the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Science Blogging

Posted by Jeff Id on June 1, 2010

I really should be playing with some data today, but there isn’t much time again.  Having an extended break from blogging has given me a few chances to introspect on the subject – Kayaking with my son in my lap,  up and down the Muskegon river looking at heron’s, snakes, fish, turtles etc. gave me a lot of time to think quietly.

What is the goal of the Air Vent after all?  So many say it’s a denier blog but I see it as the opposite.  There is no truth that I or this crowd would intentionally deny and I would love to see someone try it.  Perhaps Tamino could write a  fake denier article and publish it here to see the response.  He’d be slaughtered.  Accepting bad arguments is just not in our making.  That is one of my favorite reasons to read your comments BTW, nobody get’s a free pass here, including me. From my perspective the blog post is something I already know or believe or have figured out, from your perspective it’s something to critique, agree with or expand on.  In the end, blogging is superior to so many forms of media for developing understanding. We can consider our thoughts for hours before replying if we like, as I’ve become more familiar with the medium my own consideration sometimes extends to days.

Blogging or more particularly, science blogging, is a thinking persons communication.  It really is. Who knew that reviled skeptics would increase the land temperature trend here while at the same time reducing the Antarctic trend publications. I didn’t, until we checked.  Where else can you write your opinions behind an anonymous moniker with only minimal fear of repercussion.   Writing on line is so different from radio and television, which cannot support thoughtful discussion of any kind.  Blog comments are an interesting dynamic, although the blog owner is given too much automatic credibility (at other blogs 🙂 ).  Honestly, I’ve learned more than written.  Strong personalities blog, and comment on blogs, and in my view concerning a certain personality type, the credibility the blog owner’s credibility is far too often enforced with comment moderation. After all, who is qualified to have an opinion and who is qualified to determine who can talk.

Science blogging in an openly moderated environment allows people of substantial thought to spend time discussing real issues in a historically unique situation.  Where else in history has every nuance of an argument been beaten to a pulp in public.  Talking doesn’t allow the dynamic to occur.  The amount of information in blogland has become so incredible that us humans can’t keep up with it.  How many links have you old salty climate dogs been asked to read when it may take several hours to truly grasp?   How many are instantly crap from the first paragraph?  Who hasn’t recognized the personality which prefers the disagreement to the truth or the lightweight who won’ t listen even though they admit no technical background?

In the end, it’s an entertainment that has a powerful ability to change the world — as climategate has shown.

Blogging is in its infancy but it is growing up.  For profit media is pushing to ever more polarizing positions to the detriment of their income, but people are smarter than politicians realize.  As the world changes, the “elite” will need to understand that we are taking ever more control.  We are able to see through the corruption and the scams with a clarity that only the true information revolution can create.  The glass walls are falling in a way that wasn’t possible in the past.

When an engineer with an anonymous moniker, can start a free blog, plot data, discuss results and politics, and it joins with a readership of powerful minds that affect policy around the world, think about what that might mean for the future of the human race.  Votes changed over the body of work here and on other blogs – government ones, besides the fact that it’s incredibly stupid, think of how amazing that is.

I’m not sure if the future true information age will be for the better, but today in the context of climate science, it seems to be working out just fine.  How simultaneously humbling and exciting this has been.  Science blogging for me is truth in advertising– not the black and white truth of math but rather an adventure in truth in advertising where results trump belief.

This was not the post that I set out to write, but sometimes just exposing your thoughts and letting yourself write is the right thing to do..

18 Responses to “Science Blogging”

  1. Thanks, Jeff.

    In my opinion, you and your site are definitely fulfilling a service to our society when it faces grave danger from an unholy alliance that is using science as a tool of propaganda.

    Thanks to the efforts of you and others on the Blogroll, the public may realize this misuse of our tax funds before it is too late.

    Oliver K. Manuel

  2. Gary said

    It’s good to read the occasional introspection here at tAV, Jeff,…along with the rants, expositions, and sleuthing for the substance beneath claims. Keep it up. It’s good brain exercise for all of us.

    I trust you have a life jacket on your son while in the kayak.

  3. Prentis said

    Must admit, I agree with you about 99.99% of the time regarding climate, economics and politics. IMO though, you may want to curtail the blogging-legend-in-your-own-mind concept. tAV is definitely good for science, but as a blogging philosopher, it sucks.

  4. Layman Lurker said

    I think this blog is in a good place now. There is a healthy diversity of people participating. Even though I like to think I am open to sound arguments, I still have opinions, and when people like Nick, Bart V, Zeke, Carrot Eater, Eric Steig participate in the science discussions then we cannot retreat to the comfort of our opinions so easilly. There is nothing unhealthy about people challenging us to justify our views. The truth is still the truth.

    It is telling that an unmoderated blog such as this is not dominated by put downs, shouting, name calling, etc. Keep up the good work here Jeff.

  5. Jeff Id said

    #3 I must have missed sommething, it doesn’t feel like a legend of any kind. It was supposed to be about a different medium of discussion allowing people who can think a place to discuss in an entirely different fashion. It seems to me that I have little to do with what goes on here. Consider that climategate didn’t come from me, but rather from comments. Roman’s temperature methods didn’t come from me, it came from him in the comments. Steig’s Antarctic paper and corrections didn’t come from me but from others. Sure, there is a bit of me working on all these things but if you take the time to read the code presented here, it is usually full of references to other people’s work. Blogs really are changing the science and some of the politics in this case.

  6. Jeff Id said

    #4 thanks.

    Dr. Steig provided the data and station names for the 60 station post he did at RC. I’ve been digging into it by using the names to locate GHCN equivalents to the data he used and learned a bit more about the temperature data. Doing that kind of work takes hours – 3 this morning so far but the payoff is a bit more understanding. I don’t know if this has a lot of meaning yet so we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions but in his post he matched land temp trends with only a few stations. The ratio’s from station set A for what my assumed matches are compared to the GHCN below:

    GHCN station breakdown

    1959 Urban

    1409 Small Town

    3952 Rural

    Steig station set A

    22 Urban

    3 Small town

    6 Rural

    2 don’t exist in GHCN

    Of course rural and small town have almost nothing to do with the microclimate beyond the fact that urban is probably more likely to have a problem with new development than rural.

  7. Carrick said

    Jeff, ignore #3. The intent of your commentary was clear to me, I didn’t find it self aggrandizing and it didn’t “suck”. It was an interesting and thought provoking read.

  8. pgosselin said

    Agreed on every point.
    I started my thing 2 months ago and have learned a lot.
    In my view bloggers that delete legitimate comments and tough questions are a joke.

    Blogs should be a forum for ideas and views, and not act like a newspaper that arrogantly feels it has to upbring its readers.

  9. Tom Bakewell said

    For me bloging is like having a chance to read someone’s lab book (written in ink, of course not the CRU #2 pencils with replaceable erasors used in in some places) Lots to learn, and usually more to learn from the failures than the successes.

    Tom Bakewell

  10. Tom Fuller said

    This is one of the few blogs where I enjoy reading the comments as well as the posts. (I like my own commenters, but a 1,000 character limit imposed by my publisher kills most conversations.) I like Jeff’s approach and the congenial atmosphere. This is one place I feel relaxed about the fact that my positions don’t match everyone else’s completely.

    In a lot of ways this weblog is a real success. Hope it continues for years.

  11. Beth Cooper said

    Jeff, I’ve been thinking, like you, about the unique quality of communication offered by science blogs like this one and by the likes of Anthony Watts, Steve Mc. Luccia and Briggs.I thought I’d pass on some words about communication by Australian Historian Inga Glendinnen.She remarks how limited are most of our face to face communications ‘compared to the enigmatic exchange between a silent book and a sillent reader’ that can sometimes be intense to incandescent.I think that we’re developing a communication in these blogs that offers some of the qualities in communication in good prose. Communication is content rich, problems aired and probed, feels like real time, a spontaneous conversation, but there’s time to ponder, check a fact,reword a phrase,refer back to a comment,..’Is that what he said?’ It allows objectivity and personal voice. I’m hooked.

  12. stan said


    The science blogs clearly do far more to advance science than the peer review process. I do think there is one danger that bloggers and their commenters have to be especially wary of — the questionable quality of available data. There are a lot of number crunchers out there(both among active scientists and among the amateurs lurking on blogs and as we have seen repeatedly, the quality of the number crunching is usually higher on the blogs). The problem comes when the crunchers are tempted by their expertise to assign more weight to their crunchings (and the conclusions therefrom) than is warranted. [Garbage in is still garbage out, despite the NOAA’s super-duper secret algorithm for spinning garbage into gold.]

    We saw this in the activity following Steig’s Antarctica mess. We see it all the time from the scientists. Too often, the only responsible conclusion is to determine that there cannot be one because the instruments are too shaky, the geographic coverage too sparse, the quality control of the database too sloppy, etc. But the urge to dive in and start crunching can be compelling. After all, it’s what people are good at. So they use whatever data they have and plow forward.

    There’s nothing wrong with playing around with the numbers. But if the critical threshold requirement regarding data quality hasn’t been satisfied, any further analysis should have red flag warnings all over it.

  13. Steve Fitzpatrick said


    Your combination of open moderation and open mind makes TAV a must read.

    Too bad most climate scientists don’t have the cajones to participate here. If those folks really want to institute draconian climate policy (and clearly they do) then they must be willing to address the kinds of very legitimate technical issues raised here and at a few other technical climate blogs.

  14. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Prentis #3,

    I have no idea what you are trying to say. Most odd.

  15. TGSG said

    I just want to thank Jeffid for the blog and the open and unmoderated discussions on the comments section. I learn something new every week.

  16. Sam said

    I used to live near that river. My in-laws (father and brother) used to bike along the Musketawa trail often. A 50 mile bike ride is a bit much for me.

    “Talking doesn’t allow the dynamic to occur.”

    This is essential, and the reason why this debate is so well suited to blogs instead of a TV debate. If someone makes a claim in a face to face argument, you can’t verify or discredit it right there. People don’t (usually) walk around with a list of references of where they got their information. If they did, a whole lot of time would be saved. I’d look at my former professor’s list and see NRDC….NRDC….Greenpeace….NASA press release…etc and would know not to waste my time.

    That’s why this blog is worth my time; the superficial doesn’t last and the technical isn’t avoided.

  17. Paul Z. said

    Hey everyone, Al Gore is divorcing his wife:

    Probably because he was too busy screwing mother nature?

    Now, if only Al Gore would divorce himself from humanity.

  18. Brian H said

    Tipper has always had way more brains and sense and integrity than Al.

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