Free Transcript Project #8

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Source video
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Title : “Bitcoins & Gravy” podcast
Episode 17 : “Solar Power & World’s Smallest Computer

URL : http://youtu.be/qFplul7dbX8

Organization         : “Bitcoins & Gravy” (podcast)

Web Site
http://bitcoinsandgravy.com
https://letstalkbitcoin.com/blog/post/bitcoins-gravy-17-solar-power-worlds-smallest-computer

YouTube Channel

http://bit.ly/1urBhr0

Co-host #1               :  John Barret
Contact                     :  howdy@bitcoinsandgravy.com

Co-host #2               :  Lij Shaw
Contact                     :  http://www.thetoyboxstudio.com/

Guest #1                   : Nissan Bahar
Web Site                   : http://keepod.org/

Guest #2                   : Nick Gogerty
Contact                      : LinkedIn Profile : Nick Gogerty
Web Site                    : http://www.solarcoin.org

Announcer                 : Adam B. Levine (Founder of the “Let’s Talk BItcoin” network)
Contact                      : adam@letstalk bitcoin.com
web site                      : http://ww.letstalkbitcoin.com

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Transcript
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Announcer (Adam B. Levine) : This program is intended for informational and educational purposes only. All views and opinions expressed are the views and opinions of the individuals and sponsors presenting them, and not the LTB network. Enjoy the show.

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John Barret (Co-host 1) : Welcome to “Bitcoins and Gravy”, episode 17.

Lij Shaw (Co-host 2) : On http://www.bitcoinaverage.com, Bitcoins are trading at $0.49 per millibit. That’s $490 per Bitcoin, a significant increase this week over the last few weeks, where Bitcoin was hovering in the lower 400s to mid-400s. Sounds like Bitcoin may have been listening to our last podcast – Episode 16 – talking about Greek coffee, finding the right dire, and a proper rise for Bitcoin.

John Barret : Mmmm… Mmmmm… Mmmmm. Now that’s gravy.

[intro music]

John : Welcome to “Bitcoins and Gravy”, and thanks for joining us today as we podcast from East Nashville, Tennessee. I’m John Barret.

Liz : And I’m Lij Shaw.

John  : We’re two Bitcoin enthusiasts who love to talk about Bitcoins.

Liz : And share what we learn with you, the listener. Welcome to “Bitcoins and Gravy” and thanks for listening.

[end of intro and music]

On today’s show Lij and I travel to Tel Aviv, Isreal to speak with Nissan Bahar. Nissan is one of the core developers of “Keepod” – a simple and inexpensive technology that may be able to help to bridge the digital divide that we  see in the world today. Together we discover that there are over 5 billion people – that’s 2/3 of the world’s population – who still don’t have access to a computer or a smartphone. Hey people, that’s a lot of people!

Lij : We also continue our “To The Sun” series, as we talk with SolarCoin’s very own Nick Gogerty – the founder of SolarCoin. Nick wrote the whitepaper on SolarCoin, and he’s just the guy we’ve been waiting to talk with to get the final details on the SolarCoin project, and what we can expect to see in the years ahead. The future definitely looks bright for SolarCoin, and for solar energy. You know, maybe it really is time we started paying more attention to that massive, flaming ball of nuclear energy in the sky. After all, it really is our very own, naturally occurring nuclear power plant.  Oh yeah, but without the problems like nuclear waste and Fukushima-style meltdowns.

[music]

John : Today Lij and I are thrilled to be speaking with a gentleman in Tel Aviv Isreal, Nissan Bahar.

Lij : Hey Nissan. Welcome to the show. Welcome to “Bitcoins and Gravy”.

John : Welcome to the show Nissan.

Nissan : Thank you. Thank you for having me here.

John : Nissan is one of the core developers of “Keepod” – a simple and inexpensive technology which may be able to bridge the digital divide that we see in the world today.  Nissan, can you tell us – first of all – all little bit about yourself and then tell us about Keepod.

Nissan : Yeah, sure. So I was born in Isreal, and living in Italy actually in the last 10 years or so, where I met my business partner, Franky – who is the co-founder of Keepod. I’m coming from a background in technology – mainly information security. I’ve been doing security for many large enterprises : banks, telecoms, energy companies, and so – in Europe. We started with Keepod a few years ago as a security product, which was targeting that market. Then about a year ago we decided that it was time to do something better with the technology that we developed, and with the knowledge that we gathered – and started what you see today as the Keepod project.

Lij : Wow, interesting. So it started out as a security project, and it evolved into this miniature computer that’s going to save the world and bring computing power to the other 5 billion people in the world.

John : We hope so. Yeah.

Nisan : Well, yeah.

Lij : So tell us what Keepod is now, because it’s pretty fascinating.

Nissan : So Keepod is a project, first of all. It’s not just the product, because it’s an ecosystem of tools, conditions and organizations that are making this happen. First of all we have the actual operating system. Keepod is an operating system which was designed to jump between one computer to another. We are not inventing here anything new, because “OS-on-a-stick” is something that geeks and hackers have been using for many years now. What we are doing here is really targeting it as the main system of the user – which is not something that is being done today. So we decided to go with Android, which is the most common operating system today, in the world. So we are running Android 4.4 Kit-kat on your desktop. And it is beautiful. So imagine having “What’s App” and your favorite applications on the big screen. It’s very lightweight. It’s very powerful. We’ve reduced the footprint of the system to something like 300 MB, which is really tiny for a desktop OS. And it is very intuitive. So where we are going – where people don’t have access to computers – they find themselves with something more familiar, because there are markets, like India – where you have 94% penetration of mobile, and over 50% of which is smartphone. So they find something that is familiar to them – very intuitive. And people who don’t know it at all, the learning curve is very fast. The biggest and best example I have is the project we just did in Nairobi. We went to three schools there, and kids who were 9 to 13 years old – something like that, who never saw a computer and never worked on a computer – after two hours they were sending us emails.

Lij : Wow!

John : So, Nisan, how did you decide to go to Nairobi? And can you tell us a little bit about the “Why Not Academy“? I’m sure there are many acadamies like that in the world, but why Nairobi? And what city were you in there?

Nissan : Yeah, so we went to Mathare, which is one of the largest slums in Africa. It’s the second largest slum in Nairobi, after Kibera. It’s home for 500 thousand people who live in incredible conditions. We were looking for a first project, and our interest was to go and do it in a place where the conditions would be difficult for implementation – where we were going to find ourselves in an environment which was not so “tech ready” – like we might have in other areas. From the other end, it is a perfect place for starting people, because the language barrier is not so big, because they speak English there – quite good. And there is connectivity. We can get 3G access in Nairobi.

We went there an we met the guys there at “LiveInSlums” – it’s an NGO that works in slums around the world. They work in Brazil. They work in Cairo – if I’m not mistaken. They work in Nairobi. And they presented to us the “Why Not Academy“. It is a school that they have built in Mathare. They support this school. It’s a “street school”. It’s one of many. Kids there don’t have the means even to go to the public schools. And those street schools – that are mainly supported by charity – are the only thing the kids have.

John : The “Why Not Academy” is a new school, is that right?

Nissan : Yeah, it is a new school. The guys from “Liven Slums” built it. They practically built it, really. They sent a group of people. The designed it. They build the school, the facilities. They built a vegetable garden – which is feeding the school – inside the slum. It’s an incredible agricultural project. They hooked it to the power – although it’s not really legal, the power – there is power. Also it is operating, and it s a really nice initiative. And when we heard about it we felt that Keepod might be a good fit, and that we could bring — with access to information in the end, which is what Keepod is all about – education might be empowered there. And also, not only that, that school is actually a base for other projects like the organic agriculture, which require information and access to techniques. Also an HIV prevention initiative, human rights initiatives, and so on. They are all gathered in that place. So it is all little projects that require access to information, to technology, and to computers, for different reasons.

John : Wow! How did you first hear about that.

Nissan : We met in Milan. “LiveInSlums” is an Italian NGO. So we met with the NGO looking for one of their projects to see if it is interesting. They told us about Mathare, and we met some members of the community that were brought to Milan by the “LiveInSlums” team, and we really fell in love with the place – the people and the stories. And when we went there it was quite an incredible thing. So, Nairobi is not the safest place in the world, you know? But in the slum, we felt really calm. People were expecting for this. People really embraced us. We went inside the slum and lived with them for more than a week there – just setting up the place : the hub, the school, the connectivity and everything. And we never felt so secure. And the reaction and the hunger there is for these kinds of technologies is incredible.

The more amazing thing is is that there are connected to the world in terms that they know there is Facebook, they know there is Google, they know there is Apple, and so on. If you go outside of Mathare and just go to the highway, you see billboards for the new “MacBook Air” that it looks like you are traveling in California. They don’t have access to it, but they are absolutely interested in it. So the moment we presented it the first thing that they started doing was actually creating an email account on Gmail, or a Facebook account, or stuff like that.

Lij : Wow! That’s pretty fascinating. So I just want to jump back for a moment and clarify a little further. We’re talking about an operating system for Android on a USB stick that is called “Keepod”, that can be given to people –  since USB sticks are extremely afforable and much easier to get to people who can’t afford something like a “MacBook Air” in Nairobi. So this system can recycle and reuse older computers, right? Is that the way this works? You can take an old PC laptop, or an old Macintosh that somebody else has discarded, and use this system with the USB stick to bring it back to life and use Android on it?

Nissan : What we do here is we break a few paradigms, that breaking them will allow bridging the digital divide, in our opinion. The first one is we don’t think that it is sustainable or possible to bring a laptop per person in the world.

Lij : Sure.

Nissan : Okay? That’s just impossible. It’s not scalable. It’s not sustainable. There’s not enough material in the world for that. Okay? So this is the first thing. In order to bring personal computing to everyone we can use shared computers wisely. And in order to do that we separate the operating system from the host. So the operating system is not sitting inside the hard drive, but it’s sitting on a thumb drive. By doing that we actually are able to guarantee all kinds of things – especially better privacy, better security, avoiding malfunctions misconfiguration of the host, or virus spread on the old system – and so on and so on. And the computers live longer. Another thing that we do is, we say that instead of trying to manufacture cheap computers – which is what everyone is trying to do : cheap laptops, cheap tablets, and so on – they will never be cheap enough. Even $50 is too much. And in a world where only in the United States there are 85,000 computers thrown away each single day.

John : Wow!

Nissan : We can find computers. We can bring them to a new home. And yes, if they are old computers I can use Keepod in a very smart way, because it is going to be a shared computer with no hard drive, with no host operating system. You just go there, plug in, and “Boom!” Android is very slim. It doesn’t require a lot of power. It doesn’t require resources. When I remove the Keepod the next user can go there and have his own private operating system – his own private computing environment. We compare ourselves a little bit to public transportation. Think about it. It’s like everybody would like to have a nice car. Not everybody can afford it. So you hop on a bus. It’s not as shiny. Sometimes the air conditioner is not working, but it gets you to work, right?

John : Yeah. That’s a good analogy.

Nissan : So, we’re doing the same thing here. The same thing. But we do it at the street level.  We do it in a way that the distribution model that we have chosen, and the approach to it is going to work from one hand – yes – through organizations, through people who are active in the field, and so on. But we are also going to enable this to have direct access.  People will be able to download the operation system for free. People will be able to create grassroots projects – which is what we are all about. Since we have started we are saying to people, “Okay. I am traveling next month to Kenya. I want to bring with me my two old laptops and – I don’t know – 20 devices, or 40 devices. Let me know where they are needed.”

John : That’s really cool.

Lij : Yeah, it’s fascinating. I think the first thing that was a little hard for me to understand was the concept of, “How do you get a laptop to live on a USB stick?” But the brilliant thing about what you are doing is that you don’t need to use all of the massive processing power of the laptop. By using the Android system it’s very simple. It’s as simple as what I am used to on my phone, which is already super capable and powerful.

John : Let me ask you, Nissan. Are they taking the hard drives out of these used laptops first? Is that the first thing, to just get the hard drive out of there?

Nissan : Yeah, so we prefer that the laptop will arrive without a hard drive. We sat with local technicians — like in Mathare we did exactly that. So we get the computers, and some of the computers still have hard drives. He provides services to the school. He goes and fixes what is not working, and so on. He removes the hard drives. He can keep them, and he can sell them. And actually it is a pretty good deal for these guys. So he can get up to $60 or $70  for a hard drive there, which is quite a lot for Mathare.

Lij : Also, you mentioned security – and that’s how you got into this. Does this actually increase your security and protection from viruses and things of that nature – from the internet – by not having a hard drive, and just using this Android operating system?

Nissan : Yup. First of all, if the user got infected by malware or a virus, it doesn’t affect the next users. Okay? Because, think about it, you use the computer – the operating system – and then you go out and there is nothing on the host. The next user is booting his own operating system, which is completely separated.

John : So that person goes away with their Keepod that has the virus on it, and if they knew that they could just get another Keepod. Is that right?

Nissan : Yeah. They can just reset it – flash it – and “Boom!”

John : Is there a  way to fix, or to get rid of a virus that gets onto somebody’s Keepod so that they don’t have to erase it and all of their information is gone as well.

Nisan : One way – and it’s actually a prevention way, which is ideal – is just go to the app store, download an anti-virus software and then you are covered there. If not, you can always reset the device and just restore to the manufacturer settings, and you get to OS fresh and new. Then you restore your data and you’re good to go.  So this is one thing.  The second thing – which I think is even more important – is that you are not leaving any footprint of your activity on the computer that you used. Data is not linking from one computer to another. And – if you think about education and shared computer environments – I actually got this comment from the United States, and it was so true. I was speaking with one school, and they were saying, “This is ideal for us, because kids always go to the library or to the computer class, and they log in to Facebook but they don’t log out. And if another kid goes to that computer, he can ruin your social life in five minutes”.

Lij : [laughter] Oh man.

John : Sad but true.

Lij : So it’s cool what you say in your analogy about footprints. It reminds me of when you go visit a national park and they say, “Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.” But with Keepod you can take just about anything you want and not even leave footprints behind.  That’s pretty cool.

John : Nice. That is cool, man. That;s great.

Lij : What are some of the limitations as far as which computers this might work on, or might not work on.  Is this going t o work on just about anything?

Nissan : We’re targeting desktops, first of all. So at this moment we are not working with or targeting tablets, and obviously smartphones. That is real-time ability, and we categorize it as — actually there is a good balance between the two if you want to discuss this. Now we’re targeting [X86?] systems, but we prefer not older than 2006 computers. [This is] because we don’t want to get, first of all, junk – because there is no sense in bringing in something that won’t work properly. And because of – in terms of computing power – any news web site, or whatever, will require some computing power, right? And if the computer is too old it’s just not up to the latest web sites and web apps. So we need to have 1 GB of RAM. We want to have at least a first generation of Dual Core. This means 2006.

Lij : I was going to say, “Yeah. Whew! My laptop is just going to make the cut.” I think I’m still running a 2007 MacBook.

John : Oh man. So, as far as the United States – let’s take Nashville, or any other city that has public schools, and that has, let’s say, maybe not the best educational system set up with the US public schools. My friend works in the public school system in the south side of Chicago, and I would guess that the students there are less interested in learning than some of the students you met there in Nairobi. So there are lot’s of problems in the public schools in the south side of Chicago, as there are in other cities in the U.S. Do you have plans to bring Keepod to these cities. Are there organizations that are interested in Keepod now in the U.S.?

Nissan : It’s actually happening right now. The cool thing about it is that in the last ten days , since there was a major story in the BBC about us, and then “Boom!”, things started to roll really quickly. We got a lot of requests from the United States. Both from the more charity side, and on the other, from the education side. The U.S. is very interesting for us. I don’t know if you know this, but 20% of the U.S. population don’t have access to computers at this moment.

John : I believe that.

Lij : Yeah, I believe that too. I work in the public school system here in Nashville, and I’ve worked with many kids who don’t have access to computers – other than at school itself.

Nisan : So, first of all, yeah. So definitely the United States is currently a target for Keepod. The idea is that we don’t require – and we don’t need – distributors, or official channels in order to move. What we have created is, from one end, the possibility to do a grassroots project, So, anyone can decide to start a Keepod project. And in the United States this is happening. We’ve got people who have started to order devices. They get our computers. If they need our assistance to get refurbished computers, we help them – if it’s a school or if it’s a community center, and so on. The second that we did is we started the program – now it’s in beta, and we are getting applications at this moment – for what we call a “Keepod Point”. A “Keepod Point” means that anyone – really anyone – who has the space to do this, can be a Keepod reseller. What does it mean? That you can get Keepod and sell them to your local community. The condition is that you have at least two computers that are available for public access. Okay? So you can be a little coffee shop, you can be a bar, you can be community center, you can be anything. This is starting to get really popular. We’ve got a lot of requeats from the United States, actually, – form the different states. So we are working on both directions. From one hand helping people and organizations who want to do this as a project, and from the other end people who take the initiative and want to create their own Keepod point and enable access to information.

John : So hey, is there any way that we can get you and Franky to come here to the United States, and maybe we can all take a trip up to Chicago and do one of our shows from there?

Nisan : We would love that?

John : Or right here in Nashville, right? We could do a show right here in Nashville.

Nisan : I’ve never been in Nashville. I play guitar, and this is one of the places I want to go.

John : Hell yeah. You know, Lij has the Toybox Studio. This is perfect. You can come here and record. And, you know, this board that he has here is the same board that recorded “Hotel California”. I don’t know if that, Nissan.

Nisan : Are you serious?

Lij : Yeah, it’s the very same one. It makes sense to me that you would be a musician. When I first heard about Keepod I thought it was some sort of MIDI control or a keypad. Then I learned that it was just to help people get smarted and connect around the world.

Nissan : We are really connected to the music world. It is one of the things, if you look at how we move and how we do things, we are working as a startup. But the mood there, is really, really a lot about the artistic side. Not only [me], but my business partner is actually a filmmaker, Franky. He’s not coming from technology. This guy did videos with Red Bull and Barton snowboards in the last 10 years, doing extreme sports.

John : Oh wow. You know, when I watched the BBC special it looked like you guys were having a lot of fun and I enjoyed that so much. I got really excited when I first heard about Keepod, and I started combing the internet for more information about it. That’s when I landed on a Reddit page,  and they were discussing Keepod. One of the posters there – one of the people who wrote in –  wrote that you were considering including a Bitcoin wallet on every Keepod flash drive. So we would love to know that this is true, but at this point it is really just a rumor. And we actually don’t really enough know if you know what much about Bitcoin, or if you have interest in Bitcoin. I am guessing you might.

Nissan : So, it is a very interesting opportunity, because we think – we don’t know yet. Okay, so we are actually studying this – and actually anyone who can contribute to the idea, and to us understanding better – is very welcome to do that.  Because we are trying to understand if this is something that can actually empower the people we are targeting. My feeling is that, yes. And my feeling is that Keepod feels like a very good match for Bitcoin, both from the OS side, and the fact that you have your own hardware is perfect. And the idea that you actually bypass so many limitations that we have today when it comes to money transfer, and getting funds from one place to the other or one person to the other, this might be very interesting. In Nairobi we see something that is called M-pesa. I don’t know if you know that?

Lij and John : Yeah.

Nissan : Yeah, so they do everything with mobile payments. They don’t use cash. And I don’t see any reason why they would not be eager to do that with Bitcoin. So, you know, it’s an opportunity.

Lij : Yeah, I mean in the Bitcoin world, just the concept of having an operating system built into a USB flash drive and using that in order to create wallets and sent Bitcoins back and forth. That’s already in existence. That’s already the smartest way to carefully and securley create your wallets.

John : Right, and I think that anybody using Bitcoin, if they can take their Keepod out of the computer, knowing they’re not leaving any trail at all, what a thrilling thing for new Bitcoin adapters, and really for anybody that uses Bitcoin on their computer. Because that’s a big fear is that after you’re finished doing whatever you’re doing with Bitcoin, or with this site or that site, you’ve left information there, and that computer can be hacked, and then people can steal your private keys for the Bitcoin. So that’s something that seems really important. You know, Andreas Antonopoulis, I remember him talking about how it’s difficult here in the United States to get people interested in Bitcoin because you have to go through this long explanation, plus you’re fighting what the media has to say about money laundering and all these scary things. But when he went to Kenya, and he talked to the people there, as soon as he said, “Oh, it’s like Empesa.” they immediately understood what Bitcoin was. I thought that was so cool, so I think the same thing would be true in Nairobi and other places in Africa.

Nissan :  Since the Reddit discussion started, I’ve gotten requests from India, China, Malaysia, and some other countries saying, “Are you going to do that?” And they really dig this. It looks like they completely understand what is the potential here. You have a strong community there of people who understand what Bitcoin is, so we will be happy to get some advice there, and to see if we can design something smart into this. Because, indeed we don’t know this world very good. We are not experts in Bitcoin, and if the scale that we are looking to do here with Keepod, and for the project to work, we need to design it properly, and make the right choices.

Lij : Well Nissan, let’s use this opportunity here to put a call out to our listeners, and ask them for contributions of any comments or ideas they may have for what will work well for Keepod. We’ll make sure that that gets to you.

John : Calling all listeners. Calling all listeners… Yeah, yeah, absolutely Lij.

Lij : Well Nisan, thank you so much for joining us here on “Bitcoins and Gravy” today. The Keepod project is just really fascinating stuff. And the concept that you might be able to bring this together with Bitcoin just seems to make a whole lot of sense. I know that there’s lot’s to explore, but it sure sounds like it’s a perfect fit.

John : It really does, and just thinking about the disenfranchised people here in the United States – in the cities, and just throughout the country – who really don’t have any access to what a lot of other people do. It just seems like such an important thing that you guys are doing, and it sounds to me like you guys are not doing this to try to make a bunch of money. You guys are doing this to really help, is that right?

Nissan : That’s true.  Everybody looks at me kind of weird when I talk about this. We went to our accountant, and he was like, “Okay. I’m not used to having customers like you. I don’t know how to handle this.”

John : Oh, man.

Lij : It’s a little bit like when Nicola Tesla was talking with J.P. Morgan, and Morgan looked at him and was like, “How are we going to charge for this? I don’t understand?” And he was offering free energy to the world.

John : Oh, man. Well, I think that what you guys are doing is fantastic. And again, watching that BBC video, everybody should watch it. Can you tell our listeners how they can watch that BBC video, and also how they can find you, and how they can get involved.

Nissan : “Keepod BBC” on Google will definitely bring that up. Keepod.org is our url. You can go there. There are a lot of links in the blog. For sure, you will also see the video for the BBC. And that’s it. Guys, it was really a pleasure talking with you, and I really thank you for the kind words, and the ideas that you’re pitching here with the Bitcoin is amazing for us.

John : I would have to say that if you get a chance to listen to Andreas Antonopolous, he’s the Bitcoin guru, really. Just go and listen to some YouTube videos, and listen to him speak. He’s a great educator, he’s a great speaker, and his heart is in the right place. He’s the one that talks about the other 6 1/2 billion other people in the world that don’t have financial systems – or access to financial systems – like we do, who are basically financially disenfranchised. So when you’re talking about helping the 5 1/2 people who don’t have computers and don’t have cell phones, and access to that, he’s talking about pretty much the same thing. So I think you guys could work hand-in-hand. I would love to see, somehow, you and Andreas get together and have a meeting of great minds.

Nisan : That would be amazing. It sounds so in line with what we are doing. I told you, Keepod is about not only the operating system, but about an ecosystem.  Ecosystem means a lot of things around it. It can be from the more simple things we’ve been talking about, like refurbishing computers – how to get the 85,000 computers thown away each day, to Nairobi or whatever. But it’s also what’s surrounding it. And the financial system is a key, key element in this. You know?

Lij : I like it when you say “ecosystem”. It sounded a little bit like “equal system” to me. You’re really, kind of, creating an “equal system” to just bring equality of computing to people around the world.

Nisan : That’s actually the idea.

John : Nice.

Nisan : Guys. This is amazing. So, I’m so happy we connected. Really. Let’s talk soon then. Keep in touch. Really.

John : Thanks Nissan.

Nisan : Cheers. Bye bye.

[music]

John : So Lij, I need to talk about the “Bitcoins and Gravy” contest for a minute. On last week’s show we told our listeners about how they can enter to win 0.25 Bitcoins. That’s one quarter of a Bitcoin, and that calls for a hearty : “Mmmm…Mmmm…Mmmm”. So if you’re interested in entering the contest, here’s what you do. Using your Smartphone, video camera – or any video camera – record yourself singing along, playing along, or dancing along to the song “Ode To Satoshi”. You’re performance can be ten seconds long, or three minutes long.  That’s up to you, the listener, and how creative you feel like being. Once you’ve recorded you’re performance, upload it to YouTube and give it a name. Then email us, or call us on the hotline, and let us know how to find you on YouTube. If you need further technical assistance, just ask. We’re happy to help. That’s right, we’re making a music video for the song, and we want you the listener to be in the video. Since we know that we’re going to get more than just a few submission, Lij and I have decided that we’re going to include at least a half a dozen or more of these performances in the video. So how are we going to decide who the winner is? That’s easy. The winner is the one that Lij and I like the best. So get out your video cameras and start creating for the chance to win 0.25 Bitcoins. “Mmmm…mmmmm…mmmmm. Now that’s gravy.”

[segway music]

John : So today we welcome Nick Gogerty, the founder of SolarCoin, and principal of value-creation consulting firm “Thoughful Capital Group”. Nick, welcome to the show.

Nick Gogerty : Thank you very much. I’m excited to be here.

Lij : Nick, it’s a pleasure to have you here on “Bitcoins and Gravy” with us.

John : So Nick, where would you like to start? I know that you’ve written a book titled “The Nature of Value : How to invest In the Adaptive Economy”. Can you tell us what you mean by the “adaptive economy” and how that fits in with SolarCoin? I know you have an extensive background in investing and economy. How does all of this fit into SolarCoin?

Nick : The book “The Nature of Value” deals with the economy, and the creation of economic value as an adaptive process – and the process acts a lot like nature. I spent personally about 25 years investing, and working with different groups – including the world’s largest banks and hedge funds – and in four years of that research I boiled down to that book. Part of that book deals with money, and how money works, and that kind of deals with SolarCoin, and the creation of that.

Lij : MmmHmmm.

Nick : Basically, the thinking behind SolarCoin is that a currency, or a form of money, effectively is – and this is going to sound  a little strange – but it’s really a social protocol. Money is a way for all of us to exchange value efficiently. And so as a social protocol, the more people that agree to and accept a form of money – whether it be dollars, gold, Bitcoin, SolarCoin, etc. – the more utility, or the more value, that form of money  – that currency – has.  And that’s part of the research that came out of the book, and the part of my work involved in that. My background in foreign currency goes back to the age of 17, when I was trading Japanese Yen futures. That was back in 1987. So being a proprietary trader for one of the world’s largest banks in London – which is, kind of, the ForEx headquarters of the world – and having worked for various hedge funds here in the states. So a bit of background in money, and some other things. And, of course, the book is being put out by Columbia University – the same place where Warren Buffet went to school – and the book is on value. So, I’ve got a bit of a background in economics and money.

John : Well, that’s pretty impressive. I think we should begin by maybe bragging about you a little bit. You worked with the world’s largest hedge fund, “Bridgewater Associates”, $150 billion. Being a quantitative ForEx analyst for “Banque Nacionale De Paris”, $2 trillion balance sheet. Founding software startup and strategic risk firms. Chief analyst at Starlab, a deep future, multidisciplinary science research institute. And I think there was something in there that had to do with research into time machines, or something like that? Black holes and time machines?

Nick : [laughter] Exactly. At one point the institute was modeled on the MIT Media Lab, and had some people from the MIT Media Lab on board. And there was a theoretical physicist who was researching some of those things, among some more, let’s say what we call, “applied science” areas – material sciences, life sciences, media studies. I was overseeing three different schools of artificial intelligence at one point, in terms of research. So, it’s some interesting stuff.

John : Wow.

Nick : Yeah. It’s really fun.

John : And building risk models for global banks. I wrote that you had done that.  That’s some pretty heavy stuff, man. So you’re background in finance and investing, it seems like anybody who’s interested in investing in SolarCoin, they might want to listen to you.

Nick : [laughter] Well, ultimately everyone has to listen to themselves, and look around at what they think is correct, what they think is true and is going to be most interesting. But feel free to read what I have to say, and if you agree with the arguments it might be very interesting.

Lij : Well, so tell us more about SolarCoin and why we should be interested in investing in it.

Nick : Sure. The original idea came from a whitepaper that I drafted with co-author Joseph Zitoli, who you’ve interviewed earlier. And in that whitepaper there was the concept of an energy-backed currency. And at the time, in 2011, that concept really wasn’t feasible unless you had your own central bank [laughter], to implement. Now, with the provability, or the fact that Bitcoin technically works, and that anyone in a sense can issue a currency that is robust and transparent to over-issuance or over-circulation, that premise became viable – potentially viable – an energy-backed currency. And then, looking into it, realized that it could be used to do good by backing solar energy with that currency, and then having that currency represent solar energy. The SolarCoin idea is a subset of this energy-backed currency idea, and the realization was that the “proof of work” inherent in acting as a distribution mechanism, and as a verification mechanism, Bitcoin, instead of using a purely cryptographic “proof of work”, why not use a real-world, physical “proof of work”? And that real-world, physical “proof of work” is the production, or generation, of solar energy. And so that’s tied into SolarCoin.

What ends up happening is anyone who produces one mega-watt hour of solar energy in the world – anywhere with the facility – can claim on of these SolarCoins. And that’s viewed as an equitable means of distributing the currency, while also acting as an incentive to produce more solar energy globally. And there’s a pre-mine that was set up that’s participated for the last, at least 40 years, to incent solar energy globally.

John : Can you tell us about how the SolarCoin mining differs from Bitcoin mining?

Nick : Sure.Most of it is similar. It’s based off of a Litecoin fork, and that will produce – roughly based on the design – about 105 million coins, based on the half-life, etc. The rest of the coins were pre-mined, and so the only way to earn them – or the “proof of work” required to get those coins – is to submit a verifiable “proof of production ” of solar energy. So each verified one mega-watt hour of energy produced entitles the claimant to a SolarCoin. And to date we’ve had claimants from 11 countries, so it’s rolling out pretty well. We just gave coins out to Cypress and Austria over the weekend, and we look forward to adding more countries.

Lij : Help us understand a little bit. Scrypt mining is going to get more and more difficult as more miners get involved. It is similar to Bitcoin in that way? Will the mining become more difficult?

Nick : It’s similar to Bitcoin in the fact that the algorithm, and the effort required – something called “re-targeting” – so that it adjusts relative to the effort applied to it. So there’s a constant issuance of rate of the coin.

Lij : Okay, and them when it’s issued to people who are generating one mega-watt of solar energy, it seems that one mega-watt of solar energy is going to become easier and easier to generate as solar energy is adopted globally. How does that translate?

Nick : Yeah. So here’s what ends up happening. The mining [?], because the half-life only lasts, really, for four years. So there is a one year half-life, and about 95-95% of the coins we’ve mined in the first  four-and-a-half years. So what will end up happening is that as the mining tapers off – with the exception of, let’s say, transaction-based rewards – the real circulation mechanism will become the granting, or the basically “giving away”  of SolarCoins to people who produce solar electricity. Now one mega-watt of solar electricity is quite a bit. That’s about enough to keep the average American home powered for a month. So, what’ll end up happening is – over time, for example last year – globally there are estimated to have been about 160 million mega-watt hours of electricity produced with solar energy. That would equate to 160 million potential claimable SolarCoins. That amount grows – or is anticipated to grow – 20-30% per year, over the next 20-30 years.

John : That’s good news.

Nick : Yes it is. And the neat thing about energy – in almost any economic process, and part of the research for my book “The Nature of Value” – is that any manufacturing or production process gets cheaper as you make more of it. As more value flows through the economic system, it gets cheaper. And the cool thing about solar energy is every time we, globally. double the number of solar panels we produce – so we shift, let’s say, an extra 2X gigawatts of solar panels – the cost drops 22%. That’s kind of like a “Moore’s Law” of solar energy, and that’s held up for the last 20 or 30 years. So, to produce one solar panel that would make a watt of power, back in the 70s, cost about $1, 000. Now, it costs just under $1.

John and Lij : Wow!

Nick : And as energy is a pure commodity, it’s a price thing. So what ends up happening is you have this commodity that’s dropping in price by a factor of 22% every time you shift 2X more.

Lij : It’s quite different from gasoline.

Nick [laughter] Exactly. It get’s more difficult — well, parts of gasoline get cheaper with [drilling?], but also it gets more difficult to find it as it gets in more deeper rock formation, etc. – with the exception of shale, but we won’t get into the technical discussions on that. So the interesting thing about solar is it’s one of these things where, as you ship more solar panels and produce more energy, it gets cheaper, so you sell more. And as you sell more, it gets cheaper, faster. So, solar energy is going to be one of the most interesting things right now. It’s cost is not fixed. It’s a moving target, and so it’s going to get cheaper, better, faster, globally, very quickly. And you’re in a space – namely “global energy” – where you’re talking about $100 billions and trillions of capital investment.

John : Wow.

Nick : Solar coin acts as an incentive to help people make that choice. So, let’s say a SolarCoin – which right now has a de minimus value – but let’s say that as we grow the economy of SolarCoin holders, if it were to go to $10 per mega-watt hour, all of a sudden the individual looking at putting solar panels on their roof, or in a village or [other?] area, might say, “Oh wow! Not only do we get the solar energy, but we get the benefit of claiming the SolarCoin as an incentive. That’s pretty cool.” Now the value of a currency has two factors that drive it. One is speculative, and the other one is transactional. Economists call these two “utility functions” of a currency. So the more people that hold, or agree to, or believe in a currency, they more transactional value it has. So a dollar you can use almost globally, because everyone agrees, and they understand, what a dollar value is. The dollar protocol is global.

So the current universe of Bitcoin holders is estimated, I think, at about a half million to two-and-a-half million users – last report I saw. Now the cool thing about that is that’s pretty small in the internet world, and yet Bitcoin has the market cap of $5 to $5.5 billion dollars.

John : Right. Almost $6 billion. I like to say six billion. It makes me feel better.

Nick : So the cool thing is we are at what I call the “Compuserve Era” of this technology, or this protocol. Compuserve – if you remember back in the 80’s – everyone had email addresses that were numbers. It was clunky. Nobody used it. Nobody liked it. It was ugly. And that’s really the great news for Bitcoin. The software is horrible. The wallets aren’t user-friendly. Your aunts or uncle can’t really figure it out, etc. The great news is you’ve got a $6 billion economy out there, with something that – engineering-wise – works, but from a useability perspective is horrible. Once that useability gets solved, or improved, and we move from the “Compuserve Era” and have what I call the “AOL Moment”, you’re going to see an explosion into something really interesting, for a lot of the alt-currency spaces. What I mean by that is that is you move from a $6 billion economy to a 10X or 100X one. Whether that happens in the states, or in some other country that adopts the currency and the protocols, that remains to be seen. What isn’t known by a lot of people is the average fiat currency – or government currency – lasts 27 years. That equates to about a 3% failure rate, and I can give you guys the links on that. Now we’re used to the dollar, and the pound, and these other currencies that have been around for hundreds of years. But depending on what country you’re in , if you have a very unstable currency, and there is a problem, you might be very interested in an alt-currency that is easily accessible, not as controllable, and easy to park into a smartphone. And with $20 and $40 smartphones emerging in the next two or three years things could get very interesting, both for Bitcoin and the alt-coin space. And we think SolarCoin is going to ride along with it, and we hope to do a lot of good.

Lij : Mmm Hmm. To focus on the value of SolarCoin, in the future, wherein Bitcoin becomes harder and harder to create – and the value goes up partly through that, I think . In SolarCoin, the value is going to rise, or fluctuate, with the speculative volume, and also the ability to trade in SolarCoin and use it for transactions down into the future, even though it’s going to be easier to acquire.

Nick : Yeah. You have two sides to that equation – supply and demand. The supply side is the granting andthe mining. So the more people, the easier that it is to get SolarCoin by receiving a grant for generating electricity. Or, if mining gets harder – that’s the supply side – the demand side, which is like, “What the heck is this thing worth? What’s its value?” is going to be a mix of the speculative belief in how high, and where, it’s going in the future – and the utility function. How many people can you trade, swap, get something with this currency for. That’s about it. We’re very focused on “ease of use”, growing that economy via “ease of use”. We’re working on improving our communication and our messaging, etc. to try and get to the broader audience of people who aren’t as familiar with — and frankly, don’t even really need to know all of the plumbing under the coin.

John : Nick, one thing I’m still unclear about is, how do the producers of solar energy prove to you that they;ve produced the solar energy? What is the proof that allows you then to award them SolarCoins?

Lij : Yeah. Where’s the “proof of work”?

Nick : Sure. Exactly. The “proof of work” is a submitted verification from the energy meter in the home. So, if you have a solar panel on your roof, it produces DC power, and that gets converted into AC power for your house. That conversion goes through something called an “inverter”, and that inverter also works like a meter, and it shows exactly how much has been produced. And a lot of these things are online. So our first grant, for example – to a woman named Lisa Shockly, in Arizona – she just sent us a link to her inverter. And that feed was online. I think she is a “Solar City” customer. You can look it up online, and say, “Oh yeah. She has “X” number of solar panels on her roof” – and you can verify that in lots of ways. It ties out to what she says she claimed on the power. And the converter images and documentation all looked like that was verified.

We’re working on developing software so we can show those verifications to the community. So you’ll be able to dial up – especially for the larger solar farms – and say, “How were these verified? Who verified and said these were okay? And what was the means?”

John : I always want to say, “Can’t we just throw it onto the blockchain, time-stamp it, and say, “this is proof?”

Nick : Well, what we’re going to be doing is the grants will all go onto the blockchain, and there’ll be a transaction message that will tie out : Who the generator was – in terms of what the source was. Who made the claim? How much the claim was for? And that data is going to include the latitude of where the person is at, what’s called the “nameplate capacity”, or the capacity for the solar generating roof. So it’s going to be, “Bob Smith… Five kilo-watts on the roof… Between June and July, in Arizona.. and claimed 5 SolarCoin.” etc.

John : Nice.

Lij : Okay, cool. So for our listeners – say for a listener who is an absolute beginner at this – how would they about, right now, getting some SolarCoin? Can you  explain the basics?

Nick : Sure. There are a couple of ways. Obviously you buy on an exchange, and those are listed on the site. As a claimant – let’s say you have solar panels on your roof – just go to the web site, download a wallet, and then fill out the form – submit the claim. There are about 10 or 15 pieces of data we need, and if you have solar on your roof you”re going to know – pretty much – what those pieces of data are, in terms of, “Oh, here’s the type of meter. Here’s how much [you’ve] generated.” The same way that you might look at your electricity bill and say, “I used 50 kilowatt hours last month.” You’ll go online and be able to look — because you’ll get it from whoever is providing, monitoring and managing your solar panel. You’ll have a little report that will say, “You generated 50 kilowatts.” You just put that in the form. It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to do the first time.

Lij : Okay, and so for somebody who might be a beginner — for example, they may have experience with solar panels, and having solar energy, but this whole concept of SolarCoin and Bitcoin may be new to them. How would you describe what downloading the wallet means to them?

Nick : Sure. Just go to the homepage. You’ll download a piece of software that will sit on your computer. It will sink up with the blockchain – or this large ledger of all the transactions –

John : And we should let people know that the faster your computer is, the faster it will do that. And that if you have a really slow computer, it could take half of your day.

Nick : [laughter] Yeah. It just runs in the background, so you have to be patient. Inside that piece of software – which is called your wallet, which is basically where you’re going to store your coins – you’ll get an address that will be the receiving address. That’s basically where you ask people to send your SolarCoins to. Take that address, put it – with your other information – into our web site, on the claim form. It’s right up there on the homepage. There’s a button for claiming SolarCoins. And usually, within three to four days, your SolarCoins will be sent out, and you’ll get an email, and you’re part of the process. You’re part of the SolarCoin community.

Lij : That’s cool.

John : That’s well explained. And I guess the form that they fill out to verify the production of solar energy is also probably fairly straight-forward?

Nick : Yes, it is. We’re designing it to be as simple as possible. And right now – because we’re in the early phases – we’re learning how to make it as simple as possible, and just building out the database to automate it more. So right now, for all the volunteers in our community, it’s a very manual process to do all of that stuff, across 11 countries – as you can imagine.

Lij : So do you have a term, or a name, for the people who have downloaded wallets? You know, the volunteers in the SolarCoin community? Are they referred to as “the planets”, or the [?], or-

John : How about the “Sun Gods”.

Nick : [laughter] You know, we don’t. One of the fun things about the whole process is the communities come up with some great names and concepts, and it’s fun to watch the whole thing grow organically. So, from the name of the smallest unit being a “photon”, instead of a “Satoshi”. Someone refers to the currency now as “Solars” – which, kind of, seem like “dollars”. So, we’ll have to see. Again, let people self-identify. It will be one of the great things when people come up with the nickname of how they want to be called.

Lij : Okay. So now do we explain to the beginner how they might go about mining SolarCoin at this point?

Nick : Yeah. Mining SolarCoin is really like any alternative currency. There are a couple of ways to try and go about that. One is the wallet itself. If you download the piece of software from the web site, it allows you to mine the SolarCoin. That being said, the difficulty now found in the currency is so high that really mining with a PC isn’t worthwhile. It’s not efficient. So, if you really want to get into mining, it’s really for the techie people – who probably are already miners.

John : Or the gaming folks, that have GPUs sitting around?

Nick : Yeah. They can either use a GPU, or you go and join a mining pool and lease a mining rig. I’m not going to try and explain that to people. I think that they can probably find better explanations online to do it.

John : There’s a lot of information online about that.

Nick : Exactly. It’s just like any other coin, from that aspect of the mining.

Lij : Great. Well thank you so much. That was a lot of great insight into SolarCoin, and just the process of investing, and the value of money.

John : I agree. And, you know, I still like to think of the sun as the giant nuclear energy plant in the sky, without the associated risks of radiation, without the associated risks of nuclear waste, and Fukushima-style problems. That’s my perspective.

Nick : Yeah. I’m actually working on reviewing a paper for an astrophysicist at Harvard.  He’s doing some stuff on economics, and he’s under the same agreement that the most effective means of energy – from a safety perspective, a bio-safety perspective, for 100 or 200 years – is solar. Because it doesn’t have a thermal footprint, which nuclear, fossil fuels, and other things have –

John : Right, and yet we still have goofy people out there saying, “Why solar? We have plenty of coal?”

Nick : Well, it’s always good to have a diversity of opinions, and well thought-out arguments. The good thing is that solar is getting cheaper all the time. So eventually it just becomes a simple, economic argument.

Lij : Yeah.

John : So the last thing I’d like to ask is you wrote somewhere, I read, “The nature of value is the economy of life.” Can you close our interview with some words of wisdom for our listeners?

Nick : The economy, long term, will continue to grow, find, and invest and allocate to stable things that contribute value to us all. And those will grow.

Lij : Like the sun.

John : Nice.

Nick : There we go.

John : I’m investing in the sun. Thank you so much.

Lij : Nick, thank you so much for joining us today on “Bitcoins and Gravy”, and we look forward to seeing what happens with SolarCoin, and hopefully speaking with you again down the road.

Nick : Great. Thank you very much.

John : Thanks Nick. We really appreciate you being here.

Nick : All right. Take care. Bye.

[outro music]

Lij : Thanks to today’s guest on the show – Nissan Bahar of Keepod, and Nick Gogerty of SolarCoin. To find out more about our guests and sponsors, visit our show notes at http://www.bitcoinsandgravy.com/episode17 . Thank you so much for listening to our show. We greatly appreciate your time and attention. If you like the show, please remember to go to ITunes and leave us a review. Also, hit the “subscribe” button if you would like to hear from “Bitcoins and Gravy” each week.

John : And remember the “Bitcoins and Gravy Hotline”. Have you ever wanted to be a podcaster? Then call us at 615-208-5198, and leave us a mesasge with your comments, questions, or complaints. This is your opportunity to tell us what you think. If you give us permission, we will put you on the show. So call the “Bitcoins and Gravy Hotline” at 615-208-5198. That’s right, that’s the “Bitcoins and Gravy Hotline”. And, of course, we offer a number of ways for you to download all of our past podcasts. You can go to http://www.letstalkbitcoin.com, or directly to ITunes.com, or you can go to our web site : http://www.bitcoinsandgravy.com

John : If you enjoyed this show, please take a moment and leave a review, or comment, on ITunes, or Soundcloud. Let us know what you like, or where we can improve.

Lij : And remember, it’s your reviews and comments that help new listeners discover “Bitcoins and Gravy”, plus all the other great shows on the “Let’s Talk Bitcoin” podcast network. And we thank you for your generous tips and donations.

John : I”m John Barret.

Lij : And I’m LIj Shaw. And you’ve been listening to “Bitcoins and Gravy”, from East Nashville, Tennessee.

[end]

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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

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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 9 : Podcast Transcription : Unleashing the Full Potential of the Spoken Word

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Today I spent another hour working through the remaining TranscribeMe training modules while simultaneously going through the style guide one page at a time. The training modules provide good information and some practice on the kinds of grammar and proofreading skills you will commonly use when transcribing the audio, in addition to the markup tags which are used to deal with any factors in the audio which are either not formally in the realm of speech transcription proper (ex. [silence] to denote a speaker’s silence for tens seconds or more, [inaudible] to denote that the speech is simply too unclear (at least for you) to decipher, and various other useful ones). Learning to use the tags properly allows you to deal with essentially ANY issue which comes up in the audio which acts as an obstacle to you properly transcribing every word in the project.

When I completed the training modules I simply moved in the same manner through the test. Since it is possible to answer a few questions and then log off of the internet, log back on and simply resume the test, I proceeded to take my time with the exam while also continuing to work through the style guide. During the test itself there were a few instances where I needed to directly refer to the style guide in order to answer a question (or transcribe one of the audio files) properly.

Most of the test was straight forward and the questions could be easily answered correctly by anyone who had paid attention during the training and read carefully through the style guide. For some reason, however, in the second part of the exam (right before the end) I ran into some difficulty in the transcription section which I couldn’t seem to figure out. In fact, they give you a certain number of tries to get it right and then, if not successful, you must restart the whole test. So after trying twice I was getting worried that I would have to do all the work of restarting the exam. Luckily, my research instincts came to my aid. After carefully re-reading the style guide a few more times and still not being able to get past the trouble spot in the exam I decided that I needed to try and find additional information about the TranscribeMe system. Luckily, my instincts were correct and I found the answer in one of the videos on the TranscribeMe training videos YouTube channel. In the video they explain that since the audio files have been broken down into micro-chunks then you can never be fully sure if the first word in the file you are working on is the beginning of the first sentence or a continuation of a sentence or questionfrom the previous chunk. Therefore, you are suppose to NOT add ellipses (…) at either the beginning or the end of the file. Unfortunately, although the style guide is generally quite good it does not make this point clear enough (which is the main reason why I don’t feel guilty for mentioning the issue here). I am also aware from a contact who was doing the exam at the same time that they were getting stuck at the same point in the test. I was also to find out later – once I had access to the internal social media message board – that many people had had this problem at this same point in the exam. Fortunately for me, my research training had saved me from unnecessary hassle. Again, the strategy of taking in as much information about a subject from as many sources as possible enabled me to find a solution to this issue without having to bother anyone or wait for a response. This same research strategy has safeguarded my from various problems in the past. As a result of my diligence I avoided the frustration and waste of time of having to repeat the test. In fact, once I found the solution I gave the test one last try and – with fingers crossed and by making the appropriate changes – this time I was relieved to see that I passed.

Once the exam was passed a page came up which explained that I would be contacted shortly by an administrator who would direct me in how to access the workhub and begin working on audio files, interact with the community, and all of the other good things that certified TranscribeMe transcriptionist are able to do. At this point I simply continued working through the style guide, blog posts and other resources I had collected (of which there were already enough to keep me busy for months). Once the administrators contacted me and gave the green light I would simply add the new resources and tasks which then became available available to the overall mix and “things to do” lists. It is all just one continuous training process.

The Connection Between Transcription and Podcasting

I have always had a serious interest in podcasting. I am constantly listening to various podcasts each day and I find that the format has some unique features which make it better than printed text or video in some circumstances and for certain purposes. For instance, on many days I spend so much time sitting up looking at the computer screen and I just want to be able to lay down and listen to some interesting content. In fact, I often schedule my research to alternate between “sitting up” tasks and “laying down listening” tasks. This is much healthier for the back and eyes than constant screen exposure. You can imagine what great pleasure I have found in the fact that the first transcription company I started working for within the last few weeks issues a continuous and eclectic supply of podcasts for transcription and editing.

Here is an excellent video produced by Cliff Ravenscraft, a well-known podcasting expert and consultant, where he discusses four of the top unique benefits of the podcasting format over other forms of modern communication :

Two of the unique benefits which Mr. Ravenscraft’s discusses and which I agree are most interesting are

(1) the effect of the increase in smartphone usage to provide a rapidly growing audience for podcasts and

(2) elimination of mandatory “screen time” (looking at the computer screen) to consuming podcasting content

These are two important factors which I believe will only increase the popularity and consumption of podcasting into the future. For instance, think about all of the people who are willing to listen to a podcast while driving to or from work (especially in traffic), or while doing chores, or as a break from sitting up looking at the screen.

The people over at TranscribeMe have devoted a whole blog post to the issue of podcasting and its relation to transcription : Podcast Transcription where they point out the essential benefit of podcast transcription lying in making the podcast more possible to be indexed in the search engines, since search engines only index text – not audio. They don’t index video either and so the same benefits of transcription apply to video as well as explained in the article Reach More Clients by Transcribing Your YouTube Videos.

Here is an example of a reputable podcast production which includes the transcript for each podcast right on the main podcast page : The Paleo Solution – Episode 112. On this page you will see a link for downloading the (audio) podcast itself and a seperate link for downloading the transcript (in pdf format).

It’s important to keep in mind that one of the most beneficial reasons to transcribe a podcast of video is that it then enables disabled people to access you content. For instance, deaf people specifically can consume your content by reading the transcript. Blind people would naturally be able to consume the audio podcasting content unassisted, but for video they would need a computerized reader device to read a transcript of the content. In either case, transcribing helps to include a wider audience of people who can benefit from your production. For some podcasts, this group of people may constitute a significant portion of their target audience.

Another interesting article from Forbes Funnymen and iPhones: Why the Podcast is Finally Coming Into its Own looks at hot the podcast has allowed those who have less mainstream views to enter the broadcasting market whereas they would have little success approaching traditional networks. Some of these avant garde podcasters do indeed end up succeedin either through the growth of their podcast alone or through being picked up by one of the larger mainstream networks. Therefore, podcasting is a sort of experimental medium which enables new ideas to build ground and eventually become successful.

As I mentioned before, I have been focusing on editing the audio files (including podcasts) from the one company I work for as the transcription files are rather long and difficult for me at my current experience level. Editing these files, however, is very productive and enjoyable. Since most of the transcription text which comes in attached to the audio file as part of the editing project is of relatively decent quality (some more than others) the reality is that if the content of the podcast is straightforward (ex. not too technical) and the quality of the audio is decent (which is usually the case, since most serious podcasters who are actually willing to spend money on transcription spend considerable effort trying to get the best quality production that they can) the process of editing basically involves a rather leisurely listen to the audio file in real time and following the text to proofread for mistakes. This is called “proofing to audio” in transcriptionist jargon, by the way. If there are errors they can usually be spotted and fixed quickly by stopping the audio for a few seconds and making the quick adjustment. Common errors which occur include : the transcriber omitting an important word, simple spelling mistakes, simple punctuation mistakes, the wrong word which can often more easily be deciphered by the editor who is approaching the audio with fresh ears, etc. The editing step of the process certainly IS important as just having an additional person (who naturally possesses a unique skills set and often a higher level of experience in order to reach the editing level) to go through the transcript and audio can catch most of the mistakes made by the original transcriber. I could safely say that in EVERY SINGLE transcript I have ever edited there has been AT LEAST one error which I was able to correct. Most of the time there are several. So, I don’t feel guilty for choosing the less stressful editing jobs for now, since my work as editor actually DOES improve the final transcript product in some way.

Ultimately, working as a transcriber puts you into contact with a regular stream of interesting and new podcasts. There have been numerous cases where I received a podcast from the transcription company which I enjoyed so much listening to during the editing process that I went out to locate the podcast, subscribe and become a regular listener myself. This is just another one of the juicy perks of being a freelance transcriptionist.

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