Tag Archives: Twitter

Mabus Redux: Operation Archangel Gets Dennis Markuze Arrested

On Friday, November 16, 2012 Dennis Markuze was once again arrested by the SPVM (Montreal Police) for violating the terms of his May 22 suspended sentence. It took many people many months to track him down and convince the police to arrest him. This is the story behind that.

For quite some time the most read item on this blog has been the lengthy history of a character named David Mabus (in real life a troubled man named Dennis Markuze of Montreal, Canada). It tells the story of how skeptics, atheists and science writers organized on Twitter to pressure the Montreal police department to take legal action against him, after he made repeated violent threats over many years. It took many cooperating people, several police reports, a Change.org petition, numerous phone calls and faxes and much other work to make that happen.

This post is a continuation of that story.

In recent months, skeptics and atheists started to notice a series of eerily familiar posts posted under various names including “Operation Archangel”. They once again mentioned Nostradamus, James Randi and atheism. They began on YouTube, spread to forums and blogs, and finally arrived on email and Twitter by the fall.

Those of us who followed the case closely knew that Mr. Markuze had pled guilty to eight counts of making threats on May 22. We suspected immediately that it was him again. Others were not so sure. There’s much nonsense on the Internet, and some insisted this must be a copycat or troll, perhaps trying to rile atheists with the spectre of Mr. Markuze.

This post is the story of how those posts once again led to Markuze’s arrest by the Montreal Police. As in 2011 it took quite a bit of work to make this happen. Tedious, painstaking, often thankless work.  But this is the type of work skeptic activists need to be ready to do in order to get results.

You will also learn how the Canadian court system, at least in Montreal, appears to be less than optimal when it comes to finding a positive outcome for cases like Markuze’s.

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Morning Toolbox – October 15, 2012 – Ernst’s new blog; info on Twitter and Events

Morning Toolbox is a daily digest of interesting tools and techniques that skeptics can use online.

Edzard Ernst is has studied alternative medicine intensively for years, and so his brand new blog should be a must-subscribe for most skeptics.

Read on for more news of interest to skeptics working online…

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Twitter reaction to my #TAM2012 speech

I’ve gotten a fantastic reaction to my presentations at The Amazing Meeting 2012 (TAM2012) this year. Part of that reaction took place on Twitter during my talks and in the weeks since.

Twitter has a notoriously short memory, its search only goes a few days back. So comments on a live event can slip into Twitter’s memory hole alarmingly quickly. They’re actually all still there, but just inaccessible unless you know the URLs.

So I thought I would capture the live comments on my TAM2012 Plenary talk: You are the Future of Skepticism on the Internet. They give you an idea of what live-tweeting on a speech is like, and show what the initial reaction to the talk was.

I’ve included both positive and negative comments, as many as I could find.  These are presented in mostly chronological order, though I’ve reordered a few comments when it helps to follow the flow of conversation. And as you’ll see, I pulled out one sub-conversation so it can be read on its own.

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Robots don’t get sarcasm – don’t link directly to bad content on social media!

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.

-Thomas Jefferson

Skeptics are quite fond of sarcasm and ridicule.

It’s understandable, really. How many blurry bigfoot films or bizarre alt-med claims can one person take? At some point you feel compelled to resort to humor. Or perhaps you just want to point out the most ridiculous claims to show how far from reality our cultural competitors are.

And so the skeptic blogosphere has long been rife with sarcastic takedowns and snide remarks. Now that social media is a big part of online skepticism, sarcasm and ridicule has come along for the ride there as well. When you’ve got to fit your comment in 140 characters there isn’t room for much more than a punch line.

But there are some side-effects to this approach that you may not have considered. I’m going to show you what those side effects are, and why you should think twice before linking directly to a pseudoscience or paranormal site from social media such as Twitter or Facebook.

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There is no #AntiAtheistCampaign on Twitter. It’s just a crackdown on spam.

I happened to stumble across a few Tweets yesterday that contained the hashtag #AntiAtheistCampaign. Hashtags are often used to organize on Twitter. This appeared to be some people organizing against some sort of oppression against certain Twitter accounts. Was it widespread? Was it orchestrated by the religious?  I delved in further.

What I found was a disappointing lack of skepticism, a great deal of conspiracy mongering and very little evidence.

Now, clearly there were in fact some Twitter accounts that had been disabled, the evidence of that is undeniable. But with a little bit of awareness of what these folks were doing with their accounts, along with quick scan of the Twitter blog and even the tech news sites, one can piece together what is happening.

Bottom line: there is no evidence at all that Christians are ganging up on atheists on Twitter in an organized (and successful) campaign to get their accounts disabled. There is a much simpler explanation. Read on.

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Get free publicity, organization tools for your skeptic event via Lanyrd

Skeptics love to throw events. Today the Reason Rally in Washington, DC is kicking off a big year of events in the US, and there are two other big events next month. We love our events for good reason – they help build the community and foster interaction and discussion between skeptics. Indeed, it was attending TAM 5 in 2007 that led directly to my creation of What’s the Harm and this blog.

As any event organizer knows, you must relentlessly promote your event for it to be successful. If you listen to a selection of skeptic podcasts like I do, over the last few months you probably heard an ad or plug for QEDcon which was held in Manchester earlier this month. The Merseyside Skeptics who organized it did a terrific job of getting the word out.

I noticed one of the things they did was list their event in a London-based online service called Lanyrd. This web-based service, launched in 2010, is a social conference directory. That means it uses your social media connections to identify the speakers, attendees and staff at conferences. They are primarily oriented toward Twitter, which is appealing since there are several thousand skeptics who actively use that service. This month Lanyrd got some good coverage at South by Southwest (SXSW) where they provided some fantastic tools to attendees.

I think Lanyrd could be a great new tool for skeptics. Some more details on how to use Lanyrd to your advantage in the rest of this post.

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My Top Posts of 2011: A Lesson Learned Again

This is the time of year you see a many “year in review” posts. It’s good to take a moment and look back at what you’ve done.

In the spirit of this blog, I’ve got a year in review post coming later that will be a how-to about measuring your own skeptical contribution for the year. But for this one I just thought I’d look at what my top posts in each venue (blog, social media and so on) were and how much traffic or attention they got.

As I’ve pointed out before, raw traffic levels are often a misused indicator. Traffic can surge for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the quality or importance of the post itself, so it can be dangerous to let yourself be guided entirely by “ratings” as it were.

That having been said, the traffic levels may have some a lesson to teach us (albeit one that we have seen before on this blog). Read on.

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What is the point of Twitter? Bruce Hood broadcasts an answer

As you can see from the icons at right, I participate in at least three different social media sites. I post updates about this blog, What’s the Harm stories and my daily Skeptic History facts for other skeptics to read.

I post some material to all three but a different mix of posts to each as appropriate to the features of that site. Those features keep changing, but for a long time I’ve personally preferred Twitter as my main social media conduit. I post the most on Twitter.

One thing I like is that Twitter is dead simple. Facebook seems intent on adding more and more gadgets and features every time I look at it, and often it just seems too much. It’s like the overkill of launching Photoshop just to crop a photo. But Twitter stays with a bare bones feature set. I admire that.

The default public nature of Twitter, where everyone can see all your posts (unless you take action otherwise) is a key to its value. I wrote back in August about how this allowed community action to take place against a spammer that wouldn’t have been nearly as easy on the other services. That action resulted in a police arrest.

This post is nowhere near that (in scope or length). It’s just about how I managed to pay a nice compliment to my girlfriend on national television via the medium of Twitter and the help of some friends. Read on, it’s a fun story.

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Skeptic History everywhere you look

Regular readers are aware of my Skeptic History calendar project. I’ve tried to research as many specific dates, birthdays, anniversaries and so on that relate to the history of skepticism. I then post them online.

I’ve learned some things myself in this research. And in posting the results online I hope to help connect newer skeptics with the long history of scientific skepticism.

As of this week, there are now seven different places online you can look for a little dose of skeptic history. And soon there might be more!

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Digital Guide to Dragon*Con 2011

An updated version of this post for DragonCon 2014 is now available.

Dragon*Con 2011 in Atlanta is next weekend. It is a gigantic convention for fans of science fiction, fantasy, comic books and other pop-culture topics. For several years now it has had a dedicated track of programming for skeptics called Skeptrack.

The purpose of this blog post is to be a clearinghouse for all things digital related to the meeting. The particular focus is on Skeptrack, but there are a bunch of resources and tips here that will be useful to any digitally connected attendee.

Just some of the info in this post that can save you time or money or both:

  • Do you need internet access but are not bringing a laptop? I’ll tell you which hotel supplies computers you can use for free.
  • Are you staying at the Marriott Marquis? I’ll tell you how to save at least $5 per day on WiFi charges.
  • On a tight budget and desperately need some free WiFi near the con? I’ll tell you several places to go.
  • Would you like to put the pocket program on your Kindle, Blackberry or other portable, but don’t know how? I’ll show you a site that can do it for you.
  • Want to rent a 4G modem during the show? I’ll tell you how.

All that and much more, after the jump…

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