Personal Computing: Helping others find you on the Web

Helping others find you on the Web

Building a website can put you on the Internet, literally, whether you run a for-profit enterprise or you dabble in a nonprofit hobby. But creating an online presence doesn’t necessarily mean that people will find you.

The most common way that people find websites remains Web search engines, and search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing do a good job of sending out digital “spiders” to crawl the Web and index its pages. But you can help them do their job.

The idea is to improve where your site winds up on the search engine’s results pages after any given person’s search for a particular word or string of words related to the content of your site.

The process of improving your site’s search results is called search engine optimization (SEO). It’s a part of search engine marketing (SEM), which in turn is a part of the larger category of Internet marketing. Entire businesses have sprung up to provide SEO services to clients, and SEO is now firmly engrained in the services that most general advertising and public relations agencies provide. But there’s a lot that you can do yourself.

Along with helping others find you, SEO can also boost any advertising revenue generated by your site, if you include ads on it, through people visiting it. The single most important step you can take to help people find your content is to create great content, said Michael Wyszomierski, a project manager on the search quality team at Google. Start with something substantial — a good product or service and quality information. “We want people to be happy with Google results,” he said.

Think about what people will be searching for when looking for you and include those “keywords” in a natural, organic way in the content that you provide. Include synonyms and similar phrases as well since not everybody says the same thing in exactly the same way.

Minimize the use of jargon or technical terms that insiders might know and make you sound like an expert but wouldn’t likely be the words that people would type in a search query. Use plain language instead of — or at least in conjunction with — the more specialized language.

Avoid “keyword stuffing” and other techniques that are considered “black hat” SEO and deceptive. For years, people have tried to trick Google and other search engines by loading pages with keywords that a searcher might type. These words are typically placed at the bottom of a page, off screen, or in a font color that’s the same as the page’s background color to make the words visible only to search engine spiders.

Google and other search engines can lower a site’s search ranking or even eliminate it from their results for engaging in this. Similarly, don’t repeat keywords too many times within the text of any given page because Google could regard that as search engine “spam” as well.

Include keywords as appropriate in your pages’ title and meta description “tags” when coding your site. The title tag is the text in the <HEAD> section of a page between <TITLE> and </TITLE>, and it shows up to visitors in their browsers’ tab.

The meta description tag is optional but useful. It typically goes after the title tag, describing the site or page in about a dozen words, such as: <META NAME=“Description” CONTENT=“ The [specific] industry’s hardest working company in providing [specific] solutions to [specific] customers.”>

Google will use this in describing your site in its search results. Otherwise it will pick other text from your site that may not be as descriptive or as likely to draw people to your site.

Carefully choose your site’s headlines and subheads — the text in your H1 and H2 tags — because Google gives them extra weight as well.

Get your site linked to other sites, particularly popular sites. Google’s breakthrough in generating relevant results was basing search rankings on sites linking to other sites. Sites are returned first that other sites link to, and the more sites that link to those sites, the more weight their links carry.

Stay away from “link farms,” which are websites that aren’t bona fide directories but schemes solely designed to improve other sites’ search rankings. Being included in them can actually hurt your rankings.

Similarly, avoid duplicating the same content found at different sites.

For other basic tips, read Google’s “Webmaster Guidelines” (google.com/web masters) and “Bing Webmaster Tools” (bing.com/toolbox/webmaster). For more indepth tips, check out Google’s “Webmaster Academy” (g.co/webmasteracademy).

Tech Wire: Speedtest.net review

Have you ever wondered if your computer upload/download speed was slow? I found this website, speedtest.net, a sophisticated broadband testing and analysis tool, and it showed me just how connected I actually was.

For example, I was transferring about 150 small files to a new computer via Dropbox, a cloud-based sharing site, and it just slowed everything down, including incoming email attachments. The speed in my SysTray was indicating 2kbps; however, since I was at home on my wireless, it shouldn’t be this slow. I ran speedtest.net and it showed me that my speeds were 2.10/1.99mbps respectively, not what my normal rates are. The problem was that the large number of files placed in Dropbox was maxing out my bandwidth, which was greatly decreasing my Internet speeds. The thing is that I was still able to deduce that I indeed was connected and these are the rates. I thought it was amazing that it even told me who the Internet Service Provider (ISP) was and the IP address, which can come in handy when streaming. This site even comparatively analyzes, via a grading system, your connection with others around the world.

This tool should actually be used on a fairly consistent basis and it will keep track of each time you test your computer, this is so you will know what your norm is, and then when things have slowed down, you can go to the next steps to diagnose your problem. Another reason to do this is because you can go to your ISP and see if you are actually getting the promised rates, and if you’re not, you can report your test results and the ISP will then have to analyze and improve your connection. Also, with many ISPs, you can purchase faster connections by opting to pay more.

Tech Wire: Data plans for iPads

Quick tips from the techies…

I was recently asked, “Do I need a data plan with an iPad if I want to write real time feed to it?”

All iPads models come with built-in Wi- Fi. That means every iPad can join networks (whether at a deposition for realtime or at Starbucks to surf the Web). If you want to access the Internet in more places, choose a model that supports mobile data and sign up for service from your carrier.

Believe it or not, having a data plan has nothing whatsoever to do with your realtime feed! The quick-and-easy answer: No, you do not need Internet access to use iCVN for realtime purposes. When using your iPad for realtime purposes, your CAT computer and your iPad must be on the same LAN (Local Area Network) to properly work. Yep, it’s just that simple! It’s as easy as jumping onto your local Starbucks’ Wi-Fi!

So the choice is all yours! Black or white? 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB? Wi- Fi or Wi-FI+Cellular?

 

Social Media: Seven ways to look professional online

If social media is a vital part of your marketing strategy, you must remember to behave online in a professional manner. How you behave in the digital world is every bit as important as how you behave in the analog world. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

1. Pretend your client is reading everything you post. I almost said, “Pretend your mother is reading everything you post,” but my mother does read almost everything I post. Look through your last ten online interactions — Facebook updates, Tweets, etc. Are they all complaints? Are they all funny pictures? Or nothing but political links? Are they all pictures of you after Friday night’s soiree where you had a few adult beverages? What are you presenting to your client or others? Posts full of profanity and complaining? Or encouraging, helpful posts?

2. When in Rome, act as the Romans do — or the Tweeters or the Facebookers. Each social media platform has its own distinct culture and customs that have evolved as the platform grows. How you interact on Twitter will probably differ from how you act on LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Facebook. Posting funny pictures of cats is acceptable on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, but not on LinkedIn — unless you are in the pet industry, which few of us readers are. It’s best to lurk first and get a feel for the atmosphere, especially with online forums. Which brings me to the third tip:

3. Look. Lurk. Wait before reposting. When in doubt, Google it or check Snopes.com. Don’t click on links all willynilly, even if someone you trust posted it. Don’t repost anything without doublechecking its accuracy. Facebook is not going to start charging for accounts, and more than likely, that missing child alert you’re about to send out is far out of date. The website Snopes.com is a wonderful resource for looking up whether something is true or not. For example, Pepsi is not using the cells of aborted fetuses in their beverages, no matter what your motherin- law says.

4. This is a social network, not a broadcasting network. Like offline life, if everything you say online is all about you, you’re boring and extremely annoying. Participate in the conversations. Ask people questions. Comment — nicely — on other people’s blogs. Publicly post kudos to fellow online friends.

5. Do not be anonymous, but remember: Everything you say, post, repost, reTweet, share, and comment on can and may be used against you. The Library of Congress is archiving all the tweets on Twitter. Neither respond to trolls nor be a troll. What is a troll? Someone who is “trolling” for arguments, in the fishing sense. They’re just looking to stir the pot. They want attention. Don’t give it to them, and certainly don’t be them.

6. Use “block” and “hide” and “unfriend” as much as you want. If someone is acting in an abusive manner towards you, report it to the appropriate administrators of the network platform. If someone is constantly trying to pick a fight with you (and you neither want to fight nor to subject your followers to said conversation), unfriend, unfollow, block, or hide them. If someone constantly posts stuff you don’t wish to see, unfriend, unfollow, block, or hide them. If your friends list has gotten unwieldy and full of people you don’t engage with online, feel free to prune away. It’s your account. Make it as you wish.

6a. And do not be offended if someone unfollows you. Some people like their Facebook to be filled with only their non-court-reporting friends, and some people like a mix. Some people use Twitter to network, and some use Twitter to keep up with current events and blog updates. Some people use Facebook to tout their political or philosophical viewpoints, while others use it to keep in touch with friends — or both, or neither. If someone unfollows you, don’t worry about it. 7. Cross your online friendships into offline friendships. Going to conventions and seminars is more enjoyable when you’re meeting good friends you’ve met online. If you’re going out of town, see who’s in the area who may want to meet up for lunch — in a public place, of course. Just as you act professional on the telephone, in writing, and on the job, remember to act professional when you use social media.

Language: Cinderella’s glass slipper: Was it a slip?

Everybody loves a good Cinderella story, right? I pointedly say a Cinderella story because, in fact, there are hundreds of variations on the Cinderella theme that have sprung from cultures around the globe stretching back over the centuries. Walt Disney’s Cinderella is merely the version most well known to present-day American audiences.

It seems a Cinderellaesque folk tale has existed in written form in China since 850 A.D. And probably a century earlier in Egypt, although that story of a girl named Rhodopis was apparently more of a stub, as Wikipedia would call it, than a well-developed plot.

Interestingly, the prominence of a lady’s slipper in the Chinese story can possibly be traced to a south coast of China custom of a hand-sewn shoe being a sort of love token given by a young girl to her intended one. The slippers are referred to as golden in the Chinese tale. In subsequent tellings of the tale around the world, the slippers are made of a myriad of other materials: some are silver, some bedecked with jewels or pearls, some are silk.

So from what source did Disney’s version borrow the idea of glass slippers? It had to be from Charles Perrault, who in 1697 published a French version of Cinderella called Cendrillon, ou la petite pantoufle de verre (Cinderella, or the little glass slipper). This is the first known mention of a glass slipper in the long history of the Cinderella fairy tale.

The question is: Did Perrault intend to write about a glass slipper or did he slip? That is, did he intend to write verre, the French word for glass? Or did he intend to write vair, a French word for … well, for vair. (I was surprised to find that vair is a perfectly good, if little used, English word.) In either language, vair refers to a type of rare squirrel fur used in the Middle Ages in clothing worn by royalty and high nobility. The backside of the squirrel’s fur was gray colored, the underside white. The two colors of fur were often alternated and sewn into a coat or cape as lining. (Vair comes from the Latin varius, meaning varied.) But if vair was sometimes used as a material for slippers, I’ve been unable to find a specific historical reference to verify this.

The point is that verre and vair are exact homonyms in French, or homophones if you prefer. So some people contend that Perrault meant to write slippers of fur, but either didn’t know the correct spelling of vair (since even in his day the word was no longer common), or he did know the spelling but didn’t catch the misspelling presumably made by an incompetent transcriptionist (perish the thought!) before his story went to press.

Other folks argue that the idea of glass slippers could simply have been a fairy tale-like innovation on Perrault’s part and even consider them to have been a stroke of genius, given the storied place the glass slippers occupy today in the public imagination. As far as I can tell, it was Honoré de Balzac, a 19th century French writer, who first raised the issue of a mistranscription; and he did so in 1841, approximately a century and a half after Cendrillon was first published.

My comment is that it’s a slippery slope to try to divine an author’s intention — in other words, to read his mind. We simply have no text of Perrault’s story where fur slippers appear, only glass ones. And to me, glass slippers have way more pizzazz than fur ever could. Who would wear fur slippers with a fancy, jeweled ball gown anyway? Squirrel mukluks? I don’t think so. For my money, glass is a shoe-in (groan).

Long story short, we will probably never know for certain whether Perrault intended to tell a tale of a glass slipper or a fur slipper. Unless an early illustrated edition of his story can be found clearly showing what the darned slippers were made of, we’ll probably have to live with uncertainty. Actually there is an illustration featuring Cinderella’s shoe, which apparently accompanied the original text in the first listed website below; however, it’s impossible to tell what the shoe is made of. Oddly, I found no mention anywhere else of this illustration.

But on my next visit to Paris, I plan to scour the rare book sections of bookshops as well as the famous bookstalls along the Seine. I may not find the key to unlock the mystery of the glass slipper, but who cares. The fun is in the chase, n’est-ce pas?

SOURCES CONSULTED:

 

Glossary: HIV/AIDS terms and definitions, part 5

transcription: The fourth of seven steps in the HIV life cycle. Transcription occurs after HIV has integrated its viral DNA into the DNA of the host cell. During transcription, the host cell uses the genetic instructions carried in HIV DNA to make new HIV RNA, including HIV messenger RNA (mRNA).

translation: The fifth of seven steps in the HIV life cycle. Translation occurs after the host cell makes new HIV RNA. During translation, the host cell uses the genetic instructions carried in the new HIV RNA, specifically messenger RNA (mRNA), to make HIV proteins.

transmitted resistance: Also known as: Primary Resistance. When a person becomes infected with a strain of HIV that is already resistant to certain antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

transplacental: Passage through or across the placenta. Transplacental usually refers to the exchange of nutrients, waste products, drugs, infectious organisms, or other substances between the mother and the fetus.

treatment failure: When an antiretroviral (ARV) regimen is unable to control HIV infection. Treatment failure can be clinical failure, immunologic failure, virologic failure, or any combination of the three. Factors that can contribute to treatment failure include drug resistance, drug toxicity, or poor treatment adherence.

treatment regimen: Also known as: Regimen. A structured treatment plan designed to improve and maintain health. Recommended HIV treatment regimens include a combination of three or more antiretroviral (ARV) drugs from at least two different drug classes.

treatment-experienced: When a person with HIV is currently taking or has previously taken antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

treatment-naïve: When a person with HIV has never taken antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

triglycerides: A type of fat in blood and adipose (fat) tissue.

triple-class experienced: When an HIV-infected person has received antiretroviral (ARV) drugs from three drug classes — the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI), non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI), and protease inhibitor (PI) drug classes.

true negative: A negative test result that correctly indicates that the condition being tested for is not present. For example, a true negative HIV test correctly indicates that a person is not infected with HIV.

true positive: A positive test result that correctly indicates that the condition being tested for is present. For example, a true positive HIV test correctly indicates that a person is infected with HIV.

tuberculosis (TB): An infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium bovis. Tuberculosis (TB), also referred to as Mycobacterium infection, is spread when a person with an active infection (TB disease) coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings, and then a person nearby breathes in the bacteria. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, spine, and brain. There are two forms of TB: latent TB infection and TB disease. In people with HIV, TB is considered an AIDS-defining condition.

tuberculosis disease: The active form of tuberculosis (TB) infection. During TB disease, the bacteria multiply, become active, and make the person sick. A person with TB disease of the lungs can spread TB to others. TB disease primarily affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, spine, and brain, and it can be fatal. Symptoms include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, chest pain, coughing up blood or sputum, weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, chills, and sweating at night. In people with HIV, TB disease is an AIDS defining condition.

tuberculosis skin test: Also known as: purified protein derivative test, tuberculin skin test. A screening test for tuberculosis (TB). Purified protein derivative (PPD) extracted from the bacterium that causes tuberculosis is injected just below the skin (intradermally). After 48 to 72 hours, a health care professional checks the site of injection for a reaction that indicates that the person has been exposed to TB. Following a positive TB skin test, additional tests are necessary to determine whether a person actually has active TB (TB disease). Certain populations, such as children, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems, may have smaller, delayed, or negative reactions to the TB test even if they are infected with TB.

undetectable viral load: When the amount of HIV in the blood is too low to be detected with a viral load (HIV RNA) test. Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs may reduce a person’s viral load to an undetectable level; however, that does not mean the person is cured. Some HIV, in the form of latent HIV reservoirs, remain inside cells and in body tissues.

urinalysis: Physical, chemical, and microscopic examination of urine. Urinalysis can detect a specific substance, such as glucose or blood, in the urine — this can be helpful in diagnosing a disease or monitoring the body’s response to treatment.

urolithiasis: Calculi (stones) in the urinary tract. Use of some antiretroviral (ARV) drugs may cause urolithiasis.

urticarial: Also known as: hives. Raised, swollen, itchy areas on the skin or mucous membranes, usually caused by an allergic reaction to a drug or food.

vaccination: Also known as: immunization. Giving a vaccine to stimulate a person’s immune response. Vaccination can be intended either to prevent a disease (a preventive vaccine) or to treat a disease (a therapeutic vaccine).

vaccine: Also known as: Inoculation. A substance administered to trigger an immune response against a particular disease. Most vaccines are designed to prevent a person from ever having a particular disease or to only have a mild case of the disease. However, therapeutic vaccines are intended to treat specific diseases. Although researchers are testing vaccines both to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, no HIV vaccine is currently approved for use outside of clinical trials.

vaccinia: The pox-type virus used in the vaccine that eradicated smallpox. Researchers are studying the possibility of using a modified, milder version of the vaccinia virus to develop a vaccine against HIV infection.

vacuolar myelopathy: A neurological disorder associated with advanced HIV infection. Vacuolar myelopathy causes the protective myelin sheath to pull away from nerve cells of the spinal cord, forming small holes (vacuoles) in nerve fibers. Symptoms of vacuolar myelopathy include weak and stiff legs and unsteadiness when walking.

varicella zoster virus (VZV): Also known as: herpes zoster, human herpesvirus 3. A type of herpesvirus that causes chicken pox. After initial infection with varicella zoster virus (VZV), the inactive (latent) form of the virus can remain in the body. If the latent virus becomes active again, it can cause shingles. vector: In genetically engineered vaccines, a vector is a bacterium or virus that transports antigen-coding genes into the body to provoke an immune response. (The vector itself does not provoke an immune response or cause disease.) A vector may also refer to an organism, especially an insect, that transmits disease-causing agents.

vertical transmission: Vertical transmission of HIV refers to HIV transmission from an HIV-infected mother to her child during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or breastfeeding (through breast milk).

viral evolution: The change in the genetic makeup of a virus population as the viruses mutate and multiply over time. HIV evolves rapidly because of its high mutation and replication rates. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) and the body’s immune response can also influence HIV evolution.

viral latency: When a virus is present in the body but exists in a resting (latent) state without producing more virus. A latent viral infection usually does not cause any noticeable symptoms and can last a long period of time before becoming active and causing symptoms. HIV is capable of viral latency, as seen in the reservoirs of latent HIV-infected cells that persist in a person’s body despite antiretroviral therapy (ART).

viral load (VL): The amount of HIV in a sample of blood. Viral load (VL) is reported as the number of HIV RNA copies per milliliter of blood. An important goal of antiretroviral therapy (ART) is to suppress a person’s VL to an undetectable level—a level too low for the virus to be detected by a VL test.

viral load test: A laboratory test that measures the amount of HIV in a blood CERTIFICATION sample. Results are reported as the number of copies of HIV RNA per milliliter of blood. Examples of viral load tests include quantitative branched DNA (bDNA), reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and qualitative transcription-mediated amplification. Viral load tests are used to diagnose acute HIV infection, guide treatment choices, and monitor response to antiretroviral therapy (ART).

viral rebound: Also known as: rebound. When a person on antiretroviral therapy (ART) has persistent, detectable levels of HIV in the blood after a period of undetectable levels. Causes of viral rebound can include drug resistance or poor adherence to an HIV treatment regimen.

viral replication: Also known as: replication. The process by which a virus multiplies.

viral suppression: Also known as: virologic control. When antiretroviral therapy (ART) reduces a person’s viral load (HIV RNA) to an undetectable level. Viral suppression does not mean a person is cured; HIV still remains in the body. If ART is discontinued, the person’s viral load will likely return to a detectable level.

viral tropism: Also known as: tropism. When HIV selectively attaches to a particular coreceptor on the surface of the host cell. HIV can attach to either the CCR5 coreceptor (R5-tropic) or the CXCR4 coreceptor (X4-tropic) or both (dual-tropic).

viremia: The presence of viruses in the blood.

viricide: Also known as: virucide. A substance that can destroy or inactivate a virus.

virologic failure: A type of HIV treatment failure. Virologic failure occurs when antiretroviral therapy (ART) fails to suppress and sustain a person’s viral load to less than 200 copies/mL. Factors that can contribute to virologic failure include drug resistance, drug toxicity, and poor treatment adherence.

virology: The study of viruses and viral diseases.

virus: A microscopic infectious agent that requires a living host cell in order to replicate. Viruses often cause disease in humans, including measles, mumps, rubella, polio, influenza, and the common cold. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

visceral adipose tissue (VAT): Also known as: intra-abdominal fat, visceral fat. Fat tissue located deep in the abdomen and around internal organs. Use of certain antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can cause excessive accumulation of visceral adipose tissue (VAT), which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.

wasting syndrome: An involuntary loss of more than 10% of body weight (especially muscle mass), plus at least 30 days of either diarrhea or weakness and fever. HIV-associated wasting syndrome is an AIDS-defining condition.

Western blot: A type of antibody test used to confirm a positive result on an HIV screening test. (The initial screening test is usually an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA] or, less often, a viral load test). The immune system responds to HIV infection by producing HIV antibodies. A Western blot can detect HIV antibodies in the blood, oral fluid, or urine.

white blood cell: Also known as: leukocyte. A type of cell found in blood and lymph. White blood cells are key components of the immune system and help fight infection and disease. Examples of white blood cells include lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, macrophages, and mast cells.

wild-type virus: The naturally occurring, non-mutated strain of a virus. When exposed to antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, wild-type HIV can develop mutations that make the virus resistant to specific ARV drugs.

window period: The time period from infection with HIV until the body produces enough HIV antibodies to be detected by an HIV antibody test. This generally takes two to eight weeks, but in some people it can take up to six months. During the window period, a person can have a negative result on an HIV antibody test despite being infected with HIV.

Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS): Started in 1993, the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) is an ongoing federally funded study on women who have HIV or who are at risk for HIV. Analysis of biological specimens and medical and behavioral data collected on WIHS participants has contributed to the understanding of HIV, AIDS, and the effects of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in women.

World Health Organization (WHO): The agency of the United Nations that provides global leadership on health-related matters. Responsibilities of the World Health Organization (WHO) include shaping the global health research agenda, setting health standards, promoting evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries, and monitoring and assessing health trends.

X4-Tropic Virus: Also known as: T-tropic virus. A strain of HIV that enters and infects a host cell by binding to the CXCR4 receptor on the host cell. To enter a host cell, HIV must first attach to a CD4 receptor, then attach to either the CCR5 or CXCR4 receptor, and finally fuse its membrane with the host cell membrane. HIV is usually R5-tropic (uses CCR5) during the early stages of infection, but the virus may later switch to using either CXCR4 or both CCR5 and CXCR4.

This glossary of HIV/AIDS-related terms is from the U.S. Government Source for HIV/AIDS Medical Practice Guidelines, Clinical Trials, and Other Research Information. It was found online at the National Institutes of Health website, http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/.

Secrets of Success – Matthew Dreger: Advocate and keep your skills current

Matthew A. DregerMatthew A. Dreger has been in the field since the late 1970s, beginning his career as a freelancer followed by 27 years as an official court reporter. Although he is now retired from the Third Judicial Circuit Court in Wayne County, Mich., he spent more than three decades in the court reporting profession. He is also a past president of the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters, where he held this important position from 2001-2002. Dreger, who makes Mount Clemens, Mich., his home, offers great insight and advice on how to be successful in this ever-changing profession.

What traits have contributed to your success?

Drive. Desire for the better things in life and the wish to retire early in life. Being one of the two first computerized court reporters in the 36th District Court in Detroit in 1986 and one of the two realtime official court reporters in the Recorder’s/ Circuit Court in Detroit in the 1990s led to a very successful career path.

How has the court reporting business changed over the past years?

When I was a freelancer in the late 1970s, you dictated, you had several typists to keep up with the work load, and you were up all night. With the advent of realtime and the improvement in skills that comes from that style of writing, I no longer needed any assistance to keep up with my transcript load in one of the busiest courthouses in the United States. With realtime, the job became self-contained, no longer subject to other people’s scheduling problems, and, of course, expedited transcripts were no longer the work-intensive transcripts they once were.

What type of skill set is needed to be successful?

The skill set most necessary is the desire to advance yourself, your professional abilities, and job quality through software, writers, Bluetooth, e-trans, realtime, rough draft. Keeping your skills current makes you the most marketable of all reporters.

What role does technology play in being successful, and how does technology affect the court reporting business?

Technology took court reporting from a well-paying drudgery profession to a stateof- the-art profession that allows attorneys to have their products in a timeframe unmatched by any other type of reporting.

How will technology affect the future of the business, and what does a reporter need to do/focus on when that happens?

Technology has allowed our profession to develop into several new career paths, and reporters need to focus on the type of career path they are interested in. After your basic skills are developed, CART, realtime reporting as a freelancer or official, and/or closed captioning are focus areas that allow reporters to choose a profession that is more in sync with their lifestyles and family needs. Again, being a standout in the crowd with your skill set will give you a huge advantage.

How important is networking to building business and become successful?

Extremely.

Can you provide some examples of good networking that could help court reporters?

Knowing your legislators and keeping in contact with those who make the laws/statues, etc., that govern reporters is integral to our future. That contact must occur on a regular basis and not just when there is a crisis or change that will impact the court reporting profession.

What would be the best advice (or pieces of advice) you could give a student who is about to enter the field?

Students should do their best to pay attention to rules, regulations, and office procedures where they work. Do a good job. Turn out your transcripts in a timely fashion. Continue your certification process. Keep your software up to date, and enjoy the financial rewards that come from a profession that allows you flexibility.

What type of advice would you give to an established court reporter who is considering getting out of the field due to changes in the business?

What changes could be so drastic that you would want to leave this field? You have multiple career paths open to you. If you are a reporter with the skills and certifications looked for in our field, the only thing you need to do is understand changes and go with the flow. You do not want to find yourself in the same place as many auto companies because “that’s the way we have always done it!” We have gone from the pen writer to the manual machine writer, then on to the electric machine writer, to the computerized machine writer, and on to the realtime writer, the CART provider, and the closed caption writer. And through all those reinventions and new ways of doing steno writing, we have heard you will be replaced by tape recording, digital recording, etc. We have evolved. We are still here. We can still do it faster, better, and the most accurately. We are technology. Don’t leave the business; evolve with the business.

Where do you see the court reporting profession going in the future? And what do reporters need to do to prepare for that?

I see court reporting remaining a vibrant profession. I see court reporting career paths continuing to blossom and allowing stenographic writers choices. I see court reporting becoming a truly IT business profession with high pay and importance. To prepare for this future, NCRA, state associations, state certifications, continuing education, education, and relationship building with decision makers, stake holders, education of the members of the legal field, the television industry, and educational industry of what we can provide, what we do provide, and how we can assist them all in the furtherance of their own professions is of the highest priority. We must advocate. We must maintain our skills. We must have the skills we profess.

Do you want to nominate someone for the “Secrets of Success” series? Send your pick into the JCR’sWriter/Editor, Linda Smolkin, at lsmolkin@ncra.org.

You, Inc. – Health care law update

In an effort to bring our members the most up-to-date information about changes to this nation’s healthcare policy, we wanted to provide an update on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “Healthcare Bill”). The next round of provisions under the Affordable Care Act (the “Healthcare Bill”), will take effect in October, when qualified individuals and small business employers will be able to access information and enroll in subsidized plans through state-established healthcare exchanges and the Small Business Health Options (SHOP) Program. Coverage by the exchanges and the SHOP program are then set to begin Jan. 1, 2014.

FOR INDIVIDUALS

This latest reform to take effect under the new healthcare system is referred to as the shared responsibility requirement. It calls for all individuals not covered by an employer- sponsored health plan, Medicaid, Medicare, or any other public insurance program,* to secure an approved private insurance policy or pay a penalty. The state-based health insurance exchanges being established will provide a marketplace where individuals can compare policies and premiums, and purchase insurance coverage, in some instances with a government subsidy if eligible.

The individual health insurance exchanges will offer a choice of four levels of benefit packages that differ by the percentage of costs the health plan covers. Under the program, individuals and the self-employed may qualify for specific tax credits and subsidies on a sliding scale, based on income. Coverage will be comprehensive and include doctor appointments, medications, and hospital visits. In addition, individuals will be able to compare price, benefits, quality, and other features of healthcare plans. This increased access to quality, affordable healthcare is also expected to make it easier for independent contractors to purchase and afford health insurance.

For more information about the health care law and its reforms, or about the healthcare exchange in your state, visit www.healthcare.gov.

FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

The SHOP portion of the healthcare act is designed to simplify the process of securing healthcare for employees and provide small business owners with more choices and control over the cost of their policies. Through state-established SHOPs, small business owners will be able to compare and choose the level of coverage they want to offer employees, as well as how much they are willing to contribute towards employee coverage. In addition, the program will also provide access to expanded tax credits for small businesses, which in some instances can cover as much as 50 percent of employer contribution toward premium costs if they are eligible and employ low- to moderate-wage workers. Other tax incentives under the program include the opportunity for a business owner and his or her employees to use pre-tax dollars to make premium payments.

Under the new law, small business owners can either use their existing insurance broker to access the SHOP, or they can access information directly by visiting www. healthcare.gov/marketplace/small-business. (Under the new healthcare system, in general a business is considered small if it has up to 50 employees. In some states, the self-employed with no employees are also considered a small business.)

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Below is a list of additional reforms that will take affect on Jan. 1, 2014, under the new healthcare law. For more information about these other coming changes, visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline/.

  • Starting in 2014, if affordable coverage is not available to an individual, he or she will be eligible for an exemption. Americans who earn less than 133 percent of the poverty level (approximately $14,000 for an individual and $29,000 for a family of four) will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. States will receive 100 percent federal funding for the first three years to support this expanded coverage, phasing to 90 percent federal funding in subsequent years.
  • Starting in 2014, tax credits to help the middle class afford insurance will become available for those with income between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line who are not eligible for other affordable coverage. The tax credit is advanceable, so it can lower premium payments each month, rather than making you wait for tax time. It’s also refundable, so even moderate income families can receive the full benefit of the credit. These individuals may also qualify for reduced cost-sharing (co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles).
  • Starting in 2014, strong reforms will be implemented that will prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage or renew policies because of an individual’s pre-existing conditions.
  • Starting in 2014, the second phase of the small business tax credit for qualified small businesses and small non-profit organizations will begin. In this phase, the credit is up to 50 percent of the employer’s contribution to provide health insurance for employees.

* To be eligible for coverage under the new healthcare system, you must live in the United States and be a U.S. citizen or national. Individuals incarcerated are not eligible to participate in the system.

The last page: Oh the drama!

THE FORGOTTEN HOBBY

Q. And what are your hobbies aside from riding and shooting?

A. That’s really it. Guns, motorcycles. That’s really it. Hanging out with my friends, going out with my friends.

Q. And now you’ve got your wife?

A. I’ve got my wife, yes. I have to include her, make sure she’s in there.

MR. MILLER: That’s a hobby.

Alan Turboff, RPR, Houston, Texas

NO STANDARDS

Q. Do you know what the standard of care is in Missouri?

A. I have no definition of the standard of care in Missouri.

Mr. Jones: I object to the form of the question. It’s argumentative. There is no standard in Missouri.

Barbara Prindle, RPR, Brunswick, Ga.

QUESTIONS YOU DON’T ASK

Q. You’re not 160 now.

A. I’m like 150-something.

Q. You are?

A. Yes. I know. I’m glad you think it’s hard to believe.

Elsa Jorgensen, Birmingham, Mich.

WISDOM OF EXPERIENCE

Q. How many employees do you currently have?

A. One.

Q. You?

A. Just me. I can’t call my wife an employee because I’ll get killed, but she assists me at times.

Q. You’ve already demonstrated wisdom to me this morning.

Therese Casterline, RMR, CRR, The Colony, Texas

WHICH CAME FIRST?

MR. JONES: I understand that, your Honor. I just think, with all due respect to the Court, I think the Court is putting the egg before the hen. You have to get, with regard to Dr. Green’s affirmation in the motion, you have to get, with regard to his dispute of Dr. Smith’s testimony, from absorption to metabolism. Then you have to get to the effect. And the point is he doesn’t have the egg.

THE COURT: I don’t know what you’re referring to. You’ve lost me in the —

MR. JONES: I’m sorry, your Honor. It’s —

THE COURT: In the metaphor here.

MR. JONES: I get a little too cute for myself.

THE COURT: You know, who is the hen again?

MR. JONES: In other words —

THE WITNESS: I had eggs for breakfast.

MR. JONES: I get a little too cute for myself, I’ll admit that.

Aaron Alweis, RPR, CRR, Binghamton, N.Y.

DARN SOUNDALIKES

Q. You have to answer audibly. I’m sorry.

A. I have to answer oddly?

Q. Audibly.

A. Oh, audibly?

Q. I hope you don’t answer oddly.

Laurie Collins, RPR, Brooklyn, N.Y.

INAUSPICIOUS ENDINGS

Q. About how long were you married in ‘71?

A. I guess about two and a half years.

Q. And how did that marriage end?

A. Roughly.

Barbara Prindle, RPR, Brunswick, Ga.

QUIT CLOWNING AROUND

Q. Do you know how far back you were from the car when you were stopped?

A. No, sir. Just the normal, you know, being in line.

Q. But you never talked to her after the accident?

A. I did, yes.

Q. Okay.

A. Seemed like she was a clown or something.

Q. Was she dressed like a clown?

A. No. That was her business. Seemed like she gave me her card.

Q. She didn’t have like 50 people in her car?

A. No.

Barbara Rosado, RPR, Phoenix, Ariz.

JUST MAKING SURE

Q. Do you remember what date that fall was?

A. October 25, at 8 p.m.

Q. And what year?

A. 2010.

Q. 8 p.m. in the morning or 8 p.m. at night?

A. Night.

Q. Of course. 8 p.m. That was a great question.

Debra A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, Salt Lake City, Nev.

CRAZY QUESTIONS

Q. Do you agree that Mr. X said to you the words that he says of himself; in other words, you say you don’t agree that you said what he says you replied, but you accept that he asked you the questions?

A. Sorry, your Honor?

Colleen Stacey, New South Wales, Australia

 

If you’d like to contribute, please send your funny transcript excerpts to Austin Yursik at ayursik@ncra.org.