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Friday March 7, 2008

Hey, I have an idea! Since wlrn.org is such a clusterfuck, here’s a link directly to the listen now service. (It’s also in the navbar under “Links, general interest.”)

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Thursday December 27, 2007

Be still my heart!: The audio archives of Tropical Currents with Joseph Cooper are online, going back to mid-2006. Thank you to Steve Malagodi and/or whoever made this happen. Check out the show from December 10th, about the housing market.

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Monday August 13, 2007

Michael Tilson Thomas has been doing a radio program, The MTT Files, which spotlights trends in the history of music. The first one, You Call That Music?!, is particularly interesting. They’re broadcast on WLRN’s digital substation, but are also available at the link, unfortunately only as streams, not mp3 downloads.

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Tuesday January 16, 2007

Carlos Alvarez on Topical Currents (91.3fm, 1 pm) today to discuss the strong mayor proposal.

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Friday December 22, 2006

Broken new WLRN website

wlrn 91.3 listen online button WLRN has a snappy new website. The old website needed an update, and the new one is good looking and useful. What bugs the crap out of me is that the “listen online” link is locked up in a big flash banner. What’s more, the actual stream is in a Windows Media format, and sometimes doesn’t work under Firefox or on Macs. Nice work, fellas. Did you know that Internet Explorer has a click-to-activate “feature” for Flash now, so all IE users see is a gray box with no writing? (Firefox with flashblock gets a big empty box with a little button.) This is like giving your listeners a quiz before letting the radio turn on. Notice a drop in online listening since this system has been in place, or do you not track that?

There’s a particularly disturbing irony here, because WLRN has long run a radio reading service for the visually impaired. Guess what — the visually impaired are exactly who they’re screwing with this system, who used to be able to listen online but now can’t. There’s a handy “if you’re experiencing problems listening online” link. I clicked it and (since it’s also part of the flash bar, someone without Flash wouldn’t be able to click it, and I didn’t have any way of knowing what it was about to do:) it opened my e-mail program with a pre-prepared e-mail to someone at Conquest Business Group. These are apparently the folks who helped WLRN set up their online streaming. They haven’t bothered to build themselves a website, but they can tell you that they’re a “Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.” The body of the pre-prepared e-mail asks you to answer a few questions — what’s your operating system, browser, etc. This is ominous: when you “click here” if you have problems, you’d think you’d be taken somewhere where they would help you, but you get the exact opposite.

I figure I’ll give them a call about this, so I click “contact us,” and proceed to a page with an address, phone number, and picture of the building: exactly what I want. I dial the number and, wait for it, I get the voicemail of a very nice lady in WLRN’s “Audience Response and Membership” department(!), who’s on vacation until January(!!); in other words this isn’t WLRN’s main switchboard number, it’s someone who takes complaints and memberships from listeners. I finally got through to someone, and even called Conquest, but I never discovered any way to access the stream without Flash.

Look: accessibility is important. That’s why the US Government has a law about it. WLRN is not a federal agency, so it doesn’t have to abide by those rules, but of course it still should. Aside from making a website available to disabled people, there are all sorts of business and meta- reasons for doing so. In the old days, Flash was considered intrinsically inaccessible, and while that’s no longer 100% the case, it’s still mostly true. My recommendation? Get rid of the Flash. It’s an irritant at best and an impediment all too often. (If someone offers to build you an all-Flash site, my advice is to run.)

By the way, no other NPR station I could find does this. I checked Chicago, Austin, Atlanta, and New York. All have simple-click streaming, and they all seem to work without problems. (Some are very advanced, with a choice of different streaming technologies and podcasts. If thousands of teenagers can podcast, why not an NPR affiliate?) WLRN is a great station, but this needs pronto fixing.

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Friday June 16, 2006

Some cranky guy loves hearing the school board meetings on WLRN, and so do I. The actual issues are lost on me: don’t have any kids, and don’t usually even listen long enough to get the full gist of what’s going on. But it’s real life in the raw, and the seriousness of the issues is unlike any fictional entertainment.

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