Getting your audio/video transcribed

This post is adapted from an email I wrote in response to a question about the best way of obtaining a transcription of an audio file.

Good transcriptions/captions are incredibly useful in a variety of situations, and due to ADA compliance, they’re increasingly a necessity. People usually don’t think about this ahead of time, and I try to encourage people to build captioning into research budgets and grant applications whenever possible because costs add up. The more footage you have, the more likely you’re going to have to get someone else to do it, and even just 10 hours of audio could cost you $1000 to have transcribed by a captioning service.

Some of you may be tempted to rely on YouTube’s automatic captions. By way of example, here’s a video we put up where all of the speakers speak quite clearly:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J93E5s0yHxM

But (as of late 2016) the quality of the YouTube automatic captions—although clearly they’ve made huge progress over the years—still means that they serve no real purpose other than their comedic/entertainment value. They’re good enough only to get a very general idea of what’s going on, and that’s about it. And this is with clean audio and clear speakers with a standard American English accent.

  • It’s not accurate enough for ADA compliant captions or for hearing impaired people to find useful.
  • It’s not accurate enough for a native English speaker to watch the video with the sound off.
  • It’s not accurate enough for non-native English speakers to use increase comprehension or to use with automatic translation services.
  • It’s not accurate enough for a production transcript for an editor to find clips to use.
  • It’s not accurate enough to provide useful search capability.
  • It’s not accurate enough as an alternate way of archiving audio content.
  • It’s not accurate enough to use the transcriptions in a thesis, dissertation, or journal article.
  • It’s not accurate enough to do a qualitative analysis of the text.
  • It MIGHT be accurate enough for some degree of SEO, but it’s certainly not ideal.
  • It’s inaccurate enough that if you’re going to take these captions as a starting point and then go back and edit them, you’re not really saving yourself much time.
  • Inaccurate captions can also detract from the user experience because users end up focusing on the errors instead on your content.
  • It’s inaccurate enough that it makes it difficult to impossible to repurpose the text to other contexts (blog posts, tweets, emails, etc.).

The best transcription software out there still works best when it’s had a chance to learn a particular speaker’s voice, which takes time and means you have to correct the software as you go so it can learn from its mistakes. This is fine when the same person is transcribing their own voice over and over again, but it’s not so useful for just a handful of interviews of each speaker.

I say all of this not to put down YouTube (again, I’m actually really impressed it’s as accurate as it is) but in support of the idea of paying human beings to transcribe it for you—preferably people who are experienced in doing so, but almost any person is going to do a better job than software.

Whether you’re going to hire a service or pay an undergrad to type something up for you, some things to consider, all of which can help determine which route you take:

  1. The fairest way to compare services is to be sure you’re paying per minute of interview, not per minute of time spent transcribing, which will vary from person to person.
  2. Are volume discounts available?
  3. Are educational discounts available?
  4. Try to find a service which guarantees a certain level of accuracy (generally, it’s not going to be usable for most purposes if it’s less than about 97% accurate). Is the provided quality/level of accuracy good enough for your needs? Is it good enough to attach your name and Penn’s name to the final product?
  5. Do you need just a transcript? Or timed captions?
  6. Do you want an “interactive transcript” like what com does with their instructional videos?
  7. Find out what output formats they provide. (is it just straight text in a .docx file w/ a periodic time code stuck in? Timed captions SRT? DXFP/TTML?) The degree of accuracy you need for the timing of the text will partly determine what file format you need. Some are convertible to others.
  8. Some services will transcribe a few videos for free first to see if you’re happy with the service.
  9. How fast is the turnaround time they offer? (Generally you pay less for slower turnaround, but it can be useful to be able to pay extra when you need it the next day) A service is going to provide much faster turnaround time than an individual can because they have many transcribers working for them.
  10. Does your school have an existing relationship with a captioning service?
  11. Do your captions need to be ADA compliant? (Both Penn State and Netflix have had lawsuits against them because of the lack of captioning. Check with your School/center/department to see if there’s a policy regarding captioning you’ll need to follow.)
  12. Do you need a HIPAA compliant service or is the material otherwise sensitive or confidential?
  13. Can you build the cost of transcribing into your research budget or grant proposal?
  14. Do you need all of your raw footage transcribed (as you would if you were editing a documentary)? Or just the final edited version (as you would if you were simply trying to meet ADA requirements)?
  15. Are they a Penn-approved vendor? Can you pay with a purchase order?
  16. Do you need transcription in a language other than English?  (English and Spanish  are pretty easy to find, but there are services that offer transcription in many other languages as well, sometimes at a premium cost.)

 

As far as recommended services, I’m glad to recommend both AutomaticSync and 3Play, both of which we’ve used and both of which we’ve been very happy with.

 

 

doge-meme-and-tech

Technology and Language Change: How Memes and Emojis Are The Language of The 21st Century and That’s OK

Prescriptivism is dead. That should be read as a warning of bias. This article is written from the perspective that overly regimenting language is a harmful practice. (Counterarguments and thoughts about this topic are more than welcome in the comments section below!) In a linguistic sense, prescriptivism stunts natural language change and prevents linguistic growth. Without language change, Latin would never have become the Romance languages. That’s right – no Italian, French, or Spanish, to give examples from just one language family.

Technology is a huge (and still growing!) part of the modern world and as such it impacts nearly all aspects of our lives – language included. Therefore, letting technology run its course on language brings our communication more fully into the 21st century.

Brief intermission:

My name is Julianna Pakstis. Hello and welcome to my first WIC blog post! As you can tell from the topic of this post, I have a fascination with language and how it has changed over time. I studied Classics and Linguistics at Penn as an undergrad but have recently switched gears a bit to become a Library Science Master’s student at Rutgers University. And that, ironically, led me back to Penn. I am now an intern at WIC and am excited to explore how WIC connects technology to various academic areas… like the internet and Linguistics.

Now, back to the post.

The study of language change has a long history. Therefore, criticism for language change has a long history as well. The impact of technology on

phaedrus
Plato’s Phaedrus is an ancient document which contains a criticism of the technology of writing.

language is no exception to this criticism. From writing itself, to chatspeak, and emojis, there is and seemingly always has been an outcry against the supposed degradation of language these forms of communication cause. There are voices in favor, too, however. There are authors, linguists and journalists alike, who do not condemn the new forms but embrace them, analyze them, and use them, whether professionally or simply personally.

Linguist Gretchen McCulloch is one of those authors. Back in 2014, she did a fairly neutral post on meta-analysis of the language of doge meme for the internet on website, The Toast. In this article she considered whether visual elements, like the Shiba Inu with a piercing expression or the bright comic-sans font made the meme. What she ultimately discovered, however, was that the peculiar grammar of doge meme was its defining feature.

For those readers who might not be familiar with doge meme, the viral image consists of a picture of a Shiba Inu dog with short, punchy phrases written in bright comic-sans layered over top. Typically the words read like this: “such dog,” much cute,” and perhaps most frequently “wow.”

doge-meme-and-tech
It’s very easy to create your own exemplary meme.

McCulloch concluded that “doge phrases,” short one or two word adjectival phrases, are most characteristic of the meme. You can now hear someone IRL (“in real life”) say “such wow” and envision the meme as the two of you recall a common mental image. While doge speak may not be the most popular internet borrowing for vocalized speech (OMG or LOL may be a better example there), it is a unique way of speaking that can definitively be traced back to this particular meme. When a way of speaking integral to a meme integrates into real life speech, language has changed by technological cause.

The end result is that people have nuanced ways to connect ideas and words. They still know the standard form of the language but can now manipulate it in line with new information.

The doge meme example leads to interesting questions about how fast, mass, and written communication, like the internet, affect language and orthography itself. The orthography issue is a hot topic lately as emojis “threaten” to destroy language as we have always known it.

First, we must tackle the debate of whether or not emojis are or can become a language inemojis and of themselves. There are compelling arguments on both sides, but the consensus right now seems to be that emojis enhance communication but do not have a clear grammar of their own. This lack of clarity (or presence of ambiguity) prevents them from really
overthrowing verbal and written communication. To be fair, one could say that even our established vocabulary and grammar has large amounts of ambiguity and therefore does not count as a language, though that would go against the common definition that what we speak and write is our language. This is a complicated issue so, again, your thoughts are welcome in the comments sections.

In the end, emojis, chatspeak, and memes are rapidly changing forms of expressions. The rapidity and universality are products of their technological context. Because they enhance communication, these symbols are part of our writing system and can be considered language. Rather than destroying language, however, these computer mediated forms of communication participate in a linguistic feature as old as language itself – change.

access_engineer_header

Penn’s Access Engineering Gives Philly Teens Hands-On STEM Experience

Kaylin RabyKaylin Raby is a junior studying Systems Engineering and is the president of Access Engineering at Penn. In this guest post, she describes what the club does and explains its mission.

Recently there has been a push to encourage science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in schools across the country. Science and Math are standard elements of high school curricula everywhere, and kids are exposed to technology every day of their life. However, kids often have much less experience with engineering and what it actually entails. Access Engineering seeks to change this by providing high school students with a realistic and approachable first-year undergraduate engineering curriculum.

ashwin_dewan
Ashwin Dewan helps students with Arduino programming and BoeBots circuitry.

Access Engineering’s mission is to demonstrate to Philadelphia high school students what engineering is all about: an analytical thought process and an option for a future career. We also hope to inspire and motivate students to seek out higher education in general. As Penn Engineering students, we are in a unique position to accomplish this mission. We can relate to the challenges they face as high school students. Many prospective students do not apply to engineering schools because they don’t know what engineering curricula covers or they have misconceptions about what it entails. We want to acquaint students with the various engineering majors and give actionable advice that students can use in regards to their potential college paths and engineering careers.

Access Engineering offers two weekly programs to high school students interested in learning more about engineering. We teach an introductory track, which gives students a broad introduction to many different engineering fields. This includes an introduction to the Java coding language, circuit design, robotics, an introduction to computer assisted design, app development, and prototyping parts on 3-D printers. The advanced section focuses specifically on the integration of circuitry and computer science with mechanical engineering, building upon material learned within our first-semester program.

chemical_engineering
Students investigate their findings in a chemical engineering lab.

Last semester, Access Engineering brought over seventy students to Penn every weekend to participate in our first and second semester programs. We recruit students from four main partner schools in and around Philadelphia, and we plan to expand the program to new schools each year.

We teach our lessons weekly on Saturday mornings from 10 AM – 1 PM. If you would like to know more about the club and what we do, we encourage you to visit our website. Recruitment for the fall semester begins in September- be sure to stop by the Activities Fair to speak with current volunteers about the Access Engineering experience!

 

LinkedIn workshop

Why Social Media?

Why social media at Penn? Social media at Penn and in college, graduate school, and in the professional world is not about scrubbing all traces of who you are off the internet. It’s about creating content that you are “sincerely” passionate about engaging with and making connections online that will lead to IRL experiences like your next research project, a career, a new friend, or an amazing conference experience.

I’ve now had this conversation countless times. As the Saturday consultant at the Weigle Information Commons, I’ve taught social media workshops at the Penn Libraries for two years now. Now and then, I publish a blog post on a particular social platform or tool. Every few months, a friend, a patron, a colleague, or a stranger asks about my work with social media and says, “Oh, I should really do more online!”

Continue reading Why Social Media?

WordPress for Japanese Prints

This past spring, WIC staff members had the opportunity to work with Julie Nelson Davis‘s Art History 515: Utamaro and His Contemporaries seminar class. Students were first tasked with researching and cataloging a new collection of Japanese prints donated by Dr. Cecilia Segawa Seigle to the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts in Van Pelt Library. Thereafter, students worked together to build a collaborative WordPress site that would serve as an online catalog for the selected prints.

This image shows Julie's class interacting with the prints.

Julie developed this course with two main objectives in mind: the first was to provide students with a hands-on experience of the original materials, the second was to enable them to strengthen their web-design skills. She writes,

“This course was designed to bring together object-based learning with digital innovations.”

In this way, students interacted with and interpreted real objects, and the website showcases and preserves their research. WordPress, the platform of choice, makes it easy for multiple users to collaborate on a single site together. Each student set up a profile to create posts for individual prints for the catalog. Students were then able to upload images and add their text and links to related works.

Image of one of the posts on the website.
Post for Chōbunsai Eishi, “Beauties on a Pleasure Boat on the Sumida River,” ca. 1792-93

Together, the class also decided on an overall theme, which controls the look and feel of the site. WIC provided an initial overview of WordPress and met with students as they refined the project. In developing the online catalog, students were able to connect with their audience and directly shape how their research is experienced. Julie states,

“It gave them a sense that their research is real and that it really mattered.”

Check out her class’s fantastic website here. She also discussed her class’s experience during our spring Lightning Round held on April 26th and hopes to expand upon the project with future classes.

WIC staff have provided training and support to a number of courses throughout the years, and we look forward to collaborating with new classes in the upcoming semesters. If you have an idea for a project for your class, be sure to check out our Request Custom Training page. You are also always welcome to shoot us an email if you have questions.

If you are interested in learning more about WordPress, we provide workshops on the basics regularly. Our next WordPress Basics class will take place on Wednesday, July 13th from 11 to 12:30 p.m.  We can also provide a one-on-one consultation if you have more specific questions.