Whenever there is an earthquake in southern California, a system called Quakebot analyses notifications from the US Geological Survey and automatically creates a blog post for the Los Angeles Times.
We first noticed this in a post titled “Earthquake aftershock: 2.7 quake strikes near Westwood” in the LA Times today via Gizmodo’s Adam Clark Estes.
At the bottom of the post it reads, “This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.”
That author is Ken Schwencke, a journalist and web developer who lives in Los Angeles.
Schwencke created the Quakebot system about three years ago, but it has been functional for about two, Schwencke tells Business Insider.
Quakebot is an automated system that lives on the Los Angeles Times’s servers. The system receives emails from the US Geological Survey, runs through a checklist of where it is, and then determines if it’s newsworthy based on the magnitude.
It then parses out content from the email and inputs it into the LA Times’s content management service. The post is structured on a formula based on previous posts.
“It saves everyone the initial rush to write something,” Schwencke says.
If there’s a 6.0 quake in Los Angeles, Quakebot automatically set a post live. But if it’s anything smaller than 6.0, Schwencke says, the blog post goes to the copy edit desk, and then the editors can decide whether or not to post it.