'A Podcast Studio for Under $100'

Great post from Jason Snell with recommendations for inexpensive (but quality) podcasting gear.

One of my biggest hurdles in getting back into podcasting is my lack of "real" gear and a "real" studio. (I used a friend's studio to record my appearance on Less Than Or Equal back in August.) When I did my old show, Accessible, I used EarPods with my Blue Yeti mic sitting on a table. It worked fine, but I never was completely comfortable with my setup—and I felt that showed some in the show's overall quality.

Eyes on Success #1636: Sarah Herrlinger

On this week's episode of the Eyes on Success podcast, the hosts are joined by Apple's Senior Manager of Global Accessibility Policy, Sarah Herrlinger. It's a great interview, with topics ranging from accessibility being a core value of the company, how accessibility factors into product design, and some of the new accessibility features coming to Apple's four software platforms this year.

Yours Truly on Less Than Or Equal #96

It's been a long while since I've done a podcast—two years, I think—so I jumped at the opportunity to join Aleen Simms on her show, Less Than Or Equal. We discussed my career in Apple journalism, the difficulties of writing about accessibility, the writing tools I use, and more.

I had a blast doing the show, and hope to do more podcasting in the future.

'Take Control of Podcasting On the Mac' Reviewed

Elisa Pacelli, writing for MyMac.com:

Andy Affleck uses simple language in Take Control of Podcasting On The Mac that doesn’t go over the head of the reader who’s unfamiliar with the subject, yet is still relevant to the more experienced reader. If you’re currently podcasting and happy with your set up and process, this book may not be for you. If, however, you’re new to podcasting or are thinking about starting one, or you’d just like a handy reference, Take Control of Podcasting On The Mac is a very helpful resource.

Thoughts on Overcast 1.0

Since getting into podcasts a few years ago, I've used pretty much every podcast client there is on iOS. My client of choice has been Pocket Casts --- a sentiment echoed by my friends at The Sweet Setup. Pocket Casts is deep and full-featured, and while I don't consider myself a "power listener" --- always in want of granular controls and the like --- the app has done well by me for quite some time. It was during this time that Marco Arment announced Overcast, his new podcast app for iPhone. The app went live on the App Store today, and I couldn't be happier or more excited for Marco. Late last month, I received an email from him out of the blue, asking me if I'd be interested in joining the beta team so as to help test for accessibility (VoiceOver, in particular). Though I haven't used the app for very long, Overcast has earned a permanent place on my iPhone's Home screen --- it's designed in typical Armentian fashion (read: exquisite) and very accessibility-friendly. The focus of this review will be on accessibility in two areas: visual design and VoiceOver.

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VISUAL DESIGN


In my writing, I've long championed the idea of "accessibility as design", whereby app developers and user interface designers take into consideration the disabled when building their apps. I don't necessarily mean incorporating dedicated Accessibility features --- although that's certainly part of it ---- rather, I mean sensibly designing in such a way that interface elements are clear: buttons, labels, typography, etc. Unread, the RSS client for iOS, by Jared Sinclair, is a good example of this. Not only does VoiceOver work flawlessly, but buttons and labels are decipherable and the typography is splendid. Put another way, Unread's clean, focused look is appealing not only to fully-abled users, but to users with visual impairments as well. This is due to the fact that Jared, as Unread's creator, recognizes and empathizes with the disabled, and wishes to help us. Like Jared, Marco is empathetic towards the accessibility community, and tries his best to accommodate disabled users who use his apps by including technologies like VoiceOver. This sentiment is apparent throughout Overcast, where, as Jared does with Unread, Marco's clean design sensibilities and attention to VoiceOver makes the podcast client very appealing, at least to this low vision reviewer. My favorite thing about the app (the gorgeous icon aside) is, interestingly enough, the orange. The color is pervasive throughout the app, and really lends itself to easily identifying interface elements. The orange pops off the white backdrop, which results in huge benefits in terms of contrast. Overcast is decidedly and rightfully iOS 7-y in its look, and while I'm (still) not fond of many of Apple's design decisions, the orange color scheme works really well for my eyes in terms of distinguishing between the app's content and its navigational controls. The greatest example of this is the playback controls on the Now Playing screen. They are gigantic and orange and gloriously easy to see and tap. It's a usability win because (a) I don't have to strain my eyes attempting to locate the playback controls; and (b) that the buttons are so gigantic means the tap targets are also gigantic, which ultimately means I needn't worry about mistakenly tapping or missing a button altogether. The moment I laid eyes on these buttons, I smiled, because I knew they were going to work great, and was so happy to see someone do something different here. If there's one complaint that I have about Overcast's UI, it's that the font size is a bit too small to be comfortable. I find myself struggling at times, squinting to be able to read show notes or whatever, and it definitely puts a damper on an otherwise splendid experience. It would be great if, in a future update, Overcast would add support for Large Dynamic Type, or at least add a font size slider to Settings.

VOICEOVER


Full disclosure: VoiceOver is not a feature that I use on a daily basis, but I am familiar with it and am confident in critiquing its use, as is the case here with Overcast. In all honesty, there isn't much to elaborate on in this section of the review. In my testing, I've found VoiceOver to work extremely well in announcing the labels of buttons and so forth. Everything I selected in the app read just fine, and I was generally pleased with how it worked. VoiceOver is somewhat tricky to get right because it requires developers to correctly label an app's controls so that VoiceOver can read them correctly. In short: Marco did a great job with VO, and regular users of it will notice.

A BRIEF INTERPOLATION REGARDING OVERCAST'S LITTLE TOUCHES


Despite the fact that this review is focused on Overcast's accessibility merit, being the design snob that I am, I can't help but talk about the little touches of the app. These things aren't so much functional as they are delightful, and they definitely add to the app's ambience and experience. First, the Now Playing screen includes an animated waveform that moves as an episode is playing. Again, I'm unsure of its practical use case, but I enjoy it immensely for the eye candy alone. Oftentimes, I'll just gaze admiringly at the waveform while listening to a show. Secondly, this was pointed out by my pal Jonathan Hoover on Twitter. When you select the "Unlock Everything" option to access the in-app purchase for extra functionality, the there's a tiny radio tower icon within the padlock icon. It's too small for my naked eye to notice on my own, but I smiled when I saw Jon mention it.

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As I said in the beginning, Overcast has overtaken Pocket Cast's spot on my iPhone's Home screen. As someone who listens to podcasts regularly while on the go ---- either on the bus or BART or on foot --- I'm happy to have found an app that is not only aesthetically pleasing but fits well with my spartan podcast-listening needs. Overcast gets two thumbs up from me. If you like podcasts, check it out.

'Accessible' 20: When Tim Says Jump, You Ask How High

Late to post, but on the latest episode of my show, me and Ben discuss the rise of American Sign Language as a studied foreign language, then talk more about Siri’s usefulness as an accessibility tool, particularly to those with non-standard speech. Sponsored by Typeform. For a limited time, Typeform is offering a 3-month free trial of their new Typeform PRO service. Sign up and upgrade to the PRO plan from the dashboard. Make sure to use the coupon code fiatlux to get your free three months.

'Accessible' 19: You'll Get Funded

In this episode, me and Ben are joined by special guests Anthony Russo and Elias Aoude of For All to Play. We discuss Russo and Aoude’s Kickstarter project, Grail to the Thief: An Interactive Audio Adventure, an action-adventure game designed for both visually impaired and normally-sighted users. Sponsored by Squarespace. Squarespace is the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website, portfolio, and online store.For a free trial and 10% off, visit Squarespace.com and enter offer code MARS at checkout. A better web starts with your website.

On Constellation.fm

Since it launched last October, my show has been part of the Fiat Lux network, owned and run by my pal and co-host, Ben Alexander. Accessible has seen much success since we recorded the first episode, and I owe much to Ben for bringing me aboard his ship. Today, though, sees the launch of Constellation, the "podcasting arm" of Fiat Lux. The new site is really great: it has responsive design, a easy-to-use audio player, and looks and works great on mobile and on the desktop. It's been in the works for a while, and Ben and team worked their collective asses off to get the site ready to go. The best part, to me, about the new site is how information is presented, particularly for show notes. There are detailed synopses of each segment of each episode, along with a description of each and every link that is in the show notes. Segments are marked with time stamps, so finding a particular place in an episode is easy, and everything is shareable as well. It's this attention to detail and reimagining of the podcast network concept that we think ---- Ben and team and the hosts ---- sets Constellation apart from the rest, and pushes the medium forward. As for my part, I'm still working hard on retrofitting the show notes for Accessible's back catalog to meet the new standards, and have some ambitious plans for the show's content too. It's a slow process, but my goal is to have most (if not all) of the archived episodes readied in the new format as soon as possible. Overal, however, I'm extremely proud to be part of this small yet dedicated team, on the ground floor as we strive for Constellation's full potential. Be sure to check out the new site ---- it's well worth the look-see. In addition, Sid O'Neill wrote a great piece overviewing Constellation's mission that's a must read.