Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Rise of Machine-Written Journalism

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the hey-that's-my-job dept.

The Media 134

Hugh Pickens writes "Peter Kirwan has an interesting article in Wired UK on the emergence of software that automates the collection, evaluation, and even reporting of news events. Thomson Reuters, the world's largest news agency, has started moving down this path, courtesy of an intriguing product with the nondescript name NewsScope, a machine-readable news service designed for financial institutions that make their money from automated, event-driven trading. The latest iteration of NewsScope 'scans and automatically extracts critical pieces of information' from US corporate press releases, eliminating the 'manual processes' that have traditionally kept so many financial journalists in gainful employment. At Northwestern University, a group of computer science and journalism students have developed a program called Stats Monkey that uses statistical data to generate news reports on baseball games. Stats Monkey identifies the players who change the course of games, alongside specific turning points in the action. The rest of the process involves on-the-fly assembly of templated 'narrative arcs' to describe the action in a format recognizable as a news story. 'No doubt Kurt Cagle, editor of XMLToday.org, was engaging in a bit of provocation when he recently suggested that an intelligent agent might win a Pulitzer Prize by 2030,' writes Kirwin. 'Of course, it won't be the software that takes home the prize: it'll be the programmers who wrote the code in the first place, something that Joseph Pultizer could never have anticipated.'"

cancel ×

134 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Niggers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30597896)

What's the difference between a nigger and a bucket of shit? The bucket!

Re:Niggers (2, Insightful)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30597964)

If that's a demonstration I feel sorry for the people who think we'll get anywhere by 2030.

Re:Niggers (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598036)

For a demo check out blog spam, and anything else 'internet marketing' related. A lot of that stuff is written by automated software or a guy in India.

Both look the same really...

Re:Niggers (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30598224)

Attention Jews: The showers are that way ---->

Oh great (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 4 years ago | (#30597898)

[...] NewsScope, a machine-readable news service designed for financial institutions that make their money from automated, event-driven trading.

Oh great, we're starting ANOTHER arms race. As if SEO isn't bad enough already, now we'll have NEO.

Re:Oh great (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30597940)

It's not that bad, SEO will disappear if that happens. After all, NEO is The One.

For some definitions of journalism (3, Insightful)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599554)

'scans and automatically extracts critical pieces of information' from US corporate press releases, eliminating the 'manual processes' that have traditionally kept so many financial journalists in gainful employment.

That, I must admit, is an excruciatingly lame definition of 'journalism'.

John Henry (2, Insightful)

Akido37 (1473009) | more than 4 years ago | (#30597944)

Another "machines will take my job" story. This is as old as technology itself.

As with all other technologies, the future will be vastly different than what we envision.

Re:John Henry (1)

RenderSeven (938535) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598518)

Another "machines took my job" story.

There, fixed that for you

Re:John Henry (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598566)

Another "machines will take my job" story.

They took his job! [youtube.com]

nonsense (5, Insightful)

symes (835608) | more than 4 years ago | (#30597990)

Well-written prose is far from formulaic. While financial institutions and baseball enthusiasts may happily forego a penetrating understanding of a situations meaning and emotions the literate will not.

Mod parent up. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598178)

This is nothing more than extracting stats and then placing them in pre-generated sentences.

In sports, this is okay. Except when something interesting happens like someone head-butting another player.

Anyone want to place a bet on how long before companies are accused of "gaming" the financial reporting system with their press releases?

Re:Mod parent up. (3, Funny)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598550)

This is nothing more than extracting stats and then placing them in pre-generated sentences.

In sports, this is okay.

Countless generations of sports writers and the enthusiasts who read their work would disagree with you.

Re:Mod parent up. (2, Interesting)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598598)

Anyone want to place a bet on how long before companies are accused of "gaming" the financial reporting system with their press releases?

Inevitable. Most of the Financial world is overstated swings in outlooks, leading to crazy stock price gains and losses.

I have a very simple solution to daily manipulation of financial manipulation. A sliding scale of capital gains taxes, based solely upon how long one owns the financial instrument they are trading.

10 years capital gains tax free.

Or something like that. The problems with our current market are due either directly or indirectly to short term outlooks to income generation, ie next quarters profit/loss statements.

Holding a stock or bond long term is almost insane these days. YET that is the purpose of stocks / bonds, long term financing.

That is my solution.

Re:Mod parent up. (2, Interesting)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599042)

I saw one of the stocks I owned go up when Company A released a press release that Company A signed a deal with company B.

The stock of Company A spiked again 3 days later when Company B released a press release that it had just signed a deal with Company A.

If there are quant systems out there listing to the wire and trading on info like this, the system will surely be gamed. What is worse is that if a human were watching the blips come over the wire would he necessarily catch the problem?

They've been doing crap like this in their accounting for years, Enron charges X to company Y, and Y charges X back to Enron, both of them had 2X extra sales in the quarter, but no money or goods actually change hands, now it extends to journalism.

Re:Mod parent up. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599448)

Of course, short term traders provide liquidity for long term holders to sell into; I wouldn't be surprised if the tax scheme you proposed simply ended up shifting many transactions such that the trader got more of the advantage, approximately correlated with the expected tax rate of the investor.

Or maybe markets would still be highly liquid.

Re:Mod parent up. (4, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599966)

The purpose of stocks is for a company to raise capital by selling shares to the public, in return for some promise of potential future dividends.

The fact that people trade, hold, or speculate on these stocks in the secondary market (all the busy noise that is the "stock market") is nearly irrelevent. A company should have no reason to care about the price of its stock. Sadly, due to double-taxation of dividends, this has gone completely to shit. People who aren't speculating buy stock not for dividends, but to trade it to the next guy at a profit, because this is tax-favorable over dividends.

Companies do all sorts of crazy BS because of the expectation of stockholders to be rewarded not with dividends (a system that you simply can't game for long) but with rising stock prices (a system that is almost entirely gamesmanship).

Individual investors have the absolute right to seek short term gains or long term gains a their preference. The government has no business meddling in that preference. The "problem with the current market" is that it is no longer grounded in the reality of being able to pay dividends, because some previous generation's ideas about social engineering through taxation punishes dividends as the means of earning a profit on one's investment.

Gaming more than they do now? (2, Insightful)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599156)

Anyone want to place a bet on how long before companies are accused of "gaming" the financial reporting system with their press releases?

As opposed to 'gaming' the media with their press releases? Isn't that what a PR person is supposed to to, create press releases that cast the company in a favorable light?

Re:Mod parent up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30599710)

In sports, this is okay. Except when something interesting happens like someone head-butting another player.

The response of the system: "Unknown error." with a single Ok button below.

Re:nonsense (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30598300)

Just wait until they even try to automate spin!

enum bias {
          ULTRA_LIBERAL,
          FAIRLY_LIBERAL,
          JUST_LEFT_OF_CENTER,
          JUST_RIGHT_OF_CENTER,
          FAIRLY_CONSERVATIVE,
          ULTRA_CONSERVATIVE,
          RUPERT_MURDOCH

};

At least there's now an automated process for it.

Re:nonsense (5, Interesting)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598448)

This strikes me as the sort of thing that, without excessive amounts of variation, would get filtered out quickly by the general public. Sure, a machine can write *one* story on a baseball game that is interesting to read. But after the hundredth version of the same story that you've read, the public would stop reading the text entirely and just filter for the important bits. At that point, you might as well just have a table with the interesting stats.

The challenge isn't to write one story. It's to create a machine that can write N stories that remain interesting and fresh, and with less effort and cost than it would take journalists to just write N stories the traditional way.

Re:nonsense (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599620)

The challenge isn't to write one story. It's to create a machine that can write N stories that remain interesting and fresh, and with less effort and cost than it would take journalists to just write N stories the traditional way.

My bot^H^H^H^H^H^HI have been posting comments to slashdot for years, and people are still modding them interesting, insightful, and informative.

Re:nonsense (1)

dem0n1 (1170795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600516)

Sure, a machine can write *one* story on a baseball game that is interesting to read. But after the hundredth version of the same story that you've read, the public would stop reading the text entirely and just filter for the important bits..

Unless the stories were written in the fashion of The Policeman's Beard Is Half Constructed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racter).

Re:nonsense (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598640)

Feeling defensive, eh? Thanks for informing everyone you're "literate" and therefore better than those filthy ordinary people. Pick up a newspaper, and tell me how much writing would actually be *improved* with a machine writer, eh? Writing isn't sacred, it's just another occupation like woodchopping or running the cash register at the 7-11.

Re:nonsense (2, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599286)

Feeling defensive, eh? Thanks for informing everyone you're "literate" and therefore better than those filthy ordinary people. Pick up a newspaper, and tell me how much writing would actually be *improved* with a machine writer, eh? Writing isn't sacred, it's just another occupation like woodchopping or running the cash register at the 7-11.

What you describe is "everyday" writing. This is like the vending machine that reads "insert dollar bills face up" or "team A scored 10 points while the opposing Team B scored 15." It's purely practical, get-the-job-done sort of writing where only the technical correctness is important.

Writing can also be beautiful, powerful, and artistic. A well-written editorial, penned by someone who has a deep understanding of the issues, can and has moved entire communities to change their minds on important issues. A beautifully written book tells the perceptive reader as much about the mind and spirit of the author as it does about the story that is being told. A horror story requires some sense of what is horrible.

The ability to both produce and appreciate good writing is on the decline. Measured scholastically, the grade-level at which the average American reads and writes is significantly lower now than it was say, 50 years ago. A good look at many online forums will also tell you that this skill is not highly valued. You can say that's because only some cultural elite are capable of enjoying it, though the GP made no such claim. You can also say that there is simply less interest in such things.

You can invent and try to substantiate any number of unique explanations for it. The truth of the matter is that in most situations, challenging your readers is now considered highly undesirable. They'll read a competitor's paper written in simpler langauge before they'll grab a dictionary. There was a time when this would have been viewed as laziness and an unwillingness to meet a worthy challenge. It would have been viewed like a wasted opportunity to better yourself that should not have been passed up, just like most people today would not like to pass up a higher-paying job. I'm not saying that previous generations were one homogeneous block who all felt this way, but many more people once did.

Over the last few generations, some kind of cultural shift occurred. People now care much more about avoiding the small-but-significant effort of learning something new than they care about improving important skills. They generally won't do it at all unless it's required by an authority like a boss or a professor. Even then it's in a rote, mechanical sort of way that deprives them of true appreciation. Even then it's reluctant, with a "gun to their head" in the form of losing their jobs or failing school.

Can you comprehend how sad that is?

Re:nonsense (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599550)

Do you have a good source for reading level statistics?

(I realize I can search for such a thing, but perhaps you know of one that is well organized and such)

Re:nonsense (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600148)

So, how many online forums were there 50 years ago for people to write upon? Dumb people have always been dumb. It's just that the internet lets you see them when before, nobody was even aware of their existence. In addition, judging from their writing, 50 years ago most writers felt themselves to be part of the same society as everyone else. Can you say that about our "the literate will not" friend above?

Re:nonsense (2, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600296)

Yep, it's sad. Eloquence has gone out of style. Being a man sucks in this day and age. People think a man is a weirdo or a fag if he reads books by the pool and uses words more than 4 syllables long.

It's an old argument. Anything can be mechanized - art, music, programming, writing, manufacturing, rolling joints - but if you want the good shit then you'd better make sure that there's a human behind it. There will always be a need for handcrafted stuff.

Everytime a nerd calls fractals "art", God kills a kitten.

Re:nonsense (1)

symes (835608) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599382)

Obviously trolling, never-the-less... literate means just being able to read and write - there's no class distinction here. In fact some of the finest satire comes from the pens of what you call "filthy ordinary people". I am sure a writer could, if rather feably, chop a tree up and a tree chopper could write a bland description of the day the writer chopped up a tree. But it is not what is said but what is omitted in a story that signals scandal and intrigue. Why the writer's wife was not at his side that emotionally charged day of sweat, sticks and bark. That takes a professional writer, not a wood chopper or even a pocket calculator.

Re:nonsense (1)

Thunderstruck (210399) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599454)

Writing isn't sacred, it's just another occupation like woodchopping or running the cash register at the 7-11.

This is an interesting point of view given your signature:

"A lot" is two words. You wouldn't say "alittle", would you?

Apparently writing correctly is important. Then again, I so is getting the correct change at the 7-11, I suppose?

Re:nonsense (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599008)

Aren't most new stories already quite formuliac?

When anything goes wrong, they praise Obama, and put the blaim on George W Bush. Doesn't matter what. The panty bomber was Bushes fault, and Obama's delayed response was just soo wonderful that it should be chiseled into stone ("It's all Geroge W. Bushes fault").

Re:nonsense (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600200)

I think I've seen a system like this in use before (can't remember which website), the only problem is when it posts a dupe article a week or so later.

I for one... (0, Redundant)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598024)

...look forward to our robojournalist overlords.

I for one... (1)

AnotherUsername (966110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598344)

can't wait until this meme meets its end.

I for one... (4, Funny)

azgard (461476) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598734)

...look forward to our meme-ending overlords.

Re:I for one... (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599570)

In Soviet Russia, meme ends YOU.

Censorship (2, Insightful)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598026)

A great fear of mine is that a machine will decide what I should or should not know about. Another is that a machine like this could be tampered with by any human being to make the same decision.

Big Brother SkyNet is watching you, and telling you all you need to know.

Re:Censorship (2, Funny)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598166)

Already happened. It's called "Fox News." (Or "MSNBC," depending on one's leanings.)

Re:Censorship (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598386)

Already happened. It's called "Fox News." (Or "MSNBC," depending on one's leanings.)

(emphasis mine)

Statist fear-mongering from a "Liberal" bias or statist fear-mongering from a "Conservative" bias. Nope, I'm not seeing any significant difference.

Re:Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30598172)

So what if the machines decide what we should or shouldn't know? There are humans already doing this and human's can, like you said, bias the machine anyway. Thus nothing changes accept you get to have a neo-Luddite whine and make a rubbish Terminator reference.

Re:Censorship (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599514)

How is that different from network execs deciding what you should or should not know about?

At least a robot has a chance of being objective, but the programmer would have to allow it.

Re:Censorship (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599688)

There's a great sci-fi short story that was written along those lines. I wish I could remember the title. It was written about 20 years ago. Everyone had a "little buddy" -- a little box that would tell them what to do, and how to think. I look at smart phones today and think, "hmmm".

Re:Censorship (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600394)

A great fear of mine is that a machine will decide what I should or should not know about. Another is that a machine like this could be tampered with by any human being to make the same decision.

Big Brother SkyNet is watching you, and telling you all you need to know.

Its right there at the bottom of google news:

The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program.

The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (5, Interesting)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598028)

News agencies have already been turned into commodities, they just don't realize it yet. Now the reporter is being sent down that same drain. With original reporting set to become a 'premium' by the news agencies, their market is only shrinking.

Where were the reporters when millions of jobs were outsourced by H1B's or sent overseas? At best most stories were brief, with no follow up, and no outrage at the loss of middle class America. The same thing has happened in Europe and elsewhere as well.

Now the reporter faces the inevitable market forces that they previously ignored, and they expect anyone left to care? The programs will only get better, the markets and stories it applies to will only improve, and for the vast majority of stories the quality will be imperceivable to the average person.

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598214)

The programs will only get better, the markets and stories it applies to will only improve, and for the vast majority of stories the quality will be imperceivable to the average person.

That's an excellent theory. To support it, I propose that Kdawson is an automated program.

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598568)

I think it's more likely that samzenpus is a cyborg sent from the future to kill Slashdot.

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30598434)

The investigative reporter is hardly obsolete, but good luck finding one. On TV we have anchors, commentators, and talking heads but no Edward Murrows. In newspapers we have editorials and copywriters, but no gum shoes. If gov't and financial data were completely open I could see an investigative reporter type application that looked for corruption in the numbers, but I don't think a program would be good at conducting interviews, making calls to track down leads, and cajoling useful non-obvious information out of sources. The world is too semantic for a good automated reporter.

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30598502)

There was a time when the collective consciousness of this country embraced technology as a way to free humans from the mundane activities of life. No more work to do, all the menial tasks performed by machines. A utopia of leisure and enlightenment.

This changed over the last hundred years into the dystopia view of the terminator and 1984. Technology advanced but economic and political theory has not. Machines became the enemy because we made them competitors. There will soon be a time when there simply are not enough jobs to be done by humans. People will become obsolete in the work force.

The kick in the ass is that we already have the resources to give every person on the planet a decent life. That surplus of labor and resources will only increase as technology continues to advance.

So why not a utopia? If everyone was equal and happy and content then there is no reason to be rich. The best thing about being rich it getting to shove it in the face of the poor (and the point is for everyone to be poor).

This story is really about the friction between the natural evolution of technology and the need for our masters to make sure we never see the benefits of it..

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (2, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598534)

Where were they? They were cherry-picking the easy stories that they knew would get viewers. Stories about H1Bs are hard because those happen 1 at a time and only the collective tale of ALL of them means anything. Who do you interview? What do you actually report?

After the fact, we can point and say 'Wow! That's a lot of jobs lost!' and complain about it. While it's happening, it's nearly invisible.

I agree with your point, though... Reporters are not covering the -real- news. That's why sites like Slashdot exist now. (Not saying ./ is perfect, mind... Just that it is responding to the gap left by 'real' reporters.)

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (1, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600038)

Neither an H1B job nor a job sent overseas represents a job "lost". A person of equal moral value is doing the job before and after. To say "it's evil that a job has moved from a good man of my country to a filthy foreign devil" is simple racism, nothing more.

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (2, Interesting)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598576)

There are really 2 good ways to handle this.

1. To place artificial barriers to entry. For example, you could say that any piece of 'news' must be presented by a certified journalist. Just like any prescription must be done by a doctor. Or lawyers have their own provisions. For programmers you could have certain requirements like any piece of software in use must have a certain number of maintainers... Basically turning such jobs into professions with the same level of protection as doctors, lawyers... Oh I'm sure we can come up with some excuse like 'quality' to enforce this :)

2. We embrace the lowering of costs and focus on reducing our cost of living. As good private sector jobs (auto-workers, engineers...) go away, that high-end tax base drops as well. So the payment to the public sector should drop as well. There is no intrinsic reason a teacher should earn more than a waitress. I know I'd rather be a teacher than a fast food server. I've been both :) We can then focus on low property taxes... having a lost cost of living. And we would all be able to have more 'stuff' as things would cost very little. We could simplify the legal and tax system as well as remove the medical monopoly from doctors...

The alternative is the current unstable system. Whereby those in the private unregulated sector keep pushing themselves to efficiency and 0 cost. While those in regulated professions and the public sector keep pushing for more. Basically a form on indentured servitude by those in the public sector and regulated profession upon those in the private sector.

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600066)

The fundamental thing that technology does is make the things we need cheaper. The problem that an economy needs to solve is not "how can we provide work for eveyone" but "how can we provide the product of work for everyone". A world in which all material goods are and menial services are provided by robots for free is not a horror of unemployment.

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600514)

that would be option 2 on my list of good ways to solve the problem.

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600644)

Indeed. The fact that someone replies to a comment does not mean that they disagree with said comment, merely that they're continuing the conversation.

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600662)

I disagree :P

Re:The reporter is now a touch more obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30599024)

News agencies have already been turned into commodities, they just don't realize it yet. Now the reporter is being sent down that same drain. With original reporting set to become a 'premium' by the news agencies, their market is only shrinking.

Where were the reporters when millions of jobs were outsourced by H1B's or sent overseas? At best most stories were brief, with no follow up, and no outrage at the loss of middle class America. The same thing has happened in Europe and elsewhere as well.

Now the reporter faces the inevitable market forces that they previously ignored, and they expect anyone left to care? The programs will only get better, the markets and stories it applies to will only improve, and for the vast majority of stories the quality will be imperceivable to the average person.

First they outsourced the blue-collars, and I did not report—because I war reporting on the War on Terror;
Then they outsourced the trade white-collars, and I did not report—because I was reporting on Kayne West;
Then they outsourced the middle-class, and I did not report—because I was reporting on Michael Jackson;
Then they outsourced me—and there was no one left to report for me.

-JDSKB

"Gaming the news" like google (1)

mykos (1627575) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598064)

People are going to start designing corporate press releases (or ultimately, all news if it starts going this direction) in such a way that it gets them attention, just like when people try to game google.

Re:"Gaming the news" like google (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598188)

I, for one, welcome the first otherwise staid and formulaic press release that has a huge block of investor soothing words and phrases hidden in white-on-white down at the bottom... It'll be just like the good old days.

Re:"Gaming the news" like google (1)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598444)

Because every word in that press release isn't already deliberated over on how to increase and maintain share price?

Re:"Gaming the news" like google (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599264)

No but now it'll be acted upon by thousands of high frequency quants before the humans have even had a chance to read it.

Wouldn't it be a hoot if our only defense against truly outrageous claims in these computer generated press releases will be the corporate lawyers saying you can't say that.

Oh then start looking out for buffer overflows in press releases.

What?! (2, Funny)

Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598068)

"The latest iteration of NewsScope 'scans and automatically extracts critical pieces of information' from US corporate press releases"

Extracting useful info from press releases? This must be absolutely amazing software.

Re:What?! (1)

Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598202)

On a more serious note, the fact that this is seen as significant in terms of job replacement nicely highlights the over-reliance on press releases in modern journalism. Then again, it's hard to avoid, since most companies tightly control all information about themselves and won't hesitate to fire an employee who speaks about internal matters, even incredibly trivial ones. Incidentally, a big part of the reason major publications (or websites, or blogs) get the major stories they do (at least concerning business matters) is because companies decide to release previously-sensitive information to them based on their readership or prestige.

Genuine business news developments that don't originate in a calculated corporate PR move tend to be the result of somebody willing to risk getting fired or blackballed, for whatever reason.

Re:What?! (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598254)

"The latest iteration of NewsScope 'scans and automatically extracts critical pieces of information' from US corporate press releases"

Extracting useful info from press releases? This must be absolutely amazing software.

They didn't say "useful", they said "critical". There is a world of difference between those two types of information. Useful information would be information that would give you some idea of how the company profits will be going forward. Critical information is information that gives you an idea of what the company's management wants you to think company profits will be going forward.

Re:What?! (3, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598360)

I'm pretty convinced most corporate press releases are machine-generated anyway, so it should be a matter of reverse-compiling them back into plain English and including that as part of a story.

ABC Co. CEO to PressBot: "The market totally screwed us. The building is collapsing because we can't afford maintenance. We have to lay everyone off and we'll be out of business in three months. We can't afford exterminators so weasels are chewing my genitalia into mush."

PressBot's press release: "The company continues to leverage circular market forces to tighten its bottom line, particularly in the area of vertical integration. Resources are plentiful enough, however, that all employees will be allowed to pursue innovative new ideas in an open, creative setting, with plenty of personal time. The CEO is actively involved in the belt-tightening process and has taken steps to ensure that only underutilized corporate assets will be liquidated."

A human or a webbot could probably gather equally-useful information out of it.

Re:What?! (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598788)

A lot of what you read in newspapers is press releases and other advertising [nytimes.com] . I remember when I had a temp job as a college student at some government agency...someone told me to fax two pages to a list of phone numbers. Imagine my surprise when, the next day, what I faxed appeared IN THE NEWSPAPER VERBATIM. Nobody called to check, I was sitting right next to the phone number at the bottom of the press release. This is when I learned 20 years before Jayson Blair [jaysonblair.com] that nobody checks what appears in the papers. I mean, hell, assembly line workers get their work checked for quality using world-approved systems, but journalism is exempt.

Breaking news... (2, Funny)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598102)

News flash: Robotic reports indicate that all humans have died.

Oops, sorry, that was a programming error. The robots haven't figured out verb tenses yet.

Update: Ten, nine, eight...

It was bound to happen (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598104)

Every odd once in a while I'll be visitting some forum or news site such as this one. Then, unexpectedly, someone named "Weatherbot blah blah blah" spews off some hurricane or tornado warning for some US Region or another, with a bunch of interesting numbers to go with it. Barometric pressure, chance of precipitation, current heading, time of arrival, all that nice junk.

Now, when I look at the news today, anything political/entertainment wise is as predictable as the weather. Israel is declaring Nuclear Ambiguity? Britney Lohan got another DUI?

I wouldn't mind a concise, point form, robot-like news post.

And I, for one, Welcome our new robotic news reporting overlords.

The future of Slashdot! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30598118)

These brainless news ai bots couldn't possibly do worse than the /. editors!

Re:The future of Slashdot! (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599266)

Wait.......are you trying to tell me the /. editors are not brainless ai's?

Next up: The Objectivizer (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598158)

What we need next is a news story motivation analyzer program.

It reads gazillions of news stories, has general models of human motivations
and human loyalty groupings etc, has a model of situation logic
which models the likely or perceived gains and losses that different
people or groups would experience depending on how situations evolve,
match that with what is being reported about the situation, and...

Annotate the news stories or statements within them with credibility
colour markings (with supporting notes.)

(So don't try to patent that by the way. It's now public domain.)

Re:Next up: The Objectivizer (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600102)

If there were really a consumer desire for objective news, the market would provide such a product. People instead want news spun to confirm their existing biases. Each major news network provides this service reliably for a different market segment.

No worries (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30598206)

A human journalist will still be required to insert liberal bias into each article.

Chew on this liberal bias, jackboot boy (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598738)

You do know that the opposite of "liberal"
i.e. "allowing responsible citizens a measure of liberty and pursuit of their own judgement about how to conduct their lives"

is tribalist/authoritarian/totalitarian, don't you?

Re:Chew on this liberal bias, jackboot boy (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600628)

Liberal is a synonym not antonym.

Bring It On (1)

Fantom42 (174630) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598272)

I say bring it on. Maybe this will be a wake up call to journalists who have been more and more in the habit of parroting hearsay in their stories rather than bringing some real intelligence and analysis to their stories. If all they are going to be is puppets, well, I've got a Perl script for that!

Nobody gets it. (2, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598318)

Spam is where it's at. Spam is where we are going to see strong artificial intelligence emerge, both defensively and offensively. Spam already represents some of the most cutting-edge algorithms in machine learning today. Think about it. In the undefined when of the future: you will have AI that stops spam. Spam will be AI that attempts to get through your filters. The only spam your AI will let through is spam you are genuinely interested in or that befriends you: it provides something of value. At the base level however it does have its purpose: get you to buy something. This is the motivation of why machine intelligence will emerge in spam first: somebody, somewhere will be making money. Would you like to buy this new computer, it is well built and will enhance the effectiveness of your communication with your network of contacts? Also, if you do I will cover the shipping myself.

They can do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30598322)

Machine written Journalism can work because even a computer is as smart as many if not most of them.

Collateral (1)

casals (885017) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598356)

"[...] The latest iteration of NewsScope 'scans and automatically extracts critical pieces of information' from US corporate press releases [...]" The interesting thing on it is that it could actually raise (again) the text quality on articles (regarding grammatical correctness), since the press releases are usually carefully reviewed, and the automated part would be just a copy-and-paste process. I don't know how it goes in the US, but here in Brazil we used to have the best writing guides published by our newspapers editors - something like "The NY Times Manual of Style and Usage". They're still published, actually, but apparently not used.

Probably due to the advent of web-based latest news, the article authors are not necessarily journalists or professional writes in any way - which means the grammar is usually bad (often really bad), with errors *way* beyond the common typos. It means the articles are not even spell-checked (typos wouldn't survive here - come on, you have spell checking on Slashdot commenting!), and there's no way to get them revised or something. I've already tried to click on those please-let-us-know-what-you-thought-about-it links, and found out that they have a binary filter: you're either appraising the author or being rude/disrespectful/offensive, therefore the comment will be ignored. As an example, the last comment I made was: "Please, review you article. It's full of typos and grammar errors". Obviously, evil-flagged.

Completely automated market crash! (5, Insightful)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598362)

We've completed the circle - various "automated systems" have been blamed for various market failures in recent years, as companies and small traders have used algorithms on computers to "keep up with the speed of the market". Of course, the actual failure was almost always in the design, such as allowing a computer to make blind decisions with large amounts of money faster than you could keep track of.

But here, we have a stronger case for a machine-driven market failure - automated news algorithms. Misunderstanding generated at the speed of the market. I've worked on AI professionally in games, studied it in the contexts of linguistics, nervous system simulation, and such - AI even in its most exaggerated modern state is not going to even know how to figure out how to extract a good quote with human guidance, much less report on a news release. If you thought computer generated music was entertainingly bad - wait until you see some of the awful things produced by automated news misunderstandings... random context switches mixed with "neutral language" bits, it'll be like Fox news switched its agenda to Cthulu-level madness of confusion rather than the usual rage agenda.

And since the market makes its decisions on the basis of news, rumors, and insider trading - and people get the three confused as they hear them, mixing this into the information stream seems a virtual guarantee of another market crash.

That's what I call another serious negative externality for the news business taking the cheaper road to reporting business news.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Completely automated market crash! (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599298)

Well its "buy the rumor, sell the news" so what we really need is computer generated rumors right?

steakthskynet (2, Interesting)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598520)

I'm trying to figure it out. Is it a typo that wonderfully illustrates the benefit of welcoming automated editors? Is steakthskynet what our meatspace reporters should be called? Or is it simply an insightful tag tragically misspelled?

Well, that's all fine, but... (1)

Jawn98685 (687784) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598580)

... what does this mean for the famous "liberal media bias"? Will these systems have a variable that can be used to "adjust" this so-called bias? If so, who gets to set it?

Would that be the same "liberal media bias" (1, Troll)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598800)

That stampeded the US public into a frenzy of redneck bloodlust against
"some random Arab country" (happened to be Iraq) that had zip
to do with any terrorist actions against the US?

Re:Would that be the same "liberal media bias" (0)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598948)

No, that would be the liberal bias that refuses to see the evidence that Iraq was involved with terrorism for years against the US. Iraq was on the terrorism watch list for 20+ years. They ran Hizballah Western Sector. They had training camps all over the place. Iraq was connected to the 93 WTC bombing, the 95 OKC bombing, and probably the 98 Embassy bombings. There's tons of evidence out there if you bother to look.

Re:Would that be the same "liberal media bias" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30599534)

wtf sadam was an enemy of radical islam...
and Oklahoma bombing was an American born

Re:Well, that's all fine, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30600100)

The customer sets it. Many people like the news to verify their existing world views. The "truth" about the world is in fact a form of self enhancement, a form of intellectual masturbation.

Re:Well, that's all fine, but... (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600248)

... what does this mean for the famous "liberal media bias"? Will these systems have a variable that can be used to "adjust" this so-called bias? If so, who gets to set it?

The bias would be pro-corporation and pro-politician, as this system would only be able to parse press releases, sports scores, and other pre-formatted data. I don't know what you would call that. Would it be hyperbolic to call it a facist bias?

I'm not saying it is a bad thing, as it will free up reporters to concentrate on real news, and it may encourage them to take the mindset that their job is to dig for the other side to the stories that "Microsoft Reporter!" comes up with. But, it may result in Newspapers needing fewer reporters, and finding that they can get cheap content by regurgitating information that someone wants to advertise to the world.

That's one explanation... (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598656)

Maybe the horrible quality of journalism we've seen lately has been due to a prevalence of software written articles...
Then again, maybe the current crop of journalists can't write their way out of wet paper bag, even if you give them a chainsaw.
Considering the competition, the idea of software winning the Pulitzer seems almost inevitable...

Re:That's one explanation... (1)

azgard (461476) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598782)

Then again, maybe the current crop of journalists can't write their way out of wet paper bag, even if you give them a chainsaw.

Wouldn't giving them a chainsaw be counterproductive?

Unlikely (1)

No-Cool-Nickname (1287972) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598742)

Today, Slashdot.org, a technological news website published a story claiming that news stories could be automatically generated from computers. The absurdity of the story was not lost on the human rea...Attribute already declared at line 15, position 6 !.. Invalid I/O file..

----
Insert Amusing Human-like Pun Here

Not for human consumption (0, Flamebait)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30598910)

Wired occasionally carries good stories, but this ain't one of them. It sounds portentous and should play well to all the anti-journalism reactionaries and self-styled media pundits, but really this is just flying cars and robot butlers.

It's important to note here that NewsScope isn't a news service like Reuters; rather, it's a targeted data stream for the finance industry. Its output is not meant to replace the work of human journalists. Its output is not even meant to be read by humans.

But leave it to Wired to come up with an angle like "NewsScope has started carrying stories written by machines." A writer less enamored with breathless futurism might instead say that NewsScope parses corporate financial statements and extracts relevant data points, which it then summarizes in a machine-readable format, stripping out all the excess verbiage and historical statements that aren't useful to automated trading software. It's somewhat analogous to a search spider, one that builds an index of finance news as it crosses the wire, making the data easier for third-party software to query.

This isn't the Master Control AI writing news stories, people. It's a product -- and probably a pretty valuable one if you're in that industry.

Similarly, TFA says the program that generates news stories based on stats was "rigged up" by some college students. Is it useful? Potentially. Is its output capable of replacing human sports journalists? Is it even publishable? There's no evidence that anybody even suggested that. How many of your college projects changed the world?

TFA goes on to talk about how reporters have been forced to pick through information by hand -- for example, reading volumes of PDFs -- and how much nicer it would be to have machine-readable data to query. Well, no kidding! You're not alone there, brother; I like Google, too.

And then, like so many breathless Wired article, this one evaporates:

Further out toward the horizon lies the prospect of intelligent systems that filter vast quantities of unstructured content, drawing inferences that can be formatted according to journalistic norms.

Uh-huh. Where can we find that horizon, precisely? And "formatted according to journalistic norms" -- what does that even mean? And then:

Along the way, of course, intelligent systems will need to start coping with the complexities of human language have so far confounded them, including idiom, metaphor and sarcasm.

"Of course," indeed. As Han Solo once said, "Well that's the real trick, isn't it?"

Re:Not for human consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30600302)

Machine generated "sarcasm"?! Yea, the world really needs that.

WHAT TIMING! (1)

Croakus (663556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599166)

What perfect timing! I just finished my newspaper reading robot!

Colossus - Forbin Project did it first? (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599318)

Did Forbin put an ad in an obscure paper stating that he had died.

The computer read the obit and let its guard down.

Forbin comes back to the project under an assumed name and offs the computer.

already here, called "kdawson" (1)

GuyFawkes (729054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599562)

some text to satisfy lameness filter

Press Releases are news? (1)

tnmc (446963) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599638)

So now they finally admit they've not been doing Journalism for a long time now, just turning press releases into articles and marketing them.

What a surprise.

Journalism vs News (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30599750)

An important distinction here is between real investigative journalism, and prompt event reporting. Losing this distinction will result in lame AI news by automated article generators, and slow information gathering by humans. Building on this distinction will result in faster and larger data input streams automated and always on, feeding real journalists helping them build bigger pictures and recognizing what really matters. Jon Stuart can then filter it all and give us the real news.

It used to be we needed journalists to be our eyes and ears, but now with bloggers and phone cameras and tweets, that is not so much the case. Only a machine could gather all this information in real-time. It used to be that journalists would read deep in between the lines and provide us with insight, but now with Fox and MSNBC and even CNN all driven by politics, that is not so much the case. Only comics enjoy true journalistic freedom and can write their material with any honesty.

Farenheit 451 (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600128)

This sort of scenario is being to pervade society. Algorithmically generated data delivered to algorithmicaly centric channels, with decisions being made by some programmers handiwork or some suit's business "logic", society's ability to rationalize, analyze, and pontificate is being systematically eroded. How much longer until roves of professors are wandering rusted train-tracks, remembering the once visceral world of fine-grained literature? The more we eliminate our own 'humanity' from the processes of life, the faster we eliminate life from humanity.

Mixing a couple of capabilities here (1)

InsurgentGeek (926646) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600480)

There's really two different capabilities being discussed here. One (the Northwestern example) is the actual generation of prose from an underlying data asset. There are certain well structured domains of information (baseball games, earnings announcements, etc) where this will most likely work quite well. The second capability is automating the analysis of new content. NewsScope falls into that category. It takes raw news (written by humans) and extracts key terms, entities and events to make that content more easily consumable by machines. If you're interested you can use the same Thomson Reuters tools that are under NewsScope on your own content. My site uses them to analyze news from feeds, throw most of it away and put the rest in the right places. Thomson makes this capability available to anybody for free at a project called OpenCalais (see http://viewer.opencalais.com/ [opencalais.com] to play with it). Another group has built it into a complete publishing platform called OpenPublish.

cow in the the road (1)

scorpivs (1408651) | more than 4 years ago | (#30600508)

[We] can only hope and pray these otherwise award-winning programmers
have the communication skills necessary to once and for all preclude the
possibility of common spelling, grammar and punctuation errs.

"Dog Rescues it's Master" and
"Join the News Team and I" instead of

...[its] Master, and ...Team and [me]

--might be good enough for a precocious third-grader, but it is uneducated drivel.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>