Comments Crazy!

Happy new year everyone!

Today I’m going to blog a boring administrative thing. But later this week I’ll put up something a little more interesting.

With my move now to Freethought Blogs the number of comments my entries are generating within a week has shot up fivefold or more. Which is great, except that it means I have to revisit the way I handle comments. There are now so many of them coming so quickly, it’s overwhelming me. As I announced in my inaugural post, “I will be experimenting with different methods of handling comments (active moderation, etc.) until I know what works best here,” and I’ve come to a conclusion I don’t like but have to implement. I’ve changed the settings so that all comments go to moderation. On the one hand this means I am committing myself to being much more Johnny-on-the-spot moderating comments so they don’t languish for weeks as many still are (I’ll be spending the rest of this week getting through all those, now that I’ve finished the paid work that has taken me away from blogging these last two weeks). But on the other hand this means everyone will have to wait at least a day or two before their comments appear (and just so you know, I don’t usually work weekends; I reserve those to spend time with my wife, since we don’t have much time together during the week, so “day or two” means business days).

This makes it a lot easier for me to keep up with checking comments, and in their actual order no less, but above all it’s just more fair to new posters, who right now have to wait for their posts to log while established posters blow past them posting comments galore. I don’t like that. So to put everyone on equal footing, now everyone waits, and their comments get posted in the actual order they are submitted.

If your comments aren’t up within a week, then they didn’t get approved. There are two possible reasons for that: you violated the rules I set out in my inaugural post (and many commentators have been doing that, some so consistently it’s really astonishing), or you got flagged as spam by my robot. On my old blog I got so little actual spam I was able to weed through the spam folder and rescue mis-flagged posts, but now I am getting hundreds of spam comments a week (!), which makes it impossible for me to even check that folder anymore (although I did one check recently and it does indeed appear to be all spam, but I still couldn’t check everything so I can’t be 100% sure). Which means if your comment gets ditched by my antispambot I’ll never know it. If you honestly can’t think of any reason why your comment would run afoul of my posting rules, then feel free to email me, explain the sitch, and tell me what email address you used to post your comment with, so I can go in to the spam folder and see if you got in there by accident (or otherwise tell you what happened). I will likely clear the spam folder every thirty days, though, so keep that in mind.

Last but not least, the huge number of approved comments is already so large that I know I won’t be able to respond to them all anymore. I used to reply to everyone. But on some posts I have gotten as many as 160 posts, and even after vetting out violators, in one case there is nearly 100 (many still waiting moderation). I just can’t handle that much traffic. So I will allow comments to post even if I never respond to them. And I might respond only to a few.

So I would be most pleased if informed and passionate people who have the time bulldog for me and respond to everything that warrants a response. That would ensure every comment gets answered, by division of labor. That doesn’t excuse you from still conforming to my rules, though. Even people on my side should follow my lead as much as possible. Basically, stick to facts and logic, cut to the chase, and don’t be pointlessly abusive, but educational and informative, and just call out errors, or acknowledge points worth adding to or qualifying my original post. I may weigh in from time to time. But good commentators can save me a lot of time and make my blog better.


  1. Art says

    If a mere “several hundred spams a week”, a week have you stymied I suspect there is something about your technique that is slowing you down. A lot of bloggers get several hundred spams a day and they keep up. I suspect that PZMeyer may be in that category and seeing as that he is also on FTB you might find out how he does it.

    As mean as it sounds if I post a comment and it doesn’t show up in a day the blog page, but just that page, gets dropped. A lack of engagement after I’ve extracted what wisdom I can from the entry doesn’t interest me. I’m not going to sit around for a week wringing my hands wondering if my comment gets posted. Engagement is good, bordering on special when it goes right, but I mainly post just to get my voice out there.

    Commenting is a very small investment in time and effort. I typically web surf with about five windows open with almost a hundred active tabs. I check Science Blogs 24 hour scroll, FTB, Mike the Mad Biologist link list, and generally open all the entries. I have similar habits on a couple other subjects so I read a couple hundred blog entries, and their comments, a day. I may comment on a dozen each day. Takes a few hours. I read fast and keep moving. No time for checking back very often for my comments to show up.

    Things to go, places to see, people to do.

    • says

      Art “If a mere “several hundred spams a week”, a week have you stymied I suspect there is something about your technique that is slowing you down.”

      It’s called work. I’m presently writing four books, researching half a dozen articles, developing and teaching courses for CFI, receiving hundreds of emails a week, and managing our house (I make sure my wife has nothing domestic to do when she gets home; I cook, clean, do the dishes and laundry, take care of the garbage and cat and the accounting and taxes for two businesses and things that break and the yards and so on). I also don’t just blog willy nilly. I always research and vet everything I say in some detail before posting.

      I doubt PZ ever looks in his spam folder. Indeed, he is following a similar protocol to mine: he does not respond to everything and mainly just sorts his comments into categories. That’s exactly what I’m going to start doing.

      “As mean as it sounds if I post a comment and it doesn’t show up in a day the blog page, but just that page, gets dropped.”

      As mean as it sounds, I don’t care about your attention span disorder.

      Commenting is a very small investment in time and effort.

      Not if you care about being accurate. I check facts and research. I don’t just fly off the handle and respond to people. It takes an average of ten minutes to check a comment’s facts and compose a careful reply, weighing every phrase for whether it will be misleading or how it will be understood or whether I’m overlooking something or being unfair to the commentator (and in some cases I can spend an hour or more doing all that). I’m receiving over a hundred a week. You do the math.

      Add in the fact that I travel and work and have to meet deadlines on paying gigs, and I can’t guarantee I can vet every comment daily (and I certainly will not be working on weekends, unless my wife is). But it’s possible I will from time to time (or maybe even usually) manage the queue that quickly, now that I often won’t be responding. I just can’t guarantee that.

      Because otherwise, like you say, I have things to go, places to see, wife to do.

  2. Art says

    Okay … you’re a perfectionist. Not necessarily a bad thing.

    Perfectionist, along with workaholics, are very inefficient in most situations. Microsurgery and disarming nuclear weapons demand a certain amount of perfectionism. Writing books, particularly in overly structured field, like philosophy, where the slightest mistake gets you crucified and gets you yanked from the A-list speaker circuit, demands perfectionism. Philosophy profs always struck me as bloodless pedants straining at philosophical gnats and largely incapable of spontaneity. Took a a lady I was dating a week to figure out if she wanted to go out to lunch with me.

    I work in the construction trades and getting things ‘just so’ tends to get in the way of getting things done. I push people I work with to go for a solid ‘B’. I live, learn, survive by maximizing throughput while shooting for the solid ‘B’.

    It will be interesting to see how your blog works out. Hint, reading blogs is a habit. I read PZs blog, in part, because he posts frequently. Some of it is lame. A good part of it is funny, or informative, or simply interesting. I can’t ever remember admiring a post for its perfection in wording, punctuation, accuracy.

    • says

      Art, you’re confusing context with personality.

      I’m perfectly capable of spontaneity and colloquialism. It’s just not appropriate in every context. I have a responsibility here, and I take it seriously. It’s not the same level of perfectionism required of a paper in a peer reviewed academic journal, but I am trained to meet that standard, too, and do…when I’m writing articles for peer reviewed academic journals. But on the other hand it’s not the same level of quick simplicity and shooting from the hip expected of a bar room conversation or a radio interview, either, yet I’m just as comfortable and perform well in those contexts, too. Blogging is in between. Thus, I don’t compile footnotes documenting every single claim (as I would in a journal article). But I do do research to make sure those claims are true, and thus anyone who does the same honest research will not find me wrong. And I take care to ensure my wording conveys what I actually mean, and thus can be defended, even when it’s colloquial. Which requires reading it from several different Devil’s Advocate perspectives before publishing. (And even then I often do inject humor when I find it suits.)

      I don’t view blogging as a diary or an elaborate twitter account. PZ and others here might have different standards, different things they use their blog for. Me, I use it to teach (when I’m not just using it to report, on my upcoming talks, appearances, publications, or other issues my fans care about and deserve to know; or occasionally writing about music or building a joke post for insiders, like when I proved Santa Claus exists with standard theological arguments). And when I’m writing as a teacher, I don’t go off half-cocked; I don’t spew unresearched tirades from the armchair; and I don’t waste people’s time (so if you find a subject I’m blogging on boring, then it’s not written for you, and if you read it anyway you are wasting your own time). I give the same care to comments as I do the original post.

      People who know my blogging from the past well know this and expect it. I’m not going to lower my standards to cater to a bunch of net tweakers with no attention span or concern for accurate information or well-thought-out commentary.

      This very comment response is a case in point: I took fifteen minutes writing it, making sure I didn’t mislead you as to my meaning, covered all bases, made sure I wasn’t overlooking something (like my music and humor writing), and then made sure that if any of it still pisses you off, it will only be what I can very easily demolish you for criticizing (so when the dust settles you will look like the tard).

      That’s me. Like it or leave it.

  3. Sili says

    I hope this isn’t too irrelevant a question, but I’ve just finished reading your review of Doherty’s Jesus Puzzle, and I can see from Amazon that there’s a new edition out.

    Do you know if this reworking takes care of your criticisms? According to the reviews the book has become far harder to digest, but has it become more ‘scholarly’ in the process as well?


    As for comment policies, any moderation will greatly slow the speed of discussion. That might be a good thing, of course. I can certainly see why you would not want the free-for-all that we appreciate at Pharyngula. It works there (in my opinion), because there are so many regulars that we can police ourselves as need be. Not all agree, of course.


    Thank you for your many great essays and reviews. I’ve been stuck at for days now.

    • says

      I haven’t read subsequent editions of Puzzle but as I understand it they differ only little from the edition I reviewed.

      If you mean his entirely new book Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, however, then that is supposed to have addressed tons of criticisms, not just some of mine. It’s massive, and organized very differently (“worsely” I would say, if that were a word). I have not read it all through, only skimmed and sampled it (it’s sitting on a stack of books here waiting for a more thorough read), but from my sampling it does not appear to be as good a book as Puzzle because Puzzle had a clearer structure of premises to conclusion and didn’t get weighed down with too many digressions. In effect, Puzzle is lean enough that it cuts to the chase and thus rests largely on strong premises and occasions fewer weak ones to get distracted by. Jesus, on the other hand, is much more thorough and I assume “better” in the sense that it is supposed to be responsive to a lot of critiques of Puzzle, but it’s structure is less clear, it’s harder to follow the argument, there are zillions of digressions, and a lot of what has been added has made things worse. Often the more you argue and propose, the more mistakes you will be prone to make. And I think Doherty gets a lot wrong in Jesus (or makes many more claims that are insufficiently supported), on matters that aren’t essential to his overall thesis, but can seem to be, making it even easier to straw man his case. Had he just revised Puzzle with more documentation of every essential claim and eliminating all inessential claims, he would have made a superb contribution. But Jesus went in something of the opposite direction. Is it more scholarly, at least? I would say no. It’s about the same. Which is to say, pretty good. But still could be better. Basically, saying more about x is not the same thing as documenting x better.

      However, like I said, I have not read it all through so my opinion might not hold on a full read.

  4. Charles Sullivan says

    Why? Because I like your stuff, as do others. We’re jonesing up in here for more, brutha.

    • says

      Well, all right then. I’ll see about amping up the frequency.

      My posts tend to be so thought out and thorough as to be very long. I’d worry that more than four of those a month would be too much to process. But we’ll see how it goes.

  5. says

    Adding this here, as the question has been raised on another thread where it’s off-topic.

    One thing which may be of interest to other commenters to note, is that if you are a regular commenter on Richard’s blog you will find it highly useful to create a FreeThoughtBlogs account. To do this, follow the links to “log in” and it should be straight-forward to create the account from there (if you haven’t got an account already, the “Register” link is what you’ll want).

    When you post a comment on Richard’s blog, make sure you have logged in to FTB first.

    The advantage of this is that once you submit your comment(s), so long as you were logged in then you will be able to see them at any later point awaiting the required attention from Richard to free it (or them) from the moderation queue. They’ll also be assigned a comment URL that you can use as a ‘permanent link’ to the comment, even though it hasn’t been ‘published’ to be viewable by allcomers to the blog.

    If you aren’t logged in, then any individual post will seemingly disappear from view until whatever point that Richard publishes it: although you may have put your name and credentials into the required fields, FTB won’t show your unmoderated posts to you without those two things: 1) having been logged in when commenting, and 2) being logged in when viewing the thread, prior to Richard moderating your comments.

    Hopefully that’s clear.