Customer Service and the Future of Publishing

February 7, 2011 by Thad McIlroy

Communication is as challenging as it ever was.

The exchange was prompted by a post on Dan Gillmor’s excellent journalism blog on When I saw Dan on the Mac version I did the requisite Google search for an answer and got the usual spam-filled and out-of-date search results.

Like David Pogue at the New York Times I’ve been using Dragon Naturally Speaking since before Nuance bought it (he wrote Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Second Edition using Dragon on Windows). Unlike David Pogue, I could never get it to work satisfactorily. Until Version 11. It’s amazingly good. I’m 99% happy with it (the accuracy could always be better, but it is still miraculous). At the same time, I’m continuously besieged by my very-well-meaning Macintosh buddies to return to the Apple fold. I think they’re right, but after struggling with Dragon for a decade, I don’t want to step backwards. (Would the Windows version work just as well on a MacBook Air?).

Update, February 8, 2011:

Update, February 11, 2011:

After receiving today the comment from Gene Gable (below) it struck me as odd that I’ve not received a response from Nuance. The new rules of engagement for companies in this era of social media are to respond quickly to blogs, tweets, Facebook postings and comments about your products. Last September I posted a very minor complaint about the company on Amazon, and Peter Mahoney, SVP & GM, Dragon responded the same day. When I later commented on the product, ditto. It appears he still works there, so why doesn’t Nuance’s electronic press clipping service pick up on this post? (As you see above, it’s cross-linked to Dan Gillmore’s far-more-popular blog, so it shouldn’t be tough to find.)

My guess is it’s mainly because Google is now worthless for most product searches: it has been too thoroughly gamed by the SEO hordes. A Google search of blogs on “‘Dragon Naturally Speaking’ AND Nuance” produces just garbage and noise.

(When I Googled “too thoroughly gamed by the SEO hordes” to find an appropriate link, I found that search had been gamed as well, and most of the links were to “gaming”.)

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  • Gene Gable

    Feb 11th, 2011 : 9:59 AM

    Thad: As a user of the Mac version, I can tell you that, at least in the version I have, there are a number of differences between the Mac and Windows version of Dragon/Dictate (rendering the Mac version inferior according to most users). But in fairness Nuance has come out with a new version of Dictate for the Mac (that was done since they bought the company that made the Mac version) so they may have made improvements I am not aware of. Quite a few Mac users run the Windows version on their Macs (which is problematic) because they claim it is much better.

    One of the main complaints about Dictate for the Mac was the poor customer service — this is assumed to be better now that Nuance bought the developer.

    So what do I think of the software? It is surprisingly accurate and I can’t really complain about functionality (partly because I have nothing to compare it to). But I discovered I’m just not a talk-to-my-computer kind of guy. I know many good writers (among them David Pouge) who claim to be much more productive thanks to Dragon or Dictate. But I just can’t get my head around dictation as a form of writing. Perhaps it’s the kind of writing I do and certainly has to do with my writing style, which includes lots of revisions. Making revisions to dictated text seems difficult and much more work than using editing tools in Word (and you can’t switch back and forth between the two methods). I suppose you could look at Dragon/Dictate as a great first draft tool and then just take the text into Word and do your revisions there.

    Unfortunately you need a special microphone/headset to use the software or I’d recommend a trial version.

    So I’d say that in my case it’s not the fault of the software that I don’t use it — it just doesn’t seem like a productivity boost to me, and I certainly don’t think it adds to the quality or creativity of my writing. Of course llike many complex applications, it could be that if I stuck with it a little longer and put in all the work that is necessary to make it work easily, I’d like it better. I admittedly gave up pretty early in the process.

    Good luck!

  • thad

    Feb 11th, 2011 : 3:01 PM

    Thanks for the insights, Gene.

    I’ve had similar challenges writing by dictation. It doesn’t pan out for many things I do, but sometimes I’ve worked through a text in my head in advance and can spit it out fairly cleanly.

    A big plus in the Windows 11 version is that you can easily edit the text in Word, and the edits ostensible improve the accuracy of the software (so that you no longer need to go back via Dragon’s cumbersome user interface for corrections).

    And you’re spot-on about the microphone: Dragon is emphatic that a high-quality mic makes a big difference to the accuracy of the software.

  • Erica Hill

    Feb 17th, 2011 : 8:11 AM

    Hi Thad.

    Oof, you’re right. We missed your post. We do actively monitor and respond as best we can, but we miss things from time to time and I’m sorry that we didn’t catch this. Thank you for commenting on our recent blog post to let us know.
    Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Dragon Dictate for Mac are indeed different products, but are becoming closer with each new release. We don’t have a feature-for-feature comparison, but the accuracy is the same (same Dragon engine), while some of the features vary in terms of correction, editing, shortcuts, etc.

    We will plan to have one of our next Ask the Dictator videos focus on a comparison of the two, and I’ll suggest to the team that we provide more information on our Web site for folks who are looking for a breakdown of PC vs. Mac.

    Thanks again for your comment and your feedback, and apologies that your questions weren’t answered more immediately/directly.

    -Erica Hill
    Corporate Communications, Dragon (Nuance)

  • Kmacdcanada

    Aug 12th, 2011 : 10:04 PM

    Communication is still awful.  I ordered a Dragon Dictate for Mac upgrade on July 25 and am still witing for it depite their claim of delivery witrhin 5-7 days.  In response to may queries re: when I can expect delivery, I’ve received two emails that read.  Note that they don;t answer the question and don’t provide me with a tracking number – good customer service?  NOT.

    Thank you for contacting the Nuance Online Store.

    Your order is now in process and will be ship via Federal Express.

    To track your shipment, please go to:
    or call

    Angelita C.
    Nuance Online Store
    Customer Service
    Email ID: 19783943