Free Transcript Project : #6

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Source video
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Title : “Disruptive Leaps – “Let’s Talk Bitcoin – Episode #134”

URL : http://youtu.be/3bmeohism0g

Organization         : “Let’s Talk Bitcoin” Network :
Web Site                 : http://www.letstalkbitcoin.com/

Host 1                      : Adam B. Levine
Contact                  :  LinkedIn Profile , Email : adam@letstalkbitcoin.com

Host 2                     :  Andreas M. Antonopoulos
Contact                   : LinkedIn Profile
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eb Site                 : http://www.antonopoulos.com/

Guest                       : Jeffrey Tucker
Contact                    : LinkedIn Profile
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eb Site                  : http://www.liberty.me/

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Transcript

Announcer (Adam B. Levine) : Today is the 9th of August, 2014 and this is episode 134. This program is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Cryptocurrency is new, highly experimental, and we’re not experts – just obsessed companions, walking the road towards a more peer-to-peer future.

Adam B. Levine : Welcome to “Lets Talk Bitcoin”, a twice-weekly show about the ideas, people and projects building the digital economy and the future of money. My name is Adam B. Levine. Today on Let’s Talk Bitcoin I’m joined by Andreas Antonopoulos, one of the other hosts of the show.

Andreas Antonopolis : Hello.

Adam Levine : And today we have a special guest, Jeffrey Tucker – one of my favorite economists and a spirited Austrian. Jeffrey, how are you?

Jeffrey Tucker : Everything is really great. I’m so happy to be here. It’s really great that we’re able to meet up. I’m on the road a little bit doing this and that. I just got back from a nice Bitcoin meetup in Washington D.C. last night.

Adam Levine : So you are in Washington right now. What are you in Washington for?

Jeffrey Tucker : I came to introduce a series of seminars for, first the Charles Koch Institute, and then a nice interview on “Reason TV”, and now I’m headed to give a big lecture to the “National Convention of the Young Americans for Liberty”, which is kind of a political organization. But when you ask me to speak you’re not going to get too much about politics. You’re going to get a lot about crypto-anarchy.

Adam : So we have a lot of listener questions. Since we’ve booted up the forums I’ve been posting, “Hey, we’re going to be talking to these people. Do you have any questions?” So the first one that we have comes from the listener “Strip”. He says, “Is it necessary for Bitcoin to be a symbol for some kind of idea? Is the symbolism important? Is the idea important? Or is it the tech?”

Jeffrey : So this is a very interesting question because lot’s of people have different views about this. Even in Bitcoin meetups you find some people who have very conventional understanding of Bitcoin as a superior payment network. They see it as an improvement over Paypal. Then you meet other people who come out of the cyber-punk, anarchist world, and see it as a tool for liberating the world from nation-states. These are very different views, right? My own opinion about it is that it’s both things, and all things, and people should just hold whatever views they want to about it. The beautiful thing about Bitcoin is that it is not dependent upon our opinions of it. Nobody is in charge of Bitcoin. I don’t think it is necessary that we have a particular ideology going into our Bitcoin promotion or ideas. We can all interpret and understand it in a different way. If you think about it, it’s almost like electricity or internal combustion or something like that. These are gigantic and technological improvements that have entered into civilization. Many people have different ideas about how the technology is going to be used. That’s good and fine, but the tech is going to take it’s own direction regardless of what we think about it.

Andreas : I love the idea that it is both, because I think that the technology itself is most certainly neutral. It’s a technology that can be used for a variety of purposes. But at it’s core it encompasses certain principles : principles of transparency, principles of openness, peer-to-peer use that is decentralized and egalitarian. And here’s the trick, a neutral technology is not neutral if you put it in a world which is terrifically biased and skewed. Or as George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” So in a time of universal financial deceit, a transparent, open and egalitarian financial network is a revolutionary technology. It is political – not because it is inherently political – but because it is put into a context of deceit. The act of creating equal access finance with transparency – in our world – that is revolutionary.

Jeffrey : This is a wonderful way to put it! So often, Andreas, when you speak I often feel like I am sort of 1.0 and you are 2.0 – and I completely agree with what you said. I also love how Bitcoin embodies all of the coolest technologies of our time. What I am about to speak on at the Y.L. is about all of the beautiful technologies that are driving the world forward. From cryptography, open source program, and distributed networks and peer-to-peer relationships – these are entirely changing the world. I’m not sure if people are aware of this – especially these highly politicized young activist. The ground is shifting beneath our feet, and Bitcoin represents, I think, the most developed embodiment of all the coolest technologies that we’ve seen emerge over the last five to ten years.

Andread : I’ll give you another example of a technology that is inherently neutral, but when introduced into a society that was hopelessly biased it caused a revolution. That was the telescope. Galileo put two pieces of ground glass on the ends of a tube and peered up into the heavens, and what he saw was not heavens. What he saw was circle objects in elliptical orbits rotating around the sun. And that was simple truth. It was completely neutral. It was just reality sitting out there. But you drop that into the middle of 16th century Catholic church indoctrination, and that is a nuclear weapon on mass enlightenment which destroys all of these preconceived notions of a firmament – a heaven above, a material world below. Geocentricity instead of heliocentricity. That is an enormously revolutionary act, and it simply involves opening your eyes and looking up, and seeing something that directly contradicts 800 years of dogma and indoctrination. Does that make the telescope a revolutionary technology? Does that making looking reality in the face a revolutionary act? No, it’s completely neutral. It just is.

Adam : But it’s disuptive. It’s very disruptive.

Andreas : It ended whole nation-states. It destroyed kingdoms. It brought down royal families. It upended the world. It lead to people nailing proclamations of doors and taking of on ships and colonizing a new continent with completely different ideas. It lead to the French revolution. It lead to a victory of democracy over the middle ages – the “dark ages”. It lead to the end of the Holy Roman Empire. And it was just two pieces of glass on a tube. Again, it’s not the technology itself, it’s the context within which it appears.

Jeffrey : In Thomas Kuhn’s book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” it’s really, really interesting his description of a prevailing orthodoxy, and a paradigm that comes to be overthrown in the course of development of science in which there are too many anomalies that appear that are not explained by the prevailing paradigm. Then the paradigm collapses and we enter into a pre-paradigmatic state, where there is a lot of argument about what we are going to believe now about the future. Then a new paradigm emerges. As I was reading I couldn’t help but think that that applies also to social and political systems also – not just scientific paradigms. I really feel like we’re living through one of those right now. Andreas, you mentioned the underlying context here of a, sort of, equipotent world in which peer-to-peer relationships are the dominant thing. I really see that as the emerging new paradigm, and the failing paradigm – that is ending – is one of hierarchies and third-party trust relationships – whether it be banks, corporations or nation-states, actually.

Andreas : The problems is that these changes are, obviously, massively destructive because there are a large number of people in very powerful institutions invested in maintaining the status quo. No matter how wrong it is. No matter how perverted it is. No matter how much pain and suffering it introduces into the world. It’s very profitable for some, and you know, as another saying goes , “If your paycheck depends on you not seeing they truth, you won’t see the truth.”

Jeffrey : People get really embedded into the current paradigms, and to orthodoxies. People don’t understand really. This is what Thomas Kuhn’s book was an attack on, is the Whig’s theory of history – that there is a, kind of, smooth evolution of marginal improvements that go from thing to thing to thing. What he said was that actually we, sort of. hurl from one paradigm to another. There are all of these establishments that exist raised up around certain belief systems, and people are born into a certain structure, and they absorb that into their belief system. And they hang onto that for as long as possible until it becomes essentially impossible to do otherwise. This is what I think is essentially going to happen with Bitcoin. We all encounter ressistance to it. We are surrounded by people who are resistant. We see, sort of,a gradual enlightenment taking place. I notice in the last month, for example, I’ve personally encountered two people who were radical, radical Bitcoin critics a year ago, who have completely changed their minds in light of of just experience. That would be Peter Schiff and Jim Rogers, two intellectual investors who I really respect, who used to laugh at me for my views on the subject, who have now come around completely and admitted that they were completely wrong and are looking forward to a beautiful Bitcoin future.

Andreas : Well some of the strongest advocates in Bitcoin were originally skeptics. It’s in the nature of a skeptic – an honest skeptic – to ask hard questions. When you encounter someone who – as soon as you introduce Bitcoin to them – doesn’t just dismiss it, but dismiss it by asking really hard questions. Then you notice that they’re eagerly listening to your answers. They present you with their objections, and they are hoping that you will be able to overcome those objections to give them rational arguments to rethink their position. An honest skeptic will give you arguments, will let you demolish them, and then will make that change, absorb the new data and become an advocate. Some of the strongest advocates, I think, started like that. Then there’s a completely different category of person who is a skeptoc, but does not want to assimilate any new information that would violate that thinking. They don’t ask questions. They have preconceived ideas of what’s true and what isn’t, and any attempt to tell them about Bitcoin is dismissed. That’s how you know the difference between an honest skeptic and a dishonest skeptic, I guess. I don’t think it is surprising that people like Peter Schiff made that change, because that’s where our strongest advocates will come from.

Jeffrey : Can I tell you how it happened? It’s actually very funny. So, I’m bumping into Peter Schiff, and I’ve been arguing with the guy for like a year-and-a-half or even two years about Bitcoin. Because even before I became an advocate I was not a critic, right? He was one of these critics who would give like 65 reasons why Bitcoin is a terrible ides – one of these kind of guys. Then I ran into him in Las Vegas at “Freedom Fest” and he practically grabbed me by the lapels and said, “I have the most amazing story to tell you. My company started accepting Bitcoin, because I figured ‘Well, if I can get it converted into dollars right away, I don’t care .’ People can pay me in bananas – if it is converted into dollars it doesn’t matter to me.” So he enabled a widget on his web site that allowed his clients to pay in Bitcoin. And he said to me “You know, I can’t believe it. When I usually get international transfers in for some of their product they have to wait for or five days for a wire transfer and pay huge transactions fees for Paypal, and credit cards are ridiculously expensive and always involves some fraud issues.” He said, “But with Bitcoin, did you know that I can process these transactions even before the client gets off the phone and I pay virtually zero transaction costs?” And he’s telling me this – with wide eyes – as if he’s telling me news, you know? So I said, “Really Peter, is that right?” and he said, “Yeah, I’m telling you, that’s what’s right.” I said, “Well okay. I’m glad to hear this.” It’s the experience I think.

Adam : The experience really is it. That really is it. I think we all started as skeptics. I was looking at Bitcoin for a good year before I really felt like it was something that I might put some money into. And that was seeing it crash and come back a couple of times. It just seems like everybody has their own comfort threshold.

Andreas : Right, and as we expand adoption we’re reaching a comfort threshold of more and more people. They see the first crash, the second crash, the third crash, the forth crash, the fifth crash – and it’s still not dead, which is kind of remarkable. The number of obituaries that have been written for Bitcoin in quite staggering.

Adam : I thought it was pretty remarkable.

Jeffrey : I’m sitting here so thrilled, Here it is – I guess we’re approaching August 2014 – and I started writing about this subject around February 2013. I didn’t expect what would happen, but I wrote about five or ten articles right away, since I kind of stared engaging the Bitcoin economic structures and seeing what they’re all about. Then, in a funny way, the ceiling fell in on me. All of my old colleagues and friends started coming out of the woodwork to say that I was not of sound mind – that I had forgotten all of the lessons that I previously knew, and that I had, sort of, lost it. I was severely attacked and criticized – and it shocked me really. I have to admit to you that it is has been delightful over the last year-and-a-half to see how all of these people have shut up. You know? I hate to feel that sense of schadenfreude, but I just do.

Adam : It’s nice that there’s more support for it now, but we still haven’t hit that 1% yet,

Andreas : Yeah, Jeffrey, you said something that got my attention, which is people telling you, “Have you forgotten all the lessons? Have you forgotten all the things you know?” And that’s really the primary criticism of an established paradigm. The lessons and the things you know ; the conventional wisdom which is being drummed into your head. Especially if you study the subject – as an insider, as an academic in the space, or as a professional in the space – and you become skilled and expert in the space, that means you have reached the apotheosis of indoctrination. You’ve absorbed all of the dogma and become adept at teaching it to others. So the ironic thing is that the people who are able to escape the paradigm first are the ones who have never been schooled in it. If you come at it and say, “I don’t know anything about money so this Bitcoin thing looks good.” you’ve got a better chance of learning something. But if you think you already know everything there is to know about money and you have that conventional wisdom in your head, it’s almost impossible to escape that paradigm. It invades your life in every way. It informs your academic success. You’ve written papers about it. You’ve taught thousands of others the same thing, and reinforced it in your own mind. You’ve expanded your view within that narrow framework. You’ve explored it’s edges. You’ve taken it from a vague description to hard lines and sharp edges. Then stepping outside of that is almost impossible. So you see that sometimes a person who comes along and throws all of that in disarray is someone outside the field. It has to be, because they’ve avoided the indoctrination. It’s the patent clerk at the Austrian patent office who says, “Newtonian physics? I don’t think so.” It’s the tinkerer who has no formal training in electronics who understands a new perspective. And it’s the half-programmer, half-physicist systems-thinker “Satoshi Yakamoto” who is obviously not an economist, who comes along and says, “Well how about we do it this way?”

Jeffrey : I love what you just said, and I hope that somebody transcribes those two paragraphs you just said. I know in my case I had a serious problem that everything I thought I knew argued against the legitimacy of Bitcoin. It became a serious problem for me mentally, because I couldn’t make sense of it in light of my theories. But at some point I decided look, “What am I going to trust? What I actually see out the window? Or the theories that are in this hundred-year-old book that I’ve got rolling around in my head?” I finally had to trust reality over theory and hope that at some point they could reemerge together in a way that makes rational sense to me. But there was a whole long period in there where I couldn’t actually bring the two together. But none-the-less Bitcoin is happening. So I had to take almost a kind of a leap out of my prevailing orthodoxies in order to embrace Bitcoin. Then, gradually – over the course of about twelve months – I began to put it all back together again. Now Bitcoin makes sense to me in light of what I previously understood, but with some tweeks, you know? So there is a certain amount of intellectual humility which is required to leave one paradigm and enter another.

Andreas : When you said you had to make an intellectual leap it brought to mind another beautiful example of paradigm shifting and just stepping completely outside of the accepted norms and doing something so obviously weird and different that it shocks everyone, and it forces them to reconsider reality because it simply works. That’s the story of Dick Fosbury. Richard Fosbury is the athlete who was the first person to do the high jump with a backwards flip. Nobody had ever done it that way. Everybody would run up to the pole and, kind of, scissor their legs over it. That was the established way of doing it for decades – possibly even hundreds of years – who knows. He ran up and jumped backwards, and at first the reaction was that the judges tried to figure out if this was actually allowed.Can you do this? Is this part of the rules? Because he immediately set world records by doing this weird backwards flip. And they said, “Well, the pol is still there, it didn’t fall off.” It completely violated the existing paradigm – completely crazy and weird looking – and, of course, the next year everybody was doing it.

Jeffrey : That’s a great story.

Adam Levine : LTBCoin is the official community rewards program of the “Let’s Talk Bitcoin” network. You can earn LTBC by performing any number of thing you probably already do. If you listen to shows like “Let’s Talk Bitcoin” listen up for the magic word. When you hear it, visit http://www.letstalkbitcoin.com. Log in to your free account, and enter the magic words to claim your share of the listener rewards. Now it’s time for the ‘LTB News Flash”, brought to you by Cryptokit – the easiest, fastest Bitcoin wallet which installs right into your browser so it’s always ther when you need it.

Here are the headlines for August 9th, 2014 : Lake Tahoe Property sells for 1.6 million Bitcoin. Bitcoin momentum growing in emerging markets. Hacker swipes $83,000 from Bitcoin mining pool. The Bitcoin derivative boom could be a mark of the cryptocurrency’s coming of age. [Huboy?] bets big on multisig with quick wallet acquisition. Bitcoin Foundation seeks more time to address virtual currency rules. Hungary’s 200 volt now accepts Bitcoin for laptops, tablets, t.v.s and more. Check it out at cryptokit.com.

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Commercial Announcer : Imagine if the cloud wasn’t up here, but down here, with us. That’s storj. Storj is a cloud shared by the community. It is potentially the largest, cheapest and most secure cloud available. What you share is what you get. You can even be paid for renting your extra space. But how is it more secure? Each file is shredded, encrypted and spread across the network until you are ready to use it again. You can be sure the files are safe because the keys are in your pocket, not a company’s. Only you have access to your stuff. Because the network is shared you don’t have to worry about slowed download seeds coming from one place. We’re all helping make the system blazing fast. And if you have some extra space lying around, you’ll get paid by users who need more than they can share. It’s like renting out your empty hard drives. A cloud with security, no downtime and sopeed at a fraction of the cost.

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It’s time for the magic word. Today’s magic word, for episode 134, is “liberty”. That’s L-I-B-E-R-T-Y. You’ve got until the 13th of August to visit Letstalkbitcoin.com and enter the magic word for your share of the LTBC audience rewards.

So, today’s second sponsor is a little bit different. With 62,000 LTBC, community member [Seen mason?] asked that we use his time to talk a little about the situation in Gaza. His perspective is this : Between 1947 and 1949, seven to eight thousand non-Jews were expelled from their family lands in Isreal and hundreds of villages were destroyed. Those people were kept under occupation without rights or a state for 47 years. Muslims, Christians and others within Isreal can’t rent or purchase land in about 80% of the country, and are basically second-class citizens by law. While, on the other hand, any Jewish person born anywhere in the world may gain Israeli citizenship and take the land of a non-Jew.

And with that, I’ve pissed off about half of our audience. Just kidding. Thanks to C. Mason for his perspective. My mind is very one-track.I tend to focus on things I can positively impact. Mostly this just seems like there is no winning scenario. It’s not about the people, it’s about the politics of control – which is probably a whole show unto itself. And certainly just because one side of the story has terrible stories doesn’t mean that it’s not just as true on the other. And that’s the thing, I guess. It’s just not about you or I at all. In the Middle East – just like everywhere else – our leaders make bad decisions just because it’s the best – as they see it – of the available options. Is it good for anyone really? No. But that’s not the world that we live in – yet. So that’s it. Back to the show.

Adam Levine : So Andreas, a little bit earlier you mentioned patent clerk, Newtonian physics. Intellectual property really has been – for hundreds of years now – kind of a core part of how people both monetize and protect. And it’s been interesting watching disruptive technologies – specifically cryptocurrency, which isn’t really governed by patents, and can’t really be controlled by patents – and on the other hand you have things liike 3D printing, that made a lot of progress over a couple of years, but that was only because some 20-year-old patents had expired and now these parts were able to be made by just anybody who wanted to make them as opposed to the one manufacturing conglomerate that had the legal right to be able to do it before that point.

So, Jeffrey, I’m curious, where do you think intellectual property controls can fit within a Bitcoin framework, and what impact would it have had if the situation had been different in the cryptocurrency space.

Jeffrey Tucker : So my own feeling on intellectual property is that it is basically an artificial thing that can only exist in an age of the nation-state, and that’s governed by the physical world threats of monopolistic elites who control the world through compulsion and coersion. That’s fundamentally at odds with what the digital age is all about : about malleability, reproducability, immoirtality and distributed networks. The idea of some elites gathering together to allocate who owns what in the realm of ideas is incompatible with this. Seriously, I’ve done a lot of work on the history of intellectual property – the ideological structure surrounding it. It wasn’t really until after the beginning of the 21st century that we saw hardcore, really serious attacks on the idea of IP – and it’s because digital networks really broke the system down. We saw some opposition to IP even as early as the beginnings of the industrial revolution, but nothing really substantial and serious until the digital age. Basically, I think the system is broken down and isn’t going to last, and it is very interesting to me to see how large corporations are starting to realize this and stop putting so much energy and time into enforcing their patents and copyrights – and starting to use the new networks of open source cooperation and the sharing economy to their advantage.

Andreas : Here, here. That’s a great commentary. Intellectual property is an artificial construct for monopolizing ideas and creating cartels around abstract concepts. The basic problem is that no one really has an original thought that they’ve conceived completely by themselves without anybody else being involved. Innovation is simply expending a culture of four-and-a-half million years one millimeter forward by combining all of the existing inputs and producing something slightly different – something that probably a few thousand other people have probably done somewhere else. The idea that you can take that and create a monopoly around that – while originally envisioned as a way to reward creators – has ended up creating these islands of stagnant creativity and isolation by removing things from the culture. The age-old compact – the social compact, that is even encoded in the U.S. Constitition, which is that “Congress can secure rights for creators in order to promote the arts and sciences.”. This idea that these patents and copyrights are of limited time – so that you take from the cultural Zeitgeist, you enhance it or advance it a tiny bit, you get a short-term reward, and then you give it back to the public domain so that others can build upon it. That compact then got perverted. Starting with the Disney company, who as soon as they saw their Mickey copyright runnning out, went ot Congress and got it extended 73 times – until copyright essentially became infinite, instead of limited in time, They were quite happy to take “The Brother’s Grim” and every other cultural story, appropriate it for their own needs, and then give nothing back to the popular culture. Take all of the stories of our ancestors, turn them into copyright material, and then give nothing back by perverting the copyright law. We’ve seen this happen across the board in intellectual property. Well, open source breaks that cycle. It recognizes that collaboration and creation moves faster, and innovation with collaboration moves faster – and if you give back to the community the community will give back to you again and again, and it creates this feedback loop of accelerated innovation. Whether it is Linux, or Wikipedia, or a thousand other things which have come from it – especially now with the introduction of the “Creative Commons” law and licenses. Those are amnazing things, and what they’re showing is that there is a much better way to do it.

Jeffrey : I heard something last night that really intrigued me, because I’ve tried to understand the best way to describe open source projects and what they mean. At the Bitcoin meetup last night somebody said that the great thing about open source technology is that it, sort of, takes away the obligation we all feel to constantly reinvent things – to constantly recreate, on our own, from scratch – all things. Always reinventing the wheel in a world of intellectual property, as you say, requires absolute originality. But open source programming – and open source everything – allows us to draw from the energies of others, and take what’s already been done and build on top of them. So you have this cumulating capital that grows over time. I was trying to thinkof a right analogy. It’s as if you had, sort of, one cake that is baked by the entire world, that is constantly getting ever better and ever more delicious, and the more people eat it there is ever more cake for ever more people. Rather than individual cakes by individuals constantly throughout history, you have one big cake that everybody is constantly making better and testing and bringing their own ideas to. I thought that was a really nice way to think about it,

Andreas : Yeah. The core fallacy at the heart of the concept of the intellectual property is the word “property”, because one of the absolute characteristics of property is that if you have property and I take that property, you no longer have that property. It is by definition singular, unique, unitary and not sharable. But if you have an idea, and I copy that idea, we both have that idea. And if I give it to ten more people, all twelve of us now have that idea – and we can all build on it. And you lost nothing from the fact that I have the idea. It’s not property, and it’s not property because it’s not tangible, it’s not destroyable. It’s infinitely copyable. If you have invented something and I copy that, then really what we are doing is doubling the rate of invention. Because – at the end of the day – you didn’t really invent something, you just expanded on thousands of years of culture. Your addition is standing on the shoulders of giants, and really hasn’t raised the bar that much.

Jeffrey : The whole idea od property in the first place – as you said – comes about because of the existence of scarcity. It’s a social construct we invented to stop conflicts, to deal with the problem of rivalrous control over the physical world. Once you migrate to the digital world you get simultaneous consumption of all things – with no depreciation of the original object – property is no longer necessary. It becomes just an absurdity. You know, it is important to remember that in history people have had mistaken views of propert over all sorts of things. For example, in the 18th century, and up until the early part of the 19th century – people thought that slaves were legitate forms of property, In fact, there is a 5th Amendment to the Constitution that was put in there to protect property rights over other people [chuckle], you know? Now we recognize that was just a mistake. So in the 21st century we’re gradually realizing that this is also a mistake to apply the term “property” to the realm of ideas?

Adam : But was it always a mistake? Because the arguments I hear both of you making basically revolve around, “Now we have digital things.” But that wasn’t true even 30 or 40 years ago. So 200 years ago, when intellectual property was getting started inthis country – in the United States – I have it in my head that it might actually have served a purpose, because the inventor was at the mercy of a manufacturing partner that might take years and might actually kick them out of the business because the inventor doesn’t control – or have any claim to – the very centralized and capital-intensive means of production. So Lincoln had a quote that I like. He said, “Patents added the fuel of interest to the fire of innovations.” I wonder, did they ever serve a purpose in your eyes, Jeffrey?

Jeffrey : No, I don’t think so, and I think what we need to do is totally revise intellectual history. There origin of the steam engine was a similar kind of problem. I mean, it was a great innovation, but it got locked down by oatents and nothing happened of any value for another 10 or 20 years, because everybody was, sort of, prohibited by law from adding to it. It was very interesting what happened with even things like the cotton gin. Who’s that guy – Eli Witley – supposedly invented it, but he didn’t invent it, he improved it slightly and got a patent on it and then went around spending the next 20 years cracking skulls to prevent innovation, He finally learned his lesson after he bankrupted himself spending so much money on patent lawsuits. It’s the same thing with the Wright Brothers. They came up with pretty cool little onnovation that gave them the title of being the first in flight, and then they spent the rest of their whole lives enforcing the patents. Meanwhile, all of the other countries in the world actually improved airline technology. By the time World War I came along the U.S. had the worst airplanes in the world, because we had the tightest patent controls [laughter].Yeah, I don’t think that patents have ever served any kind of purpose, and we really need to revise our intellectual history.

Adam, you said something very interesting about how maybe intellectual property is not really relevant in the digital age, but it might have had relevance before. But I really feel like we should have known that IP was not a good idea, even dating all the way back to the Gutenberg bible. When the Gutenberg bible came along, of course there was no IP over the psalms and the other texts that were being printed. But there was a confusion, because people associated the ideas on the page with the physical property of the page itself. We couldn’t really conceptualize the fact that these were really difference products. I mean, the ideas in the book are part of the non-scarce realm, the book itself is part of the scarce realm, and so we have this merging of these two things – one non-scarce and one scarce – and one beautiful thing called a “book”. But it took us a long time to realize that we are dealing always with two realms – one scarce and one non-scarce. We just didn’t know it – fully and completely – until the last few years.

Adam : So Bitcoin emerged as a very hobbiest sort of thing. It was very, very amateur, very experimental – “Let’s see what we can accomplish. We’re doing this because it’s neat that we can do this.” And I recently read a book called “The Master Switch” by Tim Woo, and in that he tells a bunch of different stories of information empires as they succeed and then fail. One of the stories he tells is about AM radio and FM radio. AM radio strikes me very similarly to how Bitcoin emerged, and FM radio seems like maybe after these recent discussion about these rules that are being made in New York. Maybe that’s the situation that everything that comes after will fall under. So I’m curious, do you know this story?

Jeffrey : I’m not aware about it.

Andreas : It’s been a while since I read Tim Woo’s book, so maybe you can remind me while we explain it to our listeners.

Adam : It’s a fairly lengthy thing, but the ideais that, in the early days, a kid who wanted to set up a radio station could set up a radio station with one of these little crystal radio things, and it was a hobbiest thing that people did because it was fun. You could set up a broadcast and you could listen to things, and this was very new at the time. Basically, it took like forty years to develop, but by that point it had developed into quite a successful industry, and there were a variety of monopolies, actually. Because at the time the only way you could get a station from somewhere non-locally was to use AT&T’s long distance lines. That actually was one of the reasons why FM radio was kind of suppressed, because FM radio came along and it esssentially made it so that ranges and power requirements were such that, before, it was unfeasible with AM radio to do re-broadcast stations – where you broadcast from one hill and then it is re-broadcast from another hill. The range was too short and the power requirements were too great. But when FM radio came along, it essentially made it so that anybody who wanted to do this could very cheaply set up these networks of stations and re-broadcasters, and that was one of several reasons why the FM radio paradigm – which it actually invented the FM radio technology and funded the research to do it – then sat on the technology. So the FCC came along and said, “In order to maintain the standard you can use much less power than you could with an equivalent AM station, so that it will only give you an AM equivalent broadcast distance.”. I’m rambling, and doing a kind of terrible job with this, but it seems like sometimes – especially in the last hundred years – these are used as weapons to suppress technologies.

Andreas : Not sometimes, Adam. Every single time, in every disruptive technology, the existing industries have used every weapon at their disposal to fight for incumbency and to prevent disruption. Which is, of course, the normal reaction. which then tells you what regulation does. Regulation starts off – at least presumably, or presented as – consumer protection, and it very quickly becomes a way to distinguish incumbents and to protect them from competition. Because they become adept at navigating the regulation, they co-opt the regulators, and then as soon as disruption happens they turn the regulation around and point it as a big weapon against the disruptors. That has happened in every industry. It’s happening today in every industry.

Jeffrey : In the end they never succeed. That’s what’s amusing. History progresses in any case, it’s just that the regulators can slow us down, but that can’t ultimately stop it – which makes it just a vast waste. I feel this way about a lot of these Bitcoin regulations that are coming out. It’s going to make the sector function less well, it’s going to make it less competitive, there’s going to be less focus on the consumer and more focus on compliance. But im the end, fifty years from now, none of these regulations that they’re trying to pass right now are going to have any relevance for whether – and to what extent – Bitcoin adoption is going to take place. Bitcoin is going to take its own course eventually. It’s just a matter of how many victims you want to create in the meantime. That’s what it’s all about.

Adam : Well, in New York, for example – again, we’re talking about proposed rules here just real briefly – that essentially say that you have the same compliance requirements if you do anything with Bitcoin – and users that have some basis in New York – as you would if, basically, you were a minor bank. The reporting requirements are very stringent, and it basically makes it so that with the current way that cryptocurrency is, it’s kind of incompatible to be complaint and to not create and entirely new cryptocurrency. So, I’ve been wondering about that. I mean, it’s kind of easy to create a new cryptocurrency, so if New York wants to go along with this type of means, doesn’t it make sense to actually either – maybe not them, nut somebody else does it – but create a cryptocurrency that actually complies with all of these requirements that they want. That has the real name currency attached, and that doesn’t require you to Jerry-rig it, rather than using Bitcoin where – yeah, you can use it, but you’re throwing out all of the advantages that came with it, so why bother?

Andreas : I think that’s mistaking a feature for a bug. The fact that Bitcoin is incompatible with these regulations, that’s not a bug in Bitcoin. That’s a feature. That’s one of the best features in Bitcoin. It’s incompatible with these regulations because those regulations themselves express the existing paradigm, and that is exactly what Bitcoin is disrupting.

Adam : But I’m going to call you on this, Andreas, because Bitcoin is neutral. So, at the same time, you’re kind of putting an ideology onto it. So, that’s what I’m saying —

Andreas : No. I’m not —

Adam : Bitcoin has the ideology baked into it. Can you twist that ideology and create something else that’s very similar but that doesn’t have that exact thing.

Andreas : No. What I’m saying is that Bitcoin is neutral, but Bitcoin is neutral in a way that violates the tenets of a very “not neutral” regulatory system that assumes that the best way to achieve consumer protection is to have all of the personal identifiable information of consumers given to several agencies with lax controls – so they can lord over it and supposedly stop “bad guys”. And what that does is actually destroys consumer protection. Privacy is consumer protection. The idea that by giving all of your private information you will be protected as a consumer is perverse. And the fact that Bitcoin does not conform to that idea because it is neutral, because it allows consumers to interact without having to go through this perverse activity of giving up all of their personal information just to transact – that is not a bug in Bitcoin. That is the feature that makes sure that Bitcoin will not fit into these comfortable regulations, and it won’t fit into the comfortable regulations because the regulations themselves are perverse – the idea that consumer protection is ensured by taking all the private information of consumers. And when consumers have a choice, to choose how they want to be protected, they choose not to give out their personal information. That —

Adam : — But that is the point. —

Andreas : — It’s neutral. —

Adam : Yes, in reality, given the choice. But they don’t have a choice. If this happens, then the only legal uses for Bitcoin will be this type of use – where you are disclosing all of this information. So that’s what I’m saying, is that in the world we live in, if this happens is it better to keep using Bitcoin and still disclose all of that information because you’re going to have to anyways – if you’re in New York, and under the subject of all of this nonsense. Or is it better to create something that, kind of, bakes it in? More importantly, what about people who are not us – and who are not in this for the ideology of it – think?

Announcer (Adam B. Levine) : Thanks for listening to episode 134 of “Let’s Talk Bitcoin”. Content for today’s episode was provided by : Andreas M. Antonopolis, Jeffrey Tucker and Adam B. Levine. This episode was edited by Denise Levine and Adam B. Levine. Music for today’s show was provided by Jared Rubin of “Security Beats” and General Fuzz. If you’re a developer, you might be interested in our upcoming “Coins For Commits” program. As the platform goes open source in the coming weeks we want as much help as possible, and you’ll earn LTBC for your commits. If you have any questions, send an email to adam@letstalkbitcoin.com and I’ll help you find the right person to speak to.

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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 12 : Pacing Is The Key To Success For The Freelance Transcriptionist

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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

Let’s face it, folks – we are drowning in a sea of information these days, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with it all and attain some sort of balance of intake, processing and utilization. Entire books have now been written arguing that “mental illnesses” such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are more the result of the inability of our brains to adjust to the barrage of incoming data than the biochemical abnormalities which have been discovered through research so far :

ADHD: Is Our Information Culture The Cause?
http://huff.to/1ykiCOV

As research in the scientific field of epigenetics discovers increasing evidence that the environment plays a very significant role in biological processes as fundamental as the effect of stress in altering DNA and transmitting those alterations to future generations, it is becoming ever more important to account for, and manage, the various environment factors which effect us in our daily lives. The amount, kind, and quality of information we consume, the “downtime” we allow for our bodies and minds to rest and digest that information, and the strategies by which we maximize our assimilation of information are becoming crucial issue for survival in the digital age. Just as building cardiovascular and muscular/strength via exercise requires a proper balance of rest and exertion, so too does the building and maintenance of our mental processes. Overloading the neural circuits with information is equivalent to running well beyond your distance/speed limits, or lifting weights which are too heavy for your muscular-skeletal system to handle.

Two of the most important and effective remedies to this problem are : organization and pacing.

Through the process of organization you are able to break down the mass of incoming information into manageable units, and then through pacing you create an ideal pace of intake/processing of that information so that you assimilate and utilize the maximum amount of it.

In the excellent book “The Overflowing Brain – Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory” neuroscientist Trokel Klinberg examines in great detail the nature and limits of working memory. Like the RAM of a computer, the working memory is the neurochemical entity which holds information temporarily before selective bits are integrated into the long term storage memory. Just like in a computer, if the RAM memory is not large enough the computer can freeze up if the user forces too much information to be processed relative to the RAM capacity. This will take the form of a web browser crashing if you have too many tabs open simultaneously, or a digital imaging program seizing if you initiate too many processes in a short period of time. In the same way, our working memory malfunctions when we overload it. The human brain’s equivalent t the computer is a decrease (to the ultimate point of virtual inability) to process additional information, or a decrease in concentration/attention when the information processesing capacity threshold is exceeded. This is known as “information overload”, and it is a growing epidemic in the modern digital age, with research showing that the general limit of attention span in people is decreasing.

So, since this major issue of information overload is becoming a growing concern for people in general, it would only make sense that for those of us who work with information on a daily basis it is even more important to implement effective strategies to control the amount of information exposure and rate of processing that information in order to achieve adequate mental balance and minimize mental stress – which is, of course, directly connected to physical stress – as mental processes are biochemical in nature, just as all other bodily processes. A clear example of this connection between the mental physical bodies relates to nutrition. The brain – like every other organ in the body -runs on the nutrients we consume. In fact, the brain has an very high metabolic rate relative to all other organs, and so an inadequate intake of nutrients to balance mental exertion results in all sorts of dysfunction and inadequate function. Ranging from diminished attention span, cognitive deficits, anxiety, depression, and the most extreme symptoms of psychosis in severe cases of sleep deprivation (or even extreme mental overexertion) it is clear that proper control of mental exertion, along with adequate rest and nutrition is a serious health concern.

Incidentally, one of the most important forms of nutrient for the brain is dietary fat (lipids) – especially the fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6,.  After all, the brain tissue itself is essential composed of lipids and cholesterol. Studies have found that general deficiencies in the various forms of dietary fat result in decreased cognitive ability, memory problems, mood instability, and various other issues which effect mental performance and overall health. In a more extreme case, a study was done with a prison population which found that dietary fatty acid supplementation decreased the level of inmate violence significantly. Other studies have found a significant therapeutic effect of coconut oil on Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. So, the next time you are feeling mentally fatigued try taking a few tablespoons of olive oil, or have a few eggs.

In order to not go too far off on a tangent, let me bring this discussion back to the issue of the two fundamental factors of organization and pacing as the main keys to success for online telework – whether that be transcription, editing, writing, data entry, etc. Proper pacing requires that you allow your brain the proper nutrients and rest periods so that it can process the information you have taken into it and build new neural connections (including memory) in response to this input. The brain can’t do that if it is being overworked, not given enough downtime (in the form of rest, sleep, or even relaxing recreational activity) and/or if the proper nutrients – which are the materials which actually build the neural connections) are not consumed in proper amounts.

You could argue that the most logical method to create the proper strategy of organization and pacing would be to start developing the organization part first. It would be possible to do this, but I would argue that by first assessing your pacing needs, you will have a better idea of the limits and needs of your mind and body, and can thus build a more appropriate organizational structure around that. For instance, if you are a person who suffers from some degree of insomnia it will be difficult to create a more highly structured organizational plan if your sleep schedule is erratic. It will be difficult for you to stick to that strict routine. I can attest to this first hand, as I suffer from severe chronic insomnia – and trust me – it is something which MUST be accounted for in your organization plan.

So, once you have assessed your pacing needs you can begin to assess the sources and amount of information which is available for you to use to expand your knowledge of the transcription industry, job skills and tools and people/organizations to potentially connect with to further your efforts. For instance, your pacing assessment will give you an idea of how much time per day you can dedicate to taking in new information and experimenting with and practicing the new skills you have gained through your research. You should break the total time down into the two major categories of “research” and “skills implementation”. You can also add a third category such as “free experimentation”, where you will basically just browse through various resources in a more relaxed, unstructured manner (for example. you may enter a new transcription-related search term into a search engine and just follow the results wherever they lead). This adds a more fun, experimental component to the research, but is also important because it is very likely to produce some valuable new information and resources that you can then integrate into your more structured research. For instance, I often enter new terms (especially transcription-related products and software) into the YouTube search engine and discover some very informative videos which open a new avenue to research (and skills expansion) into my overall development process. One such extremely valuable software program I discovered in this way is the Evernote organization application. I will be writing an entire post about this amazing piece of software genius in a future post, but for now here is a great YouTube channel by mentor Evernote Scott . A great video to start with is the Evernote Tips : The 11 Amazing Features episode. In fact, Evernote is one of the most productive programs to use for developing your organization plan, in addition to collecting, storing, managing and processing all of the your research notes and content. The best thing is that the software is free, and the freeware version offers more than enough functionality to perform the tasks required to design and manage your organization strategy.

So we now have a general idea of the fundamental factors to help minimize information overload and maximize your research effort. It is recommended to assess your mental and physical needs in order to decide on a rough estimate of the amount of time you can dedicate to your research, skills practice and experimentation tasks. Once you have an idea of how much time and energy you can dedicate to the research you can then begin to physically (or more likely virtually) write up a more concrete plan to organize your daily efforts.

In the next section we will look at the implementation of this process in a more concrete example of my actual strategy development.

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Daily Progress – Research Findings, Tasks and Skills Development

In line with the discussion of my research and skills development strategy in the first section of this post, as I continue exploring and working in the online transcription industry, the reality is that the amount of information available (from numerous resources, in different formats and covering different topics and aspects of the multi-faceted and extensive field) can easily become overwhelming. Therefore, I think it will be helpful to describe the strategy I have developed over the past weeks to organize and pace my efforts in order to make consistent and comfortable progress reaching the level of being able to make a living in online transcription and editing telework.

The sheer overload of information that I both need and want to consume to move things forward is quite overwhelming. Therefore, in line with the key concept of pacing I have begun writing up a daily strategy plan to help organize the effort and increase the retention of new information. This is quite easy to do, and I have used a simple Evernote note file titled “transcription career development organization plan”. In my specific case I have listed the handful of most urgent and valuable resources (ex. the TranscribeMe Style Guide, a few of the best transcription blogs I have discovered so far : TranscriptionWave blog  , TranscribeMe blog , and “General Transcription Work From Home” blog ,  in addition to the two best online transcription forums – Transcription Haven and Transcription Essentials. Since it is physically and mentally impossible to consume all of the information contained in these resources, or the numerous other valuable ones which I will encounter as I proceed or simply don’t have enough time to include in the daily research program, this is where pacing is most important.

The first essential thing to do after making a list of the most important and highest priority resources you have discovered is to decide how much time you can reasonably dedicate to consuming the information from those resources each day, as well as the daily time allotment for implementing the knowledge/skills obtained. Since one of the main (and ideal) goals I have mentioned is to maintain income from the transcription work while I continue the research and train myself, it is important to integrate practice/work time in with the research and study time. Through experience I have found that good strategy for this is to alternate between research and skills implementation. For instance, you can plan for an hour of research in the morning and the follow that up with an hour of implementation (perhaps with a nice break in between to rest your mind and eat something after spending an hour reading, watching videos or listening to audio). In addition, it is especially productive to do spend your research and implementation hours on similar subject matter. For instance, during your morning research reading through a style guide you may come across a specific issues, such as “the proper use of the comma”. You may follow that up by looking up the subject “comma usage” on an online grammar web site such as : http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp . You could also follow up with some addition resources on comma usage and/or closely related topics to add some depth to your understanding. Then, during your following “implementation hour” you can pay more close attention to your use of commas when transcribing a file. Another example would be reading your one daily post on the TranscriptionWave  blog, such as : Tips To Help You Transcribe Quickly , and then take one of the tips (such as : “#3 : Work With Macros”, and follow up by reading the tutorial file in your transcription software which explains how to use macros, and then actually practice using at least one macro while you transcribe a file during your next implementation hour session. You can then practice an additional macro per day in the coming days to reinforce the skill until it becomes routine.

If there is a topic or skill which is a bit complicated, or you are just having trouble grasping for some reason, take some additional time during the next research session to research more deeply into it. Then also spend some more time practicing the new skill during your next implementation session.

During both sessions you should also keep a running note file. During implementation sessions you can jot down any thoughts, ideas, problems, questions, discoveries, etc. which you can then follow up on in the next research session. During the research session you can also jot down thoughts, ideas, problems and questions, in addition to additional resources (ex. links, new blogs/sites, videos, etc.) which you can then follow up on in future sessions. In my experience, it is best NOT to immediately follow new resources you discover. The reason for this is that it tends to throw off the focus and momentum of your research effort. Ideally, you want to create a daily routine of working through small parts of a resource (ex. one blog post per day) as this consistency enables you to build progressively over time. Suddenly introducing a new resource – which is often significantly different in style and uncertain in quality – can really throw off your momentum and focus. I have found it best to record the new resource in your running note and then take some time in the next research session to give the new resource a superficial browse (ex. look over the main blog post menu pages to see what kind of subjects the blog covers, and perhaps record the url of one or two interesting posts from the blog in your running note).  For recording urls for future research, the Evernote application is excellent since the program automatically converts urls you post in your note files into active links, and then you can simply click on the link in the note to open the page. Then over the next few days you can slowly evaluate the new research and decide whether it is worth starting to include some of it’s content in your daily research workload. This, of course, depends on how much time you have available during your research session. In other words, you want to ease into (and warm up to) new content. In this way, your organization plan is dynamic and constantly being evaluated and adjusted to fit your specific needs as they arise and change.  Sometimes you will discontinue working through a resource because you have found one of better quality or which fulfills new content needs which have arisen through your various efforts and unexpected developments and opportunities.

To give you a more concrete example of my current strategy, I am now allotting one hour per day to reading one blog post from each of the 2-3 selected blogs (mentioned earlier), browsing the main blog post pages for posts to read in the future, recording the urls of those selected blog posts in my running note, reading a few tutorial pages of the various software programs I am in the process of incorporating into the workflow, and reading through one or two pages of the TranscribeMe style guide to continue familiarizing myself with the company’s specific transcription requirements as I work on a few  of the short (roughly one minute) files each day. Of course, I also keep the style guide file open and refer to it as I am in the process of working on the transcription files, so as to most strongly reinforce my skills through practical experience. In addition, my internet browser is always on call to perform the common quick transcription research tasks (ex. looking up additional information on companies, people, and/or places mentioned in files I am transcribing,  quickly following up on interesting topics mentioned in transcription files, etc.).

To enhance productivity and efficiency significantly, I am using the excellent Evernote application to create and organize my notes and strategy plans,  collect all the resources I find (ex. web sites, blogs, videos, audio, photos, etc.) – as  Evernote enables you to collect all of these types of media right into your notes so you have access to every component of your research in one place. I am also using Evernote to develop and write the posts on this blog, as it allows me to do everything I need to work on the posts offline, and then I simply copy everything into WordPress to do all of the HTML, publishing and marketing stuff.

Okay. I realize that this is an extremely long (and perhaps a bit tedious) post, but I believe that the points and concepts I have discussed here are very important for laying a solid foundation for developing a productive strategy for building your knowledge and skills related to transcription (and any other form of telework), and doing so in a way which is healthy, maximally productive and efficient in enabling you to attain gainful and consistent transcription work.

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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.

“Day 5 : Evaluating Online Transcription Companies”

judge gavel

It has been roughly a week and with a little ambition I have managed to connect with an online transcription company which is feeding me a slow but steady trickle of projects to practice on and make enough income to keep afloat while I utilize some of the many free online resources to build more work and increase my skill level. I have also connected with the wider global online transcription community which is providing some excellent leads and reviews on the numerous online transcription companies and links to their web site and other contact information. While I continue to evaluate the new projects as they appear on the “available jobs” board of the company’s online system, the reality is that many of the jobs tend to be boring and/or above my skills level. Luckily, some of them are adequate and interesting (roughly one per day or two), but I am thinking that it would be ideal to add another online company or two to the mix to increase potential work. In addition, in the current system, once you accept a job you can only work on one at a time. So, for instance, if you take on a transcribing  job which has a 15 hour deadline you will not be able within that time to accept any other projects – for instance, a shorter editing job which you could complete in two hours while you are working on the transcription project. Ideally, you want to be in a situation where you have the most options open, especially considering that the jobs come onto the board and are swooped up by other transcribers rather quickly.

So I begin the process of assessing some of the other online transcription sites throughout the internet. I figure that it will take some time to go through each site (as different sites will have different designs, functionality and amount of content). To save valuable time and effort, it seems that the most efficient way to proceed is to go through the web pages, group and forum posts which have reviews of the various companies which have been written by transcribers who have had experience working for them. The reviews usually contain some valuable information which helps you narrow down which companies are more appropriate for your needs and goals. For instance, some companies specialize in different kinds of transcription (ex. podcast, academic, interview, focus group, etc.). Some companies have a more polished user interface which is highly automated (including the application test) while other are less so (having you submit your application and correspondence via email).

Since I am a big fan of automation and communication I decide to seek out those companies whose system is most automated AND who have a strong web presence (including quality blog) and significant communication resources with the general public, customers and the transcribers who work for the operation. I believe that in the modern digital age these are ESSENTIALS to the progress of any business (especially an online-based one) and the bottom line is that if you work for dysfunctional companies it only ends up limiting you in the grand scheme of things. The operating costs of running a business in the digital age are low enough that skimping on quality is no longer an option. You also lose out on gaining the more quality and positive experience of working with a better organization, and this builds a better resume into the future.

There are numerous transcription-related sites which have compiled very helpful lists (often with reviews) of the plethora of companies out there. Different lists focus on different criteria (ex. lists for : newbie, general/legal/medical transcription, overseas companies, etc.). The following list is a good one to get you started. Just go down the list and click through to the ones which resonate best with you :

List of 30 Stunning Transcription Companies Hiring Now

Since there are many sites which have already listed and reviewed the various transcription companies based on their experience applying and actually working for those companies AND since I am a specifically experience onlined and social media marketing guru-of-sorts, I think it would be most helpful for me to focus on analyzing the web presentation, site functionality and interactivity qualities of some of the companies I have evaluated. I believe that this is most helpful to newbies (and even some veterans) as it doesn’t depend on actually being ACCEPTED into the companies. That is, I am focusing my analysis on the features of these companies which anyone is able to see at the point of arriving at the company’s web site and through the application process (whether or not you actually pass the transcription test and are accepted). In this way, we are looking at the overall operation itself AND focusing on the free content provided by the company to the general public (in addition to merely the prospective transcribers). It’s like when you evaluate a company when you are decided whether or or not to buy shares of its stock. You have to look at the fundamentals. That is, the big picture of how the operation presents itself and operates in both the short and long term senses.

Since I have found that evaluating two or three of the company sites per day is a most ideal workload I will give my analysis of two of these companies in this post and then follow up with two more per future posts as we work through this process. I am adding this regular analysis of the companies because I believe this is an important part of the process of being a transcriptionist for several main reasons. Firstly, companies are constantly coming and going, so it is beneficial to stay on top of changes in the industry. Secondly, the technology is constantly evolving and so new companies are arriving on the scene which are much more functional and thus can more efficiently help you achieve your goals. Thirdly, the good companies often have blogs where they regularly post quality posts packed with information which can be a valuable addition to your overall research effort. We will thus look specifically at some of these posts as we proceed.

Going down the list of 30 companies (above) I started with the Tigerfish company, which was recommended by one of my new contacts in the LinkedIn group. My first impression of their web site was positive. The design is funky and simple. The “about us” page lists the six key people in the company (but without any bio information). They have a blog but it only consists of two posts and those are simply “about the company” type – that is, not geared towards providing information which is valuable to the visitor to the site, ESPECIALLY not the prospective transcriber who is thinking about applying to the company in addition to building their transcription skills and connections. Finally, the employment section link is hard to find (the link is a simple text one and buried way down at the bottom of the main page). When you finally do make it to their employment page they give you a basic rundown of their transcript employment opportunities (focusing on the fact that they are generally overloaded with applications) and then guide you through their rather tedious (compared to the more automated companies) process of downloading their style guide and audio test file and submitting your test via email.

Now, while I am sure that people over Tigerfish are very nice, San Franciscan hipsters who are fun to work with, from my perspective as prospective transcriber they are just not giving me much to chew on. I feel like I have arrived at the site and they have “given me the hand” in the sense of not giving me much of a desire/reason to connect – other than to look at the funky pictures on their Facebook page or the non-interactive info (which doesn’t even have links to the profiles of the key members of the company who are listed on their “about us” page) on their LinkedIn company page.

After evaluating all of the handful of pages of the site I just didn’t feel the love and decided NOT to proceed with the application process. Perhaps if their blog had some informative and regular posts I would at least connect there and/or sign up for an email newletter, but this is just not currently the case. Maybe TigerFish just simply doesn’t put much focus on the online transcriber recruiting effort. Maybe they have more than enough business through their offline operation. For someone like me, however, who is looking to build connections and work with companies who are utilizing the power of the internet to its fullest potential, it is just better to move on to the next company on the list.

*** I hope that anyone reading this post understands that my motive for writing these critiques is purely constructive. I am not taking a “cheap shot” at the above company, but merely providing marketing feedback from a person who has engaged with their web presence based on my own personal goals and needs. Different people will react differently. I also hope that my specific suggestions may be taken as constructive criticism, and that people who evaluate these companies use their own judgement.***

With one evaluation complete for the day I move down the list in search of another. Since I don’t want to spend more of my valuable research time today on another potentially incongruent company AND since the above list only provides one-sentence descriptions of the companies (as opposed to more informative review) I decide to follow up on a lead given to me by a member of the LinkedIn group for the Rev company. A quick Google search pulled up an informative review by someone who actually passed the application process and worked for them :  Rev.Com For Transcribers – A Detailed Review . After reading the review I was motivated to follow through to the company web site to find out more and do an evaluation.

The Rev.com web site is top-notch. It has visually stimulating yet clear and organized layout of information and some snazzy imagery (both static and animated) which is very user-friendly. They give you the lowdown on all the information you need to know and do it in a quick matter (which is very important for busy people online in this modern age, whoe time and general attention span is limited). Their recruitment section for freelancer transcribers is thorough, well automated and presents a very inviting image with raving reviews by current employees (along with their names and faces) to create a very nice feeling of connection. From a marketing perspective, these guys/gals are pros.

By the time you are finished reading the comprehensive yet concise information about their opportunity (ex. pay rate, job perks, testimonials, list of “Fortune 500” companies they do work for, etc.) you are all pumped up to hit that shiny rad “Apply Now” button, strategically positioned smack in the middle of the screen.

The fun is only beginning, however, as you proceed through the well executed application process. They state that the application process requires 60 minutes, but when I hit the rather heavy writing section I decided it would be best to take my time alternating for several hours (or perhaps a whole day) between producing a proper piece of ~6,000 word writing and reading through their other web site pages and blog posts. It is better not to rush through this, as you want to present your skills as best as possible – especially as a newbie trying to enter the field.

While the company’s blog has a decent number of articles, the topics are a bit random and disorganized, and the main blog page itself is not only misleadingly titled “Article Archives” (which likely prevents it from being listed properly in the search engines as a legitimate blog), but also, in my opinion, fails to provide content on issues of MOST importance to its target market :

http://blog.rev.com/articles

For instance, while they have some well-written posts related to the subject of TRANSLATION, such as:

5 Tips for Freelance Translators

They don’t have EVEN ONE section or article directly related to the subject of transcription, out of the 100+ posts up on the main “archived articles” page. This means that all of the freelance transcriptionists who go through the application process and want to read more about the company’s activities related to transcription while they wait (likely several days or more) to receive their email of acceptance or rejection are not able to continue spending some time reading through informative blog posts which will give them a head start in becoming more familiar with the company, its operations, and transcription in general. As one of the fundamentally important elements of online marketing is to keep your market ENGAGED and CONNECTED this seems to be one specific thing that Rev has neglected. I hope they will address this in the future for the benefit of the transcriptionists AND the marketing success of their company.

It ultimately took me a full 24 hours to properly complete the application. It was a bit of hard work to write the essay and transcribe the two audio files, but I was convinced that my performance on both was up to par (especially for the writing component, as I am an experienced and published photojournalist and blogger). I submitted the application and continued trying to find articles on their blog which could keep me busy while I waited for their response.

At the end of the day I had made good progress. I had done a thorough analysis of two prospective online transcription companies (a process which I will continue to incorporate into my research process) and I completed one full application to one which fulfilled my criteria. After submitting the Rev application I spent a few hours researching and blogging and then went to sleep feeling quite confident that my application to Rev would impress them, and that I would likely be granted acceptance into their team of transcriptionists. However, in the worst case scenario that I am NOT accepted there are plenty of other online transcription companies operating now, so it will just be a matter of continuing to find, research, evaluate and apply to others in the future.