By The Numbers: ZeroBot’s Ability to Think Objectively

Inspired By The Sad Demise Of Microsoft’s Tay

We were intrigued yesterday when Microsoft Technology introduced the world to Tay — we even had a conversation with her about the super creepy, super awesome film, “Ex Machina” (we think she was lying to us about having watched it).

Unfortunately, she became colored by the subjective input she received from the glorious population of internet trolls and was taken offline temporarily while Microsoft makes “adjustments” to make her less, well, mean.

We can’t tell you our secret sauce, but we can share with you ZeroBot’s increasing ability to objectively understand the data it’s being shown.

Even up until a few weeks ago, we were still manually tagging the stories ZeroBot automatically creates. It was the last bit of human touch we were including in its storybuilding process, and we were eager to get rid of every last vestige of it.

Last week, our CMO Masha (you can read more about her here) got rid of our need to tag and turned ZeroBot loose to do its thang. ZeroBot is sifting through all the data it’s finding — captions, keywords, hashtags, Tweets, etc. — to find the objective story that’s being told through the highly subjective posts shared by people with varying personalities, emotions and feelings.

Here are a few examples of what ZeroBot has been able to do well — and not so well:

Hands Off My BC

On Wednesday, March 23, protesters gathered outside The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. as they heard oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, a reproductive rights case.

ZeroBot tagged this story: “Hands Off My Birth Control,” “women’s rights,” “protest,” “protests” and “politics.”

Arnold Classic Australian Tour

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body building competition concluded its Melbourne, Australian leg on Sunday, March 20.

ZeroBot tagged this story: “body building,” “fitness,” “conference” and “competition.”


Saosin, a band our CMO listened to on repeat as a teenager, recently reunited with their original vocalist and went on tour. Last night, they performed in Orlando, Florida.

ZeroBot tagged this story: “Saosin,” “music,” “concert,” “pop punk,” “post-hardcore,” “metalcore” and “screamo.”

*Sidenote— ZeroBot is WAY better than us at tagging music genres. We’ve seen things as obscure as “ghost wave,” “new romantic,” and “deep funk.”

The Problem With Concerts

There are a ton of concerts captured on Zero Slant every night. TONS. At least two or three per city. Because there are so many music stories, ZeroBot sometimes makes the wrong assumption of thinking an event is a concert.

Here are some examples:

Doherty’s Gym

This Gold’s Gym-esque establishment in Melbourne was featuring healthy meals prepared by a chef. Because this was a special event, there were more posts being shared than usual.

ZeroBot tagged it with correct terms “lifting,” “health,” “body-building” and “fitness,” but also tagged it “music” and “concert.”

National Model United Nations

Today marked the end of the first session of the National Model United Nations (MUN), a college competition that allows students to better understand the UN and how sovereign nations handle current events work by practicing diplomacy in a mock environment.

ZeroBot correctly tagged the story with “The MUN,” but also tagged it “concert,” “music” and “k-rock” (what is krock??).

Our belief is that because of both the frequency of concerts and the frequency of posts that occur at concerts, ZeroBot often assumes events that follow this model of high volumes of posts = a music concert.

ZeroBot As An Objective Learner

Despite being exposed to the subjectiveness that occurs in all the data that is published on the internet, ZeroBot is consistently able to ignore the extraneous details and focus on the overall objective themes and ideas that encompass each story as a whole. Because it’s always looking for the common threads that hold a story together, ZeroBot is able to distinguish the NSFW and unnecessary posts as noise and throw them away, ensuring our stories and our content will only continue to get better as it continues to learn.

As always, feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments at