The Thought Machine

When I was younger, I always wished I had a machine that could record any thought and allow me to play the thought back later on. I have a lot of thoughts in my head, and sometimes it’s very hard to keep track. It takes me a lot of time getting my thoughts down in writing, and once I see my thoughts in written form, I want to tweak some things; this takes a lot of time as well. To illustrate, what I could say in 5 minutes might take up an hour if I write it down, because I want to make sure it read nicely. It’s really different when I just talk.

Keeping Ideas in a Notebook

The first thing I did was try to keep my ideas in a notebook, but this did not work out.  Sometimes, I didn’t have the notebook with me when I had the ideas; sometimes I had no time to write it down, and eventually I lost my notebook. It was a pretty unsuccessful try. I did a little bit better with keeping up my blog. I had a blog in 2007.  I’m not sure if the term blog was even coined then, but that was just a website talking about my stay in New Zealand with the news posting at the top; it was pretty much a blog. It was better because I often have access to a computer. I can send an email to myself and turn it into an article later on. It’s hard to lose your website, so things pretty much stay where they are until the free hosting doesn’t exist anymore or the short URL just disappears. Basically, things stay on the website.

Using Speech Recognition Software

Just keeping a record didn’t work well with me though, so what I tried was to just come up with a few points and jot them down on a piece of paper. Later at home, I record those ideas in teh computer and use a program to transcribe my thoughts. Well, speech recognition has improved a lot. If you have a good headset and are aware of all the rules that apply to speech recognition software, then you can have a fairly good task within a short time. However, it’s not perfect and still needs a lot of editing. That, of course, takes time, and I discover things that don’t really fit so I want to change them, which even takes more time. You see, it goes on and on. Thus, that was not an option too. Now, I use it sometimes, but very rarely.

Voice Recording for Transcription

What I do now, and what comes closest to just transcribing my thoughts, takes advantage of the technical abilities that we have right now. This is the work flow: While I’m sitting in a car, on a train, or somewhere where I get bored and want to work, I take out my Olympus PN5500PC which is a great piece of technology. It only records your voice, but it does that very well. I also have a little clip on mike worth ten bucks, which I use to filter out some of the background noise.

I basically record my thoughts on this device. I then hook it up on my computer via USB, and then I get all the files as a windows media audio file. Then, I use the software called Dropbox, a shared hard disk on the Internet, and share those files with my employees automatically. My employees, Neal and Elisha, would do the transcribing for me. When they get online, the new audio files get downloaded to the Dropbox account automatically, and they have the files on their own hard disk. I also use Manymoon for organizational purposes, and once I’ve uploaded a new folder with transcriptions in batches of two, three, or four days, I put the files in Dropbox and make a new task in Manymoon. Doing that, Neal and Elisha automatically get an email saying there are new audio files to transcribe, along with specific instructions.

Recording at the Speed of Talking

What they give me is a way to record my ideas at the speed of talking and not at the speed of thinking. However, It is not a perfect thought machine; I have many more thoughts than I can verbally say, but it comes very close to what I want. Now, there are basically just a few steps left in the process of coming up with a written article from a thought than I previously had.

Before starting, I just drop down three to five ideas to have some idea or structure where it’s going. What I often do is I imagine talking to someone or I imagine writing a letter to someone.  It’s a good state of mind for me to produce pieces of texts that have a good structure.  You need to do come up with these thoughts up front before you record what you want to say and save it on your computer. After they are transcribed, the only thing I have to do now is look through the articles. Well, what I usually do is I get feedback on the articles. I don’t change them myself so much. I usually read them once more and change little things, but I try to do as less work as possible myself on the articles.

Try it! It’s fun!

This has given me the freedom to produce much more written content than I could otherwise. English is not my mother tongue, so it takes me somewhat more time to write in English text than it takes me to write in German. It’s a good thing that I can just talk, because I can talk pretty well compared to writing. I would encourage you to give it a try and just record some of your ideas while you’re idle, such as in the car, and just record them.

You can find people who would transcribe your English recordings, and the cost is not too much. I think there are even websites which offer this service now. Just try it. Record your thoughts, put them in a blog and see what happens then. You can do all that for probably a hundred or two hundred bucks for 20 to 30 articles. Just give it a try and see where it goes. It’s fun!

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