How to add alt-text descriptions to pictures on Twitter for visually impaired people

I’ve seen a couple of tweets and Twitter threads in the last couple of days that have gone a bit viral, highlighting that everyone can set something up in their Twitter settings to make things easier for visually impaired users. If you switch ON the option to be able to caption your photos then, whenever you upload a pic to Twitter, you can click on the image and add a text description. This description doesn’t show up in your tweet (it doesn’t impinge on your character limit) but is useful for those using voice software.

  1. History
  2. How to set it up
  3. Write good descriptions

1. History: Twitter rolls out the ability to add alt text in 2016, initially just for phone apps I think, then later it rolls out to everything.

2. How to set it up

Full info in How to make images accessible for people but for desktop users (like me) the steps look like this, below.

a) Go to https://twitter.com/settings/account and scroll to the bottom of the panel on the left, click on Accessibility.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.12.14

b) Make sure there’s a tick next to ‘Compose image descriptions’

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.14.00

Example of what it looks like when you upload a picture to desktop

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.41.22

Click anywhere on the image to Add description and write your text in the box that appears.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.41.55

3. Write good descriptions: Lovely thread from RobotHugsComics (h/t ScottKeir) with suggestions of what to actually write in the description window.

 

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• Blocking quiz / test apps from accessing your Facebook information

Here’s what I posted on Facebook recently

Your friends are the weakest link, mine too

Every time I spot that you’ve taken some test on Facebook and shared your results here I block the app that you used. This is because, when you authorise the app to interact with your page, it is then able to interact with mine* (and can, I assume from the wording below, access non-public information). Which I’d rather it didn’t. Obviously I will miss some because Fb won’t show me everything.

How to block apps etc https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=blocking

*because you can see my page and the app can access what you can access

Screenshot 2017-11-16 00.56.06.png

If you scroll down that page there are several options for blocking or restricting various things. At the time of writing (Nov 2017) the list is

  • Restricted list
  • Block users
  • Block messages
  • Block app invites
  • Block event invitations
  • Block apps
  • Block pages

The last two are particularly useful for dodgy looking quizzes and tests. As far as I can tell when your friends take a test they authorise the app to access their page. Their page can access all your info, so my supposition is that the app can access all your info too. This is borne out in the format of the help text Facebook uses to clarify what happens when you block an app (in the picture above) – “Once you block an aapp, it can no longer contact you or get non-public information about you through Facebook.” Hmm, the ‘non-public information’ bit made me wonder, so I have blocked – over the years – over 260 of these apps I think, here is my full list.

It’s very simple to block, just start typing the name of the offending app and autofill options will appear (if not you’d need to visit the app’s page and see if you can work out who is behind it). If an app doesn’t show up in the Block Apps dialogue box try it in the Block Pages option lower down.

Of course once someone’s authorised an app it’s already (presumably) been able to harvest some of your info so you can request that individual app owners remove that data by contacting the developer directly. I have not done this, I probably should.. but…

Supplemental
I’ve realised that I’ve already switched off the Platform app setting on Facebook’s App Settings page. In the ‘Apps, Websites and Plug-ins’ panel on the left in the pic below mine says Disabled. For the ‘Apps others use’ panel on the right I’d previously unticked all the options so in fact this the subject of this post has probably never actually been a problem for me!

Screenshot 2017-12-20 16.17.09

Screenshot 2017-12-20 16.11.58

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further reading

 

• How can I/we persuade employers to set up a /jobs redirect from their homepage?

If an organisation…

  • employs people and
  • has a website…

…then I think it would be great if they made

https://www.companywebsite.com/jobs

redirect to wherever they keep their vacancies page. This would let visitors to any organisation’s site type /jobs at the end of the homepage and find out about opportunities.

An example is https://cern.ch/jobs which autoredirects to https://jobs.web.cern.ch/

Websites often move their vacancies pages around during site overhauls but companies also use different terms to refer to jobs (vacancies, employment, career, recruitment, opportunities, work with us, work for us etc) – this can mean a few search attempts before uncovering it (assuming it’s there, smaller orgs might not have one).

If you like this idea please share with organisations. I’d love it if this could be the industry default 🙂

How to set up a redirect
Ironically, for a mildly tech-ish blogger, I am not particularly confident in advising how to do this. The method I’ve used for an old website may not be ‘best practice’ but it did work. That method used the refresh redirect and the code looked like this

Screenshot 2017-11-12 01.16.05
The W3Schools website lets you try out some html to achieve this effect and once you’re happy with it you can copy the code to your own site.

This site says that you shouldn’t use the refresh redirect though as it can cause problems if your website visitor uses the back button. It recommends instead using HTTP redirects. The 123 registration site has information (and example text) on how to do that.

Wikipedia has super-detailed information on URL redirection. I’m hoping that people who maintain organisation’s websites know more about this and can set this sort of thing up fairly easily.

You can only delete Twitter DMs (Direct Messages) from your own mailbox

The screenshot in the tweet below comes from Twitter’s support pages on Direct Messages, in particular the section on ‘Things to know about Direct Messages‘. The text says “When you delete a Direct Message or conversation (sent or received), it is deleted from your account only. Others in the conversation will still be able to see Direct Messages or conversations that you have deleted. When you delete a group conversation, you will leave that group and will no longer be able to participate.

I spotted this yesterday and a friend helped me check to see if it was the case. It is. It seems to be a new thing but I don’t know when it was implemented, or why. I’m fairly certain that it used to be the case that if you deleted a direct message then it was deleted everywhere, but that is no longer what happens.

In the screenshot within the second embedded tweet (above) my friend has deleted the direct message saying “Let me know when you’ve seen this DM… and I’ll delete it“. After refreshing my page (and also checking on my phone) his DM was still there for me. I also deleted one of his and we tried all the permutations we could think of.

So… if you send a DM and delete it the other person will still have a copy.

Note that if the other party has email notifications switched on it’s possible that the email will contain a copy of the text of the DM*, or just inform them that a DM has been sent (possibly both – I switched off email notifications as soon as I could so no longer know what’s in them).

*the same email notification thing would happen with an at-mention too.

Supplemental
What happens to the DMs of someone blocks you? They’ll still be there.

I’m blocked by several #homeopathy fans though I’ve exchanged a few DM messages with one, who later blocked me again). Those messages are still there – I’ve no idea if the other party deleted them too (I didn’t delete mine, just forgot about them but went and checked). Until this moment I’d assumed that blocking someone wiped the DMs. I’m not sure if it did and Twitter’s restored them to my mailbox (literally not looked at them in two years) or if they were always there.

This also means that all of my Quora answers on the topic have turned out to be wrong 😉

I have been trying to find out when this change (I’m convinced it’s a change and that it hasn’t always been this way) and the earliest tweet(s) I can find about it are below.

This suggests the change happened between 2014 and 2015 – anyone know more?

Got it! July 2014! See point 5 in the list change from 7th to 19th July. There isn’t an archived snapshot of the page between 7-19th July but Lou and Sharon’s tweeted exchange above suggests deleting still affected both parties on 9 July 2014.

7 July 2014 – archived copy of Twitter’s support article from that date, screenshot below

Screenshot 2017-10-06 23.46.53

19 July 2014 – archived copy of Twitter’s support article from that date, screenshot below

Screenshot 2017-10-06 23.49.29.png

This refers to using Twitter on the web, the info also tells you how to delete DMs using a phone but doesn’t specify if they’re deleted for the other person too.

• Twitter’s closed the loophole that let you reply to tweets of people who’ve blocked you

Screenshot 2017-09-08 23.11.07

Up until a few days ago it was possible to reply to the tweets of someone who’d blocked you on Twitter. While the blocker would (presumably) not see those tweets you could still add your reply and others would see your contribution. This has been under some considerable discussion by people wishing to comment on President Trump’s tweets (I have no idea if Twitter’s loophole has been in response to that).

As far as I can tell if you’re blocked you can no longer directly reply to a tweet sent by an account that’s blocked you. However you can send them a new at-message tweet (they probably won’t see it given that they’ve blocked you) and you can still contribute to their conversation thread by replying to an intermediary tweet (ie by sending a reply to someone who has (a) already replied to the tweet and (b) hasn’t blocked you). But do be polite or your account may be suspended 🙂

I’ve tested direct replies to an account thats blocked me using the following apps / platforms and received an error message on each – cannot send a direct reply from any of them. If you know of one that works please let me know.

  • Twitter on desktop and for iPhone
  • Tweetdeck
  • Echofon (iPhone)
  • Dabr.co.uk
  • Janetter (iPhone)

Twitter would do better to stop people from being able to send tweets to the at-name of anyone that’s blocked them, as this current loophole-closure doesn’t stop replies-to-replies or new conversations.

It does make it a bit harder for me to correct the misleading tweets that homeopathy supporters send out – a few of them have blocked me, and other “anti-homeopathy skeptics”, for pointing out that homeopathy is not valid medicine.

Thanks to Pippo for drawing my attention to this.

 

 

 

• How to download Audioboom posts as mp3s

Audioboom is no longer supporting free accounts, they will not delete your content for three years though so don’t panic (yet). However at the end of October 2017 they’ll make all free accounts private, so if you have your sound-posts embedded in other places then they’ll no longer work. They will help you migrate your RSS feeds (more info here) though.

This embedded post of mine will presumably stop working properly in a month or so…

Of course Audioboom are entitled to start charging and restrict services from non-payers, it’s just a bit frustrating for individuals (who own the content) and the wider internet which suffers when embedded audio files disappear on websites along with comments. Basically this ‘breaks the internet’ a bit.

Here’s one way of downloading any Audioboom sound file, as an mp3. I’m investigating better solutions for people with lots of files. Below that are suggestions on how to capture and share them online again.

Table of Contents

  • 1a. How to download any individual Audioboom file as an mp3
  • 1b. Bulk downloading
  • 1c. Additional information on downloading (accompanying images)
  • 2. Where to put your files now you’ve downloaded them
  • 3. Background to this story

 

1a. How to download any individual Audioboom file as an mp3

  1. Visit the page of the sound file, eg here’s one of mine
    Screenshot 2017-09-02 14.29.46
  2. Add .mp3 to the end of the URL in the address bar, press enter – this automatically changes the page to an mp3 player page
    Screenshot 2017-09-02 14.30.46
    Screenshot 2017-09-02 14.32.09
  3. Hover over the play icon (it goes blue) and right-click Save Audio As…
    Screenshot 2017-09-02 14.33.06
  4. Repeat for other files
  5. If you have a lot of files (I have 85 clips to download) there’s probably a more efficient way (I don’t know it yet but will gladly link if I hear of it). I have emailed Audioboom support to ask them support@audioboom.com

There are some techy suggestions on Twitter which include uncovering them from iTunes by subscribing to the podcast RSS. To be honest I’m looking for a ‘Download archive’ button as on Twitter 🙂

1b. Bulk downloading
Phil Cooper has kindly commented (at the end of this post) but I’m putting his text here for extra usefulness.

“For bulk downloading of Audioboom MP3 files, if you have a list of all of the URLs, you can use a free command-line utility called wget. It was originally written for GNU Linux, but a Windows version also exists. Using a text editor such as Geany for Linux or Notepad++ for WIndows, write a BASH script or a Windows batch file using the list of URLs, create a directory (folder) where you want to save the files, open a command window in that directory and run the script.”

1c. Additional information on downloading

  1. You can also download the image that accompanied your ‘boom’ (or ‘boo’ as they used to be called when the service was Audioboo) with right-click Save as too OR hover over the pic and take a screenshot, that way you’ll get an image of the little soundwave, that also gives information.
  2. For completists you might want to number your sound files and have an accompanying readme.txt type of file that includes info about the date originally published and the hashtags.

2. Where to put your files now you’ve downloaded them
You can upload sound files as a video (static image) to YouTube. WordPress also lets you pay £80 a year for the ability to upload more files than the basic ones (without it you can’t upload sound files, only embed them from somewhere else) – that way you can have an on-page audio player and people can listen directly. Or you could put them in Dropbox and share a public link to them for people to download.

3. Background to this story
I discovered this via Paul Bradshaw and Documentally.