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Tool for journalists: Calltrunk, for searchable phone recordings
Calltrunk allows you to record landline, mobile and Skype calls and then search the audio for keywords
What is it? Allows you to record – and search – mobile, landline and Skype recordings
Both Oftel and McNae's Essential Law for Journalists contain guidance on recording phone calls in the UK, such as identifying yourself and asking permission to record. McNae's adds that "Ofcom guidance states that it is acceptable for journalists to record their own calls for note-taking purposes".
How is it of use to journalists? If like me you are a journalist who has shorthand but likes to record phone and Skype interviews in order to check quotes and concentrate on the conversation, read on.
Calltrunk not only allows you to record landline, mobile and Skype calls, saving all the recordings in one place, but it also allows you to search the audio.
Type in a keyword and Calltrunk will indicate each time that word has been used in a recording.
If you are cynical of voice recognition software after frustrating arguments with Siri, give Calltrunk a go and you should be pleasantly surprised.
I have carried out a few tests and the voice search – which is called ARGOsearch – was able to highlight keywords. For example, I read 'the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain'.
Making a call
You can use Calltrunk for to record from a landline by entering the phone number in the 'make a call' section of your Calltrunk account.
Calltrunk has apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows, and allows you to request a 'Calltrunk robot' for Skype (my request was approved within a few minutes). You can then patch the Calltrunk robot into a Skype call.
The iPhone app has a really handy feature called 'call on demand' in that you can start recording after making a call and you can patch in the app to record an incoming call.
To do this you need to hit the button to the right of the call button (it looks like a plug) and then the green call button.
The recordings are stored in the cloud and are instantly available online or within the app and you can use the ARGOsearch feature about a minute after making the recording. It is particularly useful having all the call recordings in one place. And that means you are able to search a library of all your interviews to find all references to a particular keyword.
Recordings can also be sent to Dropbox or Evernote.
When you sign up to Calltrunk you are given a few pounds of free credit to get you started. The pay-as-you-go option involves buying credit and calls are then charged at 8 pence a minute landline to landline, 16 pence landline to mobile and 26 pence mobile to mobile. There are also monthly subscriptions starting at £4.99 which gives 50 mins and 200 mins of Skype recording.
ARGOsearch is currently free to use. Richard Newton, vice-president of marketing, told Journalism.co.uk that the company may charge for this in the future in order to fund the processing and to further develop the technology to recognise regional accents.
Newton explained that Calltrunk started out by offering call recording software to consumers who wanted to record their calls with banks and utility companies.
"But conversations are analogue, they are not searchable like email is," Newton said. "And listening through is inefficient."
They created ARGOsearch, which was released in beta in April 2012 and has since won a number of awards.
Newton said it is getting a lot of interest from journalists and journalism schools, particularly in the US.
The company has also been selected to go into the Fintech London programme. Goldman Sachs, Citibank, Morgan Stanley, Accenture and Boris selected seven companies to work with because in areas where they expect huge advances in technology.
Calltrunk also offers a transcription service and charges £1.25 per minute
For a demo of search see this video on The Financial Times How to Spend It site.
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