Almost Timely News, October 22, 2023: The Generative AI Beginner’s Kit

Almost Timely News: The Generative AI Beginner’s Kit (2023-10-22) :: View in Browser

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Almost Timely News: The Generative AI Beginner’s Kit

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What’s On My Mind: The Generative AI Beginner’s Kit

One of the most common questions people ask me on a regular and frequent basis is, “Okay, but how do I get started with this stuff, with generative AI? Where do I begin? What tools should I use?” The answer to that question varies, based on what you want to do. Do you want to summarize text? Write stories? Compose artworks? To answer this question, I’ve put together The Beginner’s Generative AI Starter Kit, which looks like this:

Generative AI Starter Kit

You can download the PDF version here, no forms to fill out, just grab the PDF.

Let’s talk through each of the components in the starter kit, because it’s important to understand it and the philosophy behind it.

First, you’ll notice an absence of specific vendors for the most part. You won’t find named products for the most part on the starter kit; instead, it’s almost all foundation technologies. This is a conscious choice because the capabilities of foundation models evolve more quickly than most vendors are able to keep up with. For example, less than a month ago, OpenAI released GPT-4V, their multimodal vision model that can see image data you give it and interpret it accordingly.

One of the best practices in AI is to stick as close to foundation models as you can, so that as their capabilities grow, your capabilities grow along with them. You want to avoid getting tied to a specific SaaS vendor unless they provide something that’s so compelling and so unique, nothing else on the market compares to it.

This beginner’s kit also has the caveat that many of the tools listed are third party software, like ChatGPT. There are plenty of circumstances – confidential information, trade secrets, protected information – where using any third party tool is inappropriate or outright illegal. It’s your responsibility as a user to know when you should and should not use any given tool based on the sensitivity of the data you’re working with.

Let’s talk about money briefly. You can use tools in their free versions, but know that the free versions are less capable than their paid cousins. For example, the free version of ChatGPT uses the GPT-3.5 model, which is substantially less powerful and less knowledgeable than the paid version’s access to GPT-4V. If you have the budget, pay for the upgrade for ChatGPT and Anthropic’s Claude 2.

Okay, that said, let’s dig into this toolkit. Our first two categories are for purely text-based tasks. If you’re working with text that is under 8,000 words – like blog posts, emails, etc. then the recommended tool is ChatGPT+, the paid version, using either the 3.5 or the 4/4V model. Why? It’s the most used, which means it has the most known examples and the most people who can help you if you get stuck. GPT-4 is also the most capable model for these smaller text tasks.

GPT-4 has a context window – which is technical for a working memory – of between 8,192 and 32,768 tokens. Tokens are roughly four letter fragments of words, so the previous paragraph is 90 words, 120 tokens.

Tokens Example

That’s why if you use ChatGPT extensively in a single, long-running chat, it starts to forget things. When you use it for longer than its context window, it forgets what you said early on. That’s why, for text tasks over 8,000 words, I recommend using Anthropic’s Claude 2. It has a context window of 100,000 tokens, or roughly 70,000 words at a time. Now, why not use Claude for everything? It’s not as strong at some text tasks; the GPT-4 model in ChatGPT+ is still the best in class model for a lot of tasks.

Okay, onto images. For image generation, there are two good choices. The free choice is Microsoft Bing Image Creator, which uses the OpenAI DALL-E 3 back end. This free image generator – and you get about 100 free image generations a day – is very powerful and very good. You need to use a Microsoft-supported web browser like Microsoft Edge to use it, especially on a Mac. You can also use it in the Bing mobile app on all platforms. For the paid choice, ChatGPT+ supports DALL-E 3 natively. This is my preferred choice because you can have a conversation in natural language with ChatGPT and it will in turn refine its DALL-E 3 prompts, which is a more intuitive and easier way to work with the image generation model.

Creating images is one thing; analyzing them is another. Right now, two models support image upload and analysis – Google Bard and ChatGPT+. Bard is free and very capable; in my tests, it’s done pretty well with image recognition. ChatGPT+ is paid. In both cases, you upload an image and then you can ask the AI of your choice questions about the image. For example, you can upload a picture of your homepage and have it do UI testing, or upload a photo of a meal and ask it to list common ingredients and recipes for that meal. The only thing neither model is permitted to do right now is do analysis on images of people’s faces.

Next up, let’s talk about realtime information. Tools like ChatGPT+ have large language models that are trained on known datasets. In many cases, those datasets are not current; ChatGPT+ ends its window of awareness at January 2022. Claude stops at roughly October 2022. If you need data that’s more current, you need to use AI that’s connected to realtime data sources. The two best choices here are Google Bard and Microsoft Bing. Both use their language models to build search queries, then pass those queries to their existing search services, and then interpret and rewrite the responses from their search services. This is the best way to handle freshness of information.

When it comes to analyzing data, you can certainly input CSV or tabular data in text prompts, but it’s much easier to simply upload spreadsheets and have the AI systems do the analysis on that. The same is true for Excel files and other data formats. Today, the best tool for data analysis with AI is OpenAI’s ChatGPT+ with Advanced Data Analysis. It walks you through its analysis and produces operating code at every step; this allows you to store the code generates in case you want to run it again later. It’s also capable of the most advanced forms of data science and statistics; anything you can code in Python for data analysis, it can write for you.

There’s some data, as I mentioned earlier, which absolutely should never be put into third party systems. Data that contains personally identifying information, sensitive protected information, protected health information, classified documents, state secrets, trade secrets – the list goes on of information you shouldn’t just hand to someone else’s systems. For situations like this, you must use AI that runs on your network or your computers, and your data never leaves those systems. Open source models like LLaMa 2 and interfaces like LM Studio are the way to safely use AI with sensitive information. These take more effort to set up, but they are free of cost and ideal for handling information that should not be in the hands of third parties without restriction.

Finally, when it comes to coding, there are two choices. For writing most coding languages, ChatGPT+ using the GPT-4 model is arguably one of the best general tools. It can write in a multitude of languages old and new, from COBOL (really!) to modern languages like Swift and Python.

COBOL code

(pro tip for those working in financial services and other places with legacy mainframes – if your COBOL programmer has retired, ChatGPT can help.)

There are specific open-source models that can outperform GPT-4 for certain languages; the CodeLLaMa model does so, particularly with Python.

Now, let’s be clear: this is not all the use cases of generative AI. This isn’t even close. But this is a good starter kit for someone who’s just getting their feet wet, and a good generalist kit for accomplishing many tasks. These tools are the best starter kit on the market today, and I mean literally today; there’s absolutely no guarantee that a better tool in any of these major categories won’t be released tomorrow, making this thing obsolete. I’ll do my best to keep it maintained over time, though.

Finally, an utterly shameless plug – if you’d like help getting training or strategic consulting on the deployment of AI in your organization, go visit to see all the different ways we can help.

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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 how AI will impact influencer marketing. There’s an interesting thought starter in there.

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.



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I’ve been lecturing a lot on large language models and generative AI (think ChatGPT) lately, and inevitably, there’s far more material than time permits at a regular conference keynote. There’s a lot more value to be unlocked – and that value can be unlocked by bringing me in to speak at your company. In a customized version of my AI keynote talk, delivered either in-person or virtually, we’ll cover all the high points of the talk, but specific to your industry, and critically, offer a ton of time to answer your specific questions that you might not feel comfortable asking in a public forum.

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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 recent open positions, and check out the Slack group for the comprehensive list.

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

Media and Content

SEO, Google, and Paid Media

Advertisement: Business Cameos

If you’re familiar with the Cameo system – where people hire well-known folks for short video clips – then you’ll totally get Thinkers One. Created by my friend Mitch Joel, Thinkers One lets you connect with the biggest thinkers for short videos on topics you care about. I’ve got a whole slew of Thinkers One Cameo-style topics for video clips you can use at internal company meetings, events, or even just for yourself. Want me to tell your boss that you need to be paying attention to generative AI right now?

📺 Pop on by my Thinkers One page today and grab a video now.

Tools, Machine Learning, and AI

Analytics, Stats, and Data Science

All Things IBM

Dealer’s Choice : Random Stuff

How to Stay in Touch

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Events I’ll Be At

Here’s where I’m speaking and attending. Say hi if you’re at an event also:

  • SMPS AEC AI, DC, October 2023
  • DigitalNow, Denver, November 2023
  • AImpact, Online, November 2023
  • Social Media Marketing World, San Diego, February 2024
  • MAICON, Cleveland, September 2024

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.

Required Disclosures

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.

Thank You

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

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