“Uncommon Descent” and “The Skeptical Zone” in 2015

(crossposted from here and here)

(Edited Feb 2, 2016 to add eight figures)

Since 2005, Uncommon Descent (UD) – founded by William Dembski – has been the place to discuss intelligent design. Unfortunately, the moderation policy has always been one-sided (and quite arbitrary at the same time!) Since 2011, the statement “You don’t have to participate in UD” is not longer answered with gritted teeth only, but with a real alternative: Elizabeth Liddle’s The Skeptical Zone (TSZ). So, how were these two sites doing in 2015?

Number of Comments 2005 – 2015

year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
UD  8,400 23,000 22,400 23,100 41,100 24,800 41,400 28,400 42,500 53,700 53,100
TSZ  2,200 15,100 16,900 20,400 45,200

In 2015, there were still 17% more comments at UD than at TSZ – 53,100 to 45,200.

UD-2015-02

Though UD is still going strong, there is a slight downwards trend (yellow line) in the daily number of comments.

TSZ-2015-02

The upside trend at TSZ is much stronger, but is fuelled by the very weak participation in the first couple of months of 2015. This can be seen when comparing the number of comments on a monthly base, too:

UD-2015-04

TSZ-2015-04

There are many ways how both sites interact with each other: the editors on both blogs may react to the same event, rising the number of comments on both sites. Or an editor, disgruntled with one site, may take his energy to the other one. Overall there is a slightly negative correlation (adj. R²=.256) between the number of comments per week:

UD-2015-06

There is one big difference between both sites: the number of posts. On TSZ, there have been 265 threads with comments, while this number was 1741 at UD (there were another 200 without any comments). Therefore, the number of comments per thread is smaller at UD than at TSZ:

UD-2015-05
At UD, most of the posts (16% or 271 out of 1741) gathered between five and eight comments (or 1,700 – 3.2% – of the 53,100 total comments in 2015), while at TSZ, most of the threads (20% or 56 out of 265) have between 65 and 128 comments (or 5000 – 11% – of the 45,200 comments)

TSZ-2015-05

This difference is shown in this stream of comments. With the notable exception of the thread Mystery at the Heart of Life, even the busiest posts aren’t active for longer than a month at UD:

UD-2015-03

In fact, an average an article at UD will get comments over an period of 5.3 days. This average is 23.7 days for TSZ. Certainly eternal threads like Moderation Rules and Noyau play a role here, but other mainly philosophical topics are discussed over great periods of time, too.

TSZ-2015-03

 

My personal favourites of 2015 unfortunately got very few comments: Winson Ewert’s offer to Ask Dr. Ewert at UD, Tom English’s excellent reply A Question for Winston Ewert at TSZ, and then Dr. Ewert Answers, again at UD – which were commented less than eighty times in total. I had hoped for a discussion about the mathematical aspects of Intelligent Design (see my posts). Unfortunately, the design-side didn’t show any interest in anything other but an token interaction. Another chance missed.

Note: UD and TSZ both use WordPress, so they should have numerous ways to get statistics for their sites. I could look only from the outside, crawling the threads and comments. Though I’m fairly sure to got the all the visible data, I cannot guarantee to paint the real picture absolutely accurately.

Some Additional Figures

In 2015, there some 45,000 comments were made at The Skeptical Zone. Here are the top ten of the commentators (just a quantitative, not a qualitative judgement.) I’ll stick to the color scheme for all of figures in this post… “The Skeptical Zone” has a handy “reply to”-feature, which allows you to address a previous comments (with or without inline quotation.) It is used to various degree – and though some don’t use it at all, nearly 50% of all comments were replies.

While the previous figure showed who made replies, this one shows who receives them. Editors at “The Skeptical Zone” are also allowed to make postings and create new threads.
How popular are these threads? Here the number of comments editors gathered with there threads. Quite another question: A comment can be a short remark, a well-thought argument, or just a orgy of copying-and-pasting. How much text did the commentators write? Here is the length of the plain texts given in the comments – again, just a quantitative, not a qualitative deliberation.
A boxplot of the byte-length of comments made by the top 10 contributors.
This figure gives an impression of how many comments were attracted over time by threads sorted by the editors who had created them.
And here is the network of those who created – or received – at least 50 replies.

154 thoughts on ““Uncommon Descent” and “The Skeptical Zone” in 2015

  1. Flint: I guess we’re reading different sites. I see disagreement there all the time.

    I suppose if you think evolution does not happen, and are (of course) unable to account for the incredibly enormous wealth of observation, tests, research, etc. to the contrary, he might consider your noise to be, well, noise, I don’t know. Kind of like an astronomy blog not wanting to encourage input from flat-earth bozos or astrology nuts.

    However, I am not aware that there is any policy against disagreement there. And within reasonable limits, there is a LOT of disagreement between Coyne and his commenters, and between different commenters.

    Just like Joe G did here, phoodoo had posts deleted from WEIT for his behavior – constantly posting angry obscenities – and not for having an opposing viewpoint.

    Isn’t that right phoodoo?

  2. Flint,

    First for you to suggest there is a LOT of disagreement between Coyne and his posters is simply not true. I think you can provide no evidence to show that. In fact, if you have an opposing viewpoint, and Coyne knows you are coming from an ID perspective, you will be banned, simple as that. He makes almost no attempt to hide that.

    So for you to claim that well, its just noise, so that is the reason he bans people, well, what does that mean? Can you challenge his positions, with facts and information, as long as you don’t insult anyone? No, you can’t actually. Posters will be banned based solely on not agreeing with Coyne. Being civil has nothing to do with it.

  3. Acartia: And how effective was it? Most of us were already banned.

    Yeah, calling for a boycott was the act of an idiot. I agree. You and those like you failed to adapt over at UD. Thankfully there’s a slime pit where you can thrive.

  4. Mung You and those like you failed to kiss Barry’s ass and deposit your testicles in his purse over at UD.

    Corrected it for accuracy Mung.

  5. phoodoo: So for you to claim that well, its just noise, so that is the reason he bans people, well, what does that mean?Can you challenge his positions, with facts and information, as long as you don’t insult anyone?No, you can’t actually.Posters will be banned based solely on not agreeing with Coyne.Being civil has nothing to do with it.

    Yes, you can disagree and use facts and information, and you will be permitted to post. Your problem is that the ID crowd does not HAVE facts and information, because ID is religion and not science. ID posters aren’t making any scientific points, they are preaching. Perhaps Coyne does not want preachers, although on his more religious threads I see plenty of them.

    By today, ID consists of long-refuted assertions backed by mined quotes and persecution complexes. If you regard such things as “facts and information” then UD is a much better home for your efforts.

  6. Adapa: Coyne even lets Joe G post over at WEIT.

    Go ahead phoodoo, tell us how Frankie/Virgil cain/Joe G all agree with Coyne’s views on evolution.

    You’re just angry because your language got you tossed.

    Phoodoo was wrong again? How predictable.

  7. phoodoo: First off Joe, Jerry Coyne doesn’t even allow opposing viewpoints to post on his blog.

    Adapa: Sure he does. He just doesn’t allow obscenity-spewing assholes to post off topic rants.

    That doesn’t explain why I am banned.

  8. I had facts and information. My thread was closed to comments because Elizabeth wanted to close it in spite of the facts and information. But Flint can’t be bothered with that.

  9. Mung:
    I had facts and information. My thread was closed to comments because Elizabeth wanted to close it in spite of the facts and information. But Flint can’t be bothered with that.

    I don’t understand your point. I don’t think any threads should ever be closed.

  10. Adapa: You mean your 15th thread whining about the moderation was closed because it was superfluous given the other 14. But if you weren’t perpetually whining about your victimhood you wouldn’t be Mung.

    Even so, why close any thread? So long as people are still interacting, it’s worth having. If everyone loses interest, so what? Originally, when TSZ opened, I thought people would only be banned for posting porn or viruses (or outright spam), and threads would live forever. I don’t see why this won’t work.

  11. Flint: Even so, why close any thread? So long as people are still interacting, it’s worth having. If everyone loses interest, so what? Originally, when TSZ opened, I thought people would only be banned for posting porn or viruses (or outright spam), and threads would live forever. I don’t see why this won’t work.

    The poster in question started multiple threads in a short time span on the same topic in a desperate “LOOK AT ME!! LOOK AT ME!! attempt to attention whore. Several of the threads, not all, were closed because they were redundant. Seems like a perfectly reasonable policy to me.

  12. Flint: Your problem is that the ID crowd does not HAVE facts and information, because ID is religion and not science. ID posters aren’t making any scientific points, they are preaching. Perhaps Coyne does not want preachers,

    So you now agree on my point that Coyne doesn’t allow ID arguments, yes? You just want to argue that his reason for doing so is reasonable according to you?

  13. Neil Rickert:
    That doesn’t explain why I am banned.

    So Neil, you were online, you read Adapa’s post, and decided it was still within the rules of TSZ? Is that right?

    If I would have posted that you would also let it stand? Basically you are saying that no post should ever be moved then, is that right?

    I think that right there tells you how TSZ can rack up some posts. Just call people spewing assholes all day long-I guess that counts as a post?

  14. Mung: What was the point of this comment?

    An vain attempt to encourage people to use the moderation issues thread to talk about moderation issues.

  15. When I woke up and saw that there were another fifty “thoughts” on this thread, I was very pleased: so many people want to talk about statistics! Perhaps there was an argument on how to proceed, or suggestions what to look for. Perhaps even someone who appreciated the figures and the number crunching.

    I shouldn’t have bothered: I could have gotten a similar reaction by posting instead just the questions “Tell me: why are all the others mean to you? Do you feel hurt?”

  16. DiEb: Perhaps even someone who appreciated the figures and the number crunching.

    I’m sure everyone appreciates the effort you put in to producing these figure DiEb.

  17. I appreciate the statistics, but I lack the expertise to comment on the methods.

    When you compare this site with the one from which many of us were banned, it is not surprising that you would get comments about the character of the regular posters. I find it suffices to say that the bannings are asymmetrical.

    The side issue of Jerry Coyne interests me, because — well, because moderation. That seems to be what people want to fight about.

    Jerry’s site promotes his books. I see nothing wrong with that, but I do think it might affect his moderation. It would be interesting to see examples. I haven’t seen any bannings there.

  18. DiEb, my friend:

    I’m lurking, incoherent. I feel your pain… and Dave Carlson’s. I’ve told you before that I’m humbled by your data presentation, and tell you that again. I apologize for not providing a substantive response. I hope to see more posts from you at TSZ.

  19. phoodoo: So Neil, you were online, you read Adapa’s post, and decided it was still within the rules of TSZ? Is that right?

    Er, no. It was clearly contrary to the rules.

    Given the current discussion in that thread, it did not seem seriously disruptive. So I chose to ignore the rule violation. I have reacted the same way to some of your posts that were clearly contrary to the rules.

  20. Neil Rickert,

    First off Neil, any time any of my posts have been insulting, they are in response to that type of behavior directed towards me first. I reply as such to highlight the stupidity of such a way to address someone on a discussion board. So I venture to say you have not ignored any times I have broken the rules, because every time I have done so, it has been entirely intentional and it was moved to guano.

    In how this is relevant to this thread, its relevant in that you are showing once again that there is zero incentive to play by the rules on this thread. What incentive is there to stop the efforts of Adapda, and Richard and the like, who sole purpose is to apparently just throw garbage around? They can’t be banned. Their posts may or may not be moved, they can interrupt any discussion which is damaging to their desired outcome, and they can keep coming back day in and day out and do it more.

    They have zero desire or skill to contribute anything with a deeper meaning so why not just throw shit. They enjoy it, much like people enjoy Mr. Bean movies. Just sheer idiocy.

    Being as how their posts are so voluminous, and pointless, how could any study of the number of posts here be relevant to anything, other then Lizzie promotes shitstorms. She encourages them basically. She has moderators who delight in it.

    What is the value in studying how many times people are allowed to throw shit here unabated? Its a reflection of the popularity of the site? The Jersey Shore was also popular. I can say butthurt here a thousand times in a row. That will make this site better than UD? Ha.

    Butthurt! Whoohoo! Yeah!

  21. Adapa: The poster in question started multiple threads in a short time span on the same topic in a desperate “LOOK AT ME!! LOOK AT ME!! attempt to attention whore.Several of the threads, not all,were closed because they were redundant.Seems like a perfectly reasonable policy to me.

    I don’t see it that way. What’s the use of starting “look at me” threads if nobody looks? Would combining them all into a single thread count as closing threads? Or do you see multiple redundant threads as spam, or DOS attacks?

  22. Tom English:
    DiEb, my friend:

    I’m lurking, incoherent. I feel your pain… and Dave Carlson’s. I’ve told you before that I’m humbled by your data presentation, and tell you that again. I apologize for not providing a substantive response. I hope to see more posts from you at TSZ.

    Me too!

    Sorry you’re having a

    https://giphy.com/gifs/internet-commenting-i-can-typing-Jb9J6KVpKb0hW

    Maybe you could have some fun with this:

    https://github.com/DaveChild/Text-Statistics

  23. phoodoo,

    Have you read my posts on the game of life, symbolic regression, genetic algorithms, Phoodoo? I’ve read yours on that paper you didn’t read.

  24. I regard multiple threads on the same subject as either spam or a DOS attack, or both. I think that’s why they were stopped.

  25. phoodoo: They have zero desire or skill to contribute anything with a deeper meaning so why not just throw shit.

    Some might say that this is a good description of your own posting practices.

    Being as how their posts are so voluminous, and pointless, how could any study of the number of posts here be relevant to anything, other then Lizzie promotes shitstorms.

    Many of your posts might seem to fit that description.

    I’m not sure what point you are trying to make. And this should have been posted in moderation issues.

    As for the comparison between UD and TSZ posting — I don’t see that it means much. If that’s what you were trying to point out, then you need not have bothered.

    As for moderation here — yes, it is uneven. Have you ever watched a family with young children. The children are always breaking rules, and the parents usually let them get away with it. But occasionally the parents crack down. And the children think that was arbitrary. But it works as a reminder to the children, that they can test the boundaries a little but they should not go too far.

    And that’s about how I see the “guano” approach to moderation. If we rigidly enforce rules, that stifles discussion. If we completely ignore rules, then things quickly get out of hand. But some selective enforcement works as a reminder for people to not wander too far from the goals of having a site for thoughtful discussion.

  26. phoodoo,

    Tell you what, start a thread on a substantive / technical issue and we’ll have a chat there – about why you’re wrong.

  27. Neil Rickert: If we rigidly enforce rules, that stifles discussion. If we completely ignore rules, then things quickly get out of hand. But some selective enforcement works as a reminder for people to not wander too far from the goals of having a site for thoughtful discussion.

    Exactly!

  28. DiEb,

    Glad to see you here! Thanks for pulling this together. I’d be very interested in seeing histograms for the most prolific commenters on each site, too, if that’s available. I suspect it follows a power law.

    petrushka: Moderation issues: 40,000
    Everything else: 5000

    The correct data lies directly in front of you:

    From Table 1: 45,200 comments over all
    From Figure 9: 1,900 in “moderation issues”

    Figure 9 shows also that “moderation issues” was especially strong in Dec 2015, but never dominated the comments absolutely.

    I think petrushka was posting with his tongue slightly in his cheek, but he does identify one of the more noticeable problems here. If all comments related to moderation issues were in the appropriate thread, I suspect the volume would be at least three times higher. Not dominating, but not insignificant. I hope that when she returns Lizzie will reconsider her decision about allowing comments to be moved there.

  29. Neil Rickert,

    Neil,

    Then why didn’t you reply to my thread in moderation? Because obviously if you did, it would be completely out of context. yet all you talked about was moderation.

    I however was talking about how a site which allows people to say whatever shit they can think of, including you Neil, can not be compared to a site which posts actual content (and doesn’t let people post whatever shit comes out of their mouth), in terms of number of posts.

    Most of what goes on here (that you gleefully ignore) is not real posts. But Lizzie wants shit, so she gets shit. Why should I give her anything other than shit, when she likes shit. She has moderators who encourage shit. She loves it.

  30. DiEb,

    Why don’t you invite Winston Ewert to join us here for a general discussion of ID math(s)? Promise him the utmost in politeness, and ask the same of others.

    One difficulty for Ewert, I suspect, is that he has presented himself as more generally knowledgeable than he should have. There is no reason for him to have deep knowledge of measure-theoretic probability (in particular, liftings and lowerings of nonuniform probability measures in the hierarchy of measures). Perhaps he needs to hear that nobody’s going to criticize him for saying that he doesn’t understand some aspect of the math. In all sincerity, my objection is to people who pretend to understand more than they actually do.

    I’ll be unavailable until Tuesday or Wednesday. Perhaps now is the time to make the invitation. 😉 Come to think of it, if Ewert expresses a willingness to carry on a discussion with anyone but me, I’ll bow out.

  31. My problem is I spent about 12 years watchin my kids play soccer. One of the characteristics of the game is there’s only one official, and the ref’s rulings. Are not contestable.

    One coach told the kids, if the ref’s unfair, you have to score more goals.

    No one here is blocked from presenting a good argument. There are no goals called back. There have been some mistakes. I accidently caused a post to get deleted. Just ignorance of what the buttons do.

    So what? I think there have been 50 complaint posts for every error, intentional or just confused. I wish the complainers would shut the eff up and get back to the game.

  32. petrushka:

    So what? I think there have been 50 complaint posts for every error, intentional or just confused. I wish the complainers would shut the eff up and get back to the game.

    That’s the problem. The UDers here know they can’t win the “science” game so they’re going for the Whining 2nd Place trophy.

  33. Tom English,

    Remember when you posted this gem Tom? And you want Winston to have a substantive discussion with you here? “Denise O”Sneery” That was your best line Tom? Did you pull that technique from the Yahoo comments section SmingEnglish?

    Checking for the next round in Pooh Bear’s popgun defense of Idlet, I find that Evolution News and Views has seen fit to feature a post in the mathematics category, “Rubik’s Cube Is a Hand-Sized Illustration of Intelligent Design,” but not to identify the author. The work is unmistakably that of Dennie O’Sneery, reprocessing reprocessed technical material that s/he does not understand, and reassuring the dimmest of blessedly assured wits that they are filled with the Holy Sass. Although it’s generally amusing to smash Dennie’s ambiguous little thingy to a bloody pulp, when s/he masochistically points it my way, I don’t have time for sadism now. Not to discourage you from whacking away (biohazard suit and ten-foot pole recommended), I’m treating this as a teachable moment.

    The worst part of it was you imploring others to do your dirty insult work for you, because you simply didn’t have the time to be the masochist right now. That was you teaching moment.

    It was for your class on the study of Beavis and Butthead.

  34. phoodoo: Most of what goes on here (that you gleefully ignore) is not real posts. But Lizzie wants shit, so she gets shit. Why should I give her anything other than shit, when she likes shit. She has moderators who encourage shit. She loves it.

    That’s why I usually don’t reply to you.

  35. Flint: If you’re referring to Why Evolution Is True, of course he does. Sometimes he even starts new threads responding to such comments.

    i Was banned from Evol is true blog years ago.
    No good reasonb, of coarse, and not, if i remember , about evolution. Some poltical comment. Yet really it was about getting rid of tougher YEC creationists. I know.
    If they don’t allow creationists, tought ones, then they have no moral claim to be a free think blog welcome to all.
    Most do ban stupidly but even jails let people out. And evos tend to be liberal and opposed to prison for things like crime.
    You should not ban people for contrary ideas.
    only for malice, constant thread interruption, too personal about the blog owner.
    Otherwise freedom demands freedom of speech.
    Its always the bad guys, the lame guys, or the very sensitive guys who ban.
    Regular folk don’t. Except the three exceptions i made.
    Evolution is not true and one won’t learn this by censoring those who seek correct error.

  36. Robert Byers:Evolution is not true and one won’t learn this by censoring those who seek correct error.

    OK, I understand now. Kind of like a forum on how physics works, banning someone who honks and brays that there’s no such thing as gravity — or an astronomy forum banning someone who insists the moon doesn’t exist. I suppose every forum needs some sort of idiot filter. Most simply ban the idiots, though some have guano or bathroom walls or such padded rooms for them.

    You should instead find a forum where your ideas are welcome. Most of those will ban anyone else, so you’ll be comfy and safe.

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