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What makes a YouTube video funny? Google wants to know

Doug Gross, CNN
Is
Is "David After Dentist" one of YouTube's funniest videos? Google wants to find out.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Google has created an algorithm that scores videos based on user feedback, other info
  • Users can vote on YouTube's top finishers in a "Comedy Slam"
  • Researcher: "Humor preference is subjective, perhaps even more so than musical taste"

(CNN) -- How do you know if your YouTube video is funny? Google says you can start by counting the "LOLs."

Always fond of an ambitious algorithm, Google, which owns the Web's top video-sharing site, has set out to try to determine scientifically which videos are the funniest, and what makes them so.

There's a certain irony to the degree of wonkish jargon needed to explain the things that make us laugh in a blog post from Sanketh Shetty, a Google researcher and member of the Web giant's amusingly titled "Slam Team." He said identifying, and ranking, comedy is harder than a previous Google music project.

"We noticed a few audiovisual patterns across comedy videos on YouTube, such as shaky camera motion or audible laughter, which we can automatically detect," Shetty wrote on the Google Research Blog. "While content-based features worked well for music, identifying humor based on just such features is Al-Complete. Humor preference is subjective, perhaps even more so than musical taste."

And, in a way, that's the thing with humor, isn't it? Who can say, for example, whether the Honey Badger is funnier than a guy on a buffalo? What's worth a bigger laugh -- snooty British actors reciting lines from "Jersey Shore," or the Dramatic Chipmunk?

So how does the rating process work? First, Google's speech-recognition technology lets it scan videos for cues such as laughter. Also factored in are key words the uploader uses in the video's description ("funny," "hilarious," etc.) and language viewers use in that video's comments section.

So if people type "Ha! Ha! Ha!" (or cultural equivalents such as "jajaja" or "kekeke"), that earns a point in the video's favor. Same for webspeak such as "LOL" or "LMAO."

Then the algorithm kicks in. It awards extra credit when people put extra emphasis in their responses. So, an "LOLOL" is worth more than an "LOL," and the more exclamation points, the better. Hah!!!!!

Google's coders taught the algorithm how to use that information to rank the site's videos. Or, in Shetty's delightful jargon: "We then trained a passive-aggressive ranking algorithm using human-annotated pairwise ground truth and a combination of text and audiovisual features."

Got it?

The final step is where you come in.

Top-ranked videos have made it into what Google is calling its "Comedy Slam." Users see two videos side by side and vote on which they think is funnier. So far, 75,000 people have cast 700,000 votes, Shetty said. He didn't mention when results might be announced.

When the "slam" is done, maybe we'll finally know -- which is funnier, the Double Rainbow Guy or "David After Dentist."

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