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July 2006
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Computers write news at Thomson

This story from by Aline van Duyn in New York...

First it was the typewriter, then the teleprinter. Now a US news service has found a way to replace human beings in the newsroom and is instead using computers to write some of its stories.

Thomson Financial, the business information group, has been using computers to generate some stories since March and is so pleased with the results that it plans to expand the practice.

The computers work so fast that an earnings story can be released within 0.3 seconds of the company making results public.

By using previous results in Thomson’s database, the computer stories say whether a company has done better or worse than expected.

“This is not about cost but about delivering information to our customers at a speed at which they can make an almost immediate trading decision,” said Matthew Burkley, senior vice-president of strategy at Thomson Financial. “This means we can free up reporters so they have more time to think.”

Mr Burkley said the computer-generated stories had not made any mistakes. But he said they were very standardised.

“We might try and write a few more adjectives into the program,” he said.

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Avoid Media Studies...

Another dose of common sense hits the UK education world...

Pupils are being advised to avoid taking certain A-level subjects if they want to get places at top universities.

Cambridge University and the London School of Economics (LSE) say traditional subjects offer the best preparation for study at degree level.

Subjects on their "don't do these..." list include Theatre Studies, Sports Studies, Media Studies, Business Studies , Communication Studies, Leisure Studies, Film Studies, Performance Studies...

Well, you get the drift.

On the other hand, subjects they specifically recommend include Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry...

Further surprises to follow no doubt.

Formal details at the Cambridge University website

Link: BBC Education.

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LibraryThing. for Books. And maybe better yet...

LibraryThing is a useful tool to catalogue all your own books onto a website.

This is one of these brilliant ideas that looks neat but only really comes through once you actually try it. Because it links all your own books to those of other users. And their ideas and thoughts. And because the whole thing is based around "tags", you can quickly follow up everything that interests you and see what like-minded people are reading and where their interests took them. This has much of the appeal of, but as applied to the printed word (and, let's face it, the printed word isn't history yet...)

But it gets better - because the site now offers a very smart "Talk" feature which uses tagging/linking from within comments (in a similar manner to Wikipedia) and then aggregates these links against your own Library so that all the comments made about a particular book or author appear in context - even if those comments were made on another page and by another user. I guess this works in a similar manner to the "Lists" that Amazon displays, but at a more granular level - and with a more contextual presentation.

Seriously interesting...

Find more here: Introducing LibraryThing's new Talk feature.

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Coping with the National Curriculum...

John Clare quoted this wonderful example of the frustrations of teaching...

Then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain and, gathering them around him, he taught them saying: blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are the meek; blessed are they that mourn; blessed are the merciful; blessed are they that thirst for justice; blessed are you when persecuted; blessed are you when you suffer; be glad and rejoice for your reward is great in heaven.

Then Simon Peter said, 'Are we supposed to know this?' And Andrew said, 'Do we have to write this down?' And James said, 'Will we have a test on this?' And Phillip said, 'I don't have any paper.' And John said, 'The other disciples didn't have to learn this.' And Matthew said, 'May I go to the lavatory?' Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus's lesson plan and inquired of Jesus, 'Where is your statement of objectives?' And Jesus wept.

Quoted from Classroom Behaviour, an illuminating guide to good teaching by Bill Rogers, published by Paul Chapman.

John Clare, Daily Telegraph

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