Thursday, June 11, 2015

Wit of Fools

I’ve been known to use irony in order to mock and make a point. (Once or twice.) Would this blog even exist if it were not for sarcasm? I tend to use it as a way to make my point in a less than direct way or to open a challenging subject or event to diffuse tension. It’s often successful. There are situations where my teasing/sarcastic approach isn’t experienced as intended and the results aren’t always pretty. I like to think I’m astute enough to realize when somebody doesn’t ‘get it’ and then I shift my tactic/technique to accommodate the difference in communication styles. The government is trying to learn how to differentiate when people are seriously making a threat versus when they’re making a joke.

The Washington Post reported that the Secret Service “is looking to buy software that can detect sarcasm on social media.” I guess it’s a positive thing that they recognize their own deficiency. The whole concept reminds me of the TSA after 9/11 when passengers were asked “Has anyone packed anything in your bag without your knowledge?” it seemed to be an invitation for remarks other than “yes” or “no.” (“Sorry, my ESP was down, not sure.”) It took a few years but the TSA finally realized that real terrorists might actually lie in answering those queries and the information gathered was not particularly useful.

In response to the intrusiveness, a teen traveler put a note in their luggage that read:  “[Expletive] you. Stay the [expletive] out of my bag you [expletive] sucker. Have you found a [expletive] bomb yet? No, just clothes. Am I right? Yea, so [expletive] you.” The TSA didn’t get the irony, punished the kid and proved the need for a technological solution to determine sarcasm.



More than a decade after that incident the Secret Service work order “asks for a long list of specific tools, including the ability to identify social media influencers, analyze data streams in real time, access old Twitter data and use heat maps. And it wants the software to be compatible with Internet Explorer 8.” Yes, IE8! I guess that means that they'll be monitoring my old My Space page too? [That remark should tilt the meter.] “Then there's the request to sift through the heaps of snark on Twitter and other social media services: ‘Ability to detect sarcasm and false positives,’ the request reads.”

It is, of course, important for the agency that does threat assessments in order to protect national and visiting leaders be able to determine what is real and what’s a wise-ass remark. Well, I’ve got that skill so maybe I should apply? Oops - the job was posted from June 2 to June 9 – the fastest I’ve ever seen the Government move in a hiring situation. Maybe they already had somebody in-house who was perfect for the gig? Or perhaps there's a ton of people who can recognize obnoxious remarks? Nah, that’s just foolish.

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