I already derisively talked about the raging torrent of amusement and abuse being heaped on the I Write Like... website. Further testing revealed that the Declaration of Independence was written like H.P. Lovecraft. And a directory listing of ZIP files was penned by the likes of Ian Fleming.
The Windows .007 Operating System? Well, the I Write Like... website took directory output like this and said its writing style was like Ian Fleming.
So we're not talking sophistication here, folks.
And I was already annoyed on Friday, listening to NPR's All Things Considered, where they briefly interviewed the guy who wrote the program. They didn't ask any hard questions about writing or literature, focusing more on the Internet explosion about the web site and that even NPR memos could be "said" to have been written in the style of famous authors. There and in another softball interview from the AP, the programmer compares his algorithm to spam filters. Great. Wonderful. Your writing can be judged by a souped up spam filter.
But Maybe That's Not So Far From The Truth
Spam, that is. Today I was greeting by comments and links to a piece on Making Light which says that the system is now being helpful and providing links to a self-publishing vanity press.
I have two words for these people: FUCK YOU.
Is That All?
New writers are often paranoid about letting other people, including editors they want to sell their work to (!), see their work. Afraid that someone will steal their work. For the most part, that's a pretty baseless fear. Editors get enough submissions as it is. To reject something, plagiarize it and pass it off as their own or someone else's and hope you don't notice? That takes a helluva lot more work than just buying it. That rejection your perfect prose gets? That means the editor doesn't want it. That's all. It doesn't even mean it's bad, just that on this day this editor for this publication doesn't want to buy this story. End of story. Send it to the next market and work on your next story.
But now this scammy "I Write Like..." website has been Hoovering the blogosphere for days and happily accepting millions of words from writers, new and old, all over the world. And given the link to someone described as by one commenter as an "unquestionably-fraudulent" vanity press purveyor, it does give me some pause.
What are the odds that someone less scrupulous than you or I would sift through all those text submissions and look for gems to profit from? And I don't mean trying to track down the original writer and sell them vanity services. In most cases they don't have the name, just an IP address of the sender. But just steal the work.
Nonsense, you say. No one does that. Sure. No one nice does that. But we've already established these people as scammy scummy bastards. So now how does your theory stand up? Hmm?
I do wish that NPR and AP had looked at this as "news" and done their job seriously. In the old days, the newspaper people had a phrase for such investigative reporting. It was called "follow the money." And you can quote me on that.