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Skeptical Science housekeeping: Comments Gluttony

Posted on 7 October 2010 by John Cook

I received an email from SkS user scaddenp who lamented that as he checks the Recent Comments page on a daily basis, the number of comments being posted each day exceeds the number displayed. So I jumped into the database to have a look at how many comments are being submitted. Of course, this provided the opportunity to plot a graph - an opportunity I never pass up (for fellow data-geeks, here's the raw monthly data including October which I didn't include in the graph).

The rise in the number of comments (with a spike coinciding with the release of the iPhone app) did surprise me a little. The Recent Comments page only showed the last 40 comments but we're now getting over 100 comments per day. Consequently, I've rejigged Recent Comments so the comments are now paginated. From now on, you can dig as far back as you like through past comments (if you're a glutton for punishment). The Comments RSS Feed was even more limited - it only showed the last 20 comments. I've extended this to show any comments submitted over the last 24 hours.

Before anyone gets excited about the hockey stick shape, note that this is not actually a lot of comments compared to many other climate blogs. In fact, other blogs get similar traffic to Skeptical Science but an order of magnitude greater number of comments. My guess is this is due to our strict Comments Policy and the fact that registration is compulsory before you can submit a comment. But I would argue the level of discussion here at SkS is also of a higher quality than at many other blogs - I know I learn a lot from the informed and intelligent comments. So I make no apologies for the draconian moderation. :-)

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Comments

Comments 1 to 36:

  1. Keep it draconian - even more so. I dont mind being pinged for inappropriate comment. And thanks very much for that expansion of RSS.
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  2. "But I would argue the level of discussion here at SkS is also of a higher quality than at many other blogs..." I agree. I spent a few days at WUWT, and I would say the conversation here is generally at a higher level. (You can decide for yourself if that is an understatement.)
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  3. You've obviously tried to "adjust" your "data" so as to hide both the MWP and LIA. Also the recent rise in comments is obviously due to bit-flipping because of increased cosmic ray flux; we know this because so many comments are random gibberish.
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  4. Any thoughts to a similar post on deleteds? Betcha the App triggered a spike in comments meriting deletion as well. re: Doug (3) It's still the sun. :) The Yooper
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    Response: You had to ask, didn't you? I have a lot more important things I have to do with my limited time but the urge to plot another graph is irresistable:



    Please, no more requests. I'm not plotting the ratio of deleted skeptic comments to proAGW comments (hmm, although that would be quite interesting...)
  5. This graph is proof positive of AGW. The amount of hot air has risen in direct proportion to the number of comments. Or is that just correlation???? And note that the comment curve has flattened. So we can all go back to sleep.
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  6. John, just curious, how many hits do you get a day ?? I don't post often here but do follow along and learn LOTS. The moderation is spot on and it's a relief not to have to wade through the multiple posts of nonsense at far too many sites. Keep up the good work ..... ;-)
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  7. I'm with scaddenp: keep the moderation. Other sites can promote controversy to run up their hit counts, but you're doing a lot of work to make this site mature and intelligent. Keep it up! I'm making a donation. I suggest others who appreciate the site do the same.
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  8. Completely OT except it is housekeeping. The IPCC Reports Science or Spin thread is a bit mucked up, with comments and moderator's remarks blanking each other out. On Topic. Keep the moderation as it is. And if things get a bit difficult - shift (or delete) comments belonging to other threads sooner than you sometimes do. Not always necessary, but a good move from time to time.
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  9. "My guess is this is due to our strict Comments Policy and the fact that registration is compulsory before you can submit a comment" There's a test for this effect. Old AccuWeather page with no registration required: http://global-warming.accuweather.com/ New AccuWeather page with registration required: http://www.accuweather.com/blogs/climatechange/Science I would estimate there are 10X as many comments on the average post in their old format. Registration probably eliminates some of the obvious trolls and noise, so I think that's a good thing.
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    Response: 10 times as many? Yikes!
  10. Thanks John. Yet another thing I've been meaning to mention to you but haven't due to not wanting to overwhelm :)
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  11. I'm not a fan of number of hits or number of comments races. Rather it's important that an increase in the number of comments (which is good) does not deteriorate quality. I don't know how to measure it, if even possible. With some inevitable ups and downs, it looks in pretty good shape.
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  12. Pretty amazing, NewYorkJ. Not so long ago, New Scientist changed their arrangement so that only formal subscribers to the magazine may comment. In other words, making comments was no longer "free" as in free beer but indirectly involved forking over some money. The slump in the number of comments was astonishing, the improvement in quality (not surprisingly) remarkable. I've often wondered if setting a budget on the number of comments allowed per user over a given time span would help solve the "tragedy of the commons" effect on public discussion sites. If for instance one had the opportunity to make just 4 comments per day, I have to think it would have a positive effect on the quality of remarks. However, such a policy ought to also somehow recognize merit, and doing that is a bit of a problem because it calls for judgment.
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  13. Doug Bostrom: That may work for New Scientist, but one of the main newspapers in Norway, Dagbladet, did the same. Their comments are abysmal. Looks like racists, conspiracy theorists and political extremists of all stripes are willing to fork over $1 per month for a podium.
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  14. Harald, sorry to hear it, but looking at it from the optimist's viewpoint perhaps folks in Norway are more inclined to subscribe to newspapers across the board (I have no idea of the reality behind that speculation). Here in the U.S. we have a very depressing situation with newspaper circulation numbers, and publishers don't seem to understand that responding to that problem can't be solved by firing newsroom staff so as to prop up profits. A death spiral, very sad, bad for our system; I don't think specialist websites and the like are a substitute.
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  15. Way to go. Keep it draconian. Keep it worth reading. I wonder why you had a slight drop (Younger Dryas!) in comments just after the iPhone app was released.
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  16. You have it just right, I think. I used to read and comment on the 'Comment is Free' section of The Guardian (UK) but it got too tiring and boring reading the same old zombie arguments (repeated by the same people), or wading through the flood of one-off comments from people who can register and post immediately, and who then disappear. I think The Guardian is simply after traffic but it means that any articles by the likes of Monbiot or Hansen, for example, are immediately swamped in denial from whichever denial website has asked their readers to flood the comments with bizarre, bemusing and befuddled views. You sometimes get the odd flood here but there are more than enough articles and more than enough intelligent and rational posters to mop up any stray bizarreness ! Keep up the good work.
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  17. Even though I am usually swimming against the tide here, I hope you will accept my heartfelt congratulations. Great job!
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  18. Yes the moderation on this site is very much appreciated by those of us trying to digest and understand the science. It is a welcome oasis from the gibberish and vile on other sites. The comment climb i guess may be the result of two things. The first being that this site is getting more attention and second that the rate articles are posted seems to be increasing. Both of those factors of course are nice to see.
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  19. I was wondering a little bit about your principal component retention in Figure 1... I would like all your raw data, code, house address and phone number and copies of all your emails pertaining to this subject. If you refuse I will start a blog called "commentaudit" and I will prove that you had a slightly more elevated comment amount than you showed in your graph...
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  20. #4 I was going to ask if the data had been adjusted for deleted comments. Look I'm curious about the moderation criteria. I had a few time consuming posts deleted recently which I thought were mainly if not completely science in content and which were around- if not on-topic (more on topic than some of the surviving posts anyway). Have you started deleting posts you consider plain wrong or misguided?
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  21. Get personnal, graph the comments by poster, lets see who's posts generate the most heat ;)
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  22. HR #20 The moderation criteria seems to be based on the comments policy. I'm not 100% happy with the way that it all works, but it seems more effective than the nonsense at WUWTF for example. Hopefully in the not too distant future victims of comments deletion may get feedback from the deletionist as to why their comment was deleted.
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  23. Congratualations, John, it is hard to keep up with the stream of information coming from this site, but it is a superb resource! Hope it's not OT to say that. :(
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  24. Each commenter has provided an E-mail address. It would be helpful if software could be developed that would send each deleted comment back to its originator for post analysis. Unless a commenter saves the text in another application before submitting, there is no way to recover a deleted post. Maybe some folks can remember the contents of their posts, but I certainly can't. Must be my age.
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  25. Further to Roger's suggestion, kind of like a rejection notice with an implicit invitation to revise and resubmit.
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  26. One thought I'll offer is that you might want to consider moving the recent comments list to somewhere on the home page. Perhaps cut down the recent posts a little bit and then have a recent comments section right after it. The recent comments could just have the commenter name, the name of the post on which they are commenting and then the first sentence of their comment. This would mean that when readers first land here they would see both recent posts and recent comments simultaneously. This will keep threads not on the recent posts list alive by showing if people are still commenting on them. It seems to me that the number of comments submitted that the moderator notes would be more appropriate under a pre-existing post/thread has also increased of late. I believe this is because commenters feel that their comments only have currency if they are submitted under the most recent post. I understand that you have recent comments listed only one click removed from the home page, but each click is the equivalent of another ten mile drive down the information highway. Listing both recent posts and recent comments on the home page is a technique I have seen used in sites ranging from telemark skiing tips to other climate change discussions. It seems to work well for keeping old posts alive and for keeping comments under the appropriate thread. Just a thought. What you have created is outstanding, so this suggestion might be near or in the "Don't mess with success" category. But if you feel that you are telling people more and more often which threads would be more appropriate for their comments, you might give it a try.... Thanks for your superb work here and keep up the high standards.
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  27. Huba Huba John A Really Nice Trend I Like at SS is the diversification of the sources of articles, not just the rebuttals of sceptic arguments. Compare that with the limited range of Authors at WUWT or JoNova for example. Dialog, rather than preachers at the pulpit. An interesting direction might be to invite 'civilised' sceptics to make posts.
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    Response: After some email correspondance, I had invited one of our 'regular skeptics' to write a guest post but he baulked at the idea. In his defence, a number of people who've emailed me thoughts about climate have run from the room screaming when I suggested they write a guest blog post.
  28. A possibility to improve our ability to follow-up on posts we have made and on-going dicscussions would be to tie reporting of comments to out past activity. Once I am logged in, new comments to threads that I have commented on would be useful. Also, possibly a reply option would be interesting. We can reply to comments rather that simply add more comments at the end. And I can then see all replies to my comments, even for quite old posts. This is important. Some serious comment trails can die just because the participants are only able to blog sporadicaly - my life being a case in point. To have the tools to carry on a slow motion conversation would be great, not just respond to the latest and greatest post. As an old IT guy, let me qualify these suggestions with the caveat. Welcome to the wonderful world of Functionality Creep! Keep up the good work man!
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  29. kdkd @22 Perhaps, in an ideal blogosphere world, a deletions policy would show an 'audit trail' of what was deleted and why. However, see my comments to John about Functionality Creep.
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  30. Glenn #29 Yeah, I'd love to see a public sin-bin, but I suspect that would have counterproductive consequences.
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  31. The kink in the "hockey stick" graph appears to be at the end of 2009. Related to this perhaps ?
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  32. Any thoughts on having an Open Thread, where you can move comments that are off-topic and have no easily-identifiable thread to which they can be moved ? Or where general enquiries/legitimate moans can be posted ? By the way, I would be very surprised if any of the 'resident skeptics' ever managed to come up with a credible guest post...;-)
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    Response: It would've been an interesting post and I was encouraging him to post it as it would've stimulated lots of interesting discussion. You never know, he still might, I expect he's reading this thread and knows what we're talking about :-)
  33. I'd be interested in seeing a guest post by a skeptic only if it was rooted 100% in peer reviewed literature, assiduously written to claim nothing not found in conclusions directly traceable to peer reviewed work. That or if it was written by someone in a very narrow bracket probably best characterized by Dr. Roy Spencer. The last thing we need is to hear yet another bunch of disconnected opinion. Failing that, we'd be seeing a replication of ill-conceived fairness as practiced by newspapers and the like. Monckton redux.
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  34. I'd be interested in seeing such a post too but he had best be prepared for the full vigorous shakedown of his analysis haha
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    Response: I think that's what put him off doing the post. Talk about a tough crowd! :-)
  35. I know this is somewhat off-topic, but given that this isn't a topical thread, I'll risk it. I just had to register to let you know what a fantastic site you have here. I love the multiple levels of explanation that enable us laypeople to get succinct answers, and then dig deeper into the issue to whatever extent we can.
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  36. John, I agree with your comments policy. I recently spent some time posting comments on Newsbusters.org to preach to conservatives on man-made global warming, and I got ALOT of accusations of deception, disheartening insults, and character assination. I've already given up preaching to conservatives, I like it much better here were I can participate in intellegent discussions on climate change. Your comments policy really makes this website special.
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