Saturday, December 8, 2007

Final Project:: Adapt and Innovate

After jumping through a few technical hoops (when are there not technical hoops), I think I've successfully posted the pdfs to, the web pages I built last semester for JOMC 710. Which works out well, in terms of linking and connecting all of my class projects for this program. This paper completes my requirements for completion of the certificate program. It's been a great three semesters of learning. Congratulations to all my fellow graduates and best wishes for continued success to the returning students!

"Adapt and Innovate: Newspapers succeeding in the online world."
PDF versions available at the above link.

Abstract: My final project in the certificate program, I've come back to explore and write about what Adapt or Die has meant to the newspaper industry in the past several years.

Adapt or die. That phrase would jolt the newspaper industry into action, pushing it to put more energy and content online. What have newspapers done to change the mindset and get things moving? Who’s getting it right? Who’s winning the battle to beat circulation and make money on the web?

Newspapers heard the call to innovate over the past couple of years: the Newspaper Next survey woke many people up and brought to light the notion that to win the battle of declining print circulation and profits meant innovators had to come out of the corners of the newsroom. It’s very much seemed as if a button was pushed and newsrooms sprang into action. Suddenly, newsrooms around the country were exploring blogs, video and interactive graphics.

This paper draws heavily on research that has been conducted over the course of the entire Graduate Certificate in Communication and Technology program, including research conducted specifically for previous classes. This paper is the culmination of my work in the program. I seek not to write threatening “Evolve or Die” paper that has permeated the internet the past couple of years. Instead, I will examine how newspaper websites are exploring new ways to entertain and keep readers.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Each One Teach One: The Issue & Fears

Adaptive and assistive technologies.
The web is fantastic for finding and reading all kinds of information quickly. All that print and all those graphics, movies, images and flash graphics are fantastic ways of delivering information to a broad audience. But, what do you do if your vision limits how much of that information you’re able to read? What if you’re unable to see entirely? What kinds of adaptive and assistive technologies exist to help those with low-vision, no vision or difficulty reading moving screens? I’m looking for solutions that go beyond simply needing a pair of reading glasses to read the screen. I’m interested in discovering what technologies, standards and organizations exist to help develop and improve the Internet experience for users who are hindered by declining ocular health.

Ever go to a website and have trouble reading the point size of the type? If you use the roller ball or change the default font settings on your browser, you can increase the point size. The result is often that the web pages don’t always read as the designers and authors intended. Also, how do web developers take graphics and moving images into account when they’re designing for the visually-impaired?

Full disclosure: I’m by no means blind, but this is an issue that has been on my radar lately. I have keratoconus, a disease that causes the cornea to become misshapen and distorted. The disease is treated through contacts and, in my case, a combination of contacts and glasses. I’m also faced with frequent changes to my prescription due to the dynamic nature of my corneas. As my prescription keeps changing, I find I sometimes have some trouble seeing the monitors at work. While I’m not to the point where I can’t use a computer, I’m interested in learning what tools are out there and in development for people who have difficulty with reading screens.

Top 5 Fears about Websites not paying attention to the needs of the visually-impaired:
1. Web sites will continue to develop with more and more high-tech formats like Flash and video and won’t contain comparable content for visually-impaired readers. Developers must make sure they’re building alternate pages built for readers with limitations.

2. I worry that developers and organizations do not budget and plan for alternate pages for users with limitations. Companies must treat alternate page development as they would installing ramps or handicapped accessible bathrooms.

3. Visually-impaired users who are unable to read the screen and highly-designed websites might not stick with the Internet. As more information becomes available on the web only, those users who abandon the web will be unable to obtain that information any other way.

4. A personal fear, as my own vision worsens, I fear I won’t be able to see the screen, and therefore fear I may not be able to continue with a career that puts me in front of the computer more than 8 hours a day. I want to know what things I can do now to help protect my vision when I’m using the computer. And, I want to know what’s available to assist me as it becomes more difficult to read the screen.

5. A similar fear stretches beyond just visual limitations. How many websites in the U.S. have a main page, a page for users with disabilities and how many include a Spanish version of their content? Developers need to be working to make sure their content is accessible to users in any number of different formats.

Each One Teach One: Resources

One thing I made sure to note when evaluating these sites was whether or not they included an easy option to display their pages either with bigger fonts, in plain text or some other kind of view. Most did, but some of the federal sites' accessible pages were still under construction.

1. Americans with Disabilities. and specifically, this page relating to the Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites.
This web page provides some good links to resources for smart development of websites. The ADA also includes some basic guidelines for what websites should include and an overview of accessible technology.

2. NCD -National Council on Disabilities.
Specifically, this page, a 2003 position paper on the application of the ADA to cyberspace. While the paper is from 2003, it still contains several good interpretations of the act and several recommendations for further application.
Also, this page that is a link to 2007 testimony on web accessibility. The NCD is an independent federal agency whose members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
Incidentally, the site is not currently up to standard: "NCD is committed to making its Web site accessible to all citizens. NCD's Web site is being upgraded to ensure that it meets or exceeds the requirements of Section 508 (of the Rehabilitation Act) of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. As with all Web sites, we are continually working to make all pages more accessible."

A government clearinghouse for all kinds of information relating to disabilities. Specifically, this page devoted to Technological issues. This portal contained some good links to vendors and organizations that provide assistive technologies.

A handy site for finding assistive technology products.
"Our mission is to provide access to information on AT devices and services as well as other community resources for people with disabilities and the general public.
This site is created and maintained through the collaboration of our Partners: Georgia Tech Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA), National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), and Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)."

This site includes a link to information about accessibility on each page, in the navigation bar on the left and at the bottom. More information about steps the company has taken to make the site accessible can be found here.

5. Building Accessible Websites, by Joe Clark
A book written by Clark, the entire book is available online. It includes sections on why bother with accessibility; how to build and code pages that are accessible; navigation; working with images, color and typography.
And, yes, the site includes links to an Accessible version of the site.

This organization has a page full of resources for where to learn about building pages that are accessible to users, including one to a Java development tip page. Some of the links are out of date, so I'll knock a few points off for not keeping things current, but this site definitely has its target site in mind.

7. Microsoft and Apple Assistive Technology overviews
Details on products and accessories for two of the big giants.

I found this blog that had a Talklet toolbar at the bottom of the page. When the page started talking to me, I figured the technology might be worth a mention. Pretty nifty stuff, and doesn't sound like the annoying little narrator that's found on Windows machines.

9. Recent Advances in Assistive Technologies and Engineering
A UK conference on assistive technologies. Good links and resources to companies and researchers.

Each One Teach One: Recommendations

So, what can be done to expand the reach of assistive technologies? Here are a few of my suggestions, along with a quick evaluation of a few major national sites.
  1. Spend and budget money to develop alternate pages that are readable by a variety of adaptive and assistive technologies. Developers should also work to make sure their main pages have alternate tags and images that can stand in the place of Flash or Java animation and video.
  2. Government websites are fairly committed to making their sites accessible to the visually impaired, thanks in part to amendments that have been made to the Americans with Disabilities act and other pieces of legislation. Corporations need to do a better job
    of doing the same.
  3. Expand the use of adaptive and assistive technologies on national and international websites like,,, provides links at the bottom of it’s text-driven home page to CNN’s sites in Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Korean and Turkish. Excellent! But, I couldn’t find a link to a text-only page.
    : I couldn’t find a translated or accessible page. The site does do a far amount with podcasts and sound.
    : Also, no easily visible button to translate or link to an accessible page.

  4. Reduce the cost of these technologies so users are not as limited by the cost limitations of getting online.
  5. Awareness and education. A better understanding of what it takes to develop these kinds of sites will help developers and designers in their creation of truly user-friendly websites. Also, web design classes should be sure to include a module on adaptive and assistive development and adaptive and assistive technologies.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why Global Voices is great.

They've compiled a sampling of international blogger voices on Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize and posted in one big post. Included here are voices from Africa, India, China, complete with the original text and English translation.

I ran across all kinds of posts about Gore's win. This is a handy way of getting quality opinions all in one spot.

Friday, October 12, 2007

WashPost on Lebanese, Israeli bloggers

"Blogging Under the Radar: As War Raged, Lebanese and Israelis Found Common Ground." A Washington Post article from August 2006 that looked at several bloggers who published during last year's fighint. Several of the bloggers listed here are still blogging about life in the Middle East. Their posts range from politics and the fighting to daily life, family and travelling. Very good snapshots of life in a time of crisis.

From Why journalists love blogging

Mark Gimein, a guest blogger for this week wrote: "A friend of mine who asked not to be named calls blogging 'Journalist's Crack."

Sounds about right to me. The new form gives journalists freedom from the restrictions of print, offers a quick way to get instant answers and feedback from readers and editors alike. Write as much as you want without worrying people will read you. Build an audience because they drool over every word you publish. I can see why it's compared to a drug.

"Journalists love doing this in part because over the years they have been pushed to squeeze more and more of the viewpoint and analysis out of their writing in the name of objectivity. So the blog lets them cut loose. It gives them a satisfaction that's hard to get from doing original reporting, and it's much easier than doing original reporting as well. And it lets them feel like they're part of a community, 'the blogosphere.' "

Plus, it's a little bit fun to see who's really paying attention to what you have to say.

Best/Worst Sites 5: Friday

Best: WhirledView
Found this blog by three women through a link on a thread at MyDD::Progressive blogosphere diversity. The three bloggers are an international affairs specialist, a chemist specializing in international environmental projects, and a communications specialist with great experience in the U.S. foreign service. All in all, I'd say that's a pretty remarkable group of women. Most of their posts focus on international relations and politics, but also explore issues of international security and diplomacy. Blogrolls are extensive to other national security, international affairs and political blogs as well as to books on subjects they discuss. This blog makes a nice addition to the list of more country specific blogs I'm developing. I like this blog for the broad look at international relations.

Not so great: luck with searching
I've resisted calling websites worst. I keep finding things that aren't related specifically to my topic. It's not that they're bad, it's just the results of many of my searches haven't turned up as many great results as I'd like. I've found lots of feminist blogs (slightly related, but not completely); blogs by women about American politics; blogs by women living in other countries; blogs about international politics and relations, but not necessarily about women. I've refined searches in Technorati,, del.ic.ious,,, I've found lots of good things to add to the blogroll along with excluding sites simply because my searching hasn't been up to par. I want something to jump out as just horrible. Maybe I'm being too nice. There's plenty that's awful.
Or, maybe it's that I've found so many great blogrolls, but they don't give me a sense of what's on the roll. Give me details about where you're sending me!

So, for example of blogs I've found that are pretty good, just not related to my topic:

Instant polling of readers

A post last month on the New York Times' The Caucus blog, Katharine Seelye asked readers for their thoughts on women and politics and the web. To date, there are 79 responses from men and women and suggest many different ideas. I love that the dialogue continues even after the deadline. The discussions just keep on going.

And, the results and Seelye's story here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Elections back in 1924...

I found Susan Crawford's blog at some point in the past two weeks as I've been looking for resources. She's a professor of cyberlaw and communications law who blogs about those areas as well as the impact of technology on different aspects of society.

This post came through the RSS feeder this evening on how technology had a major impact on elections in 1924:

"... The new technology was remarkable. It had found a way to dispense with political middlemen. In a fashion it had restored the demos upon which republican government is founded. No candidate would be able to stand up to it who was unprepared to enlighten the electorate. It potentially gave to every member of the electorate the possibility of a direct reaction to the candidates themselvs. It reproduced to some degree, for the first time in the United States, the conditions of the Athenian democracy where every voter, for himself, could hear and judge the candidates.

The year was 1924: “…America finds herself this year in the act of virtually choosing her chief executive by an instrument that was up to a brief two years ago generally considered a freakish fad.”

“Politics,” the newspapers said, was “radio’s next big job.”

Worth a mention here because of how it relates to my other world of newspapers and dealing with change and the impact of new technology.

Best/Worst Sites 4: Thursday

Best: Antigone Magazine.
Jackpot. I should have come to Technorati and done this search a long time ago: global women politics blogosphere (but noooo... I had to try other search techniques first).
I found this blog for Antigone Magazine, a biannual print publication about women and politics at the University of British Columbia. The blog keeps the dialogue going throughout the year. It's written by several women and primarily focuses on politics in Canada, but also includes a fair amount of commentary on their neighbors to the south.

Not so great: Iranian Bloggers in Jail/Democracy for Iran
There is some good content here written by women. My complaints here tend to skew to the design of the site. While a beautiful language to look at, Arabic characters do not hold up well when reversed out of this black background. Also, image placement and column widths of the site have been skewed in such a way that type runs together and runaround on photos is awkward to the point of having one word per line in the sidebar. The blogroll here looks promising with many links to blogs and sites about democracy movements in Iran. The design is simply something keeping me from learning from this site.

Best/Worst Sites 3: Thursday

Best: Global Voices Online, Politics Blogs
I mentioned this site earlier this week on the classroom Blackboard and I've listed it in the blogroll over on the right. Time to make a note of it here as well. Global Voices is a project of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
This particular section of the site helps narrow the group of bloggers down to those who focus on politics. While there are many male bloggers listed in this group, this is by far one of the best groupings of international political bloggers I've found thus far. The site is edited by members of the Center, and blog posts are of high quality. It's an interesting way of aggregating bloggers from around the world - translate and host their posts all in one searchable place. But, it makes finding many different voices a very quick and easy process.
One of the more frequent posters is Veronica Khokhlova, who covers topics around the Ukraine and Russia. She's a native of Kiev who has degrees in journalism from Rutgers and the University of Iowa.
And Neha Viswanathan is a blogger living in London who focuses on south Asia. Her blogroll looks like it will also be a promising place to find women bloggers.
Good stuff every time I take a click.

Worst: Sites found with the search combination: russian women blog
I should have known better when I did this search in I had decided to use to let the smart search give me a little help in finding some blogs to list under the not-so-great category. First filtered search gave me a ton of results for Russian mail-order bride type sites. Whoopsie... Hope the work censors get a chuckle out of some of these hits. No naked ladies, just lots of ads for all types of Russian women. Not exactly the types of "blogs" I was looking for.