My transcription work will vanish during the next few months

I’m facing a loss of the transcription gigs I’d been using to pay the bills.  It’ll likely have vanished entirely by mid-2018 and quite possibly before that.  The AI breakthroughs in intelligent speech recognition have occurred sooner than anticipated; Microsoft’s R&D division has come up with an AI capable of understanding conversational context and automatically transcribing large volumes of audio with an error rate equivalent to the average human transcriber.

The best human audio transcribers are able to maintain error rates just below 4% given typical batches of audio – with overlapping conversations, and faint background conversations, muddy static or sudden jarring noises in the mic audio, and really obscure jargon, comprising most of the mistakes made by transcriptionists, and this newly announced program (a new form of Cortana) will have a consistent 5.1% error rate with similar audio.  It’s close enough that it’s not worth paying humans to do the work anymore; the AI can do the task almost as well as any human can.

What this means for me: I was pulling the bulk – roughly 55% – of my income, from transcription gigs. Other scattered chunks of revenue came from unrelated freelance work (10%) and 35% from online sales of art products.  As for where I was spending? 45% of my spending in the past year was tied to ramping up that 35% of my income. Repeat: The art sales were losing money, as in: 20%+ loss margin when the low average sale prices, the shipping, eBay fees, mailers, and other materials, were all factored in.

So basically: My effective total cash flow will collapse soon.  And I was making well below $10k/year to start out with.

I need to figure out a promising new business option soon, ideally by November, or this web network and my creative work in general, is at risk of going under entirely.  What I’m hoping for is consistently available work in the $2.50/hr range or better.  But realistically I will settle for half that much.

Still reeling and coping with the setbacks

I think in a few days I’ll have the PC operating normally, more or less.

While the Windows OS update was screwing up my plans for a video channel release (previously scheduled for May 10 but now pushed back by two weeks.) I also found a message in my spam folder notifying me that vividminigolf.com was not set to auto renew and that it was expiring.

Fortunately I got it renewed within the grace period, that brief span between when a domain expires and when it is purchasable by other people.  But for a couple days the site was down and the game was inaccessible.  Sorry about that.

I think things are getting back on track, more or less – I have a few options for getting my PC working again ranging from mild [replacing faulty AMD drivers] to severely annoying [reinstalling the OS] but all of them depend on first backing up everything on the internal drives in case something goes severely wrong and the hardware is basically unrecoverable.  That is unlikely but I’m backing all the content up via command line anyway.  This takes some time, and involves a lot of copying of subdirectories to and from a 128gb flash drive.

The first attempt to acquire signatures from a few cast members failed; I’m now revising the terms and will send out those forms on a person by person basis beginning with an initial set of 40 people or so on May 17.  The terms for cast members are now even more generous, to the point where under some circumstances the video channel might not prove to be viable.  I recognize that if the channel on my website were to take off suddenly with above 500k viewers, and the other stuff – the sale items – don’t grow at a similar pace, the cost to me could be enormous and might cause a systemic failure of my web network.

Why?  Because I’m using sale products as a substitute for conventional third party ad revenue.  Should the sale products disappoint and fall below a certain ratio relative to the video views, the profitability of my websites go down and maybe even go negative.  The threshhold at which this happens was, in the original document, very unlikely to be crossed, but now I think the odds of the video channel losing money are hovering around 25%.  This is something that I can adjust to some degree to improve things if they get bad enough, like:

-writing most upcoming videos with smaller casts of about 3-4 persons instead of sprawling ensembles.

-minimizing location shoots off my property.

-increasing promotion frequency [advertising] of related sale products in the video channel playlists in an attempt to boost revenue on the channel to a tenable level.

-promoting my video channel only subtly and emphasizing the shop on most non video pages.

My hope is that the video channel will raise about as much revenue as it costs, maybe even prove mildly profitable somehow.  That would be amazing, and in my view the effort breaking even is still something of a victory.

Since we’re discussing the shops and sale items, I think it’s a perfect time to point out the stuff I’ve got piled into the Etsy and eBay shops right now.  There’s more there than is usually the case and you should check that out.

I’ve got a bunch of antiquarian magazine issues [I maestri del colore] on sale right now on eBay, substantially undervalued, someone could absolutely buy a lot of 20 and flip them, reselling them as individual listings.  That might actually make you a tidy profit.  But those listings are ending right about now!

My eBay shop

I also have a bunch of my old work on sale on Etsy now.  Lots of stuff.  Batches of old artworks that have been around a few years and haven’t sold locally – but which are now on sale at really great low prices!

My Etsy shop