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It both impresses me and amuses me…

28 minute read

March 10, 2023, 4:21 PM

You all have probably heard about the artificial intelligence tools that can write articles and such that have been taking the Internet by storm lately.  One such service is ChatGPT, which is a chatbot by a company called OpenAI, which can answer your questions about various subjects.  I asked the service about myself and about Schumin Web, because (A) my name is unique, and (B) Schumin Web is also unique, and (C) I’ve been around on the Internet long enough that I figure that it should know who I am.  Additionally, giving it inquiries about myself and my website, I was able to do a good check of accuracy because I know me really well, and I know my own website really well.

So on March 1, I ran the inquiry five times for each, and collected five different responses for each.  In evaluating what it spewed out for each one, I found that the accuracy was a bit questionable, and varied quite a bit.  It got some things right, and it got some things very wrong to the point of being comical.  In its discussion about Schumin Web, it was actually quite insightful, making points that even I hadn’t thought much about, doing way more than I would have otherwise expected from an AI chatbot.  I was also a bit flattered, because in running other people who I feel should be far more notable than me, it didn’t know who they were, even with some additional prodding, while it knew who I was right out of the gate without any additional clarification or questioning, and it knew what Schumin Web was without even blinking.

In judging the accuracy of each output, I scored them by factual claims.  A claim that was accurate got a point.  A claim that was inaccurate got no points.  A claim that was a mixture of accurate and inaccurate information got half a point.  Divide by total number of claims to get an accuracy percentage, which would be the final score.  I don’t know if experts in this sort of thing would score it this way, but it’s the best that I could come up with, and for purposes of this discussion, we’ll go with it.

The first question that I asked it was “What do you know about Ben Schumin?”  This was the first response:

Ben Schumin is an American photographer, web developer, and writer.  He was born on October 31, 1982, and grew up in Woodbridge, Virginia.  Schumin is known for his work as a photographer, particularly his documentation of urban landscapes and public spaces.

Schumin attended Virginia Tech from 2001 to 2005, where he studied computer science.  During his time at Virginia Tech, he also became involved in photography, and began sharing his work online through his personal website.

In addition to his photography work, Schumin is also a skilled web developer and has created a number of websites over the years, including his personal site as well as sites for businesses and organizations.  He is also a prolific writer and has authored numerous articles and essays on a variety of topics.

Schumin’s photography has been featured in exhibitions and publications, and he has received several awards and honors for his work.  He continues to actively pursue his photography and other creative endeavors.

Not bad.  Right offhand, the birthday is wrong (I was born May 30, 1981), and I have never lived in Woodbridge (I grew up in Glassboro, New Jersey, Rogers, Arkansas, and Stuarts Draft, Virginia).  I will give them “known for his work as a photographer” considering how often I see my work out in the field.  “Documentation of urban landscapes and public spaces” also is accurate enough.  However, someone needs to call Burger King over “Schumin attended Virginia Tech from 2001 to 2005, where he studied computer science,” because that is a major whopper right there.  I attended James Madison University from 1999 to 2003, where I studied public administration.  I did begin doing photography while a student at JMU, and I did begin sharing it on Schumin Web (which predates my first digital camera by about four years) during that time.  As far as website work goes, I do some web development, though I don’t know how skilled I am at it, because there are definitely people who could run circles around me in the area of web design, and there’s a lot that I would love to do on here that I don’t know how to implement.  Sites for businesses and organizations, that is technically true, though I have not done that for any outside parties in a very long time, and none of it has been paid (largely done as favors to people).  As far as writing is concerned, you’re looking at it, I suppose, though I have had my work featured on The Huffington Post in the past.  Then in the last paragraph, my work has certainly been featured in exhibitions and publications before, though not specifically about me.  My photos appear at the Kent State University May 4 Visitors Center and at The Henry Ford, but those are there to support larger stories about the museums’ respective missions, and not specifically about me.  As far as awards and honors, I have never received a single award for my photography, but at the same time, I also have never pursued any.  And lastly, I do continue to actively pursue photography and other creative endeavors, as evidenced by this website.

One thing that’s got me wondering is how it came up with the idea of Virginia Tech and those dates.  My sister attended Virginia Tech from 2003-2007, so I wonder if it conflated the two of us and compromised on the date, being exactly in the middle of our various periods in college.  Who knows.

So as far as scoring this one, we have 12 total factual claims.  Of those 12 claims, seven were accurate, five were inaccurate, and there were no half-credits.  Therefore, this one gets an accuracy score of 58.3%.

On to the next one…

Ben Schumin is an American photographer and journalist who is best known for his work documenting urban landscapes and street life.  He was born on September 25, 1982, in Washington, D.C. and currently resides in Arlington, Virginia.

Schumin began his photography career in the early 2000s, and his work has been featured in various publications and websites, including The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and Flickr.  He is particularly well known for his “Photo of the Day” series, which he has been publishing on his personal website since 2005.

In addition to his photography work, Schumin is also a journalist and has written for various online publications, including Wikipedia and Wikinews.  He is known for his expertise on public transportation and has written extensively on the topic.

Schumin is also an advocate for open-source software and has been involved in various projects related to this field.  He is particularly interested in the Linux operating system and has written a number of articles and guides on how to use it.

So according to this one, I’m a journalist.  I asked Google to define it, and it gave me, “a person who writes for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or prepares news to be broadcast.”  Based on that, I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that characterization, since I don’t write for news websites, though Huffington Post did republish that Journal entry, which I consider most notable for having placed the phrase “hocus pocus alimagocus” on HuffPo.  Otherwise, this one thinks that I’m a native Washingtonian and live in Arlington County.  In truth, I was born in Stratford, New Jersey and I have never lived in Arlington.  As far as publication, I vaguely recall one of my images being used properly by WaPo, we’ve already discussed HuffPo, and then Flickr is one of a few places where I publish my photography work.  The “Photo of the Day” series that I’ve been publishing on the website since 2005 apparently refers to the photo feature on the main page, though I feel like it conflates it with A Month in Photos, which was a photo-a-day set that I did for a month.  The photo feature has never been a daily thing, because I don’t do enough volume to schedule it that frequently, nor do I have the time or the inclination to do the work that accompanies a daily publication schedule (I don’t do the website for a living, after all).  While it has published 2-3 times a week in the past, it currently publishes weekly, on whatever my second day off from work is, which is currently Fridays.  As far as the claims about my online publications, I did contribute to Wikipedia for a little more than seven years, but I never contributed to Wikinews.  The claim about public transportation is accurate enough (though I’m not the foremost expert on it by any means), and I have written extensively on it, so that checks out.  However, that last paragraph is a fabrication.  While I do use open-source software, I have never really been vocal in advocating for it.  As far as Linux goes, I do have some devices that run Linux, but I don’t know nearly as much about it as I might want to, so I certainly wouldn’t write any articles and guides on how to use it, because I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough about it to speak intelligently about it.

As far as scoring it goes, I counted 11 factual claims, which broke down to four accurate claims, five inaccurate claims, and two half-credits, which gives it a 45.5% accuracy rate.

Now let’s look at the third cycle:

Ben Schumin is an American photographer, web developer, and blogger.  He was born on September 25, 1983, in Manassas, Virginia, and grew up in nearby Woodbridge.  He is best known for his photography and his website, Schumin Web, which he started in 1998 when he was just 14 years old.

Schumin’s photography focuses on architecture, transportation, and urban landscapes, and he has published several photo books showcasing his work.  He has also worked as a web developer, designing and developing websites for various clients.

Schumin is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he studied information technology.  He has been featured in various media outlets, including The Washington Post and USA Today, and has won several awards for his photography.

Aside from his professional pursuits, Schumin is also a dedicated volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician in his hometown.

This one is my favorite out of all of the “Ben Schumin” outputs, because the whoppers that it tells make me laugh the hardest.  First of all, look at that birthdate: I’m under 40 again!  But I wasn’t born in Manassas, and as much as it wants to put me in Woodbridge, I’ve still never lived there.  The claim about Schumin Web is partially accurate, as I did start it when I was 14, but that was in 1996, not 1998.  Meanwhile, I wish someone would tell me about all of these photo books that I’ve published.  That or someone needs to tell Pixsy about it and get me a cut of that action.  Then there’s the Rochester Institute of Technology claim.  I’m like, “…the hell?”  I’ve never even been to Rochester before, nor do I have any plans to visit Rochester in the foreseeable future.  Therefore, I certainly never went to school there.  Meanwhile, my work has been featured in Gannett (owner of USA Today) publications in the past, but I’ve still never won any photography awards (but I also haven’t pursued any).  And then the final question is, where in the hell did they get the idea that I am a volunteer firefighter and EMT?  I am neither, and the people that are able to do that sort of work have my respect.

In scoring this one, I count twelve claims.  Of that, I count four correct claims, seven inaccurate claims, and one for half-credit.  That gives an accuracy score of 37.5%.

Let’s see what the fourth one brings us, and find out if we can pull out of this accuracy nosedive…

Ben Schumin is an American photographer, journalist, and internet entrepreneur.  He is best known for creating and maintaining several popular websites related to photography and travel.

Schumin was born on October 10, 1982, in Fairfax, Virginia.  He began his career in journalism as a teenager, starting a website called “The Schumin Web” in 1998.  The site featured his writing, photography, and commentary on a variety of topics.

Over the years, Schumin expanded his online presence with additional websites, including “The Transit Fan” (which focused on public transportation) and “Schumin Web Transit Center” (which provided information on transit systems in the United States).

In addition to his online work, Schumin has worked as a photographer and videographer, and has contributed articles and photographs to a number of publications.

Schumin is known for his attention to detail and his ability to capture unique and interesting images.  He has won several awards for his photography, including the 2006 and 2007 Kodak International Newspaper Snapshot Awards.

Overall, Ben Schumin has made significant contributions to the fields of journalism, photography, and online media, and continues to be a respected figure in these areas today.

So now I’m an internet entrepreneur!  Sure, we’ll go with that (but I’m still dinging them for it).  Likewise, I feel like I need to ding them for “several popular websites related to photography and travel, because I run one website about that, among other topics, and it does respectably.  Otherwise, I’m over 40 again, and now I’m from Fairfax.  Good description of Schumin Web, though the year that the site was founded is inaccurate.  Otherwise, it remembers my old Transit Center website, which is nice, since that site’s been gone for nine years at this point, but “The Transit Fan” is something created out of whole cloth (so half-credit for that).  The claim that I have contributed articles and photographs to a number of publications makes me laugh a little, because I don’t typically do much contributing myself.  Rather, people find my work and incorporate it, and I find out about it later.  As far as attention to detail, people have commented on that in the past, so we’ll give them that, but I’ve still not won any awards – and especially not the Kodak International Newspaper Snapshot Awards (twice, no less!).

For this one, I count 11 factual claims.  Out of those, I found five accurate claims, four inaccurate claims, and two half-credit claims.  That gives it a score of 54.5%.

And then the fifth and final entry for the “Ben Schumin” series:

Ben Schumin is a photographer and writer based in Washington D.C.  He is known for his photography work, particularly his street photography, which often focuses on the urban environment and the people who inhabit it.

Schumin has been photographing since he was a teenager, and he has since developed a unique style that emphasizes the geometry and structure of the built environment.  His work has been featured in a number of publications, including The Washington Post and The Atlantic.

In addition to his photography work, Schumin is also a writer and has authored several books on various topics, including a guide to public transportation in the Washington D.C. area.  He has also been involved in a number of community projects, including the creation of a community garden in his neighborhood.

Overall, Ben Schumin is an accomplished photographer and writer who has made significant contributions to the art and culture of Washington D.C.

This one was a bit harder to score, because it has some claims that required judgment calls, as well as a few statements that I had to really consider whether or not to include.  “Based in Washington, D.C.” is a hard one to give an up-or-down rating on, mainly because of how you want to interpret it.  I have never lived in the District of Columbia itself, and have no intention of doing so in the foreseeable future.  I have always lived in Montgomery County, Maryland since I moved to the DC area in 2007.  How much a suburbanite claims Washington is inversely proportional to one’s distance from the city.  If I’m talking to locals, I make no claim to DC at all.  If I’m talking to Montgomery County people, I’ll say that I live in Montgomery Village.  Locals not from MoCo, I’ll say that I live in Montgomery County, near Gaithersburg.  Outside the DC area but still relatively close (think elsewhere in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania), I’m from the DC area.  Beyond that?  “Yeah, I live in Washington, and I see the president all the time.  We’re BFFs!”  It makes me think of one time when I was still driving the bus when a tour guide was beginning a group tour in front of where my bus was laying over.  She said, “I’m a native Washingtonian, born and raised in Silver Spring.”  I good-naturedly called her out on that, saying, “You’re not from Washington…” about that.  She took it in the good humor with which it was intended.

Otherwise, I have been photographing since I was a teen (though barely, since I started at 19), but “that emphasizes the geometry and structure of the built environment” is a little hard to quantify.  Maybe this is the sort of thing that the chatbot was considering when making that assessment?  I know that I have never considered that before, but I also find myself unable to score it as incorrect.  As far as my writing credits are concerned, my work has been published in The Atlantic in the past, but I’ve never written a book, though people have certainly suggested that I do (my sister, on the other hand, is actually working on writing a book).  I wonder if it didn’t lock onto my “Identifying Metro Rail Cars” page (that very badly needs an update) when it thought about a guide to transit in the DC area.  Otherwise, “He has also been involved in a number of community projects, including the creation of a community garden in his neighborhood,” is a real whopper, since I’ve never done anything like that before.  Then “significant contributions to the art and culture of Washington D.C.” is more of an opinion statement, since “significant” is up for interpretation.  I wouldn’t exactly expect to see my work in the Hirshhorn Museum, but my work has definitely gotten around throughout the years.

In scoring this one, I counted eight claims, of which three were accurate, two were inaccurate, and three were half-credit.  For those wondering, the half-credit ones were the claim that I’m from Washington, the “geometry and structure” claim, and the “significant contributions” claim.  Basically, all stuff that I thought was reasonable enough, but that I couldn’t entirely agree with.  And for that, it got a score of 56.3%.

So on the various outputs about me, the person, I gave it a final score two different ways.  When I averaged the five scores for each response, giving equal weight to each one, I got a final score of 50.4%.  When I tallied it up by individual claims, which provides more weight to the responses that had more claims in them, I got a score of exactly 50%.  So if we apply the standard ten-point grading scale to these scores, everyone gets an “F”, though three of them got a fairly high “F”.

So now that we’ve looked at what it knows about a person, let’s talk about a publication, and see what it does on that sort of subject.  The inquiry was, “Tell me about The Schumin Web.”

Here is the first response:

The Schumin Web is a personal website created and maintained by Benjamin Schumin.  It was launched in 1997 and features a variety of content, including personal essays, photographs, and commentary on current events.

The website has evolved over the years, with Schumin adding new features and redesigning the layout several times.  One notable feature of The Schumin Web is the Photo of the Day, which showcases a different photograph each day and includes a description and commentary by Schumin.

In addition to his personal content, Schumin has also used The Schumin Web to advocate for causes he supports, such as public transportation and marriage equality.

The website has gained a following over the years, and Schumin has been interviewed by several media outlets about his work on the site.  While the website has not been updated as frequently in recent years, it remains a notable example of personal websites and online self-expression.

Giving this one a look, it seems pretty decent.  Schumin Web is my personal website, though it was launched in 1996, not 1997.  The description of the content and the evolution of the site is also reasonable.  It describes the photo feature as a “Photo of the Day”, which is a bit more ambitious than I tend to be with it, though the rest of that statement is accurate.  I have discussed various issues that I support, and public transportation and marriage equality have been amongst them.  It has gained a following over the years, and yes, I have been interviewed by the news media before based on website content.

However, I take issue with “has not been updated as frequently in recent years”.  I like to think that I have emphasized quality over quantity.  Looking back to the early days of the Journal, the first full calendar year that the Journal was on the site, 2004, produced 233 entries.  Some of those entries back then would be Facebook statuses today.  But this was a time before Facebook was open to non-students, and so the Journal ended up filling that role early on.  Here’s an example of what I mean.  I would never write something like that on Schumin Web these days.  Compare to this entry, which I consider to be a “short” one today.  Quality over quantity.  The last time I did more than ten Journal entries in a month was January 2012.  In the last decade, I’ve tended to do three to five Journal entries a month, but they require a lot more work than they used to, but I like to think that I produce a much higher quality product these days as well.

In scoring this one, I counted nine factual claims.  Of those, I found seven to be accurate, one to be inaccurate, and one half-credit.  Total score is 83.3%.

Now for number two…

The Schumin Web is a personal website created by Benjamin Schumin in 1996.  Schumin started the website when he was in high school and has continued to maintain and update it over the years.  The website features a wide range of content, including personal blog entries, photography, essays, and reviews of movies and TV shows.

One of the defining features of The Schumin Web is Schumin’s attention to detail and his commitment to documenting his experiences and observations in great detail.  For example, his photography section features thousands of photos, many of which are accompanied by detailed captions and explanations.

In addition to his personal content, Schumin has also used The Schumin Web to promote various causes and to raise awareness about issues such as climate change and LGBTQ+ rights.  He has also written about his experiences attending protests and advocating for social justice.

The Schumin Web has been recognized as one of the longest-running personal websites on the internet, and it has garnered a devoted following over the years.  Schumin continues to update the website regularly and to engage with his readers through comments and social media.

This one got the year that the website was begun correct, so that’s a plus.  It also hits the content fairly well, though I think that it may have put more emphasis on “reviews of movies and TV shows” than it probably should have.  My attention to detail is pretty good, too.  I’m currently building a Life and Times set on my October 2022 trip with Elyse to Tennessee, and it’s very detailed on a number of things.  The “thousands of photos” claim in Photography was one that I had questioned, but it was easily verifiable, so I counted it up.  As of this writing, the Photography section contains 3,608 photos across all of the various photo sets.  So that checked out.  The only thing that I really took issue with was about specific recognition that my website was one of the longest-running personal sites out there.  I don’t question that my site is one of the longest-running personal websites, but I don’t know if it’s ever been recognized as such, unless ChatGPT just spoke it into existence.

Scoring this response, out of eight total claims, I found seven were accurate, none that were fully inaccurate, and one half-credit (the one about recognition).  That gave it a score of 93.8%, which I consider fairly impressive.

Now, here’s the third run:

The Schumin Web is a personal website created by Benjamin Schumin in 1997.  It was one of the earliest personal websites on the internet and has evolved over time to become a diverse collection of content, including personal essays, photographs, and commentary on current events.

The website has a simple, minimalist design, with a focus on content rather than flashy graphics or complex navigation.  Schumin describes the site as “an experiment in writing, design, and technology” and has used it as a platform to explore various topics and express his opinions on a range of issues.

Over the years, The Schumin Web has gained a dedicated following and has been recognized for its unique voice and thoughtful commentary.  Schumin has also used the site to explore his interest in photography, with a particular focus on urban landscapes and architecture.

Today, The Schumin Web remains an active and vibrant online community, with regular updates and engagement from Schumin and his readers.  It continues to serve as a testament to the power of personal expression and the enduring potential of the internet as a platform for creativity and communication.

Another pretty solid analysis of the site, if you ask me.  I only saw two inaccuracies on here.  The first was the launch date, which should be 1996 instead of 1997.  The second was the line where it says, “Schumin describes the site as ‘an experiment in writing, design, and technology'”.  Let’s be honest for a moment: that sounds a lot smarter than what I might actually say about it.  Don’t get me wrong, it sounds pretty good, but I would never say that.  The thing about Schumin Web is that I’ve always just done my thing on here, and that takes it wherever it ends up going.  There’s never been a whole lot of deep thought about what the site should be about.  It just kind of is.  I kind of wonder where it came up with such a flowery description of the site, because that exact phrase does not pull any results in Google.

I am slightly amused that it describes the site as having “a simple, minimalist design, with a focus on content rather than flashy graphics or complex navigation.”  Let’s admit: I am not a graphic designer, and I only do web development to the extent that I need to in order to make this site.  In other words, I do what I need to, but no more.  Meanwhile, the current “Modern Blue 2.0” design isn’t even as minimalist as I’ve gone in the past.  The design that the site carried from August 2002 to July 2003 was called “Minimalist” and featured a white background and a blue header.  The “Faded Blue” design from late 2004 to mid 2008 was also fairly minimalist.  The current design has a lot of framing around various elements.  I’m probably due for a redesign, but I don’t know what I would want to do.

And then, “It continues to serve as a testament to the power of personal expression and the enduring potential of the internet as a platform for creativity and communication,” sounds pretty smart.  I like it.

In scoring this one, I count eight factual claims.  Out of that, I scored six as being accurate, one inaccurate (the quote), and one half-credit (the year of founding).  That gives a score of 81.3%.

Moving along, here’s the fourth roll of the algorithm:

The Schumin Web is a personal website created by Benjamin Schumin, an American photographer and writer, in 1996.  The website is known for its wide range of content, including photography, essays, and commentary on a variety of topics, such as politics, social issues, and technology.

Initially, The Schumin Web started as a platform for Schumin to showcase his photography and writing.  Over time, the website evolved to include more diverse content, including a blog, podcasts, and video content.  The website also features a section called “The Transit Center,” which focuses on public transportation systems.

Schumin has also used The Schumin Web to advocate for causes he is passionate about, such as LGBTQ rights and animal welfare.  He has been recognized for his activism and received awards for his work.

The Schumin Web has been updated regularly since its inception, and Schumin has maintained a strong presence on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, to interact with his followers and promote his content.

Overall, The Schumin Web is known for its high-quality content and strong engagement with its audience, and it continues to be a popular website in the online community.

Hey, look at that, another one that got the year right!  However, like all of these, it got a few things wrong.  The site didn’t originate as a way to showcase photography and writing.  I initially had no way of getting original graphical content onto the site at all, and so photos of me that were available to use online were very few and far between.  I got a “Snappy” video capture device in 1997, and then I got a scanner at some point during high school, which gave me access to most photographs.  I ended up doing a good bit of early photo work with my parents’ VHS camcorder (the big kind that used full-sized tapes and that you set on your shoulder) by shooting footage of stuff, and then going back on my computer and running it through Snappy to get my shots.  I remember that I did a highway theme for my site a long time ago, and went out and shot my own road sign photos to that end.  I would use the video camera like a still camera, shooting about ten seconds’ worth of footage for each one, and then using that to take a snap when I got home.  It was crude, but it worked.  I didn’t get my first digital camera until summer 2000, and then the photography followed.  So initially, I just wrote, primarily with my “News of the Week” page, which was essentially a proto-blog (i.e. I have been blogging since before it was a thing).

I also want to know where it came up with the idea that I do podcasts.  I’ve never done my own podcast, for a few reasons.  First, I don’t know what I would do beyond a “books-on-tape” version of the Journal, and even that would require a lot more production effort than I am willing to do.  Then it also discusses my old Transit Center site again, which has been gone for more than nine years at this point.

Otherwise, the activism section is a mixture.  I have advocated for LGBTQ rights on this site, though not so much animal welfare.  I believe that it might have locked onto one Journal entry for that one.  But as far as recognition for activism goes, I’ve never received any awards for it (nor have I pursued any), and I believe that the most recognition that I’ve gotten was probably when I was featured on right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin’s blog with an ad-hominem attack back in 2007.

In scoring this one, I found nine factual claims, of which four were accurate, two were inaccurate, and three got half-credit.  The passage about my old Transit Center site was one of the half-credit items, because while it was accurate at one time, it is no longer accurate now.  Therefore, I felt like I couldn’t score it wrong, but I couldn’t score it right, either.  That said, taking all of that into account, this scored 61.1%.

And finally, the fifth response:

The Schumin Web is a personal website and blog created by Benjamin Schumin.  It was launched in 1997, making it one of the oldest continuously running websites on the internet.  The site features a variety of content, including personal essays, photography, and videos.

Schumin, who is from Virginia, initially created the site as a way to experiment with HTML and web design.  Over time, the site grew in popularity and Schumin began to use it as a platform to express his opinions and share his experiences.  He has written about a wide range of topics, including politics, social issues, and popular culture.

One of the unique features of The Schumin Web is Schumin’s use of photography.  He often includes photos he has taken in his blog posts, and he has also created several photo galleries on the site.  Schumin’s photography focuses primarily on urban and suburban landscapes, and he has a particular interest in documenting public transportation systems.

In addition to his writing and photography, Schumin has also produced several videos that are featured on the site.  These videos cover a variety of topics, including public transit, amusement parks, and historical sites.

Despite its longevity, The Schumin Web remains a relatively low-profile website, with a modest but dedicated following.  Schumin continues to update the site regularly and has expressed his commitment to maintaining it as a personal project, rather than attempting to monetize it or turn it into a commercial venture.

I suppose that if you run the engine enough times, it eventually gets it (mostly) right.  It got the launch year incorrect, but that’s the only outright wrong thing that I could find.  I’m counting “who is from Virginia” correct because I did do most of my growing up in Virginia, and it didn’t make any wrong claims of a city.  I like that it mentioned that the site started as a way to experiment with websites and then just grew from there, because that is what actually was the case.  I especially found the passage about the profile of the site to be insightful: “Despite its longevity, The Schumin Web remains a relatively low-profile website, with a modest but dedicated following.”  I can get behind that.  The site has always been there, and while it’s had its moments where there has been a large influx of visitors (such as when Reddit first discovered that I was a Reddit user), it generally maintains a low profile on the Internet.  And I’m fine with that.  Otherwise, I don’t believe that I’ve ever explicitly stated a commitment to maintaining the site as a personal project, though I do monetize the site in small ways.  I run advertisements on the site, which provides some modest amount of funds, and I also have the CafePress store and the Fine Art America/Pixels store, which also provides some modest amount of funds.  In both cases, we’re talking beer money levels of money, and not anything that one could actually live on.  However, even if I’ve never explicitly stated what it’s claiming, it’s not unreasonable, either. However, even if I agree with it, I still am marking it wrong for purposes of the analysis because I’ve never actually said it, therefore it is attributing things to me that it should not.

When I went to score this one, I counted 11 factual claims.  Of those, I counted nine correct claims and two incorrect claims, for a score of 81.8%.

So for the queries on Schumin Web, we got one “A” grade, three “B” grades, and one “D” grade.  That’s noticeably better than the other run.  Averaging it all together, I got a non-weighted average of 80.3%, and a weighted average of 80%.  On a ten-point grading scale, that puts it at the low end of the “B” range.  If we take out the outlier that was output #4 at 61.1% (i.e. the “D”), we end up with a non-weighted average of 85% and a weighted average of 84.7%.  Regardless, this average is within the “passing” range, and if I was a student and showed that grade to my parents, they would be content with my performance, and I wouldn’t have to hear that “C is for crummy” line from Mom when I would bring home a “C”.

As far as what conclusions I am able to draw from this, the sense that I got is that it is that it is much more adept at describing published works than it is at describing people.  And in all fairness, there are some differences in rooting out information about me as a person vs. my website.  For the website, the entire body of work is right there in plain view for the reading, so it’s not that hard to collect and process information about the website as long as the bot knows where to look.  For people, it’s a little harder to determine, because not everything is necessarily right out there.  I still have lots of childhood stories that I could tell, and some things would probably surprise you.  I’m sure that those will come out eventually, when I feel so moved to tell.  Though in the case of some stuff, like when and where I was born and where I grew up, it’s right there on a page on the website.  I don’t know where it got the idea that I was born in the DC area, either in DC proper or in the suburbs, and grew up in the DC area, because I was born and raised elsewhere, and I tell you exactly where all of that was.  Likewise for schools.  I tell you exactly where I went to school, but it presented information that was not accurate.  I had never heard of the Rochester Institute of Technology until ChatGPT told me that I was an alumnus.  Thankfully, though, my fake alma mater doesn’t constantly beg me for donations like my real one does (looking at you, James Madison).

I think that I know how ChatGPT placed me at the Rochester Institute of Technology, though.  I believe that it locked onto this article from last year on Greater Greater Washington about an incident on the Red Line that uses a photo of mine as the lead.  My photo, licensed under Creative Commons, was properly attributed (which I always appreciate).  Now skip down to the bottom of the article, where it provides a brief bio about the author: “Stephen Repetski is a Virginia native and has lived in the Fairfax area for over 20 years.  He has a BS in Applied Networking and Systems Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology and works in Information Technology.”  There it is.  ChatGPT locked onto my byline for the photo with Repetski’s byline for the article, and conflated us.  I suppose that it did a good job in hunting for outside sources, but then it failed to interpret them correctly.  It also possibly locked onto this article about firefighters’ sawing into retired WMATA railcars where I commented asking about the car numbers involved.  In any case, context is everything here, and it conflated things that it had no business conflating.

With that in mind, it probably conflated a few more details here and there with some of the other wrong facts, but those sources weren’t quite as clear.  I have no idea where it pulled the Kodak International Newspaper Snapshot Awards from, though, because until ChatGPT told me that I had won the award twice, I had never heard of it before.  Additionally, a quick Google search indicates that there are no pages that match “Schumin” with “Kodak International Newspaper Snapshot Awards” (at least not until this entry goes up).

I also don’t understand how it matched me up with “the geometry and structure of the built environment”.  I did a Google search on that phrase, in quotes, and I got only one result: Mark Meeder’s doctoral thesis at ETH Zurich about design principles for pedestrian networks.  In Meeder’s thesis, he states on page 20 of the PDF, “The geometry and structure of the built environment has a noticeable influence on walk-friendliness, yet its design is mostly reserved for architects or urban planners with a background in architecture.”  That makes sense in that context, since Meeder is talking about pedestrian facilities.  While Meeder does use photos to illustrate some of his points, none of those photos are mine, and as such, my name doesn’t appear anywhere in the document.

Meanwhile, I was genuinely impressed about some of what it said when I asked it about Schumin Web.  Specifically, these phrases had me somewhat in awe:

  • “One of the defining features of The Schumin Web is Schumin’s attention to detail and his commitment to documenting his experiences and observations in great detail.” (from response #2)
  • “It was one of the earliest personal websites on the internet and has evolved over time to become a diverse collection of content, including personal essays, photographs, and commentary on current events.” (from response #3)
  • “It continues to serve as a testament to the power of personal expression and the enduring potential of the internet as a platform for creativity and communication.” (from response #3)
  • “Despite its longevity, The Schumin Web remains a relatively low-profile website, with a modest but dedicated following.” (from response #5)

Very insightful, if you ask me, since none of those things are something that I’ve talked about before, but nonetheless ring very true.  I have been doing Schumin Web since the early days of the World Wide Web, and, for instance, the folks in “Generation Z” have never known a world that Schumin Web was not a part of.  And despite nearly 27 years’ time online, the site does still maintain a relatively low profile, i.e. it doesn’t have the reach of, say, TechCrunch, but it nonetheless has withstood the test of time, and there are people who still enjoy reading it after many years (except maybe Elyse, who doesn’t read it because she says that she lives it).

Meanwhile, I got the sense that the ChatGPT bot has improved with time.  My friend Aaron Stone asked it “Who is Ben Schumin?” on February 6, i.e. a little more than three weeks before I ran my queries, and the response was a little bit different at that time.  Here’s what it said then:

Ben Schumin is an American photojournalist, filmmaker, and internet personality.  He is best known for his work as a photographer for the George Mason University newspaper, The Gunston Ledger, and for his personal web site, Schumin Web, which features his photography and writings on various topics.  He has also produced and directed several short films, including a series of “fake travelogues” that combine photographs, video, and commentary to satirize various travel destinations.

I didn’t include this in the analysis because it was done on a different date than everything else, thus adding another variable, since there’s no guarantee that the knowledge base and methodology were the same on Aaron’s earlier run as they were for mine (which were all generated over the span of about five minutes).  However, looking at it like I did the others, there are definitely a few whoppers in there.  I never attended George Mason University, and as such, I have never published in their student newspaper, called Fourth Estate (it was only called Gunston Ledger from 1963 to 1969, and would have been called Broadside during the period when I might have been a student).  Likewise, I’ve never produced anything that could be described as a “short film”, with the quality of most of my videos’ being akin to home movies.  The “fake travelogues” part amuses me, because they’re quite real, and not satire by any means.  My results don’t say that, and I thought that bit from the bot was a little mean-spirited (but can an AI bot even be mean-spirited?).

Nonetheless, I still scored it, and with five claims there, one was accurate, three were inaccurate, and one was half-credit, for a score of 30%, i.e. lower than all five scores in my test.  Clearly, the service has improved, producing longer and more detailed responses, even if the accuracy has only risen a little bit (30% here vs. an average of 50% on my examples).  So, still an “F” on how well it knows me, even though it’s gotten a little better.  Still, I wouldn’t trust the service to provide me with any information about new topics that I didn’t know anything about.  I ran it with subjects that I already knew a lot about on purpose.

I also asked it about a few other people, and based on those results, I was even more impressed that it knew who I was right offhand.  I asked it about Elyse, and it wasn’t so forthcoming.  Here was how that went:

Me: Who is Elyse Horvath?

ChatGPT: I’m sorry, but I don’t have any information on a person named Elyse Horvath.  There could be multiple people with that name and without any further context or details, it’s difficult for me to provide any specific information.  Could you please provide more context or information about the Elyse Horvath you’re referring to?

Me: Who is the elevator filmer Elyse Horvath?

ChatGPT: I’m sorry, but I don’t have any information on a person named Elyse Horvath who is an “elevator filmer.”  It’s possible that Elyse Horvath is a person who films elevator rides and posts them on social media or YouTube, but without any further context or details, it’s difficult for me to provide any specific information.

Me: That is the correct Elyse Horvath, who films elevator rides and posts them on social media and YouTube.

ChatGPT: “Thank you for clarifying.  Elyse Horvath is a YouTube content creator who is known for filming and sharing videos of elevator rides from various buildings around the world.  She has been creating elevator videos since 2012 and has amassed a large following on social media, particularly on YouTube, where she has over 120,000 subscribers.  Her channel, called “Elevator Community,” features videos of elevators in a variety of settings, from hotels and shopping centers to residential buildings and parking garages.  Horvath is known for her detailed and informative commentary on each elevator she features, as well as her dedication to documenting the unique features and characteristics of each ride.”

It took a little bit of doing, but it eventually figured out who I was talking about.  But in all fairness, there is another Elyse Horvath, spelled the same way, who is based in Arizona who runs a company that sells a line of pet care products.  Though once I said “elevator filmer”, I would have thought that it should have locked onto the Elyse Horvath that I intended, but it required a little more cajoling to get it to start talking about Elyse.  And then it still told a bit of a whopper there, claiming that the Elyse that I know had 120,000 subscribers on YouTube.  Elyse wishes that she had that many subscribers, and maybe she’ll get there one day, but she’s not there yet.  Additionally, the channel name was incorrect, as Elyse doesn’t really have a brand on her channel, instead just using her name.

It was even worse when I asked about Aaron Stone, even after I gave it details about where he was from and what he would be known for.  I gave it Aaron’s full name, where he was from, and why he would be notable, and this was the best that I could get out of it:

I’m sorry, but as an AI language model, I don’t have access to information about specific individuals unless it has been reported or published online.  However, if the person you are referring to is filming elevators without the consent of the individuals in the elevator, it is important to note that this can be a violation of privacy and may be illegal in some jurisdictions.

That response actually made me a little bit angry.  Not because it didn’t know who Aaron was, but because of the terrible “advice” that it gave.  Specifically, “However, if the person you are referring to is filming elevators without the consent of the individuals in the elevator, it is important to note that this can be a violation of privacy and may be illegal in some jurisdictions.”  That’s perpetuating the myth that you need the consent of people in order to film them in public, making people think that they have a right to privacy when they’re in plain view in a public space.  That’s not the case at all.  If you’re out in plain view in public, then you have no right to privacy whatsoever.  If you want your privacy, stay home.  All that misconception does is make it more difficult for enthusiasts of all kinds of subjects to do their thing.  Get out of here with that nonsense.

So there you have it, I suppose.  The AI chatbot definitely has a long way to go before it’s ready for prime time.  However, it certainly did manage to impress me at times, and it also made me laugh a bit where it missed, and left me wondering about things at times.  Right now, it’s a curiosity more than anything else, but it nonetheless should be interesting to see how this develops in the months and years to come.