Pony: commenters must read links April 2, 2002 11:16 AM   Subscribe

File this one under something for the far flung future, but how about a "you have to have read a link to post a comment" feature.
posted by alan to Feature Requests at 11:16 AM (28 comments total)

That is certainly possible. On the 5k site, the links redirect to record a user has clicked on them, and don't allow voting until the link has been clicked. I've been debating adding that to the site ever since I saw the 5k site's functionality. It would certainly cut down on the knee-jerk reactions and uninformed opinions (or just require that people click once before they make those reactionary/uninformed comments).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:28 AM on April 2, 2002


Before someone can comment on a thread they would have had to
  1. Clicked on at least one link in the original post
  2. Waited some amount of time after having clicked the link. (2 to 10 minutes? Estimated time it would take someone to read and absorb typical metafilter link)
The main drawback (outside of the usual server/Matt resources) would be the necessity of redirecting all metafilter front page links through a redirect (in order to record the 'time of click')

The benefit *might* be less stupid posts from people who simply read the link description and try in vain to post something clever (and end up with something trite).
posted by alan at 11:29 AM on April 2, 2002


Heh, damn server timeouts.
posted by alan at 11:33 AM on April 2, 2002


I don't know, alan. You'd lose a lot of good stuff - specially responses to others' comments. If you wanted to be more Brave New World you could stipulate that only the first five comments should be based on reading the link. But even that would be counterproductive. There's reading and there's reading. Next thing you know you'd have to prove you actually read the whole thing through.

About the only potentially useful application would be a little button on the comment box you could click to indicate whether you'd read the link or not. Still, I prefer the time-honoured practice of honesty-in-posting, i.e. admitting you haven't read the damn thing.

One of the things I liked best about MetaFilter when I joined - because it's funny and sincere - was the habit of offering a brief ice-breaking, generally perfunctory comment and then signing off by saying "OK, now I'm off to read the link."
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:33 AM on April 2, 2002


Sometimes you've already read the links in question, and you may have read it elsewhere.
posted by riffola at 11:49 AM on April 2, 2002


How about just having some sort of text near the comment box strongly requesting that people read the link before commenting? IMO, not allowing people to comment until they've clicked on a link might cause problems for users of some browsers (and if you right click and open the link in a new window, will it recognise that you've clicked on the link?), it won't actually ensure that someone's read the link anyway, and it smells Big Brother-y. I think your intentions are right, alan, I just don't know that I agree with this solution.
posted by biscotti at 11:50 AM on April 2, 2002


honestly? i don't like most link redirects. i mean, i'm fine with matt knowing that i click through to the link explaining how Jessica Simpson's underwear is comprised of odd colors and textures compared with all the other pop-stars. i dislike blind links, however -- such as when people replace the status bar text with some snarky quip. if there were some way around that problem, that'd be cool.

the only logistical problems i think are that no-link threads or threads where the link is inserted in the body of the text rather than the URL/Title fields would have to be given special treatment. (in the latter, i suppose the first link found would be the clicker-through link; in the former, i don't know -- in fact i don't know if those are still allowed anyway.) riffola makes a good point as well.

that's not to say that ensuring click-throughs to the first link would necessarily solve the problem of off-topic conversation or of people speaking out of hand. i could click through and happily ignore the page, closing it immediately. if people don't care to read the link, they won't.
posted by moz at 11:50 AM on April 2, 2002


You know Jessica Simpson? Email me.

Redirects aren't a bad idea, IMO. I don't think it would solve any problems, tho. In a community this big, there are too many people who don't care about the big picture. Frankly, considering the size of the community, I think that most of the behaviour is pretty good, really.
posted by ashbury at 12:04 PM on April 2, 2002


Nevermind. In my eagerness, I misread that. *SIGH*
posted by ashbury at 12:08 PM on April 2, 2002


Click requirement, maybe. Requiring a certain amount of time before making a comment, hell no. We all read other sites, and it's perfectly possible we've already seen what's linked to in the thread. If I have to wait some arbitrary time period for no good reason, I'll be more likely to just decide I don't care, or forget, whichever comes first.

I don't think that threads with links in the body would need any special treatment, they'd just have to be planned for in the first place, Moz. You're assuming that the backend will add the redirect to the URL field. Why not just have the backend process scan the after-the-form post text for any links and redirect them? There's already an HTML code scanner in there. Would it be a huge effort to modify it to do this all at once? I don't know specifically how it works.
posted by Su at 12:22 PM on April 2, 2002


Fark* works with a redirect (with a counter also) too, but the real URL is shown in the status bar, so at least you know where you're heading off to.

*or so i'm reliably imformed

posted by selton at 1:41 PM on April 2, 2002


I seriously doubt this will solve anything. If someone wants to troll they will, if someone is going to knee-jerk they will. A click-through check isn't going to change anything. You fight disinformation with information, in other words the people who read the article should be correcting the ones who didn't. Even then its still iffy, whose to say the artical is very factual and unbiased?

Look at the some of the recent Times of India headlines, one claimed Murasheff would rather hang himself than release what'shisface and another claimed ObL was caught when it was just an Al'Qeada "officer" who was caught. Eventually they got around to fixing their mistakes, but not before these stories got linked everywhere. Regardless, some people still link to the ToI knowing full well they're a biased and incompetent source for news.

Most of the time a technological solution to a social problem never works.
posted by skallas at 3:37 PM on April 2, 2002


Regardless, some people still link to the ToI knowing full well they're a biased and incompetent source for news.

Most of the time a technological solution to a social problem never works.


Well, then we should stop linking the NYTimes for its damn liberal bias then, right? You started well skallas, too bad you felt the need to editorialize.

This is a good idea so long as it requires little work on Matt's end. It'll give a poster a split second to reflect upon their words and thinking, and that's the best we can expect of anyone.
posted by BlueTrain at 3:41 PM on April 2, 2002


Well, then we should stop linking the NYTimes for its damn liberal bias then, right? You started well skallas, too bad you felt the need to editorialize.

That's a lousy comparision. How often are headlines and stories almost completely rewritten at the NYT? Especially when the initial story caters to a certain popular opinion? The "liberal bias" is a complex subjective observation, rewritting stories and bad journalism is an objective observation. That's the difference.
posted by skallas at 4:01 PM on April 2, 2002


(apologies ahead of time for hijacking alan)

The "liberal bias" is a complex subjective observation, rewritting stories and bad journalism is an objective observation. That's the difference.

Aside from this one instance, can you point of any evidence that they have consistently made this type of mistake? Beyond that, can you even prove that this mistake occurred, beyond a few posters agreeing?

I think your assumption of the TOI being biased has some validity, but I also think it's causing you to create a slippery slope that doesn't exist.

And completely aside, do you prefer blatant racism, or covert racism? I prefer blatant racism, because then I know what I'm dealing with. Same applies here with the TOI. IF we know them to be biased, I prefer open bias as opposed to a covert liberal bias shown by the NYTimes.
posted by BlueTrain at 4:17 PM on April 2, 2002


Sometimes the conversation in thread takes so many twists and turns that the thing I'm commenting on is only loosely related to the original link. How does a perfunctory click through help there. It seems like a PITA to me.
posted by willnot at 4:22 PM on April 2, 2002


Aside from this one instance, can you point of any evidence that they have consistently made this type of mistake? Beyond that, can you even prove that this mistake occurred, beyond a few posters agreeing?

Actually those are two recent instances, bluetrain. I won't get into the "can you prove this if you werent there" game with you, thanks. Maybe later we can discuss if there really is a China because I've never been there. Obviously, the chances of a conspiracy/hoax are pretty slim with my examples. If you want to believe I made it up along with some others to discredit the ToI then thats your perogative.

Secondly, I'm using the term bias in its extreme. Arguably, everything has bias of some sort, be it opinion, which facts to report, etc. Extreme bias results in the mistakes I listed before. I'm not saying the ToI is a propaganda machine, but it has shown itself to be a poor source for information based on its suspicious corrections. I'm sure there are many great stories there, but when it comes to Pakistan I'm not calling them the paragon of objectivity.

Lastly, the liberal bias you accused the NYT of having is a typical subjective distinction. To someone on the left (far left?) they are the mouthpiece for corporate America, blah blah, etc. To someone on the right (far right?) they're a bunch of city slicker liberals, blah blah, etc. Like I wrote earlier your comparision doesn't work that well and goes through some semantic loops with the word bias.
posted by skallas at 4:44 PM on April 2, 2002


(apologies ahead of time for hijacking alan)

Are you under the impression that it's ok to do anything so long as you apologize for it in advance? "I'm really sorry that I'm about to steal your car." Somehow that doesn't cut it.

Obviously, it would be nice if we could make sure that everyone read the link before commenting. It would reduce irrelevant posts, and it would help forestall topic drift. But I don't see how it's technically enforceable.
posted by anapestic at 4:51 PM on April 2, 2002


skallas: one point,

Look at the some of the recent Times of India headlines, one claimed Murasheff would rather hang himself than release what'shisface and another claimed ObL was caught when it was just an Al'Qeada "officer" who was caught. Eventually they got around to fixing their mistakes, but not before these stories got linked everywhere. Regardless, some people still link to the ToI knowing full well they're a biased and incompetent source for news.

Who are these "some people that still link" in the 4 days since the article you mention, a link would be nice.

And if your opinion of "biased and incompetent source" is based on 2 articles, shoddily sub-edited, in a what is it, 100 year old newspaper, with some damn fine journalism, you are the one exhibiting a bias.
posted by bittennails at 4:57 PM on April 2, 2002


And if your opinion of "biased and incompetent source" is based on 2 articles, shoddily sub-edited, in a what is it, 100 year old newspaper, with some damn fine journalism, you are the one exhibiting a bias.

Those were also very high profile articles which dealt with Pakistan and Afganistan. I think they were caught red-handed in their zeal, prejudice, bias or whatever. I think its pretty obvious that both India and Pakistan have a bone to pick with each other and it reflects in their journalism.

Who are these "some people that still link" in the 4 days since the article you mention, a link would be nice.

I didn't just mean metafilter. I meant the larger issue of picking the article or news source that fits in well with your own opinions regardless of the quality or reputation of the news source.

posted by skallas at 5:30 PM on April 2, 2002


Back to the topic, I think redirects are a horrible idea, though a requirement for reading is a good one. Unfortunately, the latter is practically impossible without using the former.

Imagine getting those afternoon server timeouts not just when loading the main page and the threads, but the links as well. Once I get in to the main page, I can surf all the links in new windows without making a single new request to the mefi server, which is good for the server and good for me.

As for Fark, who uses redirects as well, half the time I have to manually edit out the redirect part of the link during heavy-traffic times of the day. It's a huge pain.

Even with a huge hardware upgrade, I still don't know if it's a good idea, it still adds significant time to a page being displayed. I've never been to a site that used redirects to track hits where the delay wasn't noticeable. For a page with a few links that's not problem, but for a mefi-like site that's built on links it would get really annoying.

posted by Nothing at 8:39 PM on April 2, 2002


I'm against this idea, but then I like the snarky comments.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:02 PM on April 2, 2002


I'm against this idea, only because it presupposes a lack of savy from all partcipants.
That attitude has a way more deleterious effect on contributing than the occasional uninformed, over-eager remark.
posted by dong_resin at 1:38 AM on April 3, 2002


How about a "you have to have read the link to post the link" feature? ;-)
posted by gyc at 1:45 AM on April 3, 2002


I don't think you should have to read the links first. IT would make this plus much less interesting. This is not an academic institution.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:54 AM on April 3, 2002


To really make sure people read the link, why not make people take a pop-up quiz on the article before they can get to the postings? Though this raises other questions - how many questions can they get wrong and still get through? Should we call them and ask a few other questions first? Should they have to clear the room before they take the quiz? You don't want them asking other people in the room who may have read the article, after all. How about a "Have you eaten a green vegetable today?" button?

Hm, maybe it's not such a good idea.
posted by ClydeCrashcup at 11:02 AM on April 4, 2002


It would certainly cut down on the knee-jerk reactions and uninformed opinions (or just require that people click once before they make those reactionary/uninformed comments).

THAT is funny Matt. And I think it gets more to the heart of the matter than the technical aspects. If the concept is being proposed as a solution to a perceived problem in the stature or coherence of the content of some of the posts, it is by no means certain that making sure everyone has read the article will change much at all.

posted by MidasMulligan at 7:46 PM on April 4, 2002


it is by no means certain that making sure everyone has read the article will change much at all.

It would at least create a sort of moratorium on off-the-cuff and oblivious statements, even if it doesn't prevent them. Powazek, for instance, is always talking about burying the Add a Comment links, so that you only get there after having invested a certain amount of time and interest (or at least hunting for links), because requiring that investment does help ensure higher-quality contributions.

It would have costs as well, though; people who'd already seen the link would find it tedious (even more than seeing something old in the first place), and it might also discourage people who just want to contribute additional links on a subject they know about. (These off the top of my head.)
posted by mattpfeff at 8:43 PM on April 4, 2002


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