Head over to your favorite news site and scroll down to the comments at the bottom. What do you find? Mean-spirited insults, rage, and bigotry! Go check your Facebook page and try to stay out of the latest heated debate. Then go check out the YouTube comments section – wait, no, don’t ever do that.
I like calling the comments section on webpages “the cesspool of the internet.” It’s the consequence of inviting users to give their opinion. As Christian apologists often say, because God gave us the freedom to love one another (on the internet), so too came the freedom to hate one another (on the internet).
So how can we build an evangelistic website that 1) Still invites users to interact and participate and 2) Does not increase the size of the cesspool?
Chosen People Answers was built from the ground up with this question in mind. Here are some things we are doing to change the way interaction is done online.
1. Likes and Dislikes on Individual Paragraphs
No longer will users be trusted to interact with the entire text of a complex article. That invites too many off-topic and dismissive comments. On Chosen People Answers, each paragraph of text is available for liking, disliking, and commenting. This will help focus our readers on individual points being made in the article. If our users go off-topic, it will be obvious to others – and users can vote on whether or not your comment was a good one!
Additionally, the likes and dislikes can be specific – we are allowing a range of adjectives so that users can share what they liked or disliked about the paragraph. This will be attractive to users who want to give their opinion, but are intimidated about explaining their reasons in writing.
2. Quality over Quantity for User Comments
Most comments on the internet have no limits – users can write as long as they want, with as many comments as they want. Twitter is one of the few exceptions, which famously limits its users’ character count. Consequently, some millennials have become accustomed to solving world problems in 140 characters!
Chosen People Answers runs with the philosophy of Yeshua here (Luke 16:10): he or she who comments faithfully with little can also comment faithfully with much! Thus, Chosen People Answers gives users the freedom to comment anywhere, but those comments are limited by character count and frequency. Is that too limiting, you may ask? Perhaps it will be for some, but we believe it will serve to increase the quality of the comments, since every letter and every comment counts. And if you still don’t like the limitations, then you can work to change them through unlocking achievements.
3. User Incentives (Gamification)
Games are everywhere – not only on video game systems, but on our iPhones and even on websites we use every day. If you have ever sold something on Ebay, you have participated in a “game” in which you earned points and reputation for participating. This contributes to a healthy, trustworthy environment. Isn’t it nice to see stars and a big reputation number after the name of an Ebay seller?
Chosen People Answers has an intricate system of incentives to encourage users to participate on the site, and to do so nicely. Each user has two kinds of online currency: Gold and Silver points. They spend this currency whenever they want to interact with the site. Currency refreshes to the user’s maximum cap at the end of the Sabbath.
In return for spending their currency on interactions on the site, users receive experience points (XP) and achievements which can unlock new privileges on the site. Every comment submitted, every question asked, and every like or dislike is moving a user toward higher levels on the site, whether or not they are consciously playing “the game.”
4. A Digital Missionary Approach
Chosen People Answers is not a static website (such as this one), but rather a dynamic destination for interaction with a trained digital missionary staff. We will have seminary-trained, articulate, and knowledgeable Messianic Apologists responding to user interactions as their primary ministry. They will respond to comments and questions, accept live chats, and continually be adding to the written content on the site. In addition, users will not be given privileges to respond to other users’ comments until they have passed a very high bar.
Consequently, the atmosphere on the site will be that users are agreeing and disagreeing with the site content and with the digital missionary staff, and not primarily with one another. This is a very strategic feature for us – it will enable us to have direct access with our users and minimize the opportunity for the birds of the air to come and steal the seed from the path (Luke 8:5).
5. More Features
Some further features of the articles section of the site include:
– Easy navigation to articles based on topic, Bible verse, or historical era
– Footnotes in articles for professional and scholarly content
– Easy discovery of the community’s likes, dislikes of individual paragraphs with graphs and charts
– Tracked reading progress – pick up where you left off!
– Make your own personal highlights on individual paragraphs
– Quizzes on content to earn achievements for reading comprehension
The Chosen People Answers Articles System: A Game Changer
Chosen People Answers is a fresh take on online evangelism. We are hopeful and excited to share this vision with the Jew first, and also to the Gentile (Rom. 1:16).