Breaking Barriers? Open Steno Leads the Way

Yesterday, many professional stenographers came together with hobbyist stenographers from the Open Steno Project. Open Steno proponents presented how they have brought the cost of trying and using steno from the thousands of dollars it used to cost down to about $100. One example of this is the Uni, which is now, according to members from the community, in mass production mode. Please get involved in the various Open Steno communities, but especially the Discord chat. For anyone that missed the meeting, you can watch it here. The entire event was put together over the course of one week by Dineen Squillante, and without her, the event would not have happened. Captioning was provided by Open Steno founder Mirabai Knight. Moderation was performed by Quaverly Rothenberg. Check out my timeline of events below:

11:00 Dineen Squillante begins the meeting.

14:47 Mirabai Knight speaks about how the community has continued to grow and captions at the same time.

15:56 National Court Reporters Association President Debbie Dibble spoke about the honor of the invitation to join and noted she would be taking vociferous notes.

17:00 British Institute of Verbatim Reporters President Leah Willersdorf gave us a breakdown of BIVR’s membership.

18:06 New York State Court Reporters Association President Dom Tursi presented to us the history of machine shorthand. 1827 in France is the earliest attempt to mechanize shorthand that Dom has been able to unearth.

After that lineup, the Open Steno Community members spoke and shared with us several important things.

28:30 Software Engineer (140 WPM) Sammi De Guzman gave us a great introduction. Sammi spoke about the financial barriers of getting into stenography and talked about how the Open Steno Project has eliminated or substantially reduced those barriers through cheaper hardware and free software (Plover). She also mentioned how this barrier reduction allows everyone to use stenography and not just those in court reporting and captioning. Sammi also mentioned the large ecosystem of plugins/tools available.

38:14 Aerick, Open Steno Content Creator, spoke about hardware options for hobbyists. Aerick has over a thousand subscribers on Youtube!

44:00 Peter Park from Stenokeyboards.com spoke next. Peter is currently a law student, and he designed the Uni keyboard mentioned at the top. Peter spoke about his background and how he got into stenography.

48:45 Abby, a high school student and hobbyist stenographer (60 WPM), talked about the Stenogotchi by Anodynous.

51:26 Crides, a keyboard designer, spoke about embedded steno and a custom-made steno engine that can run on keyboards, as well as its pros and cons.

54:10 Ted Morin, a software engineer and Lead Developer of Plover, was up next. Ted created Art of Chording, just one way for people to learn stenographic theory for free. Ted spoke about the challenges of people learning stenography on their own. Ted also talked about Steno Arcade!

1:00:15 Joshua Grams, hobby programmer and the creator of Steno Jig was our next speaker. The exercises create pseudo-sentences that keep users on their toes and vary what they hear.

1:03:34 Diana MacDonald (Di), creator of Typey Type, spoke about the history of tools that existed to learn when she started and her creation of Typey Type for accessibility.

1:07:26 Sammi De Guzman spoke again. Fun fact, the meeting is hosted on her YouTube! Sammi got into various tools available, including Steno Explainers.

1:12:16 Quaverly Rothenberg, a stenographic transcriber and intern reporter, was up next and spoke about more tools for learners, including Anki flash card decks and Plover cards. She also spoke about Kaoffie’s steno font tool, recently used by Dineen Squillante with Team Turtle. We also got to hear about stroke frequency analyzer tools by Emily (EPLHREU).

1:28:13 Sammi gave us more information about decentralizing stenography and creating accessibility to more people in more places. The work of various creators was mentioned at 1:34:17, including SanSan by Sammi, Hachidori by Kaoffie, and Thai Steno by Parnikkapore.

1:34:32 Jim McAllister spoke about his work to create theory in other languages, including Spanish, and introduced his Spanish theory language group on Facebook.

1:41:16 Elizabeth Tremmel, an official court reporter in Ramsey County, Minnesota was the next presenter. She spoke about the Plover demographics survey. She spoke about schools and community, and how Plover helped her achieve working speed. One very important point made by Elizabeth was that NCRA’s testing policy is ambiguous.

I need to hijack the point Elizabeth made. Because of the nature of the Open Steno Community’s work, they need clarification on “special accommodations” and “stenographic writer” in NCRA testing. “Stenographic writer” is incredibly important because of the wide variety of writers that Open Steno has produced. Thanks to modern technology, people can swap out square keys for steno keys on an NKRO keyboard and perform stenography. When I took board training, I learned that associations don’t exclude vendors because that might cause antitrust complaints. If OSP has to crowdfund a lawyer to engage with NCRA to get these answers or represent people lost in the shuffle, it will be a dark day in the history of our profession. I have to ask my colleagues to help legitimize this community rather than illegally exclude it. I believe that’s where we are headed, but I must insist we be proactive: Let’s not be shy about pushing for a better, more-inclusive organization.

1:51:54 Matt “Sooty” Morgan spoke about his quest to teach himself stenography and how scarce stenographic writers are in Australia. Without Plover, Matt would not have made the professional milestones he’s made. He has hope for the future of shorthand in his country thanks to Open Steno. Knowing the

1:54:12, Stanley Sakai joined us from outer space. He talked about teaching himself stenography, the infancy of Plover, and how that evolved into work with coding an app for accessibility and captioning at Coachella with Isaiah Roberts. In Stanley’s words, any way someone can appreciate our craft is a beautiful thing.

2:07:30 Aerick came back and showed off the Discord chat, which professionals are encouraged to join.

After the conclusion of the Open Steno presentation, professional stenographers got a chance to speak.

2:13:16 Yvette Heinze spoke about Team Turtle and the importance of community. Main takeaway? Working together and surrounding ourselves with people that challenge us to learn and grow is vital to the profession’s survival.

2:19:21 Rich Germosen spoke about the court reporting practice community that he runs and how they support each other and keep the drama and politics low.

2:22:18 Christopher Day got to speak about how there’s a tech buzzword going around, the democratization of technology. He pledged to use Stenonymous to boost the community. He also mentioned how dummy pages were put up to lure students away from stenography with lies published about NCRA projections.

2:26:28 Traci Mertens, a stenographer of 34 years in nearly every area of the field that works as an Official Legislative Reporter for the United States House of Representatives. We need voice writers, Plover people, and everybody on board was the core of Traci’s message.

2:30:33 Mirabai Knight was the official close to the meeting, noting how she was blown away by all of the contributions made and how she loves being able to use Plover for captioning, as she has for almost a decade.

2:32:10 Dan Glassman got to come in and explain his experiences and knowledge from the last four decades in the history of stenography. From there, the meeting floated to general discussion and Q&A.

In only one week, Open Steno pulled together this monumental presentation. That, by itself, makes it worthy of our support.

The transcript of the event is available publicly.

Notably, I failed to mention StenoMasters, a speech club open to everyone and run by my best friend, Joshua Edwards. For those that want to sharpen their skills in speaking, it’s worth the $146 first-year cost. StenoMasters is very much like Open Steno in its quest to be accessible and open. Most of the fee goes to Toastmasters, the umbrella organization over StenoMasters, and the rest goes to club expenses.

I also failed to mention Glen Warner’s Cheap & Sleazy blog. My blog, is the biggest blog in the industry commercially. Glen’s is arguably the best blog in the industry, and if you’ve never seen it, it’s time to take a look. His work inspired my work. I hope to inspire others the way he inspired me. His work in the Open Steno Community and promoting the Facebook page cannot go unnoticed.

2 thoughts on “Breaking Barriers? Open Steno Leads the Way

  1. Fantastic! The minutes are unanimously approved. Thank you so much! I appreciate your broadening of the stenographic legion.

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