Adventures in Ethics and Science

Do I blog like a girl?

This tool uses an algorithm to guess whether the chunk of text you enter into the text box was written by a male or a female. What do you suppose it thought about my writing?

It depends on the post. For example this post got:

Female Score: 1616
Male Score: 1380

which is to say, “FEMALE”, while this post got:

Female Score: 3271
Male Score: 4308

which is to say, “MALE”.

Who knew I was so versatile?

The algorithm seems to be based on tracking frequencies of words that, apparently, are more commonly used by females (with, if, not, where, be, when, your, her, we, should, she, and, me, myself, hers, was) compared to those more commonly used by males (around, what, more, are, as, who, below, is, these, the, a, at, it, many, said, above, to). I have no idea whether these frequencies really go the way the algorithm says they do or whether the algorithm rests on stereotypes that don’t have a basis in fact. And, I wonder how much of an influence one’s training to write in a particular field (say, physical chemistry or analytic philosophy) has on the frequency with which one uses the “gendered” words tracked by the algorithm. (Notice that “should” is in the female set and “is” is in the male set? Clearly ethics is where you’ll find most of the women in philosophy … or not.)

Rather than wonder too hard, I’m going to take a moment to bask in my communicative androgyny.

Comments

  1. #1 ck
    April 25, 2007

    Not sure if you got this idea from here or not, but if you didn’t, you’ll find in the comment thread a few philosophers have put their writing into the Genie, and also a link to discussion/criticism of the algorithim on another blog.

    I thought it was interesting that the men in philosohy represented in the thread were “female” from the Genie, and the women were “male.” For what it’s worth, I turn out strongly male in the results. (I am female.)

  2. #2 Scott Belyea
    April 25, 2007

    You want androgyny?? Try this …

    Words: 648
    (NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

    Female Score: 899
    Male Score: 898

  3. #3 Paul
    April 25, 2007

    I’m male, but the algorithm identifies my blog writing as female.

    Personally I find the “word usage” measure to be a bit suspect, especially considering that the words in question are so basic. The notions that women use “and” more than men but men use more articles (“a” and “the”) strike me as absurd. How can women write without articles?

  4. #4 Kevin W. Parker
    April 25, 2007

    I write fiction like a girl but blogging and nonfiction like a boy. ;)

  5. #5 Alan Kellogg
    April 25, 2007

    Neither, you write like a mom.

  6. #6 Janet D. Stemwedel
    April 25, 2007

    you write like a mom

    Well, given that a mom is frequently called on to be all things to all people, I suppose that makes some sense.

  7. #7 sciencewoman
    April 25, 2007

    Even posts where I am discussing quintesentially female things (like breastfeeding in seminars), I write like a man. I am female, and the person who taught me to write well is a female. I think it’s nonsensical.

  8. #8 Pauline Martin
    April 25, 2007

    I’m guessing girl because of your name but then I’m pretty shrewd that way…

  9. #9 Bill H
    April 26, 2007

    Interesting test:

    Constitution of the United States sans amendments:

    Female Score: 4964
    Male Score: 4715

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

    Amendments only:

    Female Score: 2649
    Male Score: 3986

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

  10. #10 hibiscus
    April 26, 2007

    this algorithm seems familiar — wait a minute —–

    “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

    and now let’s put that in the gender genie, and,

    Female Score: 0
    Male Score: 0

    The Gender Genie is completely confounded. Try going back to the text box and entering a different text.

    heh.

  11. #11 Phoebe Love
    April 27, 2007

    Small minds discuss sports.

  12. #12 Jen
    May 26, 2007

    I just started reading your blog. Not sure how I got to it, I think it was linked from something else I read. Anyway, since i’m avoiding more constructive tasks by searching the archives, I thought i’d test some of my blog postings. I’m a female, but the tool didn’t seem entirely sure.
    A post I wrote about why the Temple University College of Education is good was rated as male. Where as, a post I wrote detailing the clever behavior plan I suggested for a student I work with, and an experiment on the effects of diet on the growth rates of corn snakes that I would like to conduct, was rated as female. Maybe it’s just me, but I would have thought the snake experiment would be more of a male thing.