In computer circles they have saying: “Never touch a running system.”
Now, to be fair, I sense the ambition and agony of @JaredWright and the excellent Spectrum staff. They want journalistic professionalism, they want focus on the actual issues at hand and last but not least they want broad participation, rather than “loud” discussions among a few who seem to have nothing else to do. That is a laudable intention in my view.
At the same time there seems to be a major difference in understanding of how to fulfill the mission of Spectrum between editorial staff and regular commentators. The above essay suggests that the commenting function is an option to give feedback to the author (and possibly other readers). Commentators on the other hand saw the function as an opportunity to discuss with each other in a public space, giving feedback to the author in the process, but doing far more than that.
Personally I believe, the “discussion” rather than “commenting” made Spectrum different from other boards like Atoday not to mention Advindicate. For me, this unique selling point was the big strength of Spectrum. Thus while being sympathetic to the editor’s line of reasoning, I still find it difficult to understand why this uniqueness was given up.
Last but not least, the well intended private chat room idea follows an assumption I don’t really share: people come here for a chat. If I want a chat (private or public) I go to facebook, not Spectrum.
Perhaps some of the excesses of the past need to be pardoned and rectified (mea culpa, though not maxima, I don’t think). Perhaps some of the policies need adjusting. Perhaps this innovative (?) approach needs to be tested. Perhaps things will be reversed. Progress is a tricky thing.
Well, against better judgment, I’m going to share some thoughts about this new policy. Spectrum as had a long running battle of how to handle this brave new world of the internet, when i first started commenting on spectrum, they were using Disqus, i loved having the conversation directly below the story, it was convenient and easy, and yes I’m one of the few who preferred the threaded discussions that system offered, and as many of the other commenters also know, this is largely the model most other sites use for their conversations. However I’m guessing some folk felt having the discussion on the same page as the story was inappropriate, i would argue having the story and the discussion on the same page created something special and unique. In a effort to appease the disgruntled few, spectrum moved the discussion to a separate site, this action allowed us to have our awful discussions out of view of the public, and did take away from the value of having the them together. And yes some of this awful discussions did affect me, as i was verbally assaulted on the spectrum site, and the moderators did nothing to address the problem, and in fact saw nothing wrong with the assault, as a result i for the most part have quit participating in the discussion. But… the current policy of one comment per story really does kill any discussion at all, and further more is in direct opposition to the purpose of the spectrum site, since there is no longer any discussion, In my opinion i believe if spectrum wants to continue with its current policy, why not just shut down all discussions, since you have already effectively done so, and it will simply moderation, since there will no posts to moderate at all. Considering Spectrum has gone to great lengths to hide our discussions and cost, it would be cheaper just to shut down all those servers.
From The About page on Spectrum:
Our goal is to foster community through conversation. This website is the online companion to Spectrum, a journal established to encourage Seventh-day Adventist participation in the discussion of contemporary issues from a Christian viewpoint, to look without prejudice at all sides of a subject, to evaluate the merits of diverse views, and to foster intellectual and cultural growth.
“community through conversation” How is this possible with the policy as it stands today?, I feel strongly that the Adventist church needs an independent forum for discussion that is free from interference & Censorship from the Official Church. As it stands, the current policy is far more restrictive than many church owned websites.
My thanks to all the many respondents who have taken the time to share feedback on the new commenting policy. I want to reiterate that I, as the website’s managing editor, have taken the time to read through the comments, taking note of the tenor and the substance of what people have written. During the trial period for the new commenting section, these comments will be under consideration. I will personally make it a point to share the feedback with the Spectrum / Adventist Forum Board.
The Spectrum staff will continue working to provide quality content for the Spectrum site. At this time, we’ll close comments on this article, and take stock of the many comments that have been shared.