Sunday, April 08, 2007

software for truly lame people: WhiteSmoke

I got an ad from FreshDevices in my email today, and instead of deleting it like 99.9% of the other ones, I had a look and saw mention of a program called WhiteSmoke.

The ad text read:
Write like an English pro using this software. With full-text analysis solution, convert simple English sentences to become more sophisticated automatically.

This premise raised my ire pre-emptively, since if the "simple" English sentences communicate the correct meaning, surely making them artificially "more sophisticated" is either distorting the meaning or at best, fluffing out concise text with superfluous padding. In a sense, de-optimising the text.

So I had a look at the site and found pretty much what I expected.

He was very interested in our product line, however, he has some issues with our priceing.

He was very interested in our innovative product line, however, he has some significant issues with our pricing.

How does it know whether the product line is innovative, and is it even relevant? Obviously the assumption is that you would always refer to your products as "innovative" whether it is or not, but this just makes the word optional and eliminatable (okay, that's probably not a word, but it should be...).

Ignoring the fact that it corrects the obvious typo in "pricing" (which should be done by another single-purpose tool anyway) it also adds the modifier "significant". This is all clearly in the name of making simple text sound more formal and "clever", but I have two issues with this:

a) People should be able to do it themselves without changing the meaning inappropriately
b) This clearly changes the meaning inappropriately.

If someone doesn't speak enough English to write in an academic tone, they can get by with what they have and use a dictionary/thesaurus to get the meaning across. And a native English speaker has absolutely no excuse to even consider using this thing. Using an automated tool to make your writing look "clever" is the very opposite of clever. It's akin to having a voice filter on your phone that transforms your speech into a different accent (Cockney Skank to marbles-in-the-mouth Rupert). The whole concept is utterly lame and anyone caught buying such a tool should be whipped. Whipped!

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