Apple Keeps Us Moving Forward

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. You would cry, too.

After spending a year plus editing Larry Lewis’s book iOS Success: Making the iPad Accessible,multi color apple store it had a pregnant shelf life of exactly nine months. That’s because Apple pushed out a new baby shortly thereafter. And did I mention NBP edited, transcribed, proofed, pressed, and designed Larry’s book in seven different formats?

And now it’s happening again. After spending ten months with the remarkable Janet Ingber on her new book, Learn to Use the Mac with VoiceOver: A Step-by-Step Guide for Blind Users, an email arrived in my inbox: Will Janet be updating her Mac book this fall when Yosemite is released?

I didn’t reply. Instead, I went out and bought myself an oversized, anti-viral, ultra soft, aloe-soaked box of Kleenex and had myself a cry party. And then… sniff…

I got a tweet from that rascal Jonathan Mosen that he was already working on version 8 of his book, iOS 7 Without the Eye, which we transcribed last year. I stopped mid-sniffle and dashed off an email: Johnny, same deal as last time? You bet, came the reply. And then the incomparable Anna Dresner phoned: Will we want her to update Getting Started with the iPhone? Yes, please.

Not a word of complaint from Larry or Janet or Jonathan or new products Our indomitable authors (and consumers) are already moving on. It’s the way things are. Our authors, who are also consumers, have been “in the game” since 1984, when NBP published “A Beginner’s Guide to Personal Computers for the Blind and Visually Impaired.” I haven’t calculated how many technology books have shipped out since then, but I do know we’ve sold 11,844 iOS books alone.

James Baldwin said, “People can cry much easier than they can change.” It appears some do; others move on.

If There Were Twitter Fifty years Ago

I’m a history, news, and politics buff. Radio is also an enduring passion of mine. It’s been a long time now since I worked full time in commercial radio in New Zealand, but thanks to the Internet, I keep my hand in. With a team of over 40 volunteers, I run Mushroom FM, an Internet radio service staffed predominantly by blind broadcasters.

Mushroom FM has a sister station, Mushroom Escape, which plays a wide variety of radio drama and comedy. Sometimes, we deviate from that mission a little to commemorate special events. This Friday, we’ll be playing radio coverage of the Kennedy assassination from a range of sources, complete with all the jingles and commercials of the day.

In putting this special day of programming together, I’ve immersed myself in many hours of radio and TV coverage from that day, so I can select the best material in terms of both content and audio quality. It occurs to me that in addition to being a profoundly tragic day that altered the course of history, it was also the day breaking news came of age. Television networks went into a continuous news format for a prolonged period for the first time. Radio, with its ability to get correspondents on the air from a range of places more easily than television, held its own.

In sifting through all this material, I began reflecting on just how differently we consume breaking news stories now. Of course we have continuous news channels, and correspondents are easier than ever to put to air, but radio and TV are no longer the first place I turn to for breaking news. When I receive a push notification on my iPhone from one of my many breaking news apps, the first thing I do is turn to Twitter. With Twitter, anyone with a mobile device at the scene of an unfolding news event is a global journalist. It has democratized the news reporting process. Both trained journalists, and people who just happen to be bystanders when history unfolded, can record their experience in 140-character chunks for near immediate world-wide publication.

Mindful that absolutely anyone can be a global publisher thanks to Twitter, a bit of intelligence and healthy skepticism on the part of the reader goes a long way. Sometimes misinformation is spread, and for a while taken as fact. This can happen due to genuine confusion and misunderstanding, and in some cases because people are being mischievous. But reading first-hand accounts of unfolding events is often a more informative way of getting news than the constant repetition of talking heads trying to fill air-time with the same limited material over and over.

Tweeting BlindReading tweets about major events as they develop is just one reason why I find Twitter such a useful communication tool, and just one of the reasons why I hope my new book, “Tweeting Blind”, will encourage more blind people to become a part of Twitter. Twitter is fundamentally a text-based medium, making it ideal for those of us who use screen readers.

How different it would have been, had the thousands of people who lined the streets of Dallas been able to tweet, fifty years ago.

Jonathan Mosen is a highly experienced producer and consumer of assistive technology and a skilled communicator through broadcasting, other audio and print.