Now here’s a brilliant concept, via Ross Mason: A blogging mirror – you talk it blogs! Ross Mason’s twitter message caught my eye because I had been pondering the use of blogs as a mirror – a personal diary to reflect back on previous thoughts and opinions. A way of seeing yourself, or your organisation, with the perspective that only time can provide. Another answer to the question “Why Blog?” Ross’s blogging mirror is quite a different thing. It is something you can stand in front of and talk, and have it produce a blog post. Well Ross, you can have your birthday wish after all. Here’s how to make a blogging mirror.
We have the technology!
As it turns out it is very easy to build a blogging mirror, and there are a number of different ways to do it. It is useful not just for blogging, but for anyone who has to produce a large amount of text content. Sometimes it is just easier to talk, rather that type. It leaves our brains free to think great thoughts, without having to try and remember where the ‘j’ key is, or check the that the spacebar is still working after the last cup of coffee was spilt on it. Unless you are a touch typist, you can talk faster than you can blog (see the figures in IM or E-mail? How to get your point across?).
How can you turn your speech to text? Speech recognition software. This is another one of those technologies that will become a more and more familiar part of our lives over the next decade. The major OSs already support text to speech (reading text) and speech to text (voice recognition). Both OS X and Windows (at least Windows XP on my tablet PC) have some of these features built in, even if a little hidden away in the accessibility settings. You’ll need a good quality mic, and a reasonably quiet environment.
Beyond what’s in the box.
The built in software isn’t always been the best – it can’t always keep up with full speed speech, and can take a while to train. In the case of OSX, it is for controlling menus, rather than transcription. There are more specialist applications around that out perform (and predate) bundled software. The most well known of these is Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. These packages give very high performance and they work in even tricky application areas, such as legal dictation.
Putting it in the cloud?
There are other routes too, for example Internet or phone network based services. You don’t need to buy anything, it lives out “in the cloud” My favouroute example is Spinvox (see “Never Loose Your Voice Again”), which allows you to call a dedicated number and then dictate a short memo. This is converted and emailed to you. It is a great way to capture thoughts, or send yourself reminders, when you are on the run. A quick phone call, utter a couple of sentences, and then relax in the knowledge that your thought is captured and waiting for you in your inbox when you get back on-line.
There are ever more options, such as commercial transcribing services. The wave of outsourcing and global connectivity has made these services more affordable by providing access to lower cost skilled labour (see what Matt Cornell did with $100 a while back). You record your speech as a wav or mp3 file, then email it or upload it to the service. They usually email the results back to you after a few days.
Speak once, read twice.
For all of these methods, you’ll need to set apart a little time to proof read it and correct the inevitable mistakes. If you talk technobabble like me, a 100% transcription is very unlikely – I even mistype myself. Unless you are a 100% accurate typist, this is something you would have had to do anyway.
Mirror mirror on the wall…
So, there you go, a blogging mirror! Perhaps you should put one in your entrance lobby? The great thing about converting speech to text is that it can be archived, searched, sorted and annotated to anyone’s heart’s content. Combine it with any of the ways of keeping a record and you get to reap the benefits of the sort of blogging mirror I started out thinking about. You can look back on your thoughts and ideas and see how they have evolved, building on what you have learnt and marking your progress.