Prove John Hobbins Wrong: Criticize Patheos!

I shared a link in my last post, but I think this deserves a post of its own. John Hobbins has shared why he can’t recommend Patheos. I can understand some of his points, while others I think are off target.

But one in particular seems way off base, the idea that by joining Patheos, we are putting ourselves in a position where we could not criticize Patheos. I’m new here, but my impression so far is that this is a place to encourage conversations, including disagreements across viewpoints. Patheos has been open to suggestions and changes, even in the little time I’ve been connected with the site.

And so here’s yet another invitation from me to tell me all the things you dislike about the site and about the blog in its new regeneration. Please, share your thoughts honestly, and perhaps John Hobbins will be persuaded that he doesn’t need to give up on this blog and others that have moved here.

In hommage to Doctor Who and the metaphor of the same individual time lord or blog in different regenerations, let me share a Doctor Who short from a few years ago which somehow I missed until tonight. It is called Timecrash, and features David Tennant and Peter Davison. Fans are sure to enjoy it.

YouTube Preview Image

Let the criticism begin!

  • Paul D.

    Patheos turned me into a newt!

  • Paul D.

    Patheos turned me into a newt!

  • Henry

    Man, thanks to Patheos, I have no more free time!  Since Exploring our Matrix joined the network, I’ve found no less that FIVE new blogs that I read daily! AHHH!!!! So many great reads, all in one place!  It’s awful!

  • Henry

    Man, thanks to Patheos, I have no more free time!  Since Exploring our Matrix joined the network, I’ve found no less that FIVE new blogs that I read daily! AHHH!!!! So many great reads, all in one place!  It’s awful!

  • John Hobbins

    James,

    I am looking forward to hearing critique of the Patheos project from those recruited by the organization. 
     I don’t see any evidence yet that you or other bloggers I used to follow before recruitment for the Patheos project are willing to discuss the Patheos project, its proof of concept and execution.That’s the first thing I am asking for. I’m confident that if you discuss the project, you will make a number of telling criticisms and note positives as well, because that is your standard modus operandi.

  • John Hobbins

    James,

    I am looking forward to hearing critique of the Patheos project from those recruited by the organization. 

    I don’t see any evidence yet that you or other bloggers I used to follow before recruitment for the Patheos project are willing to discuss the Patheos project, its proof of concept and execution.

    That’s the first thing I am asking for. I’m confident that if you discuss the project, you will make a number of telling criticisms and note positives as well, because that is your standard modus operandi.

  • tspringer

    Thanks James for the Doctor and the Doctor!  While Tom Baker was my wife’s and I Doctor, Peter Davison was my eldest son’s Doctor, and David Tennant was my daughter and youngest son’s Doctor.  Thanks to local public broadcasting and BBC America for over a 30 year viewing pleasure.  Here is to all vegetable wearers everywhere!

  • tspringer

    Thanks James for the Doctor and the Doctor!  While Tom Baker was my wife’s and I Doctor, Peter Davison was my eldest son’s Doctor, and David Tennant was my daughter and youngest son’s Doctor.  Thanks to local public broadcasting and BBC America for over a 30 year viewing pleasure.  Here is to all vegetable wearers everywhere!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @John, I’ll be honest that I don’t see my move here as an adoption by me of some abstract Patheos concept. The site aims at providing perspectives on religion, and I was invited to be one of them. I honestly think that Patheos will be whatever everyone who is involved and contributes to it makes it. And I certainly don’t see my blog being hosted here as indicating my agreement with what anyone else who blogs here has to say.

    I hope I have not been churning stuff out because I have to. I have been privileged to work at an institution which did not set the bar for tenure at a level that necessitated speed and quantity regardless of quality. I know that if I blog simply for the sake of blogging, I will lose readers. And so if I don’t have something to say, I plan on saying nothing.

    If one thinks of other sites for religion information that people turn to, whether The Huffington Post, CNN’s blogs, or any others, they a simply platforms which give experts and other interested parties a place to express themselves, and in return become or continue to be a place people turn to in order to hear such voices.

    The recent Lead Plates fiasco provides a useful illustration of why blogging in this way is useful. When one is connected with a recognized site, it offers a connection for journalists and the media. We discovered in the case of the lead plates story that not only did the media not find scholars’ blogs, but they often rejected them as sources of reliable information about religion and related subjects! I think that if even one of the scholars in question had had a blog that was associated with either a media outlet or a major site, we might have been able to interact with the media more effectively.

    As I said earlier, I am still in the early days of my Patheos experience. And Patheos is itself a project still in development, as indicated by the fact that it is still inviting new bloggers and participants. I am willing to give them a chance and see what Patheos becomes, with me as a part of it. The alternatives, to refuse to be a part of the process and then either complain about what they become without me and others like me involved, or complain about the fact that it turned out well and I was not and no longer have the chance to be involved, don’t seem to me in any way preferable options.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @John, I’ll be honest that I don’t see my move here as an adoption by me of some abstract Patheos concept. The site aims at providing perspectives on religion, and I was invited to be one of them. I honestly think that Patheos will be whatever everyone who is involved and contributes to it makes it. And I certainly don’t see my blog being hosted here as indicating my agreement with what anyone else who blogs here has to say.

    I hope I have not been churning stuff out because I have to. I have been privileged to work at an institution which did not set the bar for tenure at a level that necessitated speed and quantity regardless of quality. I know that if I blog simply for the sake of blogging, I will lose readers. And so if I don’t have something to say, I plan on saying nothing.

    If one thinks of other sites for religion information that people turn to, whether The Huffington Post, CNN’s blogs, or any others, they a simply platforms which give experts and other interested parties a place to express themselves, and in return become or continue to be a place people turn to in order to hear such voices.

    The recent Lead Plates fiasco provides a useful illustration of why blogging in this way is useful. When one is connected with a recognized site, it offers a connection for journalists and the media. We discovered in the case of the lead plates story that not only did the media not find scholars’ blogs, but they often rejected them as sources of reliable information about religion and related subjects! I think that if even one of the scholars in question had had a blog that was associated with either a media outlet or a major site, we might have been able to interact with the media more effectively.

    As I said earlier, I am still in the early days of my Patheos experience. And Patheos is itself a project still in development, as indicated by the fact that it is still inviting new bloggers and participants. I am willing to give them a chance and see what Patheos becomes, with me as a part of it. The alternatives, to refuse to be a part of the process and then either complain about what they become without me and others like me involved, or complain about the fact that it turned out well and I was not and no longer have the chance to be involved, don’t seem to me in any way preferable options.

  • John Hobbins

    Okay, James. 

    The takeaway as I see it is that you are not committed to the details of the Patheos project, its proof of concept, profile for marketing purposes, etc., but to Patheos as “simply [a] platform[ ] which give[s] experts and other interested parties a place to express themselves, and in return become or continue to be a place people turn to in order to hear such voices.” 

    For the sake of my readers, I will copy your reply over to the comment thread on my site and respond further there.

  • John Hobbins

    Okay, James. 

    The takeaway as I see it is that you are not committed to the details of the Patheos project, its proof of concept, profile for marketing purposes, etc., but to Patheos as “simply [a] platform[ ] which give[s] experts and other interested parties a place to express themselves, and in return become or continue to be a place people turn to in order to hear such voices.” 

    For the sake of my readers, I will copy your reply over to the comment thread on my site and respond further there.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Thanks John. Perhaps I should cross post my comment, and then you can cross-post your response.

    When bloggers like Ben Witherington and Scot McKnight were at Beliefnet, I never understood that to be an an authorization by one of the other. Perhaps I am too naive. I view it as more a matter of one-stop shopping. But presumably the bank or other institution that sets up shot inside or alongside a Wal*Mart or other such superstore ought to consider whether it agrees with the concept and ethos of that giant.

    Here’s another reason why I think sites like this are useful: The Internet is such a scattered place and increasingly one where one either has individual viewpoints or groups of likeminded people interacting in isolation from one another. And so I like any site that brings together people of different views.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Thanks John. Perhaps I should cross post my comment, and then you can cross-post your response.

    When bloggers like Ben Witherington and Scot McKnight were at Beliefnet, I never understood that to be an an authorization by one of the other. Perhaps I am too naive. I view it as more a matter of one-stop shopping. But presumably the bank or other institution that sets up shot inside or alongside a Wal*Mart or other such superstore ought to consider whether it agrees with the concept and ethos of that giant.

    Here’s another reason why I think sites like this are useful: The Internet is such a scattered place and increasingly one where one either has individual viewpoints or groups of likeminded people interacting in isolation from one another. And so I like any site that brings together people of different views.

  • John Hobbins

    James,

    I want to reiterate, as I did on my blog, the value I see in your blogging. The big box you have chosen leaves me cold to be polite; hostile if I’m honest; your analogy with WalMart is to the point.

    It is true that blogging is a scatter shot enterprise – I’m not sure it is different in the world of academe. That’s why your roundups and your blogroll are important contributions.

    One clarification: unless you are on the editorial board of Patheos, you cannot be taken to task for the choices made and the choices in progress, in terms of the suite of contributors in place and the extent to which they permit Patheos to follow a truth-in-advertising policy. 

    But can you offer a critique of decisions made, of the execution to date of the Patheos project? If I were in your lady Gaga shoes, I wouldn’t without first talking things over with corporate headquarters. 

    Patheos, if it hires a decent consultant to evaluate the execution of its proof of concept, would end up offering the kind of critique I have already offered.  I offered it for free. I don’t expect to be thanked; that isn’t how the world works. Did I say I enjoy being an independent blogger?

  • John Hobbins

    James,

    I want to reiterate, as I did on my blog, the value I see in your blogging. The big box you have chosen leaves me cold to be polite; hostile if I’m honest; your analogy with WalMart is to the point.

    It is true that blogging is a scatter shot enterprise – I’m not sure it is different in the world of academe. That’s why your roundups and your blogroll are important contributions.

    One clarification: unless you are on the editorial board of Patheos, you cannot be taken to task for the choices made and the choices in progress, in terms of the suite of contributors in place and the extent to which they permit Patheos to follow a truth-in-advertising policy. 

    But can you offer a critique of decisions made, of the execution to date of the Patheos project? If I were in your lady Gaga shoes, I wouldn’t without first talking things over with corporate headquarters. 

    Patheos, if it hires a decent consultant to evaluate the execution of its proof of concept, would end up offering the kind of critique I have already offered.  I offered it for free. I don’t expect to be thanked; that isn’t how the world works. Did I say I enjoy being an independent blogger?

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/ Peter Kirk

    Patheos is great! All bibliobloggers should join it! Especially those in the top 17! That way you all join James in biblioblog anonymity and I get the #1 spot!

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/ Peter Kirk

    Patheos is great! All bibliobloggers should join it! Especially those in the top 17! That way you all join James in biblioblog anonymity and I get the #1 spot!

  • John Hobbins

    Is it true that James is no longer ranked because he blogs for Patheos? 

    The ranking thing is a hoax anyway. It would be easy to come up with ranking criteria that mean something, such as monthly stats of (1) non-spam comments generated; (2) links to other members of the biblioblogging community; and (3) links to online electronic resources of a scholarly nature. 

    But who has the time to compile these stats?

    • http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/ Peter Kirk

      John, don’t take me too seriously. My writing about the Top 50 is a good way, I hope, to attract people to my blog, and my amazon.co.uk store (amazon.com store to follow soon). But James has written that because of the move to Patheos he will no longer be in that list. I hope it’s not true as he deserves to be high up on it.

  • John Hobbins

    Is it true that James is no longer ranked because he blogs for Patheos? 

    The ranking thing is a hoax anyway. It would be easy to come up with ranking criteria that mean something, such as monthly stats of (1) non-spam comments generated; (2) links to other members of the biblioblogging community; and (3) links to online electronic resources of a scholarly nature. 

    But who has the time to compile these stats?

    • http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/ Peter Kirk

      John, don’t take me too seriously. My writing about the Top 50 is a good way, I hope, to attract people to my blog, and my amazon.co.uk store (amazon.com store to follow soon). But James has written that because of the move to Patheos he will no longer be in that list. I hope it’s not true as he deserves to be high up on it.

  • Yme Woensdregt

    I am largely neutral about the move to Patheos … but one thing I have discovered which I don’t like is that I have to hover my mouse over the text to see the link. It’s not as obvious as it was in your previous blog. That’s a small thing … but it does mean that I can’t just sit back and read, since I have to use the mouse to discern whether there is a link I actually might want to follow

  • Yme Woensdregt

    I am largely neutral about the move to Patheos … but one thing I have discovered which I don’t like is that I have to hover my mouse over the text to see the link. It’s not as obvious as it was in your previous blog. That’s a small thing … but it does mean that I can’t just sit back and read, since I have to use the mouse to discern whether there is a link I actually might want to follow

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @John and Peter, it is true that I have sacrificed the glory of the biblioblog Top 50 rankings to move here.

    @Yme, the lack of clear visibility of links is indeed an issue I have been meaning to look into addressing. It bothers me too.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @John and Peter, it is true that I have sacrificed the glory of the biblioblog Top 50 rankings to move here.

    @Yme, the lack of clear visibility of links is indeed an issue I have been meaning to look into addressing. It bothers me too.

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    Hey, I work here, and I’ll criticize Patheos.  (1) @google-fb154ffb56d40b86d08bcc5a209f58e8:disqus is correct that some areas of the site are relatively inactive and limited in their representation of the traditions for which they’re named.  The more dynamic parts of the site right now are those portals that have managing editors.  The Buddhist Portal, for instance, does not presently have a managing editor; it just has a couple bloggers who blog for the fun of it, and they represent more of an American spin on Buddhism, to be sure.  (2) He’s also right that some areas of the Library are in dire need of work.  The Library was and is a vast undertaking.  While it’s written and peer-reviewed by academics and experts, and we do cite the authors, there is not presently enough in the way of citations and links.  We’re working on that.  Building a library of this size and complexity is costly in every sense, and we move forward with one part of the library, and then another.  (Your help is welcome!)  We’re also working to integrate better the static portions of the site (like the library) with the dynamic portions (the portals.)  

    The criticism of the absence of copy-editing is true enough, but limited.  He cites an entry from the Pagan blog, Pantheon.  We don’t copy-edit our bloggers.  That would take far too much time, and the bloggers don’t want to be copy-edited anyway.  We copy-edit the library entries and the articles and columns, but not the blogs.  No site like ours, to my knowledge, copy edits the blogs.  

    The concern about becoming a de facto shill for Patheos is understandable, I think, but I see it differently.  Any blogger can write practically anything at Patheos, as long as it’s not obscene or violent.  (It’s slightly different if you’re an employee of Patheos, where there can be legal and representational issues.)  We’re happy to hear criticism from our bloggers, and when the criticism is on-point then we’re happy to respond to and accommodate it.  Whether a blogger is self-promotional doesn’t really depend on us; some of our bloggers are, some are not, just like bloggers who are not at Patheos.  I understand John’s referring to the implicit pressures that come with compensation, but most bloggers above a certain traffic threshold find compensation one way or another, whether they’re with us or not, so blogging at Patheos does not materially change the equation.  

    Two small points: (1) I don’t view Mark Roberts as a liberal; he’s a true centrist, from my (conservative) perspective, but of course that’s up for debate.  (2) There’s no presumption of religious relativism in Patheos’ concept.  We believe in the value of religious education and conversation, but we’re not a “kumbaya” kind of site.  Thus we’ve recently published pieces pretty severely critical of Mormonism, Islam and fundamentalist Christianity.  We take heat for “embracing bigotry,” but that’s the cost of a vibrant conversation.   

    With all those things said, blogging for a larger site is not for everyone.  I completely understand the desire to remain independent.  And when you build a website of well over 1,000,000 pages, you will inevitably have some — many — that could be improved.  If you have specific ideas or areas of feedback, drop me a note at Evangelical Portal – at – Patheos – dot – com.  

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    Hey, I work here, and I’ll criticize Patheos.  (1) @google-fb154ffb56d40b86d08bcc5a209f58e8:disqus is correct that some areas of the site are relatively inactive and limited in their representation of the traditions for which they’re named.  The more dynamic parts of the site right now are those portals that have managing editors.  The Buddhist Portal, for instance, does not presently have a managing editor; it just has a couple bloggers who blog for the fun of it, and they represent more of an American spin on Buddhism, to be sure.  (2) He’s also right that some areas of the Library are in dire need of work.  The Library was and is a vast undertaking.  While it’s written and peer-reviewed by academics and experts, and we do cite the authors, there is not presently enough in the way of citations and links.  We’re working on that.  Building a library of this size and complexity is costly in every sense, and we move forward with one part of the library, and then another.  (Your help is welcome!)  We’re also working to integrate better the static portions of the site (like the library) with the dynamic portions (the portals.)  

    The criticism of the absence of copy-editing is true enough, but limited.  He cites an entry from the Pagan blog, Pantheon.  We don’t copy-edit our bloggers.  That would take far too much time, and the bloggers don’t want to be copy-edited anyway.  We copy-edit the library entries and the articles and columns, but not the blogs.  No site like ours, to my knowledge, copy edits the blogs.  

    The concern about becoming a de facto shill for Patheos is understandable, I think, but I see it differently.  Any blogger can write practically anything at Patheos, as long as it’s not obscene or violent.  (It’s slightly different if you’re an employee of Patheos, where there can be legal and representational issues.)  We’re happy to hear criticism from our bloggers, and when the criticism is on-point then we’re happy to respond to and accommodate it.  Whether a blogger is self-promotional doesn’t really depend on us; some of our bloggers are, some are not, just like bloggers who are not at Patheos.  I understand John’s referring to the implicit pressures that come with compensation, but most bloggers above a certain traffic threshold find compensation one way or another, whether they’re with us or not, so blogging at Patheos does not materially change the equation.  

    Two small points: (1) I don’t view Mark Roberts as a liberal; he’s a true centrist, from my (conservative) perspective, but of course that’s up for debate.  (2) There’s no presumption of religious relativism in Patheos’ concept.  We believe in the value of religious education and conversation, but we’re not a “kumbaya” kind of site.  Thus we’ve recently published pieces pretty severely critical of Mormonism, Islam and fundamentalist Christianity.  We take heat for “embracing bigotry,” but that’s the cost of a vibrant conversation.   

    With all those things said, blogging for a larger site is not for everyone.  I completely understand the desire to remain independent.  And when you build a website of well over 1,000,000 pages, you will inevitably have some — many — that could be improved.  If you have specific ideas or areas of feedback, drop me a note at Evangelical Portal – at – Patheos – dot – com.  

    • John Hobbins

      Timothy, 

      Thank you for a helpful and constructive reply. 

      I do have a number of specific ideas. I passed some of them on to Daniel Welch. 

      Here are two more. 

      (1) Run bloggers’ posts through a modified spell check. You will have to get permission from them to do so, but they will grant it, so long as you limit yourself to correcting things like Kirkegaard which should have read Kierkegaard, and correcting it’s when “its” is meant. I don’t know exactly how this works at quality outlets like NYT, but something analogous goes on. I admit it may sound expensive, but I am guessing the work could be outsourced to India. 

      (2) The list you gave of severely critical pieces confirms  a larger impression I have: that Patheos is the expression of an anti-traditional bias or, at the very least, that Patheos favors non-traditional positions. I admit however that my initial impression improved with the rebranding of the “Mainline Protestant” portal as the “progressive Christianity” portal. The rebranding is accurate, and I feel a bit better, since I am an *evangelical* mainline Protestant. My suggestion is that you commission the best most persuasive authors on both or multiple sides of hot-button issues to articulate within a defined format their point of view (5000 words for example, plus an appendix with an annotated suggestions for further reading and a list of internal and external links). I teach a course at a state university entitled “The Bible and Current Events,” with sessions like “The Bible and Abortion,” “The Bible and Homosexuality,” “The Bible and Civil Religion.” I am always looking for excellent resources. 


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