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Meet Robo-Writer

September 22nd, 2011 by Bob Bly

In the forthcoming motion picture Real Steel, human prizefighters are replaced by boxing robots.

This fate may be reality, not science fiction, for writers.

A company called Narrative Science ( claims their technology can “transform data into high-quality editorial content … without human authoring or editing.”

If it’s true, this is bad news for freelance writers who produce articles and other content. These writers could be replaced by a machine.

I say “if” it’s true because the Narrative Science web site offers not one iota of proof that they can do as they claim. There are no videos, demos, white papers, webinars, testimonials, case studies, or explanations of how their software allegedly writes content.

Without proof, I am highly skeptical. But if Narrative Science has actually done it, some content writers may be forced to find a new way to make a living.



This entry was posted on Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 at 3:47 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

57 responses about “Meet Robo-Writer”

  1. William Reynolds said:

    It’s true and it isn’t. A recent NY Times article reported that several companies are using the system now, but mostly for sports coverage and financial updates — in other words, items that are data-heavy and relatively unfettered by a need for opinion or creative insight. It’s not a substitute for a writer who can actually interpret and expand on data in original, thoughtful and exciting ways. It also can’t brainstorm, another critical skill my clients ask me for on a regular basis.

    It does seem useful, however, as a way to crank out objective reports — sports scores, death or bankruptcy notices, stock updates, etc. — without overtaxing your writing bullpen.

    Here’s an example of what it can do. Note that while the piece sounds correct enough, it offers nothing more than facts and figures, with some cleverly-placed expressions sprinkled in:

  2. Judith said:

    The example provided by William is quite impressive and would be very useful for pieces that need to be objective.

  3. Blog » Blog Archive » Why Human Writers Still Beat Robots said:

    […] mastermind Robert Bly recently discussed an extraordinary new technological advance — writer-less writing. This program, the product […]

  4. Justin Hitt said:

    This has always existed, it’s called “freelance writers who don’t know how to price themselves.”

    There will always be pockets of low cost writers who can robotically knock out drafts, and do a great job at it.

    Unless your client understands the value of what they are getting, even good content producres will be replaced.



  5. Jon Simons said:

    I’m sure this is possible and someone will crack the problem at some point, but I’m not sure we’re there yet. And I do think such a program will never replace high quality writing, only poor/moderate quality general content.

    And if such software simply depends on ready to go phrases that it plugs together into an article, and then ‘spins’ some of those words into other variations with the same meaning, it could end up being content that Google isn’t entirely happy with, which could then largely defeat the point.

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  7. Geoff Brandt said:

    Regarding the article referenced by William above:

    I agree it’s a technical achievement. I also see it as really bad prose. I’m pro technology (I also own a tech services firm), and love to collect gadgets. But I don’t think (good) writers have anything to fear quite yet.

  8. Ryan O'Meara said:

    I do think we’ll eventually end up at a place where intelligent software will be able to produce readable content. But it’s always worth remembering, if everyone starts to use it that will be a great opportunity for those who don’t. It still takes humans to program these things. Have to admit, some copy I read does make me think it was written by a robot any way.

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