Soapbox 4

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. It’s recommended that you click on the “+Hotlist” tag in the upper right of this article, visible to members; this will create a Hotlist right-column box you can monitor for future newly-posted comments. This the place to come to get the latest updates, news and gossip about ongoing changes to the SciScoop site. This “Soapbox” posting is also to give you a place you can leave the editors a piece of your mind on whatever subject you want.

[editor’s note, by apsmith]This was getting big (and lost) – I’ve updated Ricky’s copy slightly and left links for the previous editions below.

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: Jan – Apr 2004

Update [2004-4-15 16:30:26 by rickyjames]: Yep, time to update. Remember, Soapbox is the official letter-to-the-editor page; you can always find it by clicking on SOAPBOX in the navigation links of the SciScoop header even as this post slides down and off the front page. Just a reminder: If you’ve got the previous (Jan-April 2004) Soapbox still in your Hotlist, go to that page and click the -Hotlist tab in the upper right corner to de-list the previous Soapbox page from your Hotlist box.

85 thoughts on “Soapbox 4”

  1. We’ve had some comments about this lately – what are your opinions as to guidelines for what we should be approving here? There are a few of us with “editor” permissions, but other stories are community-selected. Should all stories be written specifically for sciscoop, not posted elsewhere? Should they ideally have a lot of links? Be well-formatted, with good English? What would you like to see here?

    There are also some ‘scoop’ parameters that should perhaps be changed. The posting threshold right now is 4 approvals – is that too low? What’s a good number? We seem to be reaching that threshold in a matter of hours now, so would doubling it be appropriate?

  2. You can set it to a percentage, then it’ll grow with the population of the site.

    Since you’re considering that doubling it will be a good value for the site’s population right now, divide 8 by the number of accounts, and put that in the box, such as 2% or 0.5% – if there’s a % after the number, Scoop will adjust the actual threshold as needed as the site grows.

    You can also turn on a switch that will cause the thresholds to be displayed above the stories in the moderation queue. (That would be the site control show_threshold)

  3. I believe the following questions should be answered for every artice (yes/no/maybe):

    1. Does the subject of the story fit the site? I.e. if has anything to do with science.
    2. Is the factual basis sound?
    3. Is the writing legible?

    If at least one answer is ‘yes’, and others ‘maybe’, the story should be posted. I am not sure how to formulate a question, but verbatum copies of news releases without links to the original should be thrown out too.

    As for the posting threshold, what’s the default action? Suppose the story stays in the queue for a long while, say at modlevel 3, like the one about the Super Bum. What happens to it? If it’s posted anyways, then the threshold makes no difference. What’s the dump threshold? Does it exist?

    Maybe it would be a good idea to make a special section for various crackpot theories since they get posted anyways (“Cosmology breakthrough”, “Oh my! A blackhole is going to eat Earth” etc.). Moderation queue is not going to be effective against them because rating is work, as opposed to just reading, which is entertainment.

    And by the way, those frequent link posts by rickyjames, where one post has a couple dosen links IMHO are just noise. If I see such a thing in the queue I would mod it down by answering No the the question #3. But they don’t go through the queue :-)

  4. Well, let me climb on a sopabox and have a say for a moment – yeah, right, like I don’t all of the time anyway. Here lately there’s been a lot of discussion about self-promotion via article writing and the such. The reason SciScoop is presented as a Scoop site instead of by some other more closed and static framework is to allow participation and community-building by others. In fact, participation and community-building is to me is a PRIMARY GOAL of SciScoop.

    Now I write the majority of stories here, but the majority of the stories I write DON’T GENERATE COMMENTS AND DON’T SEEM TO BE BUILDING A COMMUNITY except as a bunch of passive readers. It seems to be the off-the-wall self-promotion articles and the upswell of comments they generate that is the real community builder around here. So I’m not all that worried about quality of article submission (yet- maybe I should be) because I’m thrilled somebody is bothering to submit AT ALL.

    I’m not sure what my point is, except that SciScoop still is far from where I’d like it to be – a pure Science oriented Slashdot, with lots of people submitting so many great articles some of them have to get turned down and each one generating hundreds of comments from hundreds of readers. We’ve got the readers – SciScoop gets seen by 1000-3000 people a day, each and every day. What we don’t have are large numbers of submitters, or posters.

    I dunno. I like to think my editorial sense of picking article topics is pretty good, that the overall ongoing content of SciScoop is interesting. But maybe I am picking articles that just don’t lend themselves to discussion – how can I expect a ton of comments on, say, protein crystallization just because I think that’s a geeky sexy topic? So if you’d like to see a shift in article focus that’s more friendly to talk about, let me know…

    The key to growing is to shake things up and get more people into the mix. That’s why last week I extended “superuser” status to apsmith and Sweetwind, two of this site’s staunchest supporters and longest members. SciScoop isn’t “my” site – I want it to be “our” site. It’s got to mutate and change and grow into something it isn’t now and isn’t what we expect. So – anybody can submit articles, and comments, and I hope you all do. Plus, now SciScoop has doubled the number of people from Drog and I who can alter its fundamental DNA and change its foundations, and I’ve encouraged them to do so if the mood to do so comes over them. So don’t be surprised if you drop in one day and see a new lime-and-purple color scheme or something new being tried in the left or right columns. That’s called growth, and evolution.

  5. I checked, but we don’t have a show_threshold in our site controls. I remember that our vars were all messed up a long time ago in that I had to manually add all the vars needed for dynamic comments, so maybe this is another messup. Or maybe we have an older version of scoop? What are its values? 0 || 1? Or true || false. I’ll add it manually and see if the engine uses it.

    We should definitely upgrade to scoop 1.0 when it comes out. That should be soon, right?

  6. You’ve made some valid points, jdoe.  My only problem is with the “just noise” one– The potpourri of links Ricky provides serves a broad number of readers, IMHO. Ricky reads an unbelievable number of science newsletters every day.  He can’t write a synopsis on every interesting article, but in throwing out these specific topics, he expedites the reader’s access to them.

    I have NO background in science whatsoever, but I ALWAYS skim the lists of sites for articles on brain function, genetic research and the like because of my son’s medical condition.  Other sites (the one on mating habits of certain monkeys, for example) just intrigue me.  We always have the option of skipping the articles or links that don’t interest us, but I do hope Ricky will continue providing his link lists.   I may not click on to an asteroid link, but someone else will.

  7. Now I write the majority of stories here, but the majority of the stories I write DON’T GENERATE COMMENTS AND DON’T SEEM TO BE BUILDING A COMMUNITY except as a bunch of passive readers

    It’s possible the number of stories you post is a part of the problem. I think you post too many of them. If I want just plain coverage of science news, I’ve got about 300 web sites to choose from. The added value of SciScoop and similar sites is in the selection of the stories and in user comments. There are not that many posting users yet, thus the second reason is not that grand. Which leaves the selection. Maybe fewer better stories would generate more comments. 10 comments for one story are better than 10 stories with one comments each.

    Consider posting your own stories through the mod queue. It might give you an idea what users find more interesting.

    So I’m not all that worried about quality of article submission (yet- maybe I should be) because I’m thrilled somebody is bothering to submit AT ALL.

    Then let people post commercial spam. I bet there will be a lot of negative comments before everyone leaves :-).

    By the way, why should anyone submit anything when you already submitted five stories for the day? The story will stay in the queue for a couple of days and get stale while you might cover it much sooner. See the problem here?

    The key to growing is to shake things up and get more people into the mix.

    Then formalize and publish the rules. The rules should be clear and known. Like kuro5hin has 95 mod level to post, -20 to dump, default is to dump if neither level is reached in 5 days. (I think it’s 5. Am I right?). Obviously you don’t have that many queue moderators, but making rules known and explicit is a start.

    Got to run. More later

  8. as far as i’m concerned i love to read as many stories here as possiable. i think that rickyjames’s stories are intresting and well written. and at least someone is posting. If there were fewer posts i doubt i would visit every day. It would be an occasional check-up on the site and little more, as it is now i check every day and even post comments. I guess thats my 2 cents worth for today.


  9. I agree with you about clarifying the mod level rules. Hopefully if we go to dynamic (percentage) levels that could still be displayed in the mod page as an absolute number?

    As for the number of stories (and stories by rickyjames in particular) there is room for discussion. What I see rickyjames’ goal to be (and this is just my guess, so correct me if I’m wrong!) is that there are at least three or so new stories a day total. He does write less when more people are submitting. So whether he is writing too many depends on how many stories the site “should” have on a daily basis. Why not twenty-four new stories a day (one per hour)? Slashdot has more than that, and they obviously still get lots of comments. Of course we want Quality — but I think there is that much quality science news out there. It just needs to get written up well.

    >By the way, why should anyone submit anything when you already
    >submitted five stories for the day? The story will stay in the queue for a
    >couple of days and get stale while you might cover it much sooner.
    >See the problem here?

    Well, there isn’t anything about the mod queue that prevents stories from getting posted based on the number of new stories recently posted (as far as I know), so are you implying that people won’t vote for a story if five stories have already been posted that day? That doesn’t make sense to me. In your own list of criteria for voting, you didn’t mention the number of stories already posted that day, just the quality of the story itself – that’s how I vote too, and I assume that’s how most people vote.

    Rickyjames used to put his stories through the mod queue, but it was slow way back in those times, so he started using the direct route. Maybe it is time for him to go back to the mod queue now that it has a quicker turnover. Or maybe do one story a day direct-to-press and put the rest in the submission queue.

  10. it was a “missing var” that I found a while ago (in the code, but not in the DB… there were quite a few of them). It’s been in the code for well over a year and a half, so you should have it.

  11. well, part of what you’re talking about is getting people more involved in the site – and since at another point in this soapbox you mention raising the moderation threshold – it’s probably time for you to start sending your stories through the queue. I think that whould be a step toward getting more people to participate.

    As it is, since your stories both dominate the front page and skip the queue, there’s a quite reasonable perception that it’s your site and not everybody’s site… as your stories go through the queue, people will start to realise that hey, they have a say in things after all, this isn’t just your site that you sometimes allow other people to post on.

    Even (or especially?) with blogs, there’s still a lot of people for whom the whole idea of a site where the readers decide what to post, where the editors are just there to make sure the stuff behind the scenes gets done, is foreign… sites (excluding BBS-style sites) have been, for the longest time, either read-only or if interactive, comment-only in designated areas – primary content being both submitted and chosen by the users and not by a single (or small group of) editor(s) is a really unusual idea. Even BBS-style sites don’t usually allow users to start a whole new discussion on their own – they have a choice of existing boards to post comments on, and that’s it.

    I’ve found that even among tech-savvy people, Scoop’s core concept (the open queue) is very novel. People are used to reading, or watching; they’re used to not being able to affect something they didn’t set up themselves, something they don’t own.

  12. Ricky, I don’t think you post too many articles. That’s why there are a lot
    of readers — your articles are interesting, and reading them is a quicker and
    more enjoyable way to get current information than most alternatives. If you
    didn’t post so much, the site would not get the hits it does; I suspect the number would drop if your coverage of the news were less complete.

    As to why more people don’t write, in the first place, most people don’t
    have time to do the research while the topic is still hot, let alone write it up. (I don’t know how you find the time yourself — but even in college you had the ability to skim and digest multiple topics faster than average.) In the second place, people probably assume that if they did research a news topic, you would be simultaneously researching the same thing and one article or the other would be wasted effort. This situation is unavoidable in the case of current news unless topics are preassigned to specific writers. If you skipped timely stories for the sake of getting more people to write, they might not get covered at all; and since you can do it so well, I don’t see how there would be any benefit to readers.

    I don’t think you should expect many other news postings. Where more community-building would be desirable is not in the posting of articles (other than opinion articles) but in getting people to comment. But I had years of experience in moderating topics and in teaching online courses, and it was always very difficult to get people to write comments, even in a course where I kept telling them their grade depended on it! So it’s not surprising that they don’t comment much here. I’m not familiar with Slashdot, but I’m amazed to hear that its articles generate hundreds of comments. Is that true of topics other than controversial ones?

    Controversy generates comments, even here. Accurate, objective reporting of fact does not. (Look at the Letters to the Editor page of any newspaper.) This is not a bad thing. The purpose of news reporting is to inform readers, and success should be judged by how many readers there are, just as the success of a publication is judged by its circulation and not by how many write to the editor and argue! Passive readers come here because they have discovered that if something important is happening in science they will find it here, or at least a link to it, so they don’t have to hunt elsewhere. They don’t care how many writers there are. (Of course it would be nice if you didn’t have to do the lion’s share of the work! But that’s the price of being good at it.)

    One reason there are not a lot of comments, except when you branch away from science into politics, is that people interested enough in science to keep up with its news tend to have fairly uniform opinions on most subjects that are controversial among the general public; and if someone does express a contrary view, he or she gets quickly squelched by the majority. So there cannot be any real debate. As to actual controversies within science, most readers are not knowledgeable enough to debate them, since detailed knowledge of competing theories would be required. (At Slashdot, are there hundreds of comments on science topics, or only on topics familiar to non-scientists?)

    I don’t have much time to write here, or much to say except on subjects that I have unorthodox opinions about — and every time I’ve done it, there has been a response. The only sure way of getting one is to say something you know a significant share of your audience won’t agree with. But since your own views on scientific subjects are generally accepted, you probably can’t expect many comments on your articles.

  13. What I see rickyjames’ goal to be (and this is just my guess, so correct me if I’m wrong!) is that there are at least three or so new stories a day total.

    Actualy the goal is to have a successful community site like k5 or slashdot. That means having discussions on posted stories. That must be the first goal. The number of stories is secondary.

    I believe having too many stories contradicts the goal of building a community site. The comments are spread too thin. The number of stories can be large only when the number of posting (not just reading) users is large. Look at K5. The number of posters is probably 2 orders of magnitude larger than here. They still have only 2-3 stories per week.

    so are you implying that people won’t vote for a story if five stories have already been posted that day?

    No, that’s not what I am saying. User-submitted story stays in the queue at least for a couple of days (at the current rate of modding). Two-three days for a news story is too long. The story gets stale while RJ can in these few days post the same story immediately and another 20 stories. That means there is not much incentive to post news stories. As opposed to crackpot thories or fiction which does not get stale as fast.

    Slashdot has more than that

    The number of Slashdot users is A LOT more than the number of SciScoop users. It’s like comparing a Fortune-100 company to a small one-man startup.

    Or maybe do one story a day direct-to-press and put the rest in the submission queue.

    This sounds like a very good idea.

  14. I express my opinion. You express yours. That’s the point of a discussion. I believe a bunch of links without explanations is useless. They seem like “I have to much stuff to sort through, so I just dump it on you”. I can get those links in a lot more friendly format from, say, ScienceDaily. They don’t add value to SciScoop

    Of course I don’t have statistics on how readers would agree with me.

  15. Readers come here for news, not debate

    Please name the readers who elected you to be their representative. If you can’t name them then the statement should be “I come here for news, not debate”. If you come here for news and not debate, why do you participate in a debate?

    Ricky, I don’t think you post too many articles.

    You see, that’s exactly the problem with this site. This is Ricky’s site (as you correctly noted by addressing him personally) when he is trying to build a community site. And you miss this point entirely.

    That’s why there are a lot of readers

    That depends on the definition of “a lot”. A few hundred unique visitors per day is not a lot for a site like this. If it were really a lot, this discussion would not happen.

    your articles are interesting

    Yes they are. Just like stories @ sciencedaily, bbc news, newscientist etc.

    and reading them is a quicker and more enjoyable way to get current information than most alternatives.

    The site needs to provide added value. The added value here is in discussions, not news coverage because better news coverage can be found elsewhere.

    I suspect the number would drop if your coverage of the news were less complete.

    Even if it happens it won’t be a problem if instead of passive readers there will be more posters.

  16. I think it’s really cool that each of us can have our own unique set of criteria, then somehow we come up with a consensus on what stories get posted. To me, original content is important, it’s the “added value” of coming to SciScoop rather than just reading a press release. Spelling and grammar are not so important, as long as the meaning is clear. Links are also an added value, but not absolutely necessary.

  17. You DID express your opinion about a succession of links.  I followed with my opinion.  YOU say those links without explanation are useless.  I have stated that for me, they are not.  Now, what’s the problem?  Yes, duh, we are having a discussion, and it involves a difference of opinion.  To quote you from your response to Sylvia below, speak for yourself, please, and not for every reader.  These multi-link POSTS DO HAVE VALUE TO ME, so you are not speaking for me when you say they are just noise and have no value.

    I believe Ricky began collecting these links and throwing them into one post after a responder asked where he found all these interesting articles and how did he have time to do any of them justice.  He DOESN’T have time to do all of them justice, but in an effort to get the better stories out there, he at least gives a topic– and the article’s only a click away.

  18. I agree with that statement.  The writing TONE of most of these articles is what makes them engaging.   Oh, but Sweetwind– how you make me weep with your dismissal of spelling and grammar as being “not so important” :-).

    ONE of my criteria:  A part of a QUALITY site should be correct (standard) language usage.  Seeing otherwise thought-provoking articles with massive spelling/mechanical errors makes me wonder about the author’s credibility.  I’m not talking about a typo or two– we’ve certainly all embarrassed ourselves with those– but MY OPINION IS that poorly written expression on a site weakens the site.

    Actually, there’s not much poorly written expression except from the posters, but I hope standard language usage will be a consideration for future submissions.  

  19. I was not speaking for myself as a reader — I was offering an opinion based
    on many (long past) years of experience in moderating online conferences of
    the type where a lot of material was presented. I also based this opinion on
    the fact that there are many passive readers here, and only a few people have
    chosen to write. I was observing these readers, not acting as their
    representative. If they didn’t come here for news, they wouldn’t be here;
    if they came for debate, they would be writing comments!

    It may be, as you say, that having fewer passive readers wouldn’t be a problem if there were more posters. If that is the goal, though, I question whether it’s possible to achieve it and still emphasize news. I believe that in order to get more comments, it would be necessary to to focus on controversial opinion articles rather than news articles. Possibly it would help to divide the front page into news and opinion sections and see which gets the most hits.

    Incidentally, I addressed Ricky personally because he is a personal friend from many years back, and also because I often do address people personally when I reply to comments they have written in first person and posted under their
    real names.

  20. On kuro5hin I’ve heard that there is one active user for every 10 accounts, and one account for every 10 anonymous reader. And that’s on a site that has topics that everybody and their dog has an opinion on – namely, politics. :-)

    The stories on kuro5hin that gather the most comments are the ones that are, as you say here, the controversial ones, the ones where people feel they have an opinion to express or defend. The more detailed and technical articles get far fewer comments, because far fewer people feel qualified to comment, and yet those articles are enormously appreciated when they do appear.

    SciScoop would see this effect to an even greater degree – the types of stories that are posted here tend to be even more technically oriented than the most technical ones on kuro5hin; k5 science articles are very often written in “popular” format so more people will read them. (I know; I’ve written two.)

    Add to that the fact that as I said in my other comment, people just plain aren’t used to having the ability to discuss science in an open forum – and even less used to being able to affect what is posted.

    I wouldn’t worry about how many passive readers there are, I’d worry more about retaining and getting more active commenters.

  21. Consider making a page like this. Make a prominent link to it from the front page or, better, from every page.

  22. On kuro5hin I’ve heard that there is one active user for every 10 accounts, and one account for every 10 anonymous reader. And that’s on a site that has topics that everybody and their dog has an opinion on – namely, politics. :-)

    These stats seems to be about right if reader != visitor.

    There are two categories of visitors. Those who come purposefully, having the site bookmarked. Then there are those who come from a web search. The fraction of the latter is usually large, no less than 50%, likely more. They visit just a single page bacause it’s a search engine hit then leave and never come back.

    Judging from the number of people answering polls (about 7-10 per day) and considering that usually 15-20% of the readers answer polls, it seems like there is only about 60 people who come to the front page daily (equivalent to the number of accounts in your stats). And if 10% post actively, if gives about 6 active posters. Which is very close to the real number.

  23. I was observing these readers, not acting as their representative.

    OK, I’ll keep that in mind. Next time when you appear to speak for “us” or “readers” I’ll mentally add she just wants to add authority to the post, she really speaks just for herself.

    I believe that in order to get more comments, it would be necessary to to focus on controversial opinion articles rather than news articles.

    Yes. That would be a good idea.

    If this site is about news written by one guy for a bunch of his friends, then it’s doing just fine. If this site is to grow into something bigger, then it needs change. It’s been what, two years since scifitoday started?

    I would even seriously consider letting kooks post their theories in a special section. Once there is a considerable community, more serious stuff could be posted.

  24. I follow SciScoop through the Slahbox on /., and the articles haven’t changed since 4/29… I see newer articles on the home page. Is this a Sciscoop problem?

  25. The cron function on the server is down yet again.  Thanks for pointing it out, we’ll point it out to the right guys…

  26. Was that fixed, and then broke again, or just manually updated once? There’s 2 stories on the home page that are not showing up in the slashbox.

  27. Given the continued tightening of world oil supplies (and the increases people are seeing at the pump too) this seemed the right thing to do. Criticism of the way I reposted it is welcome though!

  28. Hi Janra,

    I was looking through the site controls etc. and couldn’t find anything that seemed to have anything to do with html tagging – I was guessing it was a filter embedded deep somewhere? Or is it in the perl code for some of the boxes?

  29. called “allowed_html” (in newer versions of Scoop it’s a site control instead of a block)

    You can add any HTML tag or tag attribute you like, and you can specify which must be closed and which stand alone. Scoop’s HTML parser reads the block to figure out what’s permitted when somebody posts a comment.

    You can also limit some HTML tags to certain user groups, for example only allowing admins to use the IMG tag.

  30. Just thought I’d share some statistics that I personally find a little disheartening.  Something is happening here on SciScoop – we’re losing readers.  

    The following are the page hit counts from the FastPage counter in the upper right corner of a SciScoop page:

    Apr 05 – Apr 11 : 21,607 pagehits

    Apr 12 – Apr 18 : 24,864 pagehits

    Apr 19 – Apr 25 : 24,335 pagehits

    Apr 26 – May 02 : 17,403 pagehits

    May 03 – May 09 : 19,141 pagehits

    May 10 – May 15 : 15,520 pagehits

    May 17 – May 23 : 08,198 pagehits

    So far our hits for this week look like they’re headed for new lows.  Our pagehits for Mon May 24 were 1013 vs. 1724 the week before and a healthy average of around 3500 per Monday in April.

    For the record, we swithced over to true moderation on April 21 and most of my stories since then have been taking press releases and adding links to them, mainly because of increased time pressures at work and home.  Questions:

    Is this even anything to be worried about, even tho I think it is?

    Has the quality of the site significantly deteriorated with my major emphasis on press release stories over the pass few weeks?

    Anybody got any comments / ideas / suggestions?

  31. 1) Our RDF cron still isn’t working right, so we’re missing out on the Slashdot traffic.
    2) Our RDF feed on kuro5hin points to, which is no longer active. I submitted our new URL awhile ago, but it doesn’t seem to have been fixed.
    3) Some people may have had the site bookmarked via and after that disappeared, they couldn’t connect to our site anymore and thought it disappeared. I had one user track me down and phone me at home, asking me what happened to SciScoop for just this reason.
    3) Our stories aren now less timely because they take more time to get through the moderation queue. Maybe we should lower the threshold?
    4) Press releases aren’t as interesting as original writing.

    I have a question for people. I keep seeing really great science stories on Slashdot that would be great here, but then I wonder if I’d be being a copycat to write about them here instead of trying to find something original. Of course, I’m under my own deadlines workwise, but hopefully next month I’ll have more time.

  32. Is this even anything to be worried about, even tho I think it is?

    Maybe but unlikely. Can you produce the referer stats? What’s the breakup between search engines/bookmarks? Is the drop due to lower Google ranking or fewer bookmark hits? What kind of stats can you get from fastcounter?

  33. My personal falloff in SciScoop views was due to an unfortunate couple of weeks with very little computer access. However…

    The RDF feed really does it for me. I stopped reading for almost a week because their was no change to it, then came here to ask about it. Most people wouldn’t take that extra step. Especially people (like me) who read the Slashbox instead of getting their own RDF client/parser/whatever you call it.

    On that note, anyone have suggestions for a WinXP RDF client?

    As an additional note, if I could get an RDF client that accepted it, would it be posdible to get an RDF feed of the submission queue? I check it and vote when I come here, but I only come here when I see a new page on the RDF feed. I realise that it doesn’t make sense to make such a thing a Slashbox, since it’s personalized to the stories you’ve voted for. Any way to make that easier?

    — Just my two cents.

  34. I will make it my mission to get that fixed. Unfortunately, I think we need to rely on our server admin to fix it, but maybe not. I’ve made inquiries and stressed the urgency of resolving this ASAP.

    As for an RDF for the submission queue, that is not currently a feature of Scoop. However, someone else recently made that suggestion here and I think’s it’s a great idea. Janra, who wrote the Scoop Administration Guide and is also one of the SciScoop superusers, says it should be possible to do, so don’t be surprised if you see that feature sometime in the near future.

  35. Unfortunately I’m overcommitted just now with the upcoming ISDC meeting. So I’ve posted much less the past couple of weeks than I was before that. I think all of us have been evolving a bit in the way we write and read the site…

    Also Drog’s explanations may have a lot to do with it – RDF is important, and when did scifitoday actually expire?

    However, it seems to me we have had a pretty good average on comments to articles the last few weeks, and it’s not just the few regulars…

    And Ricky, I’ve been waiting for you to write up all that sex science news that’s been coming out lately!

  36. That domain showed SciScoop right up until it expired, didn’t it? It should probably have showed a “we’ve moved” message for at minimum several months before getting rid of it entirely. Whenever you deactivate a URL you will always have people who have bookmarked the old one, even if you do have a “we’ve moved” message for months. Inertia rules a surprising amount of the web…

    If you can afford it, it may be an idea to re-register just so the people who had bookmarked it realise that the site isn’t gone, it’s just moved…

  37. Well, in case everybody’s wondering where I’ve vanished to lately, I’m asymptotically approaching some kind of time warp.  My time sense is all screwed up because of fatigue over the past few days, and it’s gonna get worse.  

    At work, I’ve somehow become the main book-boss that’s gotten called in literally from the sidelines to edit a very important 150 page document that’s supposed to be delivered to General Kadish next Tues.  This thing is a GMD system safety overview written by a committee of engineers with too much access to the cut-and-paste function of a word processor.  Your imagination is not capable of comprehending the disjointed horror.  

    Right now I’m in the middle of pulling an all-nighter trying to get the front third of this mess put into some kind of logical flow and order after getting kudos on what I did on pages 45 thru 80.  One of the original authors may never forgive me, but the government guy from the project office here in Huntsville that’s ordered this little clusterf…um, exercise was pleased  to say the least.  He’s the one that’s gotta deliver this thing to Gen. K next week and I think he’s still a tad nervous at this point.

    I’m mainly pulling the all-nighter because I’ve only got until midnight Thursday to provide any input at all.  After that, I leave the working-late-and-over-Memorial-Day-weekend cheerful troops behind and go to Birmingham early Friday morning to do the stepson-rehersal-dinner-wedding-party thing over 36 action-packed hours on Friday and Saturday.  My role is mainly trying to keep my wife sane, which may be harder than editing the SAR I’m working on now.  

    THEN on Sunday morning we all wake up in Birmingham and take off for a week at Gatlinburg in the Great Smokies followed by a jaunt over to Ashville to see the Biltmore House, something I’ve never visited even though my grandfather was born in wooden shack in nearby Leicester, where I’ve visited distant and now-forgotten relatives many times as a child.  This is a two-car road trip with my wife’s relatives from North Dakota.  To say they have interesting love-hate dynamics as a family is an understatement.  Before the World Trade Center towers fell, we all went to see Allison graduate from West Point and then toured New York City.  My wife and her bro got in a loud, spirited tug-of-war on the bus over the map.  That sucker ripped in half and you could have heard a pin drop.  Nothing like that will happen THIS time, will it?  Nah.

    Anyway, we get back home Saturday Nite June 5.  Boy, am I gonna need a vacation by then.

    But I digress.  I ain’t doin’ no SciScoop stories til June 6.  Sorry.  If y’all’d like to put some up, it’d be much appreciated.  May I suggest putting links into  various press releases and calling it a submitted SciSCoop story?

    If anybody’s still here reading at this site when I get back, I’ll pitch in trying to address the possible reader leaks that have been discussed.  Thanks for the input, gang.

    Have a great Memorial Day weekend, gang.  Don’t forget why we’re celebrating.

  38. I’m in Oklahoma at ISDC – lots of new people to meet, at least… Anyway, probably won’t be posting until next week.

  39. I kind of harped on Ricky’s last political story. I’m torn on them. He does such a good job coherently compiling and presenting timely and relevant information. I do want them. Just not sure that I want them on the front page.

    On Kuro5hin, which is definitely living up to its name these days (likely why the rdf url hasn’t been updated), there is a box on the left hand side of the front page that contains recent/good diary entries. Could we have such a box here on SciScoop? It’s the only reason why I knew of the diaries, I knew they were a feature of Scoop. I tend to read them quite a bit on Kuro5hin.

    I would love to see Ricky post his political stories in a section like the Diaries. I understand your busy right now doing something for some General or something like that, Ricky, but I look forward to more when you have the time.

  40. I certainly appreciate the rare statement that somebody actually WANTS to hear my political rantings!  I’ve got a few of them up my sleeve, and that pesky prime number story too…

    As for work pressure on my time, it’s getting worse.  Looks like I’m about to get sucked into going to Alaska at least once per month for a week at a time, starting with this Monday.  I am going to try to keep posting stories over the weekend (when I’ll be visiting my son in Seattle for the first time in a couple of years!!!) and next week.  We’ll see how it goes…

  41. only replaced.

    The new SciScoop RDF feed is available, and the old one is gone, but you have to select the new one in your display preferences to see it.

  42. Question for users and admins alike – what do you think of enabling Scoop’s “edit queue” feature?

    The feature adds a second “mode” to the current voting queue. A story in the voting queue (the one we’re familiar with) is one where the author cannot edit, and users can vote; a story in the edit queue is one where the author can edit, and users cannot vote.

    It has its advantages and disadvantages, as seen in this thread.

  43. If you hadn’t noticed – the move is thanks to janra – “cron” is fixed so the RDF file is being regularly updated, and Stats are working now too! I believe this is an upgraded version of the scoop software, but janra could give more details on that.

  44. SciScoop was using code from October 2002 yesterday; today it’s using code from last week, the 1.0 release of Scoop

    And if anybody other than the admins had noticed anything change, it would probably have been during the 10 minutes in the middle of the night that we did the move and upgrade. The Scoop team tries very hard to not change how an existing site already runs when it adds new features and makes other upgrades.

  45. n’t comment on what I don’t know/understand but continue to read to be informed. Do not know why you want comments just to have comments? some of the ones I see on onther site just look like telephone conv between teens, nothing much to say only few and far between inform. Rather see stories. Been to slash dot and didn’t see any thing I wanted to comment on but did set new question–will use same question here—-There have been continuing discoveries of impact craters on land and just imagine how many lie waiting to be discovered in the sea bed so is there any program to record and plot meteorite paths and the impact effect in a global presentation. Should be fantastic in effect and would like to see a site like this.

  46. And if anybody other than the admins had noticed anything change, it would probably have been during the 10 minutes in the middle of the night that we did the move and upgrade.

    I had problems which seemed to be DNS-related. The cached name record pointed to the old IP which was not responding.

  47. And middle of the night is a relative term. There are more time zones than the one you live in :-)

  48. Middle of the night in North America, which is the lowest-traffic time for the site. Not zero-traffic, but the lowest…

  49. If one goes to the Sections page, the author links of the various stories in each section are simply numbers.

  50. I hate to be a party pooper, but that omnipresent Serenity box is causing me the opposite of serenity. I usually spend my time here between the ‘new comments’ and ‘moderate submissions’ links. But now that this serenity box is cluttering up the right column I have to actually scroll to get the link. Most annoying. Is that too much whining?

  51. or, rather, computer range, for the past 2 weeks.
    When did SS begin showing who else is online??
    That’s cool!  If you tell me it happened months ago, I’ll up my meds a notch :-).

    Right now, jxliv7, Chronosphere, and 18 AHs are sampling the offerings.

    And BTW, I really miss Sweetwind.

  52. A couple of months ago I posted a diary entry titled “It’s working.” I think I might have been incorrect in my presumption. Today is the first day that I can remember that I haven’t had new material to read here.

    Ricky spends a great deal of time creating excellent content for this site, but he shouldn’t be alone. Arthur contributes great stories. I do my best to help, but I lack his and most other peoples writing talent. How can we encourage fresh submitters? Or am I alone in wishing that there were more?

    Is it the case that most stories get voted to the front page because they are all excellent? I suspect that it is at least partly (if not mostly) due to the fact that there just isn’t anything else to vote to the front page. Quite frankly my recent story about the results of the LASP UVIS instrument should’ve been a diary entry or a section story at best. We’ve only had a small handful of stories that have been rejected. I don’t think that’s a good thing. That may sound weird, but I’d rather see the group of posted stories be so excellent that it becomes necessary to reject a few good ones.

    Who’s with me? And if you are, any suggestions on encouraging more submissions?

  53. I took a break today simply because you and AP posted good stuff.  Wound up writing space station comments anyway.

    Look at the last box in the right column.  Janra finally got The Box From Hell working right (it used to crash the Scoop engine a lot) and now we can see the ratio of member to non-members in the last 10 minutes.  Most people view SciScoop as just another newspaper.  How we get over this, I don’t know.  It’s a little better than it was – I guess we keep the site up until is slowly gathers a crew of regular writers.  I hope that’s soon.


  54. Well, personally i’ve always wanted to submit a story! Sadly, though, I have really bad grammar skills. Infact if i tried to post a story i’m sure that it would be voted out quicker than if it was a viagra ad! Either that or by the time i was done editing, it would no longer be news.

    I think one sure-fire way to drive people away from posting is to concentrate not on what is said but how they say it. Many times it seems that the people who are moderating are more focused on highschool grammar issues than what the story or article is about. Most times the issue is a missing comma or a link that dosent work… i guess to me that’s just silly, if you understand what they are saying then it’s okay!

    Thats about all i’ve got to say, for now. I am sure that as i think about it more ideas for improving participation will come to me.

    J n

  55. You write well enough, she’ll fix it up. Ricky’s writing isn’t that good, actually :-)

  56. Have you noticed my problems? I recently wrote that some varieties of hops resulted from mating Oregon. As ap said, gypsysoul helps a lot. She (it’s a guess, I’m not sure, don’t mean to offend if I’ve used the incorrect pronoun) has fixed up more than a few of my mistakes, and janra helps out in that regard too.

    Besides, I’d like to think I’m getting better. Practice makes per^H^H^Hbetter.

  57. Gypsysoul, I mean, and if you just leave her a comment that you’re willing for her to edit your stories after you post them, she’ll be your willing word wench.  She works by invitation only.

  58. and I apologize if I’ve been a factor in driving readers away.  One problem is that those comments are nearly always in a box labeled “Editorial Comments,” which is the proper place for them if they belong on the site at all.  Anyone not wishing to read about where a comma belongs can simply click on “Topical Comments Only” on PREFERENCES.

    I agree that a missing comma here or there is no big deal, and we’re all capable of making typos online.  It comes with the territory.  

    I disagree with you, however, that “if you understand what they are saying then it’s okay!”
    This site surely attracts professionals from all branches of science and mathematics, not to mention the curious and undereducated who want to know more. Just as you feel that nit-picking about “high school grammar” is driving readers away, I feel that offering poorly written commentary would also drive readers away.  

    The only option I see is for the nittiest of the pickers to vote the submission down if there’s a space too many between words and quit pointing out every writing flaw.  It seems that those who become so annoyed with the editorial comments still refuse to get them off their preferences.  

    I’ll make a deal: I have editor status on this site, with rj’s blessing :-).  I will make no more responses to comments about “high school grammar.”  I’ll fix the problem if I feel comfortable doing so, and refrain if I don’t.  We’ll see if that helps :-).  

  59. I’ve mentioned to you (and others) that I welcome the feedback. You and other editors should be as much instructional as you are editorial. I want to know my mistakes, and with the more arcane grammatical errors, why they are mistakes. Silent adding of an obvious comma or fixing of a typo is alright, but if you have to fix phrasing for a dangling participle or something, I for one would like to know about it.

  60. not offending), what to do??   I’d love to explain, wherever you need an explanation, but as stated previously, some readers do not have the strength of will to choose “Topical Comments Only” on their Preferences.  Then they become agitated over discussions of grammar found in the editorial comments.

    If you want to get my email address from Ricky, I can “weed-eat” your writing by your sending it to me before you submit it.  That way, I can offer comments about any phrasing that is a bit unclear, etc., without sending  some of the faithful into spasms of annoyance, either because they want the writing FIXED immediately or because they don’t want to read lectures on grammar.

  61. THANKS, fellas :-).

    I do have an unrelated request.  Could we begin a 3rd quarter Soapbox?   Seems that about every 3 months, we begin to get crowded in here… not that the company’s not delightful, but it does take a second or two now to do all that scrolling down to the new comments. Patience has never been one of my virtues :-).

  62. It’s not Dr. (I wasn’t able to muster the patience after masters work). My (pseudo)email is available here in every one of my postings mtigges … shaw dot ca, could you send me yours there? I will definitely take you up on your offer.

  63. i’m sorry if i offended you i only meant to say that, I guess it’s just a little intimidating for someone like me to post something that will be critically reviewed, mabie over the weekend i’ll compose something and submit it on monday… hmmmm, i have some ideas… we’ll see :)

    J n

  64. We have a few editors with excellent spelling and grammar skills who are willing to tidy up posts on request.

    I disagree with the “concentrate on what they say not how they say it” though. I find it very hard to take an article seriously if it’s riddled with trivial spelling and grammar errors. (I can usually spot the pattern of errors made by somebody for whom English is not a first language, and I’m a lot more forgiving to them.)

    But again – we will tidy up spelling and grammar on request, so don’t be shy about posting!

  65. Editorial comments are, by default, shown in the queue but not shown once the story is published. (This is “mixed” comment mode.)

    It may be a good idea to make the two different types of comments more visually distinct than they are at the moment (right now the only visible difference is a thin red border around editorial comments). If anybody has a suggestion for how to distinguish the two, please post a comment…

    Editorial comments are useful – other members have pointed out errors in the story that I’ve fixed, and once the story is posted those comments aren’t visible anymore.

    So to those who don’t like comments pointing out spelling nitpicks, before you complain, check to see if it’s an editorial comment or not. If it is, nobody will see it once the story is published unless they go looking for it (by setting their comment mode to “All comments” or “editorial only”). If it isn’t, the editors can turn it into an editorial comment (editors: the “(toggle)” link, in case you were wondering what that was for).

    And to those who would vote a story down based on spelling and grammar errors, hold off on voting for a bit and post a comment pointing the errors out and one of the editors will fix it. Then you can vote on the story, not on the spelling :-)

  66. send you my email address there, but my danged AOL refuses to post… says your address is too long.  This is the 2nd time I’ve tried (remember when I mentioned that to you some time ago?), both by clicking on your address in parentheses and by typing it out.  

    If you don’t want to bother RJ, you’ll have to email me– I’m changing net provider SOON, but for the moment my brand new Sciscoop address is –

    Sorry.  I have a fondness for long screen names:-).

  67. 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
    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.

    See you there!  Keep writing and let’s all stick together!

  68. Did we stop being interesting to Google News, and lost readers from a drop in links shown there?

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