Something went wonky with the WordPress admin dashboard sidebar since the 4.3 update, at least when you’re viewing in Chrome. It means the left sidebar items overlap each other like this:

My wonky wordpress admin sidebar in Chrome

It got pretty annoying for me, since i work on several different WordPress websites each day. So i googled around for a solution, and here it is, converted into a WordPress plugin. It will keep you sane until they solve the issue…

Download the Plugin!

Oden LogoOntario Disability Employment Networks Launches New Website in Conjunction with Employment First Conference

November 29, 2013

Toronto, ON: The Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) will host Employment First: Is It Right For Ontario? on December 4, 2013.

ODEN is a non-profit organization of employment service providers advocating for policy changes that increase opportunities for people who have a disability. Employment First: Is It Right For Ontario? brings together a diverse group of stakeholders in the area of employment and disability through a round-table discussion format that focuses on the Employment First framework and how it facilitates the full inclusion of people with significant disabilities in the workplace and community.

Employment First is a community-based, integrated employment approach that is the first option for employment services for youth and adults with a disability. The Framework is sweeping through the United State with 42 states that have adopted or are in the process of adopting the policy framework.

“Employment First Policy Framework is not new to the Network. We at ODEN have been supporting this policy framework and have referenced it in discussions and position papers. Employment First strategy is included in our report to the Social Assistance Review Commission. ODEN has also had discussions with Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), Employment Ontario, Ministry of Community and Social Services(MCSS) Developmental Branch and Ministry of Finance regarding Employment First Policy Framework,” says Bob Vansickle, co-chair of ODEN.

“We are pleased to be able to take this next step in providing this opportunity to learn more about Employment First Policy Framework. For many, this may appear familiar as they already deliver supports and services with the same or very similar values.”

In conjunction with the event, ODEN have launched a brand new accessible website to engaging their membership, share important information and events, and integrate the organization’s strong social media presence . The new website was designed and developed by SpaceRace, a Canadian boutique digital agency that serves progressive people and organizations.

“We are so pleased to work with the ODEN team on the launch of their new website,” says Aerin Guy, SpaceRace’s Director of Digital Strategy. “We really believe in the work of this organization and are excited to help them share their messages through a site that is accessible to everyone. ODEN is at the forefront of thinking on disability and employment issues and we are proud to support their work.”

The event takes place at the Eaton Chelsea in Toronto. Interested participants can register at

To learn more about ODEN, visit

To learn more about SpaceRace, visit

I am a figment of fantasy.

Ahhhh, stock photography. If done well, stock photos can add a powerful, visual element to the content on your website.  But please (my February resolution is to be more polite), please take the time to do comprehensive photo research when you don’t have a shutterbug on hand. Planning the visual aspects of your website is just as important as honing the writing. People can often tell a stock photo when they see one.  That cute woman with a headset and a haircut like a social studies teacher from 1992? She’s not gonna take my order.

Order now. Our operators are waiting.

(And when you find that stock photo that encapsulates everything you want to say in one glorious, crystal-clear image, buy it for goodness sake. Don’t screenshot it and put it up with the watermark showing. Cheap ass.)

Now back to that lady.  I can understand why you might want a photo of a human on your site. Even if the human is not anyone you’ve ever met, and is likely just a clever composite of pixels and Photoshop and googly eyes. Some people believe that a face on a website attracts people – keeping them on the page longer. If that’s your metric, then great. Hang out all day! But what if you want your visitors to take an action?  Wouldn’t it be better to ask them (nicely) to do that?  Wouldn’t that be preferable to having them stare at the blazing white teeth of the Grecian Man who clearly isn’t really a doctor?

Thumbs up!
Here’s a great post that looks at faces, proportion, and direction of sight/gaze. And there are lots of bad and good comparisons,  which are helpful visuals if you are a visual sort of person like me.  All of these wee factors can really impact the experience of your visitors.

People are great.  People on your website are great. Especially if the people actually work at your business. If they don’t, it’s highly unlikely that you will fool anyone.  And think of how pissed they’ll be when they do show up and are greeted by your current receptionist, who still has a trace of Movember hanging on and a Cinnabon habit. There went my February resolution.

Here are some great sources of images for your website, especially if you have a small budget. If you’re using a Creative Commons image, please make sure that you understand the license and attribute responsibly. Don’t rip photographers off. They’re the ones capturing our lives, eh.

Flickr’s Creative Commons

Creative Commons Search

Compfight: A Flickr Search Tool

Google Advanced Image Search

Got another one? Add ’em, Dano!

Geek in Toque
Once again, this is not a listing of places where I quaffed magic mushrooms in a field (that’s a totally different blog). Instead, this is my weekly round-up of the best of the interwebz, painstakingly curated by spending probably too much time online. In my defense, we were pummeled/blessed with about 5 feet of glittery white snow this week here in our mountain hideaway, so I had a lot of time to ponder the awesomeness that came through the channels. In no particular order:

1. Blogchat A rolling stone or Twitter chat gathers no moss, but it certainly gathers smart participants and endless pearls of bloggy wisdom every Sunday evening at 8 pm Central. Hosted by the inimitable Mack Collier and featuring a changing roster of learned pros, Blogchat moves faster than a speeding torrent and is a source of great connections and tips for making the most of your online presence. You can participate through a Twitter client like Tweetdeck or HootSuite by creating a search column for the term ‘#blogchat’. New tweets with the #blogchat hashtag show up in your column. Or if you want to follow #blogchat on another site, you can try TweetChat or WTHashtag – Learn more here.

2. – is lovely new HTML5 e-book from the developers of Chrome. It’s a stocking stuffer for the geek in your life. An anonymous tip for your clueless boss. Every “thing” is shareable. Delicious illustrations from Christoph Niemann add to the playful vibe. Love this.

3. Meet Up – Having relied on MeetUp to connect with like-minded peeps and discover helpful IRL events, this week I started a group. Hiding away in a mountain town is a spectacular experience, but I do miss the opportunities to network that living in a tech hub like Toronto afforded me. I’m very keen to connect with other Geeks in Toques, and love the usability, choice, and promotion tools that MeetUp offers. Support is amazing and I loved having to promise to take it offline – because most of us have the online network of our choice all sewn up and we do need to reach out and touch each other (with permission, of course) every once in a while.

4. When Bad Websites Happen to Good People We’ve all seen it. That company with a remarkable product and remarkable people with the GeoCities 1995 web presence. The site you want to use, but can’t, because it’s as prickly as a porcupine’s hiney. That opening autoloading video that makes your teeth gnash every time you drop by. “Nascent blobs of regurgitated brochures” (Tip 2). Involved in a site refresh or critical overview? You should read these 10 little nuggets of plain-spoken sense, and share them, and comment on them, and add to them, and tattoo them on your forehead.

5. My lady friends? You need to read this blog. Often.

Have a week to end all weeks. Be awesome to each other.

Grab your glowstick.
In the spirit of all that is righteous and rockin’ about Fridays, I’d like to introduce a new feature on the SpaceRace blog: Raves! This ain’t your teenage son’s glow-sticky, Lords of Acid-y, baggy pants-y rave. This is a weekly celebration of the best of the web, where we’ll chat about the most amazing things we’ve seen during the preceding week. And we’d love to know what you’ve seen too.

This week’s raves:

GOOD looks at 30 great places to work. This post highlights some of the most rewarding companies to work for, but what really impressed me is their breakdown of the 10 criteria used to create the list. Factors such as a genuinely progressive mission, a culture of love for employees, and a commitment to using smart technology smartly can create an enviable work environment that breeds loyalty and impacts service in every way.

Petra Neiger’s 4P approach to social media engagement pays homage to Kotler, yet repositions the key tenets of marketing for the digital age. Best of all, Petra’s first P is People. She articulates the importance of the marriage between execution and content, and making two-way conversations essential and meaningful.

What’s your bookprint? Scholastic’s You Are What you Read community is a creative and crafty consumer preference tracking platform that functions as place for people to share their emotional connection with great literature. Celebrity contributors provide a high interest factor (imagine a spotty, teenaged Bill Clinton encountering the ghosts of Shakespeare’s Macbeth), while the act of choosing 5 can really take you back to the literature that had an impact on your life. The kid’s version is very cool too.

If you’re an education nut (aren’t we all?), you’ll want to keep an eye on the Education Computing Organization of Ontario’s annual conference on November 11 and 12. This year’s theme is Inspire, Connect, Learn, and this is one ed-tech conference that really practices what it preaches. With workshops and sessions from renowned 21st Century education leaders, an online planner that supports delegates in managing their sessions, and a rousing Tweet Up, ECOO is the place to be. Follow #ecoo2010 on Twitter to connect with some impressively tuned in teachers.

Have you come across something worth raving about? Let us know!


"Is that a Twisted Sister pin on your school uniform?"

A recent study conducted by Latitude Research, featured on Read Write Web, looks at what kids want from technology. The results are surprising and somewhat counter-intuitive, with the recent media reports about the effects of excessive screen time and the debate over gaming as an effective learning method. The researchers found that imaginative creation, connectivity, and artistic design were important, valued, and desired when children described their ideal interactions with technology.

I have a confession. We’re a wired family. We’re three laptops on the couch. Sometimes at the kitchen table. We email each other when we’re in different rooms. We all gather round and watch YouTube videos. Sometimes they’re of cats playing soccer. Sometimes they’re of old British children’s programs (or Pee Wee’s Playhouse, in my case) that we don’t want our daughter to miss by virtue of being born in 2002. Sometimes they’re Twisted Sister videos (her current favourite).

But mostly, we’re trying to take a balanced approach to our daughters exposure to media. All media. We lead a relatively active lifestyle, even having given up our car over a year ago. We bike, we play baseball, we swim, we hike. We rarely watch TV. We’re rabid board game enthusiasts, and even host our own Tofurkey Cup championship at Thanksgiving. But we do believe that incorporating technology into our child’s life serves a few very crucial purposes:

  • rigorously tested and reviewed education software, like the kind provided by DreamBox Learning K-3 Math provides a more customized and adaptive math learning environment than the classroom can currently hope to offer. The data it provides us is invaluable, and far more comprehensive than the one-liners in a thrice yearly report card. It assesses skill level and understanding, and then serves up a customized curriculum with activities that will move math learning and understanding forward.  (Disclosure: SpaceRace handles the PR and marketing for DreamBox in Canada. But we wouldn’t if we didn’t believe it was awesome.)
  • creative expression can be augmented and encouraged through the use of online tools such as Picnik, a free photo editing software. Our daughter isn’t particularly “handy” with pencil crayons or a paintbrush, but the digital art and “remixes” she creates are, to her, a chance to represent the world as she sees it.
  • when journalling is practiced in the classroom, it’s often done in a blank notebook and at a scheduled time. Providing our daughter with a secure, private blogging platform means she can record her thoughts and inspirations whenever she needs to. She can add multimedia, like photos she’s taken with our digital camera, images she’s discovered on Flickr, and her own artwork. She can share these precious posts with Nana in Saskatchewan, and looks forward eagerly to the comments from the people she loves.

Of course, there are others. She recently collaborated on a Voicethread for one of her favourite stories with 3 other friends. And she handed in a project, a PowerPoint presentation on Costa Rica, on her own memory stick.

And yet, upon finishing Grade 2, the afore-mentioned Nana from Saskatchewan sent her a copy of Superfudge. A print copy. She devoured it in 3 days.

Balance is important. But if creation and design are key motivators for kids using technology, as the Latitude study claims, then it’s our job as parents to provide the tools to make it happen. Tools that will prepare our daughter to survive and thrive in an interconnected world.

We’ve been encouraged by the recent debate, and the slow, small steps that seem to be happening to make our education system reflect the innovation that exists outside the classroom.

And yes, we will have a lemonade stand outside our house this weekend. And then we’ll all go on Canada Helps to figure out where to donate the proceeds. Because we can.


May the 4th be with you.

It’s a big day for Ning. Since announcing the end of free networks, Creators and community managers have waited in limbo for a new pricing structure. Educators and non-profits too. Free Nings ushered in a proliferation of new world networks, connected people, and made a lot of really cool stuff possible. For one particularly inspiring example, check out Ontario teacher Danika Barker’s use of the platform in her high school English Literature program.
In the weeks since the announcement, the Twittersphere and other portals of wired warriors have been abuzz with speculation, disappointment, and debate. It seems that while few begrudge Ning the necessity of a business model, many feel that the demise of free networks is a step away from a purposeful social venture. Ning had a chance to be something really, really good. Good for the causes, good for the kids, and good for the world. And then, Ning made everyone wait for several weeks in order to find out what it would mean for them. Meanwhile, other community platforms have sprouted into awareness. Group.LY (who sent us an interesting personal email). Spruz. BuddyPress for WordPress. Most recently, I’ve seen one particularly successful migration as the Canada Mom Blog Network embraced their inner Spruz and became MomNation. For members, the migration seems seamless. The network creators ensured that the functionality their members were trained for would remain consistent in the new platform. They’ve done a good job. Ning, who?

And then came today. Creators received a cryptic note in their inboxes. TechCrunch attempted to sum it up. The New York Times covered it. And you know what? The sky is not falling.

But for the networks hanging most precariously in the balance – teachers and non-profits – the disappointment at NingMini is palpable. No groups. No file uploads. 150 member limit. A $200 yearly cost (I won’t mention here that my daughter’s teacher recently shared her photocopying costs with me. She shuddered. I shuddered. Whoops, I mentioned it.).

And then, the cherry on the cupcake. Again, cryptically, in the typical fashion of their recent announcements, Ning announced that a major educational company would be sponsoring networks for K-12 educators. Speculation is rife. Will said educational company now own teachers’ network content and information (the only logical reason Ning wouldn’t sponsor this themselves)? Will networks be subjected to marketing beyond the margin ads we’ve all learned to ignore? Membership has it’s privileges?

It’s a fascinating discussion, to be sure. Ning should hurry up and share the truth. Now that the peanut gallery IS the PR, they aren’t winning any fans.


Went a bit book mad in the last few weeks.  Real books – the kind made from paper, glue, and ink.  It might have been e-reader envy, as no Sony Reader appeared in my stocking (not that I’d know how to use one).  And because I’m bad at surprises (including surprises for myself), I’ve delved a little into each one to gain a sense of priority.  In a successful “delve”, however, sometimes you have to keep going as the hook is so strong and the content so persuasive. The clock ticks past 1 am, but there’s just so. much. good. stuff.

I can’t imagine falling asleep with an e-reader on my face, but I’d gladly snuggle up with Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy:  The Do-it-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems.  If you read Krug’s seminal Don’t Make Me Think (and even if you haven’t), this timely follow-up pushes you to go further in thinking about and doing the things that will ensure a positive user experience with your website, your product, and your ideas.  The kicker is that it really is easy – a morning a month.  Krug focuses on qualitative results, think out loud reactions and continuous improvement, which is inherently more iterative and insight-based than typical measurement tests and attempting to act on data in the hazy post-experience fugue.

Key takeaways include:

  • Testing early, and often, in the development process is easier and more cost-effective in the long run than trying to get it right after launch.  Development, from the napkin sketch to the first wireframes, should be a learning exercise and should involve intended users who may have a very different experience from that which was intended.  If you know that early on, the “re-do” can lead you down the right path at the right time.  Early prototype testing becomes your efficiency and cost-effectiveness insurance. Does your user “get it”?  Best of all, Krug teaches you how to test and who to test with, right down to the recruitment, screening, and follow up.
  • Tasks with scenarios built in provide the requisite context to achieving insights. The task becomes meaningful and the results are based in behaviours that subjects actually exhibit when using the site/product.  Although we try to create personas in the design stage, nothing can replace actually watching someone attempt to implement your idea. Wait! I didn’t think of that! And you wouldn’t, unless you watch.
  • The thought balloon principle, or “Mind reading made easy” as Krug calls it, externalizes the experience and provides you with authentic, real-time reaction. There’s a fine line between effective probing and planting suggestions.  Make Freud proud by pulling information and encouraging participants to externalize their thought process.  Act like a therapist. Krug even provides a script to help you maintain that critical neutrality.
  • Tweak, don’t redesign. The problems and fixables identified from the testing process can be overwhelming, but taking a tweak approach can result in faster changes that are more likely to happen, and are more likely to improve the user experience with the actual observed problem.  A redesign runs the risk of breaking things that aren’t already broken. Take something away to make it simpler.

Best of all, the book includes sample test scripts, consent forms, and checklists to ensure that you haven’t forgotten a thing.  Did you start the screen recorder? Order lunch for the debriefing? Set up bookmarks?  Every detail is covered, and you can download modifiable versions from the companion website.  Foolproof!  Short of asking Steve Krug to move in and become your personal guru, the book really provides everything else you need to do to commit to improvement.  We all want results, and Rocket Surgery provides a realistic and comprehensive plan for getting them.

See the rest of the SpaceRace 2010 Reading list here.


The full report is ready for download. So are other local government action resources.