Wednesday, June 7, 2023

And so it begins...

I'm working on an article that's due shortly. For a variety of reasons, I decided to submit a HARO query to obtain additional information for this article.

HARO stands for "Help a Reporter Out," and it's a service that connects journalists to sources. I joined years ago when the business was in its infancy, and it's always served me very well.

The way it works is I formulate a query ("Looking for people with expertise in xyz") and send it to HARO. They post it and blast it out to a million subscribers in one of their twice-a-day email alerts. Anyone with the expertise I'm seeking submits their answer, which is then forwarded to me. (To answer a reader's question, the service has several levels of membership; I'm using the "free" level.)

I've used HARO dozens of times, most notably back when I was writing for Crafts Report Magazine (now called Handmade Business) when it was a convenient method to connect with artists and crafters outside my sphere of influence. I "cyber-met" some fascinating and talented people through HARO queries.

Anyway, that's a long-winded way of explaining what HARO is, and why I'm skilled in submitting the types of queries that will garner me precisely the information I need for what I'm writing. Crucially, however, I haven't sent a HARO query in several years.

Yesterday I sent in a HARO query, and today it got posted. Almost immediately I received six replies.

Except ... here's the thing: Four of them were AI-generated.

How could I tell? Because all four had almost identical formats. They started as follows:

"I am [name deleted], Director of [company deleted], a digital marketing agency. With a passion for web development and design, my focus on usability and user experience has been instrumental in [company name's] success. Here is my suggestion for your query..."
Or, "I am [name deleted], Co-Founder and Managing Director of [company deleted], with 20 years of IT experience, a Master's in Networking, and many industry certifications. Simplifying IT for reliable business tools and faster repair. Here is my suggestion for your query..."
The suggestions were then some short little blah-blah piece of nonsense that had very little to do with the subject matter I was seeking. Not only that, but all four replies allegedly came from high-tech companies, completely at odds with the rural-themed subject I was seeking. The company websites were allegedly genuine, unless websites are AI-generated these days...?

The remaining two replies were clearly human-generated, with cheerful greetings and relevant information.

I thought about lodging my concerns to HARO, but it's not their business to filter replies; it's simply their business to connect journalists to sources. It's up to me to filter out the AI nonsense.

It's a brave new world out there, folks...


  1. I don't know if you are paying for the service. if you are your concern is valid and the AI garbage should be filtered out at the server level, especially since it doesn't pertain one iota to your initial query. Do you have the time to sort through garbage? I certainly don't. I am a retired nurse and I preform hospital and clinic chart audits for potential malpractice for a regional law firm and I use a similar service and I lodge a complaint with the web site and AI and scam/phishing replies diminished to almost nil. It may be to your advantage to shoot them an email.

  2. I wonder what the point is, Patrice? WHY did you get AI replies? Anyone what to give the cliff notes version on what is going on with all this AI nonsense? Seems we’d never heard the term before a few months ago and now it’s being talked about everywhere. Seems scary but I’d like to understand.

  3. Maybe the alien spaceships we're being groomed to accept are doing this.
    Or maybe this mess is to direct us in other ways.
    Or maybe it's China scammed just wanting to jam us up.
    You did hit a good note. How to identify AI. That would make a good article. Or maybe I've been out in the woods scratching insect bites too long to see existing publications.

  4. The WHY is so we get used to not actually talking with each other. So that we don’t trust each other. So that we can be against each other. So that we are more suggestible to what ‘they’ want us to think.

  5. It seems like google is using it to identify old "spam" comments on our blogs. And KDP used it to grammar check an ebook I published years ago. Unfortunately, AI is not necessarily accurate. This article, for example, , where a lawyer used chat bot to prepare a brief and the bot added fake legal cases. Or this video clip where AI admits it can lie - Now, we have to fact check AI, except those who think they're in charge want to use AI to fact check us!

  6. AI is a big deal right now, everything from art to music to "busywork" to medicine, and this doesn't even touch on the metaphysical aspects. Just today, Rod Dreher posted a piece about AI on his substack - it's fantastic, but behind a paywall, but I think he does offer 7-day trials ( Rick Beato recently had a piece about AI in music here: and as far as the fallibility of it all, there's Jonathan Turley's lawsuit against ChatGPT for allowing the thing to come up as "fact" that he was accused of sexual harassment on a trip with students to Alaska. (He's never been to Alaska with students to begin with...) .

    Definitely something to think about... Does the language, to you, sound similar to the "off" comment you mentioned before where I mentioned it might be AI?

  7. I read your latest article with interest, as I do all of the work you submit to This one was concerning ChatGPT. Just thought I would point something out about your experience with it. Now, I am not a fan of rushing down this road of AI. The thing to remember right now, with it in it’s infancy, these machines (actually the machine’s algorithms) are still learning. As time passes, these things will get exponentially “better”. “Better” being scary (to me). And another thing to remember, this is all the developers are letting us see for now. They have much better stuff hidden under raps. Every use of any of these machines by a random human is a learning experience for the machine. In 5 years, you won’t be able to tell the difference between an AI generated article and one by yourself. For now, we who have used it, are both it’s trainers and guinea pigs.

  8. A business professional we work with told us that recently there over 80 applicants for a position. All but 2 had AI component to their application--many submitting the exact same written portion. It made the job of whittling down applicants very easy! The 2 original thinkers were brought in, the rest dismissed.