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Last week Affable Geek asked, Should Eschewmenical be seeking non-Christian entries? There was no consensus, as far as I could tell, except for a general agreement that we don't see much disagreement.

Meanwhile, it's getting difficult to recruit writers to fill the four weeks. As of now, we still don't have an author for August 27. So I'm going to ask the question behind Affable Geek's question, Do we need to do something different with the blog?

Just brainstorming, I can think of several directions we could go:

  • Keep things as they are, have patience while it builds momentum, and then years from now reminisce about the good old days when we couldn't find enough authors and we thought the blog would die and so would the site.
  • Add non-Christian writers, as Affable Geek suggested.
  • Focus less on doctrine and more on social issues, where we are more likely to disagree. The contraception topic generated a lot of discussion. (This might entail going against the majority vote, but nobody ever said the internet was a democracy.)
  • Change the format to something like a debate. Give each author a paragraph or two to summarize their views on the subject, combine them all for the first week's post, then have us respond to each other in subsequent posts. (This might be more work for each writer, or it might mean we don't all participate in every topic.)
  • Commit to leaving incendiary comments on each others' posts, to get the discussion going. (I didn't say all the options were good. It's a brainstorm.)

Any thoughts? Do we need to shake things up?

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    I just can never think of any thing to get all testy about after reading your guys' posts. I think we need to solicit the help of more easily enraged Catholics or talk about Mary. – Peter Turner Aug 14 '12 at 11:53
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    @PeterTurner: Now that both of my sisters have graduated and moved away from the Catholic university they attended I don't have any good sources for easily enraged Catholics. Perhaps talking about Mary is a more viable solution. – Caleb Aug 14 '12 at 12:30
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"I will begin to worry about my philosophy," said Mr. Street, "when Mr. Chesterton has given us his." It was perhaps an incautious suggestion to make to a person only too ready to write books upon the feeblest provocation.

I'm only too happy to continue to write blog posts on the feeblest provocation! But I certainly can't expect that other busy people would be as ready as I am. We're pretty much taking a 2 month hiatus with the "share your story". So maybe we can return with some vitriol.

In the meantime I will continue to drink vinegar and see what ill effects that has on my disposition.

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A different subject every month, with four different perspectives on that subject is a good format, but it's not the only format. Change it up a bit. You're already doing that with the two months of personal stories. Then go back to the standard format for a while, then try another experiment. (Perhaps the collaborations I suggested earlier would be an interesting format to experiment with. I'm sure you'd find interest at MiY, and probably at Islam.)

Also, even within the standard format, there are ways to ring the changes. As it stands, each blog post is an independent essay: they are different approaches to the same topic, but they are not responses to each other. If the authors worked together, shared their drafts, and deliberately responded to each other, it could be more interesting. At least, the disagreements might be more visible. This would, however, be quite tricky. Because the posts are not published simultaneously, each would also have to work as a standalone essay. They would have to respond to each others' ideas, but not to each others' words. Also, it would take a lot longer to write. I'd say this is a format to be tried occasionally, but not often.

Another format would be the formal debate, between two writers. On the first of the month would come wax eagle's introduction, on the second and third the two opening statements, and on each Monday thereafter would come the arguments and rebuttals. I suspect this would work best if the whole thing were prepared in advance before publication, because a debate abandoned half way through due to a sudden attack of real life is a messy business.

Final thought: Commission Fred Clark or Rachel Held Evans to write a post or two.

Further final thought: Quodlibet. That's a thought which needs developing by someone who knows something about Quodlibet, which I don't.

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    Great suggestions! I like the idea of using the standard format but trying other experiments from time to time. The debate format sounds like a fun change of pace for sometime. And I admire both Slacktivist and Rachel Held Evans; I think they'd both be great contributors. – Bruce Alderman Aug 14 '12 at 18:55
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    I've taken the idea of a debate and fleshed it out a bit. A traditional email debate would also work, I'd say. – Jon Ericson Aug 21 '12 at 18:40
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I like our current format a lot, but you are correct that we have had some difficulty finding authors. I think we may need to consider some format changes at least to provide an occasional break for our authors and to provide for the fact that the nature of sites like this is that the membership is somewhat transient.

We will be having a slight format change starting in September and continuing into October where we will have a 2 month series where we ask users to share some testimonials.

After October I think we have an opportunity to do a couple of potentially interesting things in November and December, taking advantage of the holiday season.

  • November: Thankfulness month. Let's get some more involvement and write about what we are thankful for.
  • December: Advent. Let's aim for a barrage of posts where we have a daily(or weekly, or some other time periodly) format that might just be a short devotional or some such (vignette?.

This gives us an opportunity to relaunch our Eschewmenical format in January. Maybe even to build up a more robust stable of authors and maybe reset our topics list.

  • Those are both good ideas. I don't know if we can get enough writers for daily posts during advent; maybe we could aim for weekly posts in Advent, then daily for the 12 days of Christmas starting on the 25th? – Bruce Alderman Aug 16 '12 at 14:58
  • @BruceAlderman that would be a legit goal. Yeah I don't think we have enough to do daily during advent, just spitballing there – wax eagle Aug 16 '12 at 15:24
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    Thinking big is good. It would be wonderful if can build to the point where next year (or some year) we could have daily posts. – Bruce Alderman Aug 16 '12 at 15:51
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Chat Debate

With TRiG's answer as a jumping-off point, there was some discussion in the Eschemenical Blog chat room about turning chat exchanges into blog posts. Here's how I think it might work:

  1. A topic is chosen to debate.
  2. A chat room is created for that topic.
  3. 2 or more debaters are invited to the chat room.
  4. After an appropriate period of time, the debate ends.
  5. The chat transcript is edited into a blog post.

Details

  1. We already have a topic list. At this point, I'm ready to go back to some of the topics we've already covered and debate them. On the other hand, we could create a new meta-question to obtain topics specifically designed for this style of debate.

  2. There are 5 pages of existing chat rooms so one or two more won't hurt. It's also possible (though I haven't checked) that some of these chats already have good debates that could be edited and blogged. (We'd want to seek permission to post those old debates, of course.) As a bonus of this format, there would be an existing chat room to direct future commenters who would like to continue the debate afterwards.

  3. Choosing debate participants might be a tricky topic. One solution might be to have an open chat room for anyone on the site. Another solution would be to set up a voting scheme. Or we could do what we do for the current blog setup, which is…complicated.

  4. Probably the best solution is to establish a time frame when the participants can get together on chat. Then have at least one hour-long session for them to interact. During this time period, it would likely be best if the conversation is private. Deletions and edits should be honored during this time. It might be helpful to include a moderator to keep things moving and on-topic.

  5. The trick to editing this sort of debate would be to turn a fairly chaotic and disjointed exchange into a polished dialog. I'd love to try my hand at this, but it would need to be on a topic I don't have an ax to grind. Whoever moderates the chat would be an ideal candidate to edit it and vice versa.

  • If we had a way to organize topics and participants, gallery chat rooms would be very effective at confining the debate to the given participants. – wax eagle Aug 21 '12 at 19:33

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