A few weeks ago, I updated the categories on my little blog. I wanted to give some love to the various long tails referenced up there in the tagline. OK, so write something, already!
I’ve loved classic film since high school, when I…that’s a blog post I’ll write later. Suffice it to say, old movies have been an obsession of mine for EVER. And, like most hobbies, or fandoms, or relic-worship topics, the Internet has been very good to classic film fans like me. My RSS reader is full of blogs about it, and they inspire me. But I continue to struggle with finding a focus for the writing I want to do. Some people review films. Others write profiles of actors and directors. A few film historians place the movies they love in the context of film history. Genres including film noir and pre-codes have their own blogs, too.
My first film-writing project will be the second annual Noir City Austin festival, coming to town in May. It’s 12 movies in one weekend, all based on the writing of Cornell Woolrich. He, by the way, figures prominently in the detective and suspense dramas of old-time radio. There’s another long tail for the category list!
If I were asked to summarize the attitude of enthusiasts toward Apple Watch accessibility, this would be my pull-quote:
“It was kind of weird for awhile, and I’m still not 100 percent sure what to expect, but everything will be awesome!”
(By the way, that’s less than 140 characters, leaving plenty of room for breathless hashtags.)
The chain of events leading to next week’s delivery of the first Apple Watches has not been without twists and turns. If you were to construct an announcement-to-ship day timeline, you might wonder what Apple was thinking, or perhaps why blind and low-vision people should be so eager to early-adopt this particular first-generation gadget. The answer, dear reader, is a simple one. Among Apple’s many assets is trust. Despite shipping delays, radio silence about accessibility features (until last week,) and in-store demo units with dimmed access settings, there’s little doubt among those I talk to that the watch will be a useful, fun, stylish, and accessible purchase. People just believe in this company.
I wrote last week about Apple Watch accessibility, mostly pointing to the first hands-on articles written by VoiceOver users. Many of our questions have now been addressed. VO is part of the watch, and so are some low-vision features, including zoom and grayscale. But during the long few weeks between watch pre-orders and watch unboxings, uncertainty obviously remains. In the larger context, that’s the point of the in-store try-on program, right? You use some combination of wrist, fingers, ears, and eyes to assure yourself that this new gadget is a thing you want, and will actually be able to use.
Last week’s first look stories told me much of what I wanted to know. But as a low-vision user whose primary interaction with screens happens through my eyes, two decidedly visual resources gave me even more clarity. Apple’s updated watch accessibility page, which I linked last week, includes great big screenshots for many watch features and apps. I mean, really big screenshots! From them, I learned that many screens use light text on a dark background; my preferred color scheme. This was welcome news, since there is apparently no Invert Colors option. Last night, I happened to see David Sparks’ Periscope broadcast of his visit to an Apple Store. His camera focused on a working Apple Watch (not the demo loop videos provided to try-on customers.) David and his companion scrolled through various screens, even responding to the questions of chat viewers, who wanted to see this or that app in action. Again, I got to see a lot of screens with easy-to-read text, along with the gestures used to manipulate their contents.
If I could leave just one mark on the tech world, it would be a giant mashup of access-focused and mainstream-focused product coverage. There’s so much we can learn from one another.
I snarked on Wednesday about the number of Apple Watch reviews, and the seemingly larger number of Apple Watch review roundups. A day or so after the big-picture coverage, we got a couple of write-ups that focused on Apple Watch accessibility. Which was terrific, and answered questions many potential watch buyers had been asking since September, and which Apple had only begun to address on its site within the past few days. (By the way, the Apple page continues to gain info and good screen shots, so keep an eye on it.)
AppleVis contributor David Woodbridge, and Steven Aquino, writing for iMore, each described their hands-on experience with the watch, compared its accessibility to iOS, and listed a number of accessibility-oriented features and options. David’s piece gives an in-depth, nuts-and bolts look at the Watch experience of a blind user, while Steven adds the perspective of someone with both visual and motor disabilities. He also attempts to place the watch in the context of how gadgets can improve people’s lives.
Both articles were great, and I’m pleased that Apple saw fit to give these writers early access to the watch. The detailed discussion of what is and isn’t accessible, and how the interface differs from iOS will make pre-ordering decisions easier for a lot of people. But as I followed the story of Apple Watch accessibility on Twitter, and in my RSS reader, I couldn’t help but notice that one of these two articles received a good deal of attention and linkage from the mainstream Apple press, while the other scored love and traffic inside the accessibility community. Even when the topic is access, it seems, there’s a weird divide between segments of this corner of the tech world.
Apple Watch anticipation continues, but we distract ourselves with Periscope, and Steve Jobs biography talk.
Maccessibility Roundtable #81: The Hearts Aren’t Labeled
It’s that time of year. SXSW Music (and Etcetera) is upon us again. As my annual public service, I offer you links to a wide range of music samplers and playlists, available for free around the Internet. They range from the venerable Unofficial SXSW Torrents to the offerings of record companies and show promoters. I update the post as links arrive, so keep checking back. If you know of more, please drop me a line, or leave a comment.
UPDATE: With the music portion of SXSW in full swing, I suspect the majority of samplers have been posted. As I worked through the various listings, I noticed that some of my favorite record companies and sampler curators have no offerings this year. It’s natural, I suppose, what with streaming services like Spotify and Soundcloud, and with the many changes in the music industry. I miss the samplers from eMusic and Canadian Blast, both of whom continue to have large SXSW presences. Amazon has always put out nice samplers, too, as did Bloodshot Records. Oh well, we still have the excellent NPR 100, and my favorite of this year, the New West/Normaltown offering. Please to enjoy it all, and if you know of samplers I’ve missed, please let me know.
We begin with the torrents:
And here are a couple of samplers:
You’re sick of hearing about my being on podcasts, yes? This one was fun, and it’s one of only a few tech podcast I listen to regularly. Even better. Thanks to Jason and Dan for having me.
Clockwise #79: The Next Free Noms
I used to do a podcast. I mean, I used to do a podcast frequently. Now I do it when inspiration hits me on the head, or when I find a good title.
Shelly’s Podcast #251: High Heels and a Dead Cat
A committee of the Maccessibility Roundtable chatted recently with Jason Snell, former Macworld poobah, and current proprietor of Six Colors. We talked about Apple accessibility, as seen from the mainstream tech world. I should note, too, that I’ve known Jason since we both worked at MacUser, back in the day. He and I covered the Internet, initially in our spare time. We also shared custody of an email server, from which we ran music mailing lists. No one from the former secretary of state’s office asked us for advice.
Outside the Box #3
The nice folks at KPFK Radio’s Access Unlimited invited me back to talk about the iOS 8 version of iOS Access for All. Also, there were cocktails.
LA radio station KPFK’S Access Unlimited covers accessibility issues. They archive each week’s show for 90 days. Here’s the MP3 of my March 11 appearance.