This is TOTALLY not sarcastic

Authorities ‘use analytics tool that recognises sarcasm’

Big news on the poorly thought-out idea front:  A French company named Spotter (from the French spotter – “one who spots”) has developed technology that can usually tell when someone is being sarcastic.  The software determines this through the use of “linguistics, semantics, and heuristics”, or in layman’s terms, “words, definitions of words, and trial and error guesses”.  The theoretical output of this product is something called a “reputation report”, the purpose of which is to verify that people are saying the same uncomplimentary things online that they say to your face.  Spotter charges £1000 (275 Triskelion quatloos) per month for this.

Early reaction to the announcement is mixed.  Here are a sample of the ringing endorsements in the BBC article:

  • “[S]ome experts say such tools are often inadequate because of the nuance of language.”
  • “[T]hese reports can also be verified by human analysts if the client wishes.”
  • “Nothing is fool-proof – we are talking about automated systems,”
  • “…there was “no magic bullet” when it came to analytics that recognise tone.”
  • “These tools are often next to useless…”
  • “The challenge that governments and businesses have is whether to rely on automated tools that are not that effective…”

Rumors that someone somewhere thinks this will work are unconfirmed.

Early adopters of this technological leap forward include the Home Office (the British equivalent of the Justice Department), the EU Commission (the European Union equivalent of the executive branch), and the Dubai Courts (the Dubai equivalent of Wimbledon, I think).  It’s always comforting to see governments employ technology that is incorrect 20% of the time to determine what people mean when they talk to each other online.  There is no end to the helpful things governments can do with this information.

Note: At this time, I would like to welcome the spybots of the British Home Office, which have been attracted to this blog by the mention of the Home Office.  As a control case, I would like to point out that the 20% of this post which does not register as sarcastic is a programming error at your end.  Please return your spybot to Spotter for repair or replacement, before everyone else does.

Yes, we have no dry ice

The building I work in is being closed for the long weekend while they install new air conditioning units for the labs.  We have been told for weeks that the power would be off this weekend, and that if we wanted to work on Friday (not a holiday), we should either work from home or go to one of the other buildings on the campus.

We have refrigerators in all the break rooms in our building, so that people can bring their lunches to work.  On the first Friday of every month (coincidentally tomorrow) the refrigerators are cleaned, and anything left inside is thrown out.  So the problem of leaving stuff in the refrigerator over the long weekend pretty much solves itself.

Yesterday, as a reminder, they put up signs at all the elevators and stairwells reminding us of the power outage.  But they included a warning in bright red letters:

This will affect the refrigerators!

This is a helpful warning, as many highly educated computer professionals might not be aware that refrigerators run on electricity, or that electrical appliances are affected by the lack of electricity.  Perhaps our refrigerator is wireless.  Or maybe it runs on telepathy.  (Think cold thoughts, everyone!)

Curiously, none of the warning signs appear on or near the refrigerator.  Maybe it doesn’t know what’s coming…