Some people may believe that dictating blog posts can be a big time saver. They very well could be. But there’s definitely a catch.
I thought the other day about the possibility of dictating blog posts. It seems the two places I’m most likely to get an idea for a blog post when I’m unable to stop what I’m doing it right, are in the shower, and behind the wheel.
Obviously I can’t bring a laptop into a shower, and it’s unwise to type, while you’re driving.
There’s a program I found a couple of years ago at the suggestion of a colleague that I use in my day job. It’s called Otter.
Otter allows you to dictate it can record meetings in progress. At my real job, I sometimes use it during interviews. The dictation is not perfect, but it is usually close enough that with a few minor corrections and adjustments, I can publish faster. It’s a tool many reporters use for that same reason.
I would not be surprised to know that college students use it to help them take notes during class. If I had been able to use a tool like Otter when I attended college, I would have.
So I decided to test Otter for dictating blog posts.
I wanted to see how well it might work and if it might be a practical way to compose a post.
I’m going to go back and run a sentence from a few paragraphs earlier. And I’m going to show you both what it looks like straight out of Otter, and what it looked like once it was in the post.
I noted as I was talking that I needed to insert a link to the Otter platform at a certain point in that sentence. Of course, I can’t really do that while I’m talking. So I just made a verbal note to myself to do that. When I went back to post it, I knew I had to remove the notation to add the link, and actually add the link.
So here is that sentence as it originally appeared in my otter transcription:
There’s a program I found a couple of years ago at the suggestion of a colleague that I use in my real job. It’s called Otter. Insert link here.
And here is the third paragraph of this post as it was published:
There’s a program I found a couple of years ago at the suggestion of a colleague that I use in my real job. It’s called Otter.
Here are a few other first impressions.
If you aren’t good at going back and rereading what you’ve written before you publish, rest assured: Otter will change that. It will have to.
You must go back and reread every line. Sometimes, Otter will be a little bit off in transcribing exactly what you’re saying.
If you have an accent that might confuse it. (Living in the south, I’ve seen that happen plenty of times with Southern drawls!)
If you speak too quickly, that might confuse it. Or, if you don’t enunciate carefully enough, it might “mishear” what you said.
If you use a word that is not in Otter’s built-in vocabulary — which might be a long shot considering how accurate it is most of the time — you may still find a mistake here and there.
So you will have to go back and fix typos and incorrect words when it has to guess.
Overall though, it does seem to be mostly accurate in taking down your words as you speak them.
Grammar enthusiasts, it can even handle punctuation!
This one always surprises me. Unlike text messages, where the more grammatical of us might actually say, “Period,” or “comma” to call on our phones to add those particular marks, Otter seems to do that without your having to ask.
In fact, if you say “period” or “comma,” you’re going to find those words spelled out in the middle of your sentences.
Maybe Otter is smarter than the platform that runs text messages.
The reason I started thinking about this as a possibility is reading advice to bloggers about how you should write as authentically as possible.
In other words, you should write the way you talk.
Well, how better to do that than dictating blog posts? As you are speaking what you want to say, your words, as you say them are being taken down verbatim.
The problem is, unless you were what we in broadcasting might call a “one-hit wonder,” someone who can deliver lines without ever making an error, you’re going to stumble and stammer.
You might get midway through a paragraph and then realize, “You know, I’m going down a tangent, that’s not worth going down!”
So, let’s scratch all that and delete the last couple of lines, much the way a judge in a courtroom might ask the court reporter to strike that from the record.
When you’re writing a blog post and you have the transcription in front of you, that’s easy. You just don’t copy and past the passages you don’t want to include in your post.
If you require multiple takes to get a sentence the way you want it, you’re going to have a lot of extra copy that you’ll have to go through to make sure you pull the right sentence.
So would I actually use a program like Otter for dictating blog posts?
In all honesty, I probably would not. If I were going on a long trip and I had some posts that I felt like I really needed to get done, but I couldn’t stop what I was doing to actually type it up, I might try dictating them. Otter would definitely be my first choice for a dictation program.
But even though Otter is free, I don’t think it’s the ideal way to compose a post.
I’ve been typing up blog posts now for more than 17 years. If you’re used to typing posts, as I am, it’s a little alien to talk into a phone instead of typing.
With the copying and pasting, adding paragraph breaks and correcting typos, I think it almost takes longer to produce a post this way.
On the other hand, if you really need to get something written, if you really are afraid you’re going to forget the idea you have if you don’t dictate it right that minute, this might be the answer.
Here’s what you should know about Otter.
The best news of all is that it’s free. You can find the Otter app in your phone’s app store.
You’ll need to create an account. You can then log in to that account at Otter.ai.
When you record sound on your phone using the Otter app, you’ll find the transcriptions in the app or online. If you’re still recording, you can log in and see the live transcriptions as the words are being taken down.
If you need to transcribe events that last longer than 40 minutes, Otter offers a premium subscription service. The premium service, which I have not yet tried, costs less than $9 per month.
Given Otter’s track record, if I needed the extra transcription time, I’d definitely pay for it.