Almost Timely News, November 19, 2023: A Deep Dive on Prompt Libraries

Almost Timely News: A Deep Dive on Prompt Libraries (2023-11-19) :: View in Browser

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Almost Timely News: A Deep Dive on Prompt Libraries (2023-11-19)

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What’s On My Mind: A Deep Dive on Prompt Libraries

I’m going to studiously ignore the topical news of the week about the kerfuffle at OpenAI until we have some objective facts. In the meantime, let’s talk about your prompt library. One of the things I’ve advocated for in every talk and workshop I’ve ever given on generative AI is the importance of a prompt library, of building a prompt library. It’s more important than ever for you to have one, so let’s dig into how to set one up.

First, what is a prompt library? It’s pretty much what it sounds like – a library of prompts you use with generative AI tools that get you the results you want. Prompt libraries are universal, in that you set one up for all the different generative AI tools available – text models, image models, video models, etc. Like a real library, they help you catalog what you have and make it easy to find what you’re looking for.

Why do you need a prompt library? Two reasons. First, you need a prompt library so that you have a record of your successes, a repository of things that work. This dramatically improves repeatability and reproducibility. The first time you do a task with generative AI, you write your prompt and then every time after you have to do that same task, getting started should be as easy as copying and pasting something from your prompt library. You might need to tweak or adjust a prompt over time, but you’ve got most of what you need in a system.

Second, you need a prompt library so that you can share your successes with others when and where appropriate. If you work at a company with more than just yourself as an employee or contractor, a prompt library lets you share your encoded knowledge and capabilities with other people on your team. It helps them get started faster, and if they make improvements on your prompts, you get access to those improvements so your work gets better, too.

If this is starting to sound suspiciously like code management, it is. Prompts are software that you code. Every time you use a generative AI tool, you are coding. It’s just you’re coding in human language rather than computer language, English instead of Python. That means the same things that have made computer programming languages successful, like repositories of code and version control, are also going to make prompt engineering libraries successful too.

It also means that you should protect your prompt library with the same vigor that you protect the source code of code written by developers. In the same way you wouldn’t just willy nilly give away proprietary code from your C# or Java software repositories at your company, neither should you just give away your prompts. They are pieces of code that you run with a computer and thus valuable intellectual property.

I suppose there’s a third reason you need a prompt library, for more advanced users: it’s the basis for your own app building, for building apps based on your prompts. We’ll talk about that more in a bit.

So, what should belong in a prompt library? Think about what goes into a software repository like a Git repo:

  • The software itself
  • Who wrote it
  • When they wrote it
  • What language/platform/tool it runs in
  • What it’s for/why it exists at all
  • Who should or shouldn’t have access to it

In a similar vein, our prompt library should have similar metadata.

  • The prompt itself, of course
  • Ideally, a sample outcome of the prompt
  • Who wrote the prompt
  • When they wrote it
  • Which model it’s for – Bard, Bing, ChatGPT, Claude 2, Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, etc.
  • What category of task the prompt is for – summarization, images, rewriting, video, etc.
  • The name of the prompt

If you have all this data in your prompt library, you will maximize its power because people will be able to find what they want, when they want it (including you). It will dramatically speed up your work in generative AI.

Let’s look at an example prompt and how we’d put it in a library. This prompt takes a sensational news story and reduces it to a boring news story.

You are an intelligence officer specializing in news analysis. You know open source intelligence, news, news feeds, summarization, topic modeling, semantics, linguistics, key concepts, extraction, transcripts, transcription, diarization, interviews, discussions, podcasts. Your first task is to summarize the following news article.

Summarize in the following ways:

  • Remove any and all opinion and speculation; summarize only facts
  • Remove any hyperbolic, highly emotional, and inflammatory language
  • Remove any partisan or heavily skewed perspective
  • Remove clickbait, exaggeration, and sensational language
  • Remove misleading or deceptive information
  • Remove promotional, commercial, and sales language
  • Rewrite in a neutral point of view

This prompt is a great prompt for taking all the absurdity out of clickbait news stories and boiling them down to the facts. So, what would accompany it in a prompt library?

  • The prompt
  • A sample of the output that you’ve reviewed and approved
  • My name
  • The date I wrote it (today)
  • The model it’s for – GPT-3.5-Turbo or GPT-4-Turbo
  • Purpose: summarizing news stories
  • Access: open

Now, how do you catalog and store prompts? With these fields in mind, store them in any appropriate storage mechanism that accommodates this sort of metadata. That can be a notebook like Evernote, OneNote, or Joplin. That can be a document management system like OneDrive, Google Drive, or shudder Sharepoint. That can be a database like AirTable or Base. Whatever works best for you that causes you the least amount of work to store the relevant data in a format that’s searchable. I personally use Joplin because it’s open-source and free. The one thing I would NOT caution is just leaving your prompts in the history mechanism of your language model interface of choice. All it takes is one accidental click/clear history, and you could lose your entire prompt library with no way of recovering it.

Here’s where your prompt library levels you up even more. Last week, you heard about Custom GPTs and fine-tuned models, how you can build apps now right inside the ChatGPT environment. Guess where all your app ideas for Custom GPTs and LLM-based apps could come from? That’s right – your prompt library. If you’ve been diligent about storing your prompts, you have a literal library of apps you could build. Now, not every prompt needs to become an app, but if you have a prompt library of the prompts you use the most, it’s trivial to turn that prompt into an app like a Custom GPT. And because you’ve already used the prompts, you know their value and can prioritize which prompts should become apps based on the ones you use the most or save you the most time.

Build a prompt library as soon as possible, and share it with the appropriate parties as quickly as you can. The sooner you have a cookbook of prompts that work great, the sooner you’ll be able to amplify and scale your productivity with generative AI.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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