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BrowseAloud opinions sought

P: n/a
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).
Jul 20 '05 #1
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16 Replies


P: n/a
di*****@codesmiths.com (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
Jul 20 '05 #2

P: n/a
SOR
<uk.net.web.authoring , Andy Dingley , di*****@codesmiths.com>
<28**************************@posting.google.com >
<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 ;-)
Jul 20 '05 #3

P: n/a
Jay
"Andy Dingley" <di*****@codesmiths.com> wrote in message
news:28**************************@posting.google.c 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
Jul 20 '05 #4

P: n/a
On 13 May 2004 08:23:25 -0700, di*****@codesmiths.com (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
Jul 20 '05 #5

P: n/a
On 13 May 2004 08:23:25 -0700, Andy Dingley <di*****@codesmiths.com> 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/
Jul 20 '05 #6

P: n/a
In article <ck********************************@4ax.com>,
Andy Dingley <di*****@codesmiths.com> 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/
Jul 20 '05 #7

P: n/a
On Fri, 14 May 2004 04:50:01 +0100, ni**@hugin.webthing.com (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
Jul 20 '05 #8

P: n/a
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

Jul 20 '05 #9

P: n/a
"Foofy (formerly known as Spaghetti)" <sp*******@aspyre.net> wrote in message news:<op**************@alice.mshome.net>...
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.
Jul 20 '05 #10

P: n/a
On 14 May 2004 05:11:41 -0700, Andy Dingley <di*****@codesmiths.com> wrote:
"Foofy (formerly known as Spaghetti)" <sp*******@aspyre.net> wrote in
message news:<op**************@alice.mshome.net>...
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)
Jul 20 '05 #11

P: n/a
On Fri, 14 May 2004 16:29:08 +1000, Mark Parnell
<we*******@clarkecomputers.com.au> wrote:
On Fri, 14 May 2004 04:50:01 +0100, ni**@hugin.webthing.com (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...


MSIE users...
Jul 20 '05 #12

P: n/a
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/
Jul 20 '05 #13

P: n/a
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/
Jul 20 '05 #14

P: n/a
In message <10*************@corp.supernews.com>, Brian
<us*****@julietremblay.com.invalid> 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
Jul 20 '05 #15

P: n/a
Andy Dingley <di*****@codesmiths.com> wrote in message news:<ck********************************@4ax.com>. ..
On 13 May 2004 08:23:25 -0700, di*****@codesmiths.com (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/Produ...rowsealoud.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
Jul 20 '05 #16

P: n/a
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 <di*****@codesmiths.com>
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: <ck********************************@4ax.com>
References: <28**************************@posting.google.com >
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: ab***@supernews.com
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, di*****@codesmiths.com (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
Jul 30 '05 #17

This discussion thread is closed

Replies have been disabled for this discussion.