The Ultimate Objective of rbutr

Repost from the rbutr blog, titled: The Ultimate Objective of rbutr

The ultimate objective of rbutr, is to help bring online discussions to the best possible conclusion available with the known information.

The method used to achieve this could be called “Forced Principle of Charity” whereby the Principle of Charity is manufactured by finding and presenting the best possible rebuttal to a claim rather than needing to ‘assume it’ or ‘fill in the blanks’ on behalf of the claim.

Through iteration of this action, the discussion is necessarily forced towards some sort of a conclusion.

I see it working this way: There are thousands of different entry points to an argument, but most of the time when having one of these discussions, you inevitably wind your way through all of these random peripheral claims and positions and inevitably find yourself at one of the (or several of the) core principles/claims/beliefs which underlie the main difference of opinion.  Ideally, how rbutr will work, is that through a combination of direct rebuttals, and general rebuttals, all of these peripheral arguments will eventually be step-wise redirected towards ‘the best rebuttal possible for the core tenants of disagreement’. Once this mythical article is written and voted up by the community to take its place as the hub point of all of the online discussions on this particular subject, then the real discussion can continue.

With ‘the best possible rebuttal to the core points of disagreement’ in place then there should be an active ongoing competition between people who disagree with that rebuttal to write ‘the best possible rebuttal’ to it. The community will vote, filter and select their way through the rebuttals until they find it, and then we have rebuttal number 2 of the conversation. And so on, down a path of direct rebuttals until the most reasonable conclusion is reached.

I need to find an animator to work with on this, because I think we could make an incredibly effective visual representation of this process.

Problems (obviously)

So yeah, obviously the description above is set in an ideal world, with sufficient users all motivated by the search for the truth – which is rarely representative of the human population. Although, that being said, we don’t need to worry about ‘the human population’ too much. We just need to worry about the culture of our users, and do our best to make sure all of our users are motivated by the quest for the truth. That will go a long way towards ensuring our results are as close as possible to this ideal world view.

 

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Mapping the Discourse of the Internet

Update:

http://rbutr.com is now a reality. This was the post which made it happen. Go to rbutr.com now and register to see the vision in action!

The Minimal Viable Product

A browser extension which allows people to link “Rebuttals” to specific web pages so that when other users view that specific webpage, the extension indicates that a “rebuttal” webpage exists, and by clicking on the extension icon you will taken to it.

Real world exmple:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2003824/Earth-facing-mini-Ice-Age-years-rare-drop-sunspot-activity.html
The Daily Mail posts a story that “Scientist’s Say Mini Ice Age is coming”.

In response, Potholer54 makes a video: http://www.youtube.com/user/potholer54#p/u/19/adAvYK1O-ic which provides a strong rebuttal to the article (and the numerous spin off articles which copied the fabrication verbatim).

But anyone who gets directed to the original article has no idea that the headline of the article is a complete fabrication, and tend to accept it as true (since it comes from a ‘respectable’ source – not just some blog, for example). So for all of the great work that has been done debunking the ridiculous article by Potholer54 and the hundreds of other bloggers and scientists and youtubers out there, people who see the original article have no indication of any of that. So much great work, effectively wasted because they cannot (easily) reach the target audience!

Hence the need for a tool like this. With this browser extension, if you have the tool installed, when you get directed to this article by some misguided friend on facebook, as soon as you land your browser will clearly indicate that rebuttal(s) have been submitted to this article. When you finish reading the article, you are then free to click through and read the rebuttal to it, and likewise, click through again if there are in turn, more rebuttals to those rebuttals.

Why Make It?

The purpose of this tool is to facilitate ‘forward’ moving discussion. Whenever someone posts a rebuttal style article online, they always link to, or at least indicate the article that they are replying to. It is necessary. You have to let people know what it is you are replying to in order to reply to it! So whenever you come across one of these sorts of posts online, it is easy to look ‘backwards’ through the discussion, but wherever you enter this debate, it always seems like it is ‘the last word’ on the subject. But it rarely is.

This tool will show where the discussion has gone, rather than just where it has been. It will allow people to follow discussions forward through time, rather than just backwards. It will help reduce ignorance by providing internet users with a way to look beyond the information they find themselves presented with.

The internet is a huge mess of information – organising that information into a USEFUL format is one of the biggest challenges of the internet.

  1. Search engines were the first major breakthrough on that front, and they are still great – within their bounds.
    Find what you are looking for, roughly.
  2. Social Tools were the second major breakthrough, with clever systems of recommendation based on subject. StumbleUpon, Reddit, Facebook etc.
    Discover stuff you didn’t know you were looking for/Discover stuff similar to what you already like
  3. This tool – this concept – could be the third major breakthrough by providing a ‘threading’ system to internet subject matter. Discussion based direction to the web.
    Discover the next piece of information you need.

The long vision (below) will go in to more details on the following stages of development and on how this simple idea could be rolled out to acheive far more of this information-organising function.

Reaching the Market

This is the biggest difficulty with this idea. There is no organic-growth model. There is no content creation, so no SEO based traffic. There is nothing inherently viral, or recommendable about the technology. It isn’t particularly cool, so people won’t share it on Reddit or Facebook or Stumble Upon. And unlike StumbleUpon’s toolbar (a very similar technological concept in many ways), this lacks any on-page presence. ie: People add “Thumbs Up on StumbleUpon” badges on their websites as a way of attracting more Stumble traffic to their site. This tool has no such ability.

The only people who might want to promote this tool are the authors of rebuttal style articles, but ironically, they need to promote it to the readers of the ‘opponents’ – because their own subscribers don’t need to the tool!

Variations on the Basic Idea

The idea of creating a system of organising topical discussion threads throughout the internet seems to be one of value to me. Instead of toolbar, it could be taken to google or internet regulatory bodies as a tag which indicates relationship. Just as Rel=”No Follow” was created as a way to combat spam, so too perhaps could a tag be invented which allows websites to indicate that they are rebutting/replying/agreeing with websites they link to. For example, something like this might be written:

Yesterday, the website which I disagree with wrote this article: <a href=”url” rel=”rebut”>Article Title</a> – but it is so wrong, because it said X, but Y is demonstrated by this reason.

or equally:

Last night, the website of a friend published this article: <a href=”url” rel=”agree”>Article Title</a> – and I just want to restate how important this view is, because it said X, and Y is a real problem that X deals with.

So, as an example, this sort of markup could be created and introduced to the internet, perhaps with the values of “Rebut”, “Agree”, “Review” and/or “Reply” (with strict definitions of each) and then the search engines, the browsers themselves, or other robots could use this markup to construct meaningful maps of online discussions. Hopefully even offering ideal pathways through the discussion…

The Long Vision

The tool described above is the MVP, and is very simplistic. There are a lot of improvements which could be made, and I currently expect they should be rolled out, roughly along the plan described below:

Stage Two

If any sort of market penetration is reached then the first people to really use the tool will be the internet marketers who will abuse it as a way of linking from popular articles to their own website. First improvement will be the ability for users to upvote, downvote and spam-vote the articles presented to them through the tool.

Repeat offending domains (repeatedly marked as spam) could be permanently blocked. And other obvious steps to reduce abuse would be implemented.

Stage Three

Implement a more detailed system which allows more types of replies to be entered. The MVP above doesn’t actually allow for agreements, reviews or other replies to be indicated (though it was mentioned in the variations section). So this sort of specification could be implemented, if it seemed desirable. Thus “n replies” would be indicated, and onclick a popupwindow would break down : “X Rebuttals, Y Agreements and Z Reviews” – at which point you choose what you are interested in.

Stage Four

The first major upgrade to the system: The creation of a way for users to delve in to the arguments themselves and provide analysis of the original article in relation to the reply through a side-by-side view with page-overlay highlighting. In other words, build a way for users who are particularly interested/involved in specific discussion the ability to bring up both articles connected by a ‘reply’ link side by side so that they can highlight sections, and visually connect those sections to highlighted sections in the reply, and comment about that connection etc. In effect, this component would not be too different to web annotation tools which already exist (http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/web-annotation-tools-research-annotate-collaborate/), but just used in a specific context and with a precise objective of facilitating discourse. ie: the comments should be made to highlight how the reply has actually dealt with the claims, rebutted points, and/or failed to address key points.

Stage Five

The super long vision:

Develop a sophisticated algorithms/intelligent software which learns to identify repeated claims and the standard replies to them. Automatically starts to provide ‘standard rebuttal’ options for false claims, bad arguments, logical fallacies etc on the fly while browsing. Turns the redundancy of millions of internet pages and posts on the same topic on its head, and focusses the results of all of the repeated arguments in to the one most productive outcome. Could sort of work like word’s grammar tool, but with bad claims/arguments. It would underline or highlight lines which are found to be repeatedly used even though they have been rebutted hundreds of times elsewhere, and onclick or onhover, provide the rebuttal and a list of resources for that false claim.

Feedback

Please leave feedback and comments to this. I would like to build it, but I am struggling with how to reach any sort of market penetration with it at all – and of course, with all of these sorts fo ideas: is it even worth making it? I think it is a cool idea, but there is never any way to know without trying, or at least without talking to people – which is the point of this post. Feedback!

So please, let me know what you think.

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Mobile wordpress, mwahahaha

Ok, so I have finally installed mobile wordpress on my iPhone so that I can post while sitting on the train. Definitely not my favorite way to type out an entry, but better than sitting there staring out the window.

Hmm, new thought – find app which allows you to save online articles/pages for easy recall from your iPhone later. So many things I could be reading or practicing right now which I waste my time doing at a desk.

Anyway, work will be starting again on immortal outdoors on Monday, finally. I need to redo my notes doc for them, because a bit has changed and I’ve found more stuff that needs fixing.

Anyway, I have also decided to keep practicing coding stuff, and I am going to do it through the amalgamation if two ideas I have had – both which I quite like, and only just the other day finally realized how much they overlap.

The ideas are both on the subject of discourse, specifically debate mediation and resolution. One idea was a website that orchestrated organized debates between high level representatives of particularly contentious subjects, and facilitate a strict analysis and mediation of the debate.

But the second idea is the one I am mote excited about. The browser extension toolbar idea which allows crowd sourced creation of semantic information linking claim-reply-counter reply articles together.

To put that in simpler terms, the ability for authors of rebuttal articles online to indicate within this tool what article(s) it is rebutting. Users of the toolbar who then read the original article will be alerted to the fact that a rebuttal has been posted.

Not sure how much more detail I can go in to on this iPhone interface, but the initial MVP should be reasonably simple and effective, while the ongoing growth and development in to the most amazing argument resolution tool of all history is amazingly possible.

Anyway, I am going to try to build the MVP myself, while doing all the other stuff I am doing. Lol. Buy it is all related. I need to learn to code and build MVP quality tech. These are skills I need. So time to get on with it!!

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To the Incredible Year Ahead

2012 is either going to be the best year of my life, or possibly a very difficult one. But I’m leaning towards far and away the best. So many things happening, so much potential within those things.

So straight up I have about 2 months left in Australia, and in that time I need to finalise some of the design elements of Immortal Outdoors in time to launch it publicly, and start organising events and meetings with key people in order to get it all off the ground in Australia. Simultaneously, I need to work with Elizabeth (my partner for The Traveller’s Trade) to re-record much of the video tutorials we did for TTT and rebuild the website (deisgn and development), setting up all of the necessary elements to create a successful online ecommerce business (as automated as possible) – also all within the next two months (though this timeframe is less crucial, and moreso a desire so that TTT can start producing an income sooner, while I need it more).

So the heat is on right now, and it is exciting, and terrifying and all that good stuff.

Oh, and of course, the fact that I have to be in Chile by around Mid March means that while I am working on those two projects, I also need to be making sure everything is in order to set up my life in Chile. So that involves getting visas, booking flights, finding accomodation, learning spanish (yeah, seriously, we’re learning spanish from scratch via audio cd’s etc) and all that usual stuff that goes with planning an indefinitely long trip overseas…

Once in Chile though, well, I have no idea how much pressure I will be under. Obviously I will want to get as much done as possible, but going through this process of getting Immortal Outdoors off the ground has made me realise moreso just how big a project this all is, and what I really need in order to make it all happen as I want it to. I have finally caved in to the idea that I am probably going to need some real investors, and I am going to need my own in house CTO. So I now have a new objective for my time in Start-Up Chile – Find the right investors (without putting too much thought in to it (too soon to do that properly), probably something like 1 or 2 million dollars worth of investment) and meet the right CTO partner.

Maybe I don’t “need” that – but what I want Immortal Outdoors to do, it probably will need that major amount of funding and a seriously good inhouse development team to rebuild everything from the ground up again, on a bunch of servers, with all of the stops out in order to really get what I want. The mobile platforms, the social network plugins, the seemless user interfaces, and all of the clever little automatic systems which are so easy to think of, but so challenging to make work smoothly… It will take time, and a lot of development from some great coders. And that is the new Start-Up Chile goal.

And that should take me through to about December. At which time the goal is to have a chance to head back over to the UK for Christmas with Vanessa’s family (and ideally mine too if we can afford it), and then NYE in London.

How is that not the best year ever?

PS: I forgot to mention, I contacted Sydney Skydivers today too – I am finally getting back in to sky diving, and after a quick refresher course, I should be starting on my B license… So of course, that needs to fit in to this final two month period in Sydney too…

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Immortal Outdoors and Start-Up Chile

Immortal Outdoors is online now. Still much work to be done, but it is online.

In other exciting news, I was selected to participate in Start-Up Chile. Yay. Heading over to Chile at the end of March now.

Oh, and I almost forgot too – this was the first year my domain http://www.SydneyToHobart.com.au was live with some content on it prior to the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race, and it received about 5000 hits. ALmost 3000 hits today, which is more than any of my websites have ever received in a single day.

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The Fiverr Design Experiment

Attempting to get a good business card design for Immortal Outdoors I have opted to experiment with crowd-sourcing design through Fiverr. I have hired the following people through their advertised gigs:

iambdus, boyluiji, and oneream.

Total time = about 30-45 minutes to casually find the jobs, pay for them and describe what I wanted to each of them.

Total cost = $15

First Result

Boyluji was the first to deliver, taking almost exactly 24h from my deliver of the specs of the job. He asked for:

provide me your details such as:
Logo
Desired card Details
color preferences

and receive a business card design in printable format.

and I provided:

Colors – Please stick with the color theme on the website (visible here: http://immortal-test.mycms.com.au/) and in the logo.

Slogan/Phrase “Mapping the Outdoors”

Card details should be:

Shane Greenup
email provided
http://www.ImmortalOutdoors.com
+61 413 295 020

I received:

To which I messaged back to him:

OK that is really really ugly. Can I get a complete redesign, this time focusing on the brand (this is a card for my website, on which my details are present. Like most ‘Business’ cards) also actually sticking with the colour scheme and theme of the logo and the website I directed you to.

*fingers crossed*

Which I think you will agree is pretty accurate. That design is bad on so many levels. It was a little heart breaking to get such a horrible design. I mean, sticking the logo on it and writing my details in whatever the default font was would look better and take much less time. So anyway, he replied with:

ok no worries communication is key i will do a complete re design you should have results soon.

and delivered the following solution:

shane greenup business card design 2Which was a significant improvement, but still didn’t work for me at all. I thought it focused too much on my name, while the focus is meant to be on the Website Logo. So I left it at that (since I had used up my $5 worth of design and revision anyway), and awaited the other two designs…

Second Result

Iamabdus delivered second. Now I have had a gig delivered by Iamabdus previously, he designed the logo for The Traveller’s Trade, which was quick and effective, so I was already quite happy with his work. I was hoping he could deliver just as effectively on the business card design too.

His request for information was:

Just send me:
(1) Logo
(2) Your name, designation, address and all info
(3) Any sample design.

Note: All source files will be provided

To which I replied with:

1. Logo attached.

2. Shane Greenup
*email provided*
www.ImmortalOutdoors.com
+61 413 295 020

3. The card is for the following website: http://immortal-test.mycms.com.au/ Take design elements from that as inspiration. Is that enough?

Thanks,
Shane
(from http://www.travellerstrade.com)

And the final product was delivered in just under 48 hours from my sending of that information, and looked like this:

SHane Greenup Immortal Outdoors business card 3Which is immediately better than the previous efforts by the last designer, and I sort of like it, but it doesn’t stay true to the overall colour theme of the website, so I wasn’t sure. Plus it was only one side of the card, and I really did want a double sided card design. So I was thinking that Iamabdus is definitely ahead at this stage, I would await the results of designer 3 before deciding on what to do.

Third Result

OneReam was the final designer expected to deliver, advertising a delivery period of 5 days to deliver, but after 6 days nothing was heard from them, so I messaged them asking if they were there.. 6 days later I got a message saying that they had had a family emergency, and asking if I wanted them to proceed or not, so I said “Sure, why not” and awaited the delivery of my designs.

Within 24 hours of that message, I got her designs. This time, instead of just getting a PNG file (like the previous two designers), she provided a zip file filled with print ready PDFs and adobe illustrator working files (and fonts used), and not just for one design, but two designs of a double sided card. All provided for MacOS as well as PC. So that was quite impressive. Better still, the designs were actualyl pretty good! They kept to the colour theme of the website, and focussed on the website logo and domain, while still providing my personal details in an effective manner.

Back_1_PNT

Front_1_PNT

Back_2_PNT

Front_2_PNT

Final Outcome

Anyway, so they were the results from my 3 Fiverr gigs. I was going to pick the best and give them the specifics that I wanted, but I have decided to just make some slight changes to the last set of designs, since I am mostly happy with them.

I really gotta go and do some real work now…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not Fast Enough!

I just purchased a ‘gig’ off Fiverr.com (liking this website more and more these days) and after a total period of about 20 seconds where I had to enter my Paypal password, and click ‘confirm’ or whatever button I had to press, I was redirected back to this page on Fiverr:

Fiverr DamnQuickPay ImageDid you know that you could order much quicker!?!?! Did you know that 20 seconds to complete a payment is wasting your time? Wow.

I mean, I’m generally quite a speed orientated person. I like to be fast, and I hate to wait – but “Omg this is slow” is not what I was thinking when I was processing that payment for 20 seconds.

Anyway, just found it funny how focussed the internet has made us on shaving seconds off simple activities…

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Australia vs England – Price Comparison

A common conversation I have had since I arrived in England a little over a month ago, is how surprised I am at the fact that nearly everything here is significantly cheaper than in Australia (except transport costs- public transport and fuel). When it comes to groceries though – necessities and treats, my experience of prices so far are so very strongly in the UK’s favour, that it is becoming very hard for me to justify living in Australia any more.

So I logged in to two supermarket giants here in the UK, and compared prices with Coles and Woolworths, and this is what I got:

 

Item Tesco Asda Woolworths Coles
Fresh Food
Gala Apples, Loose (kg) $4.35 $2.63 $4.97 $5.48
Closed Cup Mushrooms, Loose (kg) $4.50 $4.18 $11.96 $10.48
Brown Onions Class 2, Loose (kg) $1.49 $1.46 $1.88 $2.48
Meat
Bacon (best / kg) $8.73 $8.73 $9.90 $8.01
Chicken Breast $11.12 $11.12 $15.50 $10.90
Lamb Leg (roast) $12.04 $15.03 $13.48 $14.00
Pantry
750-775g CornFlakes $3.73 $3.01 $5.36 $5.34
Coke 2L $2.68 $2.68 $3.92 $3.91
Cheapest pasta (kg) $0.96 $0.96 $1.20 $1.20

From this small sample, it is immediately clear how badly australia is competing, and it would be easy to continue comparing prices like this and continue the trend. I was even trying to pick products which Australia should fare better with – meats and grain based products should be abundant in our giant agricultural country! And yet the UK was cheaper on every front.

Here is the averaged results:

Actual Exchange Rate
1.5046
Item UK Average Aus Average
Fresh Food
Gala Apples, Loose (kg) $3.49 $5.23
Closed Cup Mushrooms, Loose (kg) $4.34 $11.22
Brown Onions Class 2, Loose (kg) $1.47 $2.18
Meat
Bacon (best / kg) $8.73 $8.96
Chicken Breast $11.12 $13.20
Lamb Leg (roast) $13.53 $13.74
Pantry
750-775g CornFlakes $3.37 $5.35
Coke 2L $2.68 $3.92
Cheapest pasta (kg) $0.96 $1.20
$49.70 $64.99

You can also see the current exchange rate used to calculate the AUD value of the GBP purchase price (from XE.com). The UK is cheaper, often times significantly, in every single product compared.

To be fair, the AUD is at the strongest it has ever been. It has doubled in value compared to the UK over the past 10 years and if we were to use an exchange rate of 3.0 dollars to the pound, then we would have all but one of the above products cheaper in Australia (mushrooms are way over priced in Aus!). So to give the benfit of the doubt, and assume that our grocery prices are simply on a delay with respect to our dollars value, lets compare the prices with an assume dexchange rate of 2.5 and 2.0:

Rate 2.5 Rate 2
Item UK AUS UK AUS
Fresh Food
Gala Apples, Loose (kg) $5.80 $5.23 $4.64 $5.23
Closed Cup Mushrooms, Loose (kg) $7.21 $11.22 $5.77 $11.22
Brown Onions Class 2, Loose (kg) $2.45 $2.18 $1.96 $2.18
Meat
Bacon (best / kg) $14.50 $8.96 $11.60 $8.96
Chicken Breast $18.48 $13.20 $14.78 $13.20
Lamb Leg (roast) $22.49 $13.74 $17.99 $13.74
Pantry
750-775g CornFlakes $5.60 $5.35 $4.48 $5.35
Coke 2L $4.45 $3.92 $3.56 $3.92
Cheapest pasta (kg) $1.60 $1.20 $1.28 $1.20
$82.58 $64.99 $66.06 $64.99

2.5 is probably an acceptable average value for the AUD to GBP, and hovered around that value for quite a long time – but hasn’t really been there for the past four years or so. While 2 was seen about 2 years ago as the value surged straight past it to our current 1.5 position. When you accept the value of 2, then we get costs more in line with what you would expect – Meat and grain products are still cheaper in Aus, but other things are cheaper in the UK.

OK, I have managed to do, what I so often do when trying to research ideas – managed to investigate far enough to disprove my own position. Yay.

Let me explain. My thoughts were that Australia was ripping us all off, charging way too much for every day products etc, when they should be much cheaper – and simply comparing the prices in the UK vs the AUS prices ‘clearly shows that’ – BUT, when you take the time to consider that the AUD has only been at 1.50 very recently, and only for the last couple of years, you cannot expect all of our grocery prices to be set so as to reflect this strength! It takes time for the benefits of a strong currency to somehow filter through to the farmers, the transporters and the other involved businesses so that they can lower their prices (or perhaps more accurately, so that the rest of the worlds prices can catch up with our new value).

Basically, what I am really noticing is that “The AUD is strong at the moment – now is a good time to take advantage of that”. No shit huh? If the dollar was to retrace back to an exchange of 2.0, then suddenly my whole perspective of “Australia is expensive” would be completely unsupportable – yet the prices would probably be the same.

Let this be an important lesson to me to remember that the rapid fluctuations of international currency markets can not be used to immediately label the regular prices of daily living “Expensive” and “Cheap”.

I wonder if the recent study which found Sydney to be the 6th most expensive city in the world made the same mistake I did?

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Alan Jones on Climate Change and the Carbon Tax

On Monday the 20th of June, Alan Jones went to air on 2GB with this clip: http://www.2gb.com/index2.php?option=com_newsmanager&task=view&id=9196

I know a lot of people listen to him and find him very persuasive. More importantly, many many people think he is standing up for the common people, fighting the good fight against corrupt and incompetent government who just don’t have the facts. Unfortunately, when it comes to climate change information, Alan Jones is not only misinformed, but I cannot seriously think he is anything other than ideologically driven to present his own perspective in spite of reality.

So I sat down, and spent the time to go through this radio clip, and respond to everything that was said. The following essay was the result:

Doctor Vincent Gray Can’t Measure the Earth’s Temperature

Alan starts off with his discussion with Dr Vincent Gray. Dr Gray is a chemist and physicist who Alan sells quite strongly. But the very first thing this guy says is just ridiculous – and Alan Jones blindly agrees with him (in that same way you hate people in the background nodding along to Julia Gillard etc) Alan Jones was uttering the occasional “Yep” and backing up what Gray was saying without even needing Gray to actually finish what he was saying. He was just making sure *you* know that Gray is right, whatever he says.

But what he was saying was ridiculous. The idea that “we know the temperature of The Moon, Venus and Mars” but not Earth. Seriously? Does that even sound sensible? Of course it doesn’t. The obvious reality here, is that we make simple statements about ‘the average temperature of Mars’ being around -55 °C – but this is just a simple number which is easy to round off, and not get too caught up in being exact, because, -45° – -60° – who cares? Right? It’s not an exact measurement of all parts of the planet, including day temperature, night temperatures, surface, altitude subterranean etc. It is just a simple measurement which we summarise for the purposes of practicality, and no one really cares either way.

Meanwhile, we actually do measure the local temperature over many many parts of earth, and then come up with an average MUCH more accurate than the average temperatures we give to other planets. Just because we can’t say with 100% accuracy measure ‘the exact’ average temperature of the whole planet (if such a thing is even possible) does NOT in any way discredit the fact that we have a lot of accurate local measurements from all over the planet which we can use to establish an average temperature.

And what is most important about this, is that the discussion here is about the CHANGE in temperature. So even if we didn’t get thermometers in all of the places we wanted to get them, it doesn’t matter so much. What does matter, is that the temperatures from the past (the discrete local ones and the averaged overall ones) are lower than the ones in the present.

This guy has left me immediately with a complete lack of respect for him, his knowledge and his credibility – just from what he has said. Trying to figure out who he is though – doing a search about his background reveals a lot though, and his position makes a lot more sense… You can’t expect much else from someone who is 1. Not a climate scientist, and 2. Involved in Coal Mining research, and 3. A member of an ex-lobbying organisation called the “Scientific Advisory Committee for the Natural Resource Stewardship” which refused to reveal whether energy companies are funding them or not. (http://www.desmogblog.com/vincent-gray)

Basically, these are the words of a politically and financially motivated individual who happens to have a doctorate.

Bob Carter, Can’t Find Evidence of Human Temperature Increase

I note that he carefully chooses his words when explaining his point, to be that after all of the spending (billions of dollars!) we haven’t been able to find a link between human actions and temperature increase.

First of all, I am certain that his assertion that “billions of dolars have been spent trying to connect” is just absolute rubbish. I am sure billions of dollars have been spent, but that is just research. Investing in scientific research is THE single most effective use of money in my opinion, and there is no central design to how that money is spent. It is just stupid to think that there has been all this money spent TRYING to achieve a particular outcome. We are talking about an international, inter-discipline consensus. It has nothing to do with spending money ‘trying’ to get a result.

Secondly, he doesn’t actually answer (in this small clip of him anyway) the question which Alan put to him: “Warming or not?”. He only addresses whether he thinks humans have had any affect. He only flippantly refers to humanity emitting ‘some extra’ CO2, but denies that we are causing a temperature change.

On the point of ’emitting some extra’ CO2, as he puts it, my first question is “How much is ‘some extra’?” Because the way he says it, it sounds insignificant. Wikipedia’s entry on country based human emissions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions) has it at 29,321,302,000 metric tons per year. And this article: http://www.skepticalscience.com/human-co2-smaller-than-natural-emissions-basic.htm goes in to great detail on how much CO2 humans release per year in comparison to natural sources.

What is relevant here, is that even Bob Carter agrees that ‘we all know’ that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. This is not disputed. More CO2 will cause temperatures to rise. The question is whether the amount that human activities are increasing CO2 by, are enough to cause a large enough change to global climate to warrant concern. Well, measurements of CO2 indisputably show how much CO2 we have added to the atmosphere: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_the_Earth%27s_atmosphere shows that over the past 200 years we have increased CO2 concentration from a very stable 260-280ppm to about 390ppm currently. So we have increased the CO2 concentration by about 50% – and I say we, because the timing of the increase, after such a long period of stability – at least 10,000 years, does match perfectly with the industrial revolution, where humanity started pushing CO2 in to the atmosphere. It seems absurd to claim that the sudden increase is not connected to our activity – if you have a problem with this assumption, say so, and I will see if I can find some sort of research which validates or contradicts the assumption.

So, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it influences temperature upwards. Human activity has increased CO2 significantly, and continues to do so. Temperature has been increasing for quite a while now (http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-temperature-correlation.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming).

So, is there is connection between human activity and global temperature increase? Well, there is nothing conclusive there, but the implication is obvious. The correlation is clear. The theory makes sense. If we know CO2 causes warming, and we see CO2 increase, then temperature start increasing after it….well, it makes sense. Unfortunately, science doesn’t make the absolute assertions which political commentators and lobbyists do – as far as I can tell, Bob is fundamentally right on that one carefully worded point – there is no proof that human activity CAUSES the temperature increase.

But I, and pretty much every qualified climate scientist thinks you would be mad to assume we don’t.

(side note, unrelated to his statements in this little clip, but I found this information about Bob Carter interesting: http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptics/bobcarter.html)

Doctor Timothy Ball, IPCC Only Look at Man Made Climate Change

This just doesn’t make any sense. I mean, of course the IPCC is set up to look at man made climate change – there is nothing any government can do about natural climate change, we can only influence human behaviour, and thus can only control climate change which happens at the hands of humanity.

But the assertion that the science done which the IPCC refers to is done without consideration of the natural cycles and influence is just absurd. This is true conspiratorial thinking at its worst – this implies that all of the climate scientists who do research in the field are either 1. Idiots, or 2. Part of a global organisation determined to make people pay more tax. Both of which are just nonsense (particularly when you consider that these climate scientists come from the complete spectrum of all of the first world countries, from developing countries and from numerous political persuasions). Scientists do science. For the most part, they don’t give a shit about politics in general – which is part of the problem every time a scientific principle becomes the target of political discontent – The SCIENTISTS, the ones who know what they are talking about, don’t get involved (they just keep doing their work), while all of the political nutjobs and agenda driven cranks come out of the woodwork and start claiming to be specialists in fields they are only loosely (in time or knowledge) associated with in order to make their political opinion known. (and of course the organise themselves into lobby groups and political activity groups in order to get their perspectives heard better).

Anyway, I’m rambling on this points. What I am trying to say, is that the research that the IPCC uses, surely, is the research done by climate scientologists, from universities all over the world. No scientist is going to ignore the complexity of the global climate when trying to research the impacts of human activity. Of course natural elements will be considered (and usually normalised, so that the impacts of human activity can be clearly seen!)

In order to reply to this lunacy any more clearly, I would need Dr Ball’s evidence for the claim in the first place.

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Tim_Ball

Richard Lindzen Supposes Why The Government Would Introduce a Carbon Tax

This guy, a very respectable looking scientist, has one hell of a track record: http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptics/Lindzen.htm

But the excerpt here is just about his guess as to why we would be introducing a carbon tax, obviously assuming that the reasons given (to disincentive carbon usage, and promote non-carbon based energy sources) aren’t real. So in order for that guess to even make sense, you need to look at how the carbon tax ‘income’ is going to be used by the government.

The wikipedias entry on Carbon Tax has a section for Australia, and states that the current negotiations on the carbon tax “included commitments to ensure all funds collected go back to homes and businesses to assist in the transition to renewables.” So ‘collecting taxes’ cannot be the purpose of introducing a carbon tax, if all of the money collected is already redirected to a new expense. There is no net gain to the government in this, and thus their provided reason – “because CO2 causes global warming, and we need to do our part as a nation to reduce our outputs” fits perfectly in line with this course of action.

Of course, you could argue that the government is useless and/or corrupt and what they say can’t be trusted. But that has nothing to do with Climate Change, and is another issue entirely. All I know, is that the science says anthropogenic climate change is real, and we need to do something to stop it, and the government has proposed a way of doing something about it. Doing something is definitely better than nothing.

Also, my experiences thus far have taught me, that for all of my frustrations at our own government, I do not think they are corrupt (on the whole), nor do I think that they are that incompetent. I have also come to realise that an average government is much better than no government (visiting Madagascar really helped me to see this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QDv4sYwjO0).

Also: http://www.skepticalscience.com/skeptic_Richard_Lindzen.htm

John McClean on the Data

This was fun listening to Alan introduce this one. Talking about how important the data is in science and how so much of science is done with data analysis etc. So I was expecting to hear that John McClean had gone through the scientific research on CO2 influences on global temperature and the science that matters on this issue – I was very surprised when Alan instead started describing how John spent has “PAINSTAKINGLY” spent his time analysing the data of how the IPCC came together. Wait. What?… OK, lets see where this goes….

OK, so Alan talks about John McCleans research. One of which was about how El Nino Southern Oscilliation can account for warming trends. That paper is extensively critiqued here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/news.php?n=162 – it is probably hard to understand, but basically, John used data manipulation to remove long term trends and highlight noise in the data in order to get his conclusion. So Alan’s claim that “John cannot be sensibly refuted, because he merely presents the data of the IPCC” is simply false. Data can be manipulated – specially selected start points, certain filtering methods (which are necessary – but need to be used correctly!), and other techniques can all be used to make data look to say something which is doesn’t. I think it is worth looking at this page again, which makes this point very well: http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-temperature-correlation.htm where the first graph looks like there is no correlation, even though it is the same data over a longer time frame clearly shows there is a correlation.

Now, for the rest of this discussion, it is just rubbish. Scientists citing the own work. Completely normal. Scientists in a very specific field of research regularly working together – of course this is normal! Who else are they going to work with? Creationists? You work with the people who work in the same field! No one else is qualified to work with you!

Chapter 9 – the only chapter that deals with anthropo-climate change. All of the Authors come from only one field? The most appropriate one for the job by any chance? Alan uses the derogative term “Computer Jockeys” to make it sound like they are just unskilled labourers only makes me distrust Alan even more… As if the facts aren’t enough – he has to make sure you emotionally disconnect from these qualified climate modellers, and think of them as mere computer using slackers who don’t know what they are doing. This is not an honest method of inspection of the facts. They also try to paint the picture that they are just doing it to maintain funding for their position – as if climate modelling was just made up as part of the climate change propaganda system in order to give jobs to 50 people? Insane…

Alan tries to make it sound like “Only one chapter of the whole report tries to link global warming to human causes” as if that is a negative thing. But this is how arguments work!! You make a claim, argue the position, and then move on. You don’t argue a position, and then argue it again, and then try again just in case people don’t believe you. When it comes to a formally constructed argument, as is the case in any sort of scientific publication, the argument is a linear process. You make a claim, present your evidence and argue the logic for the evidence leading to the conclusion, and then move on to the next claim. Hence why there were 8 chapters before the human connection, and two chapters after it, which assume it was correct. This is elementary stuff, and Alan ‘should’ know better. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t now that I have heard him).

The Bit That Matters

So John reviewed the reviewers of chapter nine, and has reached the conclusion that only 5 of the reviewers support the claim. Well this report here SLAMS McClean very thoroughly: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/12/john_mclean_and_the_nrsp.php
That is a must read, because obviously McClean is the main focus of this interview, and his review of the IPCC methodology is what this interview is all about, so that article is the most important response I can post.

I loved this bit:

Scientists were declared to have a vested interest if they were an IPCC author, or an IPCC author of a previous assessment, or if any of their work was cited by the report, or if they worked for a government, or if they work for an organisation that gets government funding, or if they have a “possible commercial vested interest in the claim of man-made warming”

Basically – anyone who might know what they are talking about will have a vested interest. Hilarious. Again, as stated just above, when you are talking about a specialised scientific field, there are only a small group of qualified individuals who are capable of analysing and reviewing the information. It isn’t collusion – it is necessity! You don’t get Chemical Engineers to check over the work of Quantam Mechanists, and you don’t get Architects to check over the work of Climate Scientists. You only use climate scientists! This is just obvious! So the fact that you have the same group (somewhat large group imo) of people authoring papers, and reviewing papers and referenced in the papers – is just a bloody obvious consequence of specialisation!

SIGH.

Then Alan comments about how Gillard and Rudd say that over 4000 scientists support man made global warming, as if this ‘5’ number contradicts that. Ignoring the fact that the 5 number is wrong, how many scientists participate in the review panel on a specific government report is almost completely irrelevent when it comes to how many accredited scientists agree with a scientific conclusion. This is an ongoing problem I am finding as I work through all of these professionals that Alan has on his show – they are repeat performance spokesmen of the denial establishment. While some of them are actually scientists, it seems like the spend most of their time touring and talking to people about how their science background justifies them to tell everyone how wrong all of the scientists are – MEANWHILE, the bulk majority of real climate scientists DONT tour around telling everyone how right the science is, they just do their bloody jobs. That is why every now and then there is a special little commission made, or paper published etc, which SHOWS, UNEQUIVOICALLY, that the bulk majority of all climate scientists (virtually all of them) agree that climate change is man made. Because that is the best they can do, to show their concensus. Because they aren’t all going to start going around talking to talk show host, and getting press coverage etc. They are just bloody scientists. (http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm AND

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

is a must view piece. Just browse the list of Scientific Organisations which agree global warming is a man made event. And then try to justify any position which claims the whole thing is a fabrication, orchestrated by governments trying to get more tax money. It doesn’t make sense. No one, no organisation, and certainly no government can possibly influence so many different scientific organisations, across so many countries, and so many fields. It is just ludicrous.

My favourite was this section:

Statements by dissenting organizations

Since 2007, when the American Association of Petroleum Geologists released a revised statement,[103] no scientific body of national or international standing rejects the findings of human-induced effects on climate change.[2][3]

Not ONE. Not even the PETROLEUM geologists disagree anymore. And Alan Jones is doing his best to get every vested interest ‘scientist’ to come on his show, and represent his own opinon, acting like the whole thing is some sort of bizarre ‘government’ controlled thing to get tax money out of people!!! And yet the national academies of science from countries as diverse as China, the USA, Kenya, Russia and Senegal all agree that it is man made! How on earth is that a governmental conspiracy???

It is all Based on Models

“it is all models, it isn’t real, just models”. Well, the whole point of models, is to reflect reality. So just dismissing them offhand doesn’t do them justice. A little evidence wouldn’t go astray here….
http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-models-intermediate.htm

And then they go on to make ridiculous implications about the peer review process, making poor old John McClean sound like the victim of the evil peer review process.. poor baby had to respond to peer review comments, and clarify points etc on his paper… Like every other scientists who ever published in a scientific journal! I haven’t bothered to look up to see whether his assertion that IPCC doesn’t require authors to respond to reviewer comments is true or not, because the IPCC is NOT a peer reviewed Journal. It is a panel! It is a different thing.

So no, this whole radio interview and bit, was a complete sham and fabrication of media hype. Hollow rhetoric framed to make it sound far more scandalous and conspiratorial than it really is. Even a little digging shows that these guys are a strict minority of politically motivated media attention seekers, who have no right to wave their ‘science credentials’ around the way they do.

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SydneytoHobart Website Progress

I am making some good progress with SydneyToHobart.com.au. A few days ago I came up with a decent purpose for it – basically it can solve the problem I had last year when I tried to go in to the city to watch the start of the race: I had no idea where to go! So SydneyToHobart.com.au is all about helping people to figure out where to go, when to get there and how to get there to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Simple enough, and hopefully enough people will be interested in that same problem as the Sydney to Hobart race approaches.

Monetisation is still not settled. It might just be an adsense blog, or if I can sort it out well, I will try to sort out advertising deals with local cafes and restaurants. There is also scope to affiliate with the numerous boats who offer spectating from the water for a fee.

Not a big issue at this point. First challenge is actually to get adequate information together. I’d love to be able to find a few Sydney to Hobart spectating veterans who would like to help out. But until they offer themselves up to help, I am all on my, like with all of my projects 🙁

😀

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