Monday, June 5, 2017

And how the hell do you make an adverb out of "grammar"?

Though it lacks the immediate punchline quality of Soylent and Juicero, Grammarly maybe an even better example of the dysfunctional Silicon Valley venture capitalist culture. From Christina Warren writing for Gizmodo.
For a company raising its first round of investment (Grammarly was founded in 2009 and has been bootstrapped ever since), $110 million is incredibly significant. As Bloomberg notes, this is among the largest initial investments for a startup recently. 

Intrigued by the buzz, I decided to try the free version of Grammarly’s Chrome plugin (the more robust premium version costs an eye-watering $30 a month) and see what could possibly be worth the hype.

In practice, Grammarly is basically a web-version of the Grammar check feature Microsoft Word has had since, like, 1995. Also, in my experience, the free version only works so well. The service will catch major typos, but plenty of errors, both in spelling and usage, go undetected.

Warren then quotes the Wall Street Journal:
Grammarly learns from the vast amount of writing it ingests, and it adjusts based on usage. In a simple example, when people write “Hi John” in an email, Grammarly was suggesting people add a comma. “But nobody used that,” Mr. Lytvyn said. “So we dropped it.”
Why is this such a good example of what's wrong with the money men up the the Bay Area...

The company raised ludicrous amounts of money.

It proposed an unrealistically expensive product...

An unrealistically expensive product that offered no immediately obvious improvement in functionality over what you already have available if you are running Microsoft office.

The proposal was based largely on trendy buzzwords...

Buzzwords that the CEO apparently did not understand the meaning of. What's described here is not artificial intelligence or machine learning, it is a fairly dumb algorithm. Furthermore, while this would be a good approach for something like an autocorrect function, it is (as Warren notes) a terrible approach for grammar software.

If only it were named for a bad 70s sci-fi picture it would be perfect.

No comments:

Post a Comment