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State of the Win10 Forum part 2: let it go, let it gooooo #AdminNotice

 

Hello Win10 Forum for Screen Reader Users:

 

This is perhaps the first time I’m writing a second part of State of the List address. There were many things I wanted to talk about in part 1 (presented a few weeks ago). But because I needed to devote the earlier address to emphasize searching, I decided to delay the second part until now so I can gather some thoughts, observe the forum and the larger Windows 10 ecosystem, and to concentrate on school.

 

I’m sure many of you might be wondering why I titled this part after a Frozen theme song. Part of that has to do with me being a Disney fan (still, there are some movies I don’t agree with). Another part has to do with what’s happening with Windows 10 in general (by the way, Windows 10 turns five years old tomorrow). Still, a more significant reason has to do with the current state of our forum.

 

First, Windows 10 is an ever-changing universe. For many, we have somewhat become desensitized to this statement – we preach the ever-changing nature of Windows 10 and Windows as a Service (WaaS) to a point where we just assume things change all the time. For people just getting started with Windows 10, the idea that Windows keeps changing at least twice a year is a foreign concept – you’ve been used to Windows 7 and 8.x to just assume that Windows won’t change for several years. But as they say, “wake up and smell the coffee” – Windows 10 keeps changing, and there is no denying it, as evidenced by slow rollout of May 2020 Update as Microsoft learns about and fixes issues. And as we meet Windows 10 X, grapple with mixed reception of universal apps, and think about ever-changing nature of what it means for software to be usable and accessible, all we can do is put another nail in the coffin that Windows, programs, concepts, and our own attitudes will not change or be shaken.

 

Communicating the fact that Windows 10 (and the ecosystem surrounding it) keeps changing is easy and difficult. Certainly it is easier than say, almost five years ago when people were learning for the first time what continuous delivery at the operating system level was (cumulative updates, feature updates, and things in between). Certainly it is easier than say, ten years ago when using accessible mobile platforms that screamed for constant updates was an unthinkable idea. And of course, it is way easier than say, more than three decades ago when people with disabilities were not guaranteed legal grounds for demanding change, especially in terms of technological progress.

 

But as Isaac Newton famously stated, “where there is action, there is an opposite reaction”: communicating about the constant changing nature of Windows 10 ecosystem is more difficult today. It is certainly more difficult than say, five years ago when folks didn’t know the full consequences of continuous delivery. It is more difficult than say, ten years ago when we thought Windows itself would not change so quickly. And certainly it is more difficult than the first moments after Americans with Disabilities Act was signed three decades ago as technology has become a subtle form of discrimination despite progress.

 

As the head list representative and owner of Win10 Forum for Screen Reader Users, I wish I can say that communicating about the ever-changing nature of Windows 10 ecosystem was a smooth ride; no, it was not a smooth ride. Part of that was due to Windows 10 itself, but I’m glad to see that many have grasped the reality that Windows 10 is constantly changing. A more significant reason had to do with attitudes: five years after Windows 10 made its public debut (more than five years for Windows Insiders), we still see folks thinking that old concepts, skills, and programs will work with Windows 10. Although some old concepts and skills such as desktop, apps, updates, security, and so on are present in Windows 10 and many old programs will work with Windows 10 (some of them requiring tweaks), the fact that folks would insist on using old technologies, or at a deeper level, trying to adopt old methods to new reality (or old reality to new methods) is not viable in the long term. Sure, it is sometimes needed to use old methods in the new reality for various reasons (such as due to rules from your employer). But in the long term, it will lead to confusing others, and more importantly, confusing yourself (after all, ads do work because they target your mind, not your knowledge).

 

This becomes complicated when we factor in screen reading technologies and many other apps. Compared to 2015, widely used screen readers of today support Windows 10. Many support essential features such as strategies for navigating universal apps, recent Microsoft Edge releases, and an uncountable list of changes to support the ever-changing nature of Windows 10. Sure, you may need to use old screen reader releases for specific tasks, but that era is quickly passing away. And in extension, this applies to apps.

 

In the past, I felt it would be beneficial to let this forum discuss old software, knowing that many of you were used to Windows 7 or 8.x (or in some cases, holding onto Windows XP after Microsoft told you to upgrade years ago) and need time to adjust to the new reality. I even left in a clause at the end of end of life notices for feature updates that you are welcome to discuss end of life feature updates; recently I advised people to talk about old feature updates for the purposes of upgrading to recent releases. Alas, that era is coming to a close:

 

Starting the day after Windows 10 Version 20H2 shows up for everyone (later this year), this forum cluster will ask you to limit discussion of out of support software releases. In the past, this only applied to Windows 10 feature updates; starting later this year, it will apply to all software (screen readers included). So please let go of unsupported software releases. The only exception will be if you find yourself using unsupported software due to circumstances beyond your control (say, needing to use older feature updates due to lack of hardware support or your employer mandated it) and needing help moving to supported releases.

 

For this year, it will affect all software scheduled to be retired in 2020, including Windows 10 Version 1709, 1803, 1809, 1903, Office versions earlier than 2013, and app releases where there is no active support; for screen readers, this means JAWS 18.0 (not 2018) or earlier, all versions of Window-Eyes, and NVDA earlier than 2019.3.

 

Moving onto the next one: there is a well-known saying in Korean that goes, “a landscape changes every decade.” In the realm of technology, it takes just a few years, months, weeks, and days for the landscape to change; I would argue that it is now in the order of hours and minutes, and soon, seconds and milliseconds. There will come a day when as soon as a person finishes replying to a message, the respondent would discard (or disregard) what is now “old” information, and to some extent, it is already happening, a possibility that was unthinkable five, ten, or thirty years ago.

 

In light of that note, another thing we need to let go is “being fed all the time.” The old model made sense in 2015 when even the experts didn’t know how Windows 10 would turn out, and we needed guidance from others to help us understand what’s going on and get back on our feet. To some extent, this model is also applicable if you are just getting started with Windows 10 today.

 

Times have changed: we must advocate and seek information ourselves. If you want to utilize Windows 10 to its full potential, or want to help make things more usable and accessible for screen reader users, then please stop seeking answers from others all the time. Of course there might be times when you do need to ask others about solving a particular problem. But in many cases, seeking information and advocating yourself is more beneficial in the long term. Do not be afraid to broaden your search scope, do not be afraid to seek answers in many places, and do not be afraid to advocate for accessibility and usability yourself. Let go of the old assumption that you can just ask all sorts of questions on this forum cluster, praying that you’ll get an answer in minutes or days; seek answers in other places first, and if you do realize that the question has to do with the purpose of Win10 Forum for Screen Reader Users (Windows 10 ecosystem and its usability/accessibility from screen reader user perspective), then please feel free to ask here. Stated in another way: Win10 Forum for Screen Reader Users is NOT a general tech support forum.

 

On that note, we must reimagine what this forum cluster will look like going forward. We are not merely a group of screen reader users sharing tips and tricks as we navigate Windows 10 ecosystem. We are not just a group of beginners, power users, experts, screen reader developers (which includes Microsoft staff), and assistive technology observers gathered together to share how we use Windows 10, installing feature updates, using apps, sharing screen reader release announcements, talk about universal apps, and discuss hardware and software compatibility (or in some cases, have philosophical discussions about the direction of Windows 10). We are not merely Windows 10 users.

 

No, we are advocates. We have gathered together to discuss the state of accessibility and usability of Windows 10 ecosystem from a specific perspective. We are here because we want the rest of the community to understand that Windows 10 is the way forward, and that we are showcasing and celebrating progress in ecosystem accessibility and usability. We are members of Win10 Forum for Screen Reader Users because we want to share our expertise and serve the wider community by not only using and discussing Windows 10 and its features, but also advocating for improvements to make the ecosystem better and more attractive for screen reader users and developers.

 

The above statement should not be taken as an intention to dissolve this forum. As I stated many times over the years, this forum will have a place in the wider accessibility community because we can offer a unique perspective across screen reader communities. We can use this space to teach new Windows 10 ecosystem citizens about navigating this vast ecosystem. At the same time, this space can serve to train advocates who will make an impact beyond this forum. Do not view yourselves as merely citizens of Windows 10 ecosystem with no say in shaping the reality. Rather, think of yourselves as game changers who can shape reality.

 

Dear Win10 Forum family, let us move away from old assumptions. Let us move away from the old reality that was in place in 2015, including using old (and perhaps unsupported) software that might work with Windows 10. Let us move away from needing to be fed all the time. Instead, let us move toward standing up on our feet. Let us move toward making a difference ourselves wherever we are. Let us move toward feeding ourselves and having the strength to help people navigate this vast ecosystem.

 

And always remember: the Windows 10 ecosystem and this forum in 2020 is not the same thing as Windows 10 ecosystem and this forum in 2015. Let go of old assumptions. Let it go. Let it gooooo!

 

Cheers,

Joseph

 

On Tue, Jul 28, 2020 at 04:05 PM, Joseph Lee wrote:
Do not view yourselves as merely citizens of Windows 10 ecosystem with no say in shaping the reality. Rather, think of yourselves as game changers who can shape reality.
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I wish to add on to this specific statement that the importance and value of the Feedback Hub app that is built-in to Windows 10 cannot be overstated in regard to being able to give direct input that does shape reality.  I have put multiple pieces of feedback in over time that resulted in direct action.

Mind you, not all do, at least if they are not about true bugs, but the direction Microsoft may elect to take on anything can only be influenced if you bother to express your wants and needs.  If not, then it's the "best guess" of the developers based on input that may or may not be congruent with what you want and need.

You won't always get what you've requested, no one does, but if enough people are giving the same basic feedback there is what is known as "critical mass" and once that's reached, it definitely influences decision-making.

 
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Brian - Windows 10 Pro, 64-Bit, Version 1909, Build 18363

Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.

         ~ Samuel Butler, 1835-1902