On The Level

I’ve found another fun way to waste your time: a website that ranks the “education level” of your favorite blogs.

I should warn you that I have absolutely no idea how the rankings are determined. Perhaps the algorithm is based upon complexity of sentence structure (such as, for example, the use of parenthetical clauses); maybe it looks for indicators such as proper compound-adjective hyphenation, occurrences of sesquipedalian words, or usage of words, once common, that have now fallen into desuetude.

On the other hand, I suppose that it may make note of, say, a writer’s aptitude for alliteration, familiarity with classical languages, or other such artes perditae, and it could even, for all that, be using some sort of statistical-semantics analysis, or word-sense-disambiguation — perhaps some form of Tikhonov regularization, like a support-vector machine — to evaluate the writer’s grasp of advanced technical material.

I guess the fact is I don’t know what the heck it’s doing. Have a look for yourself here.

Related content from Sphere
  1. Another marker of academic writing that the software may take into consideration is the use of footnotes.

8 Comments

  1. Charles says

    I’m going to guess it uses something along the lines of the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level ranking, which is the test used by MS Word to determine reading grade level. It’s actually a very simple formula that looks at words per sentence and syllables per word (there’s more info at Wikipedia). The algorithms you describe seem rather unrealistic–something that a human might be able to do, but I don’t think we’re at the point yet where a web-based application can make such complex calculations and judgments.

    Or maybe not. Whatever it does use, it’s apparently not the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. I ran this post through and it came out as “college (postgrad),” then I ran my current post (on my site) through and it came out as “high school.” Yet our respective Flesh-Kincaid Grade Levels are 9.8 for you and 10.3 for me. But it’s got to be something simple, judging by the speed at which it works.

    (By the way, I was amused at how you hedged your bets in the post. Very clever.)

    Posted December 12, 2007 at 3:22 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi Charles,

    Thanks. I’d never heard of the Flesch-Kincaid ranking, and was (obviously) just goofing off here.

    Every evening, after what is usually a pretty long day at work, I have to weigh spending several hours writing a serious post against dashing off some worthless frippery, and last night I was just too worn out to make any substantial effort.

    I greatly enjoyed this recent post over at your place, by the way.

    Posted December 12, 2007 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  3. MikeZ says

    Perhaps if you weren’t goofing off, this item plus its replies would have ranked higher than “Junior High School” level. I don’t suppose you’ll be proudly displaying the rating graphic. :-)

    Yikes!

    – M

    Posted December 13, 2007 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Hi Mike,

    Well, I ran the same check right after I published it, and before the comments appeared:

    “College (post-grad).”

    I’m not quite sure what to say about that.

    Posted December 13, 2007 at 11:15 am | Permalink
  5. Charles says

    I can vouch for what Malcolm said–before I posted my comment, it was college (postgrad). Wait a minute…

    *quietly slips away*

    (I’m glad you enjoyed my recent babblings, by the way. Kevin noted that the title was worthy of waka waka waka, which I took as a great compliment.)

    Posted December 14, 2007 at 2:19 am | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    I did indeed, Charles. And I’ll take Kevin’s remark as a compliment also.

    Posted December 14, 2007 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  7. Kevin Kim says

    My blog scored “Junior High School” at first. A couple posts later, it scored “High School.” Both ratings are much too generous, in my opinion.

    When I fed in the URL for the Paglia post I had written, the site gave me (or more likely Paglia, who is extensively quoted in that post) a “Genius” rating. Go figure.

    Kevin

    Posted December 14, 2007 at 7:16 pm | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    Kevin, I don’t think the algorithm yet exists that could properly quantify your blog.

    Posted December 15, 2007 at 1:17 am | Permalink