End of summer is a good time to take stock of what’s been done and what to do next. I’m keeping busy as usual, with many day-to-day tasks and some new pilot projects launched.
This past year I served on the planning committee for The Amazing Meeting 2015. TAM#13 was an absolute success with an array of new speakers and familiar friends. I was so happy to see the overwhelming positive response to the conference. I learned a ton about conference organizing, as well. While there I headed a panel on Practical Skepticism. This is one of my new themes.
I’ve now bowed out of any work for skeptic organizations. I’ve provided direct input to two organizations but, to me, things are in a strange state right now. I think the skeptic community will regroup in the future. I’m better to steer clear of that and focus on my own goals, one of which is outreach to the public.
The website Practical Skepticism has some core content already. Promotion and practice of this concept – everyday skepticism for EVERYONE in order to make better decisions – is one of my personal missions. I have started a Medium publication, The Practical Skeptic, to try to grab a new audience. As I can, I will be adding pertinent pieces to that (and accepting other’s work on that theme).
Doubtful News is a daily task which takes considerable time. DN remains important for me in supporting practical skepticism. It currently is the best site for a smart take on weird things and questionable claims in the news. In fact, it’s unique. No one else does it to nearly the same degree. Some have tried but we remain. We have established a database of such stories over the past 4 years.
DN is for people who actually care about what happened, if anything, and who want to think more deeply about it. We don’t get the giant hits like the mystery-themed and conspiracy-stirring sites do because those are pulling a different audience. We can’t get attention from big aggregators who would rather hype the sensational stuff than the reasonable analysis. While we try to attract the general public, and do with high ranking web search results, our audience is interested slightly more than your average browser who just wants to pass along a “wow” story. That’s OK.
Every day I get solicitations for ad services and guest posting and link exchanges. DN contains only ads from people we know and like. We don’t do ad widgets on the site – it’s ugly and I don’t want money from that. It feels cheap. Plus, promoting critical thinking means promoting not clicking on those ads for diet supplements or credit services. Because we don’t have ad revenue (besides Amazon click-throughs), I can’t pay writers. The most difficult thing about running a blog is getting content. It would be great to pay writers for their work and have more of it but that unfortunately, can’t happen unless we get major sponsors. DN isn’t going anywhere, but there is not going to be coverage on absolutely everything. I’ve had to really scale down and be more selective about the stories I post. In order to pay writers for more DN content, monthly donations would have to total at least $500.
I use current donations to support the higher-end hosting we need for DN to stay responsive. Your Patreon donations do go towards that. They also go towards costs to speak at non-profit events like the upcoming Albatwitch festival in Columbia, PA where I will talk on science and the paranormal. It also helps me to fund research into various themes in science and pseudoscience. I’m currently working through a series of posts on the cultural aspects of cryptozoology on my personal blog site, Doubtful.
Back in 2010, I finished my Master’s thesis on amateur research and investigation groups (ARIGS), the typical paranormal/UFO/Bigfoot groups. I’ve spent over a year, as time permits, updating and adding to this information, formatting it into a book. I’m currently looking for a publisher. Quite a bit of work remains to get that into shape.
Download my thesis here.
Meanwhile, I help out other researchers, reviewing their pieces upon request. I also review books, even ones I really hate. [Sometimes it’s essential that we know how low the bar is these days.] You might see me comment on a news piece or be interviewed by a reporter. I try to stay in the social media/conversation loop where it’s worthwhile but, honestly, I have to remove myself from the dregs of the internet because it isn’t worthwhile to wrestle pigs. You just get dirty. I’d rather reach out to those who are open to listening.
If I could buy anything at all it would be more time. More time to explore and share the interesting things I find would be great but I must make do with what I have. Your monthly donations remind me that someone out there really likes (and deserves) intelligent communication and ideas about questionable claims that we hear everyday. It keeps me actively producing content to share. There is so much to find out, think about and talk about that I think can make a difference.
Thank you for contributing towards my efforts to make society smarter and more skeptically savvy.
And as a side note, I recognize the downsizing of the JREF. We all need to step up and do our part to continue the successful tradition of injecting critical thinking and science-based evidence into our society. It’s so greatly needed. Everyday.