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Friday, August 15, 2008

Blogs and Press Releases

Recently, I have read a lot of blogs that focus on blindness and technology simply repost press releases with no commentary or criticism.  Thus, having google news alerts on “Freedom Scientific,” “Window-Eyes,” and others in the biz, I find that I get hits on posts that, for all intents and purposes contain identical material.

 

Most recently, I must have seen at least a half dozen reposts of Dan Weirich’s statement on the FS v. GW patent lawsuit.  Weirich says some interesting things in his short statement but one only need read it once, perhaps directly on the GW blog or in the press release directly if you receive such.  I think this shows a general laziness and lack of courage on the part of the blindness blogosphere as receiving a statement and simply copying, pasting it and posting it with no analysis, commentary or criticism, positive or negative, provides those of us who read a variety of these blogs with a lot of duplicated information and absolutely nothing that the bloggers we respect enough to read regularly think about the issue.  I have spoken to some of these people on the phone since FS filed the suit and there is no shortage of opinion or analysis going on but the public statements from independent parties are few and far between.

 

One blogger did title his repost of the GW statement as “GW Responds to the Idiotic FS Suit,” which at least said that he thinks the lawsuit is idiotic.  While I oppose all software patents on principle, I can say that “idiotic” is probably not the right adjective as a US Federal District Court felt it had enough merit to warrant a hearing and judges at that level don’t take many whimsical cases onto their docket.  The blogger spent no time explaining why he felt the suit was “idiotic” but, rather, just pasted Dan’s statement in and let it ride.

 

Patent and other IP law can be very complex, seemingly ambiguous and even appear contradictory at times.  There are many very nuanced bits of language in the FS patent and possible ways for GW to respond both in the court of public opinion and in the District courts.  I would think that instead of simply reprinting posts by Weirich and Lee Hamilton, the bloggers should provide commentary, opinion, and something else to turn their posts from simply repeating the various corporate propaganda and proffering editorial information that can better express their stance on the suit and why they think one or the other side is correct.

 

It might be an interesting exercise for the blind blogosphere to try to organize an amicus brief on behalf of one of the parties in the suit or one that takes neither side but provides an explanation of the technology, its user community and the potential effects that a decision favoring either company would have on us.  Providing those who follow the blogs as their primary form of information would benefit from we so-called experts dissecting the corporate statements and delivering the information in a manner more friendly to our readers.

 

I suppose I’ve ranted enough.

 

-- End

3 Comments:

Blogger Jamie Pauls said...

Your point is well taken. I have been reluctant to comment on this matter on the AccessWatch blog because I am not a lawyer, but I am not stupid and I do have some strong opinions. Maybe I'll take some time, organize my thoughts, and do what bloggers do; blog! Thanks for the kick in the pants.

8:38 AM  
Blogger Austin Grace said...

Hello, i am a blogger. i did repost the press release but did add my two cents. i know lot of blindness blogs repost the same info over and over but i add my input when i do repost something of interest or would benifit my readers.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Brian Hartgen said...

Hi Chris.


I would like to add a different perspective to this subject if I may.

From a usability perspective, I feel there could be a tremendous amount of improvement in the area of marking specific segments of a web page for later retrieval across the industry as a whole. I know through this blog you have been an advocate of blind people having the skills to improve productivity and usability and I agree with this.



This is why, with suggestions from our beta testers, I wrote a comprehensive program for our ----- J-Say product which we call J-say bookmarks.

Before I describe this concept however, I must say that within our J-Say product we fully embrace the concept of JAWS Placemarkers and in fact we have given people the ability to use these by voice from the very start five years ago and we will of course continue to support them.

1. J-Say Bookmarks can locate a specific character or line position of a web page much like jaws placemarkers do. We do not count the number of tags on a page etc, but just relocate the character or line in the virtual buffer.
2. As an alternative to recording the character and line position of the requested segment, a J-Say bookmark can take note of the line of text. So if the text which is captured when the j-say bookmark is set moves on the page, that can be located. This is preferable since the position of text changes frequently on a page.
3. Through the j-say bookmark manager, an easy to use interface which looks a little like the Adjust JAWS Options dialog, a person can set what happens when the j-say bookmark is encountered. The current character, word, line, sentence, paragraph or the entire page can be read. In addition, there is a setting, Activate Element, which will automatically activate a link to which the j-say bookmark might be pointing, or activate jaws forms mode should the j-say bookmark be set to a form control which requires forms mode.
There is also another feature which allows jaws to set focus automatically to a j-say bookmark if it is encountered without the user having to request the function. For example, when you do a search on Audible, and when a book is located, you might want jaws to automatically start reading the publishers' summary when that page loads. That is childs play with j-say bookmarks.
4. The j-say bookmark lists are the central repository for the j-say bookmarks. You can bring up a list of pages for which j-say bookmarks have been set with the page titles displayed. From the list you can:
A. Rename a j-say bookmark title if you don't like the default.
B. delete it from the list, or
C. Best of all, open the page directly from the list. This is one of the problems with current implementation of such technology. Place markers are great if you know the pages for which place markers have been set. The j-say bookmark lists give you the ability to open a page you may have previously saved.
5. You can either set a j-say bookmark per specific web page address or by domain. Domain is most common especially when setting j-say bookmarks on sites like Audible.
6. Finally, all of the above works in Microsoft Word as well which is incredibly useful if you want to skip past fields in a form template or locate a specific text segment. So you can be reading a novel in a Word document, decide to stop reading for one day, set a j-say bookmark, and on the following day go straight to where you left off reading.
Even if you move the line of text when word processing to which a j-say bookmark has been attached, when requested the j-say bookmark will still find it. The j-say bookmarks also work when the document is fully protected.

I only mention all of this just to put this subject in perspective and to highlight what can be achieved with a bit of creativity. I really hope that Freedom Scientific adopt similar techniques in the future and to improve upon the fantastic facility of Placemarkers which they originally delivered to users within I think JAWS version 5.

Thank you for reading.

3:38 AM  

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