2011-09-29 17:02:26Skeptical Science Archives now added to the website
John Cook


I've programmed up an Archived Rebuttals feature and it's now live on the website. I haven't drawn any attention to it yet though - I thought you all should put it through it's paces and offer any suggestions on how to improve it, before I blog post to announce it. Usual disclaimers - it's not a terribly flashy system, just a way to make the updating of rebuttals more transparent and also make it easier for authors to make changes.

Basically, it works like this. Now if you go to the Rebuttals List (link in left margin of forum), you'll now see an Edit link below every existing rebuttal. Previously only the author who created the rebuttal could edit it. Now all SkS authors can edit any rebuttal.

If you go ahead and edit any existing rebuttal, when you click the 'Update Rebuttal' button, two things happen:

  1. On the public version of the rebuttal, the credit box at the bottom now says "Last updated on TODAY'S DATE by YOUR USERNAME"
  2. An archive of the previous rebuttal is saved to the database. Next to the "Last Updated" text, there will be a "View Archives" link which allows people to look through old archives.

I've test drived the system with just one rebuttal so there currently is only one archive in the system. If you go to the Basic Rebuttal of "It's the sun", you'll see in the credit box, the View Archives link. Click on this takes you to the Archives of basic "It's the sun" rebuttals which features just a single snapshot of John Russell's original rebuttal.

Now it's a bit harsh, I know, just overwriting the original author's credit. The only other practical way I can think of doing it is to have 'originally created by XXX, last updated by YYY'. But that's a bit clunky, I do like the simplicity of the current version.

Of course, archives will only be created from this point on - we have no history of the last few years of updated rebuttals and I'm not going to bother trying to reconstruct a history. But what I would like to see is the SkS community getting more pro-active in updating our rebuttals, making them as up-to-date and definitive as possible. If you encounter a peer-reviewed paper relevant to a rebuttal, please throw it into the content!

I would also suggest not too many frivolous updates - no continuous tweaking of commas and wording, a stream of archived updates of the same rebuttal in a single day. If you intend to update a rebuttal, probably the best way to do it would be to post your suggested update in the Rebuttals Forum, do your tweaking there based on feedback then update the rebuttal officially

So any comments, thoughts, feedback before I blog about it? I thought maybe we should let it operate for a little while just so we can get some more archives into the system before I announce it.

2011-09-29 17:30:10No new version for minor tweaks?

Could the generation of the archived version be made dependent on what has been changed in order to not clutter up the archive system? Minor tweaks like correcting typos or commas don't really warrant an archive and just posting about these tweaks in the forum seems like overkill to me. A simple yes/no question or field would do the trick.
2011-10-01 20:36:25



You're turning SkS into a wiki-like architecture. I don't think that's a completely good idea: I think we need to maintain more quality control. We don't have the luxury of millions of people to watch for everything.

I think we could take this sort of fairly open wiki approach for generating a revision, but not let it take the status of being an official revision (i.e., not over-write or replace the current version) until a process of approval has been completed. In other words:

- In the beginning: Person X writes an article, gets it approved through our normal give & take: call it internal review, call it collaborative writing. In any case, it's done in the open (within SkS Forum).

- For the revision process: Let a revised draft be generated through the wiki method: Anybody in SkS-F can play with the text. When it has more or less settled, it should be called to the attention of the SkS Forum generally and be reviewed just like a new text (with reference to the old text included for comparison).

- Only after it has been approved should it replace the previous version (which then goes to archive).

This method protects the integrity of the original version while allowing a process of continual improvement: controlled release.