Check Out 225 and Beyond (Beware of Busywork)

A few days ago I came across something in the Facebook feed of Realtime Rich. It was an upcoming newsletter by a new professional among us, Euan Williams. Aptly named 225 and Beyond,  it came with a bold statement. There’s a lack of quality written content out there for court reporting. Williams wants to change that. I joked, I said I object, and I signed up. As promised, the newsletter came in my e-mail today. It’s definitely worth the read.

Without stealing any thunder, it describes busywork. It describes how, in our quest to optimize our quest, we can fail to start our journey. It is something every professional and student should get familiar with, and you can read it right here. Logging your practice is also discussed, which I support.

I anticipate this becoming something I’ll blog about often. Great job, Euan. Keep up the great work!

The Good Reporter Fallacy

I’ll just come out and say it. There are folks among us that think speech recognition technology is going to beat court reporters. I’ll even go so far as to say I personally believe that the technology will eventually do what we do.

But first on the issue of technology: Read what they aren’t saying. The technology is 95 percent accurate! But what was the setting under which it was accurate? Was there an air conditioner blowing overhead? Was someone printing directly behind the recording machine? Were there people speaking over each other? Did the computer accurately designate who spoke? Was the computer able to handle an unidentified speaker? Were there multiple speakers at different distances? Did the test take place in rooms of various sizes and acoustics? Yes, it is my sincere and honest belief that someday technology will be there to seamlessly do all of this, but there is no telling when. Until it is there, it is smoke. They’re blowing smoke just like everyone else who wants to sell a product. When it is there, we still fight to keep the jobs we have.

And that’s the topic of today’s missive. So some believe we’ll be overtaken by technology, and they are saying: Do not invite people into this dying field. That makes sense if you take the fact that it is dying as true and completely irreversible. Our current crisis in the reporting world is a reporter shortage, and their answer is: Don’t do anything and ride this career to the bitter end. There will be jobs for the good reporters.

But what is that good reporter? A realtimer? There are more non-realtime jobs than realtime jobs. Even today, there are more non-realtime jobs. So even if everyone is a good reporter tomorrow, there aren’t enough jobs for you if we give up that non-realtime work. Sorry. It’s a delicate balance. Reporter shortage means it’s easier for customers to swap to recording because there simply aren’t enough of us to meet a demand. Reporter glut means we suffer because high supply generally means lower cost (wage).

Well, right now, at this second, we are facing a shortage, and in the great wide world of life, we have better chances if there are more of us. Consider NCRA’s old strength of what I’m told was 30,000 reporters versus today’s — whatever — 15,000. That was literally double the budget to fight for reporters. Double the constituents when politicians ask how many people they are representing. Double pretty much everything.

So you can get up and introduce this field to somebody and be a part of ending the shortage, or you can sit it out and see what happens, and we can be friends either way, but I think it’s best to act. It’s very simple statistically: Can’t win if you don’t try. People play lotto on that same principle, so isn’t a shot at saving thousands of careers worth trying too? Look at politics. When your preferred politician or proposed legislation fails, do you just drop everything and say “I support this because it’s happening.” Maybe, but according to my Facebook, not likely!

If you’re an average person, you matter. History was built on average people. Armies are built out of average people. Battles were won when average people got the enemy army to route. The computer technology we use started with overall average programmers using punch cards to give computers simple instructions!

If you’re above average, show us. We average people want great leaders. We want problem solvers and talented people to look up to. There’s a market for greatness and a world of ways to uplift people. What if someone could design a steno program that got someone out in months, not years? What if someone could design a political campaign capable of sustaining our jobs even when the technology does what we do?

Be a creator. Be an inventor. Be an innovator. Support the people fighting for you. Support the people around you. Support yourself. Do what people say can’t be done. Be a winner. And remember, besides thermonuclear war, there are few times you can win by not playing.

The Price of Perfection

This one goes out to my many perfect contemporaries. This one is for every perfectionist, and even some want-to-be perfectionists. There’s no easy way to say it, so let’s start off with a story about Morris. Morris is a perfectionist. Day after day, he takes the time to carefully perfect everything that he does. In fact, he’s got his commute timed, his work scheduled, and everything falls into place perfectly all the time. One day, Morris comes up with an idea, a perfect one, naturally, and begins to work on it. Except it isn’t perfect. It’s just missing something. He can’t release his creation like this. Morris’s perfect idea never sees the light of day because it just wasn’t perfect enough for him.

Why do we let great be the enemy of good? Why do we strive to be perfect when sometimes all the world needs is good enough? For some it’s a code of honor, for others a badge, and for a few, a compulsion. I’ve caught myself many times refusing to act, waiting to do something, or wanting a thing to have better conditions before I set off. Now I wonder, how many ideas in this world never come to fruition because they are never started? The old cliche, “once begun, half done” resonates here.

We can actually see this in history. Many great things came about through apparent happenstance, willingness to share the imperfect, or the imperfect contributions of a collective. The internet, penicillin, peanut butter. It is nice to romanticize and buy into the idea that there is some coordinated sentience pushing things along the “right” way, and that things happen because they’re meant to be, but ultimately every step forward comes with a new set of consequences, whether beneficial or malignant, and the solutions or next steps come from the people who are willing to eschew the cloak of perfection and take up the mantle of doing. So what is your next step? Will you await the perfect condition before contributing, or will you get out there and contribute to something? There’s a world of art, music, computers, steno, literature, and study. You need not despair if the thing you’re working on right now does not work out. There’s a world of things to do and see, but only for those willing to open their eyes to an imperfect world, and only for those willing to open their minds up to being imperfect.

When An Agency Won’t Collect

Often agencies that are not paid by a lawyer give up on collecting the debt. Stenographers often have contracts with agencies as opposed to lawyers directly. This opens up a world where lawyer doesn’t pay agency, agency doesn’t pay reporter, agency writes off the debt. This is a vicious cycle where the stenographer is ultimately saddled with 0 despite it being the stenographer’s time that’s used up. The response? I think we should start looking into writing off debt too. It’s time to start breaking out those 1099s and sending them right along to agencies. Financially it is always better to make a dollar than to write a dollar off, but it is better to write a dollar off than not make a dollar.

And I’m going to come right on out and say the agency that began this post was Veritext. I saw the story of another reporter online, and this was the agency’s grand solution. Mind you, it’s actually a really good solution, but in my opinion, they should not be writing off debt and then not paying the reporter immediately. It’s disgraceful. And I hope in the future should a representative of Veritext come across this site, you’ll either report to us that you’ve changed your policy to pay your reporter in the event of bad debt, or you’re considering altering the policy.

Regardless, it’s time to take a stand on this issue as individuals. The very least we can do is make writing off the bad debt of agencies ubiquitous so that we are not left with zero. In an ideal world, perhaps we would press agencies and collect from them, but the time spent and financial expense of even the smallest lawsuit or claim is too great for many stenographers.

Computer Lagging? Check This

Copied directly from a recent Facebook post I made because I am lazy. Also, the night is dark and full of computer problems.

“PSA: If your computer is acting slow recently (Windows): CTRL+ALT+DELETE, Task Manager. Is the “DISK” column running unbelievably high numbers? (94%+) Yes? Does Super Fetch seem to be the biggest “Disk” thing? Yes? Top left of the task manager, Run, Msconfig.exe, find Super Fetch (a Microsoft Service. You cannot see it if you click hide all Microsoft services.) Disable the damn thing. Restart the computer.
Super Fetch is apparently a Microsoft Service meant to increase your computer speed by preloading programs (based on my Google-Fu.) Well, unfortunately, on both my work and home systems, my home system being a gaming desktop with pretty damn good parts, Super Fetch was running out of control and using up all the computer’s resources, creating a full system freeze and making my CaseCAT type at the speed of snail.
All the usual disclaimers, I’m not responsible if you destroy your computer following my instructions, but if you’re having this Super Fetch problem, your computer is probably already making you feel like replacing it.”