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.

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Happy Transcribing.

@TranscriptJunky
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Free Transcript Project – #9

 

Morgan MacDonald : Hello. Welcome to the replay. I’m out in the world! I’m not in my office. This is really unusual for my Scopes. I am having a FUN Friday. I went and got my hair done, [and] when out for lunch, [and have been] doing some work while out and about, and I was like, “Well, I’ll be like the COOL Scopers. I’ll Scope with something SCENIC in the background.” Although there’s traffic in the background. I apologize. I hope that the little headset mic helps with that.

 

BlueSparkCol ( https://twitter.com/CourtneyOLIN ) : Nice color.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Thanks Courtney. Yup, [it’s] “rocker chick red” right now. It fades after a couple of days, but this is what it looks like fresh out of the salon [laughter]… Yeah. So today we are talking [about] transcription,  because there are some really cool ways that you can use transcription in your WRITING and your BUSINESS.

 

So as you guys are coming in, say “Hi!”… Courtney is here, I know. Glad to have you… Other people, as you’re joining, let me know what you NAME is, where you’re from, [and] what you WRITE.. I love to talk about what you write, because people write the coolest stuff. I mean, I’ve got people in here who write travel blogs, [and] people who write dissertations on the World Trade Organization. I mean, you guys write about everything.

 

Carlos Ramirez ( https://twitter.com/caramirezga ) :Hola. Saludos desde Columbia.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Hello from Columbia. Saludos…

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : Hi. I’m Gilbert from Sugarland.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Hi Gilbert from Sugarlane. Hey! You’re just like down the road [laughter] . I’m in Houston… [If you guys caught my Scope] yesterday I was reading my daughter’s first book, which she wrote. Well, my nanny helped her write it. It was in Spanish, and I was reading it in Spanish. ( http://katch.me/morgangmac/v/ba292fed-8a57-33a2-8c51-957e2674054f ) So if any of you actually speak Spanish I’m sure you were laughing at me. It’s still on the replay if you want to catch it. But it was a book about a monster eating a family, and my daughter did the illustration. It was funny.

   

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ):  I do [live near Houston]

 

Morgan MacDonald : …You DO live near Houston? Well, very cool. If we ever have a Houston meetup we’ll get in touch… Alrighty guys. Are you ready to hear how transcription can help you in your writing and your business? I’ve got THREE ways I’d like to talk about today. The first is to help you get UNSTUCK in your writing…

 

…Oh, hold on. Pause. Wait a second. I’ve got to do the intro. You don’t even know who I am?  I am Morgan Gist MacDonald. I’m a writing coach, an editor, and author. I run my business and my blog out of http://www.paperravenbooks.com .

 

BlueSparkCol ( https://twitter.com/CourtneyOLIN ) : Haha.

 

Morgan MacDonald : …I know. I forget. Every day I’m like, “I’m on Periscope, and everybody knows me.” Yáll DO NOT necessarily know me [laughter] …. I DO Scope every day about writing, around the lunchtime hour, [to] give you guys a little writing inspiration, [and] some tools and tricks, then hopefully you can use [the rest of] your lunch hour to do some WRITING – or later [in the] day if you don’t have the LUXURY of a lunch hour.

 

All right. So back to transcription. If you find yourself staring at a blank page, and you’re like, “I need to write on this THING, and I don’t really know what to write, but I know that there’s something IN me that I’m trying to get out, but I’m STUCK.” Start TALKING.    

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : I’m a musician, so this will help with my writing.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Gilbert [says], “I’m a musician, so this will help with [my] writing.”… Yes. It’s interesting how different brains operate differently. So SOME of us want to use writing as a tool to GROW our platform, or BUSINESS, or whatever. But writing doesn’t necessarily come super NATURALLY. Some of us are writers, and it USUALLY comes naturally, but we still get stuck sometimes. So CHANGING the way in which you try to get the words out helps, and TALKING can often be that thing that dislodges the words. So once you start talking you’re just coming at the SAME concept from a different angle.

 

So what you can do is – [since] most Smartphones have a voice memo app – you can just start recording. Talk to YOURSELF. Explain to yourself WHY you’re having a hard time with this writing. Explain to yourself what it is that you’re REALLY trying to say. Just, kind of, talk it out in a really casual way, and you’ll find that if you give yourself at least five minutes with this “talking it out” [method] you will hit on a NUGGET. You will hit on an idea that you had not come upon before, and [now] you have it RECORDED.

 

So once you get to the point where you feel like, “Okay. I’ve, kind of, talked this through. I’ve got some good ideas.” Now that [you’ve] got it recorded, GO BACK and find those “Ah-hah!” moments, and listen to them AGAIN. [Then] type out the phrases that you were using. If there was something that really CAUGHT you, type those [few] words, and [try to figure out] why those [few] words [meant] so much to you?

 

KandyCoatedModel ( https://twitter.com/Kandyapple504 ) : Good tip.

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Thanks “KandyApple”. I appreciate it… So WHY do those [few] words mean something to you, and, kind of, UNPACK it. You’ll find that as you get a few [more] steps into the writing [the ideas] will come a little bit more, a little bit more, [and] a little bit more.

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : Awesome.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Yes, Gilbert. Awesome. You’re welcome… And if you guys are new to Periscope, if you like what you’re hearing just tap that screen, and that sends hearts up, and that lets me know that you are loving this. The comments do too. So comments and hearts are awesome. Thank you.

 

All right  So that’s tip number one : get unstuck… Oh, there are the hearts! Thanks… Okay. Number two : transcription helps you write FASTER. This is a trick that people are starting to use more and more, but it will be interesting to see how it changes the writing world. This is ESPECIALLY helpful if you’re on the GO a lot. If you’re not necessarily sitting right in front of your laptop or desktop for long periods of time, you can DICTATE blogs, or articles, or even CHAPTERS of a book, into a dictation SOFTWARE. Actually, I [take] Scope Notes, which are notes that I take during a Scope – or actually right BEFORE a Scope – so that YOU don’t HAVE to take notes, and I post them on my blog. I will tell you where those are in just a second… Thanks for all of those blue hearts [laughter] Gilbert. Thank you…

 

Okay. So you talk into a dictation software while you’re on the go. [In] that way you can capture those ideas as you’re going. And if you are a talker ANYWAY, this is a perfect way to get that content OUT, so that you can process it. Then – and this is important though – you have to set aside specific time LATER so that you can review the transcript that the dictation software gives you. So you’ll either have to EDIT, or RE-WRITE that transcript, BUT it gives you a HUGE step forward in your writing. When you sit down to write you’re not staring at a BLANK PAGE, you’re staring at some idea that you’ve already talked through, right? So that’s a really good way.

 

In my Scope Notes I give you some APPS that you can look at. Dragon Dictation is a really popular one for IOS, as is Voice Assistant, and then Evernote. If you follow me on YouTube you know that I LOVE Evernote. Evernote also has a dictation component.

 

BlueSparkCol ( https://twitter.com/CourtneyOLIN ) : Do you have to buy a dictation device, or is it an app?

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Courtney [asks], “Do you have to buy a dictation device, or is it an app?”… They’re apps. There are some really great apps. Dragon Dictation is the one that I hear the most about. So they’re [all] in the Scope Notes, and I posted links for you too, so you can go get those.

 

Lilia ( https://twitter.com/L610 ) : Good tip. Saludos desde Peru!.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … “Good tip. Saludos… Peru.”.Nice…. I went to Santiago, Chile for one weekend. It was beautiful. [irrelevant comment] I have not been to Peru. My sister went to, not Lima… I’ll think of it and let you know. But I WANT to go to Peru.

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : Does it help to to take a little break to come back to it with a clear mind?

 

Morgan MacDonald : …[Gilbert asks], “Does it help to to take a little break to come back to it with a clear mind?” … You don’t HAVE to wait. Actually, I think [that] the transition between talking and writing is enough of a GEAR SHIFT in itself. You CAN take a break, but I don’t think it’s mandatory. If you’re in a groove, and you’ve been talking it out, go straight into writing, and ride that energy. I will say [that] when you are WRITING, and you are really STUCK, don’t try to push through that writing, [but] take a break and then come back to writing. But if you’re going to switch gears into talking I think that’s ENOUGH of a shift that you can transition straight from writing to talking and talking to writing. But that’s something that you’ve got to experiment with.

 

Okay. So number one was : transcription can help you get UNSTUCK. If you talk it out you might be able to uncover what it is that you’re really trying to say.

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : Thanks.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Yeah, sure. You’re welcome….

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Hi Morgan!

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Hey Ron! Nice to see you… Number two : it helps you write faster. [Finally], number three – and this is ESPECIALLY important for [those of] you who are starting BUSINESSES, or trying to build PLATFORMS for your writing – transcription helps you to REPURPOSE your audio or video content into SEO [strategic] transcripts.

 

Okay. So let me explain what this is. If you are a writer – and I assume [that] if you are on this Periscope that you ARE a writer – and you are SERIOUS about creating a platform that impacts readers AND brings you in some money – because that is a really nice part of building a platform – you need to do more than just write… Thanks for sharing on Twitter, Ron… You need to be creating CONTENT on OTHER platforms; not just your blog, not just your books, [and] not just your articles that you send to magazines, or journals, or whatever. The written stuff is GREAT, but you’ve got to take it UP a level, and you’ve got to go to Periscope, or podcasting, or YouTube, to get the message out in different ways, because people are consuming content in a VARIETY of ways, depending on what fits their lifestyle. Some people like YouTube. Some people like Periscope. Some people like podcasts. Some people like [simply] reading. So transcription helps BRIDGE that gap.

 

You [may] have a lot of WRITING content, but once you start producing audio and video content then you [should] get a transcriber. This is where I recommend that you actually bring someone in to do the transcription FOR you. The Dragon Dictation software and stuff is great if it’s for YOUR OWN purposes, [for instance] if you are going to go back and edit or rewrite that stuff. But if you are trying to create a WORKFLOW, where you are creating content and then are [using] the transcriptions on your web site to build your platform, bring in a transcriber, because otherwise you’re NEVER going to be able to transcribe [all the content] yourself.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Different age groups hang out in different social media sites.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Ron [says], “Different age groups hang out in different social media sites.”… That is very true. [irrelevant comment] …Hi Chivas! Thanks for joining… Bring in a transcriber to take over content for you, because as a WRITER you’re producing WRITTEN content. As a platform-builder you’re now producing audio and video content, and it’s a LOT of work. But your MOST IMPORTANT value-added contribution is your writing, your content that you’re bringing to the table…. So I do not want you wasting time transcribing your own stuff to put it out there.

 

You bring in a transcriber who does this PROFESSIONALLY. They know all of these tips and tricks for doing it FAST. They have all of these keyboard shortcuts, and they know how to make it [look and] sound smooth and readable. There are TWO [MAIN] benefits to transcription.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Yes! Time consuming

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Ron, yes. Time consuming… ONE is that you are allowing people who like to consume written content to continue to consume [your] content in a written form. So if they know [that] you’re producing podcasts, and Periscope videos, and YouTube videos, but they LIKE the written stuff, they know [that they can] go straight to those transcripts and digest [the content] the way that I like to. … Thank you Chivas. Thanks for those hearts. I appreciate it.

 

[The second major benefit] is [related to] SEO, “search engine optimization”. If you’ve spend [even just] three days in [any] online marketing business you know that search engine optimization is HUGE. This means that, [for example], I am a writing coach and editor When someone goes into Google and searches [for] “writing coach”, or “editor”, or “writing help”, I want MY name to pop up in that Google search, right? That’s how my business finds new clients. That’s one of the avenues. If you are a writer of a particular genre, when someone types in “science fantasy books”, or whatever your particular niche genre is, you want YOUR name and web site to pop up. The ONLY way that happens is if Google sees lots of those KEYWORDS in your content. So imagine [that since] you are producing Periscopes, and YouTube videos, and podcasts, and you’re using those words over and over again – how many times do you think I’ve used [the word] “writing” in this Periscope broadcast. Like a trillion. Not really. Like 30 probably. But when my [transcriber] guy Frank ( https://twitter.com/TranscriptJunky ) transcribes it for me, we’re going to put it up on my web site, and Google is going to see, “Ah! [These] words “writing”, “editing”, “coach”, etc. keeps popping up.”, and [my site] is going to rank higher and higher. That’s how SEO works, in layman terms. I am NOT a professional in SEO, but that’s just what I’ve picked up from my time running a small business.

 

So you get yourself a transcriber. I [can] give you the contact information for my guy Frank. He’s awesome. He does all of my transcripts for Periscope.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Gotto go, Morgan. I’ll put this on my website.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Ron says, “Gotto go, Morgan. I’ll put this on my website.”… Thanks you Ron. You know there are Scope Notes, so go check those out, and there will be transcripts soon. So let me flip you around. I’m actually going to show you where I keep my Scope Notes on my web site, and you can always find these, because you [probably] don’t have TIME to take notes.

 

So to recap, three ways you can use transcription in your writing. One is to get unstuck. If you’re staring at a blank screen, and you don’t know what to write next, sometimes talking it out is the BEST way.

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : I have to go. Thank you so much for the info… Your awesome!

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Thanks Gilbert. Thanks for letting me know… Sometimes talking it out is the BEST way. If you RECORD it, you can always go back and find those “Ah-hah!””moments – those key phrases – that meant something to you, and you can use those as your “starting block” for getting back into your writing. Number two is : to write FASTER. So if writing is really long and slow process for you maybe talking it into a dictation software will be helpful and faster. BUT that requires that you set aside some specific time to REVISIT that transcript and either edit it, or rewrite it. Number three is : to grow your platform or business, and that is by getting on these Periscope, YouTube, [and/or] podcast [platforms], doing this audio and video content, and then having someone transcribe it so that your readers will have a chance to READ it – if they like to do that – and [for SEO] Google will love you.

 

Okay. Let me flip you around really quick and show you something.

 

[change of camera view to computer screen]

 

Alrighty. This is my web site, where I post all good things : http://www.paperravenbooks.com I’m in a bit of a business transition, so it still says “editing”  down there. But the web site [page for the Scopes] is http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope . If you scroll down this [page] you’ll see all of the “replays”… So those are [some] of the replays, but you see that THIS week I haven’t gotten to upload those yet. [For THIS episode], “Üsing Transcription In Your Writing And Your Business” , if you click “Scope Notes” it opens up my Evernote file where I was taking notes. So it has all of this stuff now for you, plus links.

 

Meghan Diez ( https://twitter.com/meghan017 ) : I love your hair.

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Thanks Megan. [I’m] glad you like it… But you also see – [although] these are not live yet – I’ve got “transcripts” down here. That means, if you like to consume Periscopes through TRANSCRIPTS instead you can go find the transcripts for my Scopes. Google loves my transcripts. That’s the point. Okay. Here’s the Scope Notes. Then,  [as you] can see, there’s my transcriber’s web site there ( http://www.diaryofafreelancetranscriptionist.com ), and then here’s some apps if you are interested in using them. I’ve got links to those too.

 

[change of camera to face view]

 

Alrighty guys. I hope [this info is] helpful, and I hope you have a good Friday afternoon, and a good weekend. I am sending you lots of positive energy and vibes for writing. Do some good work. Get some word count on there. If you were watching yesterday you know that you need to TRACK your word count.   

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : Looks good.. Gotta go.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … You have to go Gilbert. Yup. Thank you… I might Scope a little bit this weekend, but definitely on Monday we’re going to come back [and] do some more writing Scopes. So hit the little “Peri Guy” down there [to] follow, and that way you will catch the next scope on writing, and we’ll get you writing.

 

All right, everyone… Feel free to hit me up on Twitter over the weekend [at] @morgangmac ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac ) , and I will catch you next for a writing Scope. Alrighty. Bye.

 

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Transcription service provided by : http://www.diaryofafreelancetranscriptionist.com

Day 13 : The Art and Science of Research in Transcription Work

computer and books for transcription research

Feel Free to Choose A Sub-Section of this Post
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1. Random Thoughts on Transcription and Non-Transcription Related Issues
2. Daily Progress – Research Findings, Tasks and Skills Development
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Random Thoughts on Transcription and Non-Transcription Related Issues

Research is a very important element of the transcription process. Concepts, terms, and words often arise in audio and video files which are within the realm of specialized knowledge and can often only be deciphered through adequate research tactics. In addition, accuracy (in the form of the highest percentage of properly deciphered words in the recording) is often vital in terms of keeping clients content and continuing to use your services, or in the realm of more serious transcription work (legal and medical) errors can have serious (sometimes fatal) consequences to those people and/or organizations who are the subject of the content.

Transcriptionists often specialize in specific areas of subject matter (whether it be the more formal legal and medical transcription, or all other sources of audio/video which deal with jargon-dense knowledge such as computer technology, business projects, adventure sports, eclectic hobbies, debates on current controversial issues, etc.). The ability to research quickly and effectively can help you land a transcription job, keep it, and benefit from the knowledge of the subject matter contained in the recordings.

The good news is that research (especially the type done by utilizing the plethora of powerful and quickly-accessible online resources and tools) is a skill which can be developed (to as advanced a level as you desire). Advanced research skill is a valuable asset which can be applied to many areas of your intellectual, social and occupational endeavors. It increases your speed and efficiency at transcribing, as you will be better able to decipher technical words spoken in the files. This, of course, leads to faster completion of projects and thus the ability to do more projects in less time and earn more income. Advanced research skills also enable you to dig deeper into a subject, while also being able to determine the quality of the source of information.

In addition, along with some additional powerful free software tools, such as the free Evernote organization application – for collecting, organizing and processing your research – you can develop more long-term research projects which may culminate in publication of your knowledge in the form of blogging, book and ebook writing, podcasting, etc.

There are a few levels of research which apply most directly to the actual transcription task which I will cover in this post. I have already written a comprehensive post about the free WordWeb program, and will also be writing additional future posts about specific software programs (such as Evernote) which will expand on the general research strategies and concepts examined here. I will link those new posts as they are published (which should be within just the next few weeks).

The first level (or step) in the transcription research process begins when you encounter words or terms in an audio/video file which are either indecipherable (due to various factors such as : poor audio quality, strong speaker accent, foreign dialect, etc.) or are highly technical/specific to the subject of the audio. To illustrate this in the more extreme form, the reason why medical transcription work requires years of formal training and experience is due to the enormous vocabulary of medical terminology you must possess in order to adequately transcribe the files commonly worked on. While as a general transcriptionist you are more free to simply decline to work on a file which is overloaded with jargon, there are often times when you actually DESIRE to work on such files because the subject is interesting, but you are intimidated due to your lack of adequate specialized vocabulary. In addition, since most files (especially ones you accept from the online boards) have a deadline within hours of acceptance, if your research skills are not up to par you won’t have the time to do the minimum research needed to complete the file on time. This is where the ability to conduct fast and efficient research becomes important. If you can quickly get up to an ADEQUATE level of vocabulary and/or knowledge related to the subject to get through the file via your speedy research skills, you will be able to accept the file, complete it, get paid for it, and perhaps work on additional files related to that specific subject. Many online transcription companies have regular clients who produce podcasts on specialized subjects. If you can get through one of the episodes, you can then find that podcast online, listen to some additional episodes to get a better feel for the style and content, and apply your research skills to expand your vocabulary on the subject. You will then be more able to take on the next episode of that podcast which becomes available through the transcription company job board. It’s usually a rewarding experience to work on multiple episodes of a production, in addition to the fact that your transcription speed becomes faster with each episode as you are more familiar with the people, terms, etc.

The first tool I utilize from my transcription arsenal is WordWeb. When I come upon a word which is indecipherable, or whose definition, spelling and/or pronunciation is unfamiliar I first hit [CTRL + (right click)] to pull up the word (and/or related or rough estimates of the word). I have discussed the features and uses of WordWeb in its own post, so please refer here for more detailed directions. However, from the perspective of research, WordWeb is your first-line weapon in dealing with new words, terms, concepts, and subjects which arise in your transcription adventures. For instance, if you are working on an audio file related to a new book which will be published in the near future, and in the audio file you are able to use one or more WordWeb features to decipher the name of the author (and hopefully also the name of the book and other books and info related to the book and/or author) you can then follow up with the next step/level in the research process – which is to use the various online research tools (ex. search engines (Google), Wikipedia, personal web and/or social media sites of the author, etc.) to dig deeper into the subject.

This second level of research is more complex and allows you to obtain a vast amount of information on the subject. An excellent book which examines the depths of the online research world is titled “The Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher” (sample copy) and I will be publishing a detailed review of this book in the near future. Although limiting your research techniques to the powerful services which are offered by Google (their search engine being just one of an array of helpful applications) you can fulfill most of your research needs, there is an extensive range of additional services and web applications which will enable you to take your research as far as you want to go with it.These include : web directories, portals, audio and video directories, academic research portals, and many others. I will elaborate on these in the future, but for now I can tell you, with confidence, that for essentially EVERY degree of research most transcriptionists (including those of use who engage in complementary pursuits, such as blogging) desire/need to do, most of it can be achieved using a handful of the basic (let’s call it “second level”) tools currently available and developed to a highly user-friendly level at this point.

The best way to explain this is probably to give you a nice little practical – but slightly fictitious – example, in order to not break any confidentiality agreements which transcriptionists are bound to. Since my main interest lies in podcasting and transcription I will create an example which will clearly explain the process and how easy it is to get from the point of discovering a new podcast production to researching that production to the point that you are well familiar with it and can take your research as far as you desire.
So, let’s say you are browsing the available job board of one of the online transcription companies, and you encounter a nice podcast file on a technological topic such as the cryptocurrency industry (ex. Bitcoin). You have a sample listen to the audio file and determine it is interesting and that you would like to transcribe  it. You accept the file and begin transcribing.
Now in this episode of the fictitiously-named podcast “The Cryptocurrency Revolution” the host interviews a prominent thought-leader and activist in the cryptocurrency world, such as Adam B. Levine. Now, as this is the first time you have heard of this person you start jotting down some notes as you (and/or after you) complete the transcript. Some of the most effective pieces of information to record are : the web site(s) and/or social media profiles of the guest, the names and details of their main work projects (especially podcasts and videos) and occupations, any personal details which especially resonate with you, any organizations and important people they are working with, etc. With just this kind of information – which is commonly made available in the general podcast format – you have enough data to do all the research you will need.
Once you have completed and submitted the transcription you can begin your follow up research on this newly discovered person. A good place to start is entering the person’s name in Google. This will give you a good general list of various resources (and types of resources) to get you started branching out. Since some people have fairly common names, it is often best to first check out their web site where they will have links to their specific (and official) social media profiles (as it is often difficult to pin someone down by manually entering their name in each social media search engine).
At this point I tend to follow through with the following general strategy. First, I create a new “notebook” in Evernote with this person’s name as the title. I then create a new “note” with a title such as “(Person’s Name) – resources)”. I add all of the data I have collected so far since doing the original transcription, including the URLs associated with the person – which is especially helpful since Evernote makes those links active in the notes and so you can click right through to them from within the note. I then begin working through the various resources in the Evernote file (and add additional notes to the file as things progress and I find more information and resources.
Basically, to get adequately up-to-speed with a person’s overall web presence, body of work, and initiating contact with them, I use a regular basic strategy. I begin checking out a few of their social media profiles. Their LinkedIn profile often provides the most valuable information about their professional and creative aspects of their life, as well as the most important contact information. I then follow up with their Facebook and Twitter profiles, which offer a more personal and casual information about the person and their interests. If I like the info I will “follow” their Facebook and Twitter profile in order to stay up to date on what they are doing as I continue researching them.
I then proceed to YouTube, which is the second (and usually final) major research tool needed to get enough information for follow up research into the future. I enter some of the keywords related to the person from the Evernote file. If this person is very active, the search query will return more than enough audio and/or video files to keep me busy for a while and get the adequate info on this person. The YouTube search is especially good for finding episodes of their actual podcast/videocast which I can then follow up on, evaluate and contact the person for potential transcription collaboration in the future.
So, with this relatively basic, but powerful, search strategy I am able to quickly (often in a matter of hours) find enough information about this person who I have newly discovered via a podcast transcription project which I was paid to do, to be able to become further familiar with them and eventually contact and collaborate with them in the future.
To be even more concrete, I used this very strategy to discover the excellent and prolific work of Adam B. Levine of the “Let’s Talk Bitcoin” network – www.letstalkbitcoin.com – and as a result of this discovery I have become an active contributor to his revolutionary open source community project, including some transcription work – one full transcript of which can be found here.
I will conclude the subject of transcription research her for now. More will be written on the subject – including related resources – as it becomes relevant into the future. For now, using the above research strategy should be MORE than enough for the research needs of most of the transcriptionists reading this.

Daily Progress – Research Findings, Tasks and Skills Development

In addition to integration the highly detailed basic research strategy into my daily routine, and consistently going through the daily research routine tasks mentioned in the last post, I have also been spending a bit more serious effort practicing on the one-minute transcription files along with reading through the style guide at TranscribeMe.

What I will say about these one-minute files is that usually offer a healthy bit of challenge to force me to improve both my transcription and research skills. One of the main benefits of the short files are that you can turn them over relatively quickly and so your time, energy and schedule are not tied down by longer files. You can jump in when you have a few minutes and complete a file and the move onto other important tasks.

The more challenging aspects of the system involve the fact that since the files are limited to one minute each, you generally don’t have much context with which to decipher words, terms, concepts, etc. which would be more easily done with longer files. On a positive note, this actually forces you to practice listening even more carefully, as well as developing and implementing quicker and more powerful research skills in order to find the bits of information you need to complete the file. Since there is also a shorter deadline on the file it is more important to increase your listening and research speed in this regard.

So, at this point I am finding it productive to spend a few weeks practicing on these one-minute files while I further concentrate on my research and blogging efforts (which consume a lot of time collectively). Working on the short TranscribeMe files allows me to get some good practice and make a little survival income while I continue building my empire.

As usual, this post is another post which is growing into a book and so I will conclude here. I am also busy working on several new “Free Transcript Project” files which will be rolling out (roughly one or two per week), which offers additional practice and content for this blog. In the next “daily diary” post we will further examine the nature of the online transcription industry companies and some of the cutting edge technology which is being applied to the transcription process.

Happy Transcribing!
freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com

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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.

Day 11 : Online Transcription Is A Paid Joy Ride Down The Information Superhigway

rugged road sign

As the late, great Terrance McKenna opined : “The world is made of words.” Throughout history this theme has consistently reemerged in various forms including : the concept of the fundamental universal “Aum” vibration underlying reality in the ancient Indian philosophical system, or “the Word” which was spoken into existence as the primal act of creation being a main tenet of monotheism. The reality is that we are, have always been and will always be swimming in a sea of electromagnetic radiation – a significant portion of which vibrates within the frequency range of  “mouth noises” which have traditionally been categorized as “words” – which in themselves can be broken down into subcomponents (ex. phonemes, morphemes, etc.). And although that percentage of this electromagnetic spectrum which falls within the realm of words and their related counterparts seems to be on the decrease (competing more and more with visual information in the modern age) the bottom line is that the spoken word has always been and will always occupy a primary place in the human experience.

Here is an interesting lecture by mathematician and social scientist Dr. Courtney Browne, founder of the Farsight Institute and researcher into the phenomenon of remote viewing and the link between consciousness and multiple dimensions. In this lecture Dr. Brown explains the theory that thoughts are vibratory physical entities which have mass and energy, like all other entities in the material universe. I find this concept intriguing, as it reinforcement by intuitive sense that all of the information we receive through the senses – and in the case of transcription, through the process of listening to audio or watching video and then transcribing the information contained in it – has a tangible effect on our mind and physical body.

As I continuing evaluating and working through the various audio and video files which come to me through my transcription efforts I find myself taking some time to pause and reflect on the variety of “sound bites” which I subjected to in the process, and the effect that they may be having on me. Sometimes I will work through a file which is especially interesting and has an immediate (often positive) effect on my mental life. These include the many podcasts I have edited or transcribed which deal with interesting issues of technology (ex. internet privacy, social media marketing, the newest startup businesses, etc.), economics, education and other humanitarian issues – some of which I hadn’t even known about before listening to the file. Other times, I find myself deeply entrenched in a serious dialogue between two people sharing quite intimate feelings, thoughts, concepts, and beliefs which can require quite a bit of energy to process. In more demanding instances, I find myself in a bit too deep – working through feelings of discomfort and even turmoil as the speakers in the audio or video files battle their interpersonal and/or intrapersonal demons.

One thing it may be good to share at this point is that I actually have extensive experience exploring the realms of metaphysics and meditation techniques in various world traditions. I’ve spent week-long periods living in Buddhist temples in remote mountainous regions of Asia (ex. Thailand), spending hours each day in walking and sitting meditation. I’ve extensively read some excellent books on mindfulness meditation, such as “The Teachings of Achan Chah” (<- free ebook), the transcendental sciences of Yoga and Pranayama (the Yogic method of attaining higher awareness through advanced breathing exercises) and the energy-centered science of Chi Kung (and various other disciplines) from the Chinese system. In addition, I have some knowledge and competence in the languages on which these systems are based, in addition to a serious interest in the sciences of linguistics and information technology.

Each of the philosophical traditions mentioned above is based on the fundamental concept of observing the flow of the nature as is moves around us according to its own logic. And so it is of no surprise that I find transcription to be a spiritually stimulating and often enlightening process. In fact, in my extensive experience with various endeavors in the digital and physics realms it seems to me that the emerging digital world is essentially becoming MORE quantum-like, and in line with the less linear,  higher-dimensional nature of reality. Each day we are bombarded from all directions by an increasing barrage of sound bites, visual flashes, and information which is connected in increasingly intricate ways. The term “surfing” is becoming only more accurate in terms of the mode by which we move through a cyberspace whose boundaries are also becoming progressively thinner as the information that we process and the method by which we process it becomes more integrated. For example, the Smartphone is processing more information about us in ways which effect our experience and productivity in deeper ways than ever before. There are now apps which can measure and track our behavior (ex. exercise apps which track distance/time of running and then produce a customer exercise program from that data) and even help organize ourselves better (ex. apps which provide detailed scheduling and reminders for people who struggle with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)).

Ultimately, this advancing technology holds great potential to improve our lives in many ways. However, it also holds potential for us to get caught up in all of the gadgets and applications, which can lead us to become LESS in touch with reality and the needs and pleasures of everyday living. While I am enjoying the process of learning about and utilizing the various technologies which are being developed and applied specifically to the transcription process, I am also being careful to keep my personal goals in mind and to focus on the more practical elements of the process and the technology. My main goals at this time include : developing my transcription skills and knowledge, applying my transcription skills in order to earn income to survive, making more connections in the industry to further the first two goals, developing my blog through writing about the experience for the benefit of future beginners, and discovering some new and interesting topics (through the transcription effort) to integrate into my other research/writing efforts. I believe these goals are grounded enough in the real world to prevent me from getting too sucked in by the technology while producing benefits to my physical, mental and spiritual existence at the same time.

The best thing about transcription work is that you are exposed to new ideas (some of which haven’t yet even been revealed to the general public) related to often interesting topics (ex. latest technologies, scientific theories, academic lectures, etc.) and in the process you are actually PAID for your efforts. It is similar, in many ways, to being a movie or restaurant reviewer, but also goes a bit deeper in that you are often working with audio and video files which tackle more serious and important subject matter (ex. confidential interviews, undercover audio/video footage, etc.). In addition, as transcriber you are required to implement a number of techniques and skills which are learned through experience (and some formal and informal education). It is NOT an easy job when you consider all of the factors involved (ex. audio/video quality, deadlines, demands on physical and mental stamina). In the end, however, your horizons will be widened as you listen to all of the different people from various walks of life doing various interesting (and not-so-interesting) things, and to be paid for your effort in the process. Plus, the better you get at transcribing, the more money you can make and the more interesting audio/video files you can choose from as you connect with more and more professional organizations (ex. film/television production companies, law firms, podcast producers, educational institutions, etc.)

As part of the process of familiarizing myself with the TranscribeMe system I spent around two hours today browsing through the posts and groups of the Yammer forum, reading through several more pages of the style guide, and working on two of the approximately one-minute transcription files on the “jobs” page. Transcribing the short audio files is quite different from the long files I have been working on the other company, which are often over 30 minutes long, have deadlines of several hours and require roughly one hour of listening and typing for 10-15 minutes of audio in the file. Although these short files are generally easier and quicker to complete, they do introduce some problems. One thing is that you have little context by which to help decipher some of the less decipherable words in these short files compared to the longer ones, where formal nouns and words specific to the audio in the file are repeated multiple times and in multiple ways. This makes the research skill more necessary, but also more difficult as you have less context to even apply the research task to.

Overall, however, these short files are good for practice. There is less pressure and stress to complete a long file. You don’t need to worry about scheduling breaks to rest your mind, fingers, etc. You also don’t have to worry about something unexpected coming up (ex. sudden obligation such as having to pick up a sick kid from school) before the deadline and thus having to forfeit hours of work and income. Especially during this period where I am new to the whole transcription process I think these shorter files provided by TranscribeMe are a good complement to the longer files provided by the other company. In addition, the training and communication elements provided by the company are valuable to improving my skills and making connections. These will benefit me in the long term and so it is worth the time utilizing what TranscribeMe has to offer, while getting paid in the process.

In the next post we’ll examine the importance of pacing in the process of developing and implementing the skills of transcription.

Feel free to direct any questions or project proposals to:

freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com

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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.

Day 10 : Writing As A Tool For Building and Developing Your Freelance Transcription Career

hand_writing

My first day as a certified member of the transcriptionist team at TranscribeMe has been one of fascination and information overload. Having now registered on the system I have been given access to several well-organized, yet dense, resources which form a comprehensive introduction and transition into the company. The internal social media network (which is essentially a customized, internal, Facebook-style social media platform where all members of the company can connect and share information) is run on the Yammer system. The revolution in workplace social media applications which Yammer exemplifies is in itself a very interesting subject to research. Here’s a very informative lecture by Adam Pisoni, the CEO of Yammer, where he explains how the evolving social media technology is revolutionizing communication and productivity levels in work organizations off all kinds and sizes :

A quick browse through the sections and topics shows a thriving social network of people from locations throughout the world sharing helpful information related to company operations, work issues, support for all kinds of potential issues which can arise, etc. It has all of the helpful features of any social media system, allowing you to connect with, follow, send messages, chat, etc. with other members of the company. Compare this with the essentially ABSENT communication provided by the other company I have been working with for the past month and the TranscribeMe system is a breath of fresh air. It is also a good opportunity to gain experience with this kind of productive communication system and the purposes it serves in the online transcription industry. Communication itself is a VITAL component to the entire online transcription operation, as it is often the only mechanism by which transcribers can collaborate and share important information related to the companies they work for, the projects they work on and the customers they serve. Considering that most online transcriptionists are home-based teleworkers who are dispersed throughout the world, the internet essentially provides the main means of communication between themselves, their coworkers, and their employers/clients.

I decide to take things nice and slowly as I work to get my bearings in this initial stage. I read a couple of posts whose topics catch my interest. These short posts are clear and provide quick and complete answers to very practical questions. I find a handful of these posts in the first hour of browsing, and each one provides an answer to an important question I have as a newbie which then allows me to proceed working through the system with more confidence and competence. I also “follow” a few of the people I know from the external forums who have already been working on TranscribeMe. These connections are valuable, especially in the beginning as I can ask some questions directly to these people instead of taking the risk of bothering other people in the network who I don’t know. As a newbie I am hesitant to make any posts as there is always the risk of breaking etiquette by asking a question which has already been addressed. So I decide to lurk for the first few days and take in as much info as I can without actually posting.

Speaking of etiquette, the company also provides a very helpful “Guide For New Transcribers” ebook (in pdf format). This handy little eight page book provides answers to the most important issues which arise as you get acquainted with the system (ex. the audio files system,  social network rules and etiquette, description of the entire transcription process, information on how to get help, etc.). I commit to reading one or two pages of this document per day to my training schedule.

I now have a healthy amount of information to go through in the days ahead. I will spend roughly an hour per day browsing through and interacting on the company’s internal social media network, reading a few pages of the style guide and beginner’s guide, take on some of the roughly one-minute transcription files to practice my skills and earn some income, and contine to read several blog posts (on the growing number of quality transcription-related blogs I am finding through my research) to continually expand my skills and knowledge related to the whole world of transcription. One such quality blog I have discovered recently through one of the transcription forums is :

http://www.alphabetsecretarial.co.uk/blog/

The Alphabet blog has several especially interesting posts which are worth the time, such as :

Twitter – Nonsensical Jibber Jabber or Transcribers on a Global Scale?

In addition to (and in extension of) all my research, I am finding that my blog writing is becoming more important as the amount of information I am working through increases. The writing process allows me to process and organize the experience. It allows a natural pacing which is healthy for someone like me whose brain works very fast and has a tendency to take on too much which overloads the circuitry and ultimately ends up becoming counter-productive. Knowing that my blog posts will be read by other people who are new to the transcription world in the future forces me to explain the whole experience clearly – both to them and myself (since as we all know the old saying “The best way to learn something is to teach it.”). The blog is also serving another important function of giving me something to focus on when there are no jobs available on either of the company’s available job boards, or when the jobs which are available for not appealing. It is easy to get stuck in the mode of checking the boards obsessively – especially when the workflow is thin – and this can become counterproductive in itself. It is better to focus on something which you focus on productively for several hours.

In general I have found writing to be an increasingly important tool in the expanding information age. The world as a whole, is continuing to be transformed into a more densely information-based entity. Think about how much more information we are faced with on a daily basis today compared with just a decade ago. More and more things in the world are becoming digitized. From the increasing digitization of photographic information enabled by the expansion of Smartphones with attached cameras which can directly upload images to various social media sites in mere seconds, to the more elaborate applications allowed by the collection, processing and presentation of data by “Big Data” applications such as Google Maps, which has now collected enough data to allow users to engage in a “virtual street-level visual tour” of any street in the developed (and even undeveloped world) IN ADDITION to locations underwater, on the Moon, Mars, etc. It really is amazing how much information is now being processed and utilized to enhance a growing number of practical (and some not-so-practical) everyday functions for people throughout the world.

Since information (a.k.a. : “content”) is essentially the new currency of the modern digital world it only makes sense that one way we can contribute to the development of this emerging paradigm is to contribute knowledge in various forms. Writing, of course, is a main mechanism by which we transfer information from inside our minds into the external world and thus to the minds of other individuals and the group-mind as a whole (the internet now serving as the physical embodiment of that aggregate, “global mind”. Therefore, I find that writing (especially with the application of that writing in the form of blogging) is an important component to my overall online activity (of which the transcription, editing, research, etc. are all a part). The writing functions as a thread which ties the other efforts together and makes the whole process more efficient and presentable.

Morgan Gist-MacDonald – academic editor, writing coach and owner of Paper Raven Editing company – explains the importance of building an online presence for the writer as a main tool for helping people, in her blog post :

How building your online presence could change your life and your readers’ 

Morgan’s blog is full of informative and practical blog articles which examine all of the important issues for writers in the digital age. It is well worth the time browsing through her posts.

So, my whole strategy in learning and navigating the transcription world is really taking on some good shape and efficiency. Combining the daily research tasks with practice on audio files within my capability and the blogging effort is really taking on the healthy qualities of creative flow which are turning the whole endeavor into an enlightening and somewhat enjoyable one. It should be interesting to see how much progress I will achieve after another month following this general strategy,

In the next post I will discuss how online transcription is a great way to be exposed to new kinds of interesting information and get paid to do a job which helps improve the quality of that information – a real win-win situation.

FrankyFreedom
freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com

 

Day 8 : The Computer-Human Hybridization Movement – Increasing Efficiency While Decreasing Unemployment

A quick Google search this morning produced the YouTube video of an excellent speech by TranscribeMe CEO Alex Dunayev at the Silicone Valley Open Doors Investment Conference in 2013.

Mr Dunayev delivers and well articulated and down-to-earth presentation which clearly details the important trends arising in the transcription industry. Some of the most important of these include : the rapid growth of the transcription market worldwide as a result of greater reach of the internet and mobile networks, how new business models (such as crowd-sourcing) are being made possible by advances in technology which are enabling the delivery of higher quality transcription services to a widening customer base. Mr. Dunayev also explains the integration of evolving speech recognition software and artificial intelligence into the transcription process, which is enabling transcription to be done in a more efficient and less costly manner, and thus provide transcription services to individuals and organizations who simply hadn’t had the budget to afford it in the past (ex. students, educational institutions, freelancers, small businesses. He also gives us a promising glimpse of the future potentials of the new transcription paradigm, including ways it will aid disadvantaged populations such as the disabled (ex. blind and deaf), researchers, creative people, etc. Judging from the response of the experts on the questioning panel, who seemed to be quite impressed, I believe that most people come away from viewing this presentation with an expanded understanding of the topic of transcription, as well as the various additional topics and organizations related to the transcription industry. In addition, it appears easy to gain a more optimistic sense that computer technology actually CAN be harnessed and utilized in a practical and humane manner to solve important real world problems (ex. human, business, academic, etc.) while at the same time being easy to implement and affordable to the general public.

In the past decade, this philosophically fragile issue of the “Rise of the Machines” has grown to apocalyptic proportions for many, as theories range from robots taking over human jobs and making us obsolete, to artificial intelligence being taken over by the computers themselves, who then turn on their human creators and initiate a global cyborg war – perhaps catalyzed by the computerized scanning and transcribing of uncensored human thoughts, leading naturally to World War III between the humans, and with supercomputer controlled neutron bomb attacks resulting in mass extinction of the human population of the planet, and allowing the robots to live in a highly organized and efficient utopia until the end of time.

Most informed and sensible people realize that any technology is merely a tool, and that it is the APPLICATION of that technology which determines its ethical value. Examples now abound of new applications of technology able to solve REAL problems for REAL people which have never been possible in the past. For instance, as supercomputing technology becomes faster and more powerful it is being used to analyze data in the field of medicine to gain better understanding of genetic factors in disease, the nature of epidemics, etc. Smartphone apps are being developed which facilitate a growing range of medical treatment processes, often conducted by the individual in the comfort of their own home. To give a few of examples, there are now operational apps which measure and remind diabetics to check their blood sugar level at scheduled times which are making it much easier to control this chronic disease *and various others). New apps which track disease epidemics are allowing public health officials to better protect human populations from outbreaks, and to eliminate outbreaks when they occur as a result of the ability to obtain data related to the epidemic faster. Stem cell technology is showing the promise of regenerating dysfunctional body parts and even restoring various important neurological functions in the body (ex. vision, movement, paralysis). From these few examples most people would probably agree that there are significant potential benefits to the development of these advanced technologies. The fundamental issue thus becomes ensuring that the applications of this higher technology are directed at solving REAL problems for REAL people, with the main goal of improving the lives of people throughout the world.

Along this line of reasoning, I believe that the transcription related technology, service and employment system which TranscribeMe is developing is an ideal example of the proper use of the emerging advanced technologies. It is also an excellent example of how it is completely feasible to integrate computer technology and human capital to ultimately increase OVERALL benefits for the humans who are served by these technologies. For instance, the TranscribeMe crowd sourcing production platform contributes two main benefits to the operation. It enables greater efficiency and faster turnover of the end product (transcription) to the customer, while at the same time fulfilling more of the needs of the transcribers to be able to work anytime, anywhere and more flexibly as they general work on quick (roughly one minute) segments of speech. In addition, since Mr. Dunayev explains that there are just certain limits to what computers can achieve in regard to processing human speech, we see that the computers have a very valuable role to play in the more logistical and technical aspects of the transcription process (ex. splicing audio files into ~ one minute micro-chunks, distributing the micro-chunks to the most suitable members of the transcriber crowd based on demographic data stored in the system, etc). In other words, the computer is acting in a similar way to the timer on a dishwasher or coffee machine. It COMPLEMENTS the human labor.  The computer performs the more menial tasks of scheduling and organization while the skills of the human are used for those elements of the workflow which are beyond the natural realm of the computers. It is the same case for digital music production. Sure, digital musical instruments can do many amazing things which human musicians generally can’t do on their own (ex. synthesizing sounds which don’t actually exist in nature, optimizing music and sounds after they have been recording via advanced digital audio editing software, etc.). Before these technologies were available to humans they had less creative options to work with sound and produce the amazing works that they can now. However, digitized music will NEVER be able to truly mimic the unique human quality which is brought forth through music.

There are certainly some rather ethically unsettling developments playing out in various pursuits which have a strong effect on humans, all other lifeforms on earth and the environment. Some more down-to-earth examples can include : the detrimental effect of information overload on the human brain, the often intrusive nature of Smartphone technology by which people become addicted and neglect more important issues in their lives, the sedentary lifestyle many people have descended into as a result of the technology making it less necessary to be physically active, etc. While each of the above examples can be partially alleviated through the application of proper behavioral (and other) psychology strategies, the bottom line is that humanity is facing a growing challenge of trying to strike a healthy balance of utilizing these helpful new technologies as opposed to allowing the technologies to exploit THEM.

This is why the kind of technology application which TranscribeMe has developed offers much hope in the sense of being evidence of the ability to design technology in keeping with the ultimate practical needs of the humans who actually use the product in their real lives. The computers are not the end consumers of a product like the TranscribeMe transcription. They are the TOOL which enables the end product to be produced in the best form and in the most efficient manner possible. Ultimately, it is the HUMANS who benefit from the fruits of the technology which TranscribeMe has developed. That is, BOTH the end consumer (who receives a very high quality (accurate) transcript in an increasingly short amount of time and at an increasingly affordable price) AND the worldwide crowd of transcribers who benefit from a decreased risk of under or unemployment, job flexibility, high quality training and career advancement opportunities. In the end, the TranscribeMe system is very people-friendly.

At the SAME time, the TranscribeMe system is also computer-friendly. That is, as explained in the presentation, the artificial intelligence of the transcription software actually learns how to better process a specific (repeat) customer’s projects based on all of the data collected from past projects. Therefore, the computers themselves are also evolving and benefiting through the performance of their intended actions (through the combination of big data processing and artificial intelligence).

In the end, a very positive feedback and production loop arises as the computers’ evolving artificial intelligence increases the productivity of the process and thus completes the transcription for repeat customers FASTER. This then frees up resources to be able to process more customers, which increases revenue, which then enables the company to invest more profits into growth and marketing, hire more transcribers (and other necessary workers) and thus stimulate employment and the general economy. Again, this line of reasoning shows clearly how this system delivers REAL benefit to the lives of REAL humans.

What is even more promising is that, as Mr. Dunayev details in the presentation, TranscribeMe has begun planning and implementing some very powerful collaborative projects with other companies and industries which can benefit from the integration of TranscribMe’s crowd sourced, computer-hybrid transcription technology with the their own applications. One example of this is the collaboration between TranscribeMe and NVivo, one of the leading research platforms for data analysis. A significant component of research of most kinds (ex. marketing research, qualitative social science studies, focus groups, etc.) involves collecting data in a form which is suitable for, and optimized by, quality transcription. Proper transcription of data enhances the ability to organize, manage and analyze data with the end result being better quality research, and maximum application of the output of that research.

This integration of TranscribeMe technology into a growing number of appropriate and related applications is positioning TranscribeMe technology to serve as a powerful tool whose function is to convert audio speech into the most potentially accurate text which can then be imported into other applications which use text data as one of the primary inputs. In line with the old saying, “Garbage in… garbage out.” the TranscribeMe technology is minimizing the amount of garbage going IN, and thus acting as a major force for improving the quality of all research which uses real speech data from any source (audio, video, etc.).

I realize that this post has grown extremely long. When I become interested in a subject the words just spewing out of me and it is better to just go with it. It is a natural tendency. A blessing and a curse of sorts. I’ll admit that I have a “writing problem”, in the sense that I often can’t write fast enough. This is, of course, is worsened by my “drinking problem”, where I can’t drink fast enough. Then again, that all depends on the type of drink (ex. beer, coffee, etc.). The reader is, of course, free to take what they want and leave the rest.

But I digress.

Having said all of this, I do TRULY believe that the issue of the proper integration of technology with human nature is one of the most important of our time. Plus, it only seems to be becoming MORE important, and at an ACCELERATING rate as the evolution of the technology itself is accelerating in a non-linear progression. I also think it is important for anyone who has an interest in, and/or wants to work in, the transcription field to learn about this issue, think about and consider the ways (both positive and negative) in which it effects their everyday lives. When I look at developments like TranscribeMe it makes me very hopeful that we are at CAPABLE of developing ethical collaborative integrated applications which utilize the power of advancing technology with the ultimate purpose of improving the human condition.

Getting back to the transcription training issue, in this post I haven’t yet specifically discussed much related to my progress. I have now passed the TranscribeMe application and started on the training phase before being cleared to work on projects. In a way, however, as I mentioned in the last post that one part of my research as I proceed through the transcription world is to watch videos related to the different topics, companies, industry people, etc. Therefore, this whole blog post essentially describes a valuable part of the research process. That is, the process of becoming more familiar with the transcription company I am now working for, getting to know more about how they operate their business, learning about what the company has planned for growth and development into the future, etc. In the same way that an investor does serious research on the “fundamentals” of a prospective company before making the decision to invest in it, it is similarly important to research a company you intend to WORK for to ensure that the philosophy and goals of the company are in line with yours to an adequate degree. After all, when you work for a company you are dedicating quite a bit of your energy and time into the endeavor. Thus it is essential to do your homework in order to make the most informed and prudent decision based on the specific nature of your situation. In addition, what is so great about living in the “information age” is that there is just so much information available if we know where and how to look. That is one of the functions of this blog, of course. One of the main goals here is to teach you (by example) a productive strategy of navigating through the transcription world (and the worlds connected to it) with the ultimate goal of helping you to make the best decisions possible which will help you achieve your goals and maintain a healthy level of continuous growth and prosperity – on the physical, mental and spiritual levels.

As for the TranscribeMe training, I have been working through the training modules while simultaneously reading through the style guide. I should be done with the training by tomorrow and then will attempt the final exam for the training. If/when I pass the exam the administrators will then contact me within a few days and provide me with my login information so that I can access the system, start becoming familiar with how things work, and spend some time browsing the internal social media network in order to begin networking and connecting with some of my new co-workers, etc. I also have plenty of research content to keep me busy both before and after I gain formal entrance into the system and start working on transcribing some of the one minute (or less) length audio files. My main focus, however, is to proceed slowly, steadily and methodically, in order to take it all in at a healthy pace while also enjoying the process of growth and discovery.

I hope you have gained something valuable from the information in this rather long post. In the next post I will further discuss some of my insights on the training and research processes, and do some more analysis of other interesting aspects of the TranscribeMe operation.

TranscriptJunky@gmail.com
https://twitter.com/TranscriptJunky

 

Day 7 : The Revolutionary Merger of Web and Transcription Technology

web transcription

Today started out on a very positive note as the first thing I did was read another one of the very interesting posts on the Transcribe me blog :

What Is Transcription
http://transcribeme.com/blog/what-is-transcription

The TranscribeMe blog has over 100 quality posts and the subjects cover many extensive  aspects of the transcription industry as a whole, and specifically how ongoing advances in the technologies of speech recognition and transcription software – fueled by the evolution of artificial intelligence and crowd sourcing – are serving the needs of a growing number of people, organizations and industries . The blog is, in itself, a decent education in the nature and history/future of the industry. Even if you don’t pass their application process the blog provides a girth of information to advance one’s research and so is well worth the time leisurely reading through. The specific post above describes the history and importance of transcription from as far back in history as the Egyptian empires, describing how the role of ancient scribe was a prestigious position within the social hierarchy, as the scribes did important work transcribing the words of the royal court into written form for public consumption. For a history/anthropology buff like myself this is very interesting information.

I also looked through the second page (out of 11 total pages) which list all of the blog posts with short description and I recorded the urls of the interesting ones on my general notepad file. I will then go back to one post per day and read through it completely. In this way I keep a steady stream of daily blog post information coming in, while at the same time prereading to get a quick idea of what subjects have been covered in the blog over time to get a better picture of the whole operation. This is an effective way to really get a feel for the company. Since I have decided to proceed with their transcription application this research will be helpful. In all of my years of research for various projects I have settled on this general strategy as being most effective for discovering, absorbing and retaining information while maintaining the highest interest level possible (as there is always something interesting waiting to be read in the future, and you prime yourself for the information before actually fully going through the process of consuming it).

My general impression of the whole TranscribeMe site has been so positive that I decide it is definitely worth taking a few minutes away from my time reading their blog posts to go through the application. For the sake of not putting unnecessary extra stress on my already overworked typing fingers I will direct the reader to the following good blog post which gives a good description of the TranscribeMe application process :

Transcription for Beginners at TranscribeMe

The only correction I will make to the above article is that TranscribeMe has now upgraded their application process so that after you pass the initial test you then enter into a well-designed training phase which has an additional “final” exam which you must pass before being cleared to start working on projects.

Before you actually attempt the initial test they give you a free (ebook format) copy of their up-to-date (to the current month) 31-page Style Guide. The style guide in and of itself is a valuable educational tool which is informative for ANY beginner to the transcription world. I strongly advise anyone to file this document with all of your other transcription career development resources. I have a special folder on my computer for this very purpose.

I did a quick browse of the table of contents of the Style Guide and a quick run through of all 31 pages. I then planned to do a full read of the Style Guide in the coming days and also refer to it during the test if necessary (which they suggest you do). The test itself was straight-forward, and considering my experience with transcribing and editing I was able to get through it fairly easily. They informed me immediately upon completion of the test that I had passed and that I was now allowed to move onto the training phase. It was very encouraging to have IMMEDIATE feedback and directions on how to immediately proceed.

Now this whole test experience was another good sign that TranscribeMe has designed their whole system professionally and with considerable planning. They provide you with the valuable, free in-house style guide (which you can use in the future even if you fail the initial exam), they make you feel comfortable during the testing process, and then they give you immediate feedback and directions on how to proceed through to their valuable, interacting training program. In other words, you feel like they are really making an effort to facilitate the process of bringing you into the operation, while at the same time looking out for your need to develop skills and transition most smoothly into the system. The company makes it clear in their overall presence and communications that they value their human capital and are always open to suggestions on ways to improve the operation. This kind of transparency and flexibility are key elements for success in the new virtual global economy.

The training program itself is very informative. It is organized into modules, and you can select “save” on any of the training pages and the system will record where you stopped so you can continue from that point the next time you log on. I personally like this save feature as I believe it is worth taking a day or two to go through the training modules at a comfortable pace, especially considering that even after you pass the training exam you still have to wait a few days for the administrators to clear your account to begin working on jobs. I also suggest simultaneous referring to the style guide as you proceed through the training.

The training starts with a hands-on, interactive module on how to navigate the TranscribeMe system as a transcriber. To give you a sense of the kind and quality of information in the training, here is an excellent introduction video available on the “Transcribe Me? Training Videos” YouTube channel :

Now that I have passed the application stage and have some resources to work through I can take my time to take it all in. As there is a girth of information related to the company and the various aspects related to the operation (ex. the technology, knowledge of the industry, the company culture, etc.) I think it is best to proceed slowly and steadily and to build a strong foundation in order to best utilize the resources available and thus obtain the most benefit in terms of my long-term transcription/editing career goals.

At this point, the resources I have to work on include : the blog posts, the individual company web site pages, the social media profiles (ex. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) of the key administrators and co-workers, the company’s internal social media platform (a vibrant Facebook-style communication platform hub for all workers in the company), the style guide and training program, and the numerous YouTube videos and articles throughout the web related to the company.

I will thus narrow down my research focus to the TranscribeMe resources for at least the next few days (perhaps weeks) and put off on evaluating new online transcription company web sites, as this will lead to the greatest gain in long-term productivity at this time.

In the next post I will explore my findings as I work through these resources, and discuss some interesting aspects of the new revolutionary technology being developed and used by the TranscribeMe company, and how that technology is aiding in the process of CREATING work opportunities in the new emerging global virtual economy.