Ready to comment? Did you read the post?

Perhaps the Norwegian broadcaster NRK has an answer to the declining quality of comments on the Internet.

The Independent reports the broadcaster’s website will now ask a series of questions after a story to determine whether the would-be commenter actually read it, or even understood it.

quiz

“We thought we should do our part to try and make sure that people are on the same page before they comment,” journalist Ståle Grut told Nieman Lab. If everyone can agree that this is what the article says, then they have a much better basis for commenting on it.”

The broadcaster says it hopes the quiz will also give people the opportunity to “calm down” before hitting the comments section.

“If you spend 15 seconds on it, those are maybe 15 seconds that take the edge off the rant mode when people are commenting,” said Marius Arnesen, editor of NKRbeta.

Nieman Lab said most of the problem occurs when stories with comments are placed on the broadcaster’s home page, bringing in a group of angry people who aren’t regulars.

They settled on the quiz function because they thought it would ensure that commenters had at least read the story and had a common set of facts on which to base the discussion. NRKbeta also thought that the quiz functionality might help keep the discussions on topic.

“We’re trying to establish a common ground for the debate,” Arnesen said. “If you’re going to debate something, it’s important to know what’s in the article and what’s not in the article. [Otherwise], people just rant.”

NRKbeta developer Henrik Lied built the tool as a WordPress plugin, with the questions randomized for each user.

Grut acknowledged that the comment quiz was fairly easy to get around for people with technological experience. One of NRKbeta’s readers even posted a script to show others how to get around the quiz. Grut said the site had to tell them: “Guys, this is not for you. We know it’s easy to modify some code in your inspector…it’s for the people who approach our articles with the intent of just ranting before they even look at the article.”

Brilliant!

(h/t: John Olson)

  • John

    People who post comments on the internet are the worst.

  • Justin McKinney

    This is a great idea! I know that I am sometimes guilty of getting all fired up partway through an article or post and ranting or posting things that I later wish I had skipped or toned down.

  • Rob

    I’ve never heard of a more whack concept. What loser chump came up with that? Oh, wait – I just read the article, and I love this idea!

  • Will

    Sure, this seems like a pretty good idea, my only concern is that it might push into indoctrination. As long as the questions don’t deviate from the known facts in the article then I have no problem with it.

    • Rob

      Indoctrination? Sounds to me like the point of the questions is straightforward and agenda-free. But whatever.

      • Will

        Pushing a certain perspective, like “Does Trump’s immigration ban specifically target Muslims?”. We might disagree on that but you might need to say “yes” in order to comment, that’s what I mean when I talk about indoctrination.

        • Dude (Not Sweet)

          The idea is to answer questions about the article, not to interpret some political talking point.

          • Will

            The fine line occurs when there is a quote where someone makes that statement or if there language supports that statement like saying “Trump’s ban effects 7 Muslim majority countries”, now asking my question would seem to be correct but it’s all about how you interpret the article.

          • I believe you are reading too much into this.

          • Will

            I thought that was the point of the article… 😉

          • Rob

            I see what you did there.

        • MrE85

          When you expect to see bias and indoctrination everywhere, you’ll see bias and indoctrination everywhere.

          All I want to see is a place in town that knows how to make grits properly.

          • Rob

            There may be a direct link between the number of people who enjoy grits and the paucity of restaurants that offer grits, well-made or otherwise.

          • Robert Moffitt

            Wisely stated.

          • Anna

            I love grits but I am a little biased as I come from the Deep South.

            Grits and kidney was one of my mother’s favorite breakfast dishes.

            Cheese grits loaded with garlic and extra sharp cheddar cheese.

            Shrimp grits, beloved in all the Southern states, especially the Carolinas.

            Cold grits, sliced, dipped in egg and fried in a skillet with butter.

            You see what you started!

            Now I’m going to have to find a grocery store with beef kidney and cook up a mess of braised kidney and grits.

          • Khatti

            You seem to have a business opportunity staring you in the face.

          • Rob

            It could be callled “Grits Happen.”

          • rallysocks

            Unpossible!

        • kennedy

          From the original post: “…ensure that commenters had at least read the story and had a common set of facts on which to base the discussion.” I didn’t see “indoctrination” as the point of the original post.

          Your post is more in line with the popular narrative of the media being biased/evil. It illustrates nicely how people paint facts and narratives using the opinions and bias with which they are familiar.

          • What would be REALLY cool is if people went to the NRKbeta website (link in story), picked a story, right clicked and selected “translated to English” and then check the quiz to ascertain what the reality is.

          • MikeB

            But that would take 9 seconds. Why go through that work? 😉

          • Jack Ungerleider

            Okay, did that. The issue with doing it in translation is that somethings are don’t necessarily translate well and the article can be hard to understand. That said, the questions were all directly accessible from the story. There was one political question because the story was about surveillance technology and included some information on a previous bill and which parties in the Norwegian parliament had voted for that bill. It was all very “short answer reading comprehension” in its approach.

          • Will

            Actually, no my comment was simply a concern about bias, I don’t believe that the media is “evil”. I was raising a way that “testing” readers could be abused… in the same way many on the left would see potential for abuse with tests for voting.

          • Interesting how often people want to separate every issue into left vs. right. As if every story, every blog post,every piece of information available for our inspection can or should fit neatly into a clumsy and inarticulate cubby hole.

          • Will

            No you’re putting words in my mouth, I’m bringing up a concern about bias (left or right) that could happen when forced to answer questions about an article. I ask for all perspectives to be explored, respected and acknowledged when reporting news. My intention when referencing tests for voters was to bring up a point about testing having bias impacting our society, which many on the left tend agree with… my hope was to get many of the people who tend to post here to understand the issue differently.

            Did you see this article?

            http://m.startribune.com/how-much-do-you-trust-the-news-media-we-want-to-hear-from-you-minnesota/415116964/

            Amazing, thoughtful points in the comments.

          • There it is is again.

          • Will

            Yes here it is again, this is someone else’s comment, it so perfectly describes how many of us feel:

            1. The biggest problem with media is not fake news per se, it’s bias. Bias has many forms as I’m sure you are aware. The Strib for example has a liberal bias. It is evident in what stories they choose (or not choose) to print or display prominently. Another form of bias is how headlines are structured to create an initial marker of good vs bad. Biased can be disguised by creating straw man arguments like we are seeing with just about every person Trump nominates for his cabinet. Just know that the average reader is smarter than most care to realize.

            2. The media no longer distinguishes between a journalist and an opinion writer. The lines have been blurred. All too often, the opinion writer claims their work is unbiased journalism. Some readers find that offensive.

            3. People are suspicious that young journalism students (like yourself) are subjected to political indoctrination even before you get your first job. Half the readers will be OK with that. Half won’t.

            4. Accurate representation is becoming more and more non-existent. FOX News may be slanted to the right, but they will tell you that. MSNBC is slanted to the left, and they’ll admit that as well. And people are fine with that. The problem is with most newspapers (NY Times, Wash Post, Strib, etc). and TV outlets like CNN. They claim they aren’t politically slanted, but their work shows otherwise.

            5. And most importantly, media outlets exist to make money. Advertising and readership/ratings are all that matter. That’s a compromise that all journalists need to address. And the readers/viewers know this.

            So yes, there are plenty of people who have good reason not to trust the media. There is no easy fix. A good start would be more point/counter point pieces in the opinion section. News articles should start including all facts available to them, not just the facts that push an agenda (that might be a pipe dream for some, but that’s what readers want)

          • Jay T. Berken

            So…you want robots to write and report our media?

          • Jerry

            That horse is already dead. Just stop.

          • X.A. Smith

            You could hijack one of those interstate comets.

          • Khatti

            I think a lot of it is that people on both sides have issues and questions that are unresolved, and things that are unresolved are going to preoccupy you.

          • People generally assume everything is about politics and therefore left v. right. Nice and tidy.

            The Norwegian site that using it, on the other hand, is a technology site.

            The degree to which people live their lives through politics is fascinating to me. It is obviously far, far more dominant and apparently strict in their culture than religion.

            This particular idea will not work for a simple reason that has already been displayed here.

            People will read the article, answer the questions correctly, and then proceed to have the same tired and worn “discussion” about politics that their life requires on a daily basis.

            Left , right, liberal conservative. There isn’t any subject that can’t be jammed into the category. God, it’s incredibly boring.

            Better just to close the comments.

          • Rob

            I think you’re confusing actual abuse that’s been demonstrated and declared by the courts with “the left seeing potential for abuse with tests for voting.”

          • kennedy

            Test for voting. And here I thought Jeff C. was being sarcastic upthread.

    • Jeff C.

      I was going to write a comment about your comment but in the 15 seconds it took for me to write one, I calmed down, deleted it and wrote this instead. I guess that shows that the quiz is a good idea.

  • Dave S.

    “What’s all this fuss I hear about comets on the Interstate? The Interstate is made for cars, not comets. Comets belong in the sky, and if they’re going to come out of the sky they should do it in the desert. Or the ocean. Not on the Interstate. People could get hurt! And another thing…”
    “Uh, Emily? Emily?”
    “Eh?”
    “That’s ‘comments on the Internet’, not ‘comets on the Interstate’.”
    “Oh. Never mind.”

    • Rob

      Sigh. I miss Emily…

    • tboom

      Well done.

    • JamieHX

      “Violins on television” was my favorite.

  • Mike Stevens

    I expected there to be a quiz at the end of this post. 🙂

  • Zachary

    shhh, don’t tell anyone, but the answers to the questions are as follows:
    Baseball
    Airplanes
    Obituaries

    now, time to reading the original post… 🙂

  • Reading comprehension is on the decline, caused by users who are “trained” to digest only small bits of information at a time. Deep reading has never been more endangered. That makes this test a good idea.

  • MrE85

    That reminds me, we haven’t seen the NewsCut Quiz in awhile. They have one at MinnPost now, although I haven’t seen one in awhile.

    • Too much work and couldn’t get any development resources to make it any better than it was. I just couldn’t get any approval for my ideas so gave up.

      MinnPost is cutting back and refocusing a lot of its efforts.

      • kevins

        You need an intern….

        • Interns don’t have any development access. That’s where the power is in today’s media organizations.

          • jon

            Sounds more like a bottleneck than power…

            Though I might be projecting my own experience with my own developers.

          • Trust me

      • MrE85

        I realize it was a lot of work, but I do miss it. It served a very useful function by demonstrating that I was not as well-informed as I thought I was. A slice of humble pie at the end of the week was good for the soul.

  • Mike Worcester

    Perhaps the before any of us comment we need to remember the time-honored motherly advice of “close your eyes, take a deep breath, count to ten, and then say something”. Though with the amount of vitriol out there today, maybe a thirty count would be better?

    That being said thanks for the morning smile this brought to my day. It would be a major bummer if we lost the conversation space this page provides.

  • Jeff C.

    Bad idea! Next thing will be a test to vote. Sad!

  • Someone on Facebook had a great suggestion. I should’ve used this headline with a completely unrelated article.

  • Al

    MAKE. THIS. HAPPEN.

  • MikeB

    I really, really like this idea. Though the Strawman Industry Association is absolutely opposed to this concept.