Design is influence, pt 1: We can be Civil.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

I’m starting with the man in the mirror.

I’m asking him to change his ways.

- Man in the Mirror, by Michael Jackson

One of the coolest parts of one of the most interesting approaches to internet trollspam is that it asks you to rate your own words.

Let me back up. Civil Comments is a Portland, OR-based startup taking on a problem that still is not solved: crappy online comments. Whether it's abuse, being rude, or offering unwanted work-from-home tips (spam), open-ended comment boxes have been unable to escape the worst.

And not for lack of trying. Facebook, Disqus, Livefyre, and many more have tried to solve the issue with a combo of algorithms, staff members (who I hope get extra vacation!), and community flagging. But internet comments so often are a pool that's become a cesspool. So many people want to swim, but nobody wants to jump into that.

It's a shame, because good comments are great content and great for community. Which is good for journalism, and good for the media business.

Those comment platforms also follow a similar basic design pattern: 1) a box you type your comment into (which a bot can probably insert spam into), and 2) a way to flag a comment after the fact if it's mean. Maybe you have to give an email address.

These platforms assume commenting is a no-strings attached right, not a privilege. Quality until proven crappy.

Civil is making a smart bet that changing how the system is designed will change how people act. There are a few pieces thrown in, one being that you have to rate some comments others made for how civil it is. And then you have to rate your own.

This is so freaking great -- via FastCompany:

the very step of asking commenters to rate their own comment is enough to get many people to be nicer. On a troll-bait test post made to Civil Comments' own site on how Star Wars is better than Star Trek, Bogdanoff says, on the backend, they could actually see trolls pause when they were asked to rate their comment, then change what they wrote. "It's hard for people to write something bad, then say, 'Yes, this is high quality,'" she explains.

This definitely inspires us here at Antenna to always evolve how we handle custom reactions, and how to encourage people to leave basically civil reactions.

Civil is off to a great start. They have partnered with several publishers, including Portland's respected Willamette Week, to see how communities adopt their design. Here's an interesting read on the launch at Willamette Week.

Check out Civil Comments and, really, you should follow @HelloCivil on Twitter).

I'll have another post shortly about how Antenna's design is meant to encourage more people to give feedback on content, but feedback that is also meaningful. Update: here's that post.

Structured feedback on everything.


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