oTranscribe: Free, Open Source, Easy Transcription Web Tool

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Recording your thoughts, lectures, or other audio sources is all well and good, but maybe you want to memorialize those sounds in written word. There are plenty of tools out there to accomplish this, but thought I would mention here one that recently came to my attention. oTranscribe, developed by journalist Elliot Bentley, is a web app that allows you to import an audio file, open a word processor and type while the audio plays. It will play whatever formats your particular browser can process and has a built-in file converter. Controls are found on your keyboard, which makes it easier to stop, rewind, etc. You can insert time stamps with Ctrl + J or Cmd + J, which will allow you to jump to the insert points. The transcription is stored locally in your browser’s cache, nothing is uploaded. While this means you can’t access the goods from another computer, you also enjoy greater security with respect to your data. 

The keyboard stroke controls include the following:

Audio playback

  • Esc: Play/pause
  • F1: Rewind
  • F2: Fast-forward
  • F3: Slow down
  • F4: Speed up

Text editing

  • Ctrl+B: Bold
  • Ctrl+I: Italics
  • Ctrl+J: Insert timestamp

Note: On OS X, using Cmd instead of Ctrl.

Chromebook / Chrome OS alternative controls

  • Ctrl+1: Rewind
  • Ctrl+2: Fast-forward
  • Ctrl+3: Slow down
  • Ctrl+4: Speed up

Pretty cool. Thanks Elliot!

Casetext’s Wikipedia-Style Resource for Legal Research

casetext

An eBay for lawyers? How about a Wikipedia for legal research? They’re mashing up social media with the legal profession left and right these days. Casetext is an interesting, um, case, particularly here in the Studio where I am all about the free and cheap and the big Two Three have been a target of mine for years. Imagine. Making all that money off publicly available information.

Casetext is clearly intended to disrupt some of that. The hurdle that  free and cheap access to legal research materials has had to overcome is the value-add that comes from annotations and citation treatment. Lexis and Westlaw have certainly spent a lot of effort honing and promoting that value-add. Casetext’s angle is to get that value-add through crowd-sourced case annotations, much like Wikipedia does with its articles or Quora does with its Q/A format.

Casetext is the creation of two former law review heads from Stanford and Harvard.  Users of the service are encouraged to add tags and text to cases, link to other cases and generally provide similar data to that provided by the attorney editors at the big paid legal data companies. Contributors can provide  analysis of a document or of a paragraph within a document, link to their own articles or other related sources, add related cases and up-vote useful related sources. Contributions are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, permitting commercial use with proper attribution.

Users have to use real names, which hopefully encourages a higher standard of contribution than the anonymous commenting model. LIke any good social model, there is a reward system. Casetext uses reputation points, measuring a user’s contribution to Casetext. Gain points for adding content, for categorizing cases, for upvoting, and for receiving upvotes on content you add. Lose points for being downvoted and pay points to downvote others. Interesting system of checks and balances. There are some decent contributors on the site already, including a law professor who annotated a case he had argued to SCOTUS.

There are Quick Facts and a Document Wiki, essential information at a glance and and free form document summaries, respectively. Related cases are citing sources. The record includes oral arguments to SCOTUS. Create a PDF of a case with the two column format you may be very familiar with from the other guys. You can create a bookmark list of cases to read later, and even a Heatmap which highlights the most cited passages – dark blue means most cited. There is also a “copy with cite” feature – one of the features the Westlaw rep proudly touted to me when she was up-selling me on WestlawNext.

Its free to use right now, but is promising a paid Pro premium model. Right now, the big challenge is scope: the databases only include all U.S. Supreme Court cases, federal circuit court cases from Volume 1 of F.2d, federal district court cases published in F.Supp. and F.Supp.2d from 1980, and Delaware cases published in A., A.2d, and A.3d from Volume 30 of A. It was last updated on June 14, 2013. Hopefully it will open up to new jurisdictions soon. Quite frankly, I think this is a very exciting development, with a whole lot of promise if enough people play along.

Check out Casetext in action in the video below. What do you think? Would you contribute your expertise? Does the good of the many outweigh the good of the few or the one? Let me know.

Skimzee’s Web Tool, Bookmarklet & Chrome Extension Summarize the Web

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Skimzee is another free tool to help you combat information overload on the Internet. Via web site, bookmarklet or Chrome Extension, you can summarize most news stories, content from YouTube, Twitter or Facebook, Wikipedia, and control the size of the summary with an adjustable slider. The site also incorporates an RSS finder/reader function in that it allows you to search for feeds, add them and create groups of them from the Settings page accessible at the little gear icon at the upper right on their site. You can get the summaries from your home page – hover over the results and click to expand the “view summary” link. Some will not show that link – particularly if the site is behind a paywall, or uses Javascript, or is password protected.

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A Latest Stories drop down on the Feeds tab lets you browse by subject. You can also click on trending or latest videos, or Facebook feed or wall, if you set up your Skimzee to access such content. Search tab allows you to enter search terms or a specific URL for summary treatment. A drop down arrow next to the search box allows you to select / deselect your target content. Skimzee also prompts you with popular page links at the top.  The settings page from the gear button allows you to customize your Skimzee experience, including what page is summarized when you navigate to Home, what feeds to show at startup, what Summary Bookmarks to include along the top, what and how to summarize via the bookmarklet or extension as you browse the Web, what RSS feeds to include and how to show them, and more.

Skimzee

There are other tools out there that help you make sense of the Web by personalizing your experience and showing you news deemed of interest to you. Skimzee takes a different approach by giving you access to all the news, albeit in shortened, summarized form. If that is your preferred method of parsing, then Skimzee might be of interest. Check it out – and check back in. Would love to hear what you think.

myRight – The Online Legal Consult Site

 

You know how many lawyers offer that first consultation for free? Maybe you don’t want to go down to the lawyers office and get the goods. Good news – you may have another option as close as hand as your keyboard.

 

myRight, the invention of two law students, is intended to return the power to the people, as it were. By offering this initial consult via the web, the idea is that non-lawyers may be able to answer their own legal questions without the formalities of meetings and legal retention.

 

The site leads the user through a series of questions that narrow the issue and, hopefully, yield a useful answer. Basic information is provided along the way, towards that end. The site is obviously helpful to non-lawyers, but may also be helpful to lawyers looking to prepare their own consult scripts for various simple legal issues. Contributing lawyers are the potential profit source for myRight – lawyers can pre-pay for leads for when the legal issue gets too complicated for the basic level addressed on-site. There is a button at the top of the page for connecting with a lawyer, an explanation of the legal point below the questions and a list of related questions and links at the bottom of the page.

 

 

Apparently, there is something in it for LegalZoom too, the founder of which is a myRight advisor – if you find yourself at the end of the series of questions on preparing a will – you will be prompted to buy one from LegalZoom for 10% off the regular price.

 

I can hear traditional attorneys now, clamoring about the hazards of such a “one-size-fits-all” approach. But don’t write it off too quickly. Most legal problems can’t be solved by a simple 6 step questionnaire  myRight will filter out the few that do, empowering users to address the matters they can, while offering lawyers an opportunity to tap into the “I thought I could do it myself” community that pervades the internet these days. For lawyers, think of myRight as another option for reaching clients in this Brave New World.

BriefMine Promising Cheap Option for Access to Legal Briefs

When I think about where to find a brief, I immediately think Westlaw. But if you aren’t so much into the high price of access, there may be another option coming your way. BriefMine is a new web tool that offers an interface with a database of briefs tapped via natural language search. Right now, the private beta service can link issues with briefs across the country. Eventually, BriefMine promises to link the briefs to the legal opinions they yield.

There is a User page and a search interface. The user page is for tracking content and possible collaboration with other BriefMine users. Store documents within the Favorites Feed on this page.

The Search page is super-simple. It uses natural language search, employing the following syntax (from the site):

BriefMine Search query syntax:
• To search for the word “foo” in a document, simply enter text: foo
• To search for the phrase “foo bar” in a document, simply enter text: “foo bar” (in quotation marks)
• To search for phrase “foo bar” AND the phrase “quick fox” in different places of the same document, simply enter text: “foo bar” “quick fox”

BriefMine’s premise is that legal research can be brief-centric and built on the research foundation built by others. Why reinvent the wheel, right? While private beta is free, it appears BriefMine will eventually be a paid service, albeit with a much lower price of admission than Westlaw.

I can’t for the life of me get a description of their database scope, so I really can’t opine on what may turn up in response to your search and how comprehensive that results list will be. Obviously, the more docs in the database, the more useful. I would imagine BriefMine will be adding content as they go along and presumably will have a meaningful collection when the service becomes paid.

Find out a bit more about them in their promotional video, below:

I Have a Good One For You: Google Wave Resurrected – Rizzoma

So here I am, minding my own business, checking out the notifications filter folder in my Gmail box and all of a sudden, I get mention of a new comment on a Google Wave conversation I had participated in oh, about a million years ago. Naturally, my interest was piqued and I, of course, much like the proverbial cat smitten by curiousity, followed the link. To Rizzoma.

Rizzoma was an existing Russian company but, in 2010, they too became smitten with Wave and started work on improving it. They started private beta of their site in January 2012. Apparently, they began allowing import of existing Google Waves in February, 2012. And, to make it more Google-like, you can sign in with your Google ID, or a Facebook ID.

If you hadn’t moved your waves over by April 30, 2012, you are out of luck in saving that matter. But, you can certainly head over to Rizzoma and start a new wave if you are hankering for that old not-sure-whether-it’s-email-chat-text-messaging-social-network-sharepoint-bulletin-board experience of Wave. The interface is quite similar, but seems stable more stable, something Wave really wasn’t. Right now it is totally free and it’s open source – let’s hope they find a way to make money or they may be going the way of the Wave. Rizzoma did their research and found that Wave users were using it for business purposes, and have directed their efforts at becoming a decent business tool. Some other cool features of Rizzoma: the ability to @mention like Twitter; the ability to open access to any link, and the ability to reply and correct a message in any place of a document. Rizzoma sports a clean interface, with a navigation pane on the left divided into Topics, @Mentions and Public, a shortcut window on the bottom left. and  a larger content pane on the right. There are also sharing buttons for sharing topics from Rizzoma to Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

In all seriousness, I always liked Wave and thought it could be a very effective collaboration tool, particularly for business users. I think Rizzoma might be onto something here – taking the best parts of Wave, making it more stable and usable and keeping the vibe going. Good luck to them for sure.

If you want to see a use case in action, check out the Rizzoma video – don’t mind the robo-voice, the video started out in Russian, but I thought viewers here might prefer the English version:

New Collaboration & Presentation Tools = New Way of Thinking

The web is about a lot of things, not the least of which is collecting information and getting your message out and how best to go about doing that. I talk a lot about collecting and presenting in the Studio mostly because there are always great new tools cropping up to leverage technology to make the process cooler, more efficient and more fun. Lawyers are all about researching, collaborating and presenting. Why not use some slick tricks to give you an edge in that game?

I have two tools to talk about. The first is Prezi, a web app that combines the best of white boards and slide decks. Prezi is cloud-based, with a zoomable canvas. This allows you to take a large image, and move from concept to concept across the image, offering a “moving” experience that gives a different feel to your message. It uses a single canvas rather than the slides you normally find in a slide deck. You can add text, images, PowerPoint slides, videos, PDFs, etc.  on that canvas. As you create your presentation, you use the “zoomable user interface” to pan to part of the canvas, stop and then zoom in. This offers a far more “cinematic” look than a traditional deck. The resulting process is called the presentation “path” as it more closely simulates a journey through the media than a static stack of slides. There is a desktop editor available for offline construction as well. The Meeting feature allows for social, on-line collaboration on the canvas and path. And, of course, there is Prezi for iPad which is essentially a viewing rather than editing tool. How mainstream is this tool? Check out some of the recent TED presentations to see Prezi at work, making smart people look smarter.

And check out a sample Prezi here:

Slices: A Great Twitter Management Tool

 

Yes, Twitter needs management, unless you follow fifty or fewer people. Yes, there are tons of Twitter management tools out there. But, like there are many different learning and processing styles, there are many different ways to consume information and one may work better for you personally than another.

 

Slices is another option for this purpose. Right now, it is a live app on iOS and Android, and a Web version is promised but is still in invite-only beta. I tried it out on iOS and it works beautifully. While the layout is pretty standard, it offers a Twitter directory for finding the best follows on Twitter, a “Live Events” filter which shows the live stream for the top news stories of the day, and Trending filters for your city, country or worldwide. What really is interesting is the “slices” themselves – you can group your timeline into slices to view segments at a time. To show you how, the app will set up some slices for you. It created for me a Tech and Science slice with 34 people, a Business & Money slice with 31 people and a News slice with 9 people. You can filter, right off the bat, people who are not in a slice, so you can “slot” them into a category. Once you organize it, you will be able to easily “slice” through your full feed and see exactly what you want to see when you want to see it. Reminds me a bit of the old Twitter lists concept. Within the slices you can see all types of tweets or just photos and videos, with thumbnail and player right in the tweet. Drill down into follows and add them to a slice from their profile. You can share slices by email, SMS, Tweet and Facebook. Set up your various favorite sharing services within the app for images, video, URL shortening, read later and text expanding. Your saved searches are in there as well and you can start a new search. And, of course, you can tweet yourself from the app.

 

 

 

 


  

 

When the web version drops, it will sync with the mobile version, so you need not miss a beat. You also can upgrade to Pro and lose the ads for $4.99, but I am not sure it is worth that cost to do so.

 

OneLouder is the developer and they aren’t new to the mobile app game – they are the able team behind such great social apps as Friendcaster – my favorite Android Facebook app and Tweetcaster, as well as several other specialized applications.

 

I like Slices a lot – with nearly 1,000 follows, I can use a tool that helps me break out information into categories so I can find what is right now, right now. Nice app – OneLouder!

Transcribe Does Just What It Says for Audio Recordings

 

 

The other day I found myself neck deep in research on an arcane topic and, in order to immerse myself, I had cued up a podcast of a news interview on the subject while I was searching and reading material on the Web. I pulled some valuable information out of that podcast, but I wasn’t able to get everything because I was doing too many things at once and I really didn’t have the time to take notes while listening.

 

 

Enter Transcribe. This handy Chrome extension will transcribe audio recordings so that you have a written record and don’t miss a word. You can also navigate to their free tool page here. Pick a local file and the transcribed text will be auto-saved in your browser’s local storage. An audio player bar at the top of the screen is controlled by key strokes – ESC for pause / resume, F! for slow down, F2 for speed up, F3 for rewind two seconds and F4 for fast-forward 2 seconds. You will see the text in the window below the player. So simple and easy to use! Another cool feature? You don’t even need an internet connection to use it – just click on the transcribe extension button in an open browser window and Transcribe will get to work. Everything works locally.

 

There is a paid Pro version as well, with more detail at this link. The only difference I can obviously see is that the Pro version can handle multiple recordings at once.

 

Nice tool there, particularly if you work with audio recordings a lot or need to get interviews or other speeches from audible to written form.

Blekko's new Social News Curation Tool ROCKZi

 

I love Blekko, the search engine. I have reviewed it here before and it is one of my go-to search resources because of  the intelligent way it offers access to web information.

 

Now Blekko is dipping its toes into news curation. ROCKZi, with the tagline “read, vote, rock,” is designed to offer a solution to reading, discovering and curating interesting news along vertical categories. Add to and upvote stories on the site, gain “karma” points that increase your standing within the community, share stories and start discussions over shared interests.

 

If you know anything about Blekko, you likely know about “slashtags”, the tags that users can employ to limit search to certain pre-described categories. Boards on ROCKZi are much like slashtags – they give you access to a particular news vertical, so you can be assured of relevant stories within the category. Like slashtags over at Blekko, the number of boards is growing. Right now, you can peruse the following:

 

 

For bonus points, see if you can figure out the category from the title.

 

There is a bookmarklet that you can use to add stories while surfing. The board pages are laid out nicely, with a certain homage to Flipboard, and you can easily see from the thumbnail how many votes the stories have garnered. Hover over the thumbnails to add a “this rocks” or “comment” to the story. When you comment, you might note the similarity to a Facebook share – the comments employ a Facebook social plug-in and you can obviously log into ROCKZi with your Facebook profile. Fortunately, you can turn on and off posting your comments and likes to Facebook if you wish. When you just generally search the site without employing a board limiter, you will get all stories that contain your keyword, with filtering for top or recent.

 

I know what you’re thinking – I need another site for reading news like I need a hole in the head. If that new site is offering you stories you aren’t otherwise finding in your RSS feeds or social networks, then that site is worthwhile in my opinion. Better the story you know, than the story you don’t, to coin a phrase. And, with Blekko’s quality, it is hard for me to imagine ROCKZi being a dog. If you have some free time, head on over to ROCKZi and get some great curated news. Perhaps ROCKZi will pick up where the shattered remains of Digg have left off.