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Discussion > Channelling dogginess

I sussed out BBD well before he had his flip and turned a rabid warmie. Seems like others did too. I picked on his incessant posting of wood for trees graphs (I believe those were the earliest signs to the transformation) even though the resulting exchanges made me uncomfortable of the disruptiveness myself.

I am just looking back at some of the earlier posts and they remind of the obnoxious over-arguing thread-dominating behaviour that was tolerated for so long. Subsequently there were these handful of very painful discussion threads where the lack of depth in approach and temperament became evident and exposed, only slowly.

The guy is a disruptive troll when confronted. He is given to inveterate trampling of the innocent when undisturbed. All one can say is - yes some people are like this. Good riddance.

With regards to the questions by Richard: I remember writing to the Bish - once - about BBD. I suspect others have done so as well.

The whole thing dragged out so long, I believe, because it was an attempt at community policing of an established and contributing member.

For BBD, it was/is a catechism and a religious thing. If you believed in one article of faith, then slowly, you would have to come to believe in all articles of faith. Following the Mashey/Deepclimate/Rabett mode of operation, BBD posted comments repeatedly bringing up the Bish's supposed funding and Stacey International etc.

Oct 21, 2012 at 11:25 AM | Registered Commentershub

I never saw BBD as a troll. A very angry man, certainly, and one who evidently had become so convinced about the catastrophic effects of global warming that they evidently frightened him.Which was presumably why he got so angry with those who refused to believe him.
Though I did occasionally detect some mental instability.
His big problem was that he was merely regurgitating the assumptions and arguments (some of them patently dubious) of a limited range of heroes and on a couple of occasions we disagreed about a procedure which he so patently misunderstood (as in something that used to be first-year secondary school maths) that I doubted he had any real understanding of more than about 10% of what he was saying.
MydogSpartAlec, on the other hand, at least gives the appearance of knowing what he is talking about and if, as he claims, he has a background in practical engineering he ought to be worth paying heed to — even if he turns out to be wrong. Also, as johanna says, he is always perfectly polite even on those occasions when I get a bit ratty and ask when the hell this bloody paper of his is going to get published so we can all get some evidence!
I don't have a problem with his multi-aliases though I don't quite see the point. I have two of my own —one for a local forum in the UK where it is a user name that people recognise from a "previous life" (!) and the other for a specialist site where everybody has a 'handle'. I don't see this as a problem unless it's being used as a means to disrupt.

Oct 21, 2012 at 12:36 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


I am no scientist, but have picked up errors in both BBD's and Bitty's posts....

I see two problems with your statement: firstly, you might think you have nailed an error but that is just your opinion and if your correspondent disagrees, he/she has no reason to acknowledge it; secondly, you imply that it is one-sided, but do you really think that "skeptics" debating behaviour is any different?

I'm no scientist either and I make mistakes all the time. I don't know which posts you are referring to but if I am wrong and I see that I am wrong, I hope I have the grace to accept it. I'll make you a deal from now on - I will if you will.

Oct 21, 2012 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Don't come here and put skeptics in quotes. If you think the skeptics here don't display virtues of skepticism then fine. But what is the point of a show of aggression?

Oct 21, 2012 at 1:54 PM | Registered Commentershub

For most purposes I use 'troll' in a very benign sense. In that sense BBD did nothing other than what several others (of any of us) would do, or have done on occasion. I believe it was initially only so. But if you cannot post without insulting or belittling at least one person - you've got a problem. Very few do that. The transition happened gradually.

BBD's aggression and bluster has a parallel in the larger debate. If you act like a bully you cut yourself off from the people whom you've bullied. In turn it is difficult for you to find people with whom you can discuss your doubts and questions. Certainly you cannot do it with the people whom you branded as ignorant and laughed at. You cannot be seen publicly admitting to having the same kinds of doubts the plebs have.

Many of the scientists involved in the climate change public debate were and are in the same position.

This simply shows how the tone and frame of the public debate constrains popular scientific opinion (defined as what scientists and technically informed persons write about), and not the other way around.

Oct 21, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Registered Commentershub

Shub, force of habit, but unnecessary, as you say. Sorry!

Oct 21, 2012 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

I'm grateful discussion has broken out cross-party and at two levels described at the start: theory and hard experience. I'd like to ensure we continue to distinguish the two levels and as a result are being as precise as possible about the categories we are using.

Orwell and Bourbaki seem fine on that score. But do people agree with the definition of what trolling is that I quoted: "exploiting and demonstrating the weaknesses of online trust relationships"?

What about the neologism absurdist, meaning a troll who wants to render debate on a forum absurd. What about the distinction between real name and a real person (a superset of the former including nyms being used in good faith)?

I'm not saying these definitions are precise enough but that I'd be glad to have feedback at this level as well as the specifics of past or present posters we've found less than helpful. That could be a long thread :)

Oct 21, 2012 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Nice thread, everyone!

Myself, I've found talking to BBD quite helpful. I've noticed nothing to suggest he is playing games with tags. Whenever I've avoided exchanging insults with him, I've found he has a broad knowledge of the AGW arguments, as well as a willingness to express them and to criticise other's arguments. I like that about him, and it is has certainly helped me to work out my own opinions about the scientific issues. In a number of policy areas, I found some reasonable agreement with him I think, despite our scientific differences. He loses it occasionally, I agree, and that is a shame. But if I feel that I'm getting nothing from the exchange, I can always leave it.

There is a tremendous amount of misinformation about. So I wonder what are the best tactics for finding out the best answers to one's scientific questions?

Oct 21, 2012 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Richens

Let me try and collate some of the most helpful phrases recently used (in my biased opinion, obviously) and where they may help us in identifying and delineating certain categories.


... a disruptive troll when confronted ... given to inveterate trampling of the innocent when undisturbed

Very well put. We can all be a bit troll-like aka obnoxious when confronted. It was the trampling of the innocent when left to his own devices that immediately put this guy into a different category - that plus the way he evolved so quickly from pretty reasonable to hardened paranoid, as one can see from his tirades against the GWPF on Climate Etc today.

And the sudden 'conversion' to Hansenism. We can see from the spin put on Richard Muller the desperate need the consensus feels it has for conversion stories. The same in its own way with the survey the Bish is currently asking questions about. I have real issues with nyms exhibiting such changes of heart - far more than "roundabout to Damascus" Muller (one of my top coinages of the last year, some say ... well my Mum says.)

Such a powerful story without a real name is for me absurdist or at least tending in that direction. I'm not expecting all to agree but I hope it'll prompt some thought.


I don't have a problem with his multi-aliases though I don't quite see the point. I have two of my own —one for a local forum in the UK where it is a user name that people recognise from a "previous life" (!) and the other for a specialist site where everybody has a 'handle'. I don't see this as a problem unless it's being used as a means to disrupt.

I don't think that counts as an Orwell at all Mike. Thanks for mentioning it, because it would cause me to change my original definition like so:

A single contributor who uses multiple pseuds over a relatively short space of time in the same or closely related blogs


if they are not trying to deceive, why change their names? A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but why pretend to be a cabbage or a geranium?

Nice one.


I ... have picked up errors in both BBD's and Bitty's posts. Neither has ever acknowledged that they were wrong - they just shift the goalposts and keep going.

This shifting of the goalposts is a key sign of absurdism. Mind you, we all do it at times. Some have a bad habit of doing it pretty frequent;y. But there is also the pathological case. I can't speak for BitB as I don't feel I've studied his output and interactions (and the most recent apology sounds good). I do feel that in a different way mydog shifts the goalposts but I accept BH denizens are far from unanimous on how he/they is viewed.

Lastly, here's an agreement I think is misjudged, from Johanna and Hilary:

Mind you, Mosher is the same [as BBD and BB]

Bingo! There certainly have been posting days when I have wondered if Mosher is a member of the (now that I know the term!) Bourbaki!

But Mosher is a real name and real person known to Watts and McIntyre. However obnoxious or misguided he might be (and I rate him very highly - but that's an entirely different matter) it would be nigh on impossible for him to be Bourbaki, even less an absurdist one. At least in my terms.

I think the Mosher example also raises the generational issue - he was around in the very early days, which may explain his impatience with some newer critics. Especially those not using a real name? How bad would that be if true?

Anyhow, all of this is meant to be thought-provoking rather than definitive, as has been true from the start. I echo Johanna's vote of thanks to those who give of themselves on BH for the common good.

Oct 21, 2012 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake


But do people agree with the definition of what trolling is that I quoted: "exploiting and demonstrating the weaknesses of online trust relationships"?

That might be a good philosophical definition, but I believe many here take a simpler view: a poster who clearly doesn't accept at least some of the basic tenets of skepticism (without quotes, but in this case I think the word probably deserves them) can only be posting with bad intent and is thus a troll.

I have certainly been called a troll many times, including by people with whom I have (from my side) had nice conversations. And many here do not take kindly to their ideas being challenged; insults or name-calling often follow. The more one is thus assaulted, the more temptation there is to return in kind - a temptation to which I have recently succumbed. And thus the non-troll becomes more and more troll-like.

I wonder whether people would prefer never to get contributions from those who are not followers. Alternative opinions seem valuable to me, as they do challenge ones preconceptions (mine have been thoroughly challenged). I did once offer to cease posting if ten people asked me politely to go, but I got only a few takers. The offer is still open.

I echo Johanna's vote of thanks to those who give of themselves on BH for the common good.

I'll consider myself thanked ;-)

Oct 21, 2012 at 8:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Nice summary, Richard, and thanks for the kind mentions.

Re Mosher - it's a tricky issue. I absolutely agree that he gets points for being an identifiable person with published research that he stands by. It is more than I have ever done (in this field). But, the essence of science is that it doesn't matter who says something - what matters is whether it is defensible, verifiable etc. It is quite possible that my questions to Mosher were dumb, but that is not an excuse for completely refusing to engage, IMO.

Also, I don't buy the 'generational' argument. I have dealt with plenty of very senior scientists in my professional life who are courteous, even (sometimes especially) to those who are several drinks behind them at the party. Mosher admitted once on a thread at Judith Curry's that social skills are not his strong suit, and that seems a more likely explanation.

I think a good example of best practice is Pielke Jr. Here is a guy who cops it from both sides and manages to remain polite and impartial, within the bounds of his views. He has no truck with slippery behaviour, no matter what its source. Over time, he has won respect from people with a broad range of opinions because of that. I certainly don't agree with him about a lot of things, but am always willing to seriously consider and evaluate what he says.

Steve McIntyre is another example. Like everyone, he has biases that prevent him from being perfect. But, no serious commentator could accuse him of being corrupt or dishonest - on the contrary, transparency is at the core of his work. Integrity plus extraordinary ability have made his modest site influential way beyond its relatively small readership. He probably has a lot less readers than the Twilight fan club - but those who do read it include movers and shakers, and brilliant minds like Jean S. (who torpedoed the Gergis paper).

Without wanting to sound Pollyanna-ish, I am optimistic that the Great Blog Experiment is working pretty well so far.

Oct 21, 2012 at 11:18 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Here's an experiment for you - if you have the time for it.

Start a blog and enter the other side of it. (one side - commenter; other side - blogger). If I speak as a blogger I can tell you - it is an experience rife with disillusionment and political intrigue - even for someone extremely peripheral and limited in exposure (as in what I learnt/saw) as I was. In the end, I was only left with a handful whom I could consider I still respected. This includes people whom I had a very different impression of, as a commenter reading their blog output.

Oct 21, 2012 at 11:45 PM | Registered Commentershub

Sorry if I seem a bit dense, shub - but could you expand your post a bit? It's not clear to me what you are saying. Thanks - J

Oct 22, 2012 at 12:23 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Well, when you have the blog persona of someone to go by, you form a certain image of a person. When you critique the same person, the reactions you encounter may not match the persona. That is one thing. Somewhat self-evident as that may be, it goes to say that what we make of a blog personality - from their comments and posts - may not be the same as what they actually are, behind the mask.

For instance, if Roger Pielke Jr is equanimous in dishing out criticism, how is he when it comes to accepting criticism?

My larger point is not to dwell on any single example though. The blogging world is an ecosystem bound by its own alliances, faultlines, pecking orders and connections. Many of these connections are not evident at the surface. Inevitable as I know this to be, I found it strange. I always remember that I entered the debate as an observer and a commenter first. I would rather stay true to that.

All this is not to suggest a that an organized conspiracy blah exists. But when I started blogging, it was driven by the absurd and outrageous behaviour I encountered at Realclimate, for instance. Not everyone in the skeptical world, has the same perspective. For many, this is a game to be played out to eternity. The positions are rehearsed and everyone has a part to play. People tolerate many things. It is a theatre of the absurd. The politics of science and policy, of which global warming is one part, is a playground for these people and many of them live in it.

The skeptics' position is a defensive, reactionary one. Many bloggers have defined themselves to be, for instance, transparent, non-censorious, and open-minded, as opposed to the other party who are supposed not to be any of these (and in most instances indeed they are not). Not all of them can keep up such positions though because they are absurd to begin with.

I think I can sum up by saying I trust those individuals who are in the game out of a passion, rather than those who are jaded and professional. For instance, as an example, I trust Fuller more than I do Mosher. (I also wish it weren't like that, but hey). I don't trust any professional in this game of global warming.

\rant off

Oct 22, 2012 at 4:20 AM | Registered Commentershub

Jo/Shub: As I survey the scene I'm torn between Pollyanna and Cockburn. (Claud, coiner of the term The Cliveden Set in 30s and seminal influence on Private Eye, with Peter Cook, in 60s. The definitive English conspiracist was of course Irish. Life may be too short to get the chance ever to discuss him with Booker.)

Plus it seems I've ended up thanking a known troll. Some of BB's points seem to me good ones but if I was to engage with him/it/them on that basis others here who have relational problems with this moniker may be discouraged. I don't want that. That's a profound limitation I place on myself here.

Which takes me back to Mike Jackson:

Also, as johanna says, [mdgnn] is always perfectly polite even on those occasions when I get a bit ratty and ask when the hell this bloody paper of his is going to get published so we can all get some evidence!

As mydog he was not always so polite. Who can remember the critical point I'm referring to?

Oct 22, 2012 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I would put it simply: do contributors add value, make an emotional investment to this blog? Create positive or negative tension - every good blog needs tension, positive tension.

I would never call you a troll BitBucket, but I think you enjoy the sport. Do I think you want the destruction of the blog? The contamination of the well? To create the blog in your own image? To dilute its ineffectiveness? No. As long as you can take the sport both ways ;-)

BBD was not a troll, he was a parasite. He wanted to take over, subsume the tree without killing it. Use its resources for his own benefit and give nothing back. The symbiotic balance was wrong, and the tree kicked him off.

ZDB? She (and I am 99% certain she is a she) is just sad. Her attempts at attention seeking actually make me feel sorry for her. Like an irrational teenage daughter who has been kicked out of the house for disruptive behaviour and is shouting through he letter box. Even if she called me dim the other day.

Other than that, even Russell and Frank illuminate the threads sometimes. Providing you understand what Russell is saying.

I never felt any need to intervene with mdgnn or any of his aliases - I did with BBD, sometimes with an alternate nym [analyse that Richard :-)]. Does he add value? Yes he does. Not in a form that is easy to appreciate or love. But he does add value. Share a pint with him? No. Let him wander around the pub shouting "Eureka" every now and then? Why not.

Nov 20, 2012 at 11:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

[analyse that Richard :-)]

Er, not tonight Josephine. I assume that was the other nym, for dramatic effect.

Nov 20, 2012 at 11:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Hilary, Johanna

For decades politicians have seen communication as a one way street, up from the public representative "focus groups". Supposedly leading our politicians to react to our needs. The exact opposite of why we put them there, which was to ascertain what actions would best benefit our well being.

This has resulted in a downward spiral of expectations? Bread and Circuses!

PS It does not surprise me that politicians are leaving the "communication" regarding CAGW to the scientists.

Basic political principle, "if you might not like the answer, don't ask the question"!

Nov 20, 2012 at 11:58 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

By Jiminy! Another shrink on BH! (a better one than MartinA though ;-)

"As long as you can take the sport both ways" As they say, if you can't take a punch, don't get in the ring. Queensbury rules ok?

Nov 21, 2012 at 2:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

What happens when an absurdist is disciplined? Here's a nice example of one such response. Two days ago AlecM (widely believed to be aka mydog and a host of other voluble nyms) made a confident post, on the thread about William Shawcross becoming head of the Charities Commission, claiming that Common Purpose had conspired for quarter of a century to bring the UK under a form of Stalinism and was close to succeeding. I asked some polite questions about how much of the last 25 years this person had been warning about this giant threat. Our host, for the first time that I can remember outside the realm of radiative physics and greenhouse criticisms by this 'persons', was having none of it:

I've deleted AlecM and responses.

To which I responded at once "I'm fine by that" - in truth I was delighted. AlecM on the other hand bided his time and made this contribution the next day on the John Redwood BBC thread, which had come back to discussing Roger Harrabin:

My dear Brock, for all we know, Mr Hassabeen may be a very nice person sorely misled by those norty clemate sceantrysts at the Clemate Restarch Unite. After all, dem and der Common Porpoise masters appear to have been slinging a lot of fake sceantry about!

Like the recent nym who used a jokey delivery to advocate murder of our warmist opponents (also deleted by the host first thing the next morning, along with the disgusted responses of myself and Skiphil, and the nym's mockery for us, telling us to 'lighten up') this gibberish may seem on the surface a bit of fun. But I think it's worth asking whether a) it is showing respect to those whose job is to keep order here - an often thankless, unpaid task - and b) my suggestion on this thread in October that the aim of such personages is to render discussion on BH absurd wasn't being powerfully confirmed.

Dec 2, 2012 at 1:26 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

BB - well, have you?

Dec 2, 2012 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Eh? Have I what?

Dec 2, 2012 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Another shrink on BH! (a better one than MartinA though ;-)

If you have forgotten the question, never mind.

Dec 3, 2012 at 10:31 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I suggested today to diogenes that this is likely to be a better place for 2013 debate of my views relating to pseudonymity than a thread begun by Paul Matthews that Paul later said he wished he'd never started. This was the first BH discussion thread I began on any subject and I thought it attracted some high quality input. Just a marker so that people know where to find it. I'm more interested to explore the more general issue of how we treat the reputations of real world individuals at present. But I can probably be relied upon at least to read anything posted here. I cannot guarantee that on Paul's old thread. I feel I have other fish to fry :)

Sep 4, 2013 at 5:13 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

mydog's back, after a gap of perhaps a year, in three consecutive - BH - threads. I don't know what it means either.

Dec 13, 2013 at 3:18 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake