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.

Top 10 Secret Reasons Microsoft CEO Ballmer Retired
Top 10 Secret Reasons Microsoft CEO Ballmer Retired
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Welcome to my first Geekend on InformationWeek.com. I wrote this weekly column for three and a half years on EnterpriseEfficiency.com, and now that I'm bringing it to InformationWeek, I'll repeat what I wrote in my very first Geekend:

Every Friday I'm going to talk about stuff I love -- gadgets, games, movies, and the people who make them -- and I'm not going to worry about the enterprise. Just once a week. One post, for a little bit of fun so we can enter the weekend on a high note.

I hope the InformationWeek audience enjoys my little jaunt through the geekier side of life as much as I do.

[How's your company's geek:jock ratio? Read Geeks Versus Jocks: CIOs, Beware Your Culture.]

Speaking of geek life, the US Secret Service is making an interesting jaunt into natural language processing by asking people to make a sarcasm detector. Here's an intercepted video of an early test:

You can see they're still working on it. But seriously, the Secret Service really does want its own social media monitoring software (it uses FEMA's now), and among the criteria -- buried among other humorous requirements, like its needing to be compatible with Internet Explorer 8 -- is the need to detect sarcasm.

Why would anyone need to do that on Twitter? Isn't Twitter the most sincere place on Earth?

As much as I want to make fun of the government's inability to detect humor of any kind, there's a real need here. You know those signs at the airport that say, "All jokes about bombs will be taken seriously"? That's Twitter for the Secret Service. How do they know the difference between a tweet that says, "I want to kill the president over that decision" and "I want to KILL the president over that decision"?

Allow me to share a personal story of this problem before social media even existed. My grandfather was a Navy veteran and literally would have taken a bullet for any US president, regardless of party. But he also considered it important to write letters to express his dissent. Once he wrote a letter to President Reagan (whom he loved) protesting something Reagan was doing with veterans' benefits. He wrote: "A man ought to be shot for thinking like that..."

Uh oh. Somewhere in Washington, a little file was created. And several years later, when Reagan was visiting my grandfather's hometown, he got a knock on the door. The Secret Service agents told my grandmother they'd be outside the house until the president left. My grandfather was confined to his chair because of a stroke, and when my mother informed the agents, they went in, politely talked with my grandfather, and left.

But imagine this encounter on the scale of Twitter. Not just a few thousand angry letters, but 500 million tweets per day, plus Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and countless other social forums. And they aren't all hashtagged #Iwanttokillthepresident #thisisnojoke. How do you tell the difference? How do you even read them all?

So good for the Secret Service, but this is a tall order. How do you teach a computer something that not all people are good at?

We're getting surprisingly close (and yet still so far away), with teaching computers about regular humor. We've even got them writing jokes like this one: "What do you get when you combine a fragrance with an actor? A smell Gibson." That at least resembles a joke. But how do you teach sarcasm, which requires an understanding of the intent

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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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batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
9/9/2014 | 11:59:42 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@StaceyE I try to see it from both ways so to say... it easy this way to understand... but who knows what is right path to know/understand...
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/31/2014 | 4:57:46 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@ Batye

Interesting comment: we do see things but we do have diffrent aproach/understanding to what we see

This makes me think of all the shows about ancient aliens. Maybe they really did visit earth but since the people didn't understand what they were seeing, the cave paintings were their way of interpreting what they saw. ;)
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
8/3/2014 | 12:11:49 AM
Re: Sadly we do need this
thank you, as we do see things but we do have diffrent aproach/understanding to what we see... so to say...
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/31/2014 | 10:06:01 AM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@ batye

Your right, point of view plays a major role in how everything is perceived.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 7:01:08 PM
Re: Sarcasm Detector Wanted
all I could say welcome to the age of technology... in Canada we have now a big problem -

'No judgment, no discretion': Police records that ruin innocent lives


 -  http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/06/22/no_judgment_no_discretion_police_records_that_ruin_innocent_lives.html it getting a bit scary...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 6:57:23 PM
Re: Scary
could not agree more, same here... but where is should be fine line we shall not cross... or...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 6:56:19 PM
Re: Intent detector
this days, it scarey and interesting at the same time... as with comprehension is to each his own... as same with communication skills...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 6:53:08 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
it more depends on the point of view... how I see it...
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/30/2014 | 6:48:23 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
I think that most politicians probably are like Sheldon Cooper when it comes to sarcasm.....lol
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/30/2014 | 6:46:09 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
I imagine many politicians are like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Thoery when it comes to sarcasm.

"What's the difference between a fax and a text message again?"
Page 1 / 7   >   >>
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