Why Active Readback’s No Steno Man is Wrong

Some have seen this video. I got around to it. I have honest reservations about giving someone like him more press and attention, but then, my audience outnumbers him by a lot, so if you all have the data, it’s a force multiplier and family he doesn’t have. You can tell Readback is terrified of us because they don’t have the guts to leave the comments on and get called out on their lies. Let’s take advantage of their fear.

He likens court reporting to medical transcription. I made a short TikTok on that. I’ve spoken to Mitch Li from Take Medicine Back. Emergency room physicians are being pushed out for nurse practitioners in the same way big money is trying to push us out for digital. Guess what? The doctors largely don’t like that their scribes were pushed out, and the quality of medical transcription has been suffering because of its lean to automation. As a matter of fact, as a young reporter, I was getting requests to get involved with medical transcription (MT). That was only ten years ago. Nowadays the Association for Health Documentation Integrity says there’s a transcriber shortage.

Wow, sounds like the exact excuse they’ll use in court reporting.

It’s so bad that they STILL want to attract court reporters to do medical transcription. So how good was automation for MT anyway?

“Automation is so wonderful, please God send the court reporters to save us.”

Well, isn’t it interesting that jerks like no-steno man (NSM) created problems in an industry that they didn’t bother to stick around and solve? “Oh, people are dying from the reckless automation of something important? Exit stage left. Time to try court reporting!” Guess what? We’re not medical transcriptionists, and we’re not letting you destroy our industry without a fight, you jackalope.

Ultimately, I decided to eviscerate your puffery with cold, hard, facts.

His entire line about automating medical transcription and making it cheaper is fluff. What good is cheap, useless, garbage? And make no mistake that automatic speech recognition, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, or whatever fancy label we want to put on it, is just that. The objective science that exists today says that it’s 25 to 80% accurate from all the major players. When was the last time you had a 20% untran and called yourself “neartime?” This also kills his argument about the technology being revolutionary. He’s comparing our 99% real-world accuracy rating to AI’s 80-at-best average accuracy and calling it revolutionary. This is more like if Google maps led you the wrong way down a one-way street about 20% of the time. It’s not acceptable and we shouldn’t be forced to pretend that it is. If they’re not using full automation, they’re using human transcribers, and that means there are zero efficiency gains from a manpower perspective. This is a hide-the-ball trick of saying technology is better than it actually is to fool investors and consumers. It only fools people who have not seen the trick before.

Next strawman argument by the liar: Court reporting costs have gone up. In actuality, we’re working for less than we were 30 years ago adjusted for inflation. Let’s call this out for what it is, a ploy to get court reporters scared of demanding the rates and pay that they deserve. Less money in our wallets means less money for us to spend on our associations to fight for us. The push to get court reporters to accept less has been largely successful in the last decade, and it has been driven by low-intelligence businesspeople that look at the labor expense as something to be cut no matter who it hurts. There are over a million lawyers in the United States and about 30,000 of us. We’re a rare commodity and need to start acting like it — keeping pricing reasonable, but not abusively low.

Notably, NSM refers to the democratization of technology and talks a good game about how realtime is too expensive for the little guys to afford. Anir Dutta of Stenograph also referred to the democratization of technology in the Speech-to-Text Institute podcast. What does this tell us? This is a coordinated buzzword in whatever business circle they’re all playing in. They’re using democracy as transfer propaganda. Who doesn’t like the sound of democratization in a free society like the United States? This ignores that in actuality adopting his active reporting model would likely hurt democracy in the form of disproportionately hurting the quality of black and minority speakers’ records. We have put immense effort into ensuring everyone has an equal record. Are we willing, as a field, to allow technological snake oil to kill the equality we stand for every day in every proceeding?

The puffery in the advertising is on full display:

Active Readback gets several things wrong in their advertising.

This looks intimidating to a stenographic court reporter that doesn’t grill it a bit. First, questioning our accuracy. How dare they? I just gave the science. They’re not guaranteed accuracy. Nobody can guarantee accuracy. What happens if a word is wrong? Does everyone get the service for free? That would be a guarantee. Tellingly, they make no such promise. Audio available? Stenographers have been using audio for years. It’s called asking nicely or getting a subpoena. Lawyers don’t want to re-listen to depositions anyway, that’s why they hire us. Exhibit handling, stenographers literally led the way and trained clients on that after COVID. The rest of it, hey, we can give all that away for free too, but we like our businesses to be profitable instead of losing $13 million a year like VIQ Solutions. We need profitable businesses so that we can continue to provide the same great service we have for over half a century. NSM’s investors must have their mouths agape. He’s not charging what the market can bear, and that’s a recipe for low returns and disaster in business. I’m pretty sure I learned that in business 101. What’s this guy’s excuse?

The low, flat rate that he talks about in the presentation isn’t really that low, which tells me that this process isn’t automated. Just to break it down, there are stenographers working for less than $4 per page in New York City right now. Assuming 60 pages an hour, that’s $480 for two hours. Lawyers can get the tried and tested stenography for a little bit more than the brand new maybe-this-works-maybe-it-doesn’t Active BS. This isn’t a sell, it’s an embarrassment.

“Active Readback, charging 72% of what a stenographer charges for half the quality, guaranteed.” (Parody)

Final point I’ll address is his mention about the shortage and how the stenotype is “hard on its operators.” We’ve been cremating our shortage despite some of the biggest names in the business, Veritext and US Legal Support, actively sabotaging us. Additionally, our technology is a lot easier on the hands than the Mechanical Turk game that Active and others are probably playing. Mechanical Turk lets services crowdsource transcribers. When people buy into active reporting, they’re likely buying into inefficiency and hurting workers.

Stenographers, I cannot stress this enough: Hold your ground. Our industry is worth $3 billion and we control most of that. The people that are trying to convince you to give up and run away are not doing so out of the kindness of their heart. These are liars, nothing more. Now that I’ve peeled back the curtain and exposed some of the flaws, I hope you will follow the Protect Your Record Project motto of “connect, educate, advocate.” I hope you will follow the STRONG motto of “we are strongest together.” I hope that if you found this blog post helpful, you will take the time to donate below.

I also hope that Active Readback will come on here and comment. We do not cower behind censorship like them. Perhaps that is all the world needs to see to know whose version of events is truest.

The more money I make from my media, the harder I can fight.

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Our Shortage is Not the Only One Being Exaggerated

A good friend passed me this New York Times opinion article, “We Know the Real Cause of the Crisis in our Hospitals. It’s Greed.” In brief, nurses are being pushed out under the guise there’s a shortage. In truth, their working conditions are just horrible and they’re moving on for greener pastures. This blurb from the article says it all.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_4369-1024x685.jpg
Nurses are fighting the same war as stenographers. If that doesn’t give you pause, keep reading.

Funny enough, this is happening in emergency medicine too. Emergency physicians are being pushed out for nurse practitioners, as told to me by Dr. Mitch Li of Take Medicine Back. TBM’s rallying call? “Taking back contracts, livelihoods, and our values.” There are even two holding companies with investments in the emergency medicine staffing business helping drive out working physicians. Sound familiar?

In social work, I’m told by my mother, Dr. Dawn Picone, that at least in New York City, psychologists were pushed out for LCSWs and LCSWs are now being pushed out for BSWs. We often think of ourselves as unique. But knowing that other professions are under the same corporate corner-cutting attack leads me to a conclusion: We are not alone.

Why is this good news for the stenographic legion? It means that the playbook being used by the Speech-to-Text Institute camp and their new pet Stenograph isn’t new. Claim shortage, make the shortage seem much worse than it is, and get customers to accept lower quality under the false premise that there’s nothing else to be done. This a plan copied and pasted from other industries, meaning they don’t have the creativity or intelligence to deal with the massive counter-push of stenographers nationwide. We, on the other hand, emanate creativity. Faced with what we were falsely told was an insurmountable shortage, we took immediate steps to beat it. We created and continue to nurture a bonding, organization, and community that other professions are jealous of. I suspect we are on track to recruit enough court reporters to not only cover every deposition in this country, but also to retake our courts one by one. We truly are guardians of the record, and our guardianship extends well beyond what we’re paid to protect. The digitals are joining us and leaving their corporate masters in the dust. It’s a beautiful thing.

As a musing, I love StarCraft. At the end of the first chapter, the fictional megalomaniac, Arcturus Mengsk, gives one of the best speeches in video game history. I’d like to parody/steal the end of it: “And to all the enemies of stenography, seek not to bar our way, for we shall win through no matter the cost.”

On the issue of video gaming, I’ve reviewed the Readback video starring Bottles the Mole. I’ll be making a fuller post on that sometime within the next seven days, and explain why several things he says are wrong, stupid, or generally shortsighted like Bottles. Until then, enjoy Googling Bottles the Mole.

Worlds Collide: Open Steno Meets Professional Stenographers 2022

Saturday, January 22, at 4 p.m. EST, a number of professional court reporters and Open Steno advocates will be coming together to discuss our field. In the words of Dineen Squillante, it’s about building a bridge.

We are strongest together.

This marriage of worlds makes perfect sense. Open Steno is a community of hobbyist stenographers that, as of November 2021, was experiencing unimaginable growth. Thousands have been introduced to machine shorthand stenography because of Open Steno and the Plover program. Professional stenography needs new recruits. Who better to be recruited than people that love stenography so much they are teaching themselves?

If you’re looking to support Open Steno, please tune in on January 22, 2022 at 4 p.m. EST. You can set a reminder and subscribe to LittleChaSiu. To the professionals that follow me, every single time we take another under our wing, we change the future for the better and make a more-prosperous field for all of our students and new reporters.

If you want to check out the Plover Discord chat and become one of its 4,000 members, click here!

Fun fact, the Open Steno community, and specifically Charley Shattuck, was responsible for the StenoMod that I used as a prop in this video. You ever loved steno so much that you started designing keyboards for it? No? Help us build our bridge this week!

Stenograph’s Disrespect of Stenographers Continues with Texas

Stenograph has been in hot water because of its degradation of quality and service. This led to a boycott of the company by stenographers across the country, a boycott which continues to this day. As stated in my Oh My update, Stenograph’s push into automatic speech recognition is not being done properly. It’s being sold as a productivity boost, but available science says AI/ASR is a productivity killer. Anir Dutta, Stenograph’s embattled president, doesn’t care. He ignored a personal letter from me alerting him to these issues.

As if these issues were not enough, Stenograph promised to meet with Texas Court Reporters Association members and address their concerns. The company then retracted its agreement and set up its own meeting, likely to confuse consumers and attempt to manipulate us. TCRA addressed Stenograph’s behavior as follows:

Stenograph claims its plan is to meet with TCRA members.
Stenograph apparently pulls out because one member they don’t like might be in attendance.
Sonia G. Trevino, TCRA President.

Then, perhaps under the delusion that stenographers are stupid, Stenograph decided to hold its own meeting:

Stenograph attempts to create its own meeting in place of the Texas Court Reporters Association town hall.

This is a bait and switch. This behavior is disgusting and in my opinion we shouldn’t condone it as a field. It’s very clear what’s happening. Stenograph does not have an answer for why it is requiring stenographers to get releases for data it wants to steal from us or the liability it wants to be put on us, as per its licensing agreement:

“You understand you are responsible for obtaining consents and authorizations for data we may or may not be using.” – Stenograph (parody)
“We may be using your data to build our digital reporting products, but you’re not entitled to anything from it, which we’ve just unilaterally decided.” – Stenograph (parody)

Since Stenograph doesn’t have an answer, it doesn’t want to be in a position where that’s revealed. Again, I know factually that there are great people that work for the company and great software trainers for the software. That does not excuse what they’re doing. They’re barreling into automatic speech recognition in a haphazard, might-makes-right, and manipulative way that should give us all pause. We are the profession of blatant honesty. You say it, we write it. Can we not agree that this is not a direction we want a company, one that is practically our namesake, to take?

I have a message for Anir Dutta and Stenograph: We may not be computer programmers or $10 million companies, but human intelligence is not linear, it’s on a bell curve. We are not “stupid scribes” for you to play word games with. Words are all we know. We listen to people for a living, and we know when we’re hearing lies. If you have deluded yourselves into believing that you are so far ahead of all of us on the curve that you can lie to us with impunity, then I offer you the same stenographic proverb I offered Naegeli. TKPWHRUBG.

New Mailing Address, Stenograph Update, and Academic Integrity, Oh My!

I’m relocating! Fan mail and things of that nature can go to 2744 Hylan Blvd, Unit 502, Staten Island, New York 10306. This is also where blog donations by check can go for those of you that prefer not to use the Stenonymous.com homepage box.

Sometime next week I’ll do an article on how Stenograph attempted to bully the Texas Court Reporters Association. As most of you know, I am against their push into automatic speech recognition for many reasons. The science we have today says ASR is only 25 to 80% accurate, yet they’ve billed it as a potential 50% productivity boost. That’s not possible. Stenograph has also slipped something into its licensing agreement where court reporters have to get releases for people’s voices or data being collected or run through the program. It doesn’t take a lawyer to tell us this is wrong. This is remarkably different from the apparent ethos of Eclipse on this matter, where they’re certainly developing ASR for use in stenographic software, but as of yet not attempting to shunt liability onto stenographers, and not, as far as I can see, making bogus productivity boost claims.

If you have digital court reporter transcripts you’d like to share with Dr. Halcyon Lawrence, please send them to me at ChristopherDay227@gmail.com. Academics have now taken note of the opaque behavior of tech companies. In order for this to be further studied, and to protect the public, we must become serious about sharing our knowledge and experience with those, like Halycon, that seek truth and transparency. The freedom of speech afforded to us in the United States protects academic integrity, and academic integrity protects the scientific processes that make our society great. This social contract gives all of us a special power to influence the future and make the world a better place.

The next few years are critical for this field. Our actions decide whether the future we sold our students is bright and positive or a constant struggle against the private equity brigade that is trying to consolidate and crush our profession. Life is a game of survival. I am firmly on the side that chooses to design the game in a way that we all win. And if life must have winners and losers, then may the losers be those that thought they could rob the future from our students and that we would stand back and let them. We stand resolute and united: This is our profession. We will survive and thrive.

Shortage Explained

I am beset by claims that I do not believe there is a shortage. Then, in a recent social media post, a court reporter came on stating that she felt hopeless and that she felt the companies are gaining ground. Below is what I wrote. It is a summary of all my research as of today.

“There is a shortage. It’s being exaggerated and exacerbated by Veritext, US Legal, and the Speech-to-Text Institute. Digital is not cost effective. The companies are picking up speed because they literally have no choice. We blew open their deception of student consumers and started reporting it to the FTC.

We are solidly more powerful today. The reason we feel smaller is because we are fragmented and operating on incomplete information. What do I mean by that? Well, we are by best estimates about 28,000 strong. All told, by 2033, we probably need to be about 30 to 33,000 strong. When you multiply that 28,000 by the median stenographer salary of 61,000 you get about 1.7 billion. We represent $1.7 billion of an industry that is approaching $3 billion. The goal of the companies is to encroach on that $1.7 billion.

There is hope. The companies may be operating at a loss on the premise that they can jack up the rates when we are defeated. The concept of a company operating at a loss is called a zombie company. A lot of big names you know are zombies or have made massive blunders. Uber’s a zombie. Zillow burned billions in market capitalization believing it could trust its algorithms to buy homes. These big companies don’t sound scary when you realize they can make simple mistakes that cost them large percentages of their value, do they?

But this requires our continuous recruitment and training of stenographers. We should band together as a field and start talking about things like relocation funds where necessary. There are many creative things we can do with the power that we have. But it requires talking to each other and keeping hope.

We know from Richter’s rats that hope likely makes people superhuman. I suspect that’s why we get stories like the mom who fought the mountain lion off with her bare hands. Physically impossible, but apparently happened? And compared to things like that, our problems are easy to solve.

We’ll win if we try. The dirty tactics being used against us wouldn’t be necessary if our fate was inevitable.”

This is also why I revamped the payment system on the Stenonymous.com home page. The fact remains that if each reporter made the suggested monthly $5 donation or annual $60 donation, by best estimates, this blog would have a larger annual budget than Veritext and US Legal combined. That’s enough money to end the shortage (assuming $1 to $2 per engagement) and advertise what’s happening to about half the lawyers in the country. I’m grateful for the outpouring of support and the people that have spent well over the suggested donations.

I still have cards up my sleeve. So, even assuming the blog receives not a single penny more, thank you all for your trust in me. Stay tuned for big news expected the weeks of January 24th and January 31st.

How To Report CR Antitrust Violation to FTC

The FTC has changed its complaint procedure. To briefly explain antitrust, companies aren’t allowed to work together to mislead consumers. By setting up dummy sites to mislead student consumers and making the stenographer shortage seem larger than it is, Speech-to-Text Institute, Veritext, and US Legal appear to be doing just that.

Please take five minutes to send this information to the FTC. More attention on the issue means a higher likelihood the government will act. First step, click this link. Now follow the pictures:

Since we are reporting something about a job, click job, investment, or money-making opportunity.
Job scam, job listing. This most closely matches what we are reporting.
Since our evidence is heaviest on CourtReporterEDU, let’s go after that. You can change the date you first noticed the problem.
As you’ll see in my article, it appears this activity is related to BlueLedge. We don’t know that for sure, which is why I write “Unknown – Suspected Ed 2 Go / BlueLedge.”
Give the government a brief synopsis of what’s going on. You can copy word-for-word what I write here.

It’s important to mention that the NCRA was lied about. Here is proof.

You’ll have to give the government your contact info. Don’t enter mine.
If you own a business damaged by the illegal conduct, feel free to enter its information.
Submit your report and get your report number.

Remember, more reports will mean higher likelihood of action. We are a field of nearly 30,000 stenographers being victimized by this illegal corporate conduct. Ask your fellow reporters to take this seriously. Single complaints are not resolved by the FTC. Hundreds or thousands will get their attention.

Students who were misled into digital might be able to get their money back thanks to you. Remember, your action counts.

This likely concludes my work on the illegal conduct angle. In defense of our profession and the law I have spent the last many months documenting the illegal conduct. Now I need associations and stenographers across the country to take action. Feel free to tell the FTC it was my idea. Any agreements that restrain competition are illegal. Bamboozling consumers to affect the market counts. The government relies on Americans like us to report crime. If you were watching a robbery, would you call it in or would you sit by and say “well, no court has told me this is illegal?”

We all have a choice. I hope you call it in on this metaphorical “robbery in progress.”

P.S. Michael McDonner of Kentuckiana attempted to intimidate me by stating I was attempting to conspire with others by trying to get others to act on the illegal conduct. This is an example of the digital camp trying to scare us into inaction. It’s the same reason Naegeli threatened to sue me. I expect members of the digital camp to try to intimidate some of you. Know that arguably all of you with no direct clients are common law employees and not direct competitors and therefore cannot illegally conspire. We’re not the ones benefitting from the illegal market rigging. Do not let these bullying tactics stop you from doing what you know to be right.

URGENT — Kentucky A to Z Needs Machines/Writers!

Want to make a difference today? Pledge a writer to Kentucky’s upcoming A to Z class! I’ve already pledged one Diamante writer to the cause and there are several potential students in need. Please help Kentucky show them what court reporting is all about! It starts January 12th and lasts six weeks.

Delivery to students is required by the 11th. Postage can be reimbursed as needed.

Contact: Tracy Lundergan.

Contact Phone: 502 599 2125

Contact Email: TLundergan@mclendon-kogut.com

ESYOH Used to Misrepresent NCRA’s Commissioned Forecast

*The original article assumes ESYOH is a bad actor. See addendum.

Remember when I found the dummy site selling digital court reporting using stenographer imagery? Well, a brave member of the stenographic legion found another.

I’m going to let my previous article, linked at the top, do most of the heavy lifting on how this works. In short, ESYOH links to Ed 2 Go, which is linked to BlueLedge digital court reporting training, which is linked to Veritext. Just in case anyone needs a reminder: The Ducker Report, commissioned by NCRA, and NCRA itself, did not predict that 33,000 digital court reporters would be needed by 2033.

The shortage is being artificially and illegally exaggerated and exacerbated for the purposes of bumping out stenographers and replacing them with digital court reporters. The only way that happens is if we lay down and let it happen.

Addendum:

I reached out to ESYOH and they said they were taking some action. At this time, ESYOH appears to have been used as opposed to willingly deceiving people.