Are Automated Transcribing Softwares Good Enough? Not for New York Times

If you are ChristineMcM, a New York Times commentator you probably know a too much about how automatic transcribing software can mess things up for you.

As reported by The Daily Dot, she had something to say about a recent Trump article but had to take a phone call in the middle of her comment. Her automatic transcription software heard and posted the whole conversation.

Yes, you read that right.

This is what it ended up posting.

This might be funny, but this shows the state that we are currently in with respect to automated transcribing.

Transcribing still continues to be mostly done by humans to avoid such gaffes.

Although she later clarified the mistake, it left those close to her and her followers in a state of a fix. Some even suspected that she might be having a neurological episode.

Here is her clarification:

Having understood these problems, Scribie is not looking to go the same route.

Instead, we use technology and AI to help humans transcribe faster and better.

The industry is far away from completely eliminating the human factor in the transcribing chain (unless you can afford such a gaffe).

For the time being the best way to get your file transcribed is a human with cutting-edge technology that enables efficiency and high accuracy.

 

 

 

Affordable Transcription Pricing

Demystifying Transcription Pricing

 

If you’ve ever shopped around for the best transcription service then you’ve probably experienced how confusing and frustrating transcription pricing can be.

Many services aren’t upfront with their pricing (or accuracy level) and require you to submit for a “free quote.” Others may ostensibly offer a rock-bottom price only to nickel and dime you for features that are already standard in most services. And others are just downright disingenuous about the entire process—good luck getting in touch with them! … 

 

Speech Recognition Software Falls Short on Transcription

The Foibles of Speech Recognition

 

In this day and age, more and more of what we are doing is becoming automated. One example would be banking. You don’t have to go to a bank anymore to deposit or transfer money. You can do that from an app or just log on to their website. Some banks don’t even have physical buildings. Human interaction and the component of business is becoming more and more limited. … 

 

A Note From Our Founder: Why We Charge By Difficulty Level

Starting this year, we made an important policy decision; to charge for transcription of audio/video files based on the difficulty level instead of just by the audio minute. It is an important policy change and can destroy our business. As the founder of Scribie, I firmly believe that it is the right thing to do.

Let’s start by defining the difficulty level. The industry standard for transcription of a clean audio file is around 4 times the duration of the file (1 hour long file takes around 4 hours to transcribe). Any issues in the audio file such as accent, background noise, distortion, distant speakers etc., adds a multiple to that time. E.g., files with accented/distant speakers can take twice the time to transcribe just because those parts have to replayed over and over again. That multiple is what we define as the difficulty level of the file.

It is, however, a tricky thing to measure as the customer and the transcriber will have differing opinions. We internally have a voting system and an algorithm which flags difficult files for our admins. The algorithm uses a statistically significant sample size and we believe this is the closest we can arrive to an un-biased consensus opinion.

Once we have measured the difficulty level, we can estimate the cost which it will add to process of transcription. There are four ways we can account for the cost.

  1. Compromise on the accuracy
  2. Absorb the cost ourselves
  3. Ask our transcribers to spend the additional time and effort for free
  4. Charge our customers more

The first option is the easiest one. It’s a good compromise as long as it’s acceptable to both parties. However, it is a slippery slope and has disastrous consequences for a meritocratic system like ours. We grade our transcribers by the mistakes at each step of the transcription process and we cannot trust the grades if there are unknown number of mistakes. Also, it contradicts our quality guarantee.

Until last year we used to absorb the cost. It was viable since our rates were higher. It was however grossly unfair to our transcribers since we demanded the same accuracy without any additional compensation but still graded them based on the same criteria. We lost many good transcribers as a result. I still feel terrible about that.

The third option is a non-starter since basic economics defeats it. We pay our transcribers by the audio hour and a flat rate just leads to a terrible quality transcript most of the time.

That brings us to the fourth option; pass the cost on to the customer. Logically it is the best option to choose, but also the riskiest since it is hard to argue with customers. Operationally, it enables us to compensate our transcribers by the difficulty level which in turn distributes the effort required evenly across our 4-step process and optimizes the accuracy/effort ratio.

Since implementing this policy we have lost many customers and have even been ridiculed publicly. But that is a price we are prepared to pay. We firmly believe that our customers deserve the best quality transcript irrespective of the file and our transcribers deserve the best possible compensation for their efforts. Charging by the difficulty level is the only way we do both and achieve our goal of maximum possible accuracy.

 

Good Audio = Lower Prices

How To Get Cheaper Transcriptions

Want to pay less for your transcripts? If you use the following tips and tricks you can improve your audio and pay up to 4x less than what you would pay with bad audio — that could save you hundreds of dollars!

Seems simple, huh? It is… but many people often don’t realize they are recording bad audio. Here are a few quick and easy tips for getting the best quality audio with the least amount of effort.

 

1. Microphone & Recording Device

First off, determine what type of microphone pattern best suits what situation you need to record. If you’re recording a one-on-one interview, you’ll want a mic that has a narrow pickup pattern (unidirectional). If you’re recording a group of people (board meeting, focus group, etc.) you’ll want an omnidirectional mic as it has a larger pickup pattern and will capture all of the speakers. While you always want to be in a quiet environment with any mic, it’s important to note that omnidirectional mics are more susceptible to unwanted background noise so make sure you have a nice and quiet room.  Here are a few microphones and recorders we recommend at Scribie:

  1. Zoom H4n  – Awesome recorder with many recording options $219.99 zoom_h4npro_4_channel_handy_recorder_1464752813000_1253811
  2. Tascam DR 05 –  Best bang for the buck recorder $99.99   
  3.  Shure VP64A Nice mic low-priced and durable  $78.75
  4. Sennheiser MD 46  Great unidirectional mic for high noise environment $199.95
  5. MXL AC-404 Portable USB Conferencing Microphone – Perfect omnidirectional mic for recording groups – $83.99

2. Recording Environment

Ideally, you will need to be in a quiet location free of any ambient noise. This is crucial to capturing excellent audio because background noises such as a coffee shop, bar, or your neighbors’ car door slamming party can make it difficult for transcribers to hear your speakers’ voices. And even though our transcribers are awesome, transcribing audio with a noisy background is no easy feat and can take 3x to 4x longer to ensure our 98% accuracy.

cardoorslam

Picture from reddit user kidbopper

 

 

3. Microphone Positioning

Have the recorder on a stand or at least some type of buffer between it and whatever platform you use. This helps by separating the mic from any vibrations that may cause unwanted sound. If you are using a unidirectional microphone, try and position the mic 6″-12″ inches in front of the subject, with the mic aimed directly at their mouth. If you are using an omnidirectional mic, position the mic in the middle of the group on a stand. Always do a sound check before you begin recording by plugging in a headset and having people talk at normal voice levels.

4. Recording Settings

Recording settings are important, so make sure your recorder is set to record at a proper setting. We recommend setting it to record WAV files at 48kHz 28bit. This setting makes sure you are able to capture the human voice at an optimal level.

 

Don’t have a mic or recording interviews on your iPhone?

No problem, you can still produce great audio. Fstoppers shows how they use the iPhone to grab audio for video interviews and you can use the same methods for your audio interviews as well.

  1. Get the mic as close as possible to the subject.
  2. Use the stock iPhone recording app or download iTalk by Griffin.
  3. Export audio.

 

 

 

 

When YouTube Captions Go Wrong

Human Transcription > Computer Transcription

Have you ever used Google Voice’s visual voicemail option? How about YouTube’s closed captioning service? If so, you’ve probably encountered a wildly inaccurate and hilarious transcript.

Rhett McLaughlin and James Lincoln, the comedy duo behind Rhett & Link, used this amusing side effect and turned it into a series of hilarious skits on YouTube.

The concept is similar to the Telephone Game. A message is passed from person to person until the original message is mostly unrecognizable.

Here’s what they did:

Step 1: Record a short script.

Step 2: Upload it to YouTube.

Step 3: Record a new video with the garbled transcripts that YouTube produced.

Step 4: Repeat.

The result is a funny and an incoherent message similar to that of the famous “Bad Lip Reading” videos.

These skits were filmed between 2011 and 2013 and demonstrate just how inaccurate Googles’ automatic transcription services used to be. Since then, Google’s automated voice transcription service has improved significantly – hence the reason the series eventually fizzled out.

Given these modest improvements, automated transcription services still pale in comparison to the level of accuracy that human transcription services, such as Scribie, can provide.

We believe the English language, in all its complexity, nuance, and beauty will never be completely mastered by artificial intelligence.  And while this video is in jest, it’s an excellent example of why knowledge work will always require a human component to maintain quality assurance.

 

Why Scribie Charges Extra For Non-North American Accents

We have often been asked “Why does Scribie charge extra for non-North American accents?” so we decided to clarify and expand on the reasons behind our decision. Here’s what you need to know:

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Most files that are uploaded on Scribie for transcription are from the US, or at least the speakers are mostly North Americans–so for that reason, we specialize in transcribing North American accents. Naturally, it makes sense that most of our transcribers are based in the US. And this ensures they are familiar with the accents, which in turn ensures flawless transcription in much less time. The result? Faster turnaround, better accuracy, and happier customers.

Generally, we have a flat rate for all high-quality audio files with North American speakers. However, we do charge a bit extra ($.50 per minute) for high difficulty files due to the time these files are. Similarly, we charge a little more for files with a non-North American accent. The main reason is, these accents require specialized transcribers that are familiar with wider accent patterns and can transcribe files with non-US speakers at the same accuracy level. The problem is that these transcribers are rare, which means, if we get too many files in this category, the files tend to get stuck in the pipeline. And nobody likes that.

Basically, we charge more for these files because it costs more to transcribe these file types. It also keeps the transcribers motivated and encourages them to continue to work on such files.

So in closing, the pay rate occasionally changes, but what doesn’t change is Scribie’s commitment to one of the highest levels of accuracy in the industry  Upload your files now and find it out for yourself.

 

Top Five Recording Apps For iPhone

Looking to record a conversation, interview or business discussion? Forget the age-old voice recorder; rather grab your iPhone. There are loads of cool apps that ensure clarity, so that the final recorded file is easy to understand and transcribe. Here are the industry toppers:

iphone recording app

Voice Recorder: Here is a really simple app that’s easy to understand and works great. What’s more, it also comes for free. It is also passcode protected, just in case you want to make sure your recordings are safe. The app is compatible with iOS 8. Use it to record and store unlimited number of recordings, add them to your favorite list for quick future reference, and for loop function.

Audio Recorder: While this app is also free and simple to use, it is definitely more versatile when compared to the Voice Recorder. Apart from recording your ‘piece’ you can email the file for easy sharing. The app also gives you the freedom to specify the format in which you would want to record or save the file.

Voice Record Pro: This free app takes the recording experience to a whole new level with its impressive import and export functionalities. You can easily access the Google Drive and Dropbox, among many others. What’s more, you could even post your recording as a movie clip on Facebook and YouTube. Cool, isn’t it? Apart from recording, you can attach notes and photos, and keep everything safe with the help of a passcode.

Super Notes: If you are ready to shell out a few dollars for a professional quality recording, here is the perfect app for you. Like most other apps in this category it offers superb recording features and clarity, and is cut out for any situation that you have in mind. What sets it apart is its ability to allow you to add notes and annotations to your recording while you are still at it.

Dictate + Connect (Dictamus): Compared to the other apps in this genre, this one is on the higher end of the price chart. But once you look at the features, you would know why. With this app on your side, you can actually forget all other recording devices. Apart from recording, you can even rewind and overwrite without hampering the audio quality. The app comes complete with instant dictation controls, barcode scanner, easy saving and sharing options, and more.

The world has moved light years ahead of traditional, run-of-the-mill voice recorders. However, before jumping on the digitised bandwagon you must ensure that the app you choose is of top quality. It is also indispensable if you are looking to transcribe the audio files. A good quality file does not only make the job of a transcriptionist easier, it also ensures that the transcription is error-free. That means less back and forth, less wastage of time, and optimum use of resources.

Got a file that you need transcribing? We can help. Contact us today for an accurate and affordable transcription service.

 

What Qualifies As A High Difficulty File?

Explaining High-Difficulty Files

At Scribie, we follow a very straightforward process from ordering a transcription to delivering it. You upload a file, select the desired turnaround time and place the order. Next, our transcribers start working on it while you monitor the progress online.

Once transcribed, the file is quality checked by our dedicated team and delivered to you. The effect? 99% or more accurate transcriptions. While most things remain constant, there is something that keeps on changing in this system — the nature and quality of the audio files.

When it comes to a file that needs to be transcribed, nothing matters more than clarity or sound quality.

In fact, this factor becomes crucial in determining whether a file should be categorized as ‘high difficulty’.

What Is A High Difficulty File?

As you might have guessed, it is a file that is very difficult to transcribe. Maybe the audio is not very clear or maybe there is a lot of background noise, which makes listening in pretty challenging. Here are some common characteristics of high difficulty files.

  • Non-American accents (e.g. British, Australian, Hispanic, Native American, Indian, Asian, African, European etc.)
  • High ambient/line noise (e.g. AC noise, hiss, hum)
  • Noisy background (e.g. if the recording was done in a café)
  • Distant speakers (e.g. if the recorder was kept far away from the speakers, faint voices)
  • Distortions (e.g. clipping, high pitched voices)
  • Disturbances (e.g. typing sounds, audio breaks)
  • Diction (e.g. slurring, rapid speaking, mumbling)
  • Quality (e.g. low sampling rate)
  • Reverberation (most frequently caused by bad room acoustics)
  • Echo (e.g. while recording Skype calls)
  • Inaudible parts

Who Determines If A File Is Highly Difficult?

Your file may sound ‘fine’ to you, but that might not be the case. Since we receive files of varying quality and content, the audio quality of your file is judged by numerous transcribers in our system. The difficulty level then becomes is a relative concept. We believe our transcribers have a better perspective and are in a more informed position to understand the difficulty level of a particular file and hence they are the ones who decide if your file should be categorized as a high difficulty file. We found this is the best solution for ruling out any possibility of subjectivity.

How Does It Affect The Rates?

If you are an existing customer you know that Scribie charges a flat rate for all files. BUT the high difficult ones are an exception. As of January 2016, we have implemented new policies that ask for additional charges for high difficulty files. Since high difficulty files require more time and effort from the transcribers, it is only fair that we compensate them accordingly for it. Plus, the additional pay is the motivation that the transcribers get to ensure that quality is not compromised. Generally, the extra charge varies between $0.50/ minute and $2.00/ minute.  We always inform the customer in case a file is found to be of a high difficulty level. The customer also has the liberty to cancel the order in case he is not willing to pay the extra charge and get a full refund.

We do our best to give you quality transcription within your deadline, even if it’s a highly ‘difficult’ file, and we ensure that the transcription matches the highest standard of accuracy.

Start uploading today.