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Down in the trenches

15/04/2008

In this context, for me, the trench is the Alternative Medicine section of Yahoo!Answers.

Why am I doing this? Do I really hate myself that much? Do I really think I can convert anyone?

I’m doing this because I am sick of sitting back on my laurels and pooh-poohing this stuff from my little private Skeptopia. Skeptopia is a land where many skeptics live. It’s a safe place where skeptics get together and pat each other on the back for being so clever. It’s not just here, most of the other skeptic forums and blogs have become Skeptopias. I’ve built my own Skeptopia here so I can talk about how clever I am, and if anyone flames me I can delete their comment and pretend they don’t exist. It gets boring sometimes, ridiculing dumb ideas and patting myself on the back is starting to give me shoulder cramp. In the end, how does it help anyone or change anything if I stay in my safe little world?

I was looking for more information about GNC’s iridology offer and I ran across this section of Yahoo! Answers and it was just the place I think I need to be. It’s not a site people go to in order to find answers refuting alternative medicine claims, it’s a place where they go to have them confirmed or to get advice. There is a lot of bad information going around there, from folk remedies to advice on the best chiropractic schools, but I noticed that there are a few skeptics too. People linking to quackwatch, people giving glib negative answers. All morning, I’ve been researching answers and trying to provide detailed, informed answers to questions by seriously curious people. It’s not the people who are already clearly wrapped up in alternative medicine that I target, it’s the people with serious questions who are just interested in learning more who I think need good information.

I don’t just tell people to go to a doctor. I don’t tell people that they are stupid or that such-and-such is simply nonsense. I try to provide simple explanations of the science involved and I make suggestions that they might be better off looking for other alternatives. Basically, I try to answer the question as best I can without judgment or prejudice

Maybe it doesn’t make a lick of difference. I’ll get back to you once people start rating my answers.

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6 Comments
  1. podblack permalink
    19/04/2008 6:05 am

    Honestly? It’s a little more challenging. And we need something that records the transition from just being seen to promoting action that’s more than getting people riled or more skeptics nodding at a convention.

    First, find your niche. Lots of skeptics are going for the old-fashioned (and it is) method of being ‘the next Randi / Radford’. There’s a reason why, as a certain lout has elaborated upon in an upcoming TANK vodcast ep. You should check it out, there’s a prominent feature of a lovely silver framed photo on the right side of the interview of a gorgeous lady who is married to that lucky man…

    Anyhoo. That era of the ‘jack of all trades’ isn’t really useful anymore with the masses of skeptics online and on TAM stage, all clamoring to ‘look at me, look at me! I’m the next Randi!’. We have numbers; we just don’t have much empirical evidence for differences made to real situations beyond more skeptic blogs and forums.

    Even Shermer is being sneered at for trying to get into economics with his latest book and there’s plenty who point out his short-comings – er, that wasn’t a comment about the experiences of a certain slut-chick, honestly…

    So. Choose something. Because anyone with Google can become a keyboard expert on a broad range – but what you have is unique and only you know it. And the fact is that we’re not going to win with the masses of info online. The answer is to work the rankings, the same way those who make a profit with their pages on pro-homeopathy, et al, do.

    There’s a couple of ways to tap into viral marketing and raising blog-rankings. The important thing is to realise that our real competition (and untapped allies) are the likes of consumer-relations watchdogs and publications like Choice and UK and US equivalents. Like my series on ‘Skeptical Books for Children’, and ‘skepticism and women’ (http://tiny.cc/skepticwomen) we’re not really doing the job well unless we broaden our minds and realise that our target audience isn’t as narrow as we thought – nor are we alone in our goals when other formal groups making more headway with more funding and more coordination. Incest-chicks is just _so_ 2005….

    In short, I think it’s a little more proactive to be someone who has something firm and interesting and unique to say on their topic/s that they are an authority on – who can be called upon to be diverse when needed. More importantly, to be building contacts to those _outside_ skeptic organizations as allies and compatriots – even gaming and science fiction crowd is a different target who may not realise that things they care about have a name: skepticism!

    Isolating ourselves as skeptics (particularly the potentially alienating mixture of atheist/skeptic) amongst a bunch of others doesn’t do much. Let me know if you want a few links for viral marketing, et al.

  2. noblecaboose permalink*
    21/04/2008 1:09 am

    As usual, you know better than me and I am humbled by your knowledge and experience and am put in my place.

    I think that particular rant was written while I was still feeling the adrenaline rush of being in a place where I felt like a rogue loner.

    I must not make generalities based on my own experiences.
    I must not make generalities based on my own experiences.
    I must not make generalities based on my own experiences.

    *hit head against ego*

  3. podblack permalink
    06/05/2008 1:48 pm

    Oh bullshit. You are NOT put in your place. You are no worse than me and in fact, have a damn sight more to offer. I have so much baggage that I’m practically being yelled at by customs and excise.

    You just need some support!! And you are NOT a rogue loaner and you have @*#&^@$&^#$&^#$#-loads to offer.

    Here you go:
    http://podblack.wordpress.com/2008/05/06/blogging-in-print-and-beyond/

    And get ready for me to start pushing you to get published.

  4. podblack permalink
    06/05/2008 1:49 pm

    As for generalities based on one’s own experiences, whose else’s are you going to use? Bloody Michael Moores? Bugger that. Everyone has something to start with, it’s just getting started! šŸ™‚

  5. fascination permalink
    25/06/2008 3:18 pm

    Great comments Podblack! I admit that I don’t discuss the issues with people of opposing viewpoints very often. I just don’t like any kind of conflict and I try to avoid it when I can. However, I know there are ways of discussing this in a respectful way with believers. I have had sucess in the past bringing friends and aquaintences to reason. Religion I would rather not discuss with most people, however. Emotions run too high and my opinion is just too unpopular.

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