Time For Some Peer Review!

So then boys and girls, it’s time to get down to something new and interesting, thats right, BRING ON THE PEER REVIEW BAY-BEH!  Sadly though it’s not the peer review of some science (I bet you were all hoping that I’d get geek with some rocks), instead it’s the review of something interesting thats gone on recently on the blogsphere.  Specifically someones collected some ‘data’ and are busy making graphs of it when really they should be ensuring that what they have is reliable and accurate and that their sampling hasn’t been biased…..  So what am I on about? Why thunderfoots latest blog post of course, original can be found here.

Ok, a quick re-cap for those that have been as clueless as I normally am when this sort of thing kicks off.  It was blogged here (with follow up here) that DJ Grothe had announced that he’d never heard about sexual harrasement taking place at TAM, dispite a number of women reporting it.  As you can imagine there was then a bit of a purturbation in the fecal matter field about this on the internet!  The next thing that I’m aware of is this vid on youtube by Stealth Badger, be warned….Badger is on full form in this 😉 :

It’s worthwhile clicking the link to the vid on youtube as Badger has been a helpful Badger and posted a list of blogs, including the back and forth between PZMyers and TF about the issue.  Also CSBair wades in on it here.

So anyway, that was the background update on things and now it’s time to start with the meat of this post.  It’s coing to come into 2 parts essentially, some general comentry on the general stuff in the post, and then I’ll nitpick on some specifics.

General Shizzle:

Tf starts with some general pre-amble about a question and how he’s able to reduce possible bias because he’s aware of it.  He is afterall a trained researcher don’t you know (I’ll come back to that point later).  He then posses some reasons why he thinks that FTB arn’t representative of the wider rationalist community:

1)      The disproportionate amount of attention it gives to sexism compared to other issues.

2)      The way that those who disagree on the matter of sexism are attacked with a disproportionate amount of strawmen, invective and branding (misogynist, MRA, etc etc).  This is a behavior more in line with bullying than free thought.

Isn’t this just down to perception?  You perceive that they spend too much time talking about this, have you tallied up the totle number of posts on sexism and those on other things?  Has it occured to you that they might place higher significance on this matter than you do?  And in reference to your point 2, having read your initial blog post and the subsequent 3 that you and PZ exchanged on it I’m afraid to say that I’m disenclined to agree with your ascertion that they’ve been straw manning.  But hey ho, back to this. There’s a prediction of DOOM(!) (egads!) and then a video on youtube outlining one of your blog posts and setting up a ‘survey’, the point is made for this to be done in a calm/rational manner…..and it’s brilliantly dealt with by the youtuber Stefzula here.  This is then wrapped up with the repetition of the two points above like some manner of conclusion and then some blog post linkings which I’ll add at the end of this post incase anyone is interested.

Specific Shizzle:

Tf posts this graph from data that he’s gathered from votes in the comments section of his video on youtube.


Now that looks fine enough I guess right?  Tf is a trained research scientists after all and us science types like our data and our graphs don’t we?  Except there is some problem with this, and it’s a moderately significant thing.

Remember above when I said I’d come back to the fact that Tf is a trained research scientist?  Well here’s that part now.  As a trained researcher he should know how to set up a research question and impliment the investigation of said question.  And whilst he’s loosely gone through the motions with this that’s all he’s done.  By only using feedback from his channel he’s biased his result, his channel will be predominated by people that agree with him, and the people that will vote will be those more likely to want to show support to someone that they think is in the right.  Not that either of those things are wrong in their own right but with this it’s not a healthy mix.

So what should he have done?  He should have been more proactive in seeking to counter balance the bias in his sampling, either by finding a neutral party dealing with the vote taking or askingthe people he disagree’s with to ask the same question.  And given that at least one of those is another scientist they might have been receptive the notion even if they disagreed with Tf.  Lets face it, Tf isn’t the only one that can crunch some numbers.

Of 500 comments 127 were votes, that comes in at 25.4%…..that’s not to shabby, but this is only the first round of number crunching!

Those 127 votes come from the 24,627 views that the video has had at the time of writing this blog post, that’s just over 0.5%!!  That’s an APPAULING data return!  Whilst I’m sure Tf is far more rigorous in his scientific research ones has to wonder how he turns off that part of his brain when doing something like this.  Dare I even do the next few bits of number crunching?  Feck it, in for a penny, in for a pound….

Before I do these next two sums it’s fair to point out that I will be doing them based on Tf’s sub count, which is not the only source of viewership for this vid but it represents the minimum number of people that would have been made aware of the video and that is my basis for using the subcount as I have no way of finding out exactly how many youtube acounts there are out there.

So the vid had 24,627 views, with a subcount of 154,628 at the time of writing (representing the minimum number of people that would have been made aware of the video) we then get……….15.9%, not too shabby, but remember the view count is not the same as those that actually voted.

So that vid had 127 votes on it right?  With a subcount, and therefore minimum voting potential, of 154,628……(lets see what my laptops built in calculator makes of this)…….0.08%……that’s it, do the maths yourself if you disagree.  That’s a fairly low number, bear in mind that in medical studies they like going for the 5% value for significance.

My Thoughts:

Now I’m sure people will disagree with me and they are more than welcome to in the comments below but I do think that Tf has massively let himself down in this.  This might only be the internet but it wouldn’t have taken much effort to try and set up something that didn’t have the heavy bias.  And my number crunching is a point in demonstrating the weakness in how he’s gone about doing this.  As to the question of where I stand on this?  Well as with pretty much all the others in STV I’m of the opinion that any form of discrimination or harrasement is wrong.  I’m personally wondering if all this kick off about women that get sexually harrased at such events is having any negative effect on the guy’s that have experienced sexual harrasement at these shindigs.  I’ve no idea of their numbers but at a large gathering its bound to happen, and as others have said even one instance of this sort of behaviour is one too many.

There’s also the fact that Tf completely misread what PZ was saying about consent.  A guy does not always need to go out and get explicit and informed consent from women for every type of interaction with them.  Take his leg biting for example, I’m sure both he and the woman in question where having a riotous time in the bar in question and that he was able to pick up on all the signs that she had given implicit consent for the horseplay.  Like wise with light/playful flirting, making out you need signed consent is assinine, most women will be able to pick up on that and make the judgement call on whether or not they want to play, if they reciprocate you can explore where that leads to (be it simple leg biting shenanigans or slipping off for ‘coffee’) or decline as she desires.  These sorts of advances become harrasement (and therefore problematic) if the guy/woman continues after their initial advance has been shunned.

In an ideal world we shouldn’t need policies that cover how harrasement and discrimination at conferences and the like, but last time I checked this wasn’t an ideal world.  Until such time as we are in that ideal world we will need some policies to cover this sort of thing, so that everyone can be assured of having a hassle free time at these events.  If you don’t like that policies like this are being used the you don’t have to go, but I don’t see why any group of society should be left to feel vulnerable and unwelcome due to being in an environment that, to all intent and purpose, seems to give people liscence to harrase or discriminate.

Womble (more ranty that she realised today)

Additional blog links: