I believe that there *needs* to be a change in the way Betas are handled on Applevis

Disclaimer: let me begin by saying that I wholeheartedly support everything that the Applevis team and the site moderators are doing. I understand, completely, the policy of Applevis and its moderators of forbidding any and all discussion of pre-release software in the forums. It is far, far too easy to cross the line between allowing generalized discussion and breaking an NDA, and it's much simpler to disallow any and all beta discussion. I get that, and I genuinely don't think there's anything else that can or should be done in the general forums.
So Christmas is over, the gifts are in, and Apple has left us with goodies aplenty. The more adventurous among us are dusting off our lightning cables or waiting for Apple to send our device profiles for the public beta program. We've got our devices ready, we're excited... Now, if only this year, the initial Betas don't break anything too very important in relation to Voiceover... Come, let's pray to the tech Gods.
WAIT, WHAT was that????
Yes, you heard me right. Betas are not, and never have been, paragons of stability. That is why they are called betas, and why we follow Apple's number one commandment: THOU SHALL NOT INSTALL THE BETA ON THY PRIMARY DEVICE! But because we are a niche market, the fact of the matter is that sometimes things break. that's just the way things work, and like it or not, that's part of being blind. Sometimes, the way things break for us, as Voiceover users, are absolutely catastrophic. Things are absolutely always fixed in the very next beta, and this absolutely never happens in public betas--only the developer ones--but this is still a concern. Apple are doing their very best to stand by us, as a niche community, but wouldn't their job be made so very much easier if we were able to network among ourselves?
I remember, all too well, incidents when if I could have only crowd sourced a few other Voiceover users who were running Betas, I would have known in a matter of minutes to stay far, far away from a beta until the next iteration. Instead, I was stuck with a virtually unusable device until the next beta rolled around, and I was far, far from the only person I knew who was in the same situation. And yes, this was mostly my fault for putting it on an iPad that I actually wanted to use for something besides a paperweight during the beta cycle... But even still, had this been a similar situation that affected sighted individuals, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that I would have known from sights such as MacRumors, 9To5Mac, etc that something was badly wrong almost right away. I won't get into specifics here, as I signed an NDA just like everyone else, but those of you who ran Betas during the releases of iOS 5, 6, and 8 know what I mean.
As someone who has been running beta software each year for the last several, I can attest to the fact that each beta comes with a fairly detailed breakdown of what bugs are fixed, which might still be present, and some major pitfalls of upgrading for each. In a matter of hours after each Beta has been made available, sites such as MacRumors, iMore, cultOfMac, and others have forum posts everywhere detailing new bugs that have been found. Meanwhile I, as a Voiceover user, am not privy to similar information, simply because there just isn't enough of a user base to disseminate such knowledge fast enough. Those of us who do exist are so scattered that it's difficult for us to know who is whom, and there is no centralized place that I know of where we can freely discuss utilizing beta software as Voiceover users. Am I then, as a blind user, expected to muddle along by myself, not even asking for corroboration from fellow beta testers. Should I be satisfied with a substandard user experience because I am blind? Should I just expect that this is par for the course?
Let me state, once again, that I in no way fault Applevis for their stand on this matter. There is nothing that you, as a site, can or should do differently in the general forums. However, why not create another section of the site for discussion of Beta issues, specifically for and by those running the Betas? If need be, require us to provide proof that we have the right to run beta software, either by being enrolled through the public Beta program or because we have purchased a membership in Apple's own developer program, before we can access any information posted about the Betas. In fact, I encourage it. I would even go so far as to suggest that this could, and even should, be separate from the main site entirely. but I very definitely do think that there needs to be a way for those of us running betas to collaborate, to discuss workarounds for particularly serious bugs, to discuss our experiences, and to work together to present a more united front in bringing our concerns to Apple.
The entire point of Applevis--the community, the site, and the approach--has always been that as singular, disorganized users, we are nothing. But as an organized whole, we can change things. Look at what we have accomplished with the Applevis Hall of Fame, our App Directory, our concerted efforts to work with developers, and our vibrant community. Look how easy it is for a new iOS or Mac user to come to us and receive the help they need to become proficient! Why, then, would we not want to judiciously bring that same approach to Beta software? Continuously, each year, we see the Goldmaster of a new iOS released and we bemoan the amount of Voiceover bugs. But at the same time, we effectively cripple the very network that could launch a preemptive strike against them.
I don't begin to pretend to know how this change should be brought about. The only thing I do know is this: I very much believe that this year, we *need* to have a place where we, the users of iOS 10 beta, can discuss our findings. To that end, I am willing to help in any way I can to make this a reality. If I am misinformed and I have overlooked a mailing list, a forum, or another such venue where people discuss running the betas, I apologize in advance. However, if not, I implore you: the Applevis community, to brainstorm with me and find a way to make it so.

Forum: 

I don't say much, because you

I don't say much, because you said it all. I only say, that I whole heartedly agree and applaud to this.
I've been running ios betas for a while now, finding and reporting bugs regarding various aspects. However, as I can confirm, that a bug really exist by a simple google search, I can't do this with accessibility related bugs. Because, as you said, nobody talks of it, except some folks on Twitter.
Now, If an accessibility bug is present, I don't know if it is a real bug, if its my device what has the bug or its me who does things wrong. A forum to discuss topics regarding beta releases, their features and bugs would solve that problem entirely.

mailing list

Hi,
While I agree with you, someone has thankfully stepped up to the plate last year and created a mailing list specifically discussing both iOS and Mac OS betas for blind people, though the subscription details escape me. In any case the list doesn't have public archives and you are asked a question to prove you do use beta software when joining, so if you want to share beta experiences with fellow VOiceOver users you now have options.

Not unsympathetic, but the AppleVis position has to remain

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hello Megan,

Firstly, as a VoiceOver user and a beta tester, I will admit to empathising with most of what you say.

However, despite this and knowing that it will disappoint you and some others, I have to be clear from the offset that we have no plans of relaxing our position on posting information about pre-release Apple software. As you say, people are required to accept a Non Disclosure Agreement when installing the software. We ask that people respect and honour that NDA when posting to AppleVis, and will continue to do so.

Yes, I know that the NDA is widely ignored elsewhere on the Internet. I will not criticize the websites that do and in many cases I completely understand why they do.

However, what I would ask is that people bear in mind one significant factor which distinguishes AppleVis from the vast majority of those sites, and that is our main priority - which is acting as an advocate for accessibility of Apple products and the third-party software which runs on them. To achieve this means working with Apple and other developers. So, if we want them to listen to our voice and value what we say, we have to accept that it comes with certain conditions. In this case, a significant one is respecting the licenses and agreements that they choose to put in place to protect the use of their products.

In short, we can’t ask that they listen to us whilst choosing to ignore what they ask of us as users.

As things are now, I can tell you without question that people at the heart of Apple who can and do make a difference to how usable their products are to us are listing to the AppleVis community and value what we as a community strive to offer.

I am not going to make any silly claims that Apple will change its position and commitment to accessibility because of something that might be posted to AppleVis. However, I know that the AppleVis community would be regarded and treated differently if we were to change our position on Apple’s NDA. For me, knowing that we are heard within Apple has to remain more important than talking on here about pre-release software.

As I said earlier, I do appreciate that this is not what you and some others want to hear. I appreciate that it will frustrate and annoy some. I am not unsympathetic. But, for now, our position on Apple’s NDA will remain the same.

My thoughts

Yes, blind people need an outlet to discuss pre-release software. In my opinion, this should be in the form of a website or email list that should be readable by all people so that it can be used by the widest and largest group of people possible.

Does apple know that?

It's true, Applevis needs some guidelines to keep doing what you all do, but, at least, it could be interesting if someone from applevis could explain what is discussed here to your apple contacts. Don't relax anything, it is ok, but what if apple just hasn't considered the topic? A simple message like: "hey, guys, some users would be interested in discussing betas and bugs from a voiceover perspective". Consider it, please.

No prospect of an exception

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hello Alan,

Apple has made it very clear that they would not make an exception for AppleVis regarding the NDA. And, yes, we have asked.

Being realistic, Apple was always unlikely to make an exception for a single user, community or website. But, we did feel that it was at least worth asking and did emphasise some of the reasons already mentioned in this thread as to why there might be good and productive reasons for an exception.

So, please accept again that we are not deaf to what people are asking from us.

Probably not AppleVis, but something is definitely needed

I respect and fully agree with the site administration's decision to not allow discussion of Betas here. Speaking more generally, we are in serious need of a venue somewhere where legitimate beta program participants can securely discuss accessibility issues among themselves. It would be important for such a thing to be separate from AppleVis, which has a much more important and valuable role to play. AppleVis represents us well in ongoing advocacy efforts which benefit us far more than the occasional beta discussion.

I disagree in the strongest terms with an earlier post which argued that such a forum or list should be open to reading by everyone. This would be an absolutely terrible idea, as it would cause all participants to violate Apple's terms. The inability to accurately determine who is enrolled in the beta program is most likely the primary reason why AppleVis is resistant to allowing such discussions here. Any such forum should constantly practice due diligence in approving new members to the group. People should be asked to provide specific information about a current beta build before approving their accounts. Such details would be difficult (but not impossible) to obtain without being a registered participant. Due to NDA violations elsewhere on the internet, such measures would not be impervious to abuse. That's why it cannot be AppleVis, as the reputation of that name and the influence associated with it are too important to risk. If the site truly does everything reasonably possible to prevent violations, it wouldn't really be their responsibility if some people work around it and see what they shouldn't. Also, even if such a forum did exist, a wise moderator team would not permit discussions of the betas released yesterday, until the public beta period begins in July.

Just my personal opinion, for what little that's worth. :)

Excuse me...

Excuse me, David (and others), possibly my english is not good enought sometimes to express my self the best way... Really, I was not thinking about any exception, and I know your work from Applevis is amazing for all of us. I was just wondering if Apples itself has considered anything about betatesting specifically voiceover oriented. In fact, I always suposed you guys from Applevis actually do that, but I am not sure... It would be great if you could write an article explaining how is the process, from the keynote to the final release of a new iOS, from your perspective (in general terms, no exceptions required!).
Hope this time I've done better...

A few things

While I agree for the most part with the comments posed by David, I have to admit to taking exception to something that was said. Essentially, I felt that you were saying that although sighted users can and do post questions about the betas routinely on public websites, because we are blind users we shouldn't expect to do the same. The impression I took away from this is that, as blind users, we have to be extra good little boys and girls at the expense of usability. It reminded me very strongly of elementary and middle school, when I would be singled out and chastised for doing exactly the same things as my sighted friends, simply because they couldn't let the blind girl get away with any misbehavior. You state further down in the same comment that the very bread and butter of Applevis, so to speak, is accessibility advocacy. But wouldn't that efficacy be increased a hundredfold if we could begin addressing problems at a Beta level?
I also agree with another poster, who says that the Applevis website itself can't afford to be affiliated with this. I think I'm less so asking for the backing of the Applevis "brand" and more so wondering what we could do as the applevis community. This is a phenomenon that I see all too frequently: blind developers, innovators, and those who want to be on the cutting edge are left out in the cold. We are essentially told that if we want to be ahead of the curve, we are on our own and shouldn't expect any support or even to collaborate with like-minded individuals. But then, on the other hand, we lament the lack of blind mathematicians, scientists, software developers, leaders, artists, creative thinkers, etc. How do we expect to foster these traits in adults when we are essentially training them out of our children from a young age by our approaches to issues such as these? I know at this point I have left the road of iOs betas and gone far, far into the world of deep philosophy, but I think that it is something that MUST be discussed. It's something I see literally every day: when a blind high school student tells me that she can't use computers because her vision teacher has told her learning ChromeOS--all her family can afford to buy her--is "too difficult for her to conceptualize". When a blind college student drops her major as a tech writer, an artist, a mathematician because she isn't given the proper support she needs and has been told too many times that it "isn't possible" for a blind person to perform these jobs. So to me, this beta issue is a smaller manifestation of a much larger problem.
Getting back to the point at hand... Can we, as the Applevis community, create a way for our blind developers to network and discuss the betas? I'm even seeing an approach where we create a forum on the Apple developer portal, and then circulate information about where it's located and how to access it here on the site. That way, we aren't discussing any information about the beta itself here on applevis. Nor are we breaking the NDA, but we can still effectively network, and we can use Applevis' many resources to aid us. Additionally we don't have to worry about policing prospective members, because Apple's own forums do this for us. This isn't a permanent solution, as I don't believe public Beta members have access to the developer forums, but it gives us a month to come up with a better solution that includes them. Also, as I've said before, the public betas are by nature more stable than the developer ones, so I believe that the need for public beta users to be onboard, while still pressing, isn't quite as crucial.
What do you think? Would this be an acceptable alternative to the site moderators?
Thank you for your consideration!
Megan

This isn’t about the blind being treated differently

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Megan,

As somebody who is himself blind, there is no way that I would say anything to suggest that we should not have the same rights as anybody else.

However, being blind does not give us any additional rights in this case. In regards to Apple’s NDA, there are many websites who respect and honour it. Don’t believe for one moment that every other website, forum, mailing list and so on is allowing open discussion of Apple betas.

This simply is not a case of one rule for the sighted and one rule for the blind. It’s simply one website amongst millions making a decision to respect the NDA.

I am sorry if you took my earlier comments as suggesting otherwise.

I'm not suggesting blindy entitlement

David,
I'm not suggesting that we are entitled to additional rights merely because we are blind. In fact, I will be the first to suggest that we should be held to the same standards as everyone else, and that is what I am saying here. It seems unfair to me that Apple seems fine with large sites such as MacRumors and 9To5 breeching their NDA constantly for what I feel are far less important reasons, but they have made it quite clear to us that there will be consequences if we discuss the betas on the site in any way, shape or form. The fact of the matter is, everyone else does discuss the betas, and Apple doesn't seem to care when it's done on the bigger sites such as MacRumors, CultOfMac, or Reddit. In fact, reporters from these publications are all but encouraged to report on the betas, because they're invited to the press events every year with the understanding that articles will be published on what is presented and on the betas themselves throughout the development cycle. Apple spotlights many of the mainstream improvements to iOS throughout the summer and early fall, even the more obscure ones. Improvements to Voiceover, however, are never even mentioned until the day the final software is released. I could understand if the policy was that we were not allowed to discuss betas of any kind until the first public beta dropped, or even until the Goldmaster dropped. As I said, I can even understand, and encourage, ensuring that those who are allowed to discuss and view information about betas have the appropriate permission to do so. But I feel that it's unfair to say that because we are blind, we should hold ourselves to the standard originally laid out by Apple when Apple themselves have made it clear that they don't enforce it for mainstream sites. Why are they treating us differently?
I'm not castigating you, the Applevis moderators, so much as Apple themselves. Why are we not being given more feedback from Apple or from the accessibility team themselves? The fact of the matter is that there are probably 1,000 sighted individuals to every 1 of us, so of course there isn't going to be time to showcase Voiceover improvements during the keynote. Honestly, there are a lot of mainstream features that don't get a mention, so it would be downright unreasonable to assume that they would take a ton of precious keynote time to discuss features that 99% of their users won't understand or care about, and I get that. But there is no reason that there couldn't be a quick rundown of the upcoming Voiceover improvements expected in iOs 10 posted on accessibility.apple.com on the same day that the rest of the world gets to know about the mainstream feature set. Their is no reason there couldn't be a dedicated forum somewhere on the accessibility site for Voiceover/Zoom/guided access/switch control/what have you/beta users to discuss bugs, features, workarounds, interactions with adaptive software and accessories, etc. In fact, having Apple themselves handling this would be the best of every possible world, because they would be able to authenticate and see not only who is in the developer program, but also whether someone is enrolled as a public beta user, etc without having to have someone answer a relatively easily spoofable question to join a mailing list.
Ultimately, I posted this topic not to complain about the way Applevis has handled betas in any way, but to ask for something to change. I don't necessarily think that this needs to be on the part of Applevis, but rather through Apple, handled by us as a community outside of applevis, or through some other medium. I was using Applevis as a medium to have this discussion, because this is the way I knew to best disseminate the topic to the largest group of blind users most efficiently. I'm sorry if this seemed unclear before, and I know that this is a controversial opinion. All the best, David, and thank you for everything that you and the Applevis team do on the site! My apologies if it appears in any way that I am being rude, inflammatory, or in any other way behaving unpleasantly toward you. Be assured that this is in no way my intent.

So, Where Then?

Ok so for reasons that have been stated multiple times, Applevis is not the place for a discussion about bugs in beta versions. Fine. Got it. Understood 1000%. And, I too support the Applevis position.

So, swap email addresses amongst yourselves, privately, or DM on Twitter, or set up a private mailing list somewhere, or a Teamtalk chat room with a password, etc. etc. Word will circulate privately among interested parties I'm sure. If someone does set up a space, mailing list, etc. or wants to swap Twitter handles, send me a private message on here or email me at csmart8@cogeco.ca
Simply don't talk about it publically.

The #1 Rule of Apple Beta Club Is...

don't talk publically about Apple Beta Club. Ok? We all on the same page here? Good. :) So let's contact each other privately and get it done.

Changes

Apple has recently changed much of its NDA to allow for discussion of betas as anyone can now sign up for the public beta and discuss what they find. They are doing this to promote their software and the NDA has changed to an extent. I believe that you may not post screenshots, video, or audio about what you see in the betas but you may talk about them.

I will be opening a forum at iAccessibility.net to discuss the betas and for people to post bugs There will be moderation on posts here but there will be a place for you beta folks like me to go to to to discuss the betas. If I need to I will make it a hidden forum but there will be a place for devs and beta users to discuss these issues later this week.

Clarification on possible “consequences”

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Megan,

To be very clear, Apple has never said that there would be “consequences” for AppleVis if we were to change our position on the NDA.

What I do know is that we as a community are highly regarded within Apple and that they do routinely listen to what is being said here. One of the reasons for this is our position on the NDA.

As for other websites, you are quite right, many post just about everything possible about pre-release software. The reasons vary. In many cases I would guess that it’s necessity, as the websites in question rely on advertising revenue to keep the lights on, and that’s dependent in turn upon getting as many eyeballs in front of their content as possible. And, they know that the simple reality is that if they choose not to post this information, many other websites will, and that’s where those eyeballs will go.

As to why Apple doesn’t appear to do anything about it, they are the only one that can answer that. But, my guess is that it’s a combination of being far too late to close that particular gate and that it actually creates a level of continuous interest which many companies could only dream of or spend a lot of money chasing.

It’s a very strange world that we inhabit in terms of all things Apple.

Another stray clarification

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Something else that’s perhaps worth making clear, is that if Apple talked about a feature at WWDC (or anywhere else, such as on the preview pages at apple.com), the NDA says that it's not confidential. So, everything announced yesterday by Apple is open to discussion.

In fact, Alex Hall has already posted a great summary here on AppleVis of what we learned about the next iterations of iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS. So, if you want to discuss what we know, please head over to that post.

I see both sides

I see both sides of the issue, I really do. But my question is what's to stop us from posting to all the mainstream sites as well like 9 to 5 mac, and Mac rumors, etc? We may be able to bring VoiceOver to a wider audience. I don't see any reason why we should have to keep it to a group just amongst ourselves, although I understand why people might want to.

As a totally blind tester, it

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

As a totally blind tester, it would be beneficial to network with others using Voiceover to verify if issues I may be experiencing are indeed bugs; as well as what factors are at play. For example, Voiceover may fail to work as expected in a certain situation, but there could be visual clues that I would miss. If I had somewhere to go to discuss them, I could get more information as well as share anything I know about the issue.

Not saying it has to be on AppleVis, but there should definitely be somewhere for blind developers and testers to discuss features and bugs of beta releases from an accessibility perspective.

While users could post on mainstream forums, comments regarding obscure features like Voiceover could easily be lost in the pages on pages of discussion of other features with more fanfare.

mailing list beta

Please, can someone contact me privately and tell me where I can find a mailing list where talk about beta?
I'm a beta tester from yesterday, and I'd like to understand if some problems occour only on my device or not.
Google didn't help me about this.
My email address is:
simone.dalmaso at gmail.com
Thank you very much.

Same

I would also be interested in a private message regarding the email list. I am stalled the iOS 10 beta on my iPad yesterday, and I'm also experiencing some interesting quirks. Not sure if they are due to having to restore my iPad, or do to the beta itself.

I would also like to be

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I would also like to be contacted regarding a mailing list. If I'm not mistaken, you should be able to contact me through my AppleVis profile.