Vincent Gable’s Blog

March 25, 2009

Lemur CATTA and the Author’s Burden

Filed under: Accessibility | , ,
― Vincent Gable on March 25, 2009

Mike Lee had an interesting idea for improving comments on blogs. Before someone can post a comment, they have to pass a reading comprehension test, to show they read the article they are commenting on. He called his implementation Lemur CATTA

It’s a good idea, especially for certain communities. But the implementation rubbed me wrong from day one. My problem was that the questions were automatically generated.

I feel like it’s the author’s burden to make their work as accessible to readers as they can. If they are placing a barrier in front of commenters, they should do everything they can to make sure the barrier is effective at blocking the bad, but easily permeable to the good. I don’t feel Auto-generated questions are compatible with that responsibility.

There’s a callousness to auto-generated questions. The author is essentially saying, “Yeah, I took many hours to write this post, and I’m going to inconvenience every reader who wants to reply, but damned if I take a few minutes to write these questions myself”. And that just rubs me the wrong way.

To be fair, writing reading comprehension questions is harder then it seems — at least when I’ve tried it. Maybe a computer is more effective at generating quizzes then a prose writer. (But I doubt it’s more effective then a prose writer with practice.) And auto-generation has all kinds of benefits. It can be applied to comments, and real-time discussions, for example. But sometimes the human touch is more comforting. It gives an assurance that the author cares about what you have to say, and worked through any problems you might be having with the comment system.

More info on Lemur CATTA at

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress