Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Request

Hey, all. I don't actually know how many people subscribe to this blog (because I just activated Google Webmaster Tools today and they haven't kicked in yet), but it's had a good half a dozen commenters, and I have a feeling there's a lurker or two hanging around as well. I've got a favor to ask you guys. When I tell people about the Plover Project, the most common response I get is, "Sure, steno is impressive. But who's actually going to take the trouble to learn it?" I know that a number of you are looking to become court reporters, captioners, or CART providers, but I know there are others who intend to use steno to write fiction, avoid RSIs, or any number of other reasons. I'd love to get a bunch of blurbs from people who are either starting steno via Plover or are choosing to use Plover alongside their more traditional steno studies. Why do you think it's worthwhile? What's your motivation in learning steno? What sorts of things do you want to do with it? Just a couple of sentences from a few different people would be enough to fill a post that I could link to whenever the doubters raised their eyebrows at the whole idea of a steno program for amateurs. I'll kick it off with a comment from my friend Martin, who works as a draftsman:

"Here's how I look at it: Right now, I type at about 40-50 WPM. If I ever made a change to how I typed, I'd spend at least a month or so writing at like 20ish WPM. If I learned to write qwerty properly, I'd eventually get up to 60-80 WPM -- clearly not worth it. Dvorak, maybe 75-90 -- meh. That Dutch thingie* , realistically I'd probably max out around 100-150ish. Steno, probably about the same. That's worth the time, but it's not worth the money. Plover takes the fastest option and makes it one of the cheapest."

Anyone else have a story to tell? You can write 'em in the comments or email me (, and then I'll collect them and put them together as a post on the blog. I'm hoping to show that there are plenty of reasons to learn steno, and plenty of demand for Plover that will only increase as it develops. After a month-long hiatus, my next Python session is on Monday, and we're gonna work on keyboard emulation in both Windows and Linux. We've got some pretty good leads on how to do it, so if all goes well, Plover will be able to write properly formatted text into any program you like after the next several weeks.

*Velotype, which I showed him this morning after a Plover commenter sent it to me. Thanks, Nicolay!


  1. I am a sign language interpreter by profession and am currently in the final phases of a PhD program in Linguistics. The reason why I got interested in steno was, first and foremost, an unrelenting curiosity which was probably sparked by interacting with court reporters and real-time writers in my work. Once they explained the system to me, it became very attractive as a way to write faster. I am constantly writing papers, précises of articles, and parts of my dissertation, and the slowness of typing frustrates me greatly. The knowledge that there is a faster way to do this led me to begin learning steno theory on my own and to start practicing on an old manual machine. I now have a rather expensive electronic steno machine on order, which I think proves to me that I have moved beyond the mere convenience factor as a motivation and will seek to move to the highest levels of skill as a machine stenographer.

  2. That's fantastic, Tony. Thank you so much.

  3. I'm a subscriber and a lurker! I have always been interested in steno, but in high school (so long ago) I wasn't allowed to take the classes where I would've learned about it. I was good at writing and learning languages, so I was put on the AP liberal arts track where I was supposed to go to college and go $100,000 into debt to get a job that paid me $40,000/year. I dropped out, got a job at a bookstore and then became a stay-at-home mom. Now, I still want to learn! For fun, and to have a well-paying, flexible job. But we have a mortgage and 3 kids, and I can't come up with the $5,000 for a home study kit.

    Another reason I want to learn is because my 3 daughters are little techies who can already type 40-50 wpm at 11, 11, and almost 7 years old. I think they would totally be into learning it just for fun.

  4. Awesome. I hear you about the debt versus the paycheck. I don't regret my college education, but I'm still paying off $15,000 of loans, and a liberal arts B.A. got me mostly jobs that paid less than $10 an hour. I've already paid off the loan I took out to get through steno school, and now that I'm a Certified CART provider, I make about ten times as much as I did when I was just a Bachelor of Arts.

  5. I'm still looking for a netbook or laptop that has the necessary keyboard to do steno on. I just ordered an Asus EEE PC 1005PE. I'll let you know how good/bad it's keyboard is soon.

    One of the barriers I'm facing to fully transition from Dvorak to Steno is the fact that I'm on my netbook _a lot_, e.g. in the bus, subway, etc.

  6. Sonja: Man, I wish there were a laptop with an anti-ghosting keyboard. I'd snap it up in a heartbeat. It's such a pain to be on the subway, wanting to do some transcription, and having to choose between just getting out my laptop and doing it qwerty-style (ugh) or dragging out my steno machine, tripod, and foot pedal, then balancing the laptop on my backpack (also ugh). I fear that the Asus still won't have the necessary multiple key recognition; apparently the Sidewinder is the first affordable USB keyboard to even come close, because they're using some new proprietary wiring technology. Virtually every other keyboard will short out and be unable to recognize if more than a couple keys are pressed at a time. But maybe someday we'll get an anti-ghosting laptop! I'm also holding out hope for the new multitouch dual-screen devices.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Sort of on an offbeat....

    So I am trying to pursue a career in interpretation captioning whereby I hear a different language and instantaneously translate it into English-language captions (and vice versa). I had seen this video before on Youtube (which I am about to show you guys) and I wanted to ask you all if you guys had a better idea of what's going on here:

    She is a captioner who is listening to a live Microsoft presentation in English and is simultaneously interpret-captioning it into Spanish for the predominantly Spanish-speaking audience. Can anyone identify what she's using; whether she is using an American CAT system (it doesn't look like Catalyst), or if it's something else? You can see she has a hardware key in the video -- again doesn't look like the one furnished with CaseCATalyst but the machine looks like a very standard model from Stenograph.

    I am super curious as to how she is realizing this with a standard North American (English-language based) steno machine. Other than a plethora of sites that described how GrandJean can be employed for Spanish, I did find one site that mentioned something called the "Melani" method which just switches the order of the English steno layout to a more Romance-friendly one but this is so far the only site I could find on the topic:

    Moreover, I can't seem to find a pre-constructed dictionary file or a theory summary even of what Spanish language steno strokes even look like :(.

    But anyway, I just wanted to share and was curious if any of you had experience writing in Spanish (or any other language than English) with steno. If you go on the Youtube page I posted a comment asking her (and her company) on the specifics of this feat -- to which I am eagerly waiting for their response.

  10. Heya, Stan. I know @estenotipista from Twitter. Most of her tweets are in Spanish, but after the earthquake in Chile when I asked if she was all right she answered me in English. I'm guessing, based on the shape/color of the dongle and the screen, that she's using Eclipse (the proprietary software I use) with the CART output window. The machine, though, is definitely made by Stenograph; I can see the logo. Stenograph makes a bunch of different international layouts. You can see some of them here, though I find it odd that it doesn't mention Spanish, even though I know there are a lot of Spanish captioners in the States and elsewhere who use steno-based systems. I recently heard about a pair of Swedish palantypists who specialize in transcribing Swedish speech into English text. So it definitely happens. It's not something I have specific experience in, but I'd like to learn more about it. One day I'd like to get fluent enough in ASL to be able to CART between culturally Deaf people and hard of hearing or late deafened people who don't know sign language. At Gallaudet, for instance, there are many recently deafened students who are completely at sea, because they haven't yet learned ASL, which is the language used in all their classes. I'd love to be able to CART for people like them.

  11. Yeah, so it looks like the steno layout for Italian also works for Spanish (maybe). But I'm wondering if anyone actually decided to somehow make a dictionary that sticks with the English layout (STKPWHR) to make a working Spanish steno dictionary. I mean learning the steno layout in English is already hard enough!! But hopefully Isabel writes me back and/or possibly show me a sample of what Spanish steno looks like.

    And thank you Mirabai for the link. I was sad to not see the layout for the Korean language as I am also wondering if Stenograph's has any affiliation with the CAS system they use there.

    However, I think the Japanese for the most part have their own input system separate from Stenograph's: video.

    But anyway sorry for bringing in all this international talk when most of the readers here are just trying to get started with English! I'm just super passionate about all languages and I find it super fascinating to find out how steno systems are devised in order to transcribe languages with much more complex/structurally and conceptually different writing systems than those of the Indo-European varietal.

  12. Stan, I have a comment about the issue of steno and linguistic fieldwork that I'm going to post over on Mirabai's new Google discussion forum.

  13. hello, i am a court reporter of 12 years and have had countless problems with software; cheetah systems/Turbocat with
    bugs and incompatibilities with new computers, printers, hardware, etc. It seems we're being gauged for every little
    thing to get this thing to work or even ask a simple question from the tech gods. This idea of creating a free Linux
    version for transcription sounds heavenly. This is such a wonderful breath of fresh air to see this idea even being
    approached. My biggest concern is editing because this is really the crux of efficient production of transcription.

    Aside from that, because of all the incompatible updates, hardware problems, etc. I am currently writing my notes
    onto a floppy disk or into an Eclipse realtime file on one computer, which then I have to convert to another
    computer with the CAT software, and then to a third computer with OpenOffice to print it. Is this crazy or what?

    I guess I could pay the 5K and just start anew. But these problems have already driven me to a point where my
    work production revenue is not sufficient to afford such a costly dent in my budget. I truly believe what you
    are working towards will be of great benefit to others. Keep up the good work.

  14. That's great to hear, Jade. Thanks for writing in!

  15. it's a regular american steno keyboard, the only difference is the dictionary. According to what I've read, the most popular theory is called "Método Marino", which is used in Spain and in Argentina as well.

  16. Excellent column. This one perfectly suits for all interested in writing. It contains a lot of good info and will help to develop your writing technique and become better writer. If you are looking for more tips glance at this page. Good luck writers!

  17. I'm still looking for a netbook or laptop that has the necessary keyboard to do steno on. I just ordered an Asus EEE PC 1005PE. I'll let you know how good/bad it's keyboard is soon.

  18. Unfortunately there are no laptops with NKRO keyboards. You'll have to plug in an external keyboard for Plover no matter which laptop you use, unless you are in "arpeggiate" (non-chording) mode.