Monday, 28 February 2011

Misleading yourself for fun and profit


    A web site came my way yesterday that captivated my interest for a while: http://www.genderanalyzer.com/. A nod to Kev of Paper Wilderness fame for that one.
    It attempts to detect whether the text at a URL you give it was written by a man or a woman, and its approach of classification by comparison with a large body of known samples should be quite a sound one. This is not a million miles from what I do for a living, so I find it to be a very interesting site.
    Give it this blog, and it says that it is likely to have been written by a woman. Phew, validation, I'm a girl!
    Unfortunately though it's never quite that easy. Just from curiosity I gave it some other text I write in another field, as bloke. The analysis returned:  it was likely to have been written by a bloke. Damn, I'm a bloke after all!
    I'm not writing in a special voice in either place. This is me, this is what you get. Kev expressed disappointment that Paper Wilderness returned a probability of being written by a woman, based on my experience I'd suggest he needn't worry.
    It's tempting to seek validation in software like this. Most of us will probably have encountered the COGIATI test, a questionnaire that is designed to give you an assessment of the level of your transsexuality. When I do that test honestly, it tells me I'm mostly female. No surprises there (It's a while since I did it co I can't remember my exact score). But I'm afraid I can't trust it because with a little conscious effort I can make it tell me I'm completely female, or that I'm barely transsexual at all. In short, I can make it tell me what I want it to, or to put it another way, it tells me what I want to hear. Not good enough, I want something that tells me the truth even if it disappoints me.
    There is another test, one that doesn't involve software. What's your digit ratio? The ratio of the lengths of your index finger to your ring finger is gender dimorphic, if you are male you are more likely to have shorter index finger than ring finger. My digit ratio is 1:1, which of course states that I should be female. Yay, I'm a girl! I mean, that indicates the hormonal balance in the womb, so it can't lie, can it? I asked my wife, after all she's a girl, what would her digit ratio be? Shorter index finger than ring finger. Well clearly she's no bloke, so that serves me right for putting too much store in finger lenghs. The key is in the phrase "More likely" above, it is still quite possible for a woman to have a male digit ratio and vice versa.
     It is always a bit of fun to try these tests, but I think it is dangerous to put too much store by their results. I hope I've demonstrated above that they can not always be trusted, and all the validation we should need should start between our ears.
     There is one more test. It's a traditional British test, and it's guaranteed 100% accurate. Simply answer the following question for an instant result.

Do you understand the offside rule? 

    I'll leave it to you to decide which answer validates your gender identity.

12 comments:

  1. Okay, curiosity got the best of me and I ran my blog through the genderanalyzer . . . I know it's silly, but it was quite empowering to see that they're 66% sure my blog was written by a woman. I'll gladly take those odds. :)

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  2. I threw in a couple of texts on one of them gendered lingo thingies, and discovered that Charles Dickens is a gurl and Jane Austen is a bloke. I think that revelation is worth a PhD in anyone's money, don't you?

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  3. As with Sally I had to give it a go. Apaprently I come across as likely female, but quite gender neutral.

    What surprised me is that I assumed my last post about driving, border control and stereos would come back quite male - but that also came back female but fairly neutral... Interesting.

    Stace

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  4. It didn't want to know my blog (it wouldn't load) probably because of the volume of words! I have womens problem of talking too much it seems! LOL. Glad none of you take this sort of thing too seriously!
    What's an offside rule?

    Shirley Anne xxx

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  5. I had to laugh so hard when it came to the offsite rule. I can explain passive offsite, I think... but then again, it's not my sport.
    Hubby and I did the digit ratio thing and decided that we're both guys.
    Yeah, of course such things are not to be taken seriously. I got over it.

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  6. We investigated the digit ratio to find that my entire family of naturally born females are all are all guys!

    Okay, apart from my honey.

    Figure that one out!

    I love these silly tests. It is such fun entertainment!

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  7. Hmm, both my daughter (born my daughter) and me (born a son to my parents, but eventually realized otherwise) understand the offside rule quite well. From this I can only deduce that females all understand offside! As for the other tests, I consistently score "female" as well, even when I once tried to put myself in the mindset of my old trying-to-be-male-in-spite-of-myself self. Must be fate.

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  8. Yes, I saw that gender thing some time ago. Tried it on my Chronicles, and T-Tunes blogs and they both come up at about 77% female. Even T-Central came up about the same percentage female. Go figure.

    Fingers are one-to-one.

    A strange group we TG's are...

    Calie xxx

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  9. Morning all, glad you enjoyed having a play with the gender analysis tool. I'm told it's a hellishly difficult job to write code for. Thinking about its misgendering of Austen and Dickens, I wonder whether their dated English might work against them. It would be interesting to train it with a gendered corpus of 18th or 19th century English and see what that did to the result.

    Conquering the world, one British sport at a time :) I'm sure there will be a Swindon Town supporter along soon to explain the offside rule for any who are not familiar with it.

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  10. I'd seen something similar a while back. Just ran some of my online writing through it and it comes out female.

    Index fingers longer than ring finger.

    Hmm, the offside rule? I'll have to check with one of the girls in work about that and get back to you!

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  11. *Gets out the salt and pepper pots* :)

    Its a simple law which gets unnecessarily complicated and made out to be some huge book detailing a long list of interpretations and exceptions.

    An even simpler answer is that its only offside if the referee blows his/her whistle and says it is.

    Apparently "We guess http://lucys-wittering.blogspot.com/ is written by a woman (55%), however it's quite gender neutral."

    Hmmmm, I'll leave conclusions to be drawn.

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  12. Are you sure you won't need the mustard and the ketchup as well? :)

    I have to admit I have a basic understanding of the rule but I am not always quick enough to interpret it for myself in real time while watching play. I'd make a hopeless referee.

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