ChatGPT: Optimizing Language Models for Dialogue
We’ve trained a model called ChatGPT which interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests. ChatGPT is a sibling model to InstructGPT, which is trained to follow an instruction in a prompt and provide a detailed response.
Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT3) is an AI language model that uses deep learning to produce human-like text. Given an initial text as prompt, it will produce text.
It’s caused quite a stir. For example: AI bot ChatGPT stuns academics with essay-writing skills and usability.
A few people have been experimenting with it, to see if it can generate technical documentation when prompted. We have too. Below are a few of our experiments:
Our question: Document how to turn on autosave in Word for Microsoft 365.
- Open Microsoft Word on your computer.
- Click on the “File” tab in the top left corner of the screen.
- In the left-hand menu, click on the “Options” option.
- In the “Word Options” window that appears, click on the “Save” tab on the left side of the screen.
- In the “Save” tab, check the box next to “Save AutoRecover information every” and enter the desired time interval for autosaving in the field next to it.
- Click on the “OK” button to save the changes and close the “Word Options” window.
- Your changes will now be automatically saved every time the specified time interval passes.
Compare that to Microsoft’s Help topic:
Both answers are correct, but one is definitely better than the other.
Our question: Document how to get accident details for accidents occurring in 2020 from the Transport for London Unified API.
To obtain accident details for accidents occurring in 2020 from the Transport for London Unified API, follow these steps:
- Go to the Transport for London Unified API website (https://api.tfl.gov.uk/).
- Sign up for an API key by clicking on the “Sign up” button on the homepage and filling out the necessary information.
- Once you have received your API key, go to the documentation page and navigate to the “Accidents and Casualties” section.
- Select the “Accidents and Casualties” endpoint from the list of available endpoints.
- In the endpoint documentation, scroll down to the “Parameters” section and locate the “date” parameter.
- Add the parameter “date=2020” to the endpoint URL, along with your API key. For example: https://api.tfl.gov.uk/Accidents/Casualties?date=2020&app_id=[YOUR_APP_ID]&app_key=[YOUR_APP_KEY]
That’s an impressive answer, apart from the fact that the API no longer requires people to sign up for an API key.
So what does this mean for the future of technical documentation?
ChatGPT seems to offer an interesting way to create instructional content automatically.
Does that mean it’s bad news for Technical Authors?
Well, developers can already create instructions quickly, by taking a series of screenshots and pasting them into a document. Quick and dirty, and usually an approach that organisations avoid.
The text generated by ChatGPT is a little wordy, so it probably would need an edit before it was published.
So we think ChatGPT could be a time saving tool for Technical Authors, rather than a threat to their careers.
There will still be a need to decide what content users will need, how to organise that content, and to check the content generated is the best answer.
And, of course, there will be an ongoing need to maintain the documentation.