Stenonymous Suite and Q&A Generator (Concept)

I have previously written about free computer programs I’ve created, like the transcript marker, finger drill generator, and written knowledge test randomizer. Please be aware they are all now programmed to be download and double click programs with no installation required on Windows. These are simple creations with an eye towards making the work that educators have to do to create material go down. As quick examples, the transcript marker, like Todd Olivas’s marker, can automatically mark very large dictations instantly for any speed. The finger drill generator can give you instant randomized text files of words, as well as create and load your own custom finger drill lists. The written knowledge test randomizer creates random written knowledge tests with a focus on helping people with the New York court test, which has portions dedicated to spelling, grammar, medical, legal, and technical terms.

So I had come to a very somber realization. I can continue to create these programs and leave them piecemeal on the blog, but that can make for a very confusing experience, and any time that I update them, I have to manually go in and fix all of the links that link back to them. So then it occurred to me, perhaps the best thing to do is to combine all of these simple programs into one master program that a person can run and use at will, and when I update, it can be seamlessly through that one program.

Truth be told, that’s the direction I’m headed with that, and there’s very little that’ll dissuade me there. That said, before I release such a thing, I am planning to add a new program to the mix. I want to design a Q&A Generator. One major issue we come into when designing dictation is that often stenographers are unwilling or obligated not to give up their transcripts. Another issue is that edited or otherwise fictionalized transcripts are protected by copyright as expressive matter, even though original verbatim transcripts are often without any protection. For example, if you create an awesome Q&A, I technically don’t have the rights to take that and republish it — and if I do, I am risking you taking action against me. Most of us aren’t that litigious, but the reality I find is that there’s always “that person.”

That’s where this new program can come in. I think I can create a computer program that will randomly choose traits of different people involved in the case, or descriptions of items or witnesses, and then create a narrative around that. Think about your average 5-minute take. Let’s assume that’s in the ballpark of 10 pages or 125 questions, 125 answers. Now imagine if every time you run the program, it might say something different. Is it a car accident? Maybe the vehicle was a Honda, a Toyota, A Buick? Maybe the light was red, or yellow, or green. Maybe the witness was hit in the front or the back of the vehicle. You may be able to picture it in your mind: If there are 250 random lines, and every line has a few different things it could be every time, you’re looking at potentially millions of variations of Q&A. How many dictations, realistically, does a student need to become a stenographer? Is it 10,000? 20,000? 30,000? This is the opportunity to create random dictation at every educator and student’s fingertips, and enough of it that one would never run out of material. The only work that’ll be left to do is the marking and voicing of the dictation.

Succinctly, I always look for feedback from my stenographer, educator, and anonymous friends. I am interested in hearing what you have to say, things that you’ve done in the past to challenge students, or things that you would insert into a good Q&A or think is useful in this endeavor. So as I quietly continue this work behind the scenes, I encourage you to reach out with your thoughts to me at ChristopherDay227@gmail.com.

Thank you, as always, to the hundreds of readers that come through every month. Your participation in the field, awareness, and willingness to be in the picture makes all the difference. So many around the country are taking part in serious initiatives, educating the legal field and its leaders about stenography, seizing moments to come together and educate students and fellow reporters, reinforcing the field through projects like NCRA STRONG, and generally standing up for your fellow professionals. It’s the combined efforts of everyone, from dedicated blogs like Cheap & Sleazy to Steno Stars like Rich Germosen or Matt Moss that’ll make sure that stenography remains the preferred modality for taking the record, and that stenographers continue to be the premier choice for the legal community in taking down proceedings. Between the leaders leading and the workers making this skill shine every day, we have all but guaranteed a bright future for steno, and can make steps to recover lost ground in the industry. It is impossible to properly thank everyone at work in preserving this field, but know that its continued vibrancy is because of you.

Written Knowledge Test Randomizer

ATTENTION WINDOWS USERS: Click and play version here. NO installation required. Download the zip, unzip it, and double click the .exe.

If you support projects like this, feel free to show it by buying a Sad Iron Stenographer Mug, donating, sharing this post, or suggesting questions to increase the variation in mock tests.

I’ve created a computer program that chooses preselected questions at random and creates a WKT-style test. It also creates an answer key. It uses .txt format so pretty much every computer since Windows 95 can run it. Note that for all of this stuff you should use a laptop or desktop. Using a mobile phone will make using these materials much harder. The program will change the numeral of each question every time, as well as randomize whether its answer is A, B, C, or D.

Basically, take a practice test or two, see how well you do, and if you see things you don’t know, look them up. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor for your next written-knowledge style test.

See my previous comments on studying for legal and medical terminology.

If you hate computers, you can get 26 randomized tests here in a .zip folder.

If you want to use the program for yourself but don’t know how it works, check out my video tutorial here.

If you don’t like video tutorials, try the following:

  1. Download and install Python 3. It probably won’t matter if it’s 3.6, or 3.7.
  2. Go to the code for my computer program. Copy and paste it into a notepad file. If you are confused, the computer program is the text labeled 001 WKT Generator v1.py.
  3. Save the notepad file and close it. You can name it anything. I suggest you call it ChrisDayIsAnnoying.
  4. Change the .txt that you just saved to a .py. Read this if you do not know how to show file extensions or do not see .txt.
  5. Now you have a .py file. It’ll look something like ChrisDayIsAnnoying.py. Take that .py file and stick it in a folder by itself. You don’t have to, but it’ll make your life easier.
  6. Double click the .py file, or right click it and run/open it. It’s going to come up with a black box, say some words, and then you’re going to press enter, and the box is going to go away.
  7. When the box goes away, in the folder with your .py file will be two files, Mock Test.txt and Answer Key.txt. You now have a random mock test and its answer key,
  8. Special note, if you intend to run the program again, you must change the name of the Mock Test and Answer Key. The program creates a new Mock Test.txt and Answer Key.txt every time, and it will overwrite any files that have the same exact name as Mock Test..txt and Answer Key.txt.

Legal Terms Refresher For Test Takers

As I said in the medical refresher, there are times we as reporters must take written knowledge tests to show that we know a little about what we are reporting. This differentiates us from zombies!

Anyway, I was looking for something helpful for the June 29 test and the legal terminology likely to be on there. I learned that New York State’s Unified Court System publishes a very expansive legal glossary. You do not need to memorize this whole glossary, but it might be worthwhile to familiarize yourself with some terms that may very well appear on an employment test or RPR. Save up these links and make sure you take a glance at some of these before your test in June! Just note that because it’s a New York resource some things may be specific to New York.

Again, veterans may laugh, but there are certainly new reporters out there who won’t know at least one of the things on that glossary. Today isn’t about the veterans, it’s about people getting their dream job or cert!

From my past experiences in testing in this country, some things that may come up:

Voir dire – Means to speak the truth. Think jury selection. Sometimes voir dire examination is also used to question the authenticity of a document.

Venue – where a case can be heard.

Vacate – to cancel or end a court order.

Pro se – someone representing themselves

Quid pro quo – Latin, something for something.

Subpoena duces tecum – court order for someone to bring documents or evidence to court. Think of duces as documents. They’re takin’ ’em documents.

Subpoena ad testificandum – court order for someone to testify.

Trustee – Person who controls a trust or money, usually they’re doing this for a beneficiary, someone receiving that money or the benefits of the trust.

Direct examination is the questioning of a witness by the party that’s putting on the witness. This type of examination is typically always first.

Cross examination is the questioning of a witness by the party or parties not putting on the witness. This type of examination typically always comes after direct examination. Cross is not necessarily limited to the scope of direct. Scope generally means what the questioning was about.

Redirect examination is questioning of a witness by the party putting on the witness after cross examination. Redirect is often limited to the scope of cross. Meaning if the cross examination is one question about the witness’s shoes, the redirect probably can’t have any questions not somewhat related to the shoes.

Recross examination is questioning of a witness by the party or parties not putting on the witness after redirect examination. The recross is often limited to the scope of the redirect.

Third party – a party that is not the plaintiff or defendant in the original action.

Testimony is statements made by witnesses under oath.

Testate is having a will. Intestate is not having a will.

Surety bond – think bail bond.

Suppress – preventing something from being seen or heard. Think suppression hearing to get evidence thrown out.

Summons – notice to come to court. Often lawsuits start with a summons and complaint. The complaint is the document that initiated the lawsuit and presents the allegations.

Summation – closing arguments by lawyers at the end of a trial.

Sua sponte – of one’s own accord. Sometimes when something must be lawfully done the court will act sua sponte, meaning neither party made a motion for an action but the court is taking the action anyway.

Stipulation – agreement between or among parties.

Statute of limitations – time period by which a case must be started. For example, in most personal injury cases the statute of limitations in New York is three years. The statute of limitations for defamation is one year. Succinctly, people that wish to bring a case for those actions have to bring them within that time frame. The clock starts ticking from when the event occurs.

That’s all for now! I may add to this when I have more time to go through the glossary.

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.