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Read a paragraph, guess my gender!
September 3, 2003 1:07 PM   Subscribe

The genger genie purports to guess the gender of an author by reading a sample of their writing. The program is based on an algorithm describe here, at nature.com. [Via Hit Or Miss.]
posted by silusGROK (61 comments total)

 
Well, it thinks I'm male. (Checks anatomy.) Nope, still not male. Here's the sample I used:

I sat in the growing light, trying to resign my mind to death. Instead, I found that I was horribly thirsty, and I had to pee. The twin discomforts grew worse and worse, as the wedge of light from the fire-shattered window crept down the wall and onto the floor. At last I rose, took a leak in the corner, and walked down the passage to the room with the fountain. The water tasted wonderful. On impulse, I stripped and bathed, soaking the dried blood from my hair. Then I did my best to scrub my clothes, which had grown stiff with blood and sweat and oily smoke. After hanging them over broken chairs to dry, I sat naked on the floor and considered my options.
posted by SealWyf at 1:17 PM on September 3, 2003


It told me I needed to drink more gin and tonics.

I think it was because I submitted the lyrics to King Missle's "Gay/Not Gay" song.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:18 PM on September 3, 2003


I'm still confused as to what genger I am.
posted by widdershins at 1:19 PM on September 3, 2003


I tried it on a number of review-type pieces. Didn't seem to do much better than chance. It sounds like the writers of the program on this site just based it on what they read in the popular press, though, as much as I'd like to discredit the whole thing. Does anyone know if the original researchers' code is available?
posted by transona5 at 1:20 PM on September 3, 2003


It guessed my fiance's gender correctly over 5 times, but it got me wrong most of the time.... The overall results show about 50% right and 50% wrong....

Seems fairly probable.
posted by Espoo2 at 1:22 PM on September 3, 2003


Oh, never mind, I guess that is actually the researchers' algorithm, unless the Times got it completely wrong.
posted by transona5 at 1:23 PM on September 3, 2003


Yeah, it seems to be doing slightly worse than an "algorithmic" flipping of a coin.
posted by Pinwheel at 1:24 PM on September 3, 2003


Genger ail.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:28 PM on September 3, 2003


i'm running it on your posts:

Keywords: [it] told me i needed to drink more gin and tonics i think [it] was because i submitted [the] lyrics to king missle['s] gay/not gay song
Score: 16
Words: 27

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

Keywords: i tried [it] on [a] number of review-type pieces did[n't] seem to do much better than chance [it] sounds like [the] writers of [the] program on this site just based [it] on what they read in [the] popular press though as much as i'd like to discredit [the] whole thing does anyone know if [the] original researcher[s'] code is available
Score: 88
Words: 60

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

Keywords: yeah [it] seems to be doing slightly worse than [an] algorithmic flipping of [a] coin
Score: 14
Words: 15

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

Keywords: i'm running [it] on [possessive pronoun] posts
Score: -1
Words: 6

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

hmmm.
posted by th3ph17 at 1:30 PM on September 3, 2003


It guessed my fiance's gender correctly over 5 times...

I read that as "I guessed my fiance's gender correctly over 5 times..."

My advice would have been: Get proof before you tie the knot.
posted by Shane at 1:31 PM on September 3, 2003


It thinks I write like a girl (three out of three on longish blog entries), apparently because I use a lot of possesive pronouns and contractions. I'm also just a wee bit too attached to the words "for" and "with", it seems.

I guess I'll take my Gin 'n Tonic now, then. With lime. For real.
posted by yhbc at 1:31 PM on September 3, 2003


They should have one of these for pieces that appear in The New Yorker. It could always guess that the author is male and be right with accuracy better even than what the researchers claim.

th3ph17 - wrong in my case...
posted by transona5 at 1:31 PM on September 3, 2003


I get about 50-50 right/wrong too (I'm giving it recent e-mails ...).
posted by carter at 1:32 PM on September 3, 2003


It got me wrong. I threw it lyrics to one of my songs, figuring that would be confusing. Sure enough, it thought I was female (nope). All right, to be fair, then I submitted my MeFi homepage. Hmm. Still thinks I'm female. Well, I wrote both of those in more of my artistic voice... maybe if I tried something more prosy/pedantic.

OK, then I tried one of my posts. It got that right. But then tried another post, and it got that wrong, and I think I'm not using a voice that's all that different. Another post comes up male. Alright, how about a personal narrative? Comes up male. So much for the "creative" theory.

Overall, I don't see any pattern that inspires confidence here.
posted by weston at 1:32 PM on September 3, 2003


Notice longer my post, it guesses correctly.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:34 PM on September 3, 2003


I gave it a few test runs. It was wrong 18 out of 20 times.
posted by dgaicun at 1:41 PM on September 3, 2003


I gave it the top of this thread and it seemed pretty convinced I'm female.

Hmmmm. Guess it's worth remembering that I might be gay.

Couldn't resist trying that comment I just linked, too. Still "female." So... these gin & tonics, how do you make 'em?
posted by soyjoy at 1:47 PM on September 3, 2003


Actually, if you search the article text, you'll find that it's designed to work on fiction.
posted by ringmaster at 1:50 PM on September 3, 2003


"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Score: 85
Words: 95

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

Glad we could get that cleared up.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:50 PM on September 3, 2003


"This is a test to see if my gender can be guessed."

Score: 3
Words: 12

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

/checks pants.
Nope.
posted by Nauip at 1:58 PM on September 3, 2003


Minn. Stat. §514.01:

Whoever… contributes to the improvement of real estate by performing labor, or furnishing skill, material, or machinery for any of the purposes hereinafter stated, whether under contract with the owner of such real estate or at the instance of any agent, trustee, contractor, or subcontractor of such owner, shall have a lien upon the improvement, and upon the land on which it is situated or to which it may be removed, that is to say, for the erection, alteration, repair, or removal of any building, fixture … or other structure thereon…

Male! (probably right -- huhuh, he said "erection")
posted by norm at 1:59 PM on September 3, 2003


If I invented a Gender Genie that was only right half the time when given two options (male or female). I'd keep that to myself.

Anyhow, here is my female writing, stupid wrong guessing israeli gender genie:

While walking through the forest on a snow covered Saturday in December, I noticed a sick bear. I approached the punky beast and patted his furry head, right behind the ears, using my fingernails. He gazed up at me after a moment and began to lick my arm. We hugged each other exchanging a normally unexpressed love between two of natures creatures. He wouldn't give me his name, but I'm sure he loved me as much as I him, and I hope that our time together will remain special in his memories and keep him warm while hibernating through the remaining winter months.
posted by Mushkelley at 2:02 PM on September 3, 2003


I tried it on - George Sand (correct), Virginia Woolf (incorrect), James Joyce (correct), Proust (incorrect), Jane Austen (correct), Edith Wharton (incorrect), Fitzgerald (incorrect), Raymond Carver (correct), Donald Barthelme (incorrect), Toni Morrison (correct). Seems fairly random. By its own statistics, its correct less than half the time.
posted by drobot at 2:04 PM on September 3, 2003


Well no offense but I think the 80% correct is probably more accurate than this web-site's poll. Most people using the Gender Genie want to prove it wrong, and thus will probably pick their submissions accordingly. Also, people lie on the poll, or only submit their answer when the Genie fails.

Just about every single comment I've seen is skeptical, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say that MeFiers had some biases going into this one...
posted by zekinskia at 2:16 PM on September 3, 2003


90% of the Stephin Merrit lyrics I submitted were deemed to have been penned by a female.
posted by shoepal at 2:17 PM on September 3, 2003


I'm guessing the genie works best on prose that is of a certain length.

It's guessed my gender correctly every time, and I'm using long peices I've written from e-mail I've sent out.
posted by silusGROK at 2:31 PM on September 3, 2003


It guessed wrong on a two page long ramble I submitted that my English teacher thought was genius. I don't like to use the word "the" much, which is probably why it thinks I "write like a girl."

But it guessed right for this comment.
posted by Veritron at 2:39 PM on September 3, 2003


I wanted to have her. I wanted to have her hard. I lusted after her breasts, thinking all day about those supple and nubile orbs my mouth longed to suck until Arbor Day. Oh baby, would she hunger for me as much as I wanted her? Would we skedaddle between the jambs of an open doorway, humping thumping and otherwise grinding until the neighbor banged against the walls and told us to shut the hell up?

Score: 55
Words: 76
Gender Genie: Female
posted by ed at 2:39 PM on September 3, 2003


Dude, I write like such a girl. I submitted fifteen different entries I've written on various sites and blogs and I came up female every single time.

It is enough to put a fellow off of personal pronouns for all time.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:41 PM on September 3, 2003


I like gin and tonics but i'm [not] gay [not] that theres anything wrong [with] that i'll also drink [a] so-called girly drink if i'm in [the] mood.

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

Wrong.
posted by sharpener at 2:44 PM on September 3, 2003


I tried some Joyce too. It chose male, but chose female with the Penelope chapter (Molly Bloom's monologe). Quite interesting, oh and I write like a girl.
posted by bobo123 at 2:44 PM on September 3, 2003


This morning, I scratched my crotch repeatedly in my own home. I did this shortly after applying some Right Guard to my armpits. My penis was partially erect, bent to one side and probably smaller than I believed it to be. I recalled my disco days, in which my legs and pecs were lithe. That was an era in which men could be men. I loved it when women threw themselves at me, flipping up their shirts and revealing their supple breasts and erect nipples. You could walk up and down Brooklyn with an open shirt and gaudy bellbottoms, and women would still sleep with you if you knew a few disco moves.

Score: -19
Words: 113
Gender: Female
posted by ed at 2:57 PM on September 3, 2003


zekinskia,

I am big proponent of male and female differences. I've got no bias against this test. I put in 20 different paragraphs taken from various websites I visit, and honest to god, it was wrong for 18 of them. I'm not saying this neccesarily sez anything about gender or this test in general, but . . .
posted by dgaicun at 3:04 PM on September 3, 2003


Well, just about everyone here claims to have tried it on a number of things and gotten about 50% accuracy, not that we're all necessarily telling the truth. I don't see how you could deliberately pick submissions to fool it unless you counted the instances of "the" and "'s" first. That's the point of it, right?
posted by transona5 at 3:05 PM on September 3, 2003


zekinskia - I agree w/ dgaicun, I just entered authors as they came to mind (and authors that I could easily find text for electronically to paste into the engine.)

I'm sure with a larger sample the results might be different. I do agree, though, that their figures are heavily weighted by people trying to trick the engine, or not entering a result, or answering incorrectly.

ed - Despite the subject matter, your writing is actually pretty feminine.
posted by drobot at 3:07 PM on September 3, 2003


It's a hot night. The mind races. You think about your
knife; the only friend who hasn't betrayed you, the only friend who won't be dead by sun up. Sleep tight, mates, in your quilted Chambray nightshirts.

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

Correct.
posted by mathis23 at 3:10 PM on September 3, 2003


Wait, if it just uses the algorithm linked to, it doesn't "learn" from user input (although it was developed after learning from test cases.) So telling it whether it was correct, even falsely, shouldn't have any effect.
posted by transona5 at 3:11 PM on September 3, 2003


A "Po Chop" and a Gin & tonic, please.

Score: 12
Words: 8

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: Male!
posted by thomcatspike at 3:13 PM on September 3, 2003


I'd prefer the Ginger genie.
posted by alicesshoe at 3:14 PM on September 3, 2003


When I go walking I strut my stuff, and I'm so strung out. I'm high as a kite and I just might stop to check you out.
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: Female!
I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five?   Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself.   But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question:  'Do I feel lucky?'  Well, do ya punk?
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: Male!
Sits like a man but smiles like a reptile
She loves him, she loves him but just for a short while
She'll scratch in the sand, won't let go his hand
He says he's a beautician and sells you nutrition
And keeps all your dead hair for making up underwear
Poor little Greenie
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: Female!
posted by kirkaracha at 3:21 PM on September 3, 2003


It seems to guess relatively well on my personal writing - speeches and fiction - but poorly on my business writing - memos and technical documents. I'm not sure if that means it sucks, or if I write like a man at the office, or if everyone writes like a man at the office.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:35 PM on September 3, 2003


Closely related thread here.
posted by orange swan at 4:59 PM on September 3, 2003


I put two poems in. One written by me, and one written by a female friend. It got them both wrong. I'm not sure who's going to be more annoyed about this. Me or her.

Update: This paragraph described as female... WRONG!
posted by seanyboy at 4:59 PM on September 3, 2003


Plus... Stasis in darkness. Then the substanceless blue Pour of tor and distances. Sylvia Plath is male.
posted by seanyboy at 5:02 PM on September 3, 2003


[Via Hit Or Miss.]

Indeed, indeed.

Well no offense but I think the 80% correct is probably more accurate than this web-site's poll. Most people using the Gender Genie want to prove it wrong, and thus will probably pick their submissions accordingly.

But unless they're observing the particulars of the algorithm and specifically writing to throw them off, why is this "cheating" in any way?
posted by namespan at 5:06 PM on September 3, 2003


I started having sex about 1 year ago; my girlfriend was always on top. Most of the time everything was ok until one day I notice a purple vein was forming in my penis. Then one day when I was going to have sex with my girlfriend, I could not get an erection and I can’t get a good erection since then.

What can I do to fix my penis?"
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: Female!
posted by dgaicun at 5:17 PM on September 3, 2003


Finally, it got one right.
posted by dgaicun at 5:18 PM on September 3, 2003


Apparently, I write like a girl... except when it comes to guns and explosions. Then I'm as macho as they come.
posted by linux at 5:30 PM on September 3, 2003


"I am a woman."

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

Wrong!
posted by ukamikanasi at 6:49 PM on September 3, 2003


It analysed Bukowski's History Of One Tough Motherfucker and said Chuck was a woman.

That's debunking enough for me.
posted by tpoh.org at 7:22 PM on September 3, 2003


With her dog watching, she decided to read a book. A long book. Too long, in fact, to finish in an evening. She decided to watch televsion instead, but there was nothing on. Nothing except that lame-ass show about the doctor and the pirate, who join forces to solve crimes. She hated that show, and she hoped that it would be canceled by the next sweeps week. She decided to take a nap.

Score: 74
Words: 73

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

(I am, indeed, male.)
posted by jpoulos at 7:35 PM on September 3, 2003


I put in some of my MeFi posts and it correctly pegged me as female every time. I stuck in some Lileks bleats and it correctly pegged him as male. The passages that people are getting incorrect results on seem rather odd and stilted to me. I think when people aren't trying to fool it, and put in passages of a good length, it works.
posted by Shoeburyness at 8:17 PM on September 3, 2003


I put in the six "At Length" pieces listed on my blog. I wrote those long ago, they are fairly lengthy, they accurately reflect my style. Of the six, it guessed four of them were written by a female. Including one that used the word "grandiloquent." Okay, that was quoting someone else, but that person was also male. Have you ever heard a woman use the word "grandiloquent"?

I imagine a Bayesian filter would do the trick better, or at least determine whether there are no statistically significant markers for male or female writing.

From years of reading Usenet, I suspect that you could simply spell-check the submission and if it has more than, say, three misspelled words, flag it as male, and it'd be just as accurate.
posted by kindall at 8:30 PM on September 3, 2003


With analytical essays I've written, it answers female, correctly. With short stories and blog entries, it says male. Odd considering the "80% correct" claim comes from analyzing fiction.
Didn't feed it any lab research papers, but I'd be surprised if it thought any journal-type scientific writing was female.
posted by casarkos at 8:34 PM on September 3, 2003


"My cat's breath smells like cat food"

Score: -8
Words: 7

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

Poor Ralph.
posted by Samsonov14 at 8:44 PM on September 3, 2003


I'm a woman. That explains SO much.

Of course, I say I'm a man in the passage, but why should that skew the results.

Anyway, I'm off to trim my beard, then it's time for a long round of Oxygen, I guess...
posted by Samizdata at 11:48 PM on September 3, 2003


Oh, and I was not trying any gender jamming writing of mine either...
posted by Samizdata at 11:55 PM on September 3, 2003


It got Bukowski wrong.
I think that says it all.
posted by cell at 3:52 AM on September 4, 2003


It got me wrong. And it is currently guessing 53+% incorrectly, by its own admission.

Needs work.
posted by rushmc at 6:57 AM on September 4, 2003


My name? Call me Yossarian. I've been around for thirty years and am beginning to understand my place in the world.

So what do you think? Am I male or female?
posted by Yossarian at 7:21 AM on September 4, 2003


I think when people aren't trying to fool it, and put in passages of a good length, it works.

I tried it on a passage of good length, and wasn't trying to fool it, and it didn't work.

One of the hosts of the bookblog site subsequently told me of this excellent experiment.
posted by rory at 11:37 AM on September 4, 2003


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