Missed Opportunities and Distributable Content
Every year around Independence Day some news websites like MSNBC.com create mini-citizenship tests -- almost as if to prove how dumb we all are with respect to our own laws and history. Perhaps because journalists are in the habit of conducting idiotic and meaningless polls to develop news out of nothing (Such as "Which Presidential candidate would you rather invite to a barbeque?"), they consider polls such as this one to be satisfactory in the fulfillment of their public service. This particular execution, however, practically screamed for an opportunity for the online community to share their results with others. Sadly, it isn't something MSNBC seemed to consider worthwhile.
Undoubtedly, this poll is being passed around. The fact that I'm writing about it talking proves that, and I'd wager that at least some of the people who read this will likely take the test to see how they fare.
But then what?
MSNBC, like a lot of companies when given the opportunity, don't make it easy to share the results in a way that would entice people to share it.
Conceptually, the idea isn't that difficult. It's been done before (See "What's Your Blog's Reading Level?" or "How Many 5 Year Olds Can You Take in a Fight?"). The design can be mediocre (such as this hack-job I threw together), and people would still have fun with it.
As you can see, it can even be branded to serve as a sort of "product placement" within the content of someone's blog or MySpace page, which is more likely to be seen and used than if it were simply a display ad.
The execution of it just requires technical skill that the folks at MSNBC.com surely have at their disposal.
What's more, the results aren't exactly useless. Something like this can be fun and still inform people about some things that they didn't (but probably should) know. People don't get -- and many of them resist it anyway -- all of their education from a stale textbook.
Don't know the term of a U.S. Senator? You will after you take the test.
Why aren't more companies (and schools) taking advantage of this powerful tool? - Cam Beck