October 2003 Archives

Enter The Gender Genie which uses an algorithm to analyze word frequency in a passage of writing and scores it as written by a man or a woman. You paste in some text, ideally over 500 words in your sample, and get your score a moment later.

So of course I tried it. First with an article I wrote:

Non-fiction - Words: 1583

Female Score: 1065
Male Score: 2555

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

Then with a blog entry from last summer:

Blog entry - Words: 667

Female Score: 1444
Male Score: 1538

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

And then with a piece of short fiction:

Fiction - Words: 1435

Female Score: 1707
Male Score: 1388

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

I would say that they have a problem with their algorithm, except according to their stats, they're wrong in only around 5% of the cases where the sample of non-fiction by a female writer is over 500 words. And that's the sample that scores most overwhelmingly as masculine. I wonder if my expository writing was so shaped by a traditional education at what had been an all-boys' school...? (Exeter had only been co-ed for five years when I got there.) And why is my fiction more "feminine" in style?

Hmmm....

[postscript: some interesting comments about the shortcomings of the algorithm on misbehaving.net]

"Well-behaved women seldom make history." Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's words are the tagline of a new weblog which focuses on women and technology, misbehaving.net. I want that sentence on a T-shirt. I'd like the weblog address there, too. What a find!

From a good look at Lisa Belkin's article about women and careers in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, The Opt-Out Revolution, to the stories of the number of women who find themselves (ourselves) "accidental techies", this group of smart voices (and the comments they attract) is a weblog well worth reading - often.

Just come up for air after reading Jay Rosen's post and comments: "What's radical about the weblog form in journalism?" and a follow-up post: "What's conservative about the weblog form in journalism?"

The second piece is less interesting than the first one, I think, but it is useful to keep track of constants - what stays the same across different technologies.

Bruno Bozetto is the filmmaker who brought us the scathingly funny takeoff on Fantasia, "Allegro Non Troppo" back in 1979, I think. This is his Flash cartoon comparing Italians and Europeans. (Thanks to Bill Spencer and his great joke list for the link!)

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