Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tips on Audio Recording

The way that an audio file is recorded greatly influences the quality of the transcript. There’s no two ways about this and no way around it, no matter how good the transcriptionist. Although there is software that can help clean it up this is both time consuming and not always efficient.I do not offer recording as a service as it is a speciality on its own, but there are a number of options you as a client who needs something recorded have. The first is to outsource the function and this is probably the most secure, with the best guarantee that you will get a good recording. For this purpose I recommend AMD Solutions and if you use their services please let them know that I recommended them.

audio_ds-2500__front_left_xlThe second way is to do it yourself. There are a number of ways to do this, and if you talk to the guys at Maynards  they will be able to recommend a good recording solution.  You can also use your cellphone or laptop using recording software, but you may not be guaranteed a good outcome.
If you are doing your own recording, there are some things to bear in mind to make it as clear as possible.
  1. Try to record in a quiet place. Loud background noise, while it may not be obvious to you sitting in a restaurant or shopping centre, is very obvious to the transcriptionist trying to make out a particular voice from many in the background.
  2. Try to minimise distractions such as ringing phones, dogs barking or children making a noise.
  3. If there are a variety of speakers, you can ask each speaker to clearly identify and introduce him or herself.
  4. Record a few seconds of ambient noise. This is the room sounds without anybody talking. This allows anyone cleaning up the recording to use that section of recording as a noise sample and use software to remove that type of noise from the recording.
  5. Try to make sure that all speakers speak directly and clearly into the microphone. If someone is sitting across the table and not speaking into the microphone, that person’s contribution may be lost.
  6. Try not to record in the vicinity of loud machinery or activities.
Some form of noise is inevitable and expected in transcripts, but much can be avoided.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Audacity Noise Removal

I have recently discovered how to clean up audio using the freeware software Audacity and I thought I would share it.

This might not be rocket science to anyone else, but it took me a while to discover.

When I say this I should point out that it is versions of Audacity before version 2.1.0 that I am referring to. You can talk about being on the slow bus, but I haven't figured out the supposedly much improved 'Noise Reduction' function of later versions. Anyway, it's actually fairly simple when you know how.

1) Open Audacity.
2) Load your audio file.
3) Select a small section of the file that contains the noise you want to get rid of.
4) Go to the Noise Removal function in the Effects tab.
5) Click 'Get Noise Profile' and here it will allow you to get a preview of what your new file will sound like.

6) Go back to your file and select the whole thing.
7) Go back to Noise Removal and hit 'remove noise'.

 Bob's your uncle! It takes a while to do fairly big files and then to save them as well - but I have achieved some very good results doing this. It's prudent, if you have any control over how the file is being recorded, to record a few seconds of ambient noise - meaning just room noise without talking. Then, when you get to Audacity, this will be the section you select for your noise profile, and all similar sounding noise will be removed from your file.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Why a Transcriptionist is beneficial in the Insurance Industry

The transcription service is relevant and beneficial in just about any industry.  Small business owners become stressed with the amount of work load they have and being able to outsource functions saves stress and makes life easier and larger companies can outsource this function in order to streamline their operation. Insurance administration can be a nightmare if you try to handle it on your own. So why not get a professional to help?

If you work in the insurance industry, you probably record your phone calls and dictate your reports. If you own your own small business, you probably do the work later on yourself. Both of these can be uploaded and sent to a transcriptionist to type. This is cheaper than having a permanently employed member of staff, and you don't have to worry about overheads like salaries, electricity and equipment. The transcriptionist, as a freelancer or a business owner, takes care of this. 

Because this function may not be your strength, it can also be to your benefit to have someone more proficient at it do it. They will be faster, more efficient, and it will leave you  more time to tackle your strength - which is running your business. 

This means that by the time you get back to your office, your calls and reports can be ready and waiting for you at your desk.  It can be helpful to you if you work at your desk or if you are on site doing assessments.  The time you save doing this helps you achieve a faster turn around time and makes you look more efficient in the eyes of your client. 

Larger insurance companies, which make use of call centres and other larger groups of staff, can also benefit by using a transcriptionist.  All call centre, telephone and admin staff can send out their calls to be transcribed, leaving them free to process calls and handle the administration functions. This leads to a much more stress free environment. 

All forms of insurance companies and insurance consultants can benefit from this - life insurance, pension, liability insurance, auto insurance, medical insurance or medical aid, property insurance, funeral cover, etc - even pet insurance! - giving you peace of mind to keep customers happy. 

To summarise, the benefits include:
- Saving stress
- Making life easier
- Streamlining the operation 
- Cost reduction
- Increased efficiency

Contact me for a quote on typing and transcription services today. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

S is for Story Pot

Interview with Damaria Senne - author of amongst many things the Story Pot Blog. 

Essentially Damaria, who is a long term friend of mine, is my inspiration and mentor when it comes to blogging. D's the writer I wanna be. And it's my pleasure and honour to interview her here today. And so S is for Story Pot. 

Damaria Senne Biography

I am/ have been many things: a sister, friend, mother, partner, aunt, daughter, an activist, journalist, writer, communications specialist, blogger, publisher, care-giver, homemaker and gardener.
My career objective is to write about the big adventure that we call life; my stories and other people’s stories; fiction and non-fiction. The medium and genre may vary depending on publishing requirement. All I want is that the stories are shared.

The Interview

From the blog: Launched in January 2006, STORYPOT started as a place for Damaria to showcase her children's stories and talk about her writing life. She loved the way the blog helped her make new friends, learn from them and share with them . But, at the back of her mind, there was always that niggling thought that a blog called Storypot should be about more than just one writer, cooking up a wide variety of stories and plots. Then opportunity came knocking and Pam joined her....

I've always been quite intrigued by the name StoryPot. I like it and think it totally works, but why Story Pot as opposed to Story Site or Story Page?

As you know I love food: growing it, tending to it, cooking it and sharing it with my friends and family. So when I named Storypot, I was saying, this blog is where I cook up all the stories that I publish. They can be fiction or non-fiction, for children or adults, for print, radio, TV or online, it doesn’t matter. All my stories are cooked in this pot.

The ingredients for these stories are all the elements that affect my writing – my job, friends, family, acquaintances, people I meet online and offline, my house, garden, the books I read, the movies I watch, the music I listen to.

So my blog visitors get the behind-the scenes look of the stories as they evolve (cook), even when I don’t know the story is cooking. Does that make sense?

Do you still collaborate with Pamela Moeng? Chat to us about that collaboration. 

Pam and I are old friends; sisters really. We met more than 20 years ago when we both lived in Mmabatho and we became good friends then.

So we’ve supported each other through career moves, writing projects, family crises, life really. We chat every day; by email. We share about what we’re working on, the people we meet, what we read, stuff that bug us… whatever.
So it made sense that if I was going to share my blog with anyone, it would be her.

For the past 18 months or so we’ve been co-writing a course for a client (with other people). We’ve also tackled some small projects together too.  It worked well enough.

But we didn’t work as closely as I had hoped (we worked more in tandem rather than together). Part of the reason is that I was busy with Mma’s health issues and Pam has a day job and we both had other projects too.

2014 brings us an opportunity to work on more projects together, and we plan to both make the time for joint projects that allow us to work more closely together.

Story Pot started as a blog for your own children's books, but you've got a number of business related and other books for sale on there. Where do you see the direction of Story Pot going in the future?

That’s the question that I have been asking myself lately. Luckily, you asked after I did have some answers for myself and my readersJ

The short answer is that Storypot is a lifestyle blog, with specific focus on a writer’s life. You are right that Storypot started out focusing on my children’s stories, but it turned out that I had more than just children’s stories inside me. So as I said, readers get the front row seats to watch as the stories I write develop; they see various elements of the life affecting my writing. Some of it is clear from the beginning that it’s going to end in a story, some of it only shows up later.

My typical audience, I think is made up of mothers/ writers/ bloggers/ gardeners/ homesteaders/people who share a common interest or cause with me.

As to my desired audience, I want to attract people who can use what I publish. For example, I would like to attract mothers looking for children’s stories to read for their kids at bedtime, or bloggers who want to promote their work more in the media, or small business owners who recognise that being a writer/ blogger is a business and want to share their learning with me and may teach me a thing or two.

I do hope that virtual assistants in this blog tour find “How to get quoted in the media”to be a very useful tool for their businesses. The one thing to note is that the ebook focuses on getting positive media coverage without having to spend money. When you pay, it’s advertising, and not media coverage and not the subject of the book.

Secondly, I’m dropping the price of the ebook  for the duration of the blog challenge (28 weeks).

Do you have a favourite book that you've written, or something special about each of them that you'd like to mention?

Waking Up Grandma is special to me because I was thinking of my mother as I wrote it. And it’s contemporary and funny…. 

The message in The Doll That Grew stood the test of time. That story was first published eons ago, and its message is still relevant today. And that’s not just me saying that because I’m attached to it: last year the primary school my nephew attends did an end –of- year skit, and guess which story was adapted for the stage? Yup! The Doll That Grew!

How toget quoted in the media is special to me because I did it with a good friend. Christelle and I worked very closely together – and fought a lot about the details – but that’s what made it so rewarding. In the end, we brought out the best in each other. Though there were moments when I would have happily wrung her neck (because she wouldn’t let me get my way) and she felt the same too!

Tselane and the Giant, which I’m releasing through Damaria Senne Media on Amazon in the first quarter of 2014 is special to me because it brings back warm childhood memories. 

We even grew up calling my younger brother Boitshoko, yes, he who was named for the main character in the newly literate adult reader Boitshoko (published by Heinemann SA in 1996), Dingwe, which means Giant, because he loved the story so much, especially the parts where the Dingwe character talked.

What projects are you currently busy with?

Phew! I have lots going on. Unfortunately, I have the attention span of a gnatJ So I have the following tasks in my projects queue:

Publish on stories Amazon – a children’s story (Tselane and the Giant) and a novel (both have been through edits. The cover of the children’s story is already done; both also need to be proofread)

Finish writing an anthology of children’s stories with a co-author - We have some good stories done already, so it’s a matter to adding more and starting edits. This collection will also be published through Amazon.

Update and promote my blogs more aggressively. Without the aggressive marketing, the books won’t sell.

The blogs that will receive the most attention are:
Free African Tales ( ) – Where I moved my children’s stories in 2006 when Storypot changed

Write and submit stories under a pen name. This is a critical move in my business, as I want to have less client-based income and more book publishing based income.

You have another blog, called Growing Our Food. I love the concept of everyone being self-sustainable. Tell us about that. 

My mother has diabetes and high blood pressure, and that means that she has to eat a low-fat, low-salt diet that’s pretty heavy on veggies and fruit.

Additionally, I’ve always felt overweight and have ulcer. So I had to find a way to feed us really well and make sure that we have variety enough we don’t get bored with the healthy meals. This meant either spending a fortune on fresh food or growing it ourselves. And being the writer and blogger that I am, I had to document it J.

So the blog reflects my gardening life –  resources I’m reading/watching, what I’m doing in my own garden and the lessons I’m learning as I go along.

Is Growing Our Food a way to try to help the community and educate people?

It struck me very early in the gardening game that many people find it very intimidating. It looks like complicated, hard work for very little return. And why bother when you could get fresh, much prettier-looking veggies and herbs from the Food Lover’s Market?

Me? I decided I didn’t mind being a serial killer: if I plant it, then kill it, it’s  fine. I’ll just plant again, kill it again.. until I figure out what I’m doing wrong and fix it. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy what I couldn’t kill.

Turned out that there were a lot of vegetables and herbs I couldn’t kill. And I wanted to share that knowledge with people, show them that it was not as hard as they feared. And it’s very good exercise. Very relaxing.

My hope it that my blog posts will inspire other people to garden, or try one more time if their crops fail, and to teach them what they need to do through my experiences.

It’s also a sustainable way to use the resources we have for food.

Who is Damaria Senne and what's in the future?

I am/ have been many things – a sister, friend, adoptive mother, partner, aunt, friend, daughter, an activist, journalist, writer, communications specialist, blogger, publisher, care-giver, homemaker and gardener.
I’m a mass of contradictions. I operate best when I’m solitary, but love people. I’m somewhat shy but laugh loudly and heartily.
I’m very practical, looking at all sides of an issue before taking most actions, yet I’m prone to impulsive actions that change lives (mine and other people’s).
I’m a science geek (Chemistry major with minors in Physics and Maths) who decided that a life of creative writing suited her best.
So what’s in my future?  Books. Lotsa books.

Monday, April 07, 2014

N is for Nextgen.

Nextgen. A new word in the world, one which I find fairly daunting.

What does it mean?

According to the definition is as follows: Pertaining to the next generation in a family; also, pertaining to the next stage of development or version of a product, service, or technology.

Example:   Programmers are now developing next-generation software.

All of these can be a little daunting. The next generation in people could take your job, the next generation of a product, service or technology could put your business OUT of business.  But as business people we need to work with the advances, use them to our advantage, and adapt where we need to.

Voice recognition software is a big player in the transcription industry, and while I don't feel threatened by it yet, I feel that we have to stay on our toes to make this development work for us as transcriptionists.

Let's have a quick look at the history and development of the technology. Speech recognition in its most base form started as early as the 1960s, with voice activated technology - such as when you phone someone  and it asks you to speak a number into the phone.

By the 1990s voice recognition software was beginning to raise its head in a world of developing technological business products. However, these voice recognition products were initially not received well. Firstly the hardware of the day was unsuitable to perform these tasks. As an example Kurzweil A.I. introduced VoiceRAD - but the 386 processors which were standard for the time weren't nsufficient to drive the software. As a result the system was barely functional and voice recognition got a bad name . You also had to speak very slowly. (Voice Recognition)

Since then, of course, there have been many advances in the technology. In 1995 Pentium processors turned up and by 1997 were the standard in new hardware.

Now voice recognition software is available in a wide variety, in a varying price range. Most of the current systems are either speaker independent or require only a minimum of training. (Speaker independent means that you can simply install it and 'speak' to it). 

Dragon Naturally Speaking is the best in the range.

So where does this leave the transcriptionist? Firstly, there are a lot of customers who just feel too daunted by the prospect of buying and learning new software, and who still prefer to dictate. Secondly, the once off customer such as a student, or someone who wants to only do one or two reports, is unlikely to want to use this kind of software. Thirdly, the software can be used as a tool in our own businesses to speed up the process of transcription. Fourthly, the software still needs to be proofread. It's still very difficult for any software to differentiate between words which sound the same (where and wear, for example). Any transcriptionist worth their weight in gold and with fairly basic levels of literacy can offer proofreading as a service. And there are still those who discover Aunt Sally's hand written diary from 192 and want it typed. So while voice recognition software is something we must be aware of, we must incorporate it and still be available for the many who can't or won't use it.