AN experiment with Web 2.0 applications

I have always enjoyed testing and playing with new tools and applications. However the older I get it seems to take longer and longer to learn these more complex applications. Recently one of the people I follow on twitter and respect immensely in the industry Marco Zehe has been creating blog posts and demonstrations of some more advanced applications. His work has inspired me to once again take a plunge and commit to new applications. So in the next month I am going to restrict myself to only using Web 2.0 applications for all my work except for this blog. I will try and post frequently throughout the month to keep you all informed as to my progress with this project.

Perhaps one of the difficulties I’ve had in making this transition in the past is that for the first time I’ve had choices. When I say this I mean there are perfectly good applications that work well that I’m comfortable with and understand how to use. For example, I haven’t had to adopt the standard view for Gmail because there was a basic HTML view that did what I needed. When it came to my professional life if I wanted to create good presentable documents and emails I would stay within the Microsoft office environment.

Saying all this why would I ever switch to the more difficult standard HTML view for Gmail or use docs to create work product. I’m not saying that in the past I have not tried to use the standard HTML or docs but I’ve never had a need to stick with it and learn what I needed to. In the past I would get frustrated very quickly trying to use any of these products and always go back to my comfortable easy to use tools. Now, I’m ready to try again. Let me be honest with you I’m not doing this cold and I’ve been working a little bit in some of the applications just to assure myself that I could do it.

I can’t tell you how many times in the past I’ve tried to create a Google doc or read one that somebody else sent me and gave up in frustration and disgust. I would open the file and for the life of me I couldn’t even find the text let alone the menus or any other part of the interface. I would use the keyboard shortcuts and help documents that I found on the web. I still couldn’t ever really consider this to be a viable option. So I would go back to Microsoft office and produce my work. I can’t tell you how embarrassing it was to tell people please send me the document in word only because I’m not able to use Google Docs.

Recently, within the past six months or so, Google has done some incredible work with their products. I would occasionally get updates about the accessibility improvements in Google and go in test to see if they were true or not. Most of the time these improvements were really there but just not enough for me to be able to work in the application. However they seem to be fragmented and sometimes other parts of the interface would break while they were working on the one they had just announced. A month or so ago I was at a presentation given by Shawn Lauriat from the google apps/docs team, talking about some of the work he and his team at Google had done to make Google Docs more accessible to screen readers. I was intrigued by what he had said and the next day went and looked for these particular updates. I was truly pleased and thrilled to see what he had done. The docs team at Google obviously has worked hard in the past year to bring their application up to accessibility standards. I now could read the text in a Google doc but I also could create my own. The way I discovered some of the other features that they had added came as a complete surprise to me.

While working in a document someone had shared with me all the sudden my screen reader announced to me that the person that had shared the document with me was editing in the area I was at!! Needless to say my INTEREST IN STARTING TO work more effectively in this application that could now do something I could never do before was peeked.

This is why I am embarking on this month of doing all of my work in web apps. I have decided to eliminate all the clients I use and only use the web interfaces of my main tools. I must give one exception to this rule. When I dictate these blogs for you using Dragon NaturallySpeaking I will not be in the web interface. Those of you who know me personally know how horrible my spelling is and know that I work much better when I dictate things like this. Currently I am using Dragon 12 which is not as web ready as I am. Therefore, I will be using word to dictate these blog posts out to you. I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking in combination with jaws using a tool called J-say. As the developer of J-Say can only create his application once the professional version of Dragon is released I will probably have to wait about 6 to 8 months before I can do the same experiment using Dragon. I have seen a lot of rumors saying that Dragon 13 supports aria and I look forward to seeing the truth in these when Dragon Pro is released for J-SAY development: t to begin. In the meantime I hope all of you enjoy this feature and send back comments on my reports.

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