Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
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6/6/2014
07:00 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
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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.

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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
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David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/9/2014 | 3:30:17 PM
Re: 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."


@Michelle- That is hilarious. Good for the CIA. I wonder how many contractors, vendors, and consultants it took to do that? But seriously, am I the only one uncomfortable with the idea of the CIA having a Twitter account?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/9/2014 | 3:27:52 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@snunyc- funny enough, I like exercising my own BS detector. But I HATE when I don't get sarcasm and look like a fool.

That said, it would be nice if Google, Facebook, or someone else invented a plug-in that could put "We know this to be not factual" tags on articles, pictures, etc that infect the internet.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/9/2014 | 3:12:40 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.


@progman2000- I see that. google has a lot of skill in natural language processing. But I think FB and Twitter have the leg up on the number of free sarcastic posts they can experiment on. :)

I guess my real question is-- what's in it for Google to solve this?
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
6/9/2014 | 1:23:10 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
The sarcasm dtector really is needed in any kind of social media analysis. There is a big difference between really and REALLY? While we perform lots of anyalysis on social media sentiment the accuracy still is not there. I wish the government the best of luck but with our language evolving everyday,( who knew what cra cra was 5 years ago) it is a very tall order. They may get closer but I doubt they will ever crack the code completely.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/9/2014 | 1:16:43 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@jastro- We definitely need this, if only to help build our new robot overlords. What would an overlord be if it didn't understand how to be sarcastic?

I think this a very fascinating field and you are right that we've been working on this a long time. Social media gives us the chance for millions and millions of new "test" interactions that can be automatic read and processed at incredible speeds by computers. It is like it was designed just to teach computers how to learn our language.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/9/2014 | 1:13:13 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
My first thought was wondering how often our government hears "great job on that one guys" and takes it as a compliment rather than sarcasm.


@SaneIT- Ha! Yeah, that's certainly the way it goes down in every Bruce Willis movie. :)
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/9/2014 | 7:13:44 AM
Re: Sadly we do need this
Honestly I believe this happens quite often.  How many times have you heard about a goverment plan and you're wondering if they are serious or you hear them laying out the framework and it sounds like the sterotypical over budget project that is going to under deliver.  I can't help but think sometimes that they hear read suggestion cards and they read the sarcastic ones as good advice.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
6/8/2014 | 9:53:51 AM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@Technocratic ooh, a variation on "if a tree falls ..." "if sarcasm is expressed but nobody gets it, does it still count as sarcasm?"
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
6/7/2014 | 7:34:25 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@Ariella   Your discussion brings up another interesting  question - Is Sarcasm, still Sarcasm if the other person (s) do(es) not get the verbal jab ?    I guess it still is actually.

But I can understand the debate.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
6/7/2014 | 7:27:32 PM
Re: Sarcasm at Work
@S.N   Some interesting questions   I consider sarcasm to be a part of human nature, usually carried out in an mean spirited way,  That is not to say all sarcasm need be mean spirited.

When used with maturity it can occasionally be helpful in getting an otherwise unheard point across.
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