Dictation Software Revisited

A number of years ago, I entertained the idea of dictating my articles and or books. Dragon NaturallySpeaking seemed to be the most popular and perhaps most effective software at that time.

I foundthat the accuracy was shockingly high. But what was most interesting was that even with such high accuracy, it was almost unreadable. This was very similar to my experience with the Apple Newton and with the voice recognition engine in Wildfire my favorite automated phone system. It turned out that 99.x% may just not be good enough, and it also turns out that proofreading automated dictation is horrifically difficult, because when dictation software makes a mistake, in inserts a word that no spell check is going to flag and your eye tends to see what it expects.

I’m pleased to say however that speech recognition has come a long way, and Dragon Speaking 9 is so much better at context-based recognition that many previous problem have gone away.

While not foolproof. it is so close to what I intend and learns so quickly from my corrections, that I am able to produce a document more quickly using Dragon NaturallySpeaking than I am by typing it by hand. In fact, even though I typed at over one hundred words per minute, I’m able to dictate documents more quickly than I am to type them. Corrections are sometimes more difficult using Dragon NaturallySpeaking but there is nothing that prevents me from putting my hands on the keyboard and making corrections by hand

As you may have guessed by now. I am dictating this blog entry using Dragon NaturallySpeaking and I am working hard and leaving in its natural form without making many corrections, allowing the errors that Dragon NaturallySpeaking may be introducing in their raw form. So that you can see the level of accuracy that is new software provides with literally the level of effort in training that comes two hours after purchasing the software.

Lab Notes

For many years it has been my goal to keep a running set of lab notes while I work. I know from the experience of others and from my own experience that if I would only write down what I was doing while I was programming. I could save myself a great deal of time.

 Again and again I had the experience that I will work on something and then I will wish that I could accurately re-create the steps that I had taken, either because I solve the problem and it would be helpful to know exactly what I did to solve the problem or, because I had something working and then I made a change that broke it.

Over the years. I’ve tried keeping a Lab Book, then a Word document open on another machine, and at 1 point I purchased an HP Jornada and made my notes in it. The problem with each of these plans was that I had to turn away from whatever I was working on to enter my notes. And I found over time that I would get caught up in my work and the note taking would become a distraction or too much effort, and I would give it up

My hope is that I can now take contemporaneous notes as I’m working using Dragon NaturallySpeaking on one machine, while programming on the other. If this works out the program will be worth far more than I paid for.

Dictating articles and books

Using Dragon NaturallySpeaking to go beyond simple notetaking and to use dictation to create articles and/or chapters for books may still be asking too much of the software. Although I’m intriguted by the idea of integrating dictated speech with the keyboard and mouse.  It’s something I will explore over the next number of months, and report back.