Sunday, July 24, 2011


"Vigorous writing is concise."
~William Strunk, The Elements of Style (1918)

Fun: Die Zeit writes about Bernd Wurm who studied communication science and got frustrated by the omnipresence of empty words in advertisements and press releases. So he developed a software, the "Blablameter," that checks a text for unnecessary words and awkward grammar that obscures content. The Blablameter ranks text on a scale from 0 to 1: the higher the "Bullshit Index," the more Blabla. You find the Blablameter online at; it also works for English input. In the FAQ, Wurm warns that the tool does not check a text for actual content and is not able to judge the validity of arguments, it is merely a rough indicator for writing style. He also explains that scientific text tends to score highly on the Blabla-index.

Needless to say, I couldn't resist piping some abstracts of papers into the website. Here's the results, starting with the no-nonsense writing:

And yes, I did pipe in some text from this blog. My performance seems to have large fluctuations, but is mostly acceptable.

Did you come across anything with a Blabla-Index smaller than 0.08 or larger than 0.66?


  1. 0.06 for T.S Eliot's "The Waste land" chapter 1 'The Burial of the Dead'.

    This algorithm understand Eliot's poetry?! Well the majority of humans can't.

  2. Easy!

    Text tested:

    "The world is becoming smaller and more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent, bringing both challenges and opportunities to business and IT. Today, even a small company in a growth market can be a tough competitor. Customers demand personalized services delivered through social media and mobile channels. The accelerating pace of change adds a new level of complexity. Does your organization have the agility to turn these challenges into opportunities?

    Recognizing and adapting to market changes is difficult, but being able to manage change is not optional if you want your organization to succeed and grow. Forward thinking companies accept the need to embrace change and are leveraging technology to increase business agility through improved processes and systems.

    An agile business is able to work effectively across its dynamic business network of relationships with employees, customers, partners and suppliers. It relies upon rapid, reliable, and secure integration and connections across that network. Agile companies have visibility into their processes throughout the network and can ensure process integrity. They empower their business users to make process improvements to respond quickly to change."

    BlaBlaMeter response:

    Your text: 1228 charactes, 182 words
    Bullshit Index :1.2
    Congratulations, you managed to blow up our index scale from 0 to 1. It is highly unlikely that you will impress anybody else, but you did manage to impress us!

  3. Dunno what happened to my comment.
    The first 3 paras of this IBM page on business agility

    gets a Blablameter score of 1.2


    Einstein's 1905 paper translated to English "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" - first 3 paras has a BS score of 0.24

    First 4 paras of Paul Krugman's essay here:

    give a BS score of 0.09.

  5. Goes in nicely with a recent comic from Abstruse Goose:


    Mathew 5 to the bottom of the page
    Your text: 13559 charactes, 2647 words
    Bullshit Index :0.03

    Bullshit Index: 0.05, 3086 characters, 533 words
    (Geomeric parity Eotvos experiment explained at length)
    Bullshit Index: 0.20, 4152 charactes, 589 words
    (The worst of 45 essays analyzed)
    Bullshit Index: 0.37, 3380 characters, 447 words

    Most essays scored ~0.15. Uncle Al is profoundly humbled by T. Padmanabhan and especially by IBM,

  8. Since Ilse Burisch doesn't provide any hint at the nature of the Blablameter algorithm, we have to treat it as a black box, and try to understand it from input/output relationships".

    Since all discourse is driven by motives ('good' or 'bad'), when the motives are hidden to try to convey extreme objectivity, useful communication is often degraded. Unfortunately, this practice is encouraged by 'teachers' of science to place scientific discourse in a 'superior' position with respect to the texts of other disciplines.

    I tentatively come to the conclusion that the algorithm looks for evidence of 'promotion' in the text, on the INCORRECT assumption that pure science is (or should be) value-free. Any such evidence is used to increase the blablameter score.

    But if an author is going to take the trouble to communicate, promotion that explains why he/she thinks something is important can honestly reveal biases and clarify meaning.

    So the Blablameter is perhaps faulted in design?

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Hi Bee,

    A most humorous post that had me to plug some of my own blathering in to report my lowest score to be 0.O8 and my highest 0.27. I however would have it pointed out that there is a difference between something lacking in bullshit and what represents to being truth. The instrument which we currently use to make this determination is science, yet it appears at present to be not doing a good job. Oh incidentally, this statement of mine scored as a 0.17, which has it only showing a few indications of bullshit ; thus I find it as completely accurate as I’ve used the word only twice.



    Your text: 2545 charactes, 459 words

    Bullshit Index :0.08

    Your text shows no or marginal indications of 'bullshit'-

    Your text: 2791 charactes, 480 words

    Bullshit Index :0.27

    Your text shows some indications of 'bullshit'-English, but is still within an acceptable range.

  11. Hi Bee,

    In taking up your challenge I plugged in what I consider as one of the most important statements made by Albert Einstein having it found to show virtually no signs of it being bullshit. Interestingly enough it was meant as a warning of what the consequences in reading such could turn out to be. That is to suggest, that like it’s been said we are what we eat is correlated to have us representing what it is that we read :-)

    I'm also curious how the original German version would have fared.

    “Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous. There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste within a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind. We owe it to a few writers of antiquity (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) that the people in the Middle Ages could slowly extricate themselves from the superstitions and ignorance that had darkened life for more than half a millennium. Nothing is more needed to overcome the modernist's snobbishness.”

    -Albert Einstein, "Ideas and Opinion"

    Your text: 928 charactes, 159 words
    Bullshit Index :0.05
    Your text shows no or marginal indications of 'bullshit'-English.



  12. Hi Arun,

    Your first comment got stuck in the spam queue, sorry. I am duly impressed by IBM :o) Best,


  13. Hi Len,

    Yes, I was trying to find out some details on exactly what the algorithm looks for, but there's very little information on the website, because they "don't want to tell all the details." Generally not advisable if you want to convince people you're doing something scientific. In any case, it says there

    "Wie funktioniert das BlaBla Meter?

    Das BlaBla Meter prüft die Texte auf unterschiedliche sprachliche Merkmale. Es wird u.a. geprüft, ob übermäßiger Nominalstil vorliegt, darüber hinaus wird der Text in unterschiedlicher Gewichtung auf bestimmte Phrasen geprüft. Alle Details wollen wir aber nicht verraten ;)"

    Which means (roughly) it checks for text properties, for example an excess of nominal style, and certain phrases. Best,


  14. (drumroll) ... and the BS index for this article is ...

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. The standard package

    The theories and discoveries of thousands of physicists over the past century have resulted in a remarkable insight into the fundamental structure of matter: everything that has been directly observed in the Universe until now has been found to be made from twelve basic building blocks called fundamental particles, governed by four fundamental forces. Our best understanding of how these twelve particles and three of the forces are related to each other is encapsulated in the Standard Model of particles and forces. Developed in the early 1970s, it has successfully explained a host of experimental results and precisely predicted a wide variety of phenomena. Over time and through many experiments by many physicists, the Standard Model has become established as a well-tested physics theory.

    Your text: 819 charactes, 129 words
    Bullshit Index :0.22
    Your text shows some indications of 'bullshit'-English, but is still within an acceptable range.

    LOL :)

  17. I found something we can test. I was thinking of the Sokal incident.

    Textual Narratives: Subcultural theory and postcultural materialism

    Make sure you go to bottom of page and read....The essay you have just seen is completely meaningless and was randomly generated by the Postmodernism Generator. To generate another essay, follow this link. If you liked this particular essay and would like to return to it, follow this link for a bookmarkable page.

    From one algorithm to another?


  18. Hi Bee,

    I would like to see a study where they compare the scores regarding theoretical physics research papers to the citations they receive. Not to suggest it would help in finding better ways to discovering the truth, yet rather if bullshit and the perception of truth have any correlation. We might call it, “The Plato’s Cave Study: Does Bullshit Truly Baffle Brains?” :-)

    ” Passive acceptance of the teacher's wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favour of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes man to seek and to accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position.”

    -Bertrand Russell



  19. The things like the BlahBlah meter and/or Crackpot index are just never versions of Malleus Maleficarum book, in which establishment attempted to fight with unpleasant ideas by their form without bothering about their actual content.

    In this context the usage of Anticrackpot index may be useful for some censors and professional deniers of new ideas.

  20. Dada Engine.

    I certainly do not think that what Cern puts out in any way is of the ilk that would distort the truth as signs of bullshit. I believe they are at the frontier now, of many years of waiting.

    Of course I would test too, as to the paragraph in question, to see if one actually would take a look and any comment therein insufficient as to not recognizing the fallibility of such a thing as an algorithm to be the gatekeeper for how we judge one another? Judge your self. There is a better judge within your self, you just don't know it yet:)

    It is true that one must recognize the failures of putting "an algorithm" on a pedestal and finding that it is not all that:)

    So by putting your faith outside yourself on such an algorithm while ignoring the potential you have in yourself....what can I say to you? You know better?

    To me, it is Plato's focus and for me wonderment as to his perspective "looking back on life" and wondering from whence this view was taken? Where was the sun as Plato looked back toward the concrete things. Where was Plato, mentally?

    Of course you have many scientists speaking "in his name" as well?;)

    Life must be understood backwards; but... it must be lived forward.
    Soren Kierkegaard


  21. Previous post.....

    Your text: 1246 charactes, 236 words
    Bullshit Index :0.14
    Your text shows only a few indications of 'bullshit'-English.

    hmmmm.....which indications?:)

  22. Hi Bee,

    I checked out Shakespeare’s Hamlet, more specifically the “to be or not to be” soliloquy and it scored 0.07, which is in the lowest range; not surprising however as what Hamlet was attempting to have decided is if he should continue to put up with all the bullshit;-)

    ”To be, or not to be: that is the question:
    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them?”

    -William Shakesphere, “Hamlet”, Act 3, Scene 1



  23. From Macbeth (and I'm not saying this is the best monologue from that most gruesome of Shakespeare's plays, and my favorite of his plays (well, after A Midsummer's night's Dream, of course: PUCK: What fools these mortals be!" Yes, quite.)), spoken by Macbeth:

    I will not yield,
    To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet,
    And to be baited with the rabble's curse.
    Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,
    And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
    Yet I will try the last. Before my body
    I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff.

    Bullshit Index :0.03
    Your text shows no or marginal indications of 'bullshit'-English.

    Uh .... uh-oh Phil. Warnell trumps Einstein but Shakespeare trumps Warnell!

    Well, it had to happen sooner than later. Records were made to be broken, eh?

  24. Hmm. I'm afraid the BS Meter needs a good tweaking. No WAY does the Turboencabulator (an inside Electrical Engineering joke) deserve a BS rating as low as 0.37, because it's ALL BS.

    HOW in God's name does the following nonsense deserve a 0.37, and if I'm allowed a follow-up, has anyone tried a Lewis Carroll poem, hmm?

    Work has been proceeding in order to bring perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a machine that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such a machine is the 'Turbo-Encabulator'.

    The original machine had a base-plate of prefabulated amulite, surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two spurving bearings were in a direct line with the pentametric fan. The main winding was of the normal lotus-o-delta type placed in panendermic semi-boloid slots in the stator, every seventh conductor being connected by a nonreversible trem'e pipe to the differential girdlespring on the 'up' end of the grammeters.

    Forty-one manestically spaced grouting brushes were arranged to feed into the rotor slipstream a mixture of high S-value phenylhydrobenzamine and 5% reminative tetryliodohexamine. Both of these liquids have specific pericosities given by P = 2.5C.n^6-7 where n is the diathetical evolute of retrograde temperature phase disposition and C is Cholmondeley's annular grillage coefficient. Initially, n was measured with the aid of a metapolar refractive pilfrometer, but up to the present date nothing has been found to equal the transcendental hopper dadoscope. Undoubtedly, the turbo-encabulator has now reached a very high level of technical development. It has been successfully used for operating nofer trunnions. In addition, whenever a barescent skor motion is required, it may be employed in conjunction with a drawn reciprocating dingle arm to reduce sinusoidal depleneration.

  25. Boy, this is hilarious! For those who need a little boost with the allusions of Eliot:

    That's a hypertext version of an analysis of Eliot's use of allusion in his work "Hollow Men." It's really quite a wonderful piece of work and I have often wished the author would create something similar for Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, which the bullshit meter also seemed to appreciate. I checked the first paragraph:

    riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

    Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, fr'over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens County's gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick: not yet, though venissoon after, had a kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all's fair in vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.

    Your text: 874 characters, 144 words
    Bullshit Index :0.05
    Your text shows no or marginal indications of 'bullshit'-English.

    You also might appreciate this little bit:

    Day shirker four van floats he verdants market High liquor made lust torpid dough hunt her orchid

    Which was uttered by Sackerson, a minor servant of HCE, while under the influence of a seance. Sackerson is said by some to represent Satan and the above is a reference to a passage in Ibsen's work, Til min Vtm Revolutions-Taleren, translated as:

    You deluge the world to the topmost mark With pleasure I will torpedo your ark

    So then, according to Joyce, Satan was responsible for the dark matter that took out the Dinos!
    So happy to finally get to the bottom of that mystery!

  26. Blablameter does not do what it claims to do. It is flagging certain words as "bullshit" and penalizing the writer for including them, even if they are in fact the correct words to use. I am taking the time to post this comment because of the time I have wasted under the assumption that Blablameter is a useful tool. It is not. Here is a demonstration.

    The following paragraph was entered:

    "We need to take UX strategy seriously. It is what winning orgs are doing. The conceptual underpinning is simple. We get out there and listen to the user. We switch from a push to a pull system."

    This received a "Bullshit Index" score of 1.2, with the message, "Congratulations, you managed to blow up our index scale from 0 to 1. It is highly unlikely that you will impress anybody else, but you did manage to impress us!"

    Then the passage above was changed to the below and entered:

    "We need to take abstract profundity seriously. It is what winning elves are doing. The postmodern underpinning is simple. We get out there listen to the dragon. We switch from a nonmagic to a magic system."

    This received a "Bullshit Index" score of .12, with the message, "You text shows only a few indication of 'bullshit'--English."

    The words "strategy" and "conceptually" are the difference between the scores. For whatever reason Blablameter does not like these two words. Pretty random and has nothing to do with "bullshit writing."


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