Comment Commentary

letter-447577_1280

The recommendations from Rebecca Blood include owning up to your mistakes, and I should own up to the following:

  1. If the software (WordPress) supported having each writer moderate the comments to his or her own entries, I would probably have implemented that first, rather than masking comment display. But it doesn’t work that way. Authors only receive notification after a comment is approved, so all comments would have to be moderated by yours truly (no thank you!) or a volunteer (blogging isn’t lucrative to begin with, so paying someone isn’t an option). The volunteer would need to be truly sensitive to the issues and also have a lot of free time. If someone wants to sign up for this, please comment… In any case, the changes I made took about 15 minutes. We do have programmers on staff, but I didn’t want to call someone on Sunday, and in this case it took less time to do these things than it would have to explain what I wanted. Reprogramming the system to send comments to each blogger could be a day’s work.
  2. Decisions were reached in a phone conference between some of the most active participants here, and I failed to immediately send an email to the group explaining both what and why we did. That was the big mistake — not phoning Jonathan yesterday and involving him, now that he’s come to active blogging. But I was, to some extent, waiting for the dust to settle, and still prodding and tuning.

With that stated, I think we’ve clarified that comments are not closed, but rather filtered through the authors. Having considered all the options, it is a given that we need to moderate comments in some fashion, as we saw last week.

And the truth is that the more I’ve thought about it, the less viable author-moderated posting is in our case. Rabbi Feldman, Rabbi Reinman, Rabbi Scherman and Dr. Schick are not going to be checking for comments every day and passing them through. When there is a moderated comments page, people expect their posts to appear in timely fashion, and will be disappointed if there is a delay. When, however, comments are sent to the author, there is no such expectation. People will send comments when they want to comment to the authors, and, barring any email troubles, their comments will get through.

Frankly, I think Jonathan is selling himself short. I have few delusions about people coming to Cross-Currents to read Yaakov Menken. But looking at the list of contributors, is there a more esteemed group of Orthodox commentators anywhere on the Internet? Or in any publication? [All credit for assembling this group, by the way, goes to Rav Adlerstein.] Jonathan, au contraire, people are coming to this site to see what you have to say!

As Jeff said earlier, two of the most successful blogs out there work in this fashion. Had we not changed the format, the dialogue between R’ Yitzchak and Jeff (and myself at one point) last night would have taken place in the comments section, and many might have missed it. So this change makes the blog considerably more readable, as well.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention — one reader suggested that we make the number of comments sent visible, so I tried that. But now many people, especially the most frequent participants, are sending emails directly — so that’s not a reliable indicator of interest in a topic, anyway. So I’m pulling that off for now.

There are many sites out there for good chats about the issues — but none other where you can read the perspectives of this group of commentators.

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3 Responses

  1. Agnoxodox says:

    an option would be to have each person have a sub blog http://person.cross-currents.com and use the planet software (http://www.planetplanet.org/) to aggregate them. Each person could then moderate their own blog, and you would comment on each other via trackbacks. Your tech people should have no problem setting this up.

  2. Isaac says:

    I agree that the present format is more valuable to me than the previous one. I am interested in seeing dialogue, but I am mostly intested in seeing thoughtful, informed dialogue. This new format seems to result in your chosen authors posting more prolificly in response to each other, which is good. It would be even better:
    – If more of your authors would post and interact more often. (For example, I’m still waiting to hear from R’ Feldman, and I’d love to hear more from R’ Rosenblum.)
    – If fewer of the posts were comment-free links.
    – The more thoughtful, informed authors you have who are interested in being somewhat prolific.
    – If you did something to the format to make it work better for dialogue. Perhaps putting comments in chronological order and/or allowing for threading would be good, or perhaps just an standard “Parent” link for replies. I realize that these wouldn’t necessarily be trivial to implement and would bring up their own problems.

    In general, I’m very excited about this blog and about the authors you’ve assembled so far. May you gu from strength to strength.

  3. akatz says:

    Whether you like it or not, shutting down the comments system is going to be perceived as an attempt at social control. The leadership of the OJ world is not used to having its weltanschauung challenged. Those who write for the OJ world are used to disseminating propaganda, and not having to deal with critics, except to challenge the critics’ motives.
    Loshon hara can be dealt with by banning posters who engage in such.
    Your readers will be able to decide whether those who were banned were banned appropriately, or whether there was an effort to shut down debate.
    Time constraints, loshon hara….all that is very nice, but I don’t believe it is what is behind the need to shut down comments, and neither will many other people. It’s an attempt to control which comments get heard and to shut down dissent.
    There is so much social control in the OJ world, and it’s extraordinarily unhealthy.
    The knee-jerk reaction is, and apparently always will be, that those who criticize are sinners of one sort or another.
    I don’t believe most of the writers here can handle much in the way of dissent; they have been sheltered from it for most of their lives, and live in a bubble of mutually reinforcing opinions that contribute to smugness and arrogance that peeks through every other post on this blog.