Every so often on this show, I will have somebody who knows lots of something I know very little about, and Amanda is one of those people. She is a live captioner. We talk all about what it’s like being a live captioner, her the stenographic keyboard, and more. I like her journey and all of the information that she gives us in this episode.
- Amanda Lundberg (email)
- White Coat Captioning
- WordCamp Central
- GutenReady for the Gutenpocalypse
- Photo of a Stenographic Keyboard
- Open Steno Project
Intro: Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 114 of How I Built It. Today my guest is Amanda Lundberg. Every so often on this show, I will have somebody who knows lots of something I know very little about, and Amanda is one of those people. She is a live captioner. I met her at several Word Camps, and she has graciously agreed to come on the show. We talk all about what it’s like being a live captioner and things you need to know, and we talk about the stenographic keyboard that she uses in order to quickly capture what people are saying in real time. She also has the dubious honor of live captioning me, so we talk a little bit about that, and maybe not critique– Critique is not the right word, but she talks about how I measure up compared to some other people. Again, I like her journey and all of the information that she gives us in this episode. It’s something that I didn’t know anything about before this episode, so it was a very exciting conversation for me and an exciting conversation that we’ll get to in a minute. But first, I need to tell you about our sponsors.
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Joe Casabona: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It. The podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is Amanda Lundberg of Peak Captioning, LLC. Amanda, how are you today? I am fantastic. As we record this, it is Thanksgiving week, so it is a short week. I’m looking very forward to taking a few days off before we start December. So, we met at Word Camps Philly because you were working with White Coat Captioning to do live captioning of all the speaking events. Even though we met at Philly, you live near Pittsburgh, and we were talking about. So I have to bring up– I brought this up on another show. There’s a weird rivalry– I’m from New York, but I live in Philly, or near Philly. There’s a weird rivalry between Wawa and Sheetz here in the state of Pennsylvania. There’s a very decisive line. Once you get to a certain point in the state, Sheetz takes over. I’ve got to say, and I didn’t see what all the fuss about Wawa was until I started living near Philadelphia. Now I live for their coffee. But I’ve got to say, the Sheetz shmagels, specifically these bagels, these monstrosities. I think those are better than at Wawa.
Amanda Lundberg: I have not had one of those before, but the burritos at Wawa are far superior to anything at Sheetz. I have to travel a long way to get to a Wawa because the closest thing to me is Sheetz.
Joe: Yeah, I bet. I’ve gotten the best of both worlds because there’s a Sheetz in Scranton, and that’s where I went to college, so I’m within two hours of either Sheetz or a Wawa. There’s a Wawa walking distance for me. But I want to point out that we are able to come to an agreement here.
Joe: This is what it’s all about, right?
Amanda: Yes, but I’m new to this because I’m actually from Iowa. So that’s even a totally different thing.
Joe: Welcome to the East Coast.
Amanda: Thank you.
Joe: We take a lot of things too seriously here on the East Coast.
Amanda: I’m enjoying it. I am.
Joe: Excellent. Cool. Let’s get into this. Thanks, everybody, for listening to that little sidebar. Let’s talk about captioning. I wanted to talk to you because, first of all, live captioning, in general, is interesting to me. I’m getting all of my episodes transcribed now.
Joe: Yes. I have seen– I will say that I’ve seen growth in my podcast because of having transcripts.
Joe: But why don’t we start with– I want to ask you specifically about this machine that you type on. But let’s start with who you are and what you do.
Amanda: OK, my name is Amanda, as we went over. I am a captioner, is what I call myself. People in my industry would call me a CART provider, which is an acronym that no one outside of the industry knows. I can’t even remember what it is, because it’s just– I am a captioner. When I started out as a TV captioner, I worked for the largest closed captioning company in the entire country. Basically, the first job that they put me on live on TV was world news with Diane Sawyer. It was a fun day. When I left there, I was captioning Good Morning America every day. I’ve done a lot of television work. I worked the Rose Bowl, NFL, MLB, all the big stuff. And stuff you’ve never heard of, but I have since transitioned into this other world of captioning where I do a little bit of television captioning but most of the time I am working one on one with students, or I’m at events like Word Camps and captioning on big screens. So, it’s been a wild ride for me.
Joe: That’s super interesting. I already have a million questions. First of all, do you know–? Maybe I should already know this, but when did TV start doing captioning?
Amanda: I believe, I want to say the first live closed captioning was at the Academy Awards in 1982, but there was captioning prior to that on PBS on one of the shows. I have a hard time coming up with words sometimes because I’m so used to listening to what other people say and just spitting it out that I forget what I’m talking about.
Joe: No worries.
Amanda: Julia Child. That was the first captioned show. Yes.
Joe: Very Cool.
Joe: If anybody needs– That sounds like it would be like perfect Jeopardy Trivia. “What was the first TV show that was captioned?”
Amanda: Yes. It was Julia Child.
Joe: Very cool. Were you strictly doing live events, or did they have you captioning like pre-recorded stuff too at first?
Amanda: I always mostly worked live, to be honest. We do a little bit of scripting sometimes, but most of the stuff I do is live. I don’t like doing transcriptions.
Joe: Gotcha. Cool. Because I was wondering if you’re closed captioning for Friends– Let’s use something more contemporary. If you’re closed captioning for House of Cards–
Joe: Then it’s basically a transcription, you’re just watching it and typing as they speak.
Amanda: That’s done– That’s offline captioning, so that would be probably done by somebody with a QWERTY keyboard.
Joe: OK, yeah. Like a full keyboard. My friend Brian was telling me about this pedal you can use to rewind, and that’s super cool. Because I wonder how my transcriber can so affordably transcribe my episodes because it would take me hours.
Joe: But she does it very efficiently, she’s fantastic.
Amanda: You get good at it.
Joe: Awesome. Then as we’re going to talk about, you mentioned that they will use a QWERTY keyboard, but you do not.
Amanda: I do not.
Joe: But before we get into that, I do want to ask, what is it like captioning TV events? Like World News with Diane Sawyer or Good Morning America, or even– Actually, let’s talk about a baseball game. Because I love baseball. I’m a huge Yankee fan. What’s it like captioning a baseball game?
Amanda: I’m laughing because the longest captioning job I’ve ever had in my entire life was seven hours and it was a baseball game.
Joe: I bet. That sounds like a Yankee/Red Sox game.
Amanda: I can’t even remember who it was. Captioning TV and captioning a baseball game is a pretty lonely profession. Because you’re usually by yourself, either at home or in a little room, and you have to do a lot of work beforehand. I’m not just going to jump on a baseball game and get all the baseball players names wrong. I have to do some preparation before I go into the job. But baseball in and of itself is, for me, is not that difficult to caption. It’s actually like a relaxing thing to do.
Joe: Nice. I’m glad to hear that. If you have a good announcer, it’s not going to be somebody who’s talking the whole time. They might sit back and watch, and let you watch, some of the game. Instead of going on and on like Joe Buck or something.
Joe: Cool. This is probably a good transition. As you mentioned, for baseball games or perhaps other live events, you don’t just go in there cold. You do some research. What kind of research is it like when you’re getting ready to caption anything? A baseball game or a Word Camps? A lot of my listeners are in the WordPress space, so they’ve probably gone to a Word Camps.
Joe: I’m sorry, what kind of research goes into getting ready to caption an event?
Amanda: Google. I don’t know how they captioned– Well, I do know how they captioned previously. But I google everything, and for Word Camps, I’ll go on to the Word Camp site. Whichever– Philly, or US is coming up. Things like that. I’ll look at all the speakers on my track, and if I’m on a second track or something, I’ll look at the keynote speakers too. Because half the time they reference those speakers as well. It’s amazing when the organizers of events send us slides beforehand because I do. I will go through every single slide that is sent to me. I don’t– This is my call, “Please send slides.” I don’t care if they’re done or not, and it just helps me a lot because you guys like to– You don’t necessarily make up words, but you later make up product names where you’re squishing two things together. For me, that’s added work. And as a lazy person, I want it to be as easy as possible.
Joe: Absolutely, and that makes sense. Plus I have this problem in our particular spaces. Some people will capitalize the first letter of the second word and some won’t.
Joe: You want to make sure that you’re getting all that right.
Amanda: Exactly. Yes, I try. I want to be as accurate as possible, so as much prep as I can do. But there’s only so much I can Google.
Joe: OK, so you Google as much as you can.
Joe: You hope that people will send you the slides.
Joe: I’ll say that I always thought it was a nonsense exercise. People are like, “Give me your slides ahead of time,” and I’m like “Why? So you can censor me?” But this is the real practical application–
Joe: Of why we need to send slides ahead of time.
Joe: Because we do make stuff up. Or we make up acronyms, maybe.
Amanda: I had an entire talk of puns, [Guten] puns.
Joe: [Guten] puns?
Amanda: I almost cried. But I survived.
Joe: That’s so funny. That’s fantastic. Is that one done already, or is that one coming up?
Amanda: That one’s done already. It’s one of those things where if I saw it again I would be like, “Oh yeah.” But I blanked out most of that talk because of that.
Joe: If it is WordPress TV–
Amanda: It is, I bet.
Joe: It is?
Amanda: I bet it is.
Joe: Yes. If it is at the time that this episode comes out, I will be sure to include that in the show notes for this episode.
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Joe: Let’s get away from the live event when it comes to the research part, and talk a little bit more about how you got into captioning. What made you want to become a captioner and what research you did to get into that field?
Amanda: OK. I discovered this career in 2009 when I went back to– Well no, 2007. I went back to school to take some classes for business courses and things, and the guy was like “Court reporting.” But it was full-time days, so a bunch of things fell into place and in between 2007 and 2009 when I started school, I did do a lot of research, and I looked at the court reporting field. If I had just gone into working depositions, working in the courts or something like that, it would have had a similar income starting out as I was working in banking. But then I looked into captioning, and I was like “It’s not like you’re going to get rich captioning, but it seemed like that would be something that would be way more interesting for me personally, because like I said I’m a little lazy, so I don’t want to go back and read through your entire transcript. Sorry.” I’ll listen to you talk, and I’ll listen to you talk as many times as possible. But I went to court reporting school, which is what– You don’t have to go to court reporting school to be a court reporter, but for somebody like me who needs a lot of structure and things, it was the path that I took. My program offered a captioning program so I went ahead and went on that route as soon as I could, I think it was a year into school, and then I branched off into that. Then I started networking while I was in school because I wanted to work for VITAC, the biggest company in the world now. But at the time it was just the biggest in the country. So I networked, and then I got hired there right after school because apparently they were desperate for people, and they helped me train. So they did have me– I was in training, sitting in a room by myself for eight hours a day captioning CNN. Long days.
Joe: CNN, not like C-SPAN.
Amanda: No, not C-SPAN. C-SPAN is a hit or miss.
Joe: I’d probably fall asleep.
Amanda: Yes. C-SPAN can get exciting sometimes. That would be the one time on TV captioning when you get to swear if they start swearing.
Joe: It’s not censored? C-SPAN is not censored like that?
Amanda: No, C-SPAN is not censored. Everything else it’s a judgment call, and I usually judge it for TV captioning, safety first. Because I’m on a delay so they might have beeped it before we got it.
Joe: Gotcha. So you’re captioning– OK, I’m sorry to sidetrack this.
Amanda: It’s OK.
Joe: This is so interesting to me.
Joe: So, you’re captioning a live feed before the tape delay?
Joe: That makes sense because people want to read things as it’s happening. So you don’t know if they bleeped something or not.
Amanda: Right. I don’t know. I would always bleep it myself.
Joe: Are you familiar with the FCC rules?
Amanda: I’m not super familiar, but basically I follow the big ones, which are “Don’t swear on a network television.” If it’s cable, maybe?
Joe: Because you can say– Well, I like to keep this censored. I want everybody to be able to listen to it. But you can say the S word on South Park.
Amanda: Right, exactly. But before a certain time of day, they’ll still beep it out.
Joe: Last I checked it was like 10 PM. After 10 PM you could swear.
Amanda: I believe so. But it’s pretty fun. It’s a good time.
Joe: Absolutely. So you started networking, and you got a job at VITAC? Is that what you said?
Amanda: Yes, VITAC. They’re located just south of Pittsburgh which is how I ended up out here.
Amanda: Because I started working in their offices, what’s called an in-house captioner, so we were working with most of the big contracts that they have that required lots of redundancy. Because they eventually set me up with an office at home, but it was just one computer, whereas the office I had two computers right next to each other. That was kind of cool, so you can–
Joe: Yeah. Did the two computers serve different purposes? Was one research and one was connected to your fancy keyboard that I promise we’ll get to in a minute?
Amanda: That’s OK. They were just both for set up so that I could caption on them. I could research on either one, but I think I was just lazy and just used my main computer to do my research on as well. Because it’s just–
Amanda: It’s right in front of me.
Joe: It’s easy. Whatever is easiest is– The tool that is easiest is the best.
Amanda: Yes, exactly. But that would lead us right to the keyboard.
Joe: Yes. So, let’s talk about this. I will make sure. I’m going to make sure to include a link to a picture of one of these.
Joe: Can you tell us about this keyboard?
Amanda: The stenographic keyboard is a shorthand corded keyboard, so when you’re writing on it it’s more like playing a piano than writing on a traditional keyboard. It has somewhere between 23 and 26 keys, and it just depends on who you ask. Everybody seems to have an opinion. We can write whole words and phrases with just one stroke. We call it, “The stroke of the keys.” So I could write the word “Cat,” but I write it “K-A-T,” and I’m sitting here writing everything in the air as I do this. Then we use combinations of letters for other things, so somebody showed me the word “Fish” is a good example. So, “F-I-S-H,” right? But it’s actually “T-P-E-U-R-B,” because “T-P” combination is an “F,” “E-U” is an “I.” And then the RB is like a “SH” sound.
Joe: “T-P-U–? I’m sorry. “T-P-U-R-B,” I’m going to include this example in the show notes as well.
Amanda: So it’s using key combinations like that because we don’t have all the letters on the keyboard, there’s not enough keys, and the guy who invented it spent years looking at the English language and basically tried to figure out how you could do it phonetically. The first keyboards like this came out in 1911, and they’ve come a long way. They used to have– When I started school even, they put aside machines with paper. So I was shooting paper out the back of my machine, then eventually they let us hook up to the computers, and you could write in “Realtime,” is what we call it. All one word, though. There’s different ways to write the word “Real time,” depending on what I’m doing. But in stenographic reporting, it’s one word.
Amanda: Yeah. It takes a long time to learn. Some people are faster, like Norma, who I work with at White Coat. I think she went through school in 18 months, and I was three years in then I’m a college dropout because I quit at 225 and kept practicing. I have a degree, it’s a Bachelor of Arts, but I didn’t finish court reporting school.
Amanda: It’s a fun little keyboard. I enjoy writing on it.
Joe: That sounds interesting, and I want to go back and touch on something you said about the phonetic spelling of things.
Joe: That seems like it might be the root of being able to captain so quickly.
Joe: OK. So, as I’m speaking right now. First of all, do you include things like that? Vocal fry, or little “Ums,” and stops, or do you exclude that?
Amanda: I usually exclude it, unless it’s important to the content. If they’re like, “Ummmmm–”
Joe: Like a– Grandiose is not the word I’m looking for. Like a histrionic “Um?
Amanda: Stuff like that. Or if someone has a really bad stutter. As soon as I figure it out, because we’re listening so intensely, sometimes it takes you a few minutes to be like “This person stutters. They’re not just starting and stopping.” I’ll edit that out as well. Because my job is not a verbatim reporter, my job is as comprehension. It’s not important to the listener that the person has a stutter unless their entire talk is about how they have a stutter. Then I’ll probably put it in. But if they’re talking about WordPress something or something. Nobody cares that they have a stutter. So I want to make sure that people can understand easily what’s being said, and I don’t want to embarrass anyone because they have something going on.
Joe: If I had a stutter and I looked back, and I just saw my stutter captioned, I’d be very self-conscious about that.
Amanda: Exactly. I try to be nice. Be kind to everyone.
Joe: Yes. Absolutely. I suspect probably signing is the same way. You’re not getting a verbatim, and they’re not signing everything verbatim. Especially signers at rap concerts.
Joe: That’s super interesting. So, the stenographic keyboard works primarily on the phonetic spelling of things, what other tips and things that you’ve picked up–? If I’m describing this incorrectly at all, you stop me and let me know. This is one of the few episodes of the show where I have no idea about the field.
Amanda: Gotcha. Awesome.
Joe: Which is why I’m so excited.
Joe: What other tips do you have for doing this quickly? Because I generally talk fast, especially when I’m on stage. I don’t know if you’ve ever– I don’t know that you’ve ever captioned me.
Amanda: I’ve captioned you, yes.
Joe: Actually, let’s talk about that. If you remember, what was it like?
Amanda: You weren’t my worst. I remember my worst person ever.
Joe: Worst as far as presentation, or as far as fast speed?
Amanda: Fast. I have not– Honestly, most of the presentations I sit through are good. Because people have obviously put a lot of hard work into it. But he was so fast. He got on Twitter, and he was like, “Somebody captioned me,” and all of his friends were like “Somebody captioned you? How did they survive?” So I remember him for sure. But no, you weren’t bad. I would remember you. I remember your face, and I remember that you were a little fast, but you’re not– You’ve got to up your game if you want to be that fast.
Joe: Yeah. Maybe I’m slowing down in my old age.
Amanda: That’s fine.
Joe: It’s probably teaching in the classroom has helped slow me down a little bit, because I want to make sure that my point sticks and that I’m not just breezing through all of the content.
Amanda: Yes. You’re doing very well today.
Joe: Thank you very much.
Amanda: You’re welcome.
Joe: OK. So, tips. I keep getting sidetracked.
Amanda: Yes, it’s OK.
Joe: Tips for captioning somebody who speaks fast, let’s say.
Amanda: I try to “Shorten my writing,” is what they call it. We use brief forms and short words, so I can write like the word perspective which phonetically would take me three strokes to write it. I can write it in one stroke.
Amanda: Yeah. It’s something that I made up that makes sense to me and makes sense to no one else.
Amanda: Again, if I have your slides or something along those lines, and I see you’re going to use a crazy word– At least the crazy fast guy did give me some medical terms he was going to use.
Joe: OK, cool. That’s good.
Amanda: Yeah, so if you can give me any crazy words you’re going to use ahead of time, or whatever, I can put those into what we call a dictionary. Which, I have a dictionary that I write against, that’s how the software interprets what’s coming out of the machine.
Joe: OK, cool. So this is unlocking a whole new thing.
Joe: Because I was going to ask about that, you said for perspective you have this– You called it a “Brief stroke,” is what you said?
Joe: Where you cut it in 66%. You do one stroke versus three.
Joe: But only you know it, and I was going to ask, do you need to then go back and interpret what you’ve captioned? Or does this dictionary now do it for you?
Amanda: The dictionary does this for me, as long as I programmed it in.
Joe: Gotcha. Yeah, and my software. I use proprietary software, and I don’t use the [PLUVR] is the free software if anyone wants to try this in open steno project–
Joe: A little bit of a plug there. So you can look those up. But my software also will throw up suggestions for briefs that I can then grab quick and use, especially if I have to spell something out because that’s totally not in my dictionary at all.
Amanda: So I have to spell it out, and it’s 15 letters long, and I look like I’m freaking out when it’s happening. If you ever seen me hitting the keys hard and fast, that’s probably because I’m spelling something out. But yeah, so having the option do that. Although half the time it suggests something and the suggestion is like 15 letters long. My brain’s not going to process it that fast. If it gives me four letters, I’m like “Yes.” I grab it and run with it.
Joe: Nice. So, I suspect Gutenberg now is probably pre-programmed in your dictionary.
Amanda: It is.
Joe: But if it wasn’t, your custom software might recommend like “G-B” or “G-B-G,” is that how the suggestions work? Or does it usually map it to some key on the keyboard?
Amanda: Yeah. It tries to– It generally tries to pick something out of it, although if I have some auto brief dictionaries that are full of medical terms, so it’s coming up with creative things lately. I need to go through and clean it out.
Amanda: But I think actually, I think it threw up Gutenberg as. “G-U-T,” with an asterisk in it.
Amanda: And I think that’s what I use, and when I say “G,” I mean “T-K-P-W.”
Amanda: Got it?
Joe: Yeah, got it.
Amanda: OK, cool.
Joe: Can you explain that one more time? You said “T-K-P-W” for “G–”
Amanda: Yes, that’s the letter “G.”
Joe: Why does it map out like that?
Amanda: Because I have to hit all four of those keys at once–
Amanda: To hit a letter “G,” because there’s no “G” on the– What we call the initial or the left-hand side of the keyboard. There’s a “G” on the right-hand side, but that’s just for word endings and things.
Joe: Gotcha, OK. Gotcha. All right, cool. Is that–? Sorry if I missed this, is that how the stenographic keyboard is laid out? The left hand is usually the beginning of the word–?
Joe: Or, like the first part of the word? OK.
Amanda: Yeah. Left hand, and then the right hand is the ending. Although you have some keys that are just mapped to words. My left pinky is just for the “S” letter, and that’s the word “Is” for me. So if I just hit that it’ll come up as an “S,” so if I want to write the letter “S” I have to hit “S” and a bunch of other keys on the right-hand side.
Joe: That makes sense. “Is” probably comes up a lot.
Amanda: Yeah. It’s easy to have that easy over and over.
Joe: Yeah, awesome. Cool. So, we’re coming up on time because all I’ve done is ask you questions about–
Amanda: That’s OK.
Joe: I guess that’s the point of this show. I think this is fascinating. So the last question I have about the keyboard is, you said that if we notice that you’re hitting it hard, you’re usually typing out something completely– Is there a full-sized keyboard somewhere in there? Or do you know what every letter combination maps to?
Amanda: I know every letter combination maps to, most of the time. Yes. Sometimes I hit the wrong letters, and it’s always some word that you don’t want to come up.
Amanda: Then it comes up. Your software is like, “You meant that.” And I’m like, “No. I didn’t mean that.”
Joe: “Didn’t mean that.”
Amanda: That’s not even in there, how did you come up with that?
Joe: That’s so funny.
Amanda: Yes. It’s awesome.
Amanda: Yeah, it keeps me on my toes.
Joe: Absolutely. Before we get into plans for the future/trade secrets. Is there any question about captioning that I didn’t ask, that I should have asked?
Amanda: There’s so many you could have asked, but I think you hit on the important things. Especially the keyboard. Like, what is that? And one thing I want to say is that I enjoy working with the consumers, even in the big events. People are consumers there, and I work one on one with people. I helped a young lady get through nursing school. So, to me, this is like the ultimate in careers because I get fairly well compensated, but I also get to help people. And that’s really what’s important to me. It keeps me going.
Joe: Absolutely. You have a very direct impact because now they can consume this content that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to consume.
Joe: Maybe if we– Actually, let’s touch on this a little bit. Are you in direct competition with signers?
Amanda: No. Some of my students who are profoundly deaf use signers and CART, or captioning.
Amanda: Communications Access Realtime Transcription. I remembered.
Joe: Communications Access Realtime Transcription?
Joe: That’s the CART acronym?
Amanda: Yes. I finally remembered.
Joe: Cool. Some of your, you said profoundly deaf consumers use both captions and signers.
Joe: Is that because they can generally consume one faster than another?
Amanda: You’d have to ask each individual, but personally everybody has different preferences, and maybe some of it’s easier to understand with the signer, but then they also get the notes from– Like, the verbatim notes. Because like you said, maybe signing isn’t– I’m not, I don’t do sign language. What I understand is that it can be interpretive at times, whereas I’m trying to be verbatim for them. So that for in med school, they can have all the crazy words and everything.
Joe: That makes sense, because who knows if there’s a sign for Omeprazole.
Amanda: Yes, exactly.
Joe: For those who don’t know, that’s the generic term for Prilosec.
Amanda: See, I learned thing.
Joe: I know that because my wife and my mother in law are both nurses. They’re like, “If you have heartburn you should get Omeprazole.” And I’m like, “What in the world is that?”.
Amanda: I’m going to have to make a note of that.
Joe: That’s super interesting. Because sign, I assume, can be– Or I’ve seen signers spell out longer words, so it’s probably easier to read that than watch every single letter get signed or something like that.
Amanda: Yeah, maybe.
Joe: That’s super interesting. Cool. So, for plans for the future, I want to ask. What are your specific plans for the future? As far as do you plan on continuing down this road of doing more events, or is there some other branch of this that you’d like to do? Do you see any big breakthroughs in captioning technology coming through in the next few years?
Amanda: I hope to continue doing more events. As much as I love working one on one with students and things, it’s nice to get out of the house sometimes. Maybe eventually I’ll grow my own business, but for now, I’m enjoying working with other companies and helping them fulfill their captioning needs. Breakthroughs? There could be breakthroughs, but I’ve talked at length about this with several people in our industry who are smarter than I am, and we feel like even if computers right now can kick out captions that are as good as the worst court reporters out there, and when I’m saying a court reporter– That is somebody anywhere from somebody who does the work that I do, which is all alive all the time, to somebody who’s just getting out of school and is working at a deposition and going back and having to listen to the audio and transcribe everything because they didn’t quite get it the first time. At this point, we feel like the computers are already there, where they could easily take that person out. Where we try to stand apart and where we always planned to stand apart is the human factor. Can’t beat that. We’re awesome.
Amanda: But it’s also, computers, I don’t know that you’re ever going to get every single accent and I don’t know that you’re ever going to get every single thing, or when people start making up words. I saw once “Soonicorn.”
Joe: Was that supposed to be “Student unicorn?”
Amanda: I don’t even know what it was, I was captioning, and I was like, “I just heard this word.” But I don’t know that technology is ever going to get to the point where it– If it ever gets to the point where it’s moving faster than we can make up weird stuff. Maybe. But then we’ll all probably have computer bosses and things.
Joe: We’ll live in a very different world.
Amanda: Yes. I feel like there’s always going to be a place for good captioners.
Joe: I like that. Kind of like, you can’t teach a computer– Well, you can teach a computer context but not at the same level that you or I inherently understand context.
Amanda: Right. It’s going to take that stuttering person, and it’s going to stutter everything they say.
Joe: Exactly. Cool. I like that. And then the accents as well, I’m sure I can talk to you for another 20 minutes on how you prepare for if somebody’s going to have an accent, and just generally understanding an accent.
Amanda: You don’t.
Joe: You don’t?
Amanda: You have to– You can’t go by a name because they could have some crazy name and be from Jersey or something.
Joe: Yeah, right.
Amanda: You jump in and go.
Joe: Awesome. I like that. So, we will end on my favorite question. Which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?
Amanda: Trade secrets. If you’re a stenographer, the biggest trade secret that I give to the students, which I guess isn’t a secret anymore is that you have to go back and read what you wrote, but not in English. You have to read it in steno. Because you’re never going to get better if you don’t know where your weaknesses are.
Joe: Yeah, I like that. I like that a lot. That’s probably good advice for somebody who wants to learn something like programming or a different spoken language.
Joe: You can’t just look at a website and say “I’m a programmer now.”
Joe: You have to look at the code that you wrote and understand it.
Amanda: I could probably program something, it wouldn’t be good though.
Joe: Yes. We’re all programmers.
Joe: There’s varying degrees of programming.
Joe: Cool. I like that because I think it’s applicable to a lot of different things. Cool. Amanda, thank you so much for joining me today. Where can people find you?
Amanda: My website designer is just starting on WordPress, and that would be my husband. He is going to be building a website. So we’ll leave that like that. If people do want to contact me, they can email me at AmandaLundberg@gmail.com. That’s the best way to get ahold of me.
Joe: Perfect. I will include that in the show notes, and if the website is launched by the time this episode comes out, I will be sure to include that as well.
Joe: Amanda, thank you once again for joining me. I appreciate your time.
Amanda: Thank you, Joe. You have a good day.
Outro: Thanks so much to Amanda for joining me today. I loved this conversation. I don’t know what else to say about it. I learned a lot, especially how to get into stenography and being a stenographer. I thought it was really interesting that most stenographers or live captioners, I should say, get their start going through the courtroom stenographer education. But it does make a lot of sense. We also talk a lot about different links and stuff like that, so I’ll be sure to link all of them in the show notes for this episode. Which you can find over at HowIBuilt.it/114. My question of the week for you is a little bit of a fun one, and it’s “Have you ever watched a live captioner in action? What was that like?” Let me know by e-mailing me Joe@HowIBuilt.it or on Twitter @jcasabona. Thanks so much to this week’s sponsors, Plesk, Castos and Pantheon. Their support helps this show happen. If you liked this episode be sure to head over to Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts and give the show a rating and review. It helps people discover us. Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, get out there and build something.