Summarizing news with software: TextTeaser impresses

The computers are writing.
Shh, they’re writing. Photo via Pablo Ruiz Múzquiz.

I took TextTeaser, an “automatic summarization application and API,” for a spin.

Short review: It pretty much works. Wow.

Update: The TextTeaser site is spewing app errors. The Internet likes it! A happy problem to have. I guess being No. 12 on Hacker News will do that to a site.

I also tweaked the bookmarklet to reload the page you are trying to summarize. It previously replaced it with a non-useful, fling-off-from-the-code message. Here’s the improved Javascript:

javascript:window.open(‘http://www.textteaser.com/?url=’+document.URL);window.location.replace(document.URL);

The old code was: javascript:window.open(‘http://www.textteaser.com/?url=’+document.URL)

It makes me wonder exactly what process of the human mind that a machine, at some point, will not be able to perform. What is irreproducably human? Anyone?

Here’s how TextTeaser summarized the following articles:

1. Map: These are the cities that climate change will hit first

TextTeaser says:

  • Climate scientists sometimes talk about something called “climate departure” as a way of measuring when climate change has really changed things.
  • It’s the moment when average temperatures, either in a specific location or worldwide, become so impacted by climate change that the old climate is left behind.
  • A big study, just published in the scientific journal Nature, projected that the Earth, overall, passes climate departure in 2047.
  • Here, from The Post’s graphics team, is a map of their findings: The cities marked by dark red dots are projected to hit climate departure really, really soon.
  • The fact that these cities pass climate departure so soon is a scary reminder of how rapidly they’re going to feel the effects of climate change.

2. Nuclear fusion milestone passed at US lab

TextTeaser says:

  • Researchers at a US lab have passed a crucial milestone on the way to their ultimate goal of achieving self-sustaining nuclear fusion.
  • NIF, based at Livermore in California, uses 192 beams from the world’s most powerful laser to heat and compress a small pellet of hydrogen fuel to the point where nuclear fusion reactions take place.
  • This is a step short of the lab’s stated goal of “ignition”, where nuclear fusion generates as much energy as the lasers supply.
  • For half a century, researchers have strived for controlled nuclear fusion and been disappointed.
  • In 2009, NIF officials announced an aim to demonstrate nuclear fusion producing net energy by 30 September 2012.

3. Monitoring Your Every Move

Problems with this one:

  1. I couldn’t get this article summarized with the bookmarklet or the linking tool on the TextTeaser website. I had to paste in the entirety of the print-version text into the site’s tool.
  2. What’s also confusing is if you choose not to include a title while pasting, you get a blank page response from the TextTeaser site. No error message, nothing. But what’s really happening is that it requires a title.

After all that, TextTeaser says:

  • Most Internet users know that Web sites and advertisers monitor what they do online and use that information to pitch products and services.
  • What’s not as well known is that these companies can track individuals as they move between devices like personal computers, cellphones and tablets.
  • This type of “cross-device” tracking raises significant privacy concerns because most users are simply unaware that it is taking place.
  • Internet companies capable of such monitoring do it through various means, including by figuring out if different devices are using the same Internet connection and are visiting the same Web sites and mobile apps.
  • At the moment, the advantage on the Internet lies increasingly with the data miners and the advertisers, not the consumer.

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