Open sourcing the elimination of stupidity

Can one open-source project rid the online world of stupidity? Let's hope so.

Carrying the tag line "Because the internet needs prophylactics for memetically transmitted diseases," StupidFilter just launched to rid the world of inane comment spam, wasted messages on mailing lists, etc. I'm wondering if it will simply filter out my entire blog.... :-)

Here's the project's aim:

The solution we're creating is simple: an open-source filter software that can detect rampant stupidity in written English. This will be accomplished with weighted Bayesian or similar analysis and some rules-based processing, similar to spam detection engines. The primary challenge inherent in our task is that stupidity is not a binary distinction, but rather a matter of degree. To this end, we're collecting a ranked corpus of stupid text, gleaned from user comments on public websites and ranked on a five-point scale.

Eventually, once the research is completed, we plan to release core engine source code for incorporation into content management systems, blogs, wikis and the like. Additionally, we plan to develop a fully implemented Firefox plugin and a Wordpress plugin.

This sounds pretty elitist, no? Well, yes:

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.

I'm not sure there's a business in here - not a venture-backed one, anyway. But if the project does anything to raise the bar on quality for user-generated content, count me in. Even if I'm a target.

Now if I could just get this to run at book club....

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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