The news site Slashdot (“news for nerds, stuff that matters”) is celebrating its 20 year anniversary this October. What could be geekier than celebrating with the help of an open-source neural network?

Neural networks are a type of machine learning program that learn by example, rather than by a human programmer feeding them rules. Whatever the headlines contain, whatever common words and rhythms, a neural network will do its best to imitate. I’ve trained an open-source neural network called char-rnn to imitate all kinds of human things, like paint colors, guinea pig names, and craft beer names.

Slashdot sent me a list of all the headlines they’ve ever run, over 162,000 in all, and asked me to train a neural network to try to generate more.

I used a neural network called char-rnn, an open-source neural network by Andrej Karpathy, and trained it separately on the first and second decades of Slashdot headlines. Let’s see what it learned!

Decade 1: 1998 – 2007

Alternuting Your Computer
The Internet Spectrum Violated
Microsoft To Develop Programming Law
Star Trek Creates Free Memory
Launching the Linux Group Socially
Microsoft Releases New Months
More Pong Users for Kernel Project
Nintendo Goes Canadian Edition to Customers
New State of Second Life
Sexual Security To Allow Australia
Programming Supercomputer Library In Star Wars
What are The Final Fantasy
Review of the Wireless Monster?
Portable Mail With Spidey Law
New 5400 GPL Formed into An Internet
Dvorak on Mario Games?
Half-Life 2X Speed Released
Ban Manhunt 2 Better than Linux?
Vista Releases Denial of the Mumble
New Company Revises Super-Things For Problems
The Dead of Managing Moneys?
Judge Releases Sony Practices in Death
Doom’s On Worldwire Networks
Sun Releases Enterprise in Smackware
I Wants To Control of the Net
Nintendo Can Start in the Wild Button?
Secondors Talk Open Source For Super-Bork?
AOL On Beam Doubt

Some familiar personalities of the tech industry make an appearance:

Microsoft Releases Bill Gates Service Start
Steve Jobs To Be Good
Shatner Awards Up Towards A Game Car Challenge

Cell phones appear to be have been weird in the early days:

Stem Cell Phone Standards in Space
Why Are Blow Systems Taking Your Phone?
New Unreal Tournament Phone Reviews Doubts
Forget To Support Flat Spam Phone

And you find companies doing rather unexpected things:

Microsoft Announces Mac OS X Released
Intel Releasing Linux In A Networks
Sun Upgrades Apple Devices
Corel Launches $100 Laptop
Microsoft Announces Firefox Portal
Mozilla’s Audio Caroffice
Apple Finally Launches Microsoft

I produced the above headlines by allowing the neural network a high creativity setting, so it could range over many different headline topics that it’s seen over and over. But it’s also fun to turn the creativity down near zero, so the neural network can try to generate the most quintessential headlines:

All The Company Programming Software Software?
Some Computer Computer Solution of the New Company Computer
More Anti-Spam For Software Computer
Mac OS X Interview with Linux Computer
Mac OS X Accused of the Business
Sony Plans To Start Patent System For All Time
Security Hole For Security Hole
Security Hole in the Star Trek
Computer Computer Computer Computer Software?

Decade 2: 2007 – 2017

The neural network had a tougher time with decade 2 – it seems the headlines became longer and more complex, as Slashdot experimented with new formats and new topics. The neural network struggled to create grammatical headlines as a result. But it still did its best to reflect the new topics of the last decade. Compared to the late 1990s and early 2000s, some companies and topics disappeared, while the coverage of Apple in particular exploded. Star Trek and Star Wars, however, remain perennial Slashdot favorites.
Here are some neural network-generated headlines for 2007-2017:

Twitter Discovered In the Pirate Bay
Google Bacon Medal To Contract Computational Lab
Scientists Discover Free Wi-Fi Store In the US
Steve Jobs Sues Death of the Future
Apple Seeks To Be Become Windows 10 Has Been Control the Desktops
Stanford Computer Scientists Develop Super Man Sales For Computer Science
Star Wars Hacked In Life On the iPhone
Computer Finds Court Broke Math For Secret Company
How Do You Design To Stay Them Bomb
Ask Slashdot: How Clinton Uses Display For Android Chips On Netflix Court From the Jobs
People ‘Fork" At a Flaw Refused
The Pirate Bay Tracking Storage Security For Windows 10
German Porn Update To Compete At CNSR Healthy Court Says
Supreme Court Can Be Lingeries
Apple Says the Moon Project To Pay $1.7 Billion For Free Software
Steve Jobs Allowed To Deal With Solar Power
Apple Sues Apple To Get Flash Mathematics
Microsoft Slashdot: How To Build a Bad Privacy For Windows 10
Twitter That We Use Facebook To Receive The Life
Linux Kernel 3.1.0 Launches In Late, Facebook To Sue Star Trek
The One-Department For Alleged For Connectivity: 3-D Printed Baby
Black Hole Proposed

My favorite part, though? The Slashdot headlines that appeared to come from an alternate, much more advanced, somewhat terrifying timeline:

Google Returns To the Space Station
Mac OS X Project Announces Space Station
Sony Announces Mars Rover Release
Google Patents Intelligent Space Telescope
Officials Release Android Apps For New Space Telescope
Star Trek Control of the Wild Start Up
Scientists Army Interviewed
Company Computer Releases Cloning Crime
Building A Nano-Tech Back
Full Life On The Linux
Chernobyl Announces Company And Educators
SGI Launches Space Station
FreeBSD Base Scientific Hits the Moon
Red Hat Releases Linux Games And Moon
Apple’s Moon Review
About New Moons of a Company
Looking For Mars Landers to Linux
Mars Rover Set for Alien China
Congress To Buy Mars Mister
Building a Top 100 Company For Mars
Apple Considering Debut in People Processors
Apple vs. Biology Details
An Android Bans Secret Project For Console Devices
Your Own Portals
U.S. Considering Death of the Solar System
Black Holes from Digital Dell
Black Hole Sension of the Linux
Microsoft’s Lab Changes “Space”
IBM Moves to The Matrix
Super Planet Wars Solved

The quintessential headline, though? When I trained the neural network with all 20 years of Slashdot headlines, then turned down the creativity level to near zero, I reveal the following essential Slashdot headlines, distilled from 20 years of technology news:

Sun Sues Open Source Project Content
Sun Sues Anti-Spam Computers
Sun Sues Security Flaw Contest
Sun Sues New Star Trek To Stop The Math
Sun Sues Anti-Spam Standards And The Star Wars To Stop Computers
Star Wars Companies Are Streaming the Star Wars
Star Wars To Support Linux Development
Apple Settles The Future of Star Wars
Apple Releases Secure State of the World
Apple Sues Apple To Start The Solar Power Project
Sony Sues Apple Server For Seconds Off From SpaceX Project
Ask Slashdot: Do We Want To Be the Computers?
The Desist of the Planet

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