I haven’t updated information about the Skeptical Raptor website in a long while, so I thought I’d take the time on this Memorial Day weekend, when readership is low, to do some housekeeping, catching up, and philosophizing about science.
Specifically, I want to make some changes to the commenting system of this website, talk about contact information, get some ideas on directions to proceed, and then, beg for money, cause this place is expensive. So let’s get going.
Back in the old days of this blog, I’d get an average of <1 comment per article. It was a lonely time for me. Once I started getting more frequent comments, I moved to the Disqus system which is robust, allows me to moderate without having to read every article, and it keeps things organized.
Today, some of my articles get 1000 comments. That’s good news and bad news. Good news in that it shows a lot of exciting commentary about my articles. It keeps me energized to write, and it gives me new ideas. Several of my articles are directly related to someone’s intelligent and informative comments.
But, as you know, with the popularity of the blog and its comments, individuals who disagree with me show up all the time. I used to have a blanket policy to not censor anything written, except spam. Whenever I write about cancer, there are probably 10-20 comments all about contacting Dr. XYZ to cure all your cancers with hash oil. Yup, you generally don’t see them.
I like the the positive and negative comments, but it’s getting out of hand. In a sense, the negative commenters are spamming my articles with the same old debunked nonsense. I was reviewing comments today, and I bet a good 10% were pushing the trope that plumbers had more to do with keeping humanity alive than did vaccines. That trope has been thoroughly dismissed by anyone with a modicum of intellect.
And I know it frustrates my minions whose comments vary from polite takedowns of ignorance and misinformation, to very short, impatient, ass kicking. I enjoy them all. Unfortunately, because of the negative spamming, everyone is getting drowned out.
Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, whom I know is the writer that brings carefully worded, civil commentary to this blog, is always attacked for what she writes here and on other social media. It’s disgusting, and I don’t know how she deals with it. But she will continue to write her for as long as she wants (and I know she’s got a blockbuster article coming that will make all of us cheer from the sidelines). And I’m sure some troll will attack her for XYZ in the comments.
But I’m not powerless in this battle. I’ve had it with sockpuppets who clog up the comments. Lucky for me, Disqus empowers website owners with the ability to keep things on the straight and narrow. So starting last week, when I ban someone, I ban their IP addresses. It’s not perfect. And it might ban someone who’s on the same network who’s a good guy (this is going to be problematic with academic networks, so bear with me as we fine-tune this).
What are the banning qualifications going forward?
- Doxxing or outing any member of the community is prohibited, unless that person is well known. For example, telling us where Dr. Rubinstein Reiss works, the University of California Hastings Law School, is not outing her. We publish her credentials here. But giving out her personal phone number – that’s a banning offense.
- Repeating the same trope over and over and over. Yeah, three times for one person one one article is my limit. I might move it down to 2.
- Any commenter who, after being asked to provide peer-reviewed high quality scientific evidence, spams us with links to Natural News, YouTube, or any other non science websites – banned forever.
- Personal attacks by those who oppose real science is a bannable offense. I am going to admit that I am two faced about civility, because I have my own opinion about ad hominem personal attacks. If you have the real scientific evidence on your side, you get to say “your anti-vaccine beliefs are simply bullshit.” That’s not a personal attack.
- I am shutting off comments after 90 days. I might change that one way or another, but it’s difficult to read a set of comments from an article from a year ago which explodes. I might update the article if there are a lot of searches for it, so the comments are open again.
- If the commenting community points out issues with a commenter who doesn’t necessarily fit in the above 5, I’ll ban.
This isn’t perfect of course. And obviously, it is biased towards those individuals who are science based. But if you want to be anti-vaccine, anti-GMO, pro-pseudoscience, you are pushing extraordinary claims. If you want to argue, then you better provide extraordinary evidence. And guess what, we have just as much fun ripping your evidence as we do attacking you intellect. If you want to change dynamic, bring evidence. But realize we aren’t biased people – we only accept broad amounts of evidence, not cherry picked articles in the Journal of Weed Smoking and Cancer.
Again, I don’t want to censor. I know bloggers who review every comment and approve it. And I know others who let almost everything fly. I have a lot of commenters here at Skeptical Raptor who enjoy taking on the crazies. That hasn’t changed much, I just think even you guys get bored when one sock after another sock shows up saying the same old lame nonsense.
I admit, I don’t make it easy to contact me. Some of you know me personally, and know how to email or text me. Some of you are friends on my personal Facebook account.
I do have a Facebook Page for Skeptical Raptor. I simply use it as a method to “advertise” each blog post, and I don’t use it as a system to communicate with me. Again with thousands of comments per article, it becomes difficult. I often lament the intrusiveness of social media, which has no limits.
The best way to contact me is through Twitter. I have it set up in a way that I don’t get bothered too much by the anti-science types, though I do participate in the “let’s attack Dorit” crap tweets. Every time she publishes something here, the vile haters pop out of their nests and go to work.
My Twitter handle is [twitter-follow screen_name=’SkepticalRaptor’ show_count=’yes’]. Not too hard to remember. If I follow you, you can actually message me directly, which pings my iMessage account, so I know something important is there. But if you just send me a message publicly, I’ll see it.
I’m not going to publish an email address, because I did that with the previous iteration of this website (with a name long-lost to the internet), and my spam inbox was so filled with junk that I actually didn’t see the attack emails or even the complimentary ones.
I intentionally keep my own identity semi-secret. What makes me laugh is that I have one of the most common names in the USA, so doxxing me is quite useless and funny. I believe someone with my name was a Congressman – most definitely not me – but I was accused of being him. He’s better looking. And has less of a sense of humor.
Loyal readers can tell that I focus on a handful of scientific issues – vaccines, GMOs, cancer, marijuana, and then a bunch of other topics, generally one-off.
By numbers, more than half of what I write are about vaccines. The most popular articles on vaccines are either written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss or the ones I write more about social topics rather than the science. For example, Dr. Rubinstein Reiss’ most recent article, about Andrew Wakefield’s dishonest attempt at self-justification, was one of the most popular vaccine articles that have been published here.
My most popular vaccines articles were the series I wrote about Vaxxed, Andrew Wakefield’s fraudumentary about the CDC whistleblower incident.
But if I write an article about Gardasil not doing XYZ, I get 10% of the viewers I do from Dorit’s or my articles on non-science issues with vaccines. My guess is that my loyal readers are already convinced by the science of vaccinations, so anything more is kind of a yawner. But show that Wakefield is a fraud over and over is something that is needed to defeat the “vaccine causes autism” trope.
It could be a combination of things. I probably can’t help myself, and I’ll write about some interesting studies that confirm what vaccines can do, or show how safe they are. Really, I cannot resist. But please read them.
I am going to talk more about cancer, because I think it’s like vaccines. There is more misinformation than facts. And I hate that.
And, of course, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss gets passionate about some new topic about vaccines, and before I turn my head, I get a wonderful 1500 word essay that encourages the brain to think about the facts of vaccines. And it blows up on the internet.
Every time I think I’m going to write less about vaccines, I get dragged back in. Since I’m not naive, I know a zombie trope will show up, and I’ll be doing this once again.
One last thing
As most reasonable people know, Big Pharma doesn’t waste it’s money on bloggers. If they did, Dr. David Gorski would be a multi-billionaire, running for President against Trump or buying out the rights to The Walking Dead, rewriting the season 6 finale. I would, of course, beg for a job there. I’d blog about the scientific evidence of each episode.
A few weeks ago, some commenting troll laid out a case that I make over $20,000 a month from this blog. I shared this with a few blogger friends, and their responses ranged from LOL to WTF?
My daughter, who produces and posts YouTube videos, is an expert on the economics of the internet. She said that a blog needs around 2 million views per article (or video) to be considered big time. Those people can make north of $100,000 a year, which may appear to be a lot, but generally they’re working 20 hour days to do that. And that doesn’t include the cost of equipment, servers, and other stuff.
Right now, the Skeptical Raptor website is my hobby. My obsession. But it’s a cost center, not a profit one. I run significant deficits every month. I have added advertisements (mostly from Shareholic, which hosts to sharing platforms, and Disqus, which is the commenting platform), but they’re not huge cash centers.
For me to do upgrades and improvements (like speed of the website), I rely upon the kindness of strangers to click the PayPal button. I guess if I had the “Big Pharma Shill Payment Button”, I might get more. But probably not, since Big Pharma doesn’t do that.