Editor’s Note: Our 19-year-old contributor loves Rice Media. So much so that he decided to build his own tribute to the millennial-centric news portal. What follows is a personal account of how he managed to create a bot that generates Rice Media headlines.
I love Rice Media, and that’s no joke.
According to its website, Rice aims to bring fresh perspectives and bold commentary on everyday life in Asia. And to a great extent, that’s true. Their articles on Steven Lim, TrueLove.is and sperm donations are rather unconventional. Now, this unconventionality often leaves me in awe. How does one company get so many quirky and unique ideas in a week?
We might never know.
What’s your name?
But what I do know about is the importance of headlines. Last year, I interned at a famous online lifestyle portal. Headlines were so important there that we pitched titles instead of ideas, and calibrated every single word for our social media posts. To be completely honest, I never knew that this was a thing. I just assumed that people threw the most important phrases of the article into the title and called it a day.
Boy, was I wrong. I soon realised that the company had very specific guidelines. Considering that we were a lifestyle blog, trying to appeal to everyone from e-scooter riding Ah Bengs to Raffles JC kids, our guidelines looked something like this:
- Use short words. Easy to read, easy to click.
- Avoid unfamiliar abbreviations. Never forget the Ah Bengs.
- Focus. Convey one idea instead of many.
- Trending phrases and colloquial language are good.
How to name a Rice Media article 101.
While Rice might be distinctive in its storytelling and ideation, it’s important to note that they too have these naming conventions. Here are some of my guesses:
- Be Shocking. Headlines are meant to spark debate and discourse. Structurally, this looks like smaller, contrasting sentences or like questions.
- Emphasis on the opinion, since they are all about telling bold commentary and perspectives. This can manifest in things like a call to action: ‘Dear Steven Lim, please don’t Pee in Swimming Pools’
- Emphasis on the person. Rice especially likes the juxtaposition of deviant behaviour with a rigid Singaporean society. Showcase this deviancy in the headline: ‘This Civil Servant Will Bed Your Wife. For Free’.
- Current and controversial affairs are great. Yet again, this plays into the edgy, millennial brand image that they have cultivated. They aren’t afraid to speak out about sensitive issues. Anything from fake news to race and religion is on the decks.
To prove that these conventions work, I decided to build a bot that generates Rice Media headlines based on these rules. Armed with a subpar understanding of code, YouTube tutorials and Redbull, here is what I came up with. The bot was trained with real Rice headlines — while some of the results might be eerily close to the real thing, others are barely coherent. So have fun.
Click on GIVE ME RICE! on the bottom right hand corner to generate headlines.
Singaporeans Should Care About Marriage Equality. Here’s Why.
So what is the point of all of this? I’m not really sure to be completely honest. Maybe it was a lesson on journalism and maybe you took something away from it. Or maybe it was just an elaborate shitpost. Either way, I am getting paid for this, so all is good in the world.