I have been using speech recognition (SR) software for many years, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I discovered a fantastic use for it: Instant Messaging (IM). Until I stumbled onto this combination, I had used SR primarily for transcribing handwritten notes or composing long reports. When I first tried SR with instant messaging, I was surprised by how effective it was. I could chat with someone for long stretches without ever touching the keyboard. I could say things like, “have you reviewed the presentation for today’s meeting question mark enter key”, and my message would be sent. I found I could chat for many minutes like this without errors and without ever touching the keyboard. And, if I didn’t change window focus to work on another document, I could do this without even touching the mouse.
Everyone has their favorite uses for IM, but personally I have found it works best for checking with someone to be sure they are ready for a scheduled phone call, coordinating phone conference meeting startups (reminders, phone numbers, etc.), as a back-channel during those meetings, or for asking urgent questions of teammates as you are finalizing a report due in a few hours. But occasionally I’ll get into a lengthy chat about a project or interpersonal issue with someone while I multi-task other work such as writing up that boring project status report. For these chats, speech recognition speeds up the conversation, reduces errors, and frees up my hands for other work.
If you have speech recognition software installed, you should give this a try. You might have to tune your software to allow you to add emoticons such as “smiley face” or other shortcuts, but with SR running, you don’t have to abbreviate “btw”, as you can just say “by the way”, and reduce the chances for misunderstandings with newbies.
For more on speech recognition, checkout the section on speech recognition in the advanced tools page.