Running guns to the dissidents

In which our author tries to help skeptics and atheist power-up their activism using teh internets.

Shorty Awards 2012: Support #StopAVN

Nominate Stop the AVN for a social media award in the Shorty Awards Yes, it's that time again. Time for the Shorty Awards. This year, I'm supporting and promoting a Shorty for @StopAVN in the #Activism category. If you have an existing, active twitter account, please join me in voting for @StopAVN., and help out by promoting this initiative to your followers, the more the better. Of course, shenanigans have happened before (see the comments trail here), so I'll be following any responses from the antivax side with interest, and I've started a wiki hub page here. Let me know if you see dodgy...

Skepticamp Melbourne 2011 : Done, dusted and packed away

So I'm back in Sydney now after a weekend away in Melbourne for Skepticamp Melbourne 2011. And what a marvellous day it was. The unOrganisers have to be handed massive props for putting on an excellent day. Held in the storied halls of Melbourne University, in a venue almost designed for a 150-person Skepticamp, the day was filled with insight, jollity, dicks* and, unusually for a skepticamp, arses. Thanks, Jo Benhamu. I arrived a bit late at the venue, since I had flown in the night before and only managed to sleep at about 3am, but from the moment I arrived...

Skepticamp in theory and practice

This is my quite short stopgap talk from Skepticamp Sydney 2011, on the why, where, when and how of Skepticamp, thanks to Biyani Mills who taped it in the absence of our second camera. The Q & A was interesting but has been left out in the interests of brevity and understandability, suffice to say this session really cemented the Melbourne event for later in the year

Told you we'd do it....

So, after some months of preparation, hundreds of emails and phone calls, several hectic days nights of organisation and a about seven hours of sustained awesome, Skepticamp Sydney is over. I said we'd do it, didn't I? Yes, Australia's first skepticamp* was a success. In fact, a triumph. It took place from 11:00am on 30th April, at UTS in Sydney, and attracted somewhere in the region of 100 keen skeptical attendees, some of whom were attending their first skeptical event, and some of whom were speaking in front of a crowd on a chosen topic for the first time. In fact, the level of attendee engagement...

Forthcoming "me" stuff

I'll be talking to Victoria Skeptics in June 2011 on Activism in general, or possibly the more specific online skeptical activism talk. Please see Vic Skeptics for more detail. I should be appearing on a future edition of the Pseudoscientists Podcast, recorded at TAM Oz. Not sure when yet I've received an invite to appear on "Meet The Skeptics!" sometime in the near future I spoke to Maynard at TAM Oz. again, I have no idea when that will appear. Sydney Drinking Skeptically happens on 14th December at the Town Hall in Newtown, but seems to clash with Rebecca Watson's appearance at the Manning...

Three things

This weekend at TAM Australia, I did three things that will shape my skeptical year to come. The first thing I did was to sit on a panel with some prominent skeptics, and , in response to the question "What would you do in terms of activism if you were offered a budget?", declare, unplanned, that I would host a Sydney Skepticamp within the next six months, were I given money to get it started. It took mere seconds for the audience to start throwing in cash, Robin Hilliard hurling in an immediate $50 dollar note. Others followed with twenties, tens...

TGA tells PowerBalance to stop making absurd claims

Vic Skeptics are reporting today that Australia's TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) are calling on PowerBalance to withdraw their crazy claims. QLink, Shuzi, Eken, Phiten and others using the PowerBalance schtick, you'd be well advised to do the same The TGA is not exactly known for strong enforcement, but I do note the text of the requested retraction clearly says the claims were unlawful, so PowerBalance would probably be well advised to cut it out about now. As would their imitators. For full details, see the Vic Skeptics blog or the TGA decision.

Nothing New Under The Sun: Powerbalance, QLink, Shuzi and Franz Anton Mesmer

With the current money-making quack fads of Power Balance, Hotband, QLink and Shuzi, it may pay to get some historic perspective coupled with basic scientific work. In 1778, Franz Anton Mesmer, pictured above, moved to Paris and began a successful and highly lucrative career using his "Animal Magnestism". Paris Society flocked to Mesmer's baquet, from where he would produce a "magnetic fluid", imbued with near miraculous powers. Mesmer and his devotees were convinced they'd found a force of great import, and lobbied for scientific academies to give animal magnetism their stamp of approval. When the academies declined, Mesmerism continued apace, leaving a trail of...

Blog tools for skeptics: NoFollowr

Joel Birch has just launched NoFollowr, a WordPress plugin aimed at skeptics in particular, and activists in general, to control rel="nofollow" on blog links. It's available at http://nofollowr.com/ and though I haven't tested it yet, Joel's previous output and the description of the tool leads me to believe it's well worth recommending to WordPress users. For those unschooled, nofollow allows you to link to a site without having search engines treat the link as a recommendation, a good technique for those less ethical links that we skeptics occasionally blog about. The NoFollowr site has more. And kudos to Joel for another excellent contribution...

Shilling for quackery? The Telegraph? Say it ain't so!

From Today's Telegraph: A NEW product that's smaller than a five cent piece but powerful enough to shield us from the potentially harmful electromagnetic radiation generated by mobile phones and other electronic devices, has just been released. The Qlink Mini employs patented Sympathetic Resonance Technology (SRT) which can maintain the strength of naturally occurring protective energy systems within our bodies. OK, if you can't smell the bullshit already, then your nose is broken. The product, QLink Mini, is basically a small shiny sticker which you put on your mobile phone to shield you against harmful "electromagnetic rays". Let's just forget for a moment...

Sydney Drinking Skeptically + LKS Podcast

So anyway. A few of us have decided that Sydney is skeptical enough to manage two skeptical social meetups. This being the case, we've got our heads together and we're starting a new social night under the banner "Sydney Drinking Skeptically". To be honest it's something I've been thinking about for ages. There's already a very good Skeptics In The Pub on the first Thursday of each month at the City Hotel, with a speaker, and an agenda and all that Skeptics In The Pub goodness. It's run by the guys who produce the Skeptic Zone (on which I occasionally appear...

Miracle Mineral Solution investigated in UK and Europe thanks to one dedicated young skeptic

Miracle Mineral Solution, a quack product made from bleach and marketed to the gullible by the cynical, is under investigation in the UK and Europe, and is looking to be in serious trouble. And the credit is,deservedly, going to a 15 year old welsh skeptic called Rhys Morgan. Rhys's blog recently made it onto the Skepticator, so I was aware of him, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the developments with MMS and Rhys's age and level of involvement. Rhys is also active in 10:23 and is a credit to the skeptical movement in the UK. I don't want to harp...

Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) No longer a charity

Yes, that's right. Meryl Dorey's AVN is, as of the 20th October, no longer a charity. The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR), which regulates charities in NSW, has revoked their charitable licence, and not a moment too soon. The OLGR release hasn't hit the web yet, but Meryl Dorey's response is here. Note that Meryl has cherry-picked the OLGR finding to support her assertion that it's all based on the HCCC complaint. What, as I say, do items (b), (d) and (e) say? Notice also that Meryl is using this opportunity to beg for more donations before the 20th. She's also lying about...

Skepticator Stats and Facts

I just thought I'd share a little Skepticator trivia with y'all Skepticator's first feed was added to the DB on 16 Feb 2010, and it was... Australian Skeptics. The JREF wasn't added until two days later, 18th Feb 2010, when it became the 36th feed in the DB. The first Podcast, as you might expect, was Skeptoid, the fourth feed overall on the second day of the DB's existence SiTPs started to appear early - Westminster Skeptics In The Pub being first in on 18th Feb 2010 ...

In which I have a fanboy meltdown moment and talk TAMOZ

That's me! Yes, that's me just next to James Randi's face. Randi's face! His beardy face! Squeeeee! SQUEEEEEE! *faints*   Yes, I'm quite excited about #TAMOZ. I'm speaking on the activism panel 2.00pm - 4.00pm on the first day. We're directly opposite the Science Based Medicine panel, so I expect our attendance to be zero, as everyone will be off listening to The Novellatron methodically destroying quackery in the next room. But still, if you're passing by on the way to SBM, toss us a biscuit through the door. I know for sure Travis Roy is on the panel, as is Elliot Birch, making it a sure...

The Flying Monkey Effect explained

In my recent talks to Sydney Atheists and Western Sydney Freethinkers, I've been a little damning of email-writing campaigns and blog comment campaigns due to something we've termed the "Flying Monkey Effect". At the same time, I've tried to get across the point that they could have positive effects, properly done. I wanted to expand on this a little. The Flying Monkey Effect, as anyone with a modicum of pop culture nous has twigged, comes from the 1939 movie "The Wizard Of Oz". The Wicked Witch of The West employs an army of flying monkeys which she sends out to do her evil bidding....

My talk to Sydney Atheists: Online Activism 101

I've just published the talk I delivered to the Sydney Atheists on Online Activism to Slideshare. It doesn't work perfectly, since some of the slides were animated, but the overview looks something like this:  Online Activism 101 View more presentations from Jason Brown.   If all goes to plan, this will also be presented as a podcast from Sydney Atheists, so you can listen to me ramble as you read the slides. If you'd like a talk like this delivered at your skeptical, atheist, humanist or freethinkers group, please let me know. I'm also working up a more specific "Skeptical Social Media" talk and can...

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