Free Transcript Project – #13

Pushing Upstream – Episode 01 – St Louis Post Dispatch & DNA Testing

YouTube Channel : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRCr8a7XCdy164safAuDIOw

Host :
Twitter : @WinstonWolfe333
Steemit : https://steemit.com/@winstonwolfe


 

[INTRO MUSIC]

Winston Wolfe (Host) : My name is Winston Wolfe, and you’re listening to “Pushing Upstream”. I was born in 1979, in the midwest, and adopted eight days later. Now, at almost 39 years old I’ve begun the search for my birth family, and I started this podcast to document my experiences. I invite you to join me on my journey… Today is June 22nd, 2018. This is Episode #01. The day after I recorded the pilot Episode #00, there was an article that was posted by Kurt Erickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. [This] could not have come at a more perfect timing, in my opinion. The name of the article is “Long wait for adoptees seeking birth records in Missouri”. Essentially, whenever the law went into enactment on the 1st of January, for those over the age of 18, people were warned that the wait period could be between three to six months. However, it looks like – considering the number of requests they received; which they didn’t anticipate – apparently the wait time has actually been extended to nearly nine months. Now I personally have not been able to submit my form yet, [although] I stll plan to. But it looks like I’m going to need to plan for a wait period of probably up to about a year. Needless to day, this is a little disappointing. According to the article it looks like 848 people have been provided with either a copy of their original birth certificate, or notified that the agency dd not have a record on file for them. This is something I’m kind of worried about – not necessarily that they won’t have a record; that would be disappointing in and of itself. But also to find out that information may have been redacted. As I said in the previous episode, there is a form you can submit if you are a birth parent, if you decide you don’t want that information divulged. The way I understand that it works is [that] if both parents fill that form out the record is completely unavailable. If only one of them fills out that form, then essentially, you would get a record that has that information marked out. But to be honest, even if I’m not able to get any sort of document – anything that shows any information about either one of my birth parents – no matter what the outcome is going to be I plan on submitting it anyway, and basically planning for probably up to about a year to get anything back, as I said. In the meantime, however, there are plenty of other things I can be doing. I can be searching online. I can also submit my DNA – for example, through Ancestry.com, or through 23andMe.com. Since I released the pilot episode about four days ago I have joined all kinds of Facebook groups for people who are essentially “adopted and searching”. I know that’s actually the name of one of them. There are several different groups like this too, and I’m seeing stories popping up by the hour – from people who are getting results back, people who have had results and have tried contacting the people that it says they are connected to; both positive and negative. I’m seeing things where it almost seemed as if the birth families were simply waiting to be found, and accepted their long-lost child – [laughter] now an adult – with open arms. This is kind of what I’m hoping for maybe. Meanwhile, other people are finding it very difficult to contact their birth family – some of whom are saying things like, “We have come to terms with what we’ve done, and moved on, and we really don’t want to talk.” This is heartbreaking to me – [these] people who are on this journey of self-discovery, [to] find out where they came from, and to see what kind of people they came from, and are being rejected. I’m even seen cases where people are contacting half-siblings they never knew they even had, and are very easily able to talk to some of them, but whenever they try to talk to the actual birth parent [they’re] being rejected. Now, the thing with Ancestry.com – just to kind of talk about that for a minute. This is something I’m actually kind of excited about, because even if I don’t find anybody I can still get some information about my genetic health background, which is very important to me, and important for me for my son. But essentially, for about $100 [USD] from Ancestry.com you can order a DNA kit. It just comes with – to my knowledge – when you receive the kit it comes with a kind of tube, and you fill it up with some saliva and that’s it. You just sent it off and wait for about a month [or] two months, [or] something like that, for your results. [It’s the] same thing with 23andMe.com. Both of these services offer family genetic testing, [which basically will] show you who, genetically, you’re linked to, if the people that it says you’re linked to have decided to make it public, and make themselves able to be contacted. With 23andMe.com, however, not only do you get that, and not only – like [Ancestry.com] – do you get the ethnic background test — which, by the way, I understand should kind of be taken with a grain of salt, because it’s not perfect. But they also offer a service for $199 [USD], which provides that information, but also gives you your genetic health background. Like I said, this is important to me – for me and my son – because I know nothing about my genetic background, obviously, and my son only has half of the information that he needs – which is on his mother’s side, of course. Now granted, I’ve not really ever been terribly sick, aside from just the normal sicknesses people get on and off. [For example], I’ve never had to go spend the night in [a] hospital. I never had a surgery. I’ve never broken a bone. I don’t even wear glasses. But who’s to say that somewhere down on my birth father’s side they don’t have a history of early-40s heart attacks, or anything like that. I need to know what it is I’m up against. Of course, aside from being able to get those services, those two places – [Ancestry.com] and 23andMe.com – they also offer you the ability to download, essentially, the raw data on your DNA. Then once you’ve got that you can upload it to other databases that people upload that information to. For example, MyHeritage.com, GEDMatch.com, FTDNA – which is also [FamilyTreeDNA.com] – and [Promethease.com]. I understand that Promethease actually has a huge breakdown that they can give you on a lot of information about your DNA. I’m interested in submitting to all of these. You’ve got to set those trot lines. Another really useful resource I thought I found, actually, was on a website called AdoptionDatabase.Quickbase.com. I actually found that one by simply Googling “adoption database for Missouri”. That’s really it. There’s all kinds of listings. When you go in there – again, it’s going to be one of those things where it completely relies on the people you’re looking for having gone there and paid to make an entry. I think it’s like $10 [USD], and you can make an entry saying, for example, “I’m a birth mother, and I’m looking for an adoptee who was born on [this] date, in [this] county, in [this] city, in [this] state, on [this]…” you know, and “… you can tell at the hospital, [and] you can tell at the adoption agency that was involved ..” On that particular web site I found an entry that was very, very similar to mine – so much so that I thought, ‘You know what? Even though there’s this one piece of information, of all of the available information on this entry, that’s incorrect, I’m still going to take a look. I’m going to go ahead and see what I can find out.’ I’m going to talk about that, but not on this episode. But to sum up, essentially, everything on that entry that I found was on par with what I expected to find, except that the birthday was wrong. Now, I almost didn’t look at this entry, but then after reading article, after article, after article on advice for people who are on this journey, and on this search, in particular the one thing they said was, “Even if some information is incorrect, if your gut tells you that it’s worth looking into don’t pass it up. Look into it.” So I did, and again, I’m going to save that for a different episode, because that was an interesting experience. It was the first contact I made, and while it was a little bit of a letdown at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if this is not just kind of part of the process for a lot of people. I’m sure it is. I don’t have to really wonder. I’m sure that it is. I know that it is. [There’s] lots of “false positives”. [There’s] lots of getting not only your hopes up. but the person you’re contacting – getting their hopes up too – and having to apologize for that, and then wishing each other “better luck next time”. Now one thing that I will talk about [is that] in the last episode I mentioned several different things that I had wondered over the years. For example: Are they still alive? Are they looking for me? Have I met them and not even known it? That one in particular – that last one about having met them and not known it – there was something that happened to me about 18 years ago, when I worked at a camera store. There was a woman and her daughter – who must have been probably five years younger than me, or so – who came into the store looking for a camera for the young girl. So, of course, I helped these folks out, [showing] them a lot of the point-and-shoot cameras, and I think she might have been interested in one of the Olympus models. The more I was looking at her [I thought] to myself, ‘She could be my sister. This girl could be my sister. She looks like I’m looking into a mirror at a female version of myself.’ I can’t be the only person that’s had that experience, where they’re looking around at people and they find somebody and just kind of look them right in the face and go, ‘My god!’ You know? How do you approach that? How do you go, “Did you by chance have a child that you adopted out in 1979?” How do you drop that? [laughter] You don’t. [There’s] no socially acceptable way to just stumble into that conversation, like, “Nice weather, huh? Did you ever adopt a kid out?” [laughter]. It just doesn’t work that way. So I just had to kind of stand there, and I helped them just fine. I sold her a camera, but I never saw them again, to my knowledge. I just [have] never had that experience with anybody else – to look at somebody and go, ‘I wonder?’ You know, there’s enough similarities in physical appearance that ‘I wonder’. Now, of course, here we are in 2018 and it’s so easy to do a DNA test now, and throw that data into a database to see who links up to you. How much would that have cost 18 years ago? I don’t even know. [I was] probably pretty expensive. I don’t even think the technology was nearly up to par then as it is now – just as with, of course, any other technology – so we really do live in the future [laughter], so to speak. So yeah, that was a unique experience that I wasn’t sure how to describe, [and] I wasn’t sure how to share, over the years. It’s just been one of those things, but it is what it is. This afternoon, on one of the Facebook gourps that I’m a part of for adoptees who are searching, or family members looking for other family members, there was someone on here who wrote – as if they were speaking to their birth child – a post on their 40th birthday. Now I won’t read the whole thing, but I do want to read a couple of highlights, and I think you’ll like where this ended. She said, “You are 40 today. I don’t want to interrupt your life. I don’t want to upset you. I only want to know that you are okay. I was very young when you were born. I wanted to keep you, but couldn’t. The reasons seem trivial now – now that I’m older, and wiser, and not to naive. Do I blame my mother who told me I couldn’t come home if I brought you with me? No, I should have been braver. I should have been stronger. But I wanted you to have a life, a home, a family. Not what I had – a turmoil. You came early – very early. You only weighed one pound and fifteen ounces, but you were beautiful, you were a screamer, and you were mine. I always worried that you had health issues because you were so small. I hope not. I pray not. You are mine, so I know you are a fighter. so if you’re looking I am here. If you’re looking Im not ashamed. If you’re looking, you have family who know about you, who care about you, [and] who want to know you. If you are looking, find me.” Then further down she says, “I wrote you a letter that was supposed to be given to your adopted parents, but who knows if it was given to them. I’ve never kept you a secret, and anyone who knows me knows about you. I hope to meet you one day. I hope to be as much a part of your life as you will allow. I love you.” So I actually went ahead and responded to her, because as somebody in her birth daughter’s position, I think [that] for somebody who sounds so distaught over it – and no blame there – that maybe she could use a little perspective from somebody in our position. I told her, “I’m about two-and-a-half weeks away from being 39. Both of my wonderful adopted parents have passed away recently – dad four years ago, and mom just this past September. I remember thinking years ago that I would feel guilty for searching for my birth parents, because I didn’t want my adopted ones to believe that I was doing it to replace them, or because they weren’t good enough. But I remember one of the last things my mom said to me before she passed away – and keep in mind [that] she had kidney failure and faded into a coma before passing a few days later – was that she was sorry that she didn’t know more about who my birth parents were – or who my birth mother, in particular, was. But I somehow feel that it’s more respectful to them that I waited to embark on this search for my birth parents until now. At one point I’d made peace with not knowing. But now that I’ve got a little boy of my own I feel like I need to do it. I’ve got a non-identifying letter, that was given over to my adopted parents with me at the time of the adoption, as well as a stack of children’s books, a greeting card congratulating my parents on their new baby, and a ring that she wanted me to wear when I got older. Just because they are 40 I don’t think you should convince yourself that they don’t think about you, or that they’re not maybe trying to find you. I just began my search four days ago, and I’ve got some tasks ahead before I can even get a first wave of any useful information. If I can find her I just hope that my birth mother is as anxious to hear from me as you are of your daughter.” So there it is. As I continue on my search I’m learning a lot about other people, and I’m also finding that my story is pretty cut-and-dry, compared to a lot of the ones I’m seeing. For example, I’m finding a lot of people who aren’t adopted, but are doing DNA tests for trying to do family trees, or find out about their ethnic backgrounds a little bit deeper – and in my detail – and in the process they’re uncovering some pretty ugly family secrets. I can think of one instance where a brother and a sister both did a DNA test, and when the taste came back the brother only had half of the people connected to him as the sister did to her, but also had an entire list of people that they’d never heard of before. So essentially – for a lack of a better way to put it – it seems as though the mother in the situation may have been unfiathful. This is a huge secret that can just be blown wide open in a family, and [I have] to admit I’m grateful that that’s not something I’m worried about. I’m not connected to anybody, so everyone I find is going to be a surprise. My hope is that I’m not the secret. On the other hand, I need to go by what I originally said, which was, ‘No matter what the outcome, I want to do this.’ I can be tactful about it, [and] respectful. I get it. [Whenever] I talk about my letter – and I’ll read it, like I’ve said before; I’ll save that for another episode as well. I think you’ll find, like I did, that it seems that my birth parents were probably pretty young, [and] they weren’t ready. I get it. You know, adoption is a fantastic option. It beats the alternative. If you’re not going to keep a kid it beats the alternative. Like I said in the last episode, I’m grateful for the life I’ve had. I don’t know what it would have been had I not been adopted, so I’m not going to speculate, but I certainly have no complaints about the upbringing I got. By as I said, I think that’ll probably do it for this episode, and I’ll go ahead and kind of leave things where thy are right now. In the next episode I think I’d like to discuss the experience of making that first contact – doing the research, and ultimately how I came to the conclusion – before even making that contact – that I was probably not on the right trail. In the meantime, thank you again to all of my listeners. I enjoy recording these episodes and releasing them, and your feedback, of course, is important to me. In fact, I’ve created a new email address for you to send questions to if you want. That email address is : PushingUpstreamPodcast.Gmail.com. For those of you listeners out there who are on your own journeys, don’t give up. Never stop searching, no matter how discouraged you get, because ultimately you don’t know if the people you’re looking for are waiting to be found. But for now, that’s it for this episode. I hope you’ll join me in the next episode, and of course, thanks again for listening. We’ll see you next time…

 

[OUTRO MUSIC]

 

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

computer and books for transcription research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Progress – Research Findings, Tasks and Skills Development

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Transcribing!
freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com

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Day 6 : Dealing With Rejection in the Online Transcription Industry

no entry

In the past six days I’ve made some good progress towards the longer term goal of building a steady flow of online transcription work while simultaneously building my competency and skills so that I can accept and complete files audio files with confidence and efficiency, and ultimately make an adequate amount of income to survive, maintain this self-training, and eventually build a progressively larger amount of work (both in terms of quantity AND quality) and income. Actually, I don’t really need that much income during this beginning period, as I live a relatively spartan lifestyle, and so my living expenses are basic due to my current living location.

Although I haven’t written so much about my personal life up to this point, I think it is now a good time to reveal that I have lived in the “developing world” for the past decade. In my specific situation, trying to survive in the United States (the country where I was born) became too difficult. Many of the young people in my generation graduated university only to find themselves hopelessly drowning in student loan debt, with dwindling prospects for attaining any sort of long term, gainful employment in the field they had attained their degree in. The economies of the “developed” countries have taken a significant turn for the worse in the past two decades, and I was smart (and lucky) enough to realize that things were only going to get worse. Although my predictions have now been vindicated, there is a silver lining here. The development of the internet has created two major forces which are counterbalancing the implosion of the traditional economy. These are telecommuting and freelancing, in combination with various others.  We are now in an age where it is possible to work in a location independent manner (a.k.a. “digital nomadism”) if you are able to attain an adequate number of, and degree of, work skills which can be performed with a proper laptop computer and internet (especially including wifi) connection. I will discuss this issue in much more detail into the future.

Getting back to my personal story, over several years during my 20s, after drifting around the Unites States both to explore and try to find a place to settle and build a business, I began gradually exploring several developing countries in Asia. I started as a traveler, then made the transition into English teaching for several month periods, and when that got to be too stressful I transitioned into freelance photojournalism, then web journalism/blogging, editing, and am now finally ready to take the next step into the exciting field of transcription. I will write more about myself in future posts, but for now this is good, and relevant, information to know in relation to the topic being discussed at this point. The most important point is that my living costs are quite low (it is currently possible to survive on~$600 USD per month) and so I have the flexibility to work for cheap for a while as I spend the time and energy gaining transcribing experience and building a network of fellow transcriptionists and prospective clientele. This is an advantage that many newbies in the “developed world” do NOT generally have, primarily due to the high, and increasing, cost of living. I therefore want to take full advantage of my situation to get up and running as quickly (yet methodically) as possible. It took a LOT of sacrifice to leave my country of origin, and I intend to be successful at achieving the ability to make a proper living which I was not able to in the US. The alternative is to return there, where the situation is now drastically WORSE, for a multitude of reasons, and so I am taking this effort very seriously, and have created this blog to assist future newbies to the industry to minimize the time and energy they need to spend to attain steady progress in a short time.

At this point, I have now built a daily workflow consisting of : evaluating various audio files as they appear on the “available jobs” board of the online system of the company I work for. By evaluating different audio files I get a better sense of the characteristics of the different kinds of projects that are out there. In addition, since I am also actively working on some files at the same time, I am getting to know what I am capable of through experience. Plus, I am building my skills through self-study using various free resources (ex. blogs, forums, etc.). Finally, yesterday I began adding another major component to the mix. That is, evaluating new prospective online transcription companies (one or two per day) and applying to those which fit my desired criteria. I completed one application yesterday (to the Rev.com company) and hope to find and apply to another quality company today.

Now, at this point let me say that I have some bad news and some good news. I’ll start with the bad news, which isn’t really SUPER-bad, but just a bit frustrating – another “speed bump” on the road of life – but at the same time, a situation with which I will attempt to turn “lemons into lemonade”.

I indeed received a sooner-than-expected response email from Rev.com this morning. The email said exactly this :

Dear Mr. X,

Thank you for applying for the transcriptionist position with Rev. We have rigorous minimum standards and unfortunately your application did not meet those.

Please do not contact Rev regarding this decision, as we are unable to further elaborate on our reasons.

Again, thank you for your interest in working with Rev. You may re-apply in six months.

Regards,

Rev Recruiting

Now, it wasn’t so much the fact that I had invested quite a bit of time and energy in completing the application (including the significant writing component and the two transcriptions) – and thought that I did both quite well – that frustrated me upon receiving this email. It wasn’t even so much the fact that they didn’t give a reason for rejecting my application.

What WAS most frustrating about this rejection was the fact that they made ZERO effort to attempt to provide me with any sort of constructive information, or anything which would indicate that they valued my existence in any way (for example, as a potential FUTURE transcriber, a potential future CUSTOMER, etc.). They basically just slammed the virtual door shut in my face and said “Good luck.”

Now, as an experienced online marketer I would say that this is a significant loss on the part of the Rev company, in the sense that they are not taking advantage of the potential benefits of their online presence. So as not to sound like I’m being cynical simply because my application was rejected, let me elaborate on what I am talking about AND suggest some constructive alternatives to the strategy by which the Rev company currently rejects applicants.

First, we need to consider that many of the people who complete Rev’s transcriptionist application are inexperienced “newbies” who are in search of opportunities to build their skills and obtain new information about the industry. In addition, they have just spent an hour (or MORE) of their valuable time and effort writing and transcribing only to get a curt email saying “No thanks. Good luck”. If these applications have some errors (assuming that some applicants’ errors are more or less severe than others) can you really make such firm judgement of them based on an essay and two short transcriptions? After all, they are probably nervous, it may be their first transcription test, etc. Plus, if you don’t give them any kind of feedback on the reasons why their application was rejected then they won’t be able to address and work on those issues so that they can perform better on future transcription application tests, ESPECIALLY in the early phase where they may not be aware of some of the quality self-study resources available online. The last thing a “lost” newbie needs is to spend valuable time on an application, and end up feeling inadequate and confused.

The issue is actually broader than this, because it is well known in the online marketing industry that “Content Is King”. That is, information which HELPS people and is given away FREELY is the CURRENCY of the online world. It is for this very reason that I have (and WILL) spend COUNTLESS hours developing this blog. It is NOT an effort driven by the desire for self gain, but for the purpose of HELPING people, by providing them with free and actionable information. THIS is the true nature of proper human relations, and one which has been SADLY corrupted for far too long. The internet has now provided a platform for the REVIVAL of this more evolved form of human evolution.

By Rev leaving rejected applicants “hanging” the company is missing out on opportunities to contribute their expertise to the wider web community and raise the bar for the whole industry. I will elaborate on this by going back to my original review of the company, which I wrote about in the last post (Day 5 : Evaluating Online Transcription Companies).

In that post I talked about how Rev’s blog was not really designed to its fullest potential. The main blog page is merely a text link page, the categories are oddly/erratically organized, the blog post subjects are random in topic and they a very small handful of posts related to transcription. Now think about the potential of the Rev bloggers writing up some high-quality and regular posts about different aspects of the transcription industry (ex. future trends, the role of a company like Rev in the context of the whole industry, analysis of different aspects of the transcription industry, resources for aspiring transcriptionists, etc.). This kind of content is something that rejected applicants (like myself) could really benefit from. Especially since they stated very clearly that I can re-apply in six months, then having some blog articles to read over the next few weeks and months would allow me to get to know more about the company, keep them on my radar, and thus be in a better, more informed position if/when I re-apply. To illustrate this clearly I will compare Rev’s approach to another company (later in this post) which DOES implement this kind of proper web site interaction with the general public, and as you will see the result of this is VERY beneficial to the company, the industry, AND the general online (and offline) public.

For now, I will just say that by Rev making no effort to stay connected with the rejected applicant OR give them a quick little push forward they are breaking a cardinal rule of the new information age – in which “CONTENT (and CONNECTIONS) is king.” – and actually missing out on potential opportunities which will benefit their company’s reputation and profit margin, while at the same time creating a group of disgruntled rejected applicants who have naturally gone right on ahead and voiced this resentment on various popular transcription industry forums. This, of course, is bad publicity – but of the kind which could easily be AVOIDED. My point here is that by a simple change in marketing strategy (with some basic DIPLOMACY thrown in) Rev could easily provide their rejected applicants with some helpful guidance (perhaps directing them to their blog, or some other helpful, free resources for beginning transcriptionists) instead of just issuing a cold email which tends to make the applicant feel inadequate and bitter for wasting their valuable time and energy,  likely during a period of unemployment, where are overly stressed and struggling financially.

*** Disclaimer : As I stated previously on this blog, any critique I make of the online transcription companies is intended ONLY as CONSTRUCTIVE criticism based on my own personal experience, both in dealing with these companies AND as an experienced online marketer. My comments are intended to HELP and offer constructive suggestions. In addition, if any representatives of these companies wish to contact me and discuss the issue further I am MORE than happy to offer additional constructive suggestions/consultation free of charge. My main goal is always to make the internet a BETTER place for everyone, as I believe that this technology is the most powerful innovation in recorded history, and which has the power to dramatically transform the world and the quality of life of the majority of the people who inhabit this planet (and perhaps other planets) into the future – ESPECIALLY the vast number of those people who live in abject poverty throughout the less developed countries of the world.

I welcome your feedback, and can be reached for further discussion at any time via email at :

TranscriptJunky@gmail.com

or

https://twitter.com/TranscriptJunky

Okay. That being said, even though the application to Rev was not successful in the sense of actually being accepted into their system and thus being able to benefit from their alleged high-quality training program and member support system, the process HAS been beneficial in that I was able to leanr some valuable information by analyzing their web presence and see a good example of how one of the more tech-savvy companies is utilizing the power of internet technology to streamline their operation and make the application process straightforward for applicants.

Being now a bit battle-hardened – and thus even more determined to succeed – I decided to turn my research again to the online community for a good lead on the next online transcription company I should evaluate and possible apply to. This is another major benefit of the transcription forums. They provide you with the REAL information you need (through consensus) to minimize wasted time and energy on the lower quality companies). A few members of the Transcription Haven forum had given positive reviews of the TranscribeMe company. At first, I was hesitant to follow up on this company primarily because the reviews generally described that the audio transcription files are very short (a maximum of one minute for the transcription audio files). I couldn’t understand how this would be feasible to most people. In my opinion, this eliminates one of the most important motivating factors in transcription, which is to learn some information from the files you are transcribing. This, of course, would be difficult if the files are only one-minute long. However, it turns out that my confusing (while PARTIALLY valid) was due mainly to the fact that I did not more fully understand the system by which this company operated. That is, it uses global CROWDSOURCING to break the longer files into multiple one-minute sections, which enables the small sections to be transcribed faster, and then reassembles them. You can also work your way up the “QA” (Quality Assurance) level, at which point you are then able to work on the full audio files (resulting from to reassembled collection of one-minute segments).

In addition, I was discovering that the few cautious attempts I had made at transcribing the rather long (usually over 30 minutes) audio files made available by the first (current) transcription company I am freelancing for were quite a bit overwhelming in general. I was able to get them done, but felt that I just didn’t have the skill level necessary to do so in a relatively comfortable, or timely manner. Therefore, I had been working mainly on the editing projects at the current company and only taking on the shortest and easiest transcriptions. I was starting to think that being able to work on smaller files of only a few minutes in maximum length may be just what I needed as a stepping stone to more advanced work. It was also brought to my attention through the forums that TranscribeMe provides a well designed training program that you progress through as PART OF the application process. In other words, they are providing you with some VALUABLE free training, which helps you build confidence and experience, EVEN IF, you are rejected for some reason. I went on my intuition and the information in the reviews, and it turns out that deciding to pursue TranscribeMe was INDEED a good decision, at least for a next few months, and as the intended stepping stone.

In accordance with the research and evaluation strategy I have developed and documented on this blog so far, I will proceed through the standard steps of : (1) evaluating the web presence of the company, and then (2) proceeding through the application process if the evaluation proves appropriate.

As soon as you arrive at the main page of TranscribeMe.com you can tell that this company is not messing around. The design of the web site is top-notch, including an inviting color scheme, scrolling graphic article links, a clear link to their blog right at the top and bottom of the page, testimonials, accessible link to the section for transcribers, clear information to their star transcription app product, and more). You get the sense that they have put a lot of time and effort in presenting as much information of value to ALL of the many and different kinds of visitors who arrive at the site, and doing so in a manner which is easy for the visitor to find the information they need.

At this point I am quite a bit overwhelmed by the sheer AMOUNT of information on this site and so I decide to follow my visual instinct and click on the scrolling article with the pretty picture of their free mobile transcription app. The app page opens to reveal an excellent, comprehensive run-down on their very valuable (especially for the price – FREE) mobile app which allows the user to record audio, upload it to the TranscribeMe site and order a transcription right through their smartphone. On the page they have a few good static pictures of the app and description on how to use it. The level of streamlining (both in terms of technology and marketing) which they have achieved is quite commendable.

After being highly impressed by their mobile transcription app I decided to head over to the blog to see what other kind of valuable information the savvy marketing people at TranscribeMe were putting out. I figured that before even attempting to focus on their transcription work opportunities I would first evaluate the quantity and quality of free information they have put out for the benefit of the web community. In this way we can make a decent assessment of where their business philosophy and mission are at, and do so by evaluating the ACTUAL actions they have taken in putting content out for public consumption. After all, as the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.”

So I head right over to the TranscribeMe blog which is clearly and easily accessible via the “blog” menu link clearly positioned right at the top of the page. Upon opening the main blog page I am grateful see a proper and very professionally executed blog (with all of the standard blog formatting that people are accustomed to (as opposed to the less polished/functional “text-only” main blog page at the Rev site). They also have on display their email newsletter sign-up form and Twitter and Facebook profile links clearly and immediately on the right side of the page. In other words they have taken great effort to make be user-friendly and attempt to connect with people who constitute their various target markets (transcription customers, transcribers, etc.)

With just a quick browse through the ten blog posts on the first page it is clear that the people at TranscribeMe are making a SERIOUS effort to cater to the information needs of EVERY segment of their overall market. A few of the posts on that first page which immediately catch my interest are :

1. TranscribeMe : Creating Jobs For Unlikely Candidates

2. How is TranscribeMe Different From Other Freelance Job Sites?

and

3. TranscribeMe Represents A Work Platform For The Future

While the post titles are interesting enough, I decide to click through to read the third article and get a feel for the quality of information they are putting out. As expected, the article is very well executed. In a clearly written and concise 412-word article they describe how TranscribeMe’s revolutionary, high tech micro-tasking system allows transcription jobs to be most efficiently completed through breaking each job up into manageable sections and distributing them to a massive global “crowd” (a.k.a. “crowdsourcing”) of experienced transcriptionists. In the end, this process produces the most time and cost effective solution to transcription and benefits all parties involved – the customer, the transcribers and the company itself. The post also talks about the multitude of work and continuing education training opportunities available to transcribers who work for the company, as well as their very helpful Yammer internal social media communication platform which provides highly efficient means of communicating and collaborating with the thousands of other workers in the organization, who are distributed throughout the world.

By the time I finish reading this article I feel like I have gained some excellent and practical knowledge about the company, the whole industry, the overall opportunity which TranscribeMe can offer me as a “newbie” transcriptionist, and the sense that collaborating with this company will provide significant benefits for personal growth and career development into the future, for however long it is feasible.

This is an excellent example of what a high quality blog presence look like. They provide valuable information to their target reader. After reading this article I am highly motivated to read MORE of there articles, and I will do exactly that (likely one post per day) in the coming days. In addition, if I decide to follow through with their online freelance transcription application I will have more than enough of their blog content to work through BOTH while I wait for the results of the test AND/OR if I my application should be rejected I will still be able to continue benefiting from the information they put out regularly on the blog.

Also, considering that they have OTHER major products BESIDES their transcription service (for example, their mobile app) it would only make sense that TranscribeMe would have it in their interest to maintain the connection with ANYONE who comes to the site (whether it be prospective transcribers, potential app/transcription customers, etc.) as – like in my personal case – many people likely first come to the TranscribeMe web site UNAWARE of the free mobile app they offer, and thus by discovering the information on the app they are transformed into potential transcribers AND customers. It’s a win-win situation. This is a good example of professional level marketing strategy, and even if I don’t get the chance to work as a transcriptionist for TranscribeMe they have already earned my respect for their professional online marketing savvy, and will certainly have me as a customer who will use their mobile transcription app into the future if that ever becomes necessary.

I think it is best to let the reader absorb the girth of information presented in this post by concluding here. In the next post I plan to continue my evaluation of the TranscribeMe site, focusing on the freelance transcription section of the site and (likely) moving through the application process. For now I suggest the reader have a look around their site, browse the blog and read a few posts to get a feel for their operation.