Yesterday I was late on delivery with my blog post because I was busy all afternoon with my friends. Today, while I’m not on the cusp of midnight like before, I’m also a little later than I want to be.
But not because I was completely distracted. More because I found it a little hard to get my energy going.
That’s not to say I haven’t done anything at all today. I actually did get some serious work done interviewing an aerospace design engineer for Gladeo and transcribing that interview. For once it wasn’t a two-hour ordeal of a discussion to write out. Only a half hour.
It was actually very reasonable and easy to go through in comparison.
Even if, like I said, I wasn’t very motivated to get through it too quickly. So it still took me some time to transcribe out.
But I did get through the whole thing by the end of the day. I just have to go through what I got and decide how to lay out my Spotlight. It’s probably only going to be a Spotlight too, as a design engineer is sort of ambiguous to fit under one branch of engineering specifically.
You could be a designer for mechanical engineering, or environmental engineering, so on and so forth.
I don’t know exactly what category this interview might fit under, but that’s also not really for me to decide. I’m just the reporter, yo.
Doing that interview was about the only significant thing I did today, outside of helping clean the house where I could and playing some Enter the Gungeon on my Switch.
Another excellent Switch roguelike game, I might add.
Hopefully I’ll have more to discuss tomorrow, but for now I think I can essentially just leave this where it is.
The only other major thought I can think to expand upon right now is more of a simple housekeeping point. I think it’s about time I go through all of my social media and update it.
See I have a somewhat bad habit of just letting my Internet life exist in the void. Obviously my Twitter and Facebook are just megaphones for my blog posts here 90 percent of the time. Out of design mostly, as I prefer to let my thoughts fill a larger space than social media tends to allow.
As a result of that I don’t often go through and change my personal information. My Twitter Page still says I’m a news editor for the Daily Titan, for example, when I haven’t technically been in that position for close to a year.
Same problem on my Facebook page, where a lot of my interests listed are still things that haven’t been touched since like… Senior year. Of high school.
But probably the most egregious offense comes in my much more newly assembled LinkedIn page. That’s really the one that’s tripping me up right now because it’s the place people connect with me for more work-related endeavors — and it currently suffers the same problem as my Twitter page.
So over the next few days I think I’m going to go through and make them all perfect.
Then I’m going to do my best to update them more regularly. Because even if I don’t care about them THAT much, it’s important to remember that those are my forward-facing impressions to the world of 2018 more often than not.
Some of you are probably thinking this headline here is just a symptom of me being full of myself.
But it’s not.
It’s actually a sort of pun on the fact that the person I interviewed is named Magic.
Is it worse to abuse the obvious pun than it is to be full of myself? I suppose that’s the kind of semantic detail you as the audience should decide. I won’t dwell on it too long because I have a point to get to.
That point being my Gladeo piece on audio engineers is live right now! I just found out about it this morning during our bi-weekly meeting and got right on putting this together. As soon as I finished helping paint the girl’s room. But you can just look at yesterday’s post if you want more details on that.
My conversation with Magic was probably one of the coolest interviews I’ve had the opportunity to conduct. He’s a great guy with a storied history and plenty of things to say about finding work you enjoy doing that really spoke to me at a personal level even more than just my professional judgement of what makes good quotes. I spent plenty of time going into that when I first did the interview a few weeks back.
Unlike a daily news cycle, these kinds of longer-form database profiles and such don’t have a super quick turnaround, so I’ve been waiting to see everything get through the editing process for a while. In the meantime I’ve been working on some other pieces, but this is the one I’ve been really excited about.
I updated my Gladeo work listing in that tab over on the right, but if you want you can jump through this link here to check out the overall profile on being an Audio Engineer I put together. Through there is another point of access to the Spotlight I wrote about Magic specifically.
When I first started to work on this piece I mentioned an interest in posting the full interview transcript. After all, he said so much wonderful stuff that it was difficult to have o distill it down for proper publication. So I figured hey, I’ve got a personal blog. Why not put the full text here?
If you’re interested in reading the full (somewhat) unabridged hour-long talk I had with Magic, go ahead and click the read more button / scroll down. But if you’re not, I’d still appreciate it if you could check out the published piece over on the Gladeo website.
Thanks a billion everyone, looking forward to getting more out there soon!
So yeah I could spend the next couple hundred words or so talking about the almost 9,000 word transcript I did for a Boom conversation with Merry Ovnick of Southern California Quarterly. But I’m not sure a second-hand account of the discussions on regional architecture in California and Los Angeles specifically would be super interesting for anyone but me.
That probably doesn’t sound fair. It’s not an inherently boring interview or anything. In fact, it went over some interesting points, particularly about the effects of history and culture on architecture and vice versa.
I just don’t think I can do it any justice without coming across about as blandly as possible. So I’m just going to leave that to the experts and encourage you all to go read the piece as soon as it’s officially published.
With that mindset in place, I figured this was going to be a short “don’t have much to talk about” kind of post.
But then I started to set it up. When I did I realized this is actually a milestone of sorts.
My blog post yesterday was the 299’s I’ve published here. That means you’re currently reading lucky number 300 — as my headline so aptly remarks.
So yeah. Happy tri-centennial… Erm… I’m not sure what the right term would be… Post-iversary… Thing.
I guess it’s not even so much an anniversary since it isn’t time-specific as much as it is content-specific. I’ll try to come up with something better if I do one of these for the next milestone. Probably 500, or whatever it may be.
While I wish I had something more substantial to say, I suppose it’ll have to do for me to just reflect on my summer project now that we’re at about the halfway point.
I’ve honestly been surprised to see that posting something every single day, rather than putting out a post every other week or so, actually has a substantial effect on how many eyes the words get to. At least twice this summer I’ve broken my record on blog post views and likes (though both are just barely into the double digits so I can’t proclaim it’s that much) and I’ve more than tripled my following.
Even if that’s, again, a less than substantive nine or so followers up to the low thirties, it’s still pretty awesome. I’m sure it sounds cliché when I say it, but I really do appreciate all of you out there that think I’m worth taking a look at for what mostly amounts to random bouts of rambling.
That also extends beyond my direct WordPress followers into the realm of social media. Though that also comes in spurts, I like to know whenever people take a look at the stuff I’m putting out here.
Just based on what I’ve seen come out of this so far, I think I’m probably going to continue writing a blog post a day even after the summer ends. That might be tougher once school starts, but if nothing else I’ll probably just be able to talk about what I learned in class on a given day or something along those lines. So who knows, I’m sure it’ll work out in one way or another.
That’s honestly all I’ve got to say on the matter, but I’m well over 500 words writing about nothing at this point, so I think that should be more than enough. Especially if I want to get something out before midnight.
Again, thanks for all the support, and here’s to many more posts from here on out! Perhaps if I actually keep up this daily business, soon it’ll be child’s play when I hit a number like 300.
If I had to characterize my day today in just a few words, it would be easy. Sleeping, dying and working.
Basically a perfect microcosm of life I suppose.
Like I mentioned in my post yesterday, I’ve been sick lately. Today happened to feature a nasty flare-up, which led to sleeping in until at least 1:00 p.m. followed by an afternoon of sequestering myself away in my room to avoid disrupting the world with my somewhat intense cough and Advil-riddled outlook.
On the one hand that seclusion was a positive because, as I mentioned, it gave me the chance to focus on work. I managed to work through my entire transcript for the interview I conducted with Magic the other day, giving me an easy head start for the profile and Spotlight I’m writing.
On the other hand I basically spent the whole day sitting around in my own sick misery. That’s never exactly a positive, all things considered.
Because of that rather uneventful course of events, I don’t have a bunch to talk about in this blog post.
So I just wanted to give a shout out to the one thing today that gave me a series relief outside of drugs: Chinese food.
Yeah that sounds silly I know. But really, what’s better on a day when you’re sick than some hot, tasty soup.
Now I don’t have a lot to say about Chinese food specifically, don’t get me wrong. I’m not promising a particularly meaty discussion here. I just figured it was worth reflecting on something or another to avoid a day where I haven’t written anything.
Even if, to be fair, I did write about 6,000 words or so just transcribing my interview. But that’s a different story.
Though writing it out seems silly from how ubiquitous the act is in American life, My family has ordered in a lot of food over the years. Chinese and Pizza are the chief culprits, naturally, though with more recent advents like Grubhub that spectrum of potential has expanded widely.
One thing I’ve given almost no thought to over all those years is the middle man in the equation, that person who delivers the food. Don’t ask me why, it seems like they would be the first thing that comes to mind from how ever-present the idea of being a food delivery person is in popular culture, but I guess I’ve always been more focused on the destination than the journey in that regard.
Today I’m feeling a bit more fond toward the delivery people of the world. Perhaps it’s some outlandish association between the comfort that came from hot soup against my sore throat and the fact that it wouldn’t have been possible without the guy from Emerald Garden at the door.
Even if it is a very specific association, it’s something to extrapolate much further. It’s easy to say that those delivery people, like many others who hold jobs we may take for granted, are what help keep modern day society rolling along as smoothly as it does. For the most part.
So take this as a plea from a sad, strange little man dying from a cold. Treat your delivery people well and tip them well. Because they deserve it.
Thanks for the soup you wonderful man. I hope your July brings many great things!
So this post comes in response to what I wrote the other day about the dichotomy of transcription, why it’s a terrible thing to do but also why it’s the best thing one can do when practicing journalism.
I know there was a gap where I talked about videa gaymes because of timely E3 business, but these extended thoughts kept nagging at me.
There was another ‘con’ to the act of transcribing that I considered going into while sitting in Starbucks with mom, working on the first post. But I decided not to include it because the more I thought about it, the more the problem felt like one example of a larger, personal idiosyncrasy of mine.
The idea of being subjected to total silence as something potentially uncomfortable to endure.
Now, to preface this discussion with myself, I’d like to say that I don’t actually feel like I’m the only person on the planet who might just be uncomfortable with silence. If anything, I think it’s an inherent part of being as social a creature as humans are.
There are likely hundreds of scientific studies out there on the matter, covering things like our tendencies to fill dead air in a conversation by changing topics or inserting speech fillers like “um” or “ah.”
But I’m going to be looking at the subject from an entirely personal perspective. None of those silly “empirical tests” and whatnot to murk up my subjective torrent of words.
I’ve always been a rather introverted person growing up. Ironic for someone going into a field where they need to constantly talk to people, I know.
My passions have always leaned toward personal activities like reading, writing and video games rather than group activities like partying and sports. I had my groups to do things like play video games with of course, but you get the idea.
Because of that I’ve generally considered myself the kind of person who enjoys, if not thrives in more silent environments. Sitting sheltered off in my room to do work, for example, which has in the past led to my parents deeming it “the cave.”
Yet the more I reflect on my past, the more I’ve come to realize that perhaps it’s more the isolation in which I thrive, rather than the quiet. I say that because more often than not I’ve always tried to fill the silence with other noises even when I’m not with other people.
Video games themselves are the perfect embodiment of this. I’ve been playing them my whole life, and the songs and sound bites from a number of titles are just as iconic to me as some images, just as likely to help recall certain events or moments from my life.
As a quick example, I’ll never be able to disassociate the opening theme to Pokémon White 2 from the specific Target (right across the street from the South Bay Galleria) where I started to play the game for the first time after having put it down unfinished when it first came out.
The idea of making sound ever-present in my life goes much deeper than that, however.
As much as I love driving as an activity, I find my commutes to-and-from Cal State Fullerton nearly unbearable when I can’t listen to a podcast or a video as I go.
When I’m falling asleep, I can never just lay back and go to sleep. I have to do what I consider pre-dreaming, where I start to imagine some sort of scene in my head – a scene that includes some sort of dialogue or musical score – in order to really lull myself into unconsciousness.
While reading tends to be one of the exceptions to this rule, as sometimes ill sit silently just imagining the pages play out in my head, sometimes particularly boring novels for class can get so unbearable that I need something else running in the background to help me get through it.
More often than not I have my computer somewhere in the bathroom as I shower, that way I can continue to listen to whatever video series I have running while standing under the relaxing spray for arguably way too long.
The list, as I’m sure you can assume, goes on-and-on.
Having gotten far off-track with that background information, let me tie everything back to why I believe feeling uncomfortable with silence is one of the reasons transcribing audio is such a terrible thing for me. As counter-intuitive as that must sound.
Sound. Audio puns. You know the drill.
When I imagine audio that fills all of the dead space in a moment, it’ll often be the sort of things I’ve discussed already. Podcasts. YouTube videos. Music.
Hell, more often than not my family has the TV on, but it’ll be on a mindless channel like the Food Network just to create background noise while we do other things.
However, I don’t consider work audio, something I’m transcribing, to be in the same category of unencumbered noise to distract from the uncomfortable void.
Part of that could be distilled down to the psychological difference between doing something for pleasure versus doing something for work, I suppose. But I think it goes deeper than that.
When transcribing an interview, you aren’t simply jamming out or getting engaged with an adventure someone else is describing. Unless of course your interviewee is describing an adventure… But again, semantics.
Rather than having the chance to just mindlessly enjoy something and absorb what’s happening, transcription is a much more heavy-duty job. You’re listening to someone talk in the same way, but instead of just absorbing it passively you’re very actively listening to that audio, translating it and jotting it down before going back to make sure what you’ve jot down is accurate.
You become more like a wall or a mirror than a sponge, bouncing that information off to a different place rather than just taking it in. The activity is much more taxing, and it becomes easier to lose your interest.
But on top of that, the requirement to constantly repeat things for accuracy leads to a whole host of other internal issues inherent to the process. While transcribing is a “listening” activity, large portions are spent in total silence. Silence is needed to finish copying down the sentence you just heard before the subject moves into their next thought. Silence is needed as you go back in time to listen to something again, and one can’t even have any other sorts of sounds going on the side because the copying needs to be as accurate as possible.
Then let’s not forget the fact that when one is transcribing audio, they can’t necessarily think about anything else other than that audio, either.
While a mind can wander while going to sleep and fill empty space with memorized sounds, transcribing requires a person to repeat what they’ve heard over-and-over again in their head to make sure they don’t forget what they’re writing so they have to go back and hear it again.
That reminder of the sentence is noise to break up the silence, yes, but again it plays back to the mundane, repetitive nature of transcribing that makes it somewhat unbearable as an activity.
Imagine constant switching between total silence and hearing the same sentences on repeat for a few hours. That’s what transcription is at its core.
Whether or not everyone else in the world feels the same way about silence and how it effects things like transcribing is hard to judge since I’m just going off of my own thoughts.
But if nothing else, simply reflecting on those thoughts and trying to imagine why certain things make me feel the way they do, even if I don’t come to any sort of substantial conclusion, is something else that’s inherently characteristic of being human.
The ability to reflect on one’s own situations, and even reflect on the ability to reflect in the first place. That’s the kind of meta that I find fascinating.
Especially when it comes off of an essentially pointless “deep thought” that winds up boiling down to me complaining about my job, if you think about it hard enough.
After spending large chunks of the day working on transcribing an hour-long Gladeo interview (arguably procrastinating a lot but that’s a different story), I find myself reflecting on the art of transcription as a whole.
… And the fact that it is simultaneously the most helpful but also the worst, least enjoyable part of my job as an aspiring journalist.
It might seem like hyperbole to use such radical opposites to describe the dichotomy of such an important part of the job, but I can almost guarantee that anyone who works in the field will likely agree.
But from where does this dichotomy stem?
Transcription is an ever-present and somewhat unassuming part of the job. If you’re going to be interviewing and quoting a subject in print, you need to have their spoken words written out to be able to print them. It’s just what needs to be done.
On one side of the argument, transcription is mundane, boring and at times even seemingly superfluous. Many times in the past I’ve found myself working on transcribing an interview thinking “oh I’ve heard this before.” More often than not it’s because I have heard this before, as I heard it the first time when I conducted the interview.
However on top of that basic, unavoidable problem of just hearing repeat information, transcription is also a pain because it feels like busy work when going through the motions. You are quite literally copying down the words someone is saying onto a sheet of paper. There aren’t too many tools out there to assist with the job, either.
Because you want the most accurate wording possible so your piece comes out as accurately as possible, it behooves you not to rely on something like Siri to hear the audio and write it out for you because the computer can’t tell the difference between minutia when it comes to speech.
Ever tried to tell Siri to tell someone ‘you’re here for them’ and she instead tells them ‘you hear them’? Not the kind of mistranslation you want at any level of professional publication.
In recent semesters the Daily Titan staff has discovered a web browser-based app called oTranscribe which is honestly a godsend for the job. Not only does it allow you to slow down or speed up the audio you’re listening to, but it can be adjusted to do things like automatically time stamp, and there are other keyboard shortcuts that allow you to pause the sound while typing. Only it will go back about three seconds automatically so you can review the last sentence you transcribed.
oTranscribe is seriously awesome and has helped my job immensely. But… It doesn’t exactly address the problem of getting bored while listening to the same audio you’ve already listened to. That’s unfortunately an issue that will remain into the foreseeable future, up until some device that transcribes perfectly for you is invented.
In the real world, there are some factors that tend to alleviate the mundane boredom of the act. For example, it becomes much faster and more engaging to transcribe something when you’re, say, transcribing something live as a meeting’s secretary or rushing to get the words together for a deadline article that required a source who could only talk in the penultimate hour before publication.
I’ve done that before. Makes the process go way faster in my experience.
Without the “luxury” of a rapid turnaround to help enliven the process, transcribing can drag immensely.
Say, hypothetically, you have an hour-long interview to transcribe. An hour’s worth of the same person talking about the same thing you’ve already heard that you’re just writing down to help you later. Then add onto that the fact that there is no hard, set deadline to hit.
Someone could procrastinate forever on that kind of assignment. By doing things like writing an overly embellished blog post about the fact that you need to do it but can’t help getting distracted.
With all of that said, let’s look at the other side of the argument: Why it’s worth transcribing audio despite the heartache that comes with doing so.
I’ve had to handle stories in both ways I’m about to describe.
Some stories have been on such a last-minute deadline that I’ve had to rely solely on my brief written notes to find a time stamp for the quote I definitely need to throw in my story. It’s an effective system in that it’s fast — one of the more useful things it can be on deadline, but there are some problems.
More often than not, in the midst of an interview a reporter will be thinking about half a dozen things all at once. Not only is the necessity of the content their story requires and the deadline for which they have to get that information weighing heavy.
They’ll also be thinking about their next three follow-up questions that will give them the information needed. Except wait- the subject just said something really important an interesting. I better slot in another question to get more details about that.
Oh, and don’t forget to be checking the audio recorder to ensure it’s still taping. At the same time as you’re taking hand-written notes that are detailed enough to rely on in case the recorder breaks yet brief enough to make sure you don’t fall behind while the subject talks at a mile a minute.
See what I’m getting at?
Interviews are a serious juggling act, so much so that the overtaxed mind of the interviewer is likely to glaze over some details throughout the course of the talk. While those details may not necessarily be important, they could be. Hell there could be a perfect end quote for the story at minute 37 of one’s interview, but they were so busy jotting down notes from the previous statement that they forgot to mark down the fact that something good was just said.
In that first kind of deadline situation, the reporter might lose that quote forever because they’re in such a rush that they can only use things they’ve jotted down and know are necessary.
But let’s imagine a second situation. One in which the reporter has a few days or even weeks to work on a story. Be it a larger enterprise piece, a profile or even just an event story where they got a background interview in advance.
Should they suffer through the lengthy slog of transcribing that interview, suddenly a whole host of new doors open up.
When writing the article, now said reporter can have the transcription up in a window just to the side, allowing them to have all their information in one place that they can copy over without having to re-type everything or struggle to understand what’s being said on a pressured deadline.
Personally I’ve also found this method extremely helpful in that I can mark off what information I’ve already used by highlighting the transcript. It may seem like a small thing to remember what statement has been used versus which one hasn’t, but having the information laid out in a clear, concise way honestly frees up a lot of brain power to focus more on other thing, like where to go next or what statement jumps off the previous one best.
Then there are other benefits to having a written transcript, like being able to share it with an editor or fellow reporter who has offered their assistance in crafting/improving a piece. That way they can glance through the written words I just a few minutes versus having to listen to hours worth of audio just to catch up and know what’s happening.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. For as huge a pain in the ass transcription is, going out if your way to do so makes the entire writing process that follows monumentally easier. I can pinpoint specific stories where I wish I had transcripts of my audio, as they would have made those pieces leagues better.
The piece I had to do a few years ago on a presentation that was given entirely in Spanish comes to mind… But to be fair the issue there was arguably more about that language barrier than specifically the lack of transcripts themselves.
As unrelated an example as that may seem, it does actually highlight the chief reason I think transcriptions are essential for any and all journalists. You may think it’s mundane and worthless to listen to your interview twice-over, but the more you repeatedly look at something the more engrained that information becomes and the more you understand it.
In an industry where our job is to understand a person and what they’re doing intimately enough to convey that information to an audience presumably ignorant on that subject, the better you can understand the words you’re working with, the better you can convey the spirit of that subject through their words.