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Improving the Blog 2016

I would like some ideas for making this blog better.  Do you have any?

As you know, the blog really has two functions.  On one hand, the idea behind it is to disseminate as widely as possible the views, perspectives, evidence, arguments, and conclusions of scholars who devote their lives to the study of the New Testament and the history of early Christianity.

As the disseminator-of-such-things-in-chief, I think we are doing a pretty good job with that.  The blog covers lots and lots of topics:  the historical Jesus; the New Testament Gospels; the life, theology, and writings of Paul; the other writings of the New Testament; the Apostolic Fathers; the early Christian apocrypha (books that did not make it into the New Tesament); the formation of the Christian canon; heresy and orthodoxy in early Christianity; persecution and martyrdom of Christians;  early Jewish Christian relations; the conversion and life of Constantine; and … and lots of other things.   We basically cover everything that I know anything about, and the only things we don’t cover are (a) topics of no relevance to the area of Christianity in Antiquity and (b) topics I don’t know anything about.  OK, so there are a lot of the latter, but there’s only one of me.

I continue to post 5-6 times a week, at about 1000 words (slightly more usually) a post.  That’s a lot of content.  People comment on the posts and I post the comments after reading them.  The only comments I don’t post are ones (a) that are completely irrelevant to the purposes of the blog; (b) that are offensive or mean-spirited and lacking, generally, in etiquette; and (c) that are proselytizing, promoting personal religious views in order to convince and convert others.  When I get asked questions on comments (which happens ten or fifteen times a day, I suppose) I try to answer them.  Usually my answers are direct and to the point rather than expansive.  I wish I had more time!

For comments that require extensive treatment there is another regular feature of the blog, the Weekly Readers’ Mailbag.   Virtually every week I handle two or three (sometimes just one) question at relatively greater length.  On occasion, a question leads me to start a new thread.

Another feature I’ve started is to re-post a post from years past.  I do this maybe once every two weeks or so.  The assumption is that most blog members will not have read the post, or if they did, say three or four years ago, they won’t remember it.  I never remember it myself, and I actually wrote the thing!

In addition, I post audio and video posts, lectures or interviews I’ve done.

All the posts are available to paying members of the blog.  Once a week or so I will make an open post, available to everyone, member or not.  This is mainly meant to entice people into joining, showing them what they could get 5-6 times a week simply by shelling out a bit of dosh.  It’s not much dosh – about fifty cents a week, or a dime a post.  Pretty good value I should think.

So the blog has developed significantly over the years and I think that it fills its first major function really well.   This function is intimately connected to the second function, the one that is of most importance to me and the one that I am most concerned about.   That is to raise money for charity.

Even though I enjoy disseminating knowledge about the New Testament and the history of early Christianity simply for the sake of doing so, I would not be doing so if it did not involve fund-raising for causes I am concerned about, principally supporting charities that deal with poverty, hunger, and homelessness.  It simply takes too much of my time, energy, and resources!  But it’s worth it for the sake of the charities.

On that front, we have done amazing work over the past four and a half years.  For the first four years, we grew and grew, and raised more and more money each year, from relatively modest beginnings in 2012.  In 2015 we raised $120,000 for charity.  Amazing.

But now we are no longer raising more.  In fact we are raising less.   We are not raising hugely (bigly?) less, but somewhat less.  But I want the blog to grow!  Hence my concerns.

I would like to ask you for three things.

  • First, I would like any ideas you have that would make the blog better and more attractive to potential members. I welcome all ideas!  Let me have them.
  • Second, I would like any ideas you have for raising more funds, any ways to increase the amounts we bring in. (Ways of “monetizing” what we have available here, or what I myself can do in connection with it)
  • Third, I’d like to encourage you to make a donation to the blog on top of your membership fees. Many of you simply cannot do so, and I completely understand.  I appreciate very much that you have sacrificed some hard earned cash to join in the first place!  May your tribe increase!  Others of you can make a small donation.  Yet others can make a large one.  Possibly you can make a very large one.  All donations, small and large, are welcome and encouraged and received with real thanks and appreciation.   The donation you make provides encouragement to me to keep the whole enterprise going, and even more important goes directly to charities helping those in need.

 

If you want to speak to me directly about making a donation, simply zap me an email (no need to post your questions or concerns or issues to everyone on the blog, unless you want to).  But if you have suggestions for improving the blog or for using it to raise funds, go ahead and just make a comment here.  I appreciate all the comments I get.

And I appreciate your joining me on this venture.  I’m hoping we can blast out the year in style!


Looking Ahead to Christmas: A Blast from the Past
Personal Thoughts on Thanksgiving, 2016

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    Wilusa  November 26, 2016

    I just want to say that I’ve been glad, lately, that you *are* still posting long Comments. I hope you won’t change that.

  2. Avatar
    rburos  November 26, 2016

    Syllabi for courses? Reading lists? How about discussions on the study of religion in general to understand how the study of christianity fits in?

    I understand this means more work, or probably hiring. With or without I’m hooked.

  3. Avatar
    andersg89  November 26, 2016

    Hi Bart
    The quality of the blog might be an issue when it comes to retaining members but I don’t think it’s the issue for recruiting new ones. Simply put, the blog is a steal for anyone who is open minded and interested in the subject so I’m guessing the problem is publicity.
    A lot of people interested in the New Testament end up watching Yale course with Dr Dale Martin on YouTube so I would recommend some form of cooperation with him. If you post something with him where you promote the blog it would likely turn up as a suggested video for people watching the course.
    Anyway, that’s my two cent on the issue (or whatever the expression is)

    • Avatar
      mathieu  November 27, 2016

      Good idea. This is how we found out about the blog even though we watch almost everything Dr. Ehrman posts and prints.

  4. Avatar
    Boltonian  November 26, 2016

    Hi Bart

    So far as the blog goes, no changes are necessary for me: it is great just as it is and my fear is that any changes will not be for the better. My other interest in this area is the Old Testament from a historical perspective but I suspect that this is outside your field of expertise (although I am sure that you will know more about it than most of us).

    Turning to your charity question: a while back you asked for additional donations, which I, and I am sure many others, responded to. If that did not work as well as you had hoped it will not be because members were unaware of your plea. Also, members probably have their own pet charities which will take up some of their time and money. That leaves expanding the membership: I have suggested incentives previously, such as a discount on a book of yours etc. either for the member recruiter and/or for the new member. I have approached my friends but, alas, I am the only one of my social circle sufficiently interested in the New Testament period of history to spend time reading and occasionally commenting on blog posts.

  5. talmoore
    talmoore  November 26, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, alas, it seems the best way to get more members would be to get more contraversial. Human beings are animals and we always like a good fight. But I know you take your role as a scholar and an academic very seriously, so I can’t see you heading more in the Richard Carrier or Bill O’Reilly direction.

    If you were to come to me in my daytime job as a multi-media consultant, I would advise you to get your blogs linked in as many online aggregators as possible. (Aggregators are websites that specialize in pulling in content from all over the Internet and sharing it on one convenient website. Most aggregators specialize in specific type of content, such as news, politics, entertainment, images and memes, fitness, gaming, etc. Examples of aggregators would be Reddit, Imgur, Metafilter, etc.) Many news sites, such as the Huffington Post are blog aggregators, where outside experts and bloggers can contribute to or link to their personal blogs.

    So, if you’re serious about blowing up your blog, my expert advice to you would be the following:

    1. Research those websites that you find acceptable to promote your blog (i.e. make sure they don’t promote views or content that you find objectionable). One place I would definitely start is Patheos.com, which actually specializes in blogs about religion and spirituality. I would also contact the religion editors of well-respected news sites, such as Huffington Post, New York Times, Washington Post, etc. etc. Believe me when I say the religion section editors of those news outlets would bend over backwards to work with you.

    2. Once you’ve contacted those outside outlets, offer to let them post one of your “open to everyone” blogs once, twice, three times, four times a month. It’s up to you. (Personally, I would recommend twice a month, so if you so choose you can increase it to once a week or reduce it to once a month without a drastic change.) Now, here’s the thing. Those blog posts, the one you send out to everyone, that one has to be really, really, really juicy. Because that’s what the big guys want. They want juicy content. I don’t mean necessarily contraversial or salacious. I mean, it’s stuff that could otherwise be newsworthy. For example, if you wrote a blog critical of Reza Aslan’s book (back when it was a NYT bestseller), that would most definitely have been newsworthy (“Author of ‘Misquoting Jesus’ Critical of Aslan’s New York Times Bestseller “). That’s a perfect example of a “newsworthy” blog post. So you give them the juicy newsworthy blog in order to get clicks for the aggregator, and the rest of your everyday blogs are the stuff you usually write about.

    3. So you have the attention of the aggregators and their readers, what do you do now? You use that opportunity to promote your daily blog, of course, to pull in more members. Add in a line like: “If you want more from Dr. Bart Ehrman, become a member of his daily blog! Only such and such dollars a year.” And so on. You’re just getting your foot in the door with the free, twice monthly juicy blog. The purpose is to make more people aware of the regular blog and to draw them into becoming members.

    4. So you’re probably thinking “that’s a lot of work”. Well, it is. But trust me when I say if you put in the work (or, more advisable, hire a publicist to do the work for you), your memberships will SKYROCKET. Just think for a second that a guy like Aslan probably knows, at best, 5% of what you know about the history of Christianity, but I’d bet your blog has, at most, 5% of the readers that Aslan has for his online articles and blogs. There’s no reason you can’t steal some of his readers. It’s just a matter of letting them know you’re here.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 27, 2016

      On point 4. Yes I am!!!

      • talmoore
        talmoore  November 27, 2016

        LOL! Well, if you are ever inclined, you know the option is there.

        • Avatar
          J--B  December 1, 2016

          I nominate talmoore for Blog Publicist.

    • Avatar
      josephcodsi  December 7, 2016

      What you say about controversy makes sense. As it is now, Bart’s blog is a one-man show. It can use some new blood, but the format is not conducive to allowing others to introduce other points of view. Bart is the only one who can introduce new threads and new topics. It is not clear whether he would welcome other contributors.

  6. Avatar
    godspell  November 26, 2016

    For reasons that should not need explaining, I was giving a lot to certain political causes over the past year.

    That did not work out as planned. Understatement of the Millennium.

    Once I’ve made up some ground, financially speaking, I would be honored to contribute to this blog, on top of my membership fee.

  7. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  November 26, 2016

    Improvements to the blog–I like the improvements that were made from the last time you asked for suggestions. One thing that might be more user friendly is to have the most recent posts show up at the top rather than the bottom. The current posts only show at the top when I’m under the mobile function. Otherwise, it always begins with Greco Roman Religions.

    Raising money–Maybe take donations or member sign-ups directly through Facebook. I think some people have said that PayPal isn’t available in some countries? FB does charge a fee. I believe they send you the funds once it reaches a hundred dollars. Something like that.

    How about a debate on the blog? Charge a special price for viewing it or making comments/asking questions about it. You could even set it with a donation goal to be reached at a specific time. If the goal is reached, the pledge for donations is taken out at the time to begin the debate.

  8. Avatar
    JoeRoark  November 26, 2016

    Is it possible to include photos in the blog- of archaeological sites connected to what you are discussing?

    For more revenue, would you consider signing copies of your new books and charge a fee for your charities- this would work better with in-person book signings, otherwise you must deal with postage.

    Starting with 2017 perhaps bump up the blog cost to $30 or $35.

  9. Avatar
    mjt  November 26, 2016

    I’m often interested in the difference of opinions from both conservative and liberal scholars on a particular issue. Sometimes you will say ‘Most critical scholars think x’, and there are times I would also like to hear what bible believing scholars think, and why.

  10. Avatar
    VincitOmniaVeritas  November 26, 2016

    This is an excellent blog. One possible suggestion of mine to maybe attract some more readers is a “news” section discussing archaeological discoveries and excavations regarding early Christianity and other Biblical scholarship, if there isn’t one already ? Much of the areas which need to be fully excavated for research have not been, and currently can’t be, due to geopolitical concerns in the Levant (e.g. the Temple grounds in Jerusalem, the area of the Jordan river valley in Jordan, the Golan Heights, etc.), but some are being excavated.

  11. Avatar
    Wilusa  November 26, 2016

    I’m wondering…do you usually get some new members for the Blog when one of your books comes out? This next book, in particular, may be “different” enough to attract people who haven’t read your previous ones!

    I looked at “Jesus before the Gospels,” and saw that you gave a great plug for the Blog – but, perhaps necessarily, in a part of the book some readers might skip. Would there be any way to plug it in a more prominent place?

  12. Avatar
    benholman  November 26, 2016

    Have exchanges, dialogues, and debates on the blog with other scholars over various points of disagreement.

    For example, invite on NT Wright. Have him on to debate on the nature and meaning of apocalyptic literature and verses in the New Testament (e.g. Wright believes in a literal return of Jesus in the future, but he argues most New Testament verses that have been thought to refer to the “second coming” have been misattributed. He argues most of the apocalyptic verses should be understood metaphorically, as theological language that often isn’t referring to a literal second coming or literal stars from the sky, but to political events in the near future of the writer). Having him on to spar with you over several posts would be a treat!

    • Bart
      Bart  November 27, 2016

      I’ve tried lots and lots of times to get others to post on the blog for me, and almost *never* will anyone do it. Too much effort for them!

      • Avatar
        turbopro  November 28, 2016

        If I may prof, but I believe this is one of the hurdles we must traverse to increase your readership, perhaps.

        From my perspective, the level of intellectual rigour on this blog has set the bar somewhat high for intellectual engagement. I continue to search high and low for something similar to your blog without success.

        To post an entry here would demand excellence, which, for you, may demand some effort, but is doable in one hour’s sitting. But, for someone who may have a different point of view, knowing that this audience here has been well-schooled, educated, and critical, perhaps this would be a demanding task.

        For instance, imagine that I held a PhD in New Testament and Early Christianity, and through my research I disagree that Mark’s (or was it Mathew’s) gospel portrays an adoptionist christology. How shall I begin to blog my understandings amidst these Ehrmanian acolytes?

        Mind you, I believe many, if not all, of us would appreciate an alternative view steeped in intellectual rigour.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 28, 2016

          I will take your question to be rhetorical! Thanks for the kind words.

  13. Avatar
    GregAnderson  November 26, 2016

    Speaking from the world of Webtech, the usual path towards expanding a blog is to invite other writers to contribute. I for one would love to read some other perspectives from NT scholars whom you respect and trust, even (or perhaps especially!) when they don’t completely agree with you. 😉

    Perhaps you could lure in a few guest posts one month and see how it goes…

    • Bart
      Bart  November 27, 2016

      I’ve tried lots and lots of times to get others to post on the blog for me, and almost *never* will anyone do it. Too much effort for them!

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  November 27, 2016

        “I’ve tried lots and lots of times to get others to post on the blog for me, and almost *never* will anyone do it. Too much effort for them!”

        Um, wow! Seriously?! Effort is working 12-16-24 hours at a time, out in the elements, like digging ditches to fix busted pipes or restoring mass outages of electricity and water for the public. Effort is putting your life on the line time and time again because a drug addict decides to be combative by hitting, kicking, biting, punching, stabbing, or shooting you. Or the effort put forth by those trying to save someone who’s teetering between life and death. Posting for a blog, on an occasion or two when asked, is not that much effort. If that’s the way they feel about it, then, maybe I can’t put forth the effort to buy any more of their books.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 28, 2016

          Well, “effort” comes in many packages. For most people, coming up with a post they would be happy with would take two or three hours, and almost everyone I know is incredibly time-challenged!

          • Pattycake1974
            Pattycake1974  November 28, 2016

            Okay, well, what about asking a newer scholar who may need some exposure for their career?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 29, 2016

            Yeah, tried that a bunch too!

          • Pattycake1974
            Pattycake1974  November 28, 2016

            I get that time is an issue. It is for all of us though. If my phone doesn’t have at least 20 *important* emails waiting on me, or buzzing because I need to deal with *emergency* calls about the latest curriculum, and text after text after text, then it isn’t a day. If I’m not continually dealing with these things, then my phone is dead, my computer is dead, or I’m dead.

            It’s not even about blogging so much as it is helping another person. If they can’t do that, then they are literally *wasting* their time.

          • Avatar
            Rogers  November 29, 2016

            There are occasions that some of the members of the blog here post some very interesting and astute comments. One wonders if they could muster a primary blog piece on occasion? These folks may not be at the level of standing as academic peer to you, but given you’ve not been able to get those folks to contribute…

            Personally I find your dismissal of Jesus as not likely having any association with the Essenes as being an inadequate dismissal. I’d personally love to see someone that could dive into that subject in earnestness, credibility of effort, and a passion to make a case. (Josephus ranks them as the 3rd most significant sect of Jews in 1st century Palestine and they seemingly get no mention in the New Testament? I don’t really think so…)

          • Bart
            Bart  November 29, 2016

            Interesting idea. I wonder how I could choose one or two without seeming to slight others….

            Essenes: OK, sounds like I need to devote a couple of posts to this to explain the logic!

          • Pattycake1974
            Pattycake1974  November 29, 2016

            The only other thing I can think of is that maybe another scholar would be willing to share a post from their own blog and let you post it to this one. If you didn’t want to scour the internet for relevant posts, then have a couple of volunteers do that for you. I’d be willing to help with that, and maybe several others too.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 1, 2016

            Interesting idea.

          • Pattycake1974
            Pattycake1974  November 29, 2016

            I like Rogers idea too. Patheos has some excellent bloggers who may be willing to post (or share their post) on your behalf. They’re not scholars, but they appear to blog professionally and have different channels: evangelical, unfundamentalism, progressive Christian, atheism, Buddhism, etc…

            Of course, this would only be occasionally right? 🙂

      • Avatar
        josephcodsi  December 1, 2016

        Hi.
        I like Greg’s idea. Is there a way one can post a paper in PDF format and have it discussed in the forum?

        • Bart
          Bart  December 1, 2016

          I’m not sure. Are you thinking of a paper one of you writes?

          • Avatar
            josephcodsi  December 1, 2016

            Yes.
            Hello Bart,
            I have just finished reading your last book, Jesus Before the Gospels. Your study of how memory works is very interesting. I have been working on the disciples’ memory problem in Mark. Right after the second collective meal, Jesus has an encounter with some Pharisees who come asking for a sign. He disregards them and leaves by boat to the other side of the lake. He then warns the disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees. What comes next is perhaps the most difficult text in the Gospel of Mark. In that text, we are told that the disciples had a dual problem: They could not understand and they could not remember.
            The fact that the memory problem is mentioned in the text sounds very modern. I am working on a paper on this topic. It might be interesting if I could upload a formatted version of the paper that can be downloaded and printed.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 2, 2016

            Good luck with your article! I’ll check to see if we can download an article on the Forum.

  14. tompicard
    tompicard  November 27, 2016

    I really enjoy and have learned lot from this blog; both your posts and others’ comments are well thought out and written.

    I would recommend you open it to occasional guests posts, maybe once a month or every other month, the guests could be for instance other scholars or a graduate student of your choosing.

  15. Avatar
    Judith  November 27, 2016

    There is no way this blog can be better than it already is. Period.

    • Avatar
      Rogers  November 29, 2016

      Yeah, am thinking Bart has hit the point of diminishing returns per any additional effort. He’s already gone way beyond most blogs that exist in respect to what this blog offers.

  16. Avatar
    Jana  November 27, 2016

    I would appreciate a periodic overview of principle ideas contained in each theme such as what was completed about Mythicists. I’m trying hard to keep up and organize complex and frankly new ideas. Also, I think for new people who aren’t familiar with radical scholarship (and I do mean radical in the contrast with commonly held fundamentalist teachings), posting over and over gain an overview of your foundation concepts … including overviews of your main NY Times best sellers. As a newbie (i feel at times I’m still treading water 🙂 it would help me put the pieces together. For example, it seems to me chronologically that Misquoting Jesus came after Apocalyptic Jesus because Jesus was crucified and later Christians had to rationalize why this happened and still fulfill something of Jewish prophecy given that his death didn’t fit the Jewish expectation of a Messiah? (Am I correct? This is a question)

    • Bart
      Bart  November 27, 2016

      Yes, chronologically what I deal with in Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet is prior to what I deal with in Misquoting Jesus.

      • Avatar
        Jana  November 28, 2016

        Thank you Dr. Ehrman .. it just didn’t understand this and am only recently better grasping the chronology. It’s kind of a jigsaw puzzle or a tree with many branches.

  17. Avatar
    rivercrowman  November 27, 2016

    Bart, I stand ready to pay a higher membership fee, and made a modest donation this morning. … Just read on the web that charitable donations by non-corporate individuals drop off at least 2% during a presidential election year.

  18. Avatar
    Antsy  November 27, 2016

    Your membership fee is quite low, considering the amount of work that goes into this site. While I wouldn’t recommend raising it, since that would make it less accessible to a lot of people, perhaps you could make your current fee a minimum and at least give the option (and maybe gentle encouragement) for higher contributions while people are registering and/or renewing. I’m sure at least some people would be honourable enough to give a little more if the suggestion was right there in front of them, they knew where the money was going, and they could afford it. Sending people an email once a year at renewal time suggesting another donation is an additional possibility. I don’t think those two little hints would be nagging people overly much about money.

  19. Avatar
    Wilusa  November 27, 2016

    Say, I’m being picky, but I find myself looking at the bottom of the screen right now. Will you *ever* correct the misspelling of the word “recurring”? It makes the Blog look unprofessional!

    • Bart
      Bart  November 28, 2016

      I don’t see what you’re seeing. Are you seeing the word “recurring” or some other word?

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  November 28, 2016

      ??Ohhh yeah… you’re right! It’s been a work in progress. I brought it up when it was still “reocuring.” That evolved into reoccuring…now reccuring. I call that *close enough.* It’s a quirky thing like–Greco Roman Religions. Greco Roman Religions is my arch nemesis….

  20. Avatar
    andersg89  November 27, 2016

    One thing that might be worth keeping in mind is that extra donations is hard to motivate for people outside America. If you live in a country less wealthy than USA (most countries) it is more reasonable to give money to poor people in other places where poverty is due to lack of money or lack of democracy.

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