Communicating the Best

An Experiment in Dictation

How to use voice dictation in Google Docs | PCWorld

This article is an experiment in the use of voice recording techniques to improve my writing efficiency. (I am dictating now.) I feel like I spend way too much time in front of a computer trying to turn out articles.  Yes, I can type 60 words a minute, but it still seems that I am not making enough progress. I understand that with dictation, you can produce as many as 150 words per minute – that is, if you know what you want to say.

Actually, I don’t trust the current technology to take down my dictation properly. That is why I prefer to start with an audio recording and then move to the speech-to-text process. This way, I can listen to the recording as I edit the document. The problem with simple dictation is that the software can mess it up so badly that you don’t even know what you were trying to say!

To make this work, I will need to get the technology sorted out. I am looking at getting a dictation device. This way I can write (dictate) anywhere I go. I won’t need a computer in front of me, or a mobile phone, or anything else. I can dictate articles and books and notes anywhere — if it works.

Maybe it is the physical act of typing into a computer that bothers me. I worked for many years as a telecommunications engineer, tapping on a keyboard and staring all day into a computer screen. But what if I could change all that? What if I could change the way that I do this computer work? 

In the past, I have tried speech-to-text solutions, and I have been very much disappointed. Perhaps now they are more mature. At this second I am pacing the floor, inputting these words by speaking into a wireless headset, and no longer tied to my desk. It is a step in the right direction.

Funny, it seems that this kind of writing is a reversion to communication of old. Think of it. The works of Homer were, of course, written down. What started as an oral tradition at some point became a piece of literature that was set to paper, or parchment, or whatever medium. But first they were spoken tales. Dictating an article is somewhat similar, starting with speech and moving to text….

At this point in my experiment, I am trying something else. On one device, my smartphone, I am recording the audio. On another device, my laptop, I am performing speech-to-text with the help of Google Docs. I need them both, really, so that when I edit I can play back the original audio.

I am wondering if I can get this system to work. That is, my goal is to develop a truly hands-free method of writing without hiring a human transcriptionist. And both my voice and my words are recorded using the system. Somehow I need to make them work seamlessly. I probably need a better system than my smartphone, because I will be dealing with low memory and other issues. I prefer a dedicated dictation device.

What I envision is this: I will use the dictation device anywhere that I am. That might be in the car, walking in the park, or sitting in a coffee shop. This method will make the best of speech-to-text technologies. I will plug the audio device into the computer and convert the speech to text. And the audio will provide error-checking capabilities.

On top of that, I should probably add something like Grammarly or some other software. That will offer me some quick corrections for errors in dictation.  I can also use anti-plagiarism software like Copyscape. It is not that I have a problem plagiarizing others. Rather, I could very well plagiarize my own works.

You see, I would like to repurpose the content that I’ve already written. It is not that I am creating  content that is exactly the same, where I copy and paste to a new document. No, what I want to do is write something similar, but unique. Let’s say I write about common IT security threats. Well, that information doesn’t really change. But based on the same content, I should be able to write any number of unique articles. 

Will this work? I should give it a try. After all, finding more efficient ways to work means finding more efficient ways to earn. And just think. After starting this article some 20 minutes ago, I have written almost 600 words – and I have hardly touched the keyboard. (I’ve written more since the first draft.) Of course, I will need to go back to edit. Ideally, I will eventually be able to outsource that work to a transcriptionist who doubles as a copy editor. That’s the plan….

And now, as I finish editing, I wonder how much time I’ve saved. The editing process took a long time. And dictation technology continues to fail me. But I’ll keep trying it to see if I can improve the workflow. Streamlining is a good idea. We’ll see.

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