Monday, July 25, 2005


Jim Fruchterman low-res portrait Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Nice article in the San Francisco Chronicle on our Harry Potter scanning project, entitled Books ripped up, fed to online library for the blind. Hundreds of Bookshare.org members have downloaded the book already, while I'm waiting for my wife to finish the print copy my daughter read first!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Harry Potter mania has hit Bookshare.org! The same day it is available to people without disabilities, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is already available for download!

Thanks to our volunteers and staff for pulling this off!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

We're conducting tests of the Talking Lights technology here in Benetech's offices this week. The technology is cool and it's fun to see people playing with it. Here's what Charles LaPierre, one of our senior engineers, sent out to our team:

I wanted to let you all know why there are all these new lights hanging around the office. Benetech is consulting with SenderoGroup on a project for guiding blind users indoors. The lights around the office consist of 4 fluorescent lights, and 5 night lights. The night lights are either using red LED's, or infra red. These lights are "Talking Lights" and transmit a unique ID to an optical receiver carried by the user. This ID will refer to the light's position in the office.

This week there will be around eight test blind subjects that will be traveling around the office along predefined routes; these routes the subjects are traveling will be timed.

If you are here while tests are being conducted if you would please keep noise down since any sound could give the user a clue to their orientation and skew the test results. Also please don't try to help a test subject if they get disoriented, there will be an orientation and mobility expert on hand to offer assistance and document the problem in the test results for that user.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Our human rights group is active all over the place right now. Patrick Ball is in Colombia for most of the next three months teaching the techniques of human rights statistics and information processing at the National University there.

Africa is definitely getting more attention from us. Kristen Cibelli is on her way to Uganda right now. Susan Bazilli, an international human rights attorney, recently brought Martus to the attention of the women's rights community in Africa, through a posting to the Women's Information Technology Transfer site. Plus, we recently spotted this article on the Open Source Africa site. And all this is on top of Martus work we're actively engaged with in Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I am in Louisville, KY, this week, at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Other Benetech staff are here and at the Las Vegas convention of the American Council of the Blind.

The highlight this week was our Bookshare.org user group meeting. We received so much positive feedback about the service: we packed the room with blind people passionate about reading. They also had many ideas for improving the service as well, which was our main motivation for having such a gathering. Janice Carter, our Bookshare.org general manager, is synthesizing the feedback. The addition of newspapers has been a giant hit with our users: I heard a lot about downloading the morning paper and listening to it on a portable device on the commute to work or school!

It reminds me why these enterprises are more than just businesses: we reach into people's lives and touch their hearts with capabilities they dreamed of, like reading. One rough quote: "For the first time since I lost my vision, things are seeming normal again, thanks to reading through Bookshare."