Welcome to skeptools!

Welcome to skeptools.  This site is being launched in conjunction with The Amazing Meeting 6 in Las Vegas.  The purpose of the site is to assist the skeptic movement with better software tools.

Skepticism is fundamentally a battle against misinformation.  As we all know, the world wide web is chock full of misinformation.  You practically cannot avoid it. 

This site is dedicated to using the most advanced techniques possible to wage a war against this misinformation.  We will be talking about Web 2.0, social networking, the semantic web, geocoding and many other techniques that skeptics can use more effectively to wage this battle.

Please come to my talk on Sunday, June 22nd at TAM, at 11:20 am, where I will talk further about these topics and set the stage for what this site is going to be all about.

Stay tuned!


14 thoughts on “Welcome to skeptools!

  1. podblack

    1) You say that “the world wide web is chock-full of misinformation” – just how much research have you got to back up that people are seeking _particular_ sorts of misinformation on the web? What are the most popular sites for help-seeking? Have you done any research on consumer behavior on the internet and breakdown of age, gender and seeking habits?

    2) How much experience have you got in the application of ‘Web 2.0″? Have you read any studies on internet behavior, social networking, the effectiveness of such strategies?

    3) How do you know that you’re not going to just end up preaching to the choir? How many people are likely to be redirected to your project in comparison to other commercial sites which have more money, time and vested interest in providing services that promote what you call ‘misinformation’?

    4) Finally, how do you define ‘effectively’? Have you done any research on the consumer behavior patterns regarding seeking information and whether the internet is the prime source of ‘misinformation’? What research have you done into media viewing behavior or sources of ‘misinformation’, in particular those that influence belief in paranormal or pseudoscientific concepts and any damaging consequences that come from it?

    I haven’t attended your talk, but there’s a serious amount of work that needs to be acknowledged before it comes across as a simple answer. It is interesting that people are assuming from the start that the primary influence on ‘misinformation gathering’ is the internet (do you have any stats? Any studies you’ve done independently or drawing upon?) – or that it is going to reach the particular target audience you suspect.

    Whether you take the position that:

    – belief in misinformation touted by paranormal or pseudoscientific practices (and practitioners) stems from generally positive and uncritical media coverage of claims, that then influences a primarily uncritical audience. The sheer volume creates an atmosphere of acceptance that such ‘cures’ or ‘solutions’ must and do exist (French and Wilson, 2007; Sparks and Miller, 2001).

    OR, as a more significant body of research points out:

    – Correlation between paranormal belief and deficit in syllogistic reasoning (Evans & StB, 1989; Evans, StB, Newstead & Byrne, 1993; Merla-Ramos, 2000). Such as affirmation of the consequent in ‘UFO cover-ups’.
    – Distorted concept of randomness (e.g Type I (false alarms – more likely by believers) and Type II errors (missing meaning and patterns – more likely by skeptics…). (Brugger, Landis & Regard, 1990; Brugger, 2001; Brugger & Taylor, 2003).
    – Perceptual biases tendency (Brugger, Regard, Landis, Cook, Krebs & Nederberger, 1993; Pizzagalli, Lehmann, Gianotti, Koenig, Tanaka, Wackermann & Brugger, 2000).
    – Susceptible to experiencing anomalous sensations / some cases more suggestible (Wiseman, Watt, Greening, Stevens & O’Keeffe, 2002; 2003)
    – Memory bias (French, 2003; Clancy, McNally, Schacter, Lenzenweger & Pitman, 2002)
    – More prone to false memories (Wilson & French, 2006)
    – Non-conscious processing (Wilson, 2002; Rensink, 2004).
    – Dual processing (Lindeman & Aarnio, 2005; 2007, Stanovich & West, 2003).

    I tend to think that perhaps the Sunday papers could have used an educator’s perspective. Let me know if you’re sending out copies, I’d be interested in reading what your ‘solution’ is based on. That, and the other presenters.

  2. Pingback: In The Internet Age, But What Internet Knowledge? « PodBlack Blog

  3. Tim Farley Post author

    Wow! I haven’t even given my talk yet, and you’ve written a comment longer than the entire contents of this blog at this time. Please be patient.

    On your blog post which also comments further, you also say that “Tools for Skeptics” has a different meaning in Australia. If you could explain what you mean to this poor non-Australian, perhaps it could be changed to avoid that meaning.

  4. reede

    I saw Tim’s talk this morning and was vastly impressed at the thought he’s put into leveraging the emerging infrastructure of the Internet to not only provide skepticism a presence of its own, but also to integrate into mainstream content sources, such as via an aggressive use of RSS on skeptic content.

    I wouldn’t characterize Tim’s talk as an academic one — it’s far more in the tradition of the cutting-edge offerings at tech and hacking conferences. He’s throwing out an a large number of ideas that can be mixed and matched to build feeds, websites, content sources, visualizations and social networking tools of such utility that we can now only guess at.

    While building skeptools on solid research (where available and applicable) is great, my hacking side recognizes this as a wild frontier where we must first tap our creative energies to explore what is possible.

    A number of experimental projects eventually attract the keen interest of academics across a range of disciplines (wheresgeorge.com and galaxyzoo.org to name two examples in which some TAM attendees I know are deeply involved.) I’d imagine the same model would be followed here.

    Let the hacking begin!

  5. podblack

    No, wasn’t criticism, they were questions. Might want to check the phrasing on your ‘Twitter’ comment regarding it.

    I’ve elaborated on a blogpost, which has been entered for Tangled Bank. Hope to keep the questioning going there.

    Rather than ‘academic’, I am suggesting facts and figures. Throwing out ‘a number of ideas’ when you haven’t demonstrated a base of ‘what’s out there’ seems odd?

    I doubt that any computer professional looks with favour on the notion of ‘hacking’. In fact, I’m of the impression that it’s the least useful tool out there?

    As for ‘I’d imagine the same model’ – I’d like to see some evidence as for whether it is the same and some more details? I guess I’ll wait for the creator of the site to provide that. Thanks!

  6. podblack

    “Tools” is a slang term, which has a more comedic effect.

    As for ‘not presented yet’, it was a series of questions stemming from earlier reflections that I’ve been writing for over a year now. As a former Sunday Paper presenter myself, I think that it’s valuable to start dialogue on what was raised.

    Since this site has already provided some claims (as you can see yourself, well before your speech), it was merely a general response to a ‘milieu’ of attitudes by skeptics. Looking forward to a copy, if it’s posted on the JREF site like the TAM2 and 3 ones were.


  7. podblack

    “…such as via an aggressive use of RSS on skeptic content.”

    Aggression? By skeptics? Really? Uh, in what way, exactly? Thanks…

  8. thezygar

    I wonder if podblack sees the irony of posting 5 times to a single, nearly contentless, blog post, then asking how skeptics are aggressive.

  9. reede

    “Aggression? By skeptics? Really? Uh, in what way, exactly? Thanks…”

    As in opening the content of a website in a promiscuous manner to encourage its reuse in ways never imagined by its creator. Few sites go beyond a truncated headline feed, which is a shame. Tim proposes that skeptics go much further with full content feeds tagged with useful metadata like geographical coordinates.

    In Web development and content communities, the term ‘hacking’ does not suffer from any negative connotations. For example, see O’Reilly’s ‘Hacks’ book series including the awesome ‘Astronomy Hacks.’

  10. dcolanduno

    This was one of only 5 talks I was actually able to attend this year! It was quite good actually, and since you live here in Atlanta. I am hoping that we can squeeze you into either the Podcasting or Skeptic track this year. Give me an e-mail and lets see where we can make it work! :)

  11. podblack

    Actually, Thezygar, when you’re responding to someone, you have to post? And when you have more questions that you haven’t posted before – you post!

    Let me know if you find questions or keen interest aggressive… because you’ll find little gets done without them! :)

  12. podblack

    Ah, right, thanks Reede – but I’m questioning how… geographical coordinates help things? Is there some more info on how they’re useful?

    I’m directly quoting ‘Krelnik’ here from his post about tracks at TAM7) – “But the details are the key. We need data to proceed.”

    I look forward to the presentation being posted, as the most recent blog-entry shows! :)

  13. remirol

    podblack: most of your original comment is nothing more than strawmen, to me. you’re spending a lot of time attacking based on “what ifs” in response to a blog that hasn’t even posted any significant information yet; may I suggest waiting until Tim lays out some actual information before trying to come down on it like a ton of bricks? I’m not sure if you have a personal vendetta against Tim, or what, but really, I think you should wait until he actually says something concrete before declaring that he’s (paraphrased) “DOIN IT RONG.”

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