Archive for November, 2010

Skeptics in the Pub: Martin Poulter

How to Create Your Own Cult, the Scientology Way

by Martin Poulter
When: Thu, Nov 18, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool


Scientology has been described in the States as “ruthless, litigious and lucrative” and in this country as “corrupt, sinister and dangerous”, yet it boasts global success and has made hundreds of millions of dollars. Thanks to the Internet, it now faces an unprecedented global opposition. The scary secrets of Scientology and its recruitment methods will be exposed in this talk. It will be useful for anyone wanting to set up their own lucrative cult.
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Skeptics with a K: Episode #034

Colin is back… for Bad PR, Zombie Nuns, Unrepentant Women and the Third Dimension.  Plus bananas, babies, the Crystal Maze and a giant Rubik’s Cube.



Bad PR: Misogyny on the Bounty

As readers of this site will probably know, I have a bit of a beef when it comes to bullshit PR companies spouting Bad PR, and in particular with a company by the name of

OnePoll is an interesting beast – is business model is to pay people around 10p for their participation in a relatively quick online survey, with the idea being that the more surveys you take part in, the more you earn. The upshot of this means the quicker you complete the survey, the faster you can move on to the next one. It also means that when you’re asked a screening question like ‘Are you single or in a relationship?‘, and you can see the name of the survey is ‘Being In Relationships!‘, it’s pretty easy to see that to enter the survey and claim your shiny 10p, you obviously pretend to be in a relationship. Or pretend to be a football fan. Or pretend to be self-employed. Etc. For the sake of your 10p, you enter a load of results which become utterly meaningless.

The speed issue has a knock-on effect elsewhere, too. As I’ve pointed out before, when asked a badly designed question like ‘Which celebrity would you least like to go on holiday with?‘ where the possible responses are from a set list, rather than stopping to think, ‘Actually, I don’t care about any of these people, I’d like to tick the none of the above option, but there isn’t one‘, instead you pick a choice fairly-randomly, fairly-quickly and progress on towards your 10p, and so we get this in the newspapers: Cheryl Cole is celebrity most Brits want to holiday with unlike Katie Price.  I can imagine the most significant factor in these types of questions is often the order the options are presented, rather than their actual content, with a bias towards the options that appear first in the list (that would be my prediction, anyway).

What’s more, to get you started, when you first sign up to One Poll you get something in the region of £2, too – so it feels like a breeze to start really earning. Here’s the kicker though, and of course there is one – before you see a penny of your earnings, you need to accrue £40. At 10p per survey, that’s 400 surveys. I’ve been playing for about months now, and I’m on about £17. So, I can imagine there would be a pretty reasonable fallout rate as people became disillusioned with the process and give up, and thus often OnePoll never have to pay a penny to most of the people they survey. Which makes their business model pretty cheap, then.

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Caption Competition #15

Last week we showed you this picture of Richard Wiseman, George Hrab and Phil Plait on stage at TAM 2009.  As usual, we got some great replies, although surprisingly not one got comic mileage from the blatantly ridiculous pose Richard Wiseman is striking. Ah well…

The winner this time round was Malvickers, who wrote this:

ZZ Top, shaved. (well, have you ever seen them in the same room?)

I haven’t seen them in the same room. But then I’ve never seen any of them in any room beyond in a picture or on TV, so for all I know they’re the fictional creations of clever skeptics.

Except for Geo, who’s real enough to be master of ceremonies for QEDcon this coming February…

See what I did there?

Anyway, that’s enough plugging. Time for this week’s picture.

What should be the caption for the picture below?