Regular readers will know that since avfl added comments threads to posts, moderation is minimal, and/but a few readers think it’s time to reconsider that approach. Says one:

I realize that you don’t want to get too heavy-handed with moderating comments (I can understand that this might partly be due to time constraints); but I wish something could be done. I used to really look forward to coming here. Now, I almost always regret it when I look at the comments. [snip] The intellectual level of the discourse has fallen somewhat.

Ah the good ole days!

And another:

I find it ironic that those who don’t like this blog are driving away those of us who do. I’m so tired of every topic becoming a name-calling, who-can-outtrash-the-other free-for-all. If you can’t stick to the topic, and add something substantive, please go away. Find another blog to misuse for your own satisfaction. You sound like preschool children. Enough! Some of us appreciate Doug’s insights and critiques.

Thanks for the kind words.

Still another reader finds more madness than method in my moderation:

It’s just difficult sometimes to gauge what’s “safe” and acceptable on your site and what’s not.

These are not new problems, either for readers or writers online, though some are more easily handled than others. The problem of what’s safe to post and not is, for me, usually (though not always) less difficult than the question of how low to let a conversation go. The comments in which posters seem deaf to  the irony of using my forums to demand my silence may be self-discrediting, but they’re also an essential plot point on the continuum of worldviews and perspectives that shape common approaches to gospel music and culture. Name-calling makes me uneasy, but then again, life ain’t all patty cakes either. Most scatological references pretty consistently put me off (comment comparing build around extended bowel movement metaphor? DELETE!), except of course, when they don’t. I trust you get the point.

The trash-talking, lowest-common-denominator, race-for-the bottom tendencies of many comments threads leads some bloggers to ban comments as a matter of principle. Andrew Sullivan:

[T]his blog tries to air debate by reading and editing the smartest reader contributions and trying to moderate them a little to provoke and advance or clarify the conversation. [snip] A little dorm room conversation in one’s later years is worth doing - and blogs, if they’re edited and curated well, can help.

In theory I’m on board with this. And of course I wish the comments here drifted more toward the thoughtful and engaging rather than slightly less in the direction of the bombastic and self-righteous. But in the context of averyfineline (and aside from the time commitment it takes to sift and sort emails a la Sullivan, who is a paid, professional blogger with real-live interns to handle mail and research), I’ve given this a lot of thought (and continue to do so regularly) and keep coming to the conclusion that in southern gospel culture, where most healthy dissent is culturally stigmatized and forced consensus often distorts issues and oversimplifies the range of viewpoints in play, freer-flowing conversation that tends toward bombast and santicomony is better than the altnerantive, even if this approach runs the risk of more being less in some cases.

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  1. NG wrote:

    Deciding which posts to allow is a difficult decision on all these types of boards.

    Before all the southern gospel boards came along, I use to post on a SGM newsgroup with no moderation by anyone. It got out of hand and became boring to me.

    Then some forums on SGM came along with lots of moderation. Averyfineline falls someone where in between the wide open newsgroup and the tightly moderated forums. I’m OK with that.

    I don’t like some posts but then some posters have noted they don’t like some of mine. I could do without the bashing of artists as I’ve found most SGM folks, even the biggest names, to be fairly accessible if you have something reasonable to discuss with them.

  2. RF wrote:

    I really don’t think you can effectively moderate a site such as this. Everyone has their opinions when it comes to most everything these day and few are too shy to express them.

    I think what gets people off track is that they do not understand the purpose, as stated by the owner, of the site. Many take issue with true music criticism (witness the Archie Watkins conversation elsewhere in this blog). The purpose as stated early was that this was “sg for the rest of us.” Yep, those of us who see faults and want the quality of the music to be better than it is. So much for that.

    So, instead of discussing the quality of the music and what is good and bad, we get people quoting scripture and pontificating on whether or not our fearless leader is a Christian or not, which is totally unacceptable to me. It’s the music that matters. I want to see the good stuff rise to the top always. I hope the personal stuff can be left on the lawn from now on, but I know I’m dreaming. I spent too many nights as cousin Rosalie argued with my Dad on what was proper for a gospel quartet to do when performing. The Bibles would come out and the argument went far into the dark night. It was horrible.

    As for the comments, I guess that’s what brings all those people who hate the site come back. I can’t imagine why else they would come here. I don’t go to places I don’t like, but I guess I’m different.

  3. quartet-man wrote:

    RF, I am a music director and lover, and yes I enjoy listening etc. This site is predominately geared towards the music. I get that. I can go along with that. I understand that rating the lack of quality of the music of the most sincere Christians in the world is okay. However, when all is said and done, your quote is not true (at least not if taken literally.) The quote I am referring to is “It’s the music that matters.” If you are talking about when buying a CD or going to a concert the quality of music is important, not if you agree with every point of theology, okay. But in the end, when all else is gone, His word is what is important and one’s standing with Him. Not how good the performance is.
    That doesn’t mean I will say a performance is great when it stinks (just because the performer is sincere.) However by the same token if I hear a great technical performance, but the person isn’t sincere although I can appreciate how well done it is, and although the words they sing may well minister to me and be real, it will be hard to see past the hypocrisy of the performer on another level.

    With that said, I can appreciate a good performance of a country singer or someone who sings a gospel song who may not be Christian, it doesn’t earn them a ticket to Heaven of course. The words they sing are still true, and if God’s word is in it it will not return void, but the person’s witness is not strong.

    So, ideally we would have both. One without the other is less than great.

  4. Stormy wrote:

    The thoughts and writings of DH brings out the mind set and emotions in people. Including me. I may not agree with or even like what a poster is saying, (it’s not personal, because I don’t know (or care) who they are. However, I am proud to be a American, where at least I know I’m free

  5. quartet-man wrote:

    #4 Stormy said “I am proud to be a American, where at least I know I’m free”

    There ought to be a song written about that. ;-)

  6. DMP wrote:

    Heavy moderation will always breed bias, no matter how careful you are…

  7. wackythinker wrote:

    DMP — “Heavy moderation” sounds like an oxymoron, to me.

    “All things in moderation, including moderation.”

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