Along with getting your shorthand up to 100 words per minute, transcribing interviews is one of the most time-consuming, mundane, and frankly annoying parts of journalism. For me, if transcription appears anywhere on my to do list, I’ll approach everything else on the list before I can muster the enthusiasm to transcribe that interview.
So it was with great joy and relief that I discovered oTranscribe recently.
oTranscribe is a new, static website that takes the pain out of transcription. You upload your audio recording to the website so there’s no constant switching between iTunes and Word while you play a bit of the recording, pause it, write it, play a bit more of the recording, pause it, write it… you get my drift. You can also use your keyboard keys to pause, rewind, fast-forward, speed up and slow down your recording. Your hands literally don’t need to leave the keyboard.
More than anything, I found oTranscribe made me so much more productive as it gets rid of all of those things that so easily distract you when transcribing. (It’s very tempting to check what’s going on over on Facebook or Twitter as you switch from iTunes to Word, isn’t it?) Before I knew it, a whole hour of transcribing had gone by without once dipping into Twitter.
oTranscribe was created by Elliot Bentley, a graduate of Newcastle University and the former Deputy Editor of its student newspaper The Courier.
By the end of that weekend, Elliot had something that half-worked. After putting in just ten to fifteen hours of work, Elliot was ready to launch oTranscribe at the beginning of November.
“I wanted [to call it] Open Transcribe but there’s already a project out there called that, so I thought… oTranscribe. I whipped together the branding and stuck it on Reddit to see what kind of reaction it would get on the Journalism Subreddit,” says Elliot. “It got quite a few comments; people saying nice things and saying: ‘This looks really useful.’”
There are, of course, other transcription programmes out there, but Elliot hopes oTranscribe has a little something to set it apart from the rest: “I like to think that the interactive time stamps are a pretty unique selling point.”
And it’s definitely useful. Just click Ctrl + J anywhere within your transcription to insert a timestamp. You can then go back to that point in the recording by clicking on the timestamp. Genius.
oTranscribe has already garnered a bit of a following. Elliot presented at the Hacks/Hackers event in November and it received a great response.
“The Twitter followers doubled during my presentation,” says Elliot. “It was the next day when there was a write-up on journalism.co.uk that everything really exploded and suddenly hundreds of people were tweeting about it and I saw the hits massively spike.”
Future plans include adding an export feature and after requests from users, Elliot has plans for oTranscribe to support video files as well as audio files.
In the interests of impartiality, I have tried and tried to think of something I don’t like about oTranscribe and the only thing I can think of is that it doesn’t actually transcribe the audio for you.
“A lot of people seem to think that it’s automatic transcription,” says Elliot. “I think it’s possibly just wishful thinking… unfortunately computers aren’t quite smart enough to do it yet.”
Are there any other journalism inventions that would make your life a little easier? Tweet us @wannabehacks or let us know in the comments below.