Determining gender of author from writing

This is something I'd been thinking about for a while and was brought to the forefront of my mind by kaberett's male-perspective writing coursework.

A while ago on one of the Usenet groups I read, a person started posting regularly without specifying their gender. I barely noticed that they had never actually stated whether they were male or female, because to me it was just glaringly totally unavoidably obvious from their writing that they were male. Anyway, a bit later someone explicitly asked them whether they were male or female, and they refused to answer, and various other people started guessing. I was astounded at the number of people who thought the poster was female. In fact, I've just been and re-viewed the whole thread and the "female" guesses outweighed the "male" guesses by a significant factor.

Much later on, another post by the same poster made it obvious (given the previous context) that the poster was indeed male. Aside from thinking "hah, I was right" I didn't give it much else thought but it's been bubbling away in my brain for a while.

So, if anyone finds this topic interesting, leave an anonymous comment (either your own writing or someone else's) and I'll try and guess whether it was written by a male or a female author. Anyone else is welcome to add their guesses too, and I'd also be interested in any reasoning behind those guesses. The only rules are that the comment has to be long enough and relevant enough to give me a reasonable chance (posting a one-liner joke or an excerpt from your dishwasher instruction book does NOT count :-)). Something like "what I did at the weekend" or "what I did yesterday" would be ideal.

If you want you can (instead or as well) leave a comment where you try to write as the opposite gender.
* You must be logged in or using a username/password to reply to this protected entry.
* You are not authorized to reply to this protected entry.

Ah, this could be a problem for your survey.

Oops, I didn't realise it worked like that - my general journal settings allow "Anybody" to comment, so I'd have expected a commenter to be able to log in to view the friends-only post and then select the "Anonymous" radio button to comment anonymously... am I missing something?

Anyway, the post is public now so you really really really should be able to comment!
am I missing something
Only if you hadn't noticed that whenever there's a right way and a wrong way to do something, LJ routinely picks the wrong way.
It's a fascinating topic, isn't it?

Did you see the New York Times article quite a while ago, about an algorithm for the prediction of gender based on a writer's lexical choices? The Gender Genie implements something based on that algorithm - paste in some text, and it'll try to predict your gender.

There was an LJ analyser using Gender Genie, which has now been accidentally deleted, but before it was, an LJ friend of mine, yonmei, ran an enormous poll which suggested that the tool was over-reporting 'male'. Unsurprisingly, to my mind (it gave a 'male' weighting to words that didn't deserve it). I think the algorithm is an interesting idea, but I don't think that our instinctive impressions of the kind that you were talking about are based purely on us picking up on the choice of words.
Hmm, thanks for that - I hadn't seen that before. I just ran this blog entry (the original text) and it decided I was categorically male. :-)

You're right, though, the words it highlighted as male ones are very odd. "some", "this", "as", "now", "good" - bizarre. Similarly the female highlights: "than", "like", "so"....

But yes, my impression of the gender of the original Usenet poster I referred to was based on much more than the specific words he used.
This isn't really a very objective experiment because topic choice tells you about the author as well, and your list is limited.

By my english teacher friends tells me that it's blindingly obvious who a given paper belongs do, or when a student as copied. (She apparently went to her ratings on some web site and found that it said "DO NOT PLAGERIZE.")

This isn't really a very objective experiment

Hey, give me break, this is LiveJournal not the British Journal of Science :-)

because topic choice tells you about the author as well, and your list is limited.

True, but I did say that it didn't have to be ones own writing that one pasted in, or that the writing had to be true fact.

FWIW I think this comment was posted by someone female but tomboy-type, perhaps anemone?
writing sample - an old Usenet post
I think I misspoke and/or was confusing by accident in the thread about my direcTiVo setup :)

What I didn't mention is that our dual LNB is hooked up to a 3x4 switch, which allows us to then run two sets of input to each reciever, one for each tuner. So you might say yes, we have four satellite feeds, but I wasn't thinking of it that way - I was thinking that what the previous poster meant was that you'd need two dual LNB satellite setups, which is clearly not the case.
Re: writing sample - an old Usenet post
I not only know what gender this person is, I also know who it is simply by the wording.
Re: writing sample - an old Usenet post
Yes, me too. I think it's webhill.

I don't know who the commenter I am replying to is, though, but I'd guess robin__ if I had to make a stab in the dark.
Re: writing sample - an old Usenet post
Hee hee, I googled the Usenet post and I was right, it was webhill.

It was actually primarily the use of the word "clearly" that gave it away, plus a small input from the "misspoke and/or was confusing by accident" phrase.
Re: writing sample - an old Usenet post
Heh. Wasn't me, but I also knew it was webhill.
When I set out to discover the meaning of the universe, I was unaware it was held within a small green vial with a cork topper.

That morning I went running as usual. At the summit of the hill, I could see the corn growing in long rows giving the hills the definition of a topographical map. Except this map did not lead me in the correct direction. It, instead, lead me to Thomas’s door.
Today's lunch discourse featured a discussion of time paradoxes and chaos theory. It was put forth that if time travel was at all possible, we would have seen some evidence of it by now.

As all discussions eventually do, this one morphed into a discussion about movies. Quentin Tarantino was a very popular figure at our lunch table.
bzzzt! :)

To be fair, the discussion was between two males and two females, ages 23-32, all computer programmer-types. The other female at the table is former military, and therefore not a "girly-girl." So, you know, I was trying to be tricky. :)
Last night my partner and I made pizza together before settling down to watch a film. We chose Battle Royale II, because we both enjoyed the first film. I was a bit disappointed that the character development in the second film was so poor, as it was something I enjoyed in the first film. And as usual there was the distraction of having to read the sub-titles, which I find makes it hard to have a conversation about the film as it's going on.

Hmm, I seem to be guessing male every time. Perhaps the Gender Genie's tendency to over-guess male is forgiveable.
Given the fact that there are still more men than women on the internet it makes statistical sense to guess male every time.
True, but I am actually going on gut feel rather than statistics (going solely on my friends list it would make statistical sense to vote female every time - my friends list is 65 F, 14 M, 3 unknown).

[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<my [...] f,>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

<<my friends list is 65 F, 14 M, 3 unknown>>
You mean you don't know the gender of "3 unknown" or they are asexual or hermaphrodite? [That doesn't look right... never mind]
Of course, genetic males can have predominantly female characteristics and genetic females can be male in character. All very confusing. It's unfair though that butch/macho women can wear male clothing without anybody turning a hair but woosy men can't get away with wearing a dress. Sigh.
Yeah, I meant I didn't know the gender of the 3 unknown; and the whole statement is a bit controversial anyway since I know I have at least one person on my friends list who is biologically female but self-identifies as male. There's at least one foetus on there too, whose gender I didn't know at the time I posted that but is now known to be male. AND at least one LJ account which is shared by one female and one male. :-)

I agree with you about how irritating it is that it's so much more accepted for women to dress as men than vice versa.
You didn't try to guess but I'm definately male.
Your "biological female" has been a friend for 24 years or so. It's probably her journal that I got your name from.
I've never seen a foetus with a LJ account but as long as he's happy, I'm happy too.

Nice to meet you.
Hello, nice to meet you too! I forgot to guess but looking back I would have probably put "female", so asssuming your LJ name is real, it shows how much I know :-)

Looking at your friends list, I think I see who you are referring to but that wasn't who I was thinking of, and in fact re-thinking it made me think of another possibility too, so that's THREE females who self-identify as males on my list. Plus several others (including me!) who, while not actually self-identifying as male, have a lot of typically "male" characteristics.
Men don't want to have conversations about films as they're going on!
Go on then, guess
Gender is a hard thing to define. I almost always get it right with other people but it's not something that is always immediately obvious when someone is writing.

And it depends on whether the writing is non-fiction or fiction, I find.

How did you guess that person online?

Was it keywords or sentence structure or did they say "I am a bloke"? That is always a giveaway.
Re: Go on then, guess

As for how I guessed the person online, it was partly keywords (they repeatedly used the word "quack" to refer to a doctor, for example) and partly sentence structure. No, they didn't say "I am a bloke", in fact they were extremely evasive about whether or not they were a bloke :-))

Come to think of it, their evasiveness was part of what made me think "bloke", too. I think a woman would have just laughed that people hadn't worked it out and 'fessed up.