A Few Things Ill Considered

Comments on Comments

So a couple of regular supporting commenters have said they will abandon AFTIC unless I do something about a couple of regular antagonistic commenters. It is a difficult question for me as I do appreciate having help answering the various misinformation that is bandied about here. I really don’t have the time myself.

But I have a hard time with the idea of banning anyone for their content rather than for habitual profanity or abusive behavior, even though I agree people like crakar and snowman offer only information pollution.

My advice for dealing with this style of contrainism is mostly not responding more than once, and when responding doing so in a very brief, calm and rational.manor. The tactics they are using, which they have both clearly admitted are PR tactics, not scientific, only work when they provoke hostility. They will almost always have the last word, but if they only get one or two responses, they will not have the dozens of comments each on multiple threads the currently do.

But that’s me and I understand everyone has different motives and approaches. I would like knowledgeable people to be comfortable reading and commenting.

One thing that comes to mind is simply insisting on on topic comments and providing more open threads. I am also open to the suppresion of mindless repetition of already addressed attacks.

I am open to suggestions.

Comments

  1. #1 Adam
    July 15, 2009

    I don’t particularly care for banning or censorship. Given that most comments fall under the “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic” guide, I think it’s only fair to give denialists a chance to respond, even if they only recycle long-debunked talking points over and over again. On other blogs, it might be appropriate to delete these posts, but given that the topic here is the basic science I think it’s only fair to leave them be and let rational people respond to them.

    That being said, I would be open to a ‘stupid-threshold’ as has been suggested somewhere already.

    Additionally, it’s probably appropriate to shutdown threads that get completely out of hand, like the post on Ian Plimer’s book.
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2009/07/open_thread_on_plimer.php

  2. #2 Snowman
    July 15, 2009

    Hi Coby – Ban me if you wish; I really don’t mind.

    However, I do hope you will a consider a similar restriction on Ian Forrester. I am certain that if you read through a few of his recent posts you will agree that he sets the bar impossibly high when it comes to abusive behaviour, as you put it.

    I note, incidentally, that Ian called not only for me to be cast into the outer darkness, but Crakar and Richard, too. Surely that would be outrageous, as they are both informed and interesting commentators, whether or not you agree with them.

  3. #3 Ian Forrester
    July 15, 2009

    Coby, as dhogaza and I have noted, the science blogs have become infected of late by a nasty infection of deniers. Something has to be done and I am willing to help in coming to a solution so that repeated comments which are misrepresentations of the science (this is a science blog, not a political one where lies are accepted and in fact expected). Thus a number of blogs which are un-moderated have actually become echo chambers for the denier sites since most of the misinformation is cut and pasted from these sites.

    Blog moderators have come up with a number of solutions. Firstly, there are the completely un-moderated blogs. These are the ones having the most problems since the volume of nonsense on them just gets so high that intelligent people just start to ignore them.

    Secondly, some moderators post guidelines as to what is acceptable, if posters cross the line they are given a warning, if they continue they are “snipped”. Some times obnoxious posts are transferred to a “sin bin” where they can be viewed but not responded to. It is always nice to give a short explanation as to why this action has been taken.

    Thirdly, some blogs are rigorously moderated and the nonsense is rejected and posters are banned. This of course always brings up the cry of censorship. However, those blogs are also the ones where actual science is discussed and there is no need to continually respond to nonsense.

    I think that scientists prefer the third option but non-scientists are more forgiving and may prefer the second option.

    However, whatever remedy is adopted to stop the blatant trolling which is going on it must be instituted quickly otherwise the benefits of a blog such as this will be lost as the trollers and deniers will have effectively shut it down, just look at what happened to Andrew Dessler’s blog, he has not posted on it for over four months. A number of trolls, engaged in “tag team” tactics, seem to have essentially shut his blogging activities down (there may be other reasons but that is what it seems like to me).

    I should also like to point out that I have never used ad hominem attacks on the trolls. They should read up on the definition of “ad hominem.” I have called a spade a spade, a liar a liar and a denier a denier. I have always given examples of why I have used these terms (certainly the first time I have used them). I, on the other hand have been a frequent target of ad hominem attacks since they offer no proof for the verbal abuse hurled my way.

  4. #4 sidd
    July 15, 2009

    I agree that some posters are tiresome. Moderation with a firm hand is one way to fix that. Another way is the rating system supported by some blogging systems (scoop for example.) And one could implement a killfile, so evryone could ignore posters they didnt like. Actually, if the name of the poster could appear before the comment, that might save everyone a buncha time. Then everyone could page down quickly enuf so as to limit blood pressure rise. The last might be the fastest fix.

  5. #5 dhogaza
    July 15, 2009

    I used to be one of three moderators at a very popular photo site, so I know how time consuming and frustrating moderating posts can be.

    You could start by simply deleting posts that don’t discuss science, for example this latest gem from snowman posted a few minutes go on another thread:

    Until fairly recently, I looked upon the warmists with a sort of genial tolerance. But increasingly I believe that they are a profound danger to the West and our way of life. These are people whose fantasies have beguiled spineless governments and politicians of all stripes, who have themselves have become too enfeebled and crippled by first world guilt to stand up for the West and for rationality.

    How they must be laughing in China as they contemplate the antics of these useful idiots (to use Lenin’s phrase). My only hope is that a succession of increasingly cold winters might eventually jolt the political classes into some semblance of sanity before they complete the task of destroying our economy – a task upon which they are now energetically engaged.

    “These are people whose fantasies…” – dismisses the work of climate scientists as being “fantasy”.

    “…they complete the task of destroying our economy – a task upon which they are now energetically engaged…” – climate scientists aren’t doing science, they’re really engaged in a global conspiracy to destroy our economy.

    Such commentary has no place on a blog that is set up for *discussing climate SCIENCE*.

    I’d just ban the dude, myself.

  6. #6 Robert Grumbine
    July 15, 2009

    To the extent that ‘how to talk to a skeptic’ is part of your point, it makes sense to have some of the pseudo-skeptics commenting — makes it clearer that you’re not making up idiocy to refute. But a little goes a long way there.

    I don’t mind a quick check on the blogger/moderator’s part to ensure that posts are a) on-topic to the current thread and b) contribute scientific content. As a reader, if I’m reading a blog post about temperature trends, then that’s what I want to see. Digressions on to volcanic aerosols … are digressions. If there’s a volcanic aerosol thread, that’s the place for the comment. If not, an open thread. If no open thread, make the contribution elsewhere.

    The part b is not as small a thing as I’d have hoped. It’s easy enough to say things that are at least nominally on topic, but are contributing nothing of substance. Again, as a reader, 30 posts of ‘me too’ or ‘you’re another’, with tangential at best connection to the science are not a help.

    Partly because of the many off-topic and content-free comments, I confess I haven’t read enough of the comments to have a working list of whom you might especially want to put in a sin bin. The bad news being that it means I don’t read the comments as much as you’d likely want.

    Irrespective of such matters, it’s important that the decision of ‘not on topic’ or ‘no substance’ be made against posters without regard for what point they’re holding, or denying. I’m sure you’d do so. But I’ve been reminded of this issue in my years in the creationism/evolution wars, where some of the most destructive (towards productive discussion) people have felt they were ‘on my side’.

  7. #7 coby
    July 15, 2009

    I will delete comments like the one dhogza quoted above in the future.

  8. #8 dhogaza
    July 15, 2009

    Thanks, Coby …

  9. #9 Katherine
    July 15, 2009

    Oh please. Banning someone from commenting on a private blog is not censorship. It’s like being uninvited from a dinner party because you killed all the conversation with your ranting (blatantly stolen from another blog that I forgot). Noone is trying to stop you from ranting, they just reserve the right to remove you from their private spaces if you do. Go and find a street corner or your own blog for the rantings.

    Coby: my suggestion is to make the policy on some threads be that for anyone to post in disagreement, they must reference some scientific proof. This might be a bit hardline for you, but it would get rid of the disrupters. Or allow everyone one comment each until they are replied to (by someone correcting them).

    Good luck with whatever you decide :)

  10. #10 pough
    July 15, 2009

    I’d vote against overzealous banning, especially on this blog.

  11. #11 Atticuq
    July 15, 2009

    My vote is for reddit style upmoding. It quickly sorts the comments by relevance and understanding of the subject.

  12. #12 coby
    July 15, 2009

    As far as I know, I can not implement any kind of scoring, rating, user killfiling etc. The platform is MovableType and it is administered by ScienceBlogs, so unless those tools are available out of the box, I don’t see it happening here.

    I will endeavor to delete contentless pontifications but all other commenters need to understand that I may not see it for up to 10 hours (we have a contingent from Down Under) and replying to any such post makes it harder to delete.

    So if there really is no there there, then save your keystrokes.

  13. #13 ScruffyDan
    July 16, 2009

    I recently had to deal with this issue (after being linked to by Morano). The amount of absolute garbage that polluted the comments made me take a hard line on information pollution. In the end I decided that I don’t really want to hear (and be forced to debunk) every single denier talking point over and over again. I am not interested in their theories that prove climate change cannot be happening.

    In short if they cannot back up their claims with published research I don;t want to hear it.

    Is such a hard line appropriate for this blog. Perhaps, or perhaps not, but over at my place the information pollution was hampering more valuable discussions.

  14. #14 crakar14
    July 16, 2009

    My opinions (for what they are worth), i suggest we all take a deep breath and relax a little and consider the following;

    1) It can be easy to misinterpret a post, partly due to ones ability or lack thereof to type what they are trying to say in a coherent manner and also whilst we all speak english we come from different parts of the world with different ways of saying things. If you are unsure of a posts meaning then please ask for clarification instead of just assuming.

    2) There are times we all (and i include myself here) have crossed the line of common decency, being rude and arguing with each other does little to educate (thats why we are here) each other and the readers on the science of climate.

    3)The people that post on this site have a responsibilty to behave ourselves for not only Coby’s sake but for the many people that view this site (without posting). If someone visits this site and reads the crap that has been posted recently do you think they will return for a second look? I know i would not.

    4) I appreciate that this is fundamentally a pro AGW site in name and we are all passionate about our own personnal views we need to pull our over inflated egos in a little bit OK.

    Cheers

    Crakar

  15. #15 pough
    July 16, 2009

    One thing I would suggest is to edit posts in place with something like [useless pontification redacted] or [don't let's be rude]. That way you can’t really be accused of censorship (not that it really makes sense anyways) and people can get the message and adapt without being dismissed.

    Also, be evenhanded with the editing pen. Be just as harsh with friend as with foe in removing extraneous garbage. I don’t mind being taken to task if I cross lines. I prefer that to seeing blatant favouritism, to be honest.

  16. #16 Vernon
    July 17, 2009

    [redacted]

    Coby,

    I hope you do put in some guidelines for civil discourse, but only if you enforce it across the board.

    [I do intend to be even handed. The first part of your comment is elided to avoid unnecessary personal back and forth]

  17. #17 Vernon
    July 17, 2009

    [redacted]

    Coby,

    Is there any way to have an edit feature so that the poster can reword a post if they say something in the heat of the moment and realize that they have been rude and would like to correct it?

    [coby here: Unfortunately, I don't think this platform offers that. I can only suggest a follow up comment to clarify or withdraw something already said, or if it is important enough to you, email me and I will make your requested change.]

  18. #18 Vernon
    July 17, 2009

    Coby,

    I just want to be clear, is it going to remain acceptable for those who’s complaints you made this post about to continue with their posting style because they are valued contributers?

  19. #19 Ian Forrester
    July 17, 2009

    [redacted]

    [Personal commentaries, justified or not, are not going to get us anywhere]

  20. #20 Richard
    July 17, 2009

    Coby,

    So far as I can make out the only rules you have made is against “contentless pontifications” and repetitions to score points?

    I was quite amused to see that the only person you have seen fit to rebuke under your rules was Craker and no one had called for his banning.

    What about ad hominem attacks? Someone has claimed he does not make ad hominem attacks he merely calls a spade a spade when he calls someone a liar or a denier or in the pay of Exxon Mobil (or whatever – we dont have the company here).

    Would you agree that such comments are unacceptable? I may have done the same but only in retaliation, to make the fellow realise what it feels like to be attacked like that.

    Would you agree to ask the person who makes such an attack to refrain regardless of who he may be?

    Robert Grumbine has said that you should enforce your rules evenly, whether you feel they are ‘on your side’ or opposing your views.

    Lastly about post #5 from dhogaza about Snowman. I 100% agree with what Snowman said. Agreed it maybe offtopic on the thread he posted it. I dont recall which one. But given that the IPCC deals not only with climate science but also with economic issues, why not open a new thread where these are discussed also. After all it might just be the teeny weeniest bit possible that they may have got their science wrong and also, quite independently, the teeny weeniest bit possible that they might have got the economics wrong about what we should be doing about it, even if the science is right.

  21. #21 Richard
    July 17, 2009

    Cracker, I’m bloody disappointed at you mate. Grovelling is not becoming of you. If you read the post at Plimer’s, no one called for your banning anyway. And I dont think they will.

    And some friendly advice. Even I find your repetition a bit much and generally dont read your posts. If something has already been answered or dealt with by Coby, you have to deal with that reply.

  22. #22 dhogaza
    July 17, 2009

    Lastly about post #5 from dhogaza about Snowman. I 100% agree with what Snowman said

    [...] I’d rather a “science blog” concentrate on science.

    [...]

  23. #23 dhogaza
    July 17, 2009

    What about ad hominem attacks? Someone has claimed he does not make ad hominem attacks he merely calls a spade a spade when he calls someone a liar or a denier or in the pay of Exxon Mobil (or whatever – we dont have the company here).

    Well, those aren’t ad hom attacks. When someone lies, calling them a liar isn’t an ad hom attack.

    Sigh, you guys get *everything* wrong.

  24. #24 dhogaza
    July 17, 2009

    Oh, and BTW, I’m coming closer and closer to refusing to visit the blog.

    If you want comments on climate science to be represented by the likes of Richard, Snowman, and Craker …

    Just say so.

    (though Snowman’s response to your post has been to post a couple of reasonable things, which hopefully we can encourage, though Richard’s setting himself forth into being martyred because anti-science points of view might not be accepted here).

  25. #25 Snowman
    July 18, 2009

    Hi Coby – Another poster has suggested opening a thread for those who are interested in the political/economic/cultural aspects of this subject.

    I thought this wasn’t at all a bad idea, and I wondered if this is something you might consider.

    I am well aware, of course, that this site is intended as a forum for scientific discussion. Nevertheless, the other aspects are terribly important, and perhaps you will give it some thought.

  26. #26 crakar14
    July 19, 2009

    Richard # 21, Coby stated i was 2 steps (i believe) from being banned.

    It would be nice not to have to repeat oneself if only questions could be answered adequately the first time around. Its a bit like when you repeatedly raise the question of trends throughout the 20th century have not changed, do you believe your questions have been answered adequately?

    I would not call my post (#14 i assume) grovelling, more like brokering a truce if you will.

    I see some are almost at the point of arguing about the arguing, we will we not learn?

  27. #27 Richard
    July 19, 2009

    Craker – Ok fair comment. I have a hunch they wont ban you here. They love you. For one thing you take the insults and abuse they hand out. Though Coby seems to have put a stop to that. Keep your comments low, dont get caught in his rules. The rest of them, even the ones who dish it out to you, specially the ones who dish it out, love you.

  28. #28 John Mashey
    July 20, 2009

    1) You have to do something … or go the way of many USENET newsgroups, once frequented by topnotch people who simply gave up, because the signal-to-noise ratio degraded so badly.

    2) I keep wishing for any thread to have a “shadow thread” (akin to a sin bin, somewhat) to which a moderator may move any post, leaving the name of the poster and a link to its new place. Use this for the usual dumb things, but for off-topic posts, etc. Anyone who wants can go over to the shadow thread and post there if they like.

    3) But at least with a good moderator, the S/N ratio of the main thread should go way up.

    I don’t know offhand of any blogging software that does this easily, by may if enough people ask…

  29. #29 crakar14
    July 20, 2009

    Richard if it wasnt for us they would all be sitting around back slapping each other waiting for the world to end. How boring would that be?

  30. #30 crakar14
    July 20, 2009

    Do we still have an open thread?

    I wanted to post this in there, maybe you can move it for me Coby, thanks.

    h.t.t.p://www.iceagenow.com/The_real_reason_I_will_fight_in_the_Senate_on_climate_change.htm

    It is a statement by senator Fielding from Australia, but a bit of background first.

    Fielding is one of few swing votes the government needs to pass its cap and trade bill in the senate and he has reservations about it (as he explains). So he was hoping to chat with Al Gore whilst he was wining and dinning AGW proponents in Melbourne recently.

    However Al (refused/ignored/ran out of time) did not meet with him and other not so convinced senators.

    The whole purpose of Al’s trip down under was to bolster the AGW movement but in the end it would appear all it did was weaken it from a political perspective anyway.

    My question is why would Al Gore choose not to meet with the said senator? I thought people like him would be a priority.

    Any thoughts?

  31. #31 Snowman
    July 20, 2009

    So, the sages over at Real Climate say it might be 2020 before we see any warming, do they? Let me just plug that data into my climate model and see what comes out.

    Let’s see now: 2020 minus 1998 equals 22. That’s 22 years of static or falling temperatures. Okay, what about CO2 during that time? What’s this? It’s going to go up even faster than at present?

    Hmmm. Let me just see if I’ve got this straight. CO2 is going to shoot up but temperatures are going to stay the same or fall for more than two decades.

    Gosh, there sure seems to be a message in here somewhere, if only I could figure out what it is. Can anybody help?

  32. #32 dhogaza
    July 20, 2009

    So, the sages over at Real Climate say it might be 2020 before we see any warming, do they?

    No, they don’t. Strange, I would expect someone who has overturned all of climate science to understand the meaning of the phrase …

    GUEST POST.

  33. #33 dhogaza
    July 20, 2009

    Gosh, there sure seems to be a message in here somewhere, if only I could figure out what it is. Can anybody help?

    RTFA for a non-technical overview. RTFP for the technical details. And … STFU until you’ve done one or both.

    Your snarking over something you haven’t even read is pure trollery.

  34. #34 Snowman
    July 20, 2009

    So, commenting on something I haven’t read is pure trollery. Yeah, I guess you’re right.

    But wait a minute! Wasn’t there somebody in here the other day lambasting Ian Plimer’s book, only to admit when challenged that he hadn’t read it either?

    That coudn’t have been….could it?

  35. #35 dhogaza
    July 20, 2009

    But wait a minute! Wasn’t there somebody in here the other day lambasting Ian Plimer’s book, only to admit when challenged that he hadn’t read it either?

    If you’re suggesting that the various sources I’ve read that *quote* Plimer’s book are lying about the content, then post proof.

    I have seen other stuff he’s written online and transcripts of interviews (again, if you think those transcripts are lies, please post proof), and am aware of his views.

  36. #36 Snowman
    July 20, 2009

    The quality or otherwise of Prof. Plimer’s book is not the issue here, dhogaza. I was responding to your definition of a troll as someone who criticizes a work without bothering to read it. And you know what they say about people who live in glass houses….

    But let it go. I am sure we have more interesting things to talk about.

  37. #37 dhogaza
    July 20, 2009

    I was responding to your definition of a troll as someone who criticizes a work without bothering to read it. And you know what they say about people who live in glass houses….

    But I have read excerpts kindly provided by others. If you catch someone misquoting the book, feel free to point it out. Until then, I’ll assume the excerpts are accurate.

  38. #38 Snowman
    July 20, 2009

    Well, dhogaza, I don’t want to make a fetish of this, but I rather think the bits you have read will have been chosen by people who – how shall I put this – have a bit of an issue with the book generally.

    Moreover, perhaps you might agree with me that a few extracts do not necessarily do justice to a work of 500 highly-detailed pages.

    But, anyway, let’s not argue about it. As I said, I am sure there are more productive things to talk about.

  39. #39 skip
    July 23, 2009

    gotta be a better way to do this.

    its really hard to follow who is who in the current format. yeah i know its easy for me to bitch about it since i just sit my ass on the fence and don’t contribute but maybe the font colors or something could be adjusted so that when someone is quoting a disputant for the purpose of repudiation its easier to realize that instead of having to figure it out from context.

    skip in reno