Who Better Hammers Out The Story? Human or Machine?

Stacy Stanek Smith of NPR recently wrote a short account of a contest between a seasoned NPR correspondent and Wordsmith, the robot journalist created by Automatic Insights.

The rules for the race: Both contenders waited for Denny’s, the diner company, to come out with an earnings report. Once that was released, the stopwatch started. Both wrote a short radio story and get [sic] graded on speed and style.

Unlike John Henry’s race against the steam hammer, this contest wasn’t just a question of whether Scott Horsley could write a news story faster than Wordsmith. The stories were compared side-by-side and the results are instructive.

Before getting to my conclusions, I encourage you to pop over to the NPR site to read these two short articles yourself to decide which one you like best and see if you can tell which one was written by a machine.

Click here to read the stories first if you don’t want to be influenced by my conclusions.

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Two weeks ago, we sat under the shade in the garden. We were four. Now we are but three.

Anticipating the pain and difficulties to come, I opened myself to the enjoyment of the moment on that late summer afternoon, knowing that each moment once lived is lost forever, but not knowing that there would be no others like it, not knowing that the pain and difficulties would not be those we had imagined, not knowing that they would come so swiftly and definitively.

I am deeply affected. I cling to that moment, special in so many ways, as I cling to the memories of all those whom I have held dear but who are no longer part of this world. My heart cries out for the injustice, the anguish of consciousness, but there is nowhere to register my complaints.

I am here. I am ok, but I may need some time to find my energy again.

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The Charade

Surprised that I was not going out to a restaurant to celebrate a special occasion, a colleague told me last week that I was wrong not to do so. “Live every day as if it’s the last one,” he said. To which I replied that if I were to take that literally, I certainly wouldn’t have gone in to work that day.

Last Saturday we spent the afternoon in the backyard, under the shade of the ashes. The sunbeams danced to the music of the crickets in the meadow as the branches swayed in the late summer breeze. The menu was simple, but perfectly cooked–turkey and beef kebabs, lentils and green salad. After the Roquefort cheese, dessert was homemade yogurt ice cream, then coffee with Tunisian sweets from Masmoudi that a friend brought back from vacation. We talked and laughed for hours.

Nothing beats having a picnic with people you love–combining nature with eating, making plans, sharing stories or just talking about simple things. I wouldn’t trade these times for any dinner in a three-star restaurant, and I’ve had many of those too. Living every day to the fullest isn’t about always doing something special, rather it’s more about deeply experiencing every moment, no matter how mundane.

In the 1982 documentary La vie au bout des doigts (Life at your fingertips), Patrick Edlinger, one of the world’s most talented and daring rock climbers, spoke about his life and philosophy. Although his athletic prowess was anything but mundane, he put it into focus in basic terms,

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Swiss Watch Industry Enjoying The Spotlight

The reaction of the Swiss Watch Industry to the Apple watch was on the evening news today. I saw the segment with subtitles for the hearing impaired on the overhead television at the gym.

The video showed Nick Hayek, CEO of Swatch Group, looking relaxed and smoking a cigar at a press conference.

Horlogerie Press Conference

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WordPress: “My Blogs” Becomes “My Sites”

I’ve been away from this blog for the past few months while I try to work on some other projects. I’ve done some work on a few posts in the past week or so, but my time is very limited these days. I might not get around to finishing them. I’ll be back, but I’m not sure yet when.

This evening I noticed that WordPress has made some UI changes. Instead of a page that lets me access “My Blogs,” it now refers to “My Sites.” I’m not sure when this change went live, but I have no doubt that it reflects an evolution in their user base.

WordPress My Sites Page

That they now refer to “sites” instead of “blogs” sends a clear message that WordPress is and wants to be seen as more than just a blogging platform. I have the impression that this has been true for some time now, so in a way I find it surprising that they only now got around to making this change.

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TV Host As YouTube Everyman

French TV channel M6’s Sunday morning automobile show Turbo has been using camcorder footage in its latest test drives. Below are a few scenes from the April 13th episode. Producer and host Dominique Chapatte and Safet Rastoder are taking the McLaren 650 for a test drive. Each of the last few episodes has featured a test drive in which Rastoder uses a camcorder to film Chapatte and the interior of the cabin.

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Turkey Twitter Ban? Ankara Is Hot!

According to the Washington Post, Turkey has strengthened its Twitter ban by blocking Twitter at the IP level.

The Web 3.0 Lab has an interesting app called Happan.in that shows Twitter activity levels at any location around the world. According to their app, major cities in Turkey are hotspots of Twitter activity. Ankara is currently shown as Very Hot with 269 Tweets an hour.

Tweet Meter Ankara Snap

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan doesn’t get it. “The hacker always wins.”

Previously: Powerful Connections

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New Twitter Email Metric: Tweet Views

Twitter seems to have added a new feature to its email options. Today I received a message with the subject “doctorlaura, check out your week on Twitter.”

Twitter Top Tweets Email Snap

In the body of the message it said “See which of your Tweets helped you make connections, got people excited, and started your friends talking.” Then it summarized my Tweet views, retweets and replies.

This is the first time I’ve seen Twitter display Tweet views. They’re not available in the timeline, and I haven’t found any mention of this new feature elsewhere.

I’m curious to know how Twitter calculates the number of views, which doesn’t seem like an easy problem.

Update: It has been pointed out that Twitter gives such statistics on its ad platform. The interesting thing here is that this is the first time I’ve seen Tweet views being reported for regular users.

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Tech Takes Backseat To Cars At The Geneva Motor Show

Last weekend I spent a few hours at the Geneva Motor Show. For a number of years, it was an annual pilgrimage for me, but it’s been a year or two since the last time I went. I hadn’t planned to do a post about this, but I saw a few things that I thought were interesting enough to share.

Overall I didn’t notice many changes at the show. The hall was quite crowded on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I thought there was less of a throng downstairs around the professional stands for accessories and tools than in years past, but PalExpo seems to have changed the traffic flow, so it was difficult to tell if there were fewer people there or if they were just entering the hall at a different place.

I had expected to see some interesting tech following the press from this year’s CES where automotive solutions were one of the big stories of the show. Although some of that technology was on display, it was relegated to a supporting role.

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Powerful Connections

My schedule has become almost impossible, but despite my lack of time, there’s no escaping news of the ominous situation unfolding in Ukraine.

The story so far in 100 words or less: Ukrainians take to the streets to protest President Viktor Yanukovych’s decisions on foreign relations, chase him from power and provoke a world crisis as Russian President Vladimir Putin refuses to accept the outcome and occupies strategic sites in the country, drawing Western Europe and the US, NATO, into a standoff.

Watching the morning news on Euronews last week, I was struck by how clearly the balance of power has changed. We look on as in country after country people band together in apparently spontaneous demonstrations with far-reaching consequences.

It’s hard to believe it’s just a coincidence that all these uprisings are occurring now. In fact, it seems more likely that some sort of contagion is infecting societies one by one and that technology is a major factor both as a vector of ideological contamination and as a tactical resource that tips the balance by giving everyday people the information they need to coordinate their efforts.

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