Changes at the RBC

New host, new software, new RSS feed, and – again and at last – comments. Play nice.

The Reality-Based Community is updating its software, thanks to the expert help of Michael Spitzer at Spitzer Creative.  We’re moving to the newest version of WordPress, and also changing hosting companies. 

The url will remain the same, but the RSS feed is now:

The RSS will now send a link rather than the full post. 

Notifications should continue to go out as usual.

The big improvement is that we are restoring the comments section.  Our old software proved incapable of filtering out spam without filtering out everything, so the comments section quickly filled with advertisements for various mutually incompatible anatomical improvements.   We decided not to go for registration, or one of those annoying “read the illegible letters” tests.

We also decided not to hold comments pending moderation.  This was a close call.  All of us know very sensible bloggers (including the amost pathologically polite and reasonable Kevin Drum) whose comments sections call for diagnosis rather than logical analysis, and none of us wants the RBC to move in that direction. 

Every RBC poster will be in charge of policing his or her own commments, and may choose not to allow them at all.  Speaking for myself, I plan to enforce a “play nice” rule:  you can disagree, but the privilege of being disagreeable is reserved for the authors.  I’ll be more sensitive to rudeness directed to other commenters than to rude remarks about public figures, but any comment containing the word “fascist” or “socialist” in other than the  technical senses of those terms is likely to disappear.   

Please don’t respond to trolling; if you spot it, send a note to me, and the troll will get zapped. 

And please be maximally polite to those whose politely expressed views differ to the greatest extent from the RBC consensus.   Remember, it’s very hard to learn anything importantly new listening to people you already agree with, so (sincere) dissenters are a protected species, and not to be molested.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

14 thoughts on “Changes at the RBC”

  1. Looks good. As I mentioned in the earlier post, you might want to see if you can add a "CAPTCHA", if possible, to keep out the spammers when they (inevitably) find this website.

  2. This is good news. The new site looks great!

    Also looks like you have a full post feed which is also good. (Says in the post it would just be a link.) I don't know why you'd want to offer anything less — summaries and links are just hostile to your feed readers.

  3. I am seeing the abbreviated feed, which as was previously mentioned, isn't very useful. It will probably reduce the number of posts which I read by at least half. You might want to reconsider this.

  4. Now I'm seeing summaries only in the feed. And the full feed was so nice while it lasted — there was paragraph formatting! As opposed to the old feed which was just a congealed mess of words. Please use full feeds!

  5. I suggest you also look into using Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Disemvoweler. It leaves the offending text there for those who are willing to take the time to puzzle it out, but it doesn't offend the eye for the less diligent or less masochistic readers.

  6. I also think that you need to send the full feed – you will just plain have more people reading more of your posts. I, like many people, rarely follow links in my feeds. It has to sound like a very compelling story to get me to do it. (I believe there are some good studies that show, at least for e-commerce, that something huge like 1/2 the readers/customers dropped out for every required "click". And that's presumably people who are trying to get something for themselves! This is my memory anyway from my previous life working for Visa.)

    I know there are those who believe that by instituting links you will get more people to come to the main site, and thus help generate more money from ads. I rather have the impression that it doesn't really work – and in any case you don't run ads as far as I've ever seen.

    If your aim is to disseminate your ideas and have people read what you write, then you need to send it out as widely as possible. And that means full feed.

    Good luck! I think you will like wordpress.

  7. "any comment containing the word “fascist” or “socialist” in other than the technical senses of those terms is likely to disappear."

    You could take the Crooked Timber approach of banning any comment that contains the string "cialis," although specialists in various areas might object. (This has led to a lot of befuddled "Why is my comment in moderation?" posts.)

  8. Glad to see the comments back, Mark. I'm sure you are relieved that this will also now protect you from most of my direct e-mails.

  9. Agreed on restoring the full feed, or at least making it available as an option. When the Washington Monthly went over to a summary feed, I found I really stopped reading it much at all. The main problem is that the summary never really gives enough to let me know whether I want to read the whole story, and so I find myself not much bothering. Up to you, of course, but I'm one of the people you're likely to lose as a reader as a result of the summary feeds.

  10. Great stuff, Mark and everyone. I fear for the comments section, though.

    As to the feed, I think, given the average length of an RBC post, that the summary is the right approach: I receive the email notifications on a non-work address, so I don't always know if there's a new post. My feed reader, on the other hand, is always active, so I'm likely to know about a new post quicker than I have been in the past.

    And, as ever, thanks to you all for continuing to provide excellent clear-headed analysis.

  11. To each his own, but I'm baffled why anyone would prefer less than full posts in a feed reader. WIth the full post, you can size it up to decide if you want to read it or not. You can see if it's a short post you might quickly read right now, or a longer post you may want to save for later.

    With the summary, you have to go somewhere else to answer these questions. To me, the whole point of the feed reader is to consolidate my reading in one place. For those that do like summaries for whatever reason, it seems you'd use a feed reader that lets you truncate what is displayed — for example, Google Reader has the "list" view.

    Not to argue too strenuously about it. I can accept that others might see it differently. I'm just hoping to sway the administrators here into changing to a full feed. I've been a longtime reader here and want to keep reading, but may unsubscribe in frustration at the inconvenience. Great blog, and sorry to whine about something I'm getting for free, but there it is. Just from the comments here, I know I'm not the only one!

  12. Hey! So maybe I'm kind of slow, but I just noticed the that there *is* a full feed now, but only offered from the front page. On the stories I've clicked through, I haven't seen that. I only went to the front page to look for an email address to let you know I was unsubscribing and unlinking to RBC from my own page in protest over the continuing summary feed. 🙂

    Thank you for this!

    (Not sure if is worth its own post to mention, but other summary feed haters may be happy to hear also, if they're not already subscribed to comments on this post.)

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