The sound version of a Google (old) reCAPTCHA

Last month, Google announced the new no-captcha reCAPTCHA that is supposedly more accurate and better at preventing spams. We’ll see how this goes.

In the mean time, plenty of websites that employ Google’s reCAPTCHA still use the old version like this:

Google old recaptcha

The problem with this reCAPTCHA is that it fundamentally doesn’t work with screen readers (among other things, like forcing you crossed your eyes trying to figure out each character in the string.) Some people pointed out that reCAPTCHA offers the sound version (see that little red speaker?) that should mitigate the problem.

Here’s the link to sound version of a Google reCAPTCHA: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/9074989/google-recaptcha-audio.mp3

This example was taken from the PubMed website and happened to be set as a string of numbers.

Enjoy!

p.s. what is this a about PubMed using inaccessible reCAPTCHA? There are other ways to employ non-captcha security techniques without using that kind solution. :-/

p.p.s. In case you’re curious, I could not decipher two out of the eleven (if I counted it correctly) numbers said in that recording.

Digital Collections and Accessibility

[This is a crosspost from the Digital Scholarship Collaborative Sandbox blog from the MSU Libraries.  The original blog post can be read there.  Do visit the blog and read the other posts written by my colleagues as well.]

Like many other academic libraries, our collection consists of not only print materials, but also electronic collections. Typical electronic resources can be those we subscribe to through a vendor (ProQuest, JSTOR, Elsevier, etc.), or ones that we produce in-house such as https://www.lib.msu.edu/exhibits/).

We digitize a lot of stuff. The Library was busy working on digitization projects even before I joined in 2001, from the Making of the Modern Michigan, the Cookbooks project and Sliker Collection, Sunday School Books, nd more recently, historic images from Chicago Tribunes. Or consider other digital collections from other institutions such as the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress,Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the World Digital Library, or the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). There are a lot of digital collections produced by various libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions.

The typical outcome from these digitization projects are images, metadata, and text, represented either as an image of printed or handwritten material or as a transcript. We then create a Web presence for these outcomes, including features like search, browse, and perhaps some additional application to display and interact with the images. User interaction with these digital collections should be straightforward: users should be able to visit the site, search or browse, and read the information presented on the page with ease. We also want to make the presentation of these collections pleasing to the eye, with background color or images, font type and color, and consistent placement of the images with the associated metadata (image on the top with metadata on the bottom, or image on the left with metadata on the right, or the whatever design decision we make to present the collection.) We also want to make sure that our institution’s branding is visible. So we add the banner, image or logo of our institution, some navigation so visitors can also go to our main website, and footers to provide visitors with contact information, acknowledgement of the funder, link to the privacy statement, etc.

Eventually, we produce a set of rich interfaces, chock full of images, text, and links. And probably some audio, too, for a sound project.

Given the ubiquitous nature of digital collections, the goal that these collections would be used as part of scholarly activities, and the library’s mission to disseminate the information as widely as possible, there is one aspect that many of us need to address when we plan for a digitization project: how do people with disabilities access these collections without getting lost? Can they also get the same access and benefit of our collections if they only rely on their screen readers (or refreshable Braille, or any other assistive technology)? Can people move around our website easily using just a keyboard (for those with hand-coordination difficulty who cannot use a mouse)?

Consider these questions when you begin working on any digital humanities project. Data visualization is now being used a lot. Sighted users can review the image representations easily; we can distinguish the information by shape and colors. Mundane data that used to be presented as text can now have pretty face. Information can be conveyed faster because we can see the charts and colors right away without having to go through lengthy text. But how can those who rely on sound be able to infer the information from those charts? Can color-blind people distinguish the color palette that you use? How are you going to explain the conclusion of your charts “verbally”? These are areas that have yet be addressed fully. We still have a lot of work to do.

Some resources:

 

On information seeking report

The Project Information Literacy released their research report titled “Lessons Learned: How College Students Seek Information in the Digital Age” in 2009.  The PDF report can be found at http://projectinfolit.org/pdfs/PIL_Fall2009_Year1Report_12_2009.pdf.

What makes this report interesting is that the group also try to dig deeper on how students developed their strategy in their information needs both for their course-related works and everyday life. In general, the students use course readings, library resources, and things like Google and Wikipedia when conducting course-related research. They tend to use Google, Wikipedia, and friends when it came to everyday life research.

One of the findings is that students tend use the course readings first for their course-related research.  This seems a no brainer to me. After all, the faculty is their “first contact” in the courses they take.

The report also suggests the differences between the guides that librarians provided and the strategy employed by the students. “All in all, the librarian approach is one based by thoroughness, while the student approach is based on efficiency.” (page 20.)  This seems to line up nicely with what Roy Tennant wrote many years ago that  “only librarians like to search; everyone else like to find.” (Digital Libraries – Avoiding Unintended Consequences,  http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA156524.html)

As a side note, I’m curious about the time and effort on researches being done in learning students information seeking behavior. Public Services librarians seem to understand this already based on their interaction with the students. Interestingly enough, most of library collection decisions are based on faculty research needs. So, I wonder how the familiarity of the resources affects the faculty’s decision in constructing their course readings and whether it might also affect the student behavior in their information seeking.

All in all, this is their ultimate conclusion:

This is our ultimate conclusion: Todayʼs students are not naïve about sources, systems, and services. They have developed sophisticated information problem-solving strategies that help them to meet their school and everyday needs, as they arise.

The report came up with several recommendations and one of them gave me a pause:

We have come to believe that many students see instructors—not librarians—as coaches on how to consult research. This situation seems to occur whether the faculty may qualify as expert researchers in the area of student research methods, or not. Librarians and faculty should see the librarian-student disconnect as a timely opportunity, especially when it comes to transferring information competencies to students.
We recommend librarians take an active role and initiate the dialogue with faculty to close a divide that may be growing between them and faculty and between them and students—each campus is likely to be different. There are, of course, many ways to initiate this conversation that some libraries may already have in use, such as librarian-faculty roundtables, faculty visits, faculty liaison programs, and customized pathfinders to curriculum, to name but a few. And there is always room for creating new ways to facilitate conversation between faculty and librarians, too. No matter what the means of communication may be, however, librarians need to actively identify opportunities for training faculty as conduits for reaching students with sound and current information-seeking strategies, as it applies to their organizational settings.
Personally, I have no objection with the recommendation above. After all, that’s why we (the librarians) are here for. However, the recommendation above basically takes for granted that narrowing or closing the librarian-student disconnect would actually improve the outcome of the students research. Or, in other words, nowhere in the report indicated that this disconnect bring “harms” to the students outcome. It would be nice to see some kind of assessments on this.

The hidden meaning of “a great degree of flexibility and customization”

Code4Lib mailing list has an interesting discussion about a discovery layer for Primo. This particular discussion piqued my interest not because of the technical content, but for what’s not actually being discussed. Here’s the sentence that intrigued me (italic part is mine):

We use Alma/Primo here at California State University  Sacramento and are finding a great degree of flexibility and customization of the local collections.

Flexibility and customization! I do like this. However, something else nagged me as well. Admit it, most of us are tinkerer. We like the idea that we can customize anything to make sure the relevant information will be displayed properly, with additional bells and whistles if needed. We cherish the idea of “freedom” in this area, where we can basically create a “perfect” user interface without being constrained by the vendor’s product. After all, each library is different and cookie-cutter templates could never satisfy us.

Here lies the hidden meaning of the freedom that we are so wanted: we better know what we’re doing. There will be a time we have to devote a lot of our time for the panning and designing, and making careful considerations we have to work on to make the product work effectively.  Anybody whose work deals with information architecture and/or user experience knows this. Design decision should be based on usability study, data analysis, and users research –understanding how our users would interact with our web presence. Most of us already have data from our web logs; our face-to-face or virtual interactions with users who are attempting to use our web presence gave us indications the pain points of our website; and, if we’re lucky, we already did one or two usability studies of our web presence.

However, when it comes to working on a totally new service with new web presence, do those data and the analysis we did apply to this new design? How do we exactly go about designing a totally new user interface? There is no easy answer to that. It is always a good thing to involve our user from the beginning, getting their input and and trust their opinion. Or create stories of personas (stake holders) and use them at least as a starting point. And this is probably where the paradox are happening. We know our services and collections, and we know our systems. So we design how we present our collections and services based on our previous understandings about our past users, who might or might not still relevant.

[lost my thought here. it might come back later. someday.]