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Taking the Temperature of the Blog

I would like to take a brief pause to take the temperature of the blog and to get some feedback from you about how you think it’s going.   There are some general issues and one specific concern.    If you’re not interested in responding to the general questions, please do skip to the end, to the specific concern, and weigh in with your opinion.

FIRST, THE GENERAL ISSUES.   The blog continues to grow and to raise significant money for charity – which, as you know, is its raison d’être.   Of course I enjoy communicating information, knowledge, views, theories, opinions, and perspectives on early Christianity – from the historical Jesus to the writings of Paul to the early Gospels to the formation of the New Testament canon to the surviving manuscripts to the early Christian apocrypha to, well, to on and on and on.   And for users of the blog, *this* is the ultimate point.   I blog, you pay, we donate, and everyone’s happy.

But that happiness is rooted in how well the communication is going.  And so I’d like some general feedback.  We are near the end of our third year of existence.  How’s it working for you?   Are there things that we should change?  Add?  Omit?  Are there ways to make the blog more user-friendly for you?

I continue to post five or six times a week.   I can’t imagine that anyone actually reads all that, but maybe you do!   Do you think that is too much?  Just right?  I would be more than happy to post less, but I can handle this much still at this point and don’t want to lose readers for lack of content.

I cover a range of topics – almost always things that I actually know something about.  I sometimes get requests to cover something that I know very little about.   If I know enough to say something, I do that.  But there are lots and lots of things I know nothing about, and if I don’t know anything, I simply don’t say anything.  I really prefer keeping within my comfort zone, which is Christianity in the first three centuries and a bit of Hebrew Bible and a bit of early Judaism.   With that in mind – are there areas that you think are lacking that you would like me to cover?  I *do* keep note of topics people request me to comment on, and if I have something to say about it, I do try to say it.

As the blog has increasingly become a routine for me, I have found that it is easiest to have threads of posts running through it, rather than a different post on a different topic every day.  This allows me to pursue my thoughts at greater length on a topic and the relevant subtopics.  I assume that works for most people?

I continue to get about 20-30 comments a day on each post, and I respond to the ones that require a response or ask a question.  I know some people get a little frustrated because I don’t interact at great length with their comments or questions, but simply make a quick reply.  Frankly, that’s all I can do with the time constraints I’m under.   But at least it’s something.  If something requires a lengthy response, I simply set it aside for a future full-length post.  I assume all that’s OK, if not optimal.

The discussion forum seems to be going much better now that I don’t moderate each and every post on to it.   I was reluctant to make it an open forum, unmoderated, but so far it is working well.  My main concern is that people will get snarky, sarcastic, rude, and unpleasant – as almost always happens on such fora; but so far that hasn’t happened, so far as I have been able to discern.  If someone does misbehave, I need others to report it to me so I can deal with the situation, with a warning and then by blocking the person from participating.  As long as we are all cordial and respectful, I have no problem with the *content* of the discussion posts.

OK, NOW ONTO MY SPECIFIC ISSUE.   Yesterday I decided to follow up a comment I had made about how Paul’s letters are occasional, so that he may well not mention something if there was no occasion for him to do so, by referring to the fact that Paul says hardly *anything* about the historical Jesus.  I actually edited two posts in which I discussed everything Paul says about Jesus’ life, and then laid out the options for why he doesn’t tell us MORE.  And when I was finishing editing the posts I thought “Wait a second!  I wonder if I’ve already posted on that.”

I checked, and lo and behold, I dealt with precisely that issue just over a year ago.   And did it the same way I was planning on doing it this time, by excerpting a section from my textbook discussion of the issue. So I deleted the posts I had just produced, since I Had already covered that.

But then it occurred to me.  I’ve been doing this post for three years.  Surely if I covered something on a particular day, say, two years ago, no one is really going to remember it specifically or check (by doing a search) to see if this is a repeat.   Or will they?

Most people on the blog now were not on the blog two years ago, and I doubt if most people are reading all the backlog of posts (I don’t have an exact count, but I suppose I’ve written over 900 posts by now).

So on one level it seems like it would be a *disservice* to cover a topic again.  But maybe it would be a disservice precisely *not* to cover it again.

And so my specific issue:  what do you think?   I think I’m asking the question more from the practical than the idealistic perspective.  By that I mean that it might be *ideal* (this is just an example) for me simply to say:  “See my post of May 16, 2013.”  But maybe *practically* it would be better simply to provide a new post on the topic.  Or not.

So let me know your views.

 


Quickly on the Blog
My Debate with Dan Wallace: Is the Original NT Lost?

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    gavm  March 14, 2015

    I think it’s a grit blog. I don’t check that reg so I don’t care if you post only once a while. I think most people like being able to “ask an expert” e most bout this blog, so never forget that. Guess speaker are cool too.

  2. Avatar
    Adam0685  March 14, 2015

    I have been a member since the beginning.

    In terms of website design, I like how your website is now fully compatible with my phone. It used to be difficult to read posts on my phone, but now every page is automatically re-sized and re-formatted to fit my phone screen nicely. Given this, you no longer need the separate “mobile users” link you have at the top of your page.

    In terms of content, when I first signed up I was hoping for 3 posts a week. I’d be still be happy with 3. I really enjoy reading them. There is now A LOT of content on your website, so it will be inevitable for some posts to overlap. If the post is overlapping with a post made over a year ago, that’s not a big deal to me, especially if it is linked to a thread of posts. Reiterating something you already addressed in a thread of blogs can bring new light on the question already answered and the new question/issue you are addressing in the new thread.

  3. Steven
    Steven  March 14, 2015

    I read every post, as soon as you release them; certainly within a day. I would be disappointed to see fewer posts, and i understand that more posts would be diffcult! I like the way you organize threads.
    Replying to your specific concern, while I have gone through many of your back posts, it would be useful if you referenced them as you re-encounter an issue.

  4. Avatar
    MajorBilly  March 14, 2015

    I joined the blog about a month ago, and I’ve probably read half of your old posts so far.

  5. Avatar
    markjokinen  March 14, 2015

    Your blog website is good as is. If a topic comes up that you have already discussed properly, refer to your earlier one. Like is too short to repeat for a different audience, unless your thinking has changed…

  6. Avatar
    John  March 14, 2015

    Generally the blog is going great and yes, your strategy of running threads especially when they are interspersed with other oddities is good. It doe provide for a more detailed and in depth dissuasion.

    One topic I would also like to see is something about current scholarship. I know developments seem to happen slowly, but it would be interesting to find out what the latest hot topic are amongst the academics. It is difficult to know how to respond when Christians say that the current consensus is this or that and yet we seem to hear a different view from you.

    No problem covering old topics at all. TBH you have covered so many things this blog is like a mini-course all on it’s own. I do use it as a resource occasional and go back to older posts but no, I am more than happy if you have the odd lapse of memory. Reading it again is fine.

  7. Avatar
    kitketcham  March 14, 2015

    I’m a very new user so I would have missed the earlier post and would appreciate a recycling of topics on important themes. I’m a UU minister, so I have a deep interest in early Christianity and hungrily snarf up writings like those. Many of my congregants are eager to know more (they have come to UUism primarily because of the downhill spiral of traditional Christianity in the face of science and cultural progressivism) and there is always somebody in the audience who has never heard the news about original Christianity and the unfolding information and thinking about Jesus, whom we consider a teacher and prophetic voice. Print media often recycle/rework topics because of the continuous adding of new readers who need the information. So do rework old topics and publish them for the sake of new readers.

  8. Avatar
    davemontalvo  March 14, 2015

    For user-friendliness I’d love it if the posts were available in a reader view for mobile.

  9. Avatar
    Lee Palo  March 14, 2015

    I like the idea of including a link to an earlier post covering a topic that has arisen again. I don’t think an entirely new post on the same exact topic is necessary unless there is something new to add to the issue. I continue to learn myself, and would expect that my own views evolve over time, so there would be the occasional motivation to cover a same topic slightly differently.

  10. Avatar
    VistanTN  March 14, 2015

    Bart:
    I am fine with what you are doing, the quantity (yes, I do read all, but sometimes a few days late) and the frequency. I like the “threads” because, as you say, they allow for a lengthier discussion. As far as repeats, go with your gut. If you are getting questions in a direction you have previously posted on, but not terribly recently, go ahead and answer again. I’m sure that even doing some cut and paste from your texts or other sources may lead to some different nuances. Heck, I have listened to some of your Great Courses lessons multiple times and always glean something new.
    In simple words, Carry on!

  11. Avatar
    tcroberts02  March 14, 2015

    I do read everything you post. I believe I have watched every debate and lecture to which you have posted a link.
    To your specific concern, I have not, and do not plan to, go backwards into those posts that predate my joining, so I have no problem with you addressing a topic again. I have read your New Testament textbook, so every time you cut and paste sections from it, I have already seen it before. I read it anyway. Dr. Bart, most of us aren’t as smart as you are; if you don’t remember if you wrote on a topic in the past, I’m surely not going to remember.

    My opinion: don’t worry about repeating yourself. You do a great job, just keep on keeping on.

  12. Avatar
    Jason  March 14, 2015

    First, I think the level of communication is excellent and appropriate. One always gets the sense of having interacted with a favorite author in a way that used to be impossible, and also gets satisfactory and honest answers. You never get the feeling that a grad student is doing the work for you, or that you’re too good to put your own limited time into the “public” interaction.

    As to the second issue, a blog by someone like you is a special kind of content and may call for a special kind of indexing or threading. As you point out, questions come up which are really related better to old threads-perhaps you and your developer could look at finding or building a wordpress module that was better fitted to this-something that let you move questions around in such a way that users could see that the move answered the question. You also may want to look at a less linear indexing strategy-something that organizes existing posts by topic and keyword.

    A famous scholar’s blog is somewhere between a Facebook activity feed and Galen’s works up until the 1800s-temporal but authoritative. New ways of organizing and indexing that content are bound to be required and created.

  13. Avatar
    fwhiting  March 14, 2015

    Dr. Ehrman: The blog continues to fascinate me. I check in on it every day, although I wouldn’t mind if you cut back the frequency of posts each week in the interests of conservation of time and energy. As to the repetition of posts, I think your “See my post of ….” is a fine solution, assuming you don’t have anything new to illuminate the subject.

    I particularly enjoy the posts of videos of your speaking appearances, and I’m looking forward to your presentations at the Smithsonian on March 21. Thanks for all you do!

  14. Avatar
    Judith  March 14, 2015

    It’s perfect just as is and truly wonderful to me.

    By the way, have you noticed I’ve managed to be successful for a week or two in giving you those few seconds? 🙂

  15. Avatar
    bobkilgore  March 14, 2015

    If Matthew and Luke can make long, word for word, unattributed quotations of Mark and get away with it, I don’t see why you can’t quote yourself likewise. Readers who have read enough of your books or listened to enough of your recorded lectures to know when you’re repeating yourself will just have to skim. If you’re going to talk about Paul’s letter to the Romans accurately, it’s going to sound a lot like the last time you talked about it. The facts are still the same and chances are your opinions and perspective haven’t changed much either. It’s going to sound familiar.

    If you’re worried about boring your more dedicated readers, increase detail or add context. The blog doesn’t have quite the time and space restraints that a book or lecture has, so let us have it. Pour on detail. That should make all of us happy.

  16. Avatar
    billgraham1961  March 14, 2015

    I’ve been visiting for just about three years. I’m not absolutely sure, but I think that’s pretty close to being accurate. I was going to suggest that you include a full-text search capability, but I stopped for a minute to look and found one. So that suggestion is off the table, and I am overjoyed to know that I can find the information I want this way. I like the fact that you archive your older entries, and I love the fact that I can find them based on any topic that comes to my mind. It’s like taking a trip to the library. I love it.

    The fact that you post on the same topic more than once really isn’t a problem from my perspective. Even as someone who has been a member for a long time, I haven’t read everything you’ve ever posted on this blog. There were a few days this week, where I worked long hours and didn’t have the time or energy to read anything else but work-related content. I know, I’m an apostate. I’ll balance that by saying that I go back every now and then and look up previous entries. I find them all incredibly helpful to my pursuit of a more historical approach to New Testament studies.

    I don’t know if this helps, but this morning, March 14, 2015, I ate apple pie at exactly 9:26:53 A.M. Ok, ok, Apple pie is a bit out of place and irrational for this topic, but I wanted to circle back to a discussion of infinite possibilities. I’m pretty sure everyone will have forgotten this diversion in less than 3.141592653 seconds. Just the same, I feel smarter for having broached this important topic. Thank you.

  17. Avatar
    johnmaxx  March 14, 2015

    Hi Mr. Ehrman,

    After having read your books for many years (I believe I’ve read them all, some multiple times), I stumbled upon your blog about six months ago or so. I read it, errr, religiously. And though I can’t say I peruse every post from top-to-bottom (although this is true for many posts), it is true that I at least read what for me are the salient points of interest in each post. So…Please, for all the reasons you articulate above–keep up the amazing work.

    So on to your specific question: As I pointed out, I’ve been reading your blog for less than a year, so I wouldn’t know if you are remaking a point made from a different blog some period of time before. But beyond this, reminding and reiterating (falling short of pedantry) are generally productive elements in discussion, especially when these established points are remade in a new and different context. And on this point, it’s also true that I recognize most of what you write in your blog as already articulated points from your large number of books. None of this “repetition” prevents me from enjoying your blog. I read your blog because I’m fascinated with the topic. My feedback to you is to not second guess whether you’ve already written about something you’re inclined to address again in a new blog. From my point view, the rereading takes on new meaning in the new context–even when that context is in the realm of nuance.

    On another point off the topic: I only became truly interested in the New Testament and the historical Jesus after becoming a “doubter.” My believing friends find this excruciatingly ironic and paradoxical. But there it is. Aside from your immense depth of knowledge on these two topics from which I and your other readers are the beneficiaries, I have also resonated with your “spiritual” path as I’ve traveled my own. The details may be different, but the feelings and extreme angst caused by the transition from hard-core zealous believing to self-aware doubt are seemingly universal. Thanks.

    In any event, keep up the wonderful work.

    All the best,
    John G.

  18. Avatar
    Jana  March 14, 2015

    In short, I love your blogs … it is the reading highlight of my day … when I have internet (it’s dicey where I live and am sometimes I’m without for weeks). Specific questions/answers. I enjoy the threads because I remain new to your Biblical revelations and I DO try and read all of them so your generous quantity is good too. Admittedly, it’s been a sharp learning curve not only in content but also in literary/historical analysis. You are a brilliant gifted humanitarian and I pray you and your friends are well and those who aren’t (as you mentioned before) are healing.

    • Avatar
      Jana  March 14, 2015

      please forgive grammatical errors … I’m tired too … a lot of teaching amid extreme poverty.

  19. Avatar
    Wilusa  March 14, 2015

    On the “specific issue”: I’d prefer you address the topics again, even if you’re repeating yourself, rather than refer readers to your earlier posts. For two reasons. One: we may have new questions about the material, and it would be more convenient for the questions and possible replies to be associated with and relevant to current posts. Two: if you spend more time *thinking about* the topics as you’re reposting, you may find that you have some new ideas to pass on!

    In general: I love the blog, and I really do read all of your posts (though I admit I “skim” things that are too technical for me, like the Hebrew alphabet and numbering). I’m more interested in the lifetime of Jesus, and its immediate followup, than in the later generations. But I read everything, and I hope you’ll continue to post as frequently as you do now, at the same length.

  20. Lee Ring
    Lee Ring  March 14, 2015

    Personally I have found as time distances me from previous thoughts and writings I often look back with a different set of eyes. At 63 I realize that my mental filter systems still change as unfortunately my body does. Perhaps you will find the same happening to you as you revisit previous thoughts.

    Given that most people, as much as they would wish to, do not have the time or energy to filter through 900+ post. When you post something of interest to me, then I research the subject further. Posting your newest thoughts on a subject keeps the topic top of mind.

    Despite what other people say, it is OK to look at things differently; and also to change one’s mind.

    JMTCW

    Lee

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