The One with the website update – cleanup and advertising

website under construction

Over the past few months, we’ve made several changes to the feathery dinosaur’s website, and I’ve gotten little feedback other than a Tweet from a “fan” who complained that he didn’t like it. Of course, he didn’t explain why, so all the Skeptical Raptor could do is take his claw and scratch his head.

Here’s what we’ve done over the past three months:

  1. Speeded up the website. Load times seem to be near instantaneous, though, and as an Apple fan, it breaks my heart, it’s sometimes slow with Safari.
  2. Removed about 50% of the advertising. It slowed down the website and some of it was obtrusive. And despite our best efforts some of the advertising ended up being in contradiction to what we write here.
  3. Changed a lot of formatting things to make this easier to read. One of the Raptor’s fanboys helped out a lot in getting the font and font size just right.

But all of this leads to other issues. We’re still trying to improve the design of the website to make it visually appealing AND fast. But we need feedback from you, the loyal and casual readers, to adjust what we’ve done. The website must be a tool to share good writing on topics that interest you. If it’s visually unappealing, or takes forever to load, you won’t read it. So please comment below. And because the internet works on negativity, please drop a note if all is fine.

Another consequence of changes is ads. We’ve lost about 50% of the ad revenue because of the reduction in number of ads. Because of the high readership and popularity, this website is expensive to run. We can’t go to a website hosting service and get their cheapest plan. No, we need to get dedicated servers and a ton of other technical tools to run it efficiently. We laugh when we see adverts on TV that make it so easy to start a website for your business – it is not that easy.

website velociraptor
Photo of the Skeptical Raptor when he hears Donald Trump saying vaccines cause autism. They don’t.

 

Begging is annoying. But we need contributions to survive. We don’t need gold bars shipped in from Big Pharma, but we do need contributions of any level to continue providing content for the foreseeable future. To be honest, without your contributions, we were considering shutting down this website last year. It’s no longer a cute hobby – it’s a almost full time business. And those Big Pharma and Big Agra shill checks keep bouncing. They have no honor.

So click on either of the links below, GoFundMe or PayPal, to contribute to this website. Please. We really need the help to keep going.

Finally, one issue that troubles us. We used to get 40-50 comments on blog posts, now we get a handful, sometimes none at all. Please comment (see what we did there) on why this might be happening. I’m beginning to miss the good old days when anti-vaxxers trolled the articles. Like our favorite alcoholic, drug addict.

And please comment here. Tell us how we’re doing – don’t be rude, be constructive. We need the feedback.

 
 

2016 review – the feathery dinosaur’s take on an interesting year

2016 review

This blog and website is just short of five years old. It started in January 2012 to a grand total of 100 readers that month. I have no clue who those 100 readers were or how they found this website, but I wonder if any of those 100 are still reading this blog. And a tradition I started in 2012 (which is nearly the Jurassic age in internet terms) we the annual review of my top posts for the year – and it is time for the 2016 review.

And like any 2016 review, it’s time to list out the top 13 most read articles for 2016 on this website. Each article was viewed over 100,000 times, an amazing number if you follow how well blogs do on the internet. In fact, the top 13 made up over 50% of the article views for the year.

One huge caveat – I’ve published over 180 articles on this website this year. But some of the top 13 are articles published in 2014 and 2015. It makes me happy (and you always want to keep carnivorous dinosaurs happy) to realize that older articles are being read in huge numbers even 2 years later. Many of these articles are at the top or nearly at the top of Google search rankings. Just Google “banana cancer” – my article is at #1. And it is shared all the time by people who read the nonsense that ripe bananas cure cancer.

Please take a moment and read some of the top 13. Please share the article when you’ve read it – it helps bring in new readers and improves the Google ranking.

Continue reading “2016 review – the feathery dinosaur’s take on an interesting year”

Please donate to the Skeptical Raptor website

The feathered dino asks you to donate

He knows. That feathery, cranky, snarky dinosaur is once again asking for funding for this website, and it’s annoying while being uncomfortable for the carnivorous one. But we’re just a tad short of the goals of $3000 to support the website through 2017. Please donate if you can.

Here’s what the web experts have already done with the website with your generous donations:

  1. Last summer, we had constant issues with service from our web host. The problem wasn’t them, but us. We had too many people reading this damn blog, and the server just couldn’t handle it. With your donations, we’ve upgraded to a more powerful server, but we want to go one step higher to have the capacity for further growth of this website in 2017.
  2. Our website used a 2014 framework, which in internet years is like a 1,000 years old. We’ve moved to a more modern looking website, which was paid for by your generous donations.
  3. We’ve removed some of more annoying advertising, though we’re taking a risk. The worst advertising actually pays the best, so we’re counting on funding from you, the loyal reader, to cut our reliance on the worst of the advertising.
  4. We’ve even removed some of the advertising at the bottom of each article, which had some weird stuff like “alien babies.” Or similar.

The dinosaur thinks we provide great content here. It may not be to everyone’s liking, especially if you’re one of those anti-vaccine types, but we try to make it useful for anyone in a discussion that wanders off to the anti-science side.

Some of our articles widely read and shared. Articles on GMOs and vaccines are often shared several thousand times on Facebook and Twitter. Any time Dorit Rubinstein Reiss writes one of her thoughtful and informative articles about legal issues regarding vaccines, they always have significant readership. And commenting.

We really want to continue providing outstanding articles for 2017. But we need your help, especially if we need to reduce reliance on advertising.

Please donate via GoFundMe in the link below. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

 

Quid pro quo loving Skeptical Raptor looking for a deal

quid pro quo

The Skeptical Raptor loves a few things – chomping on Andrew Wakefield’s nonsense, making fun of those who deny science, and laugh hysterically at the utter ignorance of Donald Trump. Since some of these topics are interrelated – see the Trump-Wakefield bromance – so they’re like 2 for 1 deals. But the feathery dinosaur loves one more thing, the old quid pro quo.

For those who aren’t lawyers or know Latin, it is a phrase that means “something for something,” or “this for that.” No, this dinosaur had to look it up, as Latin, outside of a few scientific terms and TV lawyer, is not in his basic vocabulary. So, the old dinosaur wants to do a quid prop quo with its fans.

Basically, we want to rip out the advertisements at the bottom of the page. You know, the click bait ones like “101 secrets to youth” or “Big secret – this product will cure cancer” or “Celebrities are drinking this coffee, and why you should too.” We all hate these ads, though they are amusing – sadly, they’re lucrative. Lots of people click on them, even those of use who probably shouldn’t.

What we would like to do is remove those ads at the bottom of the page. They clog up the space between the bottom of the article. Also, lots of people can’t find the comments section because of all those ads.

On one side of the quid pro quo will be removal of those annoying ads. On the other side of it, we need to make up for the revenue to continue to maintain and build this website. And to provide excellent content without annoying ads.

We continue to upgrade the server and website using the original funding we got from all of you readers. Our server is a quad-core, 4GB memory. Generally, this website no longer times out, but the new design use a lot of memory resources. We would like to upgrade to a 16GB RAM to really make the server hum, but it’s a significant investment.

quid pro quo

Like NPR (for those in the USA), fundraising is a part of keeping this not-for-profit running with lots of content. We still have a guy (every website has a guy) who is helping us smooth out the problems with this new design. We’re not sure it’s exactly what we want, so we may change again.

Servers, web design, and fixing security issues absorb a lot of the cost of running this website – most of it comes out of the ancient dinosaur’s pockets. If he had pockets, they would come from them.

I know a lot of you of contributed a couple of months ago. We don’t need a lot, just enough to carry us through at least part of the year. While eliminating some of the obnoxious advertising. So if you have an extra dollar, euro, pound, shekel, ruble or yen, we would appreciate your assistance.

Your support keeps this website going with some of the best content around. I think this website has some of the best legal information regarding vaccines on the internet from Dorit Rubinstein Reiss. I know pro- and anti-vaccine people come here for information. Both Professor Reiss and the feathery dinosaur receive no compensation from anyone. We all do it to bring honest and well sourced information about all sorts of scientific knowledge.

Those cheap executives at Big Pharma don’t support this website, verbose dinosaurs or Professor Reiss. And even if they did, none of us would accept it, because this website has a mission – using scientific integrity to squash myths on the internet.

Please, contribute anything you can by clicking on either link below for the crowdsourcing website, GoFundMe.

 

 

Website construction poll – how are we doing?

website construction polling

Skeptical Raptor 4.0 has been out in the wild for almost a month, and we’re not sure what we think about it. For example, most of you didn’t know that clicking on the bright red Skeptical Raptor logo brings you to the home page, where you can search for almost any article. We wanted to throw in a couple of website construction polls to find out what you all are thinking, maybe to help decide which direction to go next.

The current website is really a beta, with issues popping up all the time (like the date of the article is no longer at the top, but now at the bottom – we know that’s an issue that needs to be fixed).

(Throw any additional observations and suggestions down in the comments.)

We hope you notice a few things about the new website. First, we’ve cut out almost all of the embedded ads (those within the body of the articles), because the fundraising model means we can operate the website without relying on ads (though we kept a few along one side). If continued fundraising remains healthy enough to support this website, we will remove more of the ads.

Second, the new design should be faster, and allow for quicker navigation between articles.

Third, there is a new landing page which lists the most recent articles and the 5-6 most popular articles published on this website.

Fundraising

We’re still trying to raise money for the feathery dinosaur to improve the website (such as fixing the date issue, something that’s harder than we originally thought). Because of some really odd hacking attempts, a lot of what we budgeted for website improvement was put into plugging any potential security flaws.

Again, if you’ve got a few spare dollars, please click on the links below. We can use the help in removing more ads, upgrading the website even further, and giving this place a long future of providing content about everything from vaccines and the law to GMO myths.

Please contribute. We can use the help.

 

Andrew Wakefield birthday gift – support the Skeptical Raptor

Andrew Wakefield birthday gift

Yesterday, 3rd of September, was birthday of one of the most vile frauds known to this planet. Using a term we just learned, benevolent trolling, we’re asking the loyal readers of the Skeptical Raptor to consider giving an Andrew Wakefield birthday gift to the snarky dinosaur so that he might enhance this website to make it even more snarkalicious.

This website has made it one of its missions to constantly attack the vain ignorance of Wakefield and his sycophants. Consider this – if you Google “Andrew Wakefield fraud,” the number two Google hit is yours truly.

Andrew Wakefield birthday gift

Actually, we were surprised by that. And we are very proud that our regular features discussing Wakefield, his lame fraudumentary, Vaxxed, and many other aspects of this cunning fraud, are so popular on the internet.

But to keep this website going, especially in light of the millions of page views we get each month, please take a moment and contribute whatever you can to keep this place running. We’re getting pretty close to the goal of $1500, which will help upgrade the server, coding and landing page.

In fact, we’ have already become the upgrade process for the server, and the transition will continue over the next week or two. Issues with 404 errors have nearly dropped to 0, since implementing the changes. We do have much more to do.

Give to the Andrew Wakefield birthday gift fund. What is that you ask? It is the promise that the feathery dinosaur will continue to troll the fraudmeister as many times as we can. In fact, sometime next week, we’re going to have an “Andrew Wakefield, cunning fraud” page that will contain all of the myth busting that has been written here about Wakefield.

One more thing – the Skeptical Raptor just growled into my ear that he’s a little ticked off that he’s number two on the Google hit parade for Andrew Wakefield. Number 2 is actually pretty damn fine.

But please help out if you can. We’re almost there. Just click on the links below, and you can donate to the site. Thanks everyone!

Thaumaturgy – the colorful and feathery dinosaur finds it delicious

thaumaturgy

Thaumaturgy, there’s a word for you. It’s magic or a miracle, used by many to explain events or observations that strain the ability of science to explain it.

Just because one cannot explain something, does not mean that we have to default to magic or thaumaturgy. In fact, I am convinced that everything in our natural universe can be explained with enough time, reasoning and data. The only mysteries are those that will be understood in the future.

Sometimes, cancer patients will not respond to treatment. Suddenly, their symptoms lesson, and the cancer will go into remission. It’s not a miracle from prayer or magical crystals. There is an explanation, based on real science, that just needs to be uncovered. Maybe the cancer had a delayed response to chemotherapy. Maybe the individuals immune system randomly “learned” how to attack the cancer because of a mutation in the cancer. Maybe the patient started drinking beer, and their favorite beer had one key component that just happened to have an effect on that patient’s unique cancer.

Please, no one go out into the world and say “the Skeptical Raptor claims that beer cures cancer.” Please don’t. The dinosaur will have to go in hiding along with the reptilians that control governments all over the world.

Once again, the feathery dinosaur is here asking for help to grow and maintain this website. The Skeptical Raptor does not make a profit on this site, but has, in reality, lost thousands of dollars trying to keep it running.

The other day, we received an email from someone that why don’t we just use one of those website hosts, like GoDaddy (advertised heavily in the USA), which charge like $10 a month. Those type of hosts provide space to several websites on one server, generally called a shared server.  If one website starts using too much power, by becoming too large, then the host demands that you move to a more powerful server.

That’s what happened to this website. We were using this very nice host who had great customer service. But, in early 2015, we went from 1000 hits a day to 20,000 hits a day. The host service was unhappy and shut me down, and it took over a month to move to a new server. And the cost to us was measured in several thousand dollars.

This website’s Facebook page was packed with comments about whether links would come back. Whether we’d come back. There are a lot of articles here that are linked to many other articles across the internet.

We consider this website to be a resource, not a profit-oriented enterprise. It will be here for as long as this dinosaur is alive with at least a few neurons working.

But we need your help to make this website more efficient along with having some headroom to grow. Over the past five years, the page views on Skeptical Raptor has grown over 50% a year, with no sign of plateauing.

We really need your help, and anything you can dig out of your pocket (even lint, though attached to a $5 bill would be better) will go towards making certain that we maintain our Google ranking for vaccine and GMO articles.

Please join the effort to modernize this website and make it accessible to everyone all the time. Click on any link below, and help out if you can.

The feathery dinosaur thanks you.

 

 

 



Cult science – the raptor enjoys hunting down pseudoscience

Skeptical Raptor checking out cult science

The Skeptical Raptor hates begging. He’d rather just get his meals from ripping apart the ignorance of pseudoscience. Before the advent of crowd-funding, like GoFundMe, we probably would have shut this website down, because the cost to run it is so high. We do feel as this website serves a function in the community as a resource to fight cult science, like anti-vaccination and anti-GMO pseudoscience.

Every day, we check who links to an article here. We are always surprised when a legal article about vaccination, from Professor Dorit Reiss, gets a link from an Italian website. Maybe some Italian law student is looking for a way to figure out how to figure out a ruling of the Italian court system. Maybe an Italian parent heard a rumor about how Americans do things with vaccines, and gets clarification.

This website is here to provide evidence and arguments to reject cult science and bad pseudoscience. That’s all.

We need to raise funds to improve the experience. We get too many 404 errors when the servers get overloaded. The front page, though much better than it was just two years ago, needs to be modernized. The website needs to be speedier and more efficient, something outside of the skills of one 65 million year old dinosaur. And that’s only marginally a metaphor.

Amazingly, we’ve raised about ⅙ of the funds that should be sufficient to get most of the things done. We need to move to a more powerful server. We need to clean up code. And we need to redesign the pages (probably the hardest thing to do).

The feathery dinosaur doesn’t want to beg, but we can’t run this place alone. If you’ve found this place at all useful, throw a few shekels this way. Bars of gold are also acceptable.

We’re not threatening shut down of Skeptical Raptor. We’d plot along as best we can. But it’s important to keep some of the articles here in the #1 hit parade of Google Hits for vaccines and other subjects. If you want to debunk “bananas cure cancer,” go ahead and google it. An article here is usually number 1 or 2 on Google hits.

Please contribute whatever you can.

 

Internet woo – the feathery dinosaur needs your help

Internet woo

Yesterday, we mentioned how much this website has grown. We’re now getting several million hits and visits per month, which has meant that we need new enclosures (servers and web design) for the raptor. Feeding on all that internet woo and pseudoscience has contributed to this massive growth.

There is advertising on this site that pays some of the monthly costs, but with more and more people using Ad Blockers, a good 80% of the hits don’t result in views of the ads. So, the hungry, feathery internet woo attacking dinosaur can’t be fed properly.

Basically, we need to invest in the overhead to make this website work for a long time. For example, we need to do some basic website re-design, like modernize some of the code and improve the look and feel. We still haven’t been able to get a good front page that allows people to see the best articles.

W also have to improve the server. Last month, we were running at 500% of the allowed 4 cores (processors) for my website. I need to move to 10 cores ASAP. This site is supposed to run on 4GB of RAM, but last month I was running at 8-10. Those might sound like nothing for your MacBook Pro (well 10 cores is kind of massive), but the feathery dinosaur is trying to share the server with someone who might have a small internet storefront for Etsy or eBay.

The raptor may be mean to internet woo pushers, but he (or she, not sure how to check, or even if I should) is sympathetic to neighbors.

Internet woo

The internet host starts throttling back this website to keep others on the server running at full speed.  What this means is a bad experience for you the reader. There are thousands of inbound links to this website from numerous authors across the world who also attack internet woo and junk science. The raptor would like to keep those lines always working, 24/7.

We joke that we get money from Big Pharma to run these websites. We actually don’t. We do it for fun, for education, for good science. We all know that sites like this (not being modest, just factual) help all of us win the good fight against lies, misinformation and ignorance.

The raptor is appreciative of the authors, like Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, who takes time out of her incredibly busy day to write important articles about laws and vaccines. She doesn’t do it for profit, she does it to inform. And people know to visit here for the latest information from her, and the raptor needs to make certain that readers have an efficient and stress-free experience on this website. And to make sure that the links that all of you share from Professor Reiss’ articles make it out to the public.

So please contribute to the GoFundMe campaign for the feathery dinosaur. He thanks you all, because your help is appreciated. And he really needs more space to grow. There is just so much internet woo to consume.

Website contribution – the feathery dinosaur needs your help

website contribution

It’s time to update everyone about my website. I’m going to brag a little, something I rarely do. But to keep this place going, I need to ask for a website contribution or two or three.

And the calm (not so much) Skeptical Raptor is going to beg for your help. The  peaceful (not so much) Skeptical Raptor really does need your help.

The good and the bad news

 

During 2016, almost 8 months, this website has had over 2 million visitors and nearly 7 million pages read. As websites go, that places your humble (or not so much) Skeptical Raptor in the top 0.025% of websites worldwide.

This website, according to Alexa, ranks in the 250,000 range, which would be bad if you were trying to get into the World Cup for Soccer. But since there are just over 1 billion websites, the self-depracating Skeptical Raptor (not so much) would actually be in the World Cup of websites.

As a comparison, the fine people over at Science Based Medicine rank about 40,000. Not that the unassertive (not so much) Skeptical Raptor is jealous (ok, just a bit), they have had like a 10 year head start on me. The irascible Orac ranks about 35,000. SkepticalScience, which is my favorite website for real information about climate change (and you really should have it on your list of websites to watch), ranks around 97,000.

Annoyingly, Natural News, one of the biggest pieces of horse manure on the planet, ranks at 8500. People are fools.

In case you were wondering, Google ranks #1. I do not think that their ranking is endangered by the subdued (not so much) Skeptical Raptor.

The bad news is that I had 2 million visitors and 7 million pages read and rank in the top 0.025% of websites. So the modest (not so much) Skeptical Raptor can no longer rely upon cheap servers from popular  web hosts and a couple of plug-ins to survive.

I have had to double the size of my dedicated servers twice over the past few months. A couple of weeks ago, my website was down more than up, because of a few issues, including not enough server power. And I need almost a full time person to fix issues.

Like chron jobs. I had runaway chron jobs. Dammit Jim, I’m a Big Pharma Shill not a computer engineer.

please-give

Asking for any website contribution

Thus, I need to beg for donations. My support for Hillary Clinton, who has been bullying Big Pharma to the point that their stock prices have crashed, has dried up all of my Shill Checks™. I’ve read rumors that Big Pharma CEOs are now eating Ramen noodles they’re so destitute.

But I really need some help. I don’t need someone to donate $1000 (but, you know, if you want, I’m OK with it). But I do need help to keep this place running. I’m not a billionaire like the incomprehensible Orac, who has a staff of minions who fix his computers and troll Mike Adams at the same time.

Your donations go to a good cause. I employ a group of starving grad students who love fixing chron jobs. And $10 gets them like a week of Ramen noodles.

In all seriousness, my “hobby” has gotten out of hand. It’s becoming a monster. So anything you can do to help will be greatly appreciated.