Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Human v. Non-Human Content Editors

The Intelligent Solutions Blog has an interesting post on the role, and traditional advantages, of human professional content editors (like those at Westlaw who add Headnotes and helpful links) versus artificial content organizers (like search engines).  John Barker writes:

I still do not see algorithms replacing editors. But there is an interesting possibility with “low value” content. For example, officially unpublished opinions do not have precedential value. The volume of these opinions is high. Human editors cannot invest valuable resources in summarizing those opinions compared to appellate court opinions. This is an example where automated methods might be sufficient for a customer’s research needs. Of course, automated content enrichment methods could be used to identify for editors those officially unpublished decisions that might be of particular interest. Closer attention is needed into the value of each type of content for professional customers and what combination of human and algorithmic enhancements are necessary to make it actionable.

At least in my experience, many unpublished cases do appear to be handled by human editors.  And I'm not sure that I agree with the premise that cases without "precedential" value are of limited importance.  Courts, especially lower courts, often treat these cases on a close footing with published cases.  Still, with vast new amounts of content becoming available via electronic distribution (e.g. trial court orders) perhaps there is a place in the pecking order below which artificial editing is simply more efficient, considering the relative value of that content and quality of the algorithm doing the editing.

hat tip: Three Geeks and a Law Blog



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