Ask the techie: What are the benefits of using multiple monitors for court reporters?

The NCRA Technology Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the Technology Committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I am always searching for new ideas and trying to be productive in my court reporting work so I can get my work out the door as quickly and efficiently as I can, so that I can go about my day and tend to my family and personal life. I’ve been contemplating the idea of using a second monitor, but I’m not sure the cost is worth the possible benefit. Some insight on whether I should move forward with my purchase would be helpful. Thanks! 

Tuckered from Texas

G. ALLEN SONNTAG, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Do you two screen? Should you?

I use two screens: One screen is for my CAT and what I’m working on, editing, and so on. The second screen, I keep e-mail, newspaper, Facebook, and bank account open. So it’s just click to do what I need to do.

Some people prefer Dell screens with a device that holds two of their screens on a single pedestal. There are cheaper brands on Amazon; for example, VIVO Dual LED LCD Monitor Free-standing Desk Stand. Others of us like two independent screens, as I do. I have two screens, each of them is 24 inches. You need desk space to do this, which I hope everybody has.

If you’re an overachiever, try three screens. Yeah, it’s possible. The limit on what you can do is the number of ports your computer can use to support screens. Check the screen resolution for your system. A quick Google will bring up the answers: 800 x 600 or 1600 X 1200, or even bigger. The difference is the size of the number of pixels on your screen. The bigger the numbers, the smaller the pixel, therefore, the smaller the text on your screen.

As we all get older, we need bigger letters… at least, I do. There is a function in Win 10 to allow you to increase the size of the resolution, i.e. the pixels, which makes the letters in text and menus larger. No, you don’t have to continue to squint to see the small letters!

So now that you’ve fixed the two screens and the text size, let’s move on. Most of us grew up with the full-size box, sitting on the floor. Now most use a notebook, where the screen gets smaller: It’s great that it’s lighter to carry around, but the text is smaller and the keyboard is puny, to say the least.

There are small units available with a lot of power; for example: Intel’s NUC, Next Unit of Computing. These have been available for quite a long time and do the job quite well, with more than enough ports for what you need. Try 5.5 inches by 8 or so inches, which will probably end up being approximately an inch thick. It contains multiple SSDs, hard drives, 16 or 32 megabytes of RAM, a fast processor, etc. 

Now put it all together, get that new, super-small computer, two or three screens, a mechanical keyboard, and you’ve got editing glory! Enjoy shopping!

Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR:

Multitasking is a way of life for many of us. Your desktop can multitask, too. Multiple monitors enable the user to have two completely separate programs running, making it easy to glance back and forth between, say, your CAT software and your .pdf exhibit, which was read at lightning speed into the record.

It’s easy to set up! Here are instructions from WikiHow:

ProCAT launches new program to support A to Z students

Trade in your old writer for a new ProCAT Xpression, and the company will supply a writer to an NCRA A to ZTM Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program participant.

According to Deby Sebastian, national sales manager for ProCAT, which is based in Calabasas, Calif., the program was prompted by the number of phone calls the firm has been getting from interested participants in the A to Z program looking for machines to use. ProCAT has been a partner and providing machines to the A to Z program since it began.

“We have a waiting list for machines at all times it seems. This prompted our decision to do a push for people to trade their old writers in and upgrade to a newer model. When they do, we will donate the machines to NCRA for them to use for A to Z programs. We are hoping this will help with the shortage of machines and allow many more to embark on this exciting field of court reporting,” Sebastian says.

The program, which just launched, has already generated several responses, so the firm is hopeful the offer will prompt trade-ins.

“We literally just put this out but have had several responses, so hopefully it will start bringing in the writers. We will literally take any old writer. I had a brand-new student today who wanted to trade in a four-month-old student Blaze writer to help the program. I told her to wait a bit but thanked her for her heart that wanted to help,” Sebastian says.

“We attend so many conventions and see many reporters still using old writers. We really hope that everyone will reach out, help a student, and help themselves. The newer writers are so much easier on their hands, arms, and necks,” Sebastian added.

“NCRA appreciates ProCAT’s generosity in supporting students in the A to Z program by providing them access to machines,” says Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA’s Senior Director of Education and Certification. “Learning on real steno machines gives students an even better experience when exploring the basics of steno to see if court reporting and captioning would be a good career choice for them.”

ProCAT is offering reporters a $1,300 trade-in value towards a new Xpression writer.

Setting the record straight on women in court reporting

On March 26, Law360 posted an article in honor of Women’s History Month authored by NCRA member Karen Santucci, CRI, chair of the court reporting program at Plaza College, Queens, N.Y., and vice president of the New York State Court Reporters Association, about the important roles women court reporters play in the American judicial system.

Read more.

Ask the techie: How to incorporate briefs for parentheticals

Dear Techie:

I am an aspiring realtimer and love to learn from more experienced and awesome realtime court reporters. My focus is on how to use briefs for parentheticals that explain to the attorneys what’s happening. I would love to have specific and easy-to-learn examples that I can incorporate into my dictionary.

Realtime Briefer

Dear Briefer:

Myrina A. Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, has some tips and briefs that you can start using today! She writes:

I like the briefs for parentheticals that explain to the attorneys what’s happening. It always distracts me when I see an attorney staring quizzically at my realtime feed. So writing a quick note releases my concern, and I can get back to focusing on the job. 

VAIR/VAIR – (Reporter Note: All quotes will be verified later.) I use this when I know I didn’t get quoted material accurately.

CLEAR/CLEAR – (<<<<Momentary transmission lapse. Stand by.<<<) I use similar wording to this when I really mess something up and I don’t want them to see it on my screen. The < are paragraphs so add as many as you need to clear the screen.

SPEL/SPEL – (Reporter Note: All spellings will be confirmed after the depo.)

SLOE/SLOE – (Reporter Note: Slow down, please, especially when reading from documents.)

BREAK/BREAK – (Reporter Note: Reporter would like a bathroom break when convenient.) Write this when you see an attorney is viewing the screen; usually then that attorney will interject and ask for a break for our reporter.

CLAIR/CLAIR – (Reporter clarification.) I use this when telling attorneys to speak one at a time, or whatever I am asking them for, because I cannot write myself talking. I may leave the parenthetical in for the final, or put in my actual words if I have the audio and feel it’s better to change the wording.

DRAFT/DRAFT – (Realtime Draft Transcript – Not for Official Use.) I add this throughout the day whenever I remember to do so. Good reminder to them that it’s just a draft. You can also use this when you know something didn’t translate correctly just as a reminder to them that it’s simply a draft.

Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, has some great options as well. Check them out!

Here are a couple of parentheticals I use almost every day when writing realtime.

SMAOT – <New Page><Parenthetical>ERROR CODE: ERROR #224, MAX SPEED INPUT EXCEEDED!! TEXT/STENO DROPPED TO COMMENT LINE – CHECK<New Line Paragraph><Colloquy>(Simultaneous crosstalk interrupted by the reporter.)<Colloquy>THE REPORTER: One at a time, counsel.

This automatically dashes the last speaker, clears the realtime screen (it helps get their attention), and then puts in the steno error code. Counsel don’t know that I’m the one that put the “error code” in the transcript, and I can stop them and blame the software for not being able to keep up with how fast I’m writing because of how fast they are talking. It’s great, and it works every time!

KLAOIF – <Parenthetical>(Reporter <Scanstop Begin>requested<Scanstop End> clarification.)<Answer>

I use this one when I am having to interrupt either the witness or the attorney to clarify what they are saying. I never stop to ask for a spelling, but if they are reading too fast (or mumbling) and I can’t understand what they are saying, I can’t write it down. I do not dig out of the audio for anything I may say on the record; I just use this parenthetical. And I have it surrounded by “scanstops” to alert me to this part of the transcript to review.

B*AM – <New Line Paragraph><New Line Paragraph><Colloquy> (***REMINDER <Scanstop Begin>FROM<Scanstop End> REPORTER: You are viewing a DRAFT transcript. Mistakes will be corrected in the FINAL certified transcript.)

I use this one when I know/feel like the words tranned funny (like Al Gore rhythm instead of algorithm) and I don’t have a chance to fix it quickly. All I have to do is write one quick word (B*AM) and this note populates into the transcript. That way, counsel know that I know of this issue – and to remind them it is not supposed to be a PERFECT transcript. It’s a DRAFT transcript.

Good luck on your journey and happy realtiming!

TechLinks: What is the cloud and how do you restore from it?

In today’s world of technology, everyone knows what the “cloud” is. According to ZDNet:

What is cloud computing, in simple terms?

Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing services — from applications to storage and processing power — typically over the internet and on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The adoption of cloud-based platforms is growing in the marketplace and can vary depending on several factors. ZDNet offers an in-depth article about the history and examples of cloud computing available.

Tech Radar Pro suggests: “In 2019, consumers and businesses are continuing the trend of reducing their need to rely on local storage hardware and infrastructure by backing up content and placing files and applications online in the cloud. Google data shows that interest for ‘Cloud Storage’ alone has increased by 40x over the past decade.”

“Given the multitude of cloud storage providers out there, one has to wisely choose a provider who will offer the maximum amount of low-cost storage and bandwidth, while still keeping your data safe,” the article continued.

NCRA’s Technology Committee Chair Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, suggests there are several reasons to adopt the use of a cloud service for court reporters: Security, speed, reliability, backing up, restoration, and productivity.

Ntiva’s blog has some helpful tips on how cloud computing improves employee productivity: “To make the best use of your laptops, tablets, and smartphones, one needs a cloud storage option. The concept of storing files in the cloud may have started as a way for consumers to back up their data in case of disaster, but today’s best services offer so much more. Not only will the cloud back up your files, photographs, and video, but it also gives you the ability to sync your data across all of your devices, collaborate with colleagues, and have instant access at your fingertips! Now you may edit documents and share files wherever you may be.”

Remember, though, that you should also utilize multiple backup methods. Some to consider are as follows: Laptops, external hard drives, Drobo, writer SD card, Synology, and CrashPlan. A blog post by Mueller at Omega Reporting gives additional information about backing up and is still relevant today. 

Mueller also adds: “As court reporters, it is invaluable for us to have access to all our CAT files no matter our physical destination. For instance, if you’re on vacation and a client cannot seem to locate the electronic version of a transcript, simply access your cloud storage app of choice on your smartphone and create a secure link and email it on the go. Happy client!”

There are many, many options for cloud storage today. How to choose the right cloud storage option is dependent on several factors.

  1. What type of files do you wish to store?
  2. How much space do you require?
  3. Do you plan to collaborate with colleagues?
  4. Do you want to share files with clients?
  5. How easy to learn and/or intuitive is the service?
  6. How much is a paid version?

Need options for your particular system?

The best cloud storage services for Apple users

The best cloud options for Android users

If you are using multiple cloud storage platforms, consider CloudBerry Backup Free, an app designed to be useful for users who wind up with data scattered across several online services.

Teresa Russ, CRI, a CART captioner and freelance court reporter who is a member of the NCRA Tech Committee shares her views on Dropbox: “I discovered Dropbox while reading the JCR magazine some years ago. I favor Dropbox because it’s simple to use. I use Dropbox to send my transcripts to my scopist, and I use it to store my photos. I prefer cloud storage rather than using flash drives because I like having my files on my phone so that I can access my documents anywhere at any time. Information stored on a flash drive can accidentally be erased or lost. Dropbox automatically backs up your work online. As far as privacy, this cloud storage has a two-step verification process.”

Mueller provides some additional tips on the various cloud storage choices she utilizes: “As a small firm owner, I am ever mindful of expenses. I use different cloud services for different aspects of my business. My favorites are Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and Stenograph’s cloud backup. There are free versions for all of these resources.”

She provides additional information about these cloud resources:

Box: I use this for my repository. According to their policies, Box is HIPAA-compliant. If you know your client uses Box, add them as a Collaborator so that they can move the files to the folders of their choice without having to download and upload again to a different folder. This will save them time and get them on with their day. 

Dropbox: This is the known storage app for the masses. You can collaborate with colleagues and share links with clients. I can create a special link for the court reporters, proofreaders, or scopists that don’t have Dropbox too! Simply create the link, and they can upload directly to it. 

Say, for example, a client calls you and you’re on a job or on vacation and they desperately need that deposition they can’t locate. Dropbox to the rescue! If you store your transcript files in Dropbox, you can create a link directly from your smartphone (providing you have it on your phone), and send them a secure link on the go.

Dropbox or any other cloud storage option is a good way to send those large .wav files to your scopist or to share word lists with colleagues. 

Google Drive: I love Google calendar and have used it since 2010! I upload all of my notices of deposition to Google Drive. Then, when I create a calendar entry for a job, I click on the paperclip and access the notice and attach it to my calendar entry. Everything is stored in one app. (This is a free app and I don’t pay for extra storage.)

iCloud: I utilize iCloud to back up my iPhone data and my extensive photo albums. One of the benefits of using iCloud is that all my contacts may be accessed on my iPhone, iPad, and both of my Mac computers. I enter the data once and, boom, it’s on all of my devices. No need to type in data multiple times. A true time-saver!

I utilize my Mac for administrative purposes: Email, calendar, billing — you get the idea. When I’m on the job and check email during breaks, if there’s a W-9 or an invoice a client needs, I can simply add the attachment straight from my iPhone because I have access to my desktop and all my cloud accounts. The client never has to know I’m away from the desk!

Stenograph’s Cloud Backup: The beauty of our profession is that we can produce a transcript anywhere we are as long as we have our laptop and an internet connection. When I’m on vacation and have to catch up on a little work, I know that I can always access my Catalyst files on the go with Stenograph Edge. 

The NCRA Technology Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the Technology Committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Ask the techie: What brief forms to use in Federal Court

Dear Techie:

I just accepted a position in federal court, after having been a freelancer for several years. What briefs can the Tech Committee recommend to help the transition go smoother for me when I’m offering realtime to my judge?

Thanks! 

Judicial Briefer

Dear Judicial,

Congratulations on your new position and best wishes on your judicial officialship! Nancy Bistany, RPR, has these great briefs for words and phrases that come up frequently for you to incorporate into your personal dictionary for federal court:

35* – 3553 

35*/A – 3553(a)

A*K – amended complaint

A*US – AUSA

BIF – benefit

BAIFL – basically

SDOFR – discover

SDOEFR – discovery

BAF – on behalf of

STEN – sentence

STENG – sentencing

SMEMT – settlement

S-J – summary judgment

J* – and then first initial of Judge’s last name or a letter; e.g. J*G – Judge Gettleman, J*K – Judge Castillo, J*D – Judge Wood, J*UD – Judge Dow)

Happy briefing!

Court reporters and scanners – win, win, win!

A blog by Kramm Court Reporting posted by JD Supra on Feb. 19 discusses the benefits of bringing small scanners to depositions.

Read more.

Reporting from the courtroom to jury deliberations

Theresa (Tari) Kramer, RMR, CRR, CPE, an official court reporter from Charlotte, N.C., recently provided CART to a juror. She described the experience for the JCR Weekly.

Tari Kramer

JCR | How long have you been a court reporter?

TK |28 years.

JCR | Have you been the reporter for a juror before?

TK | Yes, one other time, but the juror did not make it into the jury box. This was my first time one made it all the way through the trial process.

JCR | How did you get this job? 

TK | I obtained this assignment based on my skills, equipment, and experience and because our courthouse recognizes the benefit and convenience of utilizing a certified realtime reporter. The jury services office advertises CART as an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) option for hearing-challenged prospective jurors. They refer to it as a “note taker.” We have two full-time realtime reporters, and I was assigned to cover the assignment. The juror had requested someone to provide note-taking services during their jury orientation and during all phases of the trial process.

JCR | How would you describe the experience? What were you doing, and how did you do it? 

TK | This was such a rewarding experience. I can confidently say that it was the most rewarding week of my career. It’s one thing to be involved in the trial process on a daily basis, but it’s an entirely different and humbling experience to help one on one with someone who otherwise would not have been able to participate in the jury process.   

Through this experience I have realized that there are some folks who fall within a gray zone of not being deaf and only somewhat hard of hearing, people who don’t need a full-time interpreter and function well on a daily basis without any assistance. My juror was not fully deaf, has not been diagnosed with any hearing deficit, and does not read lips or communicate through sign language. She was fully capable of communicating her thoughts, articulate with her words, and responded appropriately to attorneys during voir dire. 

Her challenge, as relayed by her, came when people speak soft, there are other noises in the background, or when the speaker is not looking in her direction. The sound suddenly cuts in half, and she begins to panic. Knowing this challenge and realizing the importance of her role as a juror, she decided to ask for a note taker to fill in the gaps during these kinds of moments. 

The view from the juror’s seat

I met the juror at 8 a.m. on Monday morning in the jury assembly room. I discussed with her the services I would be providing, a little bit about the technology, and got some background on her hearing challenges. My employer provided me with a rolling cart, and I followed the juror wherever she was directed to go. She received my streaming feed through an iPad. I had two other iPads on a constant charge, ready to change out for the one she was using. I use a wireless router for the room only. While she was able to view the feed on the iPad, I noticed that my router would cut out when I moved the cart to another room. In the future, unless the juror is sitting in the jury box further away from me, I will just have them view the feed on my computer.

Eventually she was called into a courtroom and was put in the box on the first call by the clerk. I sat behind the official court reporter and provided a feed for her during the voir dire process. Shortly thereafter, she was approved and sworn in as a juror. 

When the trial began, I was sworn in as an interpreter. Having this be a new experience for myself and the judge, I took the liberty of printing out some information from NCRA, the state of North Carolina’s policies on ADA requirements for trial participants, and a few other articles. I highlighted and tabbed the areas most pertinent to the situation and handed it to the judge. It was soon determined that I would act as an interpreter of sorts. My sole job during the trial was to meet her needs. When the jury went in and out of the courtroom, I was with her. I purposely did not stay in the courtroom during the parts of the trial when the jury was gone. I wanted to remove myself from any knowledge of the case and/or any impropriety. 

She did express a desire to have me in the deliberation room because, when everyone was talking, she didn’t think she would be able to hear folks on the other side of the room. That moment came, and I got the enviable opportunity to be a fly on the wall during a jury’s deliberation process. I informed the jury of my role and that my iPad feed was just to be viewed by her, not to ask me any questions, and to treat me as if I was invisible in the room. I did, however, request that they “try” to speak one at a time. Any experienced reporter knows that this will not happen when you have 12 impassioned folks discussing an issue, but I felt I had to make the request anyway.

The deliberation takedown was fast and furious. One juror had been dismissed so it was a jury of 11 (civil case).  In my mind, that was one less voice to pick up and write. I sat in the middle of the room. My client was to the left of me. Eventually we got into a rhythm. She heard what the people were saying to her left and next to her. I wrote mostly what I heard on the right side of me. I would not write what she said. 

Logistically, I had literally five minutes to prepare for this, as the judge got the case to the jury rather quickly, so I had no time to prepare speaker IDs. As it turns out, I would not have had time to identify each speaker anyway due to the fast nature of the conversation. So what I ended up doing was adding two to three lines to my paragraphing stroke. When someone new spoke, I paragraphed and the screen went down a couple of lines. This provided space in between speakers. I know this was not the most ideal, but it’s what I had in the moment and it was my first time going through this experience.  

On a side note, I am so very thankful for the NCRA CART group inside of Facebook that I feverishly made requests in that day. Several reporters chimed in on suggestions for deliberation takedown. I have such appreciation for my seasoned colleagues who have journeyed through this before me. 

When the deliberations were finished, I had written 110 pages in one and a half hours. Mind you, this includes extra lines between speakers, but it was still extremely fast. What an exhilarating challenge that was! They threw the kitchen sink in, metaphorically, with the whole conversation. The terminology varied wildly — everything from religion to hematomas to DUI alcohol terms.

It was also interesting to observe the process. Eleven people who remained silent were suddenly full of thoughts and opinions, waiting impatiently to be the next one to voice their ideas. Most folks were boisterous while the minority were a bit reserved. In the end, however, they came to a consensus as a group because members were willing to compromise without relinquishing their principles. There was some heated conversation and one member who seemed to stand out from the rest on his opinions. This all reminded me of my bachelor’s classes in behavioral science. We studied things like this — what causes a group of people to respond and make a collective decision the way they do; how do outside influences, life experiences, and core beliefs affect a group decision? I was fascinated, like reading a book, to see this process unfold. 

JCR | Did the juror say anything to you about her experience?

TK | Yes. At the end, I was in the jury room with the jurors and the judge. Everyone was speaking frankly and openly about the case and the experience. My client made it a point to thank me and the judge for allowing her to be an involved participant in the process. She said she had been very nervous about the experience (as are most prospective jurors) but especially because she had serious doubts about her ability to serve successfully. She said that my services made that possible for her. The judge also said he had never seen this technology being utilized before. He was familiar with realtime technology but not how it was used for a juror. 

JCR | How long was the case? 

TK | The juror entered the courtroom on a Monday afternoon, was sworn in at the end of voir dire, then came back the next two days for the trial. So it lasted about two and a half days.

JCR | Would you be interested in doing this again? 

TK | I would definitely like to do this again. However, next time I would tweak my dictionary a bit to have more room sound definitions than I currently have; i.e., laughter, loud noise, private conversation held. I would also only bring my laptop into the jury room (thank you, NCRA Facebook group member suggestion). When someone recommended that, I metaphorically slapped my forehead like “oh, yes!” It would have made things go a lot faster had I just provided the juror with a view of my laptop instead of everyone waiting for my technology to reboot in a different room. But I don’t fault myself for any of this because it was all new terrain for me, professionally speaking, so I chalked it up to a wonderful learning experience.

While this appeared to have been a positive experience for the juror, it was eye-opening for me how beneficial court reporters are to the hearing-impaired community. There are folks like this juror who have no idea that this opportunity exists — people who do not fit the black-and-white description of a hearing-impaired client. I wish that CART was more readily known because so many people would find a genuine benefit from this technology. I would love to be involved in creating a CART-in-the-courtroom training program for our officials in North Carolina because, when preparing for and going through the juror’s time in our courthouse, I did not find much information on how to perform my role. It would have been nice to have a crash course of sorts or a cheat sheet to take with me throughout the assignment. We also need to update the verbiage in the interpreter oath, as it did not reflect my role during deliberations. All in all, though, I would definitely do this again because the experience far outweighed the challenges.

How to start your own Facebook practice group

Daily practice can make a big difference. That’s not new information to any court reporter or captioner. The hard part isn’t knowing you need to practice; it’s making the time to do it.

Some reporters have found that joining a Facebook practice group helps them make it happen. A recent story in the JCR about a group led to others expressing interest in starting groups of their own. Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR, a  freelance court reporter from New Brunswick, N.J., who leads a practice group, has some ideas for people who are starting their own group. Germosen’s group is a 100-day group. Members make a commitment to practice 100 days in a row, although some members have gone on longer.

“I’m not sure what made me pick 100 days, but it’s a nice round number,” he said. “It’s more than 50 days. It seems like it won’t be easy to do, and it’s not. It’s a challenge.”

Kathryn A. Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Caseyville, Ill., joined Germosen’s group to help her practice. “I joined after the [2017] Vegas convention, and I’m on my 536th day as we speak,” Thomas said. “I joined because I need increased accountability to keep up my skills. About a month after I joined, I was installed as president of the Illinois Court Reporters Association, and this is a way to ensure my skills don’t degrade amidst all the goings-on of my two-year term. I’m the type that if I go a day without writing something, I can feel it the next day, and my captioning consumers don’t deserve that.”

Start off with a public Facebook group while you attract members. When you have the right number, you can make the group secret. Too many members will make the group unmanageable.

“If I have 200 or 300 folks participating, it would be a full-time job,” Germosen said. “So if you’re looking to build it up, make it public and they will come.”

Germosen says 100 is a good number of members for the group. That’s a small enough number that the moderator can recognize all of the members, and they can be a close-knit group. He was the only moderator for his group for a long time, but he has recently added another person.

Members of the group are promising to practice every day and post about it when they do. The moderators are paying attention to who is practicing and who isn’t.

“We are on the honor system,” Germosen says. “I take their word for it that they say they are on day X. I do audit folks from time to time just to make sure their days are adding up if I notice unusual numbers in their posts. Some folks drop off at day 3. I’ll keep an eye on them and hope they jump into it by week 6 or so before removing them. There is a way to sort the members list by join date. You can scroll that list and see if a member has been silent or hasn’t been posting because it’ll show ‘three recent posts’ or ‘five recent posts.’ This will show next to the member’s name. I look at this and check on folks with no activity to see if they’ve been posting. Then I may remove them if it’s been several weeks.”

Thomas said seeing the practice posts definitely motivates her. “I thought it would be harder to remember to do daily practice, especially over the holidays,” she said. “But when I see group members post their practice on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, etc., it reminds me.”

Moderators might also want to recognize milestones such as one week, two weeks, 100 days, etc. “I’ll reply with a picture of a funny cartoon on day seven,” Germosen said. “If you’re on day 14, I’ll reply with a pic that says ‘Week 2,’ and same for week three. For day 27, I’ll reply with a Yankees 27 banner. For day 50, you get one of a series of ‘half’ pics; then once you’re on day 90 I’ll post a link to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ song, and then day 100 I’ll post any series of ‘100 Day Club’ pics or banners and put them on ‘the finishers’ list,’ which is a list I have of all finishers going back to 2014 and the date they finished.” 

Germosen said one rule is that everyone needs to be supportive of everyone else in the group. As admin, he likes everyone’s Facebook practice posts and keeps the page free of drama. He said it’s also important for the admin to set the example with practicing. No slacking.

Thomas agrees about the supportive nature of the group, “It’s brought me closer to the individuals in the group itself, and it’s wonderful to celebrate together as they win or qualify for contests around the nation,” she said. “Occasionally someone will recommend a TED talk to the group to practice, and I’ve learned some things through practicing those.”

“What the page does is you see others posting, and you think to yourself that you should be practicing too,” Germosen said. “It’s nice to have a community around you of others doing the same thing you’re doing … trying to improve.”

Air selfies, 8K TVs, and cameras in the refrigerator — all at the CES

By Kelli Ann Willis

Kelli Ann Willis

I am a techie and have been one for years. CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, is the techie’s Super Bowl. Started in 1967, CES lasts four days, features 4,500 exhibiting companies, and draws about 180,000 attendees. It is the place where new technology is introduced, where envelopes are pushed, and many minds are blown. Each year, thousands of companies showcase their latest and greatest. Each year I have watched and waited, often with bated breath, for reports to come from the CES floor.

But this year was different. I was actually on the floor of CES, the 2019 edition, in Las Vegas, Nev.! Once I was registered, I shared this news with the Technology Committee. Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from Memphis, Tenn., the chair, suggested I report my findings from CES. I was glad to do so! Here is a recap of what we saw while my husband and I were there.

The outstanding technology this year was 5G and AI (artificial intelligence). Smart home devices were everywhere this year. Robots to help you at the mall or at home, faster phones, smarter and larger televisions, and self‐driving cars are truly coming.

I took over the NCRA Instagram feed through the four‐day show, during which I highlighted products I thought might be of interest to us court reporters! Here is a sampling of what I saw:

  • AI is big. Alexa is the Amazon product; Hey Google is the Google product; Bixby is the Samsung product, to name a few. Smart homes will implement this technology to make our lives easier. Lamps, stoves, refrigerators, faucets, mirrors, and cars are some of the products that were showcased at CES.
  • Televisions in 8K! Mind‐blowing images on huge televisions. Samsung had a 2,190‐inch TV. LG had an incredible wall – a massive, flexible display with completely astonishing images flowing through them in a loop. Amazing. LG also had a TV that rolls up into its base. Samsung had TVs that have screen savers that are classic paintings. HDMI 2.1 is delivering incredible content to those 4K and 8K televisions.
  • A bread vending machine, The Breadbot, was a huge hit at the show. There was a machine that washed and dried your eyeglasses. Tons of robots – not only the kind that will serve you a drink, but those that will vacuum your floor and one that cleans your windows!
  • LG’s newest cell phone has five cameras that can take photos simultaneously. Samsung’s soon‐to‐be released home speaker with Bixby can be used to communicate with your lights, your thermostat, and your TV. It can turn on a camera inside your refrigerator in case you are at the grocery store and need to know if you have milk.
  • Everything old is new again, including throwbacks like videogaming devices from the 1980s and 1990s. Turntables and vinyl are also making comebacks.

Every business is now a technology business — that was a theme running through all of CES this year. I was amazed and wowed. I can’t wait to go back next year.

Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter from Hutchinson, Kan. She holds the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate and  is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.