I want to start this piece with an apology to all of the many readers who have made this into such a successful blog over the past nearly eleven years. In 2016, including this one, I’ve only published 5 articles, compared to an average of more than 20 in most years since I ended BlindConfidential and moved onto the more serious and well structured hofstader.com format. Almost entirely due to issues in my personal life far beyond my control, this has been a tremendously trying year for me and I simply did not have the energy to write up to the standards I have set for myself over the past decade.
I have published a “year in review and predictions for the following one” article in December for the past few years. While these articles rarely get a large number of hits, a number of people write to me each year telling me they enjoyed reading it, especially because of the statistical information I would include. Sadly, as you’ll see in the next section, it’s very hard to tease any conclusions out of the data gathered by the analytics engine I use for this blog regarding 2016. It’s only four articles on which we’ve actual information that were published this year so most of the top ten articles unique hit count are mostly articles I’ve written in previous years that people return to every year.
I do plan on reviving the blog and trying to get back to my bi-weekly schedule pretty soon. I have about a half dozen new articles in various states of completion and, as some of the time I need to spend on professional obligations is (thankfully) diminishing, I’ll be back at the blog in 2017.
I also want to thank all of the others who’ve contributed to this blog in 2016 and in the ten years prior. Whether you were a source quoted by name or who provided me with useful information for an article, a member of the informal editorial committee I depend on for most articles or one of the thousands of readers, I am deeply grateful to you for allowing me to continue publishing articles of importance to our community.
The 2016 Statistics
This year, the blog received just over 20,000 unique non-spam hits.
|Stop The ADA Trolls||5341|
|Stopping The ADA Trolls: Carlson/Lynch Should Sue Themselves||3804|
|Testing Android Accessibility: I Give Up (2014)||1144|
|The Death Of Screen Reader Innovation (2013)||1042|
|Stopping The ADA Trolls: Something You Can Do||847|
|EZ Fire OR Sleazy Liar||710|
|Screen Reader Market Figures (2015)||614|
|Back In The Game (2014)||531|
|Testing Android: A Deaf-Blind Perspective (2014)||454|
I don’t think this information is terribly revealing. The first two in the ADA trolls trilogy were the big hits but the third article in the series did less well, maybe because it was a call to action and our readers may have not realized it was an article distinct from the first two. And, as in each year since I’ve been keeping statistics, “Death Of Screen Reader Innovation” still ranks in the top ten and is the single most popular article in the history of this blog. It certainly generated the most email I’ve received from readers that continue until today.
I’d also like to note that of the 17 new articles we published in 2015, none received more than roughly 850 unique hits while two of the ADA Trolls articles we ran this year pulled down really big numbers on our minimal standards for such.
With only four new articles published this year, though, it’s hard to determine what people found interesting. Obviously, the ADA story caught the attention of the community and the fourth article, “Sleazy Liar,” was pure inside baseball, if you’re not a professional in the field or someone very close to it, I doubt you’d have found it interesting in any substantial manner.
The Android articles continue to rank highly years after they were published. One of these days when I’m feeling energetic, I’ll go back and add disclaimers at the top stating that the data and the opinions based on such when those articles were written are no longer valid as they were based on technology now no less than three years old and a lot of things have changed for the better since then or so I’m told.
I’ve no idea why the piece, “Back In The Game” found its way into the top ten this year. It got fewer readers in the year it was originally published, contains nothing of current events. It might have had to do with DictationBridge and the buzz around it and 3 Mouse Technology so maybe people found it via a search engine. But, when I looked at its number of non-unique hits, the number was about 6500 so it’s likely that a bot or a few started hitting this page for some random reason, maybe attempting to post spam comments.
Most of the hits this year came from Twitter, my primary platform for promoting the blog. FaceBook came in second and this was the first year in which I consistently promoted articles their but, if aggregated, search engines were the single largest source of unique hits. This makes sense, I’ve pretty good SEO on blindness and technology issues and I’ve only had four new articles to promote so there was little noise regarding the blog this year.
Observations Of 2016
The Presidential Election
I don’t want to wade into this swamp and have avoided it in any public forum for most of the year. I tweeted out a single humorous thing, retweeted a few things others put out there and shared a few things posted by others on FaceBook. I was disappointed by the outcome and I am fearful of some of the cabinet appointees with records of opposing legislation designed to enforce our civil rights. I prefer thinking the worst and be pleasantly surprised when things don’t go as badly as I predict than taking the optimistic view and being disappointed later.
The Celebrity Deaths
It felt that hardly a few weeks passed without some pretty cool person passing this year. I don’t want to make a list, look up most any other “year in review” article and you can find a comprehensive one but the passing of Lemmy, David Bowie, Umberto Eco, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher and Muhammed Ali, the greatest ever, caused me the most sadness.
The VFO Thing
One of the articles I’ve in the works does a deeper investigation of Vector Capital, the company that owns VFO and of how this set of mergers might negatively affect our community. I hope to be publishing it sometime in January. The only point that I’d like to make here is to ask you to ask yourself, is it a good idea for a single company to own JAWS, ZoomText; Magic and Window-Eyes? While NVDA has made significant strides forward and has chipped away at the JAWS monopoly position, in many workplaces and other large scale installations, having all four of these products gives VFO a total monopoly. Are we safe with all of the power over the screen readers most widely used in employment and educational settings in the hands of an organization without any competition in those sectors whatsoever?
The three articles I published on the issue of ADA Trolling by what I believe to be an unethical law firm called Carlson/Lynch all got a respectable number of hits. Another of the articles I’ve in some state of incompletion will be part four in the series. In the interim, the CBS television show 60 Minutes did a hit piece on ADA in general and the Wall Street Journal ran an article specifically about the Carlson/Lynch disaster. I’d also recommend you read two articles by Laney Feingold published on her blog, the first is somewhat optimistic and written before the election and the second more pessimistic after the 60 Minutes piece had run. I personally think Laney is the most well informed person out there on ADA related matters and I recommend you follow her blog as both she and her blog are awesome.
Me In 2016
As I wrote above, I had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life this year that took most of my time and attention. I’m not going to write about the negative events as that would require disclosing medical information about people who may want such to remain private and, quite frankly, I prefer keeping most aspects of my personal life private as well.
I thought I might include a mention of some of the year’s high points for me, the music to which I listened and enjoyed, books I’ve read and that sort of thing in 2016.
As has been our tradition for the past four years, we flew to Manchester to attend the annual QED conference in October. As is always the case with QED, the speakers, panels and podcasts recorded there were terrific but one of the things that impresses me every year is just how welcoming the Merseyside Skeptics Society (MSS) makes QED for attendees with disabilities. I’ve been to accessibility conferences that do it far less well and, as a result, I feel more welcome in Manchester with this crowd than I do in any other public events I attend regularly.
QED itself takes place on a Saturday and Sunday but, for the past few years, they’ve held a Skepticamp unconference on the Friday before the main events. This year I did a ten minute lightening talk debunking myths of blindness. I did mostly a comedy routine with some serious points tossed in and the 55 or so people in the room all seemed to enjoy it. I’m going to try to build it out into a longer presentation that combines comedy with real issues facing people who are blind. I wouldn’t describe my performance as slick in any way but I think I may have the kernel of something interesting for the future and it all started at QED.
The author I read the most this year is the great Japanese writer of literary fiction, Haruki Murakami. When I read the wonderful memoir M Train by the godmother of punk, Patti Smith, a book loaded with references to her favorite authors, I realized that I was familiar with all of them except for those from East Asia. Inspired by Patti, I started with Murakami, an author with a long career, numerous novels and short stories. He’s often mentioned when the Nobel literature committee meets as a possible winner.
When I find something I enjoy, I tend to binge on it. Murakami novels tend to be really long so reading all 25 or so of them was a major effort in and of itself. His short story collections are also incredible. Of his novels, I’d recommend Kafka On The Shore, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, The Wild Sheep Chase, Norwegian Wood and the very long 1Q84. I’d also recommend both of his short story collections. I listened to all of these in audio format from audible where the narrations are terrific. I didn’t put in individual links to each novel as, due to his relatively large scale popularity, you can find Murakami’s work on most any online library you enjoy using.
While Murakami is mentioned in the same breath as literature Nobelist from Faulkner to Bob Dylan, Tim Dorsey is about as far from those masters of literature as possible. Dorsey writes in the sub-genre called “Florida Weird” and his main character Serge storms is something of an hysterically funny cross between Dexter and a Rube Goldberg drawing. These short novels are filled with the true and very strange stories of Florida history, the good guys always win and all 19 of the books in the series have a few laugh out loud moments.
The Celtic-Classical Crossover
While I’m a big fan of most music that falls under the label “Americana,” I must admit to having minimal exposure to bluegrass and the Celtic influenced Appalachian sounds. Over this past summer, a new friend and virtuoso fiddle player found an entry point for me into this wonderful music that was accessible to my prior understanding and love of music. I had no idea that top end classical music performers like Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Nigel Kennedy and others had been working in a crossover between the European classical tradition and the sounds of America.
Once being introduced to the violinist/fiddler Mark O’Connor, I found my way to other recordings that would put performers like Bella Fleck together with Yo-Yo Ma and the amazing double bass player Edgar Mayer, another performer who mixes classical with Appalachian and also plays each separately.
Having AppleMusic for $10 per month has let me enjoy learning a lot about these performers and this sub-genre and it’s been a valuable tool in my discovering another type of music to enjoy. I suspect Spotify is similarly helpful but I switched to AppleMusic for a variety of reasons and dropped my Spotify subscription.
One New Release
I’m an old man at 56 and admit I listen to little music recorded in the past decade or so. This year, I enjoyed one brand new album, “Blue and Lonesome” by the Rolling Stones. The guys in the band wanted to go back to their roots, they recorded the album live in a hot room over only three days. The Stones chose their favorite blues songs, many of which they played before they became rich and famous and pushed out a high energy set of covers from their influences, the Chicago blues of the forties and fifties. If you like blues or you like the Stones, give this album a listen, I was pleased with it and I hope you will be too.
Another new artist or at least an artist new to me that I discovered this year is a gal in England named Joanne Shaw Taylor. This chick’s guitar playing is comparable with that of an Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and the other legends of British blues-rock and her singing can blow the paint off of the walls. As I’m a pretty serious blues aficionado, I’m surprised she had escaped my attention previously but if you enjoy the British blues-rock sound, acts like Cream, Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, give this gal a listen, she’s a lot of stuff on AppleMusic and I’d assume she’s on Spotify as well.
Call Me Lucky
I enjoy documentaries a lot and I’m also a big fan of stand-up comedy. “Call Me Lucky” was produced and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait and is about the legendary left wing Boston area comic Barry Crimmins. “Call Me Lucky” tells the story of how what is now the legendary Boston area comedy scene got its start and produced major names like Jay Leno, Steven Wright and, of course, Bobcat himself. It’s also a horrific tale of child sexual abuse and the cover up perpetrated by the Catholic Church against its victims. It tells the story of how Crimmins, the activist not the comic, was able to take on AOL and win the battle to force it to remove child pornography. This is a powerful film and I recommend it highly. I watched it on Netflix but don’t know if they still have it as their schedule changes as often as do my socks.
Predictions For 2017
Last year, I predicted a bunch of stuff, you an go back and read the 2015 In Review article and add up my score for yourself. As many of those predictions required some action on my part and that I did little this year would suggest that I couldn’t even force some of them to come true.
I found the US presidential election and the president elect’s anti-disability appointees to have been an entirely unpredictable phenomena. I’d have never predicted this nor even thought it was a possibility a year ago. So, with zero confidence in my predictive powers, I’m going to make no predictions for 2017 beyond a handful of guesses:
- I predict that VFO will deprecate both MAGic and Window-Eyes. It makes no sense for one company to work on these two when they’ve also JAWS and ZoomText in their portfolio.
- I predict that Carlson/Lynch will continue its lawsuit blitzkrieg and that the best we can do as a community is to try to help the defendants find a path to accessibility that does not involve a shakedown.
- I’ll predict that a group of blind hackers will crowdfunding and deliver another piece of free software to help expand the NVDA functionality.
My only conclusion was that both the blog and I had a pretty rough year. I’m hoping 2017 brings less bad news in my personal life and that the community of blind hackers can continue to make interesting software for a tiny fraction of the amount of money taken from the community as exists with the proprietary model.
Jean E Klingensmith says
I was saddened by the death of so many celebrities
Amanda Rush says
I always love these reviews, especially for the blog stats and the music recommendations.
James Panes says
Between the ADA trollling and the VFO takeover, I have serious concerns about the future of accessibility in Canada and the United States. Now more than ever, we need to actively advocate for accessibility at our work-places, in our communities and with all levels of government. Don’t let so-called experts do it for you. And… if you can code, you can help with NVDA.
Chris Hofstader says
James, thanks for the terrific and thoughtful comment and call to action in it.
I would just like to add that there a lot of things that an individual who would like to help NVDA (or any other free software project for that matter) can do that do not require programming skills. Some of these tasks might include improving the documentation, helping with testing of new builds and verifying fixes in them, writing tutorials, donating some money when they can afford to, asking their employer or educational institution to switch to NVDA, helping with translations of plug-ins and a panoply of other useful ways people can volunteer to help what is now the most important program in the blindness space. I think Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org) has a web page listing a ton of different ways that non-programmers can help free software projects like NVDA and people can look there to see if they can find something that meets their aptitudes and desires.
Our DictationBridge is a good example of a team with a few software engineers, people who can write docs, some who help with internal testing, others who work on promotion and fundraising. If we were only the programmers, we’d not have likely made our $20,000 fundraising goal, we’d have nothing resembling documentation and, as we’ve a number of people on the team who use dictation full time, we’ve been able to make subtle changes to make the software more usable. Of the 14 or so members of the DB team, only five are actually developers and every member of the team has made terrific contributions to the success of the project.
amanda Rush says
I agree with everything Chris has said, and would also add that, when you’re contributing to things like NVDA, make a point of talking about what you’re doing on your social media or on your website. If you don’t have a website that has a portfolio, you can set one up for free at WordPress.com, pick an accessibility-ready theme, and you get portfolio support in the form of a content type that isn’t blog posts. It doesn’t have any bells and whistles, but all you’d have to do is link to is in your menu, and tweet or facebook or post to linkedin the stuff you put in there. If I had to make one criticism about FLOSS projects, including WordPress, it’s that we don’t eo enough to acknowledge our non-coding contributors. Plus, nobody can talk about your contributions like you can. And it’s a whole lot easier to get started on this from the beginning than it is to pick it up later on.
Eric Cook says
Chris… this is a great recap and forward look into 2017. As we’ve discussed directly via email, the ADA “trolling” issue is also of great concern to me and many of my community bank customers as they work to find the appropriate balance of accessibility friendly websites for visitors of all abilities vs. the demand letters and the threat of lawsuits.
Over the past several months in working with our clients in this area, it’s evident they all want to provide an accessible experience and we’re taking a proactive approach to making this happen. As you also know, we’re putting together a free educational webinar on this very topic and look forward to helping website owners better understand the issues and what they need to do/can do to help further their sites towards compliance. If you would like to provide information about the webinar for your readers/followers that would be super.