NCRA members sweep top spots at 2017 world speed competition

Three smiling people stand on a podium of various heights (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) holding certificates. In the background are a collection of international flags.

Sheri Smargon, Jen Schuck, and John Wissenbach stand on the podium at Intersteno. They claimed the top three spots in the Speech Capturing event, seniors division. Photo by Charlie Fiss.

NCRA members dominated the 2017 Intersteno World Speed Competition held during the organization’s 51st Congress, which took place July 22-28 in Berlin, Germany, including a sweep of the top three spots.

Jen Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Scottsdale, Ariz., took gold while Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, Riverview, Fla., and Tori Pittman, FAPR, RDR, CRI, Wake Forest, N.C., earned the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

In the Speech Capturing event, seniors division, the top six spots were also claimed by NCRA members Schuck; Smargon; John Wissenbach, RDR, CRR, CRC, San Francisco, Calif.; Jennifer Costales, RMR, CRR, The Hague, Netherlands; Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, Boise, Idaho; and Kelly Linkowski, RPR, CRR, CRC, CPE, Rittman, Ohio.

Pittman grabbed first place in the Speech Captioning Voice event, seniors division, while Schuck took home a bronze in the Audio Transcription event, seniors division.

For several of this year’s competitors, the trip to compete at the Intersteno Congress was not their first time. In 2015, Wissenbach earned top honors in the Intersteno Realtime Speech Capturing event, seniors division, held in Budapest, Hungary. Shuck has previously placed third in the world in the Intersteno Realtime Speech Capturing event, seniors division, held in Paris in 2011, and second in the same event held in 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Pittman also competed in the 2015 world competition, ranking 30th in the Realtime Speech Capturing event, seniors division.

The Intersteno competitions follow methods: to take down a text read at an increasing speed or to enter texts and data processed with a computer. In both cases, speed and accuracy determine success.

In the Speech Capturing event, competitors take and transcribe a five-minute dictation at progressive speed. Competitors choose the text to transcribe among three consecutive five-minute legs of dictations given at speeds increased each minute. The initial and final speeds of each dictation are related to the language of the competitors, according to a comparison table set up by the Intersteno Council. At least the first three minutes of dictation must be transcribed successfully. Transcription is handed out on-site on USB sticks or with hand transcription for competitors using traditional shorthand.

In the Audio Transcription event, competitors transcribe a digitally recorded dictation in their mother tongue for 10 minutes. The dictation lasts 15 minutes at a constant and, for the language in question, normal speech speed.

The seniors division is made of all competitors ages 21 and over.

Intersteno, the International Federation for Information and Communication Processing, is a worldwide community with members that represent all manners of information technology, including court reporters and captioners as well as secretaries, teachers, parliamentary reporters, and others who use any technology that produces fast writing. The organization holds its Congress every two years and offers attendees a schedule full of educational sessions, presentations, and competitions in realtime, speed, audio translation, typing, and more. Other activities often include galas and tours of the host city or local area. The event offers attendees a unique view of how the written word captured throughout the world.

For more information about Intersteno, visit Intersteno.org.

Internet Keyboarding Competition sign-ups close April 10

Those interested in participating in Intersteno’s Internet Keyboarding Competition should sign up before April 10.

“You can do the online contest from the comfort of your own home, no passports or international travel required,” says Tori Pittman, RDR, CRI, chair of NCRA’s Intersteno Task Force. “It’s a small and easy step to learning more about your global counterparts.”

Competitors will be using the Taki software, which is downloadable from the Intersteno website, and can participate on a day of their own choosing between April 11 and May 2. Pittman recommends doing some research before competing “Go to the site and do the practice sessions so you understand how the software works,” she suggests.

Court reporting students who are interested in participating should contact their instructor about registering.

Competitors need to provide 1) their full name and address; 2) year of birth; 3) technology to be used (keyboard, stenotype machine); 4) language: mother-tongue or multilingual; and 5) the date they plan to take the test to intersteno@ncra.org. The cost of the contest in U.S. dollars is:

  • $6 for participation only in the mother tongue
  • $8 for competitors writing in two or more languages

Checks must be received by NCRA no later than April 10. Participants will be registered once the check is received. Checks should be made payable to NCRA and mailed to:

NCRA

Attention: Internet Competition

12030 Sunrise Valley Dr., Suite 400

Reston, VA 20191

More information on the contest is available at intersteno.org/intersteno-internet-contests/.

GOING GLOBAL: The Intersteno experience

 

By Tori Pittman

Have you heard about the Intersteno Congress? Intersteno 2015, the 50th Congress, was held in Hungary the week before the NCRA Convention & Expo took place in New York. Several members of NCRA participated – but we would love to have more for Intersteno 2017 in Berlin.

Officially, Intersteno is the International Federation for Information and Communication Processing. As such, it encompasses all manner of information technology, but the court reporting subset is part of a group entitled the Intersteno Parliamentary and Other Reporters Section, or more informally IPRS.

Every two years, Intersteno holds a Congress – like NCRA’s annual convention – in which members participate in seminars, excursions, networking events, and competitions. The seminars are usually held in a school of some kind, whether it’s a college or a secondary school, and the competitions are also usually held there as well. Gala events may or may be held in other locales. And excursions could be anything from a walking or cycling tour to a bus tour of the host city or local area.

The competitions are myriad, and the competitors range in age from 8 or 9 years old to people in their 60s and older! Team USA mainly competed in the Audio Transcription, Speech Capturing, and Realtime Speech Capturing categories. Additional competitions include Text Production, Text Correction, Professional Word Processing, and Note Taking and Reporting.

One of our first-time attendees, Clay Frazier, RMR, CRR, of Los Angeles, Calif., said this of his experience: “For seven years, I have been a deposition and arbitration stenographic reporter in California. Having competed in state and national competitions in the United States the last two years, I decided to try my hand at Intersteno. I had the desire to measure my stenographic proficiency and to represent my county in doing so. What I left Budapest with amounts to much more. Keyboardists from other countries were not just eager to share with me their writing systems but also their friendship. The atmosphere of the Intersteno festivities was enjoyable and educational, and I found the beauty of Budapest to be nothing short of breathtaking. I am honored to have been a part of it and look forward to Berlin in 2017.”

If you would like more information about Intersteno, please see the following links:
Intersteno.org/

Intersteno2017.org/

Facebook.com/INTERSTENO-International-Federation-for-info-and-communication-processing-187448026111/timeline/

Facebook.com/groups/IPRSinfo/

Facebook.com/groups/119594114841115/

We look forward to sharing our Intersteno experiences with you and hopefully inspire you to become part of Team USA for the Internet Competition in spring 2016 and Berlin in summer 2017.
Tori Pittman, RDR, CRI, a freelancer in Wake Forest, N.C., also attended the 2015 Intersteno Contest. She is chair of NCRA’s Intersteno Task Force. She can be reached at tori@tori-pittman.com.

 

The Intersteno experience

InterstenoBy Tori Pittman

You may have heard a little bit about Intersteno on social media in the past few months. Intersteno 2015, the 50th Congress, was held in Hungary the week before the NCRA Convention & Expo took place in New York. Several members of NCRA participated, but we would love to have more for Intersteno 2017 in Berlin.

Officially, Intersteno is the International Federation for Information and Communication Processing. As such, it encompasses all manner of information technology, but the court reporting subset is part of a group entitled the Intersteno Parliamentary and Other Reporters Section, or more informally IPRS.

Every two years, Intersteno holds a Congress – like our annual convention – in which members participate in seminars, excursions, networking events, and competitions. The seminars and competitions are usually held in a school of some kind, whether it’s a college or a secondary school. Gala events may or may not have other locales. And excursions could be anything from a walking or cycling tour to a bus tour of the host city or local area.

There are a myriad of competitions, and the competitors range in age from 8 or 9 years old to people in their 60s and older! Team USA mainly competed in audio transcription, speech capturing, and realtime speech capturing. Additional competitions include text production, text correction, professional word processing, and note taking and reporting.

One of our first-time attendees, Clay Frazier, RMR, CRR, of Los Angeles, Calif., said this of his experience: “For seven years, I have been a deposition and arbitration stenographic reporter in California. Having competed in state and national competitions in the United States the last two years, I decided to try my hand at Intersteno. I had the desire to measure my stenographic proficiency and to represent my country in doing so. What I left Budapest with amounts to much more. Keyboardists from other countries were not just eager to share with me their writing systems but also their friendship. The atmosphere of the Intersteno festivities was enjoyable and educational, and I found the beauty of Budapest to be nothing short of breathtaking. I am honored to have been a part of it and look forward to Berlin in 2017.”

If you would like more information about Intersteno, please visit the organization online intersteno.org or intersteno2017.org. There is also a Facebook page for Intersteno as well as discussion groups, including Intersteno USA and IPRS – Intersteno Parliamentary and other Professional Reporters.

We look forward to sharing our Intersteno experiences with you and hopefully inspire you to become part of Team USA for the Internet Competition in spring 2016 and Berlin in the summer of 2017.

 

Tori Pittman, RDR, CRI, a freelancer in Wake Forest, N.C., also attended the 2015 Intersteno Contest. She is chair of NCRA’s Intersteno Task Force. She can be reached at tori@tori-pittman.com.

Intersteno online keyboarding contest a fun event for competitors

More than 1,500 people from 20 different nations competed in Intersteno’s month-long Internet keyboarding contest.

“When I received an email [about the contest] in March, I was thrilled. It was a way I could be a part of Intersteno and not have to worry about travel expenses and insane dictation speeds,” said Julia Griffin, RPR, of Starke, Fla., who competed in the contest. “As anyone would, I would have loved to come in first. But 75th out of nearly 2,000 people isn’t shabby. I’m kind of proud of myself.”

The contest pits people from all over the world against each other on 10 minutes of text entry through a special software program available on the Intersteno website. All U.S. contestants were over 21 years of age and needed to produce a minimum of 240 characters per minute with a maximum error rate of 0.50%.

“There’s some awesome competition on the Net with some phenomenal typists, and it is really amazing how deep the competition is! The only thing that I am somewhat worried about is if I am going to improve. But typing is like anything: Practice makes perfect,” said Russell David Olsen, who placed 26th overall.

Results for the U.S. competitors are as follows:

Place Name School/Association Strokes per minute Total strokes Errors Error %
2 Sean Wrona Intersteno USA 808 8080 2 0.025
5 Jerry Lefler, RPR, CRR NCRA 854 8540 32 0.375
7 Jelani Nelson Intersteno USA 689 6894 12 0.174
11 Kelly D. Linkowski, RPR, CRR, CBC, CPE NCRA 670 6705 16 0.239
26 Russell David Olsen NCRA 572 5728 13 0.227
75 Julia Griffin, RPR NCRA 413 4130 5 0.121
91 Linda Kay Fritsch, RMR NCRA 389 3890 6 0.154
95 Mary Koromec NCRA 400 4004 9 0.225
103 Donna L. Linton, RMR NCRA 437 4373 18 0.412
153 Maellen Pittman, RDR, CLVS NCRA 370 3705 17 0.459

A first-time competitor’s experience at Intersteno

InterstenoIn Paris, July 2011, my husband I were invited to join the Intersteno-sponsored excursion to the French parliament even though we weren’t officially registered (Thank you!). During the tour, two friends of mine, one from NCRA and one from the National Verbatim Reporters Association, both court reporting associations that represent the United States, suggested that I ought to participate in the contests “next time.” (I was there in Paris during the Intersteno Congress, but I was with my husband and, well, it’s Paris! I didn’t sign up for anything.)

The venue for the 2013 Congress was announced as Ghent, Belgium. I agreed to participate in the speed contest (called speech capturing) using my speech recognition engine and CAT software. As many of you know, my tendinitis continues to make writing on the steno machine painful. I’m continuing to report using my voice instead.

In the past, I was like you. What is Intersteno? I’d heard of this kind of nebulous organization that had meetings every two years in pretty cool places — Rome in 2003; Vienna in 2005; Prague in 2007; Beijing in 2009; Paris in 2011 — and I’m a huge fan of travel. This seemed like a really great way to merge my love of travel with my love of court reporting.

Because I made the commitment, I decided to join a couple of Facebook pages , the Intersteno USA and the IPRS (Intersteno Parliamentary and other Reporters Section) page. I was trying to soak up the information that was posted. By the fall of 2012, I’d made my plane reservations. Sergeant Al, as I dubbed my husband, was in charge of finding lodgings and planning our excursions. He’s really a great tour guide.

I worked pretty steadily either reporting or scoping up until the week before the Congress, and I must admit that I was completely unprepared and didn’t know what to expect. I had paid my fees, but I didn’t really understand what was actually going to happen. And let me just say that paying the fees was an adventure in and of itself (foreign wire transfer? Huh?).

We arrived in Ghent on a Friday. I registered on Saturday and then attended the opening ceremony on Saturday afternoon. It was a spectacle! Flags from participating nations borne by their country’s Intersteno representative made their way into the assembly hall and onto the stage.

The organizers spoke, we had entertainment, including a fabulous piano recital by an Intersteno board member, and then there was a group “hike” up the street to the Congress venue (a local school), all those glorious flags waving.

My competition wasn’t scheduled until Monday. Speech capturing is the equivalent of the speed competition at the NCRA and NVRA national conventions. Most of the other countries count using characters per minute and not words, so I was already unsure how things were going to equate. There were six English speakers taking the same speed take: Four Americans writing in steno, one Brit on a Velotype (I still don’t understand that keyboard), and me, the one American taking it down in speech recognition (voice). I was in a separate room from the steno writers for my takedown, but I was able to transcribe with my compatriots (and the friendly Brit), freeing up the proctor from my room to work elsewhere.

The take was a literary, and it was a total of 15 minutes long. The basic format is it’s actually three 5-minute takes, each minute increasing in speed, with a pause of 30 seconds between the first and second take and then between the second and third.

I was able to pick the brains of the other Americans to see how they approached the speed contest. There are differing philosophies amongst the competitors regarding how to proceed. Some write all takes; some write only the last take and, instead, listen to the first 10 minutes and make job defines, hoping that words and phrases will appear in the last 5 minutes.

I was of the “write it all” mindset. I’d never done this before, so why not just ease my way into it? I got all set up — remember, we’re in Europe, so I had to be sure I had my little power inverter/adapter! — and then gave the “go” signal to my proctor. Then I started dictating.

It was over faster than I expected. All of a sudden the audio stopped. I looked up, surprised. I had no idea it had been 15 minutes already. I was in “the zone,” as we say when we talk to students.

After I stopped writing, I switched to edit mode. I relocated to the transcription room and got set up. (I think the group agreed to a quick comfort break.) Then we started to transcribe. The transcription time allotted was two and a half hours. I think I went through my file four times, then spell checked, then went through it again.

Once I packed up, I met with the gang out in the hall to get a sense of how folks felt. I wasn’t overly confident — I was pleased that I transcribed it all the way through to the full 15 minutes — but I was cautiously optimistic.

And then the waiting began. Remember, this was Monday. We were told we would get our grades at our personal log-in account Tuesday. (Log-in account? What? I didn’t remember that! I had to go digging in my email box to find it.) Sadly, they didn’t say when Tuesday. Just like at NCRA convention, there is a team of wonderful volunteers who do the grading, and there were a lot of papers.

We played tourist on Tuesday (deciding against sitting in a couple of IPRS meetings) since I was pretty mentally tired.

But when we got back to our house, since we had free WiFi, I was checking constantly. I don’t know why, though. When I finally got my score, I didn’t have a clue what it meant. It said, “A15, 38 deductions.” What did that mean?

Well, now I knew my score. I felt confident that I qualified to the 15th minute. But, really, what were the 38 deductions? For the whole paper? For the 3-minute section that qualified to be graded? For the last minute? I was clueless. And so we waited. (I know the answer now, however: The deductions were for the 3-minute section that was graded, minutes 13 to 15. But when I first saw that, all I had were questions.)

Wednesday brought a field trip to the European Union parliament. Two buses filled with IPRS folks headed to Brussels and spent the day learning about how the EU reporters do their job and visiting the EU’s visitor center and its amazing display of the history of the EU.

Thursday rolled around and the awards and closing ceremony was scheduled for the late afternoon. We dressed nicely, but some folks got all gussied up. Some of the kids, what can I say but “Wow!” These youngsters were dressed to the nines for this event. In the States, we send our kids to summer camps; some of the competitor countries send their kids to keyboarding camps. Intersteno is a big deal for these competitors.

As I found my seat with the American contingent, the flags were again brought into the auditorium, this time accompanied by bagpipe music. I get chills thinking about it now. As I looked down on the stage, there were easily three 8-foot tables loaded down with medals — gold, silver, bronze — for all of the competitions and for each of the age groupings.

The results were displayed on a big screen for each of the events. There were several young people who got multiple medals. They were like rock stars! We had another piano interlude and then they were ready to announce the results in the section I had competed: Speech Capturing.

At this point, we’re all starting to get a bit nervous — or at least I am. Steno was first. The names were displayed one by one: U.S. NCRA member John Wissenbach won the bronze, and we all screamed! John got up and headed down the stairs to collect his medal and certificate and stand on the podium to get his picture taken. Silver was a young woman from China (who wasn’t at the ceremony). And the gold went to NCRA member Laura Brewer from the United States! Again, more screaming.

Sadly, Laura had had to leave Belgium early for a reporting assignment. Not a bad showing for Team U.S.A.!

And then the speech recognition specialty were announced: Bronze went to Italy. Then silver went to Italy. Then, gold: “Tori Pittman, United States.” I have no clear memory of the next few moments. My husband swears I jumped up and flew down the stairs. He followed me because he wanted to take pictures.

Here’s the thing: I wish every one of you could experience a moment like this. I climbed up to the top step of the podium, bent my head and, like an Olympian, received my gold medal (and a certificate of my results). I looked out into the audience and saw my friends clapping, laughing, and giving me thumbs up. My husband took a picture that captured the moment clearly. In it, I look totally in shock. And I was.

Later, when I got back to my seat, my American friends were all smiles and full of words of congratulations. Folks I hadn’t met during the event came up to congratulate me. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. In fact, I’m not done yet with the smiling and disbelief.

Intersteno is an opportunity like no other. You get to meet people from around the world, to share ideas and customs, to visit the host country’s parliamentary seat, to eat great food, to see great sights, and to participate in competitions doing what you love to do. There is an Intersteno Congress every two years. Countries bid to host it. Maybe someday the United States will host one. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for where the 2015 location will be, join the Facebook pages, start to practice your literary at high speeds (the last minute was approximately 295 words per minute), and come share in the excitement of the world stage. You’ll never forget it, and you could come home with a pretty nifty souvenir.

Tori Pittman, RDR, CRI, won the 2013 Intersteno Speech Capturing contest in Ghent in July. Pittman can be reached through www.tori-pittman.com.

Brewer wins Intersteno speech capturing in stenotype

The American contingent had a strong showing at the 49th Intersteno Competition, held this year in Ghent, Belgium. Laura Brewer, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, took top honors in the Shorthand/Speech Capturing section in stenotype. Rui Wang of China placed second, and John Wissenbach, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, captured third. In addition, Patricia Nilsen, RMR, CRR, CCP, CRI, placed fourth, and Dee Boenau, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, placed fifth.

NCRA member Tori Pittman, RDR, CRI, earned first place in the Shorthand/ Speech Capturing section in speech recognition.