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Blog updates and suggestions

Filed under: — group @ 1 January 2011

New Year, new blog software.

You’ll notice the new preview function for comments, the AddThis button for distributing our content to your favorite social media sites, and various updates to the plugins and functionality you won’t notice at all.

This is always a work in progress, so feel free to comment on the blog as a whole, anything we’re missing, things that work well (or don’t), and perhaps how we might organise content differently in ways that could be more effective. (Note that comments from other threads discussing these issues were moved here).

Thanks for sticking with us, and a happy new year to you all.

157 Responses to “Blog updates and suggestions”

  1. 51
    José Larios says:

    I wish you a good year an I hope forn real climates guys as good job like other years.
    Thank you very much much much.

  2. 52
    Thomas says:

    Not getting the Latex thing. In case I’m just not hopelessly dense and others have simlar problems, I tried:
    and (at leat the preview) just literally shows the string.
    I can’t seem to find a simple primer on Latex, just a couple of examples, but a list of the most commonl commands etc. isn’t obvious where to find.

    [Response: You need a \ before any latex command ie. \frac{a}{b} gives \frac{a}{b} – gavin]

  3. 53
    CM says:


    I think I’ve found the bug. Lines 86-87


    should be the other way around:


    With this change, the wptexturize function should work as intended, i.e. only on what’s between <html tags> rather than inside them…

    Caveat: I haven’t tested this on a live WordPress system.

    [Response: I just did. Bad things happen! Thus I’ll stick with my original fix for the time being until I hear from the authors…thanks though. – gavin]

  4. 54
    CM says:

    Thomas #52,
    the live preview plugin takes some guesses at how WordPress will format the text. It doesn’t know about the latex plugin, and cannot simulate it (and I doubt there’s any good way to make that happen with this plugin combination). That’s why you only see the raw latex string, and why I suggested a few comments back that people had better test any latex math on their own systems before posting here. The standard 157-minute (!) intro to LaTeX, including math, is here:

  5. 55
    pjclarke says:


    Try WottsUpWithThat.

    A rapid rebuttal service run by ‘Ben’. Keeping up with the Gish Gallop – it can take a lot longer to debunk bunk than it does to write it – must take a lot of time and Ben, in his New Year post is considering a bit of crowdsourcing.

    Happy 2011!

    Phil Clarke.

  6. 56
    Tim Jones says:

    Well now, I thought I’d become a slobbering moron when I got no reply for reporting that the live preview didn’t work for me and my Mac. Now I see the text as I write in the window recapped below the window as indeed a live preview. Cool.
    I’ll echo Edward’s comment regarding words that trigger the offending words filter. It might save time for everyone if that filter pre-empted a mistake, much like spell check.
    Thanks for fixing this.

  7. 57

    Thanks for preview mode.

    As for threading, I would like to find all related conversations. That’s useful when you get into a discussion late. The ideal: have a threaded and nonthreaded view.

    Meanwhile the \LaTeX stuff is great though it would be nice if it previewed. I use LaTeXiT on my Mac for quick tests and formula entry. You need a TeX installation for this to work, but if you do any significant formula typing, it’s well worth doing.

  8. 58
    GFW says:


    Also see SkepticalScience. Specifically, this page there organizes all known denier memes in a smart hierarchy and links to existing pages on the site explaining the real science.

    That site is a treasure.

  9. 59

    Gavin 39,

    I wish there were a link to my climatology pages. Unless you think I have unreliable information there somewhere?

  10. 60

    Louise 40,

    Go to tamino’s “Open Mind” blog —

    Tamino makes a running theme of pointing out how Watts blew it on all his major posts, and then resisted correction from people who knew what they were talking about.

  11. 61

    Jeff Davis 47: If a blog appearance is all a theory has going for it, why worry about it?

    BPL: Because millions of unsuspecting people are influenced by these blogs.

  12. 62
    Maya says:

    A list of 119 denialist memes:

    Although, Ray has it right, most of them fall into categories. The rebuttals to the list link back to skepticalscience, but I like the list format, makes it easy to find ’em.

  13. 63
    wili says:

    Benson at #18 said: “with sea highstands ~60 meters above current sea levels.
    So if CO2 concentration remain so elevated, a couple of millennia ought to be long enough.”

    I am teaching classical literature this semester–works by people who wrote 2000 years ago or so. It is sobering to look at the world we have now ensured will be here in an equivalent amount of time:

  14. 64
    Martin Smith says:

    Maya, Paul, GFW, et al, The problem here goes beyond identifying the meme. The “new paper” in this case was published at this (apparently bogus?) aggregation website Scientific Research Publishing:

    It looks like this site exists so that dubious denialist papers can be republished for no other reason than so the denialist websites can claim them as new papers again. It appears that they are doing this so they can claim that the rebuttal of the denialist meme is no longer valid, because the paper is about new research.

  15. 65
    Hank Roberts says:

    > bogus … Scientific Research Publishing

    It appears there’s more to it than just climate denial, it’s a whole new science publishing universe being created out of handwaving and assertion; hard to tell if it’s sophisticated scammers/spammers or another example of the notion that it’s okay to take stuff you find online and put your own name on it and build a reputation that way.

    This (suggested by one of the links from turns up more:

    including an attack on the IEEE claiming they’re the scammers.

    Amazing stuff going on. Gives the current plagiarism problems a context.

  16. 66

    I’m thrilled to read this update after having just found another inspirational post the other day entitled:
    “Top 10 reasons why grad students should blog”
    In other words, it’s a great resource we have in the sea of opportunity to get our message out. As scientists, we should embrace the chance to widen our audience! Thanks for the consistent quality.

  17. 67
    Hank Roberts says:

    More strangeness about IEEE and SCIgen, with multiple links, none of which I’d trust without verifying. Has IEEE commented anywhere on this?

  18. 68
    CM says:

    Gavin (at #53),

    Oops. Sorry to waste your time with a bad bugfix, then. It worked fine on my test page (I did make one), so I’m curious what bad things happened, if you have a minute.

    [Response: The whole browser froze if I tried to delete any of my typing…. – gavin]

    As long as the script continues to trespass inside the html tags, you may want to comment-out not only lines 101-102 but also 103, 105 and 106, which will cause some valid html links to fail in preview, as in the cases below — they won’t eat up any text, but they also cannot be tested by clicking on them in the preview. (Ditto line 111 for certain picture links where the URL includes the resolution as [width]x[height].)

    Working link:
    <a href=””>RealClimate</a>

    Space after attribute — link fails in preview:
    <a href=”” title=”test”>RealClimate</a>

    Single quotes around attribute — link fails in preview:
    <a href=’’>RealClimate</a>

    [Response: Indeed. There is something more amiss… – gavin]

    [Further thought:: Why is this plugin defining it’s own wptexturize and wpautop functions in any case? Why not just us the ones in the standard WP setup? – gavin]

  19. 69
    John Mashey says:

    As people know, I can be very persistent :-)

    I *still* hope for “shadow threads” or some mechanisms that gives moderators a quick way to improve the S/N ratio of the main thread. without jus rejecting posts. See RC, comment#192 from March 2009.

    A November 2010 comment Stoat has an addition, with further development at OIIFTG December 2010. Standard codes for sending a comment to the shadow woudl be delightful, akin to John Cook’s codification of anti-science memes at Skeptical Science.

    It only makes sense for this to be done by bloggers who actual have blogging software, but I would bet that if one or two well-known blogs do something like this, the idea will spread. Especially for archival use, some of these 400-post discussions would seem to be far better split into an on-topic discussion of ~100 posts and 300 in a shadow thread. It can be painful to go back and read some of the longer discussions. I sometimes have to tell people just to read the main post and avoid the discussion, especially towards the end when S/N ratios degrade. That’s sad, as there is often valuable content in the discussions.

    Anyway, RC remains the best around, and really, this might save time in moderation.

  20. 70
    Edward Greisch says:

    I encountered another person who says we don’t have to worry about climate because “God” will fix it.

  21. 71
    CM says:

    Gavin (#68),

    That’s bad, all right. I think I’ll admit defeat, and hope you’ll get a response from the developers.

    But re further thought:
    The plugin defines its own functions because it does its magic by client-side Javascript, not WordPress’s server-side PHP. (I seem to recall the original — static — preview function was dumped because for some odd reason it was too much of a server load… Now imagine calling those WordPress functions on the server every time any commenter presses a key!)

    [Response: Agreed, but these functions are just filters- no database calls at all. When I get a chance I’ll experiment with just commenting out the plugin versions…- gavin]

  22. 72
    Didactylos says:

    Gavin, it’s reimplemented in javascript. The fact that the javascript is on a php page is just to confuse everyone.

    John Mashey: how about one of those plugins that allow featured comments?

  23. 73
    Martin Smith says:

    Re: threads

    Google Groups does threading.

  24. 74
    Louise says:

    There’s a lot of criticism of the ‘censoring’ that happens on this blog. I can understand exactly why giving the deniers houseroom is not something that you’d want to do but I like Greenfyre’s ‘dunce’s corner’.

    ie – removal of the denier post from the thread in question and dumping it out of the way but not actually deleting it. That way, everyone can see the posts that were removed as irrelevant, trolling, etc without them upsetting the flow of the discussion.

    Worth considering?

  25. 75
    CM says:


    I’m pretty sure you can’t get there by commenting out bits of live-comment-preview.

    What you’re thinking about is something like what this plugin does:

    Might be worth a try.

  26. 76
    sidd says:

    Thanx again for the web site. I fear that I do not express my appreciation as often as I ought. I too would like threaded comments, but I dont know of a good way to do it without going the usenet route. Mr. Mashey’s shadow comments are probably a good way to go.

    I take this opportunity to request a review of ice sheet models.


  27. 77
    David B. Benson says:

    wili @63 — It is possible to put the excess carbon back in the ground. A budget about the same per year as the USG’s DoD ought to be able to do the job in under a decade; all 500 billion tonnes of it.

  28. 78
    MalcolmT says:

    @32 (belatedly) I have had the same problem and my work-around is simply to write any longish comment in a text document and paste it in the comment window after saving it. It’s also possible to type in the comment window and copy it to the clipboard just before trying to submit.

  29. 79
    John Coffee says:

    Will there be, or is there, a realclimate app for iPhone or Droid?

  30. 80

    77 David B. Benson

    500 billion tonnes of carbon or 500 billion tonnes of CO2, which is it?

  31. 81
    David B. Benson says:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. @80 — Carbon, as I stated.

  32. 82
    John Mashey says:

    re: 72 “plugins” to allow featured comments
    That is nice as well, but it’s a different feature.
    Just as good editors do, good blog moderators can add great value (read: improve S/N ratio) in either direction:

    a) Highlight especially-good posts.

    b) b1) Put marginal posts elsewhere (but visible), b2) reject truly-bad ones.

    Print editors used to have choice a) or b2) for letters-to-editor. To some extent these days, online sites act as intermediate places fo expression, especially if someone actually pays attention to them.

    However, while doing a) can be helpful, that still leaves a lot of noise.

    As a use-case exercise, people might go back a year or two, print some thread at least 100 posts long, and mark it up as they would, given the suggestions I’ve made. I’m especially interested in an small set of codes that people might use to categorize reasons for sending to a shadow. After all, sometimes even highly credible posters just cannot help themselves from getting into off-topic duels and troll-feeding.

    I conjecture that some people’s posting goal is the degradation of S/N ratios … because it works, especially because it discourages people from later plowing through the discussion, a different experience from watching one in progress.

  33. 83
    Edward Greisch says:

    Off topic but needed quickly:
    Does anybody know how to make an amicus curiae [friend of court] brief to the US Supreme Court?
    No. 10-174 Title:American Electric Power Company Inc., et al., Petitioners
    v.Connecticut, et al.
    is over whether the states can do more than the EPA is doing about CO2.

    Unlimited amicus curiae [friend of court] briefs are already authorized, but the time limit has already been extended many times. Dr. Doi’s paper and BPL’s paper should be part of the documentation that the court uses to reach a decision. The EPA is working far too slowly. RealClimate should be “witnesses” at this “trial.” Quotation marks are because you get to be a witness by filing an amicus brief. I may do it pro se [without a lawyer by myself], but I am really not good at it. How should BPL’s paper be presented?

    We should have heard of this case a long time ago. Could RC have a case alerter?

  34. 84
    Edward Greisch says:

    Filtering out paid denialist propaganda is a good idea. Look at how dotearth gets loaded with denialist propaganda beyond the point where a person who doesn’t know would get swamped. [Aside: I see Shell oil advertisements/messages on dotearth’s page. No wonder Andy Revkin is so “balanced.”]

    6 out of 10 comments so far are denialist and one of the others is on neither “side”. I could recommend only 3 comments. If you want people to be able to learn and understand climate science, you have to present a consistent message. The paid denialists prevent a clear message on dotearth. People who want free speech on YOUR web page may be paid denialists who want to prevent you from getting your message out. No doubt they already have their own web pages.

  35. 85
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    Edward Greisch #83

    You’ll really need a lawyer who is admitted to the Supreme Court to file an amicus brief. Even then the science is secondary in this case. The bigger issue is if the state’s nuisance cases can preempt federal Clear Air Act legislation.

    I know it is off topic, but I can help another RC reader.

  36. 86
    Edward Greisch says:

    85 Joseph O’Sullivan: Thanks. It isn’t my personal case. It is everybody’s case. It is a case that RC should be involved in. I agree with you that, as stated, the case is about a narrow legal question, but look at that case that allowed corporations to put unlimited money into elections. It went way beyond the input question.

    Suggestion for RC blog: Add legal articles and watch for climate related cases. Some RC people are professors at schools that have law schools. Get law students and professors involved with RC on these cases. Get 10-174 expanded like that election commission case. What RC has to say is relevant because there is no supreme court after civilization collapses.

  37. 87
    w kensit says:

    New Year, new blog software but same old, same old, for the winter of 2010/11 in Iqaluit @N64. Daily mean 27C above long term average and a ho hum new daily record high only 3.7C higher than the old record. But don’t worry it’s local and thus just weather, not climate.

  38. 88
    Martin Smith says:

    Re: removal of the denier post from the thread in question and dumping it out of the way but not actually deleting it.

    I think that’s the way to handle it. Instead of allowing dead denialist horses to be re-beaten, replace the posts here with links to them, moved to a “penalty box” page somewhere else on the site.

  39. 89
    adelady says:

    @87 Martin Smith. “Instead of allowing dead denialist horses to be re-beaten, replace the posts here with links to them, moved to a “penalty box” page somewhere else on the site.”

    I hadn’t thought of this until I saw ‘Dunces Corner’ at Greenfyres. I’m not sure that name (or a similar one) would be appropriate here. The main issue is that with a site as busy as this, the mods would have their hands full just shifting and allocating the nonsense and the offensive remarks elsewhere.

    Everyone knows the rules. If people want to wander off to other sites bleating and wringing their hands over being “banned” from one site or another – let them.

  40. 90
    Ray Ladbury says:

    The Dunces’ Corner idea is intriguing. Think of the potential value for concentrated comic relief.

  41. 91

    85, 86, 87:

    Jo Nova’s (obnoxious) site has an infuriating mechanism. People vote thumbs up/down on comments. When a comment starts to get a lot of votes (either way) it turns pink. If it gets a lot of thumbs up, it eventually turns yellow and stands out. If it gets too many thumbs down it becomes hidden, and you have to click on a link to see it.

    Of course, on her site, regardless of the veracity of a statement, if it disagrees with their orthodox religious view of no-AGW, then it gets automatic thumbs down from about 30 people. How many thumbs up a comment gets depends on (from my point of view) how inanely rah rah it is, rather than the quality or truth of the content.

    It’s rather insane, but is very efficient at stopping all debate and promoting her message to the exclusion of all else. That mechanism, and the fact that her posts and her fan club are revoltingly obnoxious, keeps most sane people away.

    Now, on the one hand, I think what she’s done is pathetic, and I’d never want to see that done here. What it does is to drive people away from her site (all of those except for the truly converted and pious), and you don’t want to do that here at RC. You want people to come and learn.

    On the other hand, it certainly works as far as burying the messages that she doesn’t want people to see.

    It’s certainly makes her personally come across better than what she used to do, which is to edit your message if you used the word “denier” (although “warmist”, “warmista”, “alarmist” and any other variation you can think of is just saying it like it is) or anything else she didn’t like. Now the censorship basically happens for her, untouched by (in)human hands.

    As a side note… I find it rather humorous that the deniers always whine about censorship, when I’ve been censored repeatedly by both Watts and Nova. Watts is particularly funny, referring to his blog as “his house” (as if he’s invited me into his pleasant little home for a soothing lemonade), where he and his buddies commit what can only be called outrageously childish bullying (but it’s good bullying, as long as it’s those evil warmistas being assaulted). It’s really pretty funny. But the Wattsers don’t see that side of the coin, they just see that after posting the same silly argument for the 50th time in a row on RC, without understanding the answers, that Gavin finally gets tired of it and says “enough, this is now OT on this thread” and they cry “censorship!”

    But I digress…

    If one had the time and the money, I’d like to see an improved comment/reply system. First, replies should post under the original comment (indented), as some sites do. Beyond this, the comments could branch into sub-threads by allowing a poster (or moderator) to change a “subject” line on a comment. Visitors could filter by subject line, and when sub-threads get too long, the software could automatically collapse comments beyond a certain point (“click here to see 1,574 more comments on the sub thread Reforestation of the Entire World as an Economical Means of Carbon Capture”).

    As far as voting/hiding, I don’t think hiding denial comments is good, because that’s actually part of the signal, not the noise. I think there are a lot of intelligent lurkers that see the denial comments, see the retorts, and things work out as they should — they learn and understand from the exchange, even if the commenter doesn’t. In fact. beyond this they learn how the denial side argues, and how often the denial side of the debate turns out to be just so much elaborate hand waving and distortion. This is demonstrated and emphasized by their repeated, unwavering, tiresome posts. They serve a purpose.

  42. 92
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    I think your RC blog is running a lot smoother these days than it was even 12 months back. The articles are always interesting and thought provoking and overall you’re doing an excellent job in my opinion..keep it up! One little quibble..I sometimes forget to copy the recaptcha words at the bottom which results in the loss of my comments (I know! I should always make a copy) and also the letters of the recaptcha words can be a little ambiguous as well.
    Thanks guys

  43. 93

    #91–I whole-heartedly agree. I’m trained as a scholar, but lack anything like the background to assess all the technical arguments thoroughly.

    But when you see:

    –subject-changing, or other forms of persistent unresponsiveness to valid arguments or relevant facts

    –rhetoric *substituted* for logic (instead of enhancing its impact)

    –lack of any sort of “literature search” (for me, this includes all “zombie arguments”)

    –cherry-picking or other forms of suppression of context

    then you are able to conclude that “OK, these folks are not operating in good faith; this is ‘debate’ in the pejorative sense.”

  44. 94
    John Mashey says:

    Blog behavior: somewhere there must be social scientists studying this.
    They probably would do a better job at at than most of us, which is why I once built a group that was half cognitive psychologists.

    The reason I worry about bad S/N ratios is that I saw what happened over time to once-fine USENET newsgroups…

  45. 95
    dhogaza says:

    The Dunces’ Corner idea is intriguing. Think of the potential value for concentrated comic relief.

    The Panda’s Thumb has had it equivalent, the “Bathroom Wall” forum, for a very long time, and it works well.

    [Response: We could call it the Bore Hole. – gavin]

  46. 96
    Brian Brademeyer says:

    Your current comment structure (numbered, in chronological order, broken into pages) is the best format I have found on the web.

    Please, please, please, DO NOT go anywhere near threaded comments.

    These simply make it too easy for disinformers to drop their turds throughout the entire comment stream, rather than having to leave their steaming pile at the end of the queue for all to see.

  47. 97
    Hank Roberts says:

    > USENET newsgroups…

    When I first needed help on botanical restoration, in the 1990s, I got help from Spanish and Portugese forest biologists on Usenet. They told me that global warming had started affecting their areas, that they expected more large forest fires, and how to do contouring on slopes to handle the extreme rainfall and runoff after the inevitable forest fires. I did it, it worked really well. Local agency folks looked at the results and adopted them.

    I got that help only because I’d been very good with the ‘nn’ newsreader’s killfile. I didn’t ever see 95 percent of what got posted, because I could block by source, by subject, and by thread. Anything not helpful got killfiled and never seen again. It was great.

    Haven’t had anything that useful since.

  48. 98
    John Mashey says:

    Dunce’s Corner, it the cases where Tim Lambert gives someone a thread, forbids them for posting elsewhere, are slightly different.

    1) As I noted earlier, sometimes productive posters end up feeding trolls, or people respond to questions that the same person has asked and been answered many times before.
    If I were a moderator, I’d want to nice all if that out if s main thread without any pejorative connotation. In some cases, it may be very good practice resoonding to comments, but may also degrade the S/N ratio if the main discussion.

    2) In addition to obvious trolls, some are more subtle, seeming to act reasonable, but somehow often injecting comments or questions that generate distraction.
    Some if this is just how people think, some may be incompetence, some is so persistent it must be deliberate.

    3) Consider a discussion in which people have contradictory views on some hypothesis, or on a decision robbed made. In a well-handled discussion, the evidence in support if different views is marshaled , comes into better focus over time. Well-exposed contradictions may lead (in research) to research that helps settle the issue, or perhaps generate better hypotheses.
    In business, it may generate action if the form “we have 2 opinions, and to make a decision, we need to get certain data.” I’ve worked for executives who were superb at drawing out opinions and sharpening issues. They also trained people to watch out fir people who had the opposite effect, either by nature or purposefully, who one does nit really want in discussions.
    It us not a question if disagreement, but that instead if articulating issues, they make them fuzzier. This is a well-known tactic in big organizations where people don’t want some decision up be made. It tends to get weeded out in startups, since they can’t afford it.

    Savvy managers know about this. One time, my bosses asked me to transfer an employee in, who seemed to have an unbreakable complexification habit, and see if I could help fix it. I tried, but it was ingrained, and we ended up telling them they really needed to look for another job.
    I’ve had to move people to other jobs, or get them out, or at least get them off task forces or committees, because they could easily waste everyone’s time, either accidentally or on purpose.

    Again, this is different from having intense disagreements and people working to constructively sharpen them. Back in USENET, the mere presence if certain people in a thread was bound to magnify confusion, and I’d stop reading right there. After a while, the experts who used to post mostly gave up. Maybe this is just entropy or Gresham’s Law of the Internet, but it will take work and better software to keep blogs from evolving along similar bad paths.
    This is just software: if a moderator already has an Accept/Reject choice, it should be fairly easy to give at least a 3rd choice, that takes no more effort to use.

  49. 99

    [Response: We could call it the Bore Hole. – gavin]

    Appropriate, since temperatures will tend to rise over time.

  50. 100
    Doug says:

    Just a few complaints:

    The magically-appearing paragraph-level permalinks seem like needless distraction to me (and don’t work around lists and blockquotes).

    And the Add-This plugin is probably the third-most annoying blog plugin ever, after Snap Previews and automatic context links.

    [Response: Can we get a vote? I’m not wedded to paragraph links, but I think some kind of sharing plugin is needed. – gavin]