This is very humbling to me. Last week, at the DocTrain West conference, 25 writers produced a manual for FireFox in just two days as part of the FLOSS Manuals project. The manual is freely available online and is distributed in a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license. You can purchase a print-on-demand copy of the manual from LuLu as well, which helps to support the FLOSS project. So a special thanks to all those folks who spent some time indoors (when they could have been enjoying Palm Springs) to help the open source community. I’ve already sent a link to the manual to my mom, who uses FireFox on her mac!
The solution we’re creating is simple: an open-source filter software that can detect rampant stupidity in written English. This will be accomplished with weighted Bayesian or similar analysis and some rules-based processing, similar to spam detection engines. The primary challenge inherent in our task is that stupidity is not a binary distinction, but rather a matter of degree. To this end, we’re collecting a ranked corpus of stupid text, gleaned from user comments on public websites and ranked on a five-point scale.
However, when I tried the demo out, I was very disappointed. I thought I’d start easy and enter:
Which is just about the dumbest comment I could think of which might appear online. The response from the online demo?
Text is not likely to be stupid.
Uh-huh. We clearly have disparate definitions of what constitutes stupidity. Good luck, guys. I am really rooting for this to work. If the trolls, flamers, and idiots know they’re being ignored, then they really might go away. We’re just not there yet if I still ever have to read “First post!”
So, Yikes! I thought I’d try and lob them another slow and soft pitch to see if I had jumped the gun with my two-word gimme. This text gave the same “not likely to be stupid” result:
You’re and idiot! I cannot believe that you’d ever agree with Bush and/or Obama! You should die you Nazi and/or hippie!
Could someone please give an example of what is stupid text, then?