Throw Away the Trash

This message isn’t for most of you. 

This message isn’t even for some of you.

This message is for the handful of you who cannot seem to stop yourselves from being inappropriate, i.e. making pejorative comments about another commentator that are hurtful, insulting, condescending, derisive or just plain nasty.    

None of this is necessary and all of it is unpleasant.  Behind the scenes, we have to see it and we have to dispose of it.

Beyond trashing insulting comments, we then have to discuss them:  Do we try to contact the poster to get them to see their error?  Do we stop posting their comments for a certain period of time?  Do we drop them from the blog altogether?  Or, in more serious instances, do we file charges of harassment?  (One poster submitted 50 or more comments within a 24 hour period, all saying the same thing.  It’s pathetic, I know, but it happens.)

Dealing with stuff like this is the last thing we want to do or should have to do.   This is a Christian blog, folks.  

I cannot say this enough:  Criticize ideas, not the person.  You can say anything you want, about anything you want, as long as you don’t trash the people who comment here.

And if you don’t like the blog, don’t read it!  Why spend your time telling us what you think is wrong about the subjects we choose, how we divide the stories, who writes what, etc.?   If it’s not your cup of tea, we get it.  We’re not going to please everyone.  One reader said we owed it to people to write about what this person finds interesting because Orthodox Christians have chosen to gather here.  I’m sure there are sites like that but this is isn’t one of them.  It’s a blog; more importantly, it’s my blog.  It’s not some random “space” where people gather.  Although open to input, I will choose the content.  If you want to see something different, start your own blog!            

With respect to Gail and to me, we love to hear from you if you think there is something we could do better.  We are committed to doing the best job possible.  But don’t message me about what you don’t like about Gail or message Gail about what you don’t like about me.  And if you have a problem with our marriage, neither of us cares.  Gail and I are happy with our decision.  The Church has blessed it.  It’s time to move on.       

So before you hit that send button, ask yourself: “Would I speak like this to this person if he were standing in front of me?  Do I really need to say this?  Does anyone care what I think about this person?”  If the answer is no, get rid of it.  



  1. Greatly Saddened says

    Thank you and as always, well said George.

  2. Molon Labe says


    On the new version of the website, when you launch it, will the comment moderation system remain the same? That is, I’m not arguing for a free-for-all, but I know there are systems where there’s some form of self-policing where spam/offensive content gets flagged by other readers and automatically stops being visible until an admin/mod resolves it. I think this would increase the flow of conversation, since sometimes two commenters might be discussing something amongst themselves, but still have to wait 8-10 hrs for the replies to appear. Also, at some point Gail mentioned that you’re working on preserving the old comments. I think that’s very important. One of the main reasons people come to this site is to browse comments from years past.

    Thanks and be well.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      George is going to want to answer you, too, but I thought I would respond, as well.

      First of all, thank you, Molon Labe. I love the idea of a semi-moderated, self-policing system. We used to update the comments twice daily but noticed when we amped it up, people were more engaged and commented more often. No one can update the blog in real time around the clock. If you know the name of a product that does what you described, I’ll take a serious look at it.

      What we’re thinking of doing is making a list of requirements. We’ll share them with the blog for feedback so we can add or delete items. We’ll then prioritize the requests and put together a project plan. We may put together a Steering Committee of people who represent various age groups. We also want to include representatives from both laity and clergy. We’d like to have various levels of clergy, as well. We would open this up to the blog, too. I loved Petros’ idea of expanding to Instagram so there is a lot of good advice just asking you all.

      Soon, we’re going to be asking readers to submit their own pieces with their remarks so we can showcase the talent we have on the blog. Even if it’s just their feelings about what’s going on, I think it’s valuable. George wants to start doing interviews, too. I used to work with Kevin Allen on Ancient Faith so I have some expertise with this. .

      I have been told it hard to bring over the comments but like you, I think it’s non-negotiable. I, too, go back and look at things all the time. We will probably be reorganizing everything so it will make it easier to find what we want. As we do things, we will be talking to the blog about it ahead of time. I hope people will get involved and say, “No, we don’t need that but, yes, we would really like to see this.”

      I have only a rudimentary understanding of WordPress (self-taught). George is brilliant about a lot of things, but knows even less about the technology than I do. We’ve had a priest who has been very generous with his time to help us out in the past, but he is too busy to drop everything for us. We need someone with some real expertise.

      Curious (this is a question for all) what do you think about WordPress? Are their better platforms (for lack of a better word) for what we’re doing here? I know there are a lot of companies out there that do websites.

      Again, thank you for the input. We welcome it.

      • Molon Labe says


        Not a specialist either. I did find this software, however, after a quick search – Livefyre. One of its features is that if five users flag a piece of content as spam since its approval, the comment will automatically be trashed. Naturally, the earlier comment approval should be automated in this case (subject to some filters for obscenity, etc). I understand this opens up the possibility of more censure than George’s first amendment-informed approach would have yielded, but it would still make your job so much easier. There’s other products too – like Facebook Comments, Disqus, TheHive – though I’m not sure if they feature this functionality. 
        Take care.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Thanks for the follow up, ML. We have zero trouble with spam and we do flag IP address and the names of people we know have acted out in the past.

          Where we have trouble is with people who intermittently say things that could get them in trouble, us in trouble, or just make another person mad.

          When you insult another person, they feel the need to defend themselves and often offend the other in the process. Before long, you have multiple comments, of considerable length, from both parties directed at one another.

          I’ll give you an example that just happened: A long time poster said something about how he looks at things. Another poster said something to the effect that anyone who looks at things this way is a liar. He is not really calling the original poster a “liar,” but if I post this, that is how it is going to be perceived. The original guy is going to take offense and write a long piece about why this isn’t true. The other guy is going to respond. And now we’ve got two people calling each other out in front of thousands of people.

          Readers HATE seeing this. They don’t care what these two people think about each other. They bury us in emails asking us why we post this stuff. The only way we can avoid it is by glancing at every post before the blog sees it. We get so many comments a day it’s hard to keep up.

      • Molon Labe says

        Sorry for the two back-to-back posts. Spent a little bit of time thinking about the old comment problem… I’m guessing that you’re not looking for people to be able to post under those years-old comments, but rather for them to just be preserved for posterity and be searchable. If this is the case – then why not just make a “Internet Archive”-style scan archive? Alternatively, why not just keep old monomakhos alive in a zombie state, with a link on the new website to here? I’m sure readers would be happy to help out with a couple bucks to pay the dues involved in keeping it up.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Actually, old posts are closed to commenting after 45 days but sometimes readers want to go back longer than that to refer to something someone said. We may be talking about keeping 6 months to a year of comments. – We are also talking about preserving comments about certain subjects. An example might be the Jonah wars.

  3. George/Gail:
    At the end of the day it is your blog and you have the ultimate right to remove a comment.
    As the blog becomes more popular and more people send their comments (& assuming you welcome this development) , you will realize 24 hours is not enough for you to review/allow all in-coming comments.
    Possible solutions (,some):

    Get more staff to help you. (Easier said than done).

    Semi-automate the reviewing/approving work: Based on your past experience you know that commentator “A” has ALWAYS been approved by you, say in the course of the last 2 years, (or if you prefer, in his last 100 comments). So, you could tell the system that from now (& until further change) comments from commentator “A” will be automatically allowed/approved. This in no way stops you from removing some of the comments from the “reliable” commentator “A”. This can happen e.g. if you notice (by accident) that a comment is bad, or if a flag (suggested above) is turned ON by some reader. 
    Another way of looking at it: Imagine 5 or 10 or 50 or 100 of us have become like unpaid “part-time” staff to you with our only right to get automatic (initial, not permanent) approval for our own comments.  

    Mind you, to further facilitate this automatic approval,
    it may be very helpful to display clear/comprehensive instructions what is not allowed in the comments, e.g. language, discrimination etc, etc.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      See my comment in reply to Molon Labe. Unfortunately, it is the long time commentators who seem to get into it with one another. Past experience is not an indicator of future behavior. Once two people tangle, it’s hard to stop it after the fact. We can intervene, but they’ll carry their problem with one another over into other threads. The sad reality is that we have all been guilty of this to varying degrees.

      We can get more staff but we don’t get paid for this so it becomes a question of money. Even during slow periods, we have something like a 11,000 unique readers a day. It’s not unusual to have 50 to a 100 comments when things heat up. I agree, we do need help.