Followers of The Ecommerce Intelligencer might already be familiar with Hari, who leads our business development team. Some of his greatest hits over the years include titles such as The internet isn’t as transparent as you think, What the news won’t tell you about Black Friday and The next tech goldrush is about to start, and it’s not what you expect.

With Hari being away in Malaysia for a couple of weeks for his wedding, we needed someone to take over his mantle.

Semantics3 at Hari’s wedding party in Malaysia

As part of our strategic outline of becoming a deep neural networks-first company, we figured that the best alternative was not to get a ghost writer or an intern, but rather train a recurrent neural network to replace Hari himself. (Sorry, Hari!)

We trained our sights onto Hari’s writing with hopes of recreating his Pulitzer-worthy posts.

Introducing HariNet

Using the latest advances in deep neural networks to train on the entire corpus of Hari’s prolific output on our company blog.

The Model

At the heart of HariNet is fundamentally a recurrent neural network. The original inspiration came from the famous blog post by Andrej Karpathy, ‘The Unreasonable effectiveness of recurrent neural networks’. In fact there is a parody Donald Trump account which auto-generates tweets based on a LSTM network trained on all of his tweets. #MakeLSTMGreatAgain.

The core idea is that trained on a given corpus, be able to predict the next word that could come out of it. We can then create a generative model to generate next text. A really good intro to this concept and also RNNs in general:

We used a sequence to sequence model trained on words. This was implemented on tensorflow using the seq2seq model. Tensorflow has a good explanation of it:

Network details

Since we were quite time-pressed for writing this blog post, the network details were optimized on the time we had (working out on a cafe on Malaysia Starbucks, with limited internet access)

  • Size of RNN hidden state = 256
  • Network model was LSTM
  • Sequence length = 25
  • Number of epochs = 1000

Generating the data

For a company that prides in its content gathering, extraction for this particularly task was actually done manually. We literally had to scour every blog post and copy the data and pasted into a text file — harinet.txt

A sample of what it looked like.

MacBook-Air-11:Downloads admin$ head harinet.txt 
The internet isn’t as transparent as you think
How the structure of a human-readable web creates barriers for
e-commerce price comparison. In theory, e-commerce shopping
promises a lot: it offers the holy grail of an efficient
marketplace, giving you the best prices, allowing you to view,

MacBook-Air-11:Downloads admin$ wc -l harinet.txt 
    1179 harinet.txt
MacBook-Air-11:Downloads admin$ wc -w harinet.txt 
   23869 harinet.txt
MacBook-Air-11:Downloads admin$ wc -c harinet.txt 
  150848 harinet.txt

The Machine

We went with a g2.2xlarge instance running on Ubuntu 14.04. Setting up Cuda and Cudnn took the most time but otherwise things were mostly smooth-sailing. We used Tensorflow 0.9 for this entire project, utilizing the pre-built lstm and seq2seq models.

htop was used to monitor the processes
watch --color -n1.0 gpustat -cp - was used to monitor the state of the GPU

Training the Network

Neural networks are fundamentally about hyper-parameter optimizations. In our case due to the time constraints we had, we had to go with a plain vanilla pre-built model. There wasn’t much optimization we did, other than tweaking the number of epochs.

It would have been interesting to try out different networks such as GRU and also use characters (similar to Char-RNN by Karpathy) instead of words.

Generated post

Without further adieu, here is our first guest post by HariNet.


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Concluding remarks

Despite our time-constrained, caffeine-fueled optimizations from a random Starbucks in Malaysia, our best efforts only seems to have created an intern-level replacement.

last minute optimizations

With Hari’s skills still far outweighing the performance of our network, we look forward to his return at the helm of our corporate blog. But with sufficient tweaking, and some human creative output, we could probably replace our planned Winter marketing intern.