Discuss Moderation Policies at Climate Blogs Here #2

Different blogs adopt differing moderation policies. Some, generally for some reason on the AGW proponent side, don’t like to allow too much in the way of dissension and reject many posts that don’t fit the message.

Others, generally of a more sceptical persuasion, adopt a moderation policy that involves ‘snipping’ comments that are off topic (OT) to a particular thread, that are ‘piling on’ or that in other ways breach blog policy. These sites disclose the fact that a snip has been made, and state a reason.

This site has been going for nearly 1 year now, and we have accumulated quite a bit of information relating to rejected posts at various blogs. It would be an interesting exercise to analyse the record here and prepare a paper on the outcome. If anybody wants to do that, go for it!

One of the issues we encounter about doing a job like this blog sets out to do is that it is very hard to maintain the impression of fairness over time, as we pointed out at our counterpart An Inconvenient Comment. The reason is that it seems that the policies of the pro AGW sites result in a much larger number of rejected posts than the sceptic sites. At least that is how it appears from the number of posts complaining about Real Climate, and to a much lesser degree, Open Mind.

We have very few examples of posts rejected at Climate Audit, or Watts Up with That or other sceptic sites. We conclude that that is because those sites tend not to simply reject posts. It seems that posters choose not to complain when their posts are snipped, but the reasons are explained.


17 Responses to “Discuss Moderation Policies at Climate Blogs Here #2”

  1. An Inconvenient Comment Says:

    Three unrelated points to open up conversation on this thread:

    1) Haven’t been back through most of it, but this site does seem to represent an excellent – I have to assume the best – record of recent moderation policies of RC, etc. Before a qualitative review of the record here, which I’d imagine loyal readers or the admin might be best able to do, it might be interesting just to establish some metrics for the rejected comments collected here, and do a more statistical examination of them. The counts would be far from scientifically rigorous, I’m sure, but I bet they’d still be pretty interesting. If some other readers wanted to help, and split up the record into a few or more partitions for review, I think I’d be able to take on a section myself over the next month…

    2) While it’s tough to quickly substantiate to another person who’s not intimately familiar with the climate blogosphere (there’s no single succinct link to support the understanding…”rcrejects.wordpress.com” is probably the closest thing), I think the majority of honest people who read regularly from the whole spectrum of climate blogs understand the contrast in the transparency of forums like RC and CP, and that of CA and others, as described by RCR above. I believe RCR’s thoughts on transparency of “snipping” are spot on, too. Speaking for AIC – and I would imagine RCR feels the same way – I would be elated if sites such as RealClimate, Open Mind, and Climate Progress, short of open comment policies, took Roger Pielke Jr.’s lead and created a rejected comments thread, in the interest of transparency for their forums, and removed the need for metaforums.

    3) I’ve wanted to be gracious to RC lately, but as noted in another post here, it seems any recent flirtation they might have had with more open comment moderation was short-lived. I can’t imagine this is first time someone’s observed this on this forum, but it probably deserves to be said repeatedly: it’s interesting to me that the most open climate blogs, as far as comments go, happen to be the ones arguing for openness and transparency in climate science, while the forums explicitly or implicitly defending opaque, scientifically questionable data-sharing practices tend to be more likely to moderate their threads in a seemingly political, less-open manner.

    Happy new year,

  2. rcrejects Says:

    AIC. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I really appreciate the open constructive approach that you bring to the discussion.

    Happy new year to you to!


  3. rcrejects Says:

    Susann starts a blog:

    Susann has been posting at CA recently, and complains of having posts deleted, and more recently, of being “banned” from CA.

    She says in her opening post at http://shewonk.wordpress.com: “Since I’m no longer permitted to post there and my posts disappear, I guess I’ll have to start my own blog responding to Mr. McIntyre’s posts.” This is in her first thread “In The Penalty Box”.

    She has named her blog ‘The Policy Lass’ after being called that by a commenter at CA.

    There is quite a lot of discussion of moderation policy, both by Susann, but also by commenters. It is quite an interesting discussion of moderation policy at CA, and (I think) confirms our view that CA is exercising its moderation policy of explaining why posts are ‘snipped’.

    Susann has posted a lot of posts that CA consider to be OT, or which breach blog policies. Many of these posts have been ‘snipped’, and it is understandable that CA might consider ‘banning’ Susann, since her ‘contributions’ tend to drive the discussion away from the thread topic onto moderation policy as it is being applied to her.

    We have posted at Susann’s blog, inviting her to post her ‘rejected’ CA posts up here. In the meantime, we suggest that you go over there and have a look for yourself if you are interested in a rare case of criticism of CA’s moderation policy.

  4. rcrejects Says:

    Anand Rajan posted a good discussion regarding Susann’s experiences at CA in the “In the Penalty Box” thread at shewonk.

    Anand Rajan KD said, on December 29, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Is this from Susann?

    I am glad I can read your response to what I posted on CA. I called what you did trolling because you seemed to call out Steve M for not investigating Nature’s claims that researchers were harassed by FOI requests. Overall, in the present circumstance I would say Nature is responsible for substantiating their claim that FOI requests are a tool for harassment which exactly mirrors what Jones and others claim in their emails, not McIntyre.

    My own personal experience in India where the equivalent law is called RTIA – the right to Information Act, has been that government and public officials expected and indeed acrimoniously protested that the act would flood and inundate offices with requests. But that has not been the case – atleast in the area I am familiar with (in a large tertiary care medical institution handling complex cases).

    But I am totally with you on posts being deleted. I am skeptical of dramatic climate change. Yet I wandered over to RealClimate innocent of what goes on over there and had a rash of my posts deleted. I’ve not commented extensively on blogs in the recent past and I was appalled to find moderators *deleting* posts. I guess I come from an earlier age when post deletion on forums and online discussions was the last resort. I’ve participated in online discussions, been the moderator of a forum, been a member of many online communities. I have only very rarely encountered post deletion. Users would troll, be a nuisance and get banned ultimately. But I do not remember post deletions.

    So RealClimate’s behavior was extremely surprising.

    I believe people should be allowed to say whatever. Even as I read the posts you’ve put up above I can understand what you were trying to get across although I may not agree with you or be very happy with the direction you were taking criticizing McIntyre’s post. For example, you criticize McIntyre for apparently blaming all climate scientists for contributing to the myth that FOIA requests are harassment when he should have been more specific. When I read the passage I did not get the meaning that he was trying to bunch all climate scientists – I knew who he was talking about. Nevertheless…

    I have earlier voiced my concerns about post deletion on CA. CA is a decent site and should not go the RealClimate way – which was planned to be run in the “post-queuing selective deletion” fashion. But I agree with you that CA has become an important site and post deletion is not becoming. Maybe there needs to be some mechanism like Youtube comments where posts flagged by the moderator can remain hidden but can be viewed if required.

    Anyway those are my thoughts. Sorry to have rambled on!


  5. rcrejects Says:

    Ron Cram weighed in as well. Same thread at shewonk.

    Ron Cram said, on January 2, 2010 at 7:15 am


    I’m glad you linked your blog at Climate Audit. I’m sure I never would have found it if you had not.

    One of the reasons Steve’s blog is so popular is the fact he snips comments to try to keep the discussion centered on the topic. While I love Steve McIntyre, sometimes my posts are snipped as well. Don’t take it personally. Rather try to learn his rules. It is okay to disagree with him, but try to have a point when you comment.

    Your behavior at Climate Audit has been quite poor. You want to argue about specific points and then when you are shown to be wrong, you want to move the goal posts. This is trolling behavior. When shown to be wrong on a minor point, accept it and thank the person. Then say “I still have a problem with…” This at least looks like you are listening and that talking to you is not a waste of time. Trying to determine where agreement exists between parties is just as important as determining where disagreement exists.

  6. rcrejects Says:

    Dominic also provides a worthy contribution. For the full discussion please go to http://shewonk.wordpress.com. “In the Penalty Box” thread.

    Dominic said, on January 3, 2010 at 2:28 pm Hi Susan

    Forgive my deviation from the exact topic – my comment below is more of a general set of observations from someone who has also been a regular at CA but who has remained almost 100% quiet until now. I wanted to share my observations with you.

    I have been reading CA for maybe 2 years or so. I used to be an accepter of the AGW theory, but after hearing about the “hockey stick” I began to dig a bit into the science and came across CA and have found it to be an enthralling read ever since. It’s almost like a soap with the same bunch of characters, both “goodies” and “baddies” !!! But it’s a lot more serious than that.

    While I am still not a convinced skeptic, what I have found out about the quality of the AGW scientific body of research has shocked me (I have a PhD in theoretical physics (statistical physics to be precise) so know a thing or two about science, the scientific method and the general techniques behind the hockey stick).

    While I often disagree with the tone of what Steve McIntyre says and the fact that he sometimes betrays his gleefullness at getting one over on the “Hockey Team” – e.g. earlier this year when a large amount of supposedly unavailable data was found on the Hadley (I think) ftp site, I do find him an honest scientist.

    In particular he shows his workings in a way which lets others check and reproduce his results. In doing so, he exposes himself to the risk of embarrassment over errors. This approach is courageous and is to be highly admired and is the essence of the scientific method. He has shown that blogs can be a powerful tool for analysing, checking and disseminating new research and for checking older research.

    Where I have looked into a claim that he makes (and I have not looked at everything), I have found McIntyre’s work to stand up.

    I am not a convinced skeptic. But as an ex-academic in physics, I have observed the actions of Mann and company and have been appalled by their unscientific behaviour. And what has been incredible about the UEA emails is that they only made crystal clear what many of the readers of CA had been suspecting. Most readers of CA had formed a theory about the modus operandi of the hockey team and the emails confirmed our worst fears. It was almost like having your scientific theory proved by an experiment !! Satisfying but also terrifying.

    OK, there was no massive smoking gun to invalidate the theory just as there is no massive smoking gun to validate the theory of AGW, but the attitudes and behaviours were to me quite appalling.

    Also, I know you may not find the posts and replies at CA to be the ultimate in dispassionate argument, but in terms of style they are far milder than the sarcastic put downs at RC where the moderation and deletion of posts is much harsher than anything McIntyre does.

    Also, small things matter. Their pettiness in refusing to use McIntyre’s name, their failure to acknowledge errors found by McIntyre (which they then correct stating that they found them themselves) just go on and on. I can therefore understand why McIntyre finds them tiresome and unpleasant and he may betray this.

    Still, at the end of the day, you should judge someone by their actions and if the actions are to hide and delete data then you should be wary. If the actions are to openly discuss the data and methods giving any reader the opportunity to poke holes in what you have done then that is something to respect.

    It is very possible that AGW will be shown to be correct (whatever that means since humans must be having some effect on the climate – the question is the size of the effect). However it will not rest upon the work by Mann and co. will be looked back upon in the future as a shoddy piece of work and a disgrace to the practice of science.

    My 2pence worth.


  7. rcrejects Says:

    Friar posted an interesting comment at CA “Back to 2003” thread that illustrates the impact of the stance taken by RC on a lay person.

    Friar: Posted Jan 5, 2010 at 4:56 AM

    This is interesting. The very first thing which drew me to the debate and to a skeptical stance in relation to it was not any scientific appreciation, nor any pseudo-intellectual opinion borne of deep conviction or otherwise.

    It was the virulence of the attacks upon those labelled skeptics, with the use of terms such as ‘deniers’ (which I find abhorrent). That and the distinct flavour of ad hominem argument made me very suspicious indeed of those engaged as proponents of the dangerous warming idea.

    It struck me as very odd that a site such as Real Climate, ostensibly committed to a scientific explication of the AGW theory should so readily and frequently engage in petty name calling, villification of anyone in disagreement, and the selective censorship of comments and replies.

    It motivated me to look more carefully at what I had until them assumed was a scientific case for possibly dangerous global warming. All that has emerged from the release of the e-mails from CRU seems to confirm my suspicions in relation to the methods employed, and I have long since decided that much of what has been adduced in support of the AGW thing is rubbish.

    Paradoxical isn’t it?

  8. rcrejects Says:

    Also at CA, same thread as previous post.

    scienceofdoom: Posted Jan 5, 2010 at 1:40 AM

    For Dr Bob..

    Because Mann’s paper was “poor” doesn’t mean “fraud”. I don’t think it’s “corruption”, or even sinister. He produced a poor paper and because “sexed up climate science” is standing in for real climate science he has a lot of defenders. A scientist with a big ego who thinks he’s always right. Unusual? I don’t think so. I’m sure many scientists with long careers have produced a few flawed papers along the way.

    But what is clear to the (interested) world are the methods and approaches of the “climategate cabal”. They are all acting as if nothing has happened but what they don’t seem to have understood is that they need the support of the public. Defending papers like MBH98 is the wrong plan.

    On a personal note, the IPCC marketing department – realclimate.org – moved me from questioning to skeptical. I have read many other people say the same thing. They might just be very bad for the cause of climate science.

  9. rcrejects Says:

    Posted at The Air Vent ‘Big Journalism Part II’ thread.

    16.vsaluki said: January 11, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I do have to say that there has been a difference in the moderating at RC in the past month and a half. About 95% of the comments I give them are put through. This is way better than before. Of course I still get all of the personal attacks from the regulars and even from Gavin, but that doesn’t bother me in the least. For the most part I get to make my points now. None of the regulars are convinced of course. But anyone from outside the cabal that is reading RC can at least get some competing view points. I urge any of the people here to go to RC and try your luck – assuming that you don’t have a thin skin.

    Absolutely nothing has changed at Tamino’s and Romm’s places, however. Same old victory by censorship.

  10. rcrejects Says:

    More on ‘moderation’ at RC. This time at Lucia’s Blackboard – ‘Timeline For Climategate’ thread.

    liza (Comment#30005): January 13th, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Hi lucia, it has been awhile I hope you let this comment though.

    How many other just regular folks have be subjected to Gavin in some way? We don’t know how many.

    I do consider him to be threatening to you lucia. I hope the powers that be are reading this blog and others!

    Several years ago, as a concerned citizen, mom, and wife (of a published earth scientist) I attempted to make a comment with questions on the RC blog. My questions and concerns were valid I thought (and I still believe they were.) so I mustered the courage to try and speak to a “real climate scientist” directly for the first time ever. A “lowly” person such as myself via a blog! Imagine.

    So my first experience on a climate blog run by this man was to be held in limbo- moderation; yet my comment was put up first before all others for some reason (?) ; then trying to respond to things for minutes (then hours) being said at me in record time thereafter in comment after comment; and he (or the mods) would not let my own through;veiled insults to my intelligence were allowed; other comments that were very political (like his “very illegal” comment in his email to lucia ). I was addressed as an “SUV Mom” as well. (not that it matters at the time I drove a toyota with surf racks on it! ); and when he did allow my comments though they were out of the time line ( out of context then) and he censored my words and questions. ( like “isn’t name calling against blog policy here?”) He removed the links I gave to illustrate my opinion but allowed others to provide links so I could be “educated” . It’s all still there in the archive-but you only see the RC version of course.

    I was livid and I was some what scared afterward. That a man such as he and a blog like that had influence in my child’s future; and whose salary was paid by my tax dollars; could use little old me or anyone that way? Mind boggling.

    Last comment I sent to the RC system addressed to Gavin was “I hope the truth haunts your dreams!”.

    I bet it does now! Like SM, all I can say about Climategate is “unbelievable”!

    I also still have copies of my email complaint and exchange with NASA. (Sent to the manager of their “Global Warming Info” website in which Gavin is a contributor). Interesting stuff.

    PS *waves* at Boris.
    My my, you have not changed a bit.
    And thank you Mosh, Anthony, Lucia..all of you for staying the course.

    Liza Robinson
    aka welikerocks!

    Lucia responded:

    lucia (Comment#30006): January 13th, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Hi Liza – I think the experience you describe at RC is shared by others.

    There are many other specific practices that I think strike commenters as unbalanced and unfair, and rightly or wrongly, leads them to distrust those running RC. To the extent that RC is the public face of scientists explaining warming to the public, I think the comment moderation policy at RC has promoted skepticism.

    Still, I suspect those running the blog think their practices are either necessary, in their interest or both and will continue their practice.

  11. rcrejects Says:

    Tilo Reber. Also at Lucia’s. Same thread.

    Tilo Reber (Comment#30008): January 13th, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Well put Liza. Your experience has been shared by many who comment to RC. And that is where the climategate emails expose the moderation policies at RC.

    Michael Mann:
    “Anyway, I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC in any way that you think would be helpful. Gavin and I are going to be careful about what comments we screen through, and we’ll be careful to answer any questions that come up to any extent we can.”

    Michael Mann:
    “On the other hand, you might want to visit the thread and post replies yourself. We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.”

    In fairness, I have to say that I’ve had an easier time of posting at RC since climategate broke. I still get the insults – but at least 95% of my posts are now getting through. Nothing has changed at Romm’s and Tamino’s, however. Of course I take screen shots of all my rejected comments and post them at other sites. Gavin knows this. So I don’t know if that has an influence.

  12. rcrejects Says:

    Liza commented again at Lucia’s. Same thread.

    liza (Comment#30009): January 13th, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Hi lucia, I was skeptical of AGW before the RC experience. That’s the kind of person I am though, I ask questions before making a full opinion on something. So I went to the source and look what I got. It did indeed enforce my skeptical opinion. The earth scientists I know (and love) in real life enjoy and do not hesitate to share their work/data either. There’s that!

    I wrote to SM and John A via email after that experience on RC afraid to post on a blog ! I wanted to ask them something (-it was the early days!); and SM wrote me back thoughtfully right away.

  13. rcrejects Says:

    AIC. In your thoughtful post (first comment above) you say: “Haven’t been back through most of it, but this site does seem to represent an excellent – I have to assume the best – record of recent moderation policies of RC, etc”.

    I need to caution that this site may not represent a very good record of recent moderation policies at RC. Most of the comments are cut and pasted by me when I notice them on one or other of the blogs that I check out on my ‘morning rounds’. I generally cover CA, WUWT, TAV, Lucia, RPJr, and a few others including RC itself. At some of these blogs there are literally hundreds of comments, and I struggle to read them all.

    So I very well may miss many comments relating to moderation at RC and elsewhere.

    Another factor is that I am probably biased myself, so while I try to present a balanced picture, I probably notice and act on posts that are critical of RC and other “pro AGW” sites more than posts that are critical of CA, WUWT or other similar sites. I do try to be fair on this. And it is true to say that my experience is that there are many more people commenting on adverse experiences at RC and TOM than there are commenting on bad experiences at CA, WUWT et al.

    It is also likely that I don’t tend to ‘notice’ positive posts regarding RC’s moderation policies. There may well be some.

    My main point is that this site should only be regarded as ‘anecdotal’ evidence of moderation policies at a few climate related blogs. However, while it clearly has its limitations, I do think that the accumulated record does tell a story.

    I agree with you that it would indeed be useful to analyse the record in some way and to present a summary of the results. I am unlikely to have the time to do it myself, but would do what I can to assist any researcher who is interested in undertaking such a study.

  14. rcrejects Says:

    Posted at Roger Pielke Jr’s blog. From Mistakes to Lies thread.

    Post 30: Tue Feb 16, 01:57:00 AM

    PaulM said…

    Steve, me too. It was reading realclimate that was the main factor in converting me from an agnostic to a skeptic a few years back. The blatant distortion and exaggeration, the vitriolic witch-hunts against anyone who dared to question the theory, and then the deletion of my inconvenient questions and comments on their blog, convinced me that these people were not scientists as I understand the term.

  15. rcrejects Says:

    PaulM’s comment directly above was in response to a post on the same thread at RPJr’s blog by Steve.

    Post 24. Mon Feb 15, 03:40:00 PM MST

    Steve said:

    It would be fascinating to find out how many “seekers of climate truth” have become “skeptics” because of time they spent at RealClimate.

    If you read climate science papers the work looks very impressive. Even those who politicize it in public, when they write in papers, are fully expressive of the uncertainties, the problems, the further work needed and so on.

    But 99% (99.99%?) of the population can’t read these papers (don’t know where to start, no access, no physics background, etc).

    So those with real questions go to RealClimate. If only RealClimate knew!

  16. rcrejects Says:

    AMac joins in. Same blog, same thread as the previous two posts.

    Post 36. Tue Feb 16, 09:57:00 AM MST

    AMac said: Steve (#24). Me, too. On the few topics I was (am!) familiar with, I found that RealClimate consistently skewed the discussion towards the Consensus view. Their comment-moderation policy was (is) a particularly unattractive feature.

    Since they have a history of misleading about some things, why would I believe them on others? Why would I extend trust to a movement that puts that sort of forum on a pedestal?

  17. rcrejects Says:

    At CA, there is an interesting pair of comments in the “McIntyre Submission With Figures” thread relating to RC moderation.

    It appears that this is an example where RC allows a post through moderation, gavin provides a comment, but then some time later the post ‘disappears’. If this is accurate, it suggests that RC uses another style of moderation – that is, ‘disappearing’ posts and comments later. Presumably because another of ‘the team’ objects.

    Anyhow. Here are the comments:

    Kate7: Posted Feb 27, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    I archived this RC post before it disappeared Feb 20:

    “Sorry, but you chaps still aren’t getting “it”. I am on your side and I see that you still aren’t getting “it”. The problem is the defensiveness and obfuscation of the Team (as they call you). I see it and I am on your side. Let the “deniers” have what they want – data; code; public debate. Surely you all will “win” in that process with the facts. Only then will they relent.
    [Response: Maybe on a different planet. There is more data than you can poke a stick at, millions of lines of code in the public domain, and climate scientists tripping over themselves to do outreach at schools, churches, clubs, museums, TV, radio and music hall. I’m collecting ‘we surrender’ emails from the sceptics as we speak…. – gavin]”

    Jeff Alberts: Posted Feb 27, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    Lol, Gavin replied and then disappeared it?? Amazing.

    Yeah, tons of data and code, but is it relevant to the published papers? And is one just supposed to guess which is the data and code used in any given paper?

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