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Science Humor Webring

History of the Science Humor Webring

[The beginning] [1999 till August 2000] [Yahoo! Webring integration] [Split rings]

The Beginning

[ Prehistory | Creation | The first three months ]

This page describes how I created the Science Humor webring, how I tried to get people to join the ring and what the results of those action were.

The prehistory of the Science Humor Webring

As usually the history of a ring starts with a website, in this case my Science Jokes list, which has its own history. This is a list of jokes about the physical sciences, the biggest of its kind and I am quite proud of it.

This story starts with me travelling around a science fiction ring, moving to the list of sites and accidently selecting the homepage of Webring.org. I never realized that most webrings came from the same place. I seem to remembers self-made cgi-scripts and just links with next and previous. This was different. Rings which everybody can make. There were lots of SF rings and enough Robert Jordan rings to make you nauseous And do not be mistaken: A few years back "The eye of the world" made me decide that the Tolkien imitation genre was not dead yet, but the series gets a bit drawn out these last books.. I spend some time visiting SF rings and later that week some literature rings and then I thought that I should submit my site to a webring.

Looking under science did not give me anything, under humor were so many rings that I gave up, but webring also has a search engine and that found me a Fun Science ring. This ring was meant for education though, and it contained sites which could show children how much fun science could be. Nothing wrong with that, but my site is more for people who already love the sciences. I have given obligatory physics practicals to biology students at the university and the ones who did not like physics at the beginning, did not consider it fun at the end, at most bearable. It is much easier to show people that science is funny.

So, my site did not fit any ring. Too bad.

The next day, I had a reason to make a ring. My site started as a list to collect all the science humor on usenet so that it would not get lost when the posts expired, years of collecting. But now there are not many original science jokes on usenet (exept for puns, they still flower). Nowadays people put their original jokes on webpages and there was no need to collect them, besides that it would be stealing. I could only collect the links. But with a webring I could knit them together into a kind of meta-site, with an infinity of science humor, through which people could wander forever.

With a bit of luck it can grow of itself, all owners of science humor pages announcing themselves to the ring and I could wander through all those pages forever without the difficulty of finding those pages. This was a wonderfull idea. I would start the ring immediately.

The creation of the ring

This chapter is loosely based on a e-mail from Eric Stokien and my reaction on how I had followed his recipe for starting a ring on the ringmasters-l mailinglist on December 9, 1998, when the webpage existed about 2 months. This chapter was finished on January 8, 1999.

I made a list of Science humor pages to which I had links. This list was only about physical sciences and mathematics (comparable to my own site), but I also had a psychology and an economy humor page in my general humor bookmark list. I guessed the commercial sites would not be interested and that the sites with only links would not be interesting. From the rest I searched the site for the e-mail adress of the maintainer. Sometimes I found that the site had disappeared, sometimes there was no e-mail adress, but this left 15 sites. October 16, 1998. I mailed those people if they would be interested in a science humor webring. I got 4 reactions within 12 hours and decided to make the ring.

Saturday October 17, 1998 was the great day. I made the webring with the form on webring (http://www.webring.org/) I made the webring, which was pretty easy. Then I read the FAQ http://www.webring.org/help/ringmasterfaq/, as was suggested in the instructions I got in an e-mail from webring. I considered the FAQ very usefull but I found out that setting up a webring was more work than I had expected (I not only had to make a ring homepage and a webring html-fragment, but I also must work on the html-pages and e-mails that were part of the site submission process. This was the beginning of a very hectic time. I wanted to complete the ring setup before monday, when I had to work again. I saved some subscription pages from webrings I knew and used that to make my own. At the same time I made the html ring fragment. I made it a very simple one, a simplified version of the standard version, so that it could be seen by all browsers. I did not use any graphics. I do not wish to make the ring to make a too big impression on the member sites, many of which are text only.

The FAQ also caused me to join the ringmaster mailinglist in the middle of the "wrongly adopted webring" affair, wich made me move to the digest within a day. Despite the flamewars in the list, I am still subscribed to it (January 1999) because of the many usefull tips.

Next I worked a bit on the webring administration pages and entered the webring HTML fragment, using the variables within -- -- tags. The --id-- tag is replaced by the id number of a website, wich ensures customised webring fragments for every site. Very neat.

Now everything should work and I submitted my own webpage. It worked beautifully. Okay, I found some spelling errors in the submission pages and e-mails and some very unclear parts, but it worked and I had a ring with one site. I repaired the errors. I was not smart enough to think of submitting test pages and throwing those out later, so I did not test the improved pages.

The next step was getting members. First I e-mailed the people who had reacted to my first mail (as a matter of fact, I made an error, so I send a wrong URL).

Finally, still on sunday, I sent all the 15 web-owners an official invitation (also to the people I invited before, because of that wrong URL). Within 2 days all original interested people reacted, only one withdrew his submission as he found out webring was a commercial organisation. From the other eleven, I got one new positive reaction.

And there it was: a working web-ring!

The first three months - The growth of the Science Humor Webring

So how could I make the ring to grow. This consists of two steps. First find a fitting webpage, second convince the owner of that site to join the ring.

Where could I find science humor sites.

My existing list of science humor sites
This was the way I started and after the first days this source was exhausted.
Ask the existing ring members
I did this after the first few sites had joined. Some people referred to the links on their website, which leads to the next entry.
Links on science humor websites
This was a reliable source. Especially for the social sciences this was usefull, as I do not know much about those sites. For the physical science this was not very usefull.
The search engines
This was a lot of work, finding many duplicates, many sites from people who had taken some jokes from my site, some with acknowledgments, some without (the order of the jokes was the key here), but it gave me some new sites.
The science directories
From science directories, especially TIPTOP the main physics resource list, I searched for humor sections and indeed found some, although some science directories considered humor below them, or just not relevant.
The humor directories
I searched the humor directories for science subjects. This was a real disappointment. I could find something about so called computer science, but nothing else. I took the hint and moved the science humor webring from the humor section in the listing from webring.org and moved it to the science section. One problem with all the directories was that they often had a link to a science joke in the middel of a general humor page. As long as it is a seperate section they would fit in the ring, which was rarely the case.
The humor and science newsgroups
I have found announcements or just mentions in signatures which were usefull before, which got them in my own list and found one reference to a good site for the webring here. This is a resource, where I just have to wait. It is a very passive business.

I used all these methods in two batches. The first just after creating the ring, the second during the Christmas hollidays. I sent a more or less standard e-mail to all the owners of these pages. That were 42 e-mails wich resulted in 13 members, 2 refusals, one person who sent me a lot of jokes from his old site and 26 without reaction.

Except for the newsgroups all these resources are exhausted now (January 1999). Of course there will come new ones as the Internet grows, but at the moment I believe I know most sites that can be found this way. Anyway, I had a lot of fun searching the web for those sites.

Another possibility is to advertise the ring. This is much more interesting. All the sites above were relatively easy found at logical places. Interesting sites which can not be found in the directories and who just happen to be difficult for the search engines can join the ring spontaneously and increase their visibility. That is the main purpose of the ring after all, that unknown sites profit from well known sites.

The ring itself.
Every site on the ring has a link to the ring home-page where people can join the ring. People with Science Humor websites are probably interested in the subject and will visit the sites and then find the ring. On the ringmaster mailing list they say that if the ring is big enough, this will be the main source of new sites. Apparently the Science Humor webring is (still ?) too small for this.
Posting in related newsgroups
I advertised the ring in rec.humor.d groups and the general science groups. I believe this resulted in more visits to the ring home page and probably to the ring, but not in site submissions.
I mention the ring in my bimonthy announcement of my website (which also contains a list of new jokes).
I did not notice any effect. More hits to my site probably result in more visits to the ring, but no submissions.
Submitting to directories
I tried this a bit, but not very enthusiastic, as the webring homepage is a very dull site after all .
Mentioned in the webring list on webring.org
Every web-ring with more than 5 sites is automatically listed in the subject of choice, in this case in the science category. The search engine of webring searches all rings. As this was a constant, I can not say what the results were.

There were some advertising methods I did not use, wrong or right, who can tell:

Search engines
The webring homepage is just an invitation to join the ring, not about the ring subject at all. A good search engine should classify the page very low on this subject, so I did not try.
Post to the ringmasters mailing list
Lots of people do this, though it is against the rules of the list. I missed the prohibition against advertising there, but it seemed rather senseless, as my ring is not about webrings.
Post to alt.webrings.announce
Who but a webring junkie would follow a newsgroup like that. I cannot imagine this will result in any submissions.

What did all the advertising get me in three months:

One person who believed this was an e-mail list, although at the end of the submission process she apparently started to wonder.
It seemed clear enough, but I changed the webring home-page and submission sites to improve this.
One e-mail from somebody with a humor site without science, who did not submit, but notified me of his page for my humor bookmarks.
No problem. I visited his site and added it to my bookmarks (who by the way are visible to everyone. The main advantage of that is, that I can see my bookmarks, wherever I am. The disadvantage is of course, that it is more work to update them.) Of course, this was not what I was looking for.
One bona-fide science humor webpage, with only links
I had not explicitly mentioned that pure link pages did not fit in the ring. I included the site in my list of science humor pages, as it was a good link site, but had to remove the site from the queue. The web-mistress said she might add jokes later and in that case would resubmit. I changed the website once again to exclude link sites, but ask to mail me the site anyway, so that I could use it on my own link site. I give descriptions, so people know what to expect if they follow a link there.

That is it for now. I guessed there would be a hundred fitting sites and found about 40, which seems pretty good. Of those I got 14 sites, about one in three, which seems rather bad. Maybe I should make more work of the invitations. Anyway 14 sites which I like to visit is not bad at all.
Science Humor websites from the beginning till January 10, 1999
IDSiteDate addedDescriptionRemarks
001 Science Jokes October 17, 1998 Collection of mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology humor. It also includes humorous quotes, rhymes, mnemonics and anecdotes about scientists My own site
002 Laboratory of Laughter October 18, 1998 a science humor index of biology, chemistry, physics and general science humor
003 The First Internet Gallery of Statistics Jokes October 19, 1998 The greatest collection of jokes about statistics and statisticians on the Internet. The oldies but goodies are here but so also are many new jokes that have never before appeared in print.
004 The Archives of Statistics Fun October 19, 1998 This site contains fun topics and anecdotes that can be used in the teaching of statistics. Tips on teaching and learning statistics are also included.
005 Parodies & Pastiches October 20, 1998 This site presents a selection of parodies, pastiches and pseudo-scientific papers written by scientists, or by writers having a scientific background. This site also has a webring link on the French version of the page
006 Psychology humor October 25, 1998 A collection of psychology jokes. Most are not funny. Psychologists have no sense of humor. The last of the original group
007 The Quantum Theory of Econodynamics November 2, 1998 The Quantum Theory of Econodynamics is a collection of essays, stories, poems, and art. The entire site is economics related; the quantum theory essays relate concepts in physics to those in economics. The humor is "academic."
008 BioHazard Level 5 - Aliquotes Archive November 2, 1998 Online archive of Aliquotes, a monthly journals of bioscience humor. Site closed June, 1999
009 Economics Humor November 3, 1998 Humor directly related to economics only.
010 Sizzling Organic Chemistry Dramas November 21, 1998 These are four somewhat bawdy (if you are a molecule) plays illustrating organic chemistry reaction mechanisms. Brenna Lorenz liked the webring so much, that she also joined the Fun Science ring
011 Astronomy Related Jokes December 10, 1998 Astronomy Related Jokes
012 Songs of Cesium December 16, 1998 Popular and classical songs rewritten to glorify the most sublime, explosive, and electropositive of elements, the almighty Cesium.
013 Dolly's Cloning Emporium January 1, 1999 Dolly the Sheep's home page as it were. Sheep cloning, mouse cloning, human cloning, wildlife cloning... Biotech info, definitions, how-to, and the ever-present FAQ
014 Science Made Stupid January 1, 1999 A tribute to the 1986 Hugo Award Winning book by Tom Weller.

The first three months - Visitors

And finally the people whom this is all about, the visitors to science humor websites. They should have the advantage of an easy way to read more science humor and the member sites should have the advantage of more visitors, who like science humor. How succesfull has the ring been during the first three months?
People who enter the science humor ring from the following sites in 2 or 8 weeks before January 10, 1999
Last: 8wks 2wks Site
1. 249 163 Science Jokes
2. 191 134 Psychology humor
3. 123 75 Laboratory of Laughter
4. 94 52 The First Internet Gallery of Statistics Jokes
5. 89 38 Parodies & Pastiches
6. 88 42 The Archives of Statistics Fun
7. 78 59 Economics Humor
8. 56 56 Sizzling Organic Chemistry Dramas
9. 56 45 BioHazard Level 5 - Aliquotes Archive
10. 55 45 The Quantum Theory of Econodynamics
11. 45 45 Astronomy Related Jokes
12. 34 34 Songs of Cesium
13. 17 17 Science Made Stupid
14. 14 14 Dolly's Cloning Emporium

This is disappointing. The homepage of the science jokes is visited by over 8000 visitors in 8 weeks. Only 250 enter the ring, that is 3%. I do not know the number of visitors to the other sites, maybe the percentage is higher there. I have now put a ring fragment at the bottom of every page. As my site consists of many joke list, people can easily follow the ring instead of going back to the index if they wish to see other jokes. For more homogeneous sites, that will make no sense. I now start to wonder whether people want this ring.

How many people visit a site from the next, previous and random links? (There are no statistics for people who come from the listing of the sites)
People who enter a site through the science humor webring in 2 or 8 weeks before January 10, 1999
Last: 8wks 2wks Site
1. 61 53 The Quantum Theory of Econodynamics
2. 37 16 Laboratory of Laughter
3. 36 33 BioHazard Level 5 - Aliquotes Archive
4. 31 12 Parodies & Pastiches
5. 30 13 Science Jokes
6. 30 11 The Archives of Statistics Fun
7. 29 29 Astronomy Related Jokes
8. 27 12 The First Internet Gallery of Statistics Jokes
9. 23 20 Psychology humor
10. 23 14 Economics Humor
11. 16 16 Sizzling Organic Chemistry Dramas
12. 8 8 Dolly's Cloning Emporium
13. 5 5 Songs of Cesium
14. 4 4 Science Made Stupid

I "stagger" the webring every other week, a function from webring that makes sites with many visitors lie next to sites with few visitors. This should cause sites at the bottom of the first list to be at the top of the second one. It seems to work more or less, as you can see.

The first three months - webring organisation

I am not going to tell what happens to webring, they can do that themselves if they like, but some things have effect on the rings. The origin and history of web ring can be read in the following articles: Web Rings / Will the Circle Be Unbroken? and Webrings own history page

On November 11, I got an e-mail that Starseed inc., the webring company was taken over by Geocities, which hosts free websites and is notorious because of the agressive advertising on their pages. For webring this means they get enough money and commercial knowledge and they are very happy about it, but it almost cost me a member (Hi Jonathan), who luckily decided that as long as it does not influence the ringsites, there will be no problem.

Another problem is the fact that sometimes the cgi-scripts did not work during the second half of november and in december. Once it seemed to be out of order for a day. (I did not test all the time, so maybe it were a few small disturbances). I understand that due to the massive growth of the number of rings, they need new machines and sometimes there are glitches and the ring does not work. Irritating, if that happens when I have just invited somebody to join the ring but also for ordinary ring use. I hope the problems will be solved soon.

Last change: June 14, 1999

[ Information about the ring | Visit the ring | Join the ring | Nominate a site for the ring | Report problems with the ring | Information for ring members]
[The beginning] [1999 till August 2000] [Yahoo! Webring integration]
Comments to the maintainer of the Science Humor Webring (Joachim Verhagen)

This page is maintained by Joachim Verhagen