Feature or Google's sense of humor? Audio tool speaks your YouTube comments

Google added a feature to YouTube that plays back comments. Is it serious or a response to a cartoon lampooning the inanity of YouTube comments?

Ask and ye shall receive.

At least if the supplicant is the Net's most prominent techie cartoonist and Google is in a position to fulfill the request.

In late September, I chuckled at Randall Munroe's XKCD cartoon about living to regret YouTube comments. The cartoon suggested a virus that would read people's YouTube comments back to them before they posted. The result was the mass realization that we're all a bunch of morons, which, judging by the average YouTube comment I see, doesn't seem too far off the mark.

Well, lo and behold, such a thing now exists, as Google Blogoscoped pointed out Thursday, though alas not with the mandatory listen-before-you-post requirement Munroe suggested. Google added a text-to-speech button that will play back your comments.

YouTube comments, now with a text-to-speech engine.
YouTube comments, now with a text-to-speech engine. CNET News

Is it a coincidence? Speak your mind in the comments below, and I'll update if Google gets back to me with a response.

Though I could be persuaded otherwise. I suspect it's evidence of Google being witty, mostly because I'm having trouble figuring out the utility of the feature besides to show off what I see as a generally pretty impressive text-to-speech engine. Perhaps they're trying to see how well the engine can handle a little more load.

It would be more useful if there were some way to train the audio engine when it flubs, as it does with some foreign terms and proper nouns, or at least let it know its errors. I was impressed it could handle some awkward terms, though, including "CNET" and "syzygy." It runs out of available syllables before the comments field runs out of room for words, though it seems well suited to the typically brief, if inane, YouTube comment.

Update 7:52 a.m. PDT: Matt Cutts, Google's Web spam guru, believes the audio feature is indeed a hat-tip to XKCD. "I love that Google had the sense of humor to add this feature," he said.

Also, Munroe himself remarks on his own blog about the audio feature, aptly pointing to one commenter's post: "It's the DUMBEST FEATURE I've seen thus far. There is no practical use for it. None. Zero. Nada. Sheesh. (The audio preview of my own post sounded moronic!)"

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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