As a way to be innovative and introduce new features, Twitter has decided to rollout a new audio tweet feature to set group of iOS users to allow another way to express your voice if 280 characters are not enough.
But it didn’t go according to plan when the d/Deaf and hard of hearing community expressed their frustration about its lack of accessibility, which prompted various individuals within the company to release their own statements.
Long story short, they messed up.
I have decided to give my own thoughts on what happened and what they, and many companies, could have done better.
You can do that by watching the video below…
…listen to the podcast…
…read the transcript.
Last week on 17th of June 2020, Twitter has rolled out a feature called ‘audio tweet’, something like that, and they rolled out to test it on a few people on iOS.
It’s a new feature that they want to push out there it seems and basically on their blog post that they have entitled “Your tweet, your voice”, they have said that “sometimes 280 characters aren’t enough and some conversational nuances arelost in translation.”…
Don’t we know it.
“…So starting today we are testing a new feature that will add a more human touch to the way we use Twitter; your own voice”.
The way it works is that you record your voice on the file, on the app and then it will attach to a tweet. You write your message, you see a wave form of audio file there and you can read the message and then press play on the audio file on that tweet itself.
It lasts around 140 seconds but if you have more to stay, and some of us, talk too much, then you can get keep on talking and it will create like an audio tweet thread.
So the idea sounds nice, doesn’t it? it sound like a nice feature you get lost in translation less often and maybe just something that people would like you know add a bit more human touch to it.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well I tell you what’s gone wrong…I can’t hear it! Before we go into the topic make sure you check out my Patreon page if you do fancy supporting the channel for as little as $3 dollars a month. That’s it.
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This will help me to make sure that I can continue creating content like this and to bridge the gap between d/Deaf and hearing people and just share the good stuff that I have as many people as possible.
Straightaway, when they have announced that, what I was looking for is some information about how am I going to access that information because I’m not going to be able to hear it, and there doesn’t seem to be any way of accessing that content, which means they are accessible for people like me and many many other people.
And because of that, people were not happy. I was one of them. I got very frustrated when I saw that and I did not like that feature one bit. So basically I just tweeted out saying “great, another content that is inaccessible as well on the Internet. That’s what we need…more of them”.
And it’s not just me who has expressed their frustration. So many people have spoken up about it and so many people could not believe why would you release something like this and not have it accessible in a certain way, whether transcript or captions, you know encouraging people do that.
Nothing! Absolutely nothing!
People have spoken up especially the d/Deaf and hard of hearing people, they have spoken up on Twitter, and man there was a bit of an outcry about that and people just didn’t like it. They give expressed their annoyance and frustration, and it’s something that happens again and again and again.
They are left behind or people who are not able to access that information or don’t have the accessibility requirement met, they are left behind they’re pushed aside, because it’s deemed not important.
So people get frustrated and you can imagine that’s how I feel and how they feel because it’s again, we are being ignored. And because of that, a few people on Twitter have decided to speak up, which is amazing, really really good of him.
Twitter have spoken up about their mistakes
Two people in particular have spoken up, one of them is part of the product design team, Maya Patterson, and she released an audio tweet thread but also the transcript, very nice, and she basically put her own personal response to the d/Deaf and hard of hearing community.
I would advise you to check out that Twitter thread by clicking on the link in the captions below:
But basically, the long story short is that she realises that it’s just not right. She didn’t think about those things. She didn’t think about the feature that will be necessary, like accessibility requirement. She listened.
She said “you know what this is not right I want to fix it, I want to do it right” and she felt bad about that and she apologised for it as well and it seemed quite a genuine. It seemed quite honest. I was quite impressed with that.
And I responded saying “I appreciate what you are saying, I really do”. Also I wanted to say it’s not her fault directly because she had to work in that system.
Another person within Twitter I think his name is Dantley Davis, and he’s the head of design. And he also apologised and he made it clear that “we should have accessibility from a beginning of all projects” and he wants to do something about it.
And that tweet has also been supported by the ‘Twitter Support’ Twitter account if you like and they have also expressed their frustration as well and they listened up and they said “you know what, we messed up, we hear you we want to do something about it”.
It’s great to see that people spoke up and people should do it more often and I’m glad they have have spoken up. And one thing that I wanted to clarify with both of them and people who in that similar situation is that I’m not blaming the individuals concerned. I’m not blaming them directly, because I blame the system more on Twitter.
Whatever system they have in place, they have to work in that system and they just have to go with it and if that’s their system and they can’t really change you or they can’t go around it or can’t make it better, then we can’t blame the individual concerned. We should be looking at the system in place on Twitter.
Why accessibility is not an important part of their team? Why is not thought off from the beginning?
It seemed to be ignored. It’s not the first time they’ve done that. They’ve done it time and time again.
Twitter seemingly doesn’t have accessibility expert?
When reading more about it I have also found out that the Twitter accessibility relies on employees who volunteered their time. That’s according to one of the engineer working and basically what he’s saying is that “we have this thing where we have employees do their thing and then in their spare time they do a bit of accessibility”.
So it’s not something that they specialise in. It’s just a little extra thing that they do, whatever free time that they have on their normal job, which is mind-boggling. I’m so baffled by that.
What they are saying is they don’t have a dedicated accessibility team, which is ridiculous as far as I’m concerned.
There are so many people out there they have spoken up, they are the accessibility experts, the advocate, the people who know these stuff and they have shout out about it from the roof top “why do you not have this from a beginning…why do you not have the team in place”…all of these things.
But what didn’t have it and it’s just so weird because you think it’s a normal thing to have for any major company, any major software company to incorporate that and think about doing that before releasing anything new. But they didn’t do that.
It’s not the first time that Twitter ran into accessibility problem. Most other social media platforms, they allow you to upload caption to the videos.
But Twitter don’t, at least they don’t do anymore, because a few days after this whole thing about the audio tweet, suddenly they have seemed to have enabled the option of uploading captions to video to everyone.
From what I understand, it seemed to be that they have just allowed that features to certain people. They allow the option of caption to be uploaded to videos were only available to certain people and then suddenly it’s available to everyone.
First of all why now? I find that a bit suspicious, especially after people spoke up. But also, why the hell would you just allow the feature to be only available to certain people. That should be available to everyone. Absolutely everyone should have that feature but for some reason it didn’t work like that.
Again, it seemed like a common sense in like a basic accessibility thing to have.
My suggestions for Twitter
After things up settle down, it seems that they’re going to relook at how to make it more accessible and I understand that they’re going to see about their whole system on how to make sure that accessibility is mentioned and thought of at the beginning of any projects, all projects.
But for this audio treat in particular, they’re looking into what can they do about it and I’m really curious to see what happens with that. And if I hear more, I will update it in the transcript.
One of my suggestion is to make it as easy as possible for people to have captions because I know that people won’t do it voluntarily, especially if there are barriers in front of them.
Sometimes people don’t give a damn, they just can’t be arsed. So they are just going to leave it aside or they’ll think about it later or just ignore it…all these things. And it’s important to make sure that captions are done as easy as possible. But that’s not always the case for some people. They just can’t be bothered.
You only have to look at YouTube and how terrible most of videos are in terms of their captions because people just leave it on auto-caption instead of either uploading a new one or editing the auto-caption, which brings me to one of my suggestions for Twitter is to allow auto-captions but allow people to edit the auto-caption so that they can upload it to that audio tweet.
The same thing applies for the videos. At the moment that option is not there for a video and it’s not there for their early version of the audio tweet. That’s something that they can think about.
Accessibility is a must from the beginning
The general moral of a story is that accessibility should be something that is thought of from the very, very beginning.
Because I’ve got news for you:
- Accessibility is not an afterthought.
- Accessibility is not a luxury.
- Accessibility is not a “nice-to-have”.
It’s a must!
And it should be thought of from the very beginning of any project. This is something that Twitter did not think about and many other companies have not done this either.
And to be honest, if you haven’t done that, then you’re gonna have more headaches and you’re gonna waste a lot of time and money trying to add it at a later date or you realise you’ve messed up and you have to fix it, all these things so you are better off thinking about it from the beginning.
And even for this particular situation about audio tweet, I have mentioned many times in the past about the benefit of having the likes of caption and transcript.
There are so many benefit to it and even though in most occasions, accessibility can be beneficial not for the minority but for the majority, for those really needing caption and transcript, there are so many benefit and it’s not just for d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
Yes we spoke up about it but if you check out the link in the description about the benefits of captions and transcript, you’ll realise that so many people benefit from it.
And if so many people benefit from it, then surely Twitter will see it like, “you know what? Because a lot of people will use it, a lot of people will look at the tweet and the videos and if they can access it, then more people will engage with Twitter and they will engage with the tweets and have all these shares and things”.
Surely that’s what Twitter and any software companies, any companies like this, they want people to use their products. Well then, listen to them listen to us, listen to different people. Don’t just leave it at the last minute or at a later stage, you will regret it in the long run.
So hopefully Twitter will take this as a sign to say “you know what? We’ve messed up. Let’s do something about it so that it doesn’t happen again in the future”
And I hope other companies are also learning from this experience so that doesn’t happen to you as well. Because you can see immediately what happened because of this mishap, people have spoken up, they’re not happy about it and they had to put in the extra effort again at a later date to fix it.
You don’t want to do that.
There are so many accessibility experts out there but even so, listen to people on social media, listen to me, talk to me contact me, whatever it is. I’m here if you want to talk about it. But just don’t leave it late.
Don’t leave it as an afterthought. Don’t be doing what Twitter has done, which is basically they’ve messed up and they’ve admitted that, which is great. Right, let’s see what they got to do about it because at the end of the day actions speak louder than words.
Let me know in the comments what do you think about it. Is it a bad thing as I really said? Or does it not matter?
I’m just curious to know what you think, let me know in the comments.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
- Why you should never censor audible profanity in captions/subtitles - September 23, 2020
- How to improve the quality of the automatic subtitles in video calls? - September 16, 2020
- Technology is not responsible for the accuracy of automatic captions. You are! - September 10, 2020