Rosie: Undermining Language Detector
A warm hello to the entire CLAG community and my readers! My name is Gauri Ramesh, and I would like to formally introduce myself in this publication as the newest Associate Editor for Code Like a Girl. I’m incredibly excited to be able to give back to this community and help the voices of women in tech resonate throughout the world. To begin my tenure as an editor, I would like to share a story of mine that has empowered me as a woman in tech.
Along with becoming an editor, I and my teammates (Catherine Krueger and Allison Inman) recently won the Grand Prizes at two online hackathons: the International Women’s Hackathon 2018, which won us $2500 to split among the 3 of us, and the Anita’s Moonshot Codeathon, which won us full scholarships/travel/registration to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston, TX this upcoming September!
We’ve had an incredible time working on our project, Rosie. Rosie, named for Rosie the Riveter, is a Chrome Extension that detects undermining language in emails, Slack messages, and GroupMe messages, and suggests more confident phrasing to help people represent themselves as the professionals they are.
Forbes asserts that using words like just or maybe, apologizing when unneeded, or using phrases like I’m no expert or I don’t know, can undermine people’s credibility in projects, negotiations, pitches, meetings, you name it. To get started, we polled over 100 women on how important they think confidence is in business communication, specifically emails.
We found that a vast majority of the women we polled find hedging/apologetic language to be a problem, especially in the tech community where imposter syndrome runs rampant. However, based on our research, it appeared there were very few solutions. Based on the parameters of the two hackathons we were entering, we saw a perfect space for our problem to be solved.
Based on results from the aforementioned poll, we compiled a list of words and phrases that are found to lack confidence or detract from the message’s meaning. We then built a Chrome Extension that loads your email, Slack, or GroupMe message, detects and flags undermining words, suggest changes and gives editing space, and finally, exports your message right back to where you were originally typing it.
#1: Solving problems for people means solving problems for yourself
Rosie now has hundreds of users and has become a personal cheerleader sitting at the top right corner of my screen. Every time I go to type a message, I catch myself using words that Rosie would tell me not to use. Every day, the confidence in my writing is growing, and I can’t wait for others to feel the same way.
#2: Passion leads to prosperity
I have learned, as I seem to relearn every time I enter in a hackathon, that work in computer science is so much more fulfilling when there is an end goal, a purpose, a passion behind what you’re building. I am passionate about using software to solve real problems people are having, and through my years of competitive speech I grew passionate about using the little things to be confident in yourself and walk your talk. Putting those together made Rosie the perfect project for me — working on it never really feels like working.
#3: Your team matters
I have held a year-long internship, worked in an NLP research lab, and worked on numerous software projects, and never have I worked on an all-female team. There was only one instance where I wasn’t the only female on the team. Working on a team with my female friends fostered a supportive environment and a safe space in which we could all learn and work towards building a vision. There is so much research out there indicating that diverse teams are more productive and produce more innovative results, and I look forward to working with all different kinds of people in the future.
As a team, we hope to introduce more complex NLP methods into Rosie, and we are working to make it an open source project for anyone to contribute to. In the meantime, we’re always looking for feedback on the app and how we can improve Rosie to help people become more confident.
Rosie has been an unforgettable experience and it shows that we can build cool things, that we do belong in this industry, and we are solving problems using technology. So I call on all of you to try something out that you don’t think you’ll succeed in, find a team of people to get behind you, work hard, and see what happens. Take those opportunities you find on Facebook and run after them. You just might surprise yourself — just like I did.