NRKbeta, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s media and technology site, is experimenting with a new way of keeping comments on topic. A new plugin on the WordPress-powered site aims to ensure commenters have read the article by requiring them to complete a short, three-question quiz before opening the comment form. Visitors who get the questions wrong cannot contribute to the discussion.
The custom plugin was created to narrow the commenting field to those who are operating on a common basis of understanding of the article. It prevents commenters from skimming the article and then going on a rant.
The NRKbeta team open sourced the plugin on GitHub today. It’s also in the review queue for the WordPress Plugin Directory and will be available for a one-click install after it passes review.
Quiz is an another WordPress.org plugin that performs a similar function. Despite not having been updated for two years, the plugin is active on more than 2,000 sites. Post authors can create a question for each post in the “Comment Quiz” meta box. The plugin was also designed to help reduce spam comments.
NRKbeta’s new Comment Quiz plugin takes a slightly different format, offering multiple choice in the form of radio buttons as well as the ability to add multiple questions. The comment form automatically slides into view after the visitor answers correctly.
The idea of quizzing visitors before allowing them to comment gained quite a bit of interest after NRKbeta announced the experiment, but the publication is still experimenting to see how the quizzes affect commenting. Ensuring that readers have fully read the article comes at the expense of well-intentioned commenters who are now subjected to a time-wasting test. The plugin puts the burden of proof on the commenter in hopes of fewer rants and off-topic responses getting through.
Some visitors may perceive the quiz as infantilizing potential commenters while others may see it as a mild annoyance. The quiz is a simple hurdle, easy to bypass by guessing until you land on the correct answer. It amounts to more of a speed bump than a true test of having read the article. It doesn’t take into account that many commenters who are prone to trolling and ranting off topic can be quite motivated and not significantly inconvenienced by a short quiz.
If the questions are written to condition the commenter for a desired response, then it does little to promote free thinking. This seems like an expensive trade-off for fewer rants in the moderation queue. It all depends on how the publication implements the plugin. Hopefully NRKbeta will report back on how effective the Comment Quiz plugin was at deterring undesirable off-topic responses while retaining level-headed commenters.