Thursday, November 04, 2010

Weekly writing coach: Soylent crowdsources copyedits

Don't worry, the coach  isn't out of a job yet, nor are you.  But many editors are scratching their heads at news of Soylent (so called because it's made from people), a new on-demand human computation option when you want to check your writing, shorten it or get more eyes on other copyediting tasks; it calls itself "a word processor with a crowd inside."  Nieman Journalism Labs has a thorough look at Soylent here, and it says:

Soylent is an add-in for Microsoft Word that uses Mechanical Turk as a distributed copy-editing system to perform tasks like proofreading and text-shortening, as well as a type of specialized edits its developers call “The Human Macro.” Currently in closed beta, Soylent was created by compsci students at MIT, Berkeley, and University of Michigan.
For those unfamiliar, Mechanical Turk is an Amazon service that makes it easier for small tasks (and the money to pay for them) to be distributed among a group of humans called Turkers. While savvy writers could already use MTurk to edit their work, the team at Soylent believes their system can produce better and more efficient results than would a writer working alone.

I'd like to hear your reactions, especially if you've taken a turn on Soylent. (And if you don't get the reference to the movie Soylent Green, read more about it here.)
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Would you try such a tool? The Nieman Labs post does a great job considering the many types of reactions--positive and negative--that writers and editors may have, but points out the news organizations already using Mechanical Turk to conduct a variety of tasks. Soylent makes it easy for the rest of us to follow suit.

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