BrowseAloud opinions sought

Discussion in 'HTML' started by Andy Dingley, May 13, 2004.

  1. Andy Dingley

    Andy Dingley Guest

    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).
    Andy Dingley, May 13, 2004
    #1
    1. Advertising

  2. Andy Dingley

    Chris Morris Guest

    (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
    Chris Morris, May 13, 2004
    #2
    1. Advertising

  3. Andy Dingley

    SOR Guest

    <uk.net.web.authoring , Andy Dingley , >
    <>
    <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 shit - will they blow us away ;-)
    SOR, May 13, 2004
    #3
  4. Andy Dingley

    Jay Guest

    "Andy Dingley" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > 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
    Jay, May 13, 2004
    #4
  5. Andy Dingley

    Andy Dingley Guest

    On 13 May 2004 08:23:25 -0700, (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
    Andy Dingley, May 14, 2004
    #5
  6. On 13 May 2004 08:23:25 -0700, Andy Dingley <> 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/
    Foofy (formerly known as Spaghetti), May 14, 2004
    #6
  7. Andy Dingley

    Nick Kew Guest

    In article <>,
    Andy Dingley <> 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/
    Nick Kew, May 14, 2004
    #7
  8. Andy Dingley

    Mark Parnell Guest

    Mark Parnell, May 14, 2004
    #8
  9. 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
    Toby A Inkster, May 14, 2004
    #9
  10. Andy Dingley

    Andy Dingley Guest

    "Foofy (formerly known as Spaghetti)" <> wrote in message news:<>...

    > 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.
    Andy Dingley, May 14, 2004
    #10
  11. Andy Dingley

    Neal Guest

    On 14 May 2004 05:11:41 -0700, Andy Dingley <> wrote:

    > "Foofy (formerly known as Spaghetti)" <> wrote in
    > message news:<>...
    >
    >> 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.



    Unless they pictured the mime sitting at a computer, of course.

    Haven't you ever seen a mime type?

    (ducks)
    Neal, May 14, 2004
    #11
  12. Andy Dingley

    Neal Guest

    On Fri, 14 May 2004 16:29:08 +1000, Mark Parnell
    <> wrote:

    > On Fri, 14 May 2004 04:50:01 +0100, (Nick Kew)
    > declared in
    > comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html,alt.html,uk.net.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...
    >


    MSIE users...
    Neal, May 14, 2004
    #12
  13. Andy Dingley

    Brian Guest

    Mark Parnell wrote:
    > Nick Kew declared :
    >
    >>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...


    George W. Bush supporters...

    (Boy, this is gonna turn into a fun thread.)

    --
    Brian (remove "invalid" from my address to email me)
    http://www.tsmchughs.com/
    Brian, May 14, 2004
    #13
  14. Andy Dingley

    Brian Guest

    Andy Dingley wrote:

    > Mimes - they're the _least_ useful brand image for a speech product.


    Except that mimes don't speak. It seems a little odd to me. I suppose
    it's meant to represent the web before BrowseAloud or something?

    --
    Brian (remove "invalid" from my address to email me)
    http://www.tsmchughs.com/
    Brian, May 14, 2004
    #14
  15. Andy Dingley

    Andy Mabbett Guest

    In message <>, Brian
    <> writes
    >>>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...

    >
    >George W. Bush supporters...
    >
    >(Boy, this is gonna turn into a fun thread.)


    People who think tables are for screen layout and that CSS has an
    "incredibly pixel-oriented nature"...
    --
    Andy Mabbett
    "The Internet is a reflection of our society[ ...]. If we do not like what we
    see in that mirror the problem is not to fix the mirror, we have to fix
    society." Vint Cerf
    Andy Mabbett, May 14, 2004
    #15
  16. Andy Dingley <> wrote in message news:<>...
    > On 13 May 2004 08:23:25 -0700, (Andy Dingley)
    > wrote:
    >
    > >I've just had a call from these people,
    > >http://www.browsealoud.com
    > >offering to sell me their wares.

    >
    > 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.


    Your review is spot on, in my opinion.

    I wrote some software for Community Fund, (formerly National Lottery
    Charities Board), 3 years ago that used Microsoft Agent to provide an
    accesible means of completing their grant application forms. I did a
    lot of research at the time into Accessibility, tools and also made
    use of our connections we had to those in the know, such as the RNIB
    and our own disabled users that had screen readers, magnifiers and
    braille displays. I also compared notes with developers in the US that
    were going through similar exercises for Section 508 compliance.

    I'll be advising another UK Government department in 10 days time on
    their accessibility issues regarding their communications in print and
    online via the Internet or direct emails. Therefore, whilst browsing
    the Euro 2004 web site I was intrigued to find this little BrowseAloud
    link on there. I've sent an email to the company to ask for more
    information but got to the same basic question. Who is this aimed at?
    Which disabilities does this product assist with?

    Having read your own informed opinion, I've reached the same
    conclusion having played with it for an hour or so.

    The prices are quite astrononic as a little Googling leads to
    http://www.accessingenuity.com/Product Pages/browsealoud.htm but a
    few thousand dollars a year for a partial screen reader is expensive.
    As for it "being the future", no it isn't. You need enough vision and
    motor control to accurately place a cursor on-screen. Therefore, it
    could be useful to partially sighted people but not if you're
    completely blind. The text recognition isn't that great either as
    links in the middle of paragraphs stop the speech engine. If you also
    tab through the hot-spots, i.e. links, on a page it fails to read
    them, so it's not very useful unless you can see.

    My conclusion is that it has 'Accessibility' in the marketing hype and
    that enough mis-informed Government and corporates will sign-up to
    this product to keep TextHelp in business for a few years to come.

    I don't think it really helps people that need assistive technologies
    and I don't think it will help to make a site more accessible. Web
    site developers should get a copy of Jaws, install that and make their
    site compatible with that instead whilst also complying with the Bobby
    and W3C recommendations for Accessibility. This seems a good way for a
    company to exploit disability for their own financial purposes without
    actually improving accessibility.

    BrowseAloud is an expensive toy that provides little benefit to the
    disabled user community and provides an insignificant improvement to
    the accessibility of a web site.

    However, I'm fully sighted so maybe I missed something ... or maybe
    that's the problem, I saw everything and failed to be hoodwinked into
    recommending it.

    Regards,

    Paul Liversidge
    Software Developer | Web Developer | Business Analyst | Technical
    Assurance
    http://www.paulliversidge.com
    Paul Liversidge, May 26, 2004
    #16
  17. Andy Dingley

    Andy Dingley Guest

    A re-post of this message. One of you will know why, and I'm curious
    as to what hapens next.

    Does anyone else have experience of messages disappearing from Google's
    archive, particularly when they're less than positive about a company's
    product ?


    Path: sn-us!sn-post-01!supernews.com!news.supernews.com!not-for-mail
    From: Andy Dingley <>
    Newsgroups:
    comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html,alt.html,uk.net.web.authoring
    Subject: Re: BrowseAloud opinions sought
    Date: Fri, 14 May 2004 01:03:41 +0100
    Organization: Codesmiths, UK
    Message-ID: <>
    References: <>
    X-Newsreader: Forte Agent 1.93/32.576 English (American)
    MIME-Version: 1.0
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
    X-Complaints-To:
    Lines: 92
    Xref: sn-us comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html:370773 alt.html:460196
    uk.net.web.authoring:63110

    On 13 May 2004 08:23:25 -0700, (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
    Andy Dingley, Jul 31, 2005
    #17
    1. Advertising

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