Almost Timely News: Protecting Your AI Prompts (2023-04-16) :: View in Browser
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100% of this newsletter was written by me, the human, with no contribution from AI. If there ever is a contribution generated by AI, it will be prominently disclosed.
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What’s On My Mind: Protecting Your AI Prompts
During a meeting this past week, I demonstrated some of the prompt engineering techniques I use to get good results out of generative AI services like ChatGPT and the GPT family of models. I’ve been doing prompt engineering for years now, starting with the GPT-2 model that was released in 2020; lots of practice means you eventually get decent at it. The folks I was showing were impressed by what the prompts did, especially since their own prompts were generating lackluster results.
At the end of the meeting, they asked a very important question. “Hey, if you don’t mind, could you send me that prompt?”
Now, in this particular context, this person is a trusted friend and associate, so of course I said yes. But that’s an important question because it underscores the way people think about large language model prompts – and how they don’t think about them.
Because they look like natural language – like this newsletter, like the interoffice memo sent around last week asking people to please not microwave fish in the common room, like the social media posts we read every day – we assume they are just language, just words. But they’re not just words.
Imagine, at the end of a meeting with a developer, I asked the developer, “Hey, could you send me the source code to the product you’re building?” What would that developer’s response be? What SHOULD that developer’s response be? Can you imagine asking someone to just send along their proprietary code, secret sauce recipe, or hard-earned techniques? (especially for free) The response should usually be a polite but firm no, and perhaps, depending on the circumstances, an offer to allow the person to purchase that valuable intellectual property.
What is programming? What is code? Is it arcane constructs like R, Python, C, etc. that look like this?
df <- read_csv(“data/analytics.12.13.2023.csv”) |> clean_names() |> distinct() |> select(date,source,medium,campaign,sessions,conversions)
That’s certainly computer code. What does it do? At the most abstract level, it gives a computer instructions to follow to achieve a repeatable, reliable result.
What about this?
You are a marketing analyst. You know SQL, R, set theory, tidyverse libraries and methods. You know marketing analytics, Google Analytics 4, BigQuery, attribution modeling.
Your first task is to write code to import a CSV file using today’s date in the name, prepare the variable names to be compliant with best practice naming standards, ensure the rows of data are unique, and then subset the data into date, the source, medium, and campaign dimensions for sessions and conversions.
Is this just words? Is it just language? No. This is functionally a computer program. This is software.
Andrej Karpathy had a great quote on Twitter back in January: “The hottest programming language in 2023 is English.” This is a completely true statement thanks to large language models like the GPT family. Using plain language, we give computers instructions to generate reliable, repeatable results.
Would you give away your source code, as a company? Would you give away the detailed Excel macros you’ve written? Does your employer even permit you to do so, to share anything made as a work product? Chances are, the answer is no – and in many cases, whether or not there are explicit rules against sharing trade secrets, you shouldn’t share them.
What we need to realize and recognize is that our prompts are code. Our prompts are software. Our prompts are intellectual property that’s valuable. It’s not a press release or a blog post, it’s computer code – just code that non-formally trained programmers can write.
So, how do we decide what we should and should not share? Here’s the easy test to apply to any prompt: will this prompt in question save time, save money, or make money, within the context of our business? For example, the other day, I wrote a prompt that ingests two sets of Google Analytics data for traffic and conversions, then compares the two and writes a marketing strategy to help improve our digital marketing. This prompt has been incorporated into R code that talks to OpenAI’s GPT-3.5-Turbo API so that it can run over and over again in an automated way against a roster of clients. The net result will be great marketing analysis first drafts that I can incorporate into the guidance we give to Trust Insights clients.
Am I about to share that prompt? Absolutely not. That is going to be part of the secret sauce of what we do; the prompt itself is almost two pages long because of the special conditions that control it and make it do exactly what we want. It’s a prompt that will save our clients money and make my company money, so it triggers two conditions in the time and money rule.
I wrote a prompt the other day for a friend to take a first crack at some wedding vows. It was detailed and thorough, and the results it generated literally brought my friend to tears. Would I share that prompt? Yes. It’s not material to what I do, to what Trust Insights does, and it’s not going to save me any time or money. I have no intention of getting into the wedding planning business either, so it’s not going to make me any money, and thus that’s a prompt I would feel very comfortable sharing. It clears all three conditions of the time and money rule.
Here’s a gray zone example. I was talking to a friend who works in finance, and she was saying her company creates investment strategies for high net worth individuals. I drafted a prompt that creates such an investment strategy, and then a prompt refinement process that drills down into specifics of the process to create a custom investment guide for these kinds of folks using some investment data. Would I share that prompt? Well, it doesn’t save me any time or money. Is it going to make me money? Not directly, because Trust Insights isn’t a financial services company. But would we ever work with a financial services institution? Sure. We have a regional bank as a client right now. Would they be interested in such a process? Probably. So even though it’s not a direct moneymaker, I could see it being valuable enough that someone else would be willing to pay money for it, so sharing that prompt would probably fall on the no side.
This isn’t a huge stretch for many of us. We give away small stuff all the time. We give away blog posts or newsletter issues like what you’re enjoying right now. But we charge for books, and people expect us to charge for books. We charge for speeches from the stage. We charge for consulting and private counsel that’s uniquely fitted to a customer’s needs.
Here’s one last consideration to take into account: your employment agreement. Check it over carefully to see what conditions you agreed to when you accepted an offer of employment, particularly around intellectual property. Some companies say (reasonably so) that anything you create at work is owned by them – which would mean prompts you wrote at work are no longer yours to give away or share, any more than computer code you wrote at work or a slide deck you made at work is yours to give away or share. Some companies are so restrictive that they work clauses into their employment agreements that say anything you create – whether or not at work – while you are employed by them is theirs, even if you do it on your own time. And because you signed the employee agreement as a condition of employment, you are bound by it.
For job seekers, inspect employment agreements carefully and request changes in it that are fair and equitable. It is more than reasonable to say that anything created by you at work, by the request of your employer or as a part of the duties you are paid for in your job description, is owned by your employer. But talk to an attorney (yes, a human one, not ChatGPT) about what protections you should ask for to keep things like prompts you write outside of work as your own intellectual property, especially if they save you time, save you money, or make you money.
The key takeaway here is that prompts aren’t just casual pieces of text to fling around. Treat them with care, consideration, and caution – especially if they save time, save money, or make money. If you’re an employer, you need to have clear policies in place if you don’t already about how people should treat intellectual property – because the average person isn’t going to think of a prompt as code, but it is 100% code that you own. You are, of course, welcome to give away whatever you want, it’s your life and your business. But I would advise caution before simply flinging them into the wind, just the same way I would advise caution before open-sourcing a piece of software your business wrote. You might give away something valuable enough that others would pay you money for it.
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ICYMI: In Case You Missed it
Besides the newly-refreshed Google Analytics 4 course I’m relentlessly promoting (sorry not sorry), I recommend the piece on evaluating AI solutions. It’s useful for dealing with the swamp of new vendors.
- You Ask, I Answer: Top SEO Metrics and Analytics?
- You Ask, I Answer: Misinformation Risks with ChatGPT?
- You Ask, I Answer: How to Evaluate AI Solutions?
- Mind Readings: AI Shortens The Distance from Idea to Reality
- You Ask, I Answer: What About New AI Experts?
- Almost Timely News, April 9, 2023: What’s Coming With Generative AI
- Now with More Dummies
- So What? What’s next in generative AI?
Skill Up With Classes
These are just a few of the classes I have available over at the Trust Insights website that you can take.
- ⭐️ The Marketing Singularity: How Generative AI Means the End of Marketing As We Knew It
- Powering Up Your LinkedIn Profile (For Job Hunters) 2023 Edition
- Measurement Strategies for Agencies
- Empower Your Marketing With Private Social Media Communities
- Exploratory Data Analysis: The Missing Ingredient for AI
- How AI is Changing Marketing, 2022 Edition
- How to Prove Social Media ROI
- Proving Social Media ROI
- Paradise by the Analytics Dashboard Light: How to Create Impactful Dashboards and Reports
Get Back to Work
Folks who post jobs in the free Analytics for Marketers Slack community may have those jobs shared here, too. If you’re looking for work, check out these five most recent open positions, and check out the Slack group for the comprehensive list.
- Data Analyst at Southeast Brands
- Digital Analytics Technical Expert at AddData
- Director Of Growth at McGraw Hill
- Senior Analyst – Martech Engineering Innovation at Blast Analytics
- Senior Campaigns & Content Marketing Manager at Goldcast
- Senior Consultant – Martech Engineering Innovation at Blast Analytics
- Senior Data Engineer (M/F/D) at DCMN GmbH
- Senior Data Scientist at Foursquare
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What makes this course different? Here’s the thing about LinkedIn. Unlike other social networks, LinkedIn’s engineers regularly publish very technical papers about exactly how LinkedIn works. I read the papers, put all the clues together about the different algorithms that make LinkedIn work, and then create advice based on those technical clues. So I’m a lot more confident in suggestions about what works on LinkedIn because of that firsthand information than other social networks.
If you find it valuable, please share it with anyone who might need help tuning up their LinkedIn efforts for things like job hunting.
What I’m Reading: Your Stuff
Let’s look at the most interesting content from around the web on topics you care about, some of which you might have even written.
Social Media Marketing
- 50 Important TikTok Stats Marketers Need to Know in 2023
- How to Track LinkedIn Hashtag Analytics for Better Reach
- YouTube Adds New Reminder Button for Upcoming Live Streams via Social Media Today
Media and Content
- Without ESG reporting, small businesses will be left out of big contracts via Agility PR Solutions
- An analytical approach to creating great thought leadership via PR Daily
- How Brand Trust Impacts the Bottom Line via Institute for Public Relations
SEO, Google, and Paid Media
- A Beginner‘s Guide to Ranking Higher With Schema Markups
- What are breadcrumbs? Why are they important for SEO? Yoast
- 9 SEO Best Practices to Improve Your Organic Traffic
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What makes this different than other training courses?
- You’ll learn how Google Tag Manager and Google Data Studio form the essential companion pieces to Google Analytics 4, and how to use them all together
- You’ll learn how marketers specifically should use Google Analytics 4, including the new Explore Hub with real world applications and use cases
- You’ll learn how to determine if a migration was done correctly, and especially what things are likely to go wrong
- You’ll even learn how to hire (or be hired) for Google Analytics 4 talent specifically, not just general Google Analytics
- And finally, you’ll learn how to rearrange Google Analytics 4’s menus to be a lot more sensible because that bothers everyone
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If you already signed up for this course in the past, Chapter 8 on Google Analytics 4 configuration was JUST refreshed, so be sure to sign back in and take Chapter 8 again!
Tools, Machine Learning, and AI
- Artificial Intelligence Vs Cognitive Science 101 via Dataconomy
- Post GPT-4: Answering Most Asked Questions About AI via KDnuggets
- GoDaddy Introduces Generative AI Prompt Library for Small Business Growth via Small Business Trends
Analytics, Stats, and Data Science
- Journey in the Field of Data Science: Insights from Akash Kothari
- How zero-party data can maximize texting campaign results via VentureBeat
- Data Analytics in Taxation: AI & ML Improves Tax Process in India
All Things IBM
- 5 takeaways from the early days of IBM Partner Plus via IBM Blog
- How the right data and AI foundation can empower a successful ESG strategy
- How to build a decision tree model in IBMDb2 via IBM Blog
Dealer’s Choice : Random Stuff
- Uber CEO Became an Uber Driver To See What Drivers Really Go Through
- US Savers Are Missing Out Because Banks Aren‘t Keeping up With Rate Hikes
- #SaveWarriorNun News & Data 👼 2023-04-07
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If you’d like to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has set up a special portal, United24, to help make contributing easy. The effort to free Ukraine from Russia’s illegal invasion needs our ongoing support.
How to Stay in Touch
Let’s make sure we’re connected in the places it suits you best. Here’s where you can find different content:
- My blog – daily videos, blog posts, and podcast episodes
- My YouTube channel – daily videos, conference talks, and all things video
- My company, Trust Insights – marketing analytics help
- My podcast, Marketing over Coffee – weekly episodes of what’s worth noting in marketing
- My second podcast, In-Ear Insights – the Trust Insights weekly podcast focused on data and analytics
- On Twitter – multiple daily updates of marketing news
- On LinkedIn – daily videos and news
- On Instagram – personal photos and travels
- My free Slack discussion forum, Analytics for Marketers – open conversations about marketing and analytics
Events I’ll Be At
Here’s where I’m speaking and attending. Say hi if you’re at an event also:
- Onalytica B2B Influencer Summit, San Francisco, April 2023
- B2B Ignite, Chicago, May 2023
- ISBM, Chicago, September 2023
- Content Marketing World, DC, September 2023
- MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Boston, October 2023
Events marked with a physical location may become virtual if conditions and safety warrant it.
If you’re an event organizer, let me help your event shine. Visit my speaking page for more details.
Can’t be at an event? Stop by my private Slack group instead, Analytics for Marketers.
Events with links have purchased sponsorships in this newsletter and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.
Advertisements in this newsletter have paid to be promoted, and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.
My company, Trust Insights, maintains business partnerships with companies including, but not limited to, IBM, Cisco Systems, Amazon, Talkwalker, MarketingProfs, MarketMuse, Agorapulse, Hubspot, Informa, Demandbase, The Marketing AI Institute, and others. While links shared from partners are not explicit endorsements, nor do they directly financially benefit Trust Insights, a commercial relationship exists for which Trust Insights may receive indirect financial benefit, and thus I may receive indirect financial benefit from them as well.
Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I appreciate it. As always, thank you for your support, your attention, and your kindness.
See you next week,
Christopher S. Penn
You might also enjoy:
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- Almost Timely News, 17 October 2021: Content Creation Hacks, Vanity Metrics, NFTs
- How to Measure the Marketing Impact of Public Speaking
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