UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Accessibility of MW 2007 Papers

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 Apr 2007

Papers from the Museums and the Web 2007 conference are available online on the MW 2007 Web site. That’s great – but are the papers accessible, one might ask. And are they available in a variety of formats, to suit the end users preferences – including, perhaps, as a MP3 file?

The papers may comply with Web accessibility guidelines, but in general the answer to this question will be ‘no’ – and for perfectly understandable reasons: there is a cost associated with converting documents into a variety of formats, and there is probably no great demand for this.

But what if such conversion could be done easily, including conversion to MP3 format? And what if the he effort in doing this was devolved to the authors, rather than expecting the conference organisers to take responsibility for yet another task?

I’ve been looking at this recently, and have been evaluating the Scribd document repository service. As an experiment I have uploaded my papers on Addressing the Limitations of Open Standards and How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers to Scribd. What this provides is a nice interface to the document in a variety of formats including MS Word, PDF, plain text, HTML and even MP3. The service also provides n annotation services and various statistics for me, as the author. The paper can also be embedded in third party resources, thus helping to maximise the impact of the ideas in the paper by simply embedding the following HTML code into a page:

<object width=”450″ height=”500″><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”SameDomain” /><param name=”movie” value=”http://static.scribd.com/FlashPaperS3.swf?guid=fz90upfh93ql3&document_id=35035&#8243; /><embed width=”450″ height=”500″ src=”http://static.scribd.com/FlashPaperS3.swf?guid=fz90upfh93ql3&document_id=35035&#8243; type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”></embed> </object>

And although some may have reservations over the use of Flash as an interface to the resource, it should be noted that the MS Word, PDF and MP3 files can all be accessed directly.
All good stuff, I think.

So wouldn’t it be great if, at the MW 2008 conference, successful authors were invited to upload their paper to Scribd and to use the ‘MW2008’ tag to allow all papers to be easily found? It could be suggested that this process could be the responsibility of the conference organisers (and they might benefit from being able to include MP3 versions of papers to enrich the accessibility of the conference). But I feel that encouraging the authors to do this may help to embed an understanding of Web 2.0 technologies and the ease of use of such services more widely.

What do you think – potential authors of papers for MW 2008 conference, and perhaps the ichim07 conference? And, perhaps more importantly, what are the views of the conference organisers?

Technorati Tags: mw2007

4 Responses to “Accessibility of MW 2007 Papers”

  1. Brian,

    Displaying code for embedding material in third party sites is becoming more and more popular. YouTube – Slideshare – scribd etc. Who else is doing this?

    Also, do you or your readers know who is providing the same functionality in the same way WRT RSS feed items? Google Reader does, but its called ‘put a clip on your site’ as far as I can see.

    What am I missing?

    Roddy

  2. Hi Roddy – I think you’re right, there seems to be a pattern emerging of services which use Flash as an interface to various services, which can be embedded in Web pages using the object HTML element. And the services also seem to provide links to alternative formats for users who aren’t able to use a Flash interface.
    I’ve not seen this approach being used for RSS yet. A while ago I made use of the RSSInclude service which enables RSS content to be embedded in HTML pages using a variety of methods (JavaScript, JSON, IFRAME and PHP) – but not Flash.

  3. Mike said

    Hey Brian – the mp3 version talks an interesting language…not sure it’s quite how we put it…

    Mike

  4. Ahh – I suspect it’s talking in reverse! I notice the same thing with the text version of the paper. This will be a bug in the software (which should be fixable) and not a fundamental barrier to use of the service. I have reported the problem to Scrib. BTW, does my paper say “Paul is dead”?

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