Is this a joke?
No, this is not a joke.
How are you going to manage to recognize stupidity programmatically?
Pretty much the same way you can programmatically recognize spam, we'll look for things that characterize stupidity and assign particular tokens different weights based on how often they occur in hand-picked examples of idiotic comments. For more information about the algorithm we're using, see Support Vector Machines.
When do you expect to have usable code?
Beta code is out now. Check the downloads page.
Isn't filtering stupidity elitist?
Yes. Yes, it is. That's sort of the whole point.
Do you really expect to be able to detect and filter anything that's conceivably stupid?
No, of course not. You'd need real AI for that, and beyond a certain point it's simply subjective; after all, a sufficiently advanced AI would probably filter out the whole of human discourse, which isn't the idea.
So what do you plan to filter?
The idea is that the most egregiously stupid comments will also be the easiest to detect while remaining ignorant of context; comments with too much or too little capitalization, too many text-message abbreviations, excessive use of "LOL," exclamation points, and so on.
How do you rate stupidity?
Since we're trying to build a detailed database that serves as a very verbose example of What Not To Do, we look for comments whose prose style we can point to and say, "I don't even have to understand the content of this comment to know that it's stupid," -- based on the gross prose style alone, its stupidity is self-evident. It is then useful as an example for our parser to integrate into its database of stupidity.
I looked at some of the results from the Random Stupidity page, and they don't seem that stupid to me; what gives?
Keep in mind we grade stupidity on a scale of 1 to 5. Someone might get a 1 or 2 for a comment that used no punctuation, whereas a comment consisting of nothing but text message abbreviations with a dash of LOLLLLL thrown in for good measure would probably rate a solid 4 or 5. There is a certain amount of subjectivity, and our software is aware of that; scoring will be normalized to eliminate excessively generous or harsh estimations of stupidity.
What about ironic uses of "stupid" diction?
The StupidFilter is blind to irony. Our intent is that one or two instances of "lol" or "ur dum" in several paragraphs of otherwise-cogent text won't result in a false positive. However, we consider the StupidFilter's irony-ignorance to be a feature, insofar as even if an allegedly smart person makes a short, stupid comment, their smartness doesn't make the comment any less stupid. If your mom had designed the StupidFilter, she might say "If you can't say anything smart, don't say anything at all."
Won't people just try to defeat the filter, the way spammers try to get around spam filtering?
We certainly hope they will -- that implies they're no longer generating text statistically likely to be stupid. It's true that an obvious attack on the StupidFilter would be to salt a short, stupid comment with a long excerpt copy-pasted from, say, Project Gutenberg, but we think it's reasonable to count on the laziness of the stupidest commenters not to do this.
Aren't you just trying to eliminate comments and discourse that you consider to be stupid?
As much as that might be nice, no. The StupidFilter does not understand, in a meaningful sense, the text that it parses, and our graders select comments that are formally stupid -- that is, their diction, not their content, marks them as stupid. It is not our intent to eliminate debate or disagreement, but rather to programmatically enforce a certain quality of expression. Put another way: The StupidFilter will cheerfully approve an eloquent, properly-capitalized defense of mandatory, state-subsidized rocket-launcher ownership for all schoolchildren.
Isn't that a very prescriptivist position to take?
Yes, and we are equally aware that this will make us few friends in linguistics circles. But effective textual communication requires at least some formal rigor, and we feel such rigor is worth encouraging and, at times, enforcing.