Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shiny! New! Must! Own!

I've got waaaay too many journals.

Shortly after I arrived in Japan, my brother Jason sent me a very thoughtful birthday gift: a copy of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way (with an accompanying Morning Pages Journal). I did the 12-week course and, as I result, I got into the habit of writing 3 pages longhand every morning. For 3 1/2 years.

And, if I wasn't writing journals, I was recording them. In Japan, I bought an Olympus Voice-Trek DM-30 digital voice recorder that never left my side. Alas, I also have several hours of audio journals.

Now, all of this is great because I'm writing a book about Japan so I've got tons of resources. The problem is, I'd say that a good 85% of what I wrote is little more than hard-core whinging ("Work sucks!" "Women are mean!"). But the remaining 15%? Literary gold, baby.

So, how to mine that gold? I sure as hell can't type up all of my journals. That would take forever. I could scan my journals but that would give me little more than a backup copy. (And, would also take forever.) Plus, because all of my journals are handwritten, I can't use OCR make the scanned copies searchable. (I'd even considered outsourcing the work but I didn't like the idea of other people with my journals. Besides, I'd still have to read them.)

So, I've just been stuck rereading my old journals and taking notes. I should be done around early 2015.

Cut to this morning. I started reading Michael A. Bank's new book Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World's Top Bloggers. Near the end of the preface, he talks about having to face the tedium of having to transcribe of all of his recorded phone interviews.

Several people he interviewed recommended Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a voice-recognition program. He bought it and tried playing the interviews for the program but it didn't work. NaturallySpeaking couldn't recognize more than one voice at a time. He writes:
I still hoped for shortcut - a way to get the words from audio to text format without putting them into the keyboard.
I asked around a bit and found it. A blogger named Dan Brodntiz suggested dictating the interviews into NaturallySpeaking as I listened to the recordings. I tried it. I donned a headset-with-microphone and played an interview with Sony's Digital Voice Editor software (included with my Sony recorder). As I listened to the interview, I echoed back the subject's responses.
It worked! Trained to my voice, NaturallySpeaking faithfully transcribed the interviews. No stopping, no backing up. If the speech was too fast for me to echo, I slowed the playback.
That could SO work for me! I could just read my written journals aloud and have the computer do all of the work for me! Even better, I'd only have to PLAY my audio journals for my computer! I wouldn't even have to BE THERE!

No sitting at my desk! No typing! Heavenly! (For a writer, I sure do hate the whole "writing" part.)

I did some research and found this video review by New York Time's David Pogue testing out the latest version.

Me wanty!

[Wish List] UPDATE: And while we're dreaming, I want one of these, too.

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