Being able to comment on a story you read online is, on its surface, a good thing. But there are those who would make commenting an awful affair, with trolling, racism and general douchiness. Too often, comment sections are nightmares of reactive, low-level snark instead of actual meaningful conversation.
As a result, many news sites and blogs have simply turned off comments, pushing conversations to social media off of the original site. This works to reduce the shittiness, but it also short changes those who want to have a productive conversation about the subject matter at hand.
But NRKbeta, the tech section of Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, has added a new feature to its comments section that forces potential commenters to answer multiple-choice questions about the subject matter, assuring that anyone who wants to comment knows what the heck he or she is talking about before giving them the ability to voice their opinion.
The goal is clear: Keep comments on topic, and keep crappy commenters who just want to react to a headline they don’t agree with at bay.
“We thought we should do our part to try and make sure that people are on the same page before they comment. If everyone can agree that this is what the article says, then they have a much better basis for commenting on it.” said NRkbeta journalist Ståle Grut.
The results are promising, too. A recent story about digital surveillance saw a comments section that was actually positive and constructive, even attracting subject-matter experts who wouldn’t normally bother to comment on a story.
The quiz is just three multiple-choice questions, and for someone who actually read the article in question, it doesn’t take much more time to complete than an “Are you a robot?” captcha. But it’s working, and it’s a genius idea for an online world full of comment trolls.