What’s new at Captioning Sucks
Most of the “Real Science” campaign ends today with our submission to the CRTC and CAB. We’ve made them an offer they can’t refuse.
Thanks to all our supporters. We still have a few tasks to complete. In particular, shortly we’ll explain how to contact the CRTC and CAB and ask them to support independent captioning research.
All we’re going to be able to manage for the deadline of October 21 is to submit a counterproposal for research. Literature reviews and other larger projects are going to have to wait. Why? With donations at one-quarter the goal, there isn’t enough money to do more. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
At another time, we’ll discuss how this development is another example of deaf people’s complacency in tolerating lousy captioning. Here we’ve got the same broadcasters that have delivered lousy captioning for decades openly planning to engineer a “report” favourable to that captioning and still the response is a big MEH. We are tired of being the only ones who care.
CAPTIONING SUCKS! launches its “Real Science” Campaign, with the primary goal of submitting a counterproposal to industry. We want to carry out legitimate scientific research into captioning. We could use your help.
CAPTIONING SUCKS! launches Illegal Captions, a year-long series of complaints to regulators, and, if necessary, human-rights commissions, concerning captioning.
First up? Rogers Broadcasting, who manage to destroy existing captions, use real-time captions on everything, and – wait for it! – run one show with another show’s (or a commercial’s) captioning.
We’ve had it up to here with the misuse of scrollup captioning on programming where it doesn’t work (like dramas and comedies, music programming, and subtitled shows). CAPTIONING SUCKS! begins a (possibly lengthy) campaign to stamp it out – and we’re kicking it off in a way you’d expect for 2009, with a Facebook group.
March 2009 is Assault on Bad Captioning Month at CAPTIONING SUCKS!
Now, shouldn’t every month involve assaults on bad captioning? We certainly think so. But, somewhat like canned orange juice, we’ve decided to concentrate the acid.
As of next week, there will be something resembling a blog here. Come back to this page if you wish, or just subscribe to the existing RSS.
They’re talking about captioning, not subtitling, and there is no way at all that any BBC channel really is captioning “100%” of its programming. True 100% captioning involves:
- Every program on the network that has a soundtrack, including children’s and preschoolers’ shows, musicals (including orchestral performances and operas), and, crucially, subtitled programming. (Here’s another consequence of the inaccurate British terminology: It becomes impossible to “subtitle” a subtitled program.)
- Every live program. (Once that program is repeated, it isn’t live anymore and you can’t use real-time captioning for it.)
- Every foreign-language program that isn’t subtitled, like a language-learning show.
- Every program dubbed into the main language (for BBC television networks in the U.K., that means English; for S4C in Wales, it means Welsh).
- Every unexpected or urgent program that interrupts scheduled programming.
- Every commercial.
- Every promo, bumper, intro, extro, and public-service announcement.
- Signon and signoff broadcasts (if any – a stirring rendition of “God Save the Queen” at the close of the broadcast day still needs captioning).
A case could be made that a silent movie doesn’t need captioning, except to indicate that the movie is silent. A program presented entirely in sign language, if and only if it does not have a soundtrack, would also not need to be captioned.
Now: Do any networks – including BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies, CBBC and BBC News, and CBC Television and Newsworld in Canada – legitimately caption 100% of their programming?
Of course not!
In practical terms, 100% captioning is unattainable even if your station or network really does intend to caption everything on the list above. At some point, your systems are going to crash and you will lose captions – probably for a brief moment, but perhaps for up to a day. Five-nines reliability, that is, 99.999% captioning, is the best that can be expected. It gives you about five minutes’ downtime per year.
If that seems unreasonable, note that HBO claims to comply with that standard (though they count only “programming,” not all the other items on our list).
A claim of 100% captioning is essentially a form of product labelling. It is akin to a claim that a box of cereal provides 100% of the recommended daily allowance of fibre. Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t; what we need are independently developed, ironclad definitions of what each of those terms means. In other words, you need the Open & Closed Project to work on a definition of what “100% captioning” really means. Because we definitely aren’t there yet.
For-profit captioner Vitac launched a new site yesterday, Caption Son, to develop awareness about “quality captioning” – an undefined concept, but presumably any captioning not done by Vitac doesn’t make the cut.
We didn’t know we’d spawn an imitator so quickly, nor could we have predicted such a poor imitation. At least our site is intentionally ugly.
We also find it ironic that a site concerning accessibility should be quite so inaccessible to people with disabilities. Just as an example, what does Caption Son look like with no images loaded – in text-only mode, that is?
" [LINK] [INLINE] [INLINE] [INLINE] [LINK] [INLINE] [LINK] [INLINE] [LINK] [INLINE] [LINK] [INLINE] [LINK] [INLINE] [EMBED] [INLINE] [INLINE] [INLINE] [INLINE] [INLINE] o National effort to build awareness of captions launched. More o VITAC offers pro-bono captioning to nonprofit organizations. More o Take the CaptionsON Challenge. More
The site does at least contain new information. Who can benefit from captioning? Not just deaf and hard-of-hearing people, it turns out, but people who became deaf fighting in Iraq.
CORRECTION: We realize now we misread the domain name of the new site. It is in fact Captions On, not Caption Son. We apologize for the confusion.
2008.04.25 & 28
CAPTIONING SUCKS! has been in the works since January 2008. From the beginning we knew we wanted a compact site that tells it like it is and cuts through the grease. We’ll have more about the super grease-cutting action of our graphic design in a future update. For now, here are a few tips for anyone planning on launching a new site in this, the 14th year of the Web.
- You need Web standards and accessibility. You can’t use tables for layout, Flash, or technically poor coding (like invalid HTML, though mildly invalid HTML doesn’t really matter). If your developer can’t deliver those basics, fire your developer. Especially fire your Flash developer; there is almost no reason to launch a Flash site in 2008 – although certain functions, like video playback, go better with Flash.
- It has to work in everything. Your site has to work in the worst browser in current use, Internet Explorer 6 for Windows, and in real browsers, like IE7, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. Most of the time, the sole permitted differences among browsers are cosmetic. This site looks slightly worse in IE6, for example, but looks generally the same in IE6 and in other browsers.
- It has to be printable. Amazingly, organizations launch new sites without print stylesheets. Every page on your site has to be printable, and the resulting pages must use black type on a white background, with all menus, navigation bars, and other components that make sense only onscreen removed. Again, if your developer doesn’t know how to do that, fire your developer. But here’s a hint: Set up a separate print stylesheet and declare
- RSS is a must. Even if you don’t think you’ll be updating your site very often, an RSS feed is mandatory. Valid Atom feeds are easy enough to create manually if you have to, although your content-management system will probably be able to produce RSS by itself.
- It has to have graphics. We’re not talking about graphic design, photography, or illustration. We mean your site has to have:
- A favourites icon (a favicon).
- An avatar (or gravatar) for use in blog comments and on sites like Delicious and Magnolia. You can take your time with this one.
- A banner graphic with a 2×1 aspect ratio if you’re using an Atom feed.
- You need a presence on all the cool sites. The list of such sites will evolve over time (Friendster used to be on it), but we advertised our launch on Upcoming and on MetaFilter. We published photos on Flickr. We have accounts on Twitter and “the Facebook.” Of course this is duplication of effort, but it is necessary duplication. People expect a site to exist in more than one place today.
Something we can also recommend is banner advertisements for people’s blogs. They work well as inexpensive advertisements. You can reuse those graphics as logos and gravatars.
We also have our own methods of promoting a new Web site that work so well we aren’t going to publish them.
You can still launch a Web site just by itself. But then what you’re doing is hanging out your shingle, as the saying goes. People are probably not going to notice a new shingle on a roof the size a shopping mall’s. But you can increase the odds in your favour with these easy methods.
Three days after launch, CAPTIONING SUCKS! has been received with some acclaim (see the numerous blog mentions). Quite a few writers commented on our graphic design, probably because we brought it up first. Our designer, Noel Jackson of Eight6, seems to have achieved something that might have been an oxymoron before – intentional garishness.
Now, then. There is the small matter of the Captioning mailing list, where numerous subscribers pretend to be offended by our use of the word sucks.
We don’t think they’re really offended; they’re making it up. We’re also quite sure they don’t have a clue how the net works. The use of the word sucks as part of a domain name is widespread – it is a standard of sorts – and has been supported by court rulings in the U.S. (Be that as it may, we aren’t in the U.S. and we aren’t even mentioning a trademark.) If you’re starting up a protest Web site, it pretty much has to use the pattern
TopicBeingProtestedSUCKS.com. A Web site entitled
Prithee-Sir-Improve-Thine-Captioning.com would go nowhere. So would a site named
Sucks has no sexual connotations whatsoever in common usage. (Is a T-shirt that says MEAN PEOPLE SUCK also offensive in some way? What exact thing do these mean people suck?) No matter what a few uptight Republicans with skeletons in their own closets might want us to believe, everybody uses the term. It’s informal, but it isn’t vulgar or obscene.
The kind of person who would be offended by the phrase “captioning sucks” simply isn’t our audience. If we aren’t being clear enough here, let us try harder: We don’t care if you’re offended by the word “sucks.”
But can we take a step back for a moment? Captioning does suck. The complainers have not been able to prove it doesn’t. Every effort put forth thus far to fix captioning has failed. People who object to the word “sucks” might have other ideas about how to get captioning not to suck, but those ideas have gotten us nowhere.
Everything that’s been tried before hasn’t worked. As far as we’re concerned, there’s nowhere to go but up. We thought that a concise, clever new site, bracingly titled, amusingly designed, and backed up by hard facts, would be a good place to start. By most accounts, we were right.
We’re pushing for 100% captioning that is carried out according to independently-developed and tested standards. What are you pushing for? ¶
This site, while small, has been in the making for several months, and represents a great deal of effort on the part of the Open & Closed Project and the site’s designer, Noel Jackson of Eight6.
We also have a presence on Twitter, on MetaFilter, on the Facebook, on Upcoming, and on Flickr (other captioning photos). There’s an RSS newsfeed you can subscribe to for updates, or you can just check back here from time to time. ¶