on May 6, 2007
Random surfing took me here, which led me to Gender Genie, which is a program that examines written text and attempts to ascertain the gender of the writer. Amazingly, the analysis is done on seemingly innocuous words like “if”, “with” and “where” and not by looking for obvious male / female subject matter like cars vs. cats. (Or whatever stereotypes seem likely.) Also interesting is the size of their word lists. Gender Genie uses just sixteen “female” words and 17 “male” ones when determining the supposed gender of the author.
The program claims 80% accuracy. That’s pretty interesting to me, although Gender Genie thinks I’m a woman. I tried out several long posts (their directions suggest that text should be at least 500 words in length) and Gender Genie regularly called me a woman. When I use shorter posts, my score tips female by an even wider margin. I tried text from a few people in my blogroll, and it correctly and unambiguously identified everyone else.
I wonder what it is about my style that is causing this? It really was amazing to see that my various ruminations on roleplaying games, videogames, and geek culture – all of which seem like nominally male-dominated pursuits to me – were somehow feminine to Gender Genie. I don’t think this is bad. I’m not insulted. I don’t think this means the software sucks. I just find it curious.
The gender politics behind the system will probably chafe some (it made me roll my eyes a couple of times) but laying aside why the designer thinks males and females use various words at the given frequency, the truth remains that males and females really do write differently and this difference can usually be detected via a brute-force word count. I can’t help but get the feeling that the authors might be trying to prove something about males and females with this exercise. Maybe one to many agenda-driven gender studies has left me paranoid and jaded. In any case, the mathematics at the end interest me far more than the reading of tea leaves taking place in the main body.
I’d like to see how it does against other people. I tried a few people from my regular reading list, although I don’t want to offend anyone by outing the gender of their authorial voice. If you want to try it yourself, just grab a longish post of yours, stick it into the thingy, and see what guess it makes about your gender.
And finally: This post, which is 450 words long, scores 525 female and 468 male. Maybe I should grow a mustache and see if that nudges the score in my favor.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.