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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
    JWDavis  January 17, 2019

    I read and don’t comment. I am not looking for dialogue. I want content from you. For me there is not too much content. Whether I agree or disagree is not an issue for me. I have spent 55 years in ministry but I’m not finished learning. I appreciate this forum. I appreciate your honesty and dedication to this endeavor.

  2. Avatar
    longdistancerunner  January 17, 2019

    An occasional recap of your debates. Some of the videos are long.. but brief recaps of the points like the NHL channel does after each game showing the plays of the night.
    Points, counter points of your debates?
    Maybe one a month/week?
    Only thing I can think of… thanks.

  3. Avatar
    cancilla  January 17, 2019

    I’m very happy with the length and variety of posts. If I wished for anything, it would be more posts with significant details about small issues, such as the fairly recent post about how the sentence about Jesus being thought crazy by his family was translated.

  4. Avatar
    Philmonomer  January 17, 2019

    I think the blog is great!

  5. Avatar
    Pattylt  January 17, 2019

    My opinion is that the lengths of your posts are about perfect! While sometimes I wish you’d go into a bit more detail, I realize that probably would get too much into the weeds for many viewers and any shorter would be too brief and not really clarify the discussion. So, my vote on length is… stick with the current amount!

    I absolutely love the comments! Especially because you answer questions asked and often because someone asks a pertinent question that also sparks my interest. Nothing tickles me more than a question or comment that makes me wish I had thought of that.

    While we have had a poster or two that were a bit snarky and rambled on too long, the changes made to comment length and your vetting them has eliminated them. I don’t think you’ve gone overboard as you certainly allow dissent from your views to have a voice. Good job!

    My vote is don’t change a thing unless you get a ton of feedback that there is a problem. I don’t see any. Quite frankly, I think it is one of the best ones out there!

  6. Avatar
    fgeertsema  January 17, 2019

    I just recently joined, after a one month trial membership. I’ve read quite a few of your books and seen all your courses on The Great Courses Plus. And I’ve also quickly become a fan of the blog. As far as I’m concerned, the content and size of the entries is perfect, just like you intended: a relatively quick read to look forward to every evening, packed with thought provoking and enlightening information. Thanks a lot for the blog, the books and the courses!

  7. Avatar
    HammoTime  January 17, 2019

    Bart, I must say that I really do prefer the longer blog posts here. Compared to most blogs, I feel compelled to return regularly given the value of the information. The great part about the way you structure your articles is that they’re also really open to skimming, so I can just flitter over them if I don’t want to read the entire thing. The content is always exciting, and the biggest issue I have is that I would like to go back and read all your posts but my time just doesn’t allow for that much content (which is a real credit to you, along with all your other work that you churn that much out).

    Overall, I can’t say there is much room for improvement as your blog is the most well-cared for one that I read and is well worth the subscription money. If anything, my only suggestion would be to potentially release a “best of” series as an e-book to raise some more money. I know I’d spend $10-15 for a curated list of articles over the years that are particularly well-written and insightful, organised by the categories on your site.

  8. Avatar
    Lactantius  January 17, 2019

    I don’t think the content or quality is an issue; the site needs more publicity. I found the blog by listening to one of the debates you participated in with the Christian Apologists. Perhaps you can have another debate to promote the blog site. I watched you debate Licona—who I had as a professor, William Lane Craig, James White, and a couple others. I hoped you would debate James White again. Also, it would be great if you were able to have more speaking engagements on the West coast of the U.S.

  9. Avatar
    b.dub3  January 17, 2019

    I, for one, read every post, and scan or read most of the comments. I’ve only been a member for a few months and cannot seem to get enough, but I understand your desire to meet the needs of the majority of the members. For me it’s just right.

  10. Avatar
    gmmarcum  January 18, 2019

    Feedback: I joined last year and will donate again. I probably get on 2-3 times a week and catch-up from where I was last. My first month was a binge month logging in every day so happy it existed while I waited for Triumph to release. I’ve quit a lot of blogs after a couple months, so your blog stands above at holding my attention. I’ve read almost all of your books in the last 2 years, I find the blog content valuable to fill in, tied together and understand if and how your views changed or remained the same or reading you summarize something I’ve read in your books. I enjoy how often posts ask a question I’ve never heard or thought to ask as you did in the “Did Early Christians Believe in Reincarnation?” In my other readings a topic there would often drive me to log in here and use the search feature. It works well to get a list of posts related to my search topic, though the list layout might be an area for improvement, like adding the posted date and tagged category. There are about 10 frequent commentors that do indeed seem very knowledgeable and like to read thru all of them and like that I can “like” comment, but haven’t really commented myself this year. I like the respectful tone you and the posters maintain. Regarding word count, I get thru 2-3 post every time I log in, so 1000-1200 is great for me. I like the variety of whatever comes up in your research or a peek into a future book. You’ve said it before and I agree the value here is well worth the donation cost.
    Idea to get 100K membership: Have you considered a unlock mechanism to make one entire post free (maybe once a month?) and then get people, like us (your members) to post on our social media pages, or those who’ve interviewed you (many have blogs), your publisher or “someone” else to link the title on a site like http://www.realclearreligion.com? This might be a way to drive more traffic to the blog. I go back to your question posts that already have a hook, but if I was on some aggregator blog and I saw “Did Early Christians Believe in Reincarnation?”, I would click it in a second.

  11. Avatar
    mikezamjara  January 18, 2019

    The blog is one of my favorite hobbies in the web. I have learnt a lot from it although I get nervous when I write in the comments because I feel that I must write intelligent things in this intelectual blog. The topics are very good. Could I suggest that in the end of the post some references could be suggested to learn more? because most of the times I ask myself where can I corroborate and learn more about the interesting things you post. Maybe some links to resources about the topic you discuss in the post.

  12. Avatar
    hankgillette  January 18, 2019

    I think you do a pretty good job on length. If the subject is interesting, I won’t even notice how long it is. You often break up lengthy topics into several posts, which I have no problem with.

    My complaints are minor and are more about the presentation.

    1. I don’t see why as a subscriber I should see the blurb about needing to subscribe to see the rest of the post. Obviously, you are hiding the rest of the post from non-subscribers, so it should be a similar task to hide the blurb from me.

    2. As a new subscriber, I want to go back and read or at least look at all your previous posts. I can’t seem to find an easy way to navigate through the blog by date. I though the arrows pointing to previous and later posts would do it, but they seem to direct the reader to the next or previous post with a related topic.

    If I select a month from the archive menu, to read the posts in order, I have to go to the last page of that month and then read the posts backwards, if that makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense, try reading your posts from say, August, 2012 from the beginning to the end of the month.

    3. This is very minor, but when you have multiple pages of comments, when you select the next page of comments, you are taken to the bottom of the new page, rather than where the next page of comments begins, so you have to scroll up to see the comments. I’d prefer that comments just be on one page. Are there still people on dial-up connections that this would be a problem for?

    I very much appreciate being able to interact with a leading New Testament scholar and appreciate that you try to answer every question. I do think some questions get asked over and over, so it might be time to make a list of frequently asked questions which would save you time. If you have answered the question before, you can simply reference the FAQ.

    Thanks for reading. It’s unnecessary to publish this comment.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 18, 2019

      These are great suggestions. I don’t know if any or all of them might be possible, but I’ll look into it.

  13. Avatar
    ddecker54  January 18, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman –

    For what it’s worth, there are 2 things I check every Mon-Fri morning: the Nasdaq futures and the Ehrman blog. I wouldn’t change anything that you’re doing.Thanks for promoting the idea of reasonable belief.

  14. John4
    John4  January 18, 2019

    My favorite posts, Bart, are those which tell me something about a verse I hadn’t known or thought of. Thus, for example, I appended the following note to the word “today” in Luke 23:43 in my electronic bible:

    in Luke’s Gospel the word “today” is used some dozen times. In every case it indicates the day on which something significant is happening, often something involving salvation (e.g. 2:11; 4:21; 13:32-33; 19:9). It never, ever indicates simply the day on which something is said to be about to happen. And why would it? Here too, Jesus is saying something important will be happening on that very day: this other man (and Jesus) will soon be in Paradise.

    The idea that paradise becomes available to the follower of Jesus immediately upon death for Luke is confirmed in his second volume in the account of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Stephen has just antagonized his Jewish opponents by delivering a rather hostile long sermon (most of Acts 7), at the end of which he looks up to heaven and declares that he sees “the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God”(Acts 7:56). The Jewish leaders are incensed, thinking he has committed blasphemy, and in a mob effort break out the stones to execute him on the spot. Just before he dies, Stephen cries out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (7:59). Again, that last word is pneuma. Stephen’s pneuma now will go to heaven to reside with the Lord when his body perishes.

    https://ehrmanblog.org/today-you-will-be-with-me-in-paradise/

    News I can use!

    My least favorite posts are the videos or podcasts of debates or interviews. I’m a text guy. Seems like there have been fewer of those, lately.

    I also loved your personal reminisces of your time with Metzger. And I love, love, love that you will, however briefly, answer our questions.

    Any length is fine with me Bart.

    Many thanks, Bart, for your labor *near* (lol) the vineyard!

    😀

  15. Avatar
    phhailes  January 18, 2019

    I would prefer a shorter, less technical post every day. I try to read the blog daily, but sometimes it is just a little overwhelming. I like a little dose of biblical history and/or theology each day. My $ 0.02.

    Ph

  16. John4
    John4  January 18, 2019

    I love, love, love (as I said) that you will answer our questions. How else would I have ever found Helen Bond’s monograph on Pilate?

    Many thanks! 😀

  17. Avatar
    flcombs  January 18, 2019

    Overall I think your blog and comments are great. Of course, almost everyone on here probably has a different focus of interest, especially from time to time. But first of all: your expertise and especially personality and manner are what make it work. You are always fair with differences of opinion and recognize the strengths and weaknesses in your own conclusions. At the end of the day, that’s what it is really about. How and why things are determined to be “facts”, how sure can we be of this or that, and what is the most reasonable conclusion. Your blog and the way you handle issues are the best example of how scholarship should be (at least to the masses!). Even though over time you have covered a lot, it is always refreshing when you revisit some topic since opinions and information change over time. But I’m good with you referring or linking to something when it hasn’t.

    The bottom line most useful point of it all to me is that a god that really cares as described in church wouldn’t leave so much uncertainty.for us to figure out. And something so uncertain written 2000 years ago in languages I don’t understand about supposed events I didn’t witness and even scholars argue over certain wasn’t a message to ME! Other than academically, arguing over this or that word feels more like arguing over how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic than “finding god”.

  18. Avatar
    hoshor  January 18, 2019

    Is there a way to stay logged in longer? I get booted out and have to re-login quite often! Obviously not a huge deal, but I think we get spoiled with this on other sites.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 20, 2019

      Hmm… I don’t know. Zap me an email and we’ll figure it out.

  19. Avatar
    kqn  January 18, 2019

    My thoughts on your Blog? That’s a tough one. (will responses be graded?) I’m pretty new here so I have a few years of catch-up reading to do. The length of the posts seems ambitious and maybe hard to sustain, but I’m not going to complain. Just throw in a short one once in a while if you need to. Or, like this post, ask us a question.

    Otherwise, I can tell you why I joined and perhaps you can infer “thoughts on the blog” from that. I’ve been watching some of your YouTube lectures and the story of your own journey through evangelical fundamentalism, to where your are now is, well, compelling. There is an honesty in your presentation of facts about the NT that seems to arise out of knowing where you’ve been (and therefore, knowing where many Christians are) and from genuine, fact based, research driven “wanting to know.”

    So, basically, I’m here because I too, want to know. And for a couple bucks, that go to a good cause, I get to the be the beneficiary of your lifetime of research and clarity of thought. That is an amazing deal and very rare.

    Will I ever actually “know” something enough to “believe” something? Probably not. I keep close the famous Voltaire quote, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” Yet the search for certainty hard to ignore. I also keep close a line from the movie Solaris (the recent version) where, upon being confronted with a reality they can’t make sense of, Gibarian tells Kelvin, “There are no answers, only choices.” I believe we live in a reality that we can’t make sense of, yet we try. So that’s why I’m here. Knowing anything for sure is not likely, but I can still make choices. I would just like them to be good ones. Your blog is input to that effort. A source to consider. Does that help?

  20. Lev
    Lev  January 18, 2019

    I love this blog – it’s changed my life. One of the most useful aspects of it for me is when you recommend where we can go for further reading – either one of your books or someone else’s. Since joining this blog I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading: Orthodox Corruption, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, The Triumph of Christianity, John the Baptist by Joel Marcus, Introduction to the New Testament by Raymond Brown, A Marginal Jew by John Meier, Jesus and Judaism and The historical figure of Jesus both by E P Sanders.

    These works, and the blog itself has radically changed how I interpret my faith – and in a good way! I am now able to see how ancient writings are accompanied by a thick interpretive layer, which if peeled back can reveal some ordinary people doing some extraordinary things. Seeing and appreciating this has given me a clearer focus on my faith and has revealed a more gritty and earthy grounding to the characters involved. It has made it more real.

    I feel like I have matured a great deal in my thinking since reading your blog and some of your books. It’s been quite a revelation actually. I’m not a typical Christian who sides with the liberals or the conservatives, and so I tread a lonely path. It’s very comforting to read a serious scholar who treats the Jesus I know with such respect and dignity. It means a lot to me.

    And I would like to thank you, not just for helping me understand the historicity of my faith, but in doing so with such accessibility. You don’t need to run this blog to make a living and you give all the profits to worthy causes. You have sacrificed a section of your life to not only lift people out of poverty but to open a channel to novices like me who crave access to the experts.

    Not only that, but I really appreciate the grace and humour that accompanies your posts and comments. I should imagine after six years of doing this it can become quite routine, but you always seem to have a charismatic pep in your step when responding to us. So as us Brits would say, thanks for being such a ruddy nice bloke with us subscribers.

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