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February 26, 2007

WordSource: The Social Dictionary

A new online dictionary and thesaurus has been launched, called WordSource.

Its a dictionary with a difference in that it brings social networking to another level.

However, what really irritates me is its lack of user functionality. Take the word DEAF.

It defines it as:

- lacking or deprive of the sense of hearing wholly or in part; - people who have severe hearing impairments; "many of the deaf use sign language"

It then allows you to:

- upload a photo associated with that word;

or say:
- if you like that word;
- if you think you are that word;
- if you feel all warm and fuzzy inside about this word;
- if it would cause you to fail an English test;
- always have trouble spelling this word

There's problems with this. I don't agree with the definitions the site has to offer, e.g. impairment, depriving of a sense. Thus it because of the definitions on offer, does not make me feel "warm and fuzzy inside", but frustrated as to how the majority is capable of being oppressive. As soon as someone starts uploading a picture of must cure on there, of course its not going to make me feel good: I would just stare another example of oppression in the face. Perhaps someone should upload four positive photos before its too late.

Yet my definition of DEAF, can evoke warm and fuzzy feelings. The lack of ability for groups to define their own meanings, is a huge downside as far as being a social dictionary goes.

February 17, 2007

First sign language vlogs

Here we go again, discussion around the first vlog. I feel as if I'm living on a different timescale here, and watching the mainstream play catch up.

As a point of clarification, for Mike, whilst Helga used sign language on her website, it was not in the form of a blog. Back in 2004, we followed her site via Deaf Blawg (blog temporarily offline). In fact her standing for parliament was announced the same day as this blog was launched, so we closely followed her election campaign as a fellow lawyer. Her site was not in blog form, I was already becoming increasingly frustrated through the lack of RSS feeds / trackbacks. If you are going to go down the road of sign language being used on a website regularly, you might want to include Deaf Station, or in terms of BSL being used online, an earlier project called Art Signs.

This is how the first BSL vlog came about.

In 2004, I had been working on a website around BSL Recognition for about a year, and I wanted to push the use of BSL online. I'd been blogging at Language Wired but quickly gave up as I wanted to focus on sign languages, deaflawyers.org.uk and various personal blogs since April 2002, but but was frustrated at the lack of BSL.

From a geek angle, in February 2004, I joined Orkut (when it was new, full of geeks, and invite only) through a geek mate. Orkut at that time had rankings of people with the biggest social network, through this I started to get into reading geek blogs, and my interest in social software was born.

One of the feeds I picked up was Marc Canter's, and in August 2004, he posted something about video blogging. I subsequently joined this group, and posted my message here (incidentally I can remember typing this):

8 August 2004

Hiya

I've just joined this group, following a link from Marc Canter's blog. Thanks Marc. I am so pleased that this group is in existence.

I live in the UK, and I'm no techie, just an end user who is really interested in how the net can be utilised better. Specifically on video blogging, this is just the thing that I've been looking for in
relation to Deaf people.

Blogging is a great tool, but it relies on written English / other written languages, which can make it inaccessible for Deaf people. For some time, I've wanted to see video blogging ... whereby the entries are simply videos, which inevitably are signed by the Deaf person. This would be a huge advancement in terms of Deaf people collectively having a voice plus empowerment. Traditionally they've been at the mercy of organisations, which = paternalistic. I like the idea how blogs can be individual yet collective / interelated, and an great opportunity to record grass root opinion.

I am aware this would take up an enormous amount of bandwidth, plus server space .. so I question how realistic this dream is.

Deaf people are starting to use web chat rooms such as camfrog.com but this is obviously a chat room, and blogs are a different animal.

Ideally, I would like to see blogging software such as MT, Blogger etc, create video blogs and its not just uploaded files to a standard blog. If that makes any sense?

So that's why I'm here.

Alison

Note: these were the days before YouTube, blip.tv, etc, which did not appear for another 12-18 months!

I then encouraged Rob to join the group, and he posted. Jay replied and posted instructions on how to vlog (it wasn't known as that back then!) plus there was a flurry of replies on and off list. I couldn't upload video as I was still on dial up, but in the process of switching to ADSL. Rob then vlogged here, and even gained international mainstream press for his effort, including mention in printed press. I and Ben Fletcher followed with vlogs.

All this is nearly 3 years ago, and seems rather ancient now. I blogged about this at the time, and it can be found here and here.

Incidentally later that month we set up a BSL discussion group.

Jared asks the question of the ASL vlogs, and I can remember this clearly. It was around 2 January 2006, the day we launched deaf-blogs.com. Through setting up this aggregator, as a development team we wanted to push it as a sign language aggregator. However, at that time, blogging was relatively unknown in our community (and to think it was only 13 months ago!), thus thought it was impractical to push for vlogs alone. Incidentally, this discussion had been happening since September 2005, and outside e mail and IM discussion we started to push floating this idea publically in November 2005.

To this end, and as a compromise, we set up the front page of deaf-blogs.com for a vlog feed, to encourage people to post vlogs. Joe, Ben and Rob were particularly active during this time with posting vlogs. During the week that followed, a number of people responded via vlogs: Jen, Darren, and later people like Tyron plus John and various USAers. In the same week a sign language vlogging community was set up at Live Journal, alerted via englishdude and encouraged by us. The RSS cache has never been cleared at deaf-blogs.com and its very likely that the first ASL vlogs will be there (it had a substantial feed set up before it was publically launched).

Update: I've found another two blog entries back from September 2004 here and here.

Update 2: The Livejournal Signing Blogs group is here, this was set up a few days after the launch of deaf-blogs.com

February 12, 2007

Zlango

Zanglo icon communication tool, with rather limited possibilities for pictures. It reminds me a bit of Signwriting, however the hearing version of.

The limited pictures available was frustrating, but even more annoying was trying to find appropriate pictures to construct something half meaningful to say. The website cannot be aimed at people like me, since I'm too old to have supplies of patience needed. I suppose you would need to be a teenager with a strong visual liking to appreciate the site. Replace txt spk on mob deaf like dg?