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Friday, July 18, 2008

Transcription and the Opportunity to Learn New Things

As I mentioned before when I talked about the benefits of this career for the work-at-home mom, transcription provides the opportunity weekly, if not daily, to learn about new things. Just this week I transcribed an older gentleman whose father was a famous jazz musician and who took part in the civil rights movement (and as an American history junkie, this had to have been one of my all-time favorite files), a discussion about the use of analytics in business models, two interviews with corporate executives of international companies, a conversation about piracy in China and family interviews on international adoption (none of which I can tell you any more about due to confidentiality agreements, but really, it was a fairly interesting week overall).

One of the most interesting files I've done was a several-tape interview with Luis von Ahn as he discussed his work with CAPTCHAs, reCAPTCHAs and Games with a Purpose, games he's developed to assist with labeling Google images, among other things.

Chances are, if you've surfed the web at all, you've come across CAPTCHAs, a string of letters/numbers that you must enter to prove you're human. The idea behind reCAPTCHAs is to utilize all of the human capital that goes into CAPTCHAs each day in order to recognize words that OCR (optical character recognition) software has been unable to recognize to help digitize old books.

For example, you'll find reCAPTCHAs on Facebook, and they commonly consist of two typed words with lines through them. Each time you solve one of these, you are assisting with the digitization of old books. Having transcribed this interview and researched the process and the people behind it at the time, I get so excited every time I see one of them, but I probably would not know anything about them if not for my work. It is the interesting files and topics that keep me going after an especially hard week.

You can read more about reCAPTCHAs on this Carnegie Mellon site.

Are there any topics you've transcribed that you've found yourself especially excited about? (Please keep your confidentiality agreements in mind, but we'd love to hear from you!)


margi said...

My favorite things are the little "human" moments - they happen more with "straight" dictation (I did this more when I worked for attorneys) but with transcripts, it happens, too. Little, unscripted moments that make you laugh.

My favorite was an attorney who was a partner in a firm and fluent in Japanese. He had to correspond with them regularly, and would actually take the time to spell - AND EXPLAIN! -- the Japanese words he was dictating. I still miss him to this day. :o)

Were I more of that sort of social butterfly, all of the general knowledge we gain on this job would also make us a great hit at cocktail parties! Hee!

Wendy said...

My mom likes to say it's amazing what you can learn by reading romance novels. I feel the same way about transcribing.

I've also been lucky enough to get some files regarding the Civil Rights Movement, as well as Islam and all sorts of topics I knew little about or didn't understand.

I've enjoyed lots of mini book reviews -- excellent fodder for my reading list -- and learned more about the pharmaceutical industry than I ever thought possible. Not only are those interesting, but I really enjoy seeing those drug commercials come on TV and telling my family what I know about them, whether they want to hear it or not (I'm a geek, I know).

Every once in a while I'll get an interview with a celeb I like or closed captioning for a bad movie (some of them REALLY bad) or old TV series. While those aren't so much learning experiences, it's almost like working and being entertained at the same time!