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Posting Class Notes vs. Class Transcripts Online December 7, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Educational Podcasts, Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Transcription, University Podcasting.

What happens in an educational class determines what should get posted online about that class.

(This topic comes from the idea of posting transcripts of the podcast from a class.  If you have a class, and you record it, then you podcast it, you’re supposed to (508 compliance) also post the transcript of that class.  What if, however, you don’t have the resources to do so?)

I’ve sat in classes where the professor uses it as an opportunity to discuss readings, have the class interact, or introduce ideas off the cuff to students.  If that is recorded, and will be part of the information a student needs to succeed in the course, then the audio needs to be transcripted.

I’ve also sat in classes where the professor reads through notes and doesn’t deviate very much from what they say.  If this class is podcasted, and if the notes read through in class are what a student needs to succeed in the class… then I don’t believe that the transcript needs to be published… the notes do.

Publishing the notes that have already been written is obviously a faster and less expensive or time comsuming endeavor than to transcript every class.

The intent of 508 compliance is to provide individuals with the same opportunity to suceed as other inviduals.  If merely posting notes provides that, then you have met the criteria.


Section 508 Compliant Podcasting and Undue Burden November 22, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Captioning, Podcast Transcription, Podcasting.

In general, the purpose of section 508 is to build as much accessibility as is reasonably possible into general products developed, procured, maintained, or used by agencies. I received some email from my post yesterday about Section 508 Compliant Podcasts asking “What about undue burden?”

The actual wording of the text is… do all the accessibility things… “unless an undue burden would be placed on that agency to do so.”

Undue burden is defined as “significant difficulty or expense.” Though significant is relative, when it comes to podcasting, I believe we can break it down to the following:

To be 508 complaint, there are two main things you must do… certain podcasts meeting the agency mission criteria are under the multimedia file definition of the 508 standards and must be (1) captioned or (2) audio described depending on the format and content of the podcast.

Let’s start with (2) audio described. Laying a voice over track to video if you’re doing podcasting isn’t hard. This is something that you should be capable of and not a problem.

In contrast, (1) captioning is not in the typical suite of tools for a podcaster. So far, we have solved this issue with transcripts for audio podcasts, and there are companies that do this for you, or you can do your own transcription. Video podcasts require more time and effort. Though again, there are companies that will do captioning of video, it can sometimes be expensive to do so. Tools and software for closed captioning video are also fairly expensive and some podcatchers do not accept the file formats needed to caption the video.

I believe this is where undue burden can be applied. To the weekly podcaster who is podcasting as a hobby, closed captioning may be out of reach. I think you can safely say that undue burden is met at this point and you will provide a transcript of the audio with audio description to get as close to accessible as possible. For the company, university, or agency that is video podcasting, has a podcast meeting the agency mission criteria, and has the resources to open or close caption the video… I believe the law states that it needs to be captioned.

Section 508 Compliant Podcasting November 21, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Captioning, Podcasting.

Section 508 – Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards – requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees and members of the public with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by that of employees and members of the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be placed on that agency to do so.

So, what does it have to do with podcasting?! Subpart A, or the”General” part of Section 508, list the purpose, application, exceptions, and definitions that set up the actual technical standards. In the definitions section there is a definition that infers podcasts need to comply:

Information technology includes computers, ancillary equipment, information kiosks, World Wide Web sites, etc… and they also list “multimedia.”

Multimedia can be used to describe many different things, but the next section of the document, Subpart B – Technical Standards of Section 508, is organized into six sections:

  • software applications and operating systems
  • web-based intranet and internet information and applications
  • telecommunications products
  • video and multimedia products
  • self contained, closed products
  • desktop and portable computers

In the web-based intranet and internet information and applications section:

  • Paragraph (a) requires that a text equivalent for every non-text element be provided on a web page. These non-text elements include photographs, images, and other multimedia files. I believe that audio and video files are considered multimedia.
  • Paragraph (b) says that equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation should be synchronized with the presentation. That would require, for example, an audio portion of a multimedia production be captioned (as required in paragraph (a)), but the captioning be synchronized with the audio. The bottom line being that an enhanced podcast (similar to a presentation) should be captioned on each picture or slide with the corresponding words of the audio file.
  • Paragraph (m) requires that web pages which provide proprietary files on their site such as Real Audio or a PDF also provide a link to a plug-in that will allow the user to get the file. The implications here are that you may need to link to an audio player and/or allow people to play your podcasts directly from your web page (which is just good practice anyway).

Now for the detailed video and multimedia productions section and captioning audio material:

  • Paragraph (c) requires the captioning of audio material in certain multimedia presentations. This statement takes the prior one and limits it slightly in that they only state that

All training and informational video and multimedia productions which support the agency’s mission, regardless of format, that contain speech or other audio information necessary for the comprehension of the content, shall be open or closed captioned.

  • What that says to me, in a university setting, is that a video of a student signing up for classes would not need to be captioned. If that video, though, then became part of a “How to Register for Your Course” video posting, it would have to be captioned and audio described.

Continuing with the detailed video and multimedia productions section and now providing an audio description:

  • On the opposite side of the accessibility spectrum, Paragraph (d) requires that certain multimedia presentations (again, using the definition above) provide an audio description of visual material:

All training and informational video and multimedia productions which support the agency’s mission, regardless of format, that contain visual information necessary for the comprehension of the content, shall be audio described.

  • So, again with the analogy in a university setting. If you have a news video where a student is sitting behind a desk speaking, the video does not contain visual information necessary for the comprehension of the content. However, if the video cuts away to a clip of video showing a student registering for class and the speaker is not narrating, it would have to be audio described.

Bottom line – certain podcasts meeting the agency mission criteria are under the multimedia file definition of the 508 standards and must be captioned or audio described depending on the format and content of the podcast.

DIY / How-To Podcast Transcription November 3, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Transcription, Podcasting.

How do you transcript podcasts if you don’t want to pay someone else to? Well, you have three options:

  1. Listen to your podcast and transcribe it yourself.
  2. Purchase some software to help you do it.
  3. There is no number three. :)

When thinking about option 1 and typing it all out yourself… consider this:

  • the average person talks at 140 words per minute
  • there are 4.5 letter per word on average in the English language
  • 140 * 4.5 = 630 characters or key strokes
  • add spaces between words (140) and punctuation (30) and you get
  • 800 characters spoken per minute

Further think about this:

  • the average person can type 60 words per minute
  • 60 * 4.5 = 270 chars or key strokes
  • spaces and punctuation added =
  • 340 characters typed per minute

I like running numbers on things:

  • 340 characters typed into 800 characters spoken =
  • approximately 2 1/2 minutes of typing for every minute spoken

I’ll spare you the rest of what I was thinking, but you obviously can’t type as fast as you talk. So, you’ll have to stop and start the podcast and type what you hear as you go. If your podcast is 5 minutes long, that’s approximately 15 minutes of typing time. A 20 minute podcast would take the average person 1 hour of strait typing to transcribe. An hour podcast would take 3 hours of typing to transcribe.

Want to hear about option 2?

Sorry this is going to be so simple, but… go buy yourself a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking. There are several versions of it, but you’ll need the Preferred version for $200. It, unlike the Standard version, gives you an option of dictation with ‘after the fact’ text from audio conversion. It will ‘listen’ to a wav file and type it out for you in a text document that can be saved in word or as a pdf. I’m searching for other options and mac friendly pieces of software that are as feature rich as Dragon, but from the one’s that I’ve seen, I haven’t found one as good yet that I’d recommend.

It’s your choice to post your transcript in your show notes, on a website, etc. I suggest creating a separate RSS feed of the transcripts so those that want to consume your podcast in that format can do so.

As recommended in a past post, CastingWords does a great job of transcribing, and is $0.42 / minute. At that rate, it would take you 476 minutes to use up the $200 that you would pay for Dragon. So, if you like to do it yourself, great, but the overhead may just not be worth it. $200 at CastingWords = Ninety-five 5 minute podcasts = Twenty-three 20 minute podcasts = Seven 60 minute podcasts… you decide?

I leave you with this: the world record for spoken words per minute is 603! 5 minutes of that and you’d be typing for an hour and 1/2… yikes!

Podcast Captioning November 2, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Captioning, Podcasting.

Closed captioning podcasts, subtitling podcasts, captioned podcasts, or podcast subtitles are all ways of saying the same thing. Video podcast captioning is simply words added in some form or another to your podcast. These ideas don’t just have to be for video podcasts, here is the step by step process on captioning audio podcasts in iTunes: http://www.automaticsync.com/caption/podcaption.htm

For the rest of this post, I want to focus on video captioning. Yesterday I talked about transcription services and and how transcripts can be made for audio/video podcasts.

Also, to get a bit more background, see my post on Podcasting Accessibility where I go into why and how you would actually approach captioning your vodcast (overlay, silent film method, or extra text bar). Anyway you do it, adding words to your audio or video podcast is a good idea because:

  1. it makes your podcast accessible to the over one million deaf people in the United States, and over 28 million people that suffer from some sort of hearing loss
  2. it can be used as a tool for people learning English as a second language and those working to improve their literacy skills
  3. it can be viewed by people on their computer or mobile media device in places where the audio would be intrusive or they did not have or could not use headphones (i.e. @ work)

Examples of Closed Captioned Video

  • tecnocato closed captioned podcast – tecnocatos is Spanish for tech-addicts… here is a great example of someone using cutting edge technology and a bit of ingenuity to caption a podcast. Though their subtitles are a slight hack, and take some doing, it works very well. If you’re interested in doing subtitles like these, I found out that he uses Textation and he used LiveStage to create a QuickTime sprite that turns the captions on and off. If you have a copy of QuickTime Pro, you can extract the sprite and use it in your podcast.
  • A homemade closed captioning example – here’s an example of a simple captioning example being used for the right reasons.

Closed Captioning Software

  • http://www.cpcweb.com/Captioning/cap_splash.htm – not a bad captioning option… still a fairly manual process even though when you buy the product, it ‘feels’ like it will save a lot of time. Auto captioning is, from who I’ve talked to and what I’ve used, seems to be just as much work as having your podcast transcripted with time signatures, and putting the text into a quicktime text stream yourself.

Doing Your Own Captions

Closed Captioning and Subtitling Companies
I always like to suggest companies for those of you who have the ambition, but not the time. In this case, you’re also going to need cash… because it’s not cheap.

Thanks for the positive feedback on the posts this week. I will post a how to setup a self transcription studio setup tomorrow.

Recommended Podcasting Transcription Service November 1, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Transcription, Podcasting.

Update: https://jdfrey.wordpress.com/2007/10/15/podcast-transcription-service-update/

After my post yesterday about podcasting transcription services, I was emailed by two transcription services (one that I had on my list, and one I did not). I decided not to contact the one that I didn’t review after browsing their website, but I did actually talk to the one that was already on my list. I found it interesting (take note all you advertisers, companies, and self-promoters) that they monitor search engines for articles, blog postings, and news related to their business so that they can react to trends and respond to what people are saying. Their reaction to my post was positive, but they were wondering if I needed a demo account or could point them to a podcast so that they could ‘prove our worth.’ It wasn’t needed because I already had dealings with them and though they are on my list, they’re not on top. Who is?

There’s something to be said for the cost… more than $1.00 less than the rest of the services. How so cheap? They employ average people to do the transcription (see their application for employment on the website). Also, though there are restrictions on the types of files, audio quality, number of speakers, etc… they fit with what a typical podcaster is already doing… and those restrictions help keep the cost low as well. I think the cost is well worth the accessibility aspect of the service. I refer back to my podcast accessibility post from a couple days ago to prove that point.

Jon Udell recently talked about CastingWords, saying “I’d rate the quality of the transcription as very good.” He also did a follow-up post where he talked about his ongoing experience with the service:

42 cents per minute, 620 minutes of audio, 260 dollars. That’s just astoundingly cost-effective, and the quality of the results is excellent. I submitted the order on August 3, and the work was done on August 9.

I have to agree… cost-effective quality. Every once in a while there is some clean-up involved with some word or term that needs corrected, but those are worth the decreased cost that you pay with this service. You can subscribe to an RSS feed of your transcripts which can be edited and then released to the public.

Number 2 on my list? enablr who has a product/offering called transcribr. Besides good personal experience with the company, I like the business model and the ideas that they have about their pro versions of things. They will eventually subscribe to your podcast and turn the transcription around within a few days… charging you the per minute fee associated with your podcast. I’m anxious for the new offerings so I can send people there and see what they think.

Stay tuned… at the end of this week I’ll fill you in on how to easilty create our own transcription.

Accessible Podcasts October 30, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Captioning, Podcast Transcription, Podcasting, University Podcasting.

Audio and video podcasts are not accessible to deaf (audio) or blind (video) individuals. Accessibility of emerging technologies is always an issue that I try to deal with early on in the process of rolling it out. Being at a diverse university, and it is highly important that all that my team does be usable and accessible. We set up a usability testing lab last year and incorporated accessibility testing equipment/software as well. We run our web sites and applications through rigorous testing, but what to do with podcasts?

There are a couple ways to go about making your podcasts more accessible. Podcast transcription services and closed captioning services are available. Podcasting accessibility not only opens up your podcast to individuals with disabilities, it allows consumers who like to receive their information in a different media type the opportunity to do so. I’m not saying that accessibility for the disabled is not a good enough reason to do some of the things I’m going to mention, but there are many other benefits that you have to consider.

Since this issue is so large, I’m going to dedicate this week to discussing it with you. If you have any questions surrounding the accessibility of podcasts, be it this week or in the future, email them to me. I’ll try to answer all the questions that I’ve received so far, as well as give you a run down of the services out there with my recommendations. I also will focus on a day on building your own transcription studio.

I haven’t given you any tips or help today… and I can’t leave without doing so…

If you would like to make your podcasts more accessible, there are three main groups of people to consider.

  1. Seeing impaired
  2. Hearing impaired
  3. Sight and Sound impaired (combo of 1 and 2)


  1. Podcast Transcription. Consider transcribing your podcast and posting a link during the podcast (if video or enhanced) or in the show notes for the podcast. – see my updated transcription post
    Problem? The complaint I’ve heard is that it doesn’t help the person that wants to subscribe. In this case, the best solution is to publish a blog of the transcription/show notes that individuals who would rather read your podcast can subscribe to.
  2. Podcast Captioning. Captions on the video of your podcast are not the easiest or least expensive thing to do, but it will solve the issue. As I stated before, it’s not just for the hearing impaired. I was at the gym today and saw an individual ‘watching’ his iPod with no headphones. – see my updated captioning post
    Problem? The complaint on this one is that the words are too small to read. I’ve seen captioned podcasts and I disagree. If it is a problem, consider pausing the video and inserting a slide of text, like an old silent film. You can publish the two versions of your podcast and people can choose which they’d like to hear/read.
  3. This is hard with podcasting. Minor sight and hearing issues can be taken care of with background noise, volume control, large text captioning like you could use on my silent film idea above, etc., but unless either 1 and 2 are ultimately transcribed to braille, the media will never truly be accessible to this subset of the population.

I hope this weeks helps you in making your podcasts more accessible.