TAM 9! – Day one

Alright! I made it! Las Vegas is a crazy town. It has much larger suburbs than I ever expected. A lot of people actually live here! Otherwise, it’s exactly like in the movies. The landscape around is gorgeous. It’s like a super-eroded version of the Canadian rockies, with the valleys in between the mountain completely filled with little rocks and sand. It is very warm, very dry, and the city just completely ignores the hostile conditions. The casinos are gigantic, the hotels are luxurious, and when you rent a basic car, they give you a Mustang…

I attended an interesting workshop on using media to advance skepticism (see number 8). According to the data collected on the skepticator website, there are over 700 skeptic blogs, over 70 skeptic podcasts, 26 pro video channels and around 160 amateur video channels on skepticism. And these numbers keep growing. So that raises the question: how do you manage to get some attention when you start a new blog on the subject?

There was some disagreement in tactics among the panel members and PZ Myers also contributed a little to the discussion. I think he is the one I agree with the most. Basically, here is what he said. If you feel passionate enough to start a blog and maintain it, go ahead. It doesn’t really matter if you get a lot of readers or not, it shouldn’t really be your main concern. Getting a large readership is something that just happens, and it usually happens because of the good content of the blog.

The other panel members also raised a few good strategy tips that I will try to adopt in the future. Here they are:

  • Specialize: one good way of attracting readers is to cover a topic that is not already covered. Picking up something close to one’s own professional field is generally a good idea, unless the job has nothing to do with skepticism… But come on, flim-flam is omnipresent…
  • Consistency: having a regular posting schedule and a regular format seems to help. People should have a well-defined idea of what to expect when they come on the blog.
  • Getting arguments going in the comments is good publicity, but it’s all a matter of how the comments are moderated. Personally, I am having trouble dealing with trolls and people not bringing anything new, and I have very little patience with the TLDR (but comment anyway) crowd.

So here is where I think I can contribute. I follow a few threads of science articles, and it bothers me each time that the headline for the article is exaggerated. Despite the fact that the content of the article itself is usually more accurate, it can still be hugely overstating the actual science. I am in a good position to debunk particle physics articles, and I think I can criticize scientific journalism in general. I can also recommend following good scientific journalists that I discover.

So I will try to be posting every monday about science journalism. It will be difficult to post more frequently than that due to my busy schedule, and I will have some researching to do. Anyway, if that’s all I take from TAM, I think it will already be pretty good. But there’s plenty more to come!

The evening ended with the The Rebecca Watson Game Show and Variety Hour, where Richard Wiseman, Jennifer Ouellette, Phil Plait, Jamila Bey and George Hrab competed against each other in a Quiz. And the points were counted by none other than Mr. Deity himself. It was a fun evening of watching these contestants turning an otherwise very difficult quiz into something hilarious. If nobody on the panel could get the answer right, the first person in the crowd to get the right answer on twitter would get some prize. Cool concept that worked quite well.

So the talks start tomorrow and I have to be up early! Good night!

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2 Responses to TAM 9! – Day one

  1. dominic says:

    #tam9quiz 1978.

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