Raising the level of the game: Part II

by Judith Curry

There has been considerable interesting discussion on the previous thread.  I plan to follow up with thread on verification and validation of climate models, and am pondering how to deal with explaining the greenhouse effect.  On this thread, I would like to see discussion on this thread focus on the following:

•  Establish an information system with climate data records, that include both raw and processed data sets with uncertainty estimates and the supporting documentation to explain the processing and uncertainty assessment.  The data should be easily accessible and searchable with ontologies and semantic search.

•  Figure out how to better use the blogosphere to enable large-scale collective intelligence to address the scientific challenges, including open source and crowd source.

On the previous thread, BlueIce2HotSea made submitted a provocative idea, that is related to the idea of semantic web:

By using selectable criteria, any given combination of perspective, category, poster and rankings could be used to filter posts.

Another plus is that posters with a political rating of say, ‘irrelevant troll’ might have limited posting abilities on technical threads. This would allow for some spicy disruption of intelligent, civil discussion, but not a complete derailment. If a troll’s comment happens to be relevant, an appropriate poster could extend a troll’s comment limit for that thread, etc.

To make this work, registered posters would need the ability to rank themselves and other posters in a variety of categories. Individual posts and sub-threads would be also rankable.

I wonder how a poster’s self-ranking might differ from one given by others. Or how posters’ rankings would change over time. I think ranking and filtering could point to areas where climate science is most solid and to the most clear and interesting discussions. Maybe it could point -in a helpful way- to areas where it is lacking.

Ideally, ranking and filtering would provide useful information for studies in political science, philosophy of science or maybe even climate science.

Your thoughts on how to raise the level of these aspects of the game?

100 responses to “Raising the level of the game: Part II

  1. On the previous thread, BlueIce2HotSea made submitted a provocative idea, that is related to the idea of semantic web:

    Yes, keeping mere patent clerks from opining about that which they have no training for and not bothering the professionals with their nonsense worked rather well in the past.

    • no, people (i.e. everybody) gets to vote on what they find convincing.

      • That will lead to partisan ganging up and sandbagging, and the conversation will will derailed by endless wrangling over rankings. Better to just scroll past the people you find fall on the wrong side of your personal signal to noise ratio.

        Utter trollishness could get a sinbin timeout, at the discretion of the blog owner. No right of appeal, though they are welcome to set up their own blog where they can whinge about how they got ‘excluded’.

    • BlueIce2HotSea

      The sole benefit I ought to have claimed is custom information retrieval. There have been numerous times when I have arrived late to a blog postings and ended up reading all 600+ comments to see if a certain POV has been represented or if there are interesting OT sub-threads with external links. A filtering/ranking option would have saved me months of wading through squabbling on less interesting things.

      The focus on the rules for troll control is moot as this blog owner, Dr. Curry prefers none. And if ranking is done with the knowledge and participation of users, it does not seem so bad to me.

      Regardless, the general idea will be probably universally implemented when software for semantic interpretation of written speech becomes better and cheaper. So, get used to the idea.

      • Great, censorship by software.
        If only the climate science community could have waited to wander off into apocalypse promotion until censorship software was developed, none of this peskiness would be happening.

      • BlueIce2HotSea

        To be sure, there is potential for abuse from all parties in the mix.

        I understand that it is important to have participation by so-called trols and eccentrics. For example, at least one patent clerk had his papers reviewed by then current and future Noel Laureates. His papers were published only because they had the capacity to understand their significance. In today’s world, that ‘crackpot’ patent clerk would not get reviewed, at least not by an appropriate reviewer.

        Try to focus on a goal of maximizing the discovery of useful information. What system can we imagine that would allow modern Einsteins to share their ideas. (They must exist, no?)

        The problem is connecting an arcane, obscure insight originated by an outsider with insiders that might be interested. Spamming, heckling, disrupting and posting on the wrong threads is not something I am opposing, per se. Otherwise we might lose out on serendipitous discovery. So all you folks from “Save The Trolls” should calm down.

        On the other hand, the person you are trying to reach may be engrossed in something else at the time. Shouldn’t they have equal choice in the noise level, and direction of their thoughts? More importantly, what if they want to pull-up that comment buried in a thread 14,000 comments ago that seemed odd at the time, but now seems important, only they are about to waste 1/2 day for possibly nothing because Google is completely inadequate.

        The way to make this work for everyone is to first brain-storm the desired positives, then detail the potential negatives, then work out The system can be programmed to do anything we like provided that we can use human-intelligence for the ranking and filtering.

        Most importantly, don’t think with your knees.

      • A filtering/ranking option would have saved me months of wading through squabbling on less interesting things.

        Understood. My concern is that a system like this tends to be abused such that, like the soft sciences, it becomes popularity driven, which is an ongoing climate science problem. This then results in people like Jerry Pournelle observing that a lot of climate science seems to be dominated by “proof by repeated assertion.” Willis Eschenbach observed this same thing and phrases it as a “smell test” in the Engaging The Public thread. I find these observations compelling enough that I think the proper course is to reject these types of ranking systems categorically.

        I agree that uncivil and/or deliberately provocative (useless troll) posts need to be moderated off the system entirely, and some sort of ranking of topicality ought to be used; e.g. threads regarding instrumentation shouldn’t be hijacked with irrelevant discussion of whether of not there’s really a greenhouse effect.

        If this is your intent then certainly we’re in violent agreement. :-)

        Of course, this is Dr Curry’s call, and ultimately I’m but some random nobody who is probably wrong. As such, thanks for listening; I hope I’m not wasting everyone’s time.

      • BlueIce2HotSea

        Thank you for engaging. I too, am a nobody so you are not wasting my time and everyone else will ignore us anyway.

        I hope my advocacy for the value of this idea does not turn me trollish! Unfortunately, I am spending all my efforts explaining away peoples fears rather than the benefits.

        I think the proper course is to reject these types of ranking systems categorically.

        How would you feel about a system that consisted entirely of self-ranking your own comments? Perhaps you have some, as I do, that you’d rather not have written. You could re-categorize them as unclear or “I’ve changed my mind”! Of course, some users will focus entirely on the bad ones. How about if your posts were also ranked by anonymous ‘others’? Remember, this is what we all are doing informally each time we read a comment. Would the tabulation of that information necessarily lead to abuse?

        I agree that uncivil and/or deliberately provocative (useless troll) posts need to be moderated off the system entirely, and some sort of ranking of topicality ought to be used; e.g. threads regarding instrumentation shouldn’t be hijacked with irrelevant discussion of whether of not there’s really a greenhouse effect.

        Well, we’re are not in complete agreement, but close. My idea is that initially, trollish OT comments should be allowed on all threads (i.e. I hate that guy…). It can be useful for a variety of reasons. But once a so-called troll has planted their flag, they ought to “step up their game” in future posts. Perhaps you and I would be the only one voting to place a limit (i.e. 2) on future repetitive comments. But it would be useful in reigning in the resulting food fight. At some point, additional troll comments could be routed to a free-for-all thread for participants and observers.

        Repetitive OT posts such as “the greenhouse effect does not exist” would get similar treatment; they would be transferred to a more appropriate thread (hmm, not sure how to categorize this thread without using a value-laden inflammatory label, so I refrain).

        It’s important to realize that the potential for abuse is limited by the attitudes of the blog-owner. In this case, all are welcomed by Dr. Curry, so I am not too worried.

  2. Hi Judith

    I know from personal experience that some commercial organisations (IBM is one) have been doing exercises not unlike your idea of

    ‘figuring out how to better use the blogosphere to enable large-scale collective intelligence to address the scientific challenges, including open source and crowd source’.

    I have been a participant in two or three such.

    Contact me privately if you’d like to follow up.

  3. Invoking any sort of ranking system, much less one that would limit posting, would have the opposite effect that you desire. Idealogues will become much more numerous. There is a self correcting system for trolls. People learn to ignore them and they go away.

    • This blog works remarkably well so far. Moderating comments is bad news.

      Setting the tone and direction of the debate through the opening editorials and guided by Curry’s response to comments works here and elsewhere.

      Well done Prof. Curry. Keep going.

    • BlueIce2HotSea

      But what about trolls who are paid to be trolls? They will not go away. The reason they come to a site is to drive you away.

      And much as I enjoy observing the riparte, at some point, trollish comments are left to stand unchallenged. Allowing endless troll comments has the effect of endorsing the censorship of the more mild-mannered, civil posters. And I am opposed to that sort of censorship.

      • Who are these trolls and how do they get paid? I could do with some pocket money before Christmas.

      • BlueIce2HotSea

        Me too.

        A troll-for-hire company is discussed here.

        “NetVocates then recruits activists and consumers who share the client’s views in order to reinforce those key messages on targeted blogs – and rebut misinformation when appropriate.”

        But the domain name all that is for sale, now. If there is no longer such thing in this world, my apologies for the bad info.

      • H’mm

        Sounds like they went out of business over three yeas ago. And I’ve tried applying to ‘Big Oil’ on Wall Street as so many warmists assured me that they were dishing out money L, R and C to sceptics.

        But sadly that was a false trail too. They turned out to be spending not very much at all – not even the (in) famous Koch Industries.

        Looks like I’ll have to stick to my little part time travelling job. Shame. Paid for blogging is cosy and warm…surveying the state of public transport in the winter is not.

      • Fenton? EMS? Tides? NOAA?

      • BlueIce2HotSea


      • I can’t reply to an unspecified question.

  4. I am totally with Steven. Let strolls do as they please (except for unacceptable language, be it from trolls or others), just ignore them.

  5. Ranking systems are used on other sites. Ones where everyone gets a vote quickly degrade into a situation where people up opinions they agree with and vote down opinions they disagree with. People also band together and cooperate to vote down particular points of view and vote up their own.

    The semantic web stuff may all sound interesting but you’ve probably noticed searching and filtering are rarely useful ways of accessing information. That’s not going to change anytime soon.

    • I agree with sharper00 in this case. He has already challenged me to think further about issues I had not contemplated and even to revisit RC (lol). I don’t see how group think can be avoided in such a system. Is the problem now one of too many voices? Perhaps you could have a system where threads of interest to many spawned their own separate discussions and sub-threads. Some of these might even eventually drive research, which would be a very interesting and positive development, I think.

  6. About the thread on “making skeptic’s best case”: there are indeed some scientific papers attempting to show that certain tenets of official IPCC theory of climate change are wrong. But the main skeptic points are not of that sort: they have mostly pointed their fingers at things that are not known for certain. For instance, the long effort displayed by Steven McIntyre about the Hockey Stick chart started with him wondering how they could possibly know that recent warm was actually unprecedented. What were the measurement techniques, what were the data, what was the code, how different proxies were collated together and spliced with thermometer data, how are these thermometer data affected by increasing urban heat in their surroundings, how are station data selected and interpolated between, how would clouds influence GHG effects, what is really the figure for climate sensitivity, and so on. In most cases, these questions have elicited certain unseemly defects in the data, the procedures, the code, leading many of them, not to assert the opposite thesis (that greenhouse effects do not exist, or that the climate is cooling), but to remark on our ignorance and uncertainty (they have also remarked on “hiding the uncertainty” tricks).

    If someone makes an extraordinary claim (e.g. that human influence has modified world climate in the last 50 or so years) the burden of proof is with those claiming that. It is not with others that simply remark on the great uncertainty surrounding these issues, or the strange features of the data and procedures used to reach that claim.

  7. Peter Thorne of the Met Office would claim he is already doing this – setting up a new and open data source. But on the project blog he deleted comments that were at all critical of the project. A meeting was held at Exeter to discuss it – carefully selected invitees only. Roger Pielke had some interesting comments on his blog about it.

    Regarding your blog – please can we have some stricter moderation!
    It has become a victim of its own success and the sensible relevant comments get lost among all the irrelevant nonsense. Even comments that clearly break the blog rules seem to be allowed through.

    • I’m thinking of a system with all the climate data records (satellite, paleo, etc) that is searchable and user friendly in terms of data formats.

      Pls email me with some specific messages you find objectionable. I’m trying to spend my time responding to comments and preparing new posts, rather than focusing on moderation.

      • I have seen almost nothing that was not sensible and relevant. But then perhaps some people think sensible (or credible, its cousin) means personally agreeable or interesting.

  8. I would very much like to see a focussed discussion on climate sensitivity (to a doubling of CO2, assuming that can happen) restricted to those who have (say) published a paper or papers on the topic.

    Clearly this crucial issue is one that can be focussed on, leaving (for the moment) the many other aspects of climate change.

    There seems to be little argument that the base physics leads to a conclusion that a doubling of CO2 will lead to around 1 deg C of warming. Where there are differences (and these are major) is in relation to feedbacks. The IPCC team seem to be worried (and convinced) that the sensitivity is positive and large – they seem to conclude 3 deg C for a doubling of CO2. Others (Lindzen, Spencer and others) conclude that the feedbacks are neutral or negative such that the warming resulting from a doubling of CO2 will be 1 deg C or less.

    So far as I can see, the IPCC team have not really made a strong case for their assumption of strongly positive feedbacks – to paraphrase, it is “we are climate scientists. We know what we are talking about. Trust us.” On the other hand, so far as I can see, those arguing for neutral or negative feedbacks are making coherent arguments based on observed history and strong science.

    Allowing the interested public (and politicians) to observe an informed discussion would be very educational, and allow us to get to grips as to who to believe.

    One of the problems with the high traffic generated by this site is that every thread quickly becomes overwhelmed by comments such that it is difficult for anybody (including I am sure you Judith) to read and absorb all that is being said. Restricting an occasional thread to qualified posters would I think be very useful.

    • I have two topics to work on over the xmas break: arctic climate, and climate sensitivity. Both will be multiple part series. Agreed that this is a key topic.

    • restricted to those who have (say) published a paper or papers on the topic.

      Please. We know how the peer review process has been gamed, and we know about the partisan character of the Nature and Science editors, so let’s not use this as a definition of expertise.

    • Having an occasional string where Dr A debates Dr B on elements of the climate they are experts on would be interesting. The rest of us could be limited to commenting on the debate to a different string. I would find this interesting and noise reducing.

      • I agree. I would like to see online debates as well. I don’t think threads identified as such would be a problem and would allow for some detailed presentation of issues in a neutral format.

      • Online debates would merely be brief summaries of papers (if said debate was to be credible), with references, so we could examine the claims made in light of the science. Why bother with a debate when all we’d end up doing is reading the papers anyway?

      • I am happy to do this, if we can identify a specific group of people to discuss a topic, with commentary from others on a parallel thread. I had this model in mind when I started climate etc., but a combination of debaters has not yet materialized. Who would like to take on Pat Michaels? I bet i could convince him to do this at some point when his schedule allows.

      • I think this is a very exciting prospect. The relevant documents in one place for reading and comparison. Perhaps you could invite the authors, or key ones anyway, to moderate an associated blog thread? It reminds me of a scene in Annie Hall where Woodie Allen hears someone talking about Marshal McLuhan and can’t take what he’s hearing – so he brings Marshal McLuhan himself into the film to talk to the guy. Very funny. On the other hand, much of art is in the eye of the viewer and a brave artist will listen with interest to viewer’s observations. I think there might be some similarly brave scientists out there who would welcome the adventure.

  9. Forty years ago Feyerabend (Against Method) hold the idea that the validity of scientific propositions and theories cannot be based simply on the consensus of scientists, and proposed that submitting such theories to popular vote would be equally valid. It is not clear whether he made those remarks seriously or in jest, but both ways are epistemologically wrong. Popular vote may at some point favor Ptolemaic astronomy, phrenology and creationism, adding nil to the validity of those theories. Scientific consensus is a correct approach, only insofar as scientific communities work in honest and transparent ways, without political or ideological interference, and letting all theories and methods compete in pursuit of the truth.

    In most areas they do. And scientists may agree with or dissent with each other regardless of politics. The anarchist-socialist-pacifist Einstein and the right-wing warmonger Edward Teller may agree on Relativity Theory, as did Heisenberg with his western colleagues while he was himself collaborating (sort of) with the Third Reich.

    But such appears not to be the case in climate change, since science has become entangled with advocacy. In such conditions, only an institutional change bringing back science to the scientific realm and separating it from policy and advocacy may restore the self-correcting mechanisms of critical inquiry, transparent data, and ruthless discussion of opposite theses, that are at the core of the scientific method. That would also restore the credibility of climate science.

    • AnthropoceneEndGame

      “Scientific consensus is the correct aproach..”
      You’re not going to reach scientific consensus here, but how do you propose scientific consensus on AGW be measured (again) within the climate science community, if that’s what you favor?

      • AnthropoceneEndGame: What I meant was that scientific consensus (or validation by the scientific community) is not arbitrary but based on competition of rival theories under criteria of empirical corroboration/falsification and logical consistency. Scientific knowledge is established by competition and the evolution of competing conceptual frameworks, in a way more akin to evolution by natural selection than to mathematical proofs. Such at least is the prevailing “natural epistemology” view about how scientific knowledge progresses. It aims at the truth, but it never arrives to complete or definitive truth (or one never knows whether it has arrived or not yet): theories are challenged again and again, and sometimes toppled or corrected or superseded by a better one, e.g. one giving a superior and more parsimonious account of facts with better empirical predictions.

        However, scientific consensus may build up around erroneous theories: it has happened many times. For the above competitive process to achieve good results on a (more or less) continuing basis it needs a correct institutional environment of free inquiry and discussion, and a set of incentives that encourage the relentless pursuit of truth by a rational and skeptical-minded community of scientists. If that environment is corrupted by politics or bad incentives or ideological advocacy, the chances of error are greater and may last longer, even if in the long term bad ideas do get ousted by better ones.

        Or so is my humble understanding of contemporary epistemological developments.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Not sure if this issue of consensus is critical to you in this thread, but you brought it up. We have consensus on plate tectonics in the geosciences, and on evolution within biology. How will we know if there’s consensus on AGW (or a competing theory) within the climate science community? How do you you propose to measure it? You seem to be suggesting consesnus does exist now (within the CC research community), so I presume you have a method to measure it.

    • Ptolemaic astronomy, phrenology, and creationism were once respected mainstream science. Indeed, Harvard University still has a Louis Agassiz chair of palaeontology in memory of the last of the great creationist scientists of the nineteenth Century.

      I shudder to think what our descendants will make of some of the orthodoxies of today.

    • Forty years ago Feyerabend (Against Method) hold the idea that the validity of scientific propositions and theories cannot be based simply on the consensus of scientists, and proposed that submitting such theories to popular vote would be equally valid. It is not clear whether he made those remarks seriously or in jest, but both ways are epistemologically wrong. Popular vote may at some point favor Ptolemaic astronomy, phrenology and creationism, adding nil to the validity of those theories. Scientific consensus is a correct approach, only insofar as scientific communities work in honest and transparent ways, without political or ideological interference, and letting all theories and methods compete in pursuit of the truth

      Feyerabend’s point was that since the actors in the enterprise are human, it is not possible to “separate it from policy and advocacy” and that the history of science shows that theories gain ascendancy by the “kick biting and gouging” of their proponents, individually, and collectively as a theory gains adherents. He was pointing out that this is not the way it should be , but is the way it is.

      His “epistemological anarchy” was to embrace this truth. Scientists don’t like this, because it robs them of the conceit of objectivity.

      Popular vote may at some point favor Ptolemaic astronomy, phrenology and creationism, adding nil to the validity of those theories.

      Feyerabend’s point is that in scientific circles, the ‘popular vote’ (or agreement of the expert judgement of a critical mass of scientists, often through the percieved need for a ‘united front’ to preserve professional dignity) is what constitutes validity, in the absence of a coherent method for determining truth.

  10. As much as I’d enjoy having a personal “kill list” to filter out the drive by one liners (extra heat, hold the light), I have to agree with many who have posted above. The danger that factions would attempt to game the system is too great. I appreciate the fact that the discussion here is open and free. Absent abuse, I’d recommend keeping the current level of moderation.

  11. The open information system idea very much intrigues me. Ideally, such a system should allow for the features you noted above, as well as documenting usage or non-usage of elements within a data set (along with reason for exclusion). Conversion to and from various data formats would most likely be highly useful as well.

  12. Regarding data it sounds like a data center and they cost millions of dollars. There are several climate related data centers already. But perhaps you mean something less grand. The problem with the concept of data is that it can span a million orders of magnitude. For example the temperature data for year n can range from a single number to all the entries in all the raw records, logbooks, etc. When you say “all the climate data records” it sounds like the multi-million dollar end.

    Mind you there is a lot going on in this area, especially since the launch of data.gov. Because my principle client is http://www.osti.gov I am heavily involved in it, as well as the web 2.0 stuff. Most of what you are talking about is difficult and expensive, so you need to be thinking about serious support of some kind.

    As for moderation, ranking, folksonomies, etc., very little of that has worked. It is hard enough just to get good comments, which you have done.

  13. I would really like to see a short bio (education, work experience, current affiliations, etc) attached to each submitters name.

    e.g. in my case

    Charles Hart (BS Physics, MBA, semiconductor marketing, retired)

    • Charles, the Denizens thread was intended to fulfill this need, but I agree its mainly useful if you are a regular, not just stopping by. I encourage everyone to post at least a brief bio on that thread.

      • Michael Larkin

        Dr. Curry,

        Re: the denizen’s thread, you mentioned that you would create a permanent link for that. If you have time, it would be helpful, I think.

      • I tried to put this on top bar with “about”, but failed. I will try to get someone to help me with this, not sure i can put an active thread up there, will see. I will try to highlight it in some other way if that fails.

      • You need to create it as a ‘page’ rather than a ‘post’. You could create a page, paste in all the comments from the original post, and make sure comments are enabled so people can add more. If you make sure you are in ‘visual’ mode rather than HTML’ mode’ in the composition editor (tabs top right of the editor), you should keep all the live links when you paste in the material from the original thread.

        Hope that helps, email if you need to.

      • thx, i will have someone who knows what they are doing (not me!) try this tomorrow afternoon

      • AnyColourYouLike

        As an irregular poster (though a lurker from the beginning of this blog :-)) I feel that the moderation on occasion is a trifle light: I’m mainly thinking of those moments where certain posters have stalked others with name-calling Eg. “Liar” etc, and deliberately vented at an un-present 3rd party eg McIntyre. IMO a warning should have been issued on some occasions.

        However, I do agree with the majority that attempts to “filter” apparently troll-like elements may lead to unintended consequences such as an “elitist” tone on this most interesting (for me) of Climate blogs. Also, those that I have become most frustrated with personally, and ready to denounce as trolls, have often in subsequent posts made rather good scientific points that have sparked genuine discussion. Generally, I think this place is pretty well off in terms of drive-by provocation and nonsense. I also think, like all blogs, it could improve, but attempts at too much perfection, whilst noble, are probably doomed: such is the nature of the blogosphere.

        As an idea for focus, might I suggest that occasional technical threads be limited to those who have posted a bio on the denizens thread? With sufficient warning, other comments could be cut altogether, This will at least encourage more openness amongst certain commentators here, who’s experience and knowledge base is still in the “unknown” category.

      • Michael Larkin

        It can be done, Dr. Curry. Jeff ID has a button for “reader background” at the top of his site:


        Maybe if you contact him? Maybe he will even read this and contact you. It looks like the functionality is in WordPress, and if any of your visitors here have wordpress blogs, maybe they can advise?

        What about it, folks? Can anyone help Dr. Curry out here?

      • Michael Larkin

        Ah, Tallbloke, I see you were a bit quicker than me in replying!

  14. Some form of categories would really help. Perhaps there should be a ‘signed’ and anonymous (pseudonyms) section?

    • actually there are a number of academics from fairly prestigious institutions, both in the U.S. and internationally, that choose to participate anonymously.

      • Michael Larkin

        How very sad that people have to contribute anonymously. Understandable, of course, but the whole situation is just so bizarre.

      • Anonymity isn’t necessarily for the reasons you may think.

  15. The beauty of sites like this (and this one in particular), is that it gives an opportunity for laymen like me to discuss the subject with others who may know far more than I. I see nothing wrong with challenging a consensus if it is done in a cordial and mature fashion.

    Personally, I feel that the sort of ranking system which has been proposed would have a deleterious effect on the standard of debate I have witnessed since the site was opened.

    I also feel that ‘trolls’ would not tend to stay long. Life is just too short to spend much time being a nuisance. Or maybe I am being naive…

    • To me, the exchanges between you and Vaughn Pratt, and others who participated in it, has been the most interesting since I started following this blog.

  16. Thanks again to Judith for starting Climate Etc and now for asking the big questions at the top of this thread. I sympathise with those that have doubts about the typical ‘semantic selection’ approach. Normally such things are much over-specified. I’d prefer a person-centric approach, as follows:

    1. Make it very easy to hyperlink from anywhere you are contributing to any other contribution at any level of granularity ie whole dataset, particular time slice of dataset, one data item OR whole thread, particular contribution within a thread, particular edit of a contribution. Or to another person.

    2. Allow each person to be able to protect their identity through password, like Facebook. (How much one needs to insist like FB on real names is an unknown. I’d miss tallbloke being tallbloke, for example, by now, but I am saying that I would want to guard against anyone impersonating him once the identity issue becomes more serious again, as it does in my scheme of things, as it does in any voting scheme too. Note that only Judith has this identity protection right now. I want to democratise that.)

    3. Allow each person to be a moderator – in other words to create their own version of any thread leaving out the items that they do not find interesting or valuable. Once a new such entity is created others can comment on it or link to it, as well as the original.

    4. A useful activity stream tailored for each person, telling them of what people that they are interested in have been up to since they last looked – but of course enabling them to drill down and see more (or less) of everything that has been going on. (A much improved version, in other words, of ‘Recent Comments’ here or ‘Recent Changes’ as it was originally called on Ward Cunningham’s Wiki. Facebook again has to be taken account of, as so many of the peoples of the world get used to its ways.)

    This kind of thing would quickly reveal who is in which AGW camp – which is fine. That’s the way climate science is, and that’s the way much of life is. (How many Tea Party supporters would make Paul Krugman one of their favourites and all that.) The system would both reflect that fact AND allow one more easily to break through the barriers and take in opinions one wouldn’t have in the past. (In that regard Chip’s comment about sharperoo is the most important for me of those so far.)

    From a historico-techie point of view I’m thinking about bringing something of the magic of wiki (wiki with full history, like Wikipedia) into the blog world, which has proved so powerful in the case of climate science, including the release of new citizen scientists into the world. We have I think to face three facts about this:

    1. it’s not going to go away
    2. it wouldn’t have happened with the centralised model of Wikipedia, despite WP’s other great strengths
    3. blogs as they currently work aren’t enough – hence Judith’s questions.

    The thing where I think I’m most radical (compared to others I’ve seen in this area) is wanting such distributed moderators to be become true journalists and thus in their versions of threads to be allowed to edit the words of earlier contributors, to select, shorten and sharpen the points they’ve made (though never of course to distort or misrepresent them, because we know journalists never do that!)

    This kind of transformation will take a while. But I think the simple voting approaches won’t give anything like the same value.

    • BlueIce2HotSea

      I agree with all of your points with a qualification on the editing by “journalists”. The purpose is to summarize, clarify and correct grammar and spelling. Therefore umnodified copies of the original comments must be readily available to ensure that the function has not erred or been abused.

      I see some “journalists/moderators” obtaining their position by appointment from the blog-owner. And others by how they are ranked by other users. I think a trust/fairness ranking would be useful to consider. There is no reason why a negative ranking must be a permanent label. And I think competition in trust/fairness would be a big plus.

      • Absolutely agree about history being available so that anyone can check the quality of any would-be ‘journalists’. Indeed the availability of full history is why I think such ‘citizen journalism’ will be such a big thing in the future – and not just in explaining climate science. Though boy, how much do we need something better in climate science.

        I’m not sure about ‘ranking’ – it can mean so many things. Maybe this will help clarify where I think my approach differs.

        In a simple ranking system for posts and comments each individual can (say) give a value to a snippet of text of +1 or 0. But in a simple totalling the crucial information of who has given what value is lost. I’d much rather know coming to a new thread that PersonA, somebody I’ve learned to trust, has just read through it and marked the comments he found most valuable. (I mean ‘she’ found most valuable, sorry Judith!)

        I may well want to read the thread exactly as PersonA has marked or selected it. But if I drill down and decide they left out important stuff I may decide not to trust them as an editor in future – though I may still think they’re a valuable commenter.

        The reason to allow such ‘editors’ or ‘journalists’ to correct and shorten contributions is partly to remove references that no longer make sense, for example:

        Joe Soap: Before I start I think Troll2 is making a fool of themselves …</blockquote}

        This sentence can go out if the comment of Troll2 is being removed anyway. One of the big meta-motives is of course to make it less and less worthwhile to try and disrupt threads at the comment level. Very quickly such comments will not be read. And of course some comments that were made in good faith will also hit the waste bin, because motive cannot be perfectly assessed. But in the end a slightly more bracing environment will help us all to raise our game – which is the point of this thread.

      • Oops, sorry about the failed end blockquote.

      • Once one has a way or browsing ‘selected highlights’ according to persons A,B…Z it is of course childs play to start to combine these and come up with some globally averaged valuation anomaly for each comment …. arghhhh! But seriously, ranking of a more conventional kind can be built on top. But I think often we’d find there’s no need. People being people will comment on the editor’s work – “thank you, very helpful, you saved me a lot of time” or “you missed out some of the best material from my perspective, sorry”. Such things are denuded when they’re turned into numbers. Not that numbers (eg satellite data and its processing) are unimportant elsewhere. Lots to think about, then go about changing, one step at a time.

      • BlueIce2HotSea

        In a simple ranking system for posts and comments each individual can (say) give a value to a snippet of text of +1 or 0. But in a simple totalling the crucial information of who has given what value is lost.

        I agree. The detail should be not be averaged into meaninglessness.

        The availability of the frequency distribution of the rankings across a variety of categories is one thing that would allow enhanced information retrieval and exploring.

        I like the idea of a separate ‘Wiki’ sister-site where the edited and colllated is made available.. That way the primary raw data for the site is left more-or-less pristine. What do you thnk?

  17. I’ve always found the challenge when reading anything, esp. on blogs, is to pick out the good points without being distracted by the bad. And to do this in an unbiased way for all posts.

    I simply have to accept the personal responsibility to rein in my own biases to accomplish this goal. It’s difficult at times :-) But those who care about knowledge for the sake of knowledge probably do better at this task.

    My personal ranking system is to judge the folks in the blogosphere by how willing they would be to listen to all sides of any argument, and be open to changes as the details are hashed out. Dr. Curry is on my personal list ;-)

    Since Climate Etc. is trying to concentrate on the science, perhaps what is needed is a template on how to author meaningful, scientifically efficient posts?

    Additionally, when responding to someone with a rebuttal, a standard template could direct and format that rebuttal. This could be done by starting the post with some acronym that indicates the reply is to the good scientific points only. How about: Good Science Response Template……..or GSRT? No……..not creative enough, hmmmmmm.

    Since I’m not certain that I’m making any sense here, I’ll stop now and see if anyone else picks up on my thought experiment.

  18. • Establish an information system with climate data records, that include both raw and processed data sets with uncertainty estimates and the supporting documentation to explain the processing and uncertainty assessment. The data should be easily accessible and searchable with ontologies and semantic search.

    This is not only a worthwhile project, but an essential one. It needs to be curated by diligent archivists and supervised by statisticians. The journals must comply too. If the data ain’t in the public archive, it doesn’t get published.

  19. I enjoy looking at the whole spectrum of ideas and forming my own opinions about the “normal bent” of a particular poster, some can be skipped on some thread topics and others have to be read every comment as they are unique in their ability to see “the bigger picture”.

    I seem to harp on about Lunar declinational ideas, because I see value in looking at things others have been taught to ignore for hundreds of years.
    Because the technology has changed and satellite video is now available, it was not in Ben Franklin’s day.

    Opinions of others always make me think when they contain some real substance of logic and data, being too over specialized can be a hinderence in complex fields like weather and climate. There are parallels that can be drawn from basics between disciplines, and knowing where connections can be made in one field, can often be helpful in solving problem in another field of study.

    It is my opinion that learning should always lead into greater depth of understanding as well as an expansion of the breath of fields that I become proficient in. It is the second derivative, the rate of expansion and depth, over time that I value most. I get that here, thanks to all of the different commentators, excited remarks of some, reminds me M.D.’s don’t usually prescribe Welburtion and Lithium Carbonate in combination.

  20. Michael Larkin

    I have my doubts about group ratings and the like. There are some posters here whom I don’t think are at all constructive and frankly sometimes just annoying – means one has to develop a nifty finger on the scroll button.

    But the temptation to drum people out simply because their views differ, rather than because they are rude and disruptive, would be strong.

    Considering there are many very educated people here, I’m surprised that a few seem incapable of reading and absorbing Dr. Curry’s guidelines for specific threads. She may request comments be confined within certain restraints and give a recommended word count, yet things like that may be ignored. I wonder if sometimes people take advantage of her good nature.

    However, despite a number of niggles, on balance, the blog seems unusually constructive to me. Maybe Dr. Curry could be a little more active on the moderation front with obviously unhelpful comments, but time spent moderating is time not spent on doing other useful things.

  21. Quick reactions to all the above.

    I have learned more in the last three months from Climate etc. than in the last three years from reading books, article and websites, pus AR4 and bits of the earlier Reports — though that period of study allowed me to progress rapidly here. I am spending more and more time on it, too. I wouldn’t change anything.

    As I have said on earlier threads, my interest is in making real sense of the issue of AGW. I can read most scientific papers, other than in the heavily theoretical areas of physics and chemistry, and get some sense of the argument. I would love to read a detailed argument between two top people, with the rest of us being allowed to comment and ask questions on a separate thread. I would love to see a data repository, too, but I can see that we would be talking about Senator Dirksens ‘real money’.

    I think the absence of moderation is fine. I can scroll quickly where the dispute is engaging only the two participants. But I have actually learned a lot from some of the passionate disputes.

    I recognise that anonymity is necessary some, if it is not for me — but I could add that the fact that I use my real name makes me careful in what and how I write, and ensures also that I check everything before I send it!

    As we say in the land Downunder, ‘Onya, Judith!’

  22. Dr. Curry,

    The acknowledged blogging problem could be likened to a public lecture where a distinguished proponent of an idea has been invited to state his viewpoint for the public edification. The public comes, listens to the presentation, and then is given the opportunity to stand and ask questions and receive answers.

    This format sometimes works pretty well in practice, though often the question and answer period is too short for all the questions and forces answers to be given off-the-cuff by the guest speaker. Not such a problem with a blog.

    But, anyone who has ever been to such a lecture on a socially hot topic (think 1968 anti-war politics) knows that what can happen in reality is that many of the public who stand to ask questions are not really asking questions, but rise instead to make a mini-c0unter-speech. In worst cases, the public questioner is no better than a heckler.

    At the most contentious public lectures, the above situation is complicated by members of the audience who stand up out of turn and shout questions, accusations, threats of violence, and other forms of egregious heckling.

    The third level of heckling comes in when a member of the audience takes offense with a another member of the audience and a loud shouting match erupts between the two, sometimes to be bolstered by others supporting or defending one or the other of the combatants.

    All these types of hecklers — the polite ones that wait their turn and get their licks in at the microphone, the blatant hecklers standing and shouting out of turn, and the hecklers battling one another — make the lecture very difficult experience for both the invited speaker and the majority of the public audience.

    The current blog with comments seems to have the same problem — serious questioning, answers, and discussion is disrupted by individuals who can’t seem to follow the rules of civil discussion. It is true that the rules are only sometimes defined – some blogs have a clear rules list and moderators ask posters to follow them , snipping out those posts which fail to do so, other blogs have few rules and no, or minimal, moderation.

    So the question for the community is: What do we do with the hecklers? Do we just let them continue shouting and disrupting the discussion? For us here, that would mean reading their comments just long enough to realize that they are just heckling, or ranting, or whatever other kind non-contributory distraction they are up to, then skipping down to the next comment. This is a not-so-bad solution where the ratio of hecklers is low — for me the limit seems to be one or two out of ten, any more than that and I have difficulty carrying on and prefer to shift to some other more-closely-moderated blog.

    I have no solution to suggest — other than a full-time moderator who can differentiate between (what I call) heckling and valid discussion. In this case, someone other than you, Dr. Curry, as you seem actively involved in commenting and discussion process here. I believe in separation of powers, in this case the blog principal(s) should not also be the bouncer.

    I do however suggest that posts that a moderator deems inappropriate or non-contributory heckling should not simply be deleted but should be shifted from the main thread to some general running open-comment-thread, where people could go to read them if they chose and this so noted in the original thread (where other blogs might say ‘this posted deleted by moderator’).

    In our public lecture parallel, it is the equivalent of allowing hecklers to have their say, but outside on the curb where it won’t interfere with serious participants.

    If such facility doesn’t exist on WordPress, I bet some clever programmer could write a quick plug-in.

    I also suspect that it would not be that hard to find a few willing volunteer moderators, each living in different time-zones, to keep the discussions from being drowned out by hecklers.

    • my original idea was to have technical threads, with closely moderated comments, and then parallel threads for whatever. things have gotten rather muddied, and lately i haven’t done any technical posts (the italian flag one is the first technical post in weeks). hopefully the IF thread will stay “clean”. Terry Oldberg’s threads stayed pretty clean from extraneous comments.

  23. Alexander Harvey

    Many models have been proposed and each has its benefits and issues.

    One can can remove “authority” by insistence on complete anonymity (no real names and no handles just a comment number),

    One can weigh heavily on personal responsibility as in YOYOW (you own your own words) with an insistence on real names verified by creditcard etc.

    The here above proposed system smacks of some of the worse aspects of group authority behaviour. Perhaps I have got this wrong but it seems to be exactly the type of clique censorship that climate science is oft to be accused of. It seems to have the the seeds of tyrany in its make up, it begs conformity. Would it not summon up the ethics of the playground when the bullies are rampant? I question why anyone should wish for such a thing.

    Perhaps I have this wrong but it has something of the dark about it.


  24. Alex,

    If you are referring to the ‘poster ranking and filtering’ scheme, I have to agree with you entirely. I fear it would lead to the same types of problems as Wikipedia’s administrators, Connelley et al, gate-keeping and enforcing acceptable viewpoints. Just as Wikipedia needs disinterested encyclopedic admins, a hot topic blog needs disinterested moderators, the ‘bouncers’, moving the hecklers’ disruptive comments out to a comment thread where they can shout and wave their placards ‘on the curb outside’.

  25. intrepid_wanders

    I believe that the “Level of Game” needs to be raised to:

    1. Hypothesis for a Specific Observation.
    2. Antithesis to the Hypothesis of Specific Observation.
    (I used to think this was basic science.)

    BOTH side of an argument MUST be presented in the same breath. Hector M., Steve M., and scienceofdoom are fantastic examples of the “calm” and “patient” science-types that present reasonableness (And of course you, Judith, but I do find you a little more people orientated;)) to the discussion. The people that deviate from the middle can have minimal credibility (advocacy issues, internal or external).

    What would be fascinating, would be the collection of papers that the “dezidens” of the blogosphere DO agree on and plugging it into a “static page” for both side of the discussion.

    Without balance, it is just “Used Car Sales-Speak”.

    • intrepid_wanders

      Actually, we also need to get out of bivalent thinking. Tallbloke, Oliver Manuel and others are essential “Out of the Box Types”. This is where alternative theories crop up and can be evaluated later with the “Thesis/Antithesis” concept.

  26. I think any ranking or host or consensual censorship will make this a blog no different from RC at the end of the day.
    Dr. Curry has allowed a community to form here that is in large part civil, extremely well educated, and free to discuss.
    The chances of that being changed for the better are quite small.
    In a very different context Winston Churchill once stated that democracy is the worst for of government, except for all of the rest.
    In the same vein, I would suggest that a minimally moderated blog is messy, free wheeling, and subject to OT sub-conversation all of which are terrible, and is better than all of the rest.

    • The Winston Churchill democracy point is well made. As a matter of caution on that being applied too confidently though I’d ask:

      1. Who here predicted the form of the World Wide Web – URL, HTTP, HTML – before Tim Berners-Lee created it in 1990, and how important it was going to be?

      2. Who foresaw the emergence of blogging before LiveJournal, WordPress and Blogger brought it to the masses (from the late 90s) – and how important it was going to be?

      3. Same question with Wikipedia.

      4. Same question with Friendster leading to MySpace, LinkedIn and Facebook.

      5. Same question even with texting between mobile phones. (One of the most amazing to me: something designed by some technical guys for each other that became a smash hit with teenagers, then the world. It wasn’t the technical thing that was hard to foresee but how useful it would prove.)

      And plenty of other examples. What I’m saying is that unlike democracy (whose name suggests we should date its evolution from ancient Greece) we haven’t had enough experience yet with online fora, that therefore it’s premature for a Winston-type verdict. (Though I would agree there’s been enough evolution and unsuccessful experimentation to feel confident that only a few of the ‘good ideas’ now will make it.)

      • Richard Drake,
        Thanks for the feedback. I would agree that various fora and media are going to be emergent in the brave new world we are creating. However, thinking that any of them are going to be fundamentally game changing in how we behave as people is a dubious prospect. It would be similar to the hubris that thought we had beaten economic cycles back in the late 1990’s while we were in the great boom/bubble provided by the dot.com game.
        IOW, while the forums may change shape and style, the substance and dynamics will actually change very little.
        Now Dr. Curry may find herself for many reasons tiring of the format she has developed here, and may decide that a more intensive screening process is in her interest. As our hostess and this site’s owner, that is her right. However, I think she would fundamentally change the quality of the interactions here for the negative. She has created here an open forum where plebes like me can read the frank ideas of some pretty interesting people and interact with them in ways that they would not get in the academy or in a typically controlled venue. Since the climate issue is very much one that breeches the walls of academia, I would offer that this is a good thing, not just for the plebes but for the academics as well.
        In other words, if the climate science community is serious about communication, then having a forum where frank communication occurs is valuable. This is the only forum I m aware of run by a true climate scientist that tolerates counter views in an open manner. Losing that would be a significant negative.
        The uniqueness and clarity of the signal outweighs, imho, the noise.

      • Agree with all of your judgments as far as the value of what JC has kicked off here. And, like you, I don’t view any technology as a silver bullet. However …

        I think Apple products, taken as a whole, have been more humane than their rivals and this leads to greater productivity and greater joy for the human race (apart from the price!)

        Design matters. The wiki idea was fundamentally important, for example, even though the bad side of human nature comes out as the Wikipedia wars over climate have played out.

        Alan Kay’s ideas were fundamental to Apple and to Ward Cunningham, the founder of Wiki. Alan has always been incredibly people-centric, though also brilliant at the computer science side.

        Nothing’s a magic bullet but good design – which is always people-centred – matters a lot, in other words. There is scope for something better here, better for Judith, better for you and better for me, I feel it in my bones!

      • Our son, a computer science type, ahs been moving us to Apple products for awhile. I am looking forward to getting an I-pad ASAP.
        But the platforms while influencing public discourse, do not (so far) change the people much. Now Ken McLeod has some ideas on what it would be like as a human to face a singularity, but that would be outside the scope of climate science or this blog. ;^)

      • MacLeod is new to me but shouldn’t have been, thanks. He and I agree on the importance of punning, that’s for sure. I’m off to my 83-year-old mother’s tomorrow to help her with her iPad. Apart from that, no common ground here!

      • MacLeod’s level of punning is truly gifted. He gets basically every hard sci-fi writer, and especially my favorites, Rucker, and Vinge. His puns on biology are great, so I am going to make sure my biologist daughter gets a chance with it.
        The idea of getting iPads to the elderly is a great one, and may have just imprived Christmas shopping for my mother as well. Please let us know how your mother takes to it.
        Common ground? I detect quite a bit, actually.

      • OK, will let you know how we got on later in the week. The common ground comment was perverse English opposite-of-the-truth stuff – Robin Hood calling the big guy Little John and all that. So don’t worry about us :)

  27. A long while back I proposed a monetary system of sorts ( based on quatloos) Where one earned credits and spent credits and exchanged credits. I’ll see if I have the math for it laying around.

    One simple way to up the quality is to do what used to be done long long ago at the Fray on slate ( back in the day when Glen Reynolds hung out there before he became famous… I date myself)

    Judith could give out check marks for good comments. And then bestow stars on particular posters who have a high high quality of comments.

    It leads to a very interesting social arrangement. ha. people fight over who gets starts and checks.

    Also, a method of promoting good comments at the top of posts.
    Top Comments:

    People then compete to write good comments. The good comments (those checked and promoted as top comments) drive the conversation.

    So basically Judith just reward the good behavior and people will over time improve their behavior ( some will fight the star system.. hehe. i did that and gave up my star voluntarily..)

    • andy revkin does something like this, with his “highlights”. I have to admit when i go to his site, i mainly stroll through for the highlights, so it seems to work in terms of catching people’s eye, not sure about changing behavior tho :)

      • A strong example of the highlights idea working very well for me in a highly controversial area (and this is all highly subjective I’m sure) is over at Daniel Pipes on the Middle East and Islam:


        This was a verdict I reached perhaps five years ago when I looked at his stuff – I’ve no idea how it is now. You may hate Pipes – a lot of people do, as the comments make clear, including many (but not all) Muslims. But he I thought was very good at selecting out the best comments, as he felt. He didn’t just choose those that agreed with him – though he mostly did, as I remember. Even so, I was struck by how well the highlights approach worked for me, compared to wading through some very heated comment threads.

        Judith’s version of highlights would attract a massive audience here for those who don’t have time for the full hosepipe of comments. But …

        My point above was a more general one: if others were given the ability to choose their highlights, one or two would I’m sure soon emerge as very good at this (the people that would have made good newspaper editors in another life) – and this could save Judith time for other, more seminal things.

        Anyway, step at a time.

      • the competition to get a gold star from Judith would be intense.

        its a fascinating social phenomena.

      • To the discerning eye, Revkin’s highlights are a guidepost to his bias. To his credit, he does pick out the best alarmist comments, and even, occasionally, the skeptical ones. But he slants the discourse with his highlighting.

      • This is something that everyone will do and should be welcomed. The world would be poorer if either the NYT or Fox News didn’t exist – or if there was one thing less sure of itself in between. In my own (biased) view.

      • BlueIce2HotSea

        A site which highlighted the best lukewarm comments would be nice. Or do all non-alarmist comments grade out as skeptical?

      • Good question. My serious, snark free take on that is that for too many in the AGW community, any variance from the idea that CO2 is driving the climate towards a global crisis and that the science is settled on this is the product of either ignorance or malintention or cynicism.

      • huh, then read the unhighlighted. the text doesnt dictate how it is to be read. go read your stanley fish

      • Well from my experience back in the day at Slate’s fray it changed my behavior. The editor Moiria ( i could never spell her damn name.. that behavior remained) would

        1. select 4 or 5 comments ( sometimes none) and give them blue checks
        2. write a little synopsis of the “conversation” and provide links to the checked comments.
        3. Note anybody who was awarded a star.

        Some people became very dedicated in their pursuit of stardom or checkdom. Also once you got a star you were expected not to engage in churlish behavior. When people saw guys with stars ( like Glenn reynolds) go on to do bigger and better things.. it also had an effect.

        I suspect MT would pout if you didnt give him a star. some are untrainable

    • BlueIce2HotSea

      I like this idea.

  28. Judith,
    The United States government very much has a vested interest for science to look ONLY in one direction.
    I would NOT want to be the person who’s science answers created the next Global War due to no one wanting the U.S. currency. Yet wanting want is owed to them.
    Knowledge can be too high of a price.

  29. “Ideally, ranking and filtering would provide useful information for studies in political science, philosophy of science or maybe even climate science.”

    We already have this, it’s called the ‘H index’. An amalgamation of how many times someone publishes and how often those publications are referenced by others.

    Using the H Index Criteria – the Bible is the most referenced work in the history of the world by a massive margin and the Catholic Church is the most profligate publisher.

  30. Michael Larkin

    Hunter and Drake,

    I enjoyed your interchange upthread – civilised and thoughtful contributions from the both of you.

    IMO, the technology of communications is changing, but the view that nothing will change in basic human nature, whilst a truism, isn’t very nuanced. Changes in comms. technology mean that there have been, and will continue to be, developed, new ways of expressing things which we weren’t and aren’t even aware would be useful or desirable (or just the opposite depending on one’s POV).

    Climategate and the recent Wikileaks are in one sense nothing new, but in another, practical way, would have been impossible even a short time ago. The MSM and other vested interests would have marginalised Climategate to the point of virtual extinction, just as they are adopting the opposite approach with Wikileaks. Suppressing the one and supporting the other plays into their agenda of selling their wares.

    But the emergence of blog culture now, and doubtless as-yet-unforeseen developments to come, have the effect of widening the franchise for communication, and shifting further the balance of power (which has always depended on controlling information) from elites to the masses.

    The climate debate comes at a time when there is a nexus between technological comms. developments, and ongoing technological developments in other areas; specifically relevant being those relating to energy production.

    Some of us may be wishing that the debate would go away because we see it as a crock, but the Lord works in mysterious ways, so to speak. Because people will always want effective ways of dealing with issues that concern them, big issues will drive the emergence of new methods for doing that, and not necessarily in a consciously directed way.

    No one knows where this blog is heading. It may prove to be a damp squib, or a game changer. But its only reason to exist is a controversy that passionately engages people. Remove the opportunity to let at least some of the passion to influence the debate, and you will remove its potential to become something out of the ordinary. Passion has a creative energy that may be able to generate useful things that our descendents will value long after the events that provoked it have been forgotten.

    Controversy, however acrimonious or seemingly unnecessary, may be one of the Trojan horses for human evolution. So let’s be optimistic, charitable and tolerant except in the most egregious cases of disruption.