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Comment Re:End the debate? (Score 2, Insightful) 590

The issue isn't just that the research data was dubiously obtained, it's that the manner in which it was obtained renders it useless for any meaningful research. Wakefield selected his own small group of test subjects, which in itself allows for conscious or unwitting partiality.

In addition, there's the fact that no subsequent study conducted under properly controlled conditions has ever shown a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

There has been a rise in autism diagnoses, but that's due to a number of factors including people such as teachers becoming more aware of the condition, and the growing understanding of autism as a nuanced condition which exhibits a spectrum of symptoms. This means that people are being diagnosed who might not have been previously. The anti-vaccine loonies see this and confuse correlation with causation.

The entire vaccine conspiracy lobby make some ridiculous claims, either misrepresenting information or blatantly making shit up as they go along. Unfortunately there are people out there who would rather make decisions about their children's medical care on the basis on Jenny McCarthy's opinion than that of someone who has the first fucking clue what they're talking about, and we're seeing preventable deaths of children as a result.

Comment A few tips from an events organiser (Score 1) 186

Keep in mind that bringing people to your event and ensuring that they get their money's worth are two different things and need to be addressed as such.

As far as attracting an audience goes, first of all, have something that will attract them. Do this before you really start advertising your event. I see countless ads from everything from comic cons to live music festivals where someone has had a cool idea and started advertising it before booking any bands/speakers/talent. At this point, all you're saying is "Hey, I've booked a hall somewhere! Come and hang out with me!"

So how does one put together a product which will attract a crowd? In short, know your crowd.

What are they interested in? What do they want to know more about? Who are the respected figures in their field? Do they have a broad range of interests or a more specialised area of expertise? Can you perhaps appeal to a wider market and still attract that specialist niche? Answer these questions and book your attractions accordingly. Asking your audience directly is a good (but not foolproof) way of getting this information.

Then, of course, there are the issues of scale and budget. How much are you willing to spend on the event? What is the capacity of your venue? Realistically, what are people willing to pay to attend and how many attendees can you reasonably expect? How many bodies through the door do you need to break even?

Now that you've got something which will hopefully draw a crowd, think about advertising. The web/social networking are inexpensive ways to reach people, but they're also heavily saturated. The amount of crap people have to wade through to get through content leads them to be ad blind, and many people will be using ad blockers anyway, so that's really not the best way to grab their attention. Instead, the best way to bring people to your site is to give them something worth coming for. This could consist of white papers, tutorials, interesting articles on subjects relevant to your audience or well written profiles of speakers. If they Google for a topic and your site comes up, and they find something informative/useful, they're going to be more inclined to attend your event and think that they'll get something of value out of it.

Other means of promoting your event could be direct communication - mail out info packs to companies or individuals you think would be interested in your event - displaying promotional materials at similar events (in my experience many event organisers are willing to do this on a reciprocal basis for the right to poster/flyer your event), advertising in magazines relevant to the field. Be wary of advertising too widely. Linux Übersysadmin Monthly will probably pull a hardcore Linux crowd. Linux Noob Magazine might get you a few interested parties. PC User is much more of a scattergun approach (replace magazine titles/subjects as required.)

Also be aware that many media outlets will be willing to come and go on advertising costs, especially if you provide them with a booth and access to your panels, etc.

OK, so you've brought your crowd out and you're getting all set for the big show. Now you just need to deliver on your promise of the best conference ever!

Make sure everything runs as close to schedule as possible. Some delays might be inevitable, but you can really help yourself out by making sure you have early access to the venue to set up. You might need several days to prepare the venue depending on the scale and nature of your event.

Hire competent people to whom you can delegate responsibilities. Hire decent equipment. You don't need to blow your budget on sound, lights, bells and whistles, but make sure that the gear you have can be relied upon to work consistently over the course of your event.

Make finding information as painless as possible. Produce a programme with a simple schedule of events. If anything changes, announce it on your web site, over the PA system, at the start of other talks and print it out on some sheets of A4 and stick them up around the conference room. There's nothing worse than missing the talk, lecture or panel you came to see because you weren't aware of a schedule change.

Have some side attractions available. You could book a covers band, a few comedians, a guy who juggles poodles. Be creative. If your event is in a hotel this can get your attendees spending more at the bar and incline your venue to give you a better deal next year (and some venues will give you a kickback on bar profits). It also obviously gives your punters some entertainment beyond the conference content.

Finally, make sure that your attendees keep thinking about your event, even after it's over. Give them handouts with lecture content to take away with them (on a USB stick with your logo on it, if affordable). Stationary, mousepads, T shirts and other freebies can help with this.

If your first conference breaks even, you'll have done well. Once you've proven that you're capable of running a well attended, well organised event you'll find that you have a "base" of repeat attendees, making it easier to fill the hall with newcomers through word of mouth and advertising. You'll also find that exhibitors are more readily willing to buy booth space as they know they're likely to get a return on the investment.

Good luck!

Comment Re:Open Source Gaming (Score 1) 174

I made a preliminary start on something along those lines - a minimalistic set of rules for skirmish scale games. I intended to use it for modern-ish scenarios, WWII onward, and had no races or classes, just standard troops, elite troops and a small handful of artillery and vehicle units (mortar, heavy machine gun, anti-tank gun, armoured car, tank).

The objective was fast play with no need to continuously reference rulebooks or cheat sheets.

Gave up on it due to the lack of people to playtest with.

Comment No respect for intellectual property... (Score 4, Funny) 174

Games Workshop have every right to go after this kind of flagrant IP violation. After all, the company spent countless hours and huge amounts of money inventing orcs, elves, vampires, zombies and dwarves. They should be able to benefit from their creative efforts without some "fan" treating it as if it were in the public domain!

Comment I see a problem... (Score 1) 85

Games writing is certainly a new field in the grand scheme of things. Can there really be enough established work of sufficient quality that you can point to it in a textbook?

I mean, how many games are full of one dimensional characters, predictable plots and cookie cutter settings? I remember hearing Bioshock lauded as an excellent example of originality and quality in writing and conceptualisation, but having been thoroughly disappointed with it, I'd much rather play something with a minimal plot and more focus on gameplay.

Probably on a SNES emulator.

Submission + - Google to launch online music store

puroresu writes: Search giant Google has confirmed that it is to launch an online music store.

The service, known as OneBox, will be initially be offered in the U.S. in partnership with music sites Lala and Myspace-owned iLike. Options to purchase music will be integrated into Google search results.

More details available from the Google Blog.

Submission + - LRO Takes Closer Look at Apollo 17 Landing Site (

Matt_dk writes: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter maneuvered into its 50-km mapping orbit on September 15, which enables it to take a closer look at the Moon than any previous orbiter. This also allows for comparing previous images taken by LRO when it was at its higher orbit. These images of the Apollo 17 landing site have more than two times better resolution than the previously acquired images.

Comment What about composition? (Score 1) 576

I have just under 17m of books on shelves. They're made up of approximately:

30% SF
25% programming/technical manuals
20% general fiction
10% horror
5% history
5% martial arts/fitness

The remainer includes some philosophy, pop science, books on journalism and general non-fiction.

I'd be interested to hear how this compares to the rest of /..

Submission + - SPAM: WYSIWYG is dead, go with the flow

ChiefMonkeyGrinder writes: With the proliferation of devices a multi-channel approach is becoming core to many organisations, and in such a world screen sizes will vary greatly, a new approach is required for creating screens because now the paradigm has changed to What You See Is What You Might And Most Probably Wont Get.
Link to Original Source
Red Hat Software

Submission + - Red Hat's stock price now higher than Microsoft's ( 3

isabright writes: Did anyone see this historic event coming? As of the last Nasdaq trade on October 19, 2009, Red Hat’s share price stood at $28.46 with the mighty Microsoft in its shadow at $26.36. That's right, the Linux vendor Red Hat now has a higher share price than Microsoft and it isn't due to the dotcom boom. Who said you can’t make a business out of free software? What’s more, the growth in the value of each share tells a very different story. According to Nasdaq data, since 2001 Red Hat has experienced more than 600 per cent growth, while during the same period Microsoft has experienced negative growth of its share price. How long will it take Microsoft to regain its lost share value?

Submission + - Office 2010 hitting public beta in November (

Barence writes: Microsoft has revealed that Office and SharePoint 2010 will hit public beta in November. "The public beta will open November. We don't have a specific date, we'll be announcing that much closer to the launch, but we're on track to deliver [Office and Sharepoint 2010] in the first half of 2010," said Steve Marsh, SharePoint's UK Product Manager. "There's no details on whether that will be time-stamped, so people will have it for a month and then it'll be taken away."

Submission + - Industry lobbyist exaggerate legal download market (

An anonymous reader writes: NVPI, an organisation representing the ‘Dutch’ entertainment industry*, recently called for harsher measures against legal copying in the Netherlands, pointing out that there is a ’sufficient’ supply of stores offering really legal downloads**. But as internet lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet points out, they are stretching the truth a bit.

Submission + - SPAM: 2009: a vintage year for sci-fi films?

brumgrunt writes: Back in 2006, there wasn't a single outright sci-fi film in the US box office top 50. 2009, meanwhile, has seen an explosion on the genre, as all of a sudden, sci-fi is back in favour. So what happened, and why has 2009 seen not just an improvement in quantity, but also the quality of sci-fi cinema, as well as a return to the 'hard' science fiction of old? Den Of Geek has been finding out...
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