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Re: Emacspeak, Open Source Software, Free Software And Blind Users

Hi Ann,

Very good points, and I would have agreed with you, except my test
subject did not care about concepts, he wanted to do tasks.  Thus, it
was his _demand_ that common tasks be applied to function keys.  I did
try menus (using W3) and he ignored them, just as he ignores the menus
for example, when W3-mode search starts rattling off a bunch of search
engines he's never heard of or has the least conceptual understanding
to discern.  He just wanted to know if he could find an old Hank
Williams song.  Again, he wanted to do a _task_ not learn more alien

As for TV and I (and TV, sorry I missed your call but I am on the
road) understand that we are the sorts of people who interact by
slam-dancing.  We rile with a proposition and wrestle with polemics;
no one is expecting to win or convince.  In a pub, we might slam palms
on a table to make a point, but we'd never hit each other, and we'd be
back again the next night to pontificate against each other with fresh

Back to tasks.  Yes, the cursor was a concept, as was "point" vs
"mark", these were essential and met with resistance up the learning
cliff, but, as shipped, what are the instructions for Emacspeak users
who want to approach the task "Play a RealAudio Program" (assuming
they find it).  The instructions begin with "Find TRPlayer and install
it".  Install it?  If that isn't instructions for a programmer, I
don't know much about programming.  

What are the instructions for getting started in VM?  "Configure the
.vmrc file" Say what?  With DIC, the answer is "F6".

Or, how do you write a letter?

With DIC, "Write a letter" is 

1) open a new file ending in .letter;
2) follow the prompts for the addressee and salutation;
3) type your message;
4) press C-c C-p to print or C-c C-v to hear a preview;

End of instructions.  Ok, to be fair, "How do I edit a letter?"
becomes a lot more complex, but how many times do you edit a letter
compared to writing on when you've never had the luxury of writing
your own letters before?

Our first month was spent on the 'point', 'buffer', 'frame' and 'file'
concepts and basic single line movement, with read-line, read-buffer,
and good old C-e m (the most important basic command there is!);
'delete' was still backspace only.  This culminated in being able to
use basic dired, write and print letters, poems and lyric sheets, and
send email with no subject line -- I learned quickly that, unless the
learning returns a _tangible_ result, frustration and dispair mounts
pretty darn fast.

We also learned that, at this level, Emacs help files are completely
useless. (Emacs, not just Emacspeak).  I had thought F1-b and F1-m
were pretty good, that is how I learned emacs in 1987, but "C-c" and
the endless repetition of emacspeak-blah emacspeak-blahblahblah is an
annoyance that once cause damage to the keyboard (but was fixable with
glue).  Month two was spent on human factors issues such as the pause
key and speech-rate ;) and re-writing quick ref cards to say "control
c" and "user at domain dot com".

That is when the magic started to happen and "Dickhead" started to
become "DIC" --- given basic commands and basic human factors, the
questions shifted to "How do I shut the damn thing off" and
operations-oriented tasks to "How do I do underlined text" and other
real-world task-oriented questions.  Now, just 4 months later, with no
more than 6 hours of on-site assistance, the latest question is, "How
do I add pages to my website?" ... egad, now he wants to know FTP?
Hardly, he just wants to get a phonecall from his friends to say, "I
saw your web page, it's cool" and the how of FTP is irrelevent.

With DIC, his answer is

1) put the file in ~/work/web/
2) press (some as yet undecided key)

End of instructions.

Anyway, this is all very off topic and somewhat premature; I do want
to thank TV for stirring things up as its resulted in several very
helpful offers of assistance for when we get our project restarted.
When that happens, we will move discussions to another forum and
only involve emacspeak on issues specific to it.

Gary Lawrence Murphy <garym@linux.ca>: office voice/fax: 01 519 4222723
T(C)Inc Business Innovations through Open Source http://www.teledyn.com
M:I-3 - Documenting the Linux kernel: http://kernelbook.sourceforge.net

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