TEST DRIVE: My 48 hours with the new Family Tree Maker 2017

TEST DRIVE: My 48 hours with the new Family Tree Maker 2017

I finally was notified Friday night of my eligibility participate in MacKiev’s 48-hour beta test of FTM2017. While I have been, and will continue to be, critical of the process (Mackiev’s latest update engenders even less confidence, puts 2017 release 3 weeks behind with no firm date for release) I was largely happy with the new software, and can’t wait for it to go live.

Listen to their advice: Use a practice/non-critical tree for your testing.

I have over 20 years experience testing software releases (MacKiev 2 weeks late with Family Tree Maker 2017 release, still “getting close”), so I’ve been through this before, however for this beta test I didn’t do an exhaustive breakdown of every feature or even attempt to use the new features. I just kept it simple, focused on how to sync with my existing FTM 3 trees that were linked to Ancestry.com, and went through a few generations of new ancestors to a speculative tree I’d chosen to test with.

That brings me to my first impression. Listen to their advice: Use a practice/non-critical tree for your testing. My concern wasn’t about data loss, and I don’t think there’s a reason to be concerned about that, but since my larger trees have multiple owners/editors/viewers, if I had to re-upload them Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 3.04.24 PM.pngand reassign those it would be difficult. I feel like it was good I was concerned about that as it relates to a test, and like it will be less of a concern when we’re not limited to a short beta.

Other than that, I feel that the interface was easy to understand, and as a long-time user of Family Tree Maker there were no surprises. Due to a confidentiality agreement I agreed to I won’t go into detail about look/feel/placement of things in the application, but I think it’s safe to say I felt like it was not much of a learning curve going from FTM 3 to FTM 2017. My impression was that overall, FTM 2017 felt more modern, updated and refreshed.

My impression is that this is a mature, (nearly?) ready for production release software package that will be a welcome refresh for FTM users. I have some complaints, but since I can’t yet discuss features or how/if various features have changed, I can’t go into them until Family Tree Maker is released to the public. Generally I’ll say that given MacKiev’s spotty rollout of this product, and some of the complaints I can’t yet detail, Family Tree Maker 2017 is likely to keep me satisfied in the short-to-medium term while I start to research alternatives just in-case this is as good as it gets.

Product Review: Speechpad.com transcription services

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Note: I receive no financial benefit for reviewing/endorsing any of the products/services on this site. All reviews are based on my experiences and may not apply the same for everyone.

One of the first pieces of advice I received when I started tracking my family history was: stop chasing the pieces of paper, get a tape recorder, and sit down with your family and start recording their recollections of your family’s history. (Thanks Tony Burroughs! Black Roots by Tony Burroughs)

As I talked about in an earlier post (read: How to: Getting started researching your family tree), I bought a Sony digital recorder and I’ve used it to record many conversations. At least two of the people I’ve interviewed are no longer with us, so I have some of the only formal oral history from them on-record. But, if you’ve followed the advice and conducted these recordings, what do you do with them? Transcribing them by hand isn’t practical, and ultimately you won’t get around to it…trust me, I type an accurate 80 wpm and I never could do it for more than a few minutes.

Speechpad.com was super easy and straightforward to use, and the output was exactly what I hoped it would be.

I knew I wanted an online transcription service, and since I’d converted my interviews to .mp3 format I figured it would easy to upload and convert. What I didn’t know was how accurate/useful the output would be. As it turns out Speechpad.com was super easy and straightforward to use, and the output was exactly what I hoped it would be.

Process

I visited the site and setup an account, which was all straightforward. When you login you’re taken to the “Upload” screen, which again was pretty straightforward.

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Once the .mp3 file(s) are uploaded, you’re given the option to select how quickly you want the transcript. The prices go up with the urgency, as you’d expect. When I’ve used the service I’ve always selected the “1 Week” option, and it’s never taken more than 2-3 days to get completed.

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You can add a “verbatim” option for $.25/min. that will display all of the stutters, repeated words, filler words, etc. that the standard transcript will remove. Looking at this option (Verbatim Option) you can get a great picture of what the final results will look like. I’ve never used this option since the standard transcript has always worked for my needs.

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Once the transcript is complete you’ll receive an email, and you can download it in several formats (text/RTF/HTML/Word).

Pricing

Basic transcripts (all I’ve ever ordered) start at about $55/hour, with options such as verbatim or rush delivery available as add-ons.

Results

When you download your transcript, you’ll get a file that looks like this:

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What I’ve found is that the transcript is very accurate, and what’s missing/inaccurate is largely spellings of family names or when someone mumbles. To transform the transcript into a usable form, I will save a copy with “Edited” appended to the file, and listen to the recording while I clean up the file. I often have the kids with me for interviews, so there will be several conversations going on or questions from a 5 year old that get picked up by the microphone. I’ll take out irrelevant portions, correct spellings, add in what I hear from the parts flagged [inaudable], and change the font while also adding line numbers.

 

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I also add an introduction explaining the provenance of the transcript, so that years from now if this document falls in the hands of a researcher, they know some of the history behind it. Finally, I’ll copy my edited version of the transcript with “Public” appended, and remove any private or sensitive information (addresses of living relatives, etc.). I convert that Public file to .pdf, and now I can cite this interview by page and line number, and attach it to my public trees!

My first upload was converted to .mp3 incorrectly, and I had a long set of discussions with the Speechpad.com Customer Support team trying to resolve the issue. Even though it was my fault, despite me arguing that it wasn’t, they were completely helpful and went above and beyond to make me happy. They even refunded the original transcription fee and discounted my resubmission…despite it all being my fault! The number of emails they sent until I was fully satisfied was above-and-beyond, and quite impressive.

All in all this is a great service, a reasonable price, easy to use, great output, and fantastic customer service. I’ve found the last transcription service I’ll ever use!