Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Artificial Intelligence and Chickens

The ads in this weblog have been a surprising source of entertainment. (If you don’t see ads in the right sidebar you need to enable javascript for this site.)

The way the ads are placed gives an insight into the potential and limits of artificial intelligence. “Web crawlers,” remarkably self-sufficient programs (also called web bots, short for web robots) read over the writing on each site, attempting to classify the site and attach appropriate ads. If I were a straight how-to writer, or if I was only interested in writing about one thing, this would work superbly. But I am sneakier, hiding family anecdotes in the midst of a bread recipe. (Am I, perhaps, annoyed with people who read the jacket notes and never get around to the book?) It’s also funny that I spent four or five postings detailing how to integrate bread baking into the rhythm of a household and I host half a dozen ads for $250 bread making machines from companies who want to tell you that you don’t have time to make bread the old fashioned way.

The web crawlers reread and reassess from time to time. When we first put ads on Kathleen’s dyslexia piece the ads were all for asthma and arthritis websites. Later the bots read down to the part where she is talking about teaching writing in the prisons and the ads changed to companies who do criminal background checks. Today they are all tsunami relief ads.

My best ads have been from my Bread and Chickens page. Not only did I get ads from good companies (like Murray McMurray Hatchery, my source for mail-order chicks), but I got some outstanding sites, like chickenvideo.com. The ads change frequently and they tend to be heavy in content, cool links, and pretty photos of chickens

So do I tailor my writing to try and attract good ads? The programmers that produce and update web bots are hip to the cruder ways that people try to “game the system”. You can no longer get your site moved to the top of a Google search by putting a black border at the top of your site and repeating key phrases in black over the top of the black border (making the words invisible to your audience but visible to the bots). As the bot programs are revised and perfected they may become able to identify the more subtle elements of written communication, like theme and tone, but only if the full range of written communication is available to analyze.

Fortunately, I like writing about chickens. And I submitted my favorite chicken saying (“Don’t cackle if you haven’t laid”) to chickenvideo.com and they are sending me my “When Chickens Are Outlawed Only Outlaws Will Have Chickens” bumper sticker. Ever had so much fun in the dead of winter?

1 comment:

Chicken_bus said...

yet another chicken..