Thoughts

In addition
to all the other things on my plate, I have been sampling the selection of
available podcasts, and a couple have
really started me to thinking. The first
is most interesting in that it very accurately describes Xpress It’s
design and intended role as seen through the curious kaleidoscope of business. The
second,
while more esoteric, suggests that Conch may play an important
community-building role if and when Xpress It ever starts collecting a base of customers.

If you want
something to listen to in the background and mull over, check them out. They are
large files, and Conch isn’t yet set up to do audio streaming so please be
patient while the files come to your computer.

 

RE: Brochure Pics

I’m certain you can tell that I’m having real difficulty coming up with text
for another brochure. I think my consternation basically comes from two
different concerns. First, I want our statements to be very believable to
AAC buyers. As I survey other AAC products, I encounter what can only be
politely termed as "marketing hype." The example that immediately springs to
mind is Aurora Systems’ claim that their products are suitable for giving
presentations, but I’ve seen other dubious statements too. These may not
even be examples of intentional falsehoods, but rather evidence that
expectations within the AAC marketplace may be significantly under those in
the able-bodied world. My mother tells me that the doctor contacts she has
made trying to further the cause of Xpress It have real problems just
grasping why AAC quality is so important.

My other concern stems from the growing recognition that people trying to
match clients with AAC products are doing so from the perspective of trying
to solve one specific problem. After all, the clients are thinking the same
way. But, anyone who needs an AAC product probably also has other needs. If
a device can address more that one need, it automatically better serves the
client. That’s why general purpose computers are a natural ally to the
Disabled. An intelligent person who can’t speak or write will likely need
more than merely AAC. In my case, Xpress It is critical to my independence,
but so are Quicken, Quickbooks, email, and chat software, not to mention the
Internet. Selling the AAC market on Xpress It seems to require changing the
paradigm of finding a distinct device for each need. We know that Xpress
It’s strengths boil down to three features: audio quality, the automatic
adjustment of current and next word prediction based on experience, and
total compatibility with whatever else Windows is running. Yet, really
appreciating the latter two points requires recognizing the host computer
can help the client in many ways.

Looking at this email, I see several phrases and sentences suitable for
lifting out for the brochure. It all depends on what we want to say, and
how. We clearly need to use language the AAC market identifies with, but
neither of us is versed in it. Help from people like Brad and Blaise, while
a great plus for us, would likely raise conflict-of-interest issues for
them. I’m unsure how best to resolve that.

—–Original Message—–
From: Tao Ju [mailto:jutao@cs.rice.edu]
Sent: Saturday, August 27, 2005 11:19 PM
To: Scott Royall
Cc: Mom
Subject: Re: Brochure Pics

Hi, Scott

I think maybe the first one looks more professional. In terms of space,
you can fill as much as you want in the empty space. Just send us some
texts and which page you want them to go, we will give you some feedback
on whether they are too long or too short.

Tao

On Sat, 27 Aug 2005, Scott Royall wrote:

> Here are three potential pictures. Take your pick.s
>

RE: Scott…a marketing suggestion for Express-it.

Funny you should say that. The initial
version was up there for over a year without any apparent takers. Every version
we make is available for download. The only catch is that it politely reminds
you verbally every 10 minutes to get a license if you decide to keep it. That’s
one hell of a copy protection scheme. It’s designed to work for both
sides; users get to try everything without getting a permanent free ride. I may
eventually adjust that “nag” time to something a little less
annoying, but I think it’s a wonderfully devious method of copy protection.
(And, it’s very hard to hack.)

 

Right now, though, we’re having
installer trouble, as you may have read.

 


From: Richard Becton
[mailto:flight@flash.net]
Sent: Friday, August 19, 2005 2:17
PM
To: royall@conchbbs.com
Subject: Scott…a marketing
suggestion for Express-it.

 

Hi Scott,

 

     I was just speaking with a fellow I met here
in Maryland. 
He works for MicroSoft and was just passing through the airport.  He is on
his way back to Seattle
in a Mooney.

 

     So anyways, I asked him what might be some
angles to market your software and he made a rather sound suggestion.  He
says that perhaps you should put Express-It on your website available for
download…(I know, it is..hear me out), and offer the entire program for free.
(version 1.0, or whatever).  That way, you can start to expand your
marketbase.  If over the years, you can get a few, or a few hundred
"freebie" users to get acquainted with your product it will lead to
sales, and referrals.  At the VERY LEAST, it may generate some
"buzz" and perhaps some publicity, which could lead to a job offer
from some other company.

 

     Think about it, and tell me what you think.

 

Richard Becton

 

Uncertainty and Such

Well, my two
Chinese volunteers are now in St.
Louis, continuing their own future. Meanwhile, I sit here
basically waiting to hear from some key people. Yes, as I’ve said, there
are things that could be done to further the course and advance Xpress It
itself. The truth is, though, that we stand at a minor junction. The current
version is out on the website, complete as far as I can tell, and ready for
people to try. What we are waiting on is actually a couple of things. First, I have
someone who is supposed to confirm that the installation package indeed has all
needed files. Second, I await word from the technical specialist for the local
school district on when and where we can meet. It is my analysis that the greatest
chance for initial success lies with capturing the new user segment of the AAC/ACS
market, and the Special Education system is a critical part of the equation. I really
need to start seeing some sales, not just for my own financial needs, but to
validate for others what I already know, that Xpress It fills a gap in the high
end of the market..

Back when I was
in college, I was among a population of roughly 45 disabled students who lived
in the dorms at the University
of Houston. It was a
predictably diverse group, with little in common. Sadly, one of the few common
threads seemed to be a general disinterest in graduation and entering the world
outside that protective bubble. To be sure, it was a quite comfortable existence
as long as you could convince the state agency funding your studies that you
really were making progress toward a degree. Since UH was predominantly a “commuter”
school, there was also approximately 200 disabled “commuter” students,
virtually all paraplegics. Most of the on-campus disabled were quadriplegics of
some form. There’s an interesting dichotomy right there, but things get even
more differentiated. As mentioned earlier, I was involved with the disabled
student group at UH for several years, and we were always actively recruiting
new members. Even determining the identity of those students was difficult,
but, once identified, most of them were too busy to join or help to raise awareness
about disabled people. No doubt those were sincere reasons, but some also
commented that they saw no point in what we were trying to accomplish. Now,
there’s no way to know if those individuals never experienced
discrimination due to their disability or they simply thought our efforts
futile. I think each reader must draw his own conclusions there. What I do know
is that, during the four years that I attended UH, I was the only disabled resident
to graduate. All other departures were due to funding.

Yes, that’s
20 years ago, but it seems things haven’t changed nearly as much as people
want to think. Even official figures still put unemployment among disabled
people in the US
at 75%, and I can’t even buy a job interview. Would-be interviewers
almost hurt themselves in their haste to disappear once I reveal my disability.
Also, I still communicate frequently with the younger generations of Disabled
through a variety of tools like ICQ and IRC, and younger quads—as a
general rule—aren’t much more hopeful than my contemporaries appeared
to be. Things like Xpress It won’t single-handedly end discrimination. Rather,
they must be seen as specialized tools useful in shattering specific bricks in
the wall of discrimination. It is perhaps a little strange to say that I sometimes
get the feeling when talking with SLPs that they don’t understand how
truly enabling Xpress It has been for me. After all, many of them are used to
listening to less-capable synthesizers so they may not realize how much more
discerning the general public is. The whole point of Xpress It is to let me
express myself to anyone, hence the name. I couldn’t usually do that with
other AAC. Yet, the future of what seems to be a great tool depends largely on
getting favorable recommendations. As I press on with contacting additional AAC
resources, I find myself longing for the validation of some sales.

,

 

RE: “new” Xpress It

Try downloading it now.

 

Regrettably, the loss of my two Chinese
volunteer wizards has also meant the loss of access to a broad range of virgin
machines needed to verify installations. I believe Brad was the first fresh
install since we migrated to a more current development environment so his
error was disappointing but not really surprising. I have now hopefully included
all necessary files.

 

And, to preemptively answer the obvious geek
question, both of my systems have to be ready development rigs since I happen
to depend on Xpress It personally.
J Alas, that also means they always have
the required files.

 


From:
bradgsmith@mdanderson.org [mailto:bradgsmith@mdanderson.org]
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2005
6:18 PM
To: Scott Royall
Subject: Re: "new"
Xpress It

 


Hi Scott.  I downloaded the demo and installed it.
It would not start, however & said "could not find dll MFC71.DLL in
the specified path". Any help appreciated. Thanks.

RE: “new” Xpress It

Dan,

 

First, please notice how badly your reply
is formatted. Is there any chance of getting you to join the Nineties at least?
J (For
our newer readers, Dan is our resident Luddite. I love him like a brother, but
some of the software titles he uses predate the PC! Gack!)

 

Second, no, I am not going to make Xpress
It another Swiss Army knife. In my opinion, too many other PC-based AAC have
fallen into that bottomless pit. Xpress It excels at communicating verbally with
anyone who understands English in no small part because that’s all it
tries to do. The feature I’m looking at adding is one I could have used. That’s
the deciding factor, you might say. Xpress It has never been intended as a “universal”
solution. Rather, it is meant as part of a broader Windows-based solution set.
(Windows already offers “low vision” tools I couldn’t beat.) 
The “FilterKeys” issue is simply one I haven’t seen anyone
else handle to my satisfaction! 😛

 

Third, when I say “MDA,” I mean
M.D. Anderson.

 

Scott


From: DSloan [mailto:djsloan25a26@yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2005
5:55 PM
To: Scott Royall
Subject: Re: "new"
Xpress It

 

Scott ..

>>  I currently must use Regedit to get the fine-tuning I
need, and that’s not a safe solution for average users. It seems to me
that adding a simple dialog box to allow precision setting of the three
fundamental “FilterKeys” variables, DelayBeforeAccept, RepeatDelay,
and RepeatRate, shouldn’t conflict with Xpress It’s KISS
philosophy.

= I agree wholeheartedly that you should do stuff like this, painful as
it is when you’re 98/02 "there" with the product.  My advice is
to watch what other kinds of tweaks you have to make for your first customers
and either document them well or add a dialog box to do the heavy lifting of
the tweak. 

  In time, you may choose to table drive some of this stuff so the
values are stored on your variables and can be loaded into windows if the
Registry Key names shift or the access method to Registry changes (I know – fat
chance, right?).

  I know it’s not fun to do the what-ifs, but what-if your
customer has a vision impairment as well as speech?  Can you do something
to make the letters and displays bigger if needed .. Just’a thought. 

  Congrats on making it on to a meeting agenda at MDA.

djsloan

Scott Royall
<royall@conchbbs.com>
wrote:

While I have
everyone’s attention, the current version of Xpress It, 1.2, is once more
available from the website. The URL is http://www.conchbbs.com/xpress_it.shtml.
 The included Help is admittedly lagging a little behind. It doesn’t
cover the simple database tools accessible by right-clicking on the right-hand
pane. Fortunately, the tools are the basic Add, Edit, and Delete functions
common to all databases, and the latter two apply to the word or phrase
currently highlighted in that pane.

Also, I will
soon be adding a function to the Options Menu based on input received during
the meeting at MDA. As previously noted, Brad commented that at least EZ-Keys
made it easy to access the Accessibility Options that are built into Windows.
That’s actually not a bad idea as long as you gloss over the fact that
EZ-Keys immediately loaded Accessibility Options with default values that
rendered the keyboard totally unresponsive to me! (Yeah, “oops”
indeed! I was just lucky I still had enough mouse control and know-how to tell
Windows to drop several WMDs on EZ-Keys!
J) EZ-Keys’ rudeness aside, neither
it nor the Accessibility Options applet in Control Panel do a good job of
letting the user fine-tune the Options to more precisely meet his needs. For
example, the Control Panel applet will only allow 300 ms adjustments in the
“FilterKeys” setting, “DelayBeforeAccept,” and anything
above about 160 ms feels like am epoch to me. I currently must use Regedit to
get the fine-tuning I need, and that’s not a safe solution for average
users. It seems to me that adding a simple dialog box to allow precision
setting of the three fundamental “FilterKeys” variables,
DelayBeforeAccept, RepeatDelay, and RepeatRate, shouldn’t conflict with
Xpress It’s KISS philosophy.


==========================================
DJSloan .. Houston, Texas
djsloan25a26@yahoo.com
Reference:

RE: “new” Xpress It

I just
had the feeling
something was missing from the list! Grr. As you can
tell, I just “inherited” building the install packages, and it seems
a few recent learnings weren’t captured.

 


From:
bradgsmith@mdanderson.org [mailto:bradgsmith@mdanderson.org]
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2005
6:18 PM
To: Scott Royall
Subject: Re: "new"
Xpress It

 


Hi Scott.  I downloaded the demo and installed it.
It would not start, however & said "could not find dll MFC71.DLL in
the specified path". Any help appreciated. Thanks.