Skeptical Science Housekeeping - April 2020

In the early years of Skeptical Science - namely until 2010 - John Cook published housekeeping articles every once in a while to alert readers of newly available functionality. A lot has happened since then and I won't bore you with a long list of what all has changed in all those years. But, there are some items we'd like to make you aware of in case you missed them thus far. So, here goes!

A new URL for the Heat Widget

heatwidgetSomething or other went wrong but unfortunately went unnoticed with renewing the domain for last year. Things looked fine from our end as the widget kept working properly and the domain information looked correct on But, it turned out that all was not well when we wanted to renew the domain a couple of weeks ago, only to find out that it "may be for sale". Apparently there had been some hiccups with the domain-transfer last year from one registrar to another and it was in limbo for too long. This allowed somebody else to "snatch" it. As we don't know if we'll be able to get the domain back, we went for plan B and registered The short URL shown on the widget now redirects there and will find the correct background information for the app.

How you can help: If you published articles pointing to and have a means to update them, please switch the URL to Thanks!

Website and server updates

Regular readers of Skeptical Science may have noticed this "down for maintenance" notice a couple of times over the last couple of weeks:


There were a couple of reasons for these planned outages. For one, we had to update servers and their settings to stay in compliance with what browsers expected as far as SSL-certificates and the like goes. Otherwise you'd have been presented with warnings like "this website may not be secure" when trying to visit SkS after March 1. In addition, we had updated the codebase to be able to work with PHP7 instead of the old PHP5 which was already past its shelf-life, never a good position to be in software-wise! Quite a lot of work happened in the "boiler room" to make these large updates as seamless as possible. Apart from some small noticable hiccups like double new lines in comments, extra new lines in the comments feed and encoding issue for single quotes on the comments and profile pages things worked pretty well - most likely due to new update procedures and the quite extensive testing our team did behind the scenes in the lead-up to the upgrade!

Making the SkS-iPhone app available again

iPhoneAööAnother boiler-room activity happening at the moment is work on the code-base for the SkS iPhone app originally developed free-of-charge by Shine Technologies in 2010. As mentioned on the linked page, this and its sibling Android app have not been maintained for quite some time and have therefore vanished from the app stores - something many of you have bemoaned in comments we've received via email and on social media. Work on this is progressing well and we hope to be able to announce some good news in a couple of weeks!

As a stop-gap measure to at least make our rebuttals available for offline access, we collected the already available PDF-versions of all rebuttals into three zip-files you can download and then unpack on your computer:

Laying the tracks for a mobile version

We've been well aware for quite some time that SkS in its current form is not mobile friendly as the design is not responsive. The work being done at the moment is laying the track to eventually get us there. Unfortunately, there'll be quite some more work needed on the backend side of things before this will become available. As this work is all done in people's sparetime we don't yet have a go-live date, but we wanted to give you at least a heads-up that we are working on it. In the meantime and for those of you who have a smartphone with the Android OS, here is somthing you can be on the look-out for.

If you are using the Chrome browser on an Android phone, you sometimes may be presented with an option to switch to a simplified view when visiting our homepage as shown in the left panel below. If you "go for it", the page will be renedered as seen in the middle or - for rebuttals - on the right:


Note: The option to switch to a simplified view seems to be presented somewhat randomly as we were not able to get it displayed consistently when accessing SkS that way. Please let us know in the comments if there are other "hacks" like this one which might help at least a bit until our homepage becomes mobile friendly. Thanks!

That's it for now, we'll keep you posted on further developments!

Posted by BaerbelW on Tuesday, 21 April, 2020

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