Transcription

The Rise of the Machines

The Rise of the Machines 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

If you’re fond of ’80s movies, chances are you’ve seen what they envisioned the 2010s to look like: full of hovercrafts, futuristic cities, and murderous robot machines. For better or worse, none of those things have become commonplace yet, but we are making strides in the technology department. The self-driving car will soon be commercially available, and our lives are very much devoted to smartphones and the Internet.

Speech Recognition

But why are we so behind on speech recognition? This is a hugely debated topic in the transcription and translation industries, as many don’t want their jobs to become obsolete. Though while that is a worry, the ability for a machine to accurately transcribe or translate will provide cheap access to many who need language services, which would be a huge step forward.

The problem is that language is so, so difficult (especially English) in so many ways. It may seem like speech recognition should be easy to develop, but just think about an elderly person having a conversation with a pre-teen. Even if they’re both speaking English, it can sometimes feel like conversations between two different worlds due to how quickly language evolves, context, and speaking styles.

Machines have this same problem. While we are extremely close to machines being able to understand monotonous, clear English spoken by a single speaker, problems arise when you have recordings with groups of people (which is what we specialize in).

Where Machines Fail

Here’s an example: a market research company is holding a 10-person focus group with folks who do speak English but aren’t native speakers. The group is comprised of teenagers from the rural south. So that’s 10 people, many talking over each other at certain points, who don’t speak English well, use regional dialect, and also use many newly-created words. That’s hard enough for a human to transcribe. But for machines, at this time, it’s not possible to achieve anywhere near 100% accuracy.

In the future, this will likely be solved in some technical way that my non-scientific brain cannot fathom. When it does, Atomic Scribe will evolve, just as language does. For now, it’s best to use human-powered services if you’re looking for accuracy. The rise of the machines will have to wait just a little bit longer.

Language Services Make Sermons Soar

Language Services Make Sermons Soar 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

In the olden days, churches operated very differently than their counterparts of today. It used to be many congregated on a Sunday morning to listen their pastor, and that was the only way to experience the teachings of their church.

But today, the Internet has revolutionized how information is disseminated. Now pastors can record and upload their sermons, turn their messages into podcasts and live streams, and they can interact with their members through social media and their web sites. While this may be daunting to some, it has a huge benefit: it ensures your message is spread near and far. So how can you make sure you’re reaching all those that you can?

Transcription

At Atomic Scribe, one of our favorite things to work on are sermon transcriptions, which we do frequently. Most of our religious clients transcribe their sermons so they can put the text on their web site, which is useful for Deaf followers and those who just prefer reading to listening (which is many).

Using the transcripts can also allow your sermons to be picked up by Google searches, and you can use the transcripts for books, newsletters, blog posts, and for keyword searches. It’s really a small price to pay to have your words indexed so that more people can find you and so that you can reach more people.

Translation

One of the U.S.’s greatest strengths is our diversity. And as we have no official national language, the need for translation services grows as the immigrant population does.

Many churches now have Spanish-speaking followers, among other languages. To make your sermons accessible to these followers as well, use translation services so they can follow along in their native language. It’s a great way to expand your congregation and to be more inclusive.

Spread the Word

In the end, it’s a church’s decision if they want to grow and to take advantage of the new routes the Internet provides to communicate with and reach more people. We promise you’ll find language services useful in spreading your word, and we would love to help. Get a quote today to get started.

Here’s How Your Podcast Can Reach More People

Here’s How Your Podcast Can Reach More People 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

If you’re in the podcasting business or plan to join in, you’ve made a smart move. Podcasts are everywhere these days, with the medium taking over as the likes of Serial, How Stuff Works, the Nerdist, and more have becomes go-to conversation starters.

Why are podcasts becoming so popular? One reason is easy access. Most podcasts are free and can be listened to on one’s phone, so they’re perfect for commutes, while making dinner or while bored at work (not speaking from experience here at Atomic Scribe…).

However, just because podcasts are easy to find, that doesn’t mean they’re accessible to all. If you’re Deaf or hard-of-hearing, there’s little chance for you to join in on the podcast revolution.

That’s where transcription comes in. By simply providing a transcript of your podcast, you reach millions more that can’t listen to your audio.

Transcripts are also useful for those who just prefer reading while they listen or instead of listening entirely, non-English speakers who might need help with some of your content, anyone who wants to quote your podcast on social media or in an article, and to make it easier to translate your podcast into other languages.

Putting a transcript on your site also helps your content be found by Google and other search engines, which brings you a huge amount of potential new followers.

Here’s the thing: you pay for a transcript once and it’s yours to keep forever. You can keep it on your computer and search for keywords and phrases to make sure you’re not repeating yourself in a new episode you’re working on, or you can use the text to write posts, books, and so much more. It’s really a small price to pay to make your podcast accessible to everyone, including yourself!

Building a Relationship With Our Clients

Building a Relationship With Our Clients 2500 1668 Atomic Scribe

Our slogan at Atomic Scribe is “Human-Powered. Professional. Personal.” Those are the three pillars of our business, and it speaks to our number one concern: building a relationship with our clients so that we can better suit their needs.

A lot of businesses these days are moving away from this model thanks to the internet, especially in the language services industry. It’s more efficient for a transcription company to put their order form online, send out the work to transcriptionists through email, and then send the work back to the client, all without speaking to the client or workers personally. This saves time so that the company can work more on increasing sales.

We don’t like to do that at Atomic Scribe, but we’re not antiquated either. We use an online client portal to accept orders, list invoices, send files, and more, but we also interact with our clients as soon as an order is submitted and throughout the duration of the project. This helps us figure out the client’s needs, see how they prefer things done and customize their project to what works best for them. It’s a mix of technology and personalization that ensures we provide the best service we can for each individual client.

Because as much as technology can be de-humanizing, each client is different from every other client, and a language services company needs to spend the time to notice that and deliver tailor-made work. Treating clients as people and not a number in a sea of orders is key to attaining maximum quality and creating a lasting understanding between partners.

Rev vs. Atomic Scribe Transcription

Rev vs. Atomic Scribe Transcription 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

There are a lot of transcription companies out there, so how do you choose the one that’s best for you? In this piece we’ll lay out some key differences between Atomic Scribe and Rev, a popular company that we used for four focus groups to test out their transcription quality. Rev boasts prices of $1/audio min, no matter the audio quality or length. Here’s what we found.

Rev Has No Real Delivery Deadline

Although it is stated on Rev’s site that orders are generally delivered in 24 hours, it actually depends on the file. We also found that they did not give us status updates on a file’s progress in a timely fashion, which can be extremely worrying for those with a deadline.

For example, one of our focus groups files was ordered on Jan. 31st and labeled by Rev as due on Feb. 3rd (already well past 24 hours)… but it wasn’t delivered until three days later on Feb. 6th. That’s a whole week from the initial order date, which is longer than our standard turnaround time. No discount or refund was offered.

At Atomic Scribe, deadlines are important. We have three tiers (rush, standard and discount), and we adhere to whichever tier the client chooses. But sometimes files are harder than expected and more time is needed, in which case we always contact the client immediately and ask if this is acceptable. We also provide a discount if a deadline extension is necessary.

Speaker ID Inaccuracy

Limited speaker ID is included in Rev’s low price, but unfortunately most IDs were unhelpful. While some speakers were correctly identified as “Male” or “Female”, other times names were used as labels sporadically. Basically, there was no uniformity.

In one transcript the speakers were labeled Speaker 1, Speaker 2, Speaker 3, etc. However, it was clear from a re-listen that the transcriptionist could not actually tell the speakers apart and that many labels were incorrect. A good example of this is the number of identified speakers went up to 6 when there was actually 8 participants, but no Speaker 7 or Speaker 8 were found in the transcript (yet they were found by our own transcriptionists).

At Atomic Scribe, we see that as a waste of time. Yes, we charge more for speaker ID, but with that extra charge we come as close to 100% accuracy as we can get. There’s no point in having speaker ID at all if it isn’t accurate, and there should always be the option to add it to an order if it’s helpful to the client. It should also be uniform and not a different format in every transcript.

Too Many Inaudibles

One transcript (the one not delivered until a week after ordering) actually had 337 inaudibles! When our transcriptionist finished it on a re-listen, there was—no joke—10 inaudibles left. There were also quite a few inaudibles across the transcripts that were easily found by just doing research, such as a town or company name.

We’ll admit our audio wasn’t perfect and focus groups are hard, but that’s why most companies charge more for multi-speaker files and pay their transcriptionists more for them. A flat fee system like Rev uses treats all files the same, which hurts transcript quality.

Low Pay Scale

After we received the transcripts from Rev, we were curious about their transcriptionists. First off, U.S. citizenship is not a requirement to work for Rev. That could mean a larger amount of foreign workers whose native language isn’t English.

We also found out that Rev pays their transcriptionists on average less than half what we pay ours (according to their own site), which probably accounts for the inaudibles. After all, if a worker isn’t receiving a fair wage, what incentive do they have to turn in a good transcript? If their contract is terminated, there are plenty of other companies that pay the same wages as Rev (and many that pay better).

Lower Quality

The transcripts widely ranged in quality. Some transcripts were acceptable, but some had to be almost completely redone. And that’s what is reasonable to expect from a low-cost service, as is expected in every industry. You know you will never receive the best quality, but you hope and pray that you won’t receive the worst either.

That might be okay for some of your projects. But for a higher price (that you only pay once), you get peace of mind, accuracy, correct speaker ID, uniform formatting, communication, research of names and companies, and skilled transcriptionists. It seems to us an easy choice to make.

Note: We confirm that we paid full price for Rev’s services for files in 2014 and are not affiliated with the company. This is a truthful review with no attempt to distort facts.

What Is Transcription and Why Is It So Important?

What Is Transcription and Why Is It So Important? 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

What? Transcription is converting a recorded video or audio track into a written format, such as a Word document. Most companies offer verbatim transcription, where every single thing uttered is written down, including “uh,” “um,” and other such filler words. Clean edited verbatim takes out those filler words to ensure a smoother transcript.

Who? Transcription may sound easy initially, but anyone who has sat down to do a transcript realizes quickly that transcription takes a lot of time, energy and skill.

That’s why professional transcriptionists who have trained in the field for years are so important. Transcriptionists not only are trained to be able to make out difficult audio, but they also must have an impressive knowledge of grammar. Additionally, they must know how to research terms that they hear to find correct matches for spelling and context, like if an interviewee casually mentions an acronym or a prescription drug name. Incorrectly transcribing a term can confuse the speaker’s intent, which is a big problem.

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Why? Now to the big question: why is transcription necessary? Is it just an extra cost? Well, no. Transcripts can be used for so many different purposes that it would take too much time to list them all.

But the fact is transcripts are often faster to read than the time it takes to listen to audio or video. It’s also easier to distribute to other people, like clients or coworkers. The text can show up in Google searches, unlike audio or video. The Deaf or hard-of-hearing need transcripts to experience content, and many other people just prefer reading to listening.

We work with companies and individuals in the legal, entertainment, market research, police, government, radio, church, and other fields to make their content easily accessible to all, because that is the main point of transcripts. It’s a one-time cost for content that you can keep forever and use in multiple ways. Make sure you take advantage of transcription services so you don’t miss out.

5 Ways Focus Group Moderators Can Improve Transcripts

5 Ways Focus Group Moderators Can Improve Transcripts 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

A focus group moderator’s job is not easy, but neither is a transcriptionist’s. It can be very difficult to capture everything that is said in a long discussion with as many as a dozen people speaking. But, working together, here are some tips for moderators on how to help make their focus group transcripts as high quality as they can be.

Identify Group Participants. Many focus groups are built around a theme. For example, a company could want a focus group on breastfeeding, which means the participants would likely be women within a certain age range. Unfortunately that also means that it’s possible many of the group participants will have similar-sounding voices, and that can make speaker identification problematic.

A focus group moderator can help the transcriptionist be more accurate in their identification by simply using participants’ first names frequently. A “Thank you, [Participant],” or “[Participant], what do you think?” is all that’s necessary. And even if a moderator doesn’t identify a participant after every response, doing so frequently at least gives the transcriptionist lengths of audio they can use to compare non-identified portions with, which is incredibly helpful.

Test Background Noise. Before a group arrives, record a minute of audio in the room the group will take place in (and speaking while sitting in the seat farthest from the recorder is also advised). When you play it back, notice if there are any background noises that could be hindering the audio. There are sounds that may be quiet in person but loud on the recording, such as a running air conditioner or hallway chatter. A quick test run will help you figure out where best to position the recorder, or give you time to figure out if there is a way to lessen any background noise.

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Cut Out Crosstalk. The whole point of a focus group is to get a discussion going, and moderators never want to discourage participants from speaking their honest thoughts. That said, sometimes a moderator has to take charge and stop side conversations or multiple people speaking at once in order to keep the audio intelligible.

But moderators can fall victim to crosstalk as well. It’s natural during a conversation to use filler words (“Okay,” “Mm-hmm,” “Yeah”) when a participant is speaking to let them know you’re listening. Instead, it’s best to nod if it’s possible so that nothing blocks out the respondent’s speech.

Bring a Back-up Recorder. There is not much worse than moderating a great focus group and then checking the recorder only to find it didn’t record or that the audio is damaged. That’s why we always recommend using at least two recorders in every group. Even if your facility offers to record your group, also use a second device (such as a free recording app on your phone) as well to ensure you have a back-up. Better safe than sorry!

Summarize Quiet Answers. Unfortunately some moderators learn the hard way that no matter what you do, some participants are just quiet or difficult to understand when the recording is played back. It’s a big help to a transcriptionist if the moderator quickly sums up what the hard-to-hear participant has just said. The moderator can do this by framing what has just been said as a question to the group. Example: “So, [Participant] thinks [Summarize Participant’s Answer]. What do you think?” It also gives participants something directly to respond to.

Be A Partner

We’re all here to help the end client get everything from a focus group that they can, which means we’re partners in this. So talk to your project manager. Give them a template, if you have one that you prefer. Don’t be shy about asking for changes. Just as a moderator needs honest feedback from group participants, so too does a transcription partner need to know any changes that need to be made to ensure the highest quality possible.

Build Your Audience By Transcribing Audio and Video

Build Your Audience By Transcribing Audio and Video 1920 1280 Atomic Scribe

So many different industries and individuals take advantage of audio and video content today, and that number will grow at extraordinary rates in the next few years. But the work doesn’t end when you have the audio or video in your hands. You need to go one step further and create transcripts for your material. Reasons for this include:

It’s Useful. The amount of time it takes to read text is usually less than watching a video. Also, many people absorb information better through reading rather than audio or visual learning.

Use Text. The text from the transcripts can be copied into anything you want – reports, blogs, e-mails, web sites, study guides, newsletters, etc.

Deaf Accessible. There are almost 40 million Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals just in the United States. That’s a huge number of people who don’t have access to your material without added text.

Storage. A transcript is much less data to store on your computer, site, or database than audio or video files.

SEO and Keywords. Your text can be used in searches to help bring more visitors to your site. You can also use keywords to help search throughout the text, which can’t be done with just audio and video.

Translate. Transcripts can be more easily and accurately translated into other languages.

So, now you’ve decided that transcription really will help you. Which company do you pick to help you? Here is where an old business adage comes into play: you can have good, fast, and cheap services… but you can only pick two of these qualities and not all three.

That’s very true in the transcription industry. The cheaper the prices, the lower the quality. For some projects, that might be okay, but it’s not for most. That’s why at Atomic Scribe we think the most important element is quality and that paying for a service is useless without it. We promise 98% accuracy or more, and we do so with fair rates and turnaround time.

Interested in transcription services? Get a quote!

The Dangers of Outsourcing Transcription

The Dangers of Outsourcing Transcription 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

With today’s economy and the ease of finding companies outside of the U.S. thanks to the Internet, it seems like outsourcing transcription is more popular than ever. The rates are usually much, much lower than industry standard, mostly due to the companies paying their workers — you guessed it — much, more lower than industry standard. But with the growth of the industry, cautionary tales are growing as well.

Take, for instance, news in late 2012 that involved $140 million dollars, a hospital, and outsourcing. A jury awarded that amount to the family of a woman who died due to what her lawyers say was inaccurate transcription work that her hospital relied on to treat her. The transcription services were outsourced to a company in India, and errors in the transcript led to the victim receiving a lethal dose of insulin that she eventually died from.

$140 Million Verdict in Baldwin County, WKRG News

Ellen Cushing wrote an article last year on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an outsourcing system that allows you to post a job to the site and then have workers complete the task. Sounds great, right? The problem is the workers get paid extremely little (even before Amazon takes their cut) and none have had to pass any test to do the work. You could be receiving work from someone who knows very little English, someone with no knowledge of your business, interests or what you do, or a magnitude of other problems.

From Cushing on Mechanical Turk’s wages:

Ipeirotis has estimated the average hourly wage to be roughly $2, while Joel Ross of UC Irvine’s Department of Informatics places it closer to $1.25—and whatever it is, it’s certainly lower than the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Why is this important? Why isn’t the cheapest option the best option? It’s the hospital settlement all over again. If workers aren’t making a fair wage, they have no incentive to submit a correct transcript. And without an accurate transcript, what’s the point of even having audio or video transcribed?

Amazon Mechanical Turk: The Digital Sweatshop, Utne Reader

Have you had good or bad experiences with transcription outsourcing? Let us know in the comments!

The Future of Online Video

The Future of Online Video 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

Do you remember what the Internet was like 20 years ago? It was already becoming a constant, and yet it was so different from today’s standards. There was no Netflix, no YouTube, no Hulu. Those three sites are some of the most synonymous with online today, and they all have one thing in common – they’re video content sites.

Cisco released a report earlier this year that predicts video will account for an unprecedented 84% of all Internet traffic by 2018. There will be almost 4 billion users by then as well, which is over half of the world’s population.

Language Barriers

While the Internet can feel like it’s making the world smaller and easier to communicate with, there are still barriers, and this will only magnify as online use grows. The first issue is the language barrier. Overwhelmingly most of the Internet is written or spoken in English, but English is not the world’s most popular native language. With population growth exploding in Asia and Africa, languages such as Hindi, French and Arabic are expected to rise, and Mandarin Chinese will still be a growing force.

Another barrier is that most video content does not have proper captions for Deaf or hard-of-hearing people, or just for those who like to use captions while they watch video (which is a large number of watchers). In the U.S. it’s estimated that almost 40 million people are Deaf or hard-of-hearing, but that really doesn’t even come close to the number of people who prefer captions and transcripts to just watching a video by itself.

What Can We Do?

The way to help combat both of these issues is to provide captions or transcripts for your video content, in English and in other languages. You just have to pay for the translation once, and then you can use it for captions, on a web site for Google indexing and SEO reach, for marketing purposes, to publish, or whatever else you want. And your video content won’t be found via a search without text, so captions and transcripts can bring more viewers to your content.

There are over 7 billion people on Earth, and a majority of those use the Internet for video content. Don’t miss out on reaching as many people as you can with such a simple process as translation and transcription.