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

computer and books for transcription research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Progress – Research Findings, Tasks and Skills Development

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Transcribing!
freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com

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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.

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.