Global Alliance Founding

Let this serve as a general notice of the launch of the Global Alliance of Speech-to-Text Captioning (Facebook). Without getting into too many politics, I think most of us assume it’s good to have an authority or lobbying body for a specific field. For a long time, people were looking to NCRA to be that for the stenographic captioners. In many ways, NCRA is. The membership didn’t feel comfortable changing the name, so they changed the tag line and have made every effort to include captioners. If we see a membership drift, perhaps it’s a sign that we need to be more assertively inclusive of all stenographers. If we see a lot of dual memberships, then it’s a sign that the two have common ground.

Regardless, this new entity, GASTC, has a mission to become a similar pillar of guidance in the field. Hoping for good things and a gilded age of standards, goals, and consumer advocacy in the captioning field. As time goes on and if GASTC settles in as expected, the organizations can work together to ensure that those that need captioning are given the very best service. There’s a strong hearing loss advocate, Gael Hannan, among their founding members, so this seems like a very serious endeavor with a real plan to be impactful and beneficial to the end user of captioning services.

In an attempt to get more information, I reached out to Steve Clark via e-mail with two very basic questions. My first question was with regard to bylaws. Will the bylaws be published or available to members only? The answer was clear and simple: The bylaws will be available to anyone who wants to see them and posted on the website very soon. Then I asked if there’s anything they wanted to tell this audience, with the understanding that this is a primarily stenographic audience, and I got back:

“What are the Vision and Mission of the Global Alliance? Our Vision is simple: Universal accessibility to the spoken word via all forms of captioning. And our Mission: To be the leading professional authority on speech-to-text captioning, representing all captioners, consumers, and industry.

The Global Alliance is a group of thought leaders pursuing the need for an organization that solely focuses on the profession of captioning. The Global Alliance is comprised of captioners, regardless of the method used to produce captions; all consumers, regardless of where they use captions and how; and all industry, regardless of size, history, or location.

The Global Alliance was started by three stenographic captioners — Steve Clark, Karyn Menck, and Jen Schuck — each of whom has more than 20 years of captioning experience. The three of them represent a constituency of professionals that strongly believes in the need for this Alliance. The other three Board members are Caryn Broome, a voice writer captioner; Will Lewis, with Microsoft; and Gael Hannan, a caption consumer who is hard of hearing and is an advocate and public speaker. We will fill the four remaining Board of Directors positions from our general membership. Our intent is to fully represent the diversity of our membership by appointing additional Directors who are caption consumers and/or who represent industry.

Our Founding Members campaign is now under way and runs through October. Once the Founding Members campaign has concluded, the call for general membership will begin on November 1. We have one class of membership; everyone pays the same dues of $195 per year; and every member has equal voting rights.

Next steps for the Global Alliance include creating a certification for all captioning methods and translating and disseminating evidence-based information to support informed decision-making by all who are involved in creating and using quality captioning. The certification process will test captioning accuracy and quality in a real-world environment.

The Global Alliance intends to be the leading authority on every aspect of captioning. We shall represent the professional interests of our captioner members, listen to and act on feedback and recommendations from our consumer members, and implement changes within the organization based on input from our industry members.

This is an exciting time for the Global Alliance. There is much work to be done, and we want and value your input. We hope you will join with us as, together, we lead the way and chart the course for every aspect of captioning!”

I thought it was an enthusiastic response worthy of disclosing in full. Good luck to the founding members on this journey, and to any who join as general members when the enrollment period begins.

Learn About Stenography at Plaza – February 2019

Plaza College in Queens is hosting a chance for people to come learn about stenography, CART, and grand jury on February 11, 2019 at 10, 1 and 2. Family Feud Game Day will also be held at 12:30 and 6 p.m. That’s 118-33 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills, New York. Want to learn about stenography? You’re invited!

If you love the legal field or have someone that loves the legal field, this is a great chance to get in there and ask questions about studying to become a stenographer. If the legal field is not your thing, there’s also a great chance to serve the deaf and hearing impaired community by becoming a stenographer in the schools and captioning for people who need it in class. The speech recognition market is estimated by some to be worth $21 billion over the next 5 years, and the bottom line is stenography is all about getting in and making up for what the technology can’t do yet.

If you’d like to type four or times faster than the average typist or start a great new career, definitely go hear what they have to say, or get in touch with them at 718 779 1430 and attend their next open house! Remember: Easy to learn, hard to do fast.

Open Steno by Professional Writer Claire Williams

Though posted by me for the purposes of this site, this was written by Claire Williams, who can be found on Twitter @claireducky. Reference: Open Steno.

If you’ve ever served on a jury, been to a court hearing, or watched an episode of Law and Order, you may have noticed someone in the courtroom typing into a strange-looking machine. That person with the flying fingers is a stenographer, and their job is much more important than you might imagine. These behind-the-scenes professionals efficiently document the inner workings of our justice system, write closed captions for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and much more. In the past, you had to invest in specialized training and expensive equipment to become a stenographer. The volunteers at the Open Steno Project are trying to change that, however, by helping people learn stenography for free so they can use this valuable skill in their everyday lives.

To an untrained observer, shorthand writing systems might seem too complicated to be useful in the real world. However, stenography isn’t just for transcriptionists, court reporters, or the actors that play them on television. Typing on a traditional keyboard is fairly straightforward: one keystroke equals one character. Stenography works by pressing multiple keys together that represent a specific sound or syllable. Much like playing a piano, steno keys pressed together are referred to as “chords”, and these chords vastly increase potential writing speed. While an average person can type about 40 to 60 words per minute, and skilled typists average between 70 to 120 words per minute, someone trained in stenography writes well over 200 words per minute. This is even faster than most people speak. Just imagine how much your productivity would increase if you could type four or five times faster than you do now.

Stenography may appear to be a dying art in a digital age, but the skill is actually more relevant today than ever before. Speech-to-text software cannot compete with the accuracy and contextual writing of a trained stenographer. If you’ve ever tried using a dictation application on your phone or computer, you’re probably familiar with the technology’s limitations. Frequently, documents produced by speech recognition software are littered with spelling, grammar, and syntax errors—all of which make the editing process take even longer. Let’s face it: artificial intelligence systems aren’t really all that intelligent yet, and even the best-trained computer can never interpret a human voice perfectly. To do that, you need to have a human ear to listen and a human mind to translate speech with complete accuracy.

While stenography is commonly associated with legal professions like court reporters, shorthand writing actually has a broad range of applications outside of the courtroom. Along with incredible speeds, stenography provides serious advantages in ergonomics and functionality over a traditional QWERTY keyboard or the Dvorak Simplified keyboard. Instead of lettered keys, the chords on a steno machine can be customized and mapped to practically anything, including macros, phrases, symbols, or even snippets of code. This feature alone makes stenography infinitely more flexible than traditional writing methods. Additionally, fewer keystrokes mean less movement and stress on the hands and wrists, making stenography a great skill to learn for anyone who spends a lot of time typing or is concerned about repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Writers, journalists, and administrative professionals could use stenography to increase their typing speed. Computer programmers, mathematicians, and scientists could use it to help write documentation or academic papers more efficiently. Certain nonverbal individuals could use it to communicate in real-time with others using assistive text-to-speech software. With all of these potential people who could benefit from stenography, why hasn’t it become more widespread?

Shorthand writing was first developed more than a thousand years ago. Stenography in its current form has been used for over 100 years. Despite this long history, the skill has never become mainstream—largely due to the many barriers to entry that exist. Typically, anyone who wants to learn stenography must take professional courses through a college or trade school. On top of a steep learning curve, stenography equipment is often prohibitively expensive, running anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 or more. As a result, stenography is woefully underutilized, because few can afford the investment to get started. Thankfully, stenographer Mirabai Knight and the Open Steno Project have been making strides to change that.

From 2005 to 2007, Mirabai Knight attended the New York Career Institute to become a stenographer. The proprietary tools and upfront expenses required inspired Knight to do something to make stenography accessible to anyone who wished to learn. To that end, Knight founded the Open Steno Project, a volunteer community dedicated to bringing stenography to the masses for free. Since then, the organization has helped thousands of people learn stenography and discover new ways to use it in their career and lives.

The first major breakthrough for OSP happened in 2009, when Knight funded the development of Plover, a free and open-source steno software that allows people to use their regular keyboard as a stenography machine. Since its initial launch in 2010, Plover has grown into a feature-packed program for Windows, Mac, and Linux which works with keyboards and steno machines, integrating seamlessly into the background of an operating system. Keystroke emulation allows Plover users to use stenography not just for transcription or court reporting purposes, but within any program or website they want, like Microsoft Word or Facebook.

To help new users learn how to use the program for stenography, the Open Steno Project community has created many free resources, including the Learn Plover! online textbook and a stenographer training game on Steam called Steno Arcade. Additionally, OSP members have tackled the issue of expensive stenography hardware by offering affordable beginner options, hobbyist equipment, and steno machine alternatives like key-toppers.

Thanks to the impressive efforts of Mirabai Knight and the Open Steno Project, now anybody can learn stenography for free. Anyone considering a career in court reporting or transcription should definitely check out the resources available from OSP, especially before spending money on a degree or certification program. Even if you don’t plan on becoming a professional stenographer, the immense benefits of learning this skill make the Open Steno Project a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to improve their life and productivity with stenography.

Learn Stenography!

NCRA.

National Court Reporters Association is, as of writing, the powerhouse association for stenography in the United States. I came across this video today and I figure it’s worth sharing to all who might come across this blog. It will immediately direct you to a site with a little information about how to start getting involved. Having lent a piece of equipment to one of the A to Z programs they describe, I can honestly say I’m a big supporter of this stuff and people giving this profession a try. It’s worth it.

A very brief summary of what we do: We take down the spoken word and make it text. We type it faster than a regular keyboard because our keyboards (stenotypes) allow us to hit multiple letters at once, and those letters stand for various sounds, words, and sentences.

More Than A Job.

In our field we often point at the potential to make money for relatively little education, and I think that’s just fine, but I also realize that doesn’t motivate everybody. If you’re in the camp of not being a money-hungry person, then consider a few extra things. For those of us that work in court reporting, we provide hours upon hours of service to the community, logging and keeping safe thousands of pages of court or deposition records for the day they’re needed by lawyers, litigants, or the public. For those of us that work in captioning or CART, we provide access to the people who need it most. Voice-to-text access for the 15% of Americans who report trouble hearing, and the millions who cannot hear at all! Indeed, if you  won’t do this thing for the money, do it for the people you will be helping just by sitting at a little machine and typing your heart out.

Stanographer.

Stanley Sakai gives a pretty upbeat and fast explanation of stenography here for those that want to know more about the concept of machine shorthand.

Stenoodie.

I came across this fascinating blog by someone who writes under the author name Stenoodie, and they have a short page describing steno/machine shorthand for those who like reading more than videos.