Easy Chirp returns with new sporty features and more power under the hood


A few months ago, the social networking site Twitter made an important update to its API, which necessitated some serious scrambling by third-party users of the previous API version. One of the third-party clients was Easy Chirp, the accessible, cross-platform Twitter alternative. Many users were forced to find other ways to tweet their updates while Easy Chirp and other Twitter clients either faded into the sunset, or in the case of Easy Chirp, went down, but not out, for the count.

Dennis Lembree (@DennisL), creator of Easy Chirp, decided this API update presented an opportunity to rebuild Easy Chirp, updating the back-end architecture and adding some new bells and whistles.

After months of a from-the-ground-up rebuild, Easy Chirp is back. Just within the last week, Lembree quietly reintroduced Easy Chirp, with a middle-of-the-night tweet announcing a “soft launch.”

Happily, Dennis had already invited me to test drive the beta version, which can be found at www.easychirp.org for now. The revised app will be available on the regular dot com domain during the official launch, reportedly within a few weeks. I was so excited that my preferred web-accessible Twitter client was back, I immediately flew to the site to check it out.

The first thing I noticed, which surprised me, was that the new version is almost exactly the same as the previous version. For some reason, I had expected a completely new look and feel. However, the differences between old and new versions quickly became obvious. The “under the hood” changes are what make Easy Chirp 2 a new experience.

First, it is much faster. I am using NVDA as my screen reader and the latest version of FireFox as my browser. Wow…The page loads and navigation were blistering fast. Also, because of improved page organization in some areas, navigating from various elements has been streamlined.

Mr. Lembree partnered with Seattle developer Andrew Woods (@awoods) to complete the project. After considering a number of partners for the work, he chose Woods because of his experience with PHP. Mr. Woods recommended a PHP development framework called CodeIgniter. One reason Lembree decided to go with this framework was that it offers translation features, allowing Easy Chirp to be translated into multiple languages. First after English will be Spanish, says Lembree, which is “about 98% done.” German and Arabic translations are in the works, and other languages such as French are also planned for future availability.

While Woods worked on the back-end architecture, Lembree focused on the front end, populating the data and reworking many aspects of the user interface. “Between the new PHP framework and the new Twitter API, it’s a lot faster,” says Lembree. “Another one of the big coding changes is moving from XHTML to HTML5,” he adds.

There are a few new features of the platform. Notably, the option to choose a dark or light theme, which is useful for people who have light sensitivity or difficulty with light/dark contrast perception. One of Lembree’s favorite new features is the “quick search,” and the “go to user” functions, which are accessible modal windows. If that means nothing to you, I suspect this is one of those esoteric’s that only a developer can truly appreciate.

There is a short list of development tasks that are yet to be completed, which you can review on the Easy Chirp 2 home page. Among the most important of these tasks is the addition of a pagination type of behavior, available currently only on the main timeline page through a link at the bottom that reads, “view older tweets.” More tasks and features are planned but not yet made public.

If you enjoyed using Easy Chirp prior to the “API-pocalypse,” (I still can’t stop saying that, I’m so proud of it), then give Easy Chirp 2 a try. Don’t forget to click on the “donate” button on the home page, and thank Dennis and Andrew for their hard work by tossing a few bucks in the development tip jar.

About Dennis Lembree:

Mr. Lembree has over 15 years experience in web development. He’s worked for a variety of startups as well as large companies including Ford, RIM, Disney, and is now on the accessibility team at PayPal in San Jose, California. Mr. Lembree enjoys attending and presenting at conferences and social media. And besides Easy Chirp, he runs WebAxe.org, a blog and podcast on web accessibility.

You can follow Dennis on Twitter at: @webaxe or at: @EasyChirp for more info and updates.

LL

Boo! Come on, you know you want to. Check out Audioboo, an audio sharing platform


What on Earth is Audioboo? Audioboo is a sharing platform that allows users to record and post audio on the fly, from anywhere, using just about any device. Individuals from morning deejays, and random deejay wannabees, to big companies like The Guardian, use Audioboo to post and share their content. you can follow your favorites to hear short installments of audio “boos,” as they are called. The service is free to use for everyone, as long as you are willing to limit the length of your recordings to 3 minutes. If you need more time, you can pay for a monthly subscription, and get 30 minutes per recording. As you browse the site, you can read the show notes and profile info of the person who recorded the boo, and you can subscribe to, or follow, their offerings.

You can also download an app for your IOS device. The original app, simply called Audioboo, can be downloaded from the Apple app store. There is another version of the app, meant to be an update, called Audioboo2, which you will also find in the app store. There seems to be only superficial differences between the two apps, and of the two, I prefer the original, since it seems slightly more straightforward. I have no idea, however, how long Audioboo plans to continue to support the original app.

For my small business, Elegant Insights Braille Creations, (@ElegantInsights), I plan to use Audioboo as a sort of audio catalog. I will provide company news, product descriptions, style tips and vision-related convention and events news. You can follow my boos here:

http://www.audioboo.fm/ElegantInsights

Here’s another fun tip: Do you like to listen to podcasts? If you have an Apple device and like to download and listen to favorite podcasts using Downcast or another podcatcher, you can hear the Elegant Insights Audio catalog, or any of your favorites, as a podcast! In fact, if you are reading this on your Apple device right now, just tap on this link:

http://audioboo.fm/users/1248733/boos.rss

and your favorite podcatcher should recognize the feed URL, open, and subscribe you automatically. Now, whenever I publish a new recording, it will automatically download into your device along with your other podcasts. It doesn’t get much easier than that. Audioboo provides the RSS feed URL, as well as the URL to the user profile page for users who want to follow their favorites on multiple device types and platforms.

If you don’t have an Apple device, and none of the above appeals to you, fret not. you won’t be left out. I’ve attached the Audioboo account to Twitter, so if you follow me @ElegantInsights on Twitter, you’ll see the tweets with the link to the recording in your Twitterstream. Just click the link, and you can hear me right from Twitter. You can also share your boos on Facebook. Audioboo currently does not support FB business pages, but you can attach your own audioboos to your FB profile page for your family and friends.

Randy Rusnak, (@thebigr), long-time audio engineer, co-host and producer of the Accessible Devices podcast (www.accessibledevices.com), has used Audioboo for years. Randy is certified by the State of Minnesota as a technology instructor, and he uses Audioboo to augment his podcasts by offering short tips and reviews of a variety of assistive technologies.

Recently, he posted a terrific boo in counterpoint to the excellent “Siri vs. Google voice” showdown as published by Applevis. You can hear the Applevis podcast here:
http://www.applevis.com/podcast/episodes/siri-versus-google-voice-search-which-better

and then listen to Randy’s satirical version here:

http://t.co/7LnR7C5V82

You can follow Randy’s boos by going here:

http://www.audioboo.fm/thebigr and click follow.

While Audioboo has been around for several years, I only recently became aware of it when I spotted Randy’s uploads on Twitter. Then, I read an article about Audioboo recently published in the Sacramento Bee, describing how Audioboo is rapidly becoming a social platform of choice amongst the blind and visually impaired community. Read it here:

http://is.gd/R6I1zm

A great feature of Audioboo is that you can not only publish to a group of followers, but you can send private direct messages as well. Uploading a recording is easiest when done using an Apple device, but you can record and upload directly on the Audioboo web site. The apss and web site are accessible and support Voice Over on your IOS device.

Hope to hear from you soon!

LL

Ranting and raving for sixty seconds


Have you ever heard of “tole-rants”?  I never had, until someone tweeted me about it, and asked me to write about it.  It seems to be an opportunity for people who have a beef to have their say in video form for no more than a minute.  Interesting.  Here’s one:

 

http://www.tole-rants.com/video/?id=9wLeXFYaY9I

 

Seems like a good way to promote a cause, exert influence, vent your spleen or solidify your reputation as a complete whackjob.  In the case of the example above, however, this person is advocating for people with disabilities, which is a cause I can always support.  So, check out Tole-rants, the viral video outlet for all your frustrations.

 

LL     

Accessible Twitter enters beta status


Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23, 2010

MEDIA CONTACT
Web Overhauls
weboverhauls
www.weboverhauls.com

Social Media Web App "Accessible Twitter" Enters Beta Status

AccessibleTwitter.com expands features and empowers disabled users to access Twitter, the popular social micro-blogging web service.

Cupertino, CA (February 23, 2010) Accessible Twitter, a web application that empowers disabled users to access Twitter, has updated its status from Alpha to Beta. Accessible Twitter is a web application that enables users with disabilities and limited technology to use the popular social micro-blogging web service Twitter. Accessible Twitter beta will include new features like URL-shortening, trends, saved searches, popular links, and partial support for lists.

Disabled users typically have significant problems accessing many web sites and web services, including Twitter. Accessible Twitter ensures that all links are keyboard accessible, provides simple, consistent layout and navigation, and structures each page with helpful headings. Additional audio cues indicate when Twitter’s 140-character limit is almost reached when writing a tweet. Accessible Twitter works with or without JavaScript and is compatible with all major Internet browsers. Accessible Twitter is used by those with and without disabilities.

Mr. Dennis E. Lembree, owner of the web development company WebOverhauls.com and creator of Accessible Twitter, is dedicated to expanding the accessibility of the web.

"I really enjoy social web apps like Twitter, and unfortunately, the majority of web sites and web applications are still not fully accessible to everyone. Overall, I think theres a misconception that a ‘Web 2.0’ site cant be cool or fun and be accessible at the same time; its actually quite possible."
– Dennis Lembree of WebOverhauls

Accessible Twitter is already garnering international praise from across the web:

"Accessible Twitter offers an important alternative to web-based Twitter – it is accessible not just by people with various disabilities, but is more useful to everyone needing to access Twitter through keyboard-only. The presentation of tweets is clearer, not as cluttered. And links to all options are easy to find. Great stuff!"
– Nicolas Steenhout of Accessibility NZ

"Accessible Twitter not only addresses the accessibility flaws of the original site, but also introduces usability features that make ‘tweeting’ easier for all web-based users."
– Matt Smith of Smiffytech

"Accessible Twitter is a thoroughly useful tool, well designed and perfectly suited for people who have vision loss. It is an indispensable part of my every day, enabling me to connect with potential clients on the same playing field as my non-disabled counterparts."
– Laura Legendary of Legendary Insights (a visually impaired daily user of Accessible Twitter)

Accessible Twitter has been mentioned in numerous articles and books including The Twitter Book by O’Reilly Media. Accessible Twitter was the recipient of 2009 Access IT @web2.0 Award.

For more about Accessible Twitter, visit: http://www.accessibletwitter.com.

#####

About Web Overhauls

Web Overhauls is a web development company specializing in web standards, usability, and accessibility. Web Overhauls develops web sites for small to medium-sized businesses with a focus on improving existing web sites for better usability and accessibility. The company is a member of GAWDS and Refresh Detroit. Mr. Dennis E. Lembree, the President of Web Overhauls, is an established expert in the field, creator AccessibleTwitter.com and author of Web Axe, a podcast and blog about web accessibility.

For more information, visit http://www.weboverhauls.com or email weboverhauls [AT] gmail DOT com.