Wednesday, June 12, 2013

FreeThoughtBlogs needs a disclosure policy

The e-ink was not even dry on the last article documenting the last bit of The Amazing Meeting (TAM) drama before PZ Myers started pitching for its competitor.

In a post entitled "Skepticon is such a tease", PZ writes:
Skepticon likes to tantalize you, dribbling out speaker names a few at a time. Last week they told us that Aron Ra, Amanda Knief (who has a new book out, with Barry Lynn: The Citizen Lobbyist), and Amanda Marcotte will be there — we’re off to a great start! This week, it’s Debbie Goddard! Rebecca Hensler! Richard Carrier! And…me. It’s OK, you gotta sprinkle in some boring old drones to make the highlights sparkle more.
As I mentioned yesterday, Skepticon is the high energy fun con of the year. You should go. You should especially go if you want to learn how to put together a well-managed, exciting con on a budget — I’d like to see more of these things spring up all over the country.

It's weird, not just because it's a shameless plug, but also because it reads like erotic fiction. Skepticon is some sort of succubus that plays hard-to-get with the speaker list apparently.

But that's not just it, the drama continues as DJ Grothe called PZ on his anti-TAM post. PZ dances around the fact that he was criticizing TAM, of course, saying he merely criticized an 'ad'.

It's in line with "just asking a question" - "just criticizing an ad".

DJ Grothe writes:

Not to mention that it is a full four days, not just two and a half days. And 3-4 times as many presenters on the program.

PZ Myers:
That's the first legitimate point he's made. It is a bigger event…but that does not make it a cheaper event. That's reason to say TAM is worth the money, not that it is cheaper.

Of course, PZ Myers neglected to mention that TAM was larger than other conferences by a factor of three in his original 'critique'.

DJ Grothe writes:
PZ compares TAM to a free student-run conference in Springfield Missouri. False comparison, obviously.
PZ Myers:
Oh. TAM is a cheaper conference as long as you don't include all those conferences which are cheaper. Got it. And is there something wrong with a conference being "student-run"? I've found student-run conferences to be among the best experiences.
And then addressing the variance of flights, PZ Myers writes:
I responded to this elsewhere (like, where he left the comment), but factoring in the momentary vagaries of airline pricing really is a colossal cheat. I've had domestic prices to the same destination wander up and down by $400 over the course of a month. But especially when he's close enough to drive to TAM, while Skepticon is farther away for him…don't you think that might contribute to the price difference?

Somehow, using prices of flights is 'cheating' in his eyes. Also 'cheating' is using prices from locations that closer to the event.

For those that can remember, PZ Myers' data was based on someone located in Chicago.

Apparently FTB is allowed to price flights from Chicago, and that's fine, but when TAM organizers choose to price flights from locations more accessible to Vegas, somehow it's cheating.

PZ continues:
There was no criticism of TAM at all there — it has a role, it does it well, if you enjoy it and can afford it you should go — but I do think the advertising copy was dishonest and, for a consumer protection organization, they should take a little more responsibility to avoid stretching the truth. I have my doubts that Grothe even read my post, and is instead regurgitating something one of the haters sent to him without verifying its contents…which may be where this claim that Lippard posted it here came from. Also note that the article where Lippard actually commented did a breakdown of costs for him to attend a CSI conference, and it came down cheaper than TAM. Not very skeptical of him, is it?
What is it with these big-name skeptics that they are so thin-skinned about any criticism at all?

A good portion of PZ's post is dedicated to pointing out that the Lippard fellow posted on JT's blog, and not PZ's blog.

Does PZ actually imagine anybody cares that he's correct on this completely irrelevant detail?

PZ continues (after being told he published an email not intended for him):

What mischaracterization? I must be one of the bad guys for pointing out the obvious fact that TAM actually IS a rather expensive conference. Everyone knows it; at TAM London I heard a lot of complaints about the ticket price, compared to other events there; every year I see people experiencing a bit of a shock when they learn how much registration costs. And that’s OK — the JREF organizers could be telling everyone how good it is and pointing out all the talent on display (although, really, this same talent often appears at other cons as well). But claiming that it is the least expensive conference is rather ridiculous, don’t you think?
Apparently, the only greater misrepresentation is to dare to point out that it is so.

Ugh.

A few things to clear up:

  1. Obviously TAM should change their messaging to state their conference is the best value so the vultures have less meat to pick at
  2. The "just criticizing an ad" line is entirely man, errr, Myersplaining
  3. The consumer protection angle is just a bullshit cheap shot. It's all too convenient for rape joke Myers to bleat about hypocrisy when it suits his goals.
  4. The "Everyone knows it" line is straight out of high school melodrama. "Everyone knows she's a..."
Here's the deal.

It is painfully obvious that PZ creates mischaracterizations. 

If you were reading a finance blogger, and said blogger told you to buy Enron and short Worldcom, the blogger is often morally (and perhaps often legally) obligated to reveal his positions on the stocks involved.

However PZ doesn't seem to feel the need to state his vested interests and biases. 

He'll slander anyone and anything. This time, under the pretense of 'skepticism' and 'consumer protection', he's taken down a rival while masking his self-absorbed intentions.

Since PZ Myers doesn't have a standard disclosure, let's write one for him.



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