I read in today's blog about the Automated Grammar and Spelling Checker coming in September.
I like the idea of correcting errors in comments. Many times I had to delete comments that were written with terrible misspellings and very bad grammar so as not to lose search engine ranking,
But I'm concerned about applying this automatically to the main hub capsules. I hope this feature will notify us when a change is made so we can verify its accuracy. I'm concerned that things may go wrong with special cases such as idiomatic statements, scientific terms, use of valid alliterations and interjections in sentences.
Hi Glenn, we are working on the implementation details and there will be some controls for hubbers. The automated solution focuses on errors it can detect and correct with a high degree of confidence. So far we are 95% confident that it will make an error less than 3% of the time. While its not a 100% it seems practical to fix several hundred thousand errors in this fashion at the expense of a small number of errors.
We will keep folks posted as we get closer to launch.
I hope it will accept British spellings too.
And what about foreign language words in travel hubs?
As I asked on another thread, will we have the chance to reject any changes made to grammar and spelling, or will those simply be corrected again when we resubmit the Hub?
I have no problem with spell checkers, even if they do object to my British spelling. However I've always found grammar checkers to be almost useless, because they are based on formal English not colloquial English. If one follows all the advice of a grammar checker then one is likely to end up with a stilted and old-fashioned style of English which is not engaging to the reader.
Will you be applying this to hubs that are already featured or only to new ones, and will you be notifying writers that your program has made corrections and what they are.
By showing writers where they have erred, you are basically teaching them so that they will not (hopefully) make the same mistake again.
Also, when you do a basic edit, will you inform the author that you have done so and give the details so that they can review what has been done and fix any inadvertent errors?
Paul, I looked over the example you posted in this thread and I agree with the correction in that short sample. But there is so much more, and things can go wrong. When I type on my iPad, for example, the auto correction thinks it knows better and changes things to something that turns out to be embarrassing at times. If I don't catch it, people think I must be insane.
I hope HP's auto correct algorithm will not interfere with hubs such as my hub on Interjections. That's the type of thing I'm worried about. For this reason, it's important to notify the Hubber about the changes and let him or her confirm the correction before doing it. Otherwise I'm afraid many good hubs will be messed up.
Yes, I hope we'll be notified if changes are made. My writer's voice has been termed quirky, which is no offense to me, but it does make me wonder whether an automated system will recognize it as valid.
The old search box we had on HubPages used to change the name of the hubber I was searching for and would ask me, "Did you mean bedbugs?" I hope the new correction tools will be a lot more sophisticated.
Agree with your concern Peg. If their new spelling/grammar checker is half as smart as my phone, it will make a God awful unintelligible gibberish out of our hubs and we'll be so busy fixing their corrections there will be no time for anything else. But I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt . . . for now.
The way I look at it if Microsoft and Word can't get it right 100% of the time I don't think it's very likely that any checker can.
Getting it right 97% of the time is to my mind not good enough.
Which is why all suggestions need to be checked by the author - or there will be lots and lots of complaints!
I like that optimism, Au fait. Meanwhile, I'm rethinking a few of my more personal posts and doing some housekeeping.
This could easily mean that a high percentage of hubs (the poorly written ones) improve sharply, which is great.
It could also mean that those hubs that are already fine (and get a lot of the site's traffic) are damaged.
I certainly wouldn't run an automated grammar checker over hubs that have been edited through Hub Pro. One ludicrous mistake could undo a lot of good work.
It also might be best to give people an opt out. I can hear the creative writers screaming already.
Slowly HubPages has assumed control over our writing and now our writing styles. If ever there was a time to leave this site as a content creator, it's now.
The illustration of societal collapse via the actions of this site are incredible, and for those with a sociological bent, fascinating to observe. HubPages is acting out their loss of ad revenue and responses to it just like how the world is dealing (or not dealing) with fossil fuels.
Ad revenues and traffic are never going to "go back" because all the conditions and scenarios that created them no longer exist. The actions we are observing are like water conservation measures when your cisterns are already dry and there's still no sign of rain. It may slow things down or make temporary cosmetic changes, but none of the actions being taken are actually stopping the death of this website.
I think it will help people to see the type of errors that get corrected. I'll try and get some examples of things it fixes. For now, only featured/indexed content will get automated corrections and Hubbers will have some controls.
@relache you're right, the conditions under we started don't exist and so far the only thing we have found that has been effective at helping Hubbers grow traffic has been editing. In some ways we our reinventing ourselves with a much higher level of service. We still don't have the capacity/scale, but the automated efforts are an attempt at fixing low hanging fruit.
You've been around a long time and I often read your posts because I find wisdom and value in them. I've thought hard and considered many alternatives from building silo sites like Wordpress or splitting HubPages into one version that is high service and another that is very lightly moderated.
It comes down to what we want HubPages to be and the resources we can apply.
I want to create a place we can be proud of to share our interests and passions. One HubPages for people that put the reader first. We are applying all of our resources to this future.
OK, this may be a little hard to read, but here is a screenshot of the types of things that the automated checker can detect. It focuses on things that it has a high confidence is a mistake. The medium and low confidence corrections get discarded.
UPDATE: working on a better image - too hard to read this.
I can think of so many more important things that deserve time and effort being spent on them.
Like removing all the rubbish "latest lenses" from our hubs by implementing a much stricter queuing system for newly published hubs and hubbers.
It's still too small to read, and this is another problem on here with images....
You can open this link in a new tab and see a larger version.
You can also right click and choose "view image" in Paul's second image post above.
The very first example on that spreadsheet is a case where an automated checker might NOT get it right. Say, for instance, a sentence reads, "Try and try as she might, she was unable to...." and so forth. Would the automated system change that to: "Try to try as she might..."?
Or will an automated spelling and grammar checker be able to detect such usage?
This sounds good on paper, especially if it is used on hubs of untrained writers. However, we pros usually have to turn off our syntax checkers on our computers because they object to sentences written past the basics. (Just as I despise the autocorrect on my iPhone that turns a simple word combination into a gobbleygook sentence when texting or on Facebook, I have reservations about this.) I would hope that we can override and correct their grammar checker's corrections. We will see how long this feature lasts.
This should be a big step forward. Search engine algos must be marking this site down hard for the multitude of silly (and easily measurable errors) it contains.
But I still worry about the three percent error rate. If the bot introduces errors into three percent of well-written and well-edited pages, it could do more harm than good.
It might be worth remembering what happened to a company called Solid Gold Bomb. It trusted a bot to select phrases to emblazon on the tee-shirts that it sold and one of those phrases killed the company outright.
Many people, like myself, already run spell and grammar checkers over their articles. The automated process or likely to generate errors. The tools 'suggest" changes which the user can check and change if OK. I suggest that the automatic tool does a check first with a threshold. Let's say the threshold is 3 serious errors (not accents or apostrophe use). If there are fewer than 3, then the auto-changes are not applied. This would prevent new incorrect changes being inserted into clean text. Surely there should be a way for an author to signal that the article has already been checked.
Paul & Robin, after reading other's comments and thinking about this, I too think it is a problem to have autocorrect run amok. To correct those small but highly embarrassing and discrediting errors, an attentive hubber would have to proofread each affected hub in full regularly, which could be a ridiculous amount of work for little reward.
Would this compromise be possible?
1) HubPro Basic would run and get set to autocorrect, but with a delay. The hubber would be notified by email as well as in a banner above their My Account page and have a few days to approve or deny the changes.
2) If the hubber doesn't notice the notification because of not checking emails or their hubs or being on vacation, tough. They lost their chance to review edits beforehand. But they can still revert.
3) The autocorrect runs after the stated delay.
4) The hubber is notified it ran and that they can revert any changes as they catch them.
5) It would be nice if the changes a hubber elects to deny would not reappear in future checks. Like for certain words, most word processors have an "Add to Dictionary" feature. So should it be for a hub or hubber, to avoid lots of annoying repeat work.
6) The Hubber is insulted by this disrespectful behaviour and rather than reviewing what has changed unpublishes the hub, deletes it and removes it from Google and transfers the content elsewhere and republishes it.
Net result - Hubpages minus one hub and associated content - and now has competition in the marketplace.
Remember every lost hub can also become another site which gets republished elsewhere and generates competition for remaining HubPages content - and can therefore lose HubPages traffic in more ways than one.
It's always wise to remember to factor in the psychological responses to technological solutions and management of change!
For 99% of my writing, I don't need an auto-checker. I have it turned off in MS Word, because I found it wanted to change things that would actually create errors instead of fixing them.
On the occasions when I am unsure of something, I turn it back on, or look it up elsewhere. I realize many, many people don't do this, and that is a problem for the site as a whole.
However, I would suggest that this be applied sparingly and selectively to those authors whose work has already been shown to be problematic in this area. There should be no problem finding them: their work is often featured at the top of the new front page!
As others have said, this could become a huge problem in trying to write hubs about or containing idioms or colloquialisms. It seems to be a device that takes away artistic license in favor of perfection. And I have a news flash: If you're looking for perfection, you're on the wrong damned planet!
@Glenn Stok - It works quite a bit differently than predictive text. These are mostly high confidence rules. Tests show it corrects 98/100 correctly. We are still working through how it will work on Hubs, but my hope is that we have this available in about 30 days.
I think it will be fine on your interjection hub, but we can take a look as we get closer.
Will hubs that have been edited by the automated checker then go through QAP? If they will, this might be a good way to get rid of the low-quality hubs that have previously been grandfathered in.
I find a mandatory automatized spelling and grammar check a rather desperate measure which is not going to work because errors won't be found.
A grammar checker would correct the above "other's" error into "others' " (plural possessive). Many errors are due to ignorance, not just accidental typos.
I support the "Add to Dictionary" option.
Why not make the spelling and grammar check function like Grammarly which many of us already use. I.e. give us suggestions rather than make it automatic. Then as suggested by TT, only pass articles through QAP that have been corrected (by authors, not by robots).. The spelling and grammar program could work in the same way as the broken links feature which gives us a warning on our stats page and highlights in the hub.
To recap: make spelling and grammar check mandatory by all means. But please let us do it ourselves.
Thanks for pointing that out "aboge".... (Now, I will admit to ignorance as to what the current standards are in the U.S. for where to start the ellipsis in my last sentence, what spacing should flank it, and so on.)
Automated checkers of any sort are tricky, but I'm still pretty impressed by them. If the staff editors will be manually approving/denying all changes, I'd expect the system to work. But if left to do their robot thing with full independence, the error rate quoted, though tiny, is significant. I know just reading a novel I lose trust as soon as I catch the first proofing error. In online work, the error rate doesn't have to be high for discrediting to happen (e.g. the assumption of ignorance).
If the checkers are trying to coordinate with standards Google uses, that makes me nervous. I use Gmail and their spell-checkers are amazingly unworldly, accessing what appears to be a very abridged dictionary.
Grammar checkers I rarely use. I should because they catch punctuation goofs I often miss like the one above. Anyone familiar enough with them to know if they swing black or white on the gray areas in grammar? Like using "they" as a singular pronoun - it's controversial and whether it works or not comes down ultimately to either dogma or subjective judgement as to what's more awkward - the "they" or using he/she/one.
I like this idea. Let me know what errors are in my hubs and let me change them. There should also be an ignore option, so that if I decide that I haven't made an error, the system won't keep telling me that I have errors in my hub.
Do you realize you can sell such a program for a great deal of money if it is truly as effective as you claim? If it doesn't mess up colloquialisms, change the wording of quotes, replace unconventional language use with cliches, or change conversational tone it would be worth a fortune!
Spot on - again! You're well and truly on form today Kylyssa
At the peak of HubPages popularity, about five years ago, there was a second company called YieldBuild. They actually owned HubPages then, not sure if that's how the paperwork is organized these days. The admin for that other company was nearly identical to HubPages, was founded by the same guys, and the three employees listed now are HubPages employees currently.
YieldBuild made software that optimized your ad layouts on your website, and compared bids from various networks to serve the highest paying ads to your pages. This is the technology that underpins HubPages even now. In short, HubPages is just a lab demonstration for a product and service being sold by the same programmers, and undoubtedly, the folks at YieldBuild made a lot more money selling software services than anyone makes off Hubs.
That HubPages is now developing another software based service to manipulate online content is not a surprise. Unless you never bothered to notice what was actually going on here.
I could never understand why those owning article websites didn't just shut down the sites when Google started its attack strategy - and licence the software to people to use on their own websites.
On the whole I like the template and its ease of use and I think it would work very well as a standalone product - if it could be licensed for use and made to work on other platforms.
I always thought it was a great pity that Google sites didn't have something like the template for hubs - for the simple websites.
I'm just commenting that such a product would be worth a fortune should it be developed. Publishers, pros, and amateurs alike would line up to buy it.
Even though HubPages is just a test lab for new software they may not have realized that what they are coming up with as a fix for its decline is extremely valuable as a stand-alone product. We could be seeing a delightful case of serendipity unfolding right before our eyes. They don't seem to understand writer motivation extremely well so it seems logical to suppose there's a slight possibility they wouldn't realize how much such an editing algorithm would be worth to writers and publishers.
We're talking about a program that could turn poorly-written material into grammatically correct, readable text without substantially damaging well-written, grammatically correct text. That's huge!
We aren't going to make a dime off this software, Kylyssa, but you can be as excited about it as you want.
Perfectly grammatical Hubs that contain weak ideas expressed badly won't earn either.
Odd as it may seem, I frequently find innovations exciting even if I don't make money off of them. What's wrong with realizing you're living in the future you once imagined and being delighted by each new and useful tool people invent?
I find the idea of more people being able to share their knowledge and expertise in a grammatically correct way to be a delightful one!
There's nothing to fear in this tool. It won't replace you; it'll just automate something that's sheer mental drudgery to do by sight. It can't give focus, depth, or insight to a piece of writing that doesn't have it, but it can make focused pieces already full of depth and insight but weak on grammar readable. Expanding the pool of grammatically correct material available for readers to choose from can only be a good thing.
I think such a tool is also exciting because it could make my work better and save me a little proofreading labor.
I actually enjoy proofreading. As a matter of fact, I do it as a sideline.
There are plenty of times when absolutely perfect grammar is undesirable, ditto perfect spelling. I refer, of course, to character dialog. If a country bumpkin or street thug is being represented, they are likely not going to use proper grammar, and spelling deviations will be required to represent their pronunciation.
What a pain in the drain it would be to have to go back and try to convince the auto-bot not to change those items!
Ditto for any article on proper spelling and pronunciation, where the misspelling would have to be shown, next to the correct spelling, and a phonetic spelling to show the pronunciation.
Thanks, but as my dad said about not wanting a car with an automatic transmission, "I don't want some automatic gadget doing my driving for me." And I don't want some auto-bot telling me how to or how not to write.
Writing is a creative process. Yes, those tools might be helpful for those with little or no grasp of spelling and grammar, (particularly ESL folks, for whom English is maddeningly confusing), but for the rest of us, it would be more nuisance than help.
I, for one, would prefer the option of opt out.
Paul has promised it's an innovative new program that's unlikely to foul up that way and that staff will correct any errors it creates anyway. How about we give him the benefit of the doubt? They're sure to beta test it and if it fouls up the text they use to test it too much, the staff members doing the correcting will be sure to explain it's more of a hindrance than a help.
They're printing off human organs out there in the world of breaking medical science; is the idea of a less annoying version of a spell checker so far beyond a perfect, beating replacement heart that you can't see it on the technology horizon?
HubPages is an online lab for testing software. They're going to test software out. It's not as if we have a choice. Why not roll with it? Why not be excited by the idea? If they succeed, HubPages will gain more time. They'll be willing to put money into their test lab a lot longer if a cash cow like a nearly perfect spelling and grammar checker comes out of it.
I'm not someone who writes perfect copy on my first draft. I don't really believe many people actually write perfect first drafts. If you enjoy proofreading like I enjoy writing, I guess it's bonus entertainment. But I don't enjoy proofreading my own work the extra times and the extra passage of time it takes to get it to the level I could get someone else's work on a single go. Don't you run into the phenomenon of being so intimately familiar with the words your eyes skip right over errors, fooled by the error-free version your mind recalls? It takes me at least a month to forget my exact words enough to proofread them as well as I could proofread the work of another.
I'm ill and I only get a few hours of good working time per day. When I'm too sick to focus on writing, I'm far too sick to focus on proofreading. Imagine if someone like me could run her first drafts through a nearly perfect grammar and spelling checker. Imagine how much time that would save me. Instead of having to reserve my sharpest hours for proofreading, they could be used for writing instead.
Have you ever sold an article to a publisher, only to realize you'd left a comma off somewhere or that your fingers must have been sleep-talking when they put a they where you meant for them to put a then? Have you ever gone back to an older hub of your own, only to be embarrassed by a typo?
I understand that dialogue has different rules. I might mention that ordinary people and geniuses also do not usually speak in a manner consistent with grammatically correct writing. Guess how butchery of dialogue can be avoided, easy as pie? The program can ignore words inside of quotation marks.
Then again, I'm sort of playing Devil's advocate here. I suspect the software will really bollix things up on some hubs, including every single chapter of my serialized novel. It's written in first person and it's bound to have lots of conversational English in it along with the author-invented words it has in it due to being science fiction.
It's not as if you can't just compare versions when it's been run on your hubs. Just cut and paste your hub text into whatever word processing program you have and run your version/revision control software to compare it against your stored original. It takes just seconds.
I can see your point, Kylyssa, if you are not feeling up to snuff, and would like such help.
However, I don't think your medical analogy is quite in the same category at all.
As you say, they're going to do what they're going to do, no matter what, and we won't have any choice. That does not prevent us from expressing our opinions on the matter.
As far as not spotting errors in our own work, yes, it happens. My work around is to print a hard copy. I see mistakes better that way than on the computer screen. I'm an old lady; sometimes my fingers do fumble, but I also came up through the tradition of having to first hand-write copy, then having to type it on a typewriter. Correcting typewritten mistakes was a royal pain the butt.
With modern word processors, not so much. They have their drawbacks, however; that's why I prefer to work with a hard copy. You cannot circle text and draw arrows to where you want it instead, and if the copy is long, trying to drag/drop it to the new location can be problematic, as the mouse (or your fingers thereon) sometimes "loses its grip," and drops things in the wrong spot. Then you have a real mess on your hands.
I would still like the chance to be able to opt out, just as we can opt out of the new "Hub Pro" editing.
If they do install this software, without an opt-out, then I hope it would catch all the garbage writing I see here all the time, written in very poor English with terrible spelling and incorrect word choices.
Ah--there's the sticking point--will it be a context-checker?
Sail or sale?
Here or hear?
Herd or heard?
How will an auto bot know the difference? I submit it cannot. There are some things that just take a human brain and eye.
They're going to test the software before they release it on your hubs. If it's truly impossible to ever create a decent grammar checker and spelling checker, if that's just fantasy technology forever beyond the scientific capability of humankind, the staff will see it when they try the new software out. While HP doesn't often listen to what we aging peasants think, they'll listen to their crew of recent college graduates. They're a very smart bunch and they will want no part of going through and manually fixing a bunch of errors added in by a program.
Here's how you can avoid "losing your grip" on text when moving it:
Don't drag and drop sections of text, cut and paste them instead. Highlight the text to be moved, click 'Ctrl' and then 'c,' holding them down at the same time. Release the 'Ctrl' and 'c' keys and hit delete. Move your cursor to the spot the text goes and hit 'Ctrl' and 'v' at the same time. It's much easier and you can't "drop" the text accidentally.
Science is advancing at lightning speed. People have already created computer programs to use 3D printers to print off functioning bionic limbs. We're less than a decade away from nano-robot delivered medicine. Science fiction is fast becoming science fact with innovations far more advanced than a program that could contain and apply all the rules of the English language with some limitations and appropriate if-thens stuck in. We're probably only a few decades away from sentient artificial intelligence and a really good spell checker seems beyond the realm of possibility?
You can get free version/revision control software and use it instead of your eyes to check for mistakes added by the new software. It will also allow you to see what changes have been made even if they aren't errors. It's very good and it has existed for a couple of decades. I think it's vital for collaborative writing, too. It will allow you to see and keep the changes you like and remove the changes you don't.
Again, remember all of those new editors HP hired. They will have no problem telling the folks in charge that the program is a bundle of crap if it is once they've tested it. I, however, am hoping it's something new and better than expected.
Valid points Kylyssa
The question is not whether to use the tool or not. Everyone wants to make edits as short and sweet as possible. However, a robotized system which is not under our control will make stupid robotical errors. Authors won't even be aware that the goofs are in their hubs unless they read every hub?!?
No, it is the logistic of the implementation we are discussing. I suggest an author controlled "Grammarly" type program that would work similarly to the "broken links" function here on HP.
A notice by offending hubs on the stats page + highlights(mistakes) in the hub.
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