Monthly Archives: February 2012

Automatic Tagging

The article Automatic Detection of Tags for Political Blogs described a system created to automatically generate tags for political blogs.  Tags are generally used to quickly find blog posts related to specified keywords, and presently are user identified.  This can create problems, as it requires the user to identify all individual keywords within a post, assign them the same tag as previous times that keyword was tagged, and take the time to apply the tags.  It is both a flawed system and sometimes not even used when bloggers are hurried or lazy.

In retrospect, I believe this was done on political blogs because it would be easiest to apply here.  Political blogs are very clear on their keywords, and generally focus on the same keywords, much of which is either constant issues or ones related to current events.  As such, their keywords are predictable and easy to identify.  An automatic tagging system in this case simply needs to look for names that are politically important and other keywords that are currently politically relevant.

As one who’s written in numerous blogs with numerous topics, I feel an automatic tagging system would be incredibly convenient.  Of course, with many (if not most) blogs, keyword identification may not be nearly as feasible as with political blogs.  As such, an automatic tagging system might not be ideal for most blogs.  On the other hand, if linguistic algorithms can be designed to identify the keywords, normalize the words, and apply tags with a high accuracy, such a system could potentially be incredibly useful.  As the system would not be perfect, users should be able to edit, add, and remove tags, and, if so chosen, automatic tagging should be able to be toggled off.  However, I know that I, among others, would much prefer automatic tagging.  As noted in this blog, I often don’t even bother with tags.  I often feel it’s an unnecessary waste of time, with the exception of widely read blogs on specific topics.  I will admit, though, that tagging enhances any blog, even personal ones, and automatic tagging would not be an unnecessary feature.

The fact that automatic detection of tags was designed for political blogs with high accuracy makes me feel that a full automatic tagging system might be possible to design and implement.  It is simply a matter of someone investing the time and energy to create such a system.

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Dialogue in Videogames – Developer’s End

Now, I know I just wrote a paper that critical looks at dialogue in video games.  I looked specifically at player dialogue in online games.  And yet that is not the only kind of dialogue that exists in video games, and a couple of the other projects that focused on language in video games got me thinking on other areas of dialogue in video games.  Specifically, I started thinking of the developer’s dialogue.

Perhaps I should be more accurate in what I mean by the developer’s dialogue.  I mean dialogue of non-playable characters (NPCs), and even the scripted dialogue of playable characters (PCs).  After all, I was originally a game design major with a minor in creative writing, and even now my current major is a blend of game design and creative writing.  I had a large interest in writing in video games, specifically script writing (or dialogue).

Dialogue is quite important in most genres of video games.  Some, like first person shooters, use dialogue to communicate missions, while others, like role playing games, are incredibly reliant on dialogue for the sake of storytelling.  In the case of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), PC dialogue is usually absent and NPC dialogue is rarely as important as player dialogue.  Game play is not as story driven in these cases, as rewards and community seems to overshadow the story.  I know this from experience playing MMOs; players usually complete tasks either to reap rewards or to help others reap rewards.

Offline games tend to rely on dialogue to tell story, though there are exceptions.  Braid, an award winning XBox Live Arcade game, is a beautiful example of this. Much of the story is read in books placed at the start of each world.  However, near in the end of the game, the hero helps the princess (his lover) escape from a villain and reunites with her.  Well, it seems that way, except it then reveals that the event was in reverse, and playing it back shows the princess was trying to escape from the “hero”, who was smothering her, and the “villain” was helping her get away from him. This entire scene is conveyed with no dialogue, showing that dialogue is only one way for video games to tell stories.

Does this mean dialogue is in danger of being obsolete in single player video games?  Could different story-telling techniques ever become the norm for video games?  I highly doubt that.  Though online games make dialogue between players more and more important, most single player games seem to rely heavily on dialogue.

One of the most popular video games of the past year, Portal 2, relies heavily on dialogue, despite the fact that the protagonist is mute.   The villain, an insane AI by the name of GLaDOS, constantly degrades the protagonist, and her condescending insults have become so popular that there are even GPSes to replicate her voice and mannerisms.  A supporting character, an unintelligent robot named Wheatley, both guides and amuses players throughout the adventure.  Even a minor character, a robot obsessed with outer space (aptly named the Space Personality Core), has become a well-known internet meme.

I could, of course, give countless examples of dialogue usage in video games.  It’s a full career in itself.  Many games have multiple writers, as larger games may have tens of thousands of lines of dialogue, if not more.  Branching stories have added layers of complexity much deeper than Choose Your Own Adventure books ever could reach.  It’s definitely interesting to see where dialogue may go in future video games.  Perhaps it will be possible to have actual conversations with NPCs, eliminating the need for the PC to talk at all.  Either way, I’m sure there is a lot more to research on this particular subject.

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Hashtag Popularity

Now I personally am not a Twitter user.  I do have a Twitter account, but I only used it for a short while before growing bored with it.  As such, I am no way well-informed on the subject of hashtags.  I do still know how they are used, though.


The study on how hashtags propagate is definitely interesting.  However, I was left with more questions than answers.  I felt the study was very limited.  From what I gathered, they only picked three hashtags to evaluate, all of which were popular hashtags.  These hashtags followed the idea that the rich get richer.  Yet, wouldn’t the fact that the hashtags were already growing in popularity affect the results?  Even if these hashtags were randomly picked without prior knowledge of the popularity, three hashtags hardly represents the behavior of all hashtags.  Is it possible hashtags could fluctuate more?  Could there be ones that reach a certain popularity and then stay constant or even decrease?  Could hashtags remain unpopular for awhile and suddenly gain some popularity?  Could other hashtags repeatedly increase and decrease in popularity over a course of time?

I could go on and on with questions.  I felt the research was very limited and more research could be done.  It did peak my interest, and the conclusion of the studies were logically sound in addition to being backed up with the research.  I just think there could be more research done with a broader range of hashtags.

At the same time, how relevant is this research?  Of course there are ways the results could be utilized, such as spreading information quickly in emergencies, but is the technology constant enough to be worth studying?  Will the results of these studies be obsolete in a decade?  Perhaps that can’t be answered, and the results might prove useful for future technologies.  Personally, sheer curiosity would be enough for me to carry out research in this direction.  The thing is would it be an efficient use of time and money?

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Internet Multimedia as Linguistics

It’s quite interesting how linguistics on the internet is becoming more and more dependent on other media.  Previously, written language was fully based on text, with the exception of cases where pictures are relevant (picture books, signs, etc). However, the internet has created a sort of network between all forms of media.

Of course, there are plenty of websites that are purely text.  Even websites that are text and images may use alt text, allowing the images to be replaced by text (primarily for use when the images cannot load and in cases of accessibility for the blind).  Yet, it is becoming more and more rare to find websites that only rely on text, or even text and images.

A perfect example of this level of multimedia is shown on Facebook.  Facebook users often rely on the ability to use many forms of media, many times seamlessly. Pictures are uploaded, sometimes moments after being taken, and friends can be tagged in them, whether to link them to images of themselves or simply to grab their attention. In the same way, videos can be uploaded, and, though it has yet to support uploading audio, many users post Youtube videos to share music.  Apps allow people to not only participate in interactive media, but share them as well, potentially adding infinite other ways for media to be integrated into communication.

And then there’s the hyperlink.  This little key component of the world wide web provides a linguistic pathway heretofore unparalleled, and the application of this pathway is endless.  This is the primary thread connecting the multimedia together, with text (and sometimes images) usually being the backbone of it all.  As an example, two friends on Facebook might have a conversation.  One might find an image to work better than text as a response, linking that.  Further into the conversation, the other friend might tag one of their friends to pull them into the conversation instead of communicating directly.  That friend might know of a related web page and choose to add another hyperlink.  In this way, potentially endless links are formed, most of which intended as communication.  One can argue that, though it isn’t spoken or written language, these media are all being used as language.  I believe that, arguably, the internet has become  one of the biggest changes to linguistics since the writing system was created.  It is giving the average person an incredibly number of tools to creatively and functionally affect the very way they converse.

The number of media available to the internet user is still increasing.  Developments are being made in the areas of smell, taste, and touch.  We could grow to the point where we could download scents to fill our homes and share new recipes first by taste.  Hologram technology has even reached breakthroughs such as touchable holograms (, meaning someday we might be able to download virtual items we could actually feel.  These technologies are advances at an incredible pace.  How might they affect linguistics?

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