How feedback works around here.

by K.W. Leslie, 08 January 2024

As you might’ve noticed, TXAB (short for “The Christ Almighty Blog,” y’know) doesn’t have a comment section. Used to, but I got a lot of trolls and grew tired of moderating it. If you’ve ever bothered to read the comments on YouTube videos, and I don’t recommend it, you’ll notice a lot of them are stupid and awful, particularly under videos which express unpopular opinions. My opinions are just as unpopular, apparently. So away they go.

This is far from the first site to do this. In the early days of the World Wide Web, lots of news sites and blogs permitted comments. The hope was people would moderate themselves, be civil, and not need someone to police them. The reality was people did no such thing, especially since the internet permits you to be anonymous. (Well, anonymous to everyone but hackers, who are scary good at finding out who you are with very little effort.) And even with websites which require you to use your true name, like Facebook, people are just vile. So websites started moderating the comments… until it became more trouble than it’s worth.

On my blogs I moderated the comments myself. It took way more time than I wanted, and I was deleting and banning most of the comments and commenters. No, not because I disagreed with them; it was for godless and fruitless behavior. That was my only real rule for moderation: Behave yourself! When they couldn’t do that, down came the banhammer.

A decade ago, right about the time I started TXAB, I switched to Disqus for my comments. They claimed they’d moderate people for me. Largely they did! So I have no trouble recommending Disqus to other bloggers. But Disqus really just moderates for harassing or profane behavior, and my standards are a bit higher.

And of course those I banned, complained. Their usual argument was that this (the United States, anyway; TXAB’s readers are from everywhere) is a free country, and how dare I censor them; don’t I realize they have the First Amendment right to express themselves freely? I’m a journalist; of course I do. But they’re quite unaware the First Amendment is about government censorship, not individual nor corporate censorship. Social media companies, television networks, workplaces, churches, and parents can ban all sorts of speech if they so choose. And if you don’t like it, you can leave. But government can’t ban speech—especially when we’re speaking out against government abuse and corruption! Christian nationalists regularly don’t seem to understand this, and try to get government to censor smut or other pagan activity on the grounds that all our founding fathers were somehow devout Evangelicals who would never interpret the First Amendment like the courts do. Clearly they’ve never read Benjamin Franklin’s naughtier writings. But I digress.

Anywho, no more comments means no more bans. No more rude statements for me to delete; no more hurt feelings because I dared to delete what other people had toiled over; no more trolls. No more positive comments either, but I wasn’t receiving all that many of them anyway.

Well, I do receive ’em through email. Sometimes. And like I said, there’s still email.

Writing too long.

Another frequent problem back when I had comments, is sometimes they’d get really long. Really really long. People’d write pages. In some cases they wrote more than I did. Learn to summarize, people!

Clearly some people need their own blogs. In some cases they have their own blogs, but they don’t have the readership they covet, and presume I have a bigger audience, or hope their views or the quality of their writing will get other people to visit their sites. They imagine they’re more likely to be read when they blog on this blog. Didn’t work; I deleted their big-ass comments.

Other people wanted to comment on multiple things I’ve posted. Sometimes on really old articles; stuff I wrote years before, but they only just got round to reading them now. Certain overeager commenters wished to post on dozens of old posts at once—on everything they read, whether it’s “Good article!” or a 10-page screed on why my expressed views make me heretic. I used to open my mailbox some mornings and find somebody who’d gone off his meds had posted 60 non-sequitur comments on old posts. Or some spam ’bot had advertised penis pills all over the site, or some angry Oneness Pentecostal had attacked every reference to the trinity he could find. Thankfully Disqus enabled me to only gave posts a six-month window for comments, so that is what I did. Didn’t really work the way I wished, ’cause the overeager commenters would simply comment on my most recent article, and refer to 20 different other articles. Deleted them too.

Here’s some advice in general to everyone: Learn to summarize! Omit unnecessary words, as William Strunk put it. Longer doesn’t always mean better, as people keep trying to inform filmmaker Judd Apatow. Longer doesn’t mean you’ve done a better job proving your point, especially when I’m fairly sure your point was rubbish to begin with.

Second, avoid tangents. You notice I sometimes go off on them—but I always stop ’em. Undisciplined ranting is the fastest way to lose your readers’ support: You might be right, but if you’re annoying, you lose anyway. 1Co 13.1

Third, if something on the internet is older than six months, you’re too late. Window’s closed. Sorry. Now be adult about it and move along.

Fourth, if you wanna post a non-sequitur comment which has nothing to do with a social media post, an article, a video, or whatever: Nope. “Products” can also include your blog. Don’t spam people.

This is all just basic internet etiquette. It’s all nicely summarized with “Don’t be a dick!” Which Christians shouldn’t be anyway, right?

Questions and requests.

Sometimes people email me requests. They want me to write about a particular topic. Usually that’s fine—provided the topic is about Christianity. I also get requests to write about someone’s writing contest, or website, or a useful church resource, or various hippie relaxation techniques. Coffee is my relaxation technique, but you don’t see me writing about that either! Stick to Christianity. Just throw me an email: “Could you write about [something Christ-related]?” and I may get to it eventually. Or I may not wanna. You never know.

More often people email me with questions. They want to understand a certain movement, or aren’t sure what their pastor is teaching is Christian, or have personal issues and want advice and Slate’s advice columns are too pagan. I get that, but I should warn you I’m not a psychologist, licensed counselor, nor therapist. I know a few, and can point you towards them… and for that matter your church oughta have those resources available too. I’ve studied classroom-related child psychology, but that’s a whole other ball of wax. My expertise is theology, biblical history, biblical languages… and western and American history, civics, economics, mass media, and other social sciences. Not that I ever get civics questions!

Here’s where I warn you: I am actually a mandated reporter. That means there’s no confessor-confessee confidentiality, no doctor-patient nor attorney-client privilege. If I find criminal activity going on, I’m getting the police or FBI involved. People’s safety takes priority.

Likewise if you send me a question, sometimes I turn the questions and my answers into TXAB articles. Not always. And my intention is to not at all embarrass anyone—even if I think you deserve it—so I’ll keep you anonymous. But I do reserve the right to talk about it. Especially when I think it’ll help others.

If questions have a short answer, as a lot of them do, I’ll just have to post a Mailbox article sometime and throw ’em all in there. But y’might notice I don’t do short answers very often.

Like the fine print on most websites, I reserve the right to change my policies whenever they’re no longer working. But so far, sounds good.

Email any questions or comments right here.