Open Steno was developed by Mirabai Knight, a CART writer in New York City. I first got to hear her speak about it years ago in the context of the stenographer shortage. She explained that this was a matter of statistics. We knew and still know that stenography is hard to do at working speeds. Only about ten percent of people that embark on the journey make it all the way through, and at that point, there’s almost 100% employment. The concept was simple. We cannot force people to pass steno programs, but if we introduce steno to more people, more people will find out they’re good at it and maybe want to make it their career. We can also tear down barriers for people that simply cannot afford student software, taking a different but equally important approach to something like Allie Hall’s Paying It Forward project. People that believe the stenographer shortage is impossible to solve may be surprised to learn that Mirabai pretty much figured it out over a decade ago.
The Open Steno community has brought things into creation like Plover, a free translation software that allows people to understand the basics of maintaining a dictionary without spending a dime. It has also brought Art of Chording by Ted Morin, a free way to learn steno.
The Open Steno 2021 survey results were released recently, and they are remarkable. Out of 100 respondents, almost half had been learning for less than three months, which means lots of people have been introduced to steno very recently.
Again, nearly half heard about steno from the internet, a blog, or website. This gives stenographic reporters a real peek at the power of the internet for recruiting court reporters. Television and online video is a distant second.
On the flip side, most Open Steno participants do not intend to attend formal school. This is a trend that we should pay serious attention to. Communities like Open Steno are going to attract the people the court reporting schools cannot.
About half of the respondents use steno heavily in their normal computer use and over 60 percent of those that use it heavily intend to use it on a regular basis.
Nearly 75% of respondents intend to use stenography exclusively in day-to-day computer use!
The Open Steno community also has different people learning different theories, including Plover, StenEd, Magnum, and Phoenix. A variety of steno softwares are also used, including CaseCAT, Eclipse, and DigitalCAT.
Professional reporters, this is definitely one of many groups deserving of your support, whether you pop into the Discord chat to offer advice or even make financial donations, this is a chance to make a difference and contribute to one project that’s focused on putting an end to the shortage through tool creation and even free games like Steno Arcade.