Interview with Elliot Bentley, creator of oTranscribe

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Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 14.47.58oTranscribe is a new web app that promises to make transcription easier for journalists. The application is both an audio player and a text editor, meaning that journalists no longer need two programs open when transcribing an interview.

Elliot Bentley created the web app last year when he found other transcription software to be less functional and user-friendly than he would have liked.

How did you come up with the idea?

oTranscribe is far from the first piece of software designed to make transcription easier. I’ve used a couple over the years, but none were as functional or as user-friendly as I’d liked. Having learnt to code over the past couple of years, I decided to put my skills to the test and build my own app.

I like to think that I drew on my own experiences when designing the app, as I’m a member of the target market. In many ways I built it for myself, and ended up with a product that other people happen to find useful.

How did you launch the service?

I opted for a soft launch, putting the app online with minimal fanfare to collect feedback. The closest thing to an official launch was a talk I did at Hacks/Hackers London in front of 150 tech journalists – their tweets and articles did the promotion for me.

oTranscribe

What has the reaction been so far?

Very positive. It’s been covered by The Guardian, The Next Web, Lifehacker, Fast Company and Wannabe Hacks, and I’m aware of reporters for several UK national papers making regular use of it. In terms of hits, this currently equates to around 500 daily users (and that figure is rising each week). Promotion has been almost entirely organic; today it apparently bounced around the BuzzFeed offices and was tweeted about by its UK editor.

 

 

I’ve also seen an unexpected number of non-English speaking users using the site too, especially in Japan. すごい です!

Will it ever be possible for software to transcribe the audio for you automatically? Is that your next challenge?

If oTranscribe is equivalent to building a treehouse, auto-transcription is more like establishing a colony on the moon. It’s the sort of task that people have spent decades working on; even Google and Apple’s implementations (Siri and similar) are unreliable at best. By the time computers are intelligent enough to transcribe our audio for us, we’ll have bigger things to worry about.

Check out more of our interviews with the biggest names and brightest sparks in digital journalism:

Interview with Dan Davies, iPad Editor of Esquire Weekly

Interview Luke Lewis of Buzzfeed (Part 1) – ‘We’ve struggled with sports’

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