"Readers had to prove they read a story before they were able to comment on it."

Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 11 months ago to Technology
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AUSTIN, Texas—The five-person team behind a simple WordPress plugin, which took three hours to code, never expected to receive worldwide attention as a result. But NRKbeta, the tech-testing group at Norway's largest national media organization, tapped into a meaty vein with the unveiling of last February's Know2Comment, an open source plugin that can attach to any WordPress site's comment section.

[NRK is "Norsk Riks Kringkasting" Norway Public Broadcasting - Wikipedia here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NRK -- MEM]

"It was a basic idea," NRKbeta developer Ståle Grut told a South By Southwest crowd on Tuesday. "Readers had to prove they read a story before they were able to comment on it."

The story has since been told a few times, but Grut's recent refresh on the topic is just as compelling for its comment-section impact as it is for NRK's thought process on how to make Internet media a better place: invite readers to have an active stake in improving it.
... Grut had his own eureka moment while showering before biking to the office: why not a quiz? A WordPress plugin could force users to correctly answer a few multiple-choice questions before the page's comment field would appear. Once he got to the office, he and fellow staffers spent three hours building the plugin, which Grut reminded the crowd is wholly open source.

"Naturally, this was paid for by Norwegian people, so you can thank them if you want to implement it," Grut said when emphasizing that he was happy if more sites tried it out.

Should you slap the plugin into your own WordPress install, it's then a matter of having a story author or editor come up with multiple choice questions (and Grut says he's still unsure whether basic facts or fuller comprehension make for better quiz questions in this case). He admits having no A/B testing data to confidently determine Know2Comment's impact, but he says "99 percent" of NRKbeta's most frequent users were "overwhelmingly positive" about the function.

Still, he and NRKbeta have softened their use of the plugin in the past 13 months. "In the first period after we did this, we thought it was really fun to write these quizzes," Grut told Ars Technica. "We had a good time writing them. But then we realized not every article is in need of this. We are a tech site; we don't have a lot of controversy, so there's not a big need for it. We use it now on stories where we anticipate there'll be uninformed debate to add this speed bump."


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  • Posted by Lucky 11 months ago
    I read reviews of computer hardware and of household appliances.

    I have the belief (opinion based on incomplete evidence) that, many
    reviewers in websites and in magazines have not evaluated the item they are
    writing about but have copied manufacturer's publicity.

    When I buy an appliance I go to review sites and look at the bad reviews first.
    Many are illiterate and illogical, and make complaints that have no relevance.

    I have just read a master's thesis paper on an aspect of the work of Jane Austen.
    The thesis writer has read much literary criticism, but shows no admiration or
    appreciation or personal insight would would be evidence that the novels have been read.

    This sort of thing is widespread, it is more than corruption, I propose that many people want to be accepted as an authority, or just have their opinions read, or just need to spout off in public.
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  • Posted by NealS 11 months ago
    Wow, what a unique concept, you have to actually know something about what you speak of. If you read you might be informed, or possibly even misinformed. This is almost as tough to conceive as the definition of "is" is, or is it?.
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  • Posted by  $  Stormi 11 months ago
    What if the print media editors and writers are the boobs I know my former editor would shut down conversations in letter to the editor, if they might upset an advertiser, or his liberal local politicians. I was put on the school strategic plan team, to stop me from writing letters t the editor, exposing some of their motive. Some of the imported opinion pieces always did and still do reflect some liberal nitwit's opinion or spouting of talking points they have heard. The only way to try to correct their error in thinking is to send in an oppsing letter to the editor. I remember taking an adnvaced novels course in college, we had only 8 students, and some actually tried to not read "Bleak House" in one week, no faking a discussion in that setting. Sooner or later, those who don't do the work, do get caught in their laziness.
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  • Posted by bsmith51 11 months ago
    This seems to be a good idea. Like all things human, it can and will probably be corrupted. Thankfully we are on the cusp of robots with AI. They can decide.
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    • Posted by  $  amhunt 11 months ago
      Excellent point. I hope they at least thought of multiple multiple choice questions chosen at random with the answers randomized.
      But I think an AI would be best.
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    • Posted by KevinSchwinkendorf 11 months ago
      Yep, AI really proved itself recently in Arizona, when a driverless car ran down and killed a pedestrian. Yes, the pedestrian was "J-walking" and the software didn't "think" to look out for that scenario, but I suppose the programmers will correct for that gap now. What other gaps haven't the programmers thought of yet? I do think that "autopilot" in airlines is good enough now, where an airliner has thousands of feet of maneuvering room, but a car on a crowded freeway? The maneuvering room is measured in inches there, and I still like a human brain to respond to unexpected events. Maybe in the future (Star Trek time) AI will be better, but even then (in "The Ultimate Computer"), M-5 still got confused about the war games, and over a thousand people died. "Captain Dunsel" (Kirk) had a purpose after all.
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      • Posted by  $  Solver 11 months ago
        Some accidents can’t be avoided by a single maneuver due to physics. There is no evidence that if a person was actually driving, the end results would have been any different. But there is a police statement to the contrary.
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        • Posted by KevinSchwinkendorf 11 months ago
          True. I did hear also that the pedestrian just darted out right in front of the car, and a human driver's finite reaction time probably would have prevented any evasive action. But, I'm still not comfortable with computers driving land vehicles on crowded streets. Maybe in the future, but I don't think we're there yet.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 11 months ago
    I am intrigued by this because 10 years ago I rejoiced that technology was allowing people whose letters the newspaper editors would not print to publish their thoughts anyway. Now I see the value of editors reviewing letters before publishing them.

    It seems like the plugin would stop unsophisticated bots any people who just want to post stupid "this stuff is gay" insults or people who see the name of a public figure they don't like in the title and post some "I can't stand him" criticism. It would not stop a committed troll.

    I suspect, though, a significant percentage of impertinent comments come from people who would not bother to take the test.
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