Talk to the Hand

Dear readers, you have spoken.

And what I’m hearing based on the silence greeting my (admittedly vaguely sketched out) idea for a Bipartisan Climate Project is this.

Now I’m willing to eat my humble pie, but I’m also prompted to place this stinker of a comment generator in some larger perspective. This also gives me an excuse to shamelessly partake in that fine blogger tradition: the annual “most popular posts of the year” list.  (I’m a few weeks late. Many have already tallied their 2010 lists.) For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to define my list by the posts that drew the most comments.

Topping the charts, of course, are the Judith Curry interviews. Nobody in the two year history of collide-a-scape has done more to elevate its profile than Judith. She is the reigning queen draw with this post, (763 comments), the first of our three Q & A’s in the course of a week in April. (These three threads are notable for Judith’s nearly the round the clock parrying with people from all sides of the climate debate.) Judith earns third place too, with this one from August (560 comments). Also, there are at least a half dozen other Curry related posts that triggered 200-plus comments, including this recent one that generated 338 comments. Indeed, in 2010, Curry was, as another science writer noted in his profile of her, “a phenomenon.”

There is also an indisputable king (I think you know who he is) at Collide-a-Scape and he came with the intention of knocking the queen off her pedestal (a different sort). Gavin Schmidt may have fallen short but he earned kudos and grudging respect from his opponents at this post and thread (569 comments), which was also good enough for a second place finish.

All kidding aside, I’m grateful to Judith and Gavin for being so generous with their time at Collide-a-Scape in 2010. (Judith, of course, has since gone on to even bigger and more impressive blog heights at her site)

The top ten 2010 list also includes this post (540 comments) attempting to distinguish between a climate “skeptic” and “denier”; this post (428 comments) on the origins of the climate wars; and this one (409 comments) on a controversial PNAS study.

Honorable mentions go to this post (292 comments) on how two climate bloggers from opposite ends of the spectrum agree that climate journalism sucks, and to this post from earlier in the week (225 comments and counting), on what led AGW believers to become climate skeptics.

That’s a good segue into my three takeaway lessons for generating reader interest:

1) Focus on conflict (especially grudges), personalities, and contentious studies.

2) Insert the names Judith Curry and/or Gavin Schmidt into a post. (Even better: they stop by and insert themselves into a thread.)

3) Do not write about issues that A) discuss (74 comments) improving the climate dialogue and B) do not propose ideas (17 50 comments) that might lead people to stop yelling at each other from insular cocoons.

Did I miss anything?

18 Responses to “Talk to the Hand”

  1. Stu says:

    And never ever talk about psychedelics again…


  2. Keith, the debate is one great big game of Rock Paper Scissors. It is science, versus ideology, versus precautionary principle. The heat in the debate is generated by fundamental disagreements over the rule sheet, and a failure to agree which trumps which.
    It is impossible to convince your opponent that you have won a round if your expectations are that scientific requirements are met while their expectations are that political goals are met. It is impossible to convince your opponent that you have won a round if your expectation is that due diligence is essential while their expectation is that immediate action is taken.
    Unless and until you sight and never lose focus on these fractures in the debate’s landscape, you will be interminably baffled by the apparently veracious appetites for conflict of participants.

  3. Indeed it is clear that antagonism sells. But you left only one day for the previous post. Is that enough to gauge its popularity? (i guess with your current schedule of multiple posts a day it may be, but I can hardly keep up…)

  4. Huge Difference says:

    Keith, comment 14 has broken the post “The Bipartisan Climate Project” for me in Chrome and IE, although it is readable in Firefox.  It is completely unreadable, and the comment form does not even show up.  That may account for some amount of the poor response rate.
    If I weren’t on automatic moderation still, you might have learned of this last night.

  5. Bob Koss says:

    KK & HD #4
    Same problem as HD. My Opera browser also won’t show past mid comment 14 in the climate project thread.

  6. keith kloor says:

    I use Firefox, but I’m not sure why that would matter for anyone else. Still, I’ll look into it. (If folks are having a hard time reading the post or thread, please let me know.)
    Bart, threads usually take on a life of their own fairly quickly after a post appears–if it resonates with readers.

  7. Judith Curry says:

    Hi Keith, Blog dynamics are pretty interesting. i did a similar analysis over at Climate Etc.
    What sells at my site (which is a pretty techy group) is anything having to do with climategate.  People can’t get enough of that and the emerging personalities.
    Of the technical threads, basic radiative transfer/greenhouse effect sells the best, rather than the more applied topics like Pakistan floods and hurricanes (little interest in disaster porn I guess).
    And when I post something that is timely, about a topic that is getting a lot of discussion at other blogs (like media, communication, politics) it can fall pretty flat at my place.
    I would be interested in more “research” on climate blog dynamics :), pretty interesting.

  8. intrepid_wanders says:

    Another potentially interesting thread could be a bi-partisan WG3 style report (one from each?) on the various topics covered in IPPC-AR4 (CAS-AR5).  It would be very lively to have guest post in a bit more “formal format” contributing to a collective Collide-a-Scape Assessment Report.
    Picking the pairs might require some CaS democracy, but it would be enjoyable listening to both sides of each issue.  All you have to find are the pairs for the following:

    Chapter 1: Introduction
    Chapter 2: Framing Issues
    Chapter 3: Issues related to mitigation in the long-term context
    Chapter 4: Energy Supply
    Chapter 5: Transport and its infrastructure
    Chapter 6: Residential and commercial buildings
    Chapter 7: Industry
    Chapter 8: Agriculture
    Chapter 9: Forestry
    Chapter 10: Waste management
    Chapter 11: Mitigation from a cross-sectoral perspective
    Chapter 12: Sustainable Development and mitigation
    Chapter 13: Policies, instruments, and co-operative arrangements
    Just a thought.

  9. David Palmer says:

    I was responsible for post #14 on previous thread.
    I use Mozilla Firefox but cut and pasted something out of a Word document I had put together sometime earlier – probably cut and pasted the IAC quote from one of their documents, maybe a pdf file, can’t remember.
    Did I do something wrong?

  10. Keith, the problem is definitely code from David’s post #14. There is a MS Word ‘comment’ in what David pasted which is not closed properly. This renders the HTML code following the comment as HTML comment, rather than as HTML code.
    If you can edit the post directly, find the first mention of ‘IAC’ in post #14. The comment follows immediately after that. Remove from the post and it should then render on all browsers correctly.

  11. Pascvaks says:

    Weather, Economics, Politics, Guns, Sex, Food.. oh yes.. Religion, Investments, Taxes, The Next Generation, Life’s Lessons, Booze, Drugs, Mexico, the UN, The Death of Music as we know it,… there must be a few more areas that can spark some interest… 

  12. Keith, everything after comment #14 on that thread appears in italics to me, using Firefox ..including the post I just made there.  Needs fixin’.

  13. harrywr2 says:

    It really depends on whether your personal goal is to sell controversy or solutions and who you want to influence.
    Blogs give policy makers an incredible insight into how the public views various issues. Everything presented in ‘big media’ is filtered.
    Reading the op-ed page of the NY Times only presents how the editors of the New York Times believe the public perceives the issue.
    Congressman Blowhard wants to know what to expect when he speaks at a town hall meeting on a given subject or proposes a given policy. Polling data rarely reveals the depth of peoples opinions.
    Waiting to determine the depth of peoples opinions on a given subject until they show up at the polling place on election day is a poor way to insure Congressman Blowhards career aspirations.
    Idea’s that generate a lot of controversy are good for the fund-raising letters.
    Idea’s that generate little controversy end up as policy.
    In the old days congressional staffers would anonymously ‘leak’ policy proposals so that Congressman Blowhard could gauge public sentiment before publicly committing himself to a policy. Avoiding the ‘flipper’ label is high on Congressman Blowhards list of things to do today.
    Now they just read the blogs.
    Real Climate is a useless blog from a policy makers perspective, as it’s heavily moderated. Romm’s place gives a view of what the left thinks but still suffers from moderation. Watt’s place creates a place  where the right’s thoughts can be gauged. Curry’s place probably has the broadest cross section of views.
    Curry’s place also provides quite a good insight not only into what people believe, but why they believe it.
    Hansen et al can view  Curry as a heretic and Watts as a denier but they are asking important questions that Congressman Blowhard needs answered. I.E. What policies will generate a lynch mob and what policies will people have little or no strong opinion about.

  14. John Fleck says:

    Keith –
    I was halfway through writing a comment on your noble suggestion post, drawing a line between it and the BTI-Heritage-Brookings suggestion. Then I lost my train of thought, because it’s much easier to be angry and confrontational than thoughtful and conciliatory. 🙂

  15. Keith Kloor says:

    I’ll be elaborating on the Bipartisan Climate Project idea tomorrow. Perhaps it needs to be sketched out some more so people have specifics to discuss.

    Also, I think the word “bipartisan” implies something political, which may be off-putting to people. So I’ll be putting forward some different names too.



  16. If you could resolve the issue I identified at #10, it would help. It seems a lot of us can’t participate in that discussion at present.

  17. Keith Kloor says:

    It’s unclear to me what the problem is, beyond comments showing up italicized—and just on that thread.

    If there are “a lot” of folks who want to participate in the discussion,  tomorrow’s post will be a good opportunity.

    Today is Martin Luther King day in the U.S. Lots of folks are off from work.

  18. isaacschumann says:

    three words Keith: FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!! 😉

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