This is a small, recent sample of my published work to show breadth and depth. It's constantly updated, but to see all of my published writing, hop over to Latest Articles.

Warning: You May Already Be Reading Computer-Generated Content

The Stigma of Automated Content is Fading

Published at ExitEvent


In an article today in The Daily Dot, I talked with writer Aaron Sankin about the proliferation of automated content in news stories. The article was inspired by a couple recent events.

Two weeks ago, Karstad University's Dr. Christer Clerwall published the findings of his study of automated content vs. human-written content in the 2014 volume of Journalism Practice. Dr. Clerwall used samples from Automated Insights' StatSheet product (which Robbie Allen and I built over three years ago) to compare against actual journalist-written articles of the same NFL game.

His conclusion: Not only is automated content virtually indistinguishable from human-generated content, but in most cases it is deemed as more credible and trustworthy.

By the way, I've since spoken to Clerwall, and it's obvious he gets where automated content is going and why it's so valuable.

As you might imagine, this news got picked up by a lot of outlets, including PandoDaily and the Daily Dot.

Then, the Monday, March 17th Los Angeles earthquake story was "broken" in the LA Times with a computer-generated story published by QuakeBot, which monitors and reports on the data feed from the U.S. Geological Survey.

People were fascinated, and rightly so. This is a perfect example of machines being able to break news at a moment's notice. However, much like those automated weather service warnings you get on your television and radio, it's not exactly brand new.

In fact, you've probably already read your share of automated content, especially in the areas of sports, finance, weather, real estate, and personal fitness.

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Study Finds Human Writing Indistinguishable from Automated Insights Content

Published at Automated Insights


A study published in the 2014 issue of Journalism Practice proved that not only was Automated Insights machine-generated content indistinguishable from journalist-created content, but that our automated content was viewed as more informative and more credible.

Christer Clerwall, from the Department of Media and Communication Studies at Karstad University in Sweden, conducted a pilot. For the test, 46 students in media and communications studies were given either a professionally-written NFL game recap from the L.A. Times or an automated recap of the same game from Automated Insights. They were asked to assess their article on both quality and credibility. They were also asked whether the article was written by a journalist or our engine.

Robot or Human

This certainly isn't the first time Automated Insights has been directly or indirectly involved with a robot vs. human test. It's something we always do in-house as a part of our normal QA process. Considering we've been at this for almost four years, we weren't surprised at the results.

From the study:

"Of the 27 respondents who read the software-generated text, 10 thought a journalist wrote it and 17 thought it was software-generated. For the 18 respondents in the “journalist group”, 8 perceived it as having been written by a journalist, but 10 thought software wrote it. Using a Mann–Whitney test for significance, we can conclude that there is no significant difference (U = 225, r = -0.07, significance = 0.623) between how the groups have perceived the texts."

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ExitEvent Acquired by American Underground

Here's How It Went Down

Published at ExitEvent


How it Started - by Joe Procopio

Well, one thing to note is there was acquisition interest almost from the beginning. I'm a working entrepreneur, and ExitEvent was something I started because I was convinced it needed to exist. Because I'm an entrepreneur, I built it like a startup -- that's pretty much all I know. I don't know how to run foundations or dot-orgs, I know how to build and run companies. But because I'm a working entrepreneur, I knew I could never devote more than 3-5 hours a week to the cause.

I invited 12 founders to the first ExitEvent Startup Social, and 50 showed up. When I first opened up the network, requests came in rushes. When I first put content up on the site, the audience exploded. It was always more than I could handle, and the sacrifice was to keep ExitEvent underpowered. This sucked, because for over two years I knew it could be more than it was. Turning away business is a good problem to have, but when that business is making startups better, it's not a good problem at all. It's just a problem that needs a solution. Stat.

It took the better part of those two years for me to swallow my pride and decide that there was probably someone out there who could do ExitEvent better than me. In any case, I knew there were several people out there who could devote more time to it, because they were already coming to me. So this past summer I started seriously listening to what the options were, and thankfully, one set of options made perfect sense.

I've known Adam Klein since he was doing really cool things at the Durham Chamber, making a lot of something out of next-to-nothing. With each project he took on, there was always more to it than what the average person saw, and when he went over to American Underground, he brought that ethos with him. Today, American Underground isn't just about a place for startups to sit. It's a lot more than that. I'm not sure anyone has the exact handle on what it'll become, but now it has a voice.

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The False Choice of Cursive Versus Coding

Don't Toss the Basics In the Name of the Future

Published at ExitEvent


This opinion is completely devil's advocate for me. As I've been spending the last few months digging down into how we could and should teach entrepreneurism, I've been investigating how we teach coding and technology in both elementary school and high school.

I also have three kids under 10, and I'm teaching all of them how to code.

But I'm beginning to wonder if we're doing it wrong.

To disclaim, I've been on board with calling out the critical need for more STEM education, specifically more technology and coding skills, for years. I'm of the generation where from eighth grade until my junior year, I was the ONLY kid in my high school's computer class.

By the way, do you have any idea how alienating that is? It's a total miracle I'm not more messed up.

Where you lose me is the argument of how pitiful and morally wrong it is that we still teach kids cursive but not coding, a false choice that reached a collective fever pitch with this article in The Week.

The same argument was made with Latin probably 30 years ago, and when Latin fell by the wayside (I remember it was still an elective just before I got to high school), there was still no coding in its wake.

read the rest

Teaching Becomes Chance to Learn

Taking Real Steps Towards Creating an Entrepreneurial Education

Published at News & Observer


A little more than a month ago, I spoke with Ted Zoller, director of the University of North Carolina Center for Entrepreneurship, about a column I was writing about whether entrepreneurism could be taught. He followed up with an interesting proposal.

“Help me teach the Entrepreneurs Lab,” he said.

So on Feb. 4, I was faced with the daunting prospect of lecturing a room full of students.

Thankfully, it wasn't anything like that. The class wasn't even on campus, instead it was across the street at the Launch Chapel Hill accelerator, a sign that Chapel Hill's startup strategy is moving outside the university's walls and into the streets where it belongs.

“Partnering with the University on the Entrepreneurs Lab helps create a hub of entrepreneurial activity that brings together UNC faculty, start-up entrepreneurs, successful entrepreneurs and students,” said Dina Mills, program manager of Launch Chapel Hill.

This first regular session of the Lab included question-and-answer sessions with two successful entrepreneurs who have ties to the Triangle: Jed Simmons, co-founder of Next New Networks (now part of YouTube), and Amit Singh, co-founder and CEO of Spectraforce, a global IT services provider.

And some of the students at Launch Chapel Hill, including Jeff Henriod, are already founders.

In November, Henriod's startup Let's Chip In, a website and app that allow parents to raise funds for expensive baby items such as cribs, won Triangle Startup Weekend Chapel Hill and the first phase of the Carolina Challenge, which starts its elevator pitch round Tuesday night.

The program runs through the end of the semester.

Even Zoller thinks of himself less as an instructor and more of a catalyst, constantly keeping the students' ideas flowing as they discuss markets, disruption, challenges and key factors for entrepreneurial success.

read the rest

A Beer with WedPics' Justin Miller

A New Series Featuring an Inside Take on Startup

Published at WRAL TechWire


• Site: Trophy Brewing Company, Raleigh NC
• Miller ordered: Next Best in Show
• Procopio ordered: Trophy Wife 2.0

Joe Procopio: OK, so here's the concept. You and I sit here and drink one beer, and have a standard non-journalism, non-marketing, authentic conversation. That's all it is. When the beer is gone, we're done.

Justin Miller: Let's go.

Procopio: So the last time I saw you was a couple weeks ago at the NCTA awards. I was in line at the bar -- and by the way, I totally missed accepting the award Automated Insights won, because it was the first one of the night, the fastest intro ever, and the bar was like a mile away from the stage. But in the aftermath, that event turned out to have more impact than I would have assumed. We got a bunch of kudos for winning that award.

Miller: I always feel like those kinds of events -- I wish that they were more channeled in terms of putting companies against each other, in categories that made sense. Maybe break them out into more tiers. There was such a broad spectrum. Also – try to pair up folks that would have more relevant conversations with one another.

Procopio: Who were you sitting with?

Miller: There were ad companies, and some individuals who were with a recruiter. It just seemed very much like, the first questions were: “Is your app available on an iPhone or Android?” I'm sure I came across as ** *******.

Procopio: Yeah – sitting with a telecom company. Once we told them what we did, we just answered questions for the next hour.

Miller: It's like when you go back home over the holidays and you run into all the people you went to high school with, you have to tell the stories a thousand times. I joke about printing my life out on a card and handing it out to them.

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Allow Me to Introduce My Quantified Self

The Hardware Boom Opens Up a Whole New Playground

Published at ExitEvent


"Hi, my name is Joe. I run 4.1 miles a day at a 7:52 mile clip and I sleep 6.6 hours a night at 55.4% deep sleep. I have 435 friends, 1359 followers, and 1267 connections. I went to 136 places in 24 cities last year, and I drove an average of 32.6 miles a day to get there (at 42.2 miles per hour). In the last 30 days, I answered 28 questions, read 121 articles, and wrote another 12. I currently rank #7 in cool points, but also #3 in douchebaggery."

OK, so most of that is fake. Except that last one.

But frankly, I'm so excited about the opportunities springing up around the quantified self, brought about by the Hardware Revolution and the Internet of Things, that I don't want to get too specific with my examples just for a lame opening joke. There's data in them there hills, and the resulting gold rush is going to make Web 2.0 look like the dot-com boom.

Most of the last ten-or-so years of the Internets has been marked by a movement to find out exactly what it is we like. Our preferences are requested, cajoled, bartered, and begged out of us in order to produce timely, effective ads that can be shoved back at us.

That worked and it didn't. It worked in the sense that thousands of companies were formed and some, like Google for instance, rocketed to great success on the promise of a better advertisement. It hasn't in the sense that the ads still aren't that targeted, aren't that effective, and the Internet has got to be about more than pushing flavored vodka at me on every page I visit.

The beauty of quantification is that we can finally start using the web to discover and better ourselves instead of telling it what we think we want. Quantification doesn't lie, nor is it susceptible to moods or bias.

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Social Media Marketing in a Post-Twitter World

It's Time to Start Thinking About What's Next

Published at ExitEvent


While everyone is simply giddy with the notion of Twitter going public, I thought I might, in what I hope is true entrepreneurial fashion, pose the question no one is asking:

What happens when Twitter becomes irrelevant?

That noise you just heard is the cumulative shriek of thousands of social media marketing ninjas. I'm not saying they're reading this article, they just feel a disturbance in the Twitterverse, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and suddenly stopped posting things like: "Totally pumped and excited for [insert some bullshit business thing here] #motivated #neverstopdreaming #bieber"

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a Twitter slacker. I don't follow a lot of people, and 90% of the time I look at my feed, it's full of garbage. I have other accounts, because you can, and those are a bit more varied in terms of topic, but it's still a lot of noise for a little bit of signal.

I use hashtags at conferences when I know what I'm posting will be relevant to those following the hashtag within the next 90 minutes or so. I've followed hashtags on breaking news, which is where I think Twitter's value is (near real-time information), but never on television shows or movies I happen to be watching. Same for sporting events. If I want the opinion on a blown call from thousands of know-it-all douchebags, I'll just go to the game.

I can't tell you how much hashtagging a slogan bugs me. Every time you do that, Satan gets a nickel.

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you suck

why the new civility was doomed from the start

Published at Intrepid Media


You suck.

You're terrible. Everything you know is wrong. And possibly also evil, but definitely stupid. You take the world way too seriously. What you care about is trivial and superficial.

You believe everything you hear and read except those things which are true and unbiased. In fact, you blindly accept as fact a whole bunch of lies and propaganda generated by sources who have in mind only the best interests of the worst kind of people.

Now as for me, let's get one thing perfectly clear. I'm right. My principles are driven by higher intellectual thinking, a greater capacity for empathy for my fellow man, and the kind of wisdom that can only be learned from a lifetime of experiences and circumstances that you could not possibly have understood or withstood.

I can't fathom why you act the way you do, and since I don't get it, I will judge it. Harshly. With extreme prejudice. Wait. Not prejudice. Let's make that extreme righteousness.

You're going to need to face the fact that you don't make sense. You're not even close. And it's not because of the validity of your argument. That's just a smokescreen for your complete lack of capacity to recognize that what's wrong with you is latent, passive, part of your makeup.

See, it's not even your fault. You're just a dupe. But I'll hold it against you just the same.

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Legit! ExitEvent News Turns One

Over 200 Articles About Startups Last Year, and We're Just Scratching the Surface

Published at ExitEvent


Just over a year ago, on May 15, 2012, I posted the first-ever ExitEvent News article and rolled out the News section with zero fanfare. There was no fancy marketing campaign, no money spent on advertising at all, and a very limited pool of resources for writing (me), editing (me), and site build (me).

This article you've got your eyes on right now is the 232nd news article published on ExitEvent News. 100% of them are original, 0% of them come from a press release.

Since that first article, ExitEvent News has seen hundreds of thousands of readers and well over a half-million reads. Not bad for a website that never spent so much as a dime on advertising.

I attribute some of ExitEvent News' success to the contributions of some very talented writers, and some less regular writers but full-time founders like Aaron Houghton, Anil Chawla, and Elliott Hauser, among others, all of whom brought you their stories unfiltered.

The bulk of its success, however, I attribute to you.

ExitEvent itself started on a lark, and ExitEvent News started on a dare. I launched ExitEvent News last year because it needed to be done, and I wanted to prove it could be done. You guys just kept coming back and reading it, so I just kept writing it.

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Hire Right From the Start

Published at News & Observer


On Nov. 12, I spoke on a panel titled “People, Partners and Culture” at the Startup Summit at the Raleigh Convention Center.

For an hour, my fellow panelists – Leela Srinivasan from LinkedIn, Delisa Alexander from Red Hat and Amit Jain, founder of Prysm – and I talked about hiring and creating company culture at a startup.

Automated Insights is the 10th startup I have either worked for or founded. In the beginning, there were just two of us – the founder and me – building our automated content engine and producing thousands of articles for millions of readers.

We spent about two months of long, consecutive days working closely together.

Had we not fit perfectly together, not only in terms of our individual skills but also our personalities and motivations, we would have failed. There was simply no one else to pick up the ball if we dropped it.

I've found this to be true at every startup I've been associated with. The core team – those first few hires – is more critical to the success of the company than any other component. They're more important than the idea, the business model, even investment.

And it's not simply about hiring the smartest or most talented people you can find.

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Startups Giving Back: Living Life Deliberately

The Startup Giveback is an Event, an Endowment, and a Big Idea

Published at ExitEvent


This is a discussion between ExitEvent founder Joe Procopio and Coursefork founder Elliott Hauser about The Startup Giveback, a charitable endowment endeavor to be kicked off with a cookout on Saturday, November 16th at ShoeBoxed (112 Broadway St, Durham, NC, 27701) from 1:00 to 4:00. You may know this location as the other half of the building that serves as the location for many ExitEvent Startup Socials. You should register, donate, and come have an awesome time at this family-friendly event.

Joe Procopio
I love this. Finally, a startup event to talk about something other than startups. And actually, I'm kind of sheepishly puzzled as to why this hasn't already happened. I wrote in another article that at some point in the arc of the Triangle startup growth story, you have to stop separating the startups from the established players when you're comparing companies. If the startups here want to be taken seriously, they have to be able to go head-to-head with them.

So I see the Startup Giveback as a first (maybe THE first) step in that direction.

Let me explain.

The Startup Giveback idea came up at an event back in September. Elliott brought it up, and it had obviously been on his mind, during a conversation with me and Adam Klein over drinks. The idea is for the Triangle entrepreneurial community to create its own charitable fund, in the form of an endowment that will benefit local charities perpetually. It's a big goal, which is why I like it and why I'm betting other entrepreneurs will like it.

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