Thursday, June 19, 2014

WUWT wants feedback and asks the impossible of its readers

Sou | 2:09 AM Go to the first of 16 comments. Add a comment

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:
  1. 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.
  2. I’d like to see less cryptic comments (like from Mosher) and more in-depth comments.
  3. 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.
  4. I’d like to see less trolling and more constructive commentary. One way to acheive that is to pay attention
  5. 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. 


  1. I had to smile at this contribution from J. Philip Peterson in the WUWT comments above:

    "I can never seem to find the right graph or article to counter an argument. ..."

    Seems to say it all I think.

  2. There's a very basic MO to Willard's posts, having to do with what appears "above the fold" in a very blatant attempt to increase WTFUWT? page views.

    1) It's basic trolling, give the minimum amount of information necessary to get as many individuals to click on the given post.

    2) Almost never provide a direct link to the PR "above the fold" (like you state it's always to http://*.*.edu/ or something similar, just the basic institutional URL) and almost never provide a direct link to the paper/study "above the fold".

    3) If the post isn't a straight cut-and-paste, pepper the "above the fold" with trash talk and link(s) to previous WTFUWT? posts.

    4) Like Goddard, post at least 5-10 posts per day (Goddard it at an extreme though, having like 666 posts/day, but with very few comments/post though).

    So, like a train wreck or car accident, I can't help but go to WTFUWT? on a daily basis, you know basic rubber necking, but unless he were to totally scramble the "above the fold" portion, I've always been able to Google what little information Willard does provide "above the fold" and find the PR and/or underlying paper, without having to hit the "Continue reading →" or the post title itself.

    1. Yes, all I do is copy a few words from Anthony's copy and paste and google it. Usually ScienceDaily.com has published the press release and they usually also have a direct link to the paper itself. Often the full paper is available somewhere too, even if it's not open access.

      Anthony is lazy and not at all interested in the subject matter. He doesn't read the articles he pastes on his blog and he almost never posts a link to the paper itself. About the only times he does so is when the press release (or denier site he copies from) has it included. He knows it would be a waste of effort as far as his target audience is concerned. They are about as interested in science as Anthony Watts is. That is, not at all.

  3. In the latest Tim Ball piece's comment thread, Dbstealey says this to someone who stands up to him:

    You label skeptics as believing in a ‘conspiracy theory’, when that conspiracy has been proven beyond any doubt. It is no longer a theory, it is a proven fact.

    You can't have a no conspiracy rule when the mods are part of that problem. By the way, the exchange is quite interesting in how it throws open the mind f a typical denier and their inability to understand what ad hominem means.

    1. Smokey is a greenhouse effect denier and a Little Ice Age bouncer. And a guard dog at WUWT, making sure to keep out the riff raff - you know, those dreadful people who understand science or want to discuss it.

    2. Update - Smokey having complained the AGW supporters censor, Smokey's adversary has been, er, censored. Odd, that. Such an open and welcoming site as WUWT deletes comments. Who'd have thought?

  4. Title of a piece at WUWT:

    "And then they came for your home mortage tax deduction…"

    Now I understand why they put the C in (C)AGW.

  5. Anthony can ask for all the feedback he wants, the fact remains that his blog exists for the sole purpose of misleading the public as to the science of climate change and as such, will always be pretty much what it always was.

    As someone who has spent considerable time trying to engage deniers and people who simply don't understand how the evidence of AGW is collated and presented I can tell you that in many cases, even trying to discuss these important issues is to be assailed by cadres of dis-informed trolls who usually have no idea what they are
    talking about but continually spew out the same idiotic talking points they have learned to parrot from sites like WUWT and Goddard et al......and they have learned to do so in a very insulting manner that serves to drag any discussion into the gutter of name-calling and ignorant dirge.

    It gets very disheartening to be continually lectured on the religion of CAGW, or "the 17- year pause," or how scientists are all in collusion to mislead the public and scam grant money and all the other simple-minded arguments repeated, time after time, from people who could not calculate a standard deviation or solve a simple quadratic equation. And it is always the same simple talking points over and over again no matter how discredited the source or the basic facts.

    Often trying to explain the logical fallacies or errors in interpretation they have picked up from Anthony or whatever other blog they have been trolling is far more work than one can comfortably put into an on-line discussion.

    I don't think you can blame people who do not have the scientific training or basic understanding of inherent uncertainty in the scientific process for forming wrong conclusions but presumably people like Anthony and Monckton know better and conduct themselves in such a sneering, mocking and condescending manner for the sole propose of misleading the public and creating an atmosphere where climate science is ridiculed and distrusted by the general public.

    Their motivation and funding is fairly obvious but their actions and words are beneath contempt. I know I probably shouldn't but I've come to despise the basic talking points and language of denial.

    Anthony's blog is what it is and no amount of tweaking will turn it into anything else.

    1. "...but presumably people like Anthony and Monckton know better..."

      What makes you say that? I do not think there is much evidence of that.

  6. I particularly liked davidmhoffer who apparently will 'hit hard' by only debating with warmist spawn on WUWTs own forums (where I expect dbstealey will come to his rescue should the 'hard hitting' prove difficult).

    1. That's the way it works. Smokey gets involved, misquotes, lies, insults then uses his moderator hat to delete your comment when you point out what a drongo he is. And claiming that CAGW proponents do the censoring. And morons think this is how it should be over at WUWT because Anthony is moronic enough to let it happen.

      If it wasn't serious, it might just be funny.

  7. because i am nothing if not helpful, i believe that Warren Bonesteel is in search of Skeptical Science, and the answer to tteclod's question would be "the IPCC". HTH :-)

  8. Thanks Sou for your reactivity :)

    I thought this thread was worth mentioning, because several people (as I said earlier) want a summary of "what they know about climate". They apparently didn't realise that the whole WUWT community is united only on the "it's not CO2" theme, and that there are several chapels that cannot stand each other (we had some samples in the comment, with the intervention of one "dragon slayer")
    The moment such a project begins, if I can extend the behaviour of Poptech vs Mosher (but this is quite an extrapolation, Mosher is more or less rejected now), I expect an explosion of the WUWT community. I think Watts is aware of this problem, seeing how he oscillates between letting Tim Ball make guest posts and berating dragon slayer comments ...

    My guess is that Watts won't dare to do such a thing (although, as a commenter pointed out, SkS site is very effective). But it will be interesting if he tries such an experiment.

    1. Usually when Anthony asks his readers for tips to improve WUWT he sticks to blog design changes, not content. This time he opened up a pandora's box by introducing the notion that he would like people to actually read some science. I reckon he probably meant WUWT pseudoscience, but some of his readers interpreted it differently as meaning science by professional scientists.

      That's the opposite of his intention. He's torn. Anthony wants recognition by whoever as a science blogger. But he's not. He's a pseudo-science funny-man blogger at best. He's torn in the other direction too. He needs to maintain his reputation as an anti-science blogger or he'll lose all his readers.

      No-one in their right mind would go to WUWT to learn about science. The regulars rely on him scoffing at science.

      Anthony wouldn't dare to do any more "science" than he does now, which is to maintain a page on sea ice - hidden away when it works against his intent and pulled out and cherry-picked or misrepresented when it suits him.

      For the rest, he flings contradictory bits of nonsense at his readers of the "anything but CO2" and "it's not happening" type, working his way through the different denier memes that are so well documented at SkepticalScience.com.

    2. Perhaps Watts is going to out himself as a true believer in AGW, accepting the science and the sensible politics. If I may pimp my own blog, but I did see it coming:


  9. No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it's still a pig. I see little chance for improvement....


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