A reader, Tricia, writes in: "I take meeting minutes for a small nonprofit organization twice a year. I was wondering if you know of anything that makes this chore easier. Is there something that records and types out conversations?"
Voice-recognition software has come a long way and there are plenty of applications for laptops and smart phones that can capture and transcribe speech into text. Unfortunately, there’s one big wrinkle with this kind of software: you typically have to train it to recognize your voice to increase the accuracy. Using it in a meeting with multiple voices likely won’t work if the software hasn’t been trained to identify the voices of those talking.
Here are a few alternate suggestions: you could use a tool like my trusty LiveScribe smart pen to record audio, take neat handwritten notes and hope that software like "MyScript for LiveScribe" can convert your writing to digital text.
You could record the audio, go home, put on some headphones and repeat out loud the conversations in your own voice, using software like "Dragon Dictate" to transcribe. I’ve used this method for lengthy interviews.
Or you could use a service like TranscribeMe (at transcribeme.com), which promises to do the job for $2 a minute using speech recognition and crowdsourcing. Other sites like TaskRabbit can also outsource the job for a relatively modest fee. Good luck!