Put AI to work
June 26-27, 2017: Training
June 27-29, 2017: Tutorials & Conference
New York, NY

AI within O'Reilly Media

Paco Nathan (derwen.ai)
4:50pm5:30pm Thursday, June 29, 2017
Verticals and applications
Location: Gramercy East/West Level: Non-technical
Secondary topics:  Machine Learning, Media, Natural Language

What you'll learn

  • Explore examples of how a media company leverages AI, particularly for enterprise training and learning use cases
  • Understand common issues in media, training, and search


Paco Nathan explains how O’Reilly Media employs AI, from the obvious (chatbots, case studies about other firms) to the less so (using AI to show the structure of content in detail, enhance search and recommendations, and guide editors for gap analysis, assessment, pathing, etc.). Approaches include vector embedding search, summarization, TDA for content gap analysis, and speech-to-text to index video.

AI efforts within O’Reilly Media began in late 2016, starting with improved search analytics and indexing before being combined with full-text NLP analytics of books and video transcripts, then topic modeling for accepted conference proposals. On the one hand, these techniques help augment the capabilities of editors (e.g., offering inferred themes/mappings for the content which they curated). On the other hand, O’Reilly inserts a human in the loop into what the text analytics based on ML automation produces.

The foundation of this work produces an ontology that describes the semantics of most audience interactions with O’Reilly Media, as well as vendor-sponsor relations. One of the important lessons O’Reilly learned was the value and priority of maintaining integrity between the human-scale ontology graph and the large semantic similarity graph produced by ML automation. (Crucial use cases operate on the former.)

Some of these experiences at O’Reilly are relatively unique, since its content is from a number of different publishers (all on Safari) across a broad range of disciplines and content types, served to thousands of enterprise organizations and B2C customers. Overall, this work reflects recent major changes in industry, away from “reference” content, with much more emphasis placed on training (less about topics and keywords, more about job roles and skills). Looking ahead, there are opportunities for L&D buyers to leverage ontologies when evaluating training vendors, which would require an independent, cross-vendor body to manage a constrained vocabulary.

Photo of Paco Nathan

Paco Nathan


Paco Nathan is known as a “player/coach” with core expertise in data science, natural language processing, machine learning, and cloud computing. He has 35+ years of experience in the tech industry, at companies ranging from Bell Labs to early-stage startups. His recent roles include director of the Learning Group at O’Reilly and director of community evangelism at Databricks and Apache Spark. Paco is the cochair of Rev conference and an advisor for Amplify Partners, Deep Learning Analytics, Recognai, and Primer. He was named one of the "top 30 people in big data and analytics" in 2015 by Innovation Enterprise.