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Replacing Sports Bloggers With an Algorithm

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the something-about-overlords dept.

The Media 120

tesmar tips a report up at TechCrunch that begins "Here come the robo sports journalists. While people in the media biz worry about content mills like Demand Media and Associated Content spitting out endless SEO-targeted articles written by low-paid Internet writers, at least those articles are still written by humans. We may no longer need the humans, at least for data-driven stories. A startup in North Carolina, StatSheet, today is launching a remarkable network of 345 sports sites, one dedicated to each Division 1 college basketball team in the US. For instance, there is a site for the Michigan State Spartans, North Carolina Tar Heels, and Ohio Buckeyes. Every story on each site was written by a robot, or to put it more precisely, by StatSheet's content algorithms. 'The posts are completely auto-generated,' says founder Robbie Allen. 'The only human involvement is with creating the algorithms that generate the posts.'"

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120 comments

Close, but still not pratical (3, Interesting)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215912)

I tried reading the first article on the Tar Heels, and as much as I hate reading anything about the Tar Heels the sentences just don't flow together. It's disjointed and mentally uncomfortable to read. I can't imagine anyone using it as an actual replacement for even semi well-written content.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (5, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215934)

I can't imagine anyone using it as an actual replacement for even semi well-written content.

They aren't. They're using it as a replacement for the output of sportswriters.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (4, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216164)

You joke, but I think this pretty much nails it. There's a lot of content out there that is just a bunch of numbers wrapped up in some formulaic sentences. The results of sports games is an obvious example. Analyses of political campaigns might also be amenable. Perhaps even presenting the results from surveys or scientific studies.

The important thing here is that this isn't replacing deep, insightful thoughts and analysis, which still has to be done by a human. If you want a reasoned opinion that pulls together the statistics, external factors (e.g. a player's mind-set or personal life), and adds in some humor, then you're going to want a skilled human doing the writing. But if your interest is more along the lines of "Who won, by how much, and what were the main things that led to them winning (e.g. was it strong offense or good defense)?" then auto-generated content is fine. In fact, as with all aspects of automation, the point is to free up humans from doing the boring, silly tasks, so that they can concentrate on the more important tasks.

After reading some of the auto-generated articles (Michigan State Spartans [spartanball.com] , North Carolina Tar Heels [carolinaupdate.com] , and Ohio Buckeyes [buckeyesbeat.com] ) I must say I'm quite impressed with how good the content is. Obviously it won't be winning any prizes, but I can't say that it's any worse than human-generated summaries of matches. It goes through the details, throwing in some contextual commentary (e.g. "the underdogs") obviously based on a nice database of stats. What's even better is that the articles also present some of the stats themselves, allowing the reader to skip the writeup and focus on the numbers/graphs if they prefer.

So, frankly, I see this as a good thing. It's a waste of human talent (even mechanical-turk caliber talent) to write a bunch of formulaic summaries when a computer can clearly do a decent job. This lets the humans focus on tasks that are more difficult to automated.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (4, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216288)

Perhaps even presenting the results from surveys or scientific studies.

Or interviews with actors about their latest movie, where they are telling how great it was working with X and Y. Or about any PR stuff going out into the world.

If they are just formula's around numbers, just give us the numbers. No need for all the fluff around it.

It says more about the lousy writing people are used to then the quality of a new Lisa script.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (2, Informative)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217202)

The raw numbers are useful, but many people would like to read a quick summary of the highlights of the statistics, rather than having to read through them themselves.

Somebody who is not well acquainted with the specific stats may have trouble telling what is unusual, or combining them together to reach a conclusion. Even those familiar with the statistics would often find it quicker to read the computer generated summary than trying to skim the numbers to determine if they are worth spend more time on.

But I would agree that providing the actual numbers is important, so the summaries can be verified if desired, etc.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (2, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217356)

If they are just formula's around numbers, just give us the numbers. No need for all the fluff around it.

You're a geek. So am I, but here's a secret I learnt: Lots of people are afraid of numbers. Much in the same way they are afraid of punks - they don't really think they will harm them, but they prefer to have them accompanied by words/police.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34218030)

here's a secret I learnt: Lots of people are afraid of numbers.

Generally speaking, you're right. That said, I'm an engineer, and I've never met a geek more into numbers than the sports fans I've met. They might not understand the implications of the stats they're spewing out, but that doesn't mean they don't have them memorized.

The site is going after the right demographics. Sports fans are hungry for numbers like these.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (1)

AlpineR (32307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216410)

Perhaps even presenting the results from surveys or scientific studies.

I was just thinking: yeah the writing is dry and disjointed, much like my scientific articles. I wouldn't mind a robo writing assistant to help me put out journal articles. Much of it is, in fact, dry and formulaic.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216530)

I was just thinking: yeah the writing is dry and disjointed, much like my scientific articles. I wouldn't mind a robo writing assistant to help me put out journal articles. Much of it is, in fact, dry and formulaic.

That's because facts are generally dry and formulaic.

Related, I've heard that the "TV Sportscaster" is the single most truthful person on the evening news. He outputs facts: scores, stats, etc. When he shows highlights, it's footage from an event that actually happened, and usually includes appropriate context such as "and the Vikings went on to lose it, 24-10."

Meteorologists try to show us the future, and while they have a measurable accuracy rating, what they say is certainly not fact.

News reporters are bad. They find stuff that they think is interesting, and present it. They claim to present "both sides" of each story, as if truth is a coin that has two sides. They never accurately judge the difference between the importance of one side or another. ("Frank claimed their car crashed in the desert. Joe claimed the aliens carried him to the desert and beat him up. Back to you, Cindy Staccato.")

And the anchors are the worst of all. Not only do they regurgitate the poorly reported stories, but have no first-hand knowledge of them at all.

Figures the robots would take the easy job, but not the one we need them to take.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (1)

Sethumme (1313479) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217770)

You forgot to add how the footage accompanying the anchors' stories are many times not actual footage of the event, but rather footage showing elements that are similar to those in the story.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216424)

"and what were the main things that led to them winning (e.g. was it strong offense or good defense"

It is EXACTLY this that is lacking with this algorithm, as well as further human characteristics. The who won and by how much you can get even via SMS, i.e. as a simple table.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216432)

But if your interest is more along the lines of "Who won, by how much, and what were the main things that led to them winning (e.g. was it strong offense or good defense)?" then auto-generated content is fine.

We already have a very successful device to answer those questions. It's called a box score. For the emotion, energy, and player intangibles not recorded with cool hard facts, we have writers to perform that task.

The Internet does not need more low quality auto generated content. This cruft will be attractive to search engines and frustrating to people who are tricked into clicking on the links (e.g., see experts-exchange a couple years back).

Re:Close, but still not pratical [sic] (1)

drdrgivemethenews (1525877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217120)

> the point is to free up humans from doing the boring, silly tasks...

Unfortunately, there is a large population of humans who have no skills beyond what are characterized here as boring, silly tasks, nor much inclination to step up and learn how to be more productive. And regardless of whether they deserve to be employed or not, making them unemployed doesn't help the the population as a whole.

So my applause goes more often to technology that helps people work smarter, not as often to that which outright replaces them.

Re:Close, but still not pratical [sic] (1)

KillAllNazis (1904010) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217248)

It's a flaw in the economic system that has only come to light in recent years, not anything to do with the value of automation technology.

Re:Close, but still not pratical [sic] (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217354)

It's a flaw in the economic system that has only come to light in recent years, not anything to do with the value of automation technology.

It's a flaw that came to light during the Industrial Revolution, and in fact hit so hard it spawned Communism as a response. It is also a flaw that's inherent to Capitalism and can't be fixed under it.

Of course, as soon as automation catches up with all tasks - that is, as soon as Artificial Intelligence catches up with Human Intelligence, at least as far as practical matters are concerned - we can simply switch to Socialism, since we have an unlimited supply of effective slave labour doing all the work. Everyone gets their production quota per day and can do what they please with it.

But then again, that won't happen since the haves won't give up their position of superiority, the have-nots won't have the power to take it by force, and the Randroids will run around screaming how people should starve to death on principle.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217310)

There's a lot of content out there that is just a bunch of numbers wrapped up in some formulaic sentences. The results of sports games is an obvious example. Analyses of political campaigns might also be amenable. Perhaps even presenting the results from surveys or scientific studies.

Of course, this rises a question: Why don't I simply get the numbers from Wikipedia, RSS feeds or whatever and run the algorithm myself? Why bother with a website, which is bound to be sub-optimal for my uses due to the demands of advertizers and "Web Designers"?

Is that the death knell of the remaining newspapers I hear?

The important thing here is that this isn't replacing deep, insightful thoughts and analysis, which still has to be done by a human. If you want a reasoned opinion that pulls together the statistics, external factors (e.g. a player's mind-set or personal life), and adds in some humor, then you're going to want a skilled human doing the writing.

Maybe, but that requires work and principles, so the chances are you get inane propaganda instead.

Oh well, it shouldn't take long before keeping tabs on what's happening can be fully automated. I wonder if that thought is giving Murdoch nightmares?

Re:Close, but still not pratical (1)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216200)

Exactly as most on the sports beat never passed the rocks for Jocks class, former athletes that never made, and most cant read past the 12th grade. Robots might be a better option.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (3, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215962)

Hard to read? Disjointed? Mentally uncomfortable? Sounds like it could fit right in here on /. ;-)

Re:Close, but still not pratical (4, Funny)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215988)

Hard to read? Disjointed? Mentally uncomfortable? Sounds like it could fit right in here on /. ;-)

A clever attempt, RoboWrongSizeGlass, but not clever enough! Trying to point the finger at humans while sneaking in another templated contribution! Haha! Your plans will never work! :P

Re:Close, but still not pratical (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217150)

Actually Slashdot could use a submission bot: Most submissions just copy the first paragraph of the article anyway. That should not be hard to automatize. For the title, just use the page title. The main problem is to detect content which would likely be a successful submission. Maybe a Bayesian filter could be used, which is trained on past accepted and rejected submissions. Connect it to a spider constantly searching the web, and you can automatically fill Slashdot.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (3, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215990)

It doesn't have to fool humans (unfortunately). It just has to fool Googlebot

Re:Close, but still not pratical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216052)

It doesn't have to fool humans (unfortunately). It just has to fool Googlebot

So this can now be used for Yelp, Amazon reviews and other such astroturfing drivel? Will it eventually replace the Fifty Cent Party [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Close, but still not pratical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216508)

If it can be automated this way, Google can automate it too. The Googlebot can just write its own paper automatically in response to the search query. Then Google gets all the ad revenue.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (3, Interesting)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215998)

I can't imagine anyone using it as an actual replacement for even semi well-written content.

It's a bit uncomfortable to read in spots, but way above the quality of most blogs and nothing you can actually point out as an error. So if they manage not to swamp the sites in ads, and provide good statistics as well, I can't see why they couldn't get a rather large take of the advertising action - large in proportion to the manhours invested in writing articles, that is. It could be very lucrative and if it is - well, say goodbye to a lot of reporters who aren't the primetime writers but just pad out the papers: they're going to be automated away or at best, write the templates for the robowriters.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (2, Interesting)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216160)

Lucrative is right. They seem to have garnered 1.3 million dollars in funding for their efforts.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217618)

It's a bit uncomfortable to read in spots, but way above the quality of most blogs and nothing you can actually point out as an error.

The problem isn't the quality of the writing, it's the content. It's extremely bland. The sports writers, both reporters and blog writers, are usually fans of the sports, and they describe the highlights of the game. They talk about how players peformed, about controversial calls by the refs, last second shots, etc.

Re:Close, but still not pratical (1)

dean.collins (862044) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217764)

Really? you obviously haven't read real emotive sports talk when real people are involved http://www.livefootballchat.com/ [livefootballchat.com]

Re:Close, but still not practical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216580)

Oh come on Kevin, it is any worse than the pap out out by UNC Journalism students?

At least it will be closer to fair on NC State athletics.

And no, I didn't RTFA in keeping with /. tradition.

This post.... (2, Funny)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215914)

This post was written by a robot.

Re:This post.... (5, Funny)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215942)

What makes you say this post was written by a robot?

Re:This post.... (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215950)

What makes you say this post was written by a robot?

My inability to avoid making puns.

Re:This post.... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216042)

Do you enjoy your inability to avoid making puns?

Re:This post.... (5, Funny)

bunratty (545641) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215996)

Please tell me more about this post was written by a robot.

Re:This post.... (3, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216026)

Please tell me more about this post was written by a robot.

If I am correct, you are having trouble believing about this post was written by a robot? I do apologize for the inconvenience. Is there anything else I can do for you today? Thank you for calling Dell technical support.

Re:This post.... (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216222)

Would it help you to know what makes me say this post was written by a robot?

Re:This post.... (1)

yotto (590067) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216982)

How do you feel about what makes me say this post was written by a robot?

dood, no wut i jst relize? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34215916)

dnf=did not finish sorta like duke nukem!!!!!!!!

Not bad... (4, Interesting)

Jazz-Masta (240659) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215936)

I've read a couple articles and they are no worse than the SEO-targeted content written by freelancers odesk for $2/hr (and english as a second or third language).

Seems as though the "algorithm" is quite elaborate - taking into account odds of winning as well. Lines such as "The [team] was not supposed to win this game, but made it happen" and combined player statistics "Coming off a poorly put together team last year, this year, the [team] looks to have greater talent."

It reminds me of how someone in Junior high would write. Impressive. Similar to MIT's paper generator: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2005/paper.html [mit.edu]

PHP + MySQL + Mad Libs for Sports.

Re:Not bad... (1)

dadioflex (854298) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216074)

Automated news... flame me, but I find the idea quite liberating. I get angry at some of the crap I read, and hear, masquerading as news.I hate THOSE GUYS. If it's just a formula delivered by a script... I can relax a little and let the despair seep in naturally the way it's supposed to.

Including the core cliché of sports reporting (2, Insightful)

PapayaSF (721268) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216080)

As I suspected it would, the first sentence includes the word "momentum."

Sports Journalism Turing Test ... (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215960)

... was the article written by a human, or a computer? Can you tell the difference? I remember when robots starting being deployed in factories, that there were concerns about workers sabotaging the robots which were destined to steal their jobs. Will this happen in the sports newsroom?

"The RoboSportReporter is broken again. It looks and smells like someone poured a beer into him."

Re:Sports Journalism Turing Test ... (2, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216856)

"The RoboSportReporter is broken again. It looks and smells like someone poured a beer into him."

They were just trying to make him more realistic.

I for one.... (-1, Offtopic)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215966)

...welcome our new sports writing robotic overlords!

Re:I for one.... (1)

dbolger (161340) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216004)

Don't praise the machine!

Help reading (3, Funny)

tocs (866673) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215970)

Now I just need to find a robot to read all these sports blogs to free up time for things I want to do.

Re:Help reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216190)

I represent Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, and maybe you would like to see one of our electric monks?

Please, please, this way.

Next logical step (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216386)

Replace the athletes with algorithms. Just think of the savings.

THE Ohio STATE University Buckeyes (1)

jpate (1356395) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215976)

The mascot for Ohio University is the Bobcats

Re:THE Ohio STATE University Buckeyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216128)

The mascot for Ohio State University is Brutus Buckeye [wikipedia.org]

Re:THE Ohio STATE University Buckeyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216260)

But TFS says "Ohio Buckeyes." OU are the Bobcats. OSU are the Buckeyes. So TFS should say Ohio Bobcats not Buckeyes

Re:THE Ohio STATE University Buckeyes (1)

jpate (1356395) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216304)

That's the costumed mascot. Ohio State sports generally are the Buckeyes [wikipedia.org] .

Re:THE Ohio STATE University Buckeyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216700)

Ohio University is the Bobcats. A smallish college that is a member of the MAC conference. The Ohio State University is the Buckeyes, The school that is nationally ranked in football every year.

Re:THE Ohio STATE University Buckeyes (1)

jpate (1356395) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216770)

Yes, I know. I grew up near Cincinnati and have two degrees from Ohio State.

Boom! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34215980)

Boom Goes the Dynamite!

fans (2, Funny)

emkyooess (1551693) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215984)

Now we need a sports fan algorithm to rid ourselves of all these needless sports fans in the world and replace them with something more worth the resources.

Re:fans (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216882)

That wouldn't get rid of them. Better to keep them occupied with a cheap diversion (which also keeps the athletes busy). Do you really want the jocks and their fans wandering around looking for something to do?

Obligatory Simpsons (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216012)

This is the DJ 3000. It plays CDs automatically, and it has three distinct varieties of inane chatter:
- Hey hey -- how about that weather out there?
- Woah, that was the caller from hell.
- Well, hot dog -- we have a weiner.

- Those clowns in congress did it again -- what a bunch of clowns.
How does it keep up with the news like that?

I can hardly wait (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216016)

for automated theater and restaurant critics.. The human responses will be priceless.

Impressed (2, Interesting)

Andy Smith (55346) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216018)

I read the first article on the first linked site and I was impressed. I wouldn't have known it was generated by a computer. Even knowing that it was computer-generated, I'd still be happy with the quality for this kind of reporting. Very good.

Replacing Blog reading With an Algorithm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216020)

Now let's see if this passes the Turing test of my automated blog reading algorithm...

Human involvement (2, Funny)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216054)

I am going to guess that there will not be any humans involved in reading the output either.

tiny issue (4, Interesting)

sribe (304414) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216068)

Can you copyright the output of an algorithm? Seriously, copyright requires a creative element...

Re:tiny issue (1)

business_kid (973043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216268)

Creative my . It's a good algorithm, I will concede. But very short on vocabulary. Even the poorest sports writer is read before he is paid. Comparing this with stuff I would read 1. The vocabulary is tiny 2. The writer sounds disinterested and random. 3. Too much appeal to odds, without any courage, zeal, endurance, skill, fighting spirit

Re:tiny issue (1)

seifried (12921) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216620)

Tell that to a phone book or other assemblage of facts.

Re:tiny issue (4, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217172)

Tell that to a phone book or other assemblage of facts.

I tried, but the phone book wouldn't listen to me.

Re:tiny issue (3, Insightful)

slashqwerty (1099091) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217636)

Tell that to a phone book or other assemblage of facts.

Perhaps you're confused about the outcome of Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co [wikipedia.org] . Phone books and other collections of facts may not be copyrighted because they lack creativity. Hence the question:

Can you copyright the output of an algorithm? Seriously, copyright requires a creative element...

While sribe focuses on the creative element one must also ask who the copyright would go to. The constitution grants congress the power

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To my understanding this has always been interpreted to mean authors have rights to their writings and inventors have rights to their discoveries.

Re:tiny issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216734)

I wonder if readers can tell the difference between the output of this algorithm and that of a human sports-writer. If not, it means that either human sports-writing has no creative element, or that the algorithm does.

Re:tiny issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34217394)

Wasn't this a major question when Wolfram|Alpha came out? It seems that, at this rate, it will have to be answered by the courts sooner rather than later, if it hasn't already.

Re:tiny issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34217730)

copyright requires a creative element

No, copyright requires a wealthy element.

There's a T-shirt for that... (2, Insightful)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216078)

Why am I suddenly reminded of this t-shirt? [thinkgeek.com] :)

Slashdot -- proudly Luddite (2, Funny)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216088)

At least we know that Slashdot isn't generated by robots. A robot wouldn't make the idiotic mistakes that the current human (for want of a better word) editors do. E.g. "one dedicated to each Division 1 college basketball tam in the US." Robots don't suffer from dyslexia, and aren't too lazy to use a spell check.

Re:Slashdot -- proudly Luddite (1)

Jazz-Masta (240659) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216258)

At least we know that Slashdot isn't generated by robots. A robot wouldn't make the idiotic mistakes that the current human (for want of a better word) editors do. E.g. "one dedicated to each Division 1 college basketball tam in the US." Robots don't suffer from dyslexia, and aren't too lazy to use a spell check.

Robots wouldn't have so many dupes either (as they are the easiest thing to check for). As soon as /. goes a week without a duplicate story, then we know the robots have taken over.

Re:Slashdot -- proudly Luddite (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216306)

Care to link to the most recent dupe? Haven't seen one in a while.

Re:Slashdot -- proudly Luddite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216762)

aww, you can teach a robot to make mistakes.

that said, i was depressed to see that when i initially read the /. blurb

Re:Slashdot -- proudly Luddite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34217382)

dixlexia can be impelmented

Sentences don't lead into one another (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216112)

I read over some of the auto-generated content and the main thing I notice is that sentences don't connect to one another. It's like a chatbot where it says one thing, then another, where the two sentences have no connection; you could reverse their order and they're read just the same.

Re:Sentences don't lead into one another (3, Insightful)

pipatron (966506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216320)

You mean like BBC News? I just clicked on the first UK article I found to give an example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-11751079 [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Sentences don't lead into one another (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216426)

Sort of, though that article is delivering lots of random facts. The first few sentences show the connection I was talking about:

A man has been killed and his wife critically injured in an attack by a bull in Nottinghamshire. The couple, wearing walking gear, were near the Leicestershire border at about 1630 GMT on Friday when it happened. It is unclear why the bull attacked the pair, who were walking on a public footpath near the village of Stanford on Soar.

The second sentence refers to the man and wife described in the first. The third flows from the first two, exploring the cause of the events described by the first two.

There is some stiltness to the article, for sure. I imagine this is because writers generally work in a multi-pass process. The first pass lays down the facts, and later ones meld them together into something more flowing. With limited time or a low-priority story like this, they skip later passes.

I like it (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216122)

Now sports editors have something to show novice reporters. "If you can't give me something a whole lot better than this, you're fired".

It's a reminder that standards for every knowledge-based profession are going up every year, driven by the combination of the Internet, globalization, and Moore's Law. And this is just the start of it for journalism.

Re:I like it (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216454)

Journalistic standards won't go up, the scare stories about immigrants and terrorists will be autogenerated. I mean they're already pretty much cut and pasted from last week's shock horror exclusives as it is.

Emotionless Facts (2, Insightful)

denshao2 (1515775) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216182)

Part of good sports writing is that it evokes emotions. I read some samples and it's devoid of feeling. It is also completely unable to recount similar events in the past. In fact, no actual events are mentioned beyond statistical data. I want to know about fights during a game or the nearly perfect game that got spoiled.

Re:Emotionless Facts (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216900)

> Part of good sports writing is that it evokes emotions.

Then I've never read any good sports writing (unless boredom counts).

Algorithm fails to inform not tar on their heels (1)

leftie (667677) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216186)

Let me know when the algorithm can insult rivals.

It's not just computers that fail the Turing test (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216192)

this looks like prime content for the humans that would fail it, too.

This is new? (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216434)

In the UK the tabloids have been auto-generating content for at least 20 years.

So who collects the stats? (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216452)

Sure its fine to have a data driven writing algorithm that spits out a decent string of sentences. But who are the low paid joes who key on the raw data?

Re:So who collects the stats? (1)

dean.collins (862044) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217772)

Exactly you only get emotive sports talk when real people are involved - http://www.livefootballchat.com/ [livefootballchat.com]

This would be great (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216478)

to replace the 'editors' on Slashdot.

Re:This would be great (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217286)

This would be great to replace the 'editors' on Slashdot.

Isn't that what Firehose is supposed to do?

Verb Selection (2, Interesting)

nuckfuts (690967) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216550)

I've always been amused by how sports reporters vary the verb used to describe a win. They can't just keep saying "Team A beat Team B" over and over, so they mix it up, based on how wide the score was. For a win with a small margin, they might say "Detroit edged Ottawa", or "The Rangers slid past the Ducks". For a large margin, perhaps "The Coyotes pummeled the Blues". I give extra credit if the verb matches the subject, as in "So-and-so doused the Flames".

I think it would be a lot of fun to write a program for this.

Lame. Could be better. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216874)

That's kind of lame. It's just a one-paragraph summary of the game.

A more promising approach would be to start with a play by play summary [go.com] . Football play-by-plays look like this:

  • 1st and 10 at ATL 20 (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short right to T.Gonzalez to ATL 23 for 3 yards (J.Johnson).
  • 2nd and 7 at ATL 23 M.Ryan sacked at ATL 13 for -10 yards (T.Suggs).
  • 3rd and 17 at ATL 13 (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass deep right to R.White pushed ob at ATL 41 for 28 yards (E.Reed).
  • 1st and 10 at ATL 41 (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short right to R.White pushed ob at ATL 46 for 5 yards (D.Landry).

It's clearly possible to turn that into a sports announcer yelling at you. After all, an engine for that is built into EA Madden NFL. With a sports statistics database, you can throw in stuff like "This is Reeds's biggest gain so far this season".

Somebody has probably already done this.

Re:Lame. Could be better. (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217270)

That will move the chains.

just read the boxscore instead (1)

epine (68316) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216886)

For hockey, I skip the article and go straight to the boxscore. It has this great innovation: presenting the information in chronological order so you can follow along, rather than describing them in reverse go-ahead order.

If you see a 10 minute misconduct by some skill dude, you might have to read the article to find out whether the guy went ape, or just forget to tie down his jersey in a tug fest of the midgets. This is exactly the information that's not likely to be found in the robospiel. Sometimes I guy goes -3 on the night, but wasn't responsible for any of the goals against if the goalie gases some weak shots, or a line mate keeps trying the same risky drop pass. The only use for the reporter is to supplement what the official statistics misrepresent. Another thing you can't tell from the boxscore is whether a player with four minutes of ice time in the 3rd period was stapled to the bench after too many missed assignments, or went into the dressing room for a skate repair. Stapled to the bench as week before the trade deadline is an important tell.

Now if only we could train the real sports journalists to discard all quotes containing the phrase "win" or "two points" or anything about "effort" or "coming out hard" or "weathering the storm".

An acceptable quote is one I recall from the other day by a guy who hasn't scored much this season about a rare goal: "Actually, I whiffed on that shot. I've had thirty hard shots on net this season and none of them go in. Then I shoot a knuckleball and it goes it, but I'll take it anyway."

That's only mildly interesting, but it's already better than 90% of what gets scribbled.

Sports reporting was invented to kill whatever brain cells survived the drinking the night before. Actually, there's one hockey blog I read with good writing. Unfortunately, it's hampered by the secrecy of player offers rejected, so even a sharp knife can't get to the root of management dysfunction (as much as they like to try).

Of course, the league is constructed to ensure that this will always be true. Fans are for hollering on cue, and not for thinking too much.

Rich Rosen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34216950)

We are all Rich Rosen!

The stories read like they're written by bots (1)

Fizzol (598030) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217008)

I could write better while I'm half-asleep and stoned on cough syrup and vicoden, and I hate basketball.

Am I a butterfly? (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217176)

Am I a butterfly imagining that everybody on Slashdot is a bot discussing a story about bots, or am I a bot posting about people or bots on Slashdot imagining that I'm a bot or a butterfly or something?

Ohio Buckeyes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34217640)

It is The Ohio State Buckeyes.

Athletes replaced (1)

GeorgeMonroy (784609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217766)

We can already replace athletes with algorithms. Just look at NBA2K11.

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