Sunday, August 12, 2012


I tried dictating a blog post this afternoon for the first time. The new Mountain Lion OS now allows me to easily dictate into the laptop. I had the house to myself this weekend, so I could easily grab a quiet hour to natter away. As part of my experiment I composed the blog post on the spot, rather than work from draft notes as I usually do. I had been listening to lots of podcasts doing chores over the weekend, so I did a brain-download on that topic.

A few initial observations (some about the technology and some about my writing style):

  • I do not speak in paragraphs. Although it turns out this is fine as the Siri-based technology of this new dictation service works best with individual sentences. 
  • Siri seems to understand my Irish accent acceptably. Admittedly I did mostly address it in the over-enunciated way that Basil Fawlty speaks to Manuel the dim waiter.
  • When I write, I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time changing tenses and then rewriting accordingly. Dictation does not help here at all.
  • My spoken sentences can tend to change direction mid-stream a lot more often then my written ones. I assume that I am still processing the thought and chasing it down. As my typing is slower, the completed thought can be buffered as I am getting it down.
  • I did not realise how much I rely on reading the previous sentence while I am writing the current one. Yet I find that when I am dictating I do not quite know where to look.
  • Talking into your computer in an empty room seems quite odd when you are not accustomed to it. (Hopefully none of my neighbours were looking in the window.)
  • There is obviously some knack to punctuating dictated text acceptably. I have not learned that yet. Full stops and capitalisation totally eluded me. (That said, I did not Google any of that, no-doubt readily accessible, information.)
  • The blog post that I came up with using this process was considerably longer than I usually write. (Possibly a case of “sorry I did not have time to write a shorter one” etc.)

In terms of powering through and getting down that essential ‘Crappy First Draft’, this is definitely a useful tool. But I still have to edit that draft, rewrite and rewrite again to get anything publishable. Dictation does nothing to mitigate that work. Finally, given that I compose most of my blog posts on the train during my morning commute, I do not see myself adapting this as my primary blogging mechanism any time soon.