So over the last couple of days, Brian Dunning of Skeptoid has been running an experiment (I think what he meant was “informal survey”) over Twitter consisting of 8 questions. When answered, a tweet is automatically generated that the participant is to copy to their twitter feed.
People were complaining about the huge amount of spam generated by this “experiment”. While I agree that this was not the best way to do things, I used to be a researcher and am no stranger to the trial-and-error that takes place in experimental design – especially for something relatively informal that does not have a team of experts working on the design. Maybe that’s why I had a little more patience for this and could ignore the extra traffic without too much bother.
And yes, Richard Wiseman did it better. Good for him (seriously). But Brian Dunning is not Richard Wiseman.
Now, I’m not the hugest fan of Mr. Dunning due to some recent comments he’s made, but the subsequent responses to his experiment are starting to become almost hostile. It’s one thing to give constructive criticism so that he can learn and try better next time, it’s another to needlessly make sarcastic remarks like “I’m participating in the Skeptoid Twitter experiment. My answer is [insert non-sequitur snarky response]” and speculate about his motivations. That’s just rude.
The accusations, that are entirely without evidence by the way (who can say they can accurately comment on the internal motivations on another person?), that this is a ploy to get Skeptoid subscribers may be false. Even if true, I don’t think it’s inappropriate for people to advertise something they want to share – especially in this case as the experiment was advertised as being run for Skeptoid in the first place. “Subscribe to Skeptoid to get the results” is another way of saying “I have a podcast that you might like to listen to” and even simply “here is how you can get the results of the experiment you just participated in”. Anyone who doesn’t want to listen because it’s not their thing can easily not subscribe, unsubscribe, or download that one episode. It’s a FREE podcast. Who cares? He’s not getting anyone to buy anything, so what difference does it make?
So, sure. Make your opinions known, give feedback, whatever. But what’s going on now is just silly.
UPDATE: Brian Dunning comments on his Twitter experience this week.