This article is a catchup on some of the goings on at WUWT while I was busy elsewhere. Anthony Watts wrote a surprisingly (for him) lucid article seeking feedback from his readers on how he could improve his blog (archived here). He got a lot of feedback - 243 comments. He also told his readers what he wanted:
What I’d like to see different about readers and commenters on WUWT:
- Saying “off topic” and then posting an off topic comment doesn’t actually make it OK. We have Tips and Notes (see menu below the header) for that.
- I’d like to see less cryptic comments (like from Mosher) and more in-depth comments.
- I’d like less name calling. The temptation is great, and I myself sometimes fall victim to that temptation. I’ll do better to lead by example in any comments I make.
- I’d like to see less trolling and more constructive commentary. One way to acheive that is to pay attention
- I’d like to see more click-throughs on science articles. I note that articles that discuss papers sometimes don’t get as many click-throughs as articles that discuss the latest climate inanity. While such things can be entertaining, bear in mind it is important to keep up with the science too. So, tell me, what could we do better, do different, add, or remove from WUWT?
Please be thoughtful and respectful in such comments. Thanks for your consideration – Anthony
Asking the impossible
You'll notice that one thing that Anthony Watts asked was that people click through links to read the "science". He reckons very few people do that. Anthony's science articles are copies of press releases about new (and sometimes old) scientific papers. You can easily tell his science articles because Anthony almost invariably writes a headline starting with the word "claim". That's his signal to WUWT readers that the article is a press release about new science and that they are required to ridicule it rather than read about it.
But in asking readers to "click through" on science articles, he's pretty well asking the impossible. That's because more often than not Anthony doesn't provide any link to the underlying paper. Most of the time he doesn't even mention the paper itself. Nor does he usually provide a link to the press release he copied. Occasionally he'll provide a link to the home page of the organisation that he got the press release from and leave it up to readers to try to find their way to the actual article.
And while he'd like less name-calling, we've yet to see if he applies that to Christopher Monckton.
What's missing is any plea to cut down on conspiracy theorising. I guess that would alienate his mate Tim Ball, who is a Class A conspiracy theorist.
Anthony also wants less trolling. At WUWT anyone who posts about climate science is a troll and if they aren't banned within their first several posts they can consider themselves lucky.
Anthony also wants fewer cryptic comments. Perhaps any comment containing words of more than two syllables appears cryptic to his readers. WUWT is for the scientific illiterati not for science lovers. He would like more "in-depth" comments. Not so much of the typical "I don't understand it but it's brilliant" responses to Willis' wonderings.
Click the "read more" to see some of the requests that are unlikely to be fulfilled.
From the WUWT comments
Here are a few of the requests that I'll bet don't get acted upon:
leftturnandre has a request to stop with the fallacies, which if acted upon would leave WUWT up the creek without a paddle - and says:
June 15, 2014 at 8:34 am
Got only a second now, but the very first thing that comes into mind: don’t allow fallacies. Don’t go down to the level of the opposition. Keep on the high grounds.
Warren Bonesteel wants to cut out half of WUWT articles and almost all the comments when he says:
June 15, 2014 at 8:50 am
In your articles, don’t trash talk anyone. Ever. Don’t just be professional. Set the standard for professionalism. Just present what the other side said and then present the facts. e.g. ‘He/they said…’ then, ‘Here are the facts & here are the references and resources.’
Offer opinion pieces separately and identified as such.
tteclod would like to learn something about climate science instead of WUWT's normal fare of pseudo-scientific babble and says:
June 15, 2014 at 8:53 am
Would it be possible to construct a textbook “Guide to What We Know of Earth Climate Systems,” with subsections discussing things like CO2 forcing, solar forcing, anthropogenic forcing, historic climate records, evidence from geologic investigations and ice cores and tree rings, and so on? If such a textbook book already exists, would somebody point me in the right direction?
azleader is asking for articles by climate scientists. Anthony has trashed so many climate scientists and long ago burned any bridges climate scientists tried to build with him:
June 15, 2014 at 9:11 am
1-Stick to science more so than personality or politics. The science speaks for itself.
2-Encourage more scientists to participate in article discussions.
Dr. Leif Svalgaard does that and most of us learn more from his comments than from the article they were made about.
3-Encourage climate scientists to author their own posts explaining their research and results.
Perig very occasionally gets this wish granted, allowing the people who criticised a WUWT article a second shot at ridiculing WUWT, and says:
June 15, 2014 at 9:17 am
WUWT is, in itself, a topic of discussion among the Crusaders of Climate Doom. When a WUWT article is criticised somewhere notable, it should be rebutted, imho. I’m not saying such rebuttals never happened, but the Crusaders should feel that they’re on notice just as much as the idiotic mass media who parrot alarmist pseudo-news, which are made fun of regularly here. There could even be a ‘WUWT on the web’ section in the WUWT site. I’d expect this strategy to limit the sheer amount of comments after WUWT articles.
Richard Howes wants Anthony to reconsider his knee-jerk banning of anyone who dares comment about climate science and says:
June 15, 2014 at 9:52 am
Encourage more alarmists to contribute empirical evidence of CAGW. Let’s stop belittling them, and spur them to share the evidence that they have, beyond models, that we are causing the world to warm, or change, or disrupt, or whatever the claim is. Woops, there I go belittling them again.
Patrick Sullivan would like WUWT to be more accessible and less like an amateurish club for climate denial insiders and says:
June 15, 2014 at 10:05 am
Well it’s an excellent site, but since you ask I’d say the number one thing is that WUWT does have a fairly high barrier to entry to casual and new followers (am I supposed to know who Lucia is?) A lot of cryptic abbreviations, a lot of inside-baseball references to various climate figures by one name with no identifier. For the cognoscenti, it’s fine to speak of Judith’s paper on TSI. But I assume you don’t want this site to only ever be of use to several thousand hard-core readers who have followed every post for years. There are any number of people I’d like to refer to various posts here, but so often the posts and their references are just too abstruse for the uninitiated. I don’t mean the science, and you can’t and shouldn’t dumb down the physics. But the presentation.
Related to the above is something that also touches on what Warren Bonesteel pleaded for: professionalism. It sounds insulting to imply that there’s anything amateurish about the site, but of course there is at times. Specifically the frequent cartoons which combine several flaws: the above-alluded-to tendency toward cryptic references to warmist and other figures that are now household names, the somewhat primitive humor that is employed, and the general air the cartoons gives the site of not being 100% serious.
Doug naively thinks that it's possible to separate US-style climate science denial at WUWT from politics and says:
June 15, 2014 at 10:14 am
Try to separate science and politics. It really is possible to support Obama’s health care reform efforts and loathe his scientific ignorance. There people on the fence with regard to CAGW who would benefit from this site, but they do not trust a source which reads like a tea part manifesto.
Richard Mallett - as readers know, this isn't impossible here, far from it. It's impossible at WUWT though. What the mod means is "they shall not debate" ie the blog spawn are not permitted at WUWT. Richard Mallett says (h/t bratisla):
June 15, 2014 at 10:49 am
When the ‘blog spawn’ like Hot Whopper make valid objections to WUWT, either engage them in debate, or admit they make some valid points. They are not always the enemy. Similarly with the CAGW advocates like Skeptical Science – don’t make fun of them, engage them in debate. Both sides (or both ends of the spectrum) can learn from each other, if they stop seeing each other as the enemy.
[Reply: Problem is, they will not debate in a fair, moderated forum. ~mod.]
J. Philip Peterson would like rebuttals to the SkepticalScience.com rebuttals to WUWT pseudo-science, presumably something more in-depth than "it's not happening" and says (extract):
June 15, 2014 at 1:37 pm
First of all, my first thought was “don’t change a thing” but…
I note that a lot of the CAGW posters refer to SKS as a reference and a few of my friends with PhD’s in Physics, Computer Science, and Mathematics who I personally have a debate with, often quote or link to info on Skeptical Science.
...It might be useful to have a quick reference as to why the SKS articles are unreliable with some examples. I can never seem to find the right graph or article to counter an argument. ...
...It might be useful to link to a page that expands (Or explains from a skeptical view) these SKS “Most Used Climate Myths”...
Brian is a denier seeking like minds and wants WUWT to improve its Google page rank (after all these years it's still only a 3 - Anthony would be miffed to learn that HW has had a page rank of 5 for ages, and it's much newer) and says (extract):
June 15, 2014 at 2:26 pm
Two suggestions: Better marketing of the site and a more structured approach to SEO (Search Engine Optimization for those who struggle with TLA’s )
I discovered years ago that this was going to be my primary source of climate information for all the reasons stated by previous commentators and by the quality of most of your posts. But my discovery of your site was more of an accident of search engine logic than by design. You posted an article regarding how far down in the list WUWT is on a Google search illustrated this fact some time ago. A coherent approach to SEO would go a long ways toward that improving your placement.
Jeff Alberts doesn't like WUWT's double standards and says (extract):
June 15, 2014 at 3:44 pm
I think it’s counterproductive to call someone an anonymous coward without requiring real names (not that you could even enforce it). If one person is an anonymous coward because they disagree with you and don’t use their real name, then everyone who doesn’t use their real name, agreeable or not, are also anonymous cowards.
davidmhoffer might have come across this article. He says he won't debate his points but he'll sulk among his mates (extract):
June 15, 2014 at 7:13 pm
...Blog Spawn – I didn’t realize how much of this was going on until I inadvertently googled my own name and found a rebuttal to an article I’d published on WUWT. It was months later, so replying at that point was pointless. Had I known at the time though, I would have absolutely engaged. But I would have done so by shredding their claims in another article on WUWT. I don’t know which ones are the top ones, but if I did, I’d certainly monitor them when I write an article and then hit them back hard, not on their forum, but on this one....
James Allison is one of several others who'd like to see climate scientists write for WUWT. He acts as if he's been around WUWT for a while, so all I can say is "James, you can't be serious!". There are plenty of excellent climate science sites about if he was serious about discussing science with scientists. WUWT exists to trash science not discuss it; to belittle scientists not engage with them. He says:
June 16, 2014 at 1:55 am
I haven’t read the comments above so my apology if this idea has already been mentioned. WUWT often posts controversial articles, essays and research papers authored by climate scientists who fervently believe in AGW or human caused climate change. The many skeptic readers of WUWT waste no time criticising “shredding” the content. I would like see the author(s) formally invited to join the debate/discussion and given an opportunity to offer their rebuttal. I raised this idea many years ago however at that time Anthony or maybe a Mod suggested there was too much extra work involved. I understand this however I also believe that direct contribution from the Authors to the debate would add a nice roundness or balance to the discussion taking place. This balance is also sadly lacking at warmest blogs and so would add another point of difference for readers of WUWT. No?
Michael Spurrier wishes Anthony's love affair with Christopher Monckton would end (he wasn't the only one) and says:
June 16, 2014 at 5:32 am
Like a lot of others an end to the name calling and save the sarcasm for the Friday Funny…..
Personally I would not give Christopher Monckton such prominence because of his style – I would ask him to tone down his language and simply keep to the facts – I think because he is a caricature of an upper class Brit people don’t see beyond that and the good stuff from what he writes is often lost – I think it unfortunate that the world is like this but he does like to play along like it was some public school jape – often I feel he does more harm than good by presenting himself as a spokesperson for those of us who don’t believe that man is pushing the climate beyond its natural cycles.