Entries tagged with “Gadgets”.


What's Your Opinion?

You will recall that a couple of weeks back I had a personal letter from Melissa Rogers, CEO of Shoo!TAG, in which she took me to task for ‘defaming’ her product, and asking why I believed there was no scientific support for it. I clearly outlined my position to her in a manner that I thought didn’t leave much room for interpretation. After receiving her reply this morning, though, I get the distinct impression that she didn’t actually read my letter, so much as skim through it in the way that I assume she approaches scientific literature. This is the sum of what she wrote:

Although I respect the right to your opinion, we obviously do not agree.  My question is:  What would you do, if you discovered you were wrong?

Dear Ms Rogers,

The entire problem here is that we’re not talking about an issue of opinion. You have made claims that challenge fundamental precepts of science as we currently know it, and you have said quite plainly on your web site that your product uses these novel scientific discoveries to repel insects. By doing so you are not putting forward an opinion that I am merely countering with some contrasting opinion. What you are doing is quite deliberately declaring that you have scientific substantiation of the principles by which you say Shoo!TAG operates. Scientific evidence and opinion are two very different things. Indeed, the scientific process is specifically designed to weed out the influence of opinion.

I believe that you understand very clearly that you need more than just opinions to make Shoo!TAG sound credible to your customers. You want to make it appear that you have science behind your claims, because you know, as we all do, that science works. The trouble is that, although you know lots of scientific buzzwords like ‘quantum’ and ‘electromagnetism’ and ‘fractals’, you don’t really understand much about these things, nor indeed, about the scientific process itself.

On your website, you use every opportunity to attempt to give Shoo!TAG scientific validity, even if it means distorting the truth. You use lots of scientific sounding language, you have a ‘Technology’ page (formerly called ‘Science’) where you talk about your ‘lab’ and ‘experiments’. You have implied repeatedly that you have endorsements by legitimate scientific institutions (which is demonstrably not true), and you publish scientific-looking documents with lots of tables and statistics. Your patent application has pages of technical-sounding language which is plainly contrived to give the impression that there is something scientific going on (when really it makes very little sense to anyone who does understand science).

The primary difference between opinion and science is that an opinion is, by its nature, a subjective stance. Science tries very hard to iron out all subjectivity and make an assessment of facts that can be agreed upon by anyone who cares to observe that assessment.

Let me try to explain this difference with some simple analogies:

In the 18th century, a mathematician named Daniel Bernoulli outlined a principle that showed that in a fluid flowing over an object with differing surface areas, a pressure differential is created on one side. This quite simple observation went on to have profound effects for our modern lives, perhaps the most well-known being the invention of the airplane. The Bernoulli Principle is what keeps aircraft in the air. Now it doesn’t matter what your opinion of Bernoulli’s discovery is; it will work for everyone in exactly the same way. Even if you hold an opinion that Bernoulli ‘just made it all up’, it will still work anyway. Bernoulli’s Principle is a sound scientific idea to which millions of people entrust their lives every day. And it is independent of opinion or belief.

Now let’s consider some colours: twenty shades of some dark red colour, say. We can show those colours to a hundred people and probably get a hundred different opinions on which of those shades might be called ‘purple’ or ‘crimson’ or ‘red’. And we could show them to people in China and Spain and Canada and get more opinions still. But if it came down to whether you would stake your life on the opinion of Gladys Blackshaw of Manchester, England, of whether the card she had in her hand was red, crimson or purple, you simply wouldn’t do it. Why? Because opinion is highly subjective and we don’t trust it for important decisions.

This is why humans came up with the idea of science in the first place: it is the most reliable way we know of assessing the world. What this means is that your opinion or my opinion or anyone else’s opinion is entirely irrelevant when it comes to your claims for how Shoo!TAG is supposed to work, because the only correct way of establishing the validity of your claimed results is with science.

You ask me what I would do if I discovered I was wrong?1 Well, the only way that I’m going to ‘discover’ that I’m wrong is if you can demonstrate some good science behind your product. The onus is not on me to prove that I’m right – I’m not the one seeking to sell a product based on remarkable new scientific principles. It’s YOU who are obliged to show the world that you’re right – YOU are the one making money out of this scheme. You have a responsibility to back up your claims. As I have said repeatedly, you can easily bring real science to bear on Shoo!TAG, should you have the courage to do it. It’s not even particularly hard science, as these things go. If you genuinely believe in your product, I simply don’t understand why you wouldn’t seek this kind of widely accepted corroboration. The really impressive thing about proper science is that if you really can scientifically demonstrate the astonishing results you say you can get, I (and everyone else on the planet) will have no choice but to accept your evidence, because the science will bear you out.

It won’t come down to a matter of opinion.

Sincerely
Peter Miller

  1. Asking a question like this is a technique much beloved of those who are unable to argue with evidence on their side. By throwing an open-ended query back at the interrogator the argument is deflected away from the issue at hand, which, in this case, is: What kind kind of evidence can they provide that they are right? What I would do if I am wrong is hypothetical and irrelevant to the usefulness of the discussion unless they can demonstrate that they are actually right. They are making the unverified claims, not me. []

Since I last wrote about shoo!TAG here on TCA, I’ve been having some rather interesting correspondence with people at Texas State University regarding a letter that was recently featured on the ShooTag site which was a synopsis of a supposed ShooTag experiment that had been carried out in June under the aegis of the University. The letter, including a precis of the seemingly persuasive results from that experiment, was signed by TSU assistant professor Ken Mix PhD. The document in question appeared to be on a Texas State University letterhead.

Well, it seems that ShooTag’s claims of Texas State University involvement in this affair were (as I speculated might be the case), not entirely to the liking of the University administration, and Dr Mix wrote to me this morning to inform me that he’d requested that ShooTag take the letter down.1 Rather surprisingly Dr Mix inferred that I must have gone out of my way to find the letter, claiming that it was not immediately apparent through the site menus and that he had to perform a search to find it. Au contraire I told Dr Mix. I found it simply by looking under Our Technology -> Testing ShooTag and clicking on the link there, as I expect anyone who was curious about ShooTag’s proposed mechanism of action might have done.2 I also pointed out to Dr Mix that a quote from him appearing to be an endorsement is, as of this writing, still active on the Australian ShooTag site.

Also in my inbox this morning was an email from Melissa Rogers (ShooTag CEO), who had evidently acquired my private address from Ken Mix or TSU. No matter. As I have said before, I don’t go to particular trouble to protect my real identity and it’s pretty easy to find out who I am even if you’re merely casually inquisitive (jeepers – as it says in the FAQ: just email me and I’ll tell you!) I’m not entirely sure, though, that Ms Rogers had connected the dots when she wrote to me, so she may be surprised to read my reply to her, which I’ve reproduced in full below. In her email she wanted to know why I ‘felt the need to defame’ her product, what my concerns with it are, and why I believe that there is no scientific data or evidence that it works. Well, we’ve been through it all before, but here, set out clearly to Melissa Rogers in person, are my grievances against ShooTag. Happy reading (and stay tuned)!

Dear Ms Rogers,

I will be happy to explain to you why I take exception to your product, but I suspect you are already familiar with my arguments.

First of all, I have nowhere defamed your product. Defamation requires that I have said something about your product that is untrue, and I have not done so. Furthermore, I believe (and can amply demonstrate) that you have engaged in deceitful behaviour regarding the public promotion of your product, and that it is in the public interest to have this behaviour noted.

What I have clearly said, repeatedly, is that there is no reason to think that your ShooTag could ever work by any mechanism currently known to science. Since you are making extraordinary claims that ShooTag operates by using a scientific agency hitherto unknown, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate clearly and unequivocally that this is the case. To date, you have not shown evidence of that anywhere. If you do have scientific evidence that establishes such an agency or agencies, you need only publish it in a manner that is acceptable and convincing to the scientific community for your claims to be validated. Anecdotal testimony (which you readily use as a substitute for scientific data on your site) is, as you will know if you’ve ever talked to a real scientist, not acceptable as  scientific corroboration of your claims, due to its unreliably subjective nature.

My concerns with ShooTag, are many: firstly, you are taking advantage of people by selling them something which, although it is not supported by any known science, you continually attempt to frame in a scientific context. In other words, you use ‘sciencey’ sounding terms to attempt to make ShooTag sound credible. For a start, you offer up ideas such as the ‘trivector’ mechanism, ‘energy’ fields and the vague concept of biological ‘frequencies’ as if they are proper scientifically supported notions, which they are not. At best these things are speculative, but mostly they are just plain nonsense. In addition to presenting pseudoscience as science, you imply that the mechanism of ShooTag is somehow supported by actual scientific concepts of which you plainly have little comprehension, such as quantum physics, fractal mathematics and Schumann Waves. All these things are meaningless in relation to your product, at least in any way that you have attempted to demonstrate so far. You also use the names of scientists like Albert Einstein and Geoffrey West, whose work you clearly don’t understand, in a manner that suggests that their theories offer support of your own speculations (which they most certainly don’t). This is misleading and irresponsible.

In addition to all this, you regularly refer to scientific ‘experiments’ which you say demonstrate not only that your product works, but that it works extraordinarily well. The experiments you reference either show nothing of the sort (such as your ‘Texas A&M Field Trials’ which were scientifically ridiculous), or don’t have substantiation of any kind (like the supposed ‘European Trials’ which you have mentioned on several occasions on the web but from which you have never provided any data whatsoever, or the supposed supporting video from ‘the Japanese Ministry of Health’ which you boasted about on your site but which never materialised there for anyone to see). You also continue to heavily infer that credible organizations are involved with your product (Texas A&M University, Texas State University, the Japanese Ministry of Health, the Finnish Olympic Team) when it is clear that no such endorsements have been made or were intended (as is quite evident from my conversations with the administration at Texas State University, and their requirement that you remove any such TSU endorsements from your site). Excuse me for saying so, but responsible companies with legitimate products do not undertake this kind of deceptive behaviour.

In short, you want everyone, particularly your prospective customers, to think that ShooTag is validated by science and approved by authoritative institutions, yet you have nothing to support your claims other than self-generated hyperbole and subjective customer testimonials. No science.

I also have concerns that stem from this lack of science and relate to the morality of your product as you present it. As a pet owner (I have three cats) I understand that humans who have pets are completely responsible for the wellbeing of their animals. I believe that people who use your scientifically unproven product to control pests on their animals are depriving them of pest control methods that have been properly scientifically tested and are known to work and to be safe. A pet owner who uses a product like ShooTag that is scientifically baseless is subjecting their pets to unnecessary discomfort and perhaps even to a potential threat of illness.

My concerns about the morality of the sale of your product were increased greatly when you began claiming that ShooTag is effective at controlling mosquitoes on humans. If I was making such a claim on a product of my own, I’d want to be one hundred percent sure that I wasn’t potentially risking someone’s life by giving them erroneous preconceptions about its effectiveness. I would do that by undertaking rigorous science in the way that is generally accepted by anyone who markets any such human-life-critical product (it’s not, for example, the kind of science that you do in an ad hoc way at a Sunday barbecue with people wandering in and out of tents).

Ms Rogers, if you really believe that your product does all the things you claim it does, it is simple to refute all my objections. You just need to arrange for the design of a proper experimental protocol and the execution of double-blind tests carried out by an independent third party. You then need to have those tests replicated elsewhere by similar independent double-blind experiments. I stress the importance of all those elements:

•The experiment should have a proper protocol (a disinterested third party should design the experiment with the aim of disproving your claims. The object of the experiment is disproof. If the claims can’t be disproved, then you are well on the way to having valid claims).
•The experiment should be supervised and carried out by an independent third party (that is, by people who have no affiliation with you, and no investment nor interest in the outcome of the experiment).
•The experiment should be double-blind with proper controls (if you don’t know how a double-blind controlled experiment works, and why experiments need to be done this way, I suggest you do some research).
•The experiment should be reproduceable (you need to show that your results are reliable no matter how many times the experiment is carried out).
•The experiment should be peer-reviewed (that is, scientists who are acknowledged experts in the field, and who are not affiliated with you, should critically examine the experimental protocols and the results)3

If you carry out these tests in an acceptable scientific manner in the way I’ve suggested, and the results confirm your current claims, I will make you some iron clad guarantees:

•I will make a full and public retraction of my assertion that ShooTag cannot possibly work, with my very humble apology for ever doubting you.
•I will be first in line to invest my entire life savings in your product, should you float it (which, under the circumstances would be highly advisable).
•You will have the undying admiration and respect of the science community, the medical profession and the entire world for having discovered two, perhaps even three, completely novel and quite astounding scientific principles.
•Your name will go down in history along with Newton and Einstein for having discovered said principles.
•You will probably win the Nobel Prize for Physics, and possibly Medicine and Peace as well.

So really, by doing some genuine scientific research on ShooTag you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Indeed, if you have faith in your product, and it really does work, you could easily aspire to being the richest and most respected woman on the planet in a few short years. What good reason could you possibly have for not wanting to do the science?

Sincerely
Peter Miller

___________________________________________________________________________

The Complete Tetherd Cow Shoo!TAG link archive is here.

  1. Which they have – kind of. The link to it is now gone but the pdf itself is still there []
  2. It’s gone now of course, but it was up and active until a day or so ago. []
  3. It strikes me that this college-level understanding of scientific protocol should be clearly understood by both Rainer Fink and Ken Mix, and yet the Texas A&M trial, at least, makes no effort at all to adhere to scientific rigor. Read about it here and see for yourself. Who knows what Mix’s PhD was, but Fink has both a Bachelor and Masters in Science so he has NO excuse whatsoever. []

I hate computers. I hate them in the same way as I hate audio equipment. For me, gadgets have always been a means to an end. My idea of the perfect audio system is one with no wires, no speakers, no knobs and no disks. All that stuff is ugly and distracting. I would be happy if I could just go into my favourite room and hear the music without any need for the accompanying paraphernalia.

And my idea of a perfect computer is one with no hard drives, no interfaces, no file systems, no processors. I don’t really care that something has 3 terabytes of RAM or a 16GHz processor. And the big humming boxes that house such things are ugly, distracting and hot. My idea of a perfect computing environment is one with nothing more than a screen, a sketchpad, and a keyboard1 and where I can do stuff and get results without having to think about file management or disk fragmentation or syntax or communications protocols.

The last few days have seen a lot of discussion about the sad passing of Steve Jobs and the legacy he has left the world. There can be little doubt, even among the detractors, that his vision did change our modern lives in a most profound way. To deny it is to be trivially contrarian. For me, the greatest thing for which Steve2 is responsible is not the Mac, nor the iPod, the iPad or the iPhone,3 but the wondrous behind-the-scenes tech of the operating systems in all those gadgets.

Some of you are probably old enough to remember the kinds of computing devices that existed before the Apple Macintosh came along and changed the computing world forever. I had two of them: a Commodore 64 and an Atari ST. You communicated with the Commodore via BASIC4 and with the Atari via Atari DOS, neither of which were what you could remotely consider ‘intuitive’. Each of these devices required a significant amount of figurin’ if you wanted to get something useful done with them. There certainly wasn’t much need to own one unless you intended to do something that was, in those days, fairly obscure, like music sequencing or database building.

I believe that Steve Jobs greatest gift to us was to make the ‘computeriness’ of computers go away (well, at least to start making it go away – it’s still not as invisible yet as I would like personally). I think that Jobs understood in his bones that most people don’t have the remotest desire to want to tangle with computers. They just want to do stuff. They just want to have their whole music collection to choose from when they’re taking a walk. They just want a little game to play while they’re waiting for the train. They just want to snap pictures and send them to a friend – or make them into a photo album. They just want to be able to lie in bed and browse the web.

And, when they work, they just want to be able to write a letter, prepare a report, record a song, edit a movie or hold a video conference without having to understand what C+ or printer drivers or ROM or RAM or SCSI or serial ports are. Mr Jobs took us a long way along the path to never having to think about this kind of ephemera and to just getting on with doing the things we needed (and wanted) to do.

I admit, quite proudly, to being what is derogatorily known these days as an Apple fanboy. I bought my first Apple product, a Mac Plus, in 1988, and not long that after switched up to an SE. After the Atari it was like upgrading from a badly-tuned 2 cylinder motor scooter to a Rolls Royce. I was initially only interested in having a computer solely as a music tool, but with the Macintosh, suddenly I could do all this other stuff as well. It was truly an enlightening experience. The thing that captured my imagination most of all with those early Macs was that for my mind, at least, they just felt right. It was like there was someone sensible in the design process who was thinking more about me and how I might want to use the machine, than whether it had the latest chipset or the fastest clock speed. That someone was Steve Jobs. In short, I felt an immediate affinity with the Macintosh because it didn’t get in the way of what I wanted to do with it.

Advocates of PCs and the Microsoft Windows way of doing things (and to a lesser extent aficionados of worthy alternatives like Linux), can’t understand why we Apple disciples love our Apple environments so much. They look on the Apple culture as something like a fashion trend, believing us to have all been sucked in by the slick design and the tinker-toy simplicity of the computers themselves. They frequently proclaim that we have ‘drunk the Cool Aid’. What they fail to understand is that people like me simply don’t care that there are faster, cheaper, more efficient, cleverer ways to do computer things out there;5 to us, computers are necessary annoyances, and the simpler it is to get something done with them, and the less they force you to think ‘like a computer’, the better.6 This was the critical insight of Steve Jobs – an insight that went on to inform the Apple music players, the phones, the tablets and the online stores. We love Apple, and we loved Steve, because he made our lives richer by giving us the power of computers without needing to be part of the arcane secret societies that had previously been the sole interlocutors for the mysterious digital magicks. This, I believe, is what the PC (and IT) crowd hate most about Apple – that it has given the peasants the keys to the church.

One of the criticisms you hear most from Apple critics is that Jobs pushed ‘style-over-substance’. This is mostly a cry of ‘How come we can’t make OUR things so neat?’, because if you think about it, how can anyone celebrate a lack of style? The real implication of this complaint is, of course, that if there is style there must necessarily be little substance. Such a deprecation indicates the profound absence of acumen of the prosaic mind. As any thinking person should realise, style is not just an outer layer in which something is cloaked, but is an integral part of its very being. To quote Jean-Luc Godard:

To me style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body. Both go together, they can’t be separated.

The style with which Jobs imbued Apple products is not surface deep, but reaches down into the core of the Apple brand. It is his personal philosophy that we engage with every day when we use our iPods and iPhones, our iPads and iMacs. We believe that Steve understood exactly how to allow us to engage with the world in a way that felt stylish and empowering and fun and, well, yes, insanely great.

It is for this reason, I believe, that even though we didn’t know him personally, many of us long-time and dedicated Apple users feel very deeply that with his untimely death we’ve lost a dear friend. And we fear that the people who are now taking over the reins at Apple might not truly understand what Steve Jobs seemed to embody intuitively as a driving force. Certainly, there is currently no-one else in the tech world who does, even including the very closely philosophically aligned Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Perhaps that’s the way it happens. I guess that’s for history to judge. For now, Steve Jobs has planted the seeds of great ideas. We can only hope that they continue to grow into beautiful trees without him to tend them.

Rest in peace Steve. I, for one, am richer for having had my life illuminated by the tools and creative philosophies which you brought us.

  1. I still like typing over writing, and for the short term at least I don’t see any alternative to a keyboard. When voice recognition becomes MUCH better, maybe it will be nice to speak things to your computer, but as long as we read, I think there will be writing of some kind. Perhaps that will change when direct neural interaction becomes possible… []
  2. It’s funny how I feel quite comfortable calling him Steve. In my circles it’s always been the way. I think he has been such a big influence in our daily lives that I feel, like a lot of people I guess, that I kinda knew him personally. []
  3. I’ve always detested that pretentious and irksome ‘i’ prefix… []
  4. The C64 had no operating system as such, hard as that is to comprehend these days. When you booted it, it was just a dumb blank brain until you loaded something into its RAM. []
  5. Consider these two options: 1. An ugly car that has a theoretical speed of 300 mph, has a super-efficient engine, an optimized drive-train and is technically superior to every other car on the road – as long as you fully understood the complicated procedure for driving it; 2. A nicely designed car that reliably gets you to the shops and back without any thought on your part about how that’s achieved. Some people will undoubtedly choose the first option. People whose main concern is just getting the shopping done will be the same people who buy a Mac. []
  6. In this respect, Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign is not so much about how people think about the world, but about how the world was thinking about computers. Apple was truly thinking different(ly). []

You will remember, Faithful Acowlytes, that some months back I brought you news of the mirth-inducing Trinfinity8, a miraculous new technology that fixes every complaint known to humankind1 by mainlining mathematics straight into your brain. Well, Trinfinity8 seems to have done a superb job at sucking people in since we last examined them. In the following YouTube clip you can see nitwits by the dozen clutching ‘crystal’ hand grips and sitting hypnotized in front of screens of extremely ordinary fractal animations while listening to New Age drones, all the while convincing themselves that they ‘feel energized’.

And the thought strikes me for, oh, the twelve BILLIONTH time today: Why are people so FUCKING STUPID?

For those of you who couldn’t be bothered sitting through the video (and truly, I wouldn’t blame you for a nanosecond) let me synopsize:

• Dr Kathy Forti, inventor of Trinfinity8 (and producer of execrable science fiction web movies) tells us how she noticed the following wonderful results being delivered by her gadget: a renewed sense of energy; a sense of peace; a sense of being connected; dissipation of anxiety. I get all that from a small glass of Ardbeg, and it doesn’t cost me anything like the $8000 you pay for a Trinfinity8 system. These are the kinds of diffuse and meaningless claims made by snake oil peddlers since before recorded history. The ‘inventor’ of Trinfinity8 is not promising you anything more than you’d get from half an hour of meditative relaxation. Which, needless to say, would cost you absolutely nothing.

•A woman who has been hanging onto the plastic crystal handles tell us: ‘I kinda felt a tingling and I kinda almost felt like I was having an out of body experience’. Well, that’s definitive.

•Ms Forti earnestly tells us ‘We’ve used this on people who’ve said “I don’t feel any hope to live anymore” and we’ve said “Well, why don’t you just try this.” (which is a masterful way of implying that there was a result, without actually claiming one).

•A homeopathist named Dr Malcolm Smith tells an amazing story about a guy whose life was empty of all meaning, and then uses the Trinfinity8… and guess what? It turns this guy’s white hair back to its normal colour! And then Dr Smith bursts into tears. What. The. Fuck.

•An optometrist named Dr Jon E. Fitzpatrick tells an amazing story about how the Trinfinity8 cured a patient’s blindness! Well, kinda, sorta, maybe… just don’t press him on the details.

•An acupuncturist named Laurie Schneider tells an amazing story about how the Trinfinity8 fixed the libido of a housebound patient.

•A surgeon named Dr Thom E. Lobe2 tells us that “Trinfinity8 is a new kind of medicine that you’re not going to find in very many medical practices”. And, Dr Lobe, I would suggest that there’s an excellent reason for that.

Dr Lobe claims, as if it’s fact, that “…everything from the air we breath, to the people we’re around, to the food we eat, to the music we listen to actually changed (sic) the expression of our DNA.” Not to be daunted by a point of view shared by exactly NOBODY who knows anything about DNA, he goes on to bury himself even deeper by ‘explaining’ how DNA works. Hand me a fork, someone, I want to plunge it into my brain. This guy is a surgeon? It’s enough to turn me religious and plead that God keeps me from ever going under his knife.3

•A whole lot of people say a whole lot more stupid things about ‘energy’, vibrations, “finding themself (sic) with a capital ‘S'” and so forth. The stupid is so bad that it hurts.

•Kathy Forti says: “I am the first one to be astounded by these hundreds of reports that I get and hear each month of the changes made in someone’s life.” Yeah, I just bet you’re astounded. Astounded by the utter gullibility of people and their capacity to swallow your horseshit. And astounded by how the sale of the $8000 Trinfinity8 machines are filling up your bank account, I bet. You should truly be ashamed of yourself Ms Forti. You are nothing more than a snake-oil seller trading on the insecurities of damaged, ignorant, lonely and insecure people. Sometimes I really wish there was a Hell, because I know there’d be a special place reserved there for morally bankrupt people such as yourself.

Well, all the comments on the YouTube video are falling over themselves to tell us that the Trinfinity8 is the most wonderful thing to come our way since the invention of the Turbo Encabulator, so I thought I’d best redress the balance somewhat.

Ah, of course. Moderated comments. What’s the best way to make sure everybody believes whatever you tell them? Silence anyone who disagrees! A tried and true modus operandi of pseudoscience.

Well, Trinfinity8 is well and truly in my radar. We will not be letting them off that lightly.

  1. This is only mild hyperbole on my part – you should read the claims! []
  2. I really hoped he was a brain surgeon or an ear surgeon, but he isn’t either. He appears to be one of those perplexing very highly qualified people who has no critical thinking capability. []
  3. Dr Lobe reminds me of the painter who did our house. Except the painter knew more about DNA. []

In reference to my last post Science Shmience,1 I thought it might be interesting to spend a little time examining the Shoo!TAG fondness for continuing and relentless revisionism. The following images are archived from the Shoo!TAG site and elsewhere, and have mostly been redacted from their original pages. Unfortunately for Shoo!TAG, unlike the situation with Soviet Cold War records, nothing can ever be completely disappeared from the internet.

Shoo!TAG: What they don’t want you to see anymore, and why.

What? Claims of a successful scientific trial showing Shoo!TAG’s amazing powers, including a clear implication that the experiment was carried out with the imprimatur of Texas A&M University. All traces of this have been completely removed from the Shoo!TAG site. [Although as of this writing the material (excepting the video) can still be seen at genuineshootag.com, a site that seems to have been set up as some kind of bolthole for the taggers ]

Why? The experiment was ludicrous for numerous reasons as we discussed in Shoo Us the Science! Given the comprehensive scouring of all references to it from the site (including from the press release page, where you’d think it would normally remain if this was just a matter of bringing the website up to date), it seems likely that Texas A&M University or Dr Rainer Fink (or both) weren’t happy to have Shoo!TAG using their names.

What? A boast that the Finnish Olympic Team was using the Shoo!TAG ‘people’ product. This appeared on the Johnson Pet Trade Consultants site, which has clear links to Shoo!TAG as is easily seen by a cursory visit. It was removed only days after I questioned it here on TCA. (The site still carries complete references to the Texas A&M Field Trial and Dr Werner Fink. I anticipate that these will be removed pretty quick).

Why? It was simply a lie.

What? A claim that was on the Shoo!TAG Science page, which implied that the Japanese Ministry of Health had tested and was endorsing the product. The supposed link to a video was never forthcoming, even though the claim remained on the page for over a year. It is now gone.

Why? The assumption must be that no such test was ever done, and no such video was ever made. Either that, or the test and the video turned out to be somewhat less flattering than the ShooTaggers anticipated. I am inclined to the first explanation.

What? A strange, supposedly impartial comment left on a Yahoo Answers page by an ‘anonymous pet owner’ in answer to the question ‘Has anybody tried the ShooTag?’ The reply is undoubtedly from Melissa Rogers or Kathy Heiney (note the spruiking of the ‘trivector’ mechanism and the sudden lapse into personal ‘ownership’ with ‘In our preliminary farm tests…‘). The vague ‘European trials’ claim was also mentioned in other Shoo!TAG postings on various pet lists, and on the Shoo!TAG site. (I also draw your attention here to the mention of the supposed ‘75% effectiveness’ quotient of the Shoo!TAG, some years before that same figure was allegedly ‘proved’ by the ridiculous statistical jiggery pokery of the Texas A&M trial. Is there any clearer indication of the fact that the ShooTaggers knew how they wanted the results from that experiment to pan out well before they even started it? Science? Not even close.)

Why? As in the case of the supposed Japanese Ministry of Health tests, the European trials either didn’t ever exist, or showed Shoo!TAG in a poor light. Again I am inclined toward the former. My personal belief is that the ShooTaggers just make this stuff up because they know that, even though there is no real science to be had, they need to attempt to provide some kind of scientific legitimacy (because customers find that kind of thing impressive, right?)

What? Just one of the numerous references to the criminally indicted ‘Professor’ William Nelson (now Desiré Dubounet) that have been expunged from the Shoo!TAG domain. Nelson’s ideas featured as the sole ‘scientific’ basis for Shoo!TAG’s working principles on earlier versions of the Shoo!TAG site, and Desiré Dubounet is listed as one of the ‘inventors’ on the Shoo!TAG Patent Application.

Why? We’ve discussed Professor Nelson in quite some depth in Shoo!TAG Waterloo. A few minutes reading through that post will give you a clear idea of why no-one in their right mind would want Nelson/Dubounet anywhere near a product they hoped to have even the faintest scientific credibility.

What? Melissa Rogers, Shoo!TAG CEO, shows in her own words how much she knows about science. Every single one of Rogers’ and her fellow CEO Kathy Heiney’s ridiculous pseudoscientific explanations (including several videos) of how Shoo!TAG is meant to work have been thoroughly scrubbed from the currently searchable internet.

Why? I think that is entirely self explanatory.

___________________________________________________________________________

The Complete Tetherd Cow Shoo!TAG link archive is here.

  1. Science Schmience is a term I took directly from the Shoo!TAG site. In my opinion, it illustrates exactly how they view the need for scientific process. []

A well-known brand of insect repellent here in Australia used to feature the slogan ‘When you’re on a good thing, stick to it!’ Our old friends from Shoo!TAG don’t have a gadget that can claim any of the repelling power of Mortein, but they certainly understand the value of the slogan.

What I am referring to here, dear Acowlytes, is the ShooTaggers’ unflagging morally bankrupt opportunism: they’re on a good thing with people’s gullibility and willingness to part with their money indiscriminately, and they aim to stick to it.

The ShooTaggers’ latest exploit, which we’ll examine today, involves their apparently boundless capacity for revisionism. We’re all quite familiar with this gambit by now: they claim something in an effort to give their product credibility, it’s challenged, they change it. I can’t even begin to count the number of times this has happened in the last few years.1 We saw it with their erasure of all links to William Nelson/Desiré Dubounet; we saw it with the disappearing of their boast that the Shoot!TAG was being used by the Finnish Olympic Team; we saw it with the excision of Melissa Rogers’ and Kathy Heiney’s daft ‘explanations’ of how the silly thing is meant to work; we saw it with the removal of the idiotic meanderings that comprised Shoo!TAG’s supposed ‘science’ (which were once festooned all over the site like cheap Christmas decorations).

And now it comes as no surprise to see that they have once again altered their website to remove material that made them look a little bit too much like the peddlers of pseudoscience that they are.

You will remember that, a little way back, Shoo!TAG was all up on how wonderful their ‘science’ was, with the loud trumpeting on their home page of the ‘Texas A&M University Field Test’ that supposedly showed that ‘Shoo!TAG is 75% effective against mosquitoes!’ Well, it seems that particular science isn’t really worthy of being featured any longer on the Shoo!TAG site which has recently been scrubbed clean of all references to the clueless experiment.

The link to the video on their ‘How Does it Work’ page that once led to the August 2010 test now returns a 404 error, and gone also is the promise of the supposed test results from a study conducted by the ‘Japanese Ministry of Health’ (like that’s a surprise). Likewise, the announcement of the Texas A&M University Test has disappeared from the Shoo!TAG press release archive where it once featured prominently. Everything for which I took them to task in my post Shoo Us the Science! Is completely gone.2

One is prompted to wonder why they have gone to all this trouble if they really believed (as they previously claimed) that these tests were so definitive. One reason that springs readily to mind is that they were forced to redact all the relevant material, perhaps by Texas A&M University, or maybe by the scientist who was involved in those tests, Dr Rainer Fink (maybe Dr Fink realised that he was looking like a prize idiot being by being associated with these people).

As a substitute for the Texas A&M endorsement, however, we now have another curious document:

Read the result from our latest field test conducted by Texas State University. Texas State Study Executive Summary Letter June 2011

Note very well that the statement above claims in explicit terms that the test was conducted by Texas State University. I wonder how TSU feels about that? I guess we’ll find out, because I’ve asked them that very question.3

The link takes us to a another piece of sleight-of-hand by the ShooTaggers. It is nothing more than a letter about a supposed test. I am hugely intrigued here. Could it possibly be that the reason there is a letter but no data from the vaunted trial is that Shoo!TAG is going to attempt to get the experiment peer reviewed?4 Am I completely mad being optimistic that they’ve actually learned something about science? Well we will have to wait and see, I guess. In the meantime, they just can’t resist being as unscientific as always by using the letter (which appears on a Texas State University letterhead… kind of…)5 to make even MORE outrageous claims than they did with their last ‘experiment’. Now the Shoo!TAG is showing an 80% reduction in mosquito bites! What’s more, even the deactivated Shoo!TAGs used as controls have a repelling effect under specific circumstances!!! Imagine that!

There also appears to be a transferred effect when the populations were mixed. Males that wore inactive shoo!TAGs received a mean number of bites only 2 times that of active shoo!TAG wearers when in mixed tents. The analysis does indicate mosquitoes preferentially chose wearers with inactive shoo!TAGs. Specifically, wearers of inactive shoo!TAGs had approximately 2-3 times fewer bites when associated with wearers of active shoo!TAGs.

I’d just can’t wait to hear what kind of explanation they’re going to give for that particular effect.

Without actually getting a breakdown of the protocol and the data of this test it’s pretty hard to tell what went on here, but the general sense of the letter conveys the same kind of addle-brained methodology as was evident in the Texas A&M trial. And there is no doubt that it’s presented on the site under the usual Shoo!TAG modus operandi of making it appear that science has endorsed the efficacy of the product without that actually being the case.

It seems to me, Faithful Cowpokes, that Shoo!TAG could more accurately align themselves with another of Mortein’s contributions to popular culture: Louie the Fly. Just like him, Shoo!TAG comes ‘straight from rubbish tip to you!’

[Addendum: Some of the material referred to above still exists on another associated Shoo!TAG site genuineshootag.com. The video seems to have vanished completely off the web, but the Rainer Fink letter of endorsement is still available, as is a pdf of Shoo!TAG CEO Carter McCreary’s amusingly inept breakdown of the trial. It seems they haven’t quite gotten around to sweeping everything under the carpet.]

___________________________________________________________________________

The Complete Tetherd Cow Shoo!TAG link archive is here.

  1. This behaviour alone should make you deeply suspicious of them and their motives – people with legitimate products simply do not do this kind of thing. []
  2. Have no fear though, erased from the web it may have been, but not from the TCA Shoo!TAG museum! []
  3. I fully expect the TSU ‘endorsement’ to be altered rapidly in the next few days. []
  4. It’s likely to be a sobering experience for them, if it is indeed the case… []
  5. It looks very much to me like they’ve badly copied the letterhead and then typed what they wanted under it… You be the judge! []