• In response to the quarantine implemented in Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak that’s now spread around the world — schoolkids there had a brilliant response.
  • They bombarded an app called DingTalk that was meant to help them continue school remotely with bad reviews. Why? Hoping that the flood of reviews would cause the app to be taken offline. 
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One of those bits of wisdom you hear especially from anyone who travels frequently is about how people, by and large, are the same wherever you go. People want to live in safe communities, they love their families — and schoolkids, basically everywhere, will stage quiet rebellions against the strictures of the classroom. Whether they live in Witchita or Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak that’s now spread around the world.

A new report in the London Review of Books paints a compelling picture of what life has been like in the quarantined city, and it includes one eye-opening detail about how schoolkids there have reacted to the quarantine: In short, they bombarded the mobile app that they were given to use for their schoolwork, in lieu of physically going to school, with negative reviews. Hoping that would get the app killed, and then voila! No more app, no more school. Brilliant, right?

“Somehow,” the report good-naturedly notes about the Alibaba-developed DingTalk app in question, “the little brats worked out that if enough users gave the app a one-star review it would get booted off the App Store. Tens of thousands of reviews flooded in, and DingTalk’s rating plummeted overnight from 4.9 to 1.4.”

The flood of negative reviews got so bad, that the app makers actually turned to social media in China and more or less “begged” for its life: “I’m only five years old myself,” a translation of one such post reads, written as if it was the app itself talking. “Please don’t kill me.”

Now, look — the spread of coronavirus has become a worldwide matter at this point with life-and-death stakes. Thousands of confirmed cases around the world have emerged, plus a growing number of deaths. Governments are struggling to respond, to both contain the virus and to disseminate the best information and care so that people know what to do in response to it. But that tense climate is also probably why the internet has taken such joy in reacting to news of the Wuhan schoolkids, which has been circulating heavily weekend and brought at least a degree of lighthearted relief to what’s become an otherwise depressing story.

Reuters has reported on some of the reviews of the app left by kids who seemed to be miffed that the app was not allowing them to enjoy a leisurely time away from school. “My holidays!” one review read. “I love DingTalk, say no more, there is one star for you.” And another: “I am giving you five stars, but in installments.”

How remarkable, right? The world is falling apart outside, a terrible disease is ravaging their city and even spreading to the rest of the world, and here you have kids mad that they can’t get out of doing schoolwork. Some things never change.

 

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.