The NYT’s Virginia Heffernan now “regrets” being duped by Watts
As long as Anthony Watts keeps a website “hits” counter on his sidebar and keeps bragging that his hits are evidence of his blog’s popularity, that will provide the most irrefutable evidence of his innumeracy and his willful statistical deception.
One thing is very safe to say about any quantitative analysis you see from Anthony Watts: It is, with high-probability, pure BS. See, for instance, Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts.
Worse, Watts has, perhaps more than any other leading anti-science blogger, viciously smeared climate scientists and others. Yet in a post touting the most meaningless statistic on the web — his 50 millionth hit — he has the nerve to write, “I’m really growing tired of the vociferous and voluminous name calling and people bashing, on both sides. It’s palpable.” What’s palpable is his hypocrisy.
On Memorial Day, for instance, Watts directly questioned the patriotism of both Tamino and Rabett (see “Peak readership for anti-science blogs?“) leading Tamino to write, “This just might be the most loathsome thing Watts has yet done with his blog.”
Watts also keeps reposting the disinformation of The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, even though TVMOB is the leading purveyor of outright hate speech among the disinformers (see Lord Monckton repeats and expands on his charge that those who embrace climate science are “Hitler youth” and fascists). Since he reposted TVMOB a number of times last month alone, one can only assume he fully supports TVMOB’s methods. Indeed, after Prof. John Abraham eviscerated TVMOB in a must-see video, Watts reposted a shameless effort by TVMOB to “censor” Abraham, as Skeptical Science noted. Deltoid put it this way: “Monckton, supported by Anthony Watts, is trying to suppress Abraham’s presentation. Over at Watts Up with That? Monckton defames Abraham and asks for help in suppressing Abraham’s speech.”
But this is standard operating procedure for Watts.
Last year he demanded YouTube take down a Peter Sinclair video debunking him. Then he defended his effort to censor Sinclair’s video, by saying he was “doing him a favor“ — no, seriously, you can’t make this stuff up, unless you’re a professional disinformer, like Watts. Fortunately, Anthony Watts knows even less about copyright laws than he does about climate science, if that’s possible, and YouTube quickly put the video backup.
But Watts tries to fool people with charts and pretty pictures and phony why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along talk. And as we’ll see he duped New York Times online media critic Virginia Heffernan into recommending WUWT in the NYT magazine today “For science that’s accessible but credible, steer clear of polarizing hatefests.” At least Heffernan walked back this recommendation on line before the article was even published (see here).
But first, back to the absurd 50 millionth hit claim, which by itself is prima facie evidence that Watts doesn’t know the first thing about analysis. In his July 29th post, “A cool 50 million“:
WUWT reached a new milestone with 50 million unique hits on the WordPress hit counter (in the right sidebar) early this morning….
No other climate related blog has a 50 million hit number. Some, like Joe Romm try to claim the numbers don’t matter, or try to claim that some other number matters more. But (and it’s a big one) he doesn’t show his own number counter. At least RC does.
Memo to Anthony Watts: Not “some,” but everyone who knows anything about web statistics knows hits are a meaningless and deceptive measure of site popularity. Oh, and ClimateProgress had more than 50 million hits this year alone (see below)!
[Sound of Watts feverishly using Google to find one credible Web analytics expert who thinks Hits are anything more than what an anagram of the word ‘hits’ would suggest!]
No serious blogger quotes their “hits” as a measure of traffic, let alone any who pride themselves on their knowledge of statistics. Indeed, since Watts obviously reads this blog, he knows that back in March, in a post titled, “Hits charade: WattsUpWithThat hypes itself with dubious webstats, while lowballing other blogs,” I quoted a typical explanation of just what Hits are, “Hits, Page Views, Visitors and Visits Demystified,” which concludes “It is evident it does not make a lot of sense to count Hits.” So, of course, it is the perfect metric for the top anti-science website in the country. It’s interesting that not one of his commenters have bothered to tell him this!
But let’s not just use one source. Let’s try About.com’s Definition of Hits from its Web analytics glossary:
And then About.com’s “Web Analytics Basics” explains:
Hits are not a useful or reliable form of Web analytics in a business context. They don’t really tell you anything useful. They are only really useful if you’re a Web server administrator and you want to find out why a page is slow to load.
Don’t use the term hits unless you want people to know you don’t know much about Web analytics or Web measurement.
Again, not one of his legion of ditto-heads tells the Emperor he has no clothes.
The very metric Watts uses to demonstrate his success is proof positive he doesn’t know what he’s talking about!
And here’s The Online Journalism Review from July 2007:
But under no circumstances should a professional news report ever use the term “hits” in a story about a website again (unless it is a story about a dDOS attack). Consider yourself warned, as an “OJR Hall of Shame” might otherwise be forthcoming.
That’s WattsUpWithThat, an inaugural member of the online Hall of Shame.
Anthony, I don’t publish my webstats because my IT folks simply don’t believe any Web analytics program is reliable, except perhaps to track trends over time, which is how I mainly use it.
But since Watts laughably called me out on this, I will this one time post a screen shot of the latest Urchin Software from Google, which is considered to be one of the better analytics tools (click to enlarge):
Yes, that’s right, according to one of the most highly regarded web analytics programs in the world, I had 54 million valid hits this year alone — more than Watts is touting for his blog’s entire existence!
Since Watts doesn’t seem to believe any statistics that disagree with his anti-scientific worldview, I’d be happy to export the data to any credible independent journalist he names or, say, Walt Meier at NSIDC who has posted at Watts. Heck, I’d even give Dr. Meier my login information. I’d also give him the login for CAP’s own webstats program, which also says I’ve had 54 million hits this year.
For the record, contrary to what Watts claims, I do post one independently-determined web metric on my site, as everyone knows. I post the number of subscribers to my daily feed as determined by Feedburner.
I have chosen a subscriber-driven strategy. I devote a lot of prime real estate at the top of CP to getting subscriptions. I want people to read the content and I don’t care if they come here to do so (or go to other websites where I repost some content, such as Grist). I now have about 35,000 subscribers, which is a large number for a website that focuses on a fairly narrow set of issues. My subscribers have been rising fairly steadily. It was closer to 2,800 at the start of 2009 and was 28,000 in March. But, some days, the number drops sharply, and my IT folks tell me even it is not 100% reliable.
I don’t know how many of my subscribers actually read my posts each day, or how many posts they read. The email subscribers and many if not most of the RSS feed subscribers can read any of the posts they want without ever coming here and registering in my webstats. I will note that if, say, only 1/3 of my subscribers read half of my posts a day without coming to CP, that would mean my actual pageviews were roughly double what the webstats programs show. There is, however, no good way of finding out.
Watts puffs himself up with the phony “hits” statistics. And he also claims:
We continue to be at the top in traffic and links.
WUWT gets a lot of traffic. But as the web comparison site Compete indicates, I currently rank a little higher than the fading Watts (based on unique visitors, as opposed to total visits). Click to enlarge:
Watts likes Alexa for comparing webstats, but most serious IT folks don’t since it is gameable and hence “unreliable” and “can’t be trusted” as a couple of bloggers have put it (Google “Alexa gameable”). And, again, my webstats and any of the comparison websites don’t calculate the people who get my content through my feed, which makes Watts’ claims more of a high school exercise.
As for links, Technorati, which is probably the most widely used ranking based on who links to you, says WattsUpWithThat has an “Authority” of 713 (higher is better) and is the 185th ranked blog in the country (lower is better). Climate Progress has a Technorati Authority of 734 and is the 137th ranked blog.
It is simply amazing that a man who puts so little faith in actual, verified, reproducible temperature statistics puts his entire professional credibility on dubious and/or utterly un-reproducible web stats that he keeps on his sidebar.
Or maybe isn’t amazing because he has no interest in doing credible analysis and he walked away from the chance he was given to do real science. Indeed, his life’s work “” to discredit the U.S. temperature record “” has been utterly discredited:
- Watts not to love: New study finds the poor weather stations tend to have a slight COOL bias, not a warm one
- Must-read NOAA paper smacks down the deniers: Q: “Is there any question that surface temperatures in the United States have been rising rapidly during the last 50 years?” A: “None at all”).
But he has all those pretty, phony charts and pretends to sound reasonable sometimes.
So he dupes journalists (at the NY Times) who don’t follow this subject closely (see “In yet another front-page journalistic lapse, the NY Times once again equates non-scientists “” Bastardi, Coleman, and Watts (!) “” with climate scientists“). Just today NY Times online media critic Virginia Heffernan (temporarily) recommended Watts in the NYT magazine “For science that’s accessible but credible, steer clear of polarizing hatefests.”
At least Heffernan walked back this recommendation on line before the article was even published (see here) after being widely criticized on the science blogosphere — see Deltoid’s “Post-modernism rides again at the New York Times” and Neuron Culture, where she posted this apology:
I’m grateful for all the replies. Nice to meet you here, David….
I have no training in science. My surprise at ScienceBlogs was akin to the surprise a scientist who might feel if he audited a PhD seminar on Wallace Stevens. Why aren’t they talking about “Anecdote of the Jar”?! Why are they talking about how “misogyny intrinsic to the modernist project”? I saw political axe-grinding bring the humanities almost to a standstill in the 1990s. I thought science was supposed to be above that!
One regret: the Watts blog. Virtually everyone who emailed me pointed out that it’s as axe-grinding as anything out there. I linked to it because has a lively voice; it’s detail-oriented and seemingly not snide; and, above all, it has some beautiful images I’d never seen before. I’m a stranger to the debates on science blogs, so I frankly didn’t recognize the weatherspeak on the blog as “denialist”; I didn’t even know about denialism. I’m don’t endorse the views on the Watts blog, and I’m extremely sorry the recommendation seemed ideological.
Note: She included her email (and Watts included it in his repost), so feel free to email her on the stuff she still has wrong.
At least she basically admits she was duped by the phony image the website tries to portray, but who would even admit this:
it’s detail-oriented and seemingly not snide; and, above all, it has some beautiful images I’d never seen before
Ooh, pretty pictures, shiny objects, the old razzle dazzle.
Yes, WattsUpWithThat is detail oriented, if by “detail” you mean, “disinformation,” as in these recent absurdities by Steven Goddard:
“The death spiral continues, with Arctic ice extent and thickness nearly identical to what it was 10 years ago.” (5/31)
“Over the last three years, Arctic Ice has gained significantly in thickness”¦. Conclusion : Should we expect a nice recovery this summer due to the thicker ice? You bet ya.” (6/2)
“Arctic Basin ice generally looks healthier than 20 years ago.” (6/23)
Here’s something else Watts stands out for — Fastest disinformer retraction: Watts says Goddard’s “Arctic ice increasing by 50000 km2 per year” post is “an example of what not to do when graphing trends.”
Watts simply lives to spread disinformation again and again:
- FoxNews, WattsUpWithThat push falsehood-filled Daily Mail article on global cooling that utterly misquotes, misrepresents work of Mojib Latif and NSIDC
- Dust Bowl-ification hits Eastern Australia “” next stop the U.S. Southwest. Anti-scientific WattsUpWithThat says it has “nothing to do with the dreaded Climate Change” and “has an unappreciated benefit”!
And “seemingly not snide”? Again, Watts directly questioned the patriotism of both Tamino and Rabett leading Tamino to write, “This just might be the most loathsome thing Watts has yet done with his blog.” Even in his post demanding others “dial down the rhetoric,” he calls another blogger “angry and juvenile.” Non-physician, heal thyself!
He approvingly reprinted a post labeling climate science “the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind.” (see here). Such a statement is anti-scientific and anti-science in the most extreme sense. It accuses the scientific community broadly defined of deliberate fraud - and not just the community of climate scientists, and all of the leading scientific journals, and all of the member governments of the IPCC, but also the leading National Academies of Science around the world (including ours) and the American Geophysical Union, an organization of geophysicists that consists of more than 45,000 members and the American Meteorological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
And yet Watts complains that people call him a denier. I still prefer “disinformer” for him, since merely denying scientific reality is far less harmful than what Watts does, which is actively spreading disinformation.
Watts is capable of dishing out the most virulent attacks on leading climate scientists, like James Hansen and Mark Serreze (see Exclusive: New NSIDC director Serreze explains the “death spiral” of Arctic ice, brushes off the “breathtaking ignorance” of blogs like WattsUpWithThat). He falsely accuses NOAA scientists of fraud (see here). But he can’t even take a factual and, by WattUpWithThat standards, relatively mild attack on himself (see “The video that Anthony Watts does not want you to see: The Climate Denial “Crock of the Week”).
The reason Watts wants others to “dial back the rhetoric” is that he wants the freedom to spread disinformation, smear leading scientists, call everyone else the most vicious names, and basically undermine any effort to preserve a livable climate for our children and grandchildren and countless future generations, thereby ensuring misery for billions of people — misery that could almost certainly have been prevented or sharply reduced at rather low net cost if the media and policymakers didn’t keep listening to disinformers like Anthony Watts and Steven Goddard.
In honor of Virginia Heffernan and the rest of the media taken in by the fast-talking, pretty pictures, phony details, and general razzle dazzle of disinformers like Watts, here is Chicago: