A perennial problem for news sites is that readers often only read the headline of a story before angrily wading into the comment section to express their rage — often completely missing the article’s true intention.
NRKbeta, the Norwegian public broadcaster’s tech section, has thought of a clever solution to the issue: Force readers to take a quiz about the content of an article before they can post a comment. (We first spotted this story over on NiemanLab.)
This article, for example, which is about a tool called “Stalkscan” that lets users search public information that has been shared on Facebook, asks three multiple choice questions(Loosely translated to English using Google Translate):
- Should you be terrified of Stalkscan? (A: No.)
- When did Facebook launch Graph search? (A: 2013.)
- Who developed Stalkscan? (A: Inti They Ceukelaire.)
The idea behind the quizzes is that if everyone agrees on what an article is trying to say, they can have a more useful discussion about it, NRKbeta journalist Ståle Grut explained to NiemanLab. The site’s editor, Marius Arnesen, said the 15-seconds or so it takes to answer the quiz also has the added benefit of helping users calm down from their “rant mode”.
Many websites — including this one — have recently got rid of their comment sections altogether. Others have turned their comment platforms over to Facebook, hoping that commenters will be more careful about what they are saying if their words are tied to their real identity. And, as NiemanLab points out in its piece, Google’s parent company Alphabet is partnering with outlets including The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Economist to develop a machine learning tool tasked with weeding out “toxic” comments.
It’s clear there’s not a simple solution to reduce the level of uninformed ranters in the comments sections, but NRKbeta’s experiment is certainly a novel one that could catch on.
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