this book is useless

From He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work) (NYT)

While nothing announces that Mr. Parker’s books are computer generated, one reader, David Pascoe, seemed close to figuring it out himself, based on his comments to Amazon in 2004. Reviewing a guide to rosacea, a skin disorder, Mr. Pascoe, who is from Perth, Australia, complained: “The book is more of a template for ‘generic health researching’ than anything specific to rosacea. The information is of such a generic level that a sourcebook on the next medical topic is just a search and replace away.”

When told via e-mail that his suspicion was correct, Mr. Pascoe wrote back, “I guess it makes sense now as to why the book was so awful and frustrating.”Mr. Parker was willing to concede much of what Mr. Pascoe argued. “If you are good at the Internet, this book is useless,” he said, adding that Mr. Pascoe simply should not have bought it. But, Mr. Parker said, there are people who aren’t Internet savvy who have found these guides useful.

It is the idea of automating difficult or boring work that led Mr. Parker to become involved. Comparing himself to a distant disciple of Henry Ford, he said he was “deconstructing the process of getting books into people’s hands; every single step we could think of, we automated.”

“Using a little bit of artificial intelligence, a computer program has been created that mimics the thought process of someone who would be responsible for doing such a study,” Mr. Parker says. “But rather than taking many months to do the study. the computer accomplishes this in about 13 minutes.”

Thanks, Jon

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