Who’s On First?



By Larry Kaufman
Among my meshugassen (which I’ll euphemistically translate as idiosyncrasies) is the tendency to “count the house,” and to analyze the count. One day I decided to apply my meshugass to this blog. The statistics that follow represent a snapshot in time, but my sues is that doing the same exercise today – or tomorrow – would yield similar results.

How many people do you suppose are involved in the discussion here at www.rj.org – as posters, as commenters, or both? Take a minute to make your own guesstimate, before you proceed to my findings.

For the purposes of this exercise, I didn’t go into the archives, but looked only at the four posts accessible through the box at the head of the page, and the ten items that are featured directly on the landing page. Fourteen items, from eleven authors, one of them posting under two names. (If you go to the Contributors page, you learn that Gardening Grandma and Emily Grotta are one and the same. And if you factor in the writers of comments, it’s probably Emily who’s posting the items signed Union for Reform Judaism.)

Several of those who post themselves also comment, both on the posts of others, and also respond to comments on their own posts. But at the time of this “research,” there were twelve people commenting on topics originated by others but not starting any topics on their own. We know the full names of seven of these people. (although not necessarily anything else about them) but five, for whatever reason, identify themselves only by first name, initials, or noms de web. Thus the population of the blogging community on the particular day when I counted was 23. Given the egalitarianism of the Reform movement, I didn’t count by gender, but my guess is that we’re at about half and half.

Of the fourteen then current posts, five had attracted no comments, five attracted one comment each, and four generated discussion, ranging from five comments up to 23. Since the 23 include a lot of back-and-forths, there’s no connection to the blogging population also being 23.

As someone who signs his posts, I wonder about the desire for anonymity of those who don’t. In some cases, I confess, I have come to the conclusion that these people are rightfully embarrassed to be identified with their narishkeit (foolishness).

Maybe a more important question than how many people are writing, and/or signing what they write, is how many people are reading. The last time I asked, which was a while back, the blog was getting anywhere from 250 to 1000 unique visitors on any given day. My guess is that the number has increased since I asked, and that the number of participants in the discussion has also escalated since last I counted.

On behalf of the Gang of Twenty-Three, let me invite the rest of you to join the discussion. Speaking only for myself, let us know your name, even though your face we shall not see. In the words of Nachshon, come on in, the water’s fine.

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Larry Kaufman

About Larry Kaufman

Laurence (Larry) Kaufman is a member of Beth Emet, the Free Synagogue, in Evanston IL, where he coaches b'nai mitzvah candidates on their divrei Torah. A long-time Reform Movement activist, he has served on the North American Board of URJ, the North American Council of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the Board of ARZA, and is a past president of Temple Sholom of Chicago. Although semi-retired, he still consults with an Israeli technology company on its U.S. public relations and marketing communications.

5 Responses to “Who’s On First?”

  1. avatar

    Rest assured that there are those of us out here reading on a regular basis who just haven’t found either the need or the right opportunity to join the discussions (yet). I know that I’ve come close on a couple of occasions but haven’t erred on the side of caution when I’m not sure I can put my thoughts into coherent words on the screen.

  2. avatar

    I read this blog everyday and have made an occasional posting that no one ever comments on, but that’s okay with me…..no response doesn’t mean I haven’t provided some food for thought for someone else, as some links from posters has spurred me to journey further.
    There are some discussions that are so filled with Hebrew terminology that I am lost. I know we all come from many different levels of Jewish education and background. And this has spurred me to join the Adult Education committee at my local Temple (I joined in early summer.)
    There have been a few hot button topics, but I have read some really good intial postings that have touched my heart, yet see no response…..
    My first issue of Reform Magazine showed such a diversity of opinion that I was really looking forward to this blog…..but sometimes I feel it is geared more to the ‘intellectual.’

  3. avatar

    Periodically I read something that annoys or amuses or moves me, but so far I’ve preferred to learn from others. But I am reading and am impressed with the level of passion and knowledge from so many of the contributors.

  4. avatar

    Of the many good points Doris raised, let me respond to two.
    Re Hebrew terminology — as one who uses it regularly, I try always to provide a translation of all but the most basic words — but one reason I use the terms is that others may learn them. As I have said before on the blog, I learn from all I study with…but implicit in that is that I hope they also learn from studying with me.
    If the blog has inspired you to join the Adult Ed committee at the temple, that’s a practical result and benefit to the community that may exceed the expectations of the blogmeisters who created this vehicle for us to share ideas and stories.
    That segues into the comment about the blog perhaps being for intellectuals. I for one find a good mix here between the intellectual, the scholarly, the topical, and the emotional. I particularly admire the very personal writings of Marge and Jane and Mary — I wish I had their skills to touch the heart.
    But part of their talent is to capture a moment that says so much that there is nothing left for others to say. Hence no comments — they come more readily when you touch a nerve than when you touch the heart.

  5. avatar

    Larry,
    Thanks so much for your kind words about my writing. Although I have opted for a nom de web (I love that term!), I am not trying to hide behind it. Rather, I guess I’m just trying to separate my professional self from my blogging self.
    Just wait, though… A year from now, I’ll have “morphed” into “Biennial Jane” and, complete with a pedometer on my belt, will be flying around the Toronto Convention Center counting Shabbat dinners and all the other meals. So, do you want chicken, fish or veggie?!

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