Frequently asked questions about the site

10 minute read

Why do you use that huuuuge font?

Because I use and read the site myself, and that's what I can comfortably read. And because electronic reading is easier with bigger font sizes, generally -- although it leads to more scrolling.

But perhaps what you are seeing is bigger than what the rest of us are seeing. Browsers do vary in their font size presentation (in particular between some versions of Internet Explorer on Windows and the rest of the world. Most recent versions of browsers allow you to scale the text larger or smaller at the push of a button. The site works well with this feature: if you want to see more text, then scale it smaller and everything will still stay where it belongs.

I'm trying to find your e-mail address, but it doesn't seem to be anywhere. Are you trying to mess with my mind?

I used to hide my e-mail address, because anyone who seriously wanted it could always find it with a simple Google search. It was a remarkably efficient system: you'd be surprised how many people won't Google to find a piece of information like this.

Last year, I moved the site off the university's network, and I've been increasing my online presence. You can reach me at my e-mail address, jhawks at wisc*edu. That's more obfuscated than it looks; don't count on cut-and-pasting it.

I am always pleased to hear from readers. I especially appreciate tips, and use them for many stories. I maintain an active mailbag discussion with letters and selected responses. If you send me mail, I may post direct quotes from your message. I will not publish your name unless you explicitly tell me to do so.

Please keep in mind that I teach around 400 students a semester, all of whom have e-mail priority.

I have a new book coming out. Would you do a review?

If you have a book that you'd like me to review, I will almost certainly be happy to get a copy! However, I make no promises about providing reviews. My turnaround is unpredictable. Many people have sent me books, only to be disappointed when I don't mention them. Other times, I have decided to do reviews for a journal or magazine instead of on the site.

If you have an e-copy of the book that I can get on my Kindle or iPad, that is like the best of both worlds -- it won't cost you to send it, so I can feel good about mentioning it.

You seem to write about all kinds of stuff. What do you actually work on?

I have done research on australopithecines, early Homo, Neandertals, archaic humans in Java and China and modern human origins. Some of this work has been historical, but most has used fossil and genetic evidence. My dissertation research was an investigation of population size in human evolution.

What ties things together in my work is the application of innovative quantitative methods. Every paper so far has used a new one. What I like to do more than anything else is to test assumptions.

Much of my recent work has focused on two topics: human adaptive evolution during the last 50,000 years (described in my short essay, "Why human evolution accelerated") and the genomics of archaic humans.

I'd like to use one of those drawings on my website/in an article/as a tattoo. Where did you get them?

I drew them. It was a lot of work. Please don't use them without permission.

Yes, I have had requests to use drawings in tattoos. If you use one, could you please send a picture? It'll make Carl Zimmer happy.

I'd really like to contribute my point of view/post my angry rant/fawn over your blog/try to convert you to creationism/meet women who share my paleo interests. Why don't you allow comments?

I know that you personally would be a great contributor to the blog. It's all the other people I'm worried about. I just cannot commit the time to monitor comments. Increasingly I am out of the country and blogging on the road.

I encourage readers to write. Selected commentaries appear in the mailbag, sometimes with my comments, other times not. It's a curated discussion, not an open comment thread, and the one thing I don't tolerate is redundancy. So by all means write, but make it interesting and relevant!

If you are interested in sounding off and meeting people with interests in human evolution, there are several excellent message boards at Yahoo! Groups and elsewhere. You'll hear a wider range of voices, many with constructive responses.

I linked to your post, now how do I trackback?

I've never managed to get trackbacks to work properly. Maybe it's just beyond me, I don't know. Good luck with it!

The layout of your site seems really cool/really ugly/really unfamiliar to me. What weblogging software do you use?

The site now runs on Drupal, which is an open-source database-PHP solution for content management. My posts are database entries, which the system presents themed according to my coding. This means that the appearance of the site is almost infinitely flexible. I use my own custom theme, so it looks different than any other site. I have implemented the bibliography and automated

I chose the system because Drupal is very stable, it has been extended by many plug-ins, or "modules", and it works with extensive caching and fast HTTP servers such as Nginx. That has made it capable of supporting the site as it grows. Right now, my server handles peak traffic of one page view per second without any problem.

But I really liked your old look! What happened?

I used to use Blosxom, a lightweight collection of Perl scripts for automatically turning out a blog based on text files in the normal hierarchical directory structure. I really liked it a lot. But over time it became unwieldy for managing the site, as I grew to over 1500 posts. For a low-traffic site with less frequent updates, I think Blosxom would meet the requirements indefinitely. And I really did like it -- it made it very easy to maintain, update, and use text in other applications.

For more of an explanation and comparison, you can check out my post about moving the site.

I have a great product that would interest your readers...

I don't accept advertisements. I am entirely reader-supported. I plan to keep things that way: non-political, non-commercial, 100% educational. If I am ever forced to go with paid advertisements, I will keep your name and e-mail.

Your search function leaves a lot to be desired.

You should have been here before I moved to the new system! It works pretty well now, but still you may not find everything you want. After all, it's doing a database query across more than 2000 posts. You can always try Google: Just plug in your search terms and add "" at the end of the query. Still, I find that the built-in search finds things much better than Google now.

You said "x", which sounds just like something your undergraduate advisor/graduate advisor/postdoctoral advisor/current colleagues/random person on the street would say. I'm beginning to think you're nothing but an intellectual clone!

If you only knew what they say about me behind my back...

You cited my work as saying "x" when what it really says is "y". I don't think "x" at all, indeed I think my data conservatively show "something only slightly short of x". Can't you see the difference?

The casual reader may doubt that I have ever had this particular question asked. Except for those few who have actually e-mailed me versions of this question and are probably still grumbling beneath their voices about it. And then there are those readers who may never have read an academic exchange to see how biting and ugly they can be.

If you feel that I have maligned your work in any way, please write and let me know. If you are not a regular reader, you may not know that I have given people the opportunity to have their opinion posted with equal prominence to my own if they disagree.

I do try to give an honest impression of the importance (or lack of importance) of current research. If I didn't express an honest opinion, I doubt that I'd have many readers. But I do make mistakes, and I hope to be corrected whenever appropriate.

I'm the mother of researcher X, and I don't like what you wrote about my son! Don't you have any respect for the process of peer review? Don't you believe in academic courtesy? Your site is full of nothing but inhuman snark!

Well, if you had properly educated your son, he'd have known not to let his university issue overhyped press releases about his work.

You keep talking about these "readers" as if someone actually reads this site. Exactly how many readers do you have?

In July 2011, the site was visited 241,000 times from 173 top-level domains (which mostly correspond to countries). During that month, 60,000 distinct computer addresses visited. These mostly correspond to different readers, although dial-in internet connections and multiple home/office computers mean that there are more addresses than people.

In that month, the server presented more than 950,000 page views. Each page includes multiple files (which aren't always requested because of browser caches), which leads to a total server activity of 48,000 files daily, or around one file every 1.8 seconds.

These numbers indicate that many of my readers are very loyal and check back often. I appreciate this very much, and I know who many of you are. Thank you.

I also appreciate the many links I have received from other sites. Keep it up!

What happened to your blogroll? How am I supposed to figure out what to read?

Blogrolls seem to be dying out. I think it's because people move their sites too often. I used to keep a lot of links in my blogroll because of sentimental attachment -- people I used to read but no longer update. I just couldn't bear to remove them. Well, the whole thing became unusable, so rather than overhaul it, I decided to make a more concerted effort to cite other blogs in my main posts.

Everyone knows that a non-peer-reviewed site can't be a real forum for scientific communication! I choose to ignore your non-peer-reviewed reality and create my own!

Hmmm...this question seems to be inescapably oxymoronic. If someone intended to ignore what I wrote, why would they e-mail me about it?

Hey, you're getting a little biting and ugly there!

Sorry, I forgot this wasn't peer-reviewed.