Friday, March 27, 2009

ABC Mobile Web site continuing problems

During Mark Scott, Managing Director, ABC, talk at the Innovative Ideas Forum 2009, I did a quick check and the ABC's new mobile web site which showed accessibility and HTML validation problems. Mr. Scott said he thought the accessibility problems had been fixed and he would go back to the office and check. To assist, here are some details on the test results.

I ran a TAW (Web Accessibility Test) based on the W3C - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0). This reported 0 Priority 1, 14 Priority 2 and 1 Priority 3 automated test problems. While there were no Priority 1 automated errors, manual inspection requests were flagged, such as:
  • Human review required Suspicious text equivalent for image, can not be file name or file size or placeholder text (1)
    • Line 32: 'image'
In this case the alternate text for someone who can't see images is the word "image". This is not useful text and appears to have been inserted so as to trick the automated test process. Other inappropriate ALT text appears to be honest mistakes by an inadequately trained web designer:
alt='White Space'
The W3C Markup Validator reported 79 errors. Many of these errors were due to unencoded ampersands and are not serious problems and easily fixed. More serious is that no "Doctype" is specified so it is not clear which particular HTML standard is intended. The document seems to be a mix of different pieces of HTML pasted from different sources. The validation assumed XHTML 1.0 Transitional, but I was unable to find any setting for which the code passed validation.

Most desktop web browsers will accept invalid code most of the time. However, mobile phone browsers tend to be more sensitive and may produce no useful display. Adaptive technology used by people with a disability will tend to be more sensitive and so may not work.
Also it is not a good idea to hope the web pages will display correctly when communicating emergency information.

The ABC should be using tools to check the web pages are technically correct. They should also ensure the staff using the tools are trained in how to design web pages.

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Connecting with Audiences in the Digital Age

Mark Scott, Managing Director, ABC, talked at the Innovative Ideas Forum 2009. This was a thoughtful presentation on how the ABC is investing in digital delviery, despite limited resources. He used the example of how Twitter was used during the Victorian bushfires. Mr Scott said "The ABC is the emergency broadcaster". So at question time I asked if the ABC ws investing sufficient in the mobile service for he community to rely on it. I did a quick check and the ABC's new mobile web site appears to still not meet with accessibility guidelines and has dozens of validation errors. Mr. Scott said he thought the accessibility problems had been fixed and he would go back to the office and check. If the ABC uses the web and mobile phones as an integral part of its service it then I suggest it has an obligation to provide that service to the wide community and in emergencies. That requires funding, planning and testing by the ABC.

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Dr Summers on blogging

Dr Anne Summers, gave a thoughtful and entertaining talk at the Innovative Ideas Forum 2009, on the implications for serious writing of the Internet. She expressed concern about the loss of historical information as paper is replaced by ephemeral digital media. Dr Summers showed us her facebook page live, which was impressive. As an author, her business model appears to be to use the web to promote books for sale. As with the previous speaker I asked if there might come a time when the writing would be supported from online advertising. Dr Summers replied that she had signed up for online ads, but the revenue was minimal. She also comfortable she was comfortable with online books but hers may not suit that medium. I jokingly suggested she sign up for my ANU course on how to do it.

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Web advertising to support Austrlaian TV production

As soon as Marcus Gillezeau, stopped showing bits of the "Scorched" telemovie and started to talk off the cuff at the Innovative Ideas Forum 2009, he started to become interesting and more credible. I asked him about flipping the business model for his production from funding from TV advertising supported by Internet promotion to Internet web based advertising supported by TV. He argued passionately that as the creative person, this is not an issue for him, but for his promotional partners. He seemed to think it necessary for him to go to companies to sell the advertising, the idea that the ads would find the content automatically (as Google Adwords does) does not seem to be something he is aware of.

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Are hoax web sites ethical and legal?

The more Marcus Gillezeau, talks about "Scorched", a Channel 9 telemove, at the Innovative Ideas Forum 2009, the less I like it. The TV show created a character "Cassy Hoffman" inspired by the Lonelygirl15 hoax. While a creative person might decide that such a hoax is okay as a work of art, it is worrying that this was funded by a government body, the Australian Film Commission. While it is one thing for someone to spend their own money creating hoaxes for commercial gain, it is not acceptable for my taxes to pay for it. Marcus was also proud of having carried a "faux" (that is hoax) news service. About the only saving grace of this material is that is is of the poor quality of the script, acting and production should make the more than casual viewer that this is a hoax.

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Back the book

In her welcome to the Innovative Ideas Forum 2009, Jan Fullerton, Director-General, NLA, emphasised that the library has embraced new digital technology while not forgetting the book. There are about a dozen people in the audience blogging (tagged "iif2009") and twitering (hashtag #iif2009). Unfortunately Marcus Gillezeau, Producer/Director, Firelight Productions' keynote is disappointing so far. This is about "Scorched", a Channel 9 telemove. Marcus talked about how the movie was supported by online extensions. Unfortunately the video he played made it clear that this is just old fashioned soap TV dressed up with some minimal web base content. Perhaps this will help Channel 9 sell more TV advertising, but does not do much for genuine use of the technology or Australian culture. However it is a useful warning of how old media will try to hijack the new media to cynically exploit it.

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How high the lectern

It is organised chaos at the National Library of Australia, with last minute preparations for the Innovative Ideas Forum 2009 . My bus was cancelled (the ACTION Canberra bus service changed the timetable) but the alternative bus which arrived turned out to be quicker (shame it was dangerously overloaded with public servants). I turned up at the reception desk for the forum gave my name, got a strange look and was asked to go down and help with the IT for the event. There were a half dozen A/V people, speakers and Warwick Cathro, the MC organising flash drives with presentations on them. I decided there were enough people and my help would not help. The biggest issue seemed to be if the lectern could be raised high enough for Mark Scott, Managing Director, ABC. I decided to retreat to the Bookplate cafe in the library foyer, where I could watch the passing parade of people and blog in comfort.

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Worshipping at the temple of information

The Innovative Ideas Forum 2009 is in Canberra today at the The National Library of Australia. The library building is a 20th century interpretation of a Greek temple, raised on its own artificial granite acropolis. At first glance a building full of books may seem a strange place to have an event about 21st century media, web-based social networking and digital content. But the NLA is one of the world centres for expertise in digital media. You can walk into the library with nothing, not even a pencil, use the computers there to research and write on a topic, publish your work online and walk out again (after lunch and a coffee). The library collects Australian online publications in its Pandora Archive, including some things companies and government would prefer were forgotten. The ARROW Discovery Service has Australian research outputs. Picture Australia has a catalogue of images from cultural institutions.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Innovative Ideas Forum 2009

The National Library of Australia is hosting the Innovative Ideas Forum 2009 in Canberra, 27 March 2009. The venue has free wireless internet access and the Library is encouraging blogging and twittering, with blogs tagged "iif2009" and tweets with hashtag #iif2009. Mark Scott, Managing Director of the ABC is a speaker and I might ask him about deficiencies in the accessibility and emergency features of the ABC's mobile web site. Here is the program:

Chair: Warwick Cathro,
Assistant Director-General, Resource Sharing & Innovation,
9.30am Welcome: Jan Fullerton, Director-General, NLA
9.40am Marcus Gillezeau, Producer/Director, Firelight Productions
"21st Century All-Media Storytelling - The freedoms and challenges of a multi-platform universe"
10.30am Dr Anne Summers, Author and Columnist
"The implications of web-based social networking for cultural heritage institutions"
11.15am Morning Tea
11.45am Mark Scott, Managing Director, ABC
"Connecting with Audiences in the Digital Age"
12.20pm Rose Holley, Manager of the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program, National Library of Australia
“Enhancement and Enrichment of Digital Content by user communities: The Australian Newspapers experience"
1.00pm Lunch
Chair: Mark Corbould,
Assistant Director General, Information Technology, NLA
2.00pm Darren Sharp, Senior Consultant with Collabforge
" Library 2.0: Citizens Co-Creating Culture"
2.45pm Jillian Dellit, Director, The Le@rning Federation Secretariat
"Creative Tension? The Challenges of Social Networking for Schooling in our Federation."
3.30pm Jo Kay, Freelance Geek, Designer, and Facilitator
"Virtually Creative: Exploring Innovative Arts and Educational Communities in Second Life"
4.15pm Closing remarks: Jan Fullerton

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