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November 2013 Software Development Update

2013 November 26
by Amaya Webster

Tools Working Group Update  
The next meeting of the DIAGRAM Tools Working Group will take place on Tuesday December 3, 2013 at 9 a.m. Pacific time. Please let co-chairs Gerardo Capiel or Geoff Freed know if you have ideas to contribute for the next meeting. In the meantime, visit the Tools Working Group wiki page for notes from past meetings.

Touch Graphics Streamlines Image Description Creation
Submitted by Steve Landau

Touch Graphics is working under subcontract with the DIAGRAM Center on new ways to improve the quality and consistency of image descriptions in digital talking books (DTB). This year’s work will focus on developing templates for streamlining creation of well-crafted descriptions of textbook images as part of an overall textbook transcription workflow. Touch Graphics will demonstrate an online tool that presents human transcribers with a series of questions about individual images; responses to these questions will be used to build descriptive paragraphs to replace visual images in the final DTB. The system will mix human- and system-generated sentences and phrases, and then allow human transcribers to revise and elaborate on descriptions based on their own interpretation of the graphic and their awareness of the context of the page where it appears.

We believe that image descriptions produced using these methods will be superior to those by human transcribers using traditional, less automated means. We know from observation that readers appreciate descriptions that are terse and consistent, both qualities that human transcribers often find hard to achieve when working without a suitable framework. Readers appreciate concision and predictability when working to rapidly develop accurate mental models of images, and we hypothesize that our online tools will lead to superior results in reader comprehension, while improving throughput in large-scale, geographically-distributed transcription operations such as DIAGRAM’s Poet image description tool. This year’s work will include a field test of the online system. Those interested in participating should contact Ting Siu at

Poet Software Updates
Poet, DIAGRAM’s open-source image description tool, gets steady user testing and improvements throughout the year thanks to the periodic “image slam” events conducted by our colleagues at Benetech. With image slams, volunteers gather to write image descriptions using the Poet tool that are then vetted by Bookshare staff before being incorporated into Bookshare books. The great feedback we get during these events help us create improvements to the tool. Below is a summary of changes that were incorporated and made live this month:

  1. Image Search function (only for Admins right now)
  2. Help and Guidelines: now visible to everyone, even if you’re not logged in to Poet
  3. Enhanced deletion rights so people can remove unwanted descriptions

These changes will make it easier for users to more intuitively navigate the tool.

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