We first reported on Narrative Science at the height of the big content farm discussion, prior to Google’s release of the Panda Update about a year ago. We asked if the next wave of content farms would eliminate humans, as what Narrative Science does, is produce stories from computers.
“We tell the story behind the data,” its description said. “Our technology identifies trends and angles within large data sources and automatically creates compelling copy. We can build upon stories, providing deeper context around particular subjects over time. Every story is generated entirely from scratch and is always unique. Our technology can be applied to a broad range of content categories and we’re branching into new areas every day.”
Now, the company is generating stories from social media (hat tip: Peter Kafka). Narrative Science has a project, in beta, which uses an ongoing stream of tweets to generate stories that “express the state of the world in a form that is ever so slightly more human”. That’s ironic.
“Of course, at Narrative Science, our view is that we want to transform the massive stream of data that flows through the firehose into stories that are human readable and express the insights that are hidden within the stream,” says CTO and co-founder Kris Hammond on his blog. “In order to do this, we have to track, filter, tag and organize the unstructured stream into a semi-structured data asset that can then be used to support automatic narrative generation.”
“Our first foray into this work has been to look at the twitter traffic related to the Republican primary candidates,” adds Hammond. “Using a focused data stream, our technology captures and tags the ongoing conversations and then transforms the resulting data into stories. Our first story type is focused on how the candidates are trending and what topics are the drivers behind those trends. Linking the stream to events in the world, the primaries themselves, our engine can produce a daily report that captures a snapshot of where the candidates are and what issues brought them there.”
He shares a story about Newt Gingich, which the project was able to produce:
NEWT GINGRICH GAINS ATTENTION WITH HOT-BUTTON TOPICS TAXES, CHARACTER ISSUES
Newt Gingrich received the largest increase in Tweets about him today. Twitter activity associated with the candidate has shot up since yesterday, with most users tweeting about taxes and character issues. Newt Gingrich has been consistently popular on Twitter, as he has been the top riser on the site for the last four days. Conversely, the number of tweets about Ron Paul has dropped in the past 24 hours. Another traffic loser was Rick Santorum, who has also seen tweets about him fall off a bit.
While the overall tone of the Gingrich tweets is positive, public opinion regarding the candidate and character issues is trending negatively. In particular, @MommaVickers says, “Someone needs to put The Blood Arm’s ‘Suspicious Character’ to a photo montage of Newt Gingrich. #pimp”.
On the other hand, tweeters with a long reach are on the upside with regard to Newt Gingrich’s take on taxes. Tweeting about this issue, @elvisroy000 says, “Newt Gingrich Cut Taxes Balanced Budget, 1n 80s and 90s, Newt experienced Conservative with values”.
Maine recently held its primary, but it isn’t talking about Gingrich. Instead the focus is on Ron Paul and religious issues.
It’s not an astonishingly great piece of writing, but if you read this out of context, you would probably assume it was written by a human. But hey, some of us humans aren’t that great at writing either. I’ve certainly seen worse content from some.
I’m sure the technology will only improve. Our days as writers on the web may be numbered.