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