Bruce Lawson's personal site

Castingwords for audio transcription

Recently, Opera sponsored Geek in The Park 2008 by picking up the tab for audio transcription of the talks. It’s one thing that often gets overlooked by conferences and it’s something that Opera takes very seriously. Equally, you can’t expect speakers and organisers of a grassroots event to pay for it when they’re giving their time for free.

The company I used is called Casting Words, and I want to recommend them to you. After cleaning up the audio, I uploaded it to their site and selected their six-day turnaround service at $1.50 per minute. Four days later the transcripts were returned, with very few errors, particularly when you consider the technical nature of the content. You get them returned as text, RTF and HTML, and the markup is not bad: it’s set out as blockquotes with speakers’ names in cite elements.

The only problem is that multiple paragraphs inside blockquotes are marked up with double br elements rather than wrapped in p elements, so I emailed their support to ask them if it would be possible to amend their publishing system accordingly. Rachel wrote back “Thanks for letting us know about this, we will make that change.”

Now that’s service.

And when a 45 minute conference talk only costs £30 to transcribe, it’s difficult to imagine why organisers of for-profit conferences wouldn’t provide a transcript of their events.

(The transcriptions are being checked by the speakers and will be published when they’re proofed.)

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13 Responses to “ Castingwords for audio transcription ”

Comment by sil

erf. $1.50/min might not sound like a lot, but I thought about using it for LugRadio Live: 28 hours of talks comes out at about £1300. Which is a lot. It’s not a lot for conferences that charge people £50 to come in, or which are prepared to grab sponsorship just for this. Having video and audio of the talks is good, though.

Comment by Bruce

True, Sil – but Lug wasn’t designed as a profit-making endeavour, was it?

(Changed “commercial” to “profit-making” in article above)

Comment by Simon Mackie

Thanks to your post here, we definitely will be transcribing all future Carsonified events. thanks for the tip about the Casting Words service, too! I’l report back on how we get on after FOWA in Oct.

Comment by bruce

Mind you, after getting all excited about the promise by Casting Words to change it, I’m still having to manually correct the dConstruct transcriptions coming through.

Comment by Andrew

Hi all,

Audio transcription at $1.50 / minute is not cheap especially when a 6 day turnaround. We (transcript can currently turn this round in 3 days for £0.90p / audio minute (£0.80p for non-profits).

Although as pointed out the use of Mechanical Turk is an excellent idea – however it predominately pays the people transcribing a few pounds an hour to transcribe – far below minimum wage. An interview from casting words staff details that transcribers are payed $0.19c/audio minute. You do the maths on that one! see

It does seem strange that a grass roots event such as Geek in the park is so willing to be supported worker exploitation. A quick look at the numbers and you see that casting words is making a bucket load from exploiting people. See here for a industry based transcribers wage scale for comparison. see

Comment by Bruce

OK, Andrew. I’m all for non-exploitative partners, so will give you a try next time I need transcription.

However, something that casting words has done well is accurate, well-spelloed transcription that only requires a little massaging into decent HTML.

On your website, you have several typos (“whats this” should be “with out time-codes” should be “without time-codes”) which make me think I might have to do a lot of tidying up.

Comment by Jackie

I too have viewed Transcript Divas’ website and found more than a few typos, it’s riddled with grammatical errors – pretty good for a group of people who found transcription services so poor they felt that they could do better.

Two things I’d like to know:

How can Transcript Divas possibly claim to be the cheapest and fastest service in the UK? Where’s the evidence? Incidentally, I personally know that they are neither.

Also, I believe I read somewhere on the site that they have something like 35 transcribers, yet their terms and conditions state “All prices are not subject to VAT.” Surely just another error but if correct then something is very wrong.

This website would immediately put me off. I greatly dislike websites running other companies down, but it rankles even more when they’re factually incorrect. Frankly, I think it just makes Transcript Divas look unprofessional and somewhat deluded.

Comment by Bruce

They did a decent transcript of a video interview I did; I had to do some cleaning up, but the sound quality isn’t great and my interrogator was something of a mumbler

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