tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:/posts Sarah E Bourne 2017-02-24T12:46:21Z tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1133675 2017-02-23T16:48:06Z 2017-02-24T12:46:21Z The myth of automated heading outlines

There's been a revived interest in automatically generated, logically nested headings maps. The HTML5 solution was to use the H1 element in each SECTION, and the browser would then figure out the correct level by the nesting of SECTION elements.  But browsers have not actually implemented this part of the specification, so this method does not work.

Heading outlines are particularly important for people using assistive technologies (see Background section below) so it would be a Good Thing if technology could help us improve their quality.

Further reading: The HTML5 Document Outline, by Steve Faulkner

Let's make a new element!

Jonathan Neal has put out a proposal to add a new element, H, to indicate the heading for a SECTION.  The idea is to provide a contextual heading for a given piece of content without having to know exactly what level it is in terms of the overall page. Browsers could then generate a logical outline based on nesting of SECTIONs.

This really leaves us where we are now: there is no value unless browsers actually implement it.

Further reading: The State of <H>, Jonathan Neal

What, actually, is the problem to be solved?

I have some bad news: heading and content hierarchies are based on the authors' intent and the what they are trying to communicate.  No algorithm can read a person's mind, so if you want your heading levels useful and meaningful, you have to do it yourself.  It doesn't really matter if you do it with numbered heading elements or by correct nesting, only you can know the relationships and hierarchies and make sure to use the markup that will best represent it.  If the author doesn't care about or understand content structure, nested SECTIONs will be abused just as badly as numbered headings.

The current debate seems to be stuck on how to generate an algorithm that can fix missing structure markup without breaking good structure markup.  I for one can imagine why browser vendors aren't interested in tackling this problem: you are guaranteed to make somebody angry with you.

Further reading: Do we need a new heading element? We don't know, by Jake Archibald

But what about content re-use?

The only real-life example of where code could help is content re-use.  In some publishing environments, you may have pieces of content that can be used in different places, and they may need different heading levels in those different places.  This is a legitimate issue, but in reality, it's not a very common one.

Content re-use is very appealing: there's only one place to keep information up-to-date while being able to pop it in everyplace it's useful.  We did a lot of work on enabling content re-use in Mass.Gov for these reasons. But it was almost never used: content often needed to be edited to make sense in the new context, and/or it was easier and better to just link to the existing content. When it was used, it created new content maintenance problems when the original was edited or deleted.  So, great idea, but not practical in most situations.

The wonders of content management systems

Where content re-use does make sense is in an environment with highly controlled information architecture and content curation, which requires a sophisticated content management system.  The obvious place to build automation for correct outlining is within that CMS, as part of the controls.  The page-generating code and templates control where different pieces of content go, so should also be able to control what heading levels are being used in those different places.

And that's pretty much what sites like this are doing already, so a browser-based algorithm is not going to solve any problems for them.

In less-rigid environments, with more content creators with greater latitude, you can still configure your CMS to make it easier for them to do the right thing. For instance, you can configure its WYSIWYG to not offer heading levels higher than authors should use.

Browsers are amazing, and are forgiving of so much bad markup, but it's not reasonable to expect them to fix everything.  When it comes to issues that have to with the actual meaning and purpose of content, it may not even be desirable to expect them to fix them.  Sometimes you just have to fix your own problems.

Background: Why headings are important

We use headings in written content to break up long chunks of text to make it easier to absorb.  A sighted user can easily scan the content to see what it is about and how it is organized.  Screen reader software gives users a list of headings and their levels that they can navigate from, or they can use keyboard commands to move from heading to heading, either sequentially or within a specific heading level.  There are browser extensions that give keyboard-only users similar methods.

If you have used heading levels correctly, it will be a logical outline of the content.  The most common errors are using only visual effects instead of heading markup, skipping levels, and incorrect nesting.

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1106403 2016-11-08T00:40:44Z 2016-11-08T00:40:44Z My history of voting and you should, too.

I went to high school in New York City, living with friends from my church.  I volunteered for the Mondale campaign, although too young to vote.  I was crushed when he lost. How could he lose when I cared so much and I had stuffed so many envelopes?!

I then moved to Boston for college. Meanwhile, my divorced parents had both moved.  I really had no idea where I lived, much less that I was able to vote in Boston. But I wasn't actually paying attention, disillusioned by politics and all.  So I didn't exercise my franchise for a number of years.

Then one day, Governor Dukakis was defeated by King and I realized that I was outraged, and felt guilty for not paying attention.

So I started paying attention and voting.  I have voted in every election since 1980, except one off-cycle local special election that slipped under my radar.

What I have learned over all those years is that local elections matter.  The person running for School Committee one year is running for mayor a few years later.  State Representatives run for Senate.  It's a pipeline, and if you want a President you feel like you can vote for whole-heartedly, you have to do your part to get the right people in all the lower level elections.

You also learn that people who run for office are people, and not a single one of them is perfect.  So you look to see if they share your values and priorities and how hard they work, and try to guess how much they may compromise themselves in order to get enough money to run again.  That any politicians are able to keep their souls intact is close to a miracle.  Expecting perfection is unreasonable.

The only way to change politics, and your choice of candidates, is to actually participate: research and vote, call and write them once they're elected, with questions, complaints, and thanks as warranted.  Let them know that you're out there and that you vote.  Otherwise, you are invisible and irrelevant.

The only vote that doesn't count is the one not cast.


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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/852812 2015-05-07T20:48:43Z 2015-05-07T20:48:43Z Placeholder text: clever, or too clever?

HTML5 allows you to have "placeholder" text - text in a form field to give hints about what you should put there.  There are a number of ways to use it incorrectly and poorly.  It should never be used as the label for the field, because it disappears as soon as you click on it or tab into it.  "Wait, is this the zip code field?"  And it shouldn't be used for important instructions, for the same reason.  "What date format did they want me to use?"

For simple forms, like a search box or a user name and passwrod login screen, you can sometimes get away with it.  How confused could people get with a login screen?

Well, it seems you can even mess up a login screen, if you get a little too clever.

The login form below uses placeholder text instead of labels.  The "name or email" is pretty clear.  And the use of dots, just like the ones that obscure your password from prying eyes is, too.  Isn't that cute?

Screenshot of login form with placeholder text being used as labels:


You click on the user name field and type in your name.  A very high percentage of users then think, "Oh, look, it remembered my password!" and click on the "Sign in" button.

Screenshot of login form, where the text for the first field has disappeared after selection, but the cute dots remain:


Of course the login fails, and your help desk is swamped with people who can't figure out why their password doesn't work.

If you come up with a very clever use of the placeholder feature, be sure you have some actual users do some testing, the ones who are just there to sign in, not admire how clever you are.  It's not good design if your users can't figure out how to use it correctly.


Further information on placeholder text:

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/807819 2015-02-06T02:38:39Z 2015-02-11T12:41:38Z Survival tips for accessibility leads

I received a request for some advice from a newly named Accessibility Lead for a government agency.  He said, "I am being asked to provide accessibility guidance on products / software I have never used before; and, in my opinion, this is a rather dangerous venture."  I knew exactly what he meant.  You feel like you are being asked to wave the magic accessibility wand over any old tech that happens to come along, while knowing that there is no magic.

This is what I told him.  If you are in the same position, I hope this helps you, too.

There is no way anybody can be an expert in every aspect of how to implement something accessibly in every technology.  I’m sure not!  So here are some survival tips.

  • Never claim to “know it all” or let others burden you with that.
    • Admitting that you don’t know everything gives you a lot more credibility.
    • It also leaves room to work cooperatively – let the devs, authors, etc. (“creators”) in on the discovery process and they will be more committed and learn more.  This is much preferable to a “dump it over the wall to the accessibility guy” approach, where it makes it look like you are the problem when issues are found.

  • The general principals are the same: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.  And the guidelines under them in WCAG2 track nicely to just about any technology area.  The actual implementation and authoring techniques are where things vary.

  • Always look to the technology provider (software vendor, for instance) for implementation guidance.  Look for their white papers or developer guides that address accessible implementation/configuration. If it’s not on their website, the creators need to contact the provider to get it (or to let them know that it’s important.)
    • Your creators should have found and been using these before they come to you.  If they didn’t, send them back to find it, compare the guidance with what they have done, and make needed changes before they return.

  • There may not be tools like we have for web-based technologies (accessibility checkers, code inspection tools) so you may end up having to do testing just with AT: screen readers, magnifiers, and speech recognition.  It takes longer and you’re more likely (as a human) to miss things.
    • QA discipline is your friend here.  Identify a matrix of AT, platforms, and browsers (when applicable) that you need to test on to find source errors (versus AT bugs) and write formal test scripts.
    • Involve the creators in testing so they can learn how to do at least some of it themselves, and so they understand the actual problem.
    • Get Actual Users to do testing, too, as a reality check and to prioritize the severity of any issues found.



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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87812 2013-02-14T02:03:53Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Stories

When Dave was a toddler, I would sometimes tell him stories at bedtime.  It was a good way to get him to settle down: no lights on, like you need for reading.

I don't remember many of those stories. There was a series about Bob (because he bobbed on the water) the (magic) golden sailboat and David and their ocean and harbor adventures. There was a whale with a deep slow voice and a hyperactive dolphin named Joy and a storm or two. About when the underwater city with its underwater inhabitants came around, the story sort of petered out.

One night, I couldn't come up with a story. No main character, no plot, no moral - I just drew a blank. But at that age, Dave was mad about trains, and it was winter. So I talked about the little trains and trolley cars that just went back and forth all through the storm, clearing the tracks inches at a time. And then about the train plows that come through after the storm, with their pointy noses sending up great wings of snow on either side, glinting and glowing in the sun, as they power down the long overland stretches of rail.

It was description, not story. It had a tiny lesson about getting things done by a big-bang approach, or by taking it little by little, but no judgment about which is better.  Did that even qualify as a "story"?  I didn't think so at the time; I rather thought I had wimped out that night.  But not Dave! To my surprise, he requested that story again and again, and remembers it still.]]>
tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87816 2012-04-25T23:09:50Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Hops in the Spring

Our hop plants loved the early warm weather we had. By mid-April, the first sprouts were already six to eight inches tall. They say you can eat them like asparagas, but such sacrilege would not be tolerated here.

Just a few weeks later, the first plants are already about three feet tall. We had set up the tripods last week, before the weekend's torrential rain. They doubled in size in that time! Plenty of other bines are appearing and doing their best to catch up to the earlier ones. As they grow, they reach for something to grow on. When they do, they start growing in a spiral aorund it. They don't have tendrils to hold on with, like vines do, but they do have hard nubs to give them a little traction.

They grow very quickly once they start climbing. They'll reach beyond the tripods by next week, so we're now rigging a trellis with rope, twine, a two-by-four and an old flag pole, and a hub cap. This has been used succesfully before. Really!

Once all the ropes are attached on the other side, to various bits of our house, we'll hoist the hub cap up the flag pole and pull it across, where the bits of twine tied to it and the ropes will dangle down in reach of the growing bines.

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87818 2011-12-15T03:00:00Z 2017-02-23T16:39:50Z You don't need to be Einstein to embrace accessibility

Accessibility ensures usability for all potential customers.

  • Use W3C standards
  • Test early and often
  • Consult with users

(I used a fun little tool to appropriate this famous picture of Albert Einstein at the blackboard, replacing it with this brief why and how of accessibility.)

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87819 2011-12-10T02:12:13Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Sunday Morning Country with Sparrows

Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., we listen to Sunday Morning Country on Boston College's radio station, WZBC (90.3FM, streaming at http://wzbc.org/listen.html) hosted by the incomparable Cousin Kate. That's what you're hearing in the background. The sparrows were very excited because we had just refilled the birdfeeder. It was mesmerizing to watch them swoop in and out, sometimes singly, sometimes en masse, seemingly in time to the music.

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87823 2011-12-05T00:03:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Early Fall In the West

Jon and I took a little jaunt to see the Rocky Mountains. We had a blast! When we came back, Jon wrote a narrative of our adventures, and then I added more pictures - selecting only the best of the thousands I took. The daily narratives are on Jon's blog and the pictures are on this blog, but here's a list of all the bits and pieces, for your convenience.

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87824 2011-12-04T23:32:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Rockies: After the West, October 15, 2011

Photographs to accompany After the West

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87826 2011-12-04T23:24:06Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Rockies: Devils and Presidents, October 14, 2011

Photographs to accompany Devils and Presidents

Hotel in Gillette

Prairie Dogs

Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument: Outer trail

Devils Tower National Monument: Inner trail

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial

Black Hills

Buffalo Gap National Grassland

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87827 2011-11-16T03:57:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Rockies: Head East, October 13, 2011

Photographs to accompany Head East

(YNP = Yellowstone National Park)

Gardiner

YNP: Elk

YNP: Undine Falls

YNP: Buffalo

YNP: Fox

Roosevelt Lodge

YNP: Lost Lake trail

YNP: Bear and antelope

Leaving YNP

Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highways

Shoshone River valley

Bighorn Mountains

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87828 2011-11-15T03:42:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Rockies: Yellowstone Is Awesome, part 2, October 12, 2011

Photographs to accompany Yellowstone Is Awesome

(YNP = Yellowstone National Park)

YNP: Old Faithful

YNP: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Day's end

Next:

Rockies: Head East, October 13, 2011

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87829 2011-11-15T03:12:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Rockies: Yellowstone Is Awesome, part 1, October 12, 2011

Photographs to accompany Yellowstone Is Awesome

(YNP = Yosemite National Park)

Gardiner

YNP: Roosevelt Arch and Albright Visitor Center

YNP: Mammoth Springs

YNP: Roaring Mountain

YNP: Artists Paintpots

YNP: Wildlife

Next:

Rockies: Yellowstone Is Awesome, part 2, October 12, 2011

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87830 2011-11-13T22:23:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Rockies: Rain, Moose, Elk, Mud (and Squirrel), October 11, 2011

Photographs to accompany Rockies: Rain, Moose, Elk, Mud (and Squirrel)

GTNP = Grand Teton National Park

YNP = Yellowstone National Park

Jackson

GTNP: Craig Thomas Visitors Center

GTNP: Jenny Lake

GTNP: Roadside vistas

YNP at dusk

Next:

Rockies: Yellowstone Is Awesome, part 1, October 12, 2011

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87831 2011-11-13T20:18:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Rockies: Long Road to Jackson, October 10, 2011

Photographs to accompany Long Road to Jackson

Leaving Grand Lake

Rabbit Ears Peak, Rabbit Ears Pass

Rt. 191

Dinosaur National Monument: Fossil Discovery Trail

Dinosaur National Monument: Quarry (aka Wall of Fossils)

More Rt. 191

Flaming Gorge

Rt. 191 to Jackson

 

Next:

Rockies: Rain, Moose, Elk, Mud (and Squirrel), October 11, 2011

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87832 2011-11-13T16:09:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Rockies: Rocky Mountain National Park, October 9, 2011

Photographs to accompany RMNP Day Two

(RNMP = Rocky Mountain National Park)

Grand Lake

RMNP: Kawuneeche Valley

RMNP: Holzwarth site

RMNP: ranger walk

RMNP: Green Mountain trail

RMNP: East Inlet trail

Adams Falls video:

 

Next:

Rockies: Long Road to Jackson, October 10, 2011

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87833 2011-11-13T13:33:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Rockies: Colorado and RMNP, October 8, 2011

Photographs to accompany Preamble to Early Fall In the West and Colorado and RMNP

Dawn departure from Logan

The road to Estes Park

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center at Rocky Mountain NP.

Elk at St. Mary's Lake

The road around Rocky Mountain to Grand Lake

Berthoud Pass

 

Next:

Rockies: Rocky Mountain National Park, October 9, 2011

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87834 2011-03-16T16:58:40Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Grandma Warner's Molasses Cookies

My grandmother, Gladys Warner, was a formidable woman. She raised a family of six while working as a cook in a logging camp in the Adirondacks. When she made pies, she made them by the dozen. She nursed her sister's twins at the same time as one of her own. She hunted and fished. She grew most of her own food, canning lots of it even after getting huge freezer chests. She could knit a pair of mittens in an evening. And she made the best molasses cookies I have ever had.

This recipe makes 8-9 dozen, so make sure you have about 3 hours. Note that it doesn't use eggs, dairy products, or nuts, so it's a handy recipe if you have to worry about food allergies.

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 heaping tsp. ginger
  • 2 heaping tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 heaping tsp. baking soda
  • 5-6 cups flour (about half a 5 lb. bag)
  • about 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together the brown sugar and shortening.

Add the molasses, honey, applesauce, salt, and spices and mix well.

Mix the baking soda into about 4 cups of flour, and add to the mixture. Stir until smooth.

Continue to add flour, mixing well, until the dough is very stiff. (The exact amount can vary based on humidity and who knows what else.)

Drop large spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. (Bigger than a walnut, but smaller than an apricot.)

Butter the bottom of a glass and dip it in sugar. Use it to flatten the drops to between 1/3" and 1/2".

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until they bounce back when tapped with a finger. If they brown, you've kept them in too long.

Dark, non-stick cookie sheets do not work well: the cookies tend to burn on the bottom. Ordinary greased metal sheets work fine; they won't stick at all if you let them cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks.

If stored in an air-tight container, these cookies are purported to last indefinitely without refrigeration. (But I've never been able to test this - they get eaten too fast!)

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87835 2010-10-12T23:16:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Know your keyboard shortcuts

I was dutifully reading the legal agreements on a website, which were popped open in a new window. Can you tell me what's wrong with this picture?

Yes, they've told me to go to my browser's menu bar, but the new window they made didn't come with one.

They did provide a link to print the document, but what I wanted to do was save a copy. Fortunately, I knew the keyboard shortcut "ctrl-s" for "Save page as…".

You just never know when those keyboard shortcuts will come in handy!

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87836 2010-08-29T13:16:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z How to harvest hops

A short video where Jon explains and demonstrates our hop harvesting method.


Fully instructed, the crew gets snipping.

The hops all snipped off, all that is left is a pile of hop bines, and paper grocery bags filled with hops

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87837 2010-08-15T22:11:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Lots of Hops

A short video trying to convey the size of our hops plants this year. Hops die down to the roots each year. They are a "bine" - using the winding of the stems to climb - as opposed to a "vine", which uses tendrils to grasp.

We rig a flag pole augmented by two-by-fours, from which a line is strung to a hub cap, and from there to a third floor window. From this horizontal line and the spokes of the hub cap, we dangle twine down from the bines to climb up. On the ground, we have three tripods made of coated steel rods. The bines climb up these (and each other) until they reach the dangling strings.

Hops are the flower of the plant. They look like pale green pine cones, but are soft. Under the scales are little sacs of yellow stuff. This is the source of the bitterness that adds flavor to beer, and it also acts as a natural preservative. When harvesting, you have to be careful not to break the sacs.

When Jon brews, he usually uses purchased hops for the wort, and uses our harvest for dry-hopping his Astral Ale, an India Pale Ale (IPA.) That could change if we get a bigger harvest!

Update August 18th: Here's a short piece from Jon this Spring about rigging the trellis, including a picture of the hop plants when they were only a foot or two tall.

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87838 2010-07-24T20:16:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z July in Downeast Maine

I love being in Maine pretty much any time of the year, but right now (being July!) July is my favorite month. This video was taken on the Blue Hill Peninsula of Penobscot Bay, and features a ruffled orange day lily, lush bushes and Red Oak trees, and the beautiful call of a Hermit Thrush in the background.

A phoebe family calls our porch it's home in the early Summer. Mom and Dad catch bugs, then swoop about from perch to perch to confuse predators before finally arriving at the nest. Their arrival is greeted with loud peeping immediately followed by silence as the adult flies away. I took this picture of the two little ones in their mud and grass nest nestled into the eaves two days before they fledged. The porch was suddenly lonely without their comings and goings.

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87839 2010-03-17T15:29:25Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Auto-garbled captioning

YouTube recently introduced automatic captioning for its videos. "O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" said people* I work with who are faced with the time-consuming and tricky task of creating transcripts for videos. Having seen some very … odd … output from high-end, state-of-the-art, speech recognition software, I suggested they wait to see for themselves before getting too excited.

I could easily make this a "bloopers" post, but it's almost too easy. Did you see the one where Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville says, "what the application does" but the automatic captioning is, "for the prostitutes"? That particular video is transcribed so poorly that it's not clear that it would save any time to edit their transcript file over doing it yourself.

But I think a better measurement of accuracy is looking at how a particular word or phrase is transcribed in the same video. Let's take a look at Mark Roth giving a TEDTalk, Suspended animation is within our grasp where he uses the phrase "hydrogen sulfide" fifteen times. It's correctly transcribed five times, including the first time he says it. The rest are pretty far off, and give you no idea what he's talking about. This is a problem - it's a key fact in his presentation.

  1. hydrogen sulfide (8:42)
  2. I didn't sell five (8:44)
  3. hydrogen sulfide (9:04)
  4. some hydrant sell fighting (10:17)
  5. hundreds cell five (10:48)
  6. hydrogen sulfide (11:14)
  7. him I didn't sell fight (11:36)
  8. I didn't sell five (13:43)
  9. hydrogen sulfide (14:04)
  10. hydrogen sulfide (14.17)
  11. hide himself I (14:46)
  12. apply to sell five (14:55)
  13. the party itself by (16:18)
  14. I didn't sell side (16:28)
  15. high turn still fighters (17:07)

The take-away is clear. If you care about accuracy, if you want people to be able to understand what is actually being said, do not rely solely on automatic captioning.

* No, they didn't really say that. That's from Lewis Carroll's poem, The Jaberwocky. I wonder what YouTube would make of that?

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87809 2010-03-07T19:28:57Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Gov 2.0 Camp New England pictures Pictures from yesterday's Government 2.0 Camp New England un-conference, held at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, MA.

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87810 2010-02-26T05:07:46Z 2016-07-08T09:09:05Z Accessible Twitter on the Kindle ]]> tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87811 2010-02-13T21:21:55Z 2015-02-11T12:46:14Z Teaching about accessibility

This is a great video showcasing some of the things Yahoo is doing to educate their developers about accessibility.

Testing to make sure software the Commonwealth buys or creates can be used by people is a big part of my job these days, and a big part of that is just making people aware that people with disabilities can and do use computers and the Internet.

Yes, blind people can use the web ... unless the website was made in such a way that they can't. And what a shame it is when that happens, because the Internet has made it more possible for people with disabilities to live independent, productive lives.

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87813 2010-01-21T18:35:38Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Unchecked and unbalanced I originally wrote this little piece in October 2008. I dug it up again today in light of the Supreme Court ruling today. (Supreme Court Issues Major Campaign Finance Decision Although many are seeing the ruling as a step backwards for campaign reform, the McCain-Feingold law didn't seem to be all that effective in limiting the influence of corporations.

Unchecked and unbalanced

In an article in Sunday's Boston Globe ([October 5, 2008] p.A1, A10), David Haskins of Nevada was quoted as saying, "Our founding fathers never envisioned government to be so involved in business." But the inverse is even more true: our founding fathers never envisioned business to be so involved in government.

Our huge corporations today have a level of power and influence that in the 1700's was limited to nations. Unlike nations, corporations have no long-terms concerns over sovereign lands or people to balance their pursuit of wealth.

This leads to the interesting phenomenon of corporations who spend more on campaign contributions and lobbying than they do in taxes. The money that could be used for our public infrastructure - that they benefit from, too, and perhaps more than most - is used instead to distort the democratic decision making process, and has to be made up by increasing the burden on individual citizens and smaller businesses.

The authors of our Constitution created checks and balances within the government and sought to protect us from the power and influence of organized religions, but provided neither checks and balances nor protection from corporations.
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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87814 2010-01-19T14:46:00Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Voting is a Family Value

My husband and I have been taking our son with us when we vote since he was an infant. We believe that voting is not only a privilege but a responsibility, and felt that the best way to make sure our son know that was to involve him in the process.

Of course, that process begins before you head to the polls. We discussed issues and positions at home, and encouraged him to take part in those conversations. We talked about what we read in the newspapers. We showed him how to use the web to find out more information.

Today was a proud day for me. This time when we went to the polls with our son, he got a ballot, too.

P.S. 1:56pm

I forgot to mention how happy it made the poll workers. I asked one of them to take a picture of us. "That's the first time I've ever seen that!" All of them were beaming at us.

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tag:sarahebourne.posthaven.com,2013:Post/87815 2009-11-15T18:32:32Z 2013-10-08T15:40:15Z Do you love your job? I sent this link to my son, knowing he would enjoy it:

Cactus Flight 1549 Accident Reconstruction (US Airways)

      "The NTSB released the public docket for Flight 1549 on June 9, 2009. The docket contains a wealth of information that can be utilized in a full 3D reconstruction of the accident. Our work goes deep into the underlying framework of information and encompasses the entire spectrum of accident information. Integrating all spatial and temporal data allows us to approach this accident from a never-before-seen perspective. The ability to flexibly combine data, camera views and other visual elements is a key advantage in presenting an engaging real-time presentation of the accident sequence."

      He wrote back, "I love that during take-off he says, 'What a view of the Hudson.'" and I replied, "That's a man who loves his job."

      When you love your job and you're confident in your abilities, you are mindful of the not just the routine tasks - pulling up the landing gear - but also the side benefits - the beautiful view of the Hudson River. And those side benefits can make you better at your job, too.

      Air traffic controllers thought "airports" for landing. Capt. Sullenberger didn't even try - he had immediately ascertained he wouldn't make it to an airport and stopped thinking about it, while the towers kept scouring around for a runway. Instead, he started preparing for the difficult landing coming up. If he hadn't admired the river earlier, would he have been so quick to identify it as a better bet than trying to reach a runway?

      We all know about the landing gear parts of our jobs. But, what are the beautiful views in your job? And do you share them with your co-pilot(s), too?

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