Transcription Power Tool #3 : WorkRave Pacing Program

 

workrave_screenshot

WorkRave Work Pacing and Repetitive Strain Illness (RSI) Management Tool

 

Workrave ( http://www.workrave.org ) is an EXCELLENT, totally FREE and little open source freeware software application which provides some highly valuable computer work pacing features, as well as regularly timed short, and longer, work break reminders, along with some helpful exercises to do during those breaks to counteract the risk of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). Workrave is available as a TOTALLY free download at :

 

http://www.workrave.org/download/

 

The program is easy to use, and works on Windows, Mac AND LINUX operating systems. Please feel free to go ahead and download, install, and play around with the program as soon as you can, to reap the benefits immediately. I ASSURE you that you will see a noticeable increase in your productivity just in your first few hours of integrating this excellent tool into your daily workflow.

 

For such an essentially simple program this tool provides some highly valuable time and effort management functions, so that your overall productivity will increase NOTICEABLY, while simultaneously decreasing the productivity obstacles presented by repetitive, monotonous bodily and mental activities which create stress – and even potential long term illness- if not managed  over extended periods of time. Although the standard definition of Repetitve Strain Illness focuses mainly on PHYSICALLY strainful, repetitive activity, any worker who heavily uses their computer for several hours per day in order to do important tasks knows that the MENTALLY strenuous and/or menial activities are EQUALLY taxing on the whole mind-body system – especially because the mind and body are so interconnected – and so for the purposes of this analysis as it relates primarily to computer teleworkers (and transcriptionists/proofeaders specifically), Repetitive Strain Injuries in this discussion will include mental activities as well physical ones.

 

For teleworkers, some significant physical repetitive strain producing activities include : eye strain resulting from staring at the computer screen for long periods of time, back pain resulting from sitting up for long periods, and joint pain commonly in the fingers, wrists, arms, neck and/or back areas, resulting primarily from long periods of stationary sitting, posture-maintaining, and typing and mouse activities. Some of the major mentally straining activities include: difficulty concentrating, anxiety resulting from mental exhaustion, noticeable decrease in cognitive ability, and hyper-aroused nervous system states (including moodiness, agitation, insomnia, etc.). These often result from enduring long periods of sustained, focused mental attention on more single, narrowed subject matter, fine textual details, and repetitive tasks. These mental ailments develop primarily due to a failure to take adequate rest breaks away from the computer to let the mind rest and recuperate. Just as a body builder experiences the maximum physical gains by integrating adequate rest periods into their training routine, so the teleworker gains similar benefits from achieving a proper balance of activity and rest.

 

Some of the more technical names for of the most common Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI’s) include : Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Information Overload, Pressure/Stress Headaches, hyper-arousal induced insomnia, etc. More detailed information and examples of these conditions and their causes can be found here :

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repetitive_strain_injury

 

And a more in-depth analysis of the occupational risk factors for teleworkers is well examined here :

 

Working From Home Can Sabotage Your Health

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/121097/20160104/working-from-home-can-sabotage-your-health-ways-telecommuting-can-make-you-ill.htm

 

Luckily, Workrave addresses many of the most significant telecommuter health issue by providing some valuable core features which are simple to execute, yet highly effective in helping to manage and minimize the manifestation and development of these Repetitive Strain Injuries. Plus, it does so in a way which, when properly used, is quite non-intrusive, and highly customizable based on the unique physical and mental needs of the individual worker.

 

The most useful features of the program can probably be best understood through actual case study examples of the typical daily workflow of the teleworker (in this case, the transcriber/proofreader). To best achieve this I will use my own, personal daily workflow as an example here, and show how the Workrave tool is integrated so easily and effectively with the most common workflow tasks of teleworkers (and even computer workers) in general.

 

Let’s say on a typical day I end up doing eight full hours of computer work on various tasks. Upon waking in the morning I usually start working on one of my private client transcription/proofreading projects. I will load my transcription software, continue from where I left off last on the transcription or proofread. I have found that working in 15 minutes chunks is ideal for the specific nature and needs of my body and mind. That is, I will usually transcribe or proofread for 15 minutes, and then either switch things up significantly to consuming some work-related (or non-work related) audio, video or textual resources (ex. YouTube videos, podcasts, web articles, etc.) If my energy levels are further down I can choose the third alternative option of completely disengaging from physical and mental work activity, and instead spend the next 15 minute chunk of time doing some menial daily chores (ex. cleaning, meditating, walking around the room or yard, etc.) So, the three 15 time slots include : 15 minutes of work-related computer work, 15 minutes of less  (or non) – computer related content consumption, or 15 minutes of physical activity which does not involved intense mental activity. The more you understand the ideal mixtures of task sessions which are unique to YOU, the sooner you can most appropriately customize the WorkRave program scheduling features to most effectively assist you in sticking to the specific organization of activity program you choose.

 

So, continuing to build upon the above example, I go into the WorkRave settings area and set the micro-break intervals to 15 minutes. This means that every 15 minutes a “break screen” pops up and stops any activity on the machine (ex. Keyboard and mouse input, etc.) I also program the DURATION of these microbreaks to be 30 seconds. In this way, after every 15 chuck of my work the program forces me to AT LEAST take 30 seconds to stop what I am doing, take a deep breath, rest, and clear my mind in order to best plan for the next 15 minutes activity chunk. After this first microbreak I move into the first alternative task (let’s say watching an interesting YouTube tutorial video on one of the new software programs I am learning and planning to integrate into my arsenal of work tools). The MORE INTERESTING you make this second task (specially relating the task to the first (and also) third task session), the more productivity benefits you will get from switching and pacing the tasks. IDEALLY, the most effective mix of tasks includes a logical component to this transition. For instance, if you are specifically focusing on improving your use of punctuation during your proofreading tasks then switching to watching an interesting YouTube video related to some aspect of proofreading will provide a nice repetition and reinforcement component to your activities (and self-training) schedule. The key is to try and consume resources which are interesting, motivating, and applicable as quickly as possible into your workflow. By doing this you are able to apply (and build) the knowledge and skills you are absorbing during the different task sessions, in real-time, and the continuous, tangible improvement in your productivity which results from this will further motivate you to pace and organize your efforts properly, using SEVERAL tools, including WorkRave.

 

After the second 15 minute task, the next micro-break box pops up and I can then rest for 30 seconds while I also decide if it is most appropriate to switch back to the first (active project work) activity session, or if I feel that my body and mind are becoming more drained of energy and focus I can choose to switch to the third task session, which involves some physical activity without mental activity. In this case I may spend the third 15 minute activity session doing some silent meditation, or giving the kitchen or bathroom a routine 15 minute clean, I may prepare some food (which, in my specific case, general consists of a light, liquid and raw fruits and vegetables based diet. I could, for instance, brew a pot of one of my favorite, and most appropriate types of Chinese tea which I drink daily. While this is another subject worth elaborating on elsewhere (when I talk about proper nutrition for the teleworker), I find that taking a 15 minute break to drink a pot of high quality tea (specifically a black or Puerh category tea if I need more energy, and a green, white, or herbal tea in the evening when I am in the process of “coming down”) is a HUGE boon to my productivity AND the overall health of my body. Once the 15 minute tea drinking activity session finishes, the third micro-break box pops up on the screen. Actually, after the third session it is really best to schedule one of the longer breaks (which include the guided exercise activities). So, in this example I will program one of the long breaks every 45 minutes – that is, after I complete the full round of the three main 15 minute activity sessions.

 

Aside from time the interval (45 minutes in this case) between breaks you can also customize the DURATION of the longer breaks. Again, this proper duration will be unique to your body and mind. I find that after the three 15 minute microbreaks, a good 5 to 10 minute long break is appropriate to really properly recuperate from the past hour of heavy activity. For a few minutes at the beginning of the longer break the program provides you with some guided examples of some common, and effective, basic exercises that you can perform along with the program’s timer. These exercises are focuses on addressing the most common physical Repetitive Strain Injuries, and range from eye exercises to stretching exercises for various high use body parts. The nice thing is that you have the option to follow the exercises provided, and/or replace or add some of your own preferred exercises. I like to try to AT LEAST follow the provided exercises, and then in the remaining non-activity time, where the program stops providing exercises and simply let’s the break timer run, I add a few of my own good ones – mainly consisting of some powerful yoga and Chi Gong stretching, and movement exercises. I may also take some of this remaining time to cease all physical and mental activity by lying on my bed with eyes closed..

 

Once the longer break is completed you will usually feel well rested, and ready to run through the cycle again – depending, of course, on how many cycles you have already completed. With this specific routine you can get quite a lot of work done in an eight hour daily work session. The program also has a customizable “daily limit” timer. This box will pop up to remind you that you have reached your self-estimated overall time-work threshold for the day. If you have more accurately customized the time interval on this feature you may find this a refreshing notification and conclusion of your workday, and you will likely be happy to shut down your work activities and computer for the remainder of the day. However, if you decide (for a variety of possible reasons, including approaching deadlines, glut of work, compulsive tendencies, etc.) to do some additional work, you have the option to “cancel” this daily work reminder. If you do this, however, it IS recommended that in the additional work time you perform for the day you extend the frequency and duration of micro and longer breaks. As some friendly advice from someone who suffers from SEVERE insomnia, plus internet addiction, and other goodies – which is only exacerbated by the constant hyper-arousal induced by above the eight hour threshold of daily computer work, often even reaching up into the double-digits —) yikes – I can tell you from experience that as you endure more hours it become increasingly important to include a pacing mechanism which gradually slows down your physical and mental activity so that when you finally conclude the day’s work your body and mind will be in as an ideal of a state as possible to facilitate sleep and recovery. Ultimately, you want to customize your pacing schedule so that, with the help of the WorkRave program features, you are able to slowly wind down to a soft conclusion of activity which will make it easier for you body and mind to transition to the lower level of brainwave  activity to allow you to get the proper amount and quality of sleep required to maintain consistent productivity over days, weeks, and months. Pacing is a VITAL component to computer-based telework and non-telework. If you can achieve a high level of control over your energy exertion you will be able to maximize the overall results of your effort. If you CAN’T achieve this control then you will tend to experience a progressively increasing level of physical and mental exhaustion which can very likely develop into more serious,  longer term injuries over your extended work periods of days, weeks, months, and beyond.

 

Developing good pacing habits is therefore a vital component to telework, and one which ultimately translates into better health, higher productivity and income earning potential. People who are able to properly pace themselves are able to get more work done with less effort, and experience less health issues which have a tendency to have a detrimental effects on productivity in the short and the long term. This is why I STRONGLY suggest using a simple, yet powerful – and FREE – program like WorkRave as a fundamental tool in your teleworker tool kit.

 

One of the challenges people face when using a program like WorkRave is that you may sometimes find that both the micro and longer breaks feel like they are a bit intrusive, and distracting, to your efforts. However, I find that if in the times when I have those feelings it is very helpful to force myself to take the break, and then practice some meditation on those negative feelings which the rest break alerts trigger in me. I sit or lie down on my floor or the bed, and with my eyes closed allow the feelings to arise naturally and without trying to stop them. Then I examine and reflect on the feelings and sensations to try and figure out the deeper force driving them.. For instance, I ask myself WHY I feel frustrated by the break? Is it simply because I want to get more work done, but by doing so I would overextend myself? I ponder whether or not the break is actually HELPING to increase my productivity and comfort level, Even though at the time of the break I may have negative feelings what I have found is that, looking back in hindsight, it is most often the case that even though I had to endure some frustration due to the interruptive nature of the breaks, they did INDEED successfully serve the purpose of increasing my productivity. In addition, the program forces me, in a healthy way, to confront my own mental processed (and neuroses, or maybe more accurately, demons) which cause me to put up the resistance. A major benefit of this analysis  is that it helps you to begin to gain a better understanding of the destructive ways in which your impulses, compulsions, and counterproductive thought patterns contribute to improper pacing. So in the end this program also has the potential to help you change your pacing routine by changing the underlying destructive psychological mechanisms which have a tendency to force you to push body and mind beyond their limits, and ultimately sabotage your potential maximum productivity.

 

On a more practical level, one of the first things you can do if you find, through analysis, yourself feeling justifiably frustrated at the pacing of the breaks is to simply increase the time interval between them. You do this in the setting section of the program. Since everyone has unique physical and mental needs, once you figure out and customize your own proper individual pacing schedule you actually will be more welcoming of the breaks, accepting them as a necessary – albeit somewhat frustrating – tool, which helps you bypass your own self-destructive tendencies, and just start accepting that the breaks are indeed ultimately necessary for, and effective at, producing a significant increase to your productivity. Plus, the various metrics you can apply to judge this increase in productivity (for example, the number of total increase in transcription/proofreading output time ( based on a word count), an increase in income due to the increase in productivity), etc. will highly motivate you to appreciate and take full advantage of such a valuable tool as WorkRave. You will naturally accept the automated pacing schedule provided by the program.and gain maximum benefits from the breaks, and experience a general  diminishing need to cancel or postpone them. Once you reach this milestone, you KNOW that you are making real progress, and ultimately the improvement in pacing ability that you develop from regular use of this program will naturally transfer into the pacing of activities in other areas of your life (ex. Better organizing and pacing plans to achieve dietary goals, serious exercise routines, general career and life planning, etc. Ultimately, pacing is a valuable life skill to master.

 

Well, quite a lot has been said in this post about a nifty freeware program which may APPEAR on first glance to be quite simple and insignificant. However,us free-thinking, smart people know that the most profound,  influential – and often revolutionary – philosophers and innovators in history have expressed the common important opinion along the lines that the best ideas and inventions are those which are the simplest. Taking the wise words of one such great thinker, Albert Einstein, “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

So it is on this enlightening final note that will I put some closure on this rather comprehensive, and hopefully helpful, reviews of the WorkRave productivity enhancement application. It is my sincere hope that any reader of this post will experience the significant benefits of integrating this tool into their work routine, and as a result experience an increase in productivity, income – and most importantly – the most valuable gift of increased self-awareness.

 

If you do try out the program please feel free to send your comments (both positive and negative) so that all readers of this blog can benefit, as well as sharing this post with anyone who you believe will benefit from the information.

 

Happy Transcribing,

@TranscriptJunky

https://twitter.com/TranscriptJunky

 

 

Advertisements

Transcription Powertool #2 : WavePad (Audio Editing Software)

WavePad Masters Edition Screenshot_ for DOAFT blog post

WavePad Master’s Edition Screenshot Provided ON Company’s Web Site

 

Rescuing Poor Quality Audio Files From Death To Make Them Suitable For Transcription Using Audio Editing Software

As a freelance online transcriptionist you will spend a considerable amount of time evaluating files which come to you via various available job boards and/or private clients. As the different online transcription companies receive audio and video files from different, and numerous sources – each of whom record their audio/video with different equipment, and with a range of recording skills (from amateur to professional), as well as under some uncontrollable conditions  which are common in audio recording – it is CERTAIN that you will REGULARLY come across audio files where the WHOLE file is of poor quality (in terms of being able to hear the speakers well, and most accurately transcribe their speech) OR files in which only PARTS of the file are of poor quality. The main downside to poor quality audio is that it takes more time to complete the transcription and/or editing process, and especially if you are on a strict deadline this can create a significant amount of stress and frustration, which disturbs the general flow and enjoyment of your work, and may even cause you to take more time than usual to complete the file. In addition, even if you are NOT under a strict deadline, these poor quality files require more time and energy investment to complete, and since you are paid per file, line, or audio minute this means that you make less money overall, since these more difficult files take up time that you could be working on better quality, easier files, processing them faster, and turning over more files.

The silver lining in the case of poor audio quality is that the problem presents you with a valuable growth situation by motivating you to teach yourself the valuable new skill audio editing by learning how to use a decent quality audio editing application (some of which are free). This software will provide you an array of powerful tools to greatly increase your potential of transforming a “poor” quality audio/video files into a “workable” quality audio/video file. The potential benefits to you are significant. One will be that if the content of the file is good then you can enjoy that content while transcribing and/or editing it, and get paid to do so. This is always the ideal situation for a transcribers and editors. Secondly, during “slow periods”, where there is a limited number of files made available for you to work on, having some audio editing skills can increase the amount of work available to you, especially if other transcribers/editors working for the same online transcription company do not (yet) have such skills. Finally, the company, or client, providing your files on a regular basis will be happy that you have spent time and energy developing these skills which enable their company to make money off of these poorer quality files, instead of having to return the files to the original client and lose the revenue (and possibly the customer as well).

Some companies have started offering to transcribe/edit poorer quality files with an extra “challenging audio” charge. In this way the customer is still able to get their files transcribed, and the company doesn’t turn away customers who may, over time, provide a significant amount of work, regardless of the occasional poorer quality files. Even the highest quality audio/video productions have SOME content which is sub-par. It is often not the intentional fault of the customer in these cases.  The multitude of factors which can make an audio/video file “poor” in quality include : high level of movement of speakers, high level of background noise when the recording is done in populated places, and many others. A reputable online transcription company will then go on to pay the transcribers and editors some of that extra fee, and so by having some basic audio editing skills you open the possibility of working on these higher paying files. This is a win-win-win situation for the customer. the company, and the transcriber/editor.

Here is a high quality article which goes into significant detail of the various factors which contribute to poor audio quality recordings :

How to Make Good Recordings

Once you get proficient with the audio editing software it is often the case that one of the powerful functions in the software can revive the file from audio death with just a few clicks. So, it is ultimately a valuable and practical skill to add to your virtual transcription/editing toolbox, and one which your clients will appreciate. You may even win certain well-paying contracts over other applicants by simply listing your competency and ownership of a good quality audio editing software application on your resume. Of course, it would be most ideal to perhaps take an online course in audio editing which provides a certificate upon completion, which you can then include with your resume and post on your transcription related online sites and social media accounts (ex. your transcription service (or company) blog, LinkedIn, etc.). You can even find such courses for free on online education sites, such as the following Udemy course :

Audio Editing Basics with Reaper

Just do a Google search for -> “audio editing basics online course + [specific preferred audio editing software]”, and you will discover a nice selection of courses (free or paid) which will start you on the path to becoming skilled and certified in audio editing. In fact, the audio editing application “Reaper” http://www.reaper.fm, which is taught in above course, offers a 60-day evaluation free trial. This is AT LEAST a generous amount of time to experiment with the software while taking the free course. Then, once the trial expires, you can decide whether to buy Reaper, or seek out one of the other full freeware applications available to consumers, such as Audacity http://www.audacityteam.org , which is one of the most popular, open source, applications available. Some other options can be found here :

As you can see from the above article and a simple search, there is a wide range of decent (and some free) quality audio editing software programs available which will enable you to do MOST of the repair work you will need for files which are of moderately difficult quality – which will be the difficulty level of most of the files you will need to work on. Often the one-click application of a simple “background noise reduction”, or “high pass” filter will be adequate to get the audio/video functional enough to work on and process to completion. Remember, YOU are ultimately responsible ONLY for adequately transcribing and/or editing the words in the audio/video file. The quality of the file is NOT your responsibility. So the more skilled you are at tweaking the audio so that you can properly hear and transcribe the speech, the better final transcript product you will produce. In other words, you will have done your job well, even under less than desirable conditions. This is ALWAYS proof of a valuable worker who takes their job seriously, and will surely, more often than not, be looked at favorably by current and potential clients.

The industry standard professional transcription software ExpressScribe Pro http://www.nch.com.au/scribe/index.html provides three of the most basic, commonly used filters (ex. Background Noise Reduction, Extra Volume Boost, and High Pass Filter), BUT these are simply one-click applications which cannot be configured for more fine-tuned audio repair. You simply select the one available, preconfigured filter, and ExpressScribe runs the entire file through that filter. This means you can’t apply the filter only to selected sections of the audio, which proper audio editing programs allow you to do.

As I use a registered version of Express Scribe Pro, which I highly recommend to ALL transcribers, because it is affordable and has features which make the transcription process MUCH more efficient, I HAVE used the above “Special Audio Processes” [ FILE -> “Special Audio Processes”], on a number of occasions, and they have been adequate in making the audio/video workable. However, there have also been a significant number of files which the basic ExpressScribe Pro audio processes have NOT been able to remedy adequately. Therefore, I made the basic cost-benefits analysis decision that if I went ahead and purchased a PROPER audio editing application the income from EACH file I successfully transcribed/edited – which that application enabled me to work on by making it possible to repair the file to workable condition – would offset the cost of the program. Even if you account for a low payout on transcribed and edited/proofread files – let’s just say, for our purposes here,  $10 per audio hour for a completed transcribed audio file, and $5 per hour for a completed edited/proofread file. With some simple arithmetic it is clear that you can recoup the original $99 USD (retail price) registration cost for WavePad Sound Editor Master’s Edition likely within a mere month or two. For me, in the end It has turned out to be a very sound business decision which has significantly enhanced my productivity, as well as providing me the opportunity to develop an additional skill set to complement my transcription, editing/proofreading, and digital audio related (podcast editing) work, in addition to some other personal projects which include audio as a component.  Finally, the cost of the program has served the additional bonus of being a justified “business expense.”

I specifically chose to purchase the WavePad Sound Editor http://www.nch.com.au/wavepad/ application for two main reasons. Firstly, it is a member of the same suite of software products, NHS Software http://www.nch.com.au/index.html which produces Express Scribe, the application I use for transcription work. In fact, there is a valuable “launch” button within the FILE menu of ExpressScribe (as with some of the other in programs in the suite) which enables you to launch WavePad with one click from within the program. As it is often the case that you discover a section of sub-par quality audio while you are in the process of transcribing the file, this one-click ability to open WavePad and then quickly clean up the file so you can get back to work on the transcription is a nice little bonus feature. Of course, this is not a MAJOR feature of the program, but it is a common and convenient perk you get when you buy programs which are components of software suites. Many of these software companies design their products to streamline with each other in various ways. Some of these streamlined features are more powerful than others, but sometimes those little bonus features are valuable, especially if they help save you time, and thus earn more, when you are working against the clock. Many software companies offer discounts to customers when they purchase additional programs in their suite – either as part of one single purchase, or for future purchases. The company with often advertise the available discounts on their site. Other times they offer you a discount on additional suite programs when you reach the check-out page during purchase. I recommend sending a quick email to the company sales department and inquire about the availability of any such discounts so that you don’t miss out.  Feel free to AT LEAST download the free demo version of WavePad (and/or any of the various other quality audio editing applications), read through the tutorials, and experiment with some of the powerful, and easy-to-use, audio processing tools.

WavePad has a very nice, clean, user-friendly interface, which is NOT overloaded with audio functions, or overwhelming on the eyes and brain, However, it does offer a decent amount of functionality for both lower-skilled and higher-skilled audio technicians, if they care to take advantage of these features. The main advantage that WavePad has over the basic three audio processes available in the Express Scribe Pro application is that there are a LOT more functions, and each function has a much higher range of configuration potential (including the ability to select and apply editing to smaller sections of the entire file), which enables the user to fine tune their application of audio processes in order to enable the highest potential to transform poor audio into the most workable quality. This is ultimately the most important goal. Many of the audio processes also offer “preset” options, along with a preview, so that you can hear what the file will sound like after the filter is applied, BEFORE actually applying it. This minimizes time, effort, and computer processing power needed to find the BEST level of audio adjustment. At the same time, it makes it easier for inexperienced users of the application to get the final outcome they are looking before they have invested the significant amount of time which is required to become comfortably proficient with the numerous features of the program. For advanced users (such as professional audio engineers, podcast producers, etc.) the program offers the ability to fully configure the most important elements of the audio processes. This enables the user to really get in there and get to the core of the problem in the audio and produced the best final product.

Most transcriptionists and editors will only need to use the presets for most files. The preset filters are powerful, and you often just need to apply a few of them to make the audio/video file workable. Sometimes just ONE filter will do the job. This is why it is important to thoroughly go through the tutorial manual provided, so that you will better be able to know, and decide on, which process(es) to apply to get the audio into workable form with the least amount of wasted time and effort.

As this blog post is NOT intended as a tutorial on WavePad – or any other audio editing software application – but instead, to address the value these programs add to the efficiency of transcription and editing work, I will simply advise that the reader follow up with some of the resources, free software demo, and tutorials of the programs mentioned above, The IDEAL way to achieve working competence with these programs is to actually experiment with the features on REAL files, as you work through the tutorial. I assure you that you will feel a great sense of satisfaction the moment you resuscitate a “dead” audio/video file into a workable form which you can then process and make money on. You will also have learned some valuable and marketable skills. In fact, as a result of mastering the WavePad program I have been able to earn additional income editing the audio of some podcast clients, and then proceed to transcribe and edit their podcast audio files. The combination of audio editing, transcription, editing/proofreading, web design and SEO marketing work that I now am able to do for various clients has enabled me to now earn over $20+ an hour, which is a significant amount of income based on my specific situation- that is, living in a “developing” country, where the cost of living is roughly 1/3 of that in the “developed” world, at the time of this writing.

Since I make the BULK of my living doing transcription and editing I felt it was best to properly purchase the above software applications. It is always a nice feeling to know that you are using software with the proper permissions, in addition to the fact that the programmers who design these excellent programs work just as hard as the rest of us technology workers, and so, being a full believer in free market economics, my conscience tells me it is the right thing to do. However, I CERTAINLY understand that (especially for new people to the industry) money is scarce, and it is thus important for us to utilize whatever is available (especially free resources) to us to get the gears moving, and the $$$ rolling in. Trust me, I have been there. The great thing though is that there is an adequate range of free resources and tools to get you started during the process of self-education and experimentation. Then, once you are generating a decent income you can decide on whether to use freeware or paidware (or a combination of both). The choice is completely up to you, of course. NO moral judgement is being made on this end. I promise ;->

In fact, as it probably obvious to the reader, the whole purpose of this blog is to help people who are interested in doing work in the online transcription industry to be able to gain the essential knowledge they need, in the most practical, efficient, and cost-effective way possible. The good news is that it is COMPLETELY possible to achieve this goal without having to spend barely ANY money at all. That is the beauty of the internet. It allows a freer flow of information, as well as providing the technical means by which to enable people all of the world to earn an honest living in a location and (generally) time-independent manner.

As I started to mention earlier (in regard to the free, open source Audacity audio editing application), there are TONS of excellent open-source, freeware applications (for all of the various areas of your transcription business – including productivity apps, typing practice programs, etc. – out there which can help take MOST of the financial burden off of you – especially in the beginning phase of your endeavor. For instance, instead of using Microsoft Word to type your transcription text (while using a transcription program like ExpressScribe to control the audio) you can easily, and smartly choose LibreWriter – part of the LIbreOffice open source suite : https://www.libreoffice.org/download/libreoffice-fresh/  which has ALL of the core functionality of the full Microsoft Word (Office suite), BUT is COMPLETELY FREE! I personally use a core mix of Express Scribe for the transcription (to control the audio/video file), with LibreWriter as the word processing software, which I have open as the top window while I type out the audio speech. ExpressScribe Pro includes the “universal hotkeys” feature which allows you to control the audio (for example, pressing F9 to start the audio and F4 to stop it), even though you have the LibreWriter page open as the top (focus) window. I then use click “launch WavePad” within ExpressScribe to open WavePad, import the audio file, and adjust any parts of the audio which require it at any point during the transcription and/or editing process.

With just these three powerful tools you can basically do ALL of the transcription and editing work you can handle, and do it in professional manner – keeping in mind that accuracy is the most important feature of quality transcription and editing work. In combination, these three tools maximize your potential accuracy, and ultimately enable you to work faster, make more money, and – most importantly – get maximum enjoyment out of the process.
Although I realize that this post has grown quite long, I believe the length has been justified to allow me to do justice to this important subject related to the transcription craft. My main hope is that the reader will derive some practical, actionable, and valuable tips and motivation to follow through on their own in utilizing the resources I have presented here to progress productively along the path to becoming a more seasoned, and wealthy, transcriptionist.

Please feel free to direct any questions and comments to :

TranscriptJunky@gmail.com

I always enjoy assisting readers in any feasible way possible, and I ESPECIALLY enjoy when people send emails offering gratitude for this blogging effort as a result of being able to use some of the information provided to solve a problem, or achieve a new milestone in their transcription career effort.

 —————————

Happy Transcribing.

@TranscriptJunky

Transcription Powertool #1 : Wordweb Dictionary/Thesaurus

Wordweb Pro - English Dictionary Thesaurus screenshot

WordWeb Pro screenshot

I believe there is an old saying with something to the effect of  “the best things in life are simple”. Or is it “free”? Or both? A common example of such elegant simplicity is Einstein’s famous equation : E =mc2 (the “2” here is, of course, in superscript format). This simple equation has gone down in the history books as one of the most revolutionary creations of theoretical and applied physics which has had such a wide range of effects – from the development of nuclear weapons, to the concept of black holes, computers and other bizarre phenomenon in the universe.

As we move deeper into this new age of accelerating information creation and exchange it is only becoming ever more vital to find and apply SIMPLE tools and solutions to the numerous tasks and obstacles which we must deal with on an everyday basis. The good news is that as the amount of information increases SO TO does the power of computing, and so we find ourselves in a feedback situation in which the technology creates new problems, amplifies old problems, and provides the potential to also solve these issues.

So, you can imaging how pleased I was as a writer, researcher, transcriptionist/editor, web designer and offline/online marketer (that is, a person whose main work in life revolves around words), to come across a funky, yet amazingly powerful little program which is extremely simple to use, and aids you in dealing with most of the common, significant issues you face in relation to the creation, manipulation, and transmission of words in all of the various applications in which words are a vehicle of exchange.

The program is called Wordweb, a comprehensive, multipurpose English language dictionary and thesaurus application whose features range from one-click look up of words, synonym and antonym word web, audio word pronunciation (in numerous accents), extendable dictionaries and so much more. As space in this post is limited, and since the Wordweb web site describes all of the features in detail, and since the software is free, quick to install and use, etc. I think the best thing to do is advise you refer to their site for more information. I also suggest you take a minute to download the free version of program (the licensing agreement basically states that if you are not wealthy enough to afford more than one round-trip international plane flight per year then you are free to use the full features of the software). I used the free version of the program for five years, until recently when I decided that I wanted access to some of the more advanced features which come with the registered Wordweb Pro version. I will say that this was one of the best $19.00 I’ve spent on business tools in a while). As with most other software programs (especially freeware) I recommend using the free version for a while to get a feel for it, experiment with the features as you read through the help tutorials and do apply the application to your word work. I assure you that this program will make immediate and significant improvements in your entire work process, and thus free up some of your energy to focus on the more creative aspects of your job.

The most practical and frequently-used feature of Wordweb is the one click “word look-up” function which works in essentially ANY program – both offline and online – that displays words. Some examples include : word processors, transcription software, web sites user interfaces of most programs, etc. Basically, any word can be looked up in the Wordweb dictionary by simply clicking [CTRL + right click], and then displayed with as many definitions are in the database (and you can extend the database with various dictionary upgrades) and numerous other helpful information for dealing with the word (ex. list of synonyms, audio pronunciation from within the program by simply clicking a speaker icon, links to the word in various online dictionaries and other sources, and many more very useful processes dealing with the meaning and use of words in their wide range of applications.

To illustrate the immediate usefulness of the program – if you have installed it and have it running – go ahead and take a second to [CTRL + (right click)] any word in this post and then click around from the definition page to explore the various additional information which is provided by the program related to that word. Since the function of this blog is to introduce budding transcriptionists to the skills and tools of the trade, I will detail some of the features which will be most helpful and quickly applicable, and then let you play around with it as you explore the web site, tutorials, and other resources to become more proficient in using the application. Once you see how easy it is to use, and how helpful in minimizing the effort of the most routine tasks you perform everyday as a wordsmith, I can guarantee you you will be hooked.

One of the most basic uses of the program in the transcription process is the ability to spell check words with one click and from right inside the transcription program (such as ExpressScribe). The program has good quality artificial intelligence programmed into it which allows you to type in a rough estimate of and/or [CTRL + (right click)] the word you need to spell check and the program will display a list of numerous words which are either the exact word correctly spelled (along with the definition and other info) or the closest estimates of the word you are looking for. For instance, if you [CTRL + (right click)] the word “mispelled” (go ahead, [CTRL + (right click) it!) the program will display “try misspelled” with a link to the correct definition,  along with a list of numerous other rough matched of the misspelled word, which you can single click on to go to the definition page for that word. In addition, when the definition page comes up for the word the word itself is selected, and so you can simply hit [CTRL-C] to copy the properly spelled word and paste it right into the transcription text in your transcription software by pressing [CTRL + V]. Going even further into the functions, you have the option (through various tabs within the definition display page) to click through to synonyms and antonyms of the word (and other related categories) and then [CTRL-C] any of those and paste them [CTRL + V] right into the transcription text. So, the program is essentially a “quick-click” thesaurus, spell check, and linguistic database of sorts. All of these features are smoothly integrated into every step of your word workflow and are implemented in one or two clicks (for most operations).

These few basic features of the program are well worth the ZERO dollars you pay for the (freeware version of the) program and you can start using them immediately to increase the efficiency of your writing, editing and transcription work.

Another nice feature is the built-in audio pronunciation, which can come in handy when you are having trouble deciphering a word used by a speaker in the audio file you are transcribing. You will be surprised how many words we believe we know the correct pronunciation for, which turn out to have a dramatically different actual sound (including syllabic accent, intonation, etc.) especially when you account for the various accents of the language which the word is spoken in. For instance, quite a number of English words are barely recognizable when you compare the pronunciation between American English, British English, Australian English, etc. Not to mention the even more numerous tertiary English dialects (ex. Filipino-English, Chinese-English, Indian-English, etc.). The audio pronunciation database can also be upgraded to increase the number of audio pronunciations available and to add additional accent and specialized databases. It’s very helpful to have the proper pronunciation of a new word you have encountered so that you learn the correct pronunciation from the very beginning, instead of learning an improper sounding from the start and then having to unlearn your mistake. This is an important concept in the study of language (linguistics – especially the subtopic of second language acquisition (SLA) – of which a massive amount of research has been done in academia and the field). The reality is that it is much easier to struggle a little to learn the word (and pronunciation) correctly upon first exposure, than it is to go because and undo the improper definition/pronunciation after it has been reinforced over time through use. Try typing a rough estimate pronunciation of an unknown word from an audio file and you may very likely be surprised to find the correct word show up in the “related words” list. You can then verify further if it is the correct word or not by clicking the speaker icon and have the program pronounce the related word (or words).

If you are to settle for the integration and application of just these four core features of the program (ex. dictionary, thesaurus, spell check, and audio pronunciation) you will see a dramatic improvement in the speed and accuracy of your word work, especially if you apply that work to your tasks of writing, editing and/or transcribing. You will experience a dramatic increase in the speed in which you discover and correct spelling mistakes in your text, the efficiency of deciphering words through the context provided by the thesaurus features, as well as the efficiency of deciphering unclear words in an audio file through the same contextual features in combination with the audio pronunciation feature which provides multiple accents – an important feature for transcriptionists who often work on files containing speech by speakers of different accents from around the world. This is only becoming more important and useful as computing technology makes cross-translation of language faster and more automated, and as the force of globalization increases the amount of audio and text data to be translated and transcribed by teleworkers of various accents working online. In addition, since saving time equates to getting more work done and thus earning more money, this program is an important tool to add to your transcription (and general word-work) toolbox.

So go ahead and play around with Wordweb, and if it is helpful leave a comment describing how you have used and benefited from it.

=========================================================

Feel free to donate some Bitcoin to support the research and writing effort of this blog.

Donate some Bitcoin to support the research and writing effort of this blog.