So you never heard of Margaret Lovecraft?

August 13, 2010

Our blog has been up and running for almost a month now, and this feels like a good occasion (read: excuse) for some self reflection on how we’re faring so far. Don’t worry, I won’t be boring you with blog stats, view counts or anything else involving numbers. Luckily, there is this new website which offers a much more entertaining way of analysis…

The site in question is called “I Write Like” and was programmed by some Russian computer wizz. It works really simple: All you need to do is enter a piece of text you’ve written, hit a button, and then, by a set of complex algorithms, digital oompa loompas or whatever, the programme automatically compares your words with the works of over fifty famous writers. This is only a matter of seconds, and in the blink of an eye you’re told “You write like…” and given the name of a world-renowned author whose style your own writing resembles. Oh, and you’re also offered a free subscription of some publication that is supposed to help you increase your writing skills. Now, I have to admit I’m deeply suspicious of any website that lets you play some sort of game first and wants you to subscribe to whatever-it-is-they’re-offering afterwards, no matter how often they flash the word FREE in your face. On the other hand, I’m a sucker for weird online questionnaires and suchlike. You know, the Which Circle of Hell Would You Be in if You Were in Dante’s Inferno-kind of stuff. So I just had to have a go at this “I Write Like” thing and had all our previous blog entries analyzed.

According to the test results my first two posts were written in the style of H. P. Lovecraft. This is, in a certain sense, good news because the test states that two of [m]’s posts resemble Lovecraft’s work as well. So, despite the fact that there are two different authors writing here, there seems to be a certain similarity between our styles lending some much desired coherence to our blog. Unfortunately, though, there seems to be very little coherence in my own writing: After that initial run of Lovecraft-y posts my literary style apparently took a turn to the South and I produced a post in the vein of – wait for it – Margaret Mitchell. With my next entry I morphed into Mary Shelley, and, finally, my last post saw me following in the footsteps of one Cory Doctorow (whoever that might be – seriously, I’ve never heard of that guy before).

At first I found these results rather disturbing. Then, however, I took a look at the small print and learned that the analysis is not based on “stylistic” parameters (like length of sentences etc.) alone but also on a keyword search. So, big surprise: I sound like Lovecraft when I use words like “undercroft” and “cobwebs” but I become Margaret Mitchell as soon as I mention family dinners and my grandma! Wow, who’d have thought?!

The one thing that really bugs me, though, is that one of [m]’s posts is supposedly written in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. Jeez, why does she always get to be the cool one?

P.S.: This time I decided to stick with the “every post needs a pic”-rule and included one of our old holiday photos. I could, of course, come up with a number of reasons why and how that particular image is related to the post, like: It shows the site of Sir Walter Scott’s grave at Dryburgh Abbey, Scotland, and can therefore be said to adhere to the general topic of famous writers. Also, it conveys as sort of Gothic atmosphere that seems to go well with the names of Shelley, Poe and Lovecraft. Still, all of these reasons are rather far-fetched and arbitrary. At the end of the day the photo is, strictly speaking, unrelated to the post. See, that’s what you get when you abide by the rules – utter randomness.

P.P.S.: According to “I Write Like…” this post itself is written in the style of H. P. Lovecraft. Well, I did mentions “undercrofts” again…

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