in journalism, tech, Uncategorized

Gaming The New York Times

Thomas Weber has written an account of how he used the Mechanical Turk to game the New York Times’ “most e-mailed” list:

What could have propelled a stale, bone-dry story to the top of the Internet’s importance arbiter? I can tell you: It was me. More precisely, it was a group of people under my direction who all, at my request, emailed that particular story within a relatively short timeframe to learn exactly what it takes to make the most-emailed list. How we did it—and how many people it took—reinforces a lesson of our viral media age: Even at the biggest newspaper website in the world, the content that is spotlighted as most engaging reflects the judgment of a group far smaller than the overall audience, and can even be gamed by those motivated enough to do so.

Just as interesting as his methods is the fact that he chose to publish the article at all. By revealing his methodology, Weber makes it increasingly likely that the Times will take action to prevent this kind of gaming in the future, hence rendering the specifics of his article irrelevant. And while the idea of the few dictating the consumption of the many is fascinating, haven’t we always known about this? Still, you gotta admire the brazenness and the methodology on display here.