2011-09-25 16:11:12Turning the tables on the "cooking the books" narrative
John Cook

What WUWT and BH are trying to do lately is drive a narrative "SkS cook the books" as a way to reduce our credibility and distract from the science. Mostly, they want a ready excuse so when someone links to an SkS rebuttal, they can say "SkS? They cook the books, can't be trusted". So they're trying to drive the theme that our updating of rebuttals is a bad thing, it's sneaky, underhanded, untrustworthy. 

It would be a mistake to let this  go unchallenged. This is what the climate science community did when Climategate struck, letting deniers drive the narrative. Instead, our side should've used Climategate as an opportunity to drive the narrative of science under attack. By not turning up to the fight, we lost big time and suffered a great setback.

So I suggest we use this attack on SkS as an opportunity to drive our own narratives. Continually improving our rebuttals is a positive thing and something that should be celebrated. So I suggest the following long-term strategy

1. Start with a blog post "Skeptical Science versions" where I talk about how  understanding of the science is constantly being updated with new observations and research. Similarly, SkS's database of rebuttals is constantly being updated with the latest data and papers, to make it an up-to-date encyclopedic reference of what the peer reviewed science says about every single climate myth. And I'll add a new feature, "Versions" (working title) so every version of a rebuttal is available as an archive. This adds transparency, removes the criticism of secretly updating content.

2. Whenever we publish blog posts that are related to rebuttals, particularly with new papers or data, we should update the rebuttal and the blog post features a green box saying "this latest paper/data has been included in an update to the rebuttal of "XXXXXX". This rebuttal is available at the short URL http://sks.to/XXXX". That way, we repeatedly remind people of the existence of the rebuttals, emphasize that our rebuttals are constantly being updated with new data and papers (implying that they are a go-to, up-to-date resource) and also remind people of the short URLs.

The initial key to SkS's success was the policy of incrementally adding to the rebuttal database, building up a go-to resource. It will be an extra bit of trouble making sure we regularly adapt our blog posts into the rebuttals but just that little extra, incrementally added each day, will build up into an immensely useful and powerful resource over time. If we keep beating the drum beat of a comprehensive, constantly updated rebuttals in our blog posts, we achieve what deniers fear most - offer an authorative resource that many people refer to.

Thoughts, comments?

2011-09-25 18:10:37
Paul D


You need two categories of article, which you have!

1. Blog post categories that are a snap shot of opinion and events which may change in the short term due to issues raised by readers/participants, but do not change after a year or so.

2. Rebuttals and other science assessments that are 'reference' articles (rebuttals etc.) that are used by many different readers and participants to link to in their discussions. These may change at any time as evidence changes regarding the subject discussed.

For me the issue is purely one of providing information in a way that someone can clearly understand the context in which an article has been written. The other issue is that if 'reference' articles are changed, then it is inevitable that if comments are allowed, then some comments are going to become out of date as time goes by. The alternative is not allow comments on reference articles.

I think the idea of versions for reference articles is a good idea. Will the 'versions' have unique links? This would be a good idea, however are there any unforseen consequences if someone has linked to an old version?? Probably not, as long as it is clear that newer versions are clearly indicated.

Can I suggest that each old version has some text that states something like "Note: a newer version of this rebuttal can be found at - URL"

I also think it might be a good idea to redesign the site 'look'. I think it could do with a new look, regarding colours, graphics and interface design. I don't think the functionality needs changing, but I think a lot could be done with the layout etc.

2011-09-25 19:34:38


I think that for the rebuttals, the latest version should retain the URL. That way, any existing links will always go to the newest information. Links to old versions of rebuttals could be suffixed by the date (format yyyy-mm-dd) on which they were superceded by the newer version. If deemed necessary, the latest version of a rebuttal could show the older versions in a table at the end. Each of the older version would only need a reference to the most current one.

2011-09-25 20:14:34
Paul D


I'm not sure about that Baerbel.

The article that links to it might reference/quote text in the older version. If people link to the newer one, then the context is lost. Although, maybe it is the only way to go, I'm not sure my idea is practical. The URL would have to be date and time stamped.

One solution maybe to give a choice and use a similar scheme that Youtube uses in providing embedded code for videos.

The page might have something like at the side of the article.

Choose the link option and copy the URL:

1. URL for this version of the rebuttal (link will always point to this time stamped version, example - http://www.skepticalscience.com/articlename/02_09_2011_915)
2. URL for the latest version (link will always point to updated current version example - http://www.skepticalscience.com/articlename)

The older versions should have a warning tagged on at the top of the page pointing out that it is out of date.

2011-09-25 20:41:23It has to be Baerbel's idea
John Cook

Our short URLs are fixed. Eg - http://sks.to/sun. So the fixed URLs have to go to the newest version.

Agree that old versions should have unique URLs and a warning at the top of the page, pointing to the newest version.

2011-09-25 20:53:52


I agree with Baerbel's original proposal that the URL should point to the current version: Otherwise, our internal cross-references will be crazy: If I refer to an article on X in an article on topic Y, I'll want it to go to the current version on X at the time of reading (given our encyclopedic structure), not to the specific version that existed at the time of writing.

I'm less worried about outsiders' references that may be tied to specific text in the older version on X:

- The current version should provide links to previous versions; and

- Perhaps all versions should also be born with a permanent name, so that someone who wants to link to a specific bit of text can use that; whereas for general reference, the main URL for the topic would be used.

2011-09-26 01:11:32
Dana Nuccitelli
I like the idea. Especially including a blog post announcing the change, because it hammers home the point that what the deniers are criticizing us for is keeping our scientific information up to date. Their angle is that we're "re-writing history" - well yeah, that's what new scientific research basically does. But we can get the best of both worlds with this system - keeping up to date, and keeping a record of past rebuttals/research.
2011-09-26 01:36:46


... and the comments have to be kept with the article version they are relevant to.

2011-09-26 02:20:52
Rob Honeycutt


You know what I find the most effective defense?  When people start saying, "Aw, that SkS is a bunch of hooey (blahblahblah)."  I just turn around and say, "Hey, the great thing about SkS is you don't HAVE to take any SkS author at their word.  Every article is fully cited with the published literature so you can just click through and read the actual literature."

2011-09-26 02:23:20


Yes, the ultimate defense is transparency: nothing to hide.

2011-09-26 14:47:46


I like the idea of prominent warnings on updated articles.

I would suggest that any new version of an article should have its own new comment thread - with a prominent notice stating that older comments have been kept with the older article.  Commenters duplicating previous comments could be directed to the archived responses by (very patient) moderators.

A simple way of showing that an article has been updated is to append a version number to the original title, as e.g.


CO2 Sequestration In Canned Beer

CO2 Sequestration In Canned Beer - update #1



My two cents. :-)

2011-09-28 08:04:09Interesting experience at WUWT
Tom Curtis


At this comment at WUWT, Marchesorosa made a deliberate connection between SkS (and by altering the spelling of my name, myself) with the KKK:



I ojbected here:



Watts' snipped the offending post, and then denied it had made a KKK reference.  He then accuses me of being the only one to use the KKK term:



See also 



Unfortunately I did not think to take a screenshot of the offending post, and neither is it archived at the wayback machine nor Google.


Given the recent post at Bishop Hill, if anyone can retrieve the original post, we can splash egg all over Watt's face (or I can at my blog).  If not, it is at least revelatory of his character (as if that needed more revealing).

2011-09-29 01:05:11
Tom Curtis


It is with delicious irony that I can say I now have a screen shot of Marchesorosa admitting to making the KKK reference after Anthony Watts had claimed repeatedly that she did not do so, and that I introduced discussion of the KKK into the thread.  In other words, I now have proof that Watts made in one day, while telling direct falsehoods about it, the sort of mistake John Cook was accused of making by Bishop Hill.


The question is, do we want to do anything about it on SkS?  Just because we can now show Watts to have egg all over his face does not mean it is the right thing for SkS to do.  John, what's your call?

2011-09-29 01:37:43



I think this is between you and WUWT. Keeping tabs on other websites' editorial practices is beneath our dignity - even when these websites do it to us.

2011-09-29 01:45:33


Tom: the matter which you originally complained of is made perfectly clear in Watts' own words:


Given all the data presented, including direct quotes, Tom [C]urtis, exemplifies the wriggling around the truth that is characteristic of himself and his [c]orrupted friends.

If I was not already viewing [c]limate “Science” with a ton of salt, his defense of the indefensible in this thread, would have me taking a long hard look at the supposed science of CAGW.

REPLY: Gail I don’t know what you were thinking here in substituting “k”s but Tom Curtis thinks its KKK linkage. In deference to his complaint, I made edits. But I see it as satire such as “keystone kops”. Please explain yourself. -Anthony




KKK = Keystone Kops = satire ?  On which planet ?

Note that the implication of corruption is left to stand.  So much for Watts' alleged policy against personal attacks and ad hominem.  Why not tell him you have a screenshot and ask why, in editing, he retained the implicit allegation of corruption made against SKS team members generally and collectively. Does he endorse that allegation?