I’ve gotten quite a few emails asking why I quit Boar’s Head Tavern; this here’s my answer.
A bit of background: Boar’s Head Tavern is a group blog run by Michael Spencer, whose blog, InternetMonk.com, is one of the most popular in the Christian blogosphere. When my book “I’m OK–You’re Not” came out, Michael wrote a long and glowing review of it, which of course I very much appreciated. (“Shore is a humorist whose work is more comedic than Donald Miller, and his appeal to Christians is more direct,” he wrote. “He is preaching and teaching under the comedy, and he’s very effective as a critic and motivator. Shore turns evangelism upside down and engages in just enough hyperbole to effectively make his point.”) That’s how we became acquaintances.
About three weeks ago I asked Michael if I could be a “fellow” on Boar’s Head. He said yes, gave me a password to the site, and I started merrily posting away there.
Two weeks later, I knew it was time for me to find the exit.
What happened between me and the gang at Boar’s Head was my fault. I went in too strong. The truth is Boar’s Head had been pretty dead for at least the three or four months I checked it out before asking to join it. None of the “fellows” there ever seemed to post much, and what they did was random, and seemed mainly to do with sports and/or the relative merits of Microsoft and Apple’s operating platforms. My understanding was that the site has been pretty dormant for a long while.
The place definitely woke up when I started posting there. Within three days so many fellows were engaged in so many different exchange threads on the site you could barely keep track of them. The place just exploded. That happens. People see someone else playing in their sandbox, and suddenly they just naturally become a lot more interested in that sandbox.
On the site I posted that we needed bios for the fellows: I had no idea who was who—or anything about any of them, for that matter—because most all of them post anonymously.
Next thing you know, they’ve decided to revamp the look and function of the whole site; Michael announced that coming our way were bio pages for each fellow, replete with whatever photos or links each fellow cared to include. In the meantime fifteen or so of the guys posted their bios. Turns out they’re regular guys: a high school math teacher, a systems administrator, a chemist, a lawyer, a government intelligence analyst, a Microsoft employee, an astrophysicist (!). Quite a few seminary students. A few pastors.
But it turned out that, regular or not, those guys were also mean. I don’t know how they are in real life, but in that little enclave they inhabit, they’re just … well, mean. They sure were to me, anyway. I ended up feeling like I’d been dropped in the middle of “Lord of the Flies.” It was seriously creepy.But, as I say, I’m also aware of bringing upon myself the hostility of the BHT snark sharks by going in as large as I did. I was posting all kinds of opinions on all kinds of things. I figured that’d be a fun way to keep things lively, keep people reading, engage in as real a way as possible. I didn’t post anything mean, or snarky, or anything like that: just the same kind of stuff—and sometimes the exact same stuff—that I post here on my blog.
But I was wrong about anyone welcoming that. Turns out I was rocking all the rocking chairs in a room full of cats.
Anyway, it was a bad fit. If I wanted to really fit in at BHT, I would have laid low, kept my posts and comments neutral, followed instead of led. I would have been a more fallow fellow. That is the right way to behave when you’re new to a group, and I failed to do it. I thought that when/if BHT roused itself back to life, it would be more … well, for one, emotionally robust than it turned out to be. I thought we were there to engage in what amounted to public discourse. But that’s not even close to what BHT is about. BHT is about its members talking to themselves about whatever they want to, whenever they want, however they want. No comments or posts from outsiders are allowed, because that would defeat that purpose. And that’s totally fair, and makes real sense. Except for I believe one or two of them, those guys have no apparent experience writing for public consumption. That’s just not their thing. (They don’t even engage themselves, really. One person will post something random, and it might trigger a few follow-up comments—and then that topic will be ditched as soon as someone posts something else. Good if you’ve got ADHD; less good if you’re interested in any sort of sustained discussion.)
The bottom line is that the guys on BHT want to be left alone. While I was there—despite all the changes to the site about which he declared himself “fired up,” and despite his assertion that he wanted BHT to reclaim its place as one of the best Christian group blogs out there—Michael wrote that “it would be a mistake to think of BHT as wanting to attract readers.” Again, that’s perfectly reasonable. Just because you run or write for a group blog doesn’t mean you necessarily want people to read that blog. No argument there.