Those dang comments

Scalzi is discussing comment management. There are…ideas…floating around there; some suck, some are interesting. Here are My Opinions™ on comments.

  • Comments are absolutely essential and are not going away. What do you think I read the site for? Besides, we’ve long had an interesting community here.

  • I’m not going to require real names. Consistent pseudonyms are good enough. I really, really hate sockpuppets; they undermine the credibility of all pseudonyms. I will burn all puppets to the ground on discovery.

  • My smartest recent move was appointing monitors who write in to report troublemakers. I don’t have to read everything constantly to track comments, which relieves a lot of strain.

  • The banhammer: too much or too little? I’ve been a little bit more heavy-handed lately, because of all the sexist jerkwads who’ve been popping in. I’m leaning in favor of more.

  • With the loss of the dungeon, I’ve thrown away most of my tracking of bannings, which doesn’t bother me much…but one thing I’ve long been missing is some way to achieve redemption. Once you’re banned, you’re dropped into a bottomless pit of blackness, never to be seen again, and there isn’t any way to gain forgiveness. How could we arrange to have a ban removed?

  • One capability I wish WordPress had was a way to require a certain minimum of words in a comment. I’d rather see fewer one-liners and more thoughtful discussion.

  • Should I implement a comment limit? I don’t think it’s currently a problem, except for that one guy who would dump German opera librettos or whatever into comments.

  • I do have keyword filtering, and I use it to block a lot of the language misogynists use, which is remarkably effective (there sure is a lot of rapey hatey talk stuck in the spam filter now). Other suggestions for words that magically disappear the bad guys would be useful. Also maybe words that block some of the knee-jerk responses from the good guys. What words/phrases do you hate to see popping up?

  • Never gonna implement comment threading or comment rating, so don’t mention ’em.

  • Scalzi shuts off some comments while he’s sleeping. I’m not going to do that: it discriminates against Australians and Europeans, and we have too many of that furrin ilk here.

  • Any wordpress experts know of any useful plugins for comments? I can pass suggestions along to the tech guy…who’s supposed to fix the main page first, of course.

  • I know the crappy preview function is a sore point for lots of you. Anything else that bugs you?

  • Styles. While we’re wating for the tech guy to get everything else done, one thing I can do all by myself is tweak the stylesheet. Any comment layout stuff you desperately want?

Oh, yeah? Are you going to provide evidence for that?

I must call attention to this article on Salon.

How Google flushes knowledge down the toilet

Search engine optimization is filling the Internet with misinformation about human bathroom habits and more

In the sidebar: 5 pointless pop posts from the Huffington Post. 10 listicles from Buzzfeed. 8 more random links from aggregators Upworthy and GigaOm.

Below the article: 3 more listicles. An ad for Biblical Money Code. Pictures of Kate Middleton. “We recommend” money advice from the Bible, cheap auctions, health benefits of blueberries, etc., etc., etc.

And more! The week in 10 pics, 10 summer food festivals, you get the idea.

I know, we have annoying random ads on this site, too, but we’re pathetic pikers compared to anyone who intentionally taps into the HuffPo/Buzzfeed Vortex of Misinformation.

An article marvels at the bad information infesting the internet, and all the advertising clutter in which it wallows demonstrates exactly why it’s such a mess.

Maybe we need to think harder about going to a subscription model here.

Around FtB

I’ve got another busy morning in the lab followed by some travelin’ to the Big City, so I’ll help you find some other stuff to read.

Oh, right…two years old

I forgot — yesterday was Freethoughtblogs second birthday. So we’re at the stage where we’re mostly potty-trained, but we say “NO!” a lot and throw the occasional tantrum?

Just wait until next year. Three is the age of Peak Cuteness — we’ll be all adorable and winsome, and we’ll all be thinking we should have another one, but it’s all downhill from there until we hit our teens and start demanding the latest technology so we can chat all night long with the other blog networks.

Oh, yeah, I’ve been there a couple of times.

When will CFI’s nightmare end?

They just lost Point of Inquiry…or at least, the main people involved in it.

On Friday, Point of Inquiry’s two co-hosts—Indre Viskontas and Chris Mooney—resigned from their positions at the Center for Inquiry. On Monday, Point of Inquiry producer Adam Isaak followed suit. This note is to explain our reasons for departing CFI and our future plans.

In May of 2013, when the Women in Secularism II conference took place in Washington, D.C., Point of Inquiry—the flagship podcast of the Center for Inquiry—was more successful that it has ever been. Following a format change in 2010, our audience has increased by 60 percent and our growth rate has doubled in the last year and a half. We’d recently done a highly successful live show featuring Steven Pinker before a packed room at the 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, and interviewed guests like Oliver Sacks, Jared Diamond, Paul Krugman, and Mary Roach. We had started to incorporate new, successful video content. 2013 featured our most listened-to show ever and we were averaging well over 2 million total downloads per year.

Then came the events at that conference—including a widely criticized speech by Center for Inquiry President & CEO Ronald Lindsay. Lindsay then went further, writing a blog post which referred to a post by one of his critics—Rebecca Watson—as follows: “It may be the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea.”

In response to public criticism of Lindsay’s speech and blog post, CFI’s Board of Directors issued an ambiguous statement regretting the controversy, but going no further than that.

These actions have generated much discussion, criticism and polarization within our community. In addition, they created an environment at CFI that made it very difficult for our producer, Adam Isaak, to continue working there.

We, like others, welcome Lindsay’s recent apology. That apology, however, was not followed by any direct effort to retain Chris or Indre, nor did it make up for the very real toll this controversy has taken upon our podcast and our ability to produce it.

The actions of Lindsay and the Board have made it overwhelmingly difficult for us to continue in our goal to provide thoughtful and compelling content, including coverage of feminist issues, as in past interviews with guests like Amanda Marcotte, Katha Pollitt, MG Lord, and Carol Tavris.

The Center for Inquiry has supported us in the past and has asked Chris and Indre to speak at many of its conferences. We are thankful for that. But we’re a team and we do this together. We believe that this controversy has impaired our ability to produce the highest quality podcast under the auspices of CFI and that our talents will be put to better use elsewhere.

To that end, we are in the process of formalizing a new podcast that will allow us to continue to provide the in-depth interviews with leading intellectuals that made Point of Inquiry such a success. We’ll announce the name and more details about the new podcast shortly but as of right now, we can already announce something we’re all incredibly excited about: the new show will be produced in collaboration with the nonprofit news organization Mother Jones. You can follow @MotherJones on Twitter to get the latest updates on the show’s official launch. We all look forward to turning our attention to the work at hand, and leaving this controversy behind.

Adam Isaak, Indre Viskontas, and Chris Mooney

Misandry In Teh Animule Kingdom!!!!7!

Misandry, polyandry, whatever. I know it’s some kind of -andry. Hordeling Ron Sullivan and her partner in crime Joe Eaton have been spending a lot of time in the San Joaquin Valley of late, and Joe has a new post up on Ron’s blog riffing on their recent frequent sightings of Swainson’s hawks. It turns out that the hawks engage in behavior that completely undermines the traditional institution of marriage as Gahd intended:

Polyandry, it seems, is not that unusual in buteos and related hawks. It’s more or less standard for the Galapagos hawk, which genetic studies indicate is the Swainson’s closest relative. (The i’o or Hawai’ian hawk is also near kin. Swainson’s is typically a long-distance migrant, with most of the population traveling from the North American plains to the Argentine pampas every year. You can see how accidental colonization of remote islands might happen.) Polyandrous mating groups also occur in the more distantly related Harris’s hawk. The advantage? Male raptors often provide prey for their incubating mates and nestlings. A female with two male providers would have a better chance of successfully fledging her brood.

The MRAs were right all along: it’s all about the child support. How dare those ladyhawks go against biology? Don’t they understand about gathering berries?

Anyway, it’s a good post by a longtime favorite natural history writer. And the post title proves that Parentheses Matter.

Speaking of people writing good stuff at the Network, we’ve added two new blogs over there: “InyoOwnWay” by Owens Valley biologist Mike Prather and “Miracle or Mirage?” by renewable energy maven Patrick Donnelly-Shores. We’ve got another new addition pending once she answers her email.

Around FtB

Today is the big day we do our first test of the plumbing we’ve cobbled together for our fish facility. We may be bailing or patching or scratching our heads today…or maybe we’ll just be celebrating. So go read other blogs while we tinker.

  • Taslima has been honored by the Royal Academy of Science, Arts and Literature of Belgium and met with the European Parliament. Awesome. (Taslima is the featured speaker at Empowering Women Through Secularism, too!)

  • Stephanie is soliciting feedback for American Atheists.

  • Avicenna rails against theocracy.

  • Aron gets video messages.

  • Iron Chariots gets email.

  • Sikivu stands for abortion on demand and without apology!

  • Miri punches out the “Real Skeptic” argument.

  • Ophelia reports that Savita was not alone.

  • Ian recounts a horrible tale of a man attacked for driving while Muslim.

  • Digital Cuttlefish is a Poe!

  • Dana visits Vantage. I’ve been there several times — I’ve been there with my father, who loved the place.

  • Ally lists reasons, good and bad, for some men to be so angry.

  • Jason has put out a call to help a woman and her son save their home.

  • Maryam tells us that FEMEN activists in Tunisia are being tried as equivalent to witches.

  • Nirmukta opens the door to the weird world of caste discrimination. Brahmins only housing?

  • Mano has been doing an excellent job covering the NSA and their assault on privacy…this is one example.

  • Yemmi was the subject of a long interview on the homophobic attitudes of certain Nigerian lawmakers.

Say hello to Nirmukta on FtB

We’ve got a new addition here, Nirmukta, and here’s what they do.

A quick introduction to Nirmukta: Nirmukta is an organization which promotes science, freethought and secular humanism in India. It was founded as a website by Ajita Kamal in 2008, and since then its online presence has grown into three websites: the main parent site at, the community forum at and Nirmukta’s atheist activism arm, We have formed regional groups in several Indian cities as well; the objective of these groups is to mobilise local on-ground activism (like Hug an Atheist Day just the other day). Nirmukta also operates numerous social media groups on Facebook. This includes the popular Indian Atheists page, one of the largest gatherings of atheists in India. For more about our goals and values, please see What is Nirmukta and What Do We Plan to Do? or watch this short Introduction to Nirmukta on Youtube.

Their FtB branch is clearly just one tentacle on the mighty cephalopod that is Indian science and atheism.

I support your right to post anonymously

There are very good reasons to use a pseudonym on a blog. Perhaps you have opinions that are contrary to the majority in your region, and you face serious consequences if your identity gets out; Lord knows, many atheists have that particular problem. Or perhaps you just want to use the internet to have a conversation, and would rather it not lead to greater and more intrusive involvement; I know women who’d rather not see an escalation of an interaction from people who don’t know how to graciously accept a “no.” Sometimes people sensibly try to limit their commitment to the internet and the often too agressive efforts by the internet to commit to them. All things in moderation and all that.


But there are also bad reasons to use a pseudonym on a blog. The very worst? Some people use anonymity to empower their ability to be a shithead. They snipe and sneer, they hide behind fake names, they use multiple sock puppets to generate the illusion that more people support their hatred, and also to prevent people from blocking them — they want to force you to read their venom.

I do not support shitheads.

I ban them. I am announcing now that if you persist in being a shithead on my blog, I won’t hesitate to expose your IP address and email. There have just been too many of you lately, and I’m spending too much time cleaning up the smears of shit you leave everywhere you go. I am aware that you’ll spend more effort now trying to cover your tracks, because that’s what you do: you’re a shithead and a coward. But I don’t care, and if I find you are using an anonymizer, or a fake email address, or are using multiple identities, that will be sufficient grounds to ban you.

On a related note, I’ve noticed that prominent shitheads tend to have absolutist opinions about their “rights”. They have a right to free speech, they declare; they can say any damn thing they want, and it is their privilege. They also shriek in outrage about “dropping dox” — how dare anyone reveal their identities to the world? I have seen enough of this black and white nonsense about an unqualified support for free speech and an unqualified opposition to “dropping dox”, and I’m here to tell you…you don’t get to hold both positions. They’re incompatible. If you want to be free to say anything, I expect you to have the courage of your convictions and be willing to stand up for what you believe.

I have absolutely no respect for someone who insists on the privilege of simultaneously being a shithead and being free of any responsibility for what they say.

So post anonymously if you want, but realize that I expect responsible and reasonable behavior if you do so.