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BrowseAloud opinions sought

 
 
Andy Dingley
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      05-13-2004
I've just had a call from these people,
http://www.browsealoud.com
offering to sell me their wares.

Anyone have an opinion on it ?

I'll post my own thoughts about 24 hours from now. I'm interested in
what others think - wouldn't want to prejudice other's comments.



PS - Yes, it's a cross-post. The accessibility groups are dead, and
I'm particularly interested in what The Usual Suspects think (for
there are people in here with opinions that I value).
 
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Chris Morris
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      05-13-2004
http://www.velocityreviews.com/forums/(E-Mail Removed) (Andy Dingley) writes:
> I've just had a call from these people,
> http://www.browsealoud.com
> offering to sell me their wares.
>
> Anyone have an opinion on it ?
>
> I'll post my own thoughts about 24 hours from now. I'm interested in
> what others think - wouldn't want to prejudice other's comments.


So, it's like a screen reader, except it only works on certain
websites. I find it difficult to imagine why anyone would download the
client program (or at least use it regularly), especially since it'll
only work on a few sites.

And the site maintainer will have to work to make the site accessible
anyway, and if you've already done that, why bother with this.

Their samples section has two entirely empty categories and a fair bit
of duplication in the others - wouldn't mind guessing that the samples
list is the list of *all* their clients - when I had a look at the
client program several months back there were only ~100 sites listed
as enabled - I admit I haven't downloaded it recently to see if
they've added the few extra zeroes to this number that would make it
worthwhile.

Oh, and a primarily mouse-driven screen reader seems to be one of the
less well-thought-out ideas I've seen.

So, my opinion would be don't touch it with a bargepole.

--
Chris
 
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SOR
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      05-13-2004
<uk.net.web.authoring , Andy Dingley , (E-Mail Removed)>
<(E-Mail Removed) >
<13 May 2004 08:23:25 -0700>

> I've just had a call from these people,
> http://www.browsealoud.com
> offering to sell me their wares.
>
> Anyone have an opinion on it ?
>
> I'll post my own thoughts about 24 hours from now.
>


Why - are they heavy **** - will they blow us away
 
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Jay
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      05-13-2004
"Andy Dingley" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed) om...
> I've just had a call from these people,
> http://www.browsealoud.com
> offering to sell me their wares.
>
> Anyone have an opinion on it ?
>
> I'll post my own thoughts about 24 hours from now. I'm interested in
> what others think - wouldn't want to prejudice other's comments.
>
>
>
> PS - Yes, it's a cross-post. The accessibility groups are dead, and
> I'm particularly interested in what The Usual Suspects think (for
> there are people in here with opinions that I value).


It's a screen reader but the only catch is that your website has to be
_enabled_ for it to work. If the user needs a screen reader they will
download or purchase one that works on all sites, not just _enabled_ sites.
They contacted me about two years ago. When I ran this scenerio by them all
they could say was that this is the future of screen readers.

You're better off spending your time and money making sure that users with
screen readers can browse your website regardless of which screen reader
they use.

--
"Some see the glass as half-empty;
some see the glass as half-full.
I see the glass as too big." - George Carlin

- J


 
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Andy Dingley
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      05-14-2004
On 13 May 2004 08:23:25 -0700, (E-Mail Removed) (Andy Dingley)
wrote:

>I've just had a call from these people,
>http://www.browsealoud.com
>offering to sell me their wares.


First of all, when cold-calling potential users, it's polite for the
person making the call to have a vague understanding of the product. I
don't mind the call (their targetting was reasonable), but I do mind
calls where the caller doesn't know anything, everything they claim to
know is wrong, and by the end of the call I've worked out more about
the product for myself than they could tell me. In particular, the
call gets off to a bad start if you tell me that your product is
pretty much the exact opposite of what it really does.

It's a mouse-focussed screen reader. Move the mouse over some text,
and it reads out the sentence or phrase. Cute. Works well enough, as
far as it goes.

Underlying tech is the L&H speech engine, which I'm sure many of us
will have played with on the free download M$oft Agent (Merlin and
friends. Give it a try, it's not the nasty old paperclip).

Their gimmick is the price model. Users get a screen reader for free,
site publishers get speech added to their site for no technical effort
and a small annual charge. This is an interesting approach, and it has
some merit.

Installation is as a one-off download of a .exe. No ActiveX controls,
no changes to the site at all. The only technical implementation
required is to add your address to a central database of enabled
sites, and maybe a link to the download site for getting the control.

Supported platforms are Windows and IE. Navigator is also listed, but
they weren't clear on versions. Neither are Mozilla, Opera, Firefox
etc. mentioned. Mac and Unix can forget it.


It's not a screen reader though. This tech is of no use at all if you
want your entire pages read back to you.

I can't tell who this product is really aimed at. It's useless for the
blind - it is _not_ a page reader. Using it at all requires good fine
motor control, so it's barely usable by most elderly people, let alone
anyway with a movement disability. They mention dyslexia, but you'd
have to have quite serious dyslexia before the quality of this deeply
average text synth could do better than you could yourself. It
certainly struggles with many less-than commonplace words.

The sentence detector is annoyingly poor. When placed over text, it
reads it. It tries to read a whole sentence, no matter where the mouse
is. Unfoortunately it stops on links, so a sentence with embedded
links in it can only be read out in chunks, with a mouse adjustment to
get each one.

Even though we're all finally getting the message about building
accessible sites, this reader does nothing with the information. You
can mark up your title attributes all you like, this thing just
ignores them. As far as I could see, it works by the screen
presentation alone. An alt attribute on an image or link is used, but
only when it's first popped into a visible tooltip.


My first gripe was completely in error, and was due to the way their
sales guy presented it. Despite his assertions, you do _not_ need to
change your site code, nor do they "host your site on their servers
for you" (!).

I'm still unhappy at the way they use the W3C as a reference site, and
they quote STB-L on their homepage as in some way advocating this
technique. Although accessibility is good, and even weak accessibility
tools are still a vaguely positive thing, they are clearly ignoring
all the efforts on real open-standards based accessibility through
improved markup.

My second gripe is that this thing just isn't very good. Why can't it
read the whole page to me ? Why is sentence selection so broken that
it looks as if they've never done any usability testing ? And the
voice grates.

As to their own site, then I'd be reluctant to be any accesibility
product from someone with such broken markup and such blatant
ignorance of accessibility. Sorry guys, but put your own house in
order first.

It's a neat idea. Maybe it really is a good business model to make
speech affordable for both parties. I'm not buying this version
though.

--
Smert' spamionam
 
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Foofy (formerly known as Spaghetti)
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      05-14-2004
On 13 May 2004 08:23:25 -0700, Andy Dingley <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

> Anyone have an opinion on it ?


It has a creepy clown/mime thing on the site.

--
Using M2, Opera's revolutionary e-mail client: http://www.opera.com/m2/
 
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Nick Kew
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      05-14-2004
In article <(E-Mail Removed)>,
Andy Dingley <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:


> I can't tell who this product is really aimed at.


Having read your review, I wondered about its use for toddlers or
the severely retarded. But either would be likely to need assistance
from a capable adult. That leaves those who are illiterate through
a failure of education but not so disabled as to be physically
incapable. Sun readers, Radio 2 listeners, ....

--
Nick Kew

Nick's manifesto: http://www.htmlhelp.com/~nick/
 
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Mark Parnell
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      05-14-2004
On Fri, 14 May 2004 04:50:01 +0100, (E-Mail Removed) (Nick Kew)
declared in
comp.infosystems.http://www.authoring.html,alt.html,u...web.authoring:

> That leaves those who are illiterate through
> a failure of education but not so disabled as to be physically
> incapable. Sun readers, Radio 2 listeners, ....


AOL subscribers...

--
Mark Parnell
http://www.clarkecomputers.com.au
 
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Toby A Inkster
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      05-14-2004
Nick Kew wrote:

> That leaves those who are illiterate through
> a failure of education but not so disabled as to be physically
> incapable. Sun readers, Radio 2 listeners, ....


.... KDE users ...

--
Toby A Inkster BSc (Hons) ARCS
Contact Me - http://www.goddamn.co.uk/tobyink/?page=132

 
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Andy Dingley
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      05-14-2004
"Foofy (formerly known as Spaghetti)" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message news:<(E-Mail Removed)>...

> It has a creepy clown/mime thing on the site.



What is it with that thing? Mimes - they're the _least_ useful brand
image for a speech product.
 
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