Express Delivery: A First For Scribie

The one option we always wanted to support was the 12 hour delivery. Last week we were finally able to launch this feature. It’s sort of a big deal since it’s the first time such a option is being offered in the General Audio Transcription industry. You can now download the transcript within 12 hours of placing the order, with a quality guarantee of 98%. This means that you can order the files in the evening and download a highly accurate transcript by the time you start work the next morning. This was one of the most requested feature from our customers.

However it’s a difficult feature to support (which is one of the reasons why nobody else does it) and presents several hurdles. First of all, it has to be available 24×7 to be useful. This is mostly an operational issue and not that hard to overcome since it required setting up a night shift team to start off where the day shift team left off. We laid out plans for it in the first quarter of this year, started hiring and training. We were able to get the night shift operational this month.

The other big issue was quality. We cannot sacrifice quality for speed; a rework is not an option if you’re on a tight deadline. This was quite hard since it required lot of tuning of our transcription system. We follow a rigorous four step process. The first two steps, Transcription and Review, are done by our certified freelancers. The last two steps, Proofreading and QC are done in-house. For the 12 hour delivery to work, the file should be reviewed and ready for our in-house team as early as possible. Right now, we can get to that stage in around 3 hours, given an hour long file. The industry standard for 1 hour of audio is 4 hours for transcription and 2-3 hours for review.

Finally everything fell into place and we are very proud present the 12 hour TAT option. We are the first among the new crop of online audio transcription services to offer this. It shows off the maturity of our transcription system and gives us some bragging rights. So keep us in mind when you are under that tight schedule and need a transcript done in like yesterday.

Career in General Transcription

General Transcription is a relatively new field compared to Medical or Business transcription. Because the field is young, and growing, it presents a promising career choice for people with the right skill sets. In this post we are going to talk about what this job entails and the opportunities in this field.


The basic skills required for general transcription is good typing speed (minimum of 40 words per minute) and excellent comprehension of spoken English. Most of the time you will encounter North American, British and Australian accents of English. However exposure to non-native accents is a plus. The ability to apply contextual judgment is also important in transcription to differentiate similar sounding words. Internet research for names of places and people is another skill required in this job. You have to be able to construct search terms which return the most relevant results.

Job Profiles

There are two broad categories of work: typing and review. Typing, as the name suggests, involves listening to the audio and typing it out.  It’s the most effort intensive step of the transcription process. It generally takes around 4 hours to type 1 hour of audio. The most important skills required here are typing speed and comprehension.

Review is the step after transcription where the audio is matched against the transcript and all mistakes are corrected. Review is much less time-consuming than typing and it takes around 2 hours to complete a review of 1 hour of audio. However, it greatly depends on the quality of the transcript. The important skill in reviews is ability to spot mistakes and apply context.

At Scribie, we have also hire Proofreaders and Quality Analysts. Both of these are specialized types of review and requires higher degrees of skill and experience.

Career Growth

The typical career in general audio transcription starts as a typist level and goes on to QA, on the technical side. To reach the QA level it takes around 5 years or so, but depends mostly on the ability and merit of the individual. On the managerial side the opportunities vary depending on the structure of the organization,  but management positions would involve managing a team of few transcribers and reviewers.


General audio transcription can be rewarding career for those who pay attention to detail and excel at doing repetitive tasks. It is also a good choice for people who absorb knowledge of any kind and like learning new things. If you would like to try it out then come visit us at our office (if you’re based in Bangalore, India) or apply online.


Transcription Types

One of the most frequent questions we get is what type of audio files can we transcribe. Audio transcription is a vast field with many different specializations and categories. This post discusses some of types of transcription and our support for them.

Medical Transcription

Medical Transcription also known as MT, is a process where the reports or diagnosis dictated by Doctors/Physicians are converted into text by trained professionals. There is usually a single speaker. Most of the companies use ASR for the initial step i.e transcribing and then the trained professionals proofread them thus ensuring the desired quality. The output of MT usually is used in EMR (Electronic Medical Records), Medical Coding or as prescriptions. Companies who specialize in MT are expected to be HIPAA certified which puts to rest the concerns about patients privacy. Accuracy is also a very important factor in Medical Transcription.

We do not cover Medical Transcription at and we are not HIPAA compliant.

Business Transcription

Business transcription consists of transcribing conference calls which might be used to generate an executive summary or MoM or might just be recorded for future references. It usually has multiple speakers and the topic can be varied. The desired accuracy is around 98%. Earnings call also come under this category, which are mostly used by shareholders and financial analyst. The expected accuracy is more than 98% in this case and turnaround time to deliver the transcripts plays a very crucial role. Analysts call, Investors conferences, Product Launch conference all come under BT. provides Business Transcription service.

Legal Transcription

Legat transcription is a specialized to transcribing depositions, court hearings and other law related proceedings. The desired accuracy is around 98-100%. Some courts require the transcripts to be certified for accuracy via an affidavit. Most of the times the transcripts have to be formatted in a specific manner as well. There many be a number of participants as well as the topic is varied. Knowledge of legal terminology is required for this type of transcription.

We provide the draft transcripts for legal transcription. The transcript can be checked for accuracy using our Integrated Editor and certified by a lawyer if required.

Interview Transcription

Interview Transcription, as the name suggests covers the general category and does not fall in any of the above mentioned ones. These are generally recordings made of interviews conducted face-to-face or over the phone. There may be two or more speakers one of whom is the interviewer. The others are interviewees who respond to the questions asked. The transcripts are an intermediate product and is used as an input for a larger product such as an article or a research study. There are several sub-categories of Interview Transcription, e.g. Podcast Transcription,  Focus Group Transcription, Academic Transcription.

We cover all kinds of Interview Transcription. We also categorize ourselves as a general transcription service.

Transcription Types at

To conclude, we provide services for Interview, Legal and Business Transcription. The only service we do not provide are Medical Transcription at this time. We follow a very strict formal process to prepare the transcripts which ensures that the accuracy is 98% or more. Try out our service today for yourself to check.

Mturk For Audio Transcription

We talked a bit about our platform in the previous post. We are a new kind of platform and the best way to describe us is a Mechanical Turk like system designed specifically for audio transcription. If you are not familiar with Mechanical Turk, it is a service by Amazon where you can post tasks which are meant to be done only by humans. Think image captioning, categorization of articles, audio transcription, etc. Mturk has been used for projects ranging from art to search and rescue operations.

Where Mturk is generic, we are specialized. Our transcription system has been designed ground-up to produce the best possible quality transcript with the least amount of effort. The files are worked on by a number of transcribers (at least 20 for an hour of audio) and checked and re-checked for quality. On an average it takes us around 2 hours to complete a 1 hour file, which betters the industry standard of 4 hours by 50%.

But proofreading is the step which really differentiates us. It is the penultimate step in our transcription process and it improves the quality of the transcript significantly. Quality is the hardest problem to solve in audio transcription. Audio transcription is a laborious task. It takes a lot of time and effort, and if done by a single person there will be mistakes. And if you ask a random person on the internet to do it for you, you have no idea what to expect. They can, and will, type anything and give it back to you.

To solve this problem, we first split the file into smaller parts and then ensure that each part file passes through at least 3 people; a transcriber/reviewer, a proofreader and a QA. Our proofreaders are experienced transcriptionists themselves who are handpicked from the pool of our certified transcribers. We train them and give them tools so that they can work efficiently. We further do QC and do not deliver the file till we are satisfied with the quality. We also use automated tools to help us spot mistakes.

For our customers, we provide a simple and easy interface. On Mturk you have to manually create HITs, choose the workers and then pay them once their work is done. On, you just have to upload your files and place the order. Then sit back and watch as parts of your file gets transcribed. You can check the Work-In-Progress transcript anytime from your account. Once the file is done, you are notified and can download the file in Word, PDF, ODT and TXT formats. We also provide time-coding and speaker tracking by default and a host of other options.

We had a choice when we started work on our transcription system; use Mturk or build our own. We decided to do the latter because we found that the workflow that we had in mind was a bit too involved for Mturk. Building our own also gave us the flexibility and control to tweak the system as and when we desired and over time our system has evolved to a point where it works quite efficiently. We believe that the audio transcription system we have designed produces far better results than an audio file transcribed on Mturk. But don’t take our word for it; try it out for yourself today.

The Pre-Payment Requirement

One of the most frequent questions/feature requests we get is support for post-payment. We require payment to be made upfront for all transcript orders and for a lot of our customers, that is not an option. This requirement leads to a lot of questions and in this blog post we will explain why we do not/cannot support it.

A typical transcription firm operates like this. They have transcribers (local or remote) on their payroll and pay them a monthly salary. They also have some customers whom they invoice on a monthly or quarterly basis. The transcribers are paid the salary with the money received from the invoices. This is the typical services-based business model.

We are not that kind of transcription firm. Our business model is entirely different. We do not have transcribers on our payroll. Instead all our transcribers are actually home-based freelancers located all across the globe and paid on a hourly basis. Our full time staff consists of only Proofreaders and QA’s who do the deliveries. Since we do not pay our transcribers a salary, supporting post-payment requires us to either delay the payment made to our transcribers or underwrite them.

Delayed payments is not really an option. That would mean months of waiting before a transcriber receives the payment for the work done. Freelancers do not like that. In fact, our immediate payment is one of the important reasons why a lot of freelancers come to us. We don’t have artificial barriers to keep them away from their hard earned money. If we implement delayed payments, it will seriously affect our ability to bring in new transcribers into our system, which we do not want to do.

Covering the cost of transcription instead is a preferable option. But it also introduces overheads costs, which in turn affects our transcription rate. One of the reasons why our rate is lower than the industry standard is because we keep our overheads low. The transcription industry averages at $3 per audio minute whereas we charge $1.50 per audio minute. We also do not have any dedicated marketing or administrative staff.  Charging our customers in advance is just a more efficient way and we can pass on the cost benefit directly to our customers.

Our model is something very new for the transcription industry, but very prevalent on the web. We are not even a transcription firm in the traditional sense. We are more like a platform which connects people having audio transcription work to freelancers who can do the work, in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The customers do not have to pay a high rate or wait for a week to get the transcript, and the transcribers can work at their convenience and get paid immediately. Our transcription system and the workflow ensures that the quality of the transcript is guaranteed.

Unfortunately, we lose a lot of customers because of this requirement. A lot of times pre-payment is simply not possible. We know that and we also know that it is something we have to support eventually. We are still in very early stages and there is a long way for us to go. We sincerely hope that someday we will be able to support post-payment. Till that time,  we hope that our model has enough allure to make you pre-pay once and try out our transcription service.

Transcription Rates Change

Our transcription rates have been increased to $1.50 per minute of audio with effect from 1st of June 2012. That corresponds to $90 for a 1 hour file.

The Flexible Delivery discount has been increased to 25%. Flexible Delivery orders are delivered anytime within a week instead of the normal 1 day delivery schedule.  It works out to $67.50 for an 1 hour of file. For a 1 hour file, the increase is therefore only around $10 from our previous rate, with this option enabled. This option can be enabled from the options button on the payment page.

The bulk order discount has also been increased to 25%. It is applicable to orders where 10 or more hours of audio is ordered at a time and applied automatically. The cost for that works out to $675.

The affiliate commission rate has also been increased to 25%. So if you know someone who might need a transcription service then please refer them to us with your affiliate code. We’ll pay 25% of the order value to you when their transcripts are delivered.

We would like to thank you for choosing We strive to provide you the best possible service and the deliver the highest quality transcripts. This change will have us maintain that.

Transcript Progress

One of the unique features of our Transcription System is that you can monitor the progress and check the Work-In-Progress transcript anytime from your account. The progress is the percentage completion based on the stage of the workflow the file is in at any given point of time. It maps in the following way.

Range Stage
0-59% Transcription
60-89% Review
90-97% Proofreading
98% Quality Checks

The mapping is approximate. Sometimes one part file has not been reviewed but some other part files have. In that case the completion will be 60% even though the transcription is not yet complete.

The WIP transcript may have higher number of mistakes and inconsistencies till the Proofreading stage. The ‘transcript’ link just collates the part files together and displays the result. The Proofreading stage is where a lot of inconsistencies and mistakes are corrected.

The WIP transcript and the progress tracking feature is one of the differentiating features of We put our customer first and strive to provide an easy-to-use and transparent system which allows you outsource your audio transcription work without any hassles.

Transcription System: Workflow

This is a series on’s audio transcription system. The first part which provides an overview is here

Our workflow consists of five steps.

File Splitting -> Transcription -> Review -> Proofreading -> Delivery

We start by splitting the file into smaller parts. The file is split at the 6 minute boundary which produces one or more files of duration 6 minutes or shorter. This is the first little innovation of our transcription process. File splitting breaks down the work into smaller manageable chunks. It helps in many ways. The file can be worked on parallelly by number of transcribers. A huge amount of effort is not wasted if one part has to be re-done. Additionally, we can track the progress precisely.

Transcription is the typing part. On an average it takes around 15-20 minutes to transcribe a 6 minute file. For a lot of our transcribers–who are mostly home-based freelancers–this is not a huge investment of time. Therefore splitting increases the likely hood that the file will be transcribed quickly. In fact on an average it takes around 1 to 1.5 hours to complete the transcription part of a one hour file!

The accuracy of the transcript is very low at this stage; typically around 50 to 80%. Therefore we do a review. The transcript is checked against the audio and all mistakes are corrected. Time-coding and speaker tracking is also added at this stage. Review usually takes 5 to 8 minutes of effort. But it takes longer for all the parts to get reviewed because we have fewer reviewers than transcribers. This is by design since we promote only our best transcribers to reviewers. The review drastically improves the accuracy.

Once all parts are transcribed and reviewed, we can combine them together and prepare the final transcript. However one more round of review is required here. That’s because, since different parts are worked on by different people, there are bound to be inconsistencies. Proofreading is done by a one person who goes through all the parts together and corrects them. The proofreader is an employee of CGBiz LLC (our company). They are the best of the best we have. We train them and pay them a monthly salary rather than an hourly rate.

The transcript is almost done now. However things might not be perfect even now. The proofreader can make mistakes, some more research may be required for certain terms, etc. So before the delivery we do some random checks. We try to gauge whether the quality is indeed at the level we want it to be. We also use keyword analysis (tf-idf to be precise) to identify out-of-context terms and inconsistencies. We review it again if we are not happy with it. Over time we have found that a small percentage of files require re-review; around 2%. Those are generally the most difficult of files.

Once we are satisfied that the transcript is perfect, as best as it can be, we deliver the file. The file is converted into MS Word, Adobe PDF, OpenOffice Text and plain text formats and we notify the customer that the transcript is available for download.

All of the above happens in 1 day and is managed by our transcription system. We charge only $0.99 per minute of the audio for it. So if you want to get a high quality transcript quickly, please do try out our transcription service today.

The next part of the series talks about the Certification Subsystem.

Introducing Profiles and Stats

We recently launched profiles for our certified transcribers. Here’s a screenshot of my profile.

It contains some background information, relevant professional experience and performance and work history on It gives you an idea of who the transcriber is, how much work he or she has done and how has the work been. The profile is very basic right now but we will be adding more functionality to it soon.

So how is this useful? Well for starters you can check who worked on your files and how much time they spent working on them.

These stats are broken down on a per file basis as well. The stats section has the link.

Additionally, if you’re happy with the result then you can choose to pay a bonus to our transcribers. These transcripts are prepared painstakingly and a bit of appreciation can go a long way! You can pay the bonus to the one’s who have worked on your files or an individual transcriber from their profile page. If you pay to the group then it’s divided up equally amongst all of them. We also do not keep anything for ourselves, except for a 5% charge to cover the fees. All of the money goes directly to the transcribers.

You can also browse all the transcriber profiles from here, the one’s which are public. We break it down in various lists: top 25 transcribers, reviewers, most active, by country etc. Have a look.

Moved From Slicehost to Linode

We recently switched our hosting provider from Slicehost to Linode. Here’s how it went.

We had been on Slicehost since early 2009 and had a very good experience. We had few service disruptions and the performance was decent enough to suit our needs. But then there was this impending forced migration from Slicehost to Rackspace and after evaluating all options we decided to migrate to Linode instead. Linode and Slicehost are very closely matched, but on Linode you get more RAM for the same price and a 32 bit system. We wanted to wait till Christmas to make the move but the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back was a day when it took more than an hour to compile Node.JS because of high load on the host machine.

Signing up for the Linode was easy except after payment they asked us to send scanned copies of our identitiy and credit card. It seems that’s due to suspected fraud. But once we submitted the documents the account was activated quickly.

The first step was to setup the server. We could have just dumped the disk image over to the Linode box, but we didn’t because Linode was 32 bit. So we had to set up everything afresh. We found Blueprint while looking for tools to clone a server setup. Blueprint did most of the heavy lifting and copied the configuration files for Nginx, Postfix, OpenDKIM, MySQL, Redis and other essential packages. We left out the source builds intentionally because we had to recompile them anyway. After the server setup we did our application setup and ran the tests to verify everything was working.

The next step was the DNS migration. The first thing we did was to change the TTL on the NS and A records for our DNS Zone on Slicehost to 5 minutes. We used Slicehost2Linode to copy the DNS Zones to Linode and switched the NS servers on the registrar from Slicehost to Linode. We gave it a day for the DNS changes to propagate. The last thing to do was to change the IP Address of the A records to point to the Linode box. Since the TTL had already been decreased within 5 minutes we were back up and running. However the database and setting up the slave re-sync which involved locking all tables, taking a mysqldump and importing it on Linode took another couple of hours.

Post move, things have been pretty smooth. We found that the Linode server is performing much better than the Slicehost one; the RAM consumption is lower (presumably due to the 32 system) and it handles the same amount of traffic with much less system load. The server has been rock solid for the last 2 weeks. The only hitch we ran into was that our host had to be rebooted on the first two days which caused a downtime of an hour or so.

Today we removed our Slicehost account once and for all. Overall we are much happier on Linode and wish we had moved earlier. We are getting much better performance for lesser cost and the migration was not that tough as it seemed.