Thursday, December 26, 2019

Semi-DIY TinyMod Stand

art board instruction sheet
underside of art board with DIY mounting hardware
art board without TinyMod inserted, showing recessed space
TinyMod in tripod-mounted art board stand

Check out jladd's new TinyMod stand, which started life as an art frame, but with some clever hardware is now a rock solid and beautifully minimalistic tripod-mounted steno surface. Nice work!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Spectra Lexer + New Typey Type Lessons

diagrams of a steno keyboard showing keys corresponding to sounds

Spectra Lexer a tool to visualize steno strokes by chord and phonetic correspondence by longtime OSP community member incognition, is back online after a brief hiatus. Useful for memorizing the keyboard layout and understanding why strokes are defined the way they are!

Also, there are some new lessons up on Typey Type: The Velveteen Rabbit, a notorious tearjerker that haunts my childhood to this day, and some new community lessons that can be copied and pasted into Typey Type's custom lesson engine.

Have fun!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

TinyMod Review

TinyMod in red and green pencil case with USB cable

Last week I did my Georgi review, focusing on its utility as my daily driver for the past several months as I waited for my new Infinity to be built. I've switched back to the Infinity full time since it arrived and I'm definitely appreciating the silent key action after so many months of clacking, though I've had some growing pains adjusting to its idiosyncrasies. Unlike the old model Infinity Ergonomic that I had before, this one won't let me tilt the two halves of the machine up as far as I like, which means I have to tilt the tripod itself, and that often involves me keeping my arms too close to my body, which has resulted in some elbow pain. Plus I seem to have a different stray keystroke issue each time I take the machine out of my backpack. I can configure multiple sensitivities of each key, but if the machine is gonna demonstrate different behavior each session even if I haven't adjusted anything in between, I'm not sure where to start. I'm sure I'll find my way into loving it at some point, but I must admit that the past week and change has made me wistful not for the Georgi, my trusty workhorse for all these many months, but the TinyMod, whose utter simplicity is its greatest strength.

Several times in my Infinity-free period I'd look at my Georgi case and grumble. I didn't feel like taking it out and setting it up and tenting it and taping it and readjusting it until it was just right. I wanted to take a machine out of my case, plug it in, and start writing. When that sort of mood struck me, I'd reach for my TinyMod. Its extreme elegance and portability were invaluable one night when I went out to sushi with two friends, one deaf and one hearing. I was able to put my Surface Pro 4 on the table in between the platters and soup bowls and caption the conversation with a minimum of fuss and disruption. I admit it took me a while to get used to using the middle key for numbers, but between the Georgi and the TinyMod I eventually got so used to it that even after 11 years of standard steno number bar usage I find that thumb drifting centerwards on my new Infinity. It's a really elegant little workaround that only requires a bit of practice to master.

In many ways, the feel of writing on the TinyMod is more comfortable -- or possibly the word I'm looking for is "luxurious" -- than on the Georgi. The key action is more pillowy. The keytoppers themselves are rounded and pleasantly textured, compared to the crisp, shallow angles on the Georgi's keytoppers. Even the sound is less clacky, though oddly the one time I was actually called out for making too much typing noise in a class (it only happened once this semester!) I was on my TinyMod rather than my Georgi, which surprised me. It's such a discreet and unpretentious little machine. It doesn't require any fiddling or adjustment to make it work; it just works. The only flaw I can see in it is probably more of a flaw in me than in the machine: I can't write on it for more than an hour or two without getting wrist pain. I'm not sure exactly why; probably a combination of things, such as the lack of tenting, the short distance between the hands, possibly even the fact that it rests easier on a lap than below the level of the knees on a dedicated tripod. Everything simple and unfiddly about it, sadly. So even though I wanted so many times to avoid the five-minute setup time of the Georgi when I got to a class with little time to spare, I usually bit the bullet and went through with it rather than using the TinyMod because I was afraid of hurting my moneymakers. Sigh. But see above: Even a $2,000 proprietary ergonomic machine is not immune to this sort of complaint from me. Even on the Georgi I was getting a weird pain in one of my wrists until I realized that I could put it on the diagonal of my laptop tripod's platform instead of aligning it with the edges. For whatever reason, that made the difference, and the pain went away. Perhaps if I keep experimenting, I can find a way to make the TinyMod work for me without pain as well.

If this isn't a problem you have, I can recommend the TinyMod wholeheartedly. I'm able to write on it at high speeds with a minimum of effort, enjoying the feel of every stroke, and I still keep it in my bag every day. It's sturdy, reliable, aesthetically attractive, and flexible in a huge variety of circumstances. Fantastic as a starter machine and delicate enough for professionals, plus Charley, its inventor, uses one every day for all his coding and general computer work. If a split/tented machine is not an absolute must have for you, the TinyMod is highly recommended!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Georgi Review!

All right, friends! Here it is!

A Georgi keyboard resting on a laptop tripod with a Polarpro Osmo Pocket case propping up each side

When I first got the new version of the Georgi with the reinforced connectors and lovely heavyweight case, I figured I'd try it out, put it through its paces, do some transcription on the couch, use it to chat with steno buddies on the Plover Discord, that sort of thing. Little did I know that my Infinity would break after 6 years of heavy use in the last 5 minutes of a multi-day job and I'd have to rely on my Alienware (since lost on a plane, sob), Georgi, and TinyMod to fill in the gap between August 1st, when I ordered my new Infinity, and November 29th, when it finally arrived. In that interval, I've used my Georgi to caption prominent public events, conferences, college classes, Twitch streams, webinars... You name it. And I have to say it's performed astonishingly well.

The Georgi is the first non-professional grade machine that never made me feel like I was sacrificing speed in order to get all the keys to register. The lightweight springs require almost no effort to activate, so I was able to caption 8-hour conferences without any fatigue. Unlike on the Infinity, there's no individual key configuration, where I can dial the sensitivity up or down depending on the strength or speed of each individual finger. With only a few exceptions, though, that didn't prove to be an issue. I occasionally had some problems getting words containing more than the typical number of keys to register at high speeds. Particular thorns in my side were REFRPB (research), which kept coming out as REFPB (resin) for some reason, and SKWRAURBGS (new paragraph), which kept leaving out different keys here and there. There was also a piece of the right hand vowel bank that had what felt like a detached keybed; if I lifted the key, whatever it was seated in lifted up as well, and unless I pressed down firmly to reseat it, those vowels didn't always register properly, sometimes leaving the E out of strokes and sometimes giving me phantom presses of the U key.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the clackiness is something that was always a bit of a problem for me, both in classrooms and at my coworking space. No one ever complained, exactly, but I did get a few dirty looks here and there, and it always made me feel self-conscious. At some point I want to try the lube/silencer combo that Germ recommended, but I have to admit it's been a huge relief to have a blessedly silent Infinity back. The ergonomics, on the other hand, wound up being far better than I'd feared. As you can see in the picture at the top of this post, I tend to tent my Georgi by resting it on the Polarpro Osmo Pocket case I picked up in the digital camera section of an electronics store. The Georgi fits inside this ingenious little clamshell, with both of its cables in the interior zip pocket, and when I need to use it, I take everything out, put the case on the platform of my InStand laptop tripod, rest the Georgi on either side of the case, then tape it down with gaffer tape. I can get away with four pieces, but generally tend to use six for added security. Sometimes it slips and slides on me a bit, which can be frustrating, but for high stakes gigs I just tape the hell out of it and it stays put.

It's a bit more work than I sometimes feel like doing, but it's worth it. Especially with the tripod tilted forward and the Georgi positioned below the level of my knees, the ergonomics have been pretty extraordinary. I got a small recurrent wrist twinge before I hit on just the right positioning, but after I finally figured out the magic formula I've been totally pain-free even after an entire day of captioning. That's not something to underestimate. I sometimes write more than 100,000 words in a day, and walking away from that without massive fatigue or cramping is a serious achievement.

So yeah, in short: The Georgi has saved my absolute bacon these past four months. I was able to continue working steadily without any drop in speed or captioning quality, without any sacrifice to my wrists, using this tiny ultraportable machine that fit in the palm of my hand and cost a twentieth of what I spent on the professional machine I'd used up to that point. I should say that both Georgis I own were gifts given to me by Germ in exchange for an honest review, but if he hadn't offered them to me for free I would have paid for them in an absolute heartbeat. And I don't get any kickbacks or anything; I'm just a massive fan. I think literally everyone who uses steno for any purpose should keep one of these in their bag. You never know when your fancy pro machine will suddenly kick the bucket, and having this thing on hand as backup could be career-saving. I love the Bluetooth and battery life and lever action and ergonomic armature and dead silence of the Infinity, but I don't love its bulk, weight, fragility, or price tag. As a professional, it makes sense for me to have an ultraconfigurable pro machine, and I don't regret spending the money on it, but I'm quite sure I'll still be using my Georgi plenty when I don't feel like lugging around all my equipment. The Georgi is a fantastic machine for learner, amateur, and professional alike, and I couldn't possibly recommend it more fervently. Buy one, buy one, buy one!!!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Stuck



I got my Infinity today, but one of the keys seems to be sticking? Enough excuse for me to kick my Georgi review down the road by just a few days until I get the issue sorted out. No more, I promise.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Placeholder/Promise

Well, I got a call from The Neutrino Group today, saying that my new Infinity was ready to ship out. I've been using the Georgi for nearly all my work since around August 1st (when I sent my old Infinity in for trade-in credit and ordered a new one) and the TinyMod for everything else. (I'd say in about a 90%/10% split.) I'm looking forward to having an Infinity again for three main reasons:

1) It'll be much quieter than either of the two spring-based machines, though I've been told that manually lubing the keys, using silencers, and buying special silent switches might cut down the clickiness considerably. All of that is beyond me, though, so I've just been putting up with the noise.

2) It'll have Bluetooth, which means I won't have to stay tethered within a foot or so of my computer; useful for certain captioning jobs where I need a degree of flexibility to let clients read off of my laptop's screen.

3) It'll be simpler and quicker to set up and break down at each jobsite, as opposed to my multistep Georgi tenting and taping process, which I'll go into detail about during my review.

Speaking of which, that's what this post is really about. I've been slacking on reviewing both Georgi and TinyMod even as I've been using them more than I ever thought I would before my old Infinity broke down. I feel like I've got a ton of familiarity and experience with them both now, and am equipped to give both a thorough review... As soon as I can find the time. Well, I've set the goal of not letting myself use the Infinity on a job until I've got both Georgi and TinyMod reviews posted here, and you can hold me to that. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

OSP on Hacker News

Rather an interesting conversation on Hacker News about the OSP from earlier in the week. We've made Hacker News a few times over the past ten years, and I have to say this is overall the least hostile, least dismissive iteration I've seen. Perhaps we're finally starting to get through?

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Gherkin with 3D Printed Keytoppers

Check out Ewen's machine, a Gherkin with keytoppers that he printed from Thingiverse. Gorgeous, huh?3D printed keytopper
side view of steno gherkin
top view of steno gherkin

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Typey Type's New Robots

Not a huge update in terms of content, but I just wanted to mention how big a fan I am of Typey Type's new Steno Robot friends, who cheer you on when you complete your steno drilling goals. Ain't they adorable?

smiling pink robot with a steno machine on its belly

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Steno in a Cigar Box

From Hermes on the Plover Discord:

a cigar box with a TinyMod and an Android phone showing Typey Type for StenographersA torso holding the closed cigar box

$5 Cigar box + OTG + 9" left USB + Android + TinyMod3 + Dotterel + DiDoesDigital = awesome Steno laptop. I love the OpenSteno community! Thanks!

I love it, and might make something similar for myself. I've actually been using my TinyMod a fair bit for work lately, both for offline transcription and for live classroom captioning. It's nice to be able to mix it up a bit, sometimes using my Georgi and sometimes the TinyMod. Certainly in portability the TinyMod wins hands down, as this picture shows. I've been wanting a clamshell case that can fit a phone or small tablet in the top half and a steno machine in the bottom half for a while now. The cigar box trick is very smart, though I wonder if there might be something even smaller that would fit the bill. Hm!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Nimble Numbers and Trackball Georgi

If you've been frustrated with the default system of writing numbers in steno, go read through Nimble's new system of stroking numbers more efficiently!. It looks very powerful, if a bit time-intensive to learn.

Also check out this picture post on Stenoblog.com of a DIY tripod-mounted Georgi setup with integrated trackball! Beautiful stuff.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Indicator for Multilingual Plover

Over on Martin's StenoBlog.com you can see a new article about switching between different language versions of Plover (using the Plover system switcher plugin) and letting the Windows taskbar show you which one you're in at any given time. Check it out!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Proprietary Steno Machine Teardown Video

From Shaun-Mahood on the Plover Discord, for any of you tinkerers out there who might be curious about the internals of a lever-style machine.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Picture Post Roundup

Have a few delightful images from the open steno community over the past few days.

First, Typey-Type for Stenographers now gives you confetti when you beat your previous high speed!
confetti on a screenshot of a typing test

 Ted has a snazzy pink-accented Georgi at his desk.
a Georgi with pink and white keys on a desk

 Curiousbirds has figured out a novel and low-cost way to tent a Georgi using cardboard and tape.
a Georgi on a desk tented using cardboard and tape
And finally, Stan has figured out how to get Plover running on a RaspberryPi! Can't wait to see what cool wearable solutions he'll turn this into.Plover running on RaspberryPi next to a proprietary steno machine

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Steno Progress Graph

Now, this is a pretty sight, posted on r/Plover: graph showing upward progress of WPM over time for six Plover users
MagneticDuck writes:
How fast do self-learners learn to use Plover? TypeRacer might be a good source of data to answer this question.

Via automatic scanning of TypeRacer activity, I found 23 Plover users who had recently used the site. Of the 23, many had just a few races completed, didn't evidence progress or regular usage, or had not logged races before they were proficient. Only six fit the profile of users who had used the site frequently over a period of 25 weeks, starting at a point when they were still getting average speeds of less than 60 WPM.

The graph above shows the median speeds of these six users over their first 25 weeks on TypeRacer in week-by-week windows. Weeks during which a user completed less than 10 races are not graphed.

Of these six users, only four have been on TypeRacer long enough to represent data points for long-term improvement. The following graph shows the median speeds of these four over 2-week windows for longer time periods, up to 125 weeks (a little over 2 years). Highlighted areas designate interquartile intervals.
graph of users up to 125 weeks
While limited, I hope this data helps to paint a better picture of how quickly new learners can expect to get "up to speed." I think the conclusions are favorable; maybe someone will be emboldened to give Plover a try. If you want to conduct your own analysis, you may download the data I collected in the form of an SQLite database from https://mat.uc.pt/~mat1617/steno.db .

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Meanwhile, in Wearable Land

Not directly steno-related, but I was tipped off by @brewsternorth that BillieRubenMake has been prototyping cloth-mounted membrane keyboards. I know membrane keyboards are anathema to the mechanical crowd that intersects most closely with Plover hardware people, but it seems to me like this sort of design has a lot of promise. I'd certainly like to see where it goes!

cloth-mounted membrane keyboard

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Mini Georgi Preview!

Mini-Georgi with partial keycap coverage

Germ is innovating faster than I can keep up! Kailh, the keyswitch manufacturer, is prototyping some new tiny narrow low profile switches, and Germ got to try a batch. They're not yet commercially available, and the date on when they'll come to market (if at all) is unknown, but look at this sleek little customer! Members of the Plover Discord are already clamoring for an even tighter layout with an even smaller footprint than the original Georgi, which on the one hand might be a case of diminishing returns, but which on the other hand might be a great solution for wearable steno, especially for someone with small hands like mine. I'm definitely intrigued and will follow this development as it unfolds! Mainly it's just so cool to see steno hardware flourishing in so many different directions at once, so different from when this project started over a decade ago and the Sidewinder X4 was the only sub-$1,000 steno game in town.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Steno Hardware Picture Post

I really do plan to get that Georgi review post out to y'all, but I've been too busy spending 9 hours a day using my Georgi to caption an intensive medical review course. Spoiler: It's doing a damn good job of it! I put in an order for a new Infinity Ergonomic after my old one kicked the bucket, but there's a 10-week wait time until it's shipped, so this little thing (and my backup machine, the new featherlight TinyMod that Charley sent me) has seriously saved my bacon. I've used it to caption conferences, huge public outdoor events, an assortment of challenging classes and webinars, and it's been up to the task every time. I've even gotten the hang of the thumb-driven number bar, which is a wonder. More details about specific pros and cons in the actual review, but I just wanted to give y'all an update.

Now that that's out of the way, a picture post! Just some very pretty steno hardware posted recently in the Plover Discord that I thought people might enjoy looking at.

laptop with illuminated keys in a steno pattern

idiahaus's Alienware laptop from 2015, with steno keys stuck onto the illuminated keys of its keyboard. My own Alienware laptop got stolen in Newark last month (I'm in the market for a new laptop with NKRO if anyone's got recommendations), so this picture is bittersweet to me. Awfully pretty, though.

Georgi mounted on a tripod with a big trackball in the middle

mknr's Georgi + trackball tripod mounting system. I'm so impressed with this! Functional, elegant, and ergonomic. Definitely inspiring me to try to up my current Georgi tripod game.

Georgi in molded plastic ergonomic case

Speaking of the Georgi, here's a prototype by Germ himself, the Georgi's inventor, with a contoured ergonomic case designed by pseudoku. It's wacky-looking, but I confess I'm intrigued. Definitely want to see more of this sort of thing.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

New Dotterel Release!

Nimble has released Dotterel v0.2.0-dev, a new Android steno keyboard app that's compatible both with NKRO devices (using a USB-OTG adapter) and with your phone or tablet's on-screen keyboard.
  • Add support for custom systems defined in JSON. This allows for customising keys, prefix and suffix strokes, orthography rules and command aliases among other things.
  • Add new orthography model based on finding longest matching end of word followed by longest start of suffix (for use in addition to regex orthography model).
  • Add improved English orthography rules.
  • Add commands for performing Android IME actions.
  • {IME:EDITOR_ACTION} Perform editor action, usually submit or search.
  • {IME:SWITCH_PREVIOUS} Switch to previous IME.
  • {IME:SWITCH_NEXT} Switch to next IME.
  • {IME:SWITCH:ime} Switch directly to IME ime.
  • {IME:SHOW_PICKER} Show IME picker dialog.
  • Add dialog to go to keyboard settings screen when Dotterel is currently disabled.
  • Improve dictionary load performance.
  • Change behaviour of {>} to match Plover's (only change first character to lowercase). This was causing issues with uppercase fingerspelling
  • translations following lowercase fingerspelling translations.
  • Fix Dotterel ignoring back button instead of closing the soft keyboard.
  • Fix version string in about page showing as undefined on some devices.

Download the new Dotterel apk here! Thanks, Nimble!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Di's Misstroke Dictionary

A lot of steno beginners find themselves perplexed and somewhat intimidated by the many misttrokes included in the Plover default dictionary. While I'd argue that misstrokes are at worst harmless and at best quite useful, for a learner who's using the dictionary as a tool to grasp the finer points of stenographic theory, they can be a bit confusing. If that's you, and you feel like misstrokes have been holding you back, check out this misstroke-free dictionary (along with several other interesting dictionaries) by the ever wonderful Di. She says:

The aim is to remove all the misstrokes from dict.json to give new stenographers greater confidence in learning new briefs. The first step is to remove all the misstrokes for the shortest available brief for every word. If there’s a misstroke in a longer word, it is less likely to be suggested by Typey Type or dictionary look up tools.

It follows Plover's default main.json dictionary with misstrokes removed from the top 10,000 words. You can use this dictionary instead of Plover’s.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Kenneth Whups Typeracer on Video



I've been skeptical of Kenneth's ROPE system in the past as a too arbitrary and memory-intensive briefing method that might be hard for other people to use, but it's clearly working for him! Check out this  impressive video of him plowing through 15 short Typeracer texts at 200+ WPM!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Two TinyMods and a Georgi



I've got two lightspringed TinyMods and a newly reinforced Georgi to try out! Reviews coming shortly.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Quick Tip to Stenofy Popular Typing Game

Epistory header image: a fantasy figure on a horse

Jessica on the Plover Google Group writes:
Hey, just wanted to let anybody who's trying to practice while playing games that Epistory Typing Chronicles will work with Plover if you change the input setting from "enter" to "space" in Epistory and also have your space follow your stroke in Plover.

I also found out today that you can mod the Epistory dictionary, which would be a nice way to get some practice in of specific briefs, but the included dictionary is also a nice run for your money, with fingerspelling required for a lot of it.

People have been vexed in the past that Epistory wasn't Plover-compatible, so it's very cool to see that it's possible to make it work! I relied on typing games like Typestriker to get through steno school, so I'm really happy to see that the well-regarded Epistory can finally be used as a tool for steno learning.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Where's That Georgi Review?

I know I've kept y'all waiting for it for quite some time, but the truth is, the initial design of the Georgi featured connectors that were a bit fragile and unstable, and that's been a bit of a barrier to use for both me and several other Georgi customers. Germ is fixing them as they're returned to him, and all new units are being shipped out with reinforced connectors so that the problem doesn't recur, but I'm waiting to test the new model before I give my full review. Spoiler alert: The design in general is pretty dang fantastic, and if the solution he's come up with to stabilize the connectors actually works, this is gonna be a world class little machine.

ETA: Check out this video Georgi made of the newly redesigned connectors:

(Content note: Video contains some exultant F-bombs; those of delicate sensibilities might prefer to watch without sound.)

Friday, June 21, 2019

New Online Steno Diagram Generator

animated steno diagramstatic steno diagram

Di is on fire lately. Not only does she have a new interaction design book available for preorder, but she also made this online steno diagram generator that takes both mouse and qwerty input and can be great both for generating great-looking steno stroke diagrams (downloadable as SVGs) and for demonstrating how steno works in a quick and easy way to curious newbies. Check it out!

Friday, June 14, 2019

New Typey Type Features

Di's ever-improving steno tutorial and drilling site, Typey Type for Stenographers, now has flashcards, plus three new lessons: a new introduction, Roman numerals, and top 200 words spoken on TV. Fantastic work as always, Di!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Free Dictation

Longtime Plover ally and professional stenographer Christopher Day has been recording and uploading dictation suitable for steno practice, at speeds ranging from 60 to 220 words per minute. If you've been looking to supplement text practice with audio practice, give his YouTube playlist a shot!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Steno Vimitation



Check out this video of Codepoke's steno workflow using his new Vimitation dictionary! Codepoke says:

Combining steno with Windows shortcuts creates a "best of both worlds" situation, for those willing to take the time. Deleting chars, words, and lines, moving within a document, and switching between programs can all be done with a single stroke, and without straining for hard-to-reach function keys. Commands can even be made to repeat from 2-10 times by adding just one stroke. Deleting 3 words in vim is a 3-stroker. Doing so with the vimitation dictionary is a 2-stroker.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Finger Drill Generator by Stenonymous

Hey, check out this finger drill generator, if you're a steno student or educator who wants some automatically generated drills to practice on. Thanks, Stenonymous!

Friday, May 17, 2019

New SOFT/HRUF in the Works

I got my Georgi last week and have been really enjoying it, but I want to give myself a little more time to put it through its paces before posting a full review. Hot on the heels of the newcomer, though, was a tantalizing preview of Ecca's latest SOFT/HRUF posted on the Plover Discord:

image of new softhruf

* currently micro USB but final one will be type-c
* micro SD slot for plover files + dictionary
* fully wired or wireless
* smaller interconnect cable between the halves if you want to use wired, but it is also wireless between the halves
* uses standard 18650 cells in a carrier that lets you pop out batteries and replace them at any time without tools

The SOFT/HRUF has always taken the cake in terms of keyfeel due to its custom steno-shaped keytoppers, but it looks like it's also going to be the first in the steno hobbyist market to work as a self-contained machine without necessitating a laptop. The wireless features and battery are also unique among non-proprietary machines, and I'm really excited to see it in action. I'm so impressed by all three major manufacturers of sub-$500 steno machines, and I can't wait to see what the future will bring for all three of them.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Steno at the Venice Biennale

From our amazing Italian steno friend Sillabix, a report about a video art project featuring an Italian stenographer on a Michela keyboard, displayed at this year's Venice Biennale:

hands on a Michela keyboard

Angelica Mesiti's exhibition ASSEMBLY opens with the Michela machine, a 19th century stenographic machine, modeled on a piano keyboard, which is used in the Italian Senate for official parliamentary reporting to ensure transparency within the democratic process. The machine's inventor, Antonio Michela Zucco, was originally inspired by musical notation as a universal language. Mesiti uses this device to code "To Be Written in Another Tongue", a poem by David Malouf, which is then arranged into a musical score by composer Max Lyandvert, and played by an ensemble of musicians, whilst performers, representing the multitude of ancestries that make up cosmopolitan Australia, gather, disassemble, and re-unite.


I was unable to find anything about Plover in particular in the press materials for the event, but Sillabix said "The Venice Biennale Art exhibition started today: thank you Australia for promoting steno (& Plover)," so I'm wondering if the exhibition might have been partially Plover-powered? Extremely cool if so, but even if not, I love seeing what happens whenever steno and art combine.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Plover at PyCon 2019!

me demonstrating Plover at a table in a big conference room
Photo by Francesca Guiducci

Hey, remember when I gave a talk on Plover at PyCon Santa Clara back in 2013? Well, at long last I'm back at PyCon, this time in Cleveland, and not talking but captioning, along with four of my colleagues at White Coat Captioning, including fellow Plover user Stan Sakai! We've already met up with at least one Ploverite friend from the Discord, which was delightful, and we've been giving demos of the wonders of steno during breaks to anyone who wanders by our tables. If you're at PyCon too, please feel free to stop by! I love talking about our glorious little Python-powered steno app and showing off an array of steno hardware both proprietary (Infinity, Luminex, Alienware keyboard) and open (TinyMod and StenoMod; sadly my Georgi didn't arrive in time for me to bring it.) I'm having a blast, and I'd love to meet anyone else who might be interested in steno, whether they've already dipped a toe into the hobby or it's totally new to them. Open Steno's come a heck of a long way since 2013, and I'm so grateful to Python community and our amazing developers (Josh, Hesky, Ted, Benoit Pierre, and so many others) who've helped to make it what it is today.

Friday, April 26, 2019

TinyMod 3 Is Out!

There's a new TinyMod available!

The ever-magnificent Charley says:
Another change to the TinyMod. I've moved the thumb keys 5.5mm further from the row of keys above. I think it's more comfortable this way.

Since I was laying out a new board anyway, I also redid the wiring. Now every key is wired separately, including the S- keys and the asterisk keys. I'm still using TX Bolt as the serial protocol, so you can't tell there. But using the NKRO keyboard protocol you could make use of them in Plover. Of course, hacking your own firmware you can do whatever you like!

The boards are just a little bit longer and wider, but not much. The microcontroller has moved from the right side to the left, but is still covered by the top PCB. The slider switch for choosing the protocol is also now on the left side.

It's different firmware because of the change in wiring, but the functions are the same. You shouldn't notice any difference there.

The price is the same, $160USD for the keyboard, $7.90 shipping in the US, about $24 for most of the rest of the world. Sales tax $11.60 if you're in California like I am.

If you're in the mood for some new steno hardware, this seems like an extremely promising contender. I love my TinyMod 2, and this looks even better. Bravo, Charley!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Rose's Adorable Georgi Mounts

Georgi on a wooden platform on a tiny tripodGeorgi on a wooden platform on a tiny tripod

Check out these two adorable tiny tripod mounts that Rose from the Plover Discord rigged up for her Georgi! (Speaking of which... Mine is coming soon, and I'm SO EXCITED to play with it and give it a thorough review!) This is just a proof of concept; she's ordered a two suction-cup camera tripods that will replace the little leggy tripods, but either version seems like it would work in a pinch. I just find individual tripods and platforms for each side of a tiny machine like a Georgi irresistibly adorable, and the fact that it's also ergonomic and practical is just a bonus. Nice work, Rose!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Steno-Compatible (?) Torturous Typing Game

As a video game nerd married to a Classicist, I'm duty bound to pass along this link that was posted in the Plover Discord to Let's Play: Ancient Greek Punishment Teaches Typing, a new free browser-based typing game that puts you through all sorts of pixelated unpleasantries in the name of mythology and manual dexterity. I tried my hand at the first level with Plover on my Alienware and ran into some difficulties, but I wasn't sure whether that was an issue with the game not being fully steno-compatible (since of course it wasn't designed with steno in mind) or whether it was just operating as intended, given its doom-laden premise. Feel free to give it a try and report back with your own conclusions!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Take the Steno Hardware Survey

Varun from the Plover Discord writes:

We're a group of engineering undergraduate students from National University of Singapore. This survey was created to better understand the needs of the persons who use a stenotype (Professional stenographers/live captioners/hobbyists/students). We would really appreciate it if you could spare some of your time to help us. Thanks :)

Take the Steno Survey to tell them what you look for in steno hardware!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Three Phonemes, One Syllable, One Lesson

Just a real quickie this week: A custom lesson for Typey Type by UnderSampled of the Plover Discord that contains single-syllable words with three phonemes apiece, a particularly satisfying subset of steno strokes to write out one after the other, particularly if you're a fairly new steno learner. UnderSampled has also been compiling automated lists of steno strokes that map perfectly to English output without requiring any knowledge reading multi-key steno letters (such as WOBLD for wobbled, PREFRBL for preferable, and THRETS for threats), which might be useful for even the most novice users, and which will probably appear as Typey Type lessons in the near future after a bit of manual review. I could definitely see myself teaching a handful of these in a beginning workshop, so I'm really grateful to have gotten a nicely exhaustive list to pick from. Many thanks to UnderSampled for the work!

Friday, March 22, 2019

NYC Plover Meetup this Monday

If you're in New York City and want to join a handful of Open Steno fans in Upper Manhattan this Monday evening at 7pm, drop me a line for location information. We're gonna be showing off our machines, maybe doing some TypeRacing, and generally enthusing about all things steno, so if that sounds fun to you, please join us!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Japanese Layout Plover Lessons on Typey Type!

From the ever-amazing Di of Typey Type for Stenographers:
Japanese steno layout
For the Japanese speaking stenographers out there, there’s a Japanese steno layout available on Typey Type using Dawson Harvey's Japanese steno theory. You can try out the Japanese steno theory using a custom lesson on Typey Type like one from the community’s lessons.


Seriously cool stuff! Apparently Dawson is still tweaking the theory, so tune in to the Discord for latest developments, but if you're interested in a homebrew Japanese steno theory, this should be enough to get you started!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Plover on the Sensel Morph

The Sensel Morph with a theraband steno overlay



Check out this beautiful video from ElephantEars on the Plover Discord of the Sensel Morph writing sentences from StenoJig with a custom theraband overlay, a homegrown app, and Plover's MIDI protocol. Truly magnificent stuff! ElephantEars has promised to write a guest post for this blog with all the fascinating details, but I couldn't resist sharing the video as a teaser for what's to come. The Sensel Morph is about $300, so it's not the cheapest amateur steno hardware option out there, but it sure is an elegant piece of gear.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Guest Post from Di: Typey Type Recommendations!

Typey Type Recommendations

I'm so excited to share Typey Type's new recommendations! This aims to help steno students focus their efforts: you'll know exactly which lesson to do next and how much time to spend on learning new words versus practicing previous words.

Screenshot of Typey Type's recommended practice lesson “The Wolf and the Kid”. “Practice  a longer lesson and mimic real usage as closely as possible. Write as fast as you can without causing misstrokes. Explore classic stories that use simple sentences and common words.”

Study session recommendations

Some people ask questions about how much to revise a lesson before moving onto the next and which stories to do after which lessons. These recommendations were made to help answer those questions and guide people through.

The recommendations include suggestions for stories to practice, memorised words to drill, words to revise, new lessons to discover, and games to try. After each study session, it's recommended that you take a break before continuing on, with a little bit of randomness injected to keep you interested.

The course

The course steps you quickly through the fundamental lessons so you can practice a few words of each as you learn the theory. It then concentrates on top words and briefs to give you more bang for buck. As your vocabulary grows, you'll start to see more suggestions for stories and sentences to practice your skills.

Practice

Practice a longer lesson and mimic real usage as closely as possible. Write as fast as you can without causing misstrokes. Explore classic stories that use simple sentences and common words.

Typey Type suggests stories and lessons containing real sentences to practice, as well as tailored practice for you using all the words you've seen so far.

Drill

Regularly drill common words to build up your muscle memory and test your skills. Write as fast and furiously as you can, aiming for a high speed score. Pick specific drills that focus on a certain kind of brief or many similar words so you can associate them together.

Typey Type suggests top words and "Your memorised words" for you to drill.

Revise

Revise 50 briefs a day from a lesson with loads of words you want to memorise, like the top 10000 English words. Try to recall the briefs before revealing their strokes. Avoid fingerspelling or writing out the long forms of words, so you can memorise the best brief for every word.

Typey Type suggests top words and "Your revision words" for you to revise.

Discover

Discover 5–15 new briefs a day from various lessons, revealing their strokes as you learn to write them. Write them slowly, concentrating on accuracy and forming good habits around how you stroke word parts.

Typey Type suggests the first 15 words or so of each fundamental lesson to follow along as you learn the theory. It then suggests the top 100 most frequent words to help get you operational with stenography as quickly as possible. After that it makes smart recommendations based on what you've learned.

Play a game

You’ve been so diligent! You might take a break from drilling and try a game.

So far, Typey Type recommends two possible games to build your speed: TypeRacer to increase your speed while racing against others, and Cargo Crisis to increase your speed while breaking cargo.

Take a break

Well done! You’ve typed a lot of words today. You might rest your hands and your mind for now. Save your progress and take 5 minutes or come back in 4+ hours.

It's important to take breaks while practicing stenography. If you don't break, after a while your performance starts dropping anyway and you might reinforce bad habits. Mentally, taking a break helps the new stuff settle in. Meanwhile, taking a break can also help for ergonomic reasons, avoiding injury.

Try it out and share your thoughts

Review your progress and take a recommendation. If you want to help make Typey Type better, you can fill out this survey about Typey Type recommendations.

And remember to take a break!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Georgis Are Almost Here

I'm so excited about the Georgi, a fully assembled split steno/qwerty keyboard that will sell for $75 with ultra-ultralight springs. I posted about it a while back, but the boards are actually here and working, which is tremendously exciting:

georgi keyboard
georgi keyboard

Check out those beautiful birds!

Germ at gboards.ca is just waiting for the 6-gram springs to arrive, plus he's gonna do some custom firmware tweaks to make the boards accessible to people who aren't comfortable with using QMK out of the box. But soon after those things happen, I'll have mine, and I can't freaking WAIT to try it out.
I'll probably use it for steno only, but for people who like it both ways, Germ says:

Georgi does hotswapping between normal operation and steno. Or pure of either if you configure it. In QWERTY mode any unrecognized chords are whacked out as steno to the host so you can hook plover for weird sh*t and augment your workflow. There’s just a toggle key for that and a momentary symbol key in an additional left hand column. It’s rad.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Small StenoFest Plug

If you're interested in various steno topics from a primarily professional perspective, you might find it worthwhile to pay $65 for rewatch-on-demand sessions from StenoFest, the virtual steno conference Ted and I participated in last weekend. Ted and I will be releasing our talks for free after the view-on-demand period is over, so if all you're interested in is open source steno (him) or the future of stenocaptioning in the face of automated speech recognition (me), cool your britches; they'll be up on YouTube soon. If you're interested in Dom Tursi's talk on the Evolution of Machine Shorthand, Jade King's talk on International Reporting, Tori Pittman's talk on Intersteno, or any of the other 15-odd hours of content, feel free to give it a go. The talks will be available on demand until February 17th and then lord knows what will happen to most of them (from what I understand, most speakers are not intending to release their video for free), so get while the getting's good.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Michela English Theory

diagram of Michela MIDI keyboard If you've ever wanted to do realtime on a MIDI keyboard, check out Sillabix's documentation of his newly devised Michela theory for English! I think I'm already too deep into traditional steno to be able to commit to learning something like this, but at a glance it certainly seems to have merit! He's also accepting feedback via the Plover Discord, so feel free to drop him a line if you've got any questions, comments, or suggestions. Very cool stuff.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Exploring Custom Steno Machines



A fantastic followup to last week's article about professional steno machines, Thomas's article on Custom/DIY/Hobbyist steno machines was just released yesterday on his blog, including a write-up on the fantastic new Georgi a fully assembled split-layout machine with 20g ultralight springs, now available for preorder at a stunning $75! I can't wait to receive mine, and will definitely give it a full report on this blog after putting it through its paces. It's been so amazing to watch the low-cost custom steno hardware field exploding in the past few years, and I'm so grateful to Thomas for putting together such a concise and beautifully written profile on everything that's currently available. Thanks, Thomas!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Exploring Professional Steno Machines

I wanted to point you to an article by new Plover user Thomas, where he explores various steno machines intended for professionals. It's the first in a series, and next he intends to do a survey of the amateur hardware sector, mostly made by members of the open steno community. Great stuff from a novel perspective, and I'm looking forward to reading more!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Some Cool Little Dictionaries

There's been a ton of stuff happening on the Plover Discord lately, involving MIDI-based English shorthand theories, ultralight key switches, wearable Ergodox harnesses -- almost too much to keep up with sometimes! But today I just wanted to highlight a few cool dictionaries, posted by their creators in the course of conversation over the past few days.

First up, Elzed's punctuation chart, a devilishly clever way to construct many common types of punctuation in a systematic way.

Then Jeremy's machine generated phrase dictionary, which is as exhaustive as it is impressive.

And finally, SyntaxBlitz's short but sweet dictionary of definitions with symmetrical strokes, extracted from the Plover default dictionary. Might be fun to use for finger drills sometime!

That's it for now. Stay tuned for an extremely exciting blog post coming soon from lead dev Ted!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Call for Contributors

Many of us are on the quite stable and feature-rich but officially pre-release Version 4 of Plover. In order to turn it into an official release, though, we need to resolve some issues (labeled with '4.0.0' on our Github repo), and our current devs are a bit overstretched at the moment. If you have some Python experience (it doesn't have to be a ton!) and feel like wading in to tackle one or two of those issues, they'd be extremely obliged! Being able to ship Version 4 as an official release would be amazing.