I figured that I should give people a heads-up, rather than just dump changes unannounced like wordpress.com did with their recent beep boop editor bomb.
Two changes – comment filtering and format. Two notes: editing for guest authors and a personal note about the future of WUWT.
1. Comment filtering has become stricter
This change is already in place this week and has been necessitated by the rising amount of spam comments not just at WUWT, but all blogs seem to be getting. Steve McIntyre laments his trouble with recent spam increases here.
WUWT gets about 3 times the amount of spam that Climate Audit does, most of it commercial link-back spam disguised as a comment. I too have seen the increase, and clearing out the spam filter has become quite a chore on some days. As a result, I’ve turned on this setting in my wordpress.com dashboard:
Strict: silently discard the worst and most pervasive spam.
What this means is that occasionally, some legitimate comments that meet this criteria might get thrown out with the bathwater. Some comments that are on the fence may also go to the spam holding que for review.
So, if you make a comment and it immediately disappears, it may go straight to either of these places. But, that doesn’t mean it is lost forever, it may be in the holding queue. Give it some time to see if it is retrieved by a moderator. For overnight, typically 11PM-6AM PDT, some comments may take awhile before they are rescued.
For a few people who have no manners and have been warned and finally banned (for example, Doug Cotton and his variety of shapeshifting sock puppets, and NASA GISS scientist Jan Perlwitz who made a death threat) those comments will straight to the bit bucket. Words with the usual variety of cuss words, profanity, and banned topics, etc. will also go straight to the bit bucket.
If your comment doesn’t fit any of these categories, and you don’t see it rescued within a few hours, it may have been a victim of the new stricter spam policy. I wish this wasn’t the case, but the enormity of the spam increase requires it. There just isn’t enough time in the day as it is and we shouldn’t be wasting it wading through dreck comments to decide which require permanent deletion and which don’t. Due to WUWT being a high traffic blog and in the top 10 of wordpress.com blogs worldwide on a daily basis, it is a prime target for spammers.
Also, some comments may be held for moderation, as we’ve recently added some words to that filter. Some people who have been known to post wildly off-topic, long rants, hateful, or otherwise inappropriate comments will get the inspection of a moderator. Also, first time commenters will be held in moderation, and after the first comment is approved, you are whitelisted.
The vast majority of regular commenters are also whitelisted, but occasionally somebody may trigger moderation. One of the surest ways for your comment to be held is to put a whole bunch of links in it, which mimic commercial spam. Right now we have it set to 4 links as the maximum. If you have a comment that requires more than that, try to break it up into two comments, or just accept that your comment will be held for moderation.
Also, moderator, please step up in removing off topic comments, we have a handful of people who think that “anything goes” when it comes to posting these sorts of comments on threads. Likewise, feel free to snip and warn purveyors of abusive comments.
The WUWT comment policy page is here.
2. New format
One of the biggest problems that WUWT (and many blogs like it) is that given the linear scrolling format, stories often get shuttled to the bottom of the stack pretty quickly, especially on busy news days. This means that some topics die a premature discussion death.
WUWT readers may have noted that I’ve been trying some experiments to keep stories of interest at the top, trying for awhile a “top stories” sticky post for a few weeks. While it helped, the amount of work to keep up with it was large, and some people didn’t like it. Of course in any change, there will be those that don’t like it.
The last major format change I made to the WUWT format was in early 2010, a couple of months after Climategate broke. I found the old Freshy theme we were using then was too narrow, and restrictive (it didn’t support mobile devices well) so I opted for the new (at the time) 2010 theme, which has served us well for over 4 and half years. But, it too is now showing signs of age, especially with so many topics and so much traffic.
After months of trying out new ideas offline, I believe I’ve found a new theme that will solve the problems mentioned above, while still retaining much of the look and feel of WUWT along with being able to keep all posts in a linear scrolling format as we have before.
The new theme is called “Expound” and you can read about it here. WordPress describes it as:
Expound offers a fresh, clean magazine-styled look for any type of blog. With a responsive design that looks great on any device, its support of post formats and featured posts will help your content shine.
Here is what it will look like. I still have not included the header image. This is a scaled version to show what the scrolled areas below the main headlines look like. It will be full width on any browser, and will properly adapt to tablets and phones as well.
The five most recent stories are at the top, you can see other stories directly below by scrolling down.
The only thing that will significantly change is the front page of WUWT and some sidebar elements will be removed that are no longer relevant. Posts themselves will pretty much look the same and commenting will work as before.
One big improvement to this theme is that it will allow bigger images, 720 pixels wide, up from the previous width of 640. We’ll be able to do HD! This is important for graphs with a lot of details and some videos in HD.
Here is a full-on view of the main page before scrolling:
The change will start on Monday morning, August 25th.
The good news is that if it doesn’t work for some reason, it can be changed back.
UPDATE: As you can see by now, the new format is live. Like with any new format, there may be some hiccups or some things that aren’t quite right. I’ve spent the evening doing some font tuning, and I hope the body font for posts is OK now for most people. If not, you can magnify/shrink in your browser using CTRL and + keys simultaneously as well as CTRL and – keys. CTRL and 0 (zero) puts you back at default magnification.
There are a couple of missing elements, such as comment count, and “leave a comment” on main page entries, along with some other small tweaks that will be put back in over the coming days with the CSS editor. BTW, if anyone is a WordPress CSS specialist, and can help me with such tasks, please leave a note in comments – thanks, Anthony
UPDATE2: Some things that I expected to retain got broken, such as the mobile theme, which I believe is fixed now. Some other things that we are used to got broken or removed because the default theme setting didn’t support them.
The good news is that most everything can be fixed with CSS tweaks over the next few days, though I have a bit of a learning curve on these items. Anybody out there a wordpress CSS specialist?
Some things already fixed are:
- Mobile theme
- Header font and body of story font sizes
- Making body font more readable by making it sans serif
- Put back “latest posts” on sidebar since some users still need it
- Background image restored
Things I’m working on:
- Putting back real time stamps
- Putting back comment counts
- Getting comment body fonts and comment name headers sized properly
- Less white space
- About a half dozen other small tweaks
Your patience is appreciated while these things are dealt with. – Anthony
Note: editing for guest authors.
For guest authors who can post on WUWT, to get an image to appear in the top five, you’ll have to select it as a “featured image” (on the lower right sidebar) during editing, otherwise it will appear as text only. Putting a short summary in the first sentence or two is more important now, since that is what readers will see at the top of the main page.
Also, to get around invoking the horrid beep boop editor that wordpress.com refuses to dump, here is a workaround. In the dashboard, simply click on the “Posts” item but NOT on the drop down menu where it says “Add New”:
To edit a post, click on “all posts”, select the post needed to edit, and edit from there.
After this change settles in, I will make the decision as to whether to stick with wordpress.com any longer. They assure me they are trying to
polish this beep boop editor turd fix the beep boop editor, but I’m not sure they are going to be successful. They’ve pretty well ignored users concerns in this thread, and then decided to close it.
Closing threads where users are sounding off angrily sounds like the tactics some newspapers and magazines we know that simply choose to ignore overwhelming reader input when it comes to the many climate science faux pas that grace their pages.
Bad move, WordPress. I’m not sure your free hosting is worth the hassle anymore. Many other users feel the same with this “jumped the shark” moment with the “beep boop” editor debacle. Being able to control one’s own destiny has its advantages, and I’m beginning to feel abused by wordpress.com.
BTW, the video ads that appear at the bottoms of posts give the highest payback to WUWT, should you be inclined to watch them.