Postings, Comments, and Productive Discussion: Some Groundrules
When I mentioned to a few fellow scholars who were themselves experienced bloggers a couple of years ago that I was planning on launching a blog site, one of the strongly given pieces of advice was “Don’t allow comments!” I chose otherwise, however, as my aim was to try to bring the results of scholarship on Christian origins to a wider public understanding. Similarly, for example, if I’m asked to give a public lecture, I’d always want to allow time for questions and relevant discussion (and even challenges from anyone who knows what they’re talking about). In the two years since that decision, there have been times when I’ve wondered about it, and in the last week or so since my initial posting on the recent spate of people asserting that Jesus of Nazareth is a fictional figure, that has been the case. But I’m committed to allowing (even inviting) questions and informed comments, so I’m sticking with that decision.
However, with two years experience at this (and now in excess of 300,000 views, and over 1500 comments), I think I want to set some ground-rules (it’s my site after all!). First, call me old-fashioned (and I’ve been called worse), but it’s simply polite to identify yourself in social conversation, so I ask those who wish their comments to be posted here to identify themselves. You know who I am, and it’s only polite to say who you are. I’ve asked for this repeatedly, but I’m now making it a criterion for posted comments on this site. It’s puzzling, downright puzzling, that people who want their views taken seriously so often use (hide behind?) various monikers. So, hereafter, identify yourself if you want your comment posted here.
Second, relevance! I’ve declined to post a few comments over the past two years that were simply not on the topic of the posting to which the comment was directed, and I’ve edited down some comments that were wordy, wandering, etc. So, keep the issue clearly in mind before you send in a comment. And if commentors introduce some other topic that isn’t directly relevant, I’ll likely curtail chasing such hares.
Third, if all you want to do is vent your pet view, and aren’t interested in engaging the data, learning from those with the expertise in the subject (which can certainly involve asking for the reasons for a given view), then I politely invite you to go elsewhere. This isn’t a Hyde Park corner, but a site where interested readers can engage experienced scholarship (from me and others) in the field. By all means, ask any relevant question, and raise a query about anything that seems counter to what you may have read or heard.
Fourth, conciseness and brevity. Enough said here!
Finally, but by no means last in importance, let’s all try to avoid insults and slurs. Hard-hitting and direct challenge (if informed) is part of the scholarly “game”. But let’s keep discussion to the data and arguments.