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Trolling Advice!

Dear Readers and Fans of the Blog:

I have gotten a number of comments/complaints about trolling and thought I should just tell you my policy in case you think I should change it.   I have two competing principles that I try to keep in balance on the blog.  On one hand, I want readers to say what they really, genuinely think and to have a chance, then, to air their views.  On the other hand, I don’t want simply to post snide comments by people trolling.  And so the rather informal policy I’ve adopted is to post negative comments (so that I’m not censoring) two, three, or four times as they come to me; after I’ve had enough, I warn the person; after that I simply don’t post their comments.

Does that sound reasonable?  Or do you think I should (a) simply not post negative comments; (b) post absolutely every negative comment I get; or (c) something else?

The reason I’m concerned is that you, the readers, drive the blog, and are its raison d’être.   I write my posts for you, not for me, and to attract more people like you onto the blog.  So I don’t want people turned off by my policies.

Speaking of which: please do what you yourself can in order to help the blog.   We are a little behind our fund-raising goals for the year at this point, and I want to be *ahead* of them!  Please tell your family, friends, neighbors, business associates, acquaintances, teachers, students, pastors, rabbis, imams, doctors, dentists, plumbers, builders, and, well, anyone you know about the blog and urge them to join.

ALSO: please consider making gift subscriptions to the blog (there is an unbelievably easy way to do that: click “Gift Subscriptions” on the Home page).

ALSO: please consider donating to the blog (Also easy: click “Donate” at the bottom of the page).   All donations are completely tax deductible, and without them we simply can’t meet our fund-raising goals.   Our main goal this year is to do better than last year!  That’s going to take some doing, but is well-possible, if you will help.

Many thanks to you all for your advice and support!  May we continue to thrive!

Paul in a Nutshell and NT Views of Crucifixion: Readers Mailbag May 13, 2016



  1. Avatar
    rivercrowman  May 11, 2016

    I think your current troll policy is just fine. I’m primarily interested in what Bart Ehrman has to say. … When I scan down through comments to your posts, I halt when you respond to someone; then I’ll back up to read what you responded to. This I find quite efficient in cutting down on comments that may not be worth my reading time.

    • Avatar
      michael  May 12, 2016

      That’s exact l’y what I do. Trolling policy is fine by me.

    • Avatar
      NothingButTheTruth  May 18, 2016

      I do the exact same thing. Time saving feature that helps me get to the meat and potatoes of the discussion quicker.

  2. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  May 11, 2016

    I don’t know how pervasive the “trolling” problem is. I typically scroll past comments to which you have posted no reply (i.e. comments without a question) so I probably miss almost all of them. What ever you have been doing works fine for me.

  3. Avatar
    Judith  May 11, 2016

    Love the way you find ways to let us feel we are on your team!

    You are handling those trolls just right it seems to me. We see that even in the catbird seat, you have lots of impossibly irritating situations to deal with.

    This is the third time I’ve had to change my calendar for my three-month goal!

  4. Avatar
    Iris Lohrengel  May 11, 2016

    As far as I am concerned, the blog is about learning, understanding, and exchange of ideas. If the negative blog is put forward within that context and expresses an objective objection and/or opinion, it should be posted. If the negative blog consists of a personal insult or something of that kind, then it has nothing to do as part of the blog.

    • Avatar
      davidgoodrick  May 14, 2016

      I agree with this policy wholeheartedly!

  5. Avatar
    Caiaphas  May 11, 2016

    I work on a little website where folks leave commentary. We have a “Be Nice” policy. It means we don’t accept comments that are abusive, impolite, snarky, crass, or incendiary.

    I think it’s easy to draw a line between posters who are attempting to advance the conversation or get more clarity, and one who is just attacking you personally (and quite incoherently, in the case of “kentvw”).

    If someone who is apt to troll tries to blur that line by actually contributing to the discussion, the joke is on them! But let me assure you, that’ll never happen.

    • Avatar
      Caiaphas  May 11, 2016

      Additionally we use “hell-banning” which is a overly provocative way of saying, “The author of a banned or blocked comment sees the comment in the discussion, but no one else does.”
      We find this practice prevents most abusers from creating new accounts just to evade moderation. Probably not worth the trouble if creating an account that is permitted to comment is not easy or free in the first place.

  6. Avatar
    Wilusa  May 11, 2016

    I think your present policy on trolling is exactly right.

  7. Avatar
    Boltonian  May 11, 2016

    Your policy sounds spot on to me. I ran a blog for a few years, which began as a philosophy forum but then morphed into, well, anything of interest. One rule I insisted upon is that contributions should be polite and respectful – after all, the purpose was to learn not to score points or ‘Win,’ whatever that means. And it worked; I did not need to block, ban or censor any posts or comments in the six or seven years of its active life. It still exists if anybody would like to take a look: http://www.boltonian.edublogs.org.

  8. talmoore
    talmoore  May 11, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, personally, if this were my blog, I would only block comments if and when A) they are completely off topic, e.g. baseball, B) they personally insult me or other members of the blog, i.e. ad hominem attacks rather than substantial discussion, C) they are wildly offensive, e.g. bigoted, racist, sexist, etc. Other than that, I believe in the marketplace of ideas.

    • Avatar
      Steve  May 12, 2016

      Do you think the Cubs will win the pennant this year? 🙂

  9. Avatar
    Epaminondas  May 11, 2016

    Certainly seems reasonable to me.

  10. Avatar
    SelfAwarePatterns  May 11, 2016

    Determining whether a comment is trolling or merely critical can sometimes be a tricky judgment call. But I personally don’t think you’re under any obligation to publish or respond to comments that are obviously posted just to antagonize you or other readers. If you find yourself repeatedly deleting a particular person’s comments, a warning might be warranted before you block them, if you’re so inclined, but I wouldn’t be afraid to skip it in severe cases.

    It amazes me that people pay money to come here and troll.

  11. Avatar
    Lee Palo  May 11, 2016

    I think your existing procedure is appropriate. I like a good discussion with some back and forth, but I am not fond of coming across Ad Hominems or other mean-spirited comments. If people disagree with you or other blog members, it is still possible to do so in a polite manner. I have a rather strong dislike of Christian fundamentalism, but I don’t need to use colorful pejorative adjectives to describe them or critique them. In any case, there are many times reading a post elsewhere on the internet that I just give up on reading the comments altogether because of the large amount of unreasonable negativity.

    I teach adult Sunday School at my church (Coupeville UMC), developing my own curriculum. I will, from time to time, quote the blog. All of those attending my class could tell you the cost of a subscription to the blog and where the revenue goes. I don’t know if any of them are subscribers yet, but we’ll see.

  12. Greg Matthews
    Greg Matthews  May 11, 2016

    I think you should do like Larry Hurtado and give them a piece of your mind.

  13. Avatar
    tscafidi  May 11, 2016

    Prof Ehrman
    I would continue your informal policy. Some negativity is OK and is good for discussion but up to point. I enjoy the log not only from what you post but also the follow up comments.

  14. Avatar
    Eric  May 11, 2016

    I think your current policy is the best one. I’m assuming by “negative” you mean mean-spirited, personal, challenging your motives, stuff like that, and not simple intellectual disagreements delivered in a reasonably respectful manner. Of course, some of those, after a while, if they dogmatically persist, needn’t continue to be answered or posted just because it’s time to move on.

  15. John4
    John4  May 11, 2016

    I like your current “rather informal” policy myself, Bart. Your blog is a treasure. A unique treasure. I think you oughta run it in a way that is comfortable for you.

    Many thanks! 🙂

  16. Avatar
    VistanTN  May 11, 2016

    Bart, I think your process is “right on.” There is (all too often) a tendency to go to one extreme of the other. Without opposing views, it just becomes “group-think.” On the other hand if not subject to some checks and balances it is just who can “yell” the loudest (or longest, or most frequently).

  17. Avatar
    paul c  May 11, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman,
    Perhaps I don’t know the full usage of the word “trolling” but given that one must donate some minimum amount to the blog in order to post, it would seem a curious and expensive pursuit.

    Nevertheless, i think that it is reasonable to selectively reject certain comments and eject certain repeat offenders.

    To me, this subject matter is rather arcane, yet, important. However, if this substantially became a forum for the airing of religious points of view, or if it became a soap box for the critics of your work rather than a discussion of historical analysis of pertinent documents, people and events, my support would fall by the wayside.

    There are plenty of places on the web where those others can go. Keep up the good work!

  18. Robert
    Robert  May 11, 2016

    Seems like a pretty good policy to me.

  19. Avatar
    nacord  May 11, 2016

    The comments seem generally very positive from my point of view. I think your policy is working just fine. And when it doesn’t work, I’m sure we can all behave maturely with thick skin, and not pay any heed to those who simply wish to be nasty.

  20. Avatar
    Phrygia  May 11, 2016

    Bart, I think what works best is to allow critical comments that are substantive, that speak to academic issues, and ban comments that contain any non-substantive, personal sniping.

    I come to this blog to read your comments, not the readers’ (no offense), I won’t miss any of those posts.

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