Essay:Quantifying Liberal Style

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Statistical methods have been used to quantify a wide range of characteristics of writing. For example, the Fleisch-Kincaid grade level and reading ease scores may be computed by almost any word processor, including many versions of Microsoft Word. These scores attempt to assess the level of sophistication of samples of writing, and have been used to give concrete evidence of a dumbing-down of presidential inaugural addresses over time. Great Britain is even considering implementing computerized grading of essays on some standardized tests. Given the objective nature of many of the characteristics of liberal style identified at Conservapedia, it is natural to devise analogous measures of the degree of liberal style of a specimen of writing.

A rough formula to measure the liberal style of an editor, adapted to Wiki-style websites, is

\textrm{Liberality} = C_0 \cdot \frac{\textrm{TalkPst}}{\textrm{MainPst}} + C_1 \cdot \frac{\textrm{TalkWd}}{\textrm{TalkPst}} + C_2 \cdot \left( \frac{\lambda \cdot \textrm{LibWd} - \textrm{ConWd}}{\textrm{MainPst}+\textrm{TalkPst}} \right) + C_3 \,\left( \frac{\textrm{LibPhr}}{\textrm{MainPst}+\textrm{TalkPst}} \right)^2 + C_4 \, \sqrt{\textrm{LastWdProp}-\frac{1}{2}} ,

where:

  • MainPst = number of posts to mainspace pages.
  • TalkPst = number of posts to talk pages.
  • TalkWd = number of words posted to talk pages.
  • LibWd = number of uses of liberal words from reference list
  • ConWd = number of uses of conservative words from reference list
  • λ = (number of conservative words in reference list)/(number of liberal words in reference list).
  • LibPhr = number of uses of liberal favorite phrases identified in Liberal style, such as "silence speaks volumes" and "reflects poorly on the site"
  • LastWdProp = proportion of Talk page discussions in which a user makes the last post in a section (i.e., == ... ==). Values greater than 1/2 indicate a tendency towards last-wordism. When the value inside the square root is negative this should be understood as 0. N.B.: since this number is less than 1, taking the square root serves to increase the penalty.

Additionally, the Ci are constants which must be determined through careful testing. For now, we assume that C0 = 35, C1 = 1, C2 = 150, C3 = 300, C4 = 500. The final score as well as all of the constants are unitless, and the values simply reflect a scale of liberalism rather than an estimate of thoughts/word.

The quantification of liberal style has an astonishing array of possible applications. Most directly, it may be applied to the automatic detection of vandals on Conservapedia who attempt to insert liberal bias undetected. Related indices of liberal bias (not based on a Wiki-style count) could also be used to measure the degree to which various Bible translations have been compromised by liberal bias, and for quality control on books in the Conservative Bible Project. Indeed, linguistic indicators such as vocabulary use have long been used by scholars to gauge he authenticity of various ancient texts (including the Bible), and applying a similar metric (adapted to other languages) to the original text of the Bible may help discover additional passages which are late additions. Measures of liberal style may also be applied to measure the political bias of various news outlets, and of specific anchors at those outlets. Additionally, they may be used to gauge the true beliefs of political figures, who often pretend to be more conservative than they really are in order to win in Republican primaries.

While some have questioned the usefulness of quantifying things like open-mindedness and liberal style (see point 30 on Liberal style), the success of similar metrics for other aspects of language indicates that such calculations are indeed very meaningful.

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