A Comparison of Tier 2 Climate Weblogs
Posted by Jeff Condon on April 18, 2010
A generously provided guest post by Tom Fuller of the examiner. Tom offered this to provide some rest for me to take care of the family. Tom’s writing style is quite a bit different than the usual fare around here, he’s a better writer -I think- and he compares this blog with Deltoid. The comparison is interesting because in my experience similar patterns of behavior and moderation are met across the whole climate blog community, not just a couple of blogs. As a note, I would add that the links presented here are completely selfish in that they represent the sites I visit. Not many blogs spend time making links just for the proprietor, but so far that’s all they are – my bookmarks.
And finally, if you haven’t seen it, Tom Fuller and Steve Mosher have a book out which can be linked from the picture in the sidebar or at Tom’s site linked on the right. If you want to know for yourself what the climategate emails meant and you don’t have the background, this is the single best source.
Guest post by Tom Fuller.
I thought it would be interesting to compare two weblogs dealing with global warming to see if either similarities or differences might shed light on how opinions (and audiences) are formed, and what might be discerned about their contribution to the debate on this subject. Rather than singling out the highest traffic blogs (such as Real Climate on the consensus side and Watt’s Up With That for the opposition), I thought it might be constructive to take two weblogs lower down on the food chain. This is primarily because the most popular weblogs have become to a certain extent victims of their own success, and have changed their editorial practices to reflect the needs of a major media venue. Lower level bloggers can still pick and choose topics, style and levels of response and thus may provide a more accurate view of the actual debate.
I chose The Air Vent as a ‘non-consensus’ weblog primarily because I’m familiar with the contents and the weblog’s principal contributor, Jeff Id, asked for guest contributions to fill editorial holes while he deals with the chaos that accompanies the birth of a new child.
I chose Deltoid as a ‘consensus’ weblog, again because I am familiar with the contents of the weblog, and because it seemed to roughly match The Air Vent in terms of frequency of posting, number of comments per post, and level of commitment to the political position espoused on the site.
I must confess to bias in my analysis. Both Tim Lambert, principal contributor at Deltoid, and Jeff Id disagree with me on serious matters of public policy. I am a liberal Democrat and big fan of Barack Obama, while Jeff Id is close to the opposite side of the political spectrum from me. As a ‘lukewarmer’ who believes global warming is real, but unlikely to be the catastrophe predicted with macabre glee by the alarmists, I am at the opposite end of the climate change spectrum from Tim Lambert.
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But, while Jeff Id of The Air Vent has always been unfailingly courteous, responsive and cordial in our communications on both our websites, Tim Lambert has been confrontational, rude and deceptive in how he has handled our communications. So I confess to a strong personal prejudice in favor of Jeff Id and against Tim Lambert.
For those who logically ask why I then chose these two as subjects for my analysis, I can only reply that the ‘owners’ of consensus weblogs are more or less similar to Tim Lambert, and have provided me with many unpleasant moments of confrontational exchanges, while non-consensus blog owners have all pretty much been like Jeff–courteous to someone they disagree with and willing to talk through the differences between us while focusing on areas where we can find agreement. Readers may draw their own conclusions from this perception of mine. If accurate, it not only sets the stage, but is an important finding for those who think character has a bearing on climate science and its presentation. If not accurate, it spares the reader from having to go further.
Deltoid’s Tim Lambert is a computer scientist at the University of New South Wales. It is my understanding that Jeff Id (a pseudonym) is an engineer, although I’m not sure what flavor. Deltoid is one of the oldest weblogs around, having started in 1991, while The Air Vent has archives only as far back as August 2008.
The Air Vent posts much more frequently than Deltoid. While The Air Vent seems to average about 10 posts per week, Deltoid varies dramatically–Lambert had 28 posts in March and 53 in February.
Both weblogs seem to have the same commenting pattern, although Deltoid seems to have more ‘regulars’ commenting on the site. This is probably no surprise, given the longer period of service of the weblog. But both weblogs seem to have a favorite on every ‘screen shot’ (the portion of the screen visible without scrolling) which gets more than 100 comments, while the other posts get between 20 and 50 comments.
Blogroll: Both sites link to other weblogs with similar orientations, although The Air Vent links to some sites that are not wholly about climate change.
Comments policy: Deltoid moderates comments, deletes at owner’s discretion and maintains a confrontational attitude towards those arriving with opposing views. The Air Vent does not moderate prior to posting, will engage with those with opposing views, but has a much more relaxed attitude towards ‘dissenting views.’
Editorial stance: Both Lambert and Id are very upfront about their opinions of climate change and the general political climate in Australia and the U.S. respectively. Lambert is much more personal in his criticism, while Id’s negative opinions are generally more about institutions than individuals–with some exceptions.
The latest post titles on Deltoid:
1. Climate Denial Crock on Monckton, Part 2 (Criticism of skeptic Viscount Monckton)
2. Phil Jones Vindicated Some More (Commentary on Oxburgh report)
3. Climate Denial Crock On Monckton (Criticim of skeptic Viscount Monckton)
4. Science Show on Climate Change Skepticism
5. McKitrick at it Again (Criticism of non-consensus economist Ross McKitrick)
6. John McLean Hides the Declines (Criticism of skeptic report)
7. Open Thread 46
8. Phil Jones Vindicated (Commentary on Parliamentary investigation report)
9. ABC on Cartergate: Opinions on Shape of Earth Differ (Criticism of Australian Broadcasting Corporation for allowing skeptics airtime)
10. Lambert Monckton Debate on YouTube (video of Lambert’s portion of debate between him and Monckton
The latest post titles on The Air Vent:
1. Kernel of Science (Explanation of personal views on climate change and public policy implications)
2. AR4–30% Non-Peer Reviewed Literature (republishing Donna Framboise’s report on grey literature in IPCC report AR4)
3. Too Tired to Blog (advisory of light posting due to child care issues)
4. New Jersey Cutting Back on Fake Global Warming Budget (NJ budget cuts in programs addressing climate change)
5. What Would You Do? (Personal commentary on workload)
6. Do it–Or Else (commentary on reports of pressure put on lesser developed countries to support climate initiatives)
7. To the Drawing Board (discussion of variance in paleoclimate reconstructions)
8. Conditions of the Slopes (discussion of anecdotal reports of snowfall at ski runs)
9. A Bad Idea That Won’t Die (discussion of climate change mini-meeting in Bonn)
10. Instrument Bias (Referral to discussion on instrument bias at The Blackboard)
Deltoid is (or has become over time) a site more concerned with the opposition than the fast moving field of climate science. Commenters are mostly ‘true believers’ that reinforce the positions of the site owner and act as watchdogs to monitor compliance with stated attitudes and beliefs.
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The Air Vent takes better advantage of current events and recently published papers and posts on other weblogs. It has a much more varied menu.
Deltoid appears to be a weblog that has run out of steam in many respects, trying to rally the troops with fairly old trumpet calls to the political standard. The Air Vent seems to be a lively forum for discussion of a large number of topics, sometimes only loosely related to climate change.
Both Tim Lambert and Jeff Id seem exhausted. But while Id is tired from having a new baby around the house, Lambert’s fatigue seems to be more rooted in the toll events of the past year have taken on him personally. It’s easy to predict that Id will recover more quickly than Lambert, and that the Air Vent will continue to be a good place to visit for quite a while to come, while Deltoid either needs a rejuvenated Lambert or perhaps some co-bloggers.
To the extent that the two reflect the state of play in the ongoing debate, it would seem that defending the consensus has taken its toll on Lambert, who has withdrawn into a predictable publishing schedule that offers little to those not part of his coterie of fans. As the past few months have been quite difficult for the consensus, this is understandable. However, recent results of investigations that were favorable to the climate science consensus have not reinvigorated Deltoid. On the other hand, The Air Vent seems to be enjoying life and blogging and what’s happening in the discussion. There seems to be a lot more energy on the site–and this may reflect the almost electric charge provided by the last quarter’s events. Climategate, Copenhagen and a cold winter provided a lot of material for discussion.
Readers who want to see the ‘state of play’ in the struggle over climate change would not go too far astray by reading both weblogs together. However, those wishing to comment on this struggle would be better off at The Air Vent, especially if their opinions were not strictly consensus compliant.