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I am Joannes Vermorel, founder at Lokad. I am also an engineer from the Corps des Mines who initially graduated from the ENS.

I have been passionate about computer science, software matters and data mining for almost two decades. (RSS - ATOM)

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Monday
May212012

Happy talk detector

Over the last couple of months, I have been pushing a lot of content on my company website (Lokad.com), and proofreading a lot of texts produced by colleagues too. The more I write, the more I realize that fighting our innate instinct to produce happy talk is a tough battle.

Recently, I came up with a simple rule to detect most happy talk content:

When by replacing a sentence by its negation, the resulting message seems totally out of place, then, odds are that the sentence was not carrying much of a message in the first place.

For example, it might be tempting write down on a company website We strive for excellency; however, if you think the opposite We strive for mediocrity, it becomes clear that nobody would claim the latter version. Hence, since the latter is obvious, the former has to be too.

The trick is purely psychological though. When producing an assertion of some kind, our mind - at least mine for sure - seems to better spot oddities rather than to recognize the obvious as such.