Category Archives: Long Tail

The “long tail” refers to less mainstream topics that can be given attention using new internet based business models. Most skeptic topics are long tail to begin with, but within skepticism there is a need to focus on the long tail.

Top 10 SkeptiCamp FAILs (part 2 of 2)

Here concludes the “Top 10 SkeptiCamp FAILS”. If you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1 from earlier this week.

#5 FAIL – “we can’t have person X speaking!”

An open invitation to give talks often comes as a shock to traditionalists in this domain. Superficially at least, it’s for good reason.

Allowing anyone to give a talk risks the spread of misinformation whether intentional or inadvertent on the part of the speaker. Who knows what kind of individual will sign up to speak, couching the topic of  their talk in skeptic or sciencey lingo to avail themselves a golden opportunity to grind their axe before a captive audience?

Admittedly such an open policy flies in the face of a strategy of careful messaging that has marked the traditional events of skepticism for decades.

But there’s a method to this madness.

SkeptiCamps are not messaging events. Nor are they outreach events, though anyone with a desire to share and learn in an open environment is welcome to participate.

Nor is there anything wrong with outreach events. The upcoming Skeptrack at Dragon*Con in Atlanta provides a valuable service of attracting new skeptics from outside the community. But not every event needs to serve this goal.

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Top 10 SkeptiCamp FAILs (part 1 of 2)

Here is the first ever guest post on this blog, by Reed Esau of Skepticamp. Watch soon for a note from me about future guest posts and then Thursday for the conclusion of this two-part article.

Five years ago last weekend an experiment began in Denver, Colorado with a few dozen local skeptics assembling for an unusual day of talks.

This wasn’t a traditional conference event with celebrity speakers flown in from afar, but rather an event with talks drawn from the local participants themselves. The eleven talks covered a range of topics, from the abuses of attachment therapy to claims that the Apollo Moon landings were hoaxed. We saw a hilarious talk detailing the bizarre conspiracies surrounding the Denver International Airport and a presentation by local paranormal investigators Bryan and Baxter.

Nor was this event organized in a traditional manner. It deliberately adapts a successful conference model from the tech community called Barcamp, a model that places substantive events within the reach of amateur organizers. We called this Barcamp for skeptics a “SkeptiCamp“.

The experiment didn’t stop there. As of a recent weekend with Edinburgh’s fourth event, we now stand at 51 events in total, spanning three continents, five countries and this year with the first events in a Spain with talks given in the native language.

With such a track record, this novel experiment in introducing peer education to skeptics could be considered a modest success. With continued steady growth, SkeptiCamp’s future looks bright, especially as more of us grasp how the model works and realize the benefits these events can bring to one’s local group and its individual members.

Growing pains have been expected with many events suffering from various small failures, from overburdened organizers to participants who arrive with expectations of attending a traditional lecture event. This article (in two parts) highlights the most common of our mistakes.

So in the spirit of incremental improvement, of building on our successes and avoiding mistakes, welcome to a listing of the “Top 10 SkeptiCamp FAILs”.

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Wishlist Wednesday: Skeptic Day Trips

Novelty UFO in Moonbeam, Ontario, Canada by P199 released into the public domain.

Continuing my effort to give a boost to the long tail of skepticism, it is time once again for Wishlist Wednesday. The idea with these posts is to kick around an idea for a skeptical project that someone could launch, that fills a niche in skepticism. I still believe there are many opportunities for online skeptic projects like this that have not yet been built. I hope to encourage skeptics to build them. Last week I proposed a podcast, this week it’s a website.

This week the idea is something I’ve personally wanted for a while. My previous job was teaching computer security training classes, and so I was travelling around the country regularly. Whenever I travel to a new place on business, I try to figure out if there are interesting sights to see or other things to visit while in the area. It can be a fun way to kill some down-time while on a business trip, and can often be quite educational.

Every once in a while I was able to visit a place that was related to skepticism while doing this. But some of these places are fairly obscure, and not easily found. And some you wouldn’t know to look for unless you were already from the area.

But what if skeptics made an effort to collect these locations and document them? Not only would casual travelers benefit, but skeptics wanting to learn or investigate something could use it to find convenient places to do so.  Let’s think a bit of how we would build this.

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Wishlist Wednesday: Skeptic Podcast Sampler

One of the early posts on this blog was about the long tail of skepticism. In that post I talked about how skeptics should be looking for an interesting niche within skepticism, and create projects like blogs and podcasts that cater to that niche. There are several good reasons for this strategy you can read at that post.

I still believe there are many opportunities for online skeptic projects that have not yet been built. In the past on this blog I have successfully exhorted skeptics to get involved online in one way or another. Most notably Susan Gerbic has created an entire blog and Wikipedia project based around the ideas I originally championed here. There are others too.

With that in mind, I’m going to start a series of shorter posts in which I toss out an idea, partially flesh out why it might be useful to skeptics, and encourage skeptics to build it. I’m going to do one per week. It’s called Wishlist Wednesday, and my first idea is the “Skeptic Podcast Sampler”.

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The Long Tail of Skeptical Web Sites

Two new skeptical websites have drawn a great deal of attention recently. One is skepticblog and the other is Stop Jenny McCarthy.

Skepticblog is a new group blog by the cast and crew of the upcoming skeptical television program The Skeptologists. It sure seems to have a lot going for it. It has a snazzy graphic design. It has several nationally known skeptics like Michael Shermer, Phil Plait and Steven Novella. The first crop of articles covers such varied skeptical topics as UFO’s, Sylvia Browne, Kevin Trudeau and one of my favorites, internet misinformation.

Stop Jenny McCarthy is a new informational site from the mold of Stop Kaz and Stop Sylvia Browne. The idea is to focus tightly on the specific claims being made by one person, and show how and why they are incorrect. This site is much smaller and is done in a much simpler visual style. As of now it only has a handful of pages.

I found it interesting that these two sites were launched in the same month.

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