Narrow Focus


Jumping down the rabbit hole of the Climate debates is always very interesting but it’s also very frustrating to watch many brilliant (as well as stupid) and well-informed (as well as ignorant) people avoid each other because the blog environments are not civil enough to encourage quality discussion of really intriguing issues.    Great examples of the challenge of discussing science in blogs are my two favorite “watering holes” for the active discussion of climate science:   RealClimate.org and ClimateAudit.org

At both, intelligent and provocative posts often lead to “supportive” commentary from the allies of the blog but also ferocious attacks on critics of the initial post.   This makes for interesting comments and reading if you can handle the emotional / intellectual heat, but I think the overall chases away the two very  important groups who participate in blogging:  the huge number of casual observers  looking for answers to complex questions and the small number of authoritative voices who study a particular complex topic.

Even as a seasoned blogger who rarely wants to back down from discussion points I find it very frustrating to bounce back and forth hoping my reasonable comments will not be moderated (a major problem at RealClimate, and not much of a problem at ClimateAudit)  and hoping that critics will be treat researchers with the basic respect they deserve  (lack of respect is a huge problem at both ClimateAudit and RealClimate, where PhD science authorities are routinely accused of incompetence (mostly at ClimateAudit) and reasonable criticisms are dismissed casually as “nonsense” simply so they do not need to be addressed properly (mostly at RealClimate).

Increasingly blogs moderate reasonable comments because they don’t fit the political agenda of the blog and I still think this is anathema to quality discussion.  Others (like Joe Duck) pretty much allow any comments that are not obscene, spam commercial, or racist so a single person can wind up dominating the conversation, chasing others away.

I’m rethinking my policies about how to manage commentst because it’s good to hear from more pe0ple.  Howevert I’m not going to be snipping or moderating anybody anytime soon.    I think Steve McKintyre of Climate Audit might have the right idea which is to push some comments to “unthreaded” if they are off the topic of the post.   This leaves free speech intact while keeping a few people from dominating the whole comment show.

Final note is that I prefer to err on the side of giving everybody their full voice and I plan to continue doing that here.

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About JoeDuck

Internet Travel Guy, Father of 2, small town Oregon life. BS Botany from UW Madison Wisconsin, MS Social Sciences from Southern Oregon. Top interests outside of my family's well being are: Internet Technology, Online Travel, Globalization, China, Table Tennis, Real Estate, The Singularity.
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4 Responses to Narrow Focus

  1. Greg Craven says:

    Joe, I got here from your comments on the RC thread about my book (and Olson’s). Please give it a shot. It is designed PRECISELY for the “huge number of casual observers looking for answers to complex questions.” And, since you water at both RC and CA, your feedback on the method I propose to the layperson in the book would be *tremendously* valuable to me. And I’m serious about the “paying you for the book” offer I made in the RC comments. I want you to read the book that much. (BTW, it’s cheapest on Amazon, so that will save either you or me money. If you care about saving me money even more, buy it through my affiliate link, cuz it’s the same price to you, but gives me a 6% commsiion, which would offset 60 cents of my possible payment to you. I’m a half time teacher with a family of four, so every little bit helps! 😉

    Thanks for considering it.

    Cheers,
    Greg

  2. horatiox says:

    I find it very frustrating to bounce back and forth hoping my reasonable comments will not be moderated (a major problem at RealClimate, and not much of a problem at ClimateAudit) and hoping that critics will be treat researchers with the basic respect they deserve (lack of respect is a huge problem at both ClimateAudit and RealClimate, where PhD science authorities are routinely accused of incompetence (mostly at ClimateAudit) and reasonable criticisms are dismissed casually as “nonsense” simply so they do not need to be addressed properly (mostly at RealClimate).

    You touch on the issue of competence and agency really. A person needs to know something about the science and research to make informed claims about AGW, pro or con. I don’t pretend to be an expert whatsoever, but a few years ago I read Crichton’s rather detailed text “State of Fear,” AND checked his numerous references, and have since then kept studying the issue when time allows (like via McIntyre’s site, and Rancourt, half-sigma, Counterpunch/Monbiot, and even the IPCC/realclimate dudes at times, when my stomach can handle it).

    The chemistry of AGW (as with the supposed claims of CO2 to warming) is itself quite beyond the periodic table and Avogadro’s number jazz some of us vaguely recall–it’s really a problem in atmospheric physics (anyone care to make predictions about hurricane season?? even NCAR can’t do that). Indeed, while the ice core and tree ring data does seem to hint at AGW, the man-made CO2 to warming thesis has not really been confirmed by the labs (see Dr Hug’s research). Yet the typical IPCC-bots routinely assume it has been confirmed. Rancourt, hardly a Foxnews type, claims the temp data itself, at least until like the 70s is probably useless.

    In effect, the IPCC-bots promote the AGW ideology for the most part. Of course both sides do this with all sorts of topics–whether economics, health care, defense issues. That’s one of the drawbacks of the Internet–the Net caters to instant-experts, really. Anyone can do the Cliff McCleven, and pop off on any topic, even if they know very little bit about it.

  3. FoolsGold says:

    >because the blog environments are not civil enough to encourage quality discussion of really intriguing issues.
    I would say then that the problem lies with the uncivil bloggers rather than the issues.

    >intelligent and provocative posts often lead to ferocious attacks
    That would indicate that the purpose was to suppress intelligent discussion in favor of an existing view.
    The blogosphere seems to consist of potiticized issues. Whats the use of rattling off a list of the various issues, it could be climate change, breast cancer or the murder of Jonbenet Ramsey. Intelligent discussion is not the goal. Reinforcement of existing views seems to be the more desired goal.

    >chases away the two very important groups of bloggers:
    >huge number of casual observers looking for answers to complex questions
    >small number of authoritative voices who study a particular complex topic.
    Precisely! Think of an airliner crash. A newspaper story gives the early details. A discussion is appended. There is a group of useless Prayer Prattlers who are there to make comments about The Poor Dears, there is often a group of posters who only wish to yammer about Wait For The NTSB Report (which ofcourse will take two years and once final is just that, final!) there is often a group of Crystal Crazies who see astrological significance to some aspect of the crash. These oft-repeated and stridently presented posts chase away those who are informed about aviation safety issues and also those members of the public who might simply want to become more informed and learn in an environment that is conducive to a discussion of the issues. Wading through all the chaff to get to the more-informative kernels is sometimes simply not worth the effort. Perhaps Wikis would be better than Blogs for this sort of discussion. Even as the obvious chaff is sifted away, serious schools of thought will develop but the contentiousness also develops.

    >Increasingly blogs moderate comments that don’t fit the political agenda
    Blogging has been described as the internet equivalent of a Grass Roots Movement but in real life the proper terminology is Cash Roots Movement as various lobbyists create front-groups masquerading as ordinary citizens. Some blogs are really front-groups and other blogs simply seem to adopt the values and practices of a front-group. They advocate a particular point of view.

    >because it’s good to hear from more people.
    An economist would speak of marginal utility, a phrase applicable to the world of blogging also. Does hearing from more people allow us to be exposed to hearing different views or just more of the same old nonsense we’ve already heard? In theory more people is the prerequisite to bold new ideas and the over-turning of archaic views, but allowing more people also increases the task of wading through increasingly strident chaff.

  4. horatiox says:

    It’s interesting how the AGW/RC/Gore people have managed to silence the AGW skeptics, including high-powered scientific sorts. Buzz Aldrin, All-Amerikan NASA guy–and google dude, isn’t he– has doubts about the Gore/IPCC claims:

    NASA’s Dr. Aldrin — who earned a Doctorate of Science in Astronautics at MIT — declared he was skeptical of man-made climate fears in a July 3, 2009 UK Telegraph interview.

    “I think the climate has been changing for billions of years,” Aldrin, the second person to walk on the Moon, said. On July 20, 1969, Aldrin and astronaut Neil Armstrong made their historic Apollo 11 moonwalk, becoming the first two humans to set foot on the Moon. According to his bio, “Aldrin has received three U.S. patents for his schematics of a modular space station, Starbooster reusable rockets, and multi-crew modules for space flight.” Aldrin was also decorated with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American peacetime award and he has received numerous distinguished awards and medals from 23 other countries.

    “If it’s warming now, it may cool off later. I’m not in favor of just taking short-term isolated situations and depleting our resources to keep our climate just the way it is today,” Aldrin explained.

    “I’m not necessarily of the school that we are causing it all, I think the world is causing it,” Aldrin added.

    http://www.rightsidenews.com/200907045344/energy-and-environment/nasa-astronaut-dr-buzz-aldrin-rejects-global-warming-fears.html

    At ease, soldier.

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