Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
Commentary
6/6/2014
07:00 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Geekend: Sarcasm Detector Wanted

US Secret Service wants a bucket for those times you are dripping with sarcasm.

and the beliefs of the person being sarcastic?

I actually think the Secret Service would do better with Facebook than Twitter, but the key is going to be in creating large databases of prior posts for context. If, for example, a known Democrat who has posted dozens of links supporting healthcare reform were to post, "I just love the GOP's latest attempt at repealing Obamacare," the sarcasm would be fairly obvious. But outside of the other posts for context, there's no real way of determining it. Sure, you can guess from the word "latest," which implies knowledge that the Republicans have attempted it more than 30 times. But you can't be certain.

So what we're really getting at here is compiling a lot of personal data about people and charting their statements against historical statements in order to establish probabilities, and that's not going to fly with people worried about privacy.

So does the sarcasm detector die there? Heck no. Even if the government realizes it can't be done, you know who can do it? Facebook and Twitter. I want a sarcasm and humor plug-in for social media.

What do you do when you type something funny into Facebook but you aren't sure the fact that you're joking will come through in the text? You add an emoticon or "jk," right?

What if Facebook did it for you? And what if they did it with a series of fantastic emoticons, ranging from a simple smiley face to an elaborate set of beautiful emoticons like these. There are 70 cat emoticons on this list alone. Clearly, there's a major difference between this cat (=^.^=) and this cat (=^_^=). And I can't even make some of the cats without going to a special characters menu. That's too much time for a Facebook emoticon. Let Facebook do it for me.

OK, the emoticons are a little frivolous, but how many friendships have been strained by someone's inability to make out a joke posted on a social network? If Facebook identified a joke for you with accuracy before your friend had to explain it, maybe there will be a lot less unfriending in the world.

Maybe, eventually, a Facebook or Twitter algorithm could even help you rewrite your posts to make them funnier.

Even if you find this whole thing frivolous, it's the perfect test bed for doing better at natural language processing. Whether it's the Secret Service or Facebook or Twitter that actually cracks this code, there's no better way to start than to figure out the nuances of social media.

What do you think? Does the notion that government types are trying to figure out humor scare you? If they do figure it out, do you think it'll improve their public service announcements? Can they do it without invading people's privacy? Would you enjoy it if Facebook started helping you with your own humor? Will computers ever truly understand natural language? Comment below.

Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators. Read our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue today.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
Previous
2 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 6 / 7   >   >>
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/6/2014 | 5:52:33 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@Progman: Ha! ok, fair enough. I think we can both agree that some tech company will figure this out long before the Secret Service does. The most shocking thing in Dave's article is that the Secret Service currently uses a FEMA's social media app...
Thomas Claburn
100%
0%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/6/2014 | 4:42:20 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
>I would prefer to see the BS-detector created first. In fact, I think it should first be tested at every occasion where a politician speaks before it gets deployed to the general populace.

Just get a red light and turn it on at the next political rally you attend. You'll have a functioning BS-detector with too few false positives to matter.
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
6/6/2014 | 4:41:49 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@Jastro true, it's not all that easy, which is why someone suggested a sarcasm font.  Without it, some people feel the need to clarify with *sarcasm* or some such thing. Otherwise, it really isn't always clear, especially if you don't know the writer's general views. 
progman2000
100%
0%
progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
6/6/2014 | 4:03:54 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@snunyc - To me Google can figure out a way to do anything.  They can probably figure out my blood type by something I post...
Susan_Nunziata
100%
0%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/6/2014 | 4:01:29 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@ProgMan: Curious to know: Why Google? I'd put my $$ on Amazon figuring this out before anyone else.
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/6/2014 | 4:00:09 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@Michelle: Are you suggesting the government has no sense of humor? =^_^=

 
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/6/2014 | 3:58:48 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@jastro: I've found that the ability to recognize sarcasm even in face-to-face interactions (as with the Big Bang Theory clip Dave shared) is a distinctly regional and cultural thing. I found this out the hard way when I moved from NY (where, I belive, sarcasm was invented) to the Bay Area (where it seems to be nonexistant). I've goten myself in plenty of trouble already over this. so, maybe for the sacasm-impaired this would provide an important public service. The whole idea of the government using something like this gives me the creeps, though.
Michelle
50%
50%
Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
6/6/2014 | 3:56:11 PM
Gov vs Humor
There is hope for the future of funny in the government (at least for today).

@CIA

"We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet."

 
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/6/2014 | 3:55:32 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@SaneIT: I would prefer to see the BS-detector created first. In fact, I think it should first be tested at every occasion where a politician speaks before it gets deployed to the general populace.
progman2000
50%
50%
progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
6/6/2014 | 1:41:40 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
Even if the government realizes it can't be done, you know who can do it? Facebook and Twitter.

 


Eh, I would give Google the nod on figuring out how to do it before Facebook and Twitter.
<<   <   Page 6 / 7   >   >>
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.