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Defense of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop offers case study on how to sell snake oil (arstechnica.com)
151 points by Tomte 99 days ago | hide | past | web | 174 comments | favorite



> peddles pricy products and overuses the word “empower” while dabbling in many forms of pseudoscience and quackery—everything from homeopathy to magic crystals and garden-variety dietary-supplement nonsense.

Just like there is an industry advantage of the poor segments of the population - lottery, liquor stores, cash advance places, rent to own, etc. There is a parallel industry geared for the wealthy. It is specifically designed appeal to them, to stroke their ego. It can't sell something that's a necessity so it was brilliant to focus on that just a little extra "feel a bit better", "be empowered".

It really is an art.

> Similarly, Goop has also recommended vaginal steam cleaning, which is

And as if Hollywood and pop culture in general hasn't done enough damage, just couldn't resist preying on the insecurity and tell women their bodies are yucky. Someone evil there went through the use cases and the detailed analysis and decided that no matter how wealthy or successful, that's one thing they could tap into and monetize.

The scheme was probably supposed to includes its own insurance against a lawsuit - embarrassment. Which powerful or wealthy woman is going to launch a lawsuit against them saying they've been hurt by this product?

The homeopathy bit in there is also not random. It is designed to filter through only clients who would think that stuff works. That's a bit like scammers claiming they are all from Nigeria. It's a counter intuitive bit but it's very important.

You gotta wonder how much are these celebrities involved in these scheme. It is hands off just someone managing their wealth or are they all micromanaging. I know someone who worked for one of the well known Hollywood celebrities and you'd be surprised how different they are in private compared to their on screen persona.


A while back, the Guardian wrote a piece about their annual expo:

"Everyone is feeling good. Employees weave through the crowd with trays of probiotic juice. I decide I like the Goop expo. It is silly, but most of us seem to be in on the joke"

It's a fascinating read [1] and it seems that not all of the attendants wanted their ego stroked. Some just need a quirky, random excuse to dig in their coffers - I think.

Personally, I felt that the author's trying too hard to be satirical. The whole expo feels slimy; IV drips, oxygen sessions, colour-coded bracelets... it's New Age plus hippie plus hipster plus Paltrow probably cackling in the background.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/14/gwyneth...


> It is designed to filter through only clients who would think that stuff works. That's a bit like scammers claiming they are all from Nigeria. It's a counter intuitive bit but it's very important.

That's an interesting point I had never considered. I had often wondered why Nigeria was still mentioned even a decade ago. That it effectively filters out those that are likely to have heard of the scam or something like it, extending possibly even to online fraud in general, does effectively provide an explanation.


There's a paper discussing that theory at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/publication/why-do-...

As in previous discussions on HN, I'd say it's not necessarily actually applicable to the "Nigerian emails", because even really gullible people have spam filters than kill 99% of that stuff these days, and there are more practical reasons for 419 spammers to need to acknowledge they're based in Nigeria than filtering responses, like their objective being to get people to send a Western Union payment to Nigeria (not to mention said scammers' tendency to sloppily betray their Nigerian-ness even if they've managed to obtain use of a Paypal account and have progressed to the more widely-believable and probably higher-yielding scam of pretending to be little old Scottish ladies with high value items to sell).

But I can definitely imagine using "homeopathic" for non-homeopathic "remedies" is a way of marketing specifically to people unconcerned with products' therapeutic effectiveness.


It's also the reason behind the poor orthography and other low-quality traits of such e-mails. They rather effectively filter out everyone who isn't gullible enough to be fooled, saving them a lot of time dealing with non-serious replies.


> couldn't resist preying on the insecurity and tell women their bodies are yucky

They aren't supposed to. You can't build an economic model based on individual free-will and self-determination, then suggest that corporations have some higher duty.

The mechanism for this is government regulation - If the government doesn't ban or regulate these type of products, the money's on the table for whoever will take it.

> you'd be surprised how different they are in private compared to their on screen persona

Actors shouldn't be fetishised the way they are; They literally earn more money, based on how mainstream-popular they are, so they have a lot of pressure on them to conform.


How does a liquor store take advantage of the poor? Because it sells an addictive product cheaper than a bar does?


Because it's major market is disenfranchised poor, alcoholics, etc, not casual drinkers who appreciate the occasional taste of fine liquor.

Take advantage not in the sense that it doesn't provide them with the product, or sells it more expensively to them, but in the sense that it feeds on their problems.


I have not felt slimier than when when I was marketing a liquor brand and had the epiphany that 80/20 rule applies to it. If you look at the data, 80% of liquor is sold to people who drink 20 or more drinks a week.

We spent so much time on marketing to "Millennial postgrads" but that wasn't the consumer..


Yeah. Liquor consumption is crazy when you dig into the numbers.

From [slate](http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_exa...), 11-drinks-per-week is the national average, but it's so top-loaded that hitting that average means you're in the top 20%.

And given the top 10% is more-than-10-per-day, given it's also on the sharp end of the curve, I kinda don't even want to know what the numbers are for the top 5% or 1%...


But does it create those Alcoholics?

If they raised their prices, they'd be critisised; If they lowered their prices, they'd be critisised.

Is the medical/insurance industry bad too? Don't all industries solve some problem?


>Is the medical/insurance industry bad too?

In numerous ways, yes.

>Don't all industries solve some problem?

No, some create one.


The easy availability of liquor creates an environment where people are more likely to fall to alcoholism.

That's how I view the selling of a lot of unhealthy products - corporations creating a hostile environment, where you are more likely to succumb to your vices, for their profit. E.g. candy and chocolate placed at the checkout line.


But any business that refuses to do this, will lose money and fail to compete with those that do. Eventually, they'll get bought out by the company that does.

It's up to government to regulate this stuff - a business is supposed to maximise profit.


>It's up to government to regulate this stuff - a business is supposed to maximise profit.

In an amoralistic, profit driven dystopia, yes.

In actual human societies, businesses are also supposed (whether they are or not is another story) to be ethical and improve society.

And most of them pay lip service to that all the time, in their ads, promotional copy, motivational speeches to employees, etc.


> In an amoralistic, profit driven dystopia, yes.

Why? As stated, the government is supposed to regulate this stuff - that is partly why government exists.

And this is by design. When regulation is proposed, it can them be publicly debated - rather than leave those decisions to whoever runs a particular business.

> In actual human societies, businesses are also supposed (whether they are or not is another story) to be ethical and improve society.

Says who?

> And most of them pay lip service to that all the time, in their ads, promotional copy, motivational speeches to employees, etc.

Which is apparently what the consumer wants..

Notice how politicians tell the public what they want to hear? Well, the public too rarely take them to task. You get what you vote for..


Because a handle of vodka is cheaper than a visit to the doctor and all the medications you need, and will make you forget about all your problems.


So someone who want to buy that vodka shouldn't be allowed to?


I think they were saying that there can be an advantage to an industry that serves the "poor" market.


Look at what kind of liquor and at what prices is sold in poor neighborhoods vs. rich ones.


> And as if Hollywood and pop culture in general hasn't done enough damage, just couldn't resist preying on the insecurity and tell women their bodies are yucky. Someone evil there went through the use cases and the detailed analysis and decided that no matter how wealthy or successful, that's one thing they could tap into and monetize.

That shit's been going on for centuries man.



> you'd be surprised how different

Tell me more


I won't name them. One I had in mind is known to be a kind, gentle fatherly figure on screen. In reality they are an asshole.


Over the last decade I've been having increasingly bad hay fever. The doctor said "eat these pills". They worked but they made me fall asleep right at my desk.

This year my girlfriend put me on some decent snake oil indeed. Tens of euros worth of food supplements per month. I also went to see an acupuncturist. My problems aren't reduced, they're gone. I can be outside for an entire day and not notice a thing. My problem is, 0% of what I did is evidence-based medicine.

Now, this is the whole issue with snake oil. Anecotes like mine don't further science. But the Ars article puts all of Goop's stuff on a single big pile of "snake oil".

Isn't it possible that there are things that work, even though they have not been scientifically proven yet? Why can't there ever be a middle ground? I mean I also think homeopathy is a fraud. But I also know that either dried extract from Indian moringa trees or needles put into appropriate places in my body's "energy streams", or both combined, fixed all my problems. This is pretty major to me. I can live again.

In fact, I think there's an upside to non-evidence-based things selling more: maybe at some point the sellers will earn enough money to be able to finance decent clinical trials.

Many forms of irritable bowel syndrome (a disease defined by a list of symptoms, for which "there is no cure") can be fixed simply by changing your diet. I know someone who had stomach aches every day for 10 years and went to once a month simply by eating oatmeal every morning. Evidence based? No. I have no idea how you could ever design an affordable clinical trial for that, too many factors involed. The cost would be huge and the oatmeal industry doesn't have deep enough pockets.

I think that to dismiss everything that's not evidence based medicine as snake oil, like this article does, is just as bad as dismissing mainstream medicine like Goop appears to do.


Imagine this scenario:

"My computer stopped working one day so I kicked it hard and it started working again! Maybe kicking computers works."

And you, as a "computer person," are like: "I can't say what happened in your specific case, but generally speaking kicking your computer will probably cause more harm than good. Maybe you caused it to restart or something or got lucky and something that was loose inside the machine got pushed into a tight fit. Or maybe it was a total coincidence. Who knows. But I'm glad it's now working for you."

That's probably what someone in the medical community thinks when they hear stuff like the above.

(And now here comes GoopTech offering to fix your computer by kicking it for $50/kick.)


The difference is that usually, the "computer person" is able to fix the computer without kicking.


You know hay fever is an allergy, right? And that you are allergic to specific pollen? These pollen are _seasonal_. It's not suprising that your symptoms are now gone, it's very probable that the allergen is just gone (for the season). The snake-oil has done nothing.

Get a proper allergy test.

> I think that to dismiss everything that's not evidence based medicine as snake oil, like this article does, is just as bad as dismissing mainstream medicine like Goop appears to do.

I really don't think you are in a position to judge that.


"I really don't think you are in a position to judge that. "

Neither are you. You can't just dismiss someone's experience as bullshit.


They provided a completely rational explanation for what's going on.

Simply waiting 4-8 weeks treats the vast majority of common issues. Either because they get better, the environment changes, or because the brain ends up ignoring repeated stimulus. Which is the secret to much of this stuff, they don't say just wait but because treatments are designed to take a while a significant number of people will make the association.

PS: Some include useful diet changes and exercise, but people often ignore their doctors giving the same advice so YMMV.


A completely rational explanation that may or may not be the answer.

If my car disappears from my garage, it may be because it was stolen, or maybe because it was transported to an alien planet by extra-terrestrial life forms.

My assertion that it was E.T. does not mean that your counter-assertion that it was stolen is true. Maybe I lent it to a friend and forgot, or my wife took it to be pimped out on Overhaulin', or that it was repossessed due to some bank error.

It's quite appropriate to raise additional possible explanations. It's quite inappropriate to tell someone that their treatment is in no way causative to the amelioration of symptoms, especially when they cannot know for certain that they were not.


I'm note sure I follow your logic. Are you saying that if you can't give specific, alternative explanations for the missing car, we must consider aliens a plausible explanation?


I'm saying that if you, a person who is probably not privy to the medical details of another random internet poster, cannot factually assert that dietary changes had nothing to do with his hay fever, then it is inappropriate to assert that it had nothing to do with his hay fever as fact.

We know that there are foods that have medical benefit. There are foods that contain anti-histamine capabilities, for example, or decongestant capabilities that could have been positively impactful on hay fever. These may have been a part of OP's dietary supplements.

Without knowing what the supplements were, we cannot dismiss that they might possibly have been of aid.


I never said it was the correct answer, but if you say the car was captured by aliens and I say it may have just been towed. The rational thing is to consider things in order of probability vs. risk not necessarily go with aliens every time.

I mean sure it could have been stolen, or towed, or aliens, etc. But, the point is when what happens can have reasonable explanations it's not evidence for ET.


The OP I'm responding to said, specifically "The snake-oil has done nothing," which they cannot know for certain, especially given that the dietary supplements were not even listed.


Would you take 1:1,000 odds that it did something? If not saying it did nothing is perfectly reasonable. I mean sure the sun might go out tomorrow, but reasonable assumptions are reasonable. Further logically he said it may have been this, but clearly the magic beans where worthless. Which is different than saying it defiantly was this and therefore the magic beans are worthless.

PS: And no I would not take those odds even though it may have helped, there are odds vastly below 1%.


Fair enough - though this was what your analogy was about? Not the rational explanation provided?


Which OP said that? Can you link/quote them?



sorry, this is reply, posted to wrong place..

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14792139


Nonsense. One's personal experiences are worthless as evidence, and all theories are subject to Occam's Razor. That you dislike these principles being applied to some subject is your own problem.


Of course you can. If somebody told you that they had a cold but that they cured it in only a week by applying banana peels to their eyelids and having a specialist apply precisely timed hammer blows to the top of their head, would you say, hmm, can't rule it out?


That's a ridiculous example.


More ridiculous than declaring that you cured a seasonal allergy with food supplements and by sticking needles in your body?


Absolutely.


Why? Looks the same to me.

Edit: just to clarify why they look the same to me: they're both applying "treatments" which have no particular basis to think they'd affect things, to a problem which naturally goes away over time, and then later attributing the disappearance of the problem to the "treatment" rather than to the passage of time.


I think it's pretty well established that food has an impact on one's health. So it seems a reasonable assumption that supplements can also have an impact. Comparing that to hammer blows just shows that you are not willing to have a reasonable discussion but want to kill the argument.


Bananas are a food, and hammer blows to the head are well known to have health effects.


Right, because the argument is fallacious, which was the point of the example. We don't argue medicine from first principles in this century, by the way. Absent hard empirical evidence, you can speculate what you like, but Occam's Razor suggests natural healing or the placebo effect as being the most likely explanations. If you're just a fan of wild invention, you might find other reasons, but you're probably not going to convince many that wild invention must be taken seriously.



I think you have won this discussion :-)


I can't decide if that article is a point for you or for me, but either way I agree that it wins.


It's a win-win.


Yes, the form of argument would be called reductio ad absurdum.


No, but he did offer up a possible explanation for the symptoms disappearing. That GP had changed diets and tried acupuncture may just be coincidental with the pollen running its course.


He writes that he has had that over a decade. Maybe he would have noticed it himself that it was seasonal.

I just don't like the tone when people have difficult problems, make an observation and get dismissed immediately because their observation doesn't fit with the mainstream.

I started doing meditation and yoga before it was cool and whenever I mentioned that meditation seems to help with my depression and anxiety there were always plenty of smartasses telling me this is all bullshit. Now, 25 years later they suddenly start listening.

There are plenty of bullshit alternative cures out there and it's good to question people. But pretending that the only cures that are valid are the ones from current mainstream medicine makes no sense. There is plenty of stuff out there mainstream medicine doesn't have a solution for and doesn't understand. In addition it has its own snake oil problems like unnecessary surgeries and feeding psychoactive substances to more and more people.


> because their observation doesn't fit with the mainstream

what do you mean by "mainstream"? Mainstream medicine?

This isn't pop-music aesthetics, medicine is a profession, and seeking alternate treatments can do real harm.

> I mentioned that meditation seems to help with my depression and anxiety

This is dissimilar to things like allergies. It's also worth noting how many thing do turn out to be BS - your example might be survivor bias.

> But pretending that the only cures that are valid

Its one thing to consider alternativecures, it's another to promote them. Some alternate treatments can be harmful, so there should be a high barrier to recommendation.

> There is plenty of stuff out there mainstream medicine doesn't have a solution

Doesn't mean alternative medicine does though. The same argument is made for religion, called "god of the gaps".


I am not saying that alternative medicines work better than mainstream medicine. All I am saying is that you can't immediately dismiss alternative medicine. There is a lot of nonsense going on but also a lot of useful stuff.


> All I am saying is that you can't immediately dismiss alternative medicine

dismiss in what sense? dismiss it as no more plausible than an infinite number of possible cures?

If you go to the trouble of mail-ordering an expensive pill, you are clearly giving its plausibility as a cure greater weight than, say, a mixture of ketchup and toothpaste baked at 200 degree for 20 mins - which also can't be dismissed as a cure.

> also a lot of useful stuff

How do you know?


They don't dismiss your experience, they dismiss your conclusion.

poster doesn't claim to be in a position to judge, which is consistent with them not making any claims.


You definitely can. Sick and weakened people in particular, are not likely to provide reliable evidence - they really, really want to believe that this time, it's going to work, after all.


I hope you will never have a difficult disease with diffuse symptoms and then be treated like that.


Treated like what? Not humored with harmful thoughts?

I think the real danger to life trumps ego.


Have you ever talked to someone with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or chronic pain? They constantly get dismissed and treated as if they were imagining things.


My sister has fibro and has gotten nothing but kind and patient care from her GP, the rheumatologists and psychologists she has seen. She did hear from one specialist the line that "it might well be psychosomatic", and it did cause her to bristle, but said specialist went on to say that people with depression (like my sister), anxiety, bipolar and other disorders often experience chronic fatigue and the like as manifestations of these issues. To treat the pain they're experiencing as a physiological failure could be dangerous. I wonder if a lot of patients interpret this perfectly reasonable diagnosis as "you're crazy, it's all in your head."


Which is entirely different to dismissing Snake Oil, or alternative treatment.

Also, how do you know this?


I know this because I have taught yoga classes for years. There you tend to meet a lot of people who have tried to find help for their health issues and try yoga as a last resort. Unfortunately yoga isn't a cure for lots of people either.

But just listen to their stories. If you have something like autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, undiagnosed Lyme's disease or other stuff a lot of people including medical professionals will accuse you of lying and pretending. This goes on while it's very clear that people are suffering. Some people are lucky that eventually they get diagnosed with something that's in the textbooks like Lyme's but a lot of them don't and their life is miserable. It's miserable because of suffering but also because they get treated like pretenders.


> undiagnosed Lyme's disease

I dated someone who claimed to have this, and not only was she very involved with ILADS advocacy, she had the Wikipedia page on "Chronic Lyme disease" memorized:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronic_Lyme_disease

Six doctors in a row, including an infectious disease research specialist, diagnosed her with fibromyalgia and recommended treatment, but she wasn't having any of it and kept cycling through doctors in between sleeping the entire day.

I was present in the room when she met one of them. He acknowledged her symptoms, expressed that all of them were strongly consistent with fibromyalgia, and offered to work with her to find a treatment protocol that met her very specific needs. She retorted that "[he was] wrong", and that it had to be due to her Lyme disease that she contracted four years ago. The doctor respectfully replied that the tests he had ordered and description of her symptoms did not support that conclusion, though he understood why she would connect the two (and even acknowledged the "community" of folks who feel that medicine is wrong on this -- he was aware). I watched the session descend into a complete lack of productivity and had to restrain myself from trying to mediate, because she got progressively more frustrated with him not playing ball.

Immediately after we left, she called her mom and told her another doctor had accused her of lying and making her disease up. I can see why she would conclude that, honestly, but it was nonetheless a twisting of the actual narrative. I get it, though: it can be difficult to alter your views or interpret normal interactions correctly when you're positively sure of something, despite it being explained to you as incorrect.

I have listened to her stories, and I've even watched the incidents at hand. Though I only observed one visit, I would bet that not a single medical professional has ever accused her of lying or pretending. They just did not accept her own self-diagnosis. There's a significant difference.


Wait a minute. If the people you see seek yoga as a last resort for their dismissed symptoms, then there is a bias/filter in the data you see.

Without knowing how many people see a doctor with these symptoms, you can't make a generalisation like "most people [who see a doctor] are dismissed".


I never used the word "most". This seems to be the problem in this whole discussion. People throw a fit before they are finished reading.


Is that not what you were implying?:

> They constantly get dismissed

> If you have something like ... or other stuff a lot of people including medical professionals will accuse you of lying and pretending


You're throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

If mainstream medicine doesn't work for someone, it doesn't mean the solution is voodoo or alternative shit, it's fixing the healthcare industry, not spending billions on goop.


Seems I didn't express myself precisely enough. I am not advocating jumping on every alternative cure. My comment was about people outright dismissing the guy who wrote that he got his hay fever controlled with supplements. Then they added comments that it would have gone anyway. In short, they dismissed someone's experience without listening any further which I think is wrong.

It's also wrong to reflexively dismiss any kind of treatment that's not in medical textbooks. See my comment about meditation. When I started meditating it had the the status of voodoo shit. But now they are coming around.


> Then they added comments that it would have gone anyway.

Can you quote/link that post?

> It's also wrong to reflexively dismiss any kind of treatment that's not in medical textbooks

Dismiss as definitely incorrect? Maybe. Defends on what it is.

Dismiss as unproven? Perfectly OK.


Here are some quotes from this page:

"Simply waiting 4-8 weeks treats the vast majority of common issues."

"You know hay fever is an allergy, right? And that you are allergic to specific pollen? These pollen are _seasonal_. It's not suprising that your symptoms are now gone, it's very probable that the allergen is just gone (for the season). The snake-oil has done nothing."

"For one, your issues could have healed by themselves, even without it, just through time passing. Since there's a sample of 1 of you, and you did take those drugs, we don't have a control group, and can't know."


Yeah, I read them.

These are alternate explanations your original post hadn't explicitly ruled out - are your claims not open to interrogation?

> they dismissed someone's experience

I believe I already stated this, but they seem to dismiss your conclusion, not your experience. Your experience is taking the supplement, then soon after experiencing no allergies. This is not contested.

These quotes are mostly reasonable since you had at that point omitted the fact of the period of time you had been suffering from hay-fever before trying the supplement. That fact still doesn't rule out these explanations, however, because of survivor bias - which I've also commented on.

> The snake-oil has done nothing

Even if we accept the supplements as the cause, The proposed mechanism is still not certain.

If the mechanism were such that any placebo, nutritional supplement, or change in diet would have had the same effect, I would still consider the product to be snake-oil.


I really hope that if I do have a difficult disease with diffuse symptoms, the bullshit artists and "you should try a honey rub, it did wonders for my cousin's friend" crowd don't try to "help."


Yes and the past five years the season started in March and ended in September, for me. I didn't move or anything like that, so i have no reason to assume the pollen have suddenly disappeared in May this year.


Well, then you have a great opportunity for a control. Reverse some of the changes and see if your symptoms return. It should be pretty easy to determine what exactly made your symptoms disappear.

"The only difference between science and just screwing around is writing it down." -- Mythbusters


Yep, it is. And even when I do that people on the internet will call me stupid for believing in non-evidence-based medicine.


>This year my girlfriend put me on some decent snake oil indeed. Tens of euros worth of food supplements per month. I also went to see an acupuncturist. My problems aren't reduced, they're gone. I can be outside for an entire day and not notice a thing. My problem is, 0% of what I did is evidence-based medicine.

For one, your issues could have healed by themselves, even without it, just through time passing. Since there's a sample of 1 of you, and you did take those drugs, we don't have a control group, and can't know.

Second, those food supplements make have actually had some good stuff -- like a vitamin you're deficient in -- that helped in this case.

Lastly, there's always the placebo effect.

None of the above are an argument against the Goop stuff being snake-oil (and neither is "but it worked for me" for some Goop product).


I fully agree. But dismissing the option that something unproven could have helped me is the same fallacy as not trying it because it's unproven.

I mean, there's also conclusive evidence that eg homeopathy does not work better than a placebo. I'm talking about the cases where there's no conclusive evidence for either outcome (1). Ars calls those snake oil and I think they're jumping to conclusions too fast.

(1) admittedly I don't know whether such evidence exists for acupuncture but I know that no such evidence exists, either way, for the particular giant pile of pills I've been eating.


>But dismissing the option that something unproven could have helped me is the same fallacy as not trying it because it's unproven.

It's not about dismissing it. It's that the burden on proof is on that side, not on those that are not convinced.

It might very well have been a case of self-healing, the kind that happened many times (often thought as miraculous, etc), and whose exact mechanism is not known.

>I mean, there's also conclusive evidence that eg homeopathy does not work better than a placebo. I'm talking about the cases where there's no conclusive evidence for either outcome (1). Ars calls those snake oil and I think they're jumping to conclusions too fast.

Well, the burden on proof is not on Ars side though. They can legitimately call snake-oil anything that has not been proven but is nonetheless sold.


> They can legitimately call snake-oil anything that has not been proven but is nonetheless sold.

I agree with the rest of your comment, but I think this is a very liberal application of the term "snake oil". When I see that word, I expect it to apply to obvious nonsense. Jars of water with special labels, etc. Prettily painted bracelets that help you lose weight but are actually recycled curtain hangers. Stuff like that.

But ok, we got on the same page I think. If all we disagree about is what the term "snake oil" means then I think we can agree to disagree :-) Thanks for your insights!


>I agree with the rest of your comment, but I think this is a very liberal application of the term "snake oil". When I see that word, I expect it to apply to obvious nonsense. Jars of water with special labels, etc.

Well, even if it was an actual drug, e.g. penicillin, if it was sold in a bottle as something it is not, e.g. 'cancer cure', it would still be snake oil.


Can you quote the post that "dismiss[ed] the option that something unproven could have helped [you]"?

Perhaps Snake Oil does work - but if you don't have reasonable evidence, selling it on that basis (explicit or otherwise) is unreasonable.


There are an infinite number of potential treatments which have not been conclusively proven to be either effective or not effective. How do you choose from that infinite field?


Just like enterpreneurs navigate the infinite number of potential ideas and approaches: you go for the next best thing, non-conclusive indicators.

And this is the danger too, because there can be many non-conclusive indicators that are plainly wrong or even dangerous (e.g. the anti-vaxxer movement).

But if there are no conclusively proven effective ways to solve your problem, of course you're going to try some others, right? Is that snake oil by definition?


It's only snake oil when you start trying to convince other people that it works when you haven't demonstrated it, and especially if you start selling it.


I had interesting experiences with snake oil. I saw four acupuncturists. Two were useless, two changed my life. I'm talking about lasting, unambiguous, not-up-for-debate physical changes that are still present more than fifteen years later.

I have no explanation, but I'm not going to deny my experience because of that. ("Placebo" doesn't do it. Not for this level of change.)

It's not as if mainstream medicine lacks snake oil. I recently researched anticoagulants after I was put on one and had an incredibly unpleasant, potentially fatal, reaction.

I looked at the original papers and the statistics quantifying side effects didn't make sense. There was no way to estimate the risks accurately, and when I talked to my doctor he said that they'd had quite a few problems - certainly more than you'd expect from the official numbers.

One manufacturer was caught flat-out lying about dosage and efficacy. The BMJ destroyed their claim that their product didn't need the same monitoring that warfarin does.

But the medication is still recommended - which I find rather strange.

And so on.

The problem with these debates is they become very tribal. It's easy for not very interesting people to assume an air of instant scientific authority and credibility by calling out "obvious" nonsense.

Unfortunately it's a very selective form of criticism, and IMO it's selective bullying directed exclusively at certain demographics.

The reality is that everyone believes utter nonsense, and every area of human experience is prone to it. We're not nearly as rational as we think we are.

Goop is an easy target, but there's plenty of snake oil in finance, econ, business, and politics. IMO it's far more dangerous and destructive there - and challenged far less often.


>I had interesting experiences with snake oil. I saw four acupuncturists. Two were useless, two changed my life. I'm talking about lasting, unambiguous, not-up-for-debate physical changes that are still present more than fifteen years later.

The "up-to-debate" part is not the changes, is that it was acupuncture that brought them up.

You only know that (a) "you did acupuncture" and (b) "you had those changes".

This is far from what's sufficient to establish a causal link.

>I have no explanation, but I'm not going to deny my experience because of that. ("Placebo" doesn't do it. Not for this level of change.)

You'd be surprised.

If you'd have grown a new foot after the old one was severed, then yes, one might questioned the possibility of placebo. But for anything else, including e.g. a major growth disappearing etc, it can very much happen.

Not only placebo can do huge levels of change, but even no-placebo-nothing-at-all, e.g. things like faith or optimism, can have similar effects. People have had recoveries caused by nothing we know in particular (verified as real recoveries by doctors with no known cause), that they have attributed to miracles, saints, etc.


'"Placebo" doesn't do it. Not for this level of change.'

Really, why do you say that?

The placebo effect has been confirmed and measured many times, and can be very effective. Any clinical trials of new treatments must be designed account for it. Normally about one third of the control group being given sugar pills for instance will see improvements and some will be cured entirely. Theres even quite a bit of evidence suggesting the placebo effect can cause death. Read a bit about it, its very interesting.

How is actually works is not understood afaik, but sugar pills, acupuncture, homeopathy, or just being told that something will happen by your local witch doctor can all cause the placebo effect. I think that salient fact here is that all the above fit into the same category.


ps.. Looks like me and others are really browbeating you over this. Sorry! I guess stuff like this is frustrating for me because there has been loads of good research done into things like the placebo effect and acupuncture, yet people who are otherwise rational seem to completely ignore it. We have the very useful tool that is the scientific method, and great medical researchers, lets not simply cast them off.


>The problem with these debates is they become very tribal. It's easy for not very interesting people to assume an air of instant scientific authority and credibility by calling out "obvious" nonsense.

Yeah, being "not very interesting" is the biggest issue in my life. How about not wanting relatives and friends who don't know any better to get scammed?

>Unfortunately it's a very selective form of criticism, and IMO it's selective bullying directed exclusively at certain demographics. The reality is that everyone believes utter nonsense, and every area of human experience is prone to it. We're not nearly as rational as we think we are. Goop is an easy target, but there's plenty of snake oil in finance, econ, business, and politics. IMO it's far more dangerous and destructive there - and challenged far less often.

There are scams in other industries, so it's OK to sell snake oil? Curious reasoning.


> The problem with these debates is they become very tribal.

Yes! This! This bothers me to no end. Somehow I can't let acupuncture fix me unless I'm also an antivaxxer. Thank you :)


> I'm talking about lasting, unambiguous, not-up-for-debate physical changes that are still present more than fifteen years later.

Was it back pain?

I distinctly remember a study concluding that acupuncture was indeed effective at treating back pain (but not a host of other tested symptoms, and needle positioning didn't matter, which kinda discredits the philosophy behind it).


You make some good points. But it is worth pointing out that if you sold a package of oatmeal at $20 each and labeled it a cure for IBS, we'd still call it snake oil. Eating healthy can solve a lot of health issues. Selling cheap healthy food as an expensive cure for a disease is taking advantage of someone else. That's my 2 cents.


Define eating healthy, i’m sure you will stir much controversy here, what you consider eating healthy, others may interpret as falling for that snake oil seller.


Hay fever can disappear in older age (just like it can suddenly appear in mid-age).

I first experienced mine at 33 - without any gradual changes in the years before that; just suddenly, out of nowhere, full blown hay fever.

One of my relatives had hay fever all her life, until it suddenly disappeared at the age of 42. She had it at 41, she had none at all at 42.


There's a positive bias here too - there are all sort of surprising things that happen in life. Some you miss because you don't pay attention to everything. Some you dismiss as relevant.

But alternative therapies at least put the thought of causation in you head, which make you track it more than anything else.

Then survivor bias makes random positive results more visible. How many people did alternative treatments not work for? But then, such a result would be inconclusive for dismissing the treatment, right? That means the domain has a natural positive bias if negative results are not weighed equally against positive ones.


Yeah I was never allergic to anything my entire life until I woke up one day at 24 allergic to everything.


Strangely, I've noticed this two - friends/family and myself suddenly getting hayfever, despite never having it before. I wonder if it relates to changes in type of pollen?


Almost definitely.

I suffer hayfever-like symptoms only when visiting a certain area for a few days, and typically it takes a few days for the effect to kick in. (I live in Sydney, Australia, and the area is about 3 hours drive north of same.) Flora shouldn't be significantly different, though there will of course be some variation. It's the fact that it seems to take 2-3 days to kick in, and effects are mostly prevalent in the evenings, that has me most confused. I considered it may be artificial environmental (something in the living quarters, f.e.) rather than flora, but the effect still occurs when I avoid the abode. It seems to vary slightly throughout the year, but not as much as I'd hope it to be if it's vanilla hayfever. It's very strange, especially as it only started occurring for me about a decade ago - in my mid 30's.

Still, this anecdote is not compelling evidence goop isn't a steaming load of hoohar.


Not dismissing the rest of your comment, but there has been some research into FODMAP diets for IBS. I'm not sure that clinical trials are underway, but evidence based medicine is in full gear trying to determine if these kinds of diets work. Retrospective studies, case control studies, stuff like that.


Awesome! I didn't know that. In fact, this is my point - should we wait with tuning our diets to fight IBS until those trials are done and conclusive? Of course not.


I'm sure nobody is saying that it isn't worth trying if there's no risks. It's just that for a lot of therapies that aren't studied, we haven't really figured out what the adverse effects are.

Like, look at homeopathy. At it's surface, the theory behind using natural "things" at different doses causing either therapeutic or toxic effects isn't really wrong. In fact, it's probably our foundation for pharmacology. But telling someone that it's probably safe to take x amount of something that hasn't undergone any clinical trials for toxic or side effects doesn't sit well with me. Of course, I'm also assuming that these clinical trials are rigorous and transparent.


The placebo effect is so powerful it works even when the patient knows they're getting a placebo.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/dec/22/placebo-effe...

The things you mentioned have been studied scientifically and have been found wanting. The most likely scenario here is the placebo effect. This is why doctors don't complain too much when their patients take on the more relatively harmless fake medicine. If it makes you subjectively better, isn't causing real harm, you aren't avoiding real medical treatment (like the chemo you might need), and isn't bankrupting you... then go for it.


Doesn't the placebo effect mean it makes some people objectively better (rather than subjectively) ?


Perhaps I haven't looked hard enough, but I can't see anywhere in this, or your subsequent half-dozen replies to this thread, where you specify what the actual food supplements were that you took that cured your hayfever.

I know of one non-orthodox treatment that's meant to be very effective, but relatively hard to come by, and certainly comes with its own set of challenging side-effects - hookworm.

Anyway, it sounds like it was more than just moringa tree extract and acupuncture -- so in order to allow your fellow HN'ers to conduct their own experiments for hayfever (those of us in the southern hemisphere are about to revel in the joy of same in the next few weeks), that'd be great.


Sure, I will. I'll list them here when I get back home. I don't know the list by heart.


Thanks.

Have you experimented by taking various subsets of these supplements, to determine which are the effective constituents for you btw?


Alternative medicine with proof that it works becomes convetional medicine.


For a large category of stuff: no it doesn't, unless it's patentable. Simply because there's no drive and funding to get it through the trials. It's "not invented here" on a societal scale.

And for a lot of alternative medicine, the hit rate is quite low; it seems there are elements of matching the treatment to the patient that the RCT has trouble with.

This is especially bad for chronic low-level conditions that conventional medicine is bad at even bothering with. Minor aches and pains, fatigue, that kind of thing.


>For a large category of stuff: no it doesn't, unless it's patentable. Simply because there's no drive and funding to get it through the trials.

We have no shortage of very cheap and totally free solutions that are nonetheless accepted by conventional medicine.

>And for a lot of alternative medicine, the hit rate is quite low; it seems there are elements of matching the treatment to the patient that the RCT has trouble with

Or it's just that the "alternative medicine" hit rate is just the statistical noise from random healing, placebo and self-recovery.


Ironically, vaccines, which are probably the greatest bang for the buck in human history (and ridiculously cheap even at an absolute level) are currently the most attacked medicine.

And the attacks come from the same people peddling the $40 sugar pills.


I think trash collection, indoor plumbing and refrigerators/freezers have done much more to improve the public' health.


I agree that those have bigger bangs, but the "buck" part for vaccines is extremely small. Good plumbing and sewers have probably saved a lot more lives, but the cost per person is orders of magnitude higher.

For example, the cost of eradicating smallpox was about $1-2 billion (in 2017 dollars), and saves around 2 million lives per year. (This is a rare example of a one-time investment that pays off forever with no additional action on our part, which is pretty nice.) This is about what New York City spends annually to maintain city water and sewer infrastructure.


For one, those are still way more expensive than vaccines. With $100 for vaccines (whose research costs have long been absorbed anyway) you're settled for life, but you'd be paying for trash collection, indoor plumbing and refrigerators/freezers for your whole life.

(Plus those are not medicine, which is the context we were discussing here).


Do you have any examples of effective treatments that are not considered "medicine" merely because they're unpatentable?


Oatmeal?


Do you have any basis for considering this to be effective, besides that one person's experience?


Indeed! The issue isn't snake oil, the issue is that clinical trials are slow and expensive.


Very little appreciation for the fact that alternative or conventional at some point someone has to make the leap and try something unknown and see if it has any impact.


I'm not sure that selling that to tons of people at a high price without funding real trials is a good way to check if it has impact.


That last part being the key. If you make the leap and see if it has an impact, you're doing good. If you make the leap and sell it for $60/bottle without ever checking to see if it works, you're selling snake oil.


Without full accounting of other changes made in your life during this time it is very difficult to attribute the improvement to snake oil supplements.

when you are trying to correct a problem with your health you need to honestly journal your activities to include everything you consume. changes to where you live and work can have great effect to something as simple as how often you are in public.

with regards to supplements, many adults do not eat properly and there can be benefits with taking simple vitamin pills or fortified drinks to make up for it. the key is to change previous habits


>Many forms of irritable bowel syndrome (a disease defined by a list of symptoms, for which "there is no cure") can be fixed simply by changing your diet.

A syndrome isn't a disease, it is a list of correlated symptoms. And IBS can't be cured, only managed. That's what 'fixing' it is: finding out what triggers your symptoms by trial and error and adjusting accordingly.


There actually have been clinical trials for managing IBS through diet, e.g. the low-FODMAP diet.

Oatmeal doesn't sound like a very plausible cure for IBS, but whatever they used to eat for breakfast being a problem food for them seems very plausible.


Are you a curious person? I think if I were in your situation, I'd go for some allergy testing. If the results come back clear, I'd for sure declare victory and credit your girlfriend (sounds weird, but you know what I mean).


Nice idea.

That said I never dove in (she did), and I don't even know whether the supplements treat the allergy at the core or just the symptoms. But if they're supposed to treat the allergy itself then that's a nice idea indeed. Thanks :-)


If there's something like a List Of Depressing Things Reminding Us We Are A Bunch Of Monkeys That Would Believe Anything, I'm pretty sure Gwyneth Paltrow is somewhere in the top 10. Goop is really a 'Best-Of' of Western credulity.


Goop has this helpful footer in all its pages, to avoid lawsuits I imagine.

> The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of goop, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.


I'm ashamed to admit I once worked for a nonprofit that pushes heavy doses of pseudoscience, snake oil, and well, tax fraud. The final straw was when I discovered that the entire organization was funded almost entirely by one multimillionaire who was using it to support and prop up companies he invested in.


Is this organization still around? Have you blown the whistle on them?

If not, why not? You have information that could stop these thieves from stealing people's livelihoods.


Yes the organization is very much still around. Blowing the whistle is not as easy as it sounds. If I were to make a whistleblower claim, I would open myself up to civil suit, and risk jeopardizing my ability to get a job. I emailed a few reporters but the story isn't big enough, or interesting enough I suppose, for anyone to take it on. There are hundreds of these organizations. I just happened to work for the largest. By largest I mean millions of dollars spent, there were only 5 people working there. It's all a front.


If it involves tax evasion or fraud, you could make a call to the IRS. If they collect you even get a share


At the very least the tax fraud should be interesting to IRS?

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/how-do-you-report-suspected-...


It absolutely should! A multimillionaire is using a nonprofit as a tax write off but also for other, completely unrelated tasks. I wish I could report them to the IRS, but I fear the nonprofit might sue me, or it may harm my ability to get a job later. I would be grateful for any advice by someone who has been down this path.


You could just contact the IRS and discuss your options with them (before filing the report), or report it anonymously.


There's a strange kind of irony going on when you read three screenfuls of snake oil denunciation, then get to a link that says "Incredible discovery places humans in California 130,000 years ago!"... [1]

[1] https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/04/unknown-humans-were-...


Further irony: The article tells us "Detoxing is not a thing."


What point are you making? That article cites a paper in Nature, and there are a number of response papers calling for more study. I'm not following the irony.


Their headline makes it sound like it's a done deal, but it's so absolutely unlikely to be true I'd sooner believe in the Baghdad Batteries or that the Olmecs were Africans.


Dr Jen Gunter's blog is pretty entertaining:

https://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2017/05/22/dear-gwyneth-pa...

https://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/goops-misogynis...

> The editors at GOOP find me “strangely confident” in my “assertion that putting a crystal in your vagina for pelvic-floor strengthening exercises would put you in danger of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome—even though there is no study/case/report which links the two.” I am not strangely confident about vaginal health, I am appropriately confident because I am the expert. I did 4 years of medical school, a 5 year OB/GYN residency, a 1 year fellowship in infectious diseases, I am board certified in OB/GYN in 2 countries, I am board certified by the American Board of Pain Medicine and the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Pain Medicine and I am appropriately styled Dr. Jen Gunter MD, FRCS(C), FACOG, DABPM, ABPM (pain). A woman with no medical training who tells women to walk around with a jade egg in their vaginas all day, a jade egg that they can recharge with the energy of the moon no less, is the strangely confident one.

> What astounds me the most is that GOOP and Gundry have targeted me. After all Stephen Colbert has mocked GOOP mercilessly several times. Gizmodo blasted GOOP over the fake NASA band aids. Tim Caulfield wrote an entire book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything. Jezebel has taken GOOP to task. The Atlantic put up a blistering piece about Dr. Gundry’s lectin hypothesis and supplement selling. Vox coined the phrase GOOPshit. Quartz said GOOP is simply bespoke Infowars. A study took Paltrow to task for recipes involving unsafe food preparation. Why do I get under GOOPs dry brushed skin? I am not anymore right than anyone else who has taken on GOOP and Paltrow, although a reporter from the New York Times once called me a gift from the quote Gods so it is possible that I have a unique way of quickly summing up what is wrong with GOOP in a relatable way. It is also possible that they think I am an easy target because I am just a chick with a blog as opposed to a man with a blog or a reporter with a national or even international reach or a talk show host who can leverage writers, a PR team and an audience of millions. In short, is it because they think they can bully me?

edit: i should give give her a bit more credit than that. Dr Gunter is providing a valuable public service while exposing herself to online abuse + possible legal action from the snake-oil-vendors.


I read Dr Gunter's blog recently - initially the response to the attacks made about her by various players on the goop site, and then back-tracking.

She's up there with Ben Goldacre in terms of profoundly informed, yet still humorous, debunking capabilities.


You're really missing out if you don't click through and read Steven Gundry's response on the Goop post. Trust me. It's amazing how those supplement/TV doctors all sound the same (and talk about each other!) when challenged.


A small taste:

> First, Dr. Gunter, I have been in academic medicine for forty years and up until your posting, have never seen a medical discussion start or end with the “F-bomb,” yet yours did. A very wise Professor of Surgery at the University of Michigan once instructed me to never write anything that my mother or child wouldn’t be proud to read.

Someone so prude that gets outraged by "F-bombs" is probably too squeamish to look at vaginas all day.

But my favourite is an appeal to authority of Dr. Oz.

> Now, it’s fine to get into a reasonable discussion about the pros and cons of lectins without throwing F-bombs. Dr. Oz and I just had a friendly discussion on this topic


Yeah, you need to read Dr Gunter's response.

Gwyneth used the F-bomb (are we not allowed to say fuck?) when challenging anyone that may 'come at her' online, prior to this piece.

As to 'Dr Oz' -- talking about grasping at debunked fraudsters.


If you think that's funny, you should see the "consulting fees" these so-called doctors and experts are paid to comment and support products.


Yep, Gundry's response should be linked as an example in the Wikipedia article for "Gish Gallop."


Why lump vitamins together with vaginal jade eggs? Vitamins are most definitely effective, for people that need them - something the author concedes. What more could you ask from a remedy?

Question: so it's actually not illegal to make specific health claims like this in the US?


Because there seems to be a rising belief that "vitamins" are a universal good, like some sort of direct tap to an archetype of health, rather than something the body uses in small(ish) quantities.

So you see woo springing up about super-doses and vitamin flooding, and you generally see an awful lot of wasted money on people taking unnecessary supplements. Most pass through the system fine, some may cause harm in large quantities.

There was that old factoid that due to supplements, Americans had the most expensive, vitamin-rich urine on the planet....


I've seen quite a bit of publication in the last 2 years about vitamins and their widespread overuse. Daily vitamins can actually make you less healthy and in some cases are quite damaging, even if following the instructions on the bottle. In cases of a medical need, such as a true vitamin deficiency, they are important, but that is not the reason the vast majority of people buy and use them.


If you do your homework and dose properly, you will most likely be closer to the FDA recommended intakes than someone who just "follows a balanced diet" (what the hell does that even mean).


Unfortunately most vitamins contain well over the recommended intakes. Here is one article I remember:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/21/vitamin-supp...

There were several others too.


Many vitamins have quite low absorption rates though, so it's quite hard to overdose. But yeah, people who don't know what they are doing can screw it up.


A balanced diet includes 2-3 servings of dairy per day. It does nothing for your health but it keeps the dairy industry in business.


Part I dislike most is that all this publicity just increases their exposure and probably their profits too.

I don't see how you could stop people like this and can't help but wonder how much good the backlash is actually doing.


all the negative publicity for Goop probably helps them by getting the name out. 'Any publicity is good publicity'.


Anybody that supports homeopathy is not only ignorant but actively hostile to the people they pretend to support. This shill they have touting their goods is either dangerously ignorant, or more likely in it for the money, no matter how many people she hurts.

The relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/765/

and https://www.xkcd.com/971/


You are wrong, like most homeopathy critics.

Have you ever observed typical homeopathy users—middle to upper-middle class mothers of young children—in their natural habitat?

I have. They're all "true believers" in that they really think homeopathic remedies are useful, for themselves and their kids. And yet, despite that, they also exhibit a well developed instinct on when not to rely on homeopathy and send themselves or the child off to a "real" medical practitioner. Strange, isn't it?

It ceases to be inexplicably strange if you think about their shared belief in homeopathy as a socially evolved strategy about how to keep themselves and (more crucially) their children away from doctors in those plentiful cases of minor sniffies where a doctor is overkill and actually more likely to do harm than do any better than "doing nothing".

The sad thing is that society doesn't allow a mother to just "do nothing". Where there's no accepted alternative, she "must" visit a doctor, lest she be accused of neglecting her duty to care for her children.

That's why it seems that some parts of society—and not the stereotypically "stupid" ones at all—have evolved mechanisms that afford them social license to avoid the doctor when the doctor is more likely to do harm than good.


SO, as a placebo it's performing a useful function? Alternatively, develop a backbone and do what you think is right regardless of criticism.

No, homeopathy is the art of selling water to people who need medicine, and telling them its medicine. Its actually evil, in the sense that its lying to make money, and hurting somebody who trusts you. As mentioned, at best there's no harm because there was no need. But nowhere in the process is there any reason to believe instinct will magically kick in when real medicine is needed.


Your thesis leaning on the reality of social pressure seems plausible. And not wasting doctor's time with trivial complaints clearly has social value.

But what about the opposite case: Serious complaints left effectively untreated while the disease progressing under "homeopathic treatment"? http://whatstheharm.net/homeopathy.html

Wouldn't even one such case have to be weighted more heavily than a hundred wasted 15-minute doctor's appointments?


> society doesn't allow a mother to just "do nothing"

Can you back up that anecdote?

> evolved mechanisms

Just to clarify - over what period of time do you think humans have developed (via evolution) this trait?


> (Condé Nast also owns Ars, by the way.)

What purpose do you think the mobilization of your contempt at this time serves?


It's a journalistic disclosure. Ars' parent company has a relationship with the subject of the article, and the author disclosed that relationship.


They think audiences don't overlap.


Also Ars is just joining in on a well-established pile-on at this point that will do minimal additional reputational damage.

If it was publishing a bombshell expose, on the other hand, you can bet Conde Nast would shut it down.


Probably attempting to prove ARS journalism isnt slanted nor impaired on account of their new ownership

They were recently acquired by new management as a result of peter thiel and hulk hogan successfully suing and shutting down gawker, their prior owners. Any time a news sit changes ownership theres likely some skepticism in the air over if journalistic integrity is preserved or not especially when it creates conflict of interest with an owner.


Wait... what? When was Ars Technica owned by Gawker? I thought it was Conde Nast for a long time.

If true, though, wow, it definitely never affected them before.


Sounded odd to me, too, so I checked. Conde Nast since 2008, privately owned until then, per Wikipedia.

I think it's optimistic to suggest that Ars Technica, a site with no qualms publishing e.g. a great big steaming pile of baseless AI scaremongering under a banner photo of a movie Terminator, is concerned that being under the same umbrella as a snake oil peddler might damage its brand.

What other purpose might the mobilization of your contempt at this time serve?


I think ars technica writes bad articles, but on a very wide range of subjects. Very few of the writers seem to be have specialized insight into a particular area rather than a general engineer / nerd bent. For me as a game developer, I find their game reviews to be the worst. Every now and again they will have one and they are always massively unbalanced. Just a regular guys unfiltered opinion, may as well go on any random message board and get hundreds of equally or more valid 'reviews'. They'll often pan a good game because they thought it was hard, you can hear their 'frustrated cus bad at vidya games' coming through in the article. I think its obvious that one of the writers was playing the game anyway and decided 'hey I can milk an article out of this' .


They probably know already most of their readers are in the science camp, so it's just catering to their base. Plus, as the other poster pointed out, it's a way to show independence from their owners. (Conde Nast likely just happy they're able to profit from both sides)


"When was Ars Technica owned by Gawker?"

Never. Parent is mistaking them for Gizmodo, or is just wrong.




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