#518 Periscope, Apple Watch Buying Experience, Don McAllister is the master, Serotek for the Blind

Live video broadcasting via Periscope on iOS. I walk you through the fun we had ordering the Apple Watch and then trying them on at the Apple Store and finally playing with the new 12″ Retina Macbook. We Periscoped our fun trying on the Apple Watch too so you can watch that over at the website. I explain in video why Don McAllister is the master in a very short video here. In Chit Chat Across the Pond I talk to Mike Calvo and Matt Campbell from the company Serotek. Their company creates assistive websites for blind people to be able to access social media tools like Facebook. The reason we’re talking today is because Facebook is going to abandon the API they’ve been using that allows them to make Facebook accessible to more people. It’s an interesting discussion of technology that I hope you’ll enjoy.

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Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Saturday April 11, 2015 and this is show number 518. I’ve got a ton of great info for you today but one thing I’m not going to talk about is the new Photos app for OSX. It’s not that I’m not excited and not that I’m not playing with it, I just have so much ELSE to talk about we just don’t have time! Stay tuned and hopefully we’ll dig in next week. By the way, Steve and I are off to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and New Media Expo (NMX) in Las Vegas. We’ve never been to NAB before and are really looking forward to it. NMX continues to evolve, and I hope that by combining with NAB and being inside the convention floor for NAB it will get more interesting than it has been in the last few years. In any case, we’re excited to see Dave Hamilton, Don McAllister (even though we were with him two weeks ago in India), Joseph Nilo who we haven’t seen for YEARS (he’s one of the original four Mac Roundtable guys) and of course my dear, dear friend, Chuck Joiner! We’d better dig in!

Blog Posts

Live Video Broadcasting Via Periscope on iOS

My Experience Buying an Apple Watch

Trying on the Apple Watch (Video)

Why Don McAllister is the Master


You know what drives me crazy? When I go to do something complicated that I’ve done before, and I open up Evernote to my Clarify tutorials section and find that I did NOT document it the last time I figured it out! A year and a half ago, Lynda Gousha asked me to speak remotely to the Silicon Valley Mac User’s Group. I love doing user group presentations (makes me feel like a rock star in a very small pond) so I gladly agreed. It sounded fun to figure out how to do it remotely.

She said that they used AOL Instant Messenger within the Messages app on OS X to do screen sharing. I told her she was nuts and we should just use Skype. We experimented and found reasons we didn’t like it. Then we tried iChat Theater, which didn’t do what we wanted either. Finally I acquiesced and agreed to try her crazy AIM/Messages idea but I promised I wouldn’t like it. Sure enough, it worked just fine.

Fast forward to this week when Lynda and I are planning to do it again, and for the life of me I could NOT remember how we did it! I was furious with myself for not taking some basic screenshots with Clarify, throwing in an arrow or two, maybe a few words of text to give myself a hint as to how we did it. It took us three times as long to recreate what we did last time than if I’d just taken those few moments to document the steps.

The good news is that I did document them THIS time so if it ever comes up again I’ll know how to do it. Ironically after all the time to figure it out, we got Skype to an even better job. When we tried Skype last time, you couldn’t do more than two video streams at once for free on the Mac, and we were both too cheap to pay for it. Now with it being free, we were able to have three video streams: one of me, one of her and her audience, and a third being my screen. With all three running I can do my demo but also make faces at the audience, gauge if they’re paying attention or if I’ve lost them and flip back and forth easily to keep us all enjoying the experience.

Well my main lesson here is that if you have Clarify, don’t forget to use the darn thing to take notes for yourself so you don’t go through all that extra work! Document everything you find even the tiniest bit difficult and you’ll be glad later when you think, “hey, didn’t I figure this out once before?” Check out Clarify at clarify-it.com!

Chit Chat Across the Pond – Serotek at 28 min

When I was on DTNS on Wednesday 1 April Tom Merritt and I were discussing accessibility in Windows. This prompted an email from a company called Serotek that makes accessibility products. They wrote to me because of significant concerns they have with some changes Facebook is making.

Mike Calvo, Founder

Matt Campbell, Lead Developer

Background on Serotek and what you do there:

What makes Serotek different from other assistive technology companies? (online service, content aggregation and community, focus on making common online activities easy to use for blind users who aren’t computer savvy, “AOL for the blind” as our initial target, talk about our program for veterans, finish with a general description of the Socializer)

Why is an app like the Socializer necessary? Why not just use the social networks’ websites? (complex dynamic pages, accessibility as an afterthought, requires mastery of various techniques and tricks to use efficiently, “50 ways to skin a website”, use Facebook chat and moving through the news feed as examples)

How does Serotek’s Socializer app address these problems? (using the APIs provided by Facebook and Twitter, plus gateways to AIM, Yahoo, and Google IM, Socializer provides a unified, consistent interface to social networks, optimized for blind users; based completely on standard controls and Windows UI conventions, nothing custom; multiple windows for different tasks rather than a single complex page; extensive use of list views that can be navigated with arrow keys, for contacts and news feed items)

How will the Facebook API changes going into effect on April 30 affect the Socializer? (XMPP interface to chat is going away; ability to access the news feed will be restricted to Facebook-approved apps on platforms that Facebook itself doesn’t support, specifically excluding desktop, mobile, and web; access to Facebook through the Socializer will basically be killed)

Will any other apps for the blind be affected? (Voicebook VO for iOS has already been pulled from the app store due to these changes; possibly interfaces to Facebook on blindness-specific PDAs like the Braille Sense from HIMS; at least one other app for Windows that we know of)

Why do you think Facebook is making these changes? (they justify the restrictions by saying that tighter controls increase users’ trust in the platform and apps; that may be part of it, but we think the real reason is that more control over the user experience means more ways for Facebook to monetize the platform)

Have you tried asking Facebook for an exception to these restrictions? (yes; we even offered to serve ads if there were an API for that and the ads were accessible; our request was denied on the basis of our small number of users, the fact that Facebook already works on desktop platforms, and the fact that they have an accessibility team; we think Facebook still isn’t putting enough resources into accessibility)

Why don’t you think Facebook is putting enough resources into accessibility? (two-person accessibility team in a company with 1.3 billion users and hundreds of developers; accessibility project manager Jeff Wieland has no background in accessibility or in programming; we think the head of the accessibility team should be an expert in accessibility; Facebook’s motto has always been “move fast”, and the company releases new products and UI changes at a rapid pace; the accessibility team has to play catch-up)

How do you know that the accessibility team has to play catch-up? Have they told you directly? (no; inferred from the lack of accessibility features in the Messenger Platform recently launched at F8; when we told the accessibility team, they were apparently caught by surprise)

But wait, I read in an article in Wired (http://www.wired.com/2015/02/meet-team-makes-possible-blind-use-facebook/) that 50,000 people actively use Facebook through VoiceOver on iOS. iOS is super popular among blind people. So aside from occasional lapses like the new Messenger Platform, doesn’t that get Facebook off the hook? (no; many blind people still just use computers, especially the elderly and home-bound; touchscreen interfaces aren’t for everyone; Facebook wouldn’t tell sighted people they have to buy an iPhone plus a monthly data plan, or spend hundreds on an iPod touch or iPad, so why do that for blind people?)

So what do you want from Facebook? (most of all, integrate accessibility into all aspects of product development from design to testing; add automated accessibility checks as much as possible, but also do routine manual testing with real assistive technologies; passing all accessibility tests should be necessary for every product release just like passing the normal automated test suites that we know Facebook has; we suggest hiring one or two more programmers with expertise in accessibility; in the meantime, we want an extended waiver on the upcoming API restrictions, not just for ourselves but for the handful of other developers providing alternate UIs, so we can continue providing an alternate UI until the main website is as easy to use for non-expert blind users as it is for sighted users)

Additional references:

Serotek website: http://www.serotek.com/

Documentation for our Socializer app: http://samobile.net/help/samn/IM

Our program for veterans: https://secure.samobile.net/vets/

Voicebook VO (now dead): http://www.activeinfosys.com/apps/42-voicebook-vo

Voicebook VO pulled from the app store due to policy changes: http://activeinfosys.com/component/content/article/44-general/65-voicebook-vo-removed-from-app-store

Braille Sense U2 note-taker/PDA for blind people (includes interface to Facebook): http://hims-inc.com/products/braille-sense-u2/

LinkedIn page for Jeff Wieland, head of the Facebook accessibility team: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreywieland

Wired article about Facebook accessibility, which also describes how Jeff Wieland ended up as accessibility team lead: http://www.wired.com/2015/02/meet-team-makes-possible-blind-use-facebook/

That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsor for helping to pay the bills, the makers of Clarify over at clarify-it.com. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at [email protected], follow me on twitter @podfeet. Check out the NosillaCast Google Plus Community too – lots of fun over there! If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

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