How gud iz ur reeding comprehenshen and Barbie knitting skilz?

You know what the problem is with pointy-headed academics these days?  We don’t write books that the average person can understand.  It’s all post-structural theory this and performative that, no reasonable ideas that normal people can understand, let alone use!  Well, Susie at Suburban Guerilla and Anglachel point us to commenter Robert Stanley Martin, who ran a bunch of lefty political blogs through the wringer along with this humble blog, too.  Here’s what he found (also posted at his blog, Pol Culture):

–Glenn Greenwald: Genius
–Nouriel Roubini: Genius
Pol Culture (me): College (postgrad)
–Anglachel: College (undergraduate)
–Paul Krugman (blog): High school
–The New York Times: High school
–Daily Kos: High school
–The Daily Howler (Bob Somerby): Junior high school
–Historiann: Junior high school
–The New Yorker: Junior high school
–Atrios: Elementary school
–Americablog (John Aravosis): Elementary school

There are some shockers there. I mean, the Daily Kos is written at a higher intellectual level than The New Yorker or Historiann? Are they kidding? However, I do think they pegged John Aravosis just right. I’m assuming a “Nursery school” option wasn’t available.

Thanks, Robert, for your gentlemanly defense of this humble blog!  When I ran through the analyzer yesterday, it was ranked as High School, so I’ve been promoted!  Yay?  (The company was much better in my old junior high, I have to say.)  Do I say “wev” too often?  Is that it?  Or is it the Barbies and their cunning, tiny knitted couture?  My guess is that Nouriel Roubini hasn’t posted much on the Sex and the City:  The Movie, and Glenn Greenwald has completely ignored Skipper and Judy Jetson.

Yeah, that’s gotta be it.  I love these–they’re not from the Historiann barbie knitwear collection, which you can see elements of here, here, and here, if you really want to.  It’s ski season here in Colorado, and since Historiann (a native-born flatlander) does not faire du ski, she’s got her eye on this apres-ski wear.  I don’t know if I’m confident enough to pull off the retro look of that knitted matching sweater and skirt on the left, but I would kill for that fur-trimmed coat and hat on the right.


0 thoughts on “How gud iz ur reeding comprehenshen and Barbie knitting skilz?

  1. I can totally see you in that blue suit.
    FWIW, I remember being told years ago that the target audience for articles in the Sunday NY Times Magazine was a “12 year old girl”. (Not boy, girl. Go figure.) When I was 12 I read it quite thoroughly…


  2. Hi Historiann:

    Love your blog. As a former aspiring academic, I greatly enjoy the accounts of life inside the Ivory Tower. Once an academic wannabe, always an academic wannabe, I guess

    As for your post, I don’t think discussions of SEX AND THE CITY or THE JETSONS disqualify one from the higher intellectual rankings. I mean, I got a postgrad ranking, and some of my recent postings include reviews of SUPERMAN and SWAMP THING comic books. Granted, they’re the ones written by Alan Moore, one of our great postmodern litterateurs, but still. And it’s not like I’m discussing them relative to Derrida or Barthes or whomever, either.

    I think what does it is how frequently one uses commas, colons, and semi-colons, as well as the word-count/period ratio. The last would explain the strange evaluation of the Daily Kos, where the conventions of proper sentence-ending punctuation are honored more in the breach than in the observance.

    Getting your intellectual ranking up may be like losing weight. Instead of periods and sweets, you need semi-colons and green vegetables. And look at jogging and punctuating the same way: “One more block… one more block… one more block. Comma… colon… semi-colon–must get that word-count/period ratio up! Gasp… pant… snuffle.”

    I’m telling you, we need a Richard Simmons for sentence punctuation!


  3. I saw it pointed out somewhere (can’t remember where now) that the speed with which that algorithm produces results suggests that it is probably not reading anything except the front page of each site. So even if the algorithm measures something that might be, in principle, meaningful when applied to a large block of text, the sizes of the samples being used may well be too small to be useful.


  4. Thanks for the “inside baseball” angle, Buzz. (He’s a physicist, folks, not a humanities piker like most of the rest of us!) Based on Robert’s comments, I’ll have to include more long, rambling, crazed rants written in my own blood to raise my blog to the quality of the Daily Kos. Thanks for stopping by to comment, Robert, although this blog will quickly disabuse you of the notion that you’re missing much by not working in higher ed.

    Susan–I’m afraid the “sweater suit” would look too matronly on me. If Michelle Obama whips out something like it, then I’ll reconsider. But until then, I’m going to put just the little coat on my Xmas list.


  5. I ran mine through the various engines. And in addition to being 77% likely to be male, GIRLscholar is written at an undergraduate level, apparently.

    My guess is that they base it on the average sentence length. Or maybe they just count semicolons and the “exacerbate” to “dude” ratio.


  6. I like that blue sweater suit. Very professional, in a 1950’s way…

    @Robert — I am officially frightened by the idea of a Richard Simmons style of grammar education. Although perhaps it would scare the average student into paying attention…


  7. I did this awhile back with my two blogs. My personal one ( came out college undergraduate. The one for my graduate course ( came out high school. Go figure.

    Also, try gender analyzer —
    According to this program, Knitting Clio is written by a man (which I’m not!)


  8. KC–I think the gender analyzer thinks every blog I read are written by men, although few of them are. I wonder what’s going on? Can anyone find a blog that the gender analyzer says was written by a woman?

    Erica: you’re not selling me on the sweater suit. Doesn’t it look rather Maime Eisenhowerish? Jackie O., not so much (or at all!) Mamie–unfortunately, yes. (I could see Jackie in the sweater, paired with a tight pair of skinny-legged jeans, or those 60s-style ski pants, but not the skirt. Ever.)


  9. I like the coat! The suit would only work if the skirt was a smooth shiny material instead of knitted. _I_ think.

    PS most of the “analyzers” that run algorithms about web sites are based exclusively on word length and sentence length, not content at all. I’m pretty sure that they come out of the “fog index” analyses newspapers developed to make sure their writing was accessible to the general public, which was assumed to have about a 9th grade education. So maybe those people who are mocking the “simplicity” of certain web sites should reconsider whether accessibility is a value, particularly in the public sphere.


  10. Sis, l I like your sense of style. Yes, perhaps the same color but a contrasting fabric/texture, although that’s a whole lotta bright turquoise. Maybe we should change the color–although whatever color we choose, it could be just a lot of whatever color.


  11. Hi Historiann,

    I used to work closely with instructional designers and technical writers and people sometimes sweated bullets over these numbers. But the stress wasn’t about getting up to genius level, it was to get down to sixth-grade level.

    The trick? These scales generally don’t measure whether the *writer* is a genius, they measure whether you have to be a genius to *figure out what the writer’s saying.*

    The New Yorker, former home of Strunk and/or White, has a lower “genius” level because the magazine tends heavily towards articles that are very well written and meticulously edited. If you’re ranked on that end of the scale it’s because you’re a clear writer too. DailyKOS probably ranks more towards genius because they often present very complex information (statistics, technical jargon, inside baseball.) Atrios scores “better” because he tends towards very short, simple sentences with lots of, um, Anglo-Saxon words.

    One last thing: the reason a 6th-grade reading level was the holy grail for technical writers *wasn’t* that their users were morons. Instead their users tended to be highly-skilled and very busy and therefore want to be able to skim for the information they needed very quickly.

    All of which is a long way of saying “congratulations.”


    p.s. @Buzz: the statistical analysis behind the reading standards are complex but the algorithms themselves are pretty simple. A sample the size of the average blog front page (18 word-processor pages for Historiann, for instance) would be more than adequate.


  12. I went to Jr. High School. Jr. High School was a very interesting senator, but a not very good intellectual experience. This blog is NOT Jr. High School.

    I vote with the coat. Try separating the blue thing and see if they work with different alternative components.


  13. Thanks so much for stopping by to comment, figleaf, and for the explanation of how these algorithms work. It’s such a relief! I mean, I know I act like a junior high student, but I think I write a little bit better than one.

    And Indyanna–yes, the coat for sure. That’s a coat you could put on in November and take off in March–it looks comfy enough to wear in the house!


  14. ….And not be a “housecoat”, too! It would be interesting to see (or develop on a thread) a cultural etymology of the term “housecoat.” Which for me evokes condescending images of Edith Bunker, or for that matter, other denizens of the (late) G.I. bill suburbs of the kind that I grew up in. This one would be a housecoat that kicks ass and takes names, as the saying goes…


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