Miscellaneous Ramblings

Eudora's Mood Watch: Annoying or Entertaining?

Charles Moore - 2001.11.20 - Tip Jar

One of the quirky features of Eudora 5.1 that endears the program to me is Mood Watch, which is intended to monitor offensive text in both incoming and outgoing messages. You can display the new Mood Watch options dialog to set Mood Watch settings.

MoodWatch

I generally take a dim view of censorware, but Mood Watch is unobtrusive, causes no hassle or inconvenience, can be turned off if you wish, and can be amusing. One of its aspects that I get the greatest kick out of is that probably 90% percent of the non-spam messages (can there really be that many guys out there worried about the size of their "package?") I receive that get flagged with Mood Watch "chili peppers" come from Christian email lists I'm on.

Mood Watch is intended to warn users about flame content in incoming and outgoing emails. A feature of Eudora since version 5.0, Mood Watch warns users if they are writing a flame or if they are being flamed (as if that were not obvious in either case). Mood Watch scans outgoing and incoming email messages for potentially offensive language and graphically flags the level of "heat" with one, two, or three chili peppers. As noted, Mood Watch can be turned off if the user so chooses. The feature will also warn users if they click "send" on a potentially offensive message to give them a chance to reconsider. Users can set one of three different degrees of sensitivity that will trigger these warning messages or turn the warnings off altogether while still using the Mood Watch feature to give chili ratings to incoming and outgoing emails.

Fellow Nova Scotian columnist Harry Bruce last week wrote an entertaining screed about Mood Watch for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald entitled "Big Brother lives inside my computer."

Harry, who is a philosophical liberal, takes a dimmer view of Mood Watch than I do. "I have discovered," says Harry, "that the software that transmits my e-mail, Version 5.1 of Eudora, is an offensive prig."

"Eudora is a prude," he continues, "and I'll thank her to mind her own prissy business. In a letter I wrote to my son Alec in Moncton, I used the most common of all the swearwords for excrement, the one that rhymes with 'split,' but when I tried to transmit the note by e-mail, Eudora slapped my wrist....

"I felt as though I were back in Grade 5, and the huge Miss Eudora Watt was about to give me the strap for shouting disgusting words during recess."

Harry continues, "The warning box at least offered choices. Rather than 'Cancel,' I Clicked 'Send Anyway,' and because Eudora's attitude really urinated me off,"

Turning off Mood Watch is of course the proper thing to do if it annoys you.

Mood Watch is based on rhetorical theories developed by David Kaufer, chairman of the English department of Carnegie Mellon University, employs a very fast and efficient algorithm to identify words and phrases that might be offensive. As such, it's efficient at flagging potentially offensive messages, but it is up to the user to decide if a message "deserves the chilies."

More information on the Mood Watch feature of Eudora 5.0 email software can be found at: http://www.eudora.com/email/features/moodwatch.html

Mood Watch is fun to experiment with, and I have tried typing various words into a new message document to see just what words the program would flag. A sampling of words that conjured up three chili peppers were the expression commonly abbreviated "SOB," the quintessential f-word, "asshole" (which Eudora's spell checker did not recognize, but Mood Watch did), and even idiot, as well as various potty-language terms.

On the other hand, pig face, jerk, and nitwit sailed through without raising a single chili pepper, as did turkey and damn.

Vagina and penis separately raised, if you will pardon the expression, no peppers, but when they appeared together two peppers appeared. The scatological slang references to vagina and penis both were flagged with three peppers, even though the male-related word has perfectly polite uses in reference to a male fowl or to the act of preparing a firearm for discharge.

I also screened the archive messages I have on file in Eudora and discovered that a few of my correspondents are prone to use somewhat salty language, at least in Eudora's opinion, although nothing I would deem abusive. The weirdest discovery was that a message entirely in Norwegian was flagged with three chili peppers. No, I have no idea what it said.

While entertaining to play with, Mood Watch is a good example of the basic uselessness of censorware. However, it is good for a few smiles at least.

You can download a copy of Eudora 5.1 from http://www.eudora.com.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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