Trolls and You

We try to keep political stuff from being published here unless it’s educational, about court reporting, or about the industry. I’ve been pretty good about this. Commentators have been great about it. The occasional guest writer has been amazing with it. This topic touches with politics, but it’s not strictly political, so it should be fun to learn about.

It’s established that the United Kingdom, United States, China, Russia and several other countries view the internet as, more or less, another theater of war. They’ve had operatives and people hired to create fake posts, false comments, and advance the interests and ideas of the government. The prices reported? Eight dollars for a social media post, $100 for ten comments, and $65 for contacting a media source. In the case of China, they’re reportedly working for less than a dollar. If the host country allows it, you have trolls for hire.

So in the context of stenography and the court reporting industry, seems like whenever we get into the news, there are regular comments from regular people, such as “why not just record it?” Typical question. Anyone would ask this question. There are fun comments like “Christopher Day the stenographer looks like he belongs on an episode of Jeopardy.” Then there are comments that go above and beyond that. They make claims like — well, just take a look.

“…I gonna tell you that in modern technology we can record something like court testimony for hundreds of years back very easily…” “…the technology is smarter every single second…” “…if you store data in the digital format we can use an AI to extract the word from the voice in the data, it will be very accurate so much so the stenographer loses their jobs.” Wow! Lose our jobs? I felt that in my heart! Almost like it was designed to hurt a stenographer’s feelings. Right?

We can store the video for hundreds of years? Maybe. But consider that text files, no matter what way you swing it, are ten times smaller than audio files. They can be thousands of times smaller than video files. Take whatever your local court is paying for storage today and multiply that by 8,000. Unless we want a court system that is funded by advertisements a la Youtube, the taxpayer will be forced to cough up much more money than they are today. That’s just storing stuff.

The technology is getting smarter every second? No, not really. Whenever it’s analyzed by anybody who isn’t selling it, it’s actually pretty dumb and has been that way for a while. Take Wade Roush’s May 2020 article in the Scientific American (pg 24). “But accuracy is another matter. In 2016 a team at Microsoft Research announced that it had trained its machine-learning algorithms to transcribe speech from a standard corpus of recordings with record-high 94 percent accuracy. Professional human transcriptionists performed no better than the program in Microsoft’s tests, which led media outlets to celebrate the arrival of ‘parity’ between humans and software in speech recognition.”

“…And four years after that breakthrough, services such as Temi still claim no better than 95 percent — and then only for recordings of clear, unaccented speech.” Roush concludes, in part, “ASR systems may never reach 100 percent accuracy…” So technology isn’t getting smarter every second. It’s not even getting smarter every half decade at this point.

“…we can use an AI to extract the word from the voice in the data…” This technology exists, kind of, but perfecting it would be like perfecting speech recognition. Nobody’s watching 500 hours of video to see if it accurately returns every instance of a word. Ultimately, you’re paying for the computer’s best guess. Sometimes that’ll be pretty good. Sometimes you won’t find the droid you’re looking for.

Conclusion? This person’s probably not in the media transcoding industry, probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and is in all likelihood a troll. Were they paid to make that comment? We don’t know. But I think it’s time to realize that marketplaces are ripe for deception and propaganda. So when you see especially mean, hateful, targeted comments, understand that there’s some chance that the person writing the comment doesn’t live in the same country as you and doesn’t actually care about the topic they’re writing about. There’s some chance that person was paid to spread an opinion or an idea. Realizing this gives us power to question what these folks are saying and be agents of truth in these online communities. Always ignoring trolling leads to trolling leading the conversation. So dropping the occasional polite counterview when you see an obvious troll can make a real impact on perception. The positive perception of consumers and the public is what keeps steno in business.

The best part of all this? You can rest easier knowing some of those hateful things you see online about issues you care about are just hired thugs trying to divide us. If a comment is designed to hurt you, you might just be talking to a Russian operative.

Addendum:

I understand readers will be met with the Scientific American paywall. I would open myself up to copyright problems to display the entire article here. If you’d like to speak out against the abject tyranny of paywalls, give me money! I’m kidding.

Steno Speed and the Youtube Angle

Going back a couple of years ago, if you YouTube’d stenography, you’d get pen shorthand reporting from India. Happy to report that that paradigm is taking a hard shift. Today, at the top of the list is Stan Sakai’s Quick and Dirty Steno, with over a quarter of a million views. You’ve got way more than that, though. Today you’ve got Ken Wick’s court reporting videos, Katiana Walton’s podcasts, and content from tons of other creators new and old. Bottom line is American stenography and stenotype machine shorthand reporting is expanding its online presence in a big way. There’s also always been a healthy presence for stenography off of YouTube, including favorites like Mark Kislingbury, Mirabai Knight, or Marc Greenberg.

So many of these content creators are on my resource page, and I encourage professionals and students to write and comment if there’s a resource, blog, or content that you think should get added there. If you’re a content creator who’s like, “damn, why am I not mentioned anywhere on Stenonymous?” All I can say is the chance of that being intentional is pretty low. That all said, we’re pushing further along on the YouTube-Steno front. As some know, I have been working on my own YouTube channel in my spare time. There’s a multi-pronged goal of creating free resources for students so that they can have dictation available even when they cannot afford the amazing premium services out there and also introducing the idea of stenography to anybody who happens to stumble across a video of mine. Thanks to the generosity of Linda Fisher from StenoSpeed.com, down as of writing, I’m able to add over a hundred dictations to my YouTube. These dictations helped me very much as a student, they were free prior to StenoSpeed.com going down, and I am happy to put it in writing: They will be available and free once again. Simply go over to my playlists and look for the playlists marked STENO SPEED.

As of posting, these videos are still being worked on. Expect all Steno Speed audio to be posted by August 4, 2019. A great deal is already up, so don’t hesitate to spread the news and keep sharing resources together.

To anybody thinking of jumping into the mix of content creation, I recommend it. This is a vibrant field with a very loyal audience and a lot of people out there who just might need to read what you write, hear what you have to say, or watch how you do it!