Norway news site checks you read story before commenting

Dave Lee
North America technology reporter

Woman types at a typewriterImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
"Whoever wrote this is clearly an idiot who deserves to be sacked immediately."

I have a love/hate relationship with the comments section on this blog. On the one hand, I like opening things up to discussions, scrutiny, praise and, yes, criticism.

But on the other, it often descends into a tedious mess in which people question why I have a job, whether I'm being "paid off" by Apple, how "sad" people who use Facebook are, and, naturally, the pros and cons of Brexit.

I've laughed with colleagues about how one day I'll write a story about how Elon Musk has invented a teleport to the moon… and the first comment will be: "Really, BBC? Is this news?"

Joking aside, there's a reason why many news sites have abandoned comments sections altogether, and it's often because they provide little of merit. That's not to say readers don't have thoughtful views on the stories covered, but more that commenters aren't actually readers at all. Quite often it's glaringly obvious that comments have been written without the story being read, even just in part.

So imagine my delight today when, via the excellent Nieman Lab, I read about Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The tech section of its site, NRKBeta, is trying a simple experiment. You can't leave a comment unless you've read the story. How will they know? There's a test!

"If you spend 15 seconds on it, those are maybe 15 seconds that take the edge off the rant mode when people are commenting," suggested the site's editor, Marius Arneson, in Nieman Lab's interview.

It's only being trialled on a small number of stories at the moment - typically tech stories that have broken out into the main news agenda. The quizzes are written by the reporters, and the questions aren't too taxing, just enough to show you've at least glanced at the text before rushing to the bottom.

"We thought we should do our part to try and make sure that people are on the same page before they comment," said Stale Grut, one of the site's journalists.

"If everyone can agree that this is what the article says, then they have a much better basis for commenting on it."

Hear, hear!

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