Transcription Powertool #1 : Wordweb Dictionary/Thesaurus

Wordweb Pro - English Dictionary Thesaurus screenshot

WordWeb Pro screenshot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Free Transcript Project : #2

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Source video
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Title : “15 Minutes Of Fact : From Graduating to Indentured Class — Will America Continue to Eat its Young?”

URL : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1LRmgIr0xI

Organization         : 15 Minutes of Fact podcast :
Web Site                 : https://www.youtube.com/user/15MinutesOfFact
Host                        : Jerry Ashton
Contact                  : jerryashton1@gmail.com

Guest                      : Cryn Johannsen
Web Site                 : http://alleducationmatters.blogspot.com/
Contact                   : https://www.linkedin.com/in/chasecrynjohannsen

Transcription Notes : This project is a good example of how transcription can remedy some of the problems which accompany less-than-ideal audio. There are numerous reasons why the final audio of a production may end up less than ideal. It may have been an on-location live interview in which there are many uncontrollable factors involved. It may be that the communication channel (ex. phone, Skype, etc.) had problems. It may be that the producer/host just didn’t have the resources and/or skills to apply the proper recording equipment or techniques or hire a competent person/organization to do it. In the end, what good quality transcription can do is make words which were inaudible clear (for instance, through figuring them out through context and/or research) and represent the production in a more accurate and complete form in writing.

In addition, YouTube actually has its own speech recognition (transcription) software for video. To show it, just click on the icon which looks like a page, immediately right of the “add to” link on the video page. To save you the calories and bewilderment of doing so, let me present for you here the exact text which is generated by the YouTube “transcriber” for this specific video :

YouTube automated transcription
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“0:00
from graduating class to endangered class
0:03
American pieces all showed almost two years as I’ll ask after the time and
0:09
attention over yesterday
0:10
mes creating your handsome evolve its Keisha matters
0:14
back in march it 2011 and still basking in the chilly spring up the Occupy
0:19
movement
0:20
Trenton I was working hard to see that student debt goes much attention is more
0:24
realistic
0:25
this means we’re going for her and I believe”

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As you can see, the YouTube computer-generated transcriber is about as accurate as the subtitling on a bad Chinese Kung Fu movie – without all the funky acrobatics and scenery. As a result of this, a proper transcription by an experienced human transcriptionist does justice to YouTube videos.

Transcribing YouTube videos has several important benefits. It extends the reach of the video outside of the already very powerful YouTube marketing platform. It makes up for the horrible YouTube automated transcriber/subtitle generator. It also gives your videos more marketing punch as it provides many more words than the limited number of tags allowed for each video (around 50 I believe), and this enhances the SEO potency of the production.

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Transcript :

Jerry Ashton : From graduating class to indentured class, America eats its own. It’s been almost two years since I captured the time and attention of our guest today – Ms. Cryn Johannsen of “All Education Matters”. Back in March of 2011 and still basking in the chilly Spring of the Occupy movement, Cryn was working hard to see that student debt got as much attention as mortgage debt. It’s been slow going for her, but I believe however, that she and other education militants have finally achieved that attention. Just how far they’ve come and how far they have to go in freeing generations of students from a lifetime of debt will be our subject for today. So welcome to the show Cryn Johannsen.

Cryn : Thanks, but I do not consider myself a militant. I’m actually, truly a pragmatist. You’re right that I suppose the work has been slow-going – there’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes that I do on the hill. But I can tell you one thing – and I can’t divulge the particular office that I just went to recently – but from a wonderful staffer of a Congressman’s office, who I know quite well – maybe it is slow-going but they are listening. They are definitely listening, in such a way that I can actually say that I am incredibly hopeful about.

Jerry : Well, before we dive in then – and, by the way, I want you to know that you may not be an activist, but you are hardly a milktoast either. I would like you to give the listener a bit of your background in the world of student debt. How did this come about for you personally, and where do you find yourself today in this world of trying to make a change on student debt?

Cryn : Sure, well like many people my age I do carry student loan debt, but it is more than manageable. I have never been deliinquent on my loans. It’s never been a problem. I am very lucky. I consider myself blessed. I am a religious person – so I will say that on the radio. But in terms of diving into it, I myself have been working on my PhD on the intellectual history of Europe and there was a lot of conversations we always had about student loan debt. This was around the time of the housing crisis, in 2008, and I just began to piece together the parallels. The big difference was that you can walk away from your home – as we all know – if you’re underwater. However, with student loan debt you can’t do that. So, there was an intellectual curiosity with how the student loans and the U.S. government, and how these institutions were related to financial markets. It’s incredibly complex because you are talking about the U.S. government – “Uncle Sam” – they’re the biggest lender. Then you are talking about the universities – where the money is being funneled to. Then on top of that you’re also talking about a lending industry that was born out of the federal government. These are all very complex institutions, and all of them are interconnected because of the student loan debt.

Jerry : Okay, I’ve got the fact that there is a macro level at which this is being approached, but let me get to the thing which seems to be catching the attention of people right now. Student debt exceeds one trillion dollars. It is considered to be the next bubble to pop. So let me give you a couple of Time Magazine article facts. In the last five years the average student loan debt has risen 30%. More than half of student loan accounts add up to more than 40% of the total dollars owed, and they’re in deferral status – meaning that students are looking for a reprieve for a few years before they have to repay. But these delinquencies are increasing by 22% over the last five years. So how can any of us have hope of a way out in the face of these statistics.

Cryn : Well I think that’s a really good question, and one of the things I wanted to say though about my interest – just to return to my original personal interests – is that I have a deep love for people. And these people with student loan debt have opened up to me tremendously – because Americans are very ashamed to talk about debt. They are hopeless, and as your probably aware, I wrote an article for the Huffington Post which I received a scholarship from the “Economic Hardship and Reporting Project”. Barbara Ehrenreich, the author, and also Gary Rivlin – who’s also an author – they were the editors for my piece. It was about people who were committing suicice, and I continue to get these notes – it’s incredibly troubling. But I guess one of the things is that – I have a feeling, and I know that sounds odd – but I just have a feeling that 2013 is going to be the year for us – the indentured educated class. One of the reasons why is because I’ve gone through – and I’m not going to go into the details – but I’ve gone through a significant loss personally, very intense. I’ve prepared myself tremendously. The reason why I’m saying this is because I am so ready to get this done, more than ever before. And I’m not the only one. That’s what’s great. The more the merrier in my opinion, There’s a lot of us out there [crosstalk] and I think this is going to be the year, despite all of these terrible statistics. And they are terrible.

Jerry : Okay, well first of all, Gary Rivlin – I’m a fan of – when he wrote that book called “Broke USA” and he talked about how banks supported and financed loan companies, pawn shops, mortgage people – predators. So anybody who can align themselves with that guy automatically wins with me. How many people would you consider to fall into your category about being at least militant about changing the world of student debt.

Cryn : Well, again, I’m hesitant to use that word. I guess I’m more insistant through the power of love – as cheesy as that might sound, and people might say, “Oh, she sounds like she’s from the 1960s” – well so be it. Well, there’s plenty of us. I know that Robert Applebaum is still doing quite a bit. I believe Alan Colinge is – to the best of my knowledge. But they’re not the only ones out there. There are so many groups doing things, and the reporters continue to write about this left and right, and I think that’s fabulous. The more people talking about it the better. That’s the way it should be. So the more of us out there, the better. And I think the more and more people join our ranks [all with?] different approaches. I think it’s great.

Jerry : Well I know that you came up to New York City when Occupy was still blooming at Zuccati Park. Shortly after, of course, they pulled it out by the roots and thought that would get rid of it – but that didn’t happen. What was your impression of Occupy, and do you think Occupy has been an important force.

Cryn : Oh, it absolutely has. It’s a collective voice of people who are deeply in debt. These Americans having the courage to go out there with the placards showing how much debt they owed – bless their heart. That was the most powerful thing about that, because we hide the debt we have. We pretend because consumer capitalism – that everything is okay, and it doesn’t appear that there’s any trouble – but we all know that that’s not the case. Americans are just drowning in debt, and not just student loan debt. I was just in awe of the fact that these graduates were walking around with a placard showing how much money they owe, and saying, “This is really a part of my identity.” I think what we need to work on is moving away from that just being your identity, but it needs to be solved. It just needs to be solved. That’s one of the reason why I come to D.C, – where I am right now, because we’re trying to get this done.

Jerry : Okay. Let’s talk about that. Your way of being able to make a difference is by – instead of picketing governmental offices – you’re actually walking through the doors and talking to people. So give us some history about that, and how is that making any difference.

Cryn : Well I run “All Education Matters” on a shoestring budget, as I said. I’ve been very lucky to have people who have debt send me $5 here and $10 there. That’s enabled me to come to Washington DC and walk the halls, and knock on the doors and have the conversations. Because these offices are lobbied 24/7 – including the White House, of course – by the lenders. The Washington Post ownes Kaplan – which is a for profit school. So the Senators and the Congressmen read those papers and they say, “Oh, what the problem? There is no problem.” Well, but that’s changing , and I don’t think I’m the only one. I’m not going to toot my own horn but I have to walk these halls. I have to have these face-to-face interactions – which I’ve been doing for years. It used to be that when I first started doing this – when I came back from South Korea after teaching there – they were telling me behind closed doors, “Yes, we agree with you. There is a student lending crisis.” but they wouldn’t say it publicly. This last summer I was on a phone call with several Senators – including Sharon Brown, and I’m forgetting the Senator’s name, I apologize – but this was with hundreds and hundreds of people who represent millenials – the youth generation. I brought up the problem of suicide, and a Senator publicly thanked me for having my ear to the ground, and let me know that I remind them – and I’m not the only one, of course – but he told me that I remind them that the current borrowers are struggling. I thought that was a huge moment for the indentured educated class, to be recognized publicly on a phone call in that way, and to be thanked for that. It’s not me . I’me streaming voices of other people. That’s what I’m doing.

Jerry : Well you are channeling the essence of the spirit. So let’s talk about that. Let’s say that you have been serving your role and your function in getting out this word and we also talk about the fact that if a student is willing to put a placard in front of them saying, “I owe $80,000 of student debt.” I think that their willingness to do that isn’t to show themselves as victims, as much to publicly acknowledge that, “Guess what? I don’t know what happened, maybe, but I’m up [a creek?] without a paddle”. So, I think its important that it has to be brought to people’s attention however it is done. And you’re doing your job on that. Now I’ve heard that there are some governmental agencies investigating the relationship between college administrators and bankers. Do you know anything about this?

Cryn : Um, if memory serves me – and if I’m following it correctly – the new consumer financial bureau, the new bureau which is the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren. I’m so glad she’s Senator now. They have been doing excellent work on investigating the “for profits” and putting out supurb reports about student loan debt. This is a very good thing, and so if this is what you are referring to. They’re doing some great stuff. That’s our tax dollars at work right there, and I’m delighted at this new bureau. The other thing is that people are not aware of IBR (Income Based Repayment) program. Now there is a problem with that thought, which I want to make clear to the listeners. This is a loan forgiveness progress if you have federal loans, which is forgiven after 20 years, which is good. However – and hopefully this will change, and a staffer told that it probably would or should – you will be taxed on the remaining amount that has been forgiven. So the year that your loans are forgiven, guess who’s going to come knocking at your door? The IRS, which is not good. I don’t understand why they put this in, why they have that, but this is something that absolutely has to change, because then what is the benefit of the loans being forgiven [crosstalk] when you owe $10,000 or more that year for taxes.

Jerry : Well, let me address that. There is no such thing as loan forgiveness. As far as I’m concerned there is just loan trickery. It’s a form of a shell game. When you think of it, the American student is the only class of citizen – other than a felon – who can not declare bankruptcy on their debt.

Cryn : Right. It’s ridiculous.Punish people for getting an education. Why? Why are we like that? It’s very odd. I don’t get it.

Jerry : It isn’t odd if you happen to be on one side of the political spectrum in which you hold the fact that, number one, everybody has to be accountable and responsible, and, number two, you also fill up your wallet at the local university or college so that you can continue your campaign of good citizenship. That’s a personal gripe of mine, and I think that the relationship between college administrators and bankers has got to be put out into the spotlight.

Cryn : Right. But I think that more than that, Jerry, for me I guess I’m at the point where it’s no longer about pointing fingers and blaming. It’s more that this is a systemic problem – and I’ve said this many times – that this is a terrible systemic problem. And it can be sorted out. Lightning can strike down in D.C., as a matter of fact, and things can change. I know that people might think that, “Oh, she has rose tinted glasses on.” but that’s happened. Especially if there is the power of the type of movement you see with Occupy, and you’ve got lots of “busy beavers” – if you will – people like me, who continually bring it up and bring it up. There can be push, and there can be movement. You can look at the civil rights movement to see that sort of thing. And that started -many people argue, historians – that the civil rights movement began in the early 1900s. Then we moved forward with Martin Luther King in the 60s. This stuff takes time, and that’s alright. Now I wish it could be stopped immediately because of the people who want to kill themselves. It’s horrible. It hurts me in my heart, deeply. But it takes time.

Jerry : Speaking of time. We could do 15 hours and not 15 Minutes of Fact, so what I must do is end the session now, but please let the listener know how they can reach you. For example, do you have an email address, a web site, a Twitter account,. How can they reach you.

Cryn : I want them to follow me on Twitter. I’m very responsive on that. My name is @Cryn_Johannsen. They can also subscribe to me on Facebook. Just look up my name. They can also email me. It’s ccrynjohannsen@gmail.com. I promise to try to get in touch with them as soon as possible. I’m lso a teacher and I’m writing a book about the student loan lending crisis, So, I’ll keep you posted on announcements about that. There’s a big thing coming out about that. I’m very busy at work and I’m also teaching English as a Second Language, which is a big honor. So, I’m [heavily involved?] in education, as you can tell.

Jerry : And what do you do in your spare time, Cryn.

Cryn : Um, [inaudible], I’m just very busy. Busy, busy, busy, solving problems.

Jerry : OKay, well one thing I will do is ask you to give us a final word before we sign off.

Cryn : A what? A final word? Well I guess it’s all those people who are out there suffering. I want them to know that they’re not alone. Especially those who are suicidal. Please don’t be that way. I want them to turn to people they trust – family and friends. People they can speak to about this. This is not something that you should end your life over. I cannot say that enough times. I’m also speaking from a personal perspective, not about debt, but a great deal of suffering. Through suffering you can see solutions and things can get better. That’s my final thoughts on that.

Jerry : That’s a wonderful thought, Cryn. This is Jerry Ashton here at WGRNradio.com, bringing you “15 Minutes of Fact” as an innoculation against the many hours of foe which is usually generated by mainstream media. So I want to thank my listeners for attending to this show. Be reminded that you are searching out my blog at the Huffington Post, and friending me there would be appreciated as well. Signing off, Jerry Ashton.

[end]

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***If you have an interesting YouTube video, podcast, etc. which you would like transcribed I may be interested in taking on the project, free of charge. If the subject of your production is something which is especially interesting to me (some favorite subject of mine include : technology, health, philosophy, media, psychology, art, economic, globalization, and more) I may decide to work it into my “free transcription project” schedule. I am currently working at the comfortable pace of two transcription projects per week. I prefer audio/video files which are in the range of 15 to 30 minutes in length. It requires roughly one hour to transcribe 15 minutes of audio. I also ask that the audio of the production be of decent quality, since I post the audio/video on the individual transcription page and prefer to fill my pages with high quality content. Please email : freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com to discuss this potential opportunity further.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 2 : Editing As A Gradual Step Towards Transcription

Soundwave

In the morning I checked both the “transcription jobs” and “editing jobs” boards and each had a few listings. The company provides their own in-house style guide to enable you to build towards producing a clear final transcript which minimizes time and maximizes clarity for the end reader. I figured that being new to the system and having some editing/proofreading experience (in the forms of print and web copy editor, and ESL (English As A Second Language) writing course teacher in Asia) it would be more feasible to start by choosing some editing projects first in order to get a better sense of what the transcribers were putting out. This turned out to be a good decision for a few reasons.

Firstly, when you are new to transcription you have not yet learned the most fundamental elements of the process of evaluating potential projects in relation to your abilities. You need to work on many different audio/video files over time to develop of sense of how all of the elements of an audio or video recording interact to determine the complexity level of a project. These factors include : audio recording quality, degree of accents of speakers, speed of speaker’s speech, background noise, “crosstalk” (which is when more than one person speak simultaneously), repetition, filler language (the “ums”, “oh”, “you know”, etc.) and the list goes on and on. Here is a good blog post I found as I began researching and developing my transcription skills :

Transcription of a Recording – Factors that Influence How Long It Will Take

The blog of the above post is one of the first resources I found as I started my research this week into the transcription career. I found the site through a Google search for “transcription training course”. The free information which this blog offers covers all of the essential issues for someone starting out, and is an excellent springboard for further research. In addition, while there is plenty of free information available through the blog posts themselves, this site also offers a range of paid practice file packages. Practice files are good for anyone who is inexperienced and doesn’t have clients who can pay for their transcription work. In my case, and for the growing number of people who are able to connect with the growing number of companies who hire relatively inexperienced “newbie” transcribers, these practice files may be the most ideal way to build quality experience. You need to make a choice as to whether or not it would be valuable enough to actually pay money to access these practice files, or whether you could just as easily practice transcribing your favorite podcast. once you gain enough transcription and web experience you can transcribe some of your favorite podcasts (with permission, of course) and simply post them as blog posts, such as the “Free Transcript Project” transcripts on THIS blog :

https://diaryofafreelancetranscriptionist.com/category/free-transcript/

which I have gradually developed over time. I will explain this project in more detail in future posts.

With these kind of blogs, my strategy is to read one post per day so that I have time to integrate the knowledge into my routine and as to not overwhelm myself with information. In addition to this blog I have started spending an hour a day searching for additional online resources to begin building my transcription/editing skills as I now begin steadily working on projects for the new company – basically a self designed apprenticeship of sorts.

Getting back to the subject of the online system, I see an interesting 90 minute interview audio file and have a listen. It is a job interview for a social services organization and since my university education is in social science it piques my interest. I click play on the file and listen to several minutes of the recording to get the general idea of the content. This is one of the first and most important lessons to learn about transcription/editing. That is, if you can find audio/video files which you find interesting it makes a HUGE difference (in terms of motivation, learning interesting information, and making the transcription process less tedious) as opposed to those files which you do not resonate well with. Especially when you are dealing with longer files (for instance, this 90 minute file as opposed to a 30 minute file) this becomes ever more important. When you transcribe or edit a file you enter into the world of that content for however long the project lasts. In some cases the content even “gets into you” – like any other content you absorb in your daily life (through television, radio, books, etc.). Sometimes you will find yourself thinking about that content (for better or worse) long after you have completed and successfully submitted it. So, the sooner you realize the importance of carefully choosing projects (of course, depending on how much flexibility you have to do so, including for instance your income and time requirements and other factors) the better off you will be and the more efficiently you will complete the project in a professional manner. Choosing the wrong project can lead to frustration or ultimately the inability to finish the project properly or by the deadline. Finished a project late may very well cause you to have wasted time on that project (where you could have invested that time in an appropriate project that you could have completed) and/or surrendering some or all contracted payment. On the other hand, it CAN be a healthy challenge to occasionally work on less-than-ideal files, as it helps you train your endurance capacity,which is a valuable asset to transcription work in general. There WILL be times, EVEN if you are working on an ongoing project which resonates well with you, where some periods of this more challenging audio will arise. The more training you have in enduring this. and the more coping skills you develop, the easier it will be to get through these rough spots and continue enjoying the more rewarding content within the project.

So after listening to ten to twenty minutes of the recording I decided that the subject was interesting, the speech was clear enough to manage, and that I would likely be able to make it through the 90 minutes of editing. I had the instinctive sense that I would not be able to transcribe such a long file at the time (and this was a prudent and accurate judgement), but editing it seemed to be feasible. Unfortunately, when the editing jobs are listed on the board before you accept them you don’t have access to the actual text transcription which, of course, would enable you to see the quality of the transcription. If the transcriber has done a decent job then your editing work will be relatively easy. However, since many of the transcribers who work freelance for these entry-level operations are relatively inexperienced (or possibly non-native English speakers from overseas) you can never be truly sure what to expect. I decided to give it a shot. Luckily, the system allows you to “unassign” a project any time after you’ve accepted and started on it. Although you lose any possible compensation if you abort the mission, you are at least able to get out of it without subjecting yourself to too much agony. It is also good for the company as it allows another freelancer to take on the project and ultimately get it done before the deadline set with the customer.

So, I finally follow through and accept the project. Once you accept a project you are unable to select other simultaneous ones, which is actually good because it allows you to focus and get it done properly. Once accepted, you move on to the individual project page where the file is available for play online and download, and the transcription is posted in an in-line editor on the page. At this point if you have transcription software (like “Express Scribe”) you can download the audio file and copy/paste the transcription text into the text editor of the software or other word processor. I find it ideal to download both the audio file and transcription text and work on them in Express Scribe Pro, since the software has many special, helpful features, and if the internet connection is lost for some reason there is no problem.

Once the file is imported into Express Scribe I decide to have a full listen through the entire 90 minute recording. I have learned this important technique through my print editing experience. It is essentially a way of “priming” yourself to work on the recording. Often you need to hear the context of speech before it makes sense. There are also times when it may help to hear something which is said later in the speech in order to understand something said earlier. Although the deadline of the edit is nine hours away I feel it is worth having a full listen – especially since this is the first formal attempt at audio editing for this company. This first listen is ESPECIALLY enjoyable if the content is interesting, since you are not distracted by simultaneously looking at the text as you listen.

Luckily the content of the recording was interesting and after the full listen I had a good general idea of what is said in the interview. It WAS therefore a good investment of time to spend 90 minutes on the full listen. As I was listening I was also taking quick, sporadic looks at the transcription text to get a feel for the quality of the transcription. In this case the transcriber had done a very good job. When I finished listening I felt confident that I would be able to complete the project and submit an adequate final product within the deadline.

I was now ready to begin the proper task of working through the edit of the transcript. I had learned through previous freelance work that it is very important to time your activities. Using a timer allows you to judge your capabilities and progress and pace yourself so that you can complete the project in a timely and minimally stressful manner. So the first thing I did was open the (excellent and free) Toggle time tracking software program on my desktop, enter “edit transcription” as a “new task” and click “start”. I was now up and running with the editing task.

The edit process was straightforward. The transcriber had transcribed most words correctly and since this was a “for clarity” and “without time codes” type of edit my main role was to make sure that the transcription text was accurate enough in reference to the audio speech so that the end consumer (the reader of the transcript) would get the key information which had originally been expressed through the speech during the interview. In other words, the goal is to clean everything up so that it is most easily digestible (yet accurate) to the end user.

More importantly is that fact that by being able to compare the audio speech with the text I was able to get some hands-on experience as to how the transcriptionist applies the company’s style guide elements to the audio. This is something which would not have been possible if I had started by choosing transcription jobs first. As you work through edits on different projects done by different transcribers you develop a better sense of the range of ways of dealing with the common issues which arise in the process, and so it is highly advisable to include editing work as a fundamental element of your overall work as a transcriber. In fact, after completing this edit I decided it would be best to focus on the editing primarily for a while and then take on some of the easier (shorter and less complicated) transcription jobs in an effort to ease into things as I simultaneously educated myself through various transcription resources and communities available widely and freely throughout the internet.

I submitted the edited file well before deadline, ultimately enjoyed listening to the audio interview, got some quality experience and information, and made ~ $20 USD of much-need money in the process. Another productive day to add to the record.