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Concerns for the Blog

I have been getting two unrelated sets of comments lately, and I would like to address them both here.   Some readers have understandably expressed a wish that I would change the format of this blog and make it free.  Many of these readers point out that they already give to charity, and that they think blog content should be available to anyone and everyone.   I have real sympathy for this point of view – especially when it has been expressed by people who simply cannot afford the membership fee (say, $3.95 for a month; it is $24.95 for a year – and I can see how the latter, especially, might be a burden for someone).

But if I were to get rid of the membership fees, it would completely undermine the entire point of the Blog – which is for me to raise money for charity.  Yes, people could donate of their own free will, but they can do that anyway.  I’m truly sorry that some people cannot get access to the full site, but I do hope you understand my driving motivation.  It is not to cause hardship but to deal with hardship.  And it has nothing at all to do with my desire to make money, since I’m not making a dime (but rather am investing a significant amount of my own money in the project).   For those who cannot afford the Blog, my hearty and sincere apologies.  I hope that you find the Public Forum helpful, at least.

Relatedly, a number of readers have suggested that I make my responses to Richard Carrier part of the public blog, since lots of people might be interested in them.  I am sympathetic to this request as well, and am torn in two directions.  But again I want to stress that it is precisely by keeping some really interesting material on the membership site that I am more likely to get more members to join up and pay the fees, allowing me (well, The Bart Ehrman Foundation) to support better those in desperate need.

In this case I have decided to make a compromise.  I will have several posts related to Carrier’s scathing attack on me and my book (he gets personal, as some of you know).   The first post I will put up on the public site; for the others, I’m afraid you’ll need to get to the members only pages.   At least those in the Public Forum will get a sense of the drift of my responses.  I do want people to know that his attacks have not stunned me into submissive silence.  (!)

Compromises usually please just about no one.  But my blogging policies seems like the best thing for me to do, in order to achieve the goals I have in mind for this Blog: (a) to state my views and discuss significant issues on matters related to the New Testament and Early Christianity and (b) raise money for worthy causes.   If I had only the first objective, this would be a regular free Blog; if I had only the other, it would require payment for every page.   As it is, I’ve worked out what may be an unhappy compromise.  But so far it is one that I’m willing to live with.

Many thanks to all who have made comments.  I do want to be sympathetic to your concerns.


Response to Carrier
Acharya S, Richard Carrier, and a Cocky Peter (Or: “A Cock and Bull Story”)

21

Comments

  1. Avatar
    PaulH  April 22, 2012

    As a member, I think people (members) are just going to copy and paste your replies from the members page onto Facebook or Carrier’s blog site. I think there will be plenty of “5th column” minions paying a fee just to snip away and report back to their leaders. Privacy is an extinct word on the internet.

    Can’t wait to read your replies. Carrier really comes across as a smug, condescending twit.

  2. Avatar
    Yentyl  April 22, 2012

    Pro.: I get so tired of people that want something for nothing. $3.95? Really? I am so happy to have access to your blog that I would gladly pay whatever you’re asking. AND I love the idea of your giving the money to the charity of your choice. I am VERY GLAD you did NOT give in to the whiners. My husband and I are on social security. He works at Wal-Mart as a greeter. I do a little part time medical transcription. So we are NOT rich. I really don’t like the idea of this Carrier fellow being on YOUR blog. I don’t want to have to weed out his opinion from yours. I don’t CARE about his opinion. Thank you for doing this for us that are hungry for real scholarly writings. Got your book. Am loving it, along with all your others. Doesn’t matter if I might disagree with you, like to read other sides of things, but so far you’re right on and totally understandable. Thank you.

  3. Avatar
    Jonas  April 22, 2012

    Dear Dr Ehrman

    I think the format of the blog is interesting and to raise money to support those in need is a very good thing. I think we might see more initiatives like this in the future.

    I would say I would also be happy to see a report from the results of the charity, it always nice to see some reports from the field when giving support for a needy cause.

    So I think you should keep the format of the blog.

    /Jonas

    • Avatar
      jimmo  April 24, 2012

      My feelings, too. First, I would appreciating seeing how successful the foundation as been in rasing money. Second, I think that people who have not yet joined see the number of members and how much has been rasied, and would be more willing to join a successful cause, as opposed to simply donation to a good cause.

  4. Avatar
    mkglaw  April 22, 2012

    As a middle aged man just now walking down the paths of doubt and rationalist review of 43 years thinking the same way, I find value in your information and dont mind paying $25 a year to access it. That’s just my opinion. On another note, it was Carrier’s blog commentary on your book (which i plan to get) that led me here. So at least in this instance (though I have no idea at this point who’s side I would fall on) his intense critique got you at least one follower.

    Mark Green

  5. Avatar
    zakiechan  April 22, 2012

    Online, no matter what you do, there will always be people who disagree. I don’t have a ton of money, but $8.00 for 3 months seems absolutely worth it. Heck, I just paid $15 for your book, and that only lasted me week!

  6. Avatar
    zakiechan  April 22, 2012

    Also, I very much appreciate you updating your blog as much as you have so far!

  7. Avatar
    bamurray  April 22, 2012

    I agree that this is a useful and interesting idea for a blog. As someone who has read most of your popular books, the price point seems about right – much more than $25 per year would give me pause. I’ll be interested to see if the blog really can pull in significiant contributions.

    Thanks again for your books. It’s very interesting to see a description of how scholarship works in a field in the humanities. As a biologist, I was struck by the similarity between the issues that come up here and, for example, in trying to figure out what was behind particular instances of biological evolution. In retrospect, I suppose, it’s not so surprising – both are trying to figure out “what probably happened in the past.”

    Ben Murray

  8. Avatar
    ntuser  April 23, 2012

    I have mixed feelings about the charity paywall but it’s a worthwhile experiment. Given the amount of controversy with the subject matter and Prof. Ehrman’s celebrity, the comment moderation would likely be burdensome if left open. It may raise the level of discourse more than discourage people.

    • Avatar
      jimmo  April 24, 2012

      That’s a very valid point. If you have to pay to comment, I think it keeps out trolls and people who toss in some obnoxious comment then disappear. Instead, you get people who are really interested in the material and interested in seeing the site succeed.

  9. Avatar
    Milo  April 23, 2012

    I have no problem with this blog being a fee membership blog with all the proceeds going to charity. I would hope that other blogs might follow suit because it is a great way to contibute to needy causes.

  10. Avatar
    Terry Carter  April 23, 2012

    I can assure you that the same people complaining think nothing of spending 2 bucks a month on things of less value. There are plenty of websites (and a blog is just that) that charge a premium for additional content, so yours is a common model (except it’s not for your profit). You’ve made your point very well and gave in a little. You need do nothing else. Those who still object can save their money and buy sodas at 7-Eleven.

  11. Avatar
    jimmo  April 24, 2012

    Should movies in the theater be free because some cannot afford it? I don’t think so. Should I feel embarrassed because I am paid well enough that I can afford $25 a year to support my hobby? Certainly not. On the other hand, I do not see this as paying $25 to access premium material, but rather more like donating during a PBS pledge drive. A person donates and gets a “thank you gift” from the station. In this case, we get premium content and direct interaction with one of the leading experts in a field we are interested in. That sure beats any of the gifts I have ever gotten from my local PBS station by a long shot!

    I run a computer techie website with a lot more material than you find in a book. In fact, the whole site started from one of my books and I have added to it continually over the years. All of the content is free, yet I ask for donation to help my sponsored child in Indonesia. Sadly, I only get a couple of donations a year, despite it being full of content. As Yentyl pointed out, there are just too many people who want something for nothing, so I don’t think you will achieve anywhere near the success if donations are on the “honor system”. I am paying it gladly and am grateful for the “thank you gift”. Just keep the content coming!

  12. Avatar
    jimmo  April 24, 2012

    I’m a little annoyed. I donate to be able to access the premium content, so I have shown who I am and I am serious about the site. Why do comments need “moderation”?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 25, 2012

      Because you wouldn’t *believe* the kinds of craziness that comes in, some of it of no relevance, so far as I can tell, to anything….

      • Avatar
        jimmo  April 26, 2012

        I run a web site with 50,000 unique visitors a month with an unmoderated forum. Yes, I *would* believe it, as a lot of what is posted on my site is spam (World of Warcraft gold, knock-off Cartier watches), so obviously they’re of no relevance. The question is where do you want to spend your time, cleaning up irrelevant messages or confirming messages?

        On the other hand, if having the comments moderated means you read each message and respond as often as you have so far, then it is *definitely* an annoyance I am willing to live with. Just don’t let replying to comments get in the way of new content. 😉

      • Avatar
        nichael  April 26, 2012

        Speaking as someone who moderates a reasonably active blog, with a somewhat “hot” topic, I can only add a hearty –if you’ll excuse the expression– “Amen”.

        It’s unfortunate that there are folks out there who ruin it for the rest of us. But, for a reasonably active blog, some minimal, even-handed moderation is all but unavoidable if the blog is not to dissolve into chatter and noise. (For folks like who feel annoyed that a “pay-for” blog needs moderation, I would suggest thinking of it as protection of your investment.)

        In short, moderating a busy blog is a *lot* of work; I can only assume that no one would take on that duty if it wasn’t necessary. And, more to the point, I trust Dr Ehrman enough to believe that any comment would only be rejected only if there was a very good reason for doing so.

        • Avatar
          jimmo  April 27, 2012

          Your point about “protection of your investment” is completely valid. However, I still assume that anyone who pays is going to be serious about their posts. On the other hand, there are a lot of kooks out their who might shell out a few bucks for a trail membership just to be able to post something obnoxious.

      • Avatar
        ntuser  April 27, 2012

        Blog comment moderation – that’s what RAs are for!

  13. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  June 3, 2012

    I cannot believe all the work that you have done, both with columns and responses to comments, on this website. I have already gotten my $25 worth and have only worked my way through about one-fourth of the current website offerings. Your website reminds me, both in content and in form, to the website which has been run by John Shelby Spong for many years. He is now charging $9.95 quarterly or about $40 per year. Don’t burn out, but thanks ….

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