Category Archives: meta

Announcements about this site or about my other projects such as What’s the Harm.

Where to see me at DragonCon 2015

DragonCon logoI will be attending DragonCon this weekend, as I usually do. It is my home-town convention so I always look forward to catching up with my sci-fi and skeptic friends during the Labor Day weekend.

DragonCon is pretty gigantic – it spreads across five major hotels and a convention center and it has its own custom smartphone app just so attendees can manage their schedule. As of this writing even the information in the smartphone app is not quite complete, at least for my schedule. So for reference, here’s where you can see me speak during the weekend:

Year of the Data Breach

Friday 11:30am – Hilton 201 (EFF Track)
Sony, Anthem, Home Depot, OPM, and many others. What’s up with corporate information security these days? Why are so many companies getting hacked?  Other panelists include Blair B. Chintella (moderator), Amie Stepanovich, Josh Ruppe, Chris Grayson.


Tuff Topics for Parents

Friday 8:30pm – Marriott A708 (Kaleidoscope Track)
Well mannered but frank discussion of tough topics including bullying, LGBTQ, cyber-bullying, the internet and social topics. Targeted at adults. Ohter panelists include Ronald Thomas Garner, Tony Gowell.


Hacking 101

Saturday 7:00pm – Marriott A601-A602 (EFF Track)
Hacking 101 returns for another glorious year! Just what is a hacker anyway? Culture, history, contacts, resources, and pointers for more info. Brought to you by se2600.org.  Other panelists include Randal L. Schwartz, Kit Walsh and jonny X.

If you are interested in what sorts of topics get covered in the Hacking 101 session, here’s video of the one from last year, on which I also appeared.

You can watch two other computer technology panels on which I appeared last year in this playlist in my YouTube channel.


SkepTech

Sunday 1:00pm – Hilton Room 204-207 (Skeptrack)
Skeptical thinking isn’t always about Bigfeet, Ghosts, and Tarot… Sometimes it can be in your tech too!  Other panelists include Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont.


Wrap-Up and Feedback

Monday 1:00pm – Hilton Room 204-207 (Skeptrack)
Come and join us for a discussion about the past weekend. Discuss the highlights, and offer feedback for ideas in 2016!  Other (tentative) panelists include James Randi, Richard Carrier, Margaret Downey, Barbara Drescher, Ian Harris and Evan Bernstein.


You’ll probably see me in the Skeptrack room at various times during the weekend. I’m also using the DragonCon smartphone app to track what other sessions I’m attending, if you want to catch up with me send me a friend request in the app.

A couple of notes – we are not repeating the Ignite Skepticism program we did last year. We had hoped to repeat it this year, but it didn’t come together due to various things (such as my wedding in August). It will return in the future.

Also if you are looking for the WiFi guide to DragonCon you can find last year’s guide at that link. I didn’t have time to update it this year either – if I notice any significant changes I’ll post them on Twitter, so please follow me.

My Year in Review: 2014

Measuring TapeIt’s time once again for my year-in-review wrap-up post. I encourage skeptics to measure what they do, so this is part of my effort to practice what I preach.

Something different for this year, I’m going to include some non-skeptical, personal items because – what the heck.  I’ve spent a bunch of effort losing some weight and making other improvements in my life. In the spirit of quantified self why not look back on that too?

So here we go…

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My latest post on INSIGHT looks into Open Minds

Recently I drew your attention to a new skeptical group blog edited by Daniel Loxton over on skeptic.com called INSIGHT. It’s got a great group of skeptical voices writing for it including Blake Smith, Robynn “Swoopy” McCarthy, Jim Lippard and many others, including me!

Insight LogoToday my second post went up, and it’s all about the source of a well-known skeptical quotation or aphorism. “Keep an open mind – but not so open your brains fall out” is one of those sayings that skeptics love to repeat and post online. If you keep any eye out for it, you’ll see it attributed to a wide variety of people from Carl Sagan to Richard Feynman to Bertrand Russell. And of course now in the era of Internet memes it regularly shows up on social media with a picture of someone next to it.

So who was really the original source of this quote? I’ve long wondered that and have been digging into it periodically since at least 2011 – and so have several others. And just in time for Carl Sagan Day this week, I’ve finally posted what I could find out about it and brought together the results that three other researchers uncovered. It turns out this week might actually be the 75th anniversary of this saying – but the anniversary has nothing to do with Carl Sagan’s birthday at all! So head on over to my latest post at INSIGHT and find out the truth.

My first post ran early in October, and concerned the news of UK medium “Psychic Sally” Morgan getting into a dispute with skeptical campaigners. It’s quite unusual that I ever get to write about a breaking news story, and that one was a doozy. Morgan’s husband and son-in-law were caught on video making physical threats and homophobic slurs toward a skeptic who was quietly distributing leaflets on the sidewalk outside an event venue.

There have been many other great posts on INSIGHT. Jim Lippard wrote a terrific obituary for skeptic Gerald LaRue. Blake Smith looked into the question Who Invented Pasteurization? – a topic he had first explored at Ignite Skepticism at DragonCon.  There have been many more.

So make sure you check the INSIGHT main page periodically or use the blog RSS feed to subscribe to the blog. Or you can hit my author page at INSIGHT and see just my posts.

Please check out the new INSIGHT skeptic blog!

There’s a new skeptic group blog I’d like to call to your attention. It’s called INSIGHT at skeptic.com, and is supported by the Skeptics Society and Skeptic Magazine. It just launched in September with a fantastic slate of skeptic writers on board. I’ll be writing there too – my first post (on ‘Psychic’ Sally Morgan) just appeared on Friday.

Insight LogoI’ve always tried to maintain the theme of this blog as technology and skepticism, and resisted the temptation to post on other topics. Sometimes that has meant that some posts here are kind of shoehorned into the format, like the ones about my fascination with skeptic history.  But it also means  that sometimes I’ve had things I wanted to write about that I simply didn’t, because the post wouldn’t fit in here.

INSIGHT solves that for me – now I have a place to post general skeptic commentary that does not explicitly relate to technology or the Internet.  Fear not, I will still be posting here on explicitly technical topics. In fact, I may do crossover posts where I explain the high level skeptical part over on INSIGHT and link back to a nitty-gritty technical post here.  Stay tuned!

I’m also very excited to now be writing alongside some great skeptics. The blog is edited by my good friend Daniel Loxton, who I’ve always felt a kinship with because of his dedication to pure scientific skepticism as well as skeptic history.  Other bloggers include my VirtualSkeptics co-hosts Eve Siebert and Barbara Drescher and the founder of Skepticality podcast Robynn “Swoopy” McCarthy. Plus many other great folks including Jim Lippard, Blake Smith, Mike McRae, Laurie Tarr and many more!

I recommend you go read Daniel’s introductory post to the blog as well as the wonderful Eugenie Scott’s guest post which kicked the blog off.  Please subscribe, link to it on social media and recommend it to your friends!

Please help update my skeptic podcast census

Podcast IconBack in May 2011 I attempted to measure the amount of skeptic podcasting being produced and generated some interesting statistics.  In April 2012 I ran an update post attempting an overall census of what podcasts were out there, and found I had missed a bunch the first time through.  This post is an attempt at updating the data once again.

It seems there was some untapped demand for a good catalog of skeptic podcasts – that 2012 post is the number 3 most popular single post on this blog for the last year!  Podcasters have told me they see new listeners coming to their sites regularly, referred from there.  Noticing that phenomena, Shane P. Brady took the data I generated there and turned it into an interactive catalog called Skeptunes.  I encourage you to give it a look.

One of the things I noticed in the 2012 survey was that the number of different skeptic podcast titles seemed to be topping off around 100, and it looked like there was a slight trend downward.  It’s always dangerous to extrapolate from real-world measurements like this, so I didn’t draw much of a conclusion.  So now that more than a year has gone by, I think it’s time to measure again and see what is actually happening.

I’ve started with my data from last time, and looked in Skeptunes, SkepticsOnThe.Net and of course iTunes for any new ones I missed. But I’m sure I still must have missed something. Check out the list in the rest of this post and let me know which ones I’m missing.

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Content Roundup for September 2013

Monthly Roundup Icons 2It is time once again to do a link round-up of all the content I was involved in this month. That includes blog posts here and elsewhere, my podcast and webcast appearances and more.

September was a short month for blog posts after a very productive August. My one blog post here was a very important one that I recommend you read. Meanwhile I did have a pretty full slate of podcasts and webcasts, so there’s plenty of material to catch up on.

I’ve also got the most popular posts I made on social media. From Twitter, two of my tweets this month made my personal top 50 list. One was the 13th most retweeted and another took the number 33 slot on that list.

And of course to show that I’m practicing what I’m preaching, I list my contributions to crowdsourced projects this month.

Read on to see what you might have missed…

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Content Roundup for August 2013

I haven’t done a month-end round-up post in a while – since the beginning of the year in fact. Since there was a ton of good content on the blog this month, I thought I might revive that.

I kicked the month off with a bang with a software review of the infamous Block Bot that sparked many reply posts and conversation. But interestingly enough, despite the old adage of how courting controversy is best for blog hits, that post was left in the dust by the most-read blog post in August (more than 2.5 times the traffic). You’ll have to read on to find out what that one is.

I’ve also got the most popular posts I made on social media, my podcast and webcast appearances and more.

Read on to see what you might have missed…

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