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Which Headset Should I Use with Dragon Naturally Speaking?

Search Engine Optimization uses a variety of tools. Obviously a computer, and different software. Today I wanted to look at one of the tools I use to make life more efficient not just for SEO, but also for all my computer work.  I have been typing since high school, but just like I have been bicycling forever, does not mean I don’t use a car when appropriate, does not mean I don’t use other tools to speed my data input. Nuance has a voice recognition tool called Dragon Naturally Speaking to speed up my data input. I have been using Dragon on and off for over a decade, and first looked at voice recognition in 1983 from Texas Instruments, when they best known for making calculators.

Nuance seems to always be discounting Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS) in November each year, probably in advance of the next version coming out in December or right after the 1st of the year (probably based on how well they meet their deadlines). Therefore many clients consider improving their ability to create documents and all the other promises of voice recognition. The holy grail of perfect voice recognition will probably never be here, but it does keep getting better. A 1% improvement in accuracy is about 20 less errors on a page of text, a .5% improvement is still 10 less errors on a page to have to manually correct. That adds up quickly when you time is worth anything.

The headset that comes with Dragon Naturally Speaking is known to be crap by Nuance and others. Technically there are 2 different voice processing chips used in most wired USB headsets (using the builtin connectors is a strain on the PC, although the newer computers may be able to handle it). The cost to manufacture is about 3-5 cents difference between the two chips, so you can not tell by price which model is using which, and even a single brand line (such as Logitech) will use both. But at $20-50 you can almost by 2 or 3, and return the ones that don’t work well.

I could not tell you why Nuance, the latest owner of DNS (they have been sold a few times over the years) chooses to set so many potential customers with bad equipment that will hate voice recognition for years to come, and especially DNS, but they do. Perhaps they really do want to work only with resellers that know the dirty secret, or they want to keep expectations low for another 5-10 years. But the strategy sure seems counter intuitive.

Regardless, now that DNS is so relatively inexpensive (often as low as $35 for home edition on sale), and decent headsets are as well ($25-50), consider finishing the tool kit of voice recognition and purchase a decent USB or bluetooth headset before installing Dragon Naturally Speaking.

There are some inherent limitations to bluetooth, but they still work well. I researched which was best. I spent a lot of time reading the reviews and where possible reviews that did more testing then just ‘it feels’. Eventually I was led to talking to the engineer who actually worked on the Drgaon Naturally Speaking (DNS). He is now a reseller of the product, but mostly does consulting on effective implementation into your business. He recommended (even though he does not sell it) the Parrot VXi Xpressway last year when I bought mine.

DNS will create a different profile for each headset (since they are sound ‘different’ to the software), so switching does have the challenge of making A headset vs. B headset vs. C built-in comparison a little more challenging (but better then training with mic x and then testing with mic y).

Long story short, spend an extra $25 dollars (and a willingness to try a few, and return if nescessary) to get a good USB headset. Better yet, keep some cords off your desk and get a bluetooth headset for around $100 and get some mobility and voice recognition improvement.

Hope this technical interlude helps.

What hardware tools do you use to improve your efficiency?  Comment below and join the conversation.

November 11, 2011 Posted by | How To, Purchasing, tools, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Site Redo / Refresh – New Sections to Add to Illinois Main Street Alliance – Part 4

This the fourth part of  my suggestions for a site redo/site refresh. Part one is at

Part two is  Here

Part three is Here

The Illinois Main Street Alliance (IMSA), is one of the organizations I am working with. This is a small business association with chapters across the country representing actual main street or real small businesses. The US Chamber of Commerce being more focused on large corporations (based on who is on the board, and amount of donations and how it lobbies). So as a small organization, it has a limited budget and resources. Most are volunteered with limited technical expertise.

Recently, I was asked for some input as to what would I do to improve its website. 

Not knowing the answers to the core questions asked in part 1 makes recommendations a challenge. But here are some suggestions for new sections to add to the site:

  • Create an section of an archive of newsletters.
  • Accountability section:
    • This could list a variety of different elected officials, and map out their voting history on those bills that are for or against our standpoint. There are a variety of tools that can be used to assist with this (most are free) from Google Maps (for listing legislative officials districts) to MegaVote by
    • This section could also link to the different campaign donation sites and draw analysis on where our elected officials are getting their money from and how it’s working or not working in our best interest.
  • Jobs section
    • This could be an area to list jobs. This section has the opportunity to be a traffic generator because jobs always ranks well within Google and there are number of search engines that go through an aggregate job postings from across the Internet. It may be a way to bring in more individual participants that are looking for work as a way to plug into our system, as well as increasing our credibility and economic power within the state.
    • This may be a free or paid system it may be a outside managed service or internally easy to create page listing. It probably should be edited or at least monitor to make sure that there aren’t a lot of ‘junk’ postings and it
  • Editorial section. This could be a place where different leaders within IMSA can go share ideas and values to the community.
  • Facebook reposting section – Have a section that allows us to repost everything that is being posted at the Facebook site. Currently Google is not indexing much of Facebook (Facebook’s decision), so the good content, discussion and ideas shared there can not be found elsewhere.
  • Create a white paper section. This allows us to post the various content we have had and shared with the press and legislatures in the past. It provides both context and background. It also makes it easier for others including Google to understand our expertise and depth of understanding on the topic.
  • Create a press release section. This section needs to include both the PDF of the press release as well as the text of the press release. Ideally, this could be historical, going back to the beginning of IMSA.
  • Discussion board section
    • This section would be a good area for us to be able to have a’members only’ or ‘leadership only’ discussions and share the conversation back and forth rather than going in continuing to use just the e-mail post back and forth. This could also be a section to go through and post if we wanted to recordings of her conference calls today again we can allow others that were unable to attend a conference call to hear the actual conversation from those conference calls.
    • This area could also have conference call minutes that John typically collects and sends out after each conference call. They could be posted here as an easy resource for those to find all those discussion threads in one place.
These sections have multiple purposes. Again the priority and appropriateness of these suggestions is dependent on what the intended objectives are and who the primary audience is. But all of these expanded sections will create more content. That will improve Google ranking and improve viability in the search engines.
Greater sections tends to improve user friendliness and makes is easier for visitors to quickly and effectively find what they are looking for. Studies show that most searchers are not in the mood to be finding information until they find what they are looking for 1st. Just as it is much easier to be exploring and taking in the scenery then it is to be lost and enjoying where you are. Greater number of sections also makes it easier to have multiple people working in partnership on the same website without conflict. It is easier to define boundaries and not ‘stomp’ on each others work. Loosing an afternoon’s efforts can be so demoralizing.

What other ideas do you typically start with when doing an informational/community site redo/refresh?  Join in the conversation below with your comments.

November 2, 2011 Posted by | Chicago, Community, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment