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Taking the Temperature of the Blog: June 2018

I thought this would be a good time to take stock of the blog briefly, and get a sense of how you, the user and raison d’etre of the project, are feeling about it.  To do this I have several issues, concerns, and/or questions I’d like to raise.  The BIG issue comes at the end, so skip there if you must [points (6) and (7)]

  • Do you like the directions the blog is going? I’m wondering if the topics I cover and the way I cover them are generally satisfactory and pleasing.  Or not.  The pattern I’ve fallen into is to make a post on one thing or another – often in response to a question – and watching that lead into a short thread, as the post generates interesting responses by readers which lead to posts on related issues which lead to other posts on yet other related issues, and so on.  Is that OK, good?
  • The posts tend to be 1000 words or just over. Is that OK still?
  • Sometimes (often?) the posts involve taking an excerpt from something I’ve published in the past that is directly relevant to the topic.   That seems to me to be the most economical way to handle the blog to me.  If someone raises a question, and I’ve already expressed myself as clearly as I know how, in print, it makes sense not to re-invent the wheel and write out something from scratch, when I’ve already said what I want to say somewhere else.  Even if a number of blog members read those paragraphs when they were published years ago, they probably don’t remember them particularly clearly.  I know I don’t – and I *wrote* them!   Is this procedure OK?
  • About once a week I’ll repost a blog post from some years ago, on the assumption that most people on the blog weren’t reading it back then, and this allows me to keep talking about interesting things without simply ignoring things people found interesting years ago. The blog, as you know, is over six years old now, and I have posted 5-6 times a week every week, 52 weeks of the year, over this entire the time.  You can do the math: that’s a lot of posts.  Seems to me it’s OK to repost older posts.  I myself, again, don’t remember them, so I’m sure most people who read them quickly three or five years ago don’t either!   What do you think?
  • For years now I’ve said (as I just did!) that I post 5-6 times a week; but over the past year I’ve settled into a rhythm of posting almost exactly five times a week, giving myself a day off twice a week, usually once midweek and once on the weekend. How’s that working?  Is it enough posts?  Too many?
  • And now my big set of issues, the one I’m particularly concerned about. The comments.  Here are the issues:
    1. I continue to receive, review, and post comments on every blog post. I have to read all the ones that come in because I am concerned that the comments are germane to the interests of the blog, are not needlessly political or otherwise irrelevant, and do not involve personal attacks on other members of the blog.  I assume this is still a good policy.  Yes?
    2. I answer all the ones that ask a direct question of me. As you know, my answers are short and to the point.  I simply don’t have time for long disquisitions – I wish I did!  But, alas.  Still, I hope my answers are helpful.  Are they?  Or should I change something?
    3. The problem is that now I’m getting so *many* comments that I’m not sure how to handle it. This week, on two days, there were over a hundred (count them, over 100!) comments on a post.  Some blog members submit many comments, and many of the comments are long.  There is only one of me, and I have a day job.  So I’m not sure how to handle this.  I’m getting by now, but, well, what do you all make of the situation?
    4. I’m not willing not to approve all the comments personally (I don’t feel I can relegate the job to anyone else). And so far it is barely manageable.  But I wonder if we will need to make any adjustments as we move forward.
  • For now, let me make these strong recommendations/suggestions.
    1. I would suggest that those of you who make comments continue to do so – especially if you have one or two things that you would really like to say, that you would like me to read, that you would like others to read and interact with. I am always eager to see your thoughtful interactions.
    2. BUT, I would prefer it if you would pick your spots, rather than rattle off a large number of comments every day. There are nearly 6000 readers of the blog.  If everyone made 10 comments of the day, then, well, I would clearly need a pay rise….  (OK, the pay for the blog is zero, but still…)
    3. As I have said on a number of occasions, I am not able to respond at length, especially to lengthy comments. Short comments of a paragraph are by far to be preferred.
    4. Moreover, you need to realize that *other* readers of the blog, whom you want to read your comments, in most instances simply will *NOT* read your comment if they see it is long or if they see you have made dozens of them. They won’t.  They’ll just bypass them.  So if you want to make an impact, you need to make them short and sweet.
    5. I look at the matter of comments as I do the posts themselves. If I posted twelve posts a day of 2000 words each – who would read them?  No one.  And they wouldn’t pick ones they were interested in, they would simply say FORGET IT!   So too with comments.
    6. If you yourself have suggestions/comments/solutions about comments, please do let me know!!
    7. AND REMEMBER: there is also a “Forum” connected with the blog, where members can interact with one another directly, at their hearts content. I don’t moderate the forum, so you can go back and forth as much as you like.  I’ll only intervene if I hear complaints and requests that I go in to rule the unruly nations with a rod of iron.

OK, that’s it for my queries and comments.  If there are other ways that you think the blog can be improved, anything I can do to make it better, please let me know!

 

 


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Why Would I Call Myself Both an Agnostic and an Atheist? A Blast from the Past

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Comments

  1. Judith  June 11, 2018

    It’s befuddling how this blog keeps getting better when it’s so good it can’t be any better than it already is.

    • Judith  June 11, 2018

      Some of your posts are such favorites of mine that I’m thinking the newer members might want to read them, too. “Why I’m Obsessed with Jesus on April 8, 2014” would be one of many. (Could send you a list should you decide to repeat certain ones.)

      • Bart
        Bart  June 12, 2018

        Great! I’ll repost it!

        • Judith  June 12, 2018

          By *great* meaning send the list? (Maybe there are other long-time members with favorite posts for the newer members?)

          • Bart
            Bart  June 14, 2018

            I meant I’d repost your all time favorite!

        • Rogers  June 23, 2018

          One of my favorites is something you wrote as to the literary structure of the Gospel of Mark, that the author employed this to convey his arch message about who and what Jesus was

    • Bart
      Bart  June 12, 2018

      Bless you!

  2. craig@corbettlaw.org  June 11, 2018

    I find the blog to be an excellent informative/educational vehicle.
    No need to Dr. Ehrman to reply to each post.
    When reply posts are better directed to the forum, say so, and send it to the forum.
    In blog posts, invite reply posts to be sent to the relevant forum topic.
    Limit blog reply posts to a definite number of words.
    Even if only 1% posts on the blog, that’s 60 posts. If they average 200 words,
    that’s a lot of work.
    Take weekends off. No blog posts, no approval of blog reply posts sent on weekends. Let subscribers
    take the weekend off too.
    Decide how to make this easy for you, set the rules and everybody will follow them.

  3. johnmaxx  June 11, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman, I am a writer who has often contributed posts to blogs, so I have some sense of the daunting task it surely must be to post as prolifically as you do. I imagine the blog has become an umbilical cord you can never really cut. Your blog has become a part of my morning routine—I love it. I have also read all of your books. As far as content and the method you generate it, I would not change a thing. Your books and past blog posts provide an enormous database of cogent essays on the topics at hand, and even if I were to remember a specific passage reposted from a book (I generally don’t remember) I still enjoy rereading by way of reinforcement and as a reminder. In many ways, repetition is the backbone of academic study.

    As far as managing the comments section—yikes. I know from experience (although at a much smaller scale than you’re facing) that reader interaction on blogs can be and often is a time black hole. For what it’s worth: I almost never read the comments on your site and only rarely post one. I subscribe to the blog because I’m interested in what you are thinking. But perhaps I’m unique. Perhaps the blog at some level has become a community of readers who enjoy interacting with you and other readers. Regardless, I wouldn’t be opposed to you shutting down the comments section entirely and allowing the forum to continue as the social venue. Instead of an “Add a Comment” section, you could have an “Ask a Question” area. The questions would go to you and not be a part of the public discussion. If you thought the question was interesting and worth of a response, you could answer it in a future blog post.

    In any event, love what you do. Keep up the truly amazing work.

  4. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  June 11, 2018

    Have Larry Hurtado moderate your comments for a couple of weeks. You gotta be tough to survive on his blog.

  5. gbsinkers  June 11, 2018

    Keep doing what you’re doing. I joined over a year ago and read from the beginning in 2012, got as far as mid-2015 before I gave that up and now only read new posts. I would be OK with even fewer posts per week if you’re overburdened. As to the comments, we have limits in many areas of life so perhaps a character limit would help. I’m sure your tech guy Steven could easily implement that. It would help you to manage more posts if they are shorter, the forum can be used for longer comments, and help readers who look at the comments more easily consume them. I worked hard to keep this under 500 characters. 🙂

  6. mannix  June 11, 2018

    Occasionally a question arises on a given thread that has nothing to do with the topic, and you are gracious enough to answer it. I can somewhat understand why someone would do this…I frequently have a question about something and I’m not sure what the best way is to ask. I also am hesitant to do so, realizing that answering ALL questions would be a full-time job (with OVERtime!) itself. What is the e-mail address for doing so?

  7. cmdenton47  June 11, 2018

    Thank you again for doing this.

  8. Robert
    Robert  June 11, 2018

    There is at least one poster who makes an ungodly amount of ridiculously long posts. Maybe Steve could impose a limited number of characters allowed in a single post and limit the number of posts allowed per day. Additional posts should be taken to the forum. I thought you were also personally (at one time?) moderating posts on the forum, but, if not, that should allow for greater spontaneity in individual or small group discussions.

    4
    1
    • ArtiosMedia
      ArtiosMedia  June 12, 2018

      That’s a good idea, Robert. I have a function.php snippet that would do the trick: limit a post to 5000 characters, not less than 60 characters per post. I will run it by Bart.

      • Gabe  June 15, 2018

        5,000 characters is still way too much. That translates to roughly 800-1,000 words assuming that spaces are counted.

        I also support one post per day maximum and one question per post. I would also encourage people to use the search function as Bart has likely answered the question before, or referred someone to his prior work (books) that does answer the question.

        This entire post of mine, for reference, is 149 words and 852 (including spaces) characters. Would we really want posts 6x longer than this? Also, Bart’s actual article (to understand the scope a 5K character limit) is just a bit over the 5,000 character word limit, at 5,928 (including spaces). Think of it this way – By imposing a rather strict word or character count on comments, you can create better writers out of all of us. Basically, we can learn to say more while typing less!

  9. krv  June 11, 2018

    Your methodology is appreciated and your recommendations are spot on.

  10. beachdaze  June 11, 2018

    I feel you are doing an amazing job with this blog, especially given the fact that you also have a “day job”. Keep it up! I personally love the format and the direction. Seeing posts from before I joined is very helpful, as is seeing posts from your books, even if I’ve read that particular book. Thanks for this wonderful resource.

  11. Apocryphile  June 11, 2018

    “…to rule the unruly nations with a rod of iron”. LOL! 🙂 Just make sure it doesn’t get smashed, as on the day of Midian (whatever the hell that means, anyway).

  12. flshrP  June 11, 2018

    Do whatever is necessary to reduce the load you’re carrying. Health first–blog a distant second.

  13. forthfading  June 11, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I think the blog is fantastic! The way you have it set up is great. I am amazed that you can post and respond as much as you do. I am one that ask a question on almost every post. You always respond and I know it is going to be short, but it always answers the thrust of my question.

    I think members should not take it personally if you don’t respond to every question (especially if the question is off topic). I am thrilled every time you respond. I think….Here is one of the world’s leading authorities on textual criticism and the historical Jesus responding to an amateur, but treating him with the respect real scholars receive.

    Thanks so much!!!!

  14. bamurray  June 11, 2018

    I think the current status is fine – don’t change it.

    And thanks for reminding me about the member forum – I’d forgotten that it exists!

  15. Tricia  June 11, 2018

    I guess I’m here for one purpose: to get you interested in researching the life Jesus actually had to live in a developed and even somewhat urban first century Galilee. Christians have created and accepted a stereotype of Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus all dressing alike and living alike. But they lived a thousand or more years apart. Jesus lived in the norms of first century Galilee. And once scholars establish what the geographic and social norms were, they can bring Jesus up to date–then they can start on Paul…. (And now I’ve made my point, I’ll quite wasting your time commenting on your other posts. : )

    • Bart
      Bart  June 12, 2018

      Tricia, You probably kknow, don’t you, that I’ve done research on those questions for forty years? (For many of those years the research has been virtually full time — the thing I do!) If you’d like to see what I’ve learned about it all, one place to start would be my book Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Or my textbook The New Testament: A Historical Introductoin to the Early Christian Writings?

      • Tricia  June 12, 2018

        I checked out my old copy of Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet. Not what I’m talking about at all–just banging around inside the Bible and knocking out walls with logic. What if Jesus had a significant Jewish education in a city environment? What if Jesus, instead of being from Jewish peasant family, grew up in a more urban and significant Jewish community? What if he had a significant rabbinical education? Tiberias, founded sometime around 20 CE was made the capital of Galilee by Herod Antipas. It had a significant Jewish population. And it was established only 19 miles from Nazareth during the time of Jesus. He would have passed it on the way to Capernaum. Sepphoris, perhaps the birthplace of his mother Mary, has now been found by archeologists to also have had a significant Jewish population (40 mikvahs) (see National Geographic Dec. 2017). And Sepphoris lies only 3 miles from Nazareth. If his family life was a carpenter or builder, he would have grown up working in both cities. It’s time to step outside the Bible (box?) and outside the perspective of “rural” Galilee. That’s my point. (No need to post this in your blog. I realize now that it doesn’t fit there.)

        • Bart
          Bart  June 14, 2018

          But he didn’t. He grew up in a tiny impoverished hamlet, Nazareth. The sources are unanimous and clear on this point.

          • Tricia  June 14, 2018

            The “sources” may be clear. But if you look at the archaeology of the time, and the geographical and historical context of the area at the time, the “sources” appear to have been skewed by the religious narrative. The real world in Galilee under the Tetrarch Herod Antipas is separate from what Christian and Jewish writers were endeavoring to promulgate. His capital Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and Sepphoris were undergoing extensive building projects. Tiberias, a spa and trade center, would have been something Jesus grew up near to and walked by or through on his way to Capernaum, the home of Peter.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 15, 2018

            I’d suggest you read the book by John Dominic Crossan and John Reed, Excavating Jesus. As to walking around in Tiberias (or even Sepphoris), E. P. Sanders is completely convincing to me that it just didn’t happen (his book Jesus and Judaism).

          • Tricia  June 14, 2018

            For me, this is comparable to the controversy surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. The knowledge of royalty and court, the geopolitical and philosophical understanding evident in the plays could not have been created by an uneducated peasant. I tend toward believing the writer was Edward de Vere, Early of Oxford. Similarly, the intricate levels of Jesus’ parables, his understanding of the Temple structure and ability to counter the culture of the Pharisees and Sadduccees (and Samaritans). His ability to orchestrate an encounter with Pilate. And the original thrust of his religious teaching and philosophy–would not be possible for a rube growing up in the dirt of a village with a hammer and twine. I know that some Christians do maintain that, as the Son of God, he wouldn’t need an educated background. But I’m not one of them.

  16. mikezamjara  June 11, 2018

    I would suggest a notifications button to know when a response has been done. The blog is fine an interesting for me.

  17. nichael  June 11, 2018

    I understand (and as a reader and sometime-commenter, applaud) your goal of making all the responses yourself –I.e. of not “farming the job out”.

    But with an eye toward the goal of keeping the overall task manageable, might it be reasonable to go the middle route of using a “pre-reader”?

    That is,
    — many comments seems to be just that, I.e. Comments that don’t really require a response from Dr Ehrman. The “Filter” could just approve these.
    — for comments that require an actual response, the “Filter” could pass these along to Dr Ehrman. (in the worst case, unfortunately –but perhaps inevitably– limiting the number of responses made per posting.)

    All of this with an eye toward reducing the need of Dr Ehrman “handling” each and every comment, while still providing a reasonable, but manageable, amount of personal interaction

    [The bottom line is that the path to unapproved/unmoderated comments leads toward madness. But Dr Ehrman needs to find a solution that works for him as well. The amount of effort that Dr Ehrman has been willing to invest in this blog and its comments is much appreciated by all its readers. But, alas, it’s starting to sound like this is not something that will be maintainable in the long run, as much as Dr Ehrman –and his readers– might regret this.]

  18. ddorner  June 11, 2018

    I love the blog. I’m sure you and others have already thought of these, but here are my suggestions for comments.

    1. Give a shorter maximum character count. Maybe not the length of a tweet, but the comment shouldn’t be longer than the blog post itself! Maybe 400 characters?

    2. Give the user the option to tag the comment as either a question or insight, or just a comment.

    3. Consider limiting the number comments/questions per user per month or at least per blog post.

    4. Provide additional tiers that give higher paying users more in-depth responses or additional comments.

    I realize this would all take work from your computer friend. just some ideas.

    • tcasto  June 13, 2018

      Ddormer: I’m good with the first three; not number 4. 😎

  19. adrinkwater  June 11, 2018

    I have two suggestions which might be more technical in nature. One: I do a lot of searches on this blog from my computer and mobile devices. Usually limited to a few words or a short phrase (ie. Paul, Jerusalem, Disciples). The results take an incredibly long time to return, and sometimes include posts that don’t seem to relate to what I’m searching for. Is there a way to speed this up, or help narrow the results? Second: I often view the blog on my phone. The blog shows up just fine, but the Member Content page first shows the page text, then list of “Archive of Posts”, the Search box and then “Bart’s Recent Posts”. It seems like I have to scroll a long way to get to the “Recent Posts” or Search. May I suggest moving the Archive to the bottom of that list? I’m curious if anyone else thinks these suggestions would help the overall usability of the blog.

  20. fishician  June 11, 2018

    1. I am quite happy with the content.
    2. It’s OK with me if you post less often. I often don’t get a chance to check the blog on the weekends, anyway.
    3. It’s your blog – OK with me if you want to impose limits on lengths or number of comments or questions. There’s no reason to allow someone to piggyback on your hard work by posting their own dissertations. (And yes, I just skip over the lengthy comments.)
    4. I forget about the forum – maybe on certain comments you should just insert a message, like “Use the forum for this discussion.”
    5. I think you’re doing a great job, but feel free to modify it for your own sanity.

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