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Feb 8 2008   5:16PM GMT

What is the Latent Amusement-Muddlement Equation (LAME)? IT humor, for sure.

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

Crack channel features writer Yuval Shavit doesn’t just understand how to write an IT service-level agreement or maintaining performance after a database consolidation — this man also knows funny.

To whit, after his observation that a search for “VoWiFi ” wasn’t turning up VoWLAN resulted in a discussion of the cryptic “ambiguity-to-humor ratio” found in email, Yuval submitted a definition last weekend that explains how to determine just how funny a bit of techie humor actually is in virtual life. Enjoy!

In enterprises, the Latent Amusement-Muddlement Equation (LAME) is used
to compute how amusing a joke is in comparison to how much it will
muddle a situation due to ambiguities in the joke. Positive values
correspond to jokes that are not amusing enough to justify the confusion
they cause, whereas negative values are amusing enough. While this may
be counter-intuitive to those who think a positive value should yield a
positive joke, a common mnemonic is to remember, “if it’s positively
LAME, don’t say it.”

For instance, if you are car pooling to a meeting but running late, and
the driver frantically asks whether he should take a left at an
intersection, yelling out “right!” in such a way as to make the driver
think he should take a right turn — instead of the correct left turn —
is generally regarded as having a positive LAME vale.

Computing LAME is simple but subjective.

LAME = ( [2A*M]^3 + 20N ) – ( [L/1000]^3 + e^[C/100] )


L = Laughter, in terms of milliseconds
A = Anger, in terms of how many minutes it will take for the other
person to calm down
M = Magnitude (of the anger), a value between 0 and 1.0 (inclusive), 1.0
being most angry
N = coNfusion caused by the joke
C = Chuckling, in terms of milliseconds

Thanks, Yuval. I’ll make sure to shoot down any poorly-phrased comedic quips from the channel editors at lunch next week as evidence of a low lameness quotient (LQ).
Cyanide and Happiness has many excellent examples of this phenomenon. (Caution — some of these stick figure comics are NSFW.) Some work, some don’t.

xkcd, beloved of geeks everwhere as I’ve blogged previously, has some of that flavor, as the N factor may be quite high for the non-math or IT crowd.

Microsoft’s new viral comic campaign, Heroes Happen, has a bit of that element as well.

And, of course, icanhascheezburger.com, now one of the most popular blogs online, has oodles of LOLcats that range from the sublimely funny to completely random to groaningly punny.

P.S. While the LAME quotient has many applications, IT purists may note that it’s an MP3 converter used with the popular open source audio editing software Audacity, among others. Old school techies may recall the term lamer as well, though any similarity is purely coincidental.

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