This seems to be “Web 1.0″ week here at Skeptools, quite by accident. My last post was about hyperlinks, which is about as simple as you get. And I continue today with another very simple early-web technology. Fear not, I’ll get more cutting edge as we go on.
Near the end of my interview on the Skepticality podcast last week, we talked about skeptical activism. Many skeptics wonder what they should do to advance the cause. “What can I do?” For me, What’s The Harm is the first of my personal answers to that question.
What’s a good answer for you? Well that depends on your interests and skills. I will post more on that in the future, as I have many ideas that might appeal to you.
But until then here’s something very simple that any skeptic can do that supports the skeptic movement in a very real way. It requires little additional effort from you, assuming you already occasionally buy things from Amazon.com.
(For those of you who have been netizens since before Amazon started, this post may seem really obvious. Sorry about that, but trust me that there are newer people out there who are not aware of what I’m suggesting here).
Amazon has one of the more successful internet affiliate programs out there. Unlike the brand new “Web 2.0″ technologies I talked about in my TAM6 presentation, this is not new at all. It is old technology, but it is effective technology.
You’ve probably seen these affiliate links to Amazon products on many websites and not thought much about them. You may have even thought they were merely ads. But when you click these links and order a product, a small referral fee is paid to the website where you clicked. There’s no change in price and you get the same product you would if you ordered directly. The money comes out of Amazon’s marketing budget. This isn’t just advertising, it is a great pain-free way to support skeptical websites and organizations. In effect, simply by being careful of where you click, you can get Amazon to donate money to your favorite skeptical cause.
But here’s something of which you may not be aware. The affiliate fees are not limited to products directly linked by the affiliate website. Almost any product you put in your shopping cart after clicking an affiliate link can count. In fact, mere days after I put a store up on What’s The Harm, I got an affiliate credit for 64 cents from a black T-shirt someone ordered. I have no shirts in my store!
So here’s the big tip: even if you are not intending to purchase something skeptic-related, you should start your shopping session at a skeptic website! Are you intending to buy some big-ticket item like a home appliance via Amazon? Head on over to your favorite skeptic website’s Amazon store first, and find an item there to buy first or use one of their other links to Amazon.
Websites are not free, and many of the great skeptical websites are run by non-profit organizations or individuals donating their spare time. Every little bit of support can help.
In addition, by buying skeptical books, videos and so on, you help create market forces that will guarantee that we get more of them in the future. For example, if Michael Shermer’s books don’t sell well, his publisher may not want to release his next one. That would be a bad thing for skepticism. Demand creates more supply of good content that can be used in fighting our skeptical battles.
Which sites can I support?
The affiliate programs are divided by country, so you need to find a web site which is affiliated with the country-specific Amazon store that you normally use. The countries currently supported by Amazon’s affiliate program are United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Japan and Germany.
My skeptical reading is limited to English, so the sites I am going to list here are limited to that language. I did some quick googling using my skeptical custom search, and tried to find every skeptical, science or consumer protection site I could which had an Amazon affilliate program set up. All of the ones I found happen to link to the US and UK Amazon stores.
If you are aware of good skeptical sites that I missed, particularly ones which are affiliated with the other supported countries, please point them out in the comments.
Amazon U.S. Affiliates
The James Randi Educational Foundation can be supported via the book review section of their forum. Read the reviews, and if you like one of the books buy it with the link supplied at the bottom of the review.
Dr. Terry Polevoy runs a number of good health related sites in Canada including HealthWatcher and Chirowatch. I think of him as Canada’s counterpart to Dr. Stephen Barrett here in the U.S. Dr. Polevoy has an Amazon store here. NOTE! Although he is based in Canada, his Amazon links go to the U.S. store.
Peter Bowditch’s The Millenium Project and the Australian Skeptics are two great Australian skeptical sites. You can access their shared Amazon store either from here or from here. (Both stores credit against the same affiliate account). NOTE: Although these are Australian web sites, they route you to the U.S. Amazon store.
Amazon U.K. Affiliates
There are two skeptical sites I was able to find that are affiliated with the Amazon U.K. store:
Ben Goldacre is a fantastic columnist for The Guardian and has his own website dedicated to Bad Science. He has an Amazon store here, which is worth visiting just to read the hilarious rationale for using it which he gives on the front page.
Pick out the sites or organizations you want to support and bookmark their Amazon links! Delete any other bookmarks you have that go straight to the Amazon store. And from now on, you will know that the money you spend at Amazon is helping to support the skeptic movement.