Meta Stuff

Blog changes

Don’t panic! I’m messing around with stuff, including avatars for bloggers and commenters. Specifically, gravatars. If you want to play, go to and register whichever email address you’ve signed up with here. Then you can upload an avatar, and the site will automatically detect it and insert it wherever you comment. Fun, huh? I’m working out the kinks now.


Okay, everything appears to be working swimmingly. Yay! The addition of avatars has made something clear to me — the Skepchick forum has officially become redundant. The forum admin, Beleth, suggested to me last week that perhaps we call it a day, and after a lot of thought I think he’s right. We’ll soon have more bloggers updating the site multiple times a day, and the community is definitely centered here. Plus, everyone seems to universally dislike the Drupal format of the forum. Let me know if any of you would like to argue for its continued existence. Otherwise, it’ll be closed in the next few days.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. ::panics:: AAAH!

    Also, I'd just like to add that following your prior post, "working out the kinks" is open to all SORTS of misinterpretation.

    Regardless, good call to use these avatars and what have you. Should stop people from mistaking who has posted what. Most of us don't do that anyway, but now we can be even lazier about it and not read the byline. WOO-HOO! :-D

  2. Mmmm. Kinks. :D

    The byline problem has plagued us for ages, and I had put it off hoping that a big new site redesign would solve it all. Now I'm flushing that idea down the toilet so we can just move forward and get stuff done. Go proactivity!

  3. I had them on my site for over a year, and there was enough downtime (and glitches where everyone was replaced with a "Gravatar" banner) that I recently decided to ditch them, in favour of a simple color hilight to show when I was responding— Of course that means all the visitors still looks the same, but I think it's most useful to visually track the author's responses.

  4. Rav: You should be able to tell which e-mail you use by logging on (obviously you already have) and then checking your user profile. I think you should see that link on the right under Meta….

  5. Cool! Now it's even easier to make ad hominem attacks!

    …not that I would ever do that, of course


  6. I could make them all 80×80, but the larger icons seemed to overwhelm the comments page….originally they were all 20×20, which was ridiculous. I had to dig into the code and adjust it accordingly. Pain in the butt then, but now I think I've got it figured out…

    I can also make the "recent comments" on the sidebar have little 20×20 images, but I didn't want to go overboard on Day 1.

  7. Finally, an excuse to use this picture. I've been holding onto this for some time now. I don't know, Rav… If mine is visible, then all of 30 seconds would do the trick…

  8. I'm not feeling witty enough tonight to come up with anything beyond the "real me." I guess that'll have to do.

  9. It's a shame the format change effectively killed off the forum, since it was rather easier to have slower-burning threads ticking over on a forum than on a blog, which ends up fairly naturally biased towards the last handful of blog posts and comments

    To a large extent, once a blog posting is more than a few weeks (maybe even days) old, it's pretty much dead.

    If someone does find an old comments thread and add to it, even for someone who had previously posted a comment to it, unless they happen to notice in the very small window of time the reply is in the "5 most recent comments" panel, they'd have no way of knowing anything had been added.

  10. I agree with PH about the nature of replies on a forum vs a blog but since I haven't visited the forum in a long, long time I can't really argue it is worth keeping.

    Love the Avatar idea.

    Maybe the recent comments could be expanded to more than five? That might help with knowing when you might have been spoken to or replied to.

  11. Thanks for the feedback on the forum. What if we had a sidebar item of "popular posts?" You'd be able to see topics that are getting discussed or viewed the most. Plus, with more bloggers, we'll be able to post reminders and links to older blog entries if they deserve your continued attention. I'll give some more thought to other solutions.

  12. i've never gotten around to even try the forum so i can't say that i'd miss it at all. i'm hysterical i know. please, no applause.

    i'm really just posting to see if my gravatar thingy is working.

  13. OH, and also, I can add a Skepchick section to the SGU forum. That forum will definitely be changing at some point, too . . . the whole point of changing the Skepchick forum was because it was phpbb, which got attacked constantly. The SGU forum is as well but got attacked much less than Skepchick; however, it still has to go. It'll either move to a new server or change to vbulletin, most likely. All that said, there's no reason why we couldn't add a section for Skepchick topics if such a thing were called for.

  14. I really hope you don't kill the forum.

    Granted, switching to drupal was a good attempt at killing it, but it's still not entirely dead yet.

    What's more, there's a bunch of good stuff in there which it would be a pity to throw away.

    I'd say merging it with SGU would still be better than chucking it all away just like that …

    The only difficulty I can imagine is merging the user accounts from both forums.

  15. Two more reasons why keeping the forum would be a good thing:

    1. While it's possible to make a properly structured reply, it's still a bitch to mess around with blockquote and bold tags and such, rather than just being able to click "Quote", select a bit of text and apply formatting.

    2. While from your perspective, there's essentially little difference between starting a new thread and making a blog entry where people discuss stuff.

    Well, I for one can't make blog posts …

    So in theory, all of us are just waiting either for you to make a post about a subject we want to talk about, or hijack an existing blog entry's comments if they're already heading in the right direction. Neither solution is really any good. Unless your goal is to limit the discussions to just the blog-related stuff.

  16. Is there a tutorial somewhere on how to do things like quoting in wordpress comments?

    All the wordpress documentation I've seen seems to be basically directed at admins and people writing posts, rather than mere commenters.

    If there are going to be more people blogging (and hence more posts initiated), it would seem that it'll be even easier to miss posts, so some way to counter that could be useful.

  17. I just use HTML code, like

    Whatever you want to appear as a quote.

    to get

    Whatever you want to appear as a quote.

    Then there's also:

    for bold

    for italics

    for underline

    and normally also

    <font color=[some number]></font> to get different colours, although I think that might not work here, unless I've been using it incorrectly (most message boards use a separate [color=xxxx][/color]).

  18. I think one reason the forum traffic died down is because there's no link to the forums from the main page any more. I forget about it all the time.

  19. Thanks,

    I'd got the impression HTML might work, but wasn't sure which bits of HTML, and didn't want to derail a thread with a test posting.

  20. Regarding keeping track of comments/discussions after blog posts fall off the main page, there is a separate RSS feed for the comments. You can use it in an RSS reader or just go to this page to see all the recent comments:

    Uh-oh. The feeds seem to have gone missing from the right-hand menu. Rebecca? I could have sworn that I'd seen links to RSS feeds for posts and comments on the sidebar before.

  21. Two things I have noticed:

    1, the page takes much longer to load now if it has lots of comments, possibly to do with getting the avatars from off site.

    2. There used to be a Latest or Recent Topics list of the last half dozen or so topics on the right next to recent comments. While one can go back to the main page to access the next topic it was useful being able to access the latest posts from the post one was currently reading.

    Putting it back would be good, or if possible and much better IMO, have a link to the next and previous post at the top or bottom of a post like a lot of other blogs do. As personally, I usually like to work through unread topics chronologically, oldest to newest. Still, only a minor niggle and no doubt I'll get used to it fairly quickly, as even us old dogs can occasionally learn new tricks, as long as their not too difficult that is :)

  22. Yeah, there's little I can do about the site taking a bit longer to load due to gravatars, I think, but I'll look into it. As for the recent posts, I take your point. I was trying to clean up the sidebar as much as possible, and didn't think anyone used that. Perhaps I'll add it back in. Thanks!

  23. Recent topics is indeed gone?

    Also, at some point it used to have more topics on it too. recently, it got reduced to just those on the first page, and before it used to be, like, the first two pages I think.

    I think part of the problem for the blog layout is going to become fitting it all onto the page properly …

    Comparing my very small screen resolution at home (which even cuts some stuff off the side as it is now) to the extra wide one I'm using at work now (which has about 2,5 inches of unused space on either side of the blog left).

  24. I’m really late to the whole blogging world, which is ridiculous considering I’m a Computer Science major.

    That being said (maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned the CS major), my avatar is not appearing. It works when I use the check test on, but it won’t show up here. Maybe it’s just a time issue (clearing the cache), although it’s been several hours. We’ll see.

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