Saturday, March 08, 2014

The comments section: my four and a half year experiment

On June 24, 2009 I enabled the comments section of this blog in order to participate in "Synchroblog Day" on which I and sixty other bloggers addressed the same question on how to bridge the gap in our conversations about faith and sexuality. Until that point I didn't allow comments on this blog. However, I decided to try it since the whole point of the synchroblog experiment was to interact with other bloggers and share readers' reactions. Afterward I kept the comments section enabled to see what would come of it.

These past four and a half years, I've learned that the readers of this blog are far more respectful and restrained than some of the commenters I've read on other blogs. I've gotten to know many of you better from the comments you've left. I've seen encouraging feedback and thoughtful interaction. Some of you have shared prayer requests or put up links to additional material that might be of interest to other readers. I'm grateful for all the good that's come out of that kind of sharing.

All that said and acknowledged, I think it's time to close off the comments section once again. I came to this conclusion because I am also a big reader of blogs and websites, and lately I've noticed that there has been an increasingly negative feeling toward comments sections in general. You read a great article that makes excellent points and you wonder what's not to like. Then along comes the comments section. It's not that there aren't worthwhile comments being made by people who actually read and understood the article. It's that what usually carries the day are the inflammatory remarks on tangential points, and the long thread of debate that results.

The outcome is that a lot of intelligent people are discouraged from posting feedback because they don't want to be attacked by those who just like to be inflammatory. No one likes to "toss their pearls before swine," to use the biblical metaphor. So my suspicion is that many of the people whose feedback would be most worth reading aren't sharing it, at least not publicly.

I've been a long time fan and supporter of Andrew Sullivan's blog The Dish and have benefitted from much of his wisdom about blogging when I first started out. The Dish has never had a comments section, which for one thing makes it more pleasant to read. Instead Andrew will often share excepts of what readers email to him privately, and I've noticed that they are some of the most memorable and insightful contributions I've seen published on any blog. What you write privately to an audience of one individual is more honest and free than what you will say publicly before strangers. In a public forum some of the best stuff necessarily gets held back.

I've jumped on the bandwagon of having a comments section for the past four and a half years, but now I'd like to go back to the way things were.

If there are any posts or links from any of the past comments sections on this blog that you would like to copy and save for yourself, I will keep those available until the end of this month (March). But after that I am closing it all down. Blogger assures me that comments won't be erased but merely hidden on this blog, so if there is something you would like to retrieve after I've already closed down the comments section, email me and I will send you a copy of what you want.

Come April send me your feedback by email. If I want to share what you've written in a post I will ask your permission to do so.

Thanks, everyone.