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Our recent adventures with the vaporware/demoware SpinSpotter (here and here), which purports to detect passages of untrustworthy spin, reminded me of last month's software delight, apostrophree, which, it was said, automatically and silently

corrects common errors of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and usage in blogs and especially comments and discussion forms.

(this from a Typical Programmer interview with apostrophree's founder John Scogan).

Yes, it's all made up, including a reference to Bolus Venture Capital of Palo Alto and to 

a Russian company that is working on what they call a "clue gate." The idea is to identify and filter out postings from newbies, particularly on technical forums

though there are sprinklings of genuine references, for instance to OSCON (O'Reilly's Open Source Convention). Some readers were taken in, at least at first, by claims like these:

Apostrophree corrects many common errors on the fly, before readers see them. For example, the homonymns theretheir, and they're are frequently confused. Words like affect and effect or imply and infer are often mixed up. And missing or misplaced apostrophes abound — that's where our name comes from.

And even by:

Why would an organization buy apostrophree? How does it save money?
In a typical company a small but significant number of employees read blogs and comment threads every day, sometimes several times in a work day. I say a significant number because the people who read comment threads and post comments of their own are very often among the most highly-paid people in the organization. The time apostrophree saves goes right to the bottom line.

But how does apostrophree save time? Don't people just read through bad spelling and ignore missing apostrophes?
Most people either don't recognize or don't care when they encounter a misspelled word or incorrectly-formed plural. But some people do notice, and there's a personality type that will spend a lot of time demonstrating their superior English skills online. We've studied this for over a year, in many settings, and over and over we find the same thing: the most expensive employees, especially technical people such as programmers, can be provoked by the smallest error to post a comment of their own correcting the error and chastising the original poster. Observing technical staff in one organization we found that just two common errors — it's instead of its and there instead of their — accounted for six hours of essentially wasted time per month per employee.

The comments on Typical Programmer are entertaining. More on Metafilter, and on Josh Millard's and Nancy Friedman's blogs (and no doubt other places).


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