And now for something completely different. Well, not completely different but different enough. For some time we’ve been discussing how to make this site even more useful. I assume it is already useful because it is used so much by so many. People more at home than I am in the ethereal worlds of the digital revolution tell me that the number of visitors to this site and the length of their visits is astonishing. I am prepared to believe them.
Especially popular is the search engine, which we have recently updated and much improved. It contains everything published in FIRST THINGS since the magazine was launched in March, 1990, except for the first couple of years. We hope to have those years online in the very near future.
And of course people visit the site to read the last issue. As you might expect, we hope that whets their appetite to be more current ¯ and, not incidentally, more supportive ¯ by subscribing to FIRST THINGS. Surely they will want to read the brand new issue to find out what everybody (or so we like to think) is talking about.
A word on what this new feature, titled "On the Square," is not: It is not simply more of the section of the magazine called The Public Square. This is intended for comment that is more timed and information that does not fit the requirements of a monthly magazine with its longer "lead time." There will also be, on occasion, documentation that can’t be published in the magazine because of space limitations.
In addition, this is not "More of The Public Square" because it will not be written only by me. Contributors will include other editors and members of our editorial board. I am counting most particularly on Joseph (Jody) Bottum, the editor of FIRST THINGS, to be making regular appearances here.
Among other things this is not ¯ (JB: Why are you putting all this in the negative? RJN: Because that’s how I started out above and I don’t have time to rewrite this . Also because you know I’ve been skeptical about this innovation from the beginning .) ¯ it is not yet another of those interactive blogs. Andrew Sullivan ¯ who could be a much nicer and more sensible person if he really tried ¯ once remarked that, as the writer of The Public Square, I was the world’s first blogger. That is not true.
Items in a monthly magazine have, if not the quality of timelessness, a longer shelf life. Plus, people don’t get to talk back, which is fine with me. Except, of course, when they write to-the-point letters to the editor. In short, with this new feature I am not delivering myself to the torrent of endless chatter that is the imperious kingdom of the blog. (If there is something truly urgent that you think I or other contributors need to know, note the "Contact Us" button above.)
Finally, and continuing in the negative mode, I do not expect to be contributing to this feature every day. What my colleagues do is up to them. They are overflowing with ideas and are convinced that are so many things that everybody needs to know, and the sooner the better. So it may turn out that "On the Square" has new entries every day, or even several times a day.
I hope you find this new feature to be of interest. I stand ready to be astonished anew. I believe I mentioned the importance of subscribing to FIRST THINGS.