Improved Content Matching

20110824 matchingI recently came across a BBC news article, "When algorithms control the world." The author, Jane Wakefield, suggests that algorithms have gotten so sophisticated and are relied on so heavily in how we interact with our electronic world, that they are bound to fail or takeover if we don't tame them. She's not envisioning a future where machines actually takeover the world like Blade Runner, Terminator, or The Matrix.

Wakefield posits, "Algorithms may be cleverer than humans but they don't necessarily have our sense of perspective."

A timely statement for us at Turnitin as we are always working to deliver the most useful originality reports to our instructors and students. We recently imposed a bit of "human perspective" to our OriginalityCheck matching algorithm. As the Turnitin database nears 200 million student papers, we have been hearing more and more instructors concerned about the quality of matches, especially to other student papers.

By making some small adjustments to the matching algorithm, we are able to reduce the number of small matches to other student papers therefore giving preference to matches to internet content and publications. Our fundamental matching algorithms are the same, but what is displayed as a match may change.

You can rest easy knowing that we've tamed our algorithm. You can focus on teaching your students and reinforcing the importance of academic integrity and ethics. Fill them with knowledge, for knowledge is power, and they'll need it … if the machines ever rise against us.