Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Transcribing With Your Dragon

[This post has been written using voice to text software to show the results that can be achieved. Word corrections are typed in red. Where there is missing punctuation that is because I forgot to verbally insert it. Oops]. 
I'm writing this post using the Dragon dictation software. It takes a little bit of getting used to to remember to put all the grammar and in. Plus if you notice, Dragon keeps mixing up some of my words. However the odd mistake on 'and' 'in' and 'and' a are small things given the time it is saving me on my interview transcribing.
I decided to trial Dragon for transcribing because frankly anything had to be faster than my T-Rex style of typing. Sure I can do a basic form of touch typing it seems, especially when it is late at night and I can't quite see my keyboard because the lights are off, and I want to find the next TV series on Netflix ... but any chance of achieving touch-typing speed seems beyond me. I do after all have the dubious honour of being the second worst typist in my third form (Year 9) class. 
The advantages ... 
Dragon has the advantage of working with multiple programs. Even when it doesn't work directly with a program, you can dictate text into a 'Dictation' window then 'transfer' it (i.e. export the text) which is what I am using with Blogger for this post as the screenshot shows.
Using Dragon to transcribe interviews involves listening to the interview through headphones and parroting back what the participant says. There is a lot of play, stop, parrot, play ... I'm using Dragon with the free version of Express Scribe transcription software. Express Scribe allows me to have hot keys set up for play, stop, forward, and rewind, which is all I am needing to be able to control the recording playback. 
Using Dragon, I dictate into the that notes section of Express Scribe. When I am finished I export the notes into a Word document. Correcting mistakes can be done verbally, or by typing which I found was faster. I figure if Dragon didn't understand me the first time, let's not keep repeating it (admittedly, I came to this conclusion after the first time I spent five minutes trying to verbally correct a word).  
You train your Dragon to recognise your own voice, so sadly it cannot transcribe by playing a recording of the interview back. This means that it's not quite as fast as just listening to the interview.
However, on average a one-hour interview is taking me between 3.5 to 4 hours. I've noticed that, is as Dragon has become better at recognising my voice, the time is getting faster. 
This means that instead of taking several days to transcribe my two-hour interview, the whole process could be the done in one day. Not to mention the fact that it's a heck of a lot easier on my T-Rex typing fingers and wrists.
Training Dragon did not take too long. I didn't time it exactly, but I think I spent less than 2 hours playing and learning enough commands to get started. There are interactive tutorials available, but I found the quickest way to train Dragon to my voice was to read 2 of the available readings. Dragon also updates your profile after each use. 

By in Buying Dragon also wasn't difficult as it is all done online. Downloading the over 3 GB file takes a while, especially when you have several teenagers also streaming online TV. However, you can choose to get the program on a disk. I've never been good at waiting, so I chose the 'quicker' download option. Roll on kick it out on the needed figure town down he did Gigatown Dunedin! (Okay so Dragon didn't manage that last bit too well!).
Another advantage for me was that I didn't need to buy more hardware such as headsets. I am using the built in microphone on my laptop. I will note that I have a age HP Envy which has a single headphone-microphone jack so even though I only bought the cheapest Home edition (at NZ$122) the headphones seem to override the microphone input and I can do the play and dictate on the same machine. For a different computer set up it may be necessary to play the recording back on a different gadget. 
The disadvantages ... 
There are a few things to consider if you decide to try Dragon.
Talking to your Dragon for any length of time is this to thirsty work! Make sure to keep a drink nearby if you are parroting back an entire interview. I also found that dictating when I had a technique of tickly cough was not a pleasant experience, especially with a fan heater going in the room. 
This is not a quiet exercise.You are talking out loud so transcribing this way is not going to make you friends in a shared office. Plus there is the small issue that until you turn the microphone off, Dragon will transcribe everything you say. And I mean everything! That includes your conversation with the cat and that phone call with your sister and odd background noises or sometimes other people's voices. So not only do you need a space where you can talk, it has to be a quiet space.
Dragon is not perfect. You have to keep an eye on it as it writes text. I have also noticed that by the end of the day there are more mistakes creeping in, so maybe my dictation is getting a bit slippery slurred as I get tired. 
The Dragon tool bar can get a bit annoying sitting across the top of your screen all the time, but it is easy enough to close the Dragon window.  
In conclusion ... 
Talking and writing seem to be different thinking processes. I think it would take some practice to get used to using Dragon for an end tire entire thesis. To be honest, I don't know if I could adapt to verbalising the conceptual thinking that occurs as you type. Plus, remembering to add the grammar also takes practice. 
However, for transcribing, Dragon seems to be easy to use. You can get started in a very short time, it is faster than my typing and is much easier on wrists, shoulders and backs than sitting at a desk typing intensely all day would be. 
At approximately the same cost as getting an interview professionally transcribed, I feel it is a worthwhile investment, especially if you have a lot of interviews to transcribe. 

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