Those that reject the science behind global warming have nothing to back them. They can’t rely on the scientific literature as it clearly shows they’re wrong. They can only point to the odd flawed paper that manages to get through peer-review. If no flawed research is available then they might switch over to misrepresenting valid research. This means that they’re at odds with the majority of the scientific community and don’t get any support from them.
I’ve already written several blog posts about Alexa and how notoriously bad its statistics are. Not really surprising that they are bad if you know how the data for those statistics is gathered. For the bulk of their data Alexa relies on people installing the Alexa Toolbar (or a toolbar that passes information to Alexa). It’s this toolbar that monitors to which websites you go and how you end up on them.
This has as a result that demographic, used browsers, and even the country visitors are from influence the data that Alexa gathers about a website. This can introduce serious artefacts and biases into the collected data and basically makes the statistics generated from it worthless. At best it can give you an idea about how well a website is doing, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re seeing matches reality. I’ve already written a far more detailed blog post about how Alexa works and why you never should rely on the data it provides; it’s just too unreliable.
Don’t lynch me yet, there’s a point to the title I picked. It has to do with an image I saw on my Facebook feed that uses a drawing from a Dr Seuss story:
I don’t know who originally made this image, but I noticed it via a share from the Facebook page for the organization SumOfUs. Their campaigns and messaging make it very clear that they do not like Monsanto and are anti-GMO.
That Alexa isn’t good at giving reliable statistics is well known in IT. Any website like Alexa that tries to estimate traffic to a website in a similar way via indirect measurements will encounter the same issues it has. Those that work in IT often know what those issues are and know what the consequences are for the data that’s gathered via those methods.
The main issue that Alexa has is that it gathers the data it uses via users that installed the Alexa toolbar (or a toolbar that passes information to Alexa). This has as a result that demographic, used browsers, and even the country visitors are from influence the statistics that Alexa gathers about a website. This can introduce serious artefacts and biases into the collected data and basically makes Alexa data worthless. At best it can give you an idea about how well a website is doing, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re seeing matches reality. I’ve already written a far more detailed blog post about how Alexa works and why you never should rely on the data it provides; it’s just too unreliable.
The blog post that I wrote about Alexa were all sparked by Anthony Watts using Alexa data to claim he’s doing better than his competition. His website is certainly big and it could very well be the case that he is outperforming his competitors. But Alexa is not the tool that you can use for determining if you are doing better than your competitor.
Anthony Watts is very fond of using Alexa statistics for showing how popular his blog is. Especially when he can use it to show that his blog is more popular than websites that spread good information on climate science.
But the problem is that Alexa uses indirect measurements to give an estimate for how much a website is visited. This makes Alexa traffic statistics basically worthless if you’re trying to do any serious analysis of visitor numbers to websites. You just don’t use it as you will almost always get something that isn’t remotely close to reality (although some businesses do use this data).
Watts should know this considering how often it was pointed out to him that Alexa isn’t reliable. Something I also wrote about in my blog post ‘Why You Shouldn’t Use Alexa Traffic Statistics‘. Yet it doesn’t stop Watts from using it to boast about his website in his blog post ‘The other divergence problem – climate communications‘ (archived here):
As my regular readers will know I try to keep tabs on what is happening on social media in regards to climate change and global warming. Sometimes because of that I (eventually) notice other odd things that are doing the rounds on social media.
This time it was a Tumblr post talking about the Label It Yourself Campaign that my Facebook friends were sharing. If you’re wondering what the Label It Yourself Campaign is the original tumblr post explains it well enough:
The Label It Yourself (#LIY) campaign is a decentralized, autonomous grassroots campaign born out of our broken food system. We have been asking our government to label food products so we can make educated decisions about what we eat. The government has ignored our requests and so we are taking matters into our own hands.
Get your labels at www.labelityourself.org or create our own!
I’m utterly against what they are trying to do with this campaign. Not because I think they aren’t allowed to know what is or isn’t genetically modified, but because of how they’re attempting to get this information to the consumers.
Watts is known for using Alexa web traffic statistics to show how well his website is doing compared to other blogs. Often to boast he’s doing far better than for example Skeptical Science or Real Climate.
Via the comment section of WottsUpWithThat the user @vitaminCSS pointed to a tweet where he joked around a bit about the graphs in response to Watts latest usage of Alexa data. Because I saw his comment I responded to his tweet saying that “Alexa is notoriously unreliable with the type of statistics it gives. You can’t do any comparisons with it.”
It was just me giving an opinion on how inaccurate the Alexa data is and that you shouldn’t use it. Watts did respond to my remark, and before I address his response to me I’ll explain why I think Alexa data is unreliable.
Anthony Watts often pokes fun at campaigns, or any public messaging, about global warming. This time he did it with the video in which president Obama states he’s going to announce his climate plans:
AP: Obama says he’ll unveil climate plan in Tuesday speech ‘for the sake of our children’.
It seems though, that the world is making a collective yawn (consensus?) so far given the views. The video has been up for several hours and has only a few hundred views and has 437 “likes” as of this writing.
As someone who releases most of his science content on YouTube, let me explain something about how YouTube counts views. If you see a 301+ view count it means that you went above 300 views and now YouTube is going to verify if the views you’re getting are legit. This has as a consequence that the view count isn’t updated anymore in real-time and you will have to wait several hours before they update (this can take up to a day before it’s updated).
Science reporting is hard, and mistakes can be made. But I never expected the BBC could cover a subject this badly. David Shukman (BBC Science Editor) – Synthetic Biology Watch this video on YouTube Back in March, David Shukman (BBC Science Editor) published a short report on synthetic biology. The reports cast a shadow on the hard work of scientists…
It’s extraordinary how a simple music video can so well convey the wonders of science. Symphony of Science – The Greatest Show on Earth! A music video about Evolution Watch this video on YouTube A musical celebration of the wonders of biology, including evolution, natural selection, DNA, and more. Featuring David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and Bill Nye.