02 December 2005

Six-Month Reckoning

I hate blogposts about blogging. They are always comically self-referential and grotesquely dull. If you feel that way too, go ahead and skip this post. It won't hurt my feelings at all.



PyroManiac is now exactly 6 months old.

When the blog launched June 1, I expected readership to be roughly the size of my Sunday-school class. If the hit-counter is to be trusted, there have been a few more readers than that.

I'm not a stats-checker. I honestly can't tell you how many hits the blog gets on an average day. I can't tell you what the trends in my traffic have been, because I just don't pay attention to that. On the few occasions when I have visited sites where stats and rankings are found, it has always seemed to me that the data are unreliable. (I noticed, for example, that PyroManiac was briefly listed as an "insignificant microbe" on TTLB just last week, with not a single link from anywhere in the blogosphere. That cannot be accurate.) But I don't really care about that stuff.

In fact, if Darlene hadn't reminded me on Thursday, I would have forgotten it was the half-anniversary of the blog.

It's a good time to take stock and do some hard assessments. Is the blog worth the time and energy it requires? How long can I keep it up? Are there things I should change? Should I quit needling homeschool moms? Should I post less, solemnize the mood, change the graphic look to something more subtle? Could I save a lot of time and conflict simply by closing the comments?

I'm not really asking for feedback; just sharing some of the questions that have occurred to me from time to time.

Here, in random order, are some of my thoughts about PyroManiac at the six-month mile-marker:
  • I've been greatly encouraged by most of the feedback and private e-mails I have received.
  • There are, occasionally, some notable exceptions. Just yesterday received a terse, one-sentence e-mail: "Go Away, 'Phil' the internet has enough noise on it." Made me think. The argument he gives is unassailable.
  • I'm very thankful for literally dozens of friends I have made through the blog. I've had the privilege of meeting many in person. Practically every week at church, I meet someone new who knows me because of the blog. In July I finally got to meet Dr. Adrian Warnock, with whom I first exchanged e-mail in 1996. And twice now I have had lunch with Frank Turk, a kindred spirit whom I might never have met except through bloglinks. Those kinds of things are the up-side of having open comments.
  • I really do despise the conflict in the comments threads and occasional blogwars. The open format more or less invites that, though. It's not like speaking to a live audience, where people aren't likely to talk back. Here, critics seem to be standing in the wings on a daily basis, looking for a point to quarrel with. I've been caught totally off guard by this repeatedly—especially the recent backlash against my posts about patently false prophecies. I'm still shaking my head over that. (And by the way, I still intend as soon as possible to complete the series I began on "hearing the voice of God").
  • This is a weblog, not a pulpit or seminary class, so I have deliberately included some personal-journal-style entries, a high percentage of humor (or well-meant attempts at merriment), and occasional lighter-than-usual fare. But I have lately wondered whether so much farce and frivolity is wasted effort, or even counterproductive to what I really hope to accomplish with the blog. For one thing, American humor doesn't always translate well into other cultures. And I think Southern California humor sometimes isn't even funny in other North American climates. I'd have a lot less 'splainin' to do if I just throttled my humor reflex whenever possible. I like the mildly droll graphics. The trademark comic-book covers may have to go, though.
  • When I started, I said I did not intend to post daily. The Blogger website tells me this is my 181st post. That's almost exactly a post a day, even though I took a two-week hiatus at one point. Nobody has that much to say that's worth reading. (OK, there's James White, Michael Haykin, Steve Hays, Tim Challies—and maybe a handful of others. But most of us probably should not entertain the conceit of imagining that so much of what we write is really worthy of blogging about.) Reading back over my blog, I see lots of days when I probably should have gone to bed early and skipped blogging altogether.
  • On the other hand, there are a few posts that I'm happy to have written. The "London Journal" series in early July stands out in my memory. The Fad-Driven Church series later that same month also generated a lot of good feedback.
  • Amazingly, the single most commented-on post ever was my very first one. Some readers probably think that post was developed over several weeks while I was planning to launch the blog. Actually, I wrote it in an hour and a half the night before the bloglaunch. Until that evening, I had no idea what the first post was going to be. (I had been swamped with other writing deadlines right up to the day the blog launched.)

So what's the sum of my thoughts on all this? In the days to come, look for me to blog a little less obsessively, a little less light-heartedly, and (hopefully) a lot more pointedly. I think the result will be a better blog, even if a less wordy one.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

Phil's signature

73 comments:

jane said...

Nice post. I also wrestle with thinking that more frivolous posts are wasteful, but then again, life is made up of lots of not so profound moments, so a blog that shows a little "personality" is more real to me. After all, it is a blog--not a newspaper column, so it's rather a shame that the "big" bloggers lose that unique interactive aspect.

goodnightsafehome said...

Phil. Honest assessment here. I think you're doing a pretty good job as it is. Humour and all. There is a world of difference between a church/theological website and a blog. A church website IMHO is to be pretty serious most, if not all, of the time. On the other hand, Your blog simply reflects the things that are on your mind when you sit down at that point to write. Keep up the personal end of things. Ever notice when you're preaching that when you relate something personal, everyone listens? Same on the blog. I vote for no real change.

Jason E. Robertson said...

Happy Anniversary, PyroManiac. Your presence in the blogosphere has been a sheer delight. Whether obsessive or pointed, you're "right on" in my book. More light-heartedness or less, it is the fact that your heart, your passion, and your convictions shine forth is what keeps us coming back daily. BTW, I for one get the jokes and friendly jabs. The substance is often heavy enough, that without your humor, truthfully, this whole blogging thing could become quite boring or at least disengaging. May God bless you in this effort.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve said...

Thanks, as always, for being so transparent with your thoughts.

A number of times you've applauded Steve Hays or someone else because they've managed to say with eloquence what you've been trying to say all along.

I'd say many of us feel the same way about reading PyroManiac--you say with crisp clarity the thoughts we've tried to articulate but haven't been able to. And we've benefited enormously as a result.

Though it's unfortunate that some visitors are here for no other reason than to be contentious and snide and to "strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers" (2 Tim. 2:14), I do appreciate the fact you've made this an open forum because a number of your contributors have offered real gems of thought and wit. You've got some fantastic people here, homeschool moms and all.

Without a doubt, this blog takes up more time than you have to spare. Thanks for taking that time. You've been as iron that sharpens iron.

centuri0n said...

Sure: you say you're my friend, and you even call when I'm sick.

But then when you list the people who actually have something worth reading to say, you list Hays, Challies (Challies?), and James White, but somehow I am left sick and sad.

Nice. I think a feel a t-shirt coming on ...

ScottyB said...

thanks Phil for your hard work

Gaddabout said...

All bloggers are at least a little remorseful over time. You cannot express your opinion of every fleeting moment without letting loose with something you wish you hadn't written (or drawn), or at least had offered it with more clarity and less emotion (and perhaps less sarcasm or attempted wit).

All things considered, I believe the inclination towards some level of transparency is a big plus in favor of blogging. I once bore a grudge against the pastor of your church because of his criticism of my organization, but your blog has seriously softened my stance. I have set aside my disagreement to find you and I have a lot of (Kingdom-related) things in common. I can only conclude I must also have a lot of things in common with your pastor, and my blinding bitterness has been exposed.

That's got to count for something in heaven.

I still don't know if I can call myself a Calvinist, but blogs such as this one has surely made me more comfortable with the idea.

David said...

Hey Phil,

For what it's worth I think you've got an excellent blog, I check it often and think it's always thought-provoking and useful. I tried blogging but was boring myself after a while never mind anyone else, so I think you have to be a certain kind of person to do it well. And you do.

I don't mind also admitting that I've stopped looking at a lot of blogs I used to look at because I think there is so much pop-theology on them that I am not sure it is the best use of my time and I wouldn't like to ask what they think they're doing with theirs. Most are interesting but the dead people on my shelves even more so. I have resolved to be a reader of outstanding books, not a browser of interesting blogs.

Joe said...

Happy halfaversary!

I read you daily...enjoy you a great deal...and comment only occasionally.

I do get frustrated when the comments develop a life of their own and depart from the point of your posts.

Nevertheless, you do a great job of mixing seriousness, humor and a touch of your personal life.

Thanks for being a part of the blogosphere.

Paul said...

Phil,

Your blog has definitely been useful for myself. I would encourage you to post regularly as this is a ministry that many people can benefit from.

The 'serious' material that you present is thought provoking and helpful. I am certainly looking forward to your further thoughts with regard to 'gift's.

The links provided to other worthwhile sights have proven to be helpful.

On a lighter note the comic books are most entertaining and do raise a smile when I open your blog in the early morning.

Thanks.

Kim said...

Should I quit needling homeschool moms?

Well, why not? We complain about you, but deep down, we kinda like it. Keeps us on our toes, don't you know.

And I like your more light-hearted post. The one you wrote about Pecadillo was great.

Gary said...

I have you on my list of blogs to read daily. I'm a Michigander and really appreciate your humor. Besides making me think - you make me laugh. You are dead on serious about the important matters of life - and have been instructive and encouraging. The "real" aspect of your personal sharing and your humor is appreciated. Reading your blog is more like a conversation with a friend rather than sitting in on a lecture. Keep up the good work.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Phil-In the days to come, look for me to blog a little less obsessively, a little less light-heartedly, and (hopefully) a lot more pointedly. I think the result will be a better blog, even if a less wordy one.

Me-And we're supposed to believe this? You said yourself that at the beginning you atated that you would not post every day, and you did!
You're going to have to swear on a stack of Bibles to get me to believe this one!
:-)

Randy said...

Phil,
Don't go anywhere. Keep up the good work. I love your blog and the humor that goes with it. I love the insights you have and share with us. And besides, your blog is the number one hit on Google when you type in "Pyromaniac" as a search criteria.

Agent Tim said...

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!! I was here the very first day...ahh, back in the old days...I stopped reading for awhile, mainly due to the fact that I was reading other blogs, and some got bumped off the list. But when I returned, I was pleasantly suprised to find a blog that was humorous, yet had some great insights.

"I think Southern California humor sometimes isn't even funny in other North American climates."

Yes, you're right. When I was out in California, somethings were a little weird...

Keep it up. You're an inspiration to me, and I'm sure to many other bloggers.

Tim Sweetman

Caleb Kolstad said...

Phil,

Keep up the great work! I know lots of people who love this extension ministry.

Joe said...

Phil,
Just a note to encourage you concerning the conflict you despise (me also) which inevitably occurs in the open forum. I prefer to think that it is because you are a truth bearer that conflict comes. You are viewed by most of us as speaking boldly as you ought to, but again that speaking is not vain it is the truth. So please don't be moved by the conflict, but rejoice:
"And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God."
Press on!

Tony K. said...

Maybe have Wrigly write an sometimes. He could be your heavy hitter.?

I would like shorter posts. And shorter commnents. My reading list at Seminary is shorter than some of these.
Spurgeon.com is still the best site on the interent.

Cindy said...

Count me among those who really appreciate your sense of humor. I think it's an integral part of what makes you who you are, Phil, and what makes your blog appealing. I hope you won't subdue it too much!

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I too have thought about these things:

(1) Will I be doing this in 15 years?

(2) Have I now become a slave of my own blog?

(3) I have great anticipation of meeting my blogmates in heaven.

(4) How many times will Frank Turk change his template in the next year?

vivere christus said...

Phil,

congrats on six months in blogdom. your blog was recommended to me by a friend shortly after you began blogging. i stopped by once, and i've been hooked ever since.

from where i stand, i wouldn't change a thing about the blog. i enjoy our weekly dose of spurgeon and the mix of theology and humor in the other posts. if we are sharing memories, i still get a belly-laugh out of picturing you cranking osama with a costco meat chub--priceless.

i appreciate all of your time and effort spent in composing thought-provoking and edifying posts.

grace and peace,
chris white

p.s. for what its worth, i like the comic book covers, but i understand it might be this kind of issue.

Libbie said...

Phil,

you realize the blogosphere just went into a cramp with the suggestion you might not blog as much?
And I know what's behind the end of comic book covers - you're driving up the value of the vintage ones..

You can't stop needling homeschool moms. There's now a League of Firebrand HSMoms support group to deal with your barbs and we've just organized the insurance...

BugBlaster said...

Keep needling homeschool moms. It entertains their spouses when they say "do you know what that guy posted now!?". And as you quoted Spurgeon the other day, just keep some bandaids around for when you cut your fingers on humour.

Sam H. said...

So, let me understand, we'll hear less from you, you won't be as funny, and you will work harder to make your argument stronger--how is that better? Is that really Christian blogging? :) I have appreciated your blog--hopefully less will be more...BTW, I have long used your finney files--when I find "finney-ized" people, I point them there--works every time...

mjbeasley said...

Phil -

I have been peeking into the Pyromaniac here and there for the past few weeks (I only recently discovered it). There is a constant tension (for everyone) that exists between the humor that we enjoy and the sobriety that we need (Ephesians 5:3-4). It's a good tenstion, for it reminds us that we serve the Lord and not ourselves. The Lord has given you the stewardship of a ministry - yes, and even through a blog; and as a steward, it is profitable to scrutinize one's ministry before the Lord's good pleasure (Ephesians 5:7-10). I like your summary ideas at the end - they seem to affirm the idea of being more direct and exhortational (If I understood you correctly). That's not a criticism by the way, just an affirmation of what is spiritually profitable (Romans 15:14).

candyinsierras said...

The diverse personality of your blog is the strength of your blog. Just yesterday I told my husband I need to stop obsessively READING all the blogs everyday. I was convicted of time spent on the computer. I understand the searching of the heart. Seriously, one thing...the comic books can't go!

marc said...

Blah, Blah, Blah... you couldn't have figured out a way to say all that on a comic book cover?

Jeri said...

Phil,

I really like your blog a lot. But if you hate blogposts about blogging (because, as you noted, they are always self-referential and dull), why not just skip the exercise altogether? Just get on with it and blog what you like. That's part of the joy of blogging.

Cindy said...

Good words, Jeri. I actually don't mind blogging-related posts, but I do agree that a blogger should blog how, why and when they want to, without feeling a need to explain or apologize. After all, it's YOUR blog--do with it whatever you will!

MTG said...

Well pooh. You are a part of my daily blog routine....

I DO enjoy your blog soooooooo mcuh!!! Looking forward to even the smallest of tidbits.

Daniel said...

Happy half-a-versery! 181 posts?

I see you have been averaging 50,000+ hits per month. Surely, whether you meant to or not, your blog has become a ministry tool - praise the Lord.

bulldog said...

Just wanted to say that I'll miss the light-hearted side of things on your blog. I understand, in some little degree, the danger and your apprehension but must say that it's one of the things that makes me look forward to your posts the most.

Regardless, thanks for sharpening my mind & heart through your pen (well, actually keyboard).

Steve Weaver said...

Congratulations! Reading your post caused me to go back and see how long I've been blogging. I started on May 29, 2005 (a couple of days before you). I guess that's why I have so many more readers!

ambiance-five said...

Good Phil,
I hate pulpits where no one can discuss the issues coming from behind it.

I even told a pastor once I felt He was "hiding" behind his pulpit, because of issues he would not discuss openly.

Needless to say it did not go well with him...lol

Kim said...

Daniel, when your picture morphs, your eyes remind me of the the painting, The Scream.

Der Fuersprecher said...

Phil,

Please, don't drop the humor or sarcasm - few do it as well as you, and it really is appreciated. The only request I have is that you not make it overly subtle so that us dense folk miss out.

As far as the comments - have you ever thought about moderating them? We have relatively high traffic at our site, and it hasn’t been a problem for us at an admin level to have every post require moderation before publication. It will no doubt have the effect of suppressing your # of comments [for example I also run a sports blog that gets 1/20th of the daily unique visitors as our theology blog and I don't moderate the comments on the sports blog - hence the sports blog gets more comments than the significantly higher traffic theology blog], but it may increase your peace of mind as far as the comments section itself goes.

Anyway – thanks for putting together a really excellent site!

And Daniel, that picture *is* freaky.

eculeus said...

Phil--

Just wanted to chime in with my 2 cents here. I *love* your blog, both for the theological accuracy and the lighthearted wit. Actually, I think its the wit that makes the theology and serious discussion more digestable, at least in the blog-format. So, here's one vote to keep the wit coming.

About how productive it is ... I think that through this blog you can reach a completely different audience than your regular ministry at GTY, so it is definatly a good thing. Maybe if it becomes too much, you can join forces with someone else ... say, Rick Holland or Kurt Gebhards? ;)

I respect you tremendously for having the time to do do all this AND pastor a church AND be a good husband/father AND hold a job at GTY AND edit books AND a million other things.

All this to say ... Thanks for taking the time to blog. My wife and I enjoy it tremendously and its been a great blessing. Its become the first site I check in the morning ;)

Frank Martens said...

I'm trying to figure out how this...

I hate blogposts about blogging. They are always comically self-referential and grotesquely dull. If you feel that way too, go ahead and skip this post. It won't hurt my feelings at all.

Fits into the post :) Unless a group of people have been trying to get blogspotted and you've found it quite humorous. :)

Cheers

Carla said...

Phil: ditto to what so many others have said about appreciating your blog (humor and all) the way it is. It's been a real nice addition to the 'sphere. Not that I read it every day, or anything like that. Ahem...

Daniel: in case no one told you, your head is melting. Might wanna see someone about that.

SDG...

Daniel said...

Kim - I thought the avatar looked more Lemur like? ;-D

One of the things I liked about Phil's blog was that some people in the comments section had pretty cool avatars. I would never have known that there was a Frank Turk except that his avatar was so over-the-top, I had to check out his site. Through Phil's blog I suppose I have (Sorry to put you in the third person there Phil) come to discover many good blogs - some of which are quite edifying - and even challenging.

Rose~ said...

Phil,
My husband and I were talking to Ph. DeCourcy (our pastor) last night ... your name came up in reference to blogging. He chuckled and said, "That's Phil, he'll be buried with his laptop."

BTW, I like the humorous aspects of your blog. I will be sorry to see you leave your wit behind, if that is what you decide to do.

James Spurgeon said...

Phil, I have called you out on my Howling Coyote blog. Be forewarned.

John said...

I like it just the way it is. If it were all heavily doctrinal and serious it wouldn't be as enjoyable. There's a need for meat on the web, but there's also a crying need for real wit.

Oh, and of course I think your best posts are the ones where you mention me.....

Adrian said...

I actually like the humour Phil.....

LeeC said...

You Attend Pastor Phillip DeCourcy's church Rose?
Small world.

He won't remember me I'm sure but I had the privelege of meeting him at Victory Ranch In California where he was speaking at a mens retreat, and he spoke at my old church once or twice.

If I did not love my own pastor so much, and it being a sin I would envy you. :)

rebecca said...

As long as you don't cut out the grotesque humour altogether, I can live with it.

But I won't be happy.

Scott Hill said...

A more serious blog is going to require a more serious profile pic. The Hawaiain shirt is going to have to go into retirement. For the new pic I recommend you in a tuxedo, standing in front of the Masters Seminary Library, with a big communion table bible in your hand.

Nate said...

Halfy halfaversary!

Steve said...

Daniel, that morphing hairdo puts CenturiOn's jumpy eyebrow to shame.

Phil, speaking of others not wanting you to stop on the humor, one thing I do miss from the earlier blogposts is the occasional really eccentric stuff, like those deathcraft monks. I know you don't do those Monday M's anymore, but an occasional sprinkling of the offbeat--even as an aside at the end of a serious blog--sure would be nice again.

Andrew said...

Phil,

Reflection upon the merits of any venture is a good thing, and is sure to produce a better outcome than would be the case without it. Good for you!

I especially liked your comments, "I really do despise the conflict in the comments threads ..." and "This is a weblog, not a pulpit or seminary class, so I have deliberately included some personal-journal-style entries..." For what it's worth, that's what most readers (who've never met the complete package of you)need to read in order to reduce misunderstandings and the likelihood of rotten comments.

I read your blog daily and look forward to enjoying the "born again" version. :)

critic said...

Enjoyed your visit and preaching at NWBC in OKC...cheers, bro!...keep the humor, Spurgeon, as you related in previous posts, thought well of a good laugh...hahaha

David said...

Boy do you feel good right now!

marc said...

Phil,

Stick to the comedy. I downloaded and listened to your lecture on the History of Calvinism... I am now an Arminian again.

Rusty said...

Phil - I'm addicted to your blog mate ... =)

edwardseanist said...

Phil. Your blogs are much needed and appreciated. I don't have a TV, but i can always tune in and get my daily dose of pyro.

suzi said...

Phil,

Do you feel the love yet? :)

Suzi

Char said...

Doxoblogist said:
You're going to have to swear on a stack of Bibles to get me to believe this one!
:-)


Just make sure they aren't biblezines.

Daniel said:
I thought the avatar looked more Lemur like? ;-D

As a lemur in my other life, I have to say, lemurs are cute and endearing-the morphing pic is unfortunately rather creepy.

Actually for some reason, it makes me think of the newest monster chiller feature, "Dr Tongue's 3D house of Doulogos"...:P
Sorry couldn't resist that.


I don't comment that often, but I like the humour too! Keeps things from getting too tense...

Jason Engwer said...

I try to check the blog daily, and I like it. I agree with the commenters who have said that you could drop some features while still having a good blog. If you keep everything, that's good, but it would still be a good blog even if you made some of the changes that have been suggested. Your work is appreciated, and I'm sure you're influencing a lot of lives for the better.

Jacob Hantla said...

Inspired by Phil's introspection and toward the end of stopping all blog triviality and settling the cessationist-continuationist debate, I've been inspired to create this amazing post.

Coffee and a Muffin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LegoVires said...

And if you've gotten nothing worth saying, don't.

By the same token, if you have something worth hearing by all means say it.

If it isn't broken Phil don't fix it.

Jacob Hantla said...

Yeah, Phil. Thanks for your blog. It has been one of my daily reads. Please keep up the comment posts and the humor is great. You should probably be careful with the comic books because the end of those is not edification but mockery as regards those being discussed. But keep it up. It's been a pleasure getting a daily glimpse into your mind.
-Jacob

Coffee and a Muffin said...

Phil, at first I said to please not change a thing. But no one is perfect. So I ask you to please not change much, only what the Holy Spirit directs. :) I look forward to your future posts. You're a daily read for me.

Mike Perrigoue said...

Hi Phil...I like the wit...I also like the fact that you are humble enough to admit you must be cautious with it (at least that's how I took it). Our tongues (or fingers in this case) are mighty powerful are they not? Good call.

I'll be readin' ya!

Terry Lange said...

Phil,

I enjoy reading your entries. Regarding So. Cal humor, I grew up in So. Cal and even though I live in the Midwest where people sometimes have a hard time cracking a smile or laughing! (I think it is because of the cold and snow!)I pray that I will never lose my So Cal sense of humor.

Keep up the good work!

marc said...

Ooops...

Phil, It turns out I was listening to your Calvinism lecture backwards. When I played it the right way I was converted back to a 5 pointer. Whew! That was close.

Stick to the teaching. I don't get whats so funny anyway.

Libbie said...

I thought Daniel was morphing into Gollum...

Jeremy Weaver said...

Libbie,
It reminded me of where Bilbo gets angry and tries to take the rimg from Frodo.

Libbie said...

Doxo,

*shudders* thanks for reminding me creeping me out even more...

Kim from Hiraeth said...

Oh, I hope you keep the humor and the light hearted posts! As well as the hard hitting posts.

This blog is a bit like my "world famous" spaghetti sauce--it's everything together that makes it so good and the longer it simmers, the better it gets!

Doug said...

Marc - does Phil do backward-masking on his messages?

And I thought the single most commented on post was the one where you went out of town and we began discussing the pterodactyl-smerodactyl controversy.

Kent McDonald said...

This is a great haven of clear thinking and rapier wit! Keep up the good work.