Please accept my apologies for the sudden dearth of posts here. As you know The Amazing Meeting 2012 is fast approaching, and I must prepare for my the workshop I am presenting. So don’t expect any 5,000 word opuses in the next four weeks, although I will definitely be posting a few things, including my annual digital guide to TAM.
Today I thought I would offer a quick object lesson on skeptical preparedness. Things in the online world move quickly. One minute you’re the new darling (think Instagram) and the next minute you are yesterday’s lunch (think Myspace).
This extends to the skeptic sphere online as well. Sites go up and sites go down, and skeptics need to be ready to react. Last week UK skeptic Keir Liddle noticed something unusual in the logs of his website. By following up on it, and mentioning it on Twitter, he allowed skeptics to get a crucial leg up on reacting to a new attack.
Last week Google introduced a new feature to their flagship search product, which is called Google Knowledge Graph. I believe it has only rolled out for users in the United States so far, so you may not see it if you live elsewhere, yet.
There are several interesting aspects of Knowledge Graph, and I encourage you to read more about it. The technology behind modern search engines is surprisingly complex, and this is the latest advancement.
But one of the main user-visible features of this product is a panel that you will see on the right side of many search results. This panel shows a summary of what Google believes you are looking for. The aim is that many times the answer you seek will be right there on the results page.
Because this new feature draws a great deal of information from Wikipedia, all the great effort by Susan Gerbic and the other skeptics who work on her skeptic Wikipedia project is now paying off in yet another big way.
Let’s look at a few quick examples…
There are many different skeptic blogs. Some (like this one) are mainly intended to be read by other skeptics. On blogs of this type we talk about what we are doing, how we are doing it, build community and discuss goals. These blogs can build their reader community organically by various means.
But if you are trying to reach out to the general public with your skeptical content, you need to think a little bit harder about visibility. Your brilliant expose on the latest UFO sighting or bogus herbal remedy is not going to have its optimal effect unless it is seen by people who have also been exposed to the original item. If a debunking falls in the forest, does it still debunk anything?
Of course, the time-tested way to make your posts visible to the general public is to simply make sure your site shows up in Google and the other search engines. Getting into search engines is not that hard, in fact its hard not to get Google to notice you if you are writing good content.
But simply getting noticed and getting optimal visibility in search engines are two different things. If you’re not putting some thought into this issue, your posts may not be having the impact they could.
Fortunately, although there is some snake oil being peddled in this area, the basic techniques involved are not that hard. Collectively they are referred to as SEO or Search Engine Optimization.
November started out with an idea and ended with a cancer quack, and it continues the high activity from October. I’m continuing to post once or twice weekly at JREF’s blog, and there is lots going on over on Twitter including Delta Airlines running anti-vaccine videos, Power Balance going bankrupt, Kevin Trudeau losing an expensive appeal, and the ongoing Burzynski Clinic saga. So if you missed some of the action during November, here’s a way to catch up.
This is the monthly roundup – links to all the content I’ve been involved with in the last month. It includes this blog as well as the stuff I post on other blogs, my podcasting activities, my best posts on Twitter as well as key shout-outs or mentions elsewhere.
Read on to see what you missed!