Ask the Techie: CART captioning brief forms

Dear Techie,

I will be transitioning into CART captioning and need some great briefs. I’m hopeful someone on your Tech Committee can provide a few brief forms to get me started that I can add to my dictionary.

Captivated with Captioning

Dear Captivated,

Writing short is the way to go for every court reporter! We think you’ll love the following brief forms from some of the CART captioners on our Tech Committee. Good luck with your transition!

CART captioner and freelance court reporter Amy Yarbrough, Atlantic Beach, Fla., has the following brief forms she recommends and uses daily:

Briefs for words ending in -ly:

basically = B*L

exactly = KP*L

completely = KPH*L or KPH*T

previously: PRAO*EL

ultimately: U*LT

constantly: KA*UNL

really: R*EL

not really: N*EL

obviously: O*BL

absolutely: SLAOULT

Classroom parentheticals:

Phone/phone: <Parenthetical>(Cell phone interruption)

Span/Span: <Parenthetical>(Speaking Spanish)

Lang/Lang: <Parenthetical>(Speaking another language)

Check/check: (^^Captioner will verify spelling later^^)

PO*U/PO*U: <Parenthetical>(Reading from PowerPoint)

In small classes or club meetings, if you can learn names, use the first letter of the name plus the answer bank to define a person’s name. It is helpful to have an ID for yourself in case you need to write a message or respond to the professor. Additionally, have a generic stroke for guest speakers. 

A + Answer Bank: <Colloquy>>>AMY:

C + Answer Bank: <Colloquy>>>CAPTIONER:

G + Answer Bank: <Colloquy>>>GUEST SPEAKER:

Teresa Russ, CRI, Bellflower, Calif., another CART captioner and freelance court reporter on the Technology Committee, offered a few of her favorites to add to your list: 

finish – TPOEURB

homework – HOERBG

admonition – TPNEURB

coefficient – TPOERB

classroom –  KHRAOPL

Ask a Techie: Using Tablets for Proofing

Dear Techie:

I’d like to explore editing/proofreading on a tablet-style device with a stylus. Questions on forums and to friends have given me a mishmash of information, mostly related to iPads that they no longer use. People are all over the place. 

I want to open a transcript, edit with a stylus, search if I need to within the doc, but not specifically edit as one would in CAT software. I want to hold it as if it is a piece of paper and mark on it with the stylus as if a red pen.  

Prepped for Proofing

Dear Prepped,

First, some definitions of “edit” and “redlining” from our Technology Committee member Kevin Hunt, Buffalo, N. Y. 

“Edit” is making a change directly in the original file, with the original text/format changed to something new. The “edit” can be done in a tablet running Windows as described above, just not very efficiently.

“Redlining” is highlighting in some manner a change to be made but the original text is currently unchanged. The “redlining” can be done by converting the text to a PDF and then use an annotation app to redline the PDF text.  That is then used as a reference to correct the actual transcript in the CAT software.

Kevin provides these suggested options to consider for editing on a tablet:

  1. I have a MS Surface Pro with the detachable screen that can serve as a tablet. I can run Case CATalyst on that “tablet” when detached because it is still a PC running Windows, which is what is required to run Case CATalyst (as well as just about any other CAT software I’m aware of).
    1. In tablet mode with the MS Surface Stylus, I can do just about anything the software allows, since key combination commands are also mimicked via menu options. However, having to use menus for everything, such as even the most basic commands of Replacing or Defining something, etc., is not an efficient process.
    2. I created macros that allowed me to (after highlighting the text) tap a button that brought up the Replace or Define dialog, but I then have to bring up the virtual keyboard overlay on the screen to complete the process — again not very efficient.

Kevin also offers this advice: At the current state of technology, I’d stick with the universally readable PDF file format and programs such as iAnnotate and PDFExpert to “redline” an image of the page of transcript that can then be easily sent back to the reporter for corrections.

Kimberly Greiner, RDR, CRR, CRC, Lenexa, Kan., another member of the Technology Committee, recommends an annotation app called Readdle. She says it works great with the Apple devices and stylus and is user-friendly. Kim mentions that if court reporters wish to use a Windows application for proofreading a transcript, Xodo has a great product and is user-friendly.

Here are links for annotation apps to consider proofreading your transcripts:

Apple Devices

Android Devices

Windows

Then, for stylus options, check out these links:

Best Stylus for Android

Best Stylus for Apple

Ask the techie: Quotation marks

Dear Techie:

I keep struggling with finding an easy way to brief those darn quotation marks, especially when following says or said. Do you have any great suggestions that can lighten my load?

Questioning the quotation mark

Dear Questioning:

Technology Committee member Merilee S. Johnson, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, suggests the following brief forms when dealing with quotes:

I have most of the following strokes defined as:  , “<Cap next>

SA*EUD               defined as           said, “<Cap Next>

SA*EUS                defined as           says, “<Cap Next>

SA*EUG               defined as           saying, “<Cap Next>

RA*EDZ              defined as           reads, “<Cap Next>

TAO*EULGTS     defined as           titled, “<Cap Next>

WR*EU                 defined as           write, “<Cap Next>

WR*EUS              defined as           writes, “<Cap Next>

WRO*ET              defined as           wrote, “<Cap Next>

KWOERBGS        defined as           ,”

KWOEFPLT          defined as           .”

Hope this helps lighten your load and cuts down your transcript editing time!

News from STARtech 19

By Lynette Mueller

Certified trainers Rosalynn DiBartolo and Merilee Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC

As I reflect on my professional educational journey, it seems I have a habit of attending the same conferences and seminars each year. I wanted to do something new and different. I heard some buzz about computer software user groups and decided I should take a deeper dive by attending STARtech 19 in Nashville, Tenn. I definitely had high hopes for an amazing experience, and I was not disappointed. The in-depth CAT software training was topnotch, and there were free 30-minute one-on-one sessions with certified trainers! I totally took advantage of that huge perk. In the interest of keeping everyone up to date on the latest tech news, I also took the opportunity to interview Cindi Lynch, Stenograph’s trainer extraordinaire; James Kuta from Stenograph; and Lauren Lawrence from Stenovate.

Case CATalyst – RealTeam


The Stenograph team

Cindi Lynch from Stenograph gave me the rundown on this new feature for Case CATalyst.

LM | Give us an overview of the new feature of Case CATalyst — RealTeam.

CL | RealTeam is Stenograph’s simultaneous editing feature. It enables sharing of text, audio, and globals in real time. All of the RealTeam participants have access to all text, audio, and globals. For example, a reporter can be writing and translating in realtime while one or more scopists edit and/or proofreaders proof the same file; or, outside of realtime, two or more scopists and/or proofreaders can work simultaneously on the same file. This feature can significantly speed up the process of transcript production by enabling multiple parties to edit the same file during realtime or post-translation. Also, if the realtime is being output to CaseViewNet or a CARTView display, any party receiving a realtime text display also gets the benefit of more accurate translation.

LM | How is this a game-changer for aspiring realtime court reporters?

CL | This is a game-changing feature for everyone involved in transcript production — reporters, scopists, and proofers — as it enables editing and proofing to be done far more quickly. A reporter with a reliable partner, or multiple partners, can count on those partners to assist in the accurate editing of the file. This means more accurate realtime translation display and the ability to deliver the finished product more quickly than ever before. For a reporter who is not yet providing realtime, having a trusted partner who can correct on the fly could mean the difference in quality of output that could mean being confident enough to be able to provide realtime translation services to the other participants in the proceedings (vs. not providing those services). They can compete with their colleagues and out-deliver competitors.

LM | What are the main requirements for a court reporter and a scopist as far as software to utilize this new feature?

CL | All members of the team must be using Case CATalyst Version 20 and have an internet connection.

LM | What do you feel are the top three benefits of this new feature?

CL | These are my top picks:

1. Speed of delivery. A good team can provide more accurate translation during realtime and a final transcript very quickly after the conclusion of the proceedings. Instead of taking weeks or days, the transcript can realistically be completed same day or next day. That makes the clients happy and impressed with the service provided (which is also good for the profession as a whole).

2. Better schedule coverage/opportunities to earn more. Instead of dedicating one or two days a week to write and the rest of the week to edit, a reporter and scoping/proofing team has time to take more jobs. Realistically, a reporter could write 4-5 days per week, earning the income from those additional jobs.

3. Quality of life. Reporters working alone typically devote 3-4 hours of editing for every hour that they write. With teamwork, the job can be completed in far less time. That means a significant increase in the amount of time available to each person who works on a job. A reporter no longer must assume his or her job may eat up the weekend as well as the week. A scopist no longer has to miss his or her kid’s soccer game or forgo dinner plans with the significant other because he or she has hundreds of pages to edit and return. Firm owners and office managers from firms will have less stress because the jobs they are responsible for getting to the client are available to them faster than ever before. Getting the job of transcripts edited and delivered faster means more time to enjoy life beyond work. Less stress means greater satisfaction with life and work, which in turn has positive effects on one’s health and happiness. RealTeam can be the ticket to all this!

LM | Do the changes appear on a client’s realtime screen immediately?

CL | To a client viewing a CARTView window – yes. To a client viewing via CaseViewNet Browser or iCVNet or CaseViewNet PC – yes, ifthe reporter has a CaseViewNet license and thus has access to the Rapid Refresh feature that ensures that editing changes display immediately. A client viewing output via some other viewer or the product of a reporter without a CaseViewNet license would not have the same capabilities.

CaseViewNet

James Kuta from Stenograph offered more details on CaseViewNet.

LM | What is CaseViewNet and who should use it?

JK | CaseViewNet is a software platform for the realtime delivery of text to clients. CaseViewNet is used by court reporters and captioners to provide the delivery of text to attorneys, judges, and CART customers in realtime. CaseViewNet is useful in any situation where a client wants to receive a realtime text feed from a court reporter or broadcast or CART captioner.

CaseViewNet is a software platform that allows for both local and remote delivery of text through a local area network or the internet. There are three CaseViewNet viewing software platforms available:

  • CaseViewNet for Windows is a fully featured viewing software that allows for both local and remote viewing. It has tools clients can use to mark, annotate, search, and create text reports.
  • CaseViewNet for iPad is a lighter-weight viewer that is available for the Apple iPad devices. It has tools clients can use to mark and search text.
  • CaseViewNet Browser Edition is a browser-based text viewer that is compatible with most any device that has internet capabilities. Text can be marked and searched.

LM | What are the three most important features of CaseViewNet?

JK | There are many, but if I had to choose, these are the three I’d pick:

  • CaseViewNet has a Rapid Refresh feature that updates the text on the CaseViewNet viewing software with all editing changes made by the court reporter or scoping team during the realtime connection.
  • CaseViewNet allows court reporters to wirelessly send realtime text to clients, both locally and remotely, either through a local area network or through an internet connection.
  • CaseViewNet allows attorneys and CART clients to search for text, connect late and still receive a full feed of all text from before they connected, and save a copy of the transcript (if court reporter allows) in common litigation software formats.

LM | Does a court reporter need additional equipment besides a writer and laptop to get started?

JK | It is possible a court reporter will need a WiFi router. It depends on their work environment. If the reporter works where there is already a WiFi router available for use or other means of internet connection, no addition equipment is needed.

LM | Is your product user-friendly from a client perspective?

JK | We believe it is. The CaseViewNet for Windows and CaseViewNet for iPad viewing software are free to download and use. The CaseViewNet Browser Edition software does not even require download or installation. The client simply goes to caseviewnet.com. Connecting to a realtime feed is as simple as clicking connect and then selecting the court reporter in the connect dialog, in the case of a local area connection. For a remote internet connection, a client will be provided with a “session code” by the court reporter.

LM | What if a client wants access to realtime but they’re in a different location? Will CaseViewNet be a viable option?

JK | Absolutely. CaseViewNet has remote connection capabilities through an internet connection.

LM | Can a court reporter using different CAT software utilize CaseViewNet?

JK | Yes. Court reporters using CAT software other than Case CATalyst can still use CaseViewNet. There are two connection types available to reporters on other CAT software: a wired connection using serial cables or a wireless connection using the internet.

Stenovate

I spoke to Lauren Lawrence about Stenovate, a work management tool featured at STARtech19.

LM | What is Stenovate, and who should use it?

LL | Stenovate is a business admin and collaborative work management tool designed for the transcript community, a/k/a court reporters, scopists, transcriptionists, and proofreaders. Currently, we all have our own business “system.” We’re savvy enough to piece everything together and produce accurate verbatim records, but it’s so much more work than it has to be.

I’ve talked to countless transcript gurus and asked how they organize their work, find help, communicate with their team, transfer files, invoice, pay, and get paid. I listen to their “system,” and then I repeat it back to them to make sure I understand. “So you’re telling me you…” xyz, xyz, xyz. When I’m done repeating it back, they proudly say, “You’ve got it! That’s what I do!” as if I’ve cracked their code. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

We’re building Stenovate to give everyone a better system — one system. By doing this, we remove inefficiencies that have been slowing us down. Getting everyone on the same page (pun intended) will be a game-changer for this community.

LM | What problem does your product solve for court reporters and scopists?

LL | There’s plenty of fancy tools for when we’re on the record. Stenovate is for everything off the record. It’s for when you go home and need to prioritize, communicate who’s covering what, transfer files around, track invoices, etc. I’ve always said attorneys don’t realize that time on the record is only half the job. There’s a whole backlog of things to do from home, and that’s where Stenovate solves problems.

LM | If productivity is the ultimate goal, how much time will I save?

LL | Since we’re a brand-new technology solution in a space that’s never had a platform like this before, it’s hard to give you statistics without a history, but we can give you some really solid data from “Driving Strategic and Operational Agility with Modern Work Management” featuring research from Forrester, one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world.

The article explains that Collaborative Work Management (CWM) is a new way to organize, track, and manage work. It’s built to “encourage agility and clarity so everyone, regardless of their role, can successfully plan, manage, and deliver business-critical work.” The report claims that “companies that adopt a CWM solution” like Stenovate “realize significant positive impacts,” especially with increased productivity and improved cross-functional execution.

Even if you don’t have a bunch of employees and hold weekly meetings, you are running a business. Stenovate recognizes and respects your hustle. We’re really excited to be serving this incredible community, and we’re looking forward to saving you time, providing the opportunity to earn more, and helping grow your business.

LM | What tools that users currently use will be replaced with Stenovate?

LL | The right tool can give you the rocket fuel you need; however, a bundle of disconnected tools can hinder momentum. Here’s a list of what we’ve seen the community using to organize, communicate, transfer files, or create/track invoices:

Excel, Word, Google Calendar (or any calendar), Depobook, Trello, WhatsApp, Facebook (Messenger or Groups), LinkedIn, Scoof, Slack, Viber, We Transfer, Dropbox, Gmail (or any mail), Share File, PayPal, Freshbooks, Wave, Quickbooks, Reporter Suite, and/or Stenaura.

I’ll stop at 20. There are others, but I’m sure you can see why the current “system” can be a headache, especially if you’re collaborating with multiple people who use different tools.

LM | What’s the learning curve to use this software?

LL | We’ve worked with some amazing user-interface and user-experience designers to be sure that Stenovate is user-friendly for anyone, even those who are not “techie.” If you can use Facebook, you can use Stenovate.


Use social media to stay informed about NCRA

There are many ways to stay in touch with NCRA and our members.

First, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Stay on top of the latest NCRA news at theJCR.com. News is also sent out every Wednesday through the JCR Weekly email.

To make sure you see NCRA Facebook posts, check your notification settings. Click on the arrow in the top right-hand corner to bring down the drop-down menu. Choose News Feed Preferences. Next click on Prioritize who to see first. Click on NCRA to make sure our posts show up in your news feed.

Another option for interacting with others in court reporting, captioning, and legal videography is our Facebook groups. Members of the groups can post useful information or ask questions of their peers.

“There are so many avenues to gain our tech knowledge and advice these days,” said Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, of Germantown, Tenn., chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee. “Facebook is definitely one of the forums some court reporters go to as their first source. When choosing to utilize Facebook groups or pages, my go-to is Court Reporter Technology!”

NCRA offers these Facebook groups:

Legal Videographers – CLVS

Court Reporter Technology

NCRA’s Realtime Program

Scopists & Proofreaders – NCRA

Official Reporters – NCRA

CART Captioners – NCRA

Freelance Court Reporters – NCRA

Captioners – NCRA

“I would encourage and urge all our members and court reporter colleagues to make NCRA’s Court Reporter Technology Facebook group your first and ultimate resource to solve your technology questions,” Mueller said. 

It’s also possible to set your notifications for Facebook groups.

On the left-hand side of the Facebook page, click on Groups. To change the notification settings for a group, click on the asterisk next to the group name. That will bring up a menu of choices about how often you want to be notified about posts in the group.

“I can attest to the vast wealth of knowledge and technical expertise our Technology Committee members possess,” Mueller said. “Currently, the committee has several ongoing feature articles that are published periodically on all things technology and realtime: Ask the techie, TechLinks, and articles in TheJCR.com and the Journal of Court Reporting.

“Our Ask the Techie articles are generated from our member questions. The latest articles have concentrated on brief forms to help court reporters write short and have flawless realtime output. The Committee will tackle any of your questions and provide expert solutions and results for any technology or realtime situation! You may send the questions you want the Technology Committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.”

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:

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.

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.”

15 minutes a day for Michelle

By Rich Germosen

A few weeks after the NCRA Convention & Expo in San Francisco, in September 2014, I started a practice page on Facebook. My goal was to get more consistent with my steno practice. I would always practice, but then life would get in the way and I might not practice for a week or so. I wanted consistency and accountability. So I started the 100-day-challenge practice page on Facebook where you would report your practice once per day in a post. Members would encourage each other to keep their streaks going.

When I first started, I posted both my exercise and my steno to the 100-day exercise page I was already part of. Anne Vosburgh, a reporter friend who was in the practice group, suggested I make a 100-day page for just steno. She told me: Make the page and they will come. After a year or so, I made the group secret and put in the rules that you will be removed if you’re not participating. We’re now a relatively small group of anywhere between 130 to 140 members.

I felt if I had a page to post my practice to, that it would keep me going so that I would not skip any days of practice. It is so easy to not practice. But, today, it feels strange not practicing. If I have a job at 9 a.m. in New York City, I set my alarm for 3:59 to get my 15 minutes in before catching the train. The rules for the group are simple, or I think they are at least: Practice 15 minutes per day for 100 straight days without missing a day and post your practice once per day; for instance, “Day 1/100: 15 minutes of Q&A at 250,” or whatever it was. If you stop practicing, you are gently removed from the page.

I keep track of everyone’s milestones, and everyone encourages everyone else. We have a handful of students on there, but the majority of the people in the group are working reporters who want to improve. Personally, I feel I’ve improved a lot. Since starting the page, I’ve received three medals total, my first at the Deposition Reporters Association’s contest in 2017, third place in the 190 wpm Q&A; second place in the Q&A Realtime Contest in Las Vegas at NCRA’s 2017 Convention & Expo; and third place in the Q&A Speed Contest at NCRA’s 2018 Convention & Expo in New Orleans. Likewise, just about everyone who is on the page has mentioned that they see the improvement when they practice, as well as a decline if they take time out from practice.

Michelle Grimes and the 100-day-challenge group

In 2016, one of the members of the group, Michelle Grimes from Chicago, shared with us that she had cancer. Michelle felt safe in sharing with us that she was going through treatments. Through all of this, Michelle somehow kept practicing. It was very inspiring. She completed three 100-day challenges in total. While Michelle was going through treatments, another one of the group’s members, Allison “Allie” Hall, RMR, CRR, started something new by posting an extra 15 minutes for Michelle. It inspired several other people to post “15 minutes for Michelle” in addition to their regular 15 minutes. This means people were putting in a total of 30 minutes per day: 15 regular minutes and 15 for Michelle. We had a lot of members doing the extra 15 minutes for Michelle.

On May 11, 2017, Michelle passed away. She practiced right up until a week or so of passing. The thought on the page was if Michelle could practice through all this, we should practice consistently. Going from 15 minutes to 30 minutes was extremely challenging, especially on days where I’ve been on the record for 7 hours. I find I have to get my practice done before leaving for my 6 a.m. train. It doesn’t sound like a lot more, but 30 minutes is a lot more to do for 100 consecutive days.

I started a countdown of 100 days before the NCRA Speed Contest as a Michelle Challenge. We started on April 24, 2018. The 100th day was August 1, 2018, the day of the Speed Contest in New Orleans.

Nine members participated in the Speed Contest Michelle Challenge. She has left quite a legacy: She inspired us all to never stop improving and to keep practicing. I dedicated both of my NCRA medals — one in 2017 and one this past Convention in NOLA — to Michelle Grimes. She inspired me to practice more and always to improve and get better. Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, received a medal in NOLA and also did the Michelle Challenge prior to Convention, as well as Traci Mertens, RDR, CRR, CRC. We had a lot of qualifiers, including Allie Hall and Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC.

I am confident, if it were not for Michelle Grimes and our special challenge to honor her, I would not have gone ahead and done 30 minutes per day for 100 days. I would have had good intentions, but deep down inside, I know it was all Michelle pushing us all to be better writers. I encourage you to start your own practice group and make it a goal to improve a little bit each day.

Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter and agency owner from North Brunswick, N.J. He also holds the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate.