Alistair Dabbs? I always though his articles were already written by a robot. A robot named Marvin
They want to replace me with a robot. This is an excellent idea. In a world of unlimited connected information, it’s about time that the middleman stopped getting in the way. Things happen, facts materialise, they end up online, then you read them. Simple, really. What’s a journalist for? Even better, El Reg commentards will …
Saturday 28th February 2015 11:07 GMT Spikehead
Someone beat me to the robot comparison. I was going to go for a different angle. Maybe a robot generated article will be a better read. All AD's articles are conceited egotistical drivel. Don't think I've got past the first paragraph of any of his pieces without thinking "Jeez, what a moron!"
Saturday 28th February 2015 16:20 GMT Destroy All Monsters
Saturday 28th February 2015 08:38 GMT Anonymous Coward
Saturday 28th February 2015 08:49 GMT Ketlan
Saturday 28th February 2015 08:50 GMT Pete 2
To inform or to entertain?
What do people want from their "news"?
If we watch TV news, it's pretty clear that the primary goal is simply to keep viewers watching. This is done by a combination of vivid (lurid?) images - sometimes inserted more for their shock value than to convey information (though in factual programmes almost NO information comes from the video stream: just turn away from the picture and you STILL get the whole, errr, "picture" - the same cannot be said for turning the sound off). And to keep viewers from switching over with promises of stories about loss (since fear of loss is probably the greatest motivator of all), hints about celebs and other small furry animals and SPORT. Just keep watching the boring stuff about bad things happening in far away countries, and we'll get to the juicy stuff ... after the break.
For newspapers, the intention seems to be to push a point of view (and also to get them to watch the advertisements). Since the article uses The Guardian's Comment is Free monicker (it's not BTW. It's very heavily censored, as any commentard who even suggests that their angry-women columnists might only be using a selected version of the facts) we can use their text as examples. The Gruaniad''s pieces appear to be (very carefully) crafted to encourage clickage, attract eyeballs and generally maximise advertisement revenue. They do this by putting their own political slant on their pieces - which one wouldn't really call "journalism".
If you want "information" from the news media, then the simple way is simply to skim the headlines. In most cases this tells you all that is known about a breaking story. The rest of the piece being merely guesswork, conjecture or a rehash of what people on twitter are saying about it. Google News does this very well - and it's so quick to use. It also seems that journo's are writing their stories to be GN friendly, with all the facts in the first sentence or 2.
Understanding and background can be found. But that usually requires the "expert" to arrive. So for depth regarding stories, one generally has to wait a day or two. But by then it's all been forgotten and the next set of 140-character news-bites has washed away any important but dull stores and we're back to cats playing with celebs (or what colour is a dress) again.
Saturday 28th February 2015 08:57 GMT Anonymous Coward
Saturday 28th February 2015 10:01 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: To inform or to entertain?
I'm not sure if you're paid to promote Google News or are just a bit short in the logic department, but to me, a headline grabber is not exactly unbiased either, exactly because they need to make a choice for each event they report.
If Google News chooses, for instance a Guardian headline over that of, say, The Times, you already have prioritised one spin over another. Given that Google is also a business selling stuff I can well imaging that the magic algorithms behind Google's selection also have a particular lean to one side.
Personally, if I find a story I'm interested in I try to read all the available coverage, not just from one source, and where possible I try to get as close to the original story to gather all the facts - and after that I will make my own interpretation. That still doesn't guarantee I have a complete view, but it gets me closer to what is really happening. Google News certainly is not part of that process, any more than Huffington Post is (to name another aggregator).
Sunday 1st March 2015 19:30 GMT Havin_it
@AC Re: To inform or to entertain?
>If Google News chooses, for instance a Guardian headline over that of, say, The Times[...]
...then it's of little consequence, because grouped right next to it are all the other articles that (appear to) cover the same story. This is exactly why GN is my go-to for digging into a story: you're never more than a couple of clicks away from every single article they can find on the subject, and (this point is subjective, but hey) I've never gotten the sense that the "minority report" was omitted, or buried way down the list. It's pretty much always there among the first few, if it exists.
Yes, they are prioritising the sources, but AFAICT they're mainly doing so to appeal to your perceived preferences/bias based on their tracking data. (I've commentarded about this very thing in the last week or so.) This has its own risks if you are not alert to it, of course (essentially a positive feedback loop), but you can hardly blame them for prioritising the stuff they think you're most likely to want to read (and thus click on).
None of this prevents you digging deeper by yourself of course, as I'd expect a meat-sack journalist to do, but I'm just a lazy current affairs maven with limited time on my hands and I can't count the number of times I've read the first article about something, formed an opinion, and been very glad I also examined the other half-dozen versions at the top of GN before I started fulminating a load of underinformed bollocks all over the intertubes.
@Pete 2: Dabbsy already addressed your point about journos writing "for" GN, but it's always amusing to see when this has been unintentionally thwarted by the webmonkeys. For example, the scraped "summary" often contains the text of an advert that precedes the rubric, or the caption of the unnecessarily large and semantically irrelevant header image (well done on dodging that one, ElReg!).
My favourite at the moment is the Independent, where the scraped thumbnail is usually not from the article, but from the annoying tangentially-related-sometimes image slideshow they shove in half way down the rubric: witness an article about human rights abuses adorned with a pic of some grinning Japanese chaps emptying buckets of snow over their semi-naked selves (new season of Takeshi's Castle filming, I surmise). Great fun.
As to TFA, I think Dabbsy's overlooked the very virtue of robojournos: they have no bias apart from what is programmed into them. They also can't be bribed or coerced to spike or misrepresent a story, so actually they could make better investigative journos than any meatbag. Above all, they bring a standard of scepticism that no human can match: something they are told is either provably true, or it isn't. They can, if they're allowed, flag the article with "This could all be utter bullshit, by the way."
So it comes down to ownership, just as with the fleshies. If we could set up an open-source aggregator/miner bot with smart enough algos and somehow guarantee that it was neither tampered with by its masters nor could be hoodwinked into accepting lies as facts (now there's a challenge), I'd read it.
Saturday 28th February 2015 14:40 GMT amanfromMars 1
Re: To inform or to entertain?
Amen to all of that, Pete 2. The unvarnished truth in all of its naked glory.
But such has been long enough well enough known ......
“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
"All news is lies and all propaganda is disguised as news."-- Willi Munzenberg
“The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself…Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.”—H.L. Mencken, American journalist
And now added to the mix for a future fix?!:-) ..... It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion. …… Joseph Goebbels ….. and to mentor and monitor ITs phormation of programs and projects for Global Operating Devices for Remote Command and Virtual Control of Manipulative Systems be a Quantum Leap for Man and Giant Step for Mankind in CyberIntelAIgent Fields of SMARTR Exploitation and Alien Exploration in Systems of Operation. ... amfM 
Saturday 28th February 2015 17:58 GMT Alistair Dabbs
Saturday 28th February 2015 18:51 GMT amanfromMars 1
To inform or to entertain with a statement of fact
Words create and control and collapse worlds, Alistair Dabbs, and media has to decide what puppets and muppets it is going to support and collude with.
And that aint no question. It is what exclusive executive sysadmins are battling and losing against spectacularly.
Saturday 28th February 2015 09:00 GMT Anonymous Coward
Saturday 28th February 2015 09:37 GMT Elmer Phud
If that pile of poo known as 'Wordle' is used to collect the most significant words and phrases used on newsgroups and the like, then takes a selection of the most frequent, it should be relatively simple to connect the words and phrases together in a load of blather that resembles red-top 'reporting'.
Oh, hang on.
'populist' soundbites used to construct 'news' items.
that'd be Faux News, the Scum or the Fail.
Saturday 28th February 2015 09:45 GMT Doctor Syntax
Saturday 28th February 2015 10:01 GMT jonathanb
"The public offering of Amalgamated Durables hit a peak of £2.79 at launch."
You need to reprogramme your robot to tell it that UK share prices are quoted as 279p unlike the rest of the world, unless of course you want to send the hedge funds' automomated trading bots into panic mode because they think it has crashed to 2.79p (£0.0279).
Saturday 28th February 2015 10:40 GMT amanfromMars 1
Automated News Works to XSSXXXX is a Novel HyperRadioProActive Market Weapon
This is posted earlier elsewhere but is an indication of the the way things have gone and will be, but whether something to risk life savings on, well that is quite another trillion dollar question.
amanfromMars … Sat, 02/28/2015 - 00:34 having a say on http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-02-27/self-aware-worlds-largest-hedge-fund-shifts-strategy-artificial-intelligence
Is Ray Dalio's $165 billion AUM hedge fund Bridgewater, the new Dennis Montgomery eTreppid Technologies wannabe, and a right dodgy vapourware vendor supremo of Ponzi markets? ........ http://cryptome.org/2015/02/pay-any-price-chapter-2.pdf
Saturday 28th February 2015 10:46 GMT Zog_but_not_the_first
Saturday 28th February 2015 11:25 GMT Pisartis
"it sets out to identify the moronic gullibility of social network users rather than catch liars in the act of making speeches in the House."
Spotting liars in the House is easy though - the robot just has to identify moving lips.
But then, identifying moronic gullibility on social networks should also be easy. Spotting intelligence and erudition there, now that's tricky!
Saturday 28th February 2015 14:21 GMT Primus Secundus Tertius
I gather computer scientists have proved that it is impossible to write a program that will accurately recognise another program as a virus - some kind of extension to Turing's Halting Theorem.
I conjecture (like a mathematician; scientists hypothesise) that it is equally impossible to recognise every kind of lying.
Saturday 28th February 2015 12:58 GMT Doctor Syntax
The robots are amongst us
Long ago my job used to involve taking laboratory results which needed to be interpreted in probabilistic terms and try to express these so than non-experts could appreciate the nuances involved. A colleague and I had a standing joke about writing a program which could be fed the data & generate reports in terms such as "not entirely inconsistent with" or "guilty as charged".
As part of my great escape plan I had a job interview with an agency that used psychological tests in using forms consisting of statements & check boxes for reactions. The interviewer took the results into a back room, fed them into an optical mark reader & returned with the resulting profile written in narrative form just as we'd joked about.
What I'd like to find now is a sort of reverse Turing test, one which will tell the difference between a call centre agent and a badly programmed bot.
Saturday 28th February 2015 13:24 GMT Sarah Balfour
And I likes a bit of Kraftwerk, I does.
I've often found myself wishing I was Kryten, so I could swap heads if the current one quit functioning. My head often quits functioning. It'd be nice to be able to replace it occasionally. M
Although, at the mo, I need a new body, too…
Sunday 1st March 2015 19:49 GMT Havin_it
(Credit: Charlie Brooker I think)
I humbly submit that there are plenty of sports journalists, not to mention fans, pundits, stewards, etc... who feel exactly that way about football alone. It's not sport, it's Monopoly with tin scottie-dogs that fall over by themselves but only run if you buy them a Park Lane mansion.
Saturday 28th February 2015 19:53 GMT VeganVegan
It wouldn't bother me if robots wrote the news
I have a robot web crawler gather the news from all over the place, and try to summarize the trawl.
This is all for chuckles anyway, because I never look at the results.
I'm down at the pub having a good time. You humans out there, care to join me for a brew?
Saturday 28th February 2015 19:54 GMT Chris G
I am pretty certain that much of the world is already being run by bosses who are humaniform robots, it's just a shame the programming is such crap.
They tend to spout the same old rubbish day in and day out as if they are stuck in a loop, still, I suppose that would work well for 99% of the news.
Saturday 28th February 2015 20:07 GMT ecofeco
Sunday 1st March 2015 01:12 GMT SysKoll
Tuesday 3rd March 2015 12:07 GMT Alistair Dabbs
Re: Why go back to Nixon?
I was looking for old and new non-contentious examples. That Nixon lied his head off while sending young Americans to their death is a matter of public record, as is blatant truth-bending by Britain's chief accountant. Opinions on Obama's healthcare stumbles, however, remain politically loaded and open to interpretation