Soapbox 6

Hi, everybody; welcome to “The Soapbox”.  Think of this posting as a permanent “letter to the editor” page, the watercooler we can all gather around from time to time and just chat.  If you’re a member, I’d recommend clicking “+Hotlist” (top right), which will create a new box that will display future comments.  This is the place to be to get the latest SciScoop news and gossip. You can also sing our praises here, or give us a piece of your mind by posting a comment to this item.

Previous Soapbox comments:

The Soapbox: May 2003

The Soapbox: June – Dec 2003

The Soapbox: Jan – Apr 2004

The Soapbox: Apr – Jul 2004

The Soapbox: Jul – Oct 2004

The Soapbox: Oct 2004 – Apr 2005

68 thoughts on “Soapbox 6”

  1. Drog just asked me the same thing – make sure your “start page” isn’t set to “Everything” or something.

    No idea why your prefs keep changing… this is the second one now! Of course, with the new prefs stuff, admins can edit any and all prefs for other people…

  2. I suspect that if some of our prefs changed by themselves, they may have changed for everybody. If anyone else is seeing the soapbox on the front page, you’ll need to modify your prefs (click on the Display link next to Options: in your user box on the right). As well, if you are not seeing the topic icons, click on the “Show topic images with stories” checkbox in the same user prefs page.

  3. As recently as the day before yesterday, the “SciScoop Scoop” box would correctly show me (“could have been seen by … and Sweetwind and “…) but last night and today it is only showing ULFs and cloaked users. My cloaked checkbox wasn’t checked, but I tried checking it and unchecking it again, to no effect.

    Come to think of it, I haven’t seen anyone else’s nick in there since before yesterday.

  4. As soon as it refreshed after I posted the above, the “SciScoop Scoop” box showed mtigges. At least it’s working for somebody! :-)

  5. …I still don’t see anybody including myself as usual in the sciScoop Scoop box.  And, I can’t get the new Soapbox off my front page no matter what I try in display preferences.  Guess I’ll just let it slide off the bottom in a few days…

  6. Click here. Halfway down, there’s a listbox called “Start page:”. Choose “Front Page”. Then click the Save Preferences button at the bottom. That should do the trick.

  7. My choices for that box are “Everything / Diaries / MLP / Ask SciScoop / Commentary / Interviews / News / Reviews / Short Stories / Site News”.  I don’t have a “Front Page choice, but it sure sounds like what I’d like to try next…

    Sheesh, no sooner than I start a nice clean Soapbox page than we’re gonna get 100 comments in 100 hours at this rate.  Which is OK, that’s what it’s for…

  8. “Front Page” should be the very first item, right above “Everything”. I can’t imagine what would cause it to disappear like that.

  9. I changed the Interview to News so it would show up on the (or at least my) front page – you can change it back after it slides off the bottom of the front page.  Umm…was it supposed to show on the front page anyway as Interview or does only News do that???

  10. There was a small HTML error (missing >) in the box that creates that selectbox form element – which may have eaten the first option in some browsers.

  11. I thought it would show on the front page — it was showing on my front page — but that was when my front page was still Everything. (Before Janra fixed the HTML error, when I went to change it, the drop-down box had TWO “Everything” choices and no “Front Page” choice!) So, thanks! But I thought whether a story was on the front page was independent of what section it was in? I thought it determined by the “Always Display” vs. “Only Display within Section” settings in the admin story list. So it should have been in the front page already?

  12. How prefs are handled was changed recently; I had forgotten to update the test for “Cloaked users” to match. A lot of people were marked as “cloaked” when they shouldn’t have been.

  13. …in the SciScoop Scoop box, that is.

    Say, as long as little things are getting tweaked (are you doning a behind-the-scenes code upgrade or something?), could you try to get the “Next 12 stories” tag at the bottom of the front page to show up in a higher contrast color?  That has bugged me for the longest time…but not enought for me to dig in and look into fixing it myself….

  14. I’m just fixing the quirky things that the last upgrade missed – mostly non-standard boxes, because the update script wouldn’t know to look for them :-)

    The “Next 12 stories” link: how’s that? I set its background to the same as the sidebar boxes.

  15. Jamra, there’s a discussion elsewhere that stories and comments should NOT be posted for editorial comment by defult as they are now, and I agree.  Could you rig things so that checkbox on the story submission page is empty?  Tks.

  16. and for what I think is a pretty good reason.

    If you forget to change the checkbox and it’s saved into editing, you can go back and fix it. If it’s off by default and you forget to change the checkbox, it’s in voting and you can’t change it. (Well, you could pull your story entirely and resubmit it, but that’s about your only option.)

    Comments are posted editorial by default when a story is in the queue, mainly because in the queue comments should be mainly editorial. Way back when, only editorial comments were allowed when the story was in the queue, which led to topical discussion in the editorial comments, which was hidden when the story posted. That’s the main reason you can even post topical comments in the queue at all.

    I think part of the problem is that when people fill out a form on the web they don’t read all the instructions. Just look at how many accounts have something that is not an email in the “realemail” field from when they created that account, even though it says clearly on the form that it must be a working email address.

  17. If you click on our “stats” link on the menu bar, how come our “daily average visits” for November has dropped to around 600 from around 1300-1400 for each of the three months before that?  That’s a pretty serious readership drop, any newspaper would call a staff meeting on such news and so here’s ours.  What’s going on?  We get on Slashdot and now we’re shunned or is that a paranoid delusion?  And how come the “daily average pages” number is up, almost doubled, in Nov compared to the other months? What, if anything, can / should we do about these numbers?

  18. I dunno, but the number of “Unknown Life Forms” in the SciScoop scoop box seems to have been persistently higher lately than it was a month or so back. Maybe we have a bug in the stats with the move to new hardware? Janra?

  19. I concurr with apsmith’s take on the ULF counts. If you look at the Daily Usage graph (the first bar chart on this page), there seems to have been a precipitous drop-off after the first of the month (even granted that the Nov 1 traffic was double the normal amount). Doesn’t look like a natural trend, looks more like something got broke after the Evolution-of-Eyes slashdotting??

  20. At first glance, it looks like your traffic hasn’t changed, only the method of reporting it has. After the Evolution-of-Eyes slashdotting, we changed the configuration and I think this is a side-effect.

    Take a look at the daily statistics graph – while “hits” and “files” have dropped, “pages” haven’t. Webalizer is smart enough to tell the difference between a page and an image file – I think image files aren’t showing up in the stats anymore.

    I’ll have more information later.

  21. …I think of it as OUR traffic.  I get lonely sitting here in the underground SciScoop command bunker with its purple and green art deco decor all alone.  Even more so when half of the readers leave.

    Maybe we need a secret motto like “Avengers assemble!…

  22. When I’m talking about the hosting of this site, I can’t say “we” to mean SciScoop and “we” to mean ScoopHost… that would just be too confusing :-)

  23. That makes sense, I’ll keep that convention in mind when I read your analysis.  Now I don’t think of myself as isolated but instead a part of something bigger!  How many Scoop sites are you hosting now, anyway?

  24. It’s the same reason the images aren’t being counted – we changed the apache configuration to handle images and other static content with a “light” server and proxy the dynamic stuff to the heavier server required for scoop. The web statistics are still being pulled from the scoop server, which now only has the proxy server as its “visitor”. We will be fixing this soon, so you can see all files requested and distribution of visitors.

  25. For those who might have had trouble getting in last week and the week before, sciscoop was moved to a new server all on its own around US Thanksgiving, and now seems to be running much better. Think we should have more of a front-page announcement about this, with apologies?

  26. Today’s quote being from him – I’ve admired him for years. I remember I was at Indiana University for a year as a postdoc, and one of the things I worked on turned out to be related to a fun paper he’d published as a young physicist – the Hofstadter Butterfly. I never quite got around to publishing my own version of his butterfly, though I thought it was just as pretty. I also never got up the courage to look him up while I was there, even though we were in the same small town in Indiana. Oh well…

  27. I’m an admirer too :-) The summer before my senior year in high school I spent reading Godel, Escher, Bach. (And that’s hardly an exaggeration, I think it took me six weeks to read it, pretty much full time!) It was a real eye-opener. I’m not sure what reminded me recently of Hofstader’s Law, but when I poked around Amazon I found he has a new (well, within the past decade <g>) book I hadn’t heard of before: Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language which sounds fascinating. Hmm, time to update my wish list… :-)

  28. Hey folks, we need to fix this! I’m at my wit’s end because rickyjames’ email (at is full and so I can’t even email him about it :-)
    SMTP error from remote mailer after RCPT TO:<>:
    host []: 550 5.1.1 <>… User unknown

  29. In between the Intro Copy and the Extended Copy of the submitted story is a clump of white space. For most stories that is a perfectly good indicator of where the Intro/Extended division is. But sometimes there’s a submission with a bunch of whitespace in it already, and it can be hard to tell what’s going on. Not a major concern, but it would be nice if it were more clear-cut.

    Is it possible to modify the page to put some kind of doodad between the two sections? Maybe a row of asterisks, or “–end intro, begin extended copy–“? And/or some indication if the Extended Copy is empty.

  30. I keep getting “Not Authorised” errors when I try to browse to Sciscoop from the Slashdot link, and or my bookmarks. Any idea what’s going on?

  31. I haven’t had any recent problems with the server. Can you post the URL’s you’re seeing when you get that “Not Authorized” message?

  32. Recently a story went up which had a question regarding its copyright. The question went several days with no answer. Perhaps pre-post comments, especially editorial could be mailed to the author if they’re not anonymous?


  33. Happens fairly regularly from my work computer, less regularly from my home pc. You want the link posted here, or sent in an email.

    Actually, I just realised that suggesting I post a link here when I can’t access the page is a really stupid idea ;)
    What email address should I send it to?

  34. See the EMAIL link at the top of the page – help AT will get to a bunch of us… thanks!

  35. I’ve just been deleting these too. I followed some of the links (I have a mac, tee hee) and they’re just some random Chinese site as far as I can tell. I think it’s trying to boost their Google rankings more than anything else. Somewhat creative, but pointless if we just delete them. They’ve probably set up some sort of robot that does this for scoop sites.

  36. I agree with apsmith’s analysis although I really have no clue about Google rankings and such :-) I have been doing actual comment deletes on these (“click here to actually delete this comment” –> CLICK!), but I noticed that apsmith has been modding them to 0 instead, which is equally good from a thwarting-Google-placement point of view — search engine bots can’t get to them if they’re hidden. Do any of the more scoop-knowledgable folks have a stance on whether these should be Deleted-with-a-capital-D, or just modded down?

  37. I started out with the modding to 0 thing, then decided there was no point, and started deleting them altogether… It’s not been that many though, maybe a dozen so far. But if we’re all doing it, maybe it’s more than I thought.

  38. 1. This problem is actually good news! — doesn’t it mean that seach engines are finding SciScoop a valuable source of reference, and assigning high rankings to its external links?

    2. rickyjames, could you delete/modify your comment so it doesn’t provide more free advertisement for the culprits?

  39. When I click on the SCITOPICS link, some of the icons are missing (not found). Then if I try to click links on that page I get foreboding forbidden errors “Forbidden – You don’t have permission to access / on this server/– Apache/1.3.31 Server at Port 80″. Seems to be something funny about the “Stories by Topic” page?

  40. It seems it was an unfortunate side-effect of the block we put in place to stop the referer spammers – topics contains ‘pics’, one of the many, many strings we blocked. That one string has been removed now :-)

  41. Long ago I promised that if we opened up the Edit Queue I would use it for my submissions. Unfortunately there was an unforeseen problem. When I use it, I have no idea how long to leave the submission there. If people are making comments, and changes are made, then it’s easier, but if no comments are made then one really has no feedback. For instance, chad has a submission right now that I would vote to post, but it’s in edit. I should be able to indicate to him that it’s IMO ready. Is there a way to do this in scoop? Perhaps a fwd-vote, so that the submittor knows that the submission has been perused without comment?

    On k5 this isn’t an issue because of the masses of readers, but here the community is small enough that we might need more tools.


    • post a comment indicating that you think it’s ready for voting. This relies on the author coming back to check for editorial comments; some may not, and have put it into the edit queue by mistake.
    • turn on the edit queue anti-spam feature, where users can press a button (on K5, renamed “move to vote”) to kick a story out of the edit queue and into voting. This is probably not desirable here, for two reasons: it takes a certain number of people pressing the button, and pressing the button registers a ‘-1’ vote if the story happens to move to the voting queue between the time you load the page and press the button. (It was originally conceived as a way to get spam out of the edit queue, so generally people who pressed the button intended to downvote it anyway.)
  42. I was poking around on the Internet (boy, there’s a redundant statement about me if ever there was one) and came across a site called Science Search.  They have a list of 29 science blogs rated by votes and I’m happy to report SciScoop was rated number 2 of 29 with a rating of 7 out of 10 stars by 1100 voters.  The only science blog rated higher than ours is the one by David Bradley.  While I’m flattered, I’m also a little distressed and frustrated; if we’re doing so great, where’s all the commenters and posters like Slashdot’s got?  Is this as good as a science blog gets?

    The glass is half full.  The glass is half full. The glass is half full.  There is no spoon.  

  43. well, maybe really second, but all they show is a score of “7.0”, which is the same as Tech-Central Station (blech). And that’s without us pointing people there to improve our rating! :-)

    What do people see in the Dave Bradley site? Maybe you have to watch it for a while, but it didn’t seem terribly useful, and rather more bloggish (though perhaps that’s what they’re rating for anyway…)

  44.  and his science/poetry quote, 3/1/05–

    Anybody who could explain quantum mechanics must have just somehow missed  Robert Frost’s assessment of poetry:   “Poetry makes you remember what you didn’t know you knew.”

    Of course it does.  And what could be simpler than that? :-)

  45. Just wanted to let you folks know you have done a fine job with the design of this site; it is one of the most easily navigated places I’ve found, for viewers and authors. Well done!

  46. My original comment was made after seeing the large time span of this compared to older soapbox archives, but the current number of comments is lower than the other archives.

  47. Nobody has anything to complain about :-)

    Though we do have that “call for polls” out now…

    I wonder if we should discuss directing more of these funny postings to the diaries. They still exist, though somewhat hidden…

  48. The “scoop stats” page you see isn’t new, it only seems that way because of your new editor status. Only site editors can see that information; it’s just a tool for seeing who’s been around that we may not have seen in the “SciScoop Scoop” box.

  49. needs some work, as some of the normal sciscoop graphics are no longer loading. And I despise the Amazon ad. I liked sciscoop because the ads didn’t distract from the articles.

  50. Hi barakn – they seem to be loading ok for me – what did you have trouble with?

    I didn’t really notice the Amazon ad till you pointed it out. Doesn’t bother me too much, but the moving lettering is a bit distracting, now you point it out. The list of books there is cool though – who came up with that?

  51. OK, we’re going to close this edition of Soapbox – this happens occasionally to keep it from getting too long.  You want to do a few things to keep up with us:

    1. Go to the top of this very page and click the -Hotlist link (visible to you if you are a SciScoop member)
    2. Click on SOAPBOX on the main menu bar to get to the new Soapbox
    3. Click on the +Hotlist link on the new Soapbox page (visible to you if you are a SciScoop member)

    See you on the new Soapbox page!  Keep writing and let’s all stick together!

  52. instead of soapbox in the main menu bar. I had to hunt the new soapbox down, even though I had already hotlisted it, after the name change. Ah well, this will pass as the reins are taken firmly in hand.

Comments are closed.