Freedom Box, a personal reaction

  • From: "Yardbird" <yardbird@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "JFW List" <jfw@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 19:05:10 -0700

In the midst of all this energetic discussion about the FS suit against 
Serotek (I'm still wondering who thought that up), I just want to describe 
what my initial reaction was when I first saw some promotional notice about 
Freedom Box. I have a feeling it was a press release from that company, 
forwarded to the NFB GUI-Talk list by someone. A few years ago.

When I opened the message and read it,I had two reactions. One was to wonder 
what a "freedom box" could possibly be. Before reading any product 
information, I developed the notion that it was probably just a PC, as a lot 
of people like to call their computer "the box," affectionately. But it was 
probably a PC that was deliberately configured and pre-loaded with some sort 
of adaptive software, most likely made by the company, whose name I didn't 
notice in those messages, or failed to remember. Maybe that isn't what the 
Freedom Box is, but that's what first occurred to me, and the first 
impression something like a brand name makes is very important, if you want 
to reach the targeted consumer.

And so I thought, Hmmm. I wonder if their software is some sort of suite of 
blind and low vision adaptive technologies that are in competition with the 
FS product line. Wonder how good the stuff is?

And then I thought, freedom from what? Freedom from the shackles of 
blindness without the assistive benefits of this product? Fine, if that's 
what they want to claim, but isn't that unattractively negative, to tell the 
potential blind customer that he or she is in bondage to low expectations 
about their own capabilities until they get a Freedom Box? That doesn't 
sound very positive.

Then I thought, "why box?" Because "box" called to mind "boxed in," 
restrained. I never heard of a box, figurative or literal, that enabled or 
enhanced freedom-- but I sure did know about the familiar use of "box" as 
describing confinement, actually. Boxed in. Thrown in the box. Not able to 
think out of the box. So the product name, on its own, left me with too many 
questions and not very attracted, already.

And in very quick order, I then thought, what a bad idea to name the thing 
"freedom" anything. In the adaptive tech arena, I immediately associate the 
word with FS, before anything else, in fact exclusively. This is how 
advertising works, by the way, for anyone who is thinking that it ought to 
be clear that one is a company and the other is a product. Names are used 
for the associations they immediately invoke, at a level that makes an end 
run around rational thinking. So, you hear "freedom," and if you' aren't 
thinking about fried potatoes and Bush in a bad mood about France, then 
you're thinking of FS.

"Couldn't they have thought of something a little more original?" I thought? 
"I don't suppose many people will be confused and think the product is 
affiliated with FS, but then again,maybe they will. Because it's hard not to 
make the association with FS.

At that point, I went on to read a paragraph or two about the product, but 
was so brought down by the foregoing thoughts, in other words, so 
unimpressed with the company that had thought that up for a product name, 
that I didn't remember much of what I read, and I never even noticed the 
name of a company called Serotek or whatever. In fact, until today, I had 
remembered this as a company named Freedom Box with a single product, which 
I continued to think was something like a custom built PC with a screen 
reader and a screen magnifier program, or something like that, possibly 
pre-registered with a special Internet provider.

Which is all to say, I was scarcely surprised to learn that FS has filed 
this suit and is trying to get them to rename the product. Duhh, I'm 
thinking. Of course. What took FS this long?What were those people thinking 
in the first place?

I just say all this in order to stop being so abstract and idealistic about 
who should sue whom and is it good for the adaptive tech users community and 
so forth? In other words, not strutting an opinion so much as confiding a 
personal reaction.

My take on this is that to start with, that company could have done a 
*whole* lot better naming this product. It was, like  really, really 

IMHO, yadda yadda.

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