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.

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


  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. :-)


    – 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.


    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

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