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.