Monthly Archives: September 2011

Last week, the New York Times reported that Narrative Science, a Chicago-based startup, had developed software that would automatically digest sports data and generate a news brief. The software will also create articles out of other material such as a company’s financial reports and housing statistics. Ironically, the software was developed in collaboration with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Narrative Science isn’t the only company in this space. Automated Insights (a company that recently scored $4 million in additional financing and changed its name from StatSheet — could it be because they wanted to use “AI” as their company logo?) has also developed technology that creates “long & short form articles, headlines & summaries written entirely by software, that derive insight from data.”

It’s clear that software like this works best for data-heavy content. And in the aforementioned CJR interview, the founder states that special algorithms for style and tone had to be created; something feasible for data-driven sports and business articles with a consistent tone, but perhaps not that easy for news articles. On Twitter, one user commented that automated content does not equal understanding:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/LawrenceHecht/statuses/116228585798369280″]

Software like this could also be used for mischief. For example, web content farms like eHow could quickly increase the amount of “content” that’s hosted on their sites, solely for the purpose of selling more ads (something they’ve been criticized for previously).

What do you think? Do you think robot-written journalism has a place in the newsroom?

Chris "The Dutchess" Walton shows off her Guinness-world-record-winning fingernails.

There’s a new Guinness world record holder — though her feat is neither one of strength nor endurance.

Chris “The Dutchess” Walton, 45, of Las Vegas, Nev., has just been certified as having the longest fingernails in the world. Walton’s nails, which she has been growing for 18 years, total 19 feet 9 inches, about the height of an average giraffe. Her nails on each hand range in length from 1 foot 3 inches to 3 feet.

She tries not to let her long nails get in the way of her daily routine. She can even use a smartphone to send text messages. However, in a few areas of her life, she has had to make adjustments, particularly in choosing and modifying her clothes. “I acclimate the clothes to me… I’ll take the seam out,” she said, explaining that many people just assume she struggles every day to put a top on. Asked how she does the dishes, she laughed and said, “I have grandkids now so I have earned the right not to do dishes.” Read More