Change #1: The Addition of a "Most Popular" Posts Section
They're arranged by topic.
You can always find them by clicking on "Most Popular" in the blog's banner above, or simply click this link now:
Change #2: No More Comment Section on Future Posts
Since last Rosh Hashanah, I've been considering closing down the comment section for future posts.
It seemed like a good idea for a variety of reasons.
Just for knowing: Nothing happened recently (so those of you who recently left comments should feel reassured it was nothing you did or said to spark the comment shutdown).
It was something I felt an inner push to do for a long time.
My blog never got so many comments anyway, so closing the comment section isn't a big deal.
So this announcement is more a courtesy to let readers know that while the comment function remains open, comments won't generally be published.
Some people prefer to communicate via a comment rather than email. Leaving a comment is simpler & quicker than email.
So I wanted to leave that option open.
But occasionally, a comment may be published if it meets the following criteria:
- Provides a FACTUAL correction
- Asks a vital question
- Provides vital information lacking in the original post...
...then yeah, I might publish that comment.
(I could also make a correction or update within the post without publishing the comment.)
For an example of a comment making a factual correction, please see here:
Over the years, I realized the comment section is a weird place because it looks fairly innocent & not so different than the Letters to the Editor section in a newspaper.
Sometimes, the comment section is even more interesting than the articles.
(You know those websites where you barely skim the post, then head straight to the comment section? Exactly.)
Some people think closing comments means closing free speech & expression.
It could mean that, but doesn't have to mean that.
So why knock out the comment section?
The Weirdness (and Often Uselessness) of The Comments Section
He found he spent too much time rebutting commenters who simply hadn’t read his post carefully and these rebuttals forced him to reiterate what was already in the post.
In other words—meaningless exchanges.
The nastiness in many comments also wore him down.
Even only 10 nasty comments out of 300 neutral/positive comments can a tax a blogger.
And those 150 word replies that look like the blogger whipped in them out in a few minutes? Those can take a surprisingly long time to formulate—not to mention the emotional energy sometimes involved.
In a frum comment section, you're more likely to encounter more intelligent, useful (and much funnier!) comments.
But those are often interspersed with the same insults & inanity found everywhere else.
Additionally, the comment section isn't just about interacting with the people there, but interacting in front of an unseen global audience.
Furthermore, anything you write is now permanent (unless you delete it & hopefully wasn’t saved by anyone else).
So any comment you make in your comment section needs to provide a very clear voice and meaning—as if you were speaking.
But because you mostly don’t know to & before whom you’re speaking, it’s difficult to decide how to phrase your replies in a way that expresses best what you want to say.
You can end up spending too much time overthinking whether you should end with an exclamation point or a period, and whether a smiley or frowny is cute or pathetic or confusing.
For example, I knew a woman who has undergone a very stressful life. To compound matters, she had some sort of problem, like a mild mental disability—or what a psychologist friend of mine calls “low-normal.”
Anyway, this woman revealed that she was very active on online forums. She submits comments as her spirit moves her. She can’t differentiate between rumor-mongering and responsible speech, plus she offers inappropriate advice to others and can’t refrain from attacking back if she ever felt attacked.
And her writing didn't necessarily give her away.
Paying attention to spellcheck can help a lot in comments.
Also, she kept her comments pretty short, so there wasn’t that much room for error. Finally, abbreviations, lower case, and lack of punctuation are so acceptable online today, errors in grammar, syntax, and spelling don't necessarily indicate the intelligence of the commenter.
The point is that you really don’t know whose commenting online and interacting with you and criticizing or advising you (unless you DO know).
Furthermore, unkind or grating comments contain more pain per pop simply because they are aimed at you before an unseen audience of hundreds or thousands (or more).
You can easily find yourself in embarrassing and frustrating situations where, despite your noblest intentions, you respond with too much heat to an infuriating comment.
The Global Open House
Picture holding a continuous open-house invitation announced to the entire world.
A lot of people show up...mostly to just watch whatever’s going on & what you have to offer.
But everyone shows up with a paper bag over their head, so you can’t really see everyone & aren't even sure exactly how many people arrived.
You intersperse the gathering with short speeches here and there.
Yet out of the whole crowd, only 2 or 3 people ever respond, usually positively (which you really appreciate).
A few times, a couple of attendees step out to politely correct a mistake in your speech, which you also appreciate and which you handle well by admitting your mistake and correcting it.
But most of the time, there’s no response at all.
Yet occasionally after giving a talk (in which you invested tremendous time, energy, research, plus speaking from your heart), someone suddenly strides out the crowd and loudly disagrees with you.
You have no idea who is this person inside the paper bag, what his background or knowledge consists of—and even worse, he also utilizes manipulative debate techniques.
You’re not sure exactly how to respond because you’re not sure where he's coming from, what he already knows, whether the fault lies in your presentation or in his understanding...plus what everyone else would consider mean or intelligent or convincing or pathetic.
You also want to behave with good middot because Hashem is watching too.
So you give it your best shot, but because your detractor is either manipulative or innocently-yet-extremely-self-absorbed, nothing gets through.
Another person remarks passionately on your speech, but you aren’t sure exactly what she meant because her speech is muffled by the paper bag over her head, but she seems sincere & you appreciate her intention.
Then a car stops near the curb of your lawn and another person hops out, shouting, “Hey, your last speech came to my Instagram account from someone who attended this open-house. And I just want to tell you that you really need to educate yourself!”
You understandably find this even more disorienting and again, struggle to respond in a way that is convincing, articulate (to everyone, including the people who aren’t listening carefully), and mature.
Furthermore, she harps on a relatively minor point in your speech, overshadowing the main and most inspiring points.
Then she twists around what you said into something you didn’t mean.
(In other words, her criticism isn't even valid.)
Later, you discover that all the people who were initially inspired by your last speech ended up with a negative and erroneous impression of your words—all because of that impulsive self-important heckler.
Would the above ever happen in real life?
The self-righteous, opinionated people who just jump in with no introduction would be considered really weird and inappropriate in real life...yet this is exactly what happens on blogs.
Think of the unpleasantries you got into via email or social media or in a forum or comment section—unpleasantries you never would have in real life (including not via snail mail either).
Do we want those interactions on our Heavenly cheshbon?
Pre-Approved Comments Come with Issues of Their Own
Deciding whether to approve a comment can also be fraught with doubts. Maybe most of the comment is great, but one sentence contains lashon hara.
And what if the commenter inadvertently offers misleading or harmful information—do you just let it go or do you risk offending or putting down the person in a very public forum?
If the comment is very long (i.e., its writer put a lot of time & effort in it) or comes from a sensitive and pained heart, but it violates your comment policy or halacha (or both)—do you publish it?
Once someone replied to a strident comment with some very good insights—along with labeling the initial commenter as "self-righteous" and accusing the person of causing a lot unnecessary emotional pain.
The thing is, I AGREED with the second commenter. The first commenter indeed stated his/her opinion with self-righteous insensitivity.
So my sympathies lay with the second commenter.
But after a lot of deliberation, I decided not to publish that second comment because I was pretty sure the offensive commenter would not only respond with a condescending lack of remorse, but heap on even more offense (with the intent of being "helpful," of course).
I didn't want my blog to turn into that kind of thing, so I refrained from publishing the responding comment (and feeling bad because I really liked & agreed with that commenter).
Furthermore, struggling to understand exactly what the commenter means and then respond appropriately is also often fraught with difficulty.
Add into the mix people who comment in a language in which they aren't so comfortable and you’ve got a recipe for confusion and frustration.
Misunderstandings happen all the time online. They don’t have to turn into flame wars if both sides judge each other favorably, but they are frustrating nonetheless.
And, as described above, reading and responding to comments can take a surprisingly huge chunk of time.
(And it took me a year to get around to finally putting that idea into action.)
Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who left comments that:
- added great insights & important information to the topic
- offered vital corrections
- asked pertinent & intriguing questions
- left kind words & encouragement