NOTE: This will be a top post until Monday, new stories follow below. A couple of Saturdays ago, I posted an “Open Thread” with a question about “What could we do better”? You responded, and I’ve listened. In the meantime, WordPress.com has thrown us all a curve-ball with a new software update that I really don’t like because it has now made running WUWT harder. So, I have a few caveats that I need you to be aware of, and I want to ask a question of my readers that will help me determine the future of this blog.
I have some personal issues (including my hearing and health) going on in my life during the past year that have prevented me from spending as much time researching, writing posts, and keeping up with comments on WUWT as I used to. Regulars may have noticed this. This is all slowly getting resolved, but it takes time. For those that read about my new hearing aids and the great boost they gave me over a year ago, that benefit has faded, and I’m fighting a pattern recognition problem that I didn’t have as badly before. I’ll expound on the whys of this in a future post.
2. Image fetching for reference pages got broken by an update I had no control over:
Some readers may or may not know that I am hosted at wordpress.com using their highly resilient and automatically backed up cloud based infrastructure. Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit and Judith Curry’s website also take advantage of this platform and it has worked very well. WUWT has been on it since October of 2007. During this time there have been dozens of updates to the software automatically deployed by WordPress that have been mostly positive, until now. A few weeks ago, they deployed a new update that forced https: on all sites hosted at wordpress.com . In theory, this is a good thing, in practice, it broke just about every reference page (especially the sea ice page) at WUWT because the update causes all images fetched with http rather than https protocol to become cached. This made the images in the reference appear as if they didn’t update. The only solution is to click directly on them. Some might ask, why don’t I simply change all the http image fetch requests to https? That seems like an easy and obvious fix, except when you discover that a number of the government websites used in our reference pages don’t support https, and the images won’t display when called by that fetching protocol. Here is an example: https://polar.ncep.noaa.gov/seaice/analysis/global.gif
I placed a trouble ticket into wordpress.com support for this issue and here is what they say:
I’ve received a reply from our software department and here’s the conclusion:
We won’t disable the https on your site because it’s a bad practice and may introduce security holes. However, we can stop caching the images on your site, but then your visitors will get the warning about mixed content because as I explained earlier, some of your images are from http (unsecured) sites and your site is https (secured). Let me know if you are okay with this.
Rasto L. – Happiness Engineer
WordPress.com | http://support.wordpress.com
I have told them to turn off caching images, and that I’d fix the pages that had mixed http/https and I’m waiting for confirmation. It’s been three days, and I’ve received no notice, but they may have made the switch already. I’d greatly appreciate it if readers would check out our multitude of reference pages shown below and report back in comments.
- Atmosphere Page
- Atmospheric Oscillation Page
- CO2 Page
- Beaufort Sea Ice Page
- ENSO (El Niño/La Niña Southern Oscillation) Page
- ENSO Forecast Page
- “Extreme Weather” Page
- Geomagnetism Page
- Global Climate Page
- Global Temperature Page
- Glossary Page
- Great Lakes Ice Page
- Ocean Page
- Oceanic Oscillation Page
- Polar Vortex Page
- Paleoclimate Page
- Potential Climatic Variables Page
- Northern Polar Vortex Reference Page
- Northern Regional Sea Ice Page
- Sea Ice Page
- Solar Page
- Spencer and Braswell Papers
- Tornado Page
- Tropical Cyclone Page
- US Climate Page
- US Weather Page
3. Sea ice images got broken by a satellite failure:
At about the same time wordpress initiated their https switchover that caused our images in reference pages to stop updating in your browser, the DMSP F17 satellite had a sensor failure that caused the loss of sea-ice data for several organizations, including NSIDC, Cryosphere Today, and others. WUWT has had several posts on the issue, yet some people still write to me wondering why images aren’t correct. The most comical aberration presented by this satellite instrument failure comes from Cryosphere Today:
A more perfect example of a climate “hockey stick” could not possibly be generated, and it is just as bogus a presentation as the original:
NSIDC reports that they are updating their images based on DMSP F18 data, and that it is provisional pending calibration. Other sea-ice agencies have not been so quick to respond.
Patience while the problem gets resolved will be appreciated.
4. Our comment system got broken by the same wordpress update I had no control over:
As mentioned in point 2, in April wordpress.com threw out a major update on https, and this same update also changed the way comments get moderated.
It used to be that comments that were flagged by our banned word list (expletives, hot button words, etc.) would simply be held for moderation. The person who wrote the comment could still see the comment, and that it hadn’t been approved yet, but now with this new update, those flagged comments that need the attention of a moderator to determine if it violates WUWT site policy simply get sent to the trashbin, and disappear from the view of the commenter. This might give the impression to some whose comments disappear that we are engaging in wholesale censorship, we aren’t. But again, this change was out of my control when it was implemented by wordpress.com. I sent in a trouble ticket and this was the response from the Akismet service that handles spam filtering and the moderation system for wordpress.com:
Unfortunately, there’s no way to change what happens to comments that match the blacklist. However, have you considered using the Comment Moderation list instead? It’s on the same settings screen as the blacklist, and comments that match the Moderation list will be left in Pending Approval status instead of being approved or moved to the spam or trash. Then, you wouldn’t need to monitor the spam or trash, and you could just focus on the moderation queue.
I’m in the process of working on this today and tomorrow, so hopefully the issue will be resolved. That said, there’s another much bigger problem, see point #5 below.
5. Some commenters have simply gotten out of control.
WUWT is the most viewed and most commented on website in the world related to climate. As of this writing, there are 273,124,092 views and 1,782,475 comments. Obviously, there’s no way I could read all of those comments, there simply isn’t enough time in my life. Early on in WUWT history I did read each and every comment, now it’s an impossibility. WUWT used to be entirely moderated, and every comment required approval, but the task was tedious and mostly thankless, and we lost some very good people who volunteered to help me manage this crushing load by attrition and by death.
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. This adds to the load, but the recent change by wordpress.com mentioned in item 4 may actually help solve this issue while creating a new one.
In August 2014, I announced a change to WUWT that I thought would improve it on several fronts. Format was a big change, the way comments were dealt with was another. I wrote then:
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.
In retrospect, the whitelisting thing was a bad idea, because it allowed some unscrupulous types, as well as people with no sense of decorum or decency, to post a single innocuous comment, which gets approved by a moderator and putting them on the whitelist, to then post comments where they aren’t flagged for moderation at all. As a result, the quality of commentary has eroded, and I’ve had to ban several people who only come here to spew invective, hate, and rants.
Because WUWT often gets linked on Drudge, Instapundit, and other political traffic drivers (because after all climate has become mostly political now) we’ve had an influx of people (from both sides) that don’t understand anything about the issues, but simply regurgitate talking points. This gets tedious, fast.
Some are here for nefarious purposes. We’ve had a couple of people who have taken sockpuppeting beyond what even Doug Cotton does which caused Dr. Roy Spencer to stop accepting comments on his website. No this is even worse; we have two people assuming the persona of another poster. We have clearly identified who these people are (because in your zeal to denigrate, you made mistakes), and we’ve been documenting your behavior for months. if you are reading this (and you know who you are), let this be notice that you’ll be seeing some legal paperwork appear soon, because frankly I’m tired of both of you and your illegal actions, and the people you have impersonated using their full names are furious. I don’t blame them. You deserve some payback and you are going to get it.
It just goes to show how pathetic some people are when it comes to a disagreement of opinion. The AGW proponents use illegal and nefarious tactics like this rather than open and honest debate. Then, they wonder why they are viewed with contempt.
After Dr. Spencer stopped accepting comments, I considered the idea as well. If I didn’t have to deal with comments, I could accomplish a lot more. OTOH, many of the comments are quite useful. I wanted to see what readers thought, so I ran a poll with his commentary:
Indeed, and the amount of energy expended by me and others is great. We walk a very fine line here, trying to balance giving a legitimate forum to open and honest people, while ferreting out and limiting people who simply want to disrupt the conversation via sockpuppetry. It is a lot of work. If I didn’t have volunteer moderators for WUWT, I probably would have gone the way of Spencer long ago. Since we routinely process a thousand or more comments a day here, many of which are from sockpuppeters and posers (you know who you are with special attention to K-man) It would certainly give me more time to research and write articles. It’s certainly less effort.
Here are the results:
There are a few ways that I’m going to deal with this on the short-term. First, you are going to start seeing notices like this image below appear on threads. It is going to be a fair warning to those that aren’t following site policy.
We have serial offenders on both sides, they’ll get equal treatment. If the thread gets unruly after that, I’ll simply close it. I have better things to do than moderate idiotic food fights.
Second, for the long-term, in the not too distant future, I’m going to implement changes to the way comments are moderated. To that end, I ask readers the following questions:
- In the first option, requiring registration will mean that your real name and email will have to be verified. It is a lot of work up-front, but it weeds out sockpuppets and posers for good. Successful blogs like “Little Green Footballs” use this technique. The downside is that it limits open debate on the spur of the moment and tends toward a closed community.
- The second option, requiring that all comments be held for moderation is what WUWT used to do from 2006 to 2014, but it is a huge amount of work. I’ll need more volunteer moderators to pull this off.
- The third option, running a detailed filter, would send known disruptors, sockpuppets, and comments with expletives, banned words (like chemtrails, bigfoot, etc) directly to the trash were they won’t be recovered. Steve McIntyre does a version of this on Climate Audit, though he gets a small fraction of the comments we get. He never bothers to recover those comments, but instead concentrates his limited time on content.
- The fourth option, turning off comments altogether solves the time and effort problem completely, prevents disruption, and allows focus on content exclusively. The downside is that the free exchange of ideas, some of which are very useful, dies with it.
6. What do you think? I can make articles on WUWT “peer-reviewed” before publication.
For technical articles, I have a way where I can invite peer review from both sides of the debate before an article gets published. Links to the unpublished article would be sent to people who have offered to be reviewers (possibly due to a solicitation announcement first) and the article can be checked for accuracy, depth, and citations prior to publication. As we all know, Internet peer review is some of the harshest form of review, but often the best, because it doesn’t invite “pal review” like we’ve seen in climate science circles.
This would be a first, not just for WUWT, but for any climate or science blog as far as I know.
7. WUWT’s ten-year anniversary is coming up
I have been doing this non-stop since November 2006, I’d like to take a real vacation to recharge. Even when I have traveled, I keep up the blog. I need a break, but I’m not prepared to go on a one year sabbatical to fix “burn out” like Dave Roberts did.
I’ll need help in the form of guest posters, moderators, etc, and maybe even a little financial help to get me on my way. Willis and I have been talking about a trip to Russia to investigate the cause of the great Red Spot in the surface temperature record.He could blog while we are on the trip like he does when he travels . Thoughts welcome.
8. Hosting – wordpress.com is quickly becoming restrictive
To that end, I thought I’d ask this question:
9. Thank you
I realize many of you have become as frustrated as I have with the state of things in the climate debate, and I hope that WUWT can continue to contribute to it in a meaningful way. I owe a debt of gratitude to readers, moderators, and guest essayists. You have my sincerest thanks. Comments about all of these changes and proposed changes are welcome. – Anthony