Thanks to the hard work of my computer assistant, Steven Ray –if you have any website or related needs, he’s the guy to hire! – we are nearly ready to make a major change in the Bart Ehrman Blog, a.k.a. the CIA. Because of regular and repeated requests, we are going to add a Discussion Forum, open to all paid members.
At present, as you know, the only way to “discuss” anything on the blog is by asking me a question, or by making a comment, on one of my posts. Occasionally one person will respond to another person’s question or comment, but that’s about the extent of conversation among participants. Everything, more or less, begins with my post and all comments pretty much pass through me. With a discussion forum, on the other hand, anyone can start a thread of their own and people can interact on the question/topic, talking with one another directly instead of through me.
When I’ve mentioned the possibility of setting up such a thing for the blog, I have received both enthusiastic response and wise words of caution. So let me say something about the wise words of caution. The short of it is this: how does one keep such a thing under control? There are several things that I do NOT, I cannot emphasize this enough, so underlined, bold-faced, italicized, and capitalized, NOT want.
- I do NOT want several people to go hog wild (as we used to say in Kansas) and dominate the discussion forum by relentlessly posting their views (usually these are views that hardly anyone agrees with), over and over again, in different guises (or even in the same guise). I want a discussion forum to be a genuine intellectual exchange of thoughts and opinions based on carefully reasoned evaluations of evidence, or carefully considered opinions, or genuinely open ended questions, and I want people to be self-reflective about how many comments and responses they post every day.
- I do NOT want anyone to be rude, abusive, mean-spirited, insulting, or generally unpleasant to others. I want there to be mutual respect, even for views that one might consider completely off base.
- I do NOT want the forum to be a platform for people to try to convert others to their religious perspectives, or anti-religious perspectives. Rather than being about anyone’s personal beliefs or unbelief, I would want the discussions on the forum always to be related in some way to the understanding of early Christianity.
- On the more personal level, I do NOT want to have to put in more time than I can afford in moderating the discussions. I think the forum absolutely has to be monitored; otherwise we’re simply begging for chaos. I have decided that at the outset I will not ask someone else to moderate. I may ask someone to take it over later, when I see what exactly moderation involves. But for now, I’m going to do it. But I don’t have tons of time to put into it, above and beyond what I already commit to the blog. If everyone behaves, it shouldn’t take much time. But if not, it will!
With all that in mind, I wonder if those who are interested in such a discussion forum could help me devise some rules and regulations for it. Once the suggestions for such guidelines have all come in, I could ask everyone in general what they think about them. If I get widespread agreement, I could then implement them as our policies, state these policies clearly and forcefully, and utilize them as I monitor the discussion.
And so what kinds of rules and regulations do you think we should have in place? Should we limit the kinds of questions or topics that can be raised for discussion? Should we limit the number of comments/interactions a person can have per day? Should we have the right to ban people from participating (say, for a week, a month?) if they are abusive (after, say, a warning)? Are there other kinds of rules/regulations that we should consider?
This is your chance to let me know your views. So let me know!