Sunday, 9 June 2013

Going Private

Girls, I am thinking about taking Seraphic Singles out of public view, and setting up a Registration Only program, or whatever its called.

This was never what I wanted to do, especially as many readers have found me randomly or during a 2 AM "25 and never had a boyfriend" crisis. And of course we have all enjoyed the occasional "male point of view." However, I think it's time to get serious about limiting the access men have to this blog. I write a lot of personal stuff, and you write a lot of personal stuff, and bad things can happen when you allow the wrong people to read your personal stuff.

But disappearing from view would, of course, limit the number of women who will be able to profit from this blog. And it seems rather like a last resort. So I am asking you what you think.


Clara said...

Oh no, please don't! I'm constantly referring to this blog, and I've turned a few friends to it during their time of need. Is there a way of setting certain posts as private, instead?

I also don't necessarily see the harm in men being able to see posts and occasionally post, on Gentlemen's Days--it's good to see their POV, and it might give them some insight into their own treatment of women. But again, that can also be solved by having certain posts be private, as opposed to the whole blog. (Assuming that's an option.)

I also think that we should in general be pretty judicious about what kind of information we're sharing. I wouldn't share super-personal things in a combox, even one so cozy as here.

healthily sanguine said...

I agree with Clara. If we (your readers) are sharing things in the comments that you think are too personal, etc., maybe you can just delete them? I'd rather you go delete-happy on the comments than make it so that people can't find this blog via Google search when they really might use the info here to their betterment.

Evelyn said...

I agree. If things feel too personal, maybe you could alter identifying information?

Sheila said...

I'd much rather it were public. I share a lot of your posts on Facebook and my friends love them.

MaryJane said...

I second the idea of keeping the blog public but somehow some posts private? Is there a way to do that? Maybe a tech-y reader has a good suggestion.

It's true that sometimes things get too personal online (in general) and I think it would be lovely to know that there are no men listening in on certain conversations, but I'd hate to see the whole thing go unavailable to the general public.

Seraphic said...

I am very sympathetic to that, and I really don't want to shut the blog to women I don't know, but there are some things I don't tell you about:

A. the obscene comments from men that don't make it into the combox blog because I usually strictly monitor,

B. the negative online assessments of my character, including one guy's salacious suppositions, that I don't link to, &

C. remarks men make to me in social life

Of course C is not always bad. It was terribly sweet when I introduced myself to two men at a graduate seminar back home, and the one who was a priest shouted "Seraphic Singles!"

I don't know what to do. I think I will sleep on it, and wait for more readers' opinions.

JustAnotherCatholicGirl said...

Oh please keep it public! As others have mentioned, I refer female friends here, especially when they need to read some good sound advise. Not to mention all the help you've given me. I don't comment much, but I do read everyday. Even when I was away on a business trip for a month in the Philippines!

I'm so sorry that you get mean comments and have to deal with negative commentary. That can't be fun. Don't you wish you could just say, "If you don't like it, then don't read it and go away!" and that they'd listen to you..... So many people are braver on the Internet than in real life, because they can "hide behind a screen". They probably wouldn't dare say any of those things to your face.

Own personal thought: Maybe you are getting that negativity because it's being instigated by the devil? Maybe because you are doing such a marvelous job at influencing us to be happy instead of despairing that the devil has noticed and he is trying to interfere?

Christine Rebecca said...

How exactly would it work, to take it private? Would people have to apply to be able to read posts? If so, would there actually be a way to make sure that only women are approved?

I think that this might be an easier question to answer if we could get a better idea of what exactly it would entail.

MK said...

I appreciate the amount of work it must take to filter through comments, but I would ask that you please keep it public. I also refer people to posts, and this blog in general, quite often.

Praying for you!

Mustard Seed said...

I was referred to this blog by a friend, so in theory I would have come across it even if it were private. Still, I think you have probably helped hundreds (thousands?) of young women with your advice and perspective, and it seems a shame to filter the readership because some people out there are jerks.

I can totally imagine that there are all kinds of creepsters making creepy remarks though, and that would bother me to have to read and delete and deal with them. Your readers can choose to cloak themselves with pen names if they so choose... I wonder if there is any way for you to go more private somehow? would that be problematic to you? I am sympathetic to your having to take one (or more accurately, many) for the team from people who are inappropriate.

I will pray for you too!

~Katherine~ said...

I can quite understand if you're tired of dealing with all the crazies that any sizeable Catholic blog attracts, and can simultaneously understand your concerns about privacy, etc.

My two cents, however, for whatever they're worth, is that when I was single and lonely this blog was a real lifesaver, and I know I'm not the only one who can say that. I married a NCB, but I still come back to read your wonderful posts and would hate to think that other women (single and not) might miss out on them.

At the end of the day, though, it's up to you. We don't have to handle the nasty comments, we don't have to anonymize those personal emails for blog publishing, and we simply don't have to do the work that you have to do in order to keep this blog up and running.

Either way, I wish you the best and want to thank you for all the great work you've done here. :)

(Now she returns to her usual married-woman-radio-silence. ;))

Magdalen Hobbs said...

Would there be some referral system? I'm really glad this blog exists, as it's been pretty important in encouraging me to pray and read more deeply into a lot of things I hadn't even thought about before, and I would hate to not be able to share it with female friends and trustworthy female acquaintances.

I'm sorry that you've had so many bad experiences with people on the internet, Seraphic. You've done a good job of keeping us ignorant of a lot of it and cultivating a safe female atmosphere here, and for that I'm very grateful.

I'm for whatever changes you need to make so you feel comfortable continuing to blog.

RichieDynasty said...

Nooooo.... Please don't make this a private blog auntie? I started sharing this with my troubled girlfriends and some of them have become inspired!

for every man that sends her mean and obscene comments, how many respected her "no males" rule and actually referred women to the blog?

to tell you the truth : a good guy friend of mine was the one who introduced me to your blog. ;)

c'est la vie said...

Personally I had rather it be public, but I can easily imagine how unpleasant a few trolls could make it for you. Perhaps you could implement a system where people must register to comment at all, and you can easily ban unpleasant commentators from posting again? You could require people to say something about themselves on registering as an a priori means of filtering out trolls. And perhaps there is a way to lock some articles for registered users only... tecchier people than I may know better how this could be done.

Jackie said...

Aww, Seraphic, I am so sorry to hear about the troll infestation! :( The internet is full of cowards who are just Plain Mean sometimes.

My 0.02 is a vote for public, though I can completely understand you wanting to go private.

I never would have found this blog had it been private and/or invite only. And I recommend this place and your writing every chance I get, so it would be unfortunate, from my selfish POV, to have it set to private.

Supposedly less than 1% of readers comment, so there are tons of people who you have impacted positively with this. It's the lone jerks that spoil it for everyone. :(

Some ideas:

*Could you get some help (maybe a trusted volunteer) to screen the comments for you and delete the garbage?

*What about keeping the blog public and making commentary invite-only?

*Closing comments on certain topics is another option.

*Instead of Captcha, insert a trivia question about St. Edith Stein that must be answered correctly to comment. ;-)

Eowyn said...

Could we perhaps have a private online forum on which we could chatter away, while keeping the blog entries public? Alternatively, many sites seem to have it set up that you must be a member to comment, but anyone can that a possibility?

Theresa said...

I second what JustAnotherCatholicGirl said... it is obvious Satan hates what you do, Seraphic. Nasty personal emails from unwanted internet trolls is precisely Satan doing his work trying to keep your advice from helping women. Satan well knows that by destroying women, he destroys man. And you counter him. So very well.

Yes it would be a shame for women to be unable to randomly come across your blog as so many have.
However, you are the one being attacked. And you must do what you believe to be best. Call on St. Michael for intercession - I support you either way!!

Perhaps locking the combox so only registered readers can comment would be an option? If that is possible.

Keeping you in my prayers!

Maggie said...

I vote keep it public! I keep referring my friends to various posts- it would be a shame to lose that.

Would you be able to switch the blog from blogspot to wordpress? (I know it's possible, without losing content, etc, I just don't know how). Wordpress has a registration feature for commentors, like what Fr. Z has. That would severely limit the trolling.

Allamanda said...

As one of those who found it during 3 am "25 and never had a boyfriend" misery, I can say that the blog saved my sanity. I've read it daily ever since, and I've referred a few friends to it as well. It would be a shame if others missed out on that chance.

What exactly would registration involve?

Seraphic said...

The trolling is not really that bad--I don't want to exaggerate the trolling. It's the sense of lack of privacy and fear of being misunderstood.

I don't want to make it harder for women to read my blog. My blog means a lot to me, and it means a lot to me that it has helped so many of you.

We all know that there are some things we just do not want to talked about in front of men, not only because sometimes it is immodest but because many men don't just get it.

Some men don't understand that women can talk about things in the abstract; they assume everything we say or write has to do directly with us. And they ascribe mean, personal motives to something innocent and abstract, because they "know" how sneaky and self-serving women are and how deep down we "just hate each other." Et cetera.

Oh dear. St. Ignatius said we should never make an important decision when in a state of desolation.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I'd also prefer it stay public. Is there a way, for example, to lock older posts or something? Or maybe after a certain time delete comments or save the most helpful comments into the post itself and then delete them?

Roadkill Rhapsody said...

I'd like to second Jackie's idea about having a trusted volunteer help screen the comments. Perhaps s/he could delete all the abuse and leave you to help the normal people...?

I don't know of any other Catholic on the planet who offers advice as good as the advice on this blog. I have no right to demand a public blog from you, given the burdens it entails, but if there's any way of keeping it public, please do so!

MaryJane said...

Not to be always suggesting novenas, but maybe we should all do some form of organized prayer together, in order to help you discern what to do? By all means, don't make decisions in a state of desolation! Since this is a community, I think we should pray as a community, particularly in gratitude for all the help you've offered us and in recognition of the suffering you've had to endure of people assuming that they know something about you when really they don't. I've always thought it was courageous of you to share what you do! I think 99% of readers feel that way too, although most don't comment.

{Incidentally, does B.A. think you should go private? I only ask b/c I've noticed my friend's husbands have a keen good sense about such things when their wives are in desolation. They know the situation but can still offer a kind of informed third-party view.}

Pearlmusic said...

It would be sad if you closed the blog to the public, but I fully understand and that's why I never even started blogging. Yes, bully men can be a nightmare, but perhaps good men can suggest something reasonable here - I'm sure you have talked it over with men who are close to you, like your husband or men from your family - perhaps not so much in detail, but generally. I must say, I never underestimate a sane piece of advice from decent men I trust in such circumstances.

All the best and looking forward to knowing what you've decided. May the Holy Spirit be with you!

bolyongok said...

Auntie Seraphic, I've just come off shift so my brain isn't in-gear enough for a proper comment, but my short opinion on it is this:
1. Pray
2. Do Not Surrender to the (internet) Terrorists. I feel if your blog goes private/disappears that somehow they win. I second or third, or otherwise agree with those who've suggested that you get assistance with troll-thwarting.
I also think you make good points about how people make bad decisions on what to/not to share on the internet, but as mentioned before, you can go delete/censor-happy on such things to protect the unwitting from themselves. And maybe devote a post to 'Internet Safety And You- When And Where Not To Post Deepest, Darkest Thoughts'? It's an important aspect of safety, like physical safety, and I think some members of your audience could benefit from it.

Clara said...

I really like the idea of a closed forum where the girls can chat. There are even options where you can have certain parts open or closed--so, perhaps, an open section (or one for registered men and women) for co-ed discussion, plus a closed section where just the girls can talk. I admit that I don't often look at the combox, so I'm not super involved with the community here, even though I gobble up every post like I'm a tribute in the Hunger Games and it's bread falling from the sky. A forum would definitely change that for me. But of course, this is not about me :D and that would be a lot of extra work for you. Though you could always recruit a few volunteers to be moderators!

Seraphic said...

It's not the trolls; honestly, I don't get THAT much troll traffic. It's A + B + C, but especially C.

Mik said...

Oh, please keep it public! I also stumbled across the blog quite by accident, and I imagine quite a few young women do. The advice you share with us is so important, and to impose constraints on access seems like it would potentially limit the audience for the blog. However, I can empathize with the issues (the trolls, the gentleman (or perhaps not so gentleman-like) eavesdroppers).

I second Eowyn and Clara's suggestion above: what about a private forum? If you kept the blog public, but removed the ability to comment, and instead set up a private forum (for which ladies could register and be verified by you, but which the public could not see) in which the posts could be discussed, or issues could be raised (that might be a bit of a touchy point, as it could still be too much personal information) -- that might be one solution.

Domestic Diva said...

Seraphic, I'm a very private person, and so I sympathize with your dislike of men you know socially speaking to you about the personal things you post. But I am going to chime in and say I wish it could remain public, just because of how many people it helps (me, the others I send here, and the many readers I only "know" through your combox). Thank you for sharing your lessons learned with us, that very personal "wisdom from experience." Prayers for your discernment.

Katy said...

Ah this is a very important question you're asking. I totally agree that it is super-sacrificial to be personal on the internet because the internet is forever. Being in politics, I am uber-paranoid and am sympathetic if the transparency (and all its consequences) is giving you pause.

I would be totally fine with your going private, perhaps you could have an easy-to-remember guest password that you send out to the registered members so that we can easily refer our friends for a pre-registration trial without their having to register just to check out the blog for the first time or read one post we want them to read.

However, if you choose to stay public, one way you might mitigate the agony is to have 2-3 volunteer moderators. These girls could be the ones who have access to your combox and your email box, and would filter out the hurtful garbage and obscenity and then just forward you the real stuff. You would have to change the email on your site to something those volunteers could access and give each of them a real email address to send the real stuff to you. That way they would take the hits and you could focus on doing what you love - helping the sincere seekers. Your challenge would be staying out of the combox and the site's email until the moderators sent you stuff, which is hard to do when you've written something you're eager to see responses to! But that might help your peace and ability to focus on your mission.

Girl with the yellow hat said...

Dear Auntie,
I think there are merits to both, public and private blogs. My thought: a private blog where we all sign in, regardless if we want to comment and that's how we read you,leave the current blog as is, so the girls that google, "single at 25, 35, 45" can find you and then if they choose, subscribe. I do see the merit to a private blog. This blog feels like we're a bunch of ladies at one of your dinner parties having a girlie chat while the gents indulge in port and cigars, in the other room. I sometimes even plan what I would have worn as you describe the dinner:)I would not talk as freely if they were in the same room and I like the idea of them being in "the other room" or not even in the house:)
But I trust whatever decision you make will work out just fine!

Antigone in NYC said...

I, too, found this blog by typing in some combination of "single" "Catholic" and "despair" in Google. For what it's worth, I hope you don't make it private.

Thank you,

~ Antigone

Casey said...

Dear Auntie, I'm so sorry that you've had to deal with all this! You're definitely in my prayers. I agree that it would be a shame for the blog to go entirely private, but I also heartily sympathize with the difficulty of having to deal with perils of public internet. The half public/ half private idea, with discussions held in a private forum seems like a good halfway point, but I'm super technologically challenged, so I'm not perfectly clear on how it would work. Anyways, I just want to thank you so much for all that you've done and all that you've silently borne for us readers!

Jessica Brewer said...

I liked Cest'la vie's idea of having to register to comment at all.

However, this is mainly your thing, Seraphic! The brunt of any criticism or ill-will is going to fall on you as a matter of course. What's most important for you helping us is to feel safe and confident, and to be able to say what you really mean to / want to say without worrying about nasty folks.

Perhaps some greater level of security would be beneficial for everyone, but it would be nice if people could still come across your blog or bits of it by googling.

Eva said...

I will pray for your decision. I think the comments above about volunteer moderators are great ideas, though they don't address some of your concerns about the assumptions people make about you.

Also, are there other women with similar apostolates (i.e., online writing and discussions that cannot be detached from some personal aspects of one's life) to whom you could turn for advice? I seem to recall The Anchoress (Elizabeth Scalia) writing about some of the mixed feelings about blogging she experienced, and advice she gave to other writers.

I understand your concerns, though I would like to see the site remain public.

Anonymous said...

As a software engineer, I did some rudimentary digging on what options you actually have available, technology speaking:
Blogger - whole blog either public or private; comments can be wide open, or restricted to accounts you allow/disallow , can use disqus
Wordpress - whole blog either public or private; individual posts can be public/password-protected/private, can use disqus

Getting into answering your question, below are some technology industry impressions, interspersed with my opinions. I'm very much in agreement with many of your readers, I just thought I could add some value by discussing in light of what is possible / available.

My first observation is that blog posts being public / private is a completely separate question from comments being public/private, since there are a selection of options for each, and you can manage those options independently.

Secondly, I concur that a whole blog as private will seriously limit your new readership, even with current content archived publically, since if people need to setup a new account just to read any article of yours for the first time, it will seem like a lot of effort just to read a blog post (Incidentally, that is a similar psychological hurdle to commenting - someone above mentioned a stat that 1% of readers comment. I don't know if that's a correct stat, but I believe it is close enough to being true.)

Yet, it doesn't need to be all or nothing. I do think once you whet the appetite of all your new readers with at least some public content, I'm very confident that you will get a good "conversion factor" (caveat: not a marketing expert), based on the amount of comments you can generate. The very many loyal fans you have will have no issue being authorized to get those "extra" private blog posts.

With a wordpress blog you can limit certain posts individually to being password protected, which sounds ideal for certain topics that are a little too personal. The password protection doesn't really control which user accounts get access, since once you tell the password to your readers, it is possible for someone to get hold of the password and get access.

Another simpler solution would be to just setup another "personal matters" blog that is private (this could be whereever you like blogger/wordpress ), and whenever you have a new post there, also publish it on your main (public) blog. On the private blog, you can also allow greater commenting freedom since it is private, yet you are also telling everyone publically that it exists so avid readers who meet your checks can easily find out about the private blog.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Ps: when I said "publish it" on your main blog, I should have said "announce it". I.e. give the title and the link to the private blog so that anyone can go to it, but only those with login rights can read the post.

Anonymous said...

Please don't!! I stumbled across this blog by way of a random accident, and it has been a source of so many good things. I would not want any other girl to miss out on the opportunity.

Also, we have control over the name we choose when we post. No one is being asked to share personal information. If they reveal too much it is up to them.

Seraphic said...

Thanks, everyone, for giving me your POV.