A Response to Believerskeptic – It’s not racism, it’s blog architecture

It’s amazing.

If someone here on FTB starts a very hypothetical, very academic, “Gosh, does white privilege really exist?” sort of conversation, it will get 200+ comments.

Actually there is a reason for that.

Well two.

Academia is meant to create discussion. People discuss “Academia” all the time! This was a “What a tosser” post. What can you say here? I mean the discussion on this would boil down to “Yes Avicenna, this is Acceptable” and “No! You should join the Stormfront!”.

But a story like this that confronts a real, bona-fide example of racism in the atheist community? (Like Sally Strange suggests, I take the source at its word— it’s so not implausible for racist atheists to exist.) 28 lousy comments.

Oh we know there are  “racist” atheists. See racism isn’t always the white guy in a pointy hood talking about racial superiority of the Aryan Peoples. It’s hard to hate these guys since they usually spell out their hate in crayon and mispel words. What you want to say to them is “Yes, yes you are! You are racially superior! Now off to your racist LARP meetings!” Because there is no punishment for these people greater than being themselves.

But the real problem is the subtle racism. The “Not Getting It” brigade exists on both sides. Well meaning people indulge in some pretty “racist” stuff. On one side you have people like JT Eberhard. JT did nothing spectacularly wrong. I disagree with Jen and Greta’s responses because what JT got wrong was something he would get wrong because he doesn’t understand how frustrating it is to be subject to that kind of question day in and day out.

Most of the racists are well meaning people who don’t realise they are being silly. And yes I even lump the “No Cultural Appropriation” lot in with them because they often tell me that my “culture is being destroyed” when my response is “no. My culture is changing. No one is killing Tamil Speakers, Tamil Speakers are not teaching their children to read and write it.”. I don’t read tamil because no one taught me to do so. We never thought it was important and now we are whinging about our own bad decisions.

A white lady wearing a sari isn’t a sign of the death of culture, it’s the sign that our culture is robust enough that other people can partake in it. This is obviously diffferent from Miley Cyrus Twerking (I had to google that BTW) or actually nicking stuff from Native Americans because of DIFFERENT reasons. (The hypersexualisation of black women and the usage of them as props is a long standing theme in music, and native americans have in general had a shitty deal in terms of culture since people were actually trying to stamp it out)

JT Eberhard is not a racist, he just said something racist without realising what he was doing was not helping but harming.

It’s almost like people at FTB (Pharyngula in particular) like to engage in a lot of academic, philosophical masturbation as they try to one-up each other playing “language gotcha” (all the while, constantly using ableist language— people are always whining [though they could have depression], or being blind to an argument [as though actual blind people make it a practice to be willfully ignorant] of which they’re not aware) rather than confront examples of real racism.

Well that’s because we have two very different ethos. My work has made me a lot more flexible and a lot more likely to let stuff slide because I have to do that. The people I would attract are those who understand that sometimes I will grumble about women having too many kids or parents who shouldn’t have kids or that vein of things because I actually have to deal with the horrible things people say and do to themselves.

I am less worried about language than intent because I do not live in a PC World (Politically Correct, not the massive Computer Sales Store) but one where you have to do stuff. You can call me sexist if you like but the fact of the matter is that for many women, I am the only person willing to actually help them with issues that other people would judge them for.

And people understand and realise that actions are important too. What’s there to confront here? “LAWL Black People are Chimps!” isn’t smart or clever or funny. It’s bad and we all know so.

So, what the fuck, FTB regulars? If this picture (and, despite the fact that the link no longer works, you can still find it via a google archive) were equally heinous from a misogynist standpoint, there would be 200+ posts, full of torches-and-pitchforks righteous anger, ready to doxx this idiot and send him/her packing from the internet for good and all.

But, yawn, this is racism. And racism isn’t really our issue here. Neither is ableism. Neither is group mental coercion. Sure, we pay lip service here at the FTB— we always throw “racism” on that list— it’s always #1, 2 or 3 along with misogyny and homophobia— and lord knows, we’re ready to engage with a fine philosophical discussion about hypothetical racism against hypothetical minority people, especially if it entails precious opportunities to advance in the neverending “FTB Gotcha Contest.” (Oooh, he said “don’t be a peckerhead”— RUSH RUSH RUSH to be the very, very first point out that “peckerhead” is gendered! Gotcha! Yawn.)

Faced with an ugly, actual example of real racism? FTB folds its tent. 28 miserable posts since July.

So where are the torches and pitchforks? Let’s doxx this idiot and send him/her packing from the internet for good and all. What do you say?

Actually the problem here is our front page.

The blogs are ordered on the Front Page according to who started what. So Ed and PZ Myers are always at the top. People rarely scroll down to see what’s happening in the depths of the “British Dungeon” (Because the majority of Brits are at the bottom). Our webmaster is a volunteer and so making this change to something better (I assume the new front page will look like Skepchic’s where the posts are lined up by date with the blog links down the side. Out of the hundreds of people who come to FTB I only get around 70 from the main page simply because of the design.

And the design was fine back when there were just a handful of blogs. It’s not now.

I personally wanted something like Patheos’s links at the bottom and perhaps a “Recent post slider at the top”. But we shall see how our new system works out on the front page.

I get that PZ’s horde is a nice, comfy place for a lot of people, but PZ isn’t the only blog on here. If the well-meaning (and remember, intentions are not magic) PZ horde is so committed to anti-racism, why does Siviku Hutchinson’s essay— the most recent essay on Black Skeptics— have at this writing a double-digit comment count? PZ’s cartoon on the theoretical existence of white privilege gets triple-digit posts in a day, but the most recent Black Skeptics article on FTB requires a week to get 68 whopping comments.

Because PZ Myers “horde” generally goes to PZ Myers blog and rarely pokes around other ones because they are “his” readers. They have his blog on bookmark and our blogging system doesn’t crosslink  well. Seriously? Look at Patheos or Cracked to see how they do it. (If you liked this article then perhaps you would like these other articles too?) And sliders at the top that show other articles and stuff like that cause people to click on other stuff and catch their interest. Like “That Article by PZ was great! But at the bottom there is a link to Taslima’s work with a handy recognisable graphic representation of her blog. I should see what that is!”

To point out the difference in the size of hordes? PZ Myers gets a million or so hits a month. I get around 40,000 to 60,000.

And yes we are trying to get that to become cross blog traffic too. PZ Myers regularly links to other blogs and gets people to come here but we are working on a permanent solution. The issue is our internet wrangler (that’s the term right?) is a part timer and so these things take time. We also should have done stuff differently to start with.

It couldn’t have anything to do with PZ being a white man and Siviku Hutchinson being a black woman, could it? Gosh, could some of your reading and posting interests be formed by racism and sexism? The gotcha’s on the other foot now, isn’t it?

How about some of you well-meaning (but intentions aren’t magic) FTB regulars stop having hypothetical discussions about hypothetical black people, and start reading and responding to the black people that actually exist right here on FTB?

I am not black….

Indian though. Tamil/East Indian (Khmer) to be precise.

We need to get people to visit other parts of the site and the way this is going to happen is if we start putting up articles “by date” on the blog rather than by blog name and just have a list of blogs on FTB on the side so people can still go read and catch up their favourite authors. Also? A better cross linking system is needed than just a recent posts column on the side bar.

We are working towards a better front end to try and correct this, bear with us.


  1. says

    My irony meter must be faulty because I’m fairly sure

    “especially if it entails precious opportunities to advance in the neverending “FTB Gotcha Contest.”

    should have set off blaring sirens. Isn’t believerskeptics entire rant one long “gotcha” in the seemingly endless attempts to build an easily mockable strawman to punch around?

    I completely agree that the front page needs some work, has needed it for awhile. Especially since the imminent demise of my Google homepage will force me to join the 21st century and learn one of those rss feed readers. Serious aside, the google home page was perfect for my ADHD brain, feedly is driving me nuts.

    BTW, I always scroll through the whole front page.

  2. The Mellow Monkey says

    I’d love to see FTB reorganized to make blog-hopping easier and more engaging. There are a lot of bloggers on here that I enjoy, but it’s far too easy to lose track of them if I don’t get in the habit of going to their blogs every day. If the front page were more dynamic so going to it would quickly show readers where the new posts and active comment threads are, I think that would go a long way toward spreading the traffic around.

  3. says

    Because PZ Myers “horde” generally goes to PZ Myers blog and rarely pokes around other ones because they are “his” readers.

    Not exactly. Most of “us” read many of the blogs. Yep, Pharyngula is my “home”, ‘specially because of the lounge, but there’s a number of blogs I’m a frequent reader and commentor.
    It’s also that most trolls go to Pharyngula. The 300+ comments on the white privilege thread are due to a partiularly obnoxious white guy with a severe case of political colourblindeness.

  4. says

    Of course part of the reason I get more traffic is that I’m white, and representative of the authority of white male academic culture. I get the advantage that the haters take me more seriously as a threat, while the haters just dismiss blogs by black people.

    And as you know, I’ve been nagging Ed for over a year now that our front page needs a serious revamp to more accurately reflect activity. It’s been dragging because our tech person was part time, and was constantly getting distracted by personal life and demands to patch up bugs, and the new person has to come up to speed on everything now. But yes, that clumsy quickie front page is in dire need of replacement, and it’s a high priority for me. I’ll nag more.

    Otherwise, though, another factor is that I reliably produce multiple posts a day, on a variety of topics. That alone will keep people churning through the material on my site, increasing traffic, increasing attention to the posts that align with people’s interests that day, increasing commentary.

    Another contribution comes from the fact that I get more than my share of clueless asshats bumbling through. They don’t do much for overall traffic stats, but those “triple-digit comments”? They’re almost always because some idiot comes in and starts making excuses for racism or sexism or whatever, and the horde then dogpiles them. The racist asshats, for instance, are going to be more afraid to spout their dogma on Sikivu’s blog, because that would involve confronting more actual black people, and so that blog is not going to get the prolonged poking I get (they’ll experience a more abrupt splat).

    If believerskeptic wants to increase discussion on other sites, I recommend that he stop wasting time on mine and focus on commenting on articles he thinks are important.

  5. says

    If it would help, I could ban believerskeptic from Pharyngula, and force him to get out there and share his insights with other, less privileged, less white blogs.

  6. skasowitz says

    How do I, as a reader, even appear in this site’s statistics? I subscribe to the RSS feeds for about 2/3 of the hosted blogs, and click through infrequently. If I anticipate updates or expect to learn more or read an interesting discussion from comments I’ll click through. It isn’t something I actively pay attention to, but I would not be surprised to find that I click through PZ’s articles less often than those here or on other less-trafficked blogs. The downside to short posts receiving hundreds of comments is that its rarely something I can wade through. Absolutely nothing against the Pharyngula commentariat, its just often too much text for me. Now if I commented regularly I’m sure my behavior would be different. But my basic question is how does a person who blog binges primarily through RSS actually factor into your information and perception of your readership? If I read your posts in entirely in Feedly or whatever, and mark a new Pharyngula post as read without actually looking at it, are those actions noted in anyway? Are they even distinguishable?

  7. Lofty says

    FYI when I see a post of yours on “FTB recent” I drop in for a look. But mostly I like reading PZs blogs because of the spectacle of bits of battered troll flying about. I spend a couple of hours a day there as it is.
    I hope the eventual front page redesign works better for you.

  8. Pen says

    Ummm… I’m not quite sure what posts or discussions your emailer is referring to, but…

    It will be nice if the front page gets changed. I didn’t know you called it the British dungeon but I’ve been thinking something like that. I just hasn’t thought of complaining about it since I knew how it arose.

    I would like to talk more about practical issues related to race and gender and less about how people should talk to one another – though I think people should avoid being obvious shits, if there isn’t a tolerance range, that discussion will swamp everything else – then again, perhaps an atheist network is the wrong place? I’m rather confused about the intentions of the majority on this network.

    It would be interesting to have the comments section of some of these other bogs invaded by the pharyngulite horde, wouldn’t it? Have you been to have a look what they’re doing today? And how would Sikhivu, for example, react to 200+ comments from white Americans/people from completely different cultures? Does she want that? I must admit to a tendency to ‘shut up and listen’ over there, mostly because I’m not very familiar with African-American culture. The blog owner can tell the difference between silence and absence from hits, but other readers can’t.

  9. says

    The racist asshats, for instance, are going to be more afraid to spout their dogma on Sikivu’s blog, because that would involve confronting more actual black people, and so that blog is not going to get the prolonged poking I get (they’ll experience a more abrupt splat).

    Well, actually believerskeptic seems to be thinking that everybody on Pharyngula is white. I suppose many of the asshats do so, too.

  10. A Hermit says

    What’s with all this newfangled web design talk? I usually scroll right down to the middle of the pack to read Great and Stephanie and Ophelia then skip down here to Avicenna, see what Mano’s doing then scroll back up to look at Ed and Pz’s stuff. It’s not that hard…

    Can’t you young people put a little effort into it and actually scroll down a page? Why in my day we had to use the page up/page down buttons on the keyboard…on a dial up connection and a 486 processor. In DOS!! (the hermit wanders off muttering about kids these days with their hair and clothes and that damn boojie woojie music…)


  11. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says


    Well, actually believerskeptic seems to be thinking that everybody on Pharyngula is white. I suppose many of the asshats do so, too.

    Everyone on Pharyngula is a straight white cis man, obviously. We’re just pretending to be otherwise so we can be smug and talk about hypothetical PoC. The only people on the internet who are not straight white cis men are a few people with blogs that identify them as such. And if you’re identified as not being a straight white cis man, this automatically means you’re black.

    Really, this assumption that every single person you interact with online is white says more about you than it does anyone else, believerskeptic.

  12. coelsblog says

    Dear FTB, two suggestions:

    How about a twitter feed giving the title of and links to each new post, aggregating all FTB blogs? (if there is one already I’ve missed it.)

    Simply doubling or tripling the size of the “FTB recent” sidebar would be helpful.

  13. James K. says

    I actually didn’t know there was a front page: I have a couple of the blogs book marked, and usually just check the “FTB Recent” section of the sidebar to get to the other people.

  14. brucemartin says

    I hope the next blog design will show a list of all posts in the past 24 hours. As it is now, if ten people make a post each, within an hour, then something posted two hours ago cannot be seen on the recents list, unless you go to that blog first for some other reason.
    Or, just list the most recent 50 posts, instead of 10.

  15. Rey Fox says

    All good counterpoints, but believerskeptic’s main point is actually “Why isn’t everyone paying more attention to ME?!”

  16. chrisho-stuart says

    I would like to see on the front page a list of “posts in the last 48 hours”. (48, not 24; some folks don’t actually read blogs every single day…) I do use the “recent posts” category quite a lot and confess to being sometimes annoyed when 3 of them are from Pharyngula.

    Another idea:. “Post of the Week”. You don’t have to explain what this means or how or why it is chosen; I can think of a whole pile of possible approaches. Pick one of then, don’t tell anyone, and have a “post of the week” prominent on the front page.

  17. scott says

    #11- ‘Curmudgeon Mode’ would be like old text-mode Usenet readers, where you just hit space to scroll through articles and onto the next one. tap…read…tap…read…tap…read. Like a rat in a cocaine experiment, really.

    Google Reader used to work that way, but since it died the replacement I’ve chosen, Feedly, doesn’t. I subscribe via RSS to a few FTB blogs specifically, but I also have the whole thing subscribed in a separate folder, just because even though I do scroll down I don’t always remember just which posts I have or haven’t read.

  18. says

    The race of my bloggers is very important to me, in that they should all have one. I have only recently begun reading Black Skeptics because my experience with seeing it in the main page for the first little while was that most of the articles were about meetups for black skeptical groups. I’m a white skeptic who lives in Canada, so this isn’t relevant to me, and I simply stopped reading the titles of posts. I began reading it more actively when I saw a crosspost on Pharyngula that looked interesting, and now I always check it for new content. That’s also how I found this blog and Mano Singham’s, two of my favorite daily reads, and Crommunist (back when he was posting).


  19. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Here is the single biggest factor influencing my decision to read a post not on butterflies & wheels, crommunist, dispatches, or pharyngula: Does it have an interesting headline?

    But i only see the headlines in the ‘recent posts’ – which is what? 6 posts total? I started reading Crommunist because he writes about things in which I’m interested and his intelligence and wit are enough I started looking for his writing even when it didn’t appear in the recent posts.

    Dispatches & Butterflies I started reading b/c they do lots of short posts – which both is convenient when I just have a bit of time on the bus or making my tea, and also gets more post titles in hte recent post list, giving me a greater chance of finding one interesting.

    Only Pharyngula was a blog I read before FtB was created.

    I’ve read a number of “A Million Gods” posts, but I couldn’t say how many – certainly not a huge number. But you write fewer posts, so you don’t show up in the recent posts where I have a chance to figure out if your current topic is interesting to me.

    Sikivu is a wickedly awesome writer sometimes…but other times I’m not that into what is being written on Black Skeptics. So I don’t go there regularly just to see what’s there. Only if I happen to be on while a new post goes up will I generally check it out.

    But here’s the thing: once I’m on a different blog, I can see the previous/next post titles. I always read these and click through if the subject is interesting to me, because I trust the quality even if I’m not always that interested in the particular subject matter.

    So, how would you get me to read other posters more often?

    It would be insanely long, but you could list the most recent post title under each blog name.

    Or, instead of “most recent posts” meaning most recent time stamp across all blogs, you could make ONLY ONE post, the most recent, from each blog eligible to be in the most recent posts. This would mean I get a post title from at least 6 blogs, instead of how it is in the western-North American morning when I read most often. At that time, Ed Brayton often has 3 of the recent articles, and PZ often has 1-2. But I already read these blogs, so only 1-3 of the 6 are things I would honestly not know about without the “recent articles” space. With the change I suggest implementing I would always be exposed to the titles of at least 4 other authors.

    But even better?

    If only 1 post from each author was eligible, and which of those showed up wasn’t based on a comparison of the most recent posts across blogs, but entirely randomly. So 6 blog titles would show up, never including the post of a blog after it is no longer that blog’s most recent post. People that less frequently write long, quality posts would have as much chance to attract my attention as Ed with his 8 posts every morning.

    Obviously, if you don’t write that often, and people are trickling into your posts, discussion is less likely to be as fulsome because you don’t get responses in real time, while you are still engaged with the issue. But even if you don’t get 4000 comments, you’ll get more readers.

    I dont’ know about others, but reforming the “recent FtB posts” section is the single thing most likely to increase my consumption of articles on blogs other than Crommunist, Butterflies, Dispatches & Pharyngula.

    And it’s much easier to implement than a content/traffic analysis tool like Patheos’ “if you liked this…” algorithm.

    [BTW: algorithm is named after al Kwarismi, a particularly awesome logician and mathematician].

  20. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I guess I should say that I used to read Crommunist, as he isn’t blogging here anymore, but the point remains that I found his posts without using the “recent posts” feature – and he was only one of 4 that really commanded my attention that way.

  21. maudell says

    It’s a weird argument. Being a white cis man makes PZ privileged, that’s kind of the point. I don’t think anyone is denying that. Things should change, but being a feminist doesn’t make PZ less privileged, and I’m pretty sure he’s aware of that.

  22. Stella says

    I skim the entire front page several times a day and read every blog, though not every post, every few days.

    I’ve been reading PZ Myers since the early nineties on Usenet. He has built a community with Pharyngula. It didn’t happen overnight. Ed has his own community, as do Ophelia, Greta, Jen and many others.

    I’ve read your blog since it began here. Personally, I was bowled over by what you were saying and what you were doing. I haven’t posted here before, because I have nothing to add; I’m still learning from you.

    I don’t see the sidebar at all, because I have to enlarge the text a lot to read posts at all, so the sidebar is not on the screen. I do use the front page to find new posts, and I use the whole page. People who don’t bother to read the blogs are cheating themselves out of a hell of a lot of depth and breadth in their reading.


  23. Stella says

    Correction: People who don’t bother to read the blogs nearer the bottom are cheating themselves out of a hell of a lot of depth and breadth in their reading.

  24. dezn_98 says

    I do not believe such an objection can be washed away as easily as you think. There is a long history behind black and brown voices not being heard despite saying things clearly and admirably. This history is an example of how racism plays out in the real world. Too many times are white voices given a platform where black and brown voices are not given a platform by default cultural norms. Too many times can I say something, and not be heard, can you say something and not reach a wide audience, can the black skeptics say something and not be heard, and other black and brown folk not only today but throughout history struggling simply to be heard.. where is a white person, or another person of similar social privilege status, can say the same exact thing.. and then all of a sudden be heard, thought of as original, and rise to fame. This has happened quite a lot – especially in music. This sort of objection can not be swept away by your analysis here.

    If there is a long historical trend of black and brown voices not reaching a wide audience, where white voices reach a wider audience – even if saying the same exact thing – than we need to be suspicious if the trend on FTB blogs matches the same pattern. The only way to actually spot racism is to know what racist trends are, and then understand that when something matches the pattern of a racist trend or racist tradition…. we need to be suspicious of that pattern. These patterns can not be dismissed easily because… there is a very large racist pattern to deny such patterns exist because of racism. This point, I think is key.

    I also think that as black and brown folk.. we are obligated to understand that we to, just like white people, can internalize racist patterns and not think anything of them. It is the same with women in the feminist movement, in that yes.. there is strong evidence that women themselves, although are better equipped to spot sexism than males, also face that idea that many of them propagate sexist stereotypes as well. This is why getting educated about history of womens rights is necessary for feminists because they know they too are vulnerable to sexist tropes – just not as vulnerable as men. It is the same with POC’s… we have a deep obligation to understand that we too can be part of a culture that propagates racist stereotypes of seeks to undermine the effects of racism. There are lots of studies that show that many black and brown folk are actually falling for the trick of “colorblindness” and because they have not educated themselves about the issues around such a subject, can in a self damaging way, propagate this solution that does not work to end racism but propagates it.

    With that said, you are saying that “this can not be racism… is has to be blog architecture.” I am sorry, I am not so sure. If there exist a history of this kind of racist trend where minority voices are rather conveniently not heard.. and FTB blogs follows that trend.. then we need to be suspicious in the least and not so easily dismissive of the idea that yes… we can act racist in the very subtle way – especially if there is a historical trend of this sort of thing.

    In fact, I think arguing about whether we can give “clear evidence” that this is a racist trend is a clap trap. Giving clear “evidence” for racism is not a good way, in my experience, to go about things. Instead the mere suspicion of racism, should usually be enough for people to do something about it – in order to guard ourselves from inequalities showing up that we do not catch. I say mere suspicious is enough, because racism is all around us and it would be foolish of us to think we somehow graduated above it.

    Therefore, I do not agree with your analysis. However, I think you have presented a solution – which is much more important than trying to win points by “haha I spotted that racism and you did not!”

    Think of it this way… why is affirmative action needed? Because there is a long history of black and brown folk getting the sht end of the stick and therefore they are simply given less opportunities to advance when compared to white people. As such, the social architecture grants an unfair advantage to whites. In order to correct this, a program to combat that social architecture is built in the society.. and it works. Affirmative actions works, the evidence is in, we know it works. Full Stop.

    Now, what we have here is that FTB blog architecture was built in this “race neutral way.” Fair, enough, and I find that interesting. I do not think that because the architecture was built in this “race neutral” way that this can be used as an objection that, as of now.. it may be functioning in a racist manner. What we can do, however, is instead of building the architecture in a race neutral fashion that has this off side effect of following a historical pattern of not giving minority voices enough of a say. What you guys can do, is build an architecture that keeps race in mind, understand that racism is everywhere, and yes we are all going to have a tendency to act in various unconscious bigoted ways… you can build a sort of architecture that understand that… because people, all people, have a tendency to ignore minority voices, you can give minority voices that extra push that is necessary to provide balance to the white voices. This would have an effect that would mitigate, as much as possible, for the general population that comes here to ignore minority voices.

    This, regardless if we can “prove” racism. I think should be an idea you guys can talk about and think about. I also want to say that although minority voices get less hits than others around here.. they still do get hits by simply being a part of FTB. That is in part because FTB is so self-conscience on how to do things right and maintain diversity – which is quite amazing.

  25. carlie says

    I think it’s worth highlighting again (as was done in the OP) that when someone says something you totally agree with, there’s not a whole lot else to say except maybe a “right on” or whatever. One of the biggest factors in the length of posts is whether someone comes in trying to argue against it, and how persistent they are, and how many of them there are.

  26. says

    The front page kinda triggers an OCD reflex in me — I keep wanting it to be alphabetized.

    Regardless, I do scroll down and read the “less prominent” blogs. There’s almost always something to grab my attention, and I enjoy reading the varied perspectives.

  27. Stella says

    I’m not sure what would help here. I read nearly every blog here. If I read a post on the Black Skeptics blog, I will probably visit a second time to see what’s in the comments. I do the same with Pharyngula. The difference comes in the number of posts per day. I may visit PZ’s blog nine or ten times in a day because of new posts. It can be a week or more before there is a new post on Black Skeptics.

    Featuring a blog or a post is likely to drive traffic to a newer blogger, but it won’t be sustained traffic if new posts are sparse.

    I’m sure some combination of changes would increase the visibility of the newer bloggers, but I don’t have a good suggestion. Just increasing visibility should help a bit.

    By the way, I skip PZ’s cephalopod pictures. I can’t see what’s in the pictures, and there is almost never a description.


  28. says

    I don’t think that was the intention. The issue here was that the site was effectively run in people’s spare time.

    Put it this way. See my background? Until I put that up, no one else realised you could… The normal background for this place was Battleship Grey. I actually put it up and asked “if there was anything wrong with it and people went “actually…. no. Why didn’t we do that ourselves”.

    People put this site together in the time they had.

    I think it’s time we put it together in the way we need to. Firstly? It will help traffic increase through cross posts and give newer and non-famous bloggers a platform. Secondly? The more professional we look the better our income and the less reliant we are on donations alone. Thirdly? PZ Myers can get some of my Crazy Hate Mail.

    As I have said. The aesthetics of Skepchic (I like the clean design) and their top bar with the volume and flexibility of viewing that slate has with the in site cross post linking of Patheos.

    This will allow people to see posts rather than JUST the blogs (the blogs will still be here. You can still click on A Million Gods and get to it) and with time recognise posters (through an Icon Scheme). The site will be more visual and less purely text based and each page will cross link at the bottom to “similar” posts.

    I would also want a little tab at the top that switches the site to low bandwith/high visibility modes (with a set of icons for them too.)

  29. says

    I think you’re right in most of what you’re saying.
    If people say that PZ put in a lot of work in building up his readership and community they’re not wrong, but given his privilege he got way more out of that work than a minority person would have gotten.
    And now that community has been established, well, it tends to stick around.
    PZ and Ed set up this network with the explicit goal to have diverse voices heard, so I wouldn’t say it’s been set up “neutral” with respect to race (and gender, and gender identity, and sexual orientation). I think there is a remarkable difference between FtB and say, Skeptink, where they do the “race and gender neutral merrit approach” (as if not every single blogger here would merrit the attention.)
    What is most certainly true is that it’s not enough.
    It’s not enough on the side of the network (but people have confirmed that they’re working on it and there have been some good suggestions) and it’s most certainly mot enough on the side of the readers*. I think we need to have and we’re going to have many more painful (for my privileged ass) conversations and discussions about this in the future. Ceesays’ post over at Dana’S blog was spot on and necessary. We’re sadly way behind in those discussions.
    Well, we can’t change that we’re late, we can just try to catch up.

    *There’s no better example of this than the phenomenon of PZ trying to use his privilege for good, writing a post linking to somebody else’s blog, telling people to “go read there” and getting more traffic on the post than the linked-to person.

  30. Jacob Schmidt says

    dezn_98, you kick ass as usual.

    PZ’s cartoon on the theoretical existence of white privilege gets triple-digit posts in a day, but the most recent Black Skeptics article on FTB requires a week to get 68 whopping comments.

    I don’t remember anyone in the Black Skeptics thread arguing about how terrible racism against white people is; the “what about me” and “It’s not my fault” lines engenders quite amount of hate over at Pharyngula.

    Nor was it a “theoretical existence of white privilege”; we had comments echoing the images phrases.

    All this being said, I noticed a race disparity in my blog reading the other week. I made a comment on NOMAS censuring Emi Koyama, because they didn’t like her message, as well as one man harassing Emi when she and other women challenged them on it. I found out that the story had already made the rounds, just not through the white bloggers.

  31. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    I greet the news that a redesign of the front page is in the works gleefully!

    But please, don’t make it entirely like Skepchick’s. Since they did that redesign, I had to stop going to their main page and get articles solely from links or RSS. Which makes me sad, because I love the writing there.

    But then, I’m one person and my internet-parsing “I can only read 5 fonts” idiosyncrasies are non-universal.

    I don’t think the readership spread is an either/or of blog architecture, community size, and racism/sexism. I think it is in all likelihood all of those. The coming redesign will surely help. A concerted effort by the various bloggers to link to each other (like what PZ is already doing) will also help.

  32. says

    Not to disagree with Dezn at all (He is probably correct – it’s primarily racism. It’s not intentional, y’all are working on it, and I don’t think less of anyone involved because it’s clear everyone is doing their best, and that their best is plainly pretty good), but just to chime in, I read Avicenna, Mano, Ed, PZ, Frederick n’ Sikivu, and until he/they stopped, Crommunist; now that Jen’s back, I read blag hag. Not exactly a white male-centric lineup (although it is pretty Cis and Straight). But I primarily commented, to the extent I do, on Pharyngula – and it’s exactly for the reasons PZ says. He posts more, and he gets more assholes to mock.

  33. janeymack says

    I like the front page the way it is, in fact, I love it. It’s relatively clean and uncluttered, and I can find what I am looking for quickly and easily. I like having the newest couple of entry titles under each blog title so I can readily see if there is something new in the blogs that I regularly read. I pretty much ignore the sidebar stuff; there’s lots of stuff there I’m not interested in–I don’t (and won’t) use Twitter, and I’m really not interested in the “latest comments” from people on articles that I might not have even read yet. I do my best to ignore ads, and if I want to go to a different blog–I go to the front page, where I can find it quicker.

    I read PZ and Ed first–I’m here because of PZ, like quite a few other people, and I’m interested in what he has to say. I read Ed because he blogs a lot about political issues that interest me. When I am done looking at their new stuff, assuming I have any more time, then I scroll down and read what sounds interesting. A lot of times that’s Stephanie and Ophelia and Greta, because the women’s issues are relevant to me, and I like Dana because she’s in my area and reading her is the next best thing to getting out and around on my own (which I don’t do much these days due to physical limitations). And then I’ll scroll down and pick and choose other things to read. I can see what everybody has posted recently, so I know if there is something that I haven’t read yet, and can get an idea if it sounds interesting. Sometimes I don’t make it all the way to the bottom of the page. And sometimes I will scroll all the way down to the bottom and work my way up, and pick what sounds interesting.

    I’m afraid a big re-vamp of the front page is going to lead to me reading less, not more, of the other blogs. One thing I *don’t* do is read any of the people who have moved from here to Patheos, even the ones that I liked and read fairly frequently, because I despise the look of Patheos. It is crowded and cramped and busy; I can’t find anything and the look of it is so bad I don’t want to hang around to try. So I hope any re-vamping of the front page will keep the needs of us who like the neat and clean interface in mind. Because if it gets too “busy”–or if stuff moves around a lot–I will simply bookmark PZ and maybe a couple of the others and forget about trying to keep up with anything else. I’m not going to come here and click on whatever is being “featured” as being “new” or whatever the idea is–I’m still just going to read the ones that are relevant to my interests.

    I have read posts from everybody at least once–some of them I don’t go back to because they don’t appeal to me. Most of those happen to be towards the bottom of the page. I’m not *not* reading them because of where they are positioned on the page so much–not to the extent that I think I would read them more if they were towards the top. And I’m not *not* reading them because of the ethnicity or gender of the bloggers–at least not consciously. I read the Black Skeptics sometimes, but not often because nothing I have read there really “grabs” me. Today, I see that they have an article about Marissa Alexander, and I will read that one because that situation is one that infuriates me and I want to read more about it. I don’t read The Atheist Experience because it is a companion to a show I don’t listen to.

    I sympathize with the bloggers who would like to get more hits–after all, they are here to attract readers–but from my point of view–the point of view of one reader that already knows what she wants to read, and can’t really manage to fit in any more–I just want to be able to find “my” blogs quickly and easily. I want to see what the others are doing, too, but something like a constantly changing line-up of the most recent 6 or 10 or however many posts from all over the network would drive me crazy, unless it’s placed so I can easily ignore it and quickly find the ones I know I’m most likely to want to read.

    Avicenna, i’ve read you from time to time but probably haven’t commented before. I tend to read a lot, but post very little. I’m sorry that my first comment here is actually about something you said, but bellyaching on about potential changes to the blog. It’s just that I get a little shiver of horror every time I see some mention of changes to the home page, because it works for me the way it is and I’m fairly sure that I am going to hate any changes they make. (I’m resistant to change–I haven’t even gotten over the change of the “FTB” logo!)

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