The following is a short interview with Succinctly series author Joe Booth, whose latest book, Natural Language Processing Succinctly, was published recently. You can download the book from our ebook portal. If you would like to discuss things with Joe directly, you can reach him at his website.
Joseph D. Booth
What should people know about natural language processing? Why is it important?
Siri, Google Home, and Amazon Echo are all examples of natural language processing. Being able to converse with the computer is an ultimate goal, and this book should introduce some of the software principles involved in reaching that goal.
When did you first become interested in this subject?
From the first Star Trek episode, to playing adventure and Infocom games, to the Cornerstone database, I’ve always felt the need to improve how users interact with the computer.
How will this subject change over the next few years?
The big guys in NLP are constantly improving the ability to recognize and respond to text. With cell phones and speech recognition, more applications are likely to integrate natural language as an input mechanism to their software.
Do you see the subject as part of a larger trend in software development?
The entire branch of artificial intelligence is becoming more mainstream, not just academic work anymore. Natural language processing is just part of this; machine learning, self-driving cars, intelligent robots are no longer just the domain of science-fiction authors.
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What other books or resources on this topic do you recommend?
Natural Language Processing with Python and Taming Text are two books that take a hands-on approach to natural language processing. There are many other good books that provide a more theoretical understanding of NLP.
What are three key pieces of info that developers can take away from this book?
I hope this introduction allows developers to understand parsing better and begin to improve the interaction users have with their software. I hope they enjoy the detective work in taking a collection of words and trying to understand the meaning behind those words.
Do you have any tips for developers trying to learn more about natural language processing?
Have a small target in mind, perhaps a friendly scheduler or chat-bot. Limit the domain to add usefulness to your application; don’t aim for creating Siri’s wiser sister.
Who are your role models in the developer world?
I like Alan Cooper’s take on user-interface design, and Erik Mueller (author of Thought Treasure). I also enjoy Dr. James McCaffrey’s machine learning books at Syncfusion. Bruce Schneier is another (Data and Goliath and Click Here to Kill Everybody).
What were the biggest challenges you faced when learning about natural language processing?
Trying to keep the focus on the practical application of natural language processing. There are many APIs used in the book; I wanted to keep the focus on how to apply NLP to applications while trying to illustrate the basic concepts that need to be understood.
How do you stay up-to-date on industry news?
Read, read, and read. We tend to get immersed in technical books and online topics. But go to the library and read books about the future of computing. Read Hannah Fry’s Hello World or Bruce Schneier’s Click Here to Kill Everybody. I find that understanding the future of computing and society often help me to be a better developer.
If you liked this ebook, we recommend the following additional titles by Joseph D. Booth: