Vocations: A Linguist Helping Apps Learn to Speak Millennial

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Marsal Gavalda is the director of machine intelligence at Yik Yak.

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Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

Q. What is Yik Yak and what is your job there?

A. We’re a location-based social network used mostly by millennials, especially on college campuses. It has a general radius of between one and five miles. If members change locations, they’ll see posts, or yaks, of members in the new area. My team develops the natural language processing system that analyzes members’ posts related to patterns and emotions. My job is to use the analyses to make the app as engaging as possible.

Can you give an example?

Suppose a member posts, “Ordering a pizza for the game…

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