Multiple Guess

Security Watch: The myth of online anonymity – CNET reviews:

In his talk, Kazwetz mentioned several studies on gender use of keywords which, when weighted–with specific numerical values for male and different numerical values for female–can determine the gender of the author. Sounds too simple to be true, but research (including Gender, Genre, and Writing Style in Formal Written Texts by Shlomo Argamon, et al, and Sexed Texts by Charles McGrath) has shown that some words are more likely to be written by one gender or the other. In informal writing, men are more likely to write “some,” “this”, and “as” while women are more likely to write “actually,” “everything,” and “because”. In formal writing, men write “around,” “more,” and “what” while women write “if,” “with,” and “where.” By determining the point totals in a given document, Dr. Krawetz can predict the gender of the author.

Dr. Krawetz admits upfront that this method is only 60 to 70 percent accurate, but it is far better than guessing, which is only 50 percent accurate. He further cautions that text including citations from poetry, quotes from others, and even the influence of copy editors on the original can all skew the results. It is best to collect a large number of examples, then average the point totals.

Is this method compared to guessing significantly different? I’d prefer a much higher accuracy rate. At the minimum, 85 percent, though 90 to 95 percent would be much better. Maybe in forensics accuracy isn’t so important?

Going “nuclear” over use of “nucular”

Why does Bush go “nucular”? By Kate Taylor – Slate Magazine:

To say “the word is spelled (x), and therefore should be pronounced (y)” doesn’t make any sense. Spelling is not a legitimate basis for determining pronunciation, for the following reasons:

1) English spelling is highly irregular. For example, “move”, “dove”, and “cove” are spelled similarly but pronounced differently. Likewise, “to”, “too”, and “two” are spelled differently and pronounced the same.

2) English spelling is frequently based on factors besides pronunciation. For example, the “c” represents three different sounds in “electrical”, “electricity” and “electrician”, but is spelled the same in all to show that the words are related.

3) Most importantly, spoken language is primary, not written language. Speaking is not the act of translating letters into speech. Rather, the opposite is true. Writing is a collection of symbols meant to represent spoken language. It is not language in and of itself. Many written languages (Spanish, Dutch, etc.), will regularly undergo orthographic reforms to reflect changes in the spoken language. This has never been done for English (the spelling of which has never been regularized in the first place), so what we use for written language is actually largely based on the spoken language of several centuries ago.

I’ve never really considered the implications of written vs. spoken language. This will give me lots to ponder.

9/11 – 5 Years Later

The world has changed as a result of these attacks 5 years ago today. Pre-9/11 we viewed the world’s problems as only something we had to deal with should we travel to a dangerous country. Post-9/11 we are constantly nervous that once again our home might be that dangerous country. A whole country going through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder…. Yikes!

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Bush launches 9/11 remembrances:

US President George W Bush has laid a wreath at Ground Zero, the site of New York’s Twin Towers, to mark the fifth anniversary of the 11 September attack.

Al-Qaida No. 2 warns of new attacks – International Terrorism – MSNBC.com:

Al-Qaida warned in a video aired on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that U.S. allies Israel and the Gulf Arab states would be its next target in a campaign that would seal the West’s economic doom.

Forever mourning lost loved ones – 9/11: Five Years Later – MSNBC.com:

We asked readers tell how their lives were changed by Sept. 11 and its aftermath. Here, in their own words, are some of their stories.