Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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Meet our newest writer, Johnny Robot

By Chuck Woodbury
PUBLISHER
Meet Johnny Robot, our new writer. His first article appears in this issue of the RV Travel Newsletter. The link is below. But before I go on, let me be honest with you (as I always am). Even though Johnny is a capable writer, I detest him. No, I hate him. My grandmother, Rest In Peace, always told me to never use the word hate unless I really, really meant it. Okay, I mean it: I hate Johnny.

Here’s why: Johnny wants to make me, and all my writer friends, go the way of the dinosaur. He wants to put us out of business. And he is no friend of yours, either, which you may figure out if you read on.

Johnny is, indeed, a robot (of sorts). He (or “she” or “it” — pick one) writes articles on any subject a writer or publisher requests for a dollar or two each using artificial intelligence (AI) — 10 times faster than a human, maybe 20 times faster. For example, if I need a story about how to dump a holding tank, I can assign it to a freelance writer, or “Johnny” can do it in a few minutes for a fraction of what I’d pay a real writer.

Johnny only exists in cyberspace. At this very moment I bet he is writing thousands of articles for publishers, bloggers, advertising agencies and “content creators” — anyone who needs editorial or advertising copy. I call him Johnny. But he doesn’t really have a name because he does not exist in real life.

Johnny at work

To give you an idea of Johnny’s skills, I will ask him right now to write an article with this headline: “What should I know before buying an RV?” Below is Johnny’s lead paragraph exactly as he “wrote” it in minute or two. If I didn’t like this, I could refresh and it would give me another version. If I thought it was hard to understand, I could click a button to modify the writing to a “fifth grade reading level.”

Here is what Johnny spit out for the headline above:

“When deciding whether or not to buy an RV, you should take certain things into account. First, determine your budget and stick to it. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, then consider other options like renting one instead of buying one.”

Here is another first paragraph of an article I asked Johnny to write: “Why Is My RV Water Heater Making Noise?” 

“You probably have a water heater in your RV that uses gas to heat the water. Over time, this gas can build up and make your RV’s water heater make noise. The good news is that there are ways to fix this problem.”

IN BOTH INSTANCES, with a few prompts from me, Johnny would keep writing, and I would have an article to post on RVtravel.com within a few minutes.

Even ignorant humans can now be writers

A human “content creator” with minimum writing skills and virtually no knowledge of RVing could turn out articles like these all day long, good enough for search engines to interpret as real. Alas, these “content creators” are doing it 24/7 with one purpose: to attract visitors to a website or blog to earn money.

You have probably seen their work. In articles about RVing, you may notice that something seems wrong. The “writer” uses an RVing term improperly, or offers advice that you know is wrong or at least written awkwardly, not like a knowledgeable RVer would write it.

And, to a website publisher’s or blogger’s joy, the articles written using such artificial intelligence are done in a way that pleases Google, so they stand a good chance of ranking high in search results. Our articles at RVtravel.com, on the other hand, which are written by experts who know their subjects, may be rated lower because we do not play the game “SEO first, quality of content second.” [SEO = Search Engine Optimization, i.e., more traffic to a website or web page from search engines.]

So guess what you get when you search a particular subject written by artificial intelligence? You get low quality, often incorrect or mediocre advice and information.

Okay, now the good news: Johnny will only write for RVtravel.com to help us to remind you to be careful about what you read. I am purposely not telling you where to find “Johnny” for your own purposes: I do not want to promote his/her/its efforts to run me outta Dodge.

Now, read Johnny’s first article here.



##RVT1051

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Tomin GGOC
13 days ago

I can see your point on real writers losing a source of income, but in my opinion many of your human written articles are merely space fillers and so basic and repetitive that it makes me wonder why you publish them. This does not apply to the electrical articles though, which I find very informative. However, I found the Johny Robot article sort of interesting, and it certainly generated a lot of comments that had nothing to do with the quality of the writing.

Claudio
16 days ago

So , you are saying that these robots are biased ?!most propably leftist robots and that should make you giggly ! The whole schooling system is a scam , kids don’t know how to write so computers will take over , and probaly take these kids lifes also …

Groveweaver
16 days ago

Welcome to the world of a computer can do whatever a human can. Case in point, my husband, graphic designer extraordinaire, with a degree, was pushed out of IBM at the height of his career because, now ANYBODY with a computer can be a graphic designer! Quality and creativity are no longer necessary! This is what he has fought now for over 20 years (ever since the advent of the personal computer).

John Koenig
17 days ago

“Even ignorant humans can now be writers”
I have NO doubt that the New York Times uses a Johnny “counterpart”.

For those humans (mainly “old timers”) who read carefully AND, received a GOOD education in BASIC English composition, grammar and spelling, simple errors in spelling and grammar jump out at us. It’s painfully obvious that the New York Times no longer employs editors who received PROPER training AND, worked their way “up the ranks” so that they are now able to PROPERLY supervise and train “cub” reporters. Without “Spell Correct” and “Grammar Correct” many (most?) of today’s up and coming writers would be totally lost.

Micheal Whelan
17 days ago

Wow! How timely. Last week I read an article in a travel blog that discussed boondocking. I thought to myself that the author knew nothing about boondocking. It offered poor advice, untrue “facts” and in general convinced me the author needed to get in an RV and learn the subject before they give advice. At the time I thought it was a strange almost generic writing style. The claiming author (who was not named Johnny) did himself and the RV industry a disservice. I wonder if Johnny Robot could sue him for plagiarism? You have now explained to me why I should not comment on the article… I would have looked foolish and Johnny doesn’t care…

Bill
17 days ago

Thanks for the heads up on this problem.

Firefly
17 days ago

It would be interesting to know the underlying process of the application. My guess would be that it does an internet search on your topic. The work of the AI is to synthesize those results into one coherent article. And of course it ranks high for SEO because it was built from articles that ranked high on the search result. I wish you had told us the source of this application so I could delve a bit deeper.

And yes, it’s pretty obvious how basic the info in the article is, so I’d just keep moving. Though that describes many articles written by live people as well.

Nancy
17 days ago

I have gotten ebooks that have to have been written by AI as they make no sense, but are usually good for a laugh or two. Here are some pork chop cooking directions, “we combine it and focus on everything to pork slashes that have been flushed…” What exactly does that mean?

Ellen
17 days ago
Reply to  Nancy

Hysterical!!! Although, actually, it sounds like the way I cook (or used to… my husband told me I should leave it to him 25 years ago and he was right).

Debra Parmley
17 days ago

Magazines and sites which use these articles will cause me to mistrust them. The articles also seem very wordy. Professional writers do more than just write articles. They work at choosing the right words. I have to wonder what Hemingway would have to say about the AI bots writing.

Kenny G
17 days ago

This is a bad application of technology for technology’s sake. The tech world is awash with AI and it has no moral compass. Johnny Robot will never be able to fact check itself when it must rely on a database that is likely filled with misleading information or wrong answers, just like the gas buildup in your hot water heater making noise. Better yet, how can Johnny Robot write an article dealing with human emotions? Agree with another’s comment that the result is the “dumbing down of America.” Reminds me of what you get these days whenever one needs help . . . you are directed to online help where you can spend hours scanning through Q&A or case studies looking for the answer to your problem that rarely help. Too hard to put in words and I don’t have an hour to research this! I just want to talk to a human, please!!!

Ellen L
17 days ago

In a 1984 movie Electric Dreams a computer comes “alive” when champagne is spilled on him and bugs the heck out of his owner, Miles. In one part Miles asks Edgar, the computer, to write a love song. The resulting “song” is something that today’s Johnny Robot would write.

Mia
17 days ago

I have a degree in Journalism. This is a slap in the face for all writers. Please discontinue all “Johnny” articles from this forum. It’s not innovative or edgy. Instead,this is an insult to your readers.

Tumbleweed
17 days ago
Reply to  Mia

This was not an insult to the readers here! It was meant to show us an example of robot writing, which Chuck HATES, and does not intend to use in this newsletter. I’m happy that he gave us this information because I’d not heard of robot writing, but now that I’ve seen this example, it may be easy to spot it elsewhere, and I’ll avoid those sites that use it.

Claudio
16 days ago
Reply to  Mia

Watching all the great partisan journalism coming from the lying mainstream media , i dont think a degree is worth much nowadays

SLR
17 days ago

As a writer myself, I think bot pieces stand out like a sore thumb. They are a lot better than they used to be, but it’s depressing how writing skills are of so little value nowadays. A few years ago, I tried to find some freelance web work for spare change. And instead of finding opportunities that paid as well as what I pay my employer’s freelancers, I was shocked to find that the going rate for a 300-word piece only $10. Even worse, parameters for many pieces resulted in false information. I had selected topics with which I was well familiar, and my warnings to my “editors” about such content were ignored. I quickly ceased my attempts because I could not ethically produce the nonsense that websites seemed to want. No wonder the internet has contributed to dumbing down our population, instead of informing it. When I graduated from college in 1985, the public had a 10th-grade reading level. Today, it hovers around 6th.

Kurt Shoemaker Sr
17 days ago

Johnny 5 is Alive !

Ellen L
17 days ago

I thought the same thing!

Spike
17 days ago

“You probably have a water heater in your RV that uses gas to heat the water. Over time, this gas can build up and make your RV’s water heater make noise.”

So, that noise in my water heater is when it finally passes gas! 😉 🙂

cee
17 days ago
Reply to  Spike

LOL!

bob
17 days ago

This kind of stuff is all over the internet. I receive a couple of rv emails that have this in them. I didn’t subscribe to them but they keep coming. They often change names. I have always thought they were written by the “content creators” but this article reveals what they most likely are. Bottom line is most of the time they make little sense.

Susan Banks
17 days ago

on sewer fitting, I switched to waste master for that very reason, held my breath when I sawed the two nubs off, but it has been so much better as a system.

Bob M
17 days ago

No interested in reading Johnny’s articles.

Steve
17 days ago

Interesting article. I have often wondered about many articles and headlines I’ve seen. They shout “click bait” and not true information sharing. I truly appreciate your emphasis on helpful knowledge first and foremost and let the advertising follow that. Thanks for maintaining this priority so much to admit the existence of Johnny.

Mary
17 days ago

Thank you for this article. I learn so much from your newsletter.