500 Words At A Time: Research, Insurrection

Star_Trek_V__The_Final_Frontier_stills_46907Remember that cliff hanger? Yeah, keep holding on, because I have a brief interlude, which may become important later on in the story. As part of the summer research fellowship, we (Paul and I) had to attend two or three meetings with the rest of the fellowship. Think Lord of the Rings without any of the…you know what, just think of a bunch of students and their professors sitting around the table.

Something everyone should know about Ferris and meetings at Ferris, there are two types of food served: pizza and pinwheel sandwiches. I think all of you know what a pizza is. A pinwheel sandwich is ham, cream cheese, and some sort of vegetable wrapped in a roll and sliced to create a pinwheel shape. I never gave them two cents of thought, until I had to see them at every meeting and event for five years running…except the one Paul requested they not be at; then I missed them. 😦

The only meeting that stands out is the first one. You know what they say about firsts. At this meeting we were to give a little blurb about us and what we were doing. If I had only paid attention I might have avoided or at least headed off some of the horror that was to come later. As it was…you can’t take me anywhere.

“Its like dictation.”

“No, its not like dictation. It is using software to write what I say.”

Ugh, at this point whatever the professor’s name forehead was looking like ground zero for a solid thumping. Dictation indeed. I have no clue why this dick (yes that was what I called him for a long time afterwards) had to try to pigeon hole our research as dictation; thus there shouldn’t be anything to research. Not like he was going to get any of our money and if he wanted more pinwheel sandwiches he was more than welcome.

Thankfully, before I popped dick in the head (ha), Paul did what Paul does and put the situation straight. This would be the first in a neverending series of attempts to explain what we were researching. I’m much better at it now than I was then. I have a lot more patience with people than I did then, because to me it was obvious: people cannot tell the difference between something written in a traditional manner versus written material created using voice-to-text software. Why couldn’t they just see that?

Well damn, because trying to explain that is hard enough when most people don’t think about all of the devices that they speak into. However, tell them that they spend a good chunk of time speaking to their phones, computers, and video game systems and they start to ponder. Now explain that if those same devices were to write something (say on their own…) most humans would not be able to tell the difference and they ponder a bit more. Finally, toss in the story about the on campus doctor who upon hearing about my research wanted to share her experience which goes like this…

…the health center at the time was converting to electronic records, as part of the conversion doctors had to use voice-to-text technology to “write down” all of their records. Sounds good. Except that like me, the doctor kept running into problems where the software did not know a word or words. Teaching the software was time consuming and often resulted in more problems. What do you think happens when doctors cannot put the right words into records? You end up with records with substitute words; instead of X use Z. Except X and Z do not have the same meaning; quality of word can lead to interpretation issues. However the doctor choose Z, because the software knows Z and hopefully Z means the same thing to the nurses as it did the doctor. Tell them that story and people’s eyes open. Was that what we were researching, not really, but it did become something I dealt with and became our way of getting people to start looking at what we were doing.

However, if I had only paid attention to what the rest of the researchers were doing…

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