In a discussion forum for non-fiction writers (where I had posted my introduction of myself and my professional transcription business), another member replied and mentioned that for simple dictation, she uses a voice recognition software program.
When what she had said really sank in, I felt like someone had kicked me in the gut!
Then my reaction was huge dismay and questioning, "Why should I even stay in business?" This came JUST after spending almost two months getting clear on why my transcription business feels exciting to me and realizing that I want to assist and support creative, positive, motivated people to succeed in ways they have not been able to before, working on interesting projects!
I imagined emptying my transcription business website of all information -- just leaving a notice (as a 'public service') pointing out to the people who THINK they need me to transcribe their audios that they should go and buy that software instead!
Yikes! Drastic thoughts!
But seriously, then I started thinking some more...
I mean, it's a legitimate question! Why SHOULD someone hire me if they can buy software for dictation?
In what situations would dictation software be inferior than having a live, intelligent human being (who is passionate about helping her clients succeed) listening and transcribing their audio material instead?
Knowing such software exists, ANYONE might appropriately ask that question!
Since I've never worked with this kind of software, I realize I may not understand it perfectly, so I decided to ask some questions...
With audio recordings of interviews, groups, or live teleclasses, seminars, and so forth, how does the software distinguish between multiple speakers? How does it know to punctuate and break the text into paragraphs appropriately?
When people just speak naturally, their speech is filled with tons of 'ahs' and 'ummms' and 'you know's' and so forth. Does the software know to filter those out when appropriate? People also string multiple sentences together with 'and' forever! Does the software know when to break the sentences apart?
How about when the quality of the audio recording is not top-notch, such as when there is background noise or people speaking on top of each other... how does it handle that?
Even when there is only a single speaker, if they do not dictate punctuation, paragraphs, etc., does the software intuit that correctly?
If the software does not handle these issues well, how much work is involved in cleaning up the text?
Also, in my relationships with the clients I've worked with, there is the unquantifiable element of me being an objective outsider who can catch errors or discrepancies in the CONTENT. And I often even come up with valuable ideas to help them improve their material!
There is a creative, collaborative give and take between my clients and me that often seems to be of benefit to us BOTH beyond the action of me 'just' transcribing their audio recordings.
So, I concluded, there IS still a need for my services by many people! Not all, but I'm sure enough to keep me busy. I actually do enjoy this kind of work under the right circumstances and with the types of clients I intend to connect with!
So in the end, I thanked that discussion forum member for her post and the internal thinking process it sent me through, because it helped me face a fear and come out stronger on the other side!
And then, as a welcome validation of everything I had deduced on my own, quickly after I had submitted my reply to her, she was kind enough to reply with a more detailed explanation of how the voice recognition software works and its definite limitations -- everything I had suspected, and even more!
I truly have a valuable, worthwhile service to offer my clients. I'm very proud of my skills, my dedication, and my opportunity to make a contribution to the entire world by assisting my clients to develop their own gifts in ways they might never on their own IF it was up to themselves alone to type out their wisdom and creativity!