Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe transcripts project

I’m a huge fan of the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, a podcast of science and skepticism, and I’ve been thinking for a while that it’d be really good to have transcripts of the episodes to facilitate linking and searching. But I couldn’t find any other project, other than a thread on the SGU forums. So I decided to put my time where my mouth is, and just do some transcribing.

It takes me about three times the amount of time to do a transcript as the podcast’s length (which is about 80 minutes), so generally a couple of nights’ work for a single SGU podcast. I guess I might be able to manage about two podcasts a week, and given that there are currently a bit over 350 podcasts in the archive, and a new one released each week, it’ll probably take me about seven years to finish them all! So… I created a wiki, Now we’ll just have to see if the community gets behind it, otherwise I could be here for a long time.

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13 Responses to Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe transcripts project

  1. Cat says:

    Just heard about this on the podcast today, and it was something I was thinking about myself, so I would love to help out.
    I’ve inserted a page for SGU 5X5 #52 using the format of the other pages. However, I’ve not created/edited a Wiki page before, so could you take a quick look and let me know if everything’s in order? Thanks

  2. rwh says:

    Hi Cat,

    That’s great! You’re the first contributor (other than me). I must say it was a bit of a shock to hear that mention on the SGU podcast so soon (though a nice shock). Your work looks great, I don’t think I need to change anything at all. 🙂

    Thanks for your work!


  3. Cat says:

    I’ve got another couple of questions for you.
    1. what do you want to do about swearing? I’m more than happy to leave it in, but I’ll follow your lead.
    2. Should we include time stamps for each section? I’ve often wanted to go back to a section of the podcast, or direct someone else to it. This would possibly increase the value of transcriptions, where a lot of people will find them redundant.

  4. rwh says:

    1. Sure, I’m happy to leave them in. If they can say it, we can type it, right?
    2. Timestamps sound like a great idea. Hmm, how do you think we should format them? As regular text underneath the heading, or do you have a better idea?


  5. rwh says:

    I just went through and put times (in perentheses) after the heading of each section in episode 352. What do you think?


  6. Cat says:

    Could do, I don’t know what’s conventional. If we include them in the headings, then they’ll appear in the contents list, which might be helpful, if a little messy. e.g:
    Today in Skepticism (3:52)
    News Items (7:31)
    Who’s That Noisy (35:16)
    or use small text to minimise interference: (35:16)
    Another option is to include an info box to the side, I have no experience with these, but I think wiki help page provides that. Perhaps we could put the podcast links in there too, and anything else that crops up weekly, like the quote of the week.
    Whaddya think?

  7. Cat says:

    Sorry for HTML error. I’ve sketched out a rough draft of the kind of infobox I meant on my user page.

  8. rwh says:

    Hmm, yeah I have no experience with those but if done well I think they could be really good. I’ll have a look into them when I get a moment, but if you come up with something good, I see no reason not to run with it. I’m a bit worried that putting the titles of the sections in the infobox might be unnecessary duplication, I think I’d rather put the times in the titles than do that. Maybe we can put the times in the titles but make the font smaller somehow?

  9. Larry Coon says:

    Great project, and thanks for taking it on.

    Here’s another idea — hire a professional stenographer to create the transcripts.

    Pros: They are much, much, much faster. They also won’t eat up much of your personal time.

    Cons: Cost.

    An example podcast who uses a stenographer to transcribe every episode is Steve Gibson & Leo Laporte’s “Security Now.” Here’s there episode archive where you can get a transcript of every episode:

    I will explore the cost per episode of having a professional do the work and pass it along. It’s possible we can create a fund of donations from SGU listeners to pay for it.

  10. Andrew says:

    I also want to help out but I have not done wiki edits before. I’ll give it shot with the 5x5s. Good job getting this going!

  11. rwh says:

    Hi Larry, interesting idea, though there is so much material that I fear it would cost a fortune.

    Hi Andrew. No problem with not having done wiki edits before, either go to an existing page, click edit and copy the markup from there, or just do your transcript in plain text, copy/paste it into the page, and others can come and mark it up for you. That’s the beauty of wikis! 🙂

    Creating a new page is as easy as typing the title you want to use into the search box and if the page doesn’t exist you should see a line like this at the top of the search results:

    Create the page “This is my title” on this wiki!

    Click the title and your page will be created. :)s

  12. Hi Rob, this is a terrific idea.

    I’ve done some transcription work for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and would love to help out 🙂

  13. rwh says:

    Great, head on over to It’d be great to have you on board.



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