I’ve been thinking about non-fiction writing lately (yeah, as if I ever stop) 🙂
Let’s look at a few trends and developments.
Watson Is Coming
IBM created a learning computer program called “Watson” and it learned enough to defeat the two reigning champions of the game show Jeopardy.
Watson is now working on medical problems.
(Apologies for link removal – some links in this article were creating spam warnings so I’ve removed all links)
I note that Watson is only one of a growing number of computer systems designed to be experts in any given field and capable of learning other fields.
That’s interesting Doug but what does it have to do with gardening and writing?
- Well, gardening is pretty basic stuff when you get down to the science of it all. Experienced gardeners look at a leaf, see it curling in a specific way and diagnose a problem.
- What’s to stop uploading a picture of a leaf into a computer and have it do the same thing?
- What’s to stop a programmer from putting in all the possible tomato diseases and their cures so that gardeners can upload a picture of their plant and get a diagnosis – from nutrition to spray that will solve that problem?
Heck, what’s to stop a learning program like Watson from scouring the horticultural literature (like it did for medical information) and answering gardening questions for folks.
Or… (insert your question topic here) to get an answer.
We’re Just Starting
We’re at the beginning of the information curve and while experience helps us now, how long will it be before computer software will know far more than any hort expert today can know.
Will this be 5 years, 10 years?
The answer to this is a bit longer than other topics because the money to do so isn’t in ornamental horticulture. It’s in much more valuable areas such as medicine, law or science.
But sooner or later, some enthusiast or corporation is going to start the programming wheels turning and information websites (like mine) can be turned into one page entry points to the computer. Need an answer – input a picture and out spits the thing you need to know.
When will this happen?
Good question – but it’s coming and sooner than you might think possible.
So where does that leave non-fiction writers?
In deep future shit is where. I don’t care what your technical specialty is, non-fiction writers should be looking at the handwriting on the wall.
Here Are Examples of It Currently Happening
OK. Let’s take non-fiction writing. LINK REMOVED
Want your own Google analytics analyzed. I now get a weekly and monthly summary (in English) of my Google analytics packages for all my websites. And more importantly, I can understand what the computer is telling me.
This is an example of what I get from these folks.
It was written by a computer
Direct traffic fell to 1,811 sessions from 1,869 sessions last week. Despite the drop, the proportion of direct traffic has remained consistent week-over-week, making up 16% of your site’s traffic overall. Organic search was responsible for 71% of your site’s traffic last week with 8,055 sessions, which was in line with the 8,280 sessions from one week before.
Although Pinterest was once again your top referral in terms of social traffic, the number of sessions coming from Pinterest was down 33% from the previous week to 678. Note that users from Pinterest had a bounce rate of 88%, which was higher than your site average for social traffic.
Which is easier to understand – the above or rows of numbers?
I rest my case.
Here’s an LINK REMOVED DUE TO POSSIBLE SPAM PROBLEMS ON THE OTHER SITE article about college sports that will be automatically written (and you won’t be able to distinguish between the computer and human writing.)
So you think this can’t happen with gardening or other non-fiction topics?
The future is coming. Faster than we might like. And this means several things for me.
- Writing non-fiction on a straight info-level is going to change in a major way. Writers need to adapt and find ways of presenting information that personalize the experience. Personalize from both the point of view of the writer and the reader I note.
- The big boys are creating walled gardens and I’ll have more to say about this in future posts. But the combination of the walled garden and computer non-fiction writing will be one of those wild and painful times in the creative community.