Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fooling the Gender Genie

The Gender Genie is an algorithm that can supposedly detect the gender of an author by analysing their choice of words. You simply drop in a chunk of text [ideally more than 500 words], specify whether it comes from fiction, non-fiction or a blog entry and click a button. Hey presto, the algorithm should be able to detect your gender. Most of my fiction is full of action, blokes and danger, so I decided not to bother testing them for its masculinity. Instead, I chose the sex scene from my Nightmare on Elm Street novel, which I wrote from the female character's point of view. Could I write a good enough feminine POV to fool the algorithm?

Damn right I can! The result was 1255 female words to 754 male words, so the algorithm decided the text must have been written by a woman. Next up, the first three scenes of my BBC Radio play, Island Blue: Ronald. That features a gay man and lots of women, but would my masculine tendencies give me away? Survey says no, though it was a closer run thing with 1563 female words to 1406 male. Lastly, I tried part of my Sarah Jane Smith audio adventure Dreamland. For once, my maleness got the better of me and that was deemed to have a male author. I guess the gunfight gave the game away. Still, nice to know computers think I can write from a female perspective when required. How does your writing measure against the Gender Genie?

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