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Software It's funny.  Laugh. Social Networks Science

Software Recognizes Sarcastic Tweets 168

An anonymous reader writes "Even humans sometimes fail to recognize sarcasm and irony; can machines do better? An algorithm that identifies sarcastic tweets (PDF) on Twitter and sarcastic sentences in product reviews on Amazon will be presented next week in the International Conference for Weblogs and Social Media in Washington, DC, and in the Computational Natural Language Learning in Sweden in July. A team from the Hebrew University, Israel, has developed an algorithm that identifies sarcastic sentences by using a machine learning technique in which a small number of sarcastic sentences act as seeds for the software to learn and generalize upon. The algorithm can then identify sarcastic sentences that are nothing like the examples. The variety of recognized sarcastic sentences is impressive, though the results are not perfect. But again, we don't do it so well ourselves, do we?"
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Software Recognizes Sarcastic Tweets

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  • From the research paper:

    Weight of various patterns and features. We present here a deeper look on some examples. A classic example of a sarcastic comment is: "Silly me, the Kindle and the Sony eBook can’t read these protected formats. Great!". Some of the patterns it contains are ...

    You know DRM is pervasive as a very serious consumer problem when statistical research papers recognize user dissatisfaction with it as a classic example of sarcasm that floods reviews.

    • if (/flash/ or /DRM/ or / or /Kindle/ or /Sony eBook/ or /iPad/) {

      There, wrote some code for you.

    • Obviously, consumers just need to be "educated" about the benefits of next-generation premium-content ecosystems...
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 )
        Oh Great, my Sarcasm Meter and my Bullshit Detector both exploded and now my UPS is on fi
        • by hitmark ( 640295 )

          one moment, i just need to strip the drm of it and then i'll send you the replicator pattern for a fire extinguisher.

  • This is great! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:18PM (#32240048)

    This may help people with autism and Asperger's Syndrome recognize satire.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:24PM (#32240160)

      You don't have to be sarcastic, they might really find this useful.

    • Not necessarily. Machine learning algorithms are generally either neural networks or weighted Bayesian statistics. In other words, the magic comes from abstract numbers that have no human-readable equivalent.

      I always found that the easiest way to learn rules for social behavior is to read manuals - i.e. things like Emily Post's Book of Etiquette, How to read a person like a book, etc. Yes, they're not perfect, but if I just treat human behavior like some buggy software package and the books as manuals, it

      • Re:This is great! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:35PM (#32240412) Homepage
        As someone with Aspergers I have found that watching sitcoms is very helpful. Since nearly every character is being sarcastic most of the time, I learn through observing caricatures of reality.
        • The problem with that is that in American sitcoms, verbal irony is accompanied by non-verbal cues like facial expression, tone of voice, or, ugh, laugh tracks. Take away the cues, and deliver the sarcasm in a deadpan [] manner, and tons of people in the USA are completely unable to catch it, neurotypical or not.
          • by Itninja ( 937614 )
            I have to agree. Though I have found that after watching Friends and such ad nauseum, I am much better able to pick up the subtleties of deadpan humor like Colbert or The Office.
          • tl;dr - Ranting about sarcastic laughter and prominent fools

            I find myself laughing at stuff the writer and director never intended to be funny, for my own reason. - Yes, laughing 'at', not 'with'. - In these cases my mirth stems from a hidden irony, you might consider me callous for laughing when Homer Simpson's heart is broken but I bare in mind that the fictional man has no vindicative characteristic what so ever beyond infrequent decency and that he exists only to entertain me. I loathe the character so

      • Here's one -

        How are mods supposed to moderate anything in this thread? The usual -1 Troll comments become Insightful!!

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          How are mods supposed to moderate anything in this thread?

          Like the fair, independent, open-minded, thoughtful people that you know they are.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I'd have though that even autistics would be able to recognize horns, goat legs, and a pan pipe? Oh, satire.

    • Re:This is great! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:46PM (#32240650) Journal
      As someone with Asperger's Syndrome(yes, actual extensive-testing-and-medical-consensus-of-qualified-shrinks, not "well, I like computers and girls make me nervous"), I suspect that it won't be of much use for that purpose.

      Many, though not all, Asperger's types actually have average to excellent parsing of written communications, or the strictly verbal component of other people's utterances(ie. the part that would get written down, if a transcriptionist were in the room). Odds are, most such people could easily outperform this algorithm(since, obviously, the purpose of the algorithm is to provide large volumes of adequate analysis for cheap, not to be human level).

      The part of communication that is really difficult, though, is the nonverbal component, the stuff that doesn't show up in text. Tone of voice, expression, tiny muscular movements and reconfigurations around the eyes, that sort of thing. Since typical social standards of politeness and interaction actually discourage direct statement of things(ie. "Your story bores me." "Yes, I am interested." "No, go away") in favor of relying on subtle nonverbal communication of those message, this can be a real handicap. You care about what others around you are thinking, since you naturally want to be on good terms with them(or, even if you don't, you want to be on bad terms deliberately, not accidentally); but you just can't tell, unless somebody explicitly says something, which is rare, unless you've already really fucked up.

      In fact, in my experience,(and yes, "my experience" = "N of 1" = "anecdote") I tend to find text-based communication comfortable for exactly these reasons. For normal people, strict text-based communication is harder, because they are denied the nonverbal cues that they normally take for granted. For me, I don't see the nonverbal cues that never mean much anyway, and we are both forced to rely on strict verbal expression, which is my best-practiced level.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Dude. He was being sarcastic.

      • by shish ( 588640 )
        Also anecdotal, I've found that after years where 99% of my communication being online, now that I sometimes go out and talk in person people are shocked at how straightforward and clear I am -- I do wonder, why isn't everyone like that all the time? Sure saying "I disagree, I think it should be three inches to the left" might take two seconds longer than saying "hmm" and wiggling your eyebrows, but it saves a hell of a lot of time later when you don't have any misunderstandings to clear up...
  • by billius ( 1188143 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:20PM (#32240092)
    A sarcasm detector, that's a real useful invention!
    • A sarcasm detector, that's a real useful invention!

      It's only a matter of time before we can automatically generate sarcasm. Then websites can have snide comments auto-generated. When that happens, I'd like to see penalties for those attempting clever snark but failing to be smarter than a computer.

    • by g2devi ( 898503 )

      Agreed. IMO, it's almost as useful as the world changing invention of Ballerina Tutu Dresses for chihuahuas [] and an order of magnitude more useful as the internet itself.

  • I guess it's for those who just don't get it!

  • by spleen_blender ( 949762 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:21PM (#32240110)
    "Yeah, we totally developed a program to detect sarcastic tweets... #fuckinggenius"
  • Just end your sarcasm tags before being sarcastic. This won't conform to W3C standards, however.

    • by aicrules ( 819392 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:27PM (#32240222)
      I opened my sarcasm tag about 28 years ago and don't plan on closing it any time soon. That has forced me to come up with a new language nuance that I like to call "more sarcastic than usual". But really that just means I add an extra, overemphasized "really" ahead of the point of super sarcasm.
      • Sorry, the *best* sarcasm is not obvious, that's really lame. The best is serious and dead-pan, notifying people your being sarcastic is just far too easy for them. It might explain why some Americans can't tell the British are being sarcastic, because we don't make it obvious all the time.
      • by SamSim ( 630795 )

        Well, if the <sarcasm> tag is a text modifier that works in the same way as <em> and <strong>, you can safely nest them. They might prove idempotent but not necessarily. It depends on Slashdot's specific CSS.

      • Seth Myers, is that you?

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:23PM (#32240134)

    Given that sometimes not even humans understand when I am being sarcastic, I expect this software will have an exceptionally high recognition rate with very low false positives. A truly remarkable achievement and the one algorithm the human race has been waiting for!

  • The algorithm can then identify sarcastic sentences that are nothing like the examples.

    Good luck with that.

  • hmm (Score:2, Informative)

    by i_ate_god ( 899684 )


  • I forsee nothing but success for this algorithm.

  • by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:28PM (#32240258) Homepage Journal
    "Any sufficiently optimistic statement is indistinguishable from sarcasm."
  • Oh, sure! (Score:4, Funny)

    by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:33PM (#32240370) Homepage
    Yeah, like that would work!
  • Testing (Score:3, Funny)

    by Bobfrankly1 ( 1043848 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:34PM (#32240374)

    The algorithm can then identify sarcastic sentences that are nothing like the examples.

    Place it in my office. If it still responds at the end of the week, it's not working correctly. If it's overloaded and partially melted, we've got a winner.

  • Recognizing sarcastic tweets... do twits even know what sarcasm is?

    • do twits even know what sarcasm is?

      I dunno, lemme ask your mom.

      Oops, sorry, I meant, let me roll off your mom, then I'll ask her. (Give me about 3 minutes to stop rolling)

      C'mon, there's NEVER a wrong time for a "your mom" joke.

  • by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:37PM (#32240462) Homepage
    I wonder what would happen if you applied their algorithm to any given slashdot post, particularly one on the Apple board.
  • They should just train it on Slashdot comments.
  • Many Slashdot users can benefit from such a technology. There are medical conditions whose sufferers cannot detect sarcasm. This leads to social ostracism and can cause reduced productivity and in very extreme cases, depression. People may scoff, but imagine if we could provide this technology on a portable device for those victims of the spectrum of diseases that cause anxieties? There are times when I have been the goat because I misunderstood "Yes, I'll have the work completed by Monday" to mean that th

    • There are times when I have been the goat because I misunderstood "Yes, I'll have the work completed by Monday" to mean that the coming Monday, the work would be completed. My sarcasm detector did not fire to alert me that the cable installer was being sarcastic. I would like to see this sarcasm detector available for handheld devices. When a girl responded, "Yeah, I'll go out with you," I could then check my iPhone or Droid and know immediately she was making an attempt at humor.

      FYI: Sarcasm, Lies, and Little White Lies are not the same things. The cable guy lied. The pretty girl gave a white (gray?) lie.

      • The cable guy lied.

        Depending on the tone and context it might have easily been sarcastic. If you just asked him “Can you have it done by Monday?” and he’d just checked his schedule that’s booked clear up ’till a week from Monday, for example...

      • FYI: Sarcasm, Lies, and Little White Lies are not the same things.

        Oh, really? Thank you for sharing that.

  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:01PM (#32240928)

    It dates back into some of the great classic works of our time... upon reading Romeo and Juliet one critic was overheard saying:

    "Nice play Shakespeare..."

    or upon solving a great mystery, Watson was once overheard saying, "No shit Sherlock."

  • Oblig Python (Score:3, Informative)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:05PM (#32241004)
    Vercotti: Well, I had been running a successful escort agency - high class, no really, high class girls - we didn't have any of that. That was right out. And I decided. (phone rings on desk) Excuse me (he answers it), not now......shtoom...shtoom....right......yes, we'll have the watch ready for you at midnight.......the watch.....the Chinese watch....yes, right-oh, bye-bye mother (he replaces reciever) Anyway I decided then to open a high-class night club for the gentry at Biggleswade with International cuisine, cooking, top-line acts, and not a cheap clip joint for picking up tarts, that was right out, I deny that completely, and one night Dinsdale walked in with a couple of big lads, one of whom was carrying a tactical nuclear missile. They said I'd bought one of their fruit machines and would I pay for it.

    Interviewer: How much did they want?

    Vercotti: Three quarters of a million pounds. Then they went out.

    Interviewer: Why didn't you call the police?

    Vercotti: Well I had noticed that the lad with the thermo-nuclear device was the Chief Constable for the area. Anyway a week later they came back, said that the cheque had bounced and that I had to see Doug.

    Interviewer: Doug?

    Vercotti: Doug (takes a drink) I was terrified of him. Everyone was terrified of Doug. I've seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug. Even Dinsdale was frightened of Doug.

    Interviewer: What did he do?

    Vercotti: He used sarcasm. He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire.
  • by adeft ( 1805910 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:06PM (#32241018)
    I bet it just looks for itallic text.
  • Use the word 'fuck' in your tweet/post. This way the profanity filter will block your message/post before it ever gets to the irony filter..

  • Sarcasm? On *Twitter*?! Never!!!

  • by pseudorand ( 603231 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:38PM (#32241604)

    Their algorithm gets 77% accuracy. I think I can do better:

    # Estimated accuracy: 92.1%
    isSarcastic(tweet) { return true; }

    Or does that only work for slashdot comments?

  • It will work perfectly.

    The point of Sarcasm is that the words, the text itself, convey a literal meaning, while the actual intent (which must be deduced by the reader knowing certain things about the writer; sometimes just tone of voice is enough) is the polar opposite. Without anything except one line of text, there is absolutely no way of determining whether something is sarcasm or not. It will never work without more input. Now that you've read this paragraph, re-read the sentence above it.
    • The point of Sarcasm is that the words, the text itself, convey a literal meaning, while the actual intent (which must be deduced by the reader knowing certain things about the writer; sometimes just tone of voice is enough) is the polar opposite.

      Actually, you have just given a definition of irony. To be sarcasm, it must also be insulting, taunting, or express contempt for the subject.

  • . . . that the people who invented sarcasm (i.e.:"Moshe, were there not enough graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?" Shemos 14:11) would be the ones who find a way to automatically identify it.
  • In other news, there is still no software that can detect tweets without sarcasm.

  • Its got a pretty web gui and everything. []

    Yes, I'm trolling, but its still true!

  • If there is an algorithm for it, the Sheldon could use it to recognize (and produce?) sarcasm.


  • Wonderful, can they apply it to irony as well, because I am fucking tired of people constantly proclaiming that someone's informative statement is 'ironic'?

    But sure, like that is ever going to happen.

  • Don't we already have a tag?

  • There are only two types of tweets: retarded and sarcastic. If a tweet has the word "fuck" in it, it's easy to label it retarded. If a tweet has the word "retarded" in it, it's easy to label it sarcastic.
  • "But again, we don't do it so well ourselves, do we?"

    Hey, are you being sarcastic!?

One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.