2010-08-21 01:01:21Firefox Plug-in Beta Version 2.0 2.1
John Cook


The Skeptical Science Firefox plugin is a plugin for Firefox browser that lets people quickly and easily submit climate articles to our database as they surf around the web. The climate articles are then listed at our Climate Articles page (I will also release a "Subscribe to receive climate articles by daily email" type service). The idea is to keep track of skeptic activity - latest articles and which skeptic arguments are being used. The initial version only lets users submit articles. Later versions will actually provide resources so that as you visit skeptic articles, you'll have links and rebuttals handy for posting into comments.

Beta Version 2.0 has just been released by Shine Tech. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE BETA VERSION. Note: don't publicly broadcast this link, it's just for private beta-testing at this stage.

The beta version so far just lets you submit skeptic articles to our database. To install, please follow these steps:

If you have Beta Version 1.0, first uninstall that version:
  1. Inside the browser click Tools - Add-on
  2. Locate your add-on, click uninstall
  3. Restart the browser to complete the process.

To Install Beta Version 2.0:

  1. Download the zip file to your desktop
  2. Unzip the content of the zip file to a desired directory (or desktop)
  3. In Firefox, select File > Open File
  4. Locate the src directory and click on the skep.xpi
  5. Follow the prompts and restart your browser
  6. You will find the applications icon just left of the browser URL bar
  7. Click the Skeptical Science Icon to open the plugin popup
  8. You need to login with your Skeptical Science login to get it to work – look for the login link in the plugin popup
Feedback from beta-testers is very welcome - please help us make the plugin as effective as possible. Please post your comments in this thread.
2010-08-21 02:36:21Oh, goody!

Looking forward to giving it a whirl...
2010-08-21 07:15:12Just installed it.



I just installed the plugin.  I'll let you know how it works.


2010-08-21 16:55:55First try


I just tried it with Joe Romm's blog-post "Science shocker: Drought drives decade-long decline in plant growth" as a ProAGW-source for "CO2 is plant food". I can see the result of this submission in the ADMIN-area for "articles" where it shows up as "approved".

The only thing, I'd change is to move the "sign-in" link to the top of the pop-up box to do that first before adding the other details. I filled in the information from the top but had to re-do some of it after signing-in.

Apart from that: very neat indeed!


2010-08-25 07:41:21
Michael Searcy


I've been using this to add some links to the ocean acidification argument.  Very cool and straightforward.  A few items I've noticed so far.

  • Would REALLY like to be able to select multiple arguments for a single submission
  • Would like to be able to specify the date of the item being submitted (some of the acidification links go back a while)
  • Black text against a dark background in the argument Search bar is very hard to read
  • Would love additional categories for the items being submitted (see this post)
  • The tool doesn't seem to like single quotes in submitted Article Titles
Great job on this.  It's very easy to use and is a great tool.
2010-08-25 10:33:03My two main requests
John Cook


The two features I would really like to see in a new version that would make the plugin much smoother to use would be:

  1. Prefill the article title. Some blogs make it really difficult to select the title text so this can be frustrating. Would be fantastic if the plugin was able to extract the article title from the webpage code.
  2. Once an article has been submitted, when you're on that page, the plugin no longer provides text boxes and drop downs for the Title/Bias/Type. Instead, it just displays these attributes as text, thus giving the visual cue to the user that this article has already been submitted to the database. Would be cool if it could also list which skeptic arguments have been submitted for that URL.

Nevertheless, I'm using the plugin all the time - whenever I see a climate webpage that addresses any skeptic argument, whether the page be skeptic or proAGW, I instantly add it to the database. Really handy for filing away potentially useful resources for later reference as well as keep track of skeptic activity.

2010-09-01 10:25:39New Interfaces please!


Hi John,


Long story short - article titles can be much harder to find programmatically that you might expect ( it's not quite as easy as find the bits between the H1 tags! ). BUT what we could do is implement the rules that will get 80% of them. What we'll do on this one, is go look at the articles tracked so far, and see if there's some common themes.

 Feedback to the User on the Page

 I'd like to progress this part of the process if we can. I think people need the ability to still add new arguments for the page, but I think now is the time to also be able to;

1. Adjust the icon to indicate 'early warning' ( that is, the icon changes prior to the user clicking on it )

2. Show the currently listed arguments for a page

3. Change the title/bias/type  if it's already been set

New Interfaces Please : Interface 1

So we need a new interface that the plugin can use to get;

Suggested icon to use ( I suggest plugin sends the URL, and you send a response back to us to indicate which icon to use ). this lets you set the rules about what icon to use. eg wattsupwiththat - all pages might be RED, but theage.com.au might be page by page. Either way, you set the rules in the interface, and we just show different colors. I'd suggest

grey icon for 'we don't have url yet'

green for science is good

yellow for science is a bit dodgy

red for science is really, really bad

I'm leaving you to determine difference between a bit dodgy and really, really bad!

 New Interfaces Please : Interface 2

We send a URL, and you send back all the arguments currently listed on the page, as well as the title/bias/type. we can then work out how to display



2010-09-01 19:13:18Plugin updates
John Cook

Hey Adam, great to hear from you. Re headings, 80% sounds pretty good to me. Re the icon colour, what about green for proAGW, yellow for neutral and red for skeptic? Do you need any colored icons?

So it looks like I need to program up a page that takes a URL and returns an article's bias, article type and it's arguments. Let me know how you want this page to be formatted.

2010-09-08 11:09:22Meaning of color = bad science?


In my interface definition, I very cunningly made you do all the hard work - that is, working out if an article is good, bad or in between.

In the bit above, you've talked about it representing the bias. But I would throw another idea at you - that the color should represent the strength of the science in the article. I think that's one of the stand out features of your work - you're not about sides, you're about the science.


So if there was a proAGW article that said 'global warming is cos there are too many people breathing Co2 hence more CO2 hence AGW' then I think we'd both agree it deserves a big bold NO. Or a red icon. So I'd reserve the icons for the following types of meaning;

RED = the science in the article is very bad, or the site is a repeat offender

YELLOW = the science in the article is sometimes OK, sometimes not? ( eg only one problem! )

GREEN = the science is strong

I realise it's hard, so these are just suggestions.

I'll let you know what we need for the interface itself, and the article title is a happening thing.


2010-09-08 11:45:39Rating web pages
John Cook


It's an interesting idea but it's just hard to see how to practically make it happen. My hope with the plugin is that we get a whole bunch of people sending articles in so there's a steady stream of incoming URLs. So editing them manually is not feasible, at least if the plugin is successful which we hope it is.

Therefore it has to be either automated or user driven. Automated is problematic - you would essentially have to blacklist certain websites and therefore paint all their blog posts as really bad. But even WUWT is known to post a good blog post every now and then. After all, even a stopped clock is right twice a day :-) I could also see people complaining about the concept of black listing - see the vitriolic responses after the Anderegg paper on consensus, even though it didn't include a black list at all.

So that leaves user driven as the most likely option. That means you'd have to add another control on the plugin for users to rate a webpage. I suppose that's feasible - it'd be a Digg like feature where you rate a webpage good or bad, I suppose. But that would be very much vulnerable to gaming. Even Digg was manipulated by a highly ranked small group of conservatives who pushed links about climate skepticism to the fore while suppressing pro-AGW links. So it would be a potential can of worms.

For the record, I've programmed up a feature that sends me a daily email of incoming links. The plan is that everyone can subscribe to this after the plugin is released. I've been using the Green/Red colouring to denote bias. Here's the email I received this morning (I've been submitting most of the links so far) using that colouring system:


2010-09-09 12:50:45No worries!


Hi John,

 No worries at all, just wanted to put the idea out there. OK then, I'd still suggest the right design is for the firefox plugin to send you a URL, and you send back the information if you have it ( including the 'instruction' to stick a certain color on it ). That way, all the logic is centralised in the web services layer, and is easier to change if you wanted to down the track. I'll update the spec doco tomorrow, and we should be able to get this going in the next release - even as early as next week.


2010-09-09 16:19:55Thanks Adam
John Cook


Am psyched about the new release. Actually, am loving the current release, use it anytime I read a new climate article just so I can get it sent back to me in the daily email :-)

While you're working on that, I'm working to get the daily email set up so authors can start beta testing it as well.

2010-09-19 09:52:31Firefox version 2.1
John Cook

The Firefox plugin has been updated - the new version prefills out the Title which is a great addition, especially for blog posts that make it hard to select the title.