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GoodTalk: Making comment sections worth watching

By Andrew Monro on August 16, 2017

Andrew Monro is Apt613’s correspondent at Impact Hub Ottawa, writing about the many innovators that call Hub home. Hub is a co-working space at 123 Slater Street for projects with a positive local and global impact.

Online comment forums have an enduring reputation of not being a place where intelligent and civil human dialogue takes place (to put it mildly). It has culminated in many news organizations and websites curtailing or outright removing the ability to comment on articles.

GoodTalk wants to change that, and make the comments section a place where audiences can engage, create compelling content, and provide a safe place to share and express opinions. Their not-so-secret weapon? Video.

The platform, recently tested in a pilot project with the CBC, allows video commenting on certain feature articles. On the article page, it gives you the option to watch short (60-second max) video comments by readers, as well the ability to record your own. Once you have recorded your video, it’s sent off for immediate moderation (no abusive content), and appears on the platform shortly after for others to see.

Screen grab from GoodTalk's CBC page.

Screen grab from GoodTalk’s CBC page.

Jeremy Waiser, the founder of GoodTalk and a member of Impact Hub Ottawa, was inspired to create the video comment platform on, of all places, a beach in Barcelona. He was attending a conference in the city, and had come down to the beach to take a break. There, he and a friend witnessed a heated conversation about the recent (at the time) events surrounding 9/11, between a Muslim Spaniard and a Christian Montrealer. It seemed like the conversation would almost turn into a fight, when the two men learned they both spoke Arabic. Waiser saw, through the power of shared language, the two get beyond their conflict, and watched them hug and shake hands by the time it was over.

He came back to Canada after the conference, motivated to try and use the experience as a model for how people from diverse backgrounds could share their opinions and move beyond entrenched viewpoints. He found the scenario he witnessed was difficult to recreate due to a frequent lack of a common language.

“I found myself thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way to give people a more direct voice — a way to engage that’s safe and compelling,” Jeremy said.

Jeremy and the GoodTalk team found that they could offer added value to the wild world of online engagement between audiences and media. “This isn’t about offering something better than written comments,” he emphasized. “It’s about adding something compelling and safe to the engagement space.” GoodTalk looks to supplement users’ ability to share their thoughts, providing a useful tool for those that may have valuable opinions, but don’t necessarily feel fulfilled by the written comments section. Video offers something more for people who have a strong emotional reaction to a story that’s not easily conveyed in a written comment.

GoodTalk recently came to the end of their five-week pilot with CBC. They found the national broadcaster a willing tester of their platform, helped along by having the largest online commenting community in North America. Throughout the pilot they were able to test their ideas, work out the glitches, and find out what the online audience likes and does not like. And they managed to make the user experience fit more seamlessly with the CBC’s website.

Jeremy and the rest of the GoodTalk team (there are five of them) are excited for the future: “There’s an opportunity for something new that hasn’t existed before. The idea that if you want to participate directly, there’s this tool that connects you with the top stories of the day, see what others are saying and express yourself on issues you care about.”

They are currently building off the pilot and looking at next steps with the CBC, helping facilitate audience participation, and are engaging other large news sites and interested clients.

For more from GoodTalk, be sure to check them out online and watch for your chance to engage.