Responding To Watts About Anonymous OpinionsBy Collin Maessen on comment
Something I almost always do is to let someone know that I’ve mentioned them in one of my blog post. It’s why I sent my “Anonymous Opinion ‘Not Worth Bucket Of Warm Spit‘” post to Wotts and Watts on Twitter.
And Watts did responds to it with a tweet containing a link to his FAQ page. This is the relevant section from it:
Q. Why do a couple of guest essays have nom de plum names? Aren’t you adamant about people putting their names behind their words?
A. Anyone who publishes on WUWT must be known to the proprietor, and they are all known to me. This requirement is mainly for legal reasons. When running a large enterprise such as this, there may be a legal challenges to writing, and the writer must be held accountable for his/her own words in that case. For the few occasions where somebody wants to publish on WUWT using a nom de plume, the first requirement is full disclosure before publication, and that communications is recorded should there ever be an issue in the furture. Of the nearly 10,000 posts on WUWT, there are just a few that were given the opportunity to publish this way. For good reason, some of those authors fear things like this from activists such as Greenpeace: We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work. And we be many, but you be few.
Publishing on WUWT under a nom de plume known to the proprietor is different from anonymous commenters or some of my doppleganger blog children who use the cloak of anonymity to launch personal attacks against me or contributors to WUWT. For example, in a U.S. court of law, the accused is given the right to openly face the accuser(s). WUWT’s author policy of allows for that if need be. With external attackers who claim self righteousness under the cloak of anonymity, not so much.
No, allowing nom de plum names – also known as pseudonyms – for authors of content on your website is not different from anonymous users criticising Watts.
In my previous blog post I referenced the Federalist Papers where I said this:
Through history anonymity was used to enable someone to speak freely and to let people only judge their arguments. Nowadays we know that several of the founding fathers did this with the Federalist Papers.
I referenced the Federalist Papers for a very specific reason, to quote from the Wikipedia article:
At the time of publication the authorship of the articles was a closely guarded secret, though astute observers discerned the identities of Hamilton, Madison, and Jay.
The authors used the pseudonym “Publius”, in honor of Roman consul Publius Valerius Publicola.
Like I said discussions and exchanges in the context of climate science are often very nasty. And anonymity can help you shield your private and professional life from it. I fully agree with Watts on this as an acceptable use for anonymity.
But that doesn’t make contributors any less anonymous for the rest of the world if Watts knows their real identities. That’s why I said that “as far as I can tell the real identities of these people aren’t publicly known” when referring to these contributors. As I already knew that Watts has their real identities.
I have friends that are also anonymous – often for very good reasons – who have trusted me with their real identities and contact details. Some of the content on this very website I created while collaborating with them. But me knowing their names does not make them any less anonymous to the world.
That’s why I was so critical about what Watts said about his opponents being anonymous. If you allow anonymous contributors to criticize people on your blog, please be consistent and allow others do to the same thing towards you.
The problem here seems to be that Watts sees these anonymous critics as attacking him. However, being critical isn’t the same as attacking someone. Especially if done so politely and with a willingness to correct anything that isn’t factually correct or to apologise when you aren’t polite. As Wotts demonstrated with the two tweets he sent to Watts:
If you can find somewhere where I’ve personally attacked you or your commentators I will apologise unreservedly. I don’t mean criticise your views on the science though.
Same goes for me. I have no problem whatsoever to correct statements or apologising if something wasn’t polite. As I’m Dutch I speak my mind and don’t mince words while doing it. But I do make a point of being polite and only addressing the arguments (i.e. not going after the person). Or in this case addressing the consistency of an adopted policy.
All this I indirectly referenced in my previous blog post on this matter. I didn’t completely explain it as I thought it wasn’t necessary to get my point across. But it seems best that I should do this in the future to prevent misunderstandings.
But unfortunately I won’t be able to engage Watts any more on Twitter as he has blocked me. As far as I can tell the last straw for him was me being critical about his usage of Alexa internet traffic statistics. Considering I work in IT I have some very good reasons for being dismissive about any conclusions based on those statistics, but that’s a different blog post.
I just don’t understand why polite outspoken criticism isn’t appreciated by those that have no qualms whatsoever to be very blunt towards opponents (and that’s putting it mildly). Yes, I’m direct and I can come across as blunt on Twitter (thanks to the 140 character limit). But I do not understand why for example James Delingpole, and now Watts, take offence to that.
The only person that has blocked me on Twitter is Ben Pile (clim8resistance), or at least I think he has as I can no longer see his tweets. That was after I criticised his Making Science Public post and his blog and he called me a pr**k. As far as I can tell, I criticised his views and he personally insulted me, so I should probably have blocked him. Anyway, not being able to see his tweets may be better than being able to see them, so maybe it’s better this way 🙂
You can easily find out if you are blocked or not. If you try to follow someone on Twitter that has you blocked Twitter will tell you that.
I haven’t interacted with Pile yet, don’t feel much inclination for that considering with how he engages others.
Although he is one of the people I follow on Twitter to keep an eye on what the so-called sceptics are saying.
I was going through a few of my old blog posts and when I saw your comment I realized I hadn’t seen any tweets recently from clim8resistance on twitter. So I checked and I’m blocked by him.
With Delingpole and Watts I at least know which exchange triggered the block. But I have no idea why Ben Pile blocked me. I can’t recall having any interactions with him.
It’s interesting that Anthony might have blocked you for suggesting that he may be over-estimating his readership numbers, but hasn’t blocked you or others for suggesting that most of the science presented on his site is wrong. Makes you wonder what his priorities are 🙂
Well the interesting thing is that he went after me with a straw man. As he said this:
“Colin is 110% anti WUWT, wouldn’t matter if listed on TIME like Revkin, he’d find something not to like #Loser”
My qualm wasn’t with those statistics, as I don’t have a reason to think that they aren’t accurate. I have an issue with him using Alexa data as it is not reliable. You will get a wrong answer if you use that data for comparisons.
Which goes for all sites that don’t use the actual direct statistics of a website (and that is just the tip of the iceberg).
As far as I can tell he took so much offence to my criticism is that he seems to be sensitive to criticism that casts doubt on the popularity of his blog.
Watts is a hypocrite for dissing the anonymous who attack him, considering the fact that so many of his commenters use fake names to attack a lot of people. That *he* may (and likely only sometimes) know who they are doesn’t matter. He defends himself with the statement that in the US courts “the accused is given the right to openly face the accuser(s)”. However, since the anonymous contributor on WUWT is anonymous to the accused since only Anthony Watts *may* know who it is, clearly Watts doesn’t apply this adagio uniformly.
Collin, as techie, do you know whether you can see a graph with the pageviews of your blog on the dashboard of WordPress, just as with Blogger?
If yes, I “wonder” why Watts did not show a screenshot of this accurate graph and preferred an inaccurate estimate by Alexa instead. Maybe the difference between these two graphs explains why he was so touchy.
P.S. With respect to anonymity, the situation at WUWT and wottsupwiththatblog is the same. In both cases the blog-host knows the name of the post-writers.
I don’t know if it’s on his dashboard, but I do know WordPress has statistics capabilities. You can see that Watts has this running thanks to the little smilie face you see if you scroll down to the bottom of one of his pages.
Also self hosted WordPress blogs, like mine, can have this capability if you install the JetPack plugin by WordPress. It enables features you would normally only have if you’re on the WordPress environment.
I would be very surprised if Watts wasn’t aware of this WordPress feature.
However, I wouldn’t speculate on any nefarious reasons as you can’t know his motivations. Other sites often don’t publish their web traffic statistics so he doesn’t have any data from them to compare with. So it’s him using what he has available to compare traffic.
What you can criticize him for is that what he’s using isn’t reliable and any conclusions you draw from that data will be wrong. You can also criticize him for ignoring people who point this out to him.
There is going to be a follow up post by me explaining the issues with Alexa and how Watts treated me when I hinted at this.
Collin, he did not compare his Alexa ranking with others, just looked at the temporal behavior to point out the recent increase. By now I am quite sure that this increase is spurious. A new post coming up soon.
In his latest post about it he did, the websites Skeptical Science and Real Climate are in the graph.
This time he didn’t say anything about it in the post itself. But he does almost always include those websites in the Alexa graphs that he uses.
Your are right. And thank you for the tip to look at old posts about Alexa, there are hundreds of pages at WUWT about Alexa. That guy seems to see his Alexa Rank as the corner stone of his “legitimacy”. And already complained previously about people claiming that Alexa ratings are not accurate.
One of these posts linked to the first WUWT post, which was fittingly already talking about anonymous cowards.
Hi Collin, my post on the Alexa traffic jump of WUWT is published. And the jump is pure deception, again, nothing happened the last few months.
Looking forward to your Alexa post.