Maccessibility Roundtable #81

Posted in Podcast Appearances at 9:28 AM

Apple Watch anticipation continues, but we distract ourselves with Periscope, and Steve Jobs biography talk.

Maccessibility Roundtable #81: The Hearts Aren’t Labeled


Sample SXSW Music: The Roundup

Posted in General Store at 1:01 AM

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:


Clockwise #79

Posted in Podcast Appearances at 1:08 PM

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


Shelly’s Podcast #251: High Heels and a Dead Cat

Posted in Podcast Appearances at 10:16 PM

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


Outside the Box with Jason Snell

Posted in Access and Disability, Podcast Appearances at 11:19 AM

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


More Book Talk on KPFK

Posted in Podcast Appearances at 2:52 PM

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.


Springing Forward with Apple

Posted in Podcast Appearances at 8:06 AM

In which the Knights of the Roundtable review Apple’s Spring Forward announcement.

Maccessibility Roundtable #79


You’re the Last to Know

Posted in Access and Disability, Announcements, General Store at 7:48 PM

A bit less than a month ago, I released an updated version of my book, iOS Access for All. The new edition covers iOS 8. I would just love for you to buy, read, and enjoy a copy of the book. I would also love to be able to tell you why my own blog, the one that features an image of the book’s cover there on the sidebar, is the last to get the word. Among other things I never got around to telling any loyal readers who have managed to keep me in their RSS feeds, is that I am now a panelist on a lovely bi-weekly podcast called Maccessibility Roundtable. Also, I released an episode of my own podcast, and have done a bushel of interviews about the book. More are scheduled for this very week.

Does my inattention to what is supposed to be my home on the Internet indicate that I am now among those who believe that Twitter (and possibly Facebook) is all anyone could possibly need in the way of a personal platform? I mean, everyone agrees that RSS is dead, right?

Yes, my own ill-use of this space is connected with the ascendance of other media; ones that have proven results for me, both in terms of feedback on what I write, and jingle in my digital pocket. As much as I love this blog, and making the occasional essays I have penned here, the amount of traffic and comments it gets have been underwhelming.

I refuse to pronounce the blog dead, not so much because I love writing this one, but because I love reading those other people write. But, then again, I just wrote a book, so what do I know? Nobody does that anymore!


Mentioning My Twitter Doppelgängers

Posted in General Store, New Media and Tech at 12:01 PM

I have a very special first-world problem. It’s not the kind that revolvers around money, or stuff, or even the temperature of my latte. It’s a social media first-world problem. 

I joined Twitter early. Like, in February or March 2007. I was actually invited in late 2006, but there’s no need to gild this particular lille. Because I could, I claimed the Twitter name @shelly for my own. Had I not joined Twitter for professional reasons, I would have been @shellyspodcast, which is how I rolled in those days, producing my own weekly eponymous podcast for the enjoyment of hundreds of people. But in 2007, I was also managing editor at the late lamented Blogger & Podcaster, and was writing my first feature article for the magazine. The B&P publisher was eager for me to put Robert Scoble, noted tech gadfly and early adopter of trendy things, on the cover of our first issue. Robert was evangelizing Twitter, just then. Fortunately for me, this made him eminently stalkable, once I had also signed up and followed him. When Robert came to Austin for SXSW in March, I tracked him to a meetup at Salt Lick, a famous BBQ emporium. I never actually got to speak to him there, due to an abundance of panting fanboys who surrounded him at all times. (I did talk to him later, having observed that people who pronounce how open and transparent they are usually have their own rules about what that means, and the obeisances expected.)  In the end, Twitter did provide a nice lede for my Scoble story. 

The trouble with having a Twitter name that is also your first name is that folks use it in @mentions that are addressed to people who are not you. Some don’t realize that typing a space after @shelly will direct the mention to my timeline (as in @shelly kramer). Others have a friend named Shelly, and don’t bother to look up that person’s actual Twitter name. Finally,  Internet sharing tools will sometimes introduce a space where there shouldn’t be one. That’s how I get lots of mentions intended for a woman who shares dessert recipes on Pinterest. She’s very popular, by the way.

The long and the short of all this is that my morning rituals now include blocking Twitter mentions that belong to others. Tweetdeck on the desktop excels at this this. Sometimes, there are a couple of notes (often in a language I don’t speak) addressed to random Shellys around the world. There’s also a Shelly who has adopted the persona of a white teenaged girl who is a virulent racist. Perhaps that’s actually who she is, but I sincerely hope it’s a fake identity. Apparently, there are a couple of reality TV “stars” named Shelly, too. People don’t like them very much. Occasionally, one of the other Shellys, usually the one who is both a dude and a “social media expert”, gets retweeted heavily. On those mornings, I hit Block quite a bit. God help me if he’s attending a social media schmoozefest; aka a conference. 

So whadaya think? Should I tweet this post out to all the Shellys of the Internet? Will they @mention and retweet me back, or is @shelly destined for a thousand block lists? 


Mainstream Cheerleaders Defend Apple Accessibility

Posted in Access and Disability, General Store at 1:24 PM

Last week’s kerfuffle about the National Federation of the Blind’s (NFB) resolution asking Apple to make a more vigorous effort to ensure the accessibility of third-party apps accomplished several things: it got lots of mainstream attention for the NFB, and united the Apple-centric press in righteous indignation over perceived defamation of the Cupertino company. What it didn’t do, in mainstream journalism, at least, was facilitate a discussion of what the NFB resolution seeks, or whether it’s reasonable. The controversy has also not demonstrated that the Apple defenders in the press actually know much about the relationship between accessibility support in the OS, and the need for implementation by app developers.

So here’s what happened. NFB members passed a resolution (Word doc) asking Apple to strongly encourage, if not require, that app developers make their software accessible, as a condition of availability in the App Store. And by that, the resolution means that developers should take advantage of accessibility hooks provided in Apple operating systems, so that interfaces and content can be read by the VoiceOver screen reader, or viewed by people with low vision. The “whereas” portion of the NFB resolution actually does a thorough job of describing how apps are rendered inaccessible, how blind consumers often inadvertently purchase inaccessible apps, and how updates sometimes break pre-existing access support. The resolution suggests that since Apple already exercises a lot of control over what gets into the App Store, adding an accessibility requirement is consistent with the company’s highly-regulated approach to app approval.

Next came the Reuters article, which stated (incorrectly) that NFB had sued Apple over accessibility in the past. The author then took a famous Tim Cook quote about Apple’s reasons for championing accessibility out of context. Finally, several leading Apple-focused writers rose as one to defend Cook’s good name, eviscerating the Reuters piece, and praising Apple’s commitment to accessibility in the distant past, in the now, and for all time to come. (And Google sucks, by the way.) This Fortune article does a nice job of fleshing out the story, and linking to more Mac press responses. 

Here’s the thing: lots of folks in the Apple-centric press have a regrettable tendency to cheerlead. Call it advocacy journalism, homerism, or reality distortion field, but it’s a fact of the way many who cover Apple’s every move ply their trade. Whether Fortune’s assertion that they responded at the behest of Apple PR is true or not, the discussion certainly wasn’t very substantive; beginning with the erros in the Reuters article, and winding up with unreserved praise for Apple’s leadership in accessibility, and their altruistic commitment to it. 

A few things were missing:

  • No mainstream article I could find included the opinions of people who use Apple’s accessibility tools, whether affiliated with NFB or not. Newsflash: blind folks are not united on this issue, and they know about what makes an app accessible, and whether and when it’s reasonable to take Apple and developers to task. Marco Arment makes a detailed case for including accessibility support in the app review process.
  • Apple writers were extremely concerned about getting Tim Cook’s words down completely and correctly, but none bothered to link to the resolution that started this beef, never mind exploring what motivated it, or whether what the resolution asks for is reasonable or possible. For their reference, Jonathan Mosen’s response attempts to explain the issue by taking a historical view of tech accessibility, and Apple’s role in its evolution.
  • This isn’t an Apple versus Google story, no matter how much some would like it to be. And if that’s really the story a journalist wants to write, it would be important to address the degree to which Apple controls what goes on in the App Store, and how that makes enforcing access requirements on app developers much more possible in the iOS world than on the Android platform. 

Even in the accessibility community, the Tim Cook quote about why Apple makes its products accessible is held up as a reason to venerate the company. But as proven by the manner of the MacPress response to this little dustup, it’s much easier to cut and paste pretty words from the CEO than it is to take on the challenges and successes of accessibility on a substantive level. Whether you’re a fan of the NFB resolution, or think it goes too far, its real value is as a conversation-churner. Apple understands that conversation is happening, probably far better than most of its journalistic cheerleaders do.