Back from vacation. Need a vacation.

I’d been trying to maintain a post-a-day schedule for a few weeks now despite trying to suck the marrow out of a precious oasis of respite from a job that has, as late, challenged me to exceed what even I thought myself capable. I am back home now. My wife and I arrived home at 1:30am to a house with no food, short one bag.

While in Minneapolis, a mouse attacked our luggage and we decided to get new luggage rather than try to force one more trip out of the already haggard container which had to that point lasted almost ten years. All of the clothing was intact, though it all had to be washed; the bag was discarded. The bag we got to replace it attempted to take a diversion to Quebec and was apparently left in Chicago rather than following us all the way back to Halifax. We haven’t gotten it back yet. We’ve been told to call them for updates; the updates via the automated system presently say they’re “searching” for it. The number we were given to talk to a human landed at a voice mail box. Tomorrow, if our bags aren’t returned, we will be quite… put out.

And our car wouldn’t start today. Dead battery. Not just dead, DEAD dead. The money pit of a car had been sputtering during the summer and we’d suspected the alternator; the only piece of good news was that the battery had simply succumbed to the winter, and it wasn’t something more serious.

It was a lovely vacation with food, people, fun, happiness and love. It’s sometimes rough, I suppose, to switch back to home life mode and focus on the good things, ignoring the bad. Might take a few days. Bleh.

The 2012 Lousy Year In Review

Welcome to the End of the World after-show, where we look over the highlights of the year prior to the Mayan calendar’s running out. Of course, we’re all still around after the apocalypse because all the prayer averted Planet Nibiru at the last possible second, but we already had the after-show all planned out, so let’s do the highlights anyway. Highlights of, at least, my favorite blog posts from my favorite blog: Escher Girls err… mine!
[Read more…]

The bug report thread

Because we don’t seem to have a general purpose one, I’m making one right now, right here.

See the new theme? It’s a bit buggy. We want to hammer everything flat and put a coat of gloss before the rest of the network is subjected to it. What do you think?

The top menu and “chiclets” (social networking icons — Facebook and RSS) need some work yet, as do some CSS bits and bobs. Also want to get a Dashboard / Log In link up there somewhere. See anything that’s just plain not working as it should? Say so now.

Install the OpenDyslexia font and tell us how it works for you

I’m interested in doing a little science experiment. I’ve read that a commercial font designed by a dyslexic university student apparently didn’t help reading speed, but does help with certain classes of reading errors. Readers of any Freethought Blogs would certainly classify as folks who read a lot on the internet (yeah, yeah, get the “because you talk too much” jokes out of the way now). So, if there are any dyslexics among our readership — and I’m sure there are — I’d like to collect your anecdata on how a similar, open-sourced (read: free) font helps or hinders your reading.

Font demo of OpenDyslexic

A demo of the font provides a good example, in case you’re skeptical about how well this will work in practice. You can download the font for free from this page, because as an open-source project, it is community-driven rather than profit-oriented. Made by dyslexic users, for dyslexic users.

So, if you are dyslexic, and you’d like to participate in giving this font a trial run, I’d love to hear your stories — success or otherwise. FtBloggers primarily generate text, as opposed to other media, and many if not most of our bloggers are interested in accessibility (by extension of being interested in how privilege intersects with our various struggles). So I’d like to know, from people who might benefit from this, if it’s worth my campaigning to get a custom theme based on this font for FtB. The fact that the studies of the commercial offerings are less than ironclad makes me wonder if it’s worth our time.

Trolls are spoofing commentariat and authors (Update: countermeasures!)

Thanks to the spate of trolls (who are, in fact, members of our rationalist community!) spoofing our users, owing mostly to their levels of immaturity and the realization that they can type other people’s identities in the comment fields, a few blogs are turning on comment registration. I strongly advise that, even if your primary hangout is a blog that does not require registration, you should consider registering your username/email address anyway.

If you’ve already registered your account, and you need to edit your profile because the display name or email address are no longer valid, the top bar shows a “Howdy, username” link on the right. Hover over it, then click on Edit My Profile. You should also be able to get to it by clicking here — but that link might change depending on your user access level and future WordPress changes. The top bar should always be right.

I have no intention of turning on comment registration at my blog. I am instead working on making changes on the network (via a plugin or via editing the core of WordPress) to ensure that anonymous users cannot use a username or email address of a registered user. If you want to protect your name here, I strongly advise you register your account.

The registration process can use Facebook, Twitter or WordPress as authentication tokens, so you don’t necessarily have to build an account unique to Freethoughtblogs. Our software will rely on those sites’ auth APIs, and won’t ever see your login information. However, if you use these options, I strongly advise that you also log into your profile per the above instructions before making a comment, and set all the options appropriately. Otherwise your display name will show as “sc_{random characters}”, which is dead ugly.

Update: I’ve installed a plugin network-wide that protects login names and email addresses from being spoofed by anonymous users. It doesn’t protect the display name though — if your display name is something different from your login name, this won’t help you much. On blogs where registration is required, people shouldn’t notice a difference. And I’m sure asshats can still spoof people with a fair degree of fidelity to casual outside observers (I can think of two ways myself — there might be more), but this at least gives us an idea of when it’s happening.

Regardless, register your accounts.

I know where that January spike came from, and it had nothing to do with TAM

Shane Brady posted a quantitative analysis of web traffic for Skepchick and Freethought Blogs using Alexa’s daily reach statistics. While this data is certainly only a subset of the actual data — a sort of Nielsons ratings for the web — it’s probably pretty close to representative of the actual data we’ve collected via StatCounter. The traffic matches extremely closely to what we’ve seen ourselves on the Freethought Blogs end, though despite common misperceptions I have no access to Skepchick’s stats, not even through the hive mind uplink.

A screenshot Shane provides for Freethought Blogs’ (admittedly short) existence:

Shane says of this:

As you can see, FreethoughtBlogs is a relatively new blog network, so we don’t have the same history as with Skepchick.org. However, FreethoughtBlogs has substantially higher traffic than Skepchick.org and spikes might be harder to detect. That said, we can see some traffic increases that seem to correlate with some posts by Greta Christina that were heavily commented and cited. The trend for 2012, though, has primarily been flat. There was a slight increase during the days leading up to TAM2012, but nothing dramatic.

Emphasis mine.
[Read more…]

What Thunderf00t did, and how.

By now, I’m certain you’ve read Phil Mason’s, AKA Thunderf00t’s, confession about how he’s done exactly what people have accused him of: accessing the back channel after being kicked off the blog.

He spins himself as a whistleblower about vast conspiracies within Freethought Blogs, how we’re looking to destroy people’s careers every time we commiserate with one another about someone who’s aggrieved us. How this back channel operates like a “clique” where achievements are lauded, messages amplified, and disagreements mocked mercilessly. In other words, it’s a social club for people who choose to participate, to help spread collegiality amongst our bloggers and support one another when under attack. As such, considering that many of these private thoughts are not fights we wish to pick publicly and how Thunderf00t now controls what fights we have with whom because of misplaced trust in what happened to be a compromised listserv, Thunderf00t now gets to control much of the dialog of this blog network.

How very conspiratorial.
[Read more…]

Youtube giants join FtB!

The assimilation of the world’s greatest Youtube atheists, skeptics and freethinkers has begun!

First Zinnia Jones (ZJemptv)…

Zinnia Jones is an atheist activist, writer and videoblogger focusing on the impact of religious belief, political follies and LGBTQ rights. Since 2008, her videos have been viewed over 7 million times and her articles have been featured in the Huffington Post, The New Civil Rights Movement, and The Fight magazine in LA. Originally from Chicago, she’s currently living in Florida with her partner Heather and their two children. She is still insufferably Midwestern. Her pleasures include picking apart everyone’s arguments, rationality, feminism, philosophy, transhumanism and pet rats. You can reach her at zjemptv@gmail.com or on Twitter at @ZJemptv, and her YouTube channel is at www.zinniajones.com.

…then Aron Ra

Aron Ra is one of the “YouTube atheists” and an advocate for rationalism in science classrooms. He grew up in an exclusively creationist environment where he felt like a lonely outcast just for understanding evolution, let alone accepting it. Being raised in a mostly-Mormon family encouraged him to explore other denominations and eventually non-Abrahamic spiritualism before rejecting faith-based beliefs altogether. He was drawn into activism when the Religious Right dominated his state’s Board of Education, and began undermining education in history, health, science, and social studies. His videos often focus on evolution and the evidence indicating an interrelated tree of life. His series summarizing the ‘Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism’ and his subsequent series, ‘Falsifying Phylogeny’ (including the Phylogeny Challenge’) have been mirrored, featured, referenced, and recommended by many professional scientists, secularists, and educators, and has attracted more than 60,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel.

… and now Cristina Rad (ZOMGitsCriss)!

Romanian Atheist blogger and video maker, Cristina Rad, (cybername ZOMGitsCriss – pronounced “Zoh My God, it’s Criss!”), likes to address the conflicts between secular and religious views, as well as discussions on philosophy, current events and science matters. She is the author of the online published audio-book «The Unreasonable God» and she’s an outspoken supporter of civil rights for gays and lesbians.

And as though these three weren’t enough, the giant himself, Thunderf00t!

The true beauty of a self-inquiring sentient universe is lost on those who elect to walk the intellectually vacuous path of comfortable paranoid fantasies. -That is all.

…whose profile doesn’t talk about himself. Dammit Thunderf00t, your first post at least tells the readers that you’re “just some guy”. What the hell is that quote? Nice quote and all but it tells us nothing about you.

Jeez. Newbies. Gotta teach them a thing or two about blogificating. Sigh.

Well, maybe they’ll absorb it through the Hive Mind. Err, we have one of those, right?

The FtB Conversation about TAM: Transcript Pt. 1

Here’s the first half hour of the transcript for the big FtB Conversation from yesterday, done once again by the indefatiguable Kate Donovan. She’s the poor soul who did the transcript for the “PenisGate Debate”, who volunteered for this as I guess a sort of palate-cleanser.

If you’re just joining in, read these two posts first:

In Medias Res: how to find the plot if you’re just tuning in
The harassment policy campaign timeline

Transcript below the fold. Part two as soon as she’s done.
[Read more…]