I’ve posted in the past about algorithms assisting professional editors in summarizing, topically classifying and applying metadata to tax, legal and regulatory content. That was focused on algorithms as assistants.
A September 10, 2013 post in the Wall Street Journal’s Venture Capital Dispatch blog states that algorithms are already doing much more than merely providing assistance. The blog post talks about how a company called Narrative Science is able to automatically generate news stories about basketball games. But Narrative Science’s Quill product can write about much more than just sports. It can write – without human assistance – financial and real estate news stories. However, the blog post notes that Narrative Science’s Quill product was initially trained by journalists. Apparently from the moment you purchase Quill, you must fine-tune it for approximately 90 days before putting it into production. While Quill can truly write stories, it is being positioned more as a decision-support tool that helps companies make more sense of their data. In fact, you can read some stories authored by Quill at Forbes.
Naturally, I wonder how Quill might be used to help editors of professional content generate more meaningful insight. Can Quill summarize the holding of a case or extract the key conclusions from a clinical trial? Can Quill inform a lawyer when a regulatory action has de facto carved out an exception to the application of a statute? Can Quill keep annotations of cases, laws, regulations and administrative rulings updated? Perhaps publishers could use Narrative Science to cover a broader range of content and enable editors to focus on other tasks.
Law firms, accounting firms and hospitals increasingly act as publishers themselves. Law firms and accounting firms produce newsletters for their clients. Patients of doctors increasingly expect consumer-friendly explanations of illnesses and associated treatment regimes. Professional services firms, in order to not “reinvent the wheel” when giving advice, invest in knowledge management technologies. If I understand Narrative Science’s Quill product correctly, it might be an interesting tool for these purposes.
I certainly do not think that Quill replaces editors of professional content. But I am convinced that it is worth testing on professional content. Perhaps it could become a sort of editorial assistant enabling publishers and their professional customers to generate new insights at a scale never before economically possible. In theory, time that used to be spent on writing summaries could be invested in writing software that increases professionals’ productivity. Perhaps Quill could generate insights from blogs and social media as well as free public domain content that can be meaningfully combined with content produced by professional publishers as well as professional services firms and hospitals.
Have any of you had experience with Narrative Science or Quill?