New feature for MetaFilter?
May 30, 2003 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Login, check out a link, post a comment, find out what gender you are... By noting the subtle differences in the words used by men and women, a new computer programme identifies the sex of an author. By implementing this new software, MetaFilter could potentially become even more informative than it already is.
posted by orange swan (25 comments total)
Oh. I thought I was going to get a try at beating the programme.
posted by nthdegx at 9:21 AM on May 30, 2003

I've taken two different online quiz things that tried to guess my gender in a roundabout fashion, and both were wrong. I wonder what this one would say about me.

What I find more interesting is how word choices reveal the person's biases on perception and learning and related, uh, stuff. For example, "that sounds like..." vs. "it appears to be..." vs. "it seems like..."
posted by Foosnark at 9:26 AM on May 30, 2003

Finally! I can find out my gender! No longer shall I wander in confusion and shame!
posted by xmutex at 10:00 AM on May 30, 2003

There's already to figure out whether you're male or female online: The Spark's Remarkably Accurate Gender Test
posted by CrunchyFrog at 10:05 AM on May 30, 2003

i find it hilarious that the program mis-identified A.S. Byatt, my favorite novelist...if it read Jeanette Winterson it would probably spontaneously combust.
posted by serafinapekkala at 10:06 AM on May 30, 2003

Silly example given in text of article. During Shakespeare's time, women were not allowed to act on the stage, and there is no evidence that any woman wrote a play, so to say we can find out whether Shakespeare wrote Two Noble Kinsmen or...some woman...seems something we can be sure of without the "test."
posted by Postroad at 10:09 AM on May 30, 2003

Postroad, the gender thingie is one application of the "stylometry" software they are working on. I think they mean to stylom-etize Shakespeare, and see if 2NK matches up, not see if it was written by a man or a woman.
posted by rainbaby at 10:29 AM on May 30, 2003

Uh, Postroad, there WERE women playwrights in Shakespeare's time.

I'd like a chance to really experiment with this kind of programme. Of course I'd want to know if it could correctly diagnose my gender and would submit different pieces with different tones. I'm also wondering if it controls for cultural differences.

As I read MetaFilter, I'm often very aware of people's genders as well as various other personal characteristics and temperament. Funny how we can't just be neutral, or can only be neutral in a very limited way for a limited time. I've noticed this before in my email correspondence. It's so infused with a person's personality - the only thing that is absent is their physical presence.
posted by orange swan at 10:35 AM on May 30, 2003

Someone needs to send this guy the full text of A Flight Risk so that he can help to settle the question of whether Isabella is a girl. (I'm one of those crazies who believes that she is female, but many others believe she's a guy.)
posted by TreeHugger at 10:57 AM on May 30, 2003

I'm also wondering if it controls for cultural differences.

I suspect it would be lost without them.
posted by transona5 at 11:01 AM on May 30, 2003

You're probably right, transona5 - it's likely entirely based on gender distinctions common to Western culture.

Hmm, would it accept other languages than English? It would be fun to feed the thing something in Sanskrit, for instance.
posted by orange swan at 11:05 AM on May 30, 2003

Question # 22-

Do you have

A- a penis, or

B - a vagina?

Wow! How do they do it? These online tests are amazing!
posted by bradth27 at 11:14 AM on May 30, 2003

Orange Swan wrote diagnose my gender. Interesting choice of words - do you think of gender as disease? Perhaps subconsciosly - a second sex moment?
posted by rainbaby at 11:31 AM on May 30, 2003

Here's the original story in The Age that the posted link is based on.

(Reprinted from my site):
"Women have a more interactive style," said Shlomo Argamon, a computer scientist at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago who developed the program. "They want to create a relationship between the writer and the reader."

Based on that explanation, I wonder how successful the program would be at divining the sex of a weblog author. I mean, a huge part of blogging is the relationship between writer and reader; it's a trait that covers the entire weblog community, not just the female bloggers. The developers should look to weblogs as a trial by fire for their little program, and see just how well that hypothesis of theirs stands up.
posted by me3dia at 11:44 AM on May 30, 2003

All right, rainbaby, I'll admit it.... I'm secretly a mad scientist out to neuter every person on the planet. Bwahahahaha!

[after hauling out desk Oxford dictionary] Hmm, I thought "diagnose" was a more neutral word than it appears to be, that it could be used to mean for "assess", but it seems it does usually apply to a illness or mechanical fault.
posted by orange swan at 11:47 AM on May 30, 2003

((crosses legs tightly but in a way that seeks to create a relationship with the reader))
posted by rainbaby at 12:09 PM on May 30, 2003

Hmmm.... I just took the Sparks test and it decided that I was male, 80% confidence level. I wonder if other gay women score as men or if it's just my 39% Geek coeficient showing up.
posted by SealWyf at 12:36 PM on May 30, 2003

And, seriously, bradth27, your test question would misassign the transgendered. Gender is an astonishingly mental category, unlike sex, which is physical.
posted by SealWyf at 12:39 PM on May 30, 2003


Yes, but a lot of the questions on these types of quizzes are not specific to any gender either. Just more likely to be associated with one or the other. True, some gals have penises and some guys have vaginas - and some have both, or even nothing at all. But for the majority of the people answering the question, the answer would point toward a specific gender.
posted by bradth27 at 2:41 PM on May 30, 2003

Interesting choice of words - do you think of gender as disease?

That, or it's the best word to state the idea.
posted by Hildago at 3:37 PM on May 30, 2003

here's already to figure out whether you're male or female online: The Spark's Remarkably Accurate Gender Test

Despite my Y chromosome, I just learned that I am Definitely A Woman. Which probably explains a few things.

Actually, to me, living as a man has always felt very much like living in drag, but I suppose living as a woman would feel that way, too.
posted by boredomjockey at 5:11 PM on May 30, 2003

Only a girl would post something like this.
posted by jamespake at 6:05 PM on May 30, 2003

posted by boredomjockey at 6:19 PM on May 30, 2003

I think it's bullshit. There's no way a program can pinpoint one's gender as long as the battery of questions to be answered are overt. Why not save a step or two and ask what gender already you are?

Wait a second, not only is it total effin bullshit, I oughta go over there and smash these yahoos' faces in for thinking of such a gay idea.

Violent male terrorist or ineptly ironic female or neither or all of the above or Violent female terrorist or ineptly ironic male? You decide.
posted by crasspastor at 6:58 PM on May 30, 2003

(Nevermind crasspastor -- he's PMSing.)
posted by boredomjockey at 7:10 PM on May 30, 2003

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