Over the years, conventional wisdom for how to deal with comment sections has changed a few times as publishers walked the line between promoting open conversation and stemming abuse. Sign-ins, badging, upvotes, paid and unpaid moderators — they have all been tried. Now, NRKbeta, the tech-focused arm of Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, has a new idea: a reading comprehension test.
It's no great secret that comments sections tend to bring out the worst in people. NRKbeta's solution asks readers to "reply to a quiz" if they're intent on commenting. "We try to keep the questions easy and as neutral as possible," Ståle Grut, a journalist with NRKbeta, told Gizmodo. The net result, hopefully, is higher value comments and less bickering.
But these short multiple choice questions do more than ensure commenters actually bothered to read the article they're commenting on. Taking the time to answer things acts as a sort of mental chill out period to keep people from spewing their immediate gut reaction to headlines. "If we could make sure people at least had read the story before lashing out, the comments might become a bit more valuable for everybody," Grut said. "The international attention shows that people really are keen on trying to solve problems with the comments section."
Our own commenting platform doesn't include any nagging questions, so we've written a few of our own to see if NRK is on to something here. Let's see your answers in the comments. Serious responses only, please.
1. Who said the following: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself, systemic exploitation, mean people, things that can kill us, realising our talents lie well below the scope of our ambition, and spiders"?
2. If car X is moving northeast at 89km/h from Houston and car Y is heading southwest from Portland at 145km/h, how long before both both drivers are in the ocean?
3. How many colours could be seen by the human eye "it" happened?