the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Science Blogging

Posted by Jeff Id on October 4, 2010

Steve Fitzpatick left this comment on the Conversation with a climatologist thread.

Well, there have been a lot of comments, a lot of detail, a lot of information exchanged back and forth…. and no snark.

Has to be a skeptic blog.

The discussion Steve refers to was not an overly warm discussion, it was not an easy discussion, it was definitely a nuanced discussion which I know helped at least me clarify statistical details of climate models that are important.  From it, I know more than I did two days ago, I know more than I did two years ago.

Blogs are thinking peoples playground now and predictably will be in the future.  Words are far too permanent when written, it forces more care than normal.  Distance from the individual you are in conflict with, allows a more complete honesty (or sometimes dishonesty) of thought.  Slowness of conversation allows greater consideration and suppression of emotion to some extent.  The weight of being proven wrong in a hasty opinion forces honesty and care — on average.

Could you have that kind of discussion verbally?

Not a chance.

Could people learn from a discussion like that verbally?

Not to the same level.

Do the heavily moderated blogs work — not a bit.  They kill discussion if the moderation isn’t let through quickly.

This new form of science is not a minor phenomenon.  It is healthy, it is powerful because it seeks truth or the crowd will destroy your argument.  That is no sophistry, exaggeration or dogma in any possible sense.   I’m just glad to be a part of it.  I’m quickly becoming a fan of Bart Verheggen’s blog for that reason.  He doesn’t fear disagreement any more than I.

It is a thinking peoples game where reality almost always wins over everything else.  There is no choice for us monkeys trying to keep up, except to learn to use better sticks.  Exaggerated climatology will be the first victim of the blog, of that I’m confident,  what will be the next?  There is simply too much brainpower available in this world, too much ability to understand the good and bad of statistical nuance.  Only the correct will win, open discussion is far too powerful.

All that aside, time is required.  People are confused and angry about ghostly, invisible consequences of AGW.  Enough so that joking about blowing people up who don’t agree is considered funny.  The world is a scary place, but if the consensus duma is truly right, skeptic blogs will be one of the first places you will read it – and when you do, it won’t be a small thing.   Sure other websites have written it endlessly,  but if you don’t have the ability to make your point to the thoughtful public, the autobeliever won’t matter.

Why are such a high percentage of blogs moderated?

I haven’t had to clip a single comment here in ten months.  Not that I wouldn’t or won’t in the future, but I haven’t had to.  Sure some of the comments are annoying and off topic, but not a single snip in ten months. Through friggin’ climategate people.  British anti-terror squad, mainstream press, yet not a snip.


Thinkers playground.

28 Responses to “Science Blogging”

  1. Roddy Campbell said

    Keep it up.

    Thanks for letting me post a few times.

    I love clicking on your posts not knowing whether the ranting libertarian or math geek will be coming out to play today.

    Has anyone blamed the Ryder Cup going into an ‘unprecedented’ fourth day on ACDisruption yet? They will.

  2. gallopingcamel said

    Don’t worry about Climate Progress and the other strongly moderated blogs. They soon become echo chambers for the faithful.

  3. Hi Jeff,

    Science blogging is becoming an increasingly important means of discussing science, probably because new ideas are banned from many of the more official “science” sites.

    I was so disgusted with Nature that I had decided not to renew my subscript. Sales folks from NPG (Nature Publishing Group) talked me into renewing my subscription, but Dr. Philip Campbell issued a blanket ban on comments from me.

    Eventually official science will destroy what credibility remains after Climategate and the Nobel Prize-winning participants, or groups like the NPG Executive Committee will grasp that “what is” will not change to fit their cherished “consensus” views. The iron Sun and neutron repulsion are two bitter pills awaiting them.

    All present and future scientists are deeply indebted to folks like you, Stephen McIntyre, Bishop Hill, Anthony Watts, etc for your efforts to keep climatology honest.

    The results are vibrating through all the fields of science, from astrophysics to nuclear physics.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  4. M. Simon said

    I have only snipped posts with threats to me. And spam. I like free and open moderation.

    I like the back and forth striking while the iron is hot causes.

  5. Steven Mosher said

    moderation sucks.

  6. Brian H said

    About science, a comment I made on a completely unrelated blog:

    Science is a way of trying to make statements that have the lowest possible chance of turning out to be wrong. Good scientists try to pre-empt later challenges by making and suggesting them up-front, themselves, and getting them checked out. The other kind, like “climate scientists”, try to prevent any challenges being made at all.

    Moderation easily slips into the latter model.

  7. Chuckles said

    I find that on ‘skeptic’ blogs the tone and focus is usually that of a discussion, with people exchanging information and making observations on the subject at hand. Some relevant, some not so relevant, but there is little incentive to delete or moderate in that situation. Often for me, similar to a business ‘brain-storming’ session.
    By contrast, many of the ‘non-skeptic’ blogs strike me as following an academic debate model, where the focus is on scoring debating points, and there is little incentive to allow a free flow of information, particularly from the ‘opposition’.

  8. Amabo said

    Here’s hoping for a whole year, Jeff.

  9. kim said

    One of the wonders of the internet is that people of differing views can become engaged in a terrific and contentious debate without coming to blows, or, worse yet, agreement.

  10. snide said

    Steven Mosher said
    October 5, 2010 at 1:15 am

    moderation sucks.

    The peer review process, though flawed, was a vital part of the advancement of science.

  11. Steve Fitzpatrick said


    The thrust of your comment is not clear to me. Are you suggesting that moderation at a blog is comparable to peer-review?

  12. BarryW said

    The AGW blogs preach to the faithful, skeptics need not apply. It would be like a religious skeptic at an fundamentalist blog questioning things that they believe are true by pointing out discrepancies. I doubt if they would be tolerated for long. Conversely, I doubt if you would find many fundamentalists spending much time at religious skeptic’s blogs.

    I do notice that, for the most part, you have to take the debate to the CAGW believers. Not often do you see them come to you to refute the work you and others have done, but then they’re convinced that democracy = science (we can vote the reality we want to believe, ie concensus).

  13. Carrick said


    The peer review process, though flawed, was a vital part of the advancement of science.

    Peer review isn’t the same thing as moderation.

    You can have online open-review journals, where the authors can correct their papers online after peer reviews are published. (E.g., here’s one.)

    It makes sense that people who can submit reviews are screened for those journals, but they should generally be allowed to say what they want to say.

    Gaven and Tamino both defend their moderation policy along the lines of “if you came into somebody’s house, would you talk this way?”

    It’s not a good analogy, in fact it’s a terrible analogy. It’s more like a televised public meeting with enforcers at the front door keeping the ideology pure. Things you say in private in your living room, nobody is going to care about.

    RealClimate and Openmind both use their respective websites as a launching point to attack people they dislike, all the while abusing their moderation policy to prevent any sort of response from the subject of their attacks. This is completely shameful behavior on both of their parts.

  14. Andrew said

    13-“It’s more like a televised public meeting with enforcers at the front door keeping the ideology pure. Things you say in private in your living room, nobody is going to care about.”

    Carrick, I have to disagree with your analogy. While the moderation of those blogs does not reflect well on their hosts, a blog is NOT a “televised public meeting”, it’s more like you’ve invited people to listen to you pontificate in your living room. Yes, those guys are terrible hosts, but their blogs are NOT public space.

    Which, to my mind, is a good reason to just not accept the open invitation to their living room bloviation.

  15. RB said

    Recently, there was some controversy about a purported proof claiming to have solved the P=NP question. It took barely a week, but Terence Tao and other heavyweights deconstructed the claimed proof on Prof. Lipton’s blog here . I of course didn’t understand anything but the collaborative effort involving some Fields medallists and other stars was quite impressive.

  16. Carrick said


    Yes, those guys are terrible hosts, but their blogs are NOT public space

    Whether it’s public or private space is missing the point. What I said was they are very much like a publicized meeting, which is true,: There is no restriction placed on who can access their feeds, so it’s completely public.

    However, whether you broadcast it from your living room, your back yard, or the local community meeting room, the information here is globally accessible. They are essentially making use of this bully pulpit to attack people they disagree with, while using the fact they’re broadcasting from their living room as a justification of excluding any dissenting views.

  17. Carrick said

    RB thanks for the link. I at least now know what a P=NP problem is. I didn’t have the heart to try and read their proofs.

  18. PaulD said

    I don’t have any problem with blogs similar to Roger Pielke, Sr. which do not allow any comments from the general public. I can read his blog knowing that is his policy and knowing that I will not be reading any comments, positive or negative. I understand why he doesn’t want to spend his time moderating a blog and I respect his choice.
    I also don’t have a problem with blogs that exercise some moderation to delete abusive comments, although I would not choose even this level of moderation, if I had a blog. Readers can exercise their own moderation by choosing which comments to read.
    I have a big problem with RealClimate’s moderation policy. I have had my comments deleted in moderation when I have asked honest questions and made civil criticism.
    I now notice that most of my comments now do make it through moderation at RealClimate, but with a significant delay. This makes it impossible to engage in any meaningful give and take with other commenters. For that reason, I seldom make comments at RealClimate anymore.
    More importantly, I also take anything posted at Realclimate with a very large grain of salt. I know that many serious and knowledgeable critics either don’t bother to comment there anymore or encounter the frustration of having to deal with the long delays in moderation.
    In my view, realclimate would have much more credibility if it dealt with critics in a more forthright manner. Then I could read the main post and review the serious criticisms, and draw my own judgments. As it is, I never know whether I am getting the full picture or just the realclimate’s spin. I am sufficiently familiar with the pro and con arguments underlying many of the realclimate posts to know, without reading any comments, that I am getting “spin”. So when I read posts regarding topics on which I have less knowledge, I take them with a very large grain of salt.
    I get especially frustrated when I read realclimate’s posts lamenting the inability of scientists to communicate their position to the general public. If they want to persuade, they need to engage their serious critics.

  19. MDJackson said


    Your assessment is correct. It is one of the reasons I prefer blogging and commenting as opposed to Twitter or Facebook some other such nonsense.

    It’s also the main reason why blogging will be either banned outright or regulated into non-existence very soon. Call me Mister “The Glass if Half-Empty” but that is my fear.

  20. Dr T G Watkins said

    Regular and admiring reader. Only wish I could contribute more but not clever enough.
    The consistent high quality of the posts,explanations and interpretations prevents any stupid comments because your readers would just laugh!
    Keep up the good work.

  21. j ferguson said

    Dr. Watson:

    Not so fast.

    You said ” The consistent high quality of the posts,explanations and interpretations prevents any stupid comments because your readers would just laugh!”

    I suspect that many of my comments and questions are not too swift (stupid, even?) in the context of the discussions I’m trying to comprehend, yet they get not laughter but thoughtful responses – helping me on my way, so to speak.

    Elementary, Dr.

  22. j ferguson said

    Akkkk, Sorry Dr. Watkins. See,This was a stupid comment. hopefully i won’t get laughed off the site.

  23. Kenneth Fritsch said

    I would not mind some moderation when two or few people start going back forth seemingly endlessly on the same subject and getting personal in their remarks. Those posts are big waste of time in my mind.

    I have always felt that one should never fear asking stupid questions because they can often lead eventually to learning. If one can continue to learn, it is small risk and unpleasantness to be pegged as asking a stupid question – even if it involves a little ridicule.

  24. kuhnkat said

    “Why are such a high percentage of blogs moderated?”


  25. Bill Illis said

    I agree completely with Jeff.

    Blogs and discussion groups are the future. Obviously, it is not the same as a peer-reviewed journal but it will increasingly complement/supplant them.

    The education system originally embraced the distribution of knowledge through the Internet, then questioned its accuracy and is now coming to grips with the fact that there is a 1000 times more information available through Google in 1000 times less effort than any teacher/professor could provide for about 1000 times more topics.

    One has to be able to discern when garbage is being spouted (Joe Romm?) and when information is accurate but everyone figures that out eventually.

    Want to know about contruction activity in Calgary? There are only 20,000 people (who are self-educated to a Phd level and are obsessed about construction and architecture) talking about it.

  26. M. Simon said

    it’s more like you’ve invited people to listen to you pontificate in your living room.

    And if I comment from a laptop in the bathroom?

    I just took a cr*p in some one’s living room from 1,000 miles away. Pretty cool, Huh?

  27. Sam said

    Jeff, I feel the reason you don’t have to moderate and why others moderate so heavily comes down to the fundamental differences between your blogs. On your blog you write about something, putting out your opinion on a subject, then engaging in discussion about the subject with others. Contrast that with RC or others, which write THE DEFINITIVE WORD on any subject. Once they have spoken the truth, why engage anyone who disagrees? In other words, here is the main difference between good blogs that need little moderation and blogs which constantly moderate:


  28. kim said

    Heh, I got it SF; Julio’s ‘Chart Before the Horse’!

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