This News-Writing Bot Is Now Free for Everyone
The age of robot writers is upon us. The Associated Press uses software to generate news stories on corporate earnings reports. Fox auto-generates some sports recaps that appear on its Big Ten Network site, while Yahoo uses similar technology to create fantasy sports reports custom-made for each of its users. Now you can turn your own data into stories, too—no writing necessary.
Today Automated Insights has launched a beta version of its new free service based on Wordsmith, the technology it uses to generate stories for companies like the AP. Typically, Automated Insights, much like its competitor Narrative Science, works with large customers to create the templates that the Wordsmith software fills in. This new service allows anyone to create their own templates and dump data into them on their own.
First, you upload a spreadsheet or other source of structured data. Automated Insights turns the various fields from the spreadsheet into variables that you can plug into the text template you create. There are many rules—known as branches—that you can set, such as the ability to use one set of words when a variable happens to be greater than a certain number and a different set when it happens to be lower than that number.
For example, let’s say you’re working with a spreadsheet of quarterly sales data. You could create a template that will generate the text “sales increased in quarter two” if the number in the spreadsheet cell containing the quarter’s total sales was bigger than the cell for quarter one. The quarter number could also be made into a variable that can be pulled directly from the spreadsheet. That way, assuming the spreadsheets are formatted in the same way each quarter, the template could be used every three months.
Of course, you’ll still need to know what sorts of data and what sorts of changes in that data you want Wordsmith to translate into words. But once you figure it out, the tool looks like a useful way to offload the least rewarding writing tasks onto a machine that won’t mind the tedium.
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