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Tech Writer Finds Three Reliable Uses for ChatGPT

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
May 31, 2023

Despite the concerns and pitfalls of the implications of ChatGPT and other generative AI chatbots—most recently, the story of a lawyer who used it for faulty legal research—it can be made to work for you, longtime technology writer and editor Harry McCracken wrote in Fast Company.

Having written about his reservations about the technology, McCracken purchased the $20-per-month ChatGPT Plus service, which includes access to the latest GPT-4 version, support for plug-ins, and integration with Bing search. He found three successful uses for it.

The first was household hints. Dropping his electric toothbrush’s AAA battery down the bathroom sink drain, he searched Google for advice on what to do. Its results led him to plumbing-company websites. ChatGPT told him to retrieve the battery with a telescoping tool with a magnet on the end. He got one at Home Depot, “and it worked like a charm,” he wrote.

The second was tech tutoring. Trying to figure out Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), an element of web presentation, he found “vast quantities of online resources that can help figure out code, but they tend to provide more possible solutions than I need.” ChatGPT, by contrast, provided “a snippet of code tailored precisely to my scenario; all I had to do was cut and paste.”

The third was writing assistance. Knowing that ChatGPT is not factually accurate in many cases, he went to it for a headline idea. Pasting the text into the chatbot and asking for suggestions. He got an idea that he edited to his liking.

He also admitted to having it writing search engine optimization (SEO) summaries (visible only to Google and other web crawlers) for his articles, and said he is “excited” to use it to summarize transcripts of interviews he conducts, but it can process only about 10 minutes of transcript at a time.

“As a human being who makes a living by writing stuff, I can’t say I’m rooting for AI to get better at it than I am,” McCracken wrote. However, he did ask ChatGPT to craft its own version of this newsletter.

“I’m not too panicky about the prospect of being rendered obsolete—yet,” he concluded. “[B]ut see what you think.”