posts
- Shopify Partners, 2 posts
- 24 Ways, 1 post
- A List Apart, 1 post
- The Human in the Machine, 1 post
- Poynter, 1 post
35 posts on this website kind of threw me, in that I initially didn’t anticipate this website becoming a blog.
I’d also love a chance to write for you, if the content I write about is a good match for your publication.
I bought the print created for Paint the Picture, Not the Frame, because getting published in A List Apart was such an important career milestone for me:
I also belong to CSS-Trick’s MVP Supporter program, and Smashing Magazine’s Member tier. I don’t consider this a conflict of interest in that I wrote multiple articles for each publication before joining.
I’ve been paid ~$5,000(!) for my submissions, and donate half of what I earned to nonprofits. The five I most frequently support are:
- NV Access,
- SLPC Action Fund,
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation,
- Black and Pink, and
- Girls Who Code.
These are great organizations, and I encourage you to consider them.
I’ve had to whip up functionality to capture these emergent information needs. I might write about it at some point, but here’s the high-level gist:
- Source of original publishing. This allows me to attribute a post that has been renamed, reattributed, or was hosted on a site that shut down.
- Tweet thread. This allows me to link back to a Tweet thread I’ve written. Posts have a lot more long-term sustainability and are far more discoverable.
- Responses. Sometimes people write things about the things I write. This allows me to link to them!
- Translations. Sometimes people translate what I’ve written, as well. This is really cool.
- Attribution allows me to credit people who have given me valuable feedback and edits. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum, y’all.
What I’m thinking of writing next
Here are some ideas from my drafts:
- When access friction becomes an access barrier,
- Low power/bandwidth design,
This Twitter thread(now posted here),
- Your CSS is an interface, and
- All the ways you can make a background blue in CSS.
If any of those sound particularly enticing to you, let me know.
Here’s to 100 more posts!