Eureka – Arcanicity and the Technology Reading Ease Index

Well I wasn’t in the bath when it occurred to me, and I wouldn’t claim that I’ve advanced the general knowledge of mankind in the way that Archimedes did, but I have made a little discovery.

[UPDATE – A more detailed description of the Goodall Arcanicity Index can be found here]

As I had mentioned before, I have been trying to create a mechanism to determine the amount of domain-specific knowledge a reader would need to posses in order to understand a text extract. The reason for this is that I am producing automated competitive-intelliegence studies using REPAMATron – a system I’m developing to infer marketing strategy from the marketing copy that high-tech vendors use to take their products to market. As part of those studies I want to be able to compare the technical content of different vendors’ marketing copy. Being able to estimate how much technical knowledge each vendor expects their audience to have in order to read their marketing copy, is important to me.

So I set out to look for an existing readability index that would provide a rating for how arcane a particular text is. I engaged with some experts in general readability indexes, but I couldn’t find anything. So I decided to produce something myself based on the density of acronyms and abbreviations in a given text.

And here it is…

2.4366 x ( 1 + "Total Acronyms" divided by "Number of Sentences" ) x ( 1 + "Total Unique Acronyms" divided by "Number of Sentences" ) x "Peak Acronyms in a Single Sentence"

It should be recognised that this is a first draft. The magic number of 2.4366 will probably need to be adjusted and I’ll also probably have to identify other arcane concepts in a text other than just acronyms and abbreviations. But this is a good start.

I’ll share how I arrived at this equation as well as the name in a future post. I will also provide examples using actual vendor’s marketing copy and perhaps award a prize for the most arcane marketing copy I can find.

But for time being, I give you the Goodall Arcanicity Index. You can read more about my motivation and the size of my ego here.

Danny Goodall

Posted in All Blog Categories, natural language processing, readability, REPAMATron and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .