2011-04-05 09:52:51Powerful idea: making skeptic quotes available via an XML feed
John Cook


This should be filed in the "so obvious, I should've thought of it myself" basket - I received an email suggesting the politician quotes should be available via an XML feed. The greatest strength of SkS is our database and I'm already making parts of the database available via XML feeds. Eg - The Ville is accessing the database of peer-review papers for his animation. I created a feed of the latest articles added to the database for Nigel Leck (of Twitter bot fame). The iPhone app of course accesses all the rebuttals. Eventually, I want to bring this all together in a grand unified API feed. But in the meantime, here's Paul's idea re the quotes feed:

The objective would be to allow those that are active politically in the fight to combat environmentally destructive policies have the ability to shine the light of transparency on politicians who peddle debunked climate myths. Exactly as you have done with some US politicians but to open it up by designing it specifically with local political activists and researchers in mind as the core user group.

So for example, lets imagine a user case. Let's say there are contributors (active) and readers (passive). Let's imagine someone called Kate, a 30 year old librarian living in Edinburgh. She is passionate about the City Council's plans to develop a CO2 reduction scheme and wants to discredit the local councillors who are opposing the idea by peddling debunked "denialist" science. Having obtained transcripts of council meetings from the web, she matches the skeptic arguments with their answers from the DB and uploads them. She can then blog about how this councillor or that political party has publicly shamed themselves with their display of ignorance or deceit, and invite her readers to view pages of variously filtered results (see user case of "reader" in next paragraph) and come to their own conclusions.

Considering the case of a non-contributing reader, having read an article or post that sent them to a filtered list of denialist comments and their answers, they could then continue exploring/filtering to view different data. For example, they may have been sent to the comments of one particular councillor. They could then go on to view the comments of that person's fellow political party colleagues in that council, or all councillors in that council area, or widen the focus to include other councils in the region, or nationwide, or move from local government to national government. Each denialist comment would link to its one line rebuttal, which would link to the longer explanations (as now). Each denialist comment would also link to the original source (as now), and all comments published from that source could be filtered together.

From an activism point of view this would be a very powerful tool as it would make things very specific, right down to the personalities involved. It would bring the power of the debunking that your site is so good at, right into the political forum, and allow local champions, campaigners and activists to use it in a way which will elevate the debate, and inform the public in a more transparent manner.

From a technical point of view, it would require that users are able to make a local flavour of the DB (perhaps remembered by a cookie to avoid constantly having to refilter) that allows them to view and upload content related to their own little sphere of action (eg the local council, or their regional, or state government). This would need some hierarchical taxonomy for language, continent, country, state, region, council; with additional fields for publication, and journalist; and I'd probably suggest allowing user-defined tags as well so the system can be adapted to undefined needs. The feed would include these things plus the denial comment, the person denying, their political party, the publication date, the source URL, the short response, and medium response URL.
Paul's visionary concept takes our quotes database to a whole other level but also complicates it a fair deal. However, the potential benefits are I think quite exciting. Thoughts, comments on how exactly this might be implemented are welcome before I start amending the database and recoding.
2011-04-05 15:49:16
Rob Painting

Whoa, now that's a lot of work!. The payback could be positively ginormous though. So I take it that the user could simply type the "myth peddlers" name into an Sks search function and find what they're after?.

2011-04-06 18:54:19Finding the right info
Paul Codd
Paul Codd-MacDonald

We could have a free text search, a tag cloud, and a drill-down menu via country, state, region, etc

2011-04-10 10:03:37


I should perhaps have a view on this ("being" on the technical "staff" and all), but I don't unfortunately, well sort of.

I have used Google Gears for interesting purposes involving local storage of information, but Google has performed very bad on updating their plugin so this dosn't seem to solve the problem in a practical way.

My view is that local storage of information is not practical, and not really neccessary.

If SkS should support an application in the lines given in the opening article, SkS must support the service on own server.