#best of

AI is not magic, part 1033: Accessibility

You know it's a good sign when the first thing I do after finishing an article is double-check whether the whole site is some sort of AI-generated spoof. The answer on this one was closer than you might like, but I do think it's genuine.

Jakob Nielsen, UX expert, has apparently gone and swallowed the AI hype by unhinging his jaw, if the overall subjects of his Substack are to be believed. And that's fine, people can have hobbies, but the man's opinions are now coming after one of my passions, accessibility, and that cannot stand.

Get mad with me

"I always love quoting myself." - Kait

Talking to computers

The proper way most systems should be set up for, say, a medical insurance claim is that you fill out everything electronically so the data is in the right place and then an actual human can make an actual human judgment on your case. In practice, however, you fill out the form and the information whisks away to be judged by a computer using a predetermined set of rules.

If you're very, very lucky, there might be a way for you to appeal the computer's ruling to a human being (regardless of outcome/reason) — but even then, that person's power is often limited to saying, "well, the computer said you don't pass."

I bet this is a story where the computer says "no"

AI will definitely fix all of this. One of my favorite go-to lines whenever I encounter a dumb bug or computer doing something stupid is, "but we should definitely let computers drive cars by themselves."

User-submitted photo galleries

It was what you’d call a “hard-and-fast” deadline: Our contract with Caspio for database and data services was changing on July 1. On that day, our account — which to that point had been averaging something like 17GB transferred per month — would have to use no more than 5GB of data per month, or else we’d pay to the tune of $50/GB.

Our biggest data ab/user by far was our user-submitted photo galleries. A popular feature among our readers, it allowed them to both upload photos for us (at print quality) to use in the paper as well as see them online instanteously. Caspio stored and displayed them as a database: Here’s a page of a bunch of photos, click one to get the larger version.

We had to come up with something to replace it — and, as ever, without incurring m/any charges, because we don’t have any money to spend.

Find out how we did it (spoiler: we used computers)

My first big in-house migration to save money!

Real-life ghost story

Some level of skepticism should be present. As debunking performs a fairly vital part of paranormal investigating, at least for Whispering Spirits, you'd expect the group to be somewhat wary of what it finds. You'd expect each of them (or at least some of them) to examine things with a critical eye, always naysaying each other and operating on a basis of "normal until proven not."

You'd also be wrong. Most of the debunking, it seems, falls to one man — Bobby.

Let's investigate what's going on here, shall we?

They were a great bunch of people, and I absolutely ate it writing the story for the newspaper the next day. This version is so much better.

[Latest technology] is [expensive / confusing / worrisome]

Hoo boy! As a [technology writer/reporter without a story idea/old person], I've seen my share of changes in life. But [new product] is about to completely alter [area in which new technology will have extremely slight impact].

[witty teaser to get you to read more]

Replace "Nicholas Carr" with "John Hermann" and this was accurate through about 2023.

Best seat in the house

I’m not entirely sure what I expected when I ordered my tickets for ArenaBowl XXIII for “STANDING ROOM ONLY.” Perhaps a corral where we would be led and allowed to roam around, like free-range chickens.

“This is your pen, and this is where you must stay,” they’d say sternly, but we’d mill around and laugh and visit and generally enjoy ourselves

We are the champions!

Basically all of my sportswriting involved writing around the sports. Our alt-weekly audience not being so much interested in game writeups.

Small ball

Minor league baseball. Even the name sounds so ... inferior. “Minor league” has that connotation in today’s parlance: cut-rate. Second-fiddle.

Not good enough.

Feels like a major story to me

"redundantly named Vancouver Canadians" might be my favorite phrase I've ever written.


When he picked up, the first thing he asked me was if I had heard about Rachel. I wasn't quite sure what he meant. We were the same age, having attended the same school from kindergarten right up through college. We were both in band, we had a number of activities and classes that overlapped, and I was fairly certain I had seen her at a barbecue two days before graduating college, about three months prior.

TW: Suicide

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