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Boiling Down Books, Algorithmically 177

Posted by timothy
from the infallible-is-a-very-strong-word dept.
destinyland writes "A year ago, Aaron Stanton harangued Google over his new project, a web site analyzing patterns in books to generate infallible recommendations. In March he finally finished a prototype which he showed to Google, Yahoo, and Amazon, and he's just announced that he's finally received a big contract which 'gives us a great deal of potential data to work with.' The 25-year-old's original prototype examined over 200 books, plotting 729,000 data points across 30,293 scenes — but its universe of analyzed novels is about to become much, much bigger."
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Boiling Down Books, Algorithmically

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  • by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @06:29PM (#24078365) Journal

    The difference between now and 100 years ago becomes more apparent each day. Then, owning books was a sign of affluence, of intelligence. Now? Everything is up to question, and should be. Analyzing books and other public material is just another step in putting intelligence out there for everyone, not just those that can afford it. I applaud it, and all the dangers it brings. Such hurdles are necessary, but we must assault them to overcome barriers that should no longer exist.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 06, 2008 @06:42PM (#24078461)

      Knowledge, not intelligence.

      • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Sunday July 06, 2008 @07:51PM (#24078889) Homepage Journal
        Or wisdom, for that matter.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mrbluze (1034940)

          Or wisdom, for that matter.

          What about insight?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by umghhh (965931)

          That is fascinating - somebody came up with another way to dig patterns in mountains of data thus creating even more data to dig into and people claim it is intelligence, wisdom or knowledge and that everything changed. It is true of course. One big change between now and then (whenever that would be) is that today any ignorant connected to internet and equipped in basic reading skills is able to claim he posses all the knowledge of the world. Sadly the fact that more people have more and easier access to a

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            What I find more fascinating than your observation is that there appears to be no filtration of noise from the signal.
            Given a relatively free petri dish for information to slosh around in, there seems a shocking lack of condensation of real knowledge out of all the crap.
            Wikipedia seems like a step of sorts in the preferred direction.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "not just those that can afford it."

      Shit Bud, you make it sound like it's the 1200s. Books ARE cheap. Books are just another thing to compete for your money; sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. Like with those bankrupt families that have a 50" plasma screen and a couple Navigators in the driveway. They've made their choices. Personally, I've chosen books. No need to assault anything or anybody; there are no barriers other than our own (assuming you're a white male, of course).

      Say, you aren't one of tho

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by zappepcs (820751)

        I don't mean to throw stones, but books cost money, many people afford to be on the Internet, yet buying books has become old hat. When you can go on the Internet and get the latest information, books are ... well, a waste of money for the most part. The delay between discovery and publishing and reading is no longer tolerable, not in this throw away society. Look at some science fiction ideals... such delays are always intolerable. I will cite an event that is not even related to show that delay is not rig

        • by Skreems (598317) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @07:43PM (#24078833) Homepage
          If you're talking about news, you're correct. But the original article is applying this to works of fiction, which still take at least a decade to go out of date (if not longer) despite the internet and the hard-on you appear to have for it. This "invention" is not about freeing information, it's basically a fancy way to mathematically calculate that if you like The Hobbit, you might also like The Lord Of The Rings. It might be beneficial to someone looking for more of the same, but it doesn't even seem to serve to further creativity since by design it will not recommend things that will expand your horizons, but will encourage people to stay with the safety of yet another rehash of something they've already read.
          • by Narpak (961733) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @09:16PM (#24079477)

            ...will encourage people to stay with the safety of yet another rehash of something they've already read.

            Like most people since mass printing became possible. There are many authors whos work would give you great satisfaction, but who you will never read. Perhaps by at least giving people a good selection of tailored recomendation; the quality of that selection could hopefully improve.

            The span of taste is wide and varied. More so than what any bookstore could provide (unless it is online). However when you take things online you encounter another problem; there is truly a vast (and growing) number of books avalible for purchase; trying to create a system for automated recomendation is a logical goal. Even if a system like that doesn't encourage reading things outside your established field of interest. If you arrive at a point where you need something different, a good system should be able to let you browse the top sellers, best reviewed and established classics of any genre. I have no doubt that after various tries, failures and breakthroughs, and as technology improves; consumers of litterature will be given a good online, digital tool for searching through databases and lists of material they might enjoy.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Skreems (598317)
              I don't get this, though. The idea of "top sellers, best reviewed, genre classics" already exists, and this invention adds nothing to it. On the other hand, the idea of finding books you should read but don't know about seems a problem particularly poorly suited to an automated solution. This is what personal recommendations absolutely excel at, because no algorithm can gauge the cultural impact of a work of art, or the level of craft involved in its making.
              • by Virtual_Raider (52165) on Monday July 07, 2008 @02:17AM (#24081007) Homepage

                the idea of finding books you should read but don't know about seems a problem particularly poorly suited to an automated solution.

                Er... -1,Wrong* : You don't seem to be considering the impact of statistical analysis and Very Large Sets of Data (C)(TM). It's becoming increasingly possible not only to know that 125K other people all over the world bought books B, C and D along with book A that you purchased, but now you can also index and analyse their content so it will be even easier to fine tune.

                Imagine this: On the first iteration (first purchase) it can only out-of-the-blue recommend to you those books more consistently purchased along with the one you chose. But on subsequent transactions it can remember what you bought and compare the contents of the books. Now if you bought The Silmarillion, Kontakto and The Unfolding of Language over time, it would be possible to suggest that you read Shakespeare's works in their original Klingon once it realizes that you are equally interested in languages as in fictional civilizations.

                I agree with you that the day an algorithm can make value judgements on the artistic merits of any work is still far ahead, but there was just recently a story about this FireFox plug in that sumarizes user reviews. Combine the two and...

                * Didn't we have this conversation before, or is it just a popular .sig? If there was a "-1,Wrong" moderation, you would be told that the info is wrong but you would lose any insight provided by a direct reply of somebody that bothers to correct you AND post the right facts. With Slashdot being a discussion forum, it's on its best interest to actually promote discussion so you most likely will never see that mod option implemented.

          • by ruin20 (1242396) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @11:15PM (#24080217)
            In most things we evolve, not leap to new horizons. I find that most of the time I choose to read a book because I like it's similarities, I like the book because of it's differences. Like traditional sci-fi to apocalyptic sci-fi to steam punk to biohacking to cyberspace to crypto. I never would have read the Cryptomicon if I hadn't read I, Robot and can say today that I have a better appreciation for one from the other.

            Typically the way we learn and get good at just about everything is that we go a little bit beyond where we're comfortable and we sustain an effort there. After a while our comfort level moves. Just like if I read enough on one subject typically I'll get caught up with a tangent subject and eventually move into that.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Skreems (598317)
              Yes, that's quite true. The important thing in both, though, is that they're good, while this algorithm may just as easily recommend something absolutely terrible that happens to contain a lot of the same words and phrases unless it relies heavily on human input for that elusive quality assessment.
          • by umghhh (965931)

            Not sure if that is true - they may include some algorithms that will introduce some small variation once in a while thus allowing the masses not to get scared by unknown but to proceed into new realms albeit slowly. Maybe this would be something tunable too? Whichever way they coded it such algorithms tend to work better with simple people. I do not have anything against simple people in fact I always aspired to be one but I got laugh attacks sometimes when similar tools in music realm try to guess what I

        • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Sunday July 06, 2008 @07:55PM (#24078913) Homepage Journal

          If you wish to spend your nights reading information from 2+ years ago, that is your problem. The rest of us want today's information, and now. Good luck with the personal library.

          It's getting to the point that you need a 2+ year filter just to dampen the noise in the signal.
          And let's give a shout out to all of the library homiez. While I'm affluent enough to afford the occasional impulse book at the store with the built-in coffee shop, I do recall many an hour of random wandering in the public library in my youth.

        • Dostoevsky and Tolstoy books(or any other books to include those written by Psychology's founding fathers and mothers), bought used from Amazon, are dirt-cheap and will teach you more about psychology than any single text will.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Bottlemaster (449635)

          I will cite an event that is not even related to show that delay is not right: junteenth. It took several years for emancipation news to reach Texas. Is that right?

          Actually, it took several years for Union troops to arrive in Texas and enforce emancipation. Until Texas was reconquered, the proclamation didn't apply because the state was neither a part of the United States nor under its jurisdiction. At the most, you can only claim a lag of about three months (Lee surrendered in April of that year), though

        • by ponos (122721)

          I don't mean to throw stones, but books cost money, many people afford to be on the Internet, yet buying books has become old hat. When you can go on the Internet and get the latest information, books are ... well, a waste of money for the most part. The delay between discovery and publishing and reading is no longer tolerable, not in this throw away society. Look at some science fiction ideals... such delays are always intolerable. I will cite an event that is not even related to show that delay is not right: junteenth. It took several years for emancipation news to reach Texas. Is that right? The point is that information and knowledge should be universal, and instant. The great promise of the Internet was just that. If you wish to spend your nights reading information from 2+ years ago, that is your problem. The rest of us want today's information, and now. Good luck with the personal library.

          Well, you can access recent scientific articles for example on www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, read 10 (out of something like 1000++) and try to understand the subject that interests you. Or you can choose a reliable textbook and read that instead. It won't be 100% up to date, but it will often be easier to understand, probably more objective and will cover a bigger part of the literature than you could in a reasonable time frame.

          So, if you're the kind of person that reads 100 scholarly articles just to implement

        • Are all your posts full of pretention twaddle?
        • by umghhh (965931)

          Let us think of it as a legitimate goal - to have all information instantly, allow them to come to your consciousness all at once, so that you can be aware of them all at once too, this state has been possible to achieve without google or amazon or even (oh my god is it possible?) internet - the substances used by people already thousands of years ago had the same effect. They are illegal in majority of places /. is read though so spending zillions on needed infrastructure and getting fat in the cellar whil

      • by LilGuy (150110)

        I am. Especially when it come to information. And I almost always get it for free.

        Except when I find it incredibly valuable, in which case I pay for a hard book copy.

    • by blahplusplus (757119) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @07:01PM (#24078581)

      What really hits a nerve with me is why the scientific community hasn't opened up all their journals for others to read. I imagine many retired and amateur scientists, engineers, hobbyists, etc, would have a lot of insight into many engineering and scientific problems and also make many discoveries as well. Intelligence is not limited to the credentialed, those of high status or currently employed, many discoveries happen simply by exposure to as many minds as possible, and finding connections and errors in others works..

      • by Strilanc (1077197)

        While you're at it, complain about university students not making their books less expensive. Your beef is with publishers. They aren't the entire scientific community.

      • by dnwq (910646) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @07:25PM (#24078717)
        The researchers publishing these papers typically don't get much more than citations - the money mostly goes to publishers like Elsevier. Blame them instead.
        • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @11:16PM (#24080225)

          Much better to blame the researchers for not publishing in a more open medium. They're the ones who might actually change their habits, after all.

          • by Illserve (56215) on Monday July 07, 2008 @08:13AM (#24082633)

            We did.

            http://www.plos.org/ [plos.org]

            (not me personally, I had no role in this but as a member of the community I applaud)

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Irvu (248207)

            The problem is not with the researchers so much as the beuraucracies of univiersities and funding, and the problems of peer review.

            Many universities, especially those outside the U.S. use metrics for rating their researchers that are weighted towords publications from Elsevier and others. England is especially bad about this. For that reason many scientists don't have much of a choice in that they are forced to publish there is go without pay.

            So totally open spaces raise issues of what it means to be publ

      • by Sir Holo (531007) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @07:26PM (#24078721)
        blahplusplus: What really hits a nerve with me is why the scientific community hasn't opened up all their journals for others to read.

        We scientists would absolutely love to have all of the journals opened up for free access to everyone. But, you see, the publishers own the copyright to our articles. The system requires us to give them the copyright, in order to get our stuff published. Then you, me, and everybody else has to pay to read recent research.

        Thankfully, some established journals are going open-access.

        That's very promising. But the fact remains that publishers such as Elsevier own the copyright to many decades-worth of scientific literature. And they're not about to give any of it away.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by blahplusplus (757119)

          "That's very promising. But the fact remains that publishers such as Elsevier own the copyright to many decades-worth of scientific literature. And they're not about to give any of it away."

          Then I submit the scientific community creates a project website to buy the rights to these works, I've come up with many ways for funding such an endeavor. The barrier would primarily be geometric (population size vs amount of money each person could donate/give/invest in such a venture) and the attitudes of the people

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Chineseyes (691744)
            You do realize that doing something like this publicly would backfire in the worst ways imaginable? You would immediately increase the value of the works and some incredibly wealthy person or corporation may just buy everything out right in the hope that you pay him/her even more money than you had originally planned.
      • What really hits a nerve with me is why the scientific community hasn't opened up all their journals for others to read.

        Do you know what you're saying? Do you really want to release possible Weapons of Intellectual Destruction on the world?
        I look at the titles in the archives of
        http://www.misq.org/ [misq.org]
        and I'm thinking that some of this stuff is best kept locked in the ivory tower.

      • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @08:58PM (#24079343)
        I wish it weren't so (and I submit all my papers to http://www.arxiv.org/ [arxiv.org] as well to the journals), but the fact is, closed journals provide significant value both to the reader and to the submitting author. I'm not really trying to defend the system here, by the way, I'm just trying to explain what purpose it serves (and what an open alternative would have to match).

        Referees and Peer-Review Referees are invaluable because someone has to objectively assess articles for basic scientific merit and rigor. The better journals can recruit referees for each submission that truly grok the subject matter and can often work very productively with an author. Quite a number of important advances are made and pitfalls avoided because a referee insisted that a researcher cover her bases before submission. Of course, nobody claims that PR journals are bullshit-free, but they are certainly far better than un-reviewed sources like arxiv.

        This function is especially important for readers in multidisciplinary fields (myself included) that often read papers on subjects in which we are not expert enough to know what constitutes sound science. When I read about some group that has extracted and crystallized some protein, I'd like to know that someone competent at the relevant techniques has scrutinized their methods because I haven't the faintest clue (I'm a physicist by training, a biophysicist by necessity).

        Prestige and Selection Another important function of the journals is to select articles by importance. If a paper makes Nature or Science, that's usually a good indicator that they've made an important advance. The benefits of this selection are twofold: first, readers can keep tabs on work at the forefront without wading through lots of papers. It sounds lazy, but most of us cannot read every paper that is published and are quite glad to outsource some filtering to the journals.

        Secondly, it allows authors to demonstrate to people outside their immediate field what caliber work they've done. Even among people in the same department, it's not immediately clear what qualifies as a breakthrough work (as opposed to incremental work, which I don't trash in the least bit, but it's not really the same hat) -- prestigious journal cites are a good substitute, especially when the alternative is to either become an expert in the field or find one and ask.

        Review Articles Most journals have an in-house staff to write articles reviewing the state of a particular field/technique/whatever. This is also an invaluable services because sometimes one needs a broad, textbook-level summary instead of a large number of discrete, deep papers on a topic. Given that science is done in small, insular little bits, it's natural that there is room for someone to aggregate and summarize those bits and put them into a larger perspective.

        Editing Another thankless job (the snarky comments about the /. eds belie the fact that editing is hard work). Dupes are weeded out and researchers with poor language skills (especially when writing in an adopted language) are given help communicating their ideas. Confusing or unclear language is massaged back into form, figures are well-presented and well-labeled, text is formatted to be easy on the eyes, references are given in a standard form. These things count more than most /.ers realize (Knuth was on to something guys . . )

        Access Brutal honesty, we don't really care about the access restrictions. Every university has license to pretty much all the major journals. We can get them from wherever with a quick login and so can everyone we know. Sorry, but that's the truth.

        • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @09:14PM (#24079465)

          I dunno, man. Pretty much every point you covered is Wiki-able.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by cpricejones (950353)

          Access Brutal honesty, we don't really care about the access restrictions. Every university has license to pretty much all the major journals. We can get them from wherever with a quick login and so can everyone we know. Sorry, but that's the truth.

          This is simply not true. I work at a very large university, and it still amazes me to find that some electronic journals have not been purchased by the university. When I need these articles pronto, I must email friends at other universities. But what about smaller colleges? Enthusiasts? (I doubt there are that many biochemistry enthusiasts, but I'm sure there are a few who would love reading the new Methods in Enzymology or Nature, Science, Cell, what have you. The field needs these enthusiasts.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by shadowofwind (1209890)

        What really hits a nerve with me is why the scientific community hasn't opened up all their journals for others to read. I imagine many retired and amateur scientists, engineers, hobbyists, etc, would have a lot of insight into many engineering and scientific problems and also make many discoveries as well.

        I like your spirit and agree that there's a lot of really smart, creative people who aren't scientists. However...

        One of the dispiriting things about science is how specialized most subjects have gotten. If you're not an expert in a field, its almost impossible to do anything. Even being an expert in a closely related field often isn't good enough. I don't think this is anyone's fault, its just the natural course of development. So I think the days of ameteurs accomplishing very much are behind us in a

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        As a member-in-training of the scientific community, I think you'll find that most scientists agree with you. Unfortunately the system right now is hard to break out of. You need to publish in a reputable journal for job evaluation and tenure purposes, but many reputable journals are under the thumb of the publishers.

        In mathematics there have been several mass resignations of journal editorial boards in protest over the price. These editors usually then go on to form a brand new, cheaper journal in the same

      • by jd (1658)
        I can see exceptional value in indexing, cataloguing and processing all articles in back issues of Wireless World (when it was still called that). There is an enormous wealth of information there on how radio technology improved, when and why. There is also a fantastic amount of information on how to achieve specific effects and how to restore old technology. Not to mention a few pieces on how to build a geostationary communications satellite.

        Other old journals will likewise have a lot of valuable informa

      • by vikstar (615372)

        There are a few places you can download publications for free. Pubmed and Citeseer usually have access to many papers for free download. Otherwise, sometimes authors put their own draft/pre prints on their websites.

        many discoveries happen simply by exposure to as many minds as possible, and finding connections and errors in others works

        Is this based on an actual study or your own conjecture?

      • by kalidasa (577403)
        Have you EVER heard of a library? The journals are free to read; you just have to pay if you want it delivered to your doorstep or web browser.
  • Newspeak (Score:5, Funny)

    by RDW (41497) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @06:34PM (#24078421)

    I love how the prototype version in the link gives a 98% match between George Orwell's '1984' and the text of the USA Patriot Act!

    • Re:Newspeak (Score:5, Funny)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday July 06, 2008 @06:44PM (#24078475) Homepage Journal
      They're still working out that last 2% margin of error.
    • Re:Newspeak (Score:5, Informative)

      by log1385 (1199377) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @06:46PM (#24078493)
      From the FAQ [booklamp.org]:
      "Does 1984 really match the U.S. Patriot Act?
      No, that is an easter-egg. A bit of a joke on our part."
    • by Pembers (250842)

      I thought they put that in as an Easter egg... the Patriot Act isn't a novel. Though some Eastern bloc countries allegedly used 1984 as a HOWTO, or a specification of an ideal government.

      • by DittoBox (978894)

        Citations please. I'd love to know uses 1984 as a blueprint of sorts.

        • You need an "if he" or "who" in that second sentence.
          • by DittoBox (978894)

            Hmmm, you're right. I generally think one or two sentences ahead of what I'm typing. I generally re-read what I type before sending or posting but apparently not this last time. Cheers mate!

  • by thereofone (1287878) <thereofone@@@gmail...com> on Sunday July 06, 2008 @06:41PM (#24078457)

    ...and if you do not read, you won't want this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by thereofone (1287878)

      Also, now that I've played with the "beta" a little I want to see the graphs for Finnegans Wake.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by kalidasa (577403)

        Also, now that I've played with the "beta" a little I want to see the graphs for Finnegans Wake.

        My GOD ... it's a Mandelbrot set!!!

    • I don't know about that. A lot of my books are like television is to other people: simple entertainment. There are times when I want to have my horizons expanded, or to learn something new and nifty. But there are other times when I just want to forget about everything that happened at the office today, and when I do, it's kind of amazing how often I pick up a book that involves a guy with a staff blowing things to smithereens. And if there's a tool that will point me to even more guys with staves blowin

    • by vikstar (615372)

      Oblig. quotes from Ink and Incapability

      J: Not this one, sir. It is a book that tells you what English words mean.

      G: I *know* what English words mean; I *speak* English! You must be a bit
      of a thicko.

      E: Would this be the long-awaited Dictionary, sir?

      G: Oh, who cares about the title as long as there's plenty of juicy murders
      in it. I hear it's a masterpiece.

      E: No, sir, it is not. It's the most pointless book since "How To Learn
      French" was translated into French.

  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @06:43PM (#24078469)
    I am skeptical that analyzing the content of the books can lead to good recommendations, let alone "infallible". Two books can be very similar in subject matter and writing style and yet one can be great and the other one awful. The difference is just too subtle for an algorithm to figure out, though I hope I am wrong and it turns out that it works, it would be very useful. Same applies to movies and music as well. I always found "Customers who purchased this book also purchased...." section on amazon to be more valuable than my personalized recommendations
    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      You could save a lot of time by analyzing only the final chapter. I find that most books I pick up are okay until the end, at which point they make me wish I could go back in time and gouge my eyes out with crab forks to prevent myself from ever picking that piece of trash up (works like that not often being translated into braille.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wfstanle (1188751)

      I wholeheartedly agree! Take for example two phrases which are equivalent...

      "Eighty seven years ago our ancestors ..."

      and

      "Four score and seven years ago our forefathers ..."

      They say the same thing but what a difference in eloquence.

      • by wik (10258)

        The difference, of course, is rooted purely in the awkwardness of the speaker.

    • by martin-boundary (547041) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @07:33PM (#24078763)
      It always depends on which part of the statistical landscape the algorithm is good at modelling.

      It may be that what makes a book great is hard to identify, but what makes a book really bad is much easier to identify. In that case, such an algorithm won't help with recommending high quality works for you to read, but it could be very useful in saving you from wasting your time with obviously bad books (ie it would help with initial triage).

      Remember, there are a lot more bad books than good books, so if you had to go through all the books to find the good ones, then you'd spend most of your time just looking a bad books and rejecting them.

    • by MrHanky (141717)

      It's probably no less efficient than analysing email to check for spam. If you're interested in ch34p C0rel S0ftw4re, you may also have an interest in v1agra and rep1ika r0lex watches.

    • I agree 100%. I suspect a more useful data mining system would use book *reviews*, mined from Amazon and all the other sites that post them. In addition to providing an overall barometer for quality, it could identify reviewers whose tastes run similar to your own, and use that as a starting point for recommendations.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DriedClexler (814907)

      Exactly ... which is why I read the summary as "Fast-talking kid talks fools out of their money."

    • No computer will be able to definitively sort books by 'quality' as that is very subjective even within groups of people with otherwise similar interests.

      But-

      You know, it's OK to read middling-to-bad books every now and then. How are you supposed to know that Infinite Jest is a fantastically well-written book if that's all you've read? Or maybe all you've read are Stephen King novels. What good is it for a S.K.-only reader to say that S.K. is a good author if all they've read are are S.K., Michael Crichton,

  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @06:48PM (#24078505) Homepage
    This is just another pointless project that's going to waste the time and skull-sweat of a good but unrealistic programmer. All he's going to have when he's done is the solution to a problem that doesn't, for all practical purposes, exist. Good writers won't need it because they know what to do and how to do it, so they won't use it. It will only be used by poor writers, who won't know how to put the suggestions into effect properly. It may, possibly, tell a writer where their book needs work, or where it's not interesting enough, but I doubt it. Most likely, all it will do is tell it where it's not like other successful books because it won't be able to recognize or take into account any originality. Even if its recommendations are right, a poor writer is highly unlikely to profit from them, because by definition a poor writer won't know which suggestions are good or the skills to take advantage of them properly. No, what a poor writer who wants to get better needs is either a good critique group or some friends who will act as beta-readers, telling him not only what doesn't work but why (Something, I might add, that I find it hard to believe this program could ever do.) and discuss things with the author until they understand each other. Mechanical criticism of literature can only result in mechanical literature, not good writing.
  • algorithm bombing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by notgm (1069012) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @06:54PM (#24078547)

    how long before someone figures how to fool the algorithm, and we all start reading books about enlarging our genetalia, but in a classy way?

  • This computer should do fine, assimilating every book ever written. We'll just need to hire someone to periodically delete every Agatha Christie novel from its database.

  • Who is Joe? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mustafap (452510) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @08:48PM (#24079269) Homepage

    There is one persistent son of a bitch on their forum, Joe, who seems to be their nemesis. I wonder what his angle is.

    Other than that, I like their approach - involve the community *really* early on.

    Apart from Joe.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    His prototype sounds in a way like Netflix's suggestion system for movies, where you vote your favorites and it'll suggest other ones based on your liking. But books are much more complicated, so I can see how his detailed analysis tool can really be the ultimate suggestion tool. I wonder if people will use this to discover copyright infringement on a new level. Hmm... my book and your book are a 99.5% match. Gee where did the .5% discrepancy occur. My character is a 19 yr old hobo, so is yours. My sto

  • How about Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org]? They've got lots of books that have already been scanned.

  • Country-western song generators...

    http://www.baetzler.de/cgi-bin/country.pl [baetzler.de]

    http://www.outofservice.com/country/ [outofservice.com]

  • The best books I've read are the ones that broke away from what I had read before. The ones that gave me a new experience, and new view on things. I really really don't want to read copies of books I've already read. I want something out of the ordinary. I'll stick to my old methods if you, Mr. Algorithm, don't mind.

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