Cybersecurity / Social media

DiD a BoT wRiTe ThIs HeAdLiNe??

Here's what happens when you feed a neural network 8,800 headlines.

TechnicallyBot is learning to generate headlines. (GIF by Roberto Torres) Philly has been publishing news about the local tech community non-stop since 2009.

Turns out that’s a whole lot of headlines. Over 8,800 of them to be exact. So when Arcweb Technologies reached out to ask for a few of our headlines to power a Twitter bot the Old City-based dev firm made, we got all greedy and thought: How about a Headline Bot?

Kurt Schiller, head of Marketing at Arcweb was all over it. Using Google’s Tensorflow machine learning framework and a free Python program called textgenrnn, Schiller put together a neural network to churn out headlines based on our database. The thing actually works and has been able to churn out funny-sounding one-liners like this one:

And some that make grammatical sense and everything:

Schiller, who joined Chris Cera’s company last Fall, said the more challenging aspect of creating the bot wasn’t setting it up but creating a reply function. See, if you tweet “Philly is @TechnicallyBot,” you’ll get an automated response to what Philly is. Like this:

“It’s essentially a teaching exercise where you give the bot text and say: ‘look at this, identify patterns and understand it,'” said Schiller. “After that you can train it to create its own headlines and it’s as simple as asking it to produce more.”

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For his first bot project, The PR Human, the former editor at a New Jersey tech publication thought the repetitiveness of PR pitches might fit in well with a machine learning, which relies on pattern identification.

“They are often using the same combos of buzzword,” Schiller said. “It thought it would be funny to see if it could come up with passable PR jargon.”

Wouldn’t you know it, it actually did:

Those heading to SXSW in Austin next week can catch Schiller at the Amplify Philly house, where he’ll be chatting about how Arcweb uses machine learning and other technologies to create software solutions for its clients.

“We look at machine learning as one more arrow in the quiver,” the marketing head said. “It’s new and exciting. Ultimately it’s about allowing people to connect in a way that makes sense.”

People: Chris Cera

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