Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Things I Hate About Blogging #1 and #2

#1. When I write for publication in a book, journal, etc., I go over it again and again, I show it to others for their feedback first, I chew over it for a long time, tweak it and tweak it, etc. When I write on a blog, it's not possible to write with that kind of care. That's a problem with blogging in general.

#2. I open myself on my blog for a frank discussion of my view on a variety of sensitive issues, and I do it under my own name. This is even though I am a target of attack for many people, of all sorts (which in one case led me to having to make a police report). But many of the people who comment and argue with me do not do so under their own name. So they get to try to catch me out/ insult me under the safety of anonymity.

The combination of the above two is what really frustrates me about a comment on an earlier post, by a person who does not give his full name, and who makes a comment about my not giving my opinion on something. I've been quite busy (baruch Hashem) and have not had the time/head to formulate a proper response. Sure, I could toss something out off the top of my head. But why should I? Since I am the one putting my name to my comments, shouldn't I have the right (even the obligation) to refrain from responding until I have time to do so properly?


  1. Unless the person who is giving a comment is a famous person, there is no reason for them to put their name.

    If Dave Goldberg signs his name, he might as well be anonymous.

  2. I disagree. I think that most people are more cautious about what they write if they put their own name to it.

  3. Rabbi Slifkin,
    Point one is an understandable concern, since it's easy for someone to misunderstand or misrepresent a blogpost that hasn't been worded with absolute 100% precision, even if the ideas are clear.

    But re point 2, just forget about it! No one reasonably expects you to respond to every anonymous comment posted, and certainly no one expects you to respond to ad hominem attacks. Anyone who faults you for not doing so is already so opposed to you and your ideas that there's really no point. Why not just use your time and God-given talents to focus on research and writing, and just forget about the endless petty nitpicks and insults hurled by the trolls.


  4. Hillel, thanks. The question is, should I be doing this blog at all, or devoting myself more to my research and writing. I am having severe doubts.

  5. "The question is, should I be doing this blog at all, or devoting myself more to my research and writing."

    What was your goal in originally starting the blog? If it was a specific one it may have been reached; if it's to react to current events related to Rational Judaism as they happen, then that's ongoing.

    Either way, do what's best for you :)

  6. Rabbi Slifkin,
    I certainly hope you continue your blog(s) - I think they are a useful tool and have certainly kept me updated about thoughts and events I would have been otherwise aware of. (Of course, as such - and not to raise another old debate - I consider myself biased in the matter, so take that with a grain of salt.)

    However, while I think the blog is great, it's the comment section you might want to be more wary of. If someone has a legitimate question or insight, that's one thing, but if someone is just venting ignorance or attacking you personally, why bother answering? No one will reasonably fault you for not responding, and if you write back, you just get into arguments with people who are not looking to learn, just to fight in the hopes of a 'gotcha!' moment. What's the point?


  7. I agree with the thoughtful comments of Hillel and Shadesof.

    The value of the blog is that it gives you an opportunity to publish your thoughts at your own pace - not the plodding pace of the publishing world, and also not whatever unreasonable pace is demanded by whoever happens to be your latest commenter. The same goes for subject matter.

    One possibility you may consider would be to make it your general practice not to participate in the comments, but instead to use actual blog posts to respond to ideas brought up in the comments about which you have something to say. That way, if you haven't responded to something in the comments, it doesn't necessarily indicate that you agree or that you have nothing to say about it. It just means that it's not a subject you've chosen to cover on your blog yet.

  8. "I disagree. I think that most people are more cautious about what they write if they put their own name to it."

    As they should be!

    Identity theft is a real problem, and the more you post your name with content, you run the risk of revealing details about yourself that others can use to gain access to your financial information. Even something as innocent as your sister's name, or someone's birthday, or the towns/schools you grew up in.

  9. Have you ever heard the phrase "freedom of the press is only guaranteed to those who own one"? The good thing about the internet is that everyone now owns a printing press. The bad thing about the internet is that everyone now owns a printing press.

    There are a lot of people on the internet, which means lots of every personality type too. If you get attacked on the 'net, try not to get too worked up over it. Remember the context - a blog is still just a blog.

    XKCD says is better (or at least more graphically) than I can:

  10. Shadesof has a good point, why you have this blog in the first place needs to be evaluated, without considering the minor issues of insults etc.

    IF you then decide its worthwhile then you can tweak the blog to suit what you want, or are capable of handling. If neccesary disable comments all together and if people wish they can email you on a private basis. Or as Isaac said, you can make it protocol to not directly answer comments and you determine entirely where the blog goes and what recieves an indirect answer.

    On a more personal note. On occasion I'v 'debated' with anti-zionists/semites numerous times on the internet, with a pseudonym, and all their insults weren't even hurled at me directly and its still aggravating and uncomfortable, so too a very limited extent i understand. That being said, I'v certainly gained alot from your blog, and i really hope you continue!

  11. Whether or not you put your name to your comments, neither you nor anyone else are 'required' to respond to anything. Write or don't whatever you want.

  12. If you're looking for intelligent, well-thought out pieces of literature, a blog is the last place to look. I mean, there are some out there but they're far and few between and they generally offer a new post every few weeks, not days. Blogs are for spur of the moment ideas, annoyances, etc. and should be appreciated as such.
    As for anonymous names, I like to think of it in a different light. A person should use a consistent name. After all, on line we all take on identities that are different from our real life one. A chasid with doubts can express them under a pseudonym, a skeptic who is starting to think can adopt a false name to interact with others. Oftentimes we are not who we are in real life.
    As for hostile attacks, just delete 'em. No one says you have to answer or put up with every Tom, Dick and Hershel.

  13. Rabbi, I hope that you continue this blog. I enjoy reading your ideas very much. I think you offer very unique ideas.

    In truth, a lot of your arguments on this blog in the comment sections have been with people that are not willing to listen. In that case what is the point. Usually it is very easy to tell who is not going to listen.

    If these ridiculous comments really bother you, just delete them.

    I for one hope you stay online and keep up the good work.

  14. Rabbi Slifkin,
    I enjoy your posts and I do consider them pretty informative, but you seem to be getting pretty personal about the mispelling of some of your posts. Keep in mind that English is a second language to many of us, I speak five languages all in all. I think instead of making fun of the way some of the blogers spell you should focus more on the subject at hand. It does not look inteligent. Just my opinion
    Feliz Hanukah
    Marcos Sachs

  15. I sympathize with you R'Slifkin. The anonymity of the web predisposes people to all sorts of course behavior. I appreciate your posts, (including those about R'Tropper), in spite of the needlessly heavy handed criticisms they sometimes provoke.

    I for one prefer that you keep blogging, although I think your book writing is clearly the more important between the two. You might have to tighten up your moderating, if that is feasible, to weed out ad hominem attacks, although that in itself may involve needless trouble.

    Between the fanatics who want to frame everything in terms of "Daas Torah says this, and Daas Torah says that" and the atheistic, formerly observant, members of the Jewish community seeking to malign all things Jewish, it's refreshing to have a third voice on the scene. Regardless of what you decide, hold onto your integrity and your emunah.

  16. Garnel can tell you a thing or two about trolls!

  17. Perhaps the best solution is to moderate your blog and simply remove those comments that are not appropriate to your mission and philosophy.

    Eventually you'll be left with a discussion group that includes those who are truly interested in a constructive exchange of ideas.

  18. There are several advantages to blogging; especialy in conjunction with subsiquent official publications.

    Blogging helps one formulate his/her thoughts. More importantly, it offers the opportunity for feedback from readers. Although it is par for the course that anonymous bloggers will hurl ad hominems, the age-old rule of blogging is that the substance and quality of the comments if reflective of the blog master’s. If the readers sense that the author is not objective and impartial they will respond in kind. On this blog, sure there are several rotten apples, there always will be some of those, but most of the comments are intelligent are coherent.

    Blogging prior to publication also gives you the advantage of feedback prior to the completion of the treatise. This will help you recalibrate your arguments and convey them in a clearer manner.

    I have more to add, but I am pressed for time.

  19. I hope you continue writing the blog. I gain from your insights and analysis of those who are opposing you. The comments don't matter to me much.

  20. Could you just not allow ananomous comments? I know on my own blog I was able to say that unless someone left valid information they coudl not comment.


Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

The Heresy of Noah's Crystal

Following on from last week's post about the ban on "Peshuto Shel Mikra," let's discuss an example of the purported heres...