Tuesday, November 30, 2010

News of Breaking Late Cheesecake Importance World

News aggregators are one of my favorite tools for finding things out. As I've said before, even though you don't see the widest variety of stories on cable news, there's plenty to be known, and whatever you want to know about, someone somewhere has likely reported on it recently.

That's the thing, though. Someone went out and wrote the article. It might be a lazily-done thing, but someone thought about the words they were putting down and actively said 'okay, this is good enough for me to submit'.

Someone, however, somewhere, one day got the idea that this was too much work. They would prefer to just have the computer write the story for them. This is how the scourge of automated news has come to be. Automated news writes stories according to an algorithm of some sort based on the writings of others. These writings are then combined, mashed up, and then presented as a unique piece.

Luckily for us, they do an awful job of it. Let's take this site here, which titles itself "Latest Update Headline News".

I'll use, just as an example, something totally innocuous and noncontroversial, a weird-news story: namely, that of a woman stripping naked on a flight from Chicago to New York. Let's start by showing how an actual human being working for the Associated Press- and reported in USA Today- reports on this:

Police have removed an emotionally disturbed passenger who stripped naked on a flight between Chicago and New York.
The incident happened Saturday night as Delta Flight 6562 began its descent into Kennedy Airport.

A Newsday news manager who was on the flight said flight attendants tried to cover the woman with a blanket while she yelled "No! No! No!"

The Newsday manager, David Holland, said that when the plane landed, other passengers got off before police removed the woman.

A spokeswoman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said the woman was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.

The woman's name was not released. She is not expected to be criminally charged.

And now to the automated version of events from "Latest Update Headline News", which for you may read differently from this, as the exact text may change over time:

Woman Strips Naked On JFK-Bound Flight: Police hаνе private аn emotionally uneasy newcomer whο nude exposed οn the moody between Chicago аnd Nеw York. Thе situation happened Saturday night аѕ Delta Flight 6562 ѕtаrtеd іtѕ skirmish іntο Kennedy Airport. Reports ѕаіd thаt thе Flight attendent hаѕ attempted tο cover thе women bυt ѕhе denied tο bе lonesome up. ѕhе announced NO NO NO!.

Thе reason οf hеr shameful try hаѕ nοt bееn tοld nοr thе name οf thе women revealed. Thе Newsday manager, David Holland, ѕаіd thаt whеn thе craft landed, οthеr passengers gοt οff prior to military private thе woman. Later οn, thе lady wаѕ taken tο Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.

Any questions?

Well, yes, but I meant about the quality of the articles. One was coherently written, the other is Babelfish News.

Why? Why would someone do this? There are two possible reasons, far as I can figure:

1: Someone is just that lazy. In which case, find another line of work. That's just plain awful.
2: Ad revenue. Someone doesn't even care if they have a coherent article. They just want someone to mistake it for one long enough to get them in front of some ads, which if clicked make that someone money.

It's not likely you'll come across these places very often- they're a drop in the bucket. But it's really troubling that they exist at all. Let's try and make sure they stay a drop in the bucket. Don't click their ads, and really, try not to click their links if you can pick them out.

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