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Your Thoughts on the Blog?

It is difficult for me to know what really “works” on the blog.   On the whole, most things seem to work well: as I’ve reported recently, the blog continues to grow.   We are working toward 7000 members (but I very much want that in six figures!) and this past year we raised on average over $420 a day for charity.  That’s a lot of dosh.  All to the good.

But I’m concerned about the quality of the blog and whether it is doing what you yourself want it to.   I have only two ways of knowing: the rather crude rating system we use for blog posts and the feedback I get.

The rating system could probably be improved, but I’m not completely sure how.   Of course each post isn’t read by 6700+ members every day, but even so, I typically will get somewhere between 5 and 10 people rating a post.  That much is helpful (especially if there is a consistent trend), but it’s not a lot to go by, nothing anywhere statistically significant.

The feedback comes in two ways: the comments I receive either in the comment section or in personal emails.   Most of the comments are focused on the substance of the post or related – or even unrelated – issues, and that’s what we want: it’s the point of the comment system.  It does seem to be working well.  When I do receive evaluative feedback, it is almost always positive, for which I’m deeply grateful indeed – every time I get an uplifting comment!   But if there are things that can be improved, I would like to know.  Tell me, either in a comment or a private email.

What has raised the issue for me is a particular issue.  I was thinking last week, while doing a post, that some are a bit longer than others.  I always shoot for 1000 words a day, but the reality is that they are almost always a bit longer, more like 1200 words.  And sometimes they shoot up over 1400 words.  And I wondered: does this make any bit of difference at all to people reading?

Would people prefer *shorter* posts, so as not to take so much of their time, making them more likely to read and use the blog with greater regularity, say 500-800 words?   Or would people think that isn’t enough bang for their buck – they want more.   On the other hand, do longer posts turn people off, so they are unlikely to read them, because it’s too much time and effort?  Is 1000 words about right?  There’s no particular logic to that number: I just arbitrarily hit on it, mainly because I thought it seemed like a decent length to say something reasonably substantive without getting crazy.

I have no way of knowing!  No one has ever said.   So feel free to tell me.  Even if responses are not statistically significant, it will be of some use.  (I’m not about to create a detail questionnaire for people to fill out!)

Feel free to give me other feedback as well.  Do you like the topics I cover?  The depth at which I cover them (too technical sometimes? Not enough depth?  Too much depth?  More than you really wanted to know?)?  The style and attitude of the posts?

One of the things I really appreciate about the blog myself is that in the comments – even in responses to others — we don’t have any serious snarkiness here.  How often does that happen on the Internet???  Other comment forums I occasionally tune into are just awful.  (I try to delete snarky comments, and that seems to have created a nice ethos on the blog; if some fall through the cracks, mea culpa!)

In terms of the substance of the comments, some come from people who don’t know the field at all and are just curious.  I’d like to encourage those, and you who make them.  Please DON”T feel that you have to have to have an intelligent view of something or a reasoned judgment of it or even any knowledge at all about it before asking a question.  Everyone on the blog is respectful of our levels of knowledge.

Other comments come from people who know a heckuva lot.   Most come from the lots of folk who are between the two extremes.  All comments are welcome.  I’m happy to engage both the basic and the highly technical ones, at the level that the commenter seems to want/need.

If you have any responses, in general, to the level of my own responses, let me know that too.  I know some people wish I could engage them more and have more sustained and lengthy responses and backs-and-forths.  I wish so too.

In any event, and in sum:  if you feel like giving me some feedback to make the blog better, let me know.  If not, keep reading!  I’ll take it as a good sign.


Don’t Trust What You Read!
My Pod Cast Interview with Sam Harris

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    darren  January 17, 2019

    As someone who has asked several questions over the years on the blog I later considered pretty dumb, I always appreciate your patient replies. And I agree the comments section here is the best I’ve encountered — it’s what online discussion could be without trolls. I like the longer posts, and the inside-baseball level analysis. As a veteran of the blog, the posts inevitably sometimes cover ground I’ve read about before, but I’m amazed at how well you do in keeping it fresh. In terms of topics, one of the areas I’d love to see more on would be a thread on how Jewish expectations of a messiah evolved from Greek influences. And I’d really love it if you were able to reproduce chapters from your trade books that really gets into the details of the topics.

  2. Avatar
    Meiguoji  January 17, 2019

    BART- I regard this Blog as my church ! I love everything about it and I especially adore your kindness to all of us here and the fact that our donations go to charity which is so heartwarming! I love the length of the blog and I love the fact we can ask you any question! The other spectacular thing about you/the blog is that All are welcome here and there is no hidden agenda as in trying to convince anyone of anything. I love that this field of study is evidence based – evidence is something we call all sink our teeth into and take to the bank so to speak. I do believe in the science of creation- I don’t know what is behind it but most certainly it is not an ageless giant person in the sky. I know you are providing a great service to mankind and I sincerely thank you for all that you do!

  3. Avatar
    hoshor  January 17, 2019

    I think the posts are greatly helpful and are obviously the core of the blog, but probably the most valuable aspect of the blog is to have questions answered by an expert scholar in the field. This is a pretty rare opportunity to be offered and I think most are very appreciative of Dr. Ehrman’s willingness to do so.

    One area I think the blog could see improvement would be from conversations amongst blog members regarding the blog topic.

    I believe that many blog members are greatly interested in Bart’s answers to the questions raised, maybe so much as to pass over other comments which do not have answers from Bart (because they were not questions). I know I have been “guilty” of this before. Not saying this is a problem per se, but if more members read other comments, that might spark conversation amongst members which could spice things up a bit and also could be quite informational.

    One possible remedy for this could be to give the commenter the option to specify if the comment is a question for Bart, or a comment about the post. This would help the readers who only want to read Bart’s answers and would actually help Bart in answering, since he could skip other comments if he was so inclined (which I think he would really appreciate!). The questions, once approved, could be designated with a colored box stating “Question for Bart,” and possibly be sorted as such.

    I’m not sure how much of an investment this would be IT-wise, but may be worth it if there is any interest.

    Thoughts?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 18, 2019

      Interesting idea. A lot of comments (30-40%) are directed to other comments, rather than to me, and that does sometimes lead to a back and forth. Another option is the Forum, where that’s the entire point. But I can think about how to make it more obvioulsy an option just on the blog itself.

  4. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  January 17, 2019

    When I retired, I made a list of about a dozen religious blog sites that I followed. I slowly stopped following all but your blog mainly because of their “snarkiness” and dogmatic certainty. Your blog, in contrast, is terrific. The different content is helpful. As to length, about 1,000 words a blog seems just right to me. It’s like the story of the “Three Bears.” It’s just right. Just don’t burn out. When you are swamped, dig up some past posts. Rereading past posts, like the recent ones about the birth of Jesus, is a helpful review.

    Still, for me, your best posts are when you mix in your personal story with the scholarship. That makes the scholarship more meaningful and more interesting.

  5. tduvally
    tduvally  January 17, 2019

    I am very happy with the length and content of posts. I pull the content into an e-reader, so I can read it at my leisure which favors longer posts. I’ll admit when I was reading online I would skip longer posts with the intent to read them later, but that didn’t always happen.

    Thank you for your work, and I think I’m getting my money’s worth.

  6. Ali Sharifli
    Ali Sharifli  January 17, 2019

    Hello, Professor! Indeed a very nice blog! I want you to know that I like your blog very much as I said earlier when you provided me with free access. Here are my thoughts and suggestions on your blog:

    1) I don’t know exactly, but I think there are some limitations on the number of comments made by one person. If such limititations exist, then I suggest you to end those limitations, because it can be barrier to the effectivity of discussions on the matter.
    2) I prefer *longer* blogs, because as a layman I want to learn much about scholarly issues on Early Christianity. The more words a blog has, the more I am likely to read it.
    3) There are some sort of biases you have (so have I) against Biblical inerrancy and testimonies of “Church Fathers”. I would suggest you to present only your views but also views of both sides frequently and then leave decisions to be made by readers. It will both attract many subscribers to your blog and give clear frameworks of debated issues on Early Christianity, therefore will increase knowledge of laymen and help them to understand sources of debates on the given issues better.

  7. Avatar
    Bewilderbeast  January 17, 2019

    This is probly not going to help much cos I think you’re doing things just about right – length & content. I tell you why I think so – you often respond to comments and queries, so whether they’re in-depth and informed or a newby asking, you respond – and that takes things up or down as needed. So: I’m lovin’ it.

  8. Avatar
    Duke12  January 17, 2019

    I think the comment word limits, commenter post limits, and the “no proselytizing” rule you imposed last year have been excellent for aiding the continued high quality of the blog (it was creeping into a rough patch before those tweaks). Your own posts seem of adequate length to me. Can’t think of anything else that needs to be added.

  9. Avatar
    nhopkin  January 17, 2019

    Bart, I actually prefer shorter posts. Maybe even use some bullet lists to condense content. I like to get the facts and info without too much fluff. 500 – 800 words would be well worth the cost to me.

    thanks,

  10. Avatar
    Brittonp  January 17, 2019

    I am new to the blog and love it. I try to read it everyday and, when time is available, I read your old posts. I also enjoy the questions and comments of other members. I personally don’t feel the length of your posts should be based on an arbitrary word count. Brief and concise has a certain appeal, as it is a blog. Ultimately I think the length should be based on whether or not you feel you have adequately covered your topic.

  11. Avatar
    Rita Gomes  January 17, 2019

    As I said, not only do I read the posts, but also translate into Portuguese and write.
    For me everything is wonderful, it is a magical learning.
    For me, the only problem is the language itself.
    because many terms we do not have in Portuguese, this ends up making me even more my transcription of the text, finding a similar term for my language.
    Thank you for this opportunity.

  12. Avatar
    Boltonian  January 17, 2019

    Posts are the right length for me. Still a bit too much verbosity with some of the comments, despite your best endeavours, but that’s ok because I don’t read them unless there is a question that you have answered. Otherwise, perfect. Thanks for all your hard work and for sharing your immense scholarship with us.

  13. Avatar
    jakethedog  January 17, 2019

    Hi Bart,
    For me the post length is spot on.
    I have learnt more about Christianity’s history and the new testament I general in the short time I have been on the blog compared with 20 years as a Christian (a common theme in Pentecostal churches). I seem to read the Bible more now than ever before even though I have not been to church in 15 years.

    I prefer the posts which do not get too deep in scholarship but I think the balance is right.

    I personally read every one.
    I think the revision ones are great too.
    cheers,

  14. Avatar
    joncopeland  January 17, 2019

    Keep up the great work! I read it every day and am satisfied with the length and quality of the content. I also like the reposts, since I wasn’t a member yet when much of it was originally posted. Always learning something new when I sign in.

    I very much like the long technical, wonky pieces, but agree that many people might prefer quick reads. Would you consider a mix?

    Thanks, Dr. Ehrman.

  15. Avatar
    brenmcg  January 17, 2019

    Haven’t thought much about the size of posts before but they’ve always seemed like a natural length to me. I prefer the posts on the dating and authorship of NT books, more depth the better, but the general miscellany of the topics is what keeps things interesting. I guess the amount of comments a blog post gets is also a good indication of how people like it.
    Also mainly joined the blog to run ideas past someone who knows far more about the topics than I do – so thanks for the replies!

  16. Avatar
    Judith  January 17, 2019

    The blog is invaluable to me and terrific just as it is. My concern is that you, Dr. Ehrman, are burdened with all the work it entails. Perhaps fewer postings? Just don’t eliminate Sunday’s as that’s the one I enjoy most.

  17. Avatar
    chixter  January 17, 2019

    I love this blog! I have not been a subscriber for long, but for me it is a daily read. I truly look forward to the time of day where I can read posts both past and present. I think a target of 1000 words is fine for a post. I don’t imagine anyone counting. If it takes a few hundred more or less words to illustrate your point, so be it. I have informed friends both religious and atheists about this blog and have encouraged them to give it a try…even if for a month. I tell my Christain friends that they can learn more about the bible here then they can by sitting in a pew. Alas, most do not want to learn such things, they are more comfortable believing what they are told. I’ve piqued some interest among my atheist friends, yet so many of them want to cling to a mythical version of Jesus….as if some how a Jesus character existing in antiquity would be a chink in their anti theist armour. Their loss I believe. Thank you for your work and dedication to this project. The only small gripe I have is it usually takes several days to moderate (at least mine) posts.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 18, 2019

      I actually moderate every post from the previous day every day I make a new post (part of my morning routine). I’m not sure why yours would be taking several days to show up.

  18. Robert
    Robert  January 17, 2019

    I’m bored by repeat posts but don’t really mind because the money goes for a good cause and I have plenty of other stuff to read if only I had enough time.

    I like the relatively rare posts that genuinely engage with the views of other scholars (not the fundy evangelical kind but real scholars) but also understand that most of your readers probably want more basic information. Personally, I would love it if you would engage more with the fundamentally different conclusions or methodologies of real scholars like Maurice Casey on the Aramaic son of man, Rudolf Bultmann on the minimal possibility of reconstructing much of an historical portrait of the historical Jesus, or Frans Neirynck and the erosion of the Gardner-Smith consensus of Johannine independence of the synoptics, etc. Some may think these are boring or arcane academic topics but actually these readers too would be well served by learning how tentative some of our knowledge of Christian origins is at the earliest stages.

    Mostly I’m concerned that you will burn yourself out by trying to respond to all 7,000 of us making three comments of 1,200 words every day. With that in mind I will stop here!

    • Bart
      Bart  January 18, 2019

      Yes, it’s always hard to know how far down into the weeds to get. Both because of audience and level of difficulty (it’s obvioulsy much much harder to do serious scholarship in 1000 words than to write a popular account) I’ve decided to get into the weeds only on occasion. I’m not sure how most blog members get on with that — my sense is that many eyes glaze over!

      • Lev
        Lev  January 18, 2019

        Personally speaking, I would love you to get into the weeds more often, and the topics suggested by Robert do sound very tasty!

      • Avatar
        bamurray  January 18, 2019

        I appreciate the weeds sometimes, too! In particular, I find it useful and interesting when you quote the exact Greek word or words that you are discussing in a technical post (in addition to their meanings).

  19. Avatar
    seahawk41  January 17, 2019

    I for one enjoy the blog immensely. I check it every day to see any new posts. I like the length of your posts, plus the fact that you do multiple posts when the topic warrants it. My background is physics, and though retired, I remain interested in a bunch of science and technology topics, so i check out many other blogs, not daily, but regularly. I get very frustrated when a post spends line after line covering the background/history of the topic before ever getting into the meat. Your approach, where you announce the topic and then say that you are going to have to do several posts setting up the background is much more attractive to me. I can read and wait for the next one, or decide that I know the background and wait till you get to the core. I like the topics covered; growing up in an evangelical denomination, I’ve wrestled with many of the issues/questions that you did, although pursuing a PhD in physics didn’t provide quite the challenge that one in ancient documents did!! Well, it did provide a challenge, but from a different direction. I think the level of your posts is good. I have been reading and thinking about these issues for some time, so could handle more depth at times. But I can contact you directly if/when I want that. So what would make the blog better? You might consider going systematically through Christian documents of, say, the first two centuries. Interspersed, of course, with posts dealing with reader questions, things on your mind, etc.

    That about covers it for me. Keep up the good work! Chuck

  20. Avatar
    plparker  January 17, 2019

    I prefer shorter length posts and will tend to read them over longer posts. You might also consider ways to avoid a text-only post. Take advantage of the enhancements now possible in web posting — bullet points, graphics, photos, tables, charts, imbedded links, headings and sub-headings, text boxes, .. that sort of thing.

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