ShellyBlog Shelly Brisbin's life consists of several long tails. She writes about them here.

April 30, 2008

iPhone Accessibility: But Not For Me

Filed under: Access and Disability — Tags: , , , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 9:57 AM

I spent last weekend with friends who use their matching iPhones to great effect. Though new in town, they were able to zoom in on (well, close) to my house with Google street view, and find a store we wanted to visit before I could complete my call to directory assistance. They also kept up with emails from home, and conducted searches just because they could, all while holding up their end of the conversation.

Tap, tap, tap.

I’m past the angry part. No iPhone for me. OK. I don’t really feel the need for a Google IV on a constant basis, but every once in awhile, it would be nice, as would a quick look at my email account while bouncing along on the #7 bus, or a recipe onscreen as I work in the kitchen. OK, I want one. So sue me.

But I have to say that this post from Disability Nation about AT&T’s plan to make iPhone accessible to deaf users, really did get my goat. AT&T (and other cell carriers, I assume) offers a data-only plan for deaf or hearing impaired users of its other phones. You get unlimited text-based features, and aren’t charged for a voice plan you can’t use. Right on! It should also be pointed out that cell carriers often subsidize the cost of Mobile Speak, an audio interface for compatible phone. That subsidy is needed by many, because Mobile Speak, low-volume product that it is, costs $300, otherwise.

These are perfect examples of inefficient cost-shifting.Why should a phone carrier subsidize individual purchases of expensive software for disabled users? Why should I go begging for such a subsidy? In the case of the iPhone and accessibility for blind and visually impaired users, where is the native interface, voice or text, that can be adapted to my needs, especially given the capabilities of Apple’s OS? I’d pay for that, or would support grants that would pay for its development. Why leave users completely out of the loop, or rely on carriers to subsidize what hardware vendors should have provided in the first place?

April 28, 2008

Thought Leaders Can be so Slow

Filed under: New Media and Tech — Shelly Brisbin @ 3:15 PM

Kara Swisher writes today that a lot of people she surveyed while attending a wedding had not heard of Twitter. I’ll pause while you retrieve the beverage you just dropped on the floor in disbelief. Even more astonishing than the lack of Twit-hipness among Swisher’s acquaintances is that bloggers have been writing about this as if this news were revelatory in some way. It’s one thing for bloggers and new media types to live in geographical (Silicon Valley) or virtual bubbles, but it’s quite another when they don’t even realize they do.

Come on, people! Are all of your friends on Twitter? Really? If so, you should make some more, outside that weird place you live in.

I hail from a tech-savvy town, and many of my friends are involved in the computer industry in one way or another. But even they are not glued to Twitter or other social media. They have these things called lives, and relationships with people who live in their own home towns. Sometimes they manage to arrange a dinner that is not a “meetup”. They volunteer for the PTA, or raise kids. They run into their pals at the grocery store. They may well have Facebook profiles, but they do it for fun, or because that’s what you did in college. No one has told them why, and I can’t, they need Twitter. Some may find it eventually, and some may never find it. And the world will continue to spin on its axis.

I dig Twitter. I really do. It keeps me in touch with lots of people who live far away. I’m on it every single day. But I’ve got a news flash for you. In my world, the real world. speaking in 140 character bursts is not a prerequisite to being plugged into life.

By the way, Kara Swisher, whose name goes without attribution in much of the tech blog world, is a Wall Street Journal contributor and co-producer of a big deal tech conference with Walt Mossberg.

April 24, 2008

Pod is a Dirty Word, Again

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Podcasting — Shelly Brisbin @ 6:31 AM

PodShow, the “media company” founded by Adam Curry, and the recipient of millions in venture funding, has changed its name to Mevio. Has the ring of one of those wacky Web 2.0 startup names, doesn’t it? Just vague enough to allow for a completely flexible business model.

Podcasting News linked to a video featuring PodShow co-founder Ron Bloom. In it, he described PodShow as a network of 15,000 shows. This, of course, includes the many externally-prdouced podcasts within the directory maintained by PodShow, along with the company’s own “entertainment properties”. Bloom went on to say, when asked about the name change, that podcasting seemed to denote amateurishness. He mumbled something about the Amateurville Horror. I think that was supposed to be a quote, but I’m not familiar. Irony is fun, isn’t it?

PodShow is not the first to ditch the “pod” from its name. While earlier name-changers struggled with the “do I need an iPod to listen?” question from potential listeners and viewers, my guess is that PodShow’s move, as underlined by Bloom’s emphasis on getting away from amateurism as a hallmark of the medium, had more to do with honing the message for the “brands” that PodShow must court in order to sell advertising within its programs. After all, Zune Marketplace adopted podcast when it opened its doors to RSS-based content last year, joining arch rival Apple, whose iTunes did not, after all, originate the term. On the consumer side, I think the word podcasting actually has meaning for people.

Podcasting News speculates that producers will leave PodShow. They may. It’s happened before. But I think the name change has mostly symbolic value on both sides. PodShow began to pull away from the original idea of podcasting as an independent form of media about the time it started pitching Madison Avenue agencies. Producers complained about onerous contracts then, and other podcast industry watchers noted that the company made a show of turning its metaphorical backside to industry organizations and events. I don’t know why being a part of the Mevio network would make people more likely to jump ship than what has gone before.

In the wider world of downloadable media, it’s another “podcasting is dead” headline to chew over and refute. Paul Colligan weighs in with a spirited and somewhat melodramatic defense of podcasting as an independent media form, particularly when compared to streamed content, or DRM-reliant offerings. Maybe that’s what the beleaguered folks who believe in podcasting (for business and/or pleasure) really need to hear right now. As for me, I’ll squirm a little uncomfortably, because my Libsyn referrer list shows a fair number of people find my podcast through PodShow. I sort of wonder why that is.

April 22, 2008

New Media Spring Cleaning

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Podcasting — Shelly Brisbin @ 11:20 AM

Spring cleaning, as many people do it, is about throwing things away that you no longer need, and polishing those you want to keep, but which no longer look their best. Aside from the season, leaving a job is a pretty good reason to engage in some seasonal dusting and straightening.

Ad editor of a magazine for bloggers and podcasters, I was conscious of a need to speak to the industry we were covering. As much grief as folks like me get for perceived pandering to advertisers, I’ve always been a notorious advocate of readers. Not a bad thing, of course. But here’s the thing, a lot of what people are talking about in the blogging and podcasting world doesn’t inspire me on a personal level. I’m not a marketer or a Web 2.0 triumphalist. Startup culture and practice only interest me in passing. In the new media world, though, these are huge topics, and you just have to cover them. What do I care about? Making media better, whether through development of the best possible content, or using tools to produce a technically better product. I am a geek, after all.

Now I’m on my own, I get to focus on things I’m interested in. In short, I get to do a lot of pruning of my reading list to make way for more really cool stuff. What follows are a few things I’ve added and subtracted, in an attempt to make my consumption of new media more meaningful and palatable.

FEWER A-list bloggers: Imagine a day without name dropping, fawning profiles of companies with really stupid-sounding names, think-skinned responses to another A-listers criticism. Sure, I knew you could.

MORE journalism commentary: I miss actually reading the CJR newsfeed. Watchdogs always need watchdogs.

FEWER marketing mavens: I know you need ads and other revenue sources to make a living with new media. I’m actually interested in working on blogging projects that will generate some income. But I’m a practical gal. I’ll read about how Google tools, SEO, and AdSense works all day long, but I don’t have patience for the touchy-feely marketers who want to touch me on Twitter and Facebook. Ew! Sure, I’m involved in social networking because I want to connect with more people, and learn about more media and technology. I do NOT, however, want to buy your book or product, or watch your sales vid, masquerading as a funny moment from your life.

MORE food and drink bogs: The mistake we make when covering the new media world is in only subscribing to meta bloggers, or the tech news. Want to learn how to write and maintain a good blog? Try finding the very best one about a subject that holds your interest, and about which the blogger knows more than you do. For me, that’s a handful of blogs about cocktail-making. Friends have also been plugging me into food blogs, with great recipes, and great communities. I feel like a better blogger just reading this stuff, because the authors are less self-conscious about the potential A-listers who might be reading or linking, than are the meta bloggers who fairly preen in their digital mirrors with every missive. Anyone know a good classic film blogger?

FEWER press release feeds.

MORE nuts and bolts of blogging blogs. The folks who offer advice and community for writers were under-appreicated during my time at the magazine. I made the judgment that I didn’t have time to read the Top Ten Tips for Writing Better Headlines. I do now, and I intend to load up on the best, most how-to oriented stuff I can find.

MORE Twitter friends: This one surprised me. I figured I’d cut back a bit. But so far, I’m still finding new and interesting people to follow, and I’ve also gotten some great new people lately. Twitter is, if used correctly, the water cooler for the virtual office. And if you can find a way to listen as well as speaking, and limit followers to those who do the same, it’s a wonderful place to be when you’re working barefoot in your home office.

Well, the cat needs feeding. She doesn’t care if I finish a blog post today or not. I’ve still got some feeds to purge, but things are looking cleaner in here.

April 18, 2008


Filed under: Politics and Public Affairs — Shelly Brisbin @ 9:59 AM

I had an epiphany about all the hoo ha over Senator Obama’s remarks last week about rural voters in Pennsylvania. Yeah, yeah, I’m supporting Obama, so take my comments for whatever you think they’re worth.

Obama’s clinical, detached explanation of voters’ motivations, which seem to have agitated the pundit class way more than they have the actual electorate, pretty much mirror the dismissive style of the very “journalists” who find this story so compelling. How many times have you heard voters lumped into categories like “angry white males” or “soccer moms”, and their feelings distilled down to simple, marginalizing language. Soccer moms care about security more than they do about the deficit. Working class white males are motivated by hatred of affirmative action or illegal immigrants.

Sure, a presidential candidate should be held to a much higher standard than the nattering know-nothings of cable news, but when he’s being held to that standard by the know-nothings themselves, that’s just disgusting.

April 7, 2008

Moving On

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Podcasting,Random Personal Nonsense — Shelly Brisbin @ 12:42 PM

I have decided to leave my position as editor-in-chief of Blogger & Podcaster Magazine, effective April 11.

I joined Blogger & Podcaster in January 2007 when we were preparing to launch the industry’s first digital/podcast/print hybrid publication. I was excited to be creating a magazine that would chronicle the podcasting world I knew so well after two+ years (more than three, now) publishing my own shows, along with the turbulent, more established blogosphere. Podcasting was and is a real passion for me. As with other loves in my life, the best way I knew to pursue that passion was to write about it.

We did a lot of great work. I built a news section that offered real-world dispatches from conferences and other events, written by the people who were there. We published features on the art and craft of producing new media, and profiled interesting and important players in blogging and podcasting I introduced product reviews, and worked with some great columnists. We published interviews with the likes of Leo Laporte, Matt Mullenweg, Arianna Huffington, and Ask A Ninja’s Kent and Doug. In general, my publishers gave me the freedom I needed to choose and assign the stories I wanted to tell. I thank them for that.

I also thank my lucky stars for the invaluable, constant, and supportive presence of managing editor Elisa M Welch, and creative director extraordinaire, Rob Hudgins. Both of these awesome folks have also recently chosen to move on to other projects.

Larstan is currently seeking funding for its ventures, including the Blogger & Podcaster network and for the magazine. I wish them the best of luck. The Spring 2008 issue is currently in production, and should be available in late April.

I’m not sure what’s next for me. I’ve been a writer for 20 years, and I remain an enthusiastic podcaster. I will continue producing my award-winning personal show, Shelly’s Podcast, as well as the new one about my journey to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate. I’ve always had a somewhat contrarian view of new media (I think we take ourselves waaaaay too seriously sometimes) and I look forward to sharing my unvarnished opinions in audio and blog form.

I’ll be Twittering, Uttering, and gadding about on the networks. I’ll blog here, and post updates to my main site page. That one will be undergoing a redesign, now that I have some cycles to spare.

Keep in touch, will ya?

Powered by WordPress