Interactive Realtime 101


Interactive Realtime 101

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By Sandy Bunch VanderPol, RMR, CRR, RSA; Co-Chair of NCRA Technology


As external factors continue to threaten the very existence of our stenographic profession, we must strive for excellence in what makes what we do the best choice for the legal community, and that’s interactive realtime reporting. I am both pleased and honored to provide you with some knowledge I’ve learned over the past 20 years of providing interactive realtime reporting in the judicial setting.

As a basis for this article, I will be using as a resource the Realtime Systems Administrator (RSA) Manual. This manual came to fruition as a result of many months of dedicated effort on the part of those reporters who were members of the RSA subcommittee: Mike Miller, Candis Bradshaw, Nancy Hopp, Bill Weber, Judy Lehman and I. On behalf of this subcommittee, we encourage each of you to participate in this certificate program, whether you are thinking about providing interactive realtime or have been providing it for many years.

Interactive Realtime from an instructional level, I think, can be grasped more easily by splitting the process into three phases: Phase 1, pre-proceeding; Phase 2, at the proceeding; Phase 3, value-add services. Interactive Realtime 101 will discuss the pre-deposition or pre-court proceeding preparation that will make your on-the-job experience of providing interactive realtime a success. Set yourself up for success with good planning and preparation!


Speed and accuracy in your machine writing:

Most realtime reporters have spent many hours building their speed and accuracy. There are many of us who have changed our writing style to become conflict free. Make a commitment to yourself to build your speed to merit level speeds. Take time to change your writing to create conflict-free realtime for your end user. Don’t forget to study and deal with your word boundary issues that arise in your writing style. I’m often reminded by one client about the time “fun guy” translated to “fungi.” Yes, it can be a laughing matter, but don’t count on it!

Thanks goes out to our CAT vendors, who have made our job easier by providing us with intuitive CAT software that automatically selects the correct word in a conflict. I would encourage you to not rely on the software to choose the correct word, but to strive to write conflict free to avoid any potential errors.

Numbers, dollars and cents! I can tell you, that’s one area of your realtime writing that counsel will notice. I can’t count the number of times counsel has mentioned to me that numbers don’t translate with some reporters. Many of us “old-timers” learned to realtime write our numbers before the advent of the intuitive CAT software.  For those of you who still struggle with numbers, take advantage of the tools provided within your CAT software to accurately output your numbers.

Know your realtime CAT software features inside and out:

All successful realtime writers understand and use all of the bells and whistles their CAT vendor provides to them. We have enough to worry about on the job, so make your job easier by learning and using your realtime CAT features.  Just to name a few that will make your job easier and provide more accurate realtime are EZ Speakers, macros defined from your steno keyboard, prefix and suffix linking, automatic number conversion, and much more.

Basic Understanding of your Windows Operating System and more:

There’s absolutely no getting around it anymore; it’s not just understanding how your CAT software works. We all need to understand the Windows environment and how to use it to provide realtime. Within our CAT programs, we are faced with assigning the correct COM port to our realtime feed. Knowledge of the Windows device manager is relevant to your realtime feed to your CAT system as well as relevant to your interactive realtime feed. Serial realtime feed creates the potential for a myriad of troubleshooting issues to arise while on the job. Understanding the ins and outs of COM ports within device manager is tantamount to success.

Loading USB-to-Serial adapter drivers on computers is becoming commonplace. Computers are rarely manufactured with serial ports any more. Knowledge and understanding of where to find the most current drivers and how to download them and load them to your client’s computer is a must learn.

Basic understanding of serial communication, Bluetooth and wireless (LAN):

The method of interactive realtime delivery has expanded to include not only cable serial, but Bluetooth serial (StenoCast) and wireless or local area network (LAN). Our CAT vendors have developed products that allow us to wirelessly communicate to the “receive laptop.” The basic understanding of how the pairing of Bluetooth devices works to send and receive the realtime feed via serial, as well as understanding how to set up and use a local area network (LAN) for wireless realtime, will open the door to opportunities in your realtime reporting world.

What works best and what doesn’t work:

Learn what USB-to-Serial adapters work with all the realtime viewers on the market. Is it more reliable to use a PC Card-to-Serial output or output directly via the use of a USB-to-Serial adapter? Or are ExpressCard-to-Serial Adapters a better option for you? Or should we just throw out the cables and use wireless? StenoCast provides us the wireless realtime solution via serial communication. Is this the best option for you?

In conclusion, remember that preparation at the front end saves you from failure at the job. The topics discussed may have raised more questions for you than provided you with answers. It always seems more difficult to grasp on paper. Most of us are kinetic learners, and hands-on practice will allow for better understanding. NCRA has been visionary in providing you the resources to be successful in interactive realtime reporting through its Realtime Systems Administrator program. Please take some time to explore and sign up for this program at the link below. After attending this workshop, I guarantee you, firsthand, that you will be empowered and excited about making interactive realtime a product/service in your arsenal of value-added services.

It’s always been my personal belief that if your skills, products and services are superior, you, as well as the profession of stenographic reporting, will continue to exist, prosper and grow for many decades to come. Interactive realtime is a superior skill and service that no other speech-to-text reporting method can compete with. “Get connected.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Court Reporting.  The RSA workshop will be delivered at the NCRA Midyear Convention in Baltimore in March, 2010, and at the NCRA Annual Convention in in Las Vegas, in July, 2010.