Jordan gets a bot and WikiTribune gets google juice

With all the talk of chatbots, I suddenly remembered the bot that was hired as staff at a Jordanian university and wondered whatever happened to it.

Nothing new on the bot, whose name is Pepper, and was hired in January by Princess Sumaya University for Technology.  It is one of a series of Peppers made in Japan.

Whatever this photo is, it looks pretty much like a manel.

The ceremony for the bot is not much better. Not many female faces in this crowd, and certainly none in the front row.

Although Pepper tends to be male in Japan and female elsewhere, this particular Pepper, who had received a university ID card during the ceremony, seems to be unabashedly male. Likewise with it programmers: Saddam, Amr, and Mustafa. No word yet on the bot’s salary or who takes charge of it.

But here is the biggest surprise.

Earlier in the week, Jimbo’s new Wiki Tribune venture did a piece on robots interacting cutely with the elderly.  Pepper gets a brief mention as leading an exercise class.  So guess what comes up first in a google search for this bot?

Yup.  Looks like Jimbo has got himself some serious street-cred for his new venture.

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3 thoughts on “Jordan gets a bot and WikiTribune gets google juice

  1. I was going to be nice about WikiTribune, after all they’re just starting out, but I can’t hold back any longer.

    This is crap writing.

    I don’t think it’s entirely the fault of the writers though, since the last piece I looked at was basically the same kind of quotation farm.

    I have read the thing three times, and I still can’t figure out what it is about, other than some kind of carbon footprint kind of thing for a particular industry. It’s as if they decide on a topic, then use Jimbo’s, or perhaps Wikipedia’s name recognition to call up a bunch of people and ask for quotations, which they then print with no particular context, with the formula: “Person X of the Yadda Yadda Yadda company (YYY) (link to XYZ News Agency) told WikiTribune, ‘Yadda yadda yadda yadda.’ (XYZ News Agency).” Totally unreadable. It’s like they’re combining a scholarly inline citation format with a blog style link format, but without the footnotes. Impossible to scan and if you look at the links, they do not even match up with links of the source given in the text. How can this be reliable? I don’t think anybody proofreads these things before they go live. And that’s just the format. Totally unreadable. If I wanted an in-depth understanding of some topic, this is definitely not where I would turn.

    But that’s just the formatting. What about content? Let’s go back to English Composition 101. Yes *groan*, I remember it too. But what do you get graded for? Spelling? That’s probably only 5% of the grade, if that, plus these days you have autocorrect and spell check. You get graded on structure. Does “topic sentence” ring a bell? Go to any major news source and look at their article structure. You will see nothing but topic sentences and well structured paragraphs that support each successive wave of topic sentences, as regular as little soldiers marching in rows.

    So let’s go to the article and pick a topic sentence at random: “The industry will now also have to revise the fuel on which it operates, that is, bunker fuel.” What is this even about? How do you revise a fuel? And is “bunker fuel” a thing? I am picturing the numerous spoof videos of the “inside Hilter’s bunker” scene from Der Untergang. Maybe the Brits get it, living close to the sea and all, but really can’t this be made understandable for a more global audience? Okay, maybe that was a bad example. What about the conclusion, surely that must have some coherence. This is the topic sentence: “These moves send a clear message that a transformation is required.” Wait, what? Moves? What moves? Scanning up a couple of paragraphs, I really don’t see the moves spelled out.

    And who are these people being quoted? In general, I mean. What are these agencies? Pro-industry? Pro-government? And who are these “environmental campaigners” who are “in favor of the”…what? Proposed law? Can’t be, it’s international, but “global shipping agreement”??? Please, this is not an obscure sentence in the middle of something, this is the lede.

    Titles: “A step in the right direction”. Looking at the lede paragraph under this section it looks like it’s about “Paris Agreement’s 195 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)”, whatever that is. but if you go down further you can see it’s extracted from a quotation about a “50 percent reduction” compromise of…something. The titles should pull things together, these titles just make it more confusing.

    And one more thing, what are all those statistics scattered through the thing and written out in long form. At least five or six paragraphs are encumbered with random statistics devoid of context. Are these writers getting paid by the word? Think about what kind of graphs or charts could be used convey this information. Then do yourself a favor, and look at a couple of different weather maps, see which formats make it easiest to grasp a large amount of complex information quickly.

    The public has a short attention span these days. WikiTribune will have a window of time to get itself together, but who knows how short it will be. If they want to be a source people turn to for information, either superficial or in depth, they still have far to go to master just the bare basics of the craft.

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