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Talkr podcasting and accessibility

Monday, March 20th, 2006

I’ve had a bit more of a poke round the Talkr.com site and have a few notes.

  • Comments (the best bit) aren’t included, can I add an rss feed for these? Need to find out.
  • You can sign up with Talkr.com and subscribe to feeds of blogs that simply have an rss feed (they don’t have to be signed up with Talkr podcast).
  • The plugin has added the Talkr icon to every post but only recent and future posts will be available. Need to fix that.
  • Accessibility issues.

The main reason I installed Talkr was to get (the lazy man’s) idea of blog posts as they are read by screenreaders. It’s not a true version of course, I’m betting (hoping!) that Jaws and other softwares are more sophisticated than this. But it has immediately highlighted a few issues that we bloggers should start thinking about.

I’m racing against the clock now, we’re off to a birthday party tonight (full of musicians who jam at the drop of a hat, hooray!) and I need to bath, wash hair and find something slinky to adorn my sylph-like silhouette so I’ll just jot down a few notes and come back to it later. Oh and somewhere in the drafts folder I’ve a post about basic steps we bloggers can take to improve accessibility, will someone nag me into publishing it, please?

Back to accessibility. I hate to “pick on” Pam, (especially since she’s one of the funniest bloggers on the planet), it’s just that her blog was the first I subscribed to. Here is the spoken version of the first post that appears in her feed:

This story from beancounters is entitled based on a true story and was published on March 16 2006. The original story included an image with the caption ode at this point.

Eh? The written post is indeed entitled based on a true story but it contains a single image, a cartoon strip. Pam named the graphic ode.gif and uploaded it. TypePad then automatically used the graphic name as the alt attribute, giving us a useless “description” of the picture.

Oh and it’s not just Pam, my archives are full of badly presented graphics that I’m slowly trying to fix.

It really highlights a big issue that we bloggers ignore, mostly? partly? because of the blogging/cms softwares we all use. Why don’t they prompt bloggers to type in an alt attribute when uploading images? I know that WordPress does, Blogsome does but what about others? TypePad didn’t (has that changed?).

Anyway. Here’s the deal as I understand it. All images (apart from decorative ones such as icons that can be placed in the css and ignored by screenreaders) should have an accompaning alt attribute. Alt being short for alternative. That is, alternative text to describe pictures for those than cannot see them. If you’ve just posted a picture of, say, George Cloooney (mmm, yes please!), why not add a few words to describe the picture. Let your imagination run riot! I’m the world’s worst at finding ways to describe pictures but something is better than nothing.

And besides, if you’re interested in getting hits, you know what? Google will love you for it.

I’ll add more links later but Roger Johansson’s article, HTML tags vs. elements vs. attributes is a great place to start.

Back to Pam’s post. I couldn’t have picked a worst one to explain (well, I didn’t pick it, it was the first one I listened to). Not only is the text a bit wacky, it’s written in a fake French accent. My head is about to explode!

So let’s make this a team effort – what could Pam have written as an alternative text to the cartoon strip?

I realise the irony in asking for these suggestions – the image is invisible to non sighted readers so here is the text. A young girl is talking to a bird.

Eef I water, ze crab grass, she grow
Eef I do not water, ze dirt, she show
Ze conundrum, she ees brewing
Alors, Neighbour Bob,
What am I to be doing?

Wait, how about a prize? The best alt attribute text for Pam’s post gets a surprise gift.

The prize and the *ahem* lucky judge to be announced later. Sod it, is that the time? I have to run!

[tags]Talkr, podcast, accessibility, alt, attribute[/tags]

The importance of RSS feeds

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

I don’t use a feed reader. There, I’ve said it. It makes me feel slightly inferior and behind the times but I blame it on being left-handed more of a visual person – I need to come visit, enjoy your layouts, check out any changes. So I don’t pay much attention to what sort of RSS feed is generated, either by me or by any of you.

Then I read David’s post. I’m off to install SharpReader.

Update: After reading your suggestions, I’m going to try a web based feed.

Wimmin wot I admires, Part 1 – Techies

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

This dropped into my inbox yesterday with some guff about a man’s favourite body piercing on a woman.

Woman with her mouth zipped shut.

Hmm. Is it sexist to focus solely on female bloggers? Greater minds than I have debated this elsewhere but here in “gender doesn’t matter it’s what you say and how you say it” daisyland, we celebrate bloggers who have great blogs regardless of race, gender and religion.

On then to Gia’s idea of celebrating International Women’s Day tomorrow (8 March 2006) by sharing our favourite bloggers with the rest of the world.

Like Neil, I’m going to spread them over several posts because frankly, there are so many damn fine women bloggers.

Part 1 – Techies and Geeks

Now then, once you’ve gone and admired any new-to-you blogs in that there list, you can either scoot off and add your own list of great female bloggers (tell us where in the comments please!) or simply add a comment with your recommendations. More later!

[tags]International Women’s Day, Female, Geek, Tech, Bloggers[/tags]

Hosted v self installed WordPress

Saturday, October 15th, 2005

I was replying to Webby’s comment but it was getting too long and involved for a comment so I’ve moved it here.

Disclaimer: these are first impressions – I’ve been using WordPress for less than a week – more experienced wordpressers are very welcome to chip in with opinions (do, please!) and when I find errors later I’ll come back and update this.

Both hosted services
– Both the Blogsome and WordPress.com interfaces are very similar to the self install wp. You have the dashboard where you write/edit posts, manage comments and so on.

– You can write additional pages (About me, etc.) quickly and easily.

Blogsome.com
– You have a small range of useful plugins but for security reasons these are limited.

– Allows file upload of jpg, jpeg, gif, png files (300 KB per file limit).

WordPress.com
– The dashboard is again familiar but with a different (and much improved) colour scheme.

– Uploading pictures is very easy, I like that it’s part of the writing a post dashboard rather than separate (as with blogsome).

– No adverts (yet).

– No mention of plug-ins but they might be added when it’s out of beta.

By the way, Robert Scoble now has a wordpress.com blog, I think you’ll find this post interesting.

One thing to note with wordpress.com is that I can’t see any way to edit the theme (a dealbreaker for me). Hang on, Robert Scoble has edited the banner so it must be possible. Hmmm. Perhaps he has special privileges or has used a different theme that allows theme edits? I’ll know more when I have a chance to fiddle with my father’s wordpress.com blog (I’m still at the “but yes you DO want a blog papa!” stage) And of course, it’s still in beta.

Aside: another interesting wordpress.com blog – Lorelle on WordPress.

Update: I’ve just been reading the wordpress.com blog, here’s the post on editing themes:

Can I edit my templates?

We are definitely mindful of making everything more customizable for our users, but at the same time we don’t want people to have to look at HTML and CSS code, which is antithetical to the purpose of WordPress.com. If you want complete control over your enviroment, you’re probably better off running WordPress on a great web host of your own, but if you really don’t want to worry about that sort of thing just stick around and we’ll be adding more customizability as time goes on.

Self install

The thing that impresses me most about this self-install is the speed. Blogsome hosted sites can (but not always) be a little slow in page load and TypePad certainly has speed issues so it’s a revelation to see how quickly these pages load – even though all of the graphics are still linked to the Typepad servers (but I’m working on that).

– You can set up any plugin that takes your fancy.

– You can sign up for your own google ads and whatnot.

– You can upload files to your heart’s content (.mov, .mp3, .wav, etc.). If you’re interested in podcasting then self install would be the way to go I think. But of course that could change as podcasting gets more mainstream.

Summary

You know, I have all three dashboards open (WordPress, Blogsome, WordPress.com) side by side right now and I’m once again impressed by how much both free hosted sites have to offer and would definitely recommend either of them to anyone starting up their own blog/wanting to have a look at WordPress before committing.

Of the two, I prefer wordpress.com (assuming that there is or will be a way to make presentational changes to themes as you can with blogsome.com). blogsome.com because everyone wants to make changes, however small. And if they’re limiting it to just 7 or 8 themes then it’s going to get very boring very quickly.

Many people would find that WordPress.com/Blogsome meets all of their blogging needs and they’d not have to even think about paying for hosting and intalling wordpress “proper”. You can even have your own domain name and use redirect. I was going to suggest that you could buy one of the “webby” domain names and use a hosted wp service but the .net/.com/.fr/.de etc. are all taken [webby.be is taken too… wat een mooie hondje ;-)].

There are quite a few WordPress users on the (soon to be transferred) blogroll so if anyone feels like chipping in with advice for webby, feel free!

Blog charades #2

Monday, May 16th, 2005

Crayons

Blog charades is still going, see if you can guess Clair’s entry. I zink I know ze answer so chop, chop, I’m going to have a go if it’s not answered by tomorrow.

What Gia said ♥

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005

Gia said it best.

Thank you

Going to the Blogs?

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

Thursday night’s Analysis (31 March 2005) focuses on blogging and politics:

In last year’s American election the internet became one of the key political battlefields. Thousands of individuals took to their computers to discuss the issues on their own Internet web pages, or blogs as they are known. Suddenly the agenda was being set not just by the politicians and the spin machines, or the mainstream media and the press barons, but by anyone with a computer and an opinion.

But this is not just an American phenomenon. There are hundreds of bloggers in Britain already writing and researching their own web pages. According to former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, they will become “a force in Britain, and it could ignite many new forces of conservatism.” Some have even suggested that the Internet and bloggers will change the nature of political debate, journalism and even democracy forever.

With an election expected in May, Kenan Malik explores the world of Blogs and analyses whether they could really change our democracy.

It’ll be broadcast live at 20:30 BST then available on the Listen Again page for 7 days.

Spotted while checking that link: Christopher Eccleston has quit as Doctor Who after just one episode of the new series has been screened.

Blog charades #1

Friday, March 25th, 2005

As promised, here’s the first charade:

Category: Movie

Number of words: 3

Other things: Entire concept

Click on the graphic to see the picture clue : Charades01

Update: The winner is Daisy-Winifred at Animated Stardust. She guessed the answer to be Truly Madly Deeply and hopefully will be writing the next blog charade post.

Blog charades

Friday, March 25th, 2005

Crayons
For the Easter holiday weekend how about we start a game of charades?

The rules for conventional Charades are here but since we’re not all on the same continent, let alone in the same room, let’s amend them slightly.

  1. The first person to guess the answer in the comments below gets to create the next post.
  2. You don’t have to draw your entry, you can paste images, photos, etc.
  3. Use the crayon.gif above to introduce your post and one of the icons below to indicate category.
  4. Ah, if you can’t post pictures to your blog, ignore the previous rule :-) or feel free to h0tlink from here.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or are currently a “blogger without portfolio” but would still like to take part, feel free to comment and I’ll post your entry here.
  6. Suggestions for amendments happily accepted.

Book : Book title

Movie : Movie title

Play : Play title

Song : Song title

Tv : TV show

Quote : Quote or Phrase

I’ve taken the liberty of creating the first one (next post) because given my natural drawing ability (i.e. slightly better than a two year old but not by much), frankly it can only get better.

[Thanks to Icon Archive for most of the icons and Mandarin for the quote gif.]

EverNote

Friday, March 18th, 2005

Evernotelogo

I’ve been trying EverNote 1.0 Beta for a couple of days and so far I’m impressed:

EverNote makes it easy to store and quickly access all your notes — handwritten memos, web page excerpts, emails, phone messages, addresses, passwords, brainstorms, sketches, documents and more — on an endless, digital roll or paper.

Windows only I’m afraid. It’s a great tool for the link bloggers among us, have a look at the features. There are Firefox Web Clipper and Thunderbird extensions too but I’ve not tried them yet, too tired.

I keep it open on this machine throughout the evening, throwing in notes, ideas, links, etc. as I go along, knowing that it’s automatically saving at regular intervals. How does it compare to Microsoft’s OneNote? [I use that on the other machine.] The jury’s still out but once I have a chance to explore all the features and extensions this weekend I’ll keep you posted. I’ll also install it on the machine upstairs so that I can test the Ink note feature. I know that this is aimed at Tablet PC users but I’ve found using a Wacom tablet & pen with OneNote very handy for quick notes (especially when on the ‘phone and not able to type something quickly with one hand).

The biggest difference of course is that it’s currently free. OneNote retails at around £70 / $87.99 but you can pick up (legal) used copies for much less through the Amazon market place and so on (I paid around £15 for mine).

Anyway, more later when I’ve had the chance to explore.

I’d be interested to hear what tools you guys use and recommend – not just for blogging. Those that are free are especially interesting!

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