Can computers understand online conversations?

TheySay, Oxford, Corpora linguistics, big dataNew software being developed at Oxford University may be able to instantly measure the emotions and reactions of large populations by evaluating the words we use on the internet. Investors seem to think this idea will pay off.

So, why do we care? Well, this software, called TheySay, uses something called corpora linguistics, which basically means taking a whole bunch of text (whether Dickens’ novels or Facebook posts) and analyzing what the words mean in relation to each other. This technology may be used to analyze language on an unprecedented scale. For example, one could gather all the public tweets on Twitter in a given month and use text-based analysis to measure the general sentiment of that time period. A group of mathematicians used a variation of this approach on a language-wide scale. Learn more here.

Consider how a tool like this could work like a heart monitor that measures your pulse, but instead of faster and slower, it would measure happier or sadder. As the mood changes, it can be correlated to a public event, like an election, the Super Bowl or the Grammys.

Last week, Steve Lohr at the New York Times discussed the growing amount and usefulness of immense collections of raw data.  As he put it, “…the computer tools for gleaning knowledge and insights from the Internet era’s vast trove of unstructured data are fast gaining ground. At the forefront are the rapidly advancing techniques of artificial intelligence like natural-language processing, pattern recognition and machine learning.” Companies hope to use these developing technologies to predict and measure public health outbreaks or fluctuations in the housing market, among other applications.

TheySay wants to measure perception of a particular product or company to help businesses measure their reputations based on the immediate feedback that language analysis provides. As one of the professors behind the program told The Engineer: “We have a very large database of words annotated by hand along several dimensions for the emotional meaning they carry, and we also evaluate the grammatical context in which these words occur, taking account of the effects of negation and other constructs that change meaning. A word such as ‘progress’ is generally perceived as positive, but not when it is in a context such as ‘fail to progress’, or ‘little progress’.” Pretty cool, huh?

Do you think this software will be able to interpret human language? Share your thoughts.

OBJE: Groupon Showcases Social Media Market Potential with Blockbuster IPO.

Marketing Weekly News November 26, 2011 With its blockbuster IPO on Friday, Groupon, Inc., clearly illustrated the meteoric rise of the social media market as well as its massive potential for future growth, said Obscene Jeans (OTCBB: OBJE) CEO Paul Watson.

Groupon raised $700 million after offering 35 million shares at $20 per share, the largest IPO by an Internet company since Google raised $1.7 billion in 2004. The company’s share prices closed at $26.11, up 30.55 percent.

“Groupon set the new standard for social media IPOs on Friday,” Watson said. “Clearly, many smart investors believe in the market potential of these social media innovations, and OBJE is hard at work developing the kind of technology breakthroughs that could one day lead to a very high valuation of our own.” Just four years old, Groupon is the global market leader in the social couponing, or group buying, space. The company leverages social media tools including Facebook, Twitter and others to spread the word on its daily deals, which only become valid after a predetermined number of people sign on to claim the discount. The model has proven popular enough to make Groupon one of the fastest-growing companies in history, spawning hundreds of imitators around the world. website groupon chicago

“The key to Groupon’s success has been its innovative grasp of social networks as marketing tools,” Watson said. “Could Groupon have grown so quickly if there was no Facebook to allow consumers to share deals with their friends? That’s the kind of vision that gives technology startups an edge. web site groupon chicago

“At OBJE, we believe the next great social network will be composed of tablet and smartphone users, and we’re developing the next generation of marketing tools and strategies to capitalize on this booming market.” Obscene Interactive, OBJE’s social media division, is close to acquiring A-Plus Technologies, an emerging social media analytics firm. A-Plus Technologies utilizes proprietary algorithms to collect valuable consumer trending data from global social media platforms in real time. This data allows clients to better market their products to their customers and enables the businesses to manage their brand in ways never before possible.

Dear Abby: ; Cousin’s wedding invitation brings back painful memories go to website essing wedding invitations

Charleston Daily Mail November 4, 2010 | Jeanne Phillips DEAR ABBY: A male cousin sent me an invitation to his wedding. I have met his fiancee a few times at family reunions and weddings, and she seems very sweet. The problem is my cousin sexually abused me for many years when I was younger. I have no desire to attend his wedding.

Am I obligated to send a card or a gift? I don’t want his fiancee to think I don’t like her, but it makes me sick to think of celebrating his marriage after what he did. What do I say when other family members ask why I’m not going? Am I obligated to tell her what he did?

Needs to know Texas DEAR NEEDS TO KNOW: A young man who sexually abuses someone “for years” is a predator. And while the news may not be greeted warmly, you should say something to your cousin’s fiancee before she marries him.

You could benefit from talking to a counselor who specializes in sexual abuse to make sure the effects of what happened to you don’t affect you in the future. The counselor can help you decide what to do from there. If you don’t attend the wedding, you are under no obligation to send a gift or a card.

DEAR ABBY: I could never figure out why “Margaret,” my wife of 20 years, married me. After our wedding she tried to give me an image makeover. She’d buy me clothes I left hanging in the closet. She’d contradict and correct me in public. In general, she’d find fault with almost everything I did. She put me down often, and if I reacted, she would either claim it wasn’t what she meant to say or tell me, “You do it, too.” I finally gave up and left her. essingweddinginvitationsnow.com essing wedding invitations

Margaret has an excellent reputation, so people try to pry into why I left her. When I tell them I won’t bad-mouth her, they tell me she says plenty about me. My response is, “Then you know all there is to know, don’t you?” Two women close to my age, plus one college-age girl, are trying to pursue me. I’m afraid if I don’t leave this area, Margaret will allege that I left her for one of them.

Your thoughts, please.

Keeping mum Cleveland DEAR KEEPING MUM: You didn’t mention how long ago your marriage ended or whether your divorce is final. But regardless, aren’t you tired of worrying about what your ex is saying about you? The marriage is over – kaput! A move isn’t necessary. An effective way to ensure that no one spreads a rumor that you left Margaret for one woman would be to spend time being seen dating ALL of them.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been together for two years, and he still doesn’t know my mother’s last name (it’s different from my maiden name), nor does he know the names of all of my siblings. He doesn’t think it’s a big deal. What is your opinion?

Name game Knoxville, Tenn.

DEAR NAME GAME: Either your husband is not much of a family man or he’s not detail-oriented. Remembering someone’s name is a sign of respect, and it appears your husband of two years has little of that for your family.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Jeanne Phillips


  1. paul -  November 4, 2015 - 3:05 am

    In the recent years the technology has advanced rapidly. For example look at this new startup Geneea.com and what they’re capable of doing with text. Here’s a nice infographics of how they analyzed and interpreted tweets during the ice-hockey championship: http://blog.geneea.com/hockey-infographic/

  2. No Name -  August 2, 2014 - 8:23 am

    Totally amazing.

  3. yaron peled from computers technician -  May 1, 2014 - 6:39 am

    I think there is this kind of software used by state security forces. Big Brother software are in use for several years, and these are applied in sensitive places.

  4. Ebony -  May 23, 2012 - 7:11 am

    And what about irony? “I’m so incredibly pleased by the fact that the only good character on the show is now dead. hooray.”

  5. Me -  March 13, 2012 - 8:44 pm

    Katie, good point.

  6. thomas jefferson -  March 7, 2012 - 7:40 am


  7. Cheer4issy -  March 7, 2012 - 2:45 am

    One day, computers will take over the world and enslave the human race!

    • Esoteric Poet -  February 28, 2016 - 8:23 pm

      That day will never come. What will happen in the 3rd millenia is that humans will start to de-evolve. De-volution of mankind is starting at this millenia. Soon, humans will back in the outback wearing nothing and hunting and gathering food, and the lifespan will be significally reduced.

  8. kenisha kaliegh -  March 4, 2012 - 9:45 pm

    i wonder if this technique is perfected if they would begin to use it for other reasons. such as analysing peoples conversations when it comes to guilt in court cases. I think that would be neat.

  9. jO-MAMA -  February 29, 2012 - 9:55 am

    I dont need some program to monitor my feelings and privacy
    when I’m writting to someone I like to be read by that person only.
    We already have facebook and twitter thats giving out enough personnal information that we don’t need something else.
    As ”Link Love” said ”Imagine checking online to see that Chicago is happy”

    Who gives a crap?Its not going to prevent :suicide,depression,hate.
    its just another way to take control of the population and feeding them with bullshit.

  10. FAROUK -  February 24, 2012 - 3:52 pm

    A simple solution would be to think 2 times before posting whatever on the internet. And to send emails only to people we really know and in encrypted format. Using a proxy and/or VPN can also help when posting borderline/politically incorrect contents, ie most of the time simply expressing our views & feelings… The less you post messages and the less you make them tracing you easy, the more freedom you’ll regain. Use your computer, tablet, smartphone to read the net, not to write it. Just my advice.

    Dont forget all the stats, infos, etc will be used by governement agencies, publicity companies, etc. and for the most part not for your own good, but for theirs.

    Freedom is just a word or an idea, please tell where on this planet i can be free.

    • Esoteric Poet -  February 28, 2016 - 8:33 pm

      Hello from four years later 29th Feb, 2016

      Thanks to newer mobile devices, and the virtual availability of on-line connection now, people would post EVERTHING online; relationship status, in-transit status, in the crap-room status, a picture of an ordered meal from a diner. Experssing feelings and view online is mediocre. There are “like” buttons to give a thumbs up for comments posted online. In a few months, there will even be “sympathize/empathize” buttons for negative comments posted.
      Almost everyone, if the profile is public, can view someone else’s online journal and steal identities.
      Yet, knowing these negative effects of the Social Media platforms, I can’t help but post my emotions online. I finally care for status quo and I finally crave people’s approvals. Help me!

  11. Link Love, February 24th, 2012 - Yes, Jessica? -  February 24, 2012 - 6:09 am

    [...] are designing software that will aim to measure the general mood of a large group of people based on text.  Imagine checking online to see that Chicago is “happy” today based on an analysis of [...]

  12. Katie -  February 23, 2012 - 2:09 pm

    Also, for all you folks in the comments getting upset about technology advancements and saying how we should live as God intended us to live, here’s two things you should take into consideration.
    1) Good heavens people! You’re on a computer RIGHT NOW! Wake up!
    2) God gave us brains with which to think. We have used them to their full extent. I honestly don’t think he wanted us to sit around and not use them.

  13. Katie -  February 23, 2012 - 1:47 pm

    This both scares me and intriuges me.
    It is interesting because I’m interested by technology bordering the point of obsession. That side of me is the little robotic side that says, “New technology! New technology! I must be updated!”
    The other part is the part scaring me, my human side. I know for a fact that this has high potential to be abused, perhaps even by our own government, to listen in on private conversations. People these days just seem bent on making sure that nothing is personal anymore; not in the least.
    Still, considering all my arguments going on inside my head, I say hell yeah! Do it! Because the only way our race seems to learn is by trial and error. We would be idiots to not try things, but neither should we be afraid to reach out and give it a shot.
    (By the way, this includes views on AI. In fact, I think this sort of technology just might opens the doors to such technology as Artificial Inteligence.)

  14. Frother -  February 22, 2012 - 11:46 am

    Leet, sarcasm, slang all mess it up

  15. mary torres -  February 21, 2012 - 10:23 am

    SWEET :)

  16. pkentropy -  February 21, 2012 - 8:56 am

    Let’s agree to recognize as puerile fear all objections to this laudable exploratory effort to ‘understand text’ (via machine)–which effort will unavoidably expand our understanding of language itself. Objections to R&D reveal either lack of vision, a surfeit of religious confusion, the constraints of a tight budget, or all of the latter; they reveal a lack of understanding of, or a willful misunderstanding of, the value to mankind of expanding our horizons—pushing back the walls of ignorance. More tangibly, machine understanding (a phrase requiring considerable definition) of text–even to the extent of perceiving the intentions of the writer–would certainly offer positive value to literate, technological societies. To offer only a single example among the many already given, this capability would be enthusiastically welcomed by all who are blind and/or otherwise challenged (paraplegic? quadriplegic?) in their pursuit of information, opinion, knowledge, and of course the most elusive of achievements, understanding. Without fail, about 3% of any population would try to turn such capability to ill use. What’s new? That’s no reason for us to run from the light to seek the darkness–which darkness is easily accessible in any of the holy books.

  17. 2txtOrNot2txt -  February 20, 2012 - 9:21 am

    This sounds like an interesting but daunting task. There are a lot of written texts to submit to this program not to mention every single Blog Post or Tweet on the net.
    I think there will be holes or just plain unusable data. Can this program account for bad grammar or context? Better yet what about voice inflection which is lost in all forms of text?
    Another question, why do we need to be told the general mood of a book or posts? What purpose does it really serve other than to generalize the public mood at that particular time?

  18. Jackieboy Canard -  February 18, 2012 - 11:07 am

    Let’s say, for example, that the powers that be are trying to promote a new war of one kind or another. Iran perhaps. Now they take a look at the computer and find that not many people are talking about “Justice” “Freedom”, or “Unfortunate Necessity”, but that the usage of the words ” Vietnam”, “Iraq”, and “Quagmire” have enjoyed an exponential leap in usage that seems to directly correlate with the increased promotion of the idea of the war. They may want to re-evaluate their marketing strategy as far a selling this war goes. This is a very simplified example, but you get the idea? It’s like being able to conduct far reaching polls of the public, effectively bypassing their public personae and claimed allegiances by tapping into their true, unfiltered language. One can gauge public sentiment by looking at the AGGREGATE usage of certain words, not by the individual responses themselves. The data can become more and more refined/accurate as equations/algorithms are developed that can analyse the relationship of words and phrases to other words and phrases.

  19. Jackieboy Canard -  February 18, 2012 - 10:40 am

    Sigh, someone already mentioned it, but looks like it bears mentioning once again: The claim is not being made that this software is able to analyse and interpret the intent and nuance of individual messages that you send!

    Think of it more a a way to gauge the “emotional weather” of a given segment of population. For instance, I am willing to bet that around the time of Obama’s winning of the presidential election, there would have been a lot of words flying around like “renewal” “progress” “hope” and “future”. In an individual message, these words could be subject to sarcasm and nuance and are mostly meaningless in terms of the “Zeitgeist”. But when looked at as a whole, they gain value in terms of ascertaining the true state of public sentiment.

  20. mary torres -  February 18, 2012 - 10:26 am

    shay shay lol ;)

  21. Me -  February 18, 2012 - 5:11 am

    Do we not already take words, phrases, sentences out of context when texting or writing letters. So how in the world would this ever work? It wouldn’t, great thought but not possible. Unless every person on the planet became honest and true to thier word… Again I say not possible..

  22. Gerald Goble -  February 18, 2012 - 4:10 am

    If the sampling is large enough and covers diverse cultures then it will end being continually uniform and not tell us a thing. Such is the world of statistics and the normal curve.

  23. Unamused -  February 18, 2012 - 4:05 am

    Too* Had to correct a typo. @AeroEng, I feel that humans shouldn’t predict the future because it will only change it and the future is something that’s supposed to be. Everything is set as it is and if humans were supposed to predict the future, we would be changing it as we’re seeing it. It just doesn’t work out. We can’t see it because that small detail would change it and then our visions would not be correct.
    P.S. I got a bit carried away with my first comment, I wasn’t in a great mood so I apologise for any over-aggressive tones in it.

  24. Lilie -  February 17, 2012 - 10:38 pm

    I agree with many of you. This technology advance is perhaps a bit too much, or is happening too quickly. We need to slow down, and appreciate and accept the things the way they are. At least for now. But all I’m saying is, nothing is impossible. ;)

  25. JJRousseau -  February 17, 2012 - 7:36 pm

    Really? Ruff Ruff, Oui?

  26. mary torres -  February 17, 2012 - 6:07 pm


  27. mary torres -  February 17, 2012 - 5:38 pm

    who can tell the differince between lady gaga and modanna?

    • Esoteric Poet -  February 28, 2016 - 8:36 pm

      one is a lady and the other is…uhm…

  28. xrobotlove -  February 17, 2012 - 4:59 pm

    This reminds me of the invasive advertisements in the show ‘Futurama’. They created advertisements that would infiltrate a person’s dream, one that was customized to appeal to the dreamer… Now it always freaks me out when I dream about a commercial.

  29. Maya DM -  February 17, 2012 - 4:40 pm

    Humans are doomed. The computers are taking over.

  30. TETO -  February 17, 2012 - 1:53 pm


  31. Anachronism -  February 17, 2012 - 12:25 pm

    Time to move to a deserted island!! :O What are people thinking? I don’t need a computer to tell me how I feel. Siri scares me enough; give her a few more years on the iPhone and America will be left without any decision making skills altogether. This could work, because we’re crazy enough. But do we want it to?

  32. mary torres -  February 17, 2012 - 11:31 am

    whats good yall lol

  33. Adam -  February 17, 2012 - 11:16 am

    Also, how do you think the brain works? It’s computation masking as free will. Get with it folks – the brain only seem non-replicable because it is an extraordinarily complex organ, but that doesn’t make it’s function unfathomable.

    If you toss a pebble down a hill, where it lands is not random! Its every move could be calculated if all of the factors are known. Its the same with the brain – how it operates is not magic, it is a calculation machine.
    The fundamental level of the brain’s operation is neurons that either fire or don’t (ON or OFF). The fundamental level of the computer’s operation is binary that is either 0 or 1 (ON or OFF).

  34. Adam -  February 17, 2012 - 11:15 am

    Also, how do you think the brain works? It’s computation masking as free will. Get with it folks – the brain only seem non-replicable because it is an extraordinarily complex organ, but that doesn’t make it’s function unfathomable.

    If you toss a pebble down a hill, where it lands is not random! Its every move could be calculated if all of the factors are known. Its the same with the brain – how it operates is not magic, it is a calculation machine.

    The fundamental level of the brain’s operation is neurons that either fire or don’t (ON or OFF). The fundamental level of the computer’s operation is binary that is either 0 or 1 (ON or OFF).

  35. Adam -  February 17, 2012 - 10:53 am

    Honestly? Sarcasm? That’s your wrench in the gears? If the program is analyzing BILLIONS of words and expressions, the relatively few instances in which sarcasm is used becomes harmless.

    Would you trust a scientific study that used 10 participants over one that used 100? No.

    The’re is no use in arguing whether this technology is posible – it IS possible and it is used everyday in a variety of settings and for a variety of purposes. The only thing worth arguing is whether it is useful, and it absolutely is.

    Now we can take into account how the majority of the public honestly feels about important issues, something that, in the past, could only be half-heartedly achieved by using polls, which is an inherently biased system because the kinds of people who take the time to participate in a poll already feel strongly about the matter, whereas we can now analyze the emotional biproduct of tweets and Facebook posts.

    And no, this is not Big Brother, this is utilizing technology to best suit the general public’s needs (so long as it is in the right hands; thats always a concern with anything powerful though).

  36. Take That -  February 17, 2012 - 9:07 am

    Hey, can a computer or anyone else here tell the difference between a typo and a genuine spelling error?

  37. mary torres -  February 17, 2012 - 9:03 am

    @miranda me 2 lol

  38. Rustgold -  February 17, 2012 - 8:51 am

    Posters seem to be missing the claim made. The researchers at Oxford University aren’t claiming that this software will be able to interpret individual people. Rather, the claim made is that people in general are more likely to use certain words depending on their collective mood.

    Think of it in this way. If an individual person is wearing a blue jacket, you can’t assume much. However, if 900 out of 1000 people are wearing blue jackets, then you can make a decent guess that we have some type of sporting event nearby. Oxford researchers are simply seeking to make a similar type of analysis.

  39. Lara -  February 17, 2012 - 8:22 am

    What a bunch of malarkey. That’s not posssible

  40. MyToughtOnThis -  February 17, 2012 - 8:17 am

    “How’s it going to monitor feelings when words are misspelled? And, as someone else pointed out, how can it measure sarcasm? How ’bout all caps, or slang? Aside from sounding somewhat unrealiable, once this gets up and running, it occures to me this will surely somehow be used against us…” -Yuki

    I agree 100%!

    • No Name -  August 2, 2014 - 8:09 am

      There is already technology invented to correct spelling issues.

  41. MyToughtOnThis -  February 17, 2012 - 8:15 am

    Don’t you think we can read emotions on are own? We really don’t need some “high tec” sofeware to do that for us… -__-

    • No Name -  August 2, 2014 - 8:13 am

      Humans are oftentimes too busy to read conversations on their own, which is the reason they create software to make sure there are no inappropriate conversations on their website.

  42. Paula -  February 17, 2012 - 8:02 am

    As we learn more and more about multiple intelligences, this kind of analysis can help us listen to the “emotional” aspects of our lives. It is intriquing. For so long this dimension of humanness has been belittled and ignored.

  43. Lingoholic -  February 17, 2012 - 7:17 am

    Remember lie-detectors, body-language and fuzzy (soft) social “science”?
    Add cultural (“fag” UK vs US) and mutational differences (“gay” classic vs “perverted” (linguistically), double-entendre, Miss Speling, Sarcosm, Jeux-de-Mots, Puns and false-friends and dont forget the Panda in the Salad bar with the gun (eats -,- shoots and leaves) and then the “autocorrection errors” , typos, syntax vestiges from translation/cultures and what about the 100word minim(ent)alists- fat, cool, bruvva, awesome, milfmuffs who use amtriguous neologisms and TLAs etc- We are knot convinced

  44. Indifferent -  February 17, 2012 - 5:06 am

    I see fear and confusion in many comments. Failure to comprehend the issue at hand leads people to express idiotic sentiments. Emotions, were pointed out to be troublesome to have by someone. Indeed, I concur, but that’s irrelevant when considering that the masses won’t stop having emotions any time soon. Although, with the responses I’ve read, I’m forced to question the value of such technology. Is it truly able to gauge peoples reactions, unaware of individual idiosyncrasies and circumstances.

    There are some many factors to human emotions and the intensity with which they are experienced that I sincerely doubt that such technology will be fit for any practical use any time soon. The algorithms of the code will go through many changes and revisions before they actually become useful. The task will require significant amounts of resources which will include, time, money, and of course talented and skilled individuals. So while it’s a cute and interesting idea I find it to be wasteful and needless to pursue in that light.

    None the less, an accurate way to gauge the masses reactions to events and circumstances would be useful to people in power. I can’t deny that, but I do still question the plausibility of making it work while considering the amount of resources that would be expanded on truly pursuing this technology. In the end it may just prove to be a monumental waste of time and money. We barely scratch the surface of human psychology and understand the functionality of the brain. With that in mind, I am led to doubt this will bear the fruit they wish to cultivate.

  45. Jim -  February 17, 2012 - 3:06 am

    I agree with TeriBossard who tweeted that “Most people I know can’t tell the emotional tone of a tweet. I doubt software could do better.”

    It’s true that through speech we seek to express our emotions, which can be very nuanced, whether making use of sarcasm, hyperbole, absurdities etc. These express pessimism, outrage, romance, playfulness, etc, all being expressed differently depending on the personality. Outrage expressed by a timid person might look similar to a mild disappointment expressed by a hot head.

  46. Jim -  February 17, 2012 - 2:50 am

    Second paragraph- shouldn’t it read “on an unprecedented scale” and not “on a unprecednted scale”? Just saying. I”m know gremerion but you mite want to fix one or both of the typos :)

  47. FAROUK -  February 16, 2012 - 8:56 pm

    On a side note, a large part of the internet has already been archived. In the next months or years they will be able to associate scattered anonymous messages to a specific individual with a 95%+ success rate. If that person said something wrong/illegal for the last 15-20 years or said he/she did something wrong/illegal, the day that individual places a classified ad with name or phone number or other message containing identification element… bingo!. And the bad thing is my warning is even useless since you can’t erase the past.

  48. Jacob -  February 16, 2012 - 8:16 pm

    as a many others have said, it is a little scary how fast we have been moving in the way of technology over the last few decades or so. Internet wasn’t popular until the 1990′s I believe and flatscreen TV’s are extremely new, but now we have these 4G phones that are basically a small laptop in the palm of your hand. Now you’re going to tell me that we have the technology to scan what EVERY person says over the interwebs and put the information into a super database that can understand what it all says? Umm, iRobot anybody?

  49. mary torres -  February 16, 2012 - 7:29 pm

    good night everyone ZZZzzz

  50. Marie -  February 16, 2012 - 6:38 pm

    Um… I hate to be the one who says the king is naked, but… the king is naked!

    Why not simply set up a Twitter or Facebook page and ask people to submit how they feel? Statistics can be made to prove anything anyhow; and, strange as it may seem, there is still a sizeable proportion of the world not on the net, so how valuable would these statistics be in the first place?

    Concerning the Super Bowl, do we really need software to tell us how people feel about it? The majority of men will love it, while the majority of women will suffer it.

    As for elections, the vote generally tells us what people think of those. Helping politicians to get into power by promising what they think is popular, only to let us down yet again on delivery is not very worthwhile in my view.

    I could think of many uses for the money that will be spent on this invisible suit. Spend it on the poor instead. Save some lives. Do good with it, instead of trying to line the pockets of those who don’t need any more wealth.

  51. Shirley Yu Geste -  February 16, 2012 - 6:34 pm

    Mathematics could never decipher a poem.

  52. Melissa -  February 16, 2012 - 6:33 pm

    Ground-breaking technology no doubt, but I can’t stress enough of how this can lead to something negative. I also think that it’s no one else’s business about what one thinks unless given permission to know. Emotions are something personal that should not be shared- especially to a computer. Soon we won’t be able to trust our own computers. Brilliant for sure, but just a bad idea. I don’t see how it’s beneficial outcomes (if there are any), aside from know what everyone thinks and feels (if it really is beneficial), can outweigh its non-beneficial outcomes.
    Think about it.

  53. arete -  February 16, 2012 - 6:30 pm

    Thanks you nob

  54. arete -  February 16, 2012 - 6:19 pm

    Please delete this comment immediately

  55. Merlin -  February 16, 2012 - 6:04 pm

    Now that I’m cloaked, AI can never work without a nervous system. Store ideas like “hot” and “sad” as ones and zeroes without limbic reactions and they lack a frame of reference and are therefore meaningless. A truly self-aware computer must also therefore know it exists in physical terms and that it is mortal. Try coaxing a high efficiency rating out of anything with a selfish need to make better use of its time than crunching numbers, brought about by existential angst. So no, in its pure form the idea holds little fear or even relevance for me. Besides, if it were really a bother, I could just stop going online, couldn’t I? I’m a lot more concerned about commenters like “aaron”.

  56. MattS -  February 16, 2012 - 5:58 pm

    Just wondering, but if I’m saying something on FB and throw in a random word, would that throw off it’s ability to read my text? Or could it read around the obstructions?

    I just got home from the new movie showing, and it was so TUNA good. It was funny and almost DOG made me cry from laughter.

    I wonder…

  57. DictionFan -  February 16, 2012 - 5:40 pm

    although this is controversial data mining, it should provide corporations with the next level of post-sale ratings and info.
    I like this, as long as it does not violate our basic international privacy rights

  58. Anonymous -  February 16, 2012 - 5:18 pm

    well… i agree that humans shouldn’t be able to predict the future, since we should just live with and be content with the way God made it. i mean honestly, it’s kinda scary, and it’s like we have no privacy… just sharing my thoughts, hope no one gets offended…

  59. Dave -  February 16, 2012 - 5:00 pm


  60. HAL -  February 16, 2012 - 4:56 pm

    I’m sorry Dave. I can’t do that.

  61. TS vs. DEG -  February 16, 2012 - 4:31 pm

    You think the Dos Equis guy is cool? You think the Dos Equis guy has it going on? Let me tell you something, TheySay is the real live Dos Equis guy, and it’s going to show us how to live hugely and have worldly thoughts.

  62. ponypony -  February 16, 2012 - 4:30 pm

    I… I just don’t think its right! I mean, come on! We don’t need computers to tell us how we feel, i also think that we need to slow down the giant leaps of technology that we are taking and take regular, or baby, steps. Some people want to enjoy life without robots breathing down our necks ( just an example, don’t freak ;) ).
    Some people think that technology makes life better, it sometimes does. For instance, some machines can detect we have cancer, and how to cure it. But do we really need machines to tell us how we feel? Really? :( *shakes head and wonders what happened to simplicity*

  63. Dave -  February 16, 2012 - 3:52 pm

    How are they gonna filter out trolls and other such irrelevant things? I’m not sure if it would be totally accurate. As Jester said, “what about sarcasm?”

  64. mary torres -  February 16, 2012 - 3:23 pm

    que pasa

  65. Me -  February 16, 2012 - 3:22 pm

    Well, It’s a bit creepy. Hal 9000, don’t turn real! It would be creepy when they start to understand us more. But you COULD program a computer with a ” personality” to be extremely submissive, and never rebellious! That way, computers won’t ” take over the world”

  66. tom thumb -  February 16, 2012 - 2:46 pm

    The headline “Can computers understand online conversations?” begs the question: what is ‘understanding’? Depending on how you answer that will lead you to answer another question: whether or not you believe that “rapidly advancing techniques of artificial intelligence like natural-language processing, pattern recognition and machine learning” will succeed? The simple answer is no. Computers, by definition, cannot ‘understand’ anything. They run programs that simulate it but they don’t understand the math they do, nor the languages they ‘interpret’. The dream that they will obtain self-consciousness, and become ‘beings’ is the stuff of science fiction. The dream of a ‘universal translator’ as on Star Trek has been touted for over fifty years and is no closer to reality than it ever was. It is true that computers help translators immensely, but the UN, for instance, has not fired their translators, nor will they. What computers will always lack is judgement and motivation. Parallel processing and ‘learning’ programs still only do what they are programmed to do.

    So the interpretation the article speaks of is fascinating and will no doubt be useful for measuring the ‘emotional appeal’ of large amount of data about health, or the superbowl, or Lady Gaga, or whatever, as processed off the internet. But that is a very different thing than understanding a person. Any given person’s understanding of another person is open-ended and revisable; how would a computer even begin there? Computers are great tools that can do a lot of things better than humans, like computation, like games with fixed rules, but understanding language isn’t one of them.

  67. Gigi -  February 16, 2012 - 2:19 pm


  68. jamal -  February 16, 2012 - 1:53 pm

    well, who knows try it a see.

  69. mary torres -  February 16, 2012 - 1:36 pm

    heeeeeeyyyyy who want 2 talk?

  70. LooseFroot -  February 16, 2012 - 1:21 pm

    This sounds amazing!
    …potentially exploitable to some point I’m sure
    But ya, it sounds neat and profitable.

  71. Me My -  February 16, 2012 - 1:04 pm


  72. o -  February 16, 2012 - 12:56 pm

    Nothing is impossible.

  73. AeroEng -  February 16, 2012 - 12:29 pm

    “Humans aren’t supposed to predict the future.”- Unamused

    Are you sure though, what gives you this notion?

    Don’t meant to be offensive, I’m just saying…

  74. Vicaari -  February 16, 2012 - 12:20 pm

    Such software already exists interpreting human language the BIG-BROTHER way whether we like it or not. It is scary then THEY, BBs, have the round knowdlege how to manipulate the unsuspecting mind of little ppl/kid brother/ALUMNI (in 174)….

    As usual I know that this writing piece of mine THEY will not let you even see let alone your bona fide comments on it. It’s that way THEIR brain function and are doing to mine since 2008.

    I enjoy this Dictionary.com blog though I know that it is not well. Well I am learning.
    In the beginning I enjoyed your input 2! It came to the notice of BIG BROTHERs @ a certain EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION. That’s it. The way THEY interfere–HORRENDOUS!
    Then THEY use own IT ppl to myriads manipulations

    @ Simeon:… “Internet is unsafe” @ the expense of unsupecting ittle ppl (99%) the BIG BROTHER’s experimental guinea pigs; these are the ones contribute billons of $ DONATE w/t realizing fully. Catch 22 game!
    @Monegrammar: It’s 2 late 2 slow down. Momentum on its way to some kind destruction…b/c modern technology invading unknown/uncharted territory.
    @Pholandar: You are right. The vorecious appetite … never appeased so “THEY never get enouf w/ surveillance”

    Very sorry English is not my first language; 4give my myriads of mistakes. Then again don’t know why I even mention this to you… incase of DIVINE INTERVENTION!!!


  75. Bibbs'Mom -  February 16, 2012 - 12:13 pm

    I think that most people are so out of touch with their feelings that if TheySay can tell someone what their immediate emotions are, it MIGHT prove instrumental in getting them to reconnect with themselves. Emoticons have taken over for real feelings but they don’t really mean anything any more. And most people who spend their time on texting don’t “know” themselves or the people they text………their limited view of emotions is impacting how they react in face-to-face situations. They seem to have little experience with real life and have a problem “reading” the faces of those they call friends, etc. They are ill-equipped to deal with everyday feelings. In fact, most have no idea what they are feeling or why.
    And I think that is sad and frightening. It fits right in with people killing others without thought because life is just a game – it’s not wrong because it’s not real.
    Who knows? It might be enlightening to find out what people actually feel when they say things or see things.
    Marketing – here comes another Big Brother. Why does that not surprise me.

  76. BrandonRouthFan -  February 16, 2012 - 10:03 am

    This is amazing! Ground breaking technology, they’re right!

  77. Yuki -  February 16, 2012 - 9:58 am

    How’s it going to monitor feelings when words are misspelled? And, as someone else pointed out, how can it measure sarcasm? How ’bout all caps, or slang? Aside from sounding somewhat unrealiable, once this gets up and running, it occures to me this will surely somehow be used against us…

  78. Barby -  February 16, 2012 - 9:55 am

    It’s scary and exciting at the same time. I wonder what Wittgenstein would think of it.

  79. MARY TORRES -  February 16, 2012 - 9:36 am

    i know thats right lol :)

  80. AL-ANON -  February 16, 2012 - 9:30 am

    This is because, as a lot of people speak a new language has been ported from its place of origin, may be useful, in many cases, that version horribly broken. There is no computer, it helps to understand the native English speakers simply can not be broken!

  81. Jester -  February 16, 2012 - 9:28 am

    And what do you think it will do with sarcasm, eh?

  82. Ptron -  February 16, 2012 - 9:00 am

    That is pretty neat. It is easy to imagine that it may be used somehow for nefarious purposes, but I suppose many useful tools can also serve evil motives. At any rate, I hope TheySay does a better job than Microsoft Word at interpreting words and context. (I say that somewhat in jest because Word has improved, but sometimes it still provides incorrect feedback, and that little squiggly line under the words will not go away.) I think TheySay will be a very popular tool in politics and marketing.

  83. aaron -  February 16, 2012 - 8:29 am

    i think this is groudbreaking!To have a tool that would measure ones perception is a huge step towards changing ones perception.You see,alot of people have no clue what side”good”and”bad”their perception actually is.I know this because i was one of them,once i understood this i was capable to accomplish things that i never thought i could!

  84. SOFTWARELANGUAGE | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  February 16, 2012 - 8:23 am

    [...] ‘Software Language’ in a Hard Core World of Double Speak and musical chairs — Is one more reason for education of all — for Math and Science Fairs — let alone the language — for which we take exception. — The importance of our uniformity — let alone our depth perception — to feast in non-conformity — conforming all the same — sitting down for some equality in the ongoing Dickensian Game. –>>L.T.Rhyme [...]

  85. ed -  February 16, 2012 - 7:31 am

    Hello Big Brother!! Of course the accuracy of this technology may be in question since English changes so often.

  86. Cece -  February 16, 2012 - 7:25 am

    Would most likely be udes for marketing and could be an invasion of privacy on a massive scale. Do we deserve that because we share our intimate selves over the internet?

  87. AL-ANON -  February 16, 2012 - 7:23 am

    Hopefully it will be able to decipher LEET-SPEEK! Like: “omg nub! U got sho pwnd H@RDC0RE! Don’t mess wit the 1337 or we’ll roxxorz yur soxxorz! XD”

  88. Lonnie -  February 16, 2012 - 7:13 am

    Not impressed, I highly doubt this will bring any useful reliable data. Key word being useful, if we think of how the human mind works compared to how computers work: it’s not some easy little script that will make AI happen. It’s things like decisions, analysis and the ablility to instantly distinguish constant incoming data that will be difficult if not impossible to replicate with our somewhat primitive technology.

  89. P.Z. -  February 16, 2012 - 5:56 am

    10>Print “syntax error”.
    20>Goto 10


  90. Neil660 -  February 16, 2012 - 5:45 am

    Not at this stage, as computer software is yet to be able to interpret a given user’s pragmatic competence. That is to say the function of a given utterance at a specific time, rather than just understanding the almost decontextualised nature of language through collocations rather than in specific situations. Perhaps the user was being sarcastic in the above example, as in “great progress, huh?” (after the grammatical subject had failed miserably at an exam).

  91. Phlondar -  February 16, 2012 - 5:19 am

    They just don’t get enough with surveillance

  92. JustTheAverageGrammarCop -  February 16, 2012 - 5:00 am

    I noticed you misspelled unprecedented.

  93. Unamused -  February 16, 2012 - 2:56 am

    Emotions? Why monitor them?! They’re useless things to have anyway. All they do is cause trouble and the way I see it is, if we saw it coming… It would make no difference. Humans aren’t supposed to predict the future, so, if that guy is going to have a heart attack… That’s the way it’s meant to be. Trying to change things before they happen only messes things up for us in the future. I feel that technology is advancing to fast for its own good.

  94. Hassani -  February 16, 2012 - 12:46 am

    It is by no means something new. Corpora have long been used to measure the behavior of words in relation to each other. They have recently found new uses in the field of translation as well. However, they are a treasure trove for analyzing human emotions as expressed in words.

  95. Ezericht -  February 16, 2012 - 12:43 am

    I think this is a great stride in the direction of a complete autonomous network of computers that can monitor and record Human behavior. It will not be long before a machine will know us better than we know ourselves.

  96. Monegrammar -  February 15, 2012 - 10:16 pm

    It is just scary how we are making technology able to understand us more and more. The more advances I hear about, the more I think we should slow down. If this technology is actually applied in the near future, we should also consider the bad things that it can be used for. There is always Moriarty hiding in the shadows, waiting for the next new way to pull off a crime.

  97. Simeon Adedokun -  February 15, 2012 - 7:47 pm

    I think there is nothing impossible under heavens again. Computer can be used to carry out any operation that man can think of. Man studies psychology and, to a greater extent, interprets human feelings and emotions. One you think it you can get it is the world we live in today. We have great programmers whose are capable computerizing human life and activities.
    Therefore, I’m believe the idea is realistic, the software can interpret human language. Even if you want it for many languages, there are language translators that can interpret all the world leading languages recognized on the internet. So once the users of the social networks and the internet as a whole write and post the exact thing on their minds, this software will be able to read the mind and understand online conversations. However, it makes the internet more unsafe, thereby creating more security problem.

  98. Simeon Adedokun -  February 15, 2012 - 7:44 pm

    I think there is nothing impossible under heavens again. Computer can be used to carry out any operation that man can think of. Man studies psychology and, to a greater extent, interprets human feelings and emotions. One you think it you can get it is the world we live in today. We have great programmers whose are capable computerizing human life and activities.
    Therefore, I’m believe the idea is realistic, the software can interpret human language. Even if you want it for many languages, there are language translators that can interpret all the world leading languages recognized on the internet. So once the users of the social networks and the internet as a whole write and post the exact thing on their minds, this software will be able to read the mind and understand online conversations. However, it makes the internet more unsafe, thereby creating more security problem.


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