Main

November 23, 2007

BarCamp Leeds: 2007

I've been meaning to blog all week about Barcamp Leeds, and to this end I've been nagged to the hilt. I've rather neglected this blog as of the late which is another story. So many things I want and need to say, but not the subject of this post.

Last Saturday I attended Barcamp Leeds: 2007. This was a hearing geek event, which I'm going to write about but I will also try and throw in some Deaf perspective.

Bar Camp Leeds 07

What is Barcamp?

Its an unconference, where sessions don't get planned. A group of geeks get together, throw about their creative energy and networks, and make the day what it is. Of course, this event does not happen by itself, and requires planning, commitment and sponsorship on the part of a few people, who deserve a thumbs up.

Bar Camp Leeds

So many conferences could learn from an unconference theme, as it forces participants to organise and be creative rather than being passive receivers. Deaf events especially, where everyone expects to be spoon fed, and through a traditional paternalistic attitude, hampers creativity. Instead lets encourage the creative juices to flow, and demonstrate how people can truly rock.

What was special about this Barcamp, it had two Deaf attendees, and two BSL/English Interpreters. Except, I'd forgotten how much of a bubble geeks can live in, and what can only be labelled as a geek culture.

Bar Camp Leeds

On arriving at the venue, one of the interpreters asked, "Why is everyone taking photos?"
The only answer could be given, "Because they are all Geeks" (with a capital G of course!) Mainstream people possibly have yet to latch onto the fact geeks record everything, and share their lives online. Such as uploading photos of the event to Flickr.

This was my first mainstream geek event, and I'd been out of the loop for a while, so I was nervous. Whilst I can absorb uses of social software online, and have an early adapter streak in me, being in a physical space was another ballgame entirely. J and I had the conversation beforehand, 'What if we aren't geek enough', and perhaps started to feel a fraud. Had we robbed someone of their place at BarCamp, since the event was full and oversubscribed. However, one thing I'm particularly keen on promoting is reminding the mainstream we are out there, and to think of wider use of applications and accessibility, beyond the immediate obvious.

Presentations

The presentations we're really decided on until the start of the day, where attendees could grab slots and present on a topic of their choice. The presentations were numerous and three sessions happened simultaneously, so you had to take your pick which one you wanted to attend. From a Deaf perspective, the biggest downside was lack of detail on the content: 'live demo', what did that mean? Sure I loved the flexibility, and the relaxed attitude to it all, however the traditional me was yearning for more information to make better choices. The fact people were crowded around a board made up of post it notes, underlined the informality and on the spot creativity of it all, but I couldn't help think ... isn't there a tech solutions for this? Okay had wifi being used to post / view all this electronically, perhaps it would not had the same mash up feel to it. I'm not complaining, it was just a point that made me smile inside.

TV 3.0 Harnessing the Power of Fans: Mark Sailes

I had two motivations for attending this session: multimedia content is usually not accessible for deaf people (the internet is going backwards in terms of deaf access, from a largely text based platform which was great to audio content) and the desire to encourage people to think about this; and secondly my curiosity needed to figure out where the 3.0 came in. How this as supposed to evolve beyond 2.0, which was about user interaction as opposed to take the information and go 1.0 approach?

This session essentially was about tagging moving picture on IPTV. The example used in the presentation by Mark was tagging of characters through perhaps a series. Say you wanted to home in on character Joe Bloggs throughout a series, and how that character develops. Via prior tagging of his appearances, it would allow you to easily locate and thus just watch content where they appeared.

Discussion took place around whether this would be useful, and questions arose around would such tagging lack context?

However, I couldn't help but think of wider uses: tagging themes, and presentation modes. E.g. if a video contained BSL, and to use this as a wider application. To dig out BSL across the net is difficult, and via multiple tagging e.g. BSL + soap, would return x number of hits. A good way of retrieving information that had been decentralised. All this reminded me of Dabble.

The session went slightly off tangent in re how hearing people will talk on the telephone at the same time as watching a particular TV programme, and whilst this is happening and more to the point discuss what was happening on tv. Parallels were presented how interactive television would would, discussion alongside media. As a side note I will sometimes discuss television on IM, but its usually as a passing reference: its sometimes difficult to watch two screens at the same time, where hearing hearing people have an advantage of auditory input. Interactive television via a computer could somewhat alleviate this, with the benefit of conversation / television happening on the same screen.

In all a useful session, and made you think about where the net was going.

Why big companies are missing a trick by ignoring social media: Ian Green

This was quite possibly the presentation I enjoyed the most, because of its personal touch and another example of end application. My real interest is how people use online space to come together and create a social space and also collaboration. Software always has to be about end users. In a nutshell a group of bloggers created their own Whisky Private Members' Club, to distill their own whisky! My liking of whisky really does not have anything influence over bias here, honest!

The club was set up in response to members being fed up of companies dictating to the consumer a product, and feeing powerless to change this over and above the usual laws of supply and demand. Here an economic model was taken further, by mass collaboration of consumers, and vast geographical space that arose out of specialism was overcome by using online tools, of a many to many nature.

Membership cost over £3k, and in turn people came together to buy land in Scotland, pull a distillery together, plan a blend to be ready in 5 years time. The leases arising out of this purchase would last 50 years. In other words, some form of a business. What fascinated me was the trust that had been established through software alone, and the fact these people felt confident enough to go ahead an invest / set up a long term business.

I think Ian cited another example of business partners who had been in business several months, yet had their first physical meeting / met for the first time several months later. This gives rise to the suggestion that blogging as a tool really can help you trust a person, whereas something like a forum it would be more difficult to achieve that level of trust. It underlined how different types of software could have a different influence on personal relationships as the end result.

This I can relate to, I've collaborated with a couple of projects with people whom I would call 'friends', yet I've never met them in real life! And I've only known them online for 3-4 years, and speak to them practically every day. They possibly know more about me than someone who I would see in a physical space. There were so many parallels I could take away from this presentation, and it was good to get a totally different context or application.

Deaf people reading this, its an excellent case study of what can be done, including the power of individuals to turn things your way.

Ian's presentation slides can be found here.

Open Street Map: Tim Waters

This was around GPS, and what was funny from a Deaf perspective was its application to hearing people. How looking at a GPS system you perhaps start to bump into things, or not appreciate your environment! Bumping into things like lamposts (usually because of watching someone signing) is something that Deaf people probably go through frequently! It was rather surreal to watch the principle applied to the masses.

The idea was that you could either receive GPS information via audio, or via tactile information. It was the latter that interested me the most, and it was suggested on the back of a GPS device that a series of pins were placed. These pins would change depth when a point of interest was reached, this a person could leave the device in their pocket. Of course I immediately thought about deafblind people, and perhaps it could be a method of navigation.

The other point from this talk, people could upload points of interest to their GPS device, for example history about the area, restaurants, etc depending on what level they wanted. This was good, but what would be even cooler would be an open API for this, where communities could create their own specialist maps, e.g. Deaf history maps, Jewish maps, etc., which would be cost prohibited by the mainstream.

Presentation slides can be found here, and the visuals should explain this better.

Edocr: Manoj Ranaweera

This presentation was around getting feedback to documents created, and enabling a two way street via an application called Edocr. I found it difficult to latch onto this idea at first, as personally, if I want to access information online, I expect it to be presented in web fomat and not documents. Thus I found it slightly difficult to get into a corporate mentality.

However, I can see the benefit where companies would want this, and it kind of brings a compromise Web 2.0 approach to a corporate environment, in that it encourages constructive feedback from an intended audience via comments. Allowing users to view other comments, would encourage wider feedback, which in theory should be higher than expecting someone a random reader just to e mail to give feedback.

Edocr encourages documents to be uploaded on a central website, which comes across as a hosted solution. However, I could not help think that some large companies or services might want more control of user feedback and content, and thus want the application installed on their own server. A bit like when it comes to blogging, installing Wordpress or Movable Type on your server, as opposed to a third party hosted solution. I immediately had to wonder if there would be a market for choice, to allow some companies to retain control?

Not quite the presentation (the link for the presentation on SlideShare was a bad link), however here's the slides for similar talk: Wikis and Edocr.

BarCamp Ottawa

As part of the Edocr presentation, there was supposed to be alternate presentations from
UK-Canada via the net, however this never happened due to technical issues.

Bar Camp Leeds

Intelligent human-computer interfaces and their possibilities: Reinhold Behringer

This presentation I landed in accidentally, as the interpreters had not moved when I went to get a drink, and ended up watching a presentation on computer human interaction! In a nutshell how to get a car from A to B via a lot of obstacles, with no human driver. This involved some sort of artificial eye, and huge monetary prizes (millions) paid donated by the Defence budget in the States. Immediately I had to think of other uses for this 'artificial eye', which could navigate obstacles. Could a variation be applied to blind, or deafblind people via auditory or tactile guidance? Of course I had to wonder if such an application used by others would work *with* a person, as opposed to an attempt to turn this around and change their being. (cf: the cochlear implant debate and Deaf people).

There was a couple more ideas (read presentations) in this slot but by this time my head was mush.

J and I left late afternoon, and by this point I was exhausted. For personal reasons, I had not followed an interpreter for that length of time for ages, and my eyes had given in, my head given up. My regret? I wish I had the opportunity to network in an informal setting later, but recognised I was still new to this scene. Perhaps next time.

Apart from the brain food, a huge thanks to Imran Ali, Tom Scott, Dom Hodgson, Deb Bassett for the organisation of fab event and pulling together a group of cool people. Thanks for allowing me to experience such energy and inspiration, you all rock.

About BarCamp Leeds elsewhere:
Slides on Slideshare
Flickr: BarCampLeeds tag
Imran Ali: We Made a BarCamp!
Graeme Moss
Simon Wheatley: Mark Sailes TV 3.0
Mark Rushworth & Dominic Hodgson: SEO Clinic at BarCamp Leeds 2007
Simon Wheatley: Introduction to WordPress at BarCamp Leeds 2007
Tom Smith
Kevin Whitworth
Ian Hay
Mike Nolan
Connect Yorkshire
Peter Childs
Paul Stanton
Tom Smith
Dom Hodgson
Ian Green
Manoj Ranaweera

May 11, 2007

Firefox extension to work with third party subtitling sites?

This is an e mail I've just sent to Access Firefox, and copying this into relevant parties, in respect of the need for a plugin plus an open source standard in respect of subtitling by third party sites, and the need to communicate with its end users over subtitling provision. I am hoping that this will generate some action:

Hi Ken

I got your e mail address from Deaf UK Technology, as an e mail of yours was sent there a couple of months ago. You introduced yourself from Access Firefox and were interested in what Firefox extensions Deaf people wanted.

At the time I said on the group plus blogged about this here, that I was interested in a notification to let me know if sound was
being played, and to have the choice of turning this off, or receiving a notification (if I wanted it) that sound was being played.

Since then, there has been some developments in respect of subtitling online, by third party sites. Instead of repeating myself here, I blogged about this. Would you mind taking some time to read this?

This issue is not going to go away, and I see it as becoming more of an issue.

Since one firm cannot subtitle everything on the web (unless your name is something like Google), I can see this becoming a multi company market. e.g. Legislation in the UK for example may push up demand anyway, and with it could be some outsourcing. (I am not suggesting that subtitles away from the main site is the best idea, however, I can see it being one example of a solution).

So how do Deaf people keep up? Expect us to visit each and every site to check if something has been subtitled or not?

To this end, I believe that a Firefox plugin can assist here, not only from the Deaf person's perspective, but the company's too in that it continually reminds users they are there (bit like RSS in this respect). Hopefully, if such a plugin is developed, to include a bundle, where Project ReadOn, dotSUB, any other players are included as a default. Other providers to be added if they enter the market.

I appreciate this would mean some open source standard / API by subtitling sites, in order for these sites to talk to a subtitling version of BlogRovr. I wonder if some partnership could be worked on?

Please forgive me for being forward here, but I would really love to see this addressed. I've copied this into dotSUB and Project ReadOn plus the Open and Closed Project, for their information. I've also copied this into a couple of Deaf people too, as they may be able to offer a perspective.

Unfortunately, I don't have an e mail address for BlogRovr, however there is a contact page on their website if this is a way to go. Just to let you know, I'm also going to blog this, as its something I would like to actively encourage discussion.

Many thanks, Alison

If you have an interest in this field, or something to offer please use the comment box or blog about this and link back. We really need some discussion around this, and for Deaf people to lead the way in what they want.

See also:
Evelyn Glennie at TED, and solving subtitling notification online

Deaf people & Firefox Extensions
Online subtitling & getting Geeks to notice the need for diversity
A Gamer asks for subtitles
BBC & accessible online content
IBM addresses multimedia access for blind. Deaf access where?
Vlogging grows, where's the subtitles?

May 8, 2007

Crunchgear: Deafies are a good cause

Crunchgear thinks deaf people are a good cause:

Someone using technology for a good cause and not just to pump out more megapixels or whowhatsits per second.

Wish sites would see past feeling sorry for us or rather people trying to help Deafies, and actually step back here. I for one would like an objective review of VeeSee, from the mainstream. If this was a mainstream site, what would you say? See past the sign language, and what's your take as an iPTV site?

Note to Crunchgear: yes I get the whole long tail thing, and the point of your post re niche markets. Specifically relating to Deaf people, there is a need to utilise developments online particilarly around sign language. There is much needed to be done also, particularly in respect of inclusiveness. To this end, I would call on people like Joost and venture capitalists, to work in partnership with Deaf companies such as Remark! (and its counterparts in other countries) to produce sign language iPTV. Allow the mainstream to educate and work in partnership with minority communties, to share knowledge. Such initiatives have to be done in partnership with and led by Deaf people.

Deaf people reading this post, I would encourage you to participate here, to get our ideas across to the mainstream.

See also:
Vee See makes BBCi News Technology: Paternalism 2.0? (Noesis)
Vee See makes BBCi News Technology: Paternalism 2.0? (Grumpy Old Deafies)
VeeSee
Interpreters and the whole set up scaring me

May 7, 2007

Speeding up YouTube download time

speedbit.jpg

Speedbit has had a million downloads in 49 days. A million people via word of mouth can't be wrong! It speeds up videos via YouTube. Good for watching signed videos, and no need to press pause to wait for the thing to load.

diagram.jpg

Shame this doesn't work with other video output online, could really make use of it on other applications.

Via Scoblezier.


April 11, 2007

VeeSee

veesee.jpgVeeSee is a website that has been launched in the UK by an interpreter, Susie Grant. The site is operating under the Deafeatures Ltd.

Before I go any further, I really want to be positive about online development, but I'm really struggling here. More about that later. The site has a very strange mix of web 1.0 content and design, mixed with a web 2.0 approach through a social network. On the face of it, the site offers:

A Marketplace, like eBay aka Sell and Buy:
Just like eBay, you can list items for sale. The cost is anything between 20p and £1.50 depending on price band. Before you think about selling your stack of old hearing aids, it is banned.

My immediate question here: why would I want to list an item here, when I get a bigger buying audience over at eBay, Amazon Associates etc, which would push the price up? Why are Deaf people any different in this respect, and what are the advantages of using this site to a mainstream one? The only thing I can think of, is selling specialist products or reaching out to a niche market. Auctions for general stuff, I can't see how it benefits me?

Courses, aka Sell and Learn:
You can get paid to upload course materials online. Exactly how much is unclear, and my guess payment will link into the quality of materials and demand. However, should you wish to follow a course online, you need to pay. This is not immediately obvious and I get this information from the terms and conditions which talks about refund for courses should one be cancelled.

My immediate response to this is around online learning. In a society where online content is not freely accessible, and hearing people are able to either (a) access free sites, or (b) access LSC supported sites where discounts are available should one be on benefits, it kind of capitalises on inequality. However, how much different is this to private companies offering courses? Deaf people need to ask themselves this question, and sufficient discussion needs to take place.

Social Network site, aka VeeSee Community:
Deaf people in the UK hang out on Bebo these days. To build a social network, it takes a lot of effort and where is the attraction to register? There appears to be no open source API in use, thus your own data locked in and not able to be transferred to another social network site. There needs the ability to insert widgets or content from say Flickr, YouTube.

"Hosted vlogs" aka VeeSee TV:
Signed TV with subtitles, or so it states on the website somewhere. This appears to be subscription based after one month. Actually I'm very confused about this, as there is this (when I looked appeared to be a lot of talking and no access) and a pop up box (that doesn't execute in Firefox) that is accessed from the top navigation bar, which provides some signed content. So where exactly am I supposed to go?

Why can't this material be placed on free sites? Where is the encouragement of vlogs? Is video online really TV? If its bandwidth that's justifying the fee, why not host videos at third party sites?

Information aka VeeSee EyeBytes:
From its title, it suggests easily digestible information. Only its not. Where's the formatting of the paragraphs, my eyes just glazed over. Secondly, where is the BSL content? Where there is a 'National Calendar'? Its just blank this end, and there's no RSS. How would this be different from other sites that already provide the same?

Chat and Discuss:
This feature hasn't been launched yet, only its "Coming Soon", therefore I cannot comment. Its not in the interests of any site to launch with pages missing. If the content is not there people are not going to go back.

Some other comments:

Who's advising you? This site is already in danger of falling flat on its face.

Patronising: The first newsletter (PDF file) says "... and never have to feel alone or isolated again". That by itself makes me never want to visit again, and boycott it. What doesn't already exist on the net already that doesn't allow me to interact with other people? There are other examples on the site that makes me ask this.

Paternalistic: In an age where blogging and vlogs are gaining steady ground, why is an interpreter setting up this site and people send in their videos, and moreover payment has to be made to access this? Why can't people just upload videos to YouTube? Where is the empowerment to allow Deaf people to create and own their own content? Own pages on another site really doesn't do it. Whist there might be every good intention here, it fails to really get its aim. Content has to be decentralised. My other question around centralised content, and locked in data is around how money is made in that manner. The same questions could be asked of mainstream hosted sites though.

Lack of accessibility to the Deaf Community: For a website that wants to exist around the Deaf community, there is very little or nothing by way of BSL navigation or dissemination of information. The terms and conditions contain words such as: circumvent, perpetual, irrevocable, proprietary, "Verified Rights Owner program" (USA spelling).

Long sentences such as this one, "Without limiting other remedies, we may limit, suspend, or terminate our service and user accounts, prohibit access to our website, remove hosted content, and take technical and legal steps to keep users off the Websites if we think that they are creating problems, possible legal liabilities, or acting inconsistently with the letter or spirit of our policies. We also reserve the right to cancel unconfirmed accounts."

In all the waffle around terms and conditions, "We do charge fees for using other services, such as listing items. When you list an item or use a service that has a fee you have an opportunity to review and accept the fees that you will be charged based on our Fee Listings, which we may change from time to time." People should not be expected to read a load of inaccessible English to find that out.

I should not need to say this to an interpreter.

Layout is messed up in Firefox: I do not want to be forced to open IE to view VeeSee. However, you are forcing me to do this, as in Firefox I get half a screen, where the video plays at all.

One month is not long enough for a trial, plus to bribe me into paying: I'm not going to get hooked, I will watch free vlogs elsewhere instead. Who is seriously going to pay? As for payment, how many people have access to a credit card? I don't use them.

Lack of transparency and bad navigation: The navigation is nothing short of hell. See my comments under VeeSee above. There isn't consistency in presentation of information. From this page, its subscription based after one month. However, it took me a while to find it. The site is obviously out to make money and be run as a business, however, it needs to be clearer.

Tries to do too much: Tries to be too much, and my head is all over the place. Things such as advice leaflets are in danger of being dated extremely quickly. Do you have the resources to do this? Would people want an advice environment, when you are trying to get them to hang out too? What part of the site that is UNIQUE?

Lack of RSS capabilities: if a website does not have RSS or a blog these days, I really don't want to know. Bottom line, I'm not coming back. Web designers in the UK really need to understand this.

Stupid terms and conditions: Who wrote all this? This bit made me laugh, "You agree that you will not use any robot, spider, scraper or other automated means to access the Websites for any purpose without our express written permission." So they don't want Google, Live, Yahoo Search etc to find them? What's the point in having such a website if noone can actually find it? Search engine bots have to write to them first? As a friend said, I would like to see this being enforced in court.

Whilst this site has possibly been established with the best of intentions, it gets it wrong. In an era when Deaf people should be owning and hosting their own content, where decentralisation of information is a mainstay, here we have the complete opposite. I'm saying all this, not because I want to knock down effort. I want a better quality space, especially in the UK, and right now its not happening. All I'm capable of feeling is embarrassed and ashamed, the UK can do better than this.

April 10, 2007

BBC & accessible online content

bbclogo.gifLast year I issued a formal complaint and threatened legal action against the BBC as far as the lack of subtitling and BSL being produced online. For those of you who are interested, this is the latest state of play:

Subtitling Trial: subtitles are being trialled on multiple sites. Participating sites include: See Hear, Video Nation, Click and Panorama for subtitles in English and Capture Wales and Eorpa (Welsh or Gaelic).

Online BBC catch-up TV: is being launched this summer. BBC iPlayer, will also feature subtitles, in addition to BSL translated programmes broadcasted in the Sign Zone. This will launch with upwards of 25% of the supported programmes being available with subtitles, but the service will quickly ramp-up to enable for us to confidently support the 100% commitment to programme subtitling in 2008/09.

Signs of Life: an online project that will also feature subtitles for the first time on an online interactive drama built in Flash.

BBC Standards and Production Guidelines: this is being written for producing subtitles for all our future online Flash Video/Animation, Real and Windows Media content. This will be published in early Summer 07, and will appear on the Standards and Guidelines page.

My comments: It is good that progress is being made, but I have to wonder if this is happening too slowly, with not enough publicity? As a public service, the organisation has an obligation to make its content accessible, and for me this has not happened fast enough.

Accessibility needs to be addressed from the outset, not a mere afterthought and should be appearing from the word go for multimedia content. Whilst the BBC's objective might be to provide "quality, consistency, reliability, and scale ability", frankly *any access* is better than nothing. Yes I want quality, I appreciate the BBC needs resources to provide access, but does it have to happen so slowly? The BBC does not have a problem with provision of this through delivery of other content. For example, the BBC might not feel the use of Real Player ideal (it is developing iPlayer), but it does not stop them producing multimedia in this format.

Whilst the BBC is making progress here, one immediately has to think about other broadcast companies, such as ITV and Channel 4. As private companies their obligations may be different from a public funded organisation, however the DDA still applies. What if I wanted to access 4OD?

What are you doing in your country to promote online accessibility? What relevant laws apply?

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?

January 23, 2007

BSL / English ICT Dictionary

The BSL/English ICT Dictionary has been released, and available online.

This project was managed by DirectLearn, and follows a similar structure to previously released BSL/English online glossaries: ArtSigns, Engineering Signs and Science Signs. Provision of such publications goes some way to raising the status of BSL, in the face of criticism.

As with previous glossaries, it faces criticism in respect of BSL standardisation, and signs being unfamiliar to those who use them. What happens when you use a different sign to what is on a website? It becomes an issue where BSL students and perhaps interpreters start to use it as a web resource.

Correct sign usage becomes noticeable in the context of associated signs relating to mailing lists, and possibly the oldest signs and most distributed signs in existence in UK after signs relating to e mail, internet; as its tech that people in the UK are most familiar with, and been in common usage since 1998.

Is this really the sign for client? Fingerspell blog? A sign for this has existed since at least 2004, and can be found on blogs on the net. Vlog - is not the sign that is used by people who vlog regularly. Where's the sign for Web 2.0, which has been the buzzword for the last 2-3 years? Long Tail? Decentralised networks? Social Network? Synchronise? Blogger? Vlogger? Digital identity? Widget? etc. These are all standard words I would use when discussing tech.

All the above comments aside, any attempt at recording BSL has to be commended, its no small task and takes a substantial step towards any future call for legal recognition.

January 16, 2007

Geni: Social Networking for families

Through the development of a very much work in progress Trefeglwys Online I've taken a strong interest in online collaborative working for genealogists, and ways how this can be improved.

I was just playing around with Geni, more about can be found here.

Its not the first social networking genealogy website, and GenMates is an example of an alternative site with a drive behind this. However, networking is not limited to families, and does include people who might be researching similar areas to you, but not yet found a connection. After all genealogy is not an exact science, and there is a need to go beyond immediate family and create other links to assist with research. However, perhaps that is not what Geni is setting out to achieve.

In a flash / ajax environment, Geni, makes it slightly more hip than other websites. Your individual details, which includes appearance, beliefs, education, favourites, and even a sprinkle of Web 2.0 thrown in asking for individuals YouTube, Flickr and Skype contacts! This is good, if you live in a particularly geek family, want to all network and everyone is Look I have a problem with imagining that my parents would understand this, nevermind my dead of 20 odd years grandparents and generations above.

Beyond living relatives, the fields feel so out of place: asking for the IM address of my ggg grandparents, its as if someone is taking me on a voyeuristic and surreal trip. Perhaps they do have wifi six feet under, or in the clouds, whichever way you want to look at it.

Although the site is in beta, It so painfully obvious that it has not been developed by a genealogist. For a start, where is the function to upload a GEDCOM file? I currently have 705 people in my family tree, and I really do not want to go through the process of having to input each individual again, for the sake of some third party software.

The other major failing with this application is the lack of space for raw data. Within genealogy, a tree is not a viable tree to other genealogists, until you can prove each step by primary data: census returns, birth certificates, baptism records, marriage certificates etc. Where is the space to input this? Or are we just going to take someone's word for it, a certain Joe Bloggs is theirs?

It feels extremely odd, when inputting a name for your ancestors, there's an initial field that asks for their e mail address. Perhaps, its a mould I need to break, and ignore this field.

There's a point, why bother with ancestors anyhow, they won't have a Flickr account, which the rest of the family needs to know about. However, in the absence of ancestors, you cannot include distant relatives and relationships in your tree, and move towards the site's motto, "Everyone's Related!"

The site needs to move away from being US focused, take the qualifications and languages in the set fields. Immediately, I want Welsh and British Sign Language to be amongst the languages on offer, and feel rather frustrated its not. Perhaps a blank field would be good here?

Despite the above points, and a lack of genealogy drive, it is good to see a Web 2.0 mentality coming to this field. Pushing genealogists into 2007 and beyond has to be a difficult task, when some are just starting to get to grips with the concept of e mail, nevermind anything else.

Update: I've been trying this out a bit more, and how I wish I could have a portable application to install on my website. What I really detest about this now is e mails becoming locked into the system. Once you’ve entered an e mail address of a relative, so far I can find no way of taking it out. Even tried to make the said living relative dead, no e mail address … but it comes back to the original address is retained. You cannot delete a person from your tree once their e mail address in inputted. This is a major concern, and discourages me from using.

Apart from the ajax / flash, in other words the visuals, how is this really different from Ancestry, Genesreunited, et al?

December 4, 2006

Power of blogging: Part 3

Last week I posted something about Crowd Spirit and wondered if we could make use of.

This has since been picked up by the Crowdsourcing blog, and comments on accessibility, and what might be accessible for us, could be accessible for all, and generally good practice.

If I had made the same comments within an e mail group, I doubt if comments would have been accessible, or linked to. Too much valuable opinion is locked away in this manner, and even through private e mails. Without a more public platform, others don't have the opportunity to learn and networks made, through an open dialogue. In this instance, connection could have mutual benefits, with new ideas being exchanged in respective circles. This can only be of benefit, and for us, a move away from dependency and frustration.

November 30, 2006

Sending large files to another user

Sending large files over the net can be annoying at the best of times, IM restrictions, e mail server restrictions, and many people lack the FTP know how to upload a file to a host, that's if they have access in the first place. Even when there's access, there's eating up bandwidth to consider. If we're going to make more use of communicating say through languages such as BSL, solutions need to be in place as far as how to transfer files.

You could of course make signed video content private on somewhere like YouTube, upload our photos to a private space such as Flickr, but what if you wanted the file to actually reach someone's computer, as a private file sharing?

There's some solutions:

drop-parachute-large.jpgDropload - Upload a file up to 100mb, the intended recipient is sent an e mail with instructions on how to download. This can only be downloaded once, and stored on Dropload's server for 7 days.

dropsendlogo.gifDropsend - a similar concept, with a larger file limit, you can upload files up to 1gb. The free plan only allows you to send up to 5 file sends per month, with a pricing structure thereafter. You can also store files online, there's a limit in respect of space, how much depends on your pricing plan. The free account gives you up to 256mb.

yousendit.jpgYouSendIt - a free account allows you to send files up to 100mb, and as many files as you want. Otherwise, there is a paid account option.

zapr.jpgZapr - you need to download an application, and instead of uploading to a server, to be picked up later, the file is transferred directly from one computer to the other, which requires you to be online to transfer. However, as its using a variation of BitTorrent, its not really private.

exaroom.jpgExaroom - This is restricted to a Windows platform, and requires a download. Once installed, you can share the content of your My Documents folder with others using the same software. There's questions happening in my head, how this is controlled from a security point of view.

pando.jpgPando - a desktop application, which allows you to send large files up to 1gb. Although an application is required to use, it gives the look of large files being sent via e mail (both POP and web based e mail), in addition to acting as an IM plugin to send large files. This is Pando's geek version of how it works, but essentially it uses a BitTorrent based back end.

Is there an application you make use of, that is not listed here? How do you send a large file to another user?

November 29, 2006

Open Source Video Conferencing

Communicating online often relies on written languages, which can oppress the usage of signed languages. There's various peer to peer applications such as MSN Messenger, Camfrog and Skype, each with their limits especially when it comes to communicating using BSL or another sign language. Deaf people generally prefer Skype, as being superior in quality for live video chats. Some people have used Camfrog for multi chats, but it requires payment and not without its set backs.

Deaf people and those working in this field will be familiar with a commercial application from Direct Learn and their delivery of English based Online Conferences. What about conferences, where you could use a visual language, move away from the obligation languages, and get around the need to be in one physical place. A community with a wide geographical spread after all? There's two possible solutions.

dimdim_logo.pngDimDim: open source, in alpha, code that is downloaded and installed on your own server. Current restrictions are that "Attendees can use either Internet Explorer 6 or Firefox 1.5 while Presenters can use Internet Explorer 6 or Firefox 1.5 on Windows (XP/2000/2003) only. which limits the software somewhat, however it is still in alpha.

1videoconf.jpg1Video Conference is an open source video conference software for your domain, which is still in alpha trial. It is currently the 6th most active download on SourceForge. More about its features can be found here.

Who will be the first to try it, which software will you go for, and when will it be used as a serious application?

November 28, 2006

Deaf manufacturing through Crowd Spirit?

Crowd Spirit is a Scottish-French start up, which helps consumers address products that they would really like to see manufactured. You can submit ideas, through collaboration turn this idea into a project, with definite specifications. The end result to encourage people to invest money, make the product happen, with the view of being able to purchase this.

Deaf people often complain that products, especially mainstream ones, are inaccessible to them. Companies don't listen to suggestions, or in fact we've given up of anything ever happening. Could a collaboration such as Crowd Spirit address this imbalance, and through collaboration, we are empowered to get what we need in terms of accessible products taken by the mainstream more seriously, and investment poured into this? Could this an excuse to move away from deaf organisations, and a community drive, with communication straight with investors and manufacturers?

What product would you like (re)designed, that is accessible?

December 30, 2005

SpinVox

SpinVox 'converts your voicemails into text messages and sends them straight to your mobile phone or email'.

Perhaps of interest to Deafies who still get annoying voice mail messages, despite telling people to the contary.

There is a 7 day free trial and pricing plans that start from £5. For Deaf business users or employees, perhaps this might be claimed back from Access to Work?

Alternatively, just do what I do, and ignore. If the sender wants to be so stupid, then its on their own head ...