Author Topic: Episode #656  (Read 8895 times)

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Offline Steven Novella

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Episode #656
« on: February 03, 2018, 01:18:24 PM »
Interview with Brian Dunning and Emery Emery
News Items: Portable DNA Sequencing, Alternative Treatment for Bears, Acoustic Tractor Beam, Super Blue Blood Moon
Who's That Noisy
Your Questions and E-mails: Driverless Cars
Science or Fiction
Steven Novella
Host, The Skeptics Guide
snovella@theness.com

Offline brilligtove

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2018, 03:34:45 PM »
I read that as if 'bears' were a disease to be fixed with homeopathy or similar.

"Nasty case of bears on your elbow, Bob."
evidence trumps experience | performance over perfection | responsibility – authority = scapegoat | emotions motivate; data doesn't

Offline lonely moa

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2018, 07:13:29 PM »
Steve forgot to mention birds and eggs in the native Hawaiian diet.  The first settlers extripated dozens of bird species.  The islands might be geographically further from any manland, but are certainly not the last colonised.

Wheat flour and sugar introduced to the diet are not comparable to taro.
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Offline PatrickG

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Episode #656
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2018, 07:26:46 PM »
The crime for which Brian Dunning served prison is not so complicated as the interview made it seem. Just read the backstory of Brian Dunning’s lucrative cookie stuffing business: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/04/how-kesslers-flying-circus-cookie-stuffed-its-way-to-5-2m-from-ebay/
Basically, Dunning was paid commission for faked ad clicks. He fraudulently cashed in on advertising work that he did not do: “When a blog page containing WhoLinked was loaded, WhoLinked generated a silent "ad clickthrough" to eBay in the background. Users would see nothing, but eBay would serve up a cookie containing the Kessler's Flying Circus affiliate link. The user's Web browser would dutifully save the cookie and, the next time that user visited eBay, any affiliate revenue generated went to Dunning and company. In such cases, users had never seen an eBay ad, nor had they clicked on anything eBay-related. These were not cases in which eBay wanted to pay affiliates.
Dunning took steps to make this activity harder to detect.”
Also, check out what ex-rogue Rebecca Watson wrote at the time. She was a lot more skeptical of Dunning’s explanation than the rogues in this SGU episode: http://skepchick.org/2014/08/a-critical-analysis-of-brian-dunnings-explanation/
In my opinion Dunning is was not entirely truthful in this defense. He knew that he was abusing an (illegal) loophole in eBay’s ad commission system.
Brian served prison time, unlike 99.9% of other cybercriminals. I like his podcast. Time to move on.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 07:57:46 PM by PatrickG »

Offline manyou07

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2018, 08:42:23 PM »
@PatrickG Thank you for posting this. I knew nothing about this case, but hearing his defense in this episode - which sounded like a shrug and him acting clueless as to what ever he did to be accused of fraud - was entirely unconvincing. The Feds don't tend to investigate, prosecute and convict based on an honest misunderstanding between two companies. The links you provided were great background.

And having read the background and ugly truth, I am very disappointed in SGU. I can completely understand that Dunning is a friend of theirs, and I wouldn't ever blame anyone for having friends who have done less than honorable things. Nor do I necessarily have a problem with the SGU collaborating with him. I do, however, find it very disappointing to have the SGU give a convicted fraudster a platform to plead his innocence, while they sit around pondering how such a good guy could have gotten himself mixed up in this misunderstanding.

The right way to have handled this would have been to first read their former colleague's excellent write-up so they understood what happened, then make it clear to the audience that they're aware of, understand, and don't condone his prior actions, and finally state that in spite of this they still find his friendship/knowledge/whatever valuable. What was done in this episode was extremely distasteful and, frankly, cast SGU in an untrustworthy light.

Offline PatrickG

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Episode #656
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2018, 11:09:34 PM »
...
The right way to have handled this would have been to first read their former colleague's excellent write-up so they understood what happened, then make it clear to the audience that they're aware of, understand, and don't condone his prior actions, and finally state that in spite of this they still find his friendship/knowledge/whatever valuable. What was done in this episode was extremely distasteful and, frankly, cast SGU in an untrustworthy light.
I just listened to the segment again: I do agree with you. The Dunning interview was a major skeptical fail by the rogues.

What Dunning’s said is heavily at odds with the facts from the federal wire fraud case against him. This was not a business dispute that Dunning was forced to settle against Goliath eBay. He likely pleaded guilty because the federal case against him was strong. All the information we have shows that Dunning did engage in deception to stuff cookies to defraud eBay of commissions. He was hiding the practice using tricks that disabled cookie stuffing if the IP address site was near eBay in San Jose. The fact that he has a video that shows other sites putting cookies proves little: there are dozens of tracking cookies on every web page. What matters is that his software app triggered  those cookies to collect money for a fake ad conversion that never happened. Check out the picture of the ‘WhoLinked’ app: it doesn’t show an eBay ad at all, but it faked one behind the scenes. The rogues did not press any of this, even though they have followed his case closely over the years. In this SGU they seemed to fully accept Dunning’s version of the story, hiding behind a smokescreen of ‘its complicated’.

It would have been so much more elegant if Brian Dunning simply said: “I pushed the limits too far, I was deceptive and a little greedy, and that was wrong. I paid dearly for my mistake and served my time in prison. Now I am making a new start.” I would have accepted that 100%. Instead, Dunning maintains total innocence. That is such a pity, because I really do like his skeptical work.

Rebecca’s take on being skeptical of skeptics as well is spot-on: http://skepchick.org/2014/08/a-critical-analysis-of-brian-dunnings-explanation/
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 11:14:58 PM by PatrickG »

Offline DevoutCatalyst

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2018, 11:14:04 PM »
That is such a pity, because I really do like his skeptical work.
Really? Listen to Brian's interview on Joe Rogan. It's cringeworthy.

Offline PatrickG

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2018, 11:19:12 PM »
That is such a pity, because I really do like his skeptical work.
Really? Listen to Brian's interview on Joe Rogan. It's cringeworthy.
This?: https://www.dailygrail.com/2014/02/brian-dunning-on-the-joe-rogan-experience-a-masterclass-in-bad-skepticism/
I haven’t but I will listen. The skeptiod pieces are generally OK IMHO.


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Offline Tassie Dave

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2018, 04:19:39 AM »
I didn't pick last week's "who's that noisy". Even though I've heard it thousands of times  ;) It sounds way different slowed down.

BTW it's pronounced cook-a-burra (cook as in prepare food), not Koo-ka-burra

Offline JohnM

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2018, 05:06:42 AM »
I'm glad to finally see some actual skeptic discussion on driverless cars.

I think car use will go up at the expense of trains & busses. In part down to the productivity you can achieve if you're not at the wheel.

A lot of it will come down to price.

Offline 2397

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2018, 06:34:29 AM »
I haven't listened to this yet. But with time served, in particular for this type of crime, all I'd need to be okay with the person would be for them to admit that what they did was wrong. Without a bunch of excuses.

Listening to it now. And he flat out refuses any fault on his part at all.

I wonder if that's how he genuinely sees the situation. Not being as familiar with the case as some people, I could see being swayed by this interview to agreeing with Brian, but that also falls on the SGU. Their role here is incredibly passive.

Believing Brian, he's a victim of the courts as much as Simon Singh was, and this should've been a much bigger topic further back in time. But doing this all in one interview, it comes off as trying to wash that dirt off of him so you can get to the stuff you want to talk about.

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2018, 06:41:11 AM »
I haven't listened to this episode yet (I will today), but from the comments here it seems like Dunning's criminal/legal case was discussed on the podcast episode. This surprises me.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline GodSlayer

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2018, 06:41:49 AM »
Basically, Dunning was paid commission for faked ad clicks. He fraudulently cashed in on advertising work that he did not do: “When a blog page containing WhoLinked was loaded, WhoLinked generated a silent "ad clickthrough" to eBay in the background. Users would see nothing, but eBay would serve up a cookie containing the Kessler's Flying Circus affiliate link. The user's Web browser would dutifully save the cookie and, the next time that user visited eBay, any affiliate revenue generated went to Dunning and company. In such cases, users had never seen an eBay ad, nor had they clicked on anything eBay-related. These were not cases in which eBay wanted to pay affiliates.

and yet ebay took no actions against him, which seems to belie your characterization of events.
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Offline DevoutCatalyst

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2018, 08:39:41 AM »
That is such a pity, because I really do like his skeptical work.
Really? Listen to Brian's interview on Joe Rogan. It's cringeworthy.
This?: https://www.dailygrail.com/2014/02/brian-dunning-on-the-joe-rogan-experience-a-masterclass-in-bad-skepticism/
I haven’t but I will listen. The skeptiod pieces are generally OK IMHO.
Yeah, that's it. I can't bring myself to listen to Dunning any longer. That was a spectacularly awful performance.

Offline Belgarath

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2018, 11:03:34 AM »
Come on Steve,

The victim in the Dunning fiasco is that many other affiliates who should have gotten a commission didn't.

#non-belief denialist

 

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