Over the last few months, I have received a number of complaints about the blog template, in terms of both readability and searchability. I must admit that I myself had trouble with the search functionality when I wanted to link to old posts. In selecting a new look, I aimed to combine the ease of use of the old template with the simplicity of the new — hopefully this template is more inviting and usable.
A clarification on comments
Yesterday I went through a familiar cycle: someone posted a generic right-wing comment, I deleted it, and then I got caught in an e-mail dispute over my intolerance for dissent, etc. It should be clear from our comment policy that we don’t aspire to be an open forum embracing “free speech” for its own sake. Our comment threads are curated discussions that we wish to keep focused and productive.
In the case of generic right-wing comments, the best result is that the comment would be ignored, whereas the most likely result would be that certain readers would go down the rabbit hole of trying to argue with someone who’s clearly never going to concede even the smallest point or, more importantly, offer us anything but endless repetition of views that we’ve all heard a million times because they saturate all of public life. In short, there is no upside to allowing such comments and considerable downside.
Even worse than the initial waste of time (and considerable frustration!) such a discussion would produce, there’s also the fact that a blog comment becomes a permanent part of the post. Everyone who ever came across the post would be implicitly invited to relive yet another pointless argument over right-wing talking points. People do not consider this factor enough when complaining about restrictive comment policies — your free speech does not require me to permanently enshrine your views as part of my blog post. Feel free to respond in any other forum! Complain about me on Facebook! Start your own blog devoted to denouncing my close-mindedness! Tweet snarky remarks! The sky’s the limit, really.
I have no control over your ability to express yourself in general, nor do I aspire to such power. I do, however, have a choice about the viewpoints expressed and the tenor of discussion on my own blog posts, and I will not apologize for exercising it. And indeed, I think there’s widespread and growing recognition that the implicit norm of making every internet forum a completely open forum has been actively destructive of genuine discussion. Hence I have every reason to hope and even expect that AUFS’s more aggressively moderated approach will increasingly be the norm rather than the exception online — where comments are not simply turned off entirely. And for this development, about which they will surely complain to the high heavens, all the entitled, (mostly) right-wing assholes who have turned almost every internet forum into a replay of the same fruitless arguments have no one to blame but themselves.
I’m starting to notice an alarming pattern: when no one posts, traffic falls. We have so many great posts in the archives that one would think that people would take advantage of gaps between posts to go back and read all our old material, but it appears that, for whatever reason, people prefer fresh content. More than that, they prefer controversy, and so my posts on apocalyptic and patristics, growing out of my devil course, have not been big draws — there’s not a radical pro-Antiochus Epiphanes faction roaming the blogosphere, looking to set the record straight.
I’ve never been one to develop my primary work on the blog. For me, this forum is for the conceptual byways, the side readings, the odd reflections. Continue reading “Blog neglect”
A question on ads
Periodically, someone asks me about the ads on the site. They never show the ads to me, and so I don’t give it a lot of thought. It’s part of the price of having a free WordPress account. I’m not really open to claims that having ads on the site make me somehow hypocritical or especially complicit with capitalism (hate to break it to you, but paying WordPress for an ad-free account is still capitalism!) — but if the ads are distracting or annoying to my readers, I will consider paying a reasonable fee to remove them. Let me know what you think.
Easily type diacritics in Windows
One frustration with switching to Scrivener has been that I lost Word’s simple key-combinations for typing diacritical marks. That led me to declare that my next computer would be a Mac simply because they have system-wide support for typing special characters easily. Whatever may turn out to be the case on my computer purchasing choices, I have learned from the intrepid @benladen that you can easily set up Windows to have a similar capability — just set your keyboard to “U.S.-International” and the key-combinations are actually even easier than in Word for typical special characters. More details are available here.
AUFS Constitutional Convention
One of the results of the wide-ranging dialogue on women’s experiences in the theological academy last week was a growing realization that our comment policy was producing results opposite of what we intended. Where we had set up the policy to shut down “entitled white dude” behavior, we did not do so in a way that emboldened and empowered non-“entitled white dudes” to participate. We had long known of this disconnect, but Brandy and others’ posts in recent days were a wake-up call — change was long overdue.
Accordingly, an ad hoc committee (me, Anthony, Beatrice, Brad, Brandy, and Dan) wrote up a new policy. We hope that this policy reflects all that we’ve learned and can serve as a new social contract to help make AUFS an even more diverse and robust intellectual community.
I speak only for myself here, but I don’t consider this blog to be my primary academic work. By volume, it doubtless exceeds my published work, but my blogging serves my published work both in terms of providing a forum for me to test out ideas and in terms of increasing my public profile so that my published work can reach a broader audience.
Nothing I write here should be considered my final position. If I don’t seem to substantiate a position in the context of the blog, you should first look to my relevant published writings before drawing any conclusions about the depth of my engagement with the topic.
To take a random example: one could conclude from the blog that I hardly have anything to say about Larry David. Even a thorough search would only reveal a handful of references, and those would be relatively superficial. Yet fully a fourth of my book Awkwardness is dedicated to Larry David and the entire project is inspired by his work on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Anyone who was gossiping about how I fail to really engage with Larry David would, therefore, be intellectually irresponsible. One could presumably extend this principle by analogy to other relevant figures and movements we discuss on this blog.
All of my books are in print and readily available on Amazon or from academic libraries. All but a couple of my articles are readily available for your perusal on my CV page (some must be omitted for copyright reasons but can be found through library databases; you can also e-mail me for a copy). In short: if you want to know what I think about something, you don’t need to rely on your vague impression from my blog posts.
My method for keeping track of appointments is appallingly primitive — I have a desk calendar in my office at home, and I just write everything on that. In terms of getting all the appropriate information onto the calendar, this actually works better than one would think, given that most appointments are made via e-mail. (In the last resort, I’ll e-mail myself to remind me to write down said appointment when I get home.) Yet the system has one glaring hole: I can only refer to it when I’m at home. It also seems likely that I’m only going to get more busy over time, and so it makes sense to form new habits now when things are relatively calm.
How do you, my readers, keep track of such things? I’ve considered using Google Calendar, which would be convenient given that Shimer uses Google for their e-mail, etc. I’m also due for a phone upgrade this summer, at which point I could get an Android phone so that it would all integrate, preferably without seams. (I’ve also hypothesized that I could put my files in which I take notes on students on Google Docs and have instant access to that, because I’ve noticed that I have a hard time remembering paper topics, etc., to write down once I get back to my office.)
Thoughts on future book events
I think our book event over Carter’s Race has gone well. There were lulls in the conversation, but overall it broke with our past pattern where discussion basically collapsed at the end of the book event. Pacing does not seem to have much to do with it — we’ve had fast and slow book events in the past, and the result is the same in that regard. I think the key difference this time was not only Jay’s own contribution, but the presence of a couple of his students (Brandy and Tim McGee) who consistently kept things going.
Looking back over past book events, I’ve been trying to come up with a new approach that will still give us the kind of thoroughness that have characterized our book events while still making the best use of our contributors’ time. In specific, I would like to move away from the chapter-by-chapter summaries and propose a format more like a conference session.
Next week I’ll be kicking off our book event on J. Kameron Carter’s Race: A Theological Account with a post over the prologue and prelude. The following week, Brandy Daniels will be posting over chapters 1 and 2. I thought I’d give a heads-up, because the more people who are keeping up with the reading as we go, the better the discussions will be.
It’s longer than any book we’ve done before, so we’ll be experimenting with the pacing as we go, but I’d expect that we’ll most likely cover at least one chapter per week. We’ve also recruited a couple new writers who should help spice things up. Truly, this will be the theology blogging event of the summer!