Read/WriteWeb has an article about a fascinating new browser plugin called SpinSpotter. The idea is that readers of journalism on the Web can mark it up as “spin”, and propose alternative edits to the text that was in the original article.  For instance, if a journalist writes “Most observers believe that …”, the reader might change it to “Some observers believe that …”.  (If the reporter doesn’t have a study to cite, it’s spin for him to suggest that he knows it’s “most”.  He might be right, but journalism demands that he either cite a source or leave the opinion out.)  Other readers can then choose to see the original text, the original text with symbols marking the “spin”, or the edited text.

Two studies that would be fascinating to do: (1) Does the presence of the spin markers change the messages that a reader takes away from an article?  Are readers able to judge articles more carefully because of the markup?  (2) Do different users agree on the appropriate spin markers?  If not, should a recommender system be used to show users spin marks that they agree with?  What effects does that have on the messages readers take away from articles?


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