Brainduck’s Weblog
Psychology geek tries to explain a few things.

Feb
24

I spent yesterday at a conference organised by ‘Radical Statistics‘, a group aiming to ‘use statistics as part of campaigns for progressive social change’. It was a fascinating day, with sessions on the legacy of Rowntree’s ‘A Study of Poverty and Town Life’, discussion of cuts to the UK Census, the book ‘The Spirit Level’ and how to bring research uncertainties into social debate, inequality and its role in the Credit Crunch, and other interesting things.

I and others Tweeted much of the debate, so I have made a Storify of the Radical Statistics conference.

Since I haven’t posted for a while – I’m in York studying for an MSc in Public Health. Life is good.

Jan
19

Blue Monday. Have you heard of the idea? Popular story goes something like this. Dr Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University came up with a Clever Mathematical Formula to find the Most Miserable Day of the Year. Various charities have used this to raise funds and public awareness of mental health, helpfully aided by a lovely PR company doing this out of the goodness of their heart.

Problem is, none of that is actually true. The formula itself was entirely fabricated by a PR company, for no better reason than to sell holidays.

So who is Cliff Arnall? Well, he is approximately as qualified as I am to speak on mental health with any scientific authority, which is to say none at all. His rather strange website lists his qualifications as a 2:1 & Masters in Research Methods from Reading uni, alongside such wonderful things as a pop quiz for self-diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, containing items such as ‘good looking?’ – I’m fairly sure that’s not in the DSM or ICD. I’m really quite disappointed with the level of media fact checking on this one, even Bad Science has called him ‘Dr’ quite regularly. He’s also nothing to do with Cardiff uni’s excellent Psychology department, except for having taught a few evening classes in the building & in other places around Wales on what appear to be standard A level psychology topics.

Cliff Arnall does something explicitly forbidden by the British Psychological Society when he lists ‘Member of the BPS’ amongst his qualifications. However, he’s a ‘Member of the Delphinium Society UK’, which obviously makes him an excellent person to trust with your sanity.

Green Communications, headed by Mr Andy Green, is the PR company who have been pushing ‘Blue Monday’ for the last few years, since the PR agency who originally made up the formula to sell ice-cream dropped it. Following an argument with Andy Green in the comments of badscience.net, and several other blogs where he was unprofessionally rude, I was invited to meet at the offices of Green Communications in Wakefield. Why an expert in ‘crisis communications’ and ‘social media’ would only talk if someone physically turned up to their meatspace office I am not certain, but then Andy Green also appears to be responsible for ‘the most incompetent wikipedia edit ever‘.

You can download the interview as an MP3 file from here.

I’m not planning to take over from Jeremy Paxman any time soon, it’s the first time I’ve interviewed someone (never mind an experienced PR professional), and the unedited version is a bit over an hour and somewhat rambling. Feel free to skip the first ten minutes, it’s pretty much Mr Green introducing himself, but it does get more interesting further in. Particular highlights include finding that the only money Green Comms knows they have raised is from their own office party, where everyone was made to wear blue hawaiian lei, and an admission that there isn’t any level of research evidence which would stop Green running the story.

Other bloggers have been doing a very good job of covering ‘Blue Monday’ for several years – I’d particularly recommend Dr Petra (who was legally threatened by Cliff Arnall over her coverage of this), Mind Hacks, Irregular Shed on the nonsense maths, and of course Bad Science.

Note that the interview is from Febuary last year – this year’s nonsense from Green Communications is disappointingly unchanged, despite what Mr Green suggested in the interview. Green Comms have also used ridiculous quotes from Cliff Arnall to promote their new PR campaign, Twixtmas:

‘If you are a regular whinger or moaner about the weather or minor ailments STOP!  It is boring and you are boring.  Other people do not care about your latest skin disorder.  If you have ‘got the flu’ and you are standing up telling someone else: you haven’t got flu.  Stop moaning.’ ‘If you’re feeling brave turn to your friends or family, look them in the eye (either one) as sincerely as you can and say:  “You know, I’m OK as I am”.  If they start laughing say: “Thank you for listening you are a beautiful person”‘.

This is particularly disappointing since I emailed Andy Green in early December, when he was asking for suggestions about ‘Twixtmas’, pointing out that the Cliff Arnall quotes already on the site were utter nonsense.

364 days ’till Blue Monday 2011. I’m already slightly down in the dumps just thinking about it.

Dec
17

The Dore website dore.co.uk has been redesigned recently. In the process they seem to have ‘lost’ all mention of the ‘Balsall Common’ study (Reynolds, Nicholson, Hambly, 2003; Reynolds & Nicholson, 2006), which though heavily criticised was the only research on Dore published in a peer-reviewed journal. They also seem to have dropped the various bits of ‘research’ which were either unpublished or press-released through such august journals as the Leamington Courier. The research which Wynford Dore said he’d be concentrating on funding, after Dore went broke and he brought back the assets (but not liabilities) for a fraction of the cost, seems to have disappeared – I’d be glad to hear if there’s been any progress here.

Prof Nicholson of Sheffield university carried out the ‘Balsall Common’ study and is a key figure in Dore’s early research and the cerebellar approach to learning difficulties. He has been admirably honest about the limitations of the approach, including issues with using the ‘dyslexia screening test’, which he developed, and refusing to endorse claims of a ‘miracle cure’. Prof Nicholson  seems to have been dropped from Dore’s publicity machine.

Dr Roy Rutherford, a GP who had been very vocal in lending ‘medical backing’ to the Dore programme, seems to have also been absent from Dore and setting up his own ‘Autism Treatment and Prevention Centre‘. Holfordwatch also discovered that Rutherford withdrew from his supposed PhD researching Dore at Sheffield university ‘without completing any substantive research’.

The only research on the new Dore website is a well-hidden link-dump of paper titles, which seem to have been put there by someone who’s done a keyword search without reading and understanding the papers – some of them don’t relate to cerebellar theories of learning disabilities at all, and none specifically look at the Dore programme.

Meanwhile, Dore’s expensive PR company, Phil Hall Associates, are pushing a human-interest, celebrity-backed media drive. This has seen them get slots on several regional news programmes and local papers, where Dore have been able to deliver their message completely unchallenged, despite in one case my telephoning the TV station before transmission.

Phil Hall have also been using Scott Quinnell, the rugby player who brought Dore from Kenny Logan and Wynford Dore, for free national publicity for the Dore programme. Worryingly, the BBC, ITV, and other news organisations either don’t know, haven’t checked, or don’t care that Scott owns the company he’s being given airtime to promote. I thought I was cynical about mainstream media, but this hidden advertising during news and sports programmes by supposedly reputable and trustworthy organisations has shocked me.

To summarise, Dore have had to give up trying to pretend their programme is ‘scientifically proven’, but they can pay for clever enough PR that this does not seem to matter any more. But do not despair. The Advertising Standards Authority have upheld a complaint about Dore, agreeing that Dore could not come up with evidence to support its claims to treat dyslexia.

As neither the first nor second study referred to Asperger’s syndrome and only two participants in the first study had dyspraxia, we considered that the evidence was inadequate to support claims to treat those conditions. With regards to dyslexia and ADHD, we did not consider that the studies were sufficiently robust to support the treatment claims for those conditions, and we therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.

Hooray! Go & read the whole thing, it’s a few paragraphs of clear demolition of Dore’s arguments. Holfordwatch, who made the original complaint, have a discussion of the ruling, and Podblack has covered the background.

So: the ASA agrees that Dore has no evidence to show it works, Dore themselves have pretty much taken their ball and gone home on the research issue, but because of Dore’s unfortunate tendency to reach for lawyers, Dr Rutherford’s admission that I’ve only not been sued yet because they can’t find me, and British libel law being pants (please sign their petition), then I still can’t put my real name to telling you so. This is a thoroughly unsatisfactory situation.

Happy Christmas.

By the way, I’m now using Twitter for short links & comments to subjects of mind-geek interest – @brainduck

Sep
28

Hi all, I’ve not vanished, just had a summer job which mostly involved being in muddy fields far from the Internet.

For anyone else in Yorkshire, ITV Yorkshire are going to be doing a Dore anecdote / free advertising tonight in the 6 o’clock ‘news’.

I’ve phoned them up this afternoon and explained the background & problems with this approach (anecdotes are not data, lack of evidence base, Dore’s tendency to use lawyers to suppress negative anecdotes, the usual) and pointed them at some background reading and questions to ask. I will be surprised if they take this on board, since the person I spoke to said it’s ‘just a piece about a girl from Harrogate’. Still, they’ve now got less excuse than some.

Apr
16

Oh no, not again…

Company Number 1259796 View Certificate Of Incorporation
Company DORE GROUP (NZ) LIMITED (IN LIQ)
EMAIL CERTIFICATE
Incorporated 27-NOV-2002 View Online Extract
Entity Type Company
EMAIL EXTRACT
Constitution Filed Yes
CERTIFICATE OF GOOD STANDING
Annual Return Filing Month June
Print This Page
Status Details
Current Status In Liquidation
From To
Previous Status Registered 27th November 2002 23rd March 2009
Liquidation Details
Commenced: 23-MAR-2009    Status: Active
Name Organisation Phone Email
Downes, Timothy Wilson GRANT THORNTON AUCKLAND LIMITED +64 9 3082570 tdownes@gtak.co.nz
Address: 152 FANSHAWE STREET, AUCKLAND
Appointed: 23-MAR-2009   16:00
Sherriff, Gregory John GRANT THORNTON AUCKLAND LIMITED +64 9 3082570 gsherriff@gtak.co.nz
Address: 152 FANSHAWE STREET, AUCKLAND
Appointed: 23-MAR-2009   16:00
Reports
First Report Filed 30-MAR-2009
Six Monthly Report Due by 21-OCT-2009
Previous Names
Company Name Date Changed
DORE ACHIEVEMENT CENTRE (NZ) LIMITED 24-JUL-2007
W ARMOY LIMITED 27-MAY-2004
Address Details
Registered Office
C/-Spencer Financial Partners Limited
Level 4
16 Viaduct Harbour Avenue
Auckland
Address for Service
Grant Thornton Auckland Limited
Level 4
152 Fanshawe Street
Auckland
Directors
Name Date Appointed:
CONROY, David John 01-SEP-2008
208 Campbell Road, Greenlane, Auckland 1061
Share Parcels
Total Number of shares 100
Number of Shares 100
Shareholder(s) DORE GROUP (AUSTRALIA) PTY LIMITED Suite 2, Level 2, 4-10 Bridge Street, Pymble, NSW, AUSTRALIA



New Zealand Companies Office (‘Search the Companies Register’ for ‘Dore’). There’s a brief ‘administrator’s report’ on that site which may be worth people who have paid Dore NZ reading.

Thanks to ‘Joesmum’ for this comment:

‘Dore Group Ltd NZ put itself into voluntary liquidation on 23rd March, 2009. My son started the Program barely 3 months ago. They insisted on $NZ5500 upfront and had recently had a nationwide recruitment campaign.’

Anyone know what’s going on? Once again there’s nothing on the Dore NZ website or on any other official Dore sites as far as I can see, though this happened a few weeks ago.


Aug
12

‘Fri 15th August You and Yours, 12.00-1.00pm
12.30: Face the Facts: The Dore Programme: controversial treatment for
dyslexia has gone bust.’
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/newsletter/

Probably be on Listen Again here afterwards: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/facethefacts/

May be interesting – particularly in light of the appalling record of You and Yours as a vehicle for Dore advertorial, including an interview & plug the day before Dore UK went bust.

Other news – I’m offline having adventures again for a bit. Back September-ish. I’ve also tried another thing that dyspraxics probably should be warned off, in this case ceilidh dancing at a friend’s wedding. Good fun, and I only accidentally punched one person in the nose, no serious injuries. Folk dancing seems to be a bit like rugby, but with more fiddles and an accordion.

Hope to see some of you at the Science Blogging conference, look out for the Green Computer.

Aug
04

To follow up my previous post on Cartoon Church & SSGT, I’m re-publishing all Dave Walker’s original posts on SPCK on my blog as a PDF (Thanks to Matt Wardman for putting these together). I do not believe that SSGT should be allowed to use legal bullying to prevent some very mild-mannered comments from a Thoroughly Nice Bloke being blogged.

Other people who have done the same thing have had bizarre legal threats – I’m fortunate enough to be too broke to sue, and used to much scarier lawyers from the likes of Dore.

Without further ado, here are the missing ‘Cartoon Church’ posts.

Please re-publish them as widely as possible.

Who’s Supporting Dave Walker?

  1. St Aidan to Abbey Manor – David Keen – Vicar (Yeovil)
  2. The Wardman Wire – Matt Wardman (audio of BBC interview from 12/2007)
  3. Gentle Wisdom – Peter Kirk
  4. Bishop Alan’s Blog – Alan Wilson, Area Bishop of Buckingham
  5. Blogula-Rasa – Ginny (detailed – worth a read)
  6. Metacatholic – Doug Chaplin – Vicar (West Midlands)
  7. Of course, I could be wrong – Madpriest – Priest (somewhere in England)
  8. Seven whole days – Scott Gunn – Parish Priest (Rhode Island) and Lambeth Conference.
  9. Thinking Anglicans – Simon Kershaw – Cambridge, England (likely to follow further press coverage)
  10. The Jewish Blog Network – How to recover deleted pages. Firefox Resurrect Pages add-on.
  11. Lingamish – Blogger Bludgeoned by Bozos – David Ker – Mozambique. Kudos for the cartoon above.
  12. [Update: 23/07/2008] SPCK Watch – Gagging attempts by Mark Brewer – SPCK Watch. (Somewhere in Europe). Whole blog devoted to SPCK saga.
  13. [Update: 23/07/2008] Elizaphanian – We are all Dave Walkers now – Sam Norton, Rector of West Mersea, Essex. Suggests that we reposts Dave’s ex-posts from Google Cache
  14. [Update: 23/07/2008]Mad Hare – Solidarity post – SPCK/SSG and Dave Walker (New Mexico : United States).
  15. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]The Cartoon Blog – Cease and Desist Demand from Mark Brewer Dave’s original post – now gone
  16. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]GOD, CHRIST: QUESTIONS & FAITH – More and More on the Exploding SPCK Story & Dave Walker’s Cartoon Church Blog Check out the illustration from the 1950s
  17. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Saintly Ramblings – Dave Walker Solidarity Post
  18. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info – Comments on Moderation Expect comment when owner returns from holiday
  19. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]PamBG’s Blog – Those Christian Bookshops
  20. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Scatter Cushions – Nothing like like having an informed debate
  21. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]connexions – Cartoon blogger silenced
  22. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Turbulent Cleric – Libel law used as censorship Reflections on the Craig Murray case
  23. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Exigency In Specie – Bullying the Bloggers Southern England
  24. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Asingleblog – Brewers are challenged in court More detail on the attempt to put SPCK UK into Chapter 11 in the USA
  25. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Philip’s Tree House – I’m also Dave Walker
  26. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]John Inbetween – Yet another Dave Walker
  27. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Wormwood’s Doxy – Because there’s nothing I hate more than a bully….Standing up for Dave Walker & SPCK
  28. [Update:25/07/2008 AM]Dave Cole – I’m Dave Walker
  29. [Update:25/07/2008 AM]Ministry of Truth – SPCK owner seeks US bankruptcy protection for UK charity KEY POST – Digging into the Brewer “Legal Manoeuvres in the Dark”, and further posts
  30. [Update:25/07/2008 AM]Blogpower – Defending the Blog – Blogpower Roundup – The Civil Liberties Edition Civil Liberties Roundup – Understand the Wider Issues
  31. [Update:25/07/2008 AM]Brainducks Weblog – Cartoon Church blog target of legal bullying
  32. [Update:25/07/2008 AM]D-Notice – D-Notice: Religious Nuts
  33. [Update:25/07/2008 AM]Back Towards The Locus – “Come Together, Raaaayt Nahahow, Over A Bullying Bookshop Chain”
  34. [Update:25/07/2008 AM]Sim-O Random Thoughts – I’m Dave Walker and so’s my wife
  35. [Update:25/07/2008 AM]Safety Photo – Dave Walker Cease and Desist Notice
  36. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]Around the Worktable – My Name is Dave Walker, and Yours Should Be, Too Text of comment made on Slashdot
  37. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]ASBO Jesus – 519 Dave Walker
  38. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]Rachel North – SPCK Up Shortlisted for Best Headline Award so far
  39. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]Bloggerheads – I support Dave Walker
  40. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]Johny Void – For God’s Sake Cease and Desist Ever so slightly satirical ;-)
  41. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]42 My life, the universe and everything – Dave Walker
  42. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth – Paul Sibley
  43. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]Supersimbo – Dave Walker we salute you
  44. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]Safety Joke – Safety Joke
  45. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]Decloned – William Lehman
  46. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]Squiggle Jones – Silence is not always golden…
  47. [Update:27/07/2008 AM]Chris Luff, discomblogulating – Legal intimidation?
  48. [Update:30/07/2008 AM]Maggi Dawn – Dave Walker and SPCK
  49. [Update:30/07/2008 AM]Tim Abbott – Dave Walker solidarity post
  50. [Update:30/07/2008 AM]Mark Tiddy’s Blog and Website – News
  51. [Update:30/07/2008 AM]SPCK / SSG Bookshop Posts – We are all Dave Walker now
  52. [Update:30/07/2008 AM]A Skinny Fairtrade Latte in the Food Court of Life – Freedom of Conscience – Allegedly
  53. [Update:30/07/2008 AM]http://gafcon.blogspot.com/2008/07/mark-brewer-brewerbplawcom.html – Mark Brewer: Responding to Dave Walker Funny
  54. [Update:30/07/2008 AM]http://andjesuswept.blogspot.com/2008/07/more-spck-bullying.html – More SPCK bullying…
  55. [Update:30/07/2008 AM]Lingapotamus – save dave
  56. [Update:30/07/2008 AM]Program Your Own Mind – Supporting Dave Walker against Mark Brewer and his company’s legal threats
  57. [Update:30/07/2008 AM]Philobiblon – Britblog Roundup No 180
  58. [Update:30/07/2008 AM]Talk to Action – Texas Religious Right Charity with UK Links Tries to Liquidate
  59. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]Kouya Chronicle – Blogs and Justice
  60. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]Way out West – Censorship
  61. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]The Walsingham Girl – I Support Dave Walker ! Post from Orthodox Christian
  62. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]Revmusings – Free Speech
  63. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]Anne’s Blog – I am also Dave Walker
  64. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]One Blog One Lord – One Blog one Lord
  65. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]Thoughts … and more thoughts – Chester SPCK? Visit to SPCK Chester, and found it closed
  66. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]Orthodox Christian Mission Yahoo Group – How NOT to do mission In the past it has been possible to see that in many instances Orthodox
    mission has been more culturally sensitive than Western Christian missions. But organisations like the St Stephen the Great Charity seem to have adopted
    some of the worst features of Christian missionaries in the past, and sought
    to emulate all their mistakes and display none of their virtues.
  67. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]The Ongoing Journey… – SPCK and takeover + silence!
  68. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]Ancient Hebrew Poetry – Biblical Studies Carnival XXXII Part Two
  69. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]Intelligence and Ignorance – Dave Walker, victim
  70. [Update:03/08/2008 AM]Deep Thought – Dave Walker solidarity post
  71. The original copy of this list is on the Wardman Wire here.

Jul
23

This post isn’t anything to do with Psychology, it’s just a quick note to help out a fellow blogger whose work I like. For those of you who haven’t realised, I’m one of those annoying God-botherers, of the quieter Quaker variety. Grumpier atheist readers may wish to restrict themselves to looking at the pretty picture – not much to do with the topic, just one of my favourites from Cartoon Church.
Ultimate Gadget
Dave Walker, Cartoon Church.

Dave Walker of the Cartoon Church has been sent legal threats by ‘St Stephen the Great Trust’, a rather unpleasant organisation which has overseen the sad and messy demise of the SPCK bookshops. Basically, SPCK used to sell the more interesting, argumentative, thoughtful, and controversial sort of Christian books. What with the Internet and everything, such a specialist resource wasn’t getting so many sales. SPCK bookshops were brought up by SSGT, an American organisation with a much more evangelical leaning and a tendency to say stupid things about Muslims, and to get UK Orthodox Christians quite annoyed. SSGT screwed around with the staff in a variety of unpleasant ways, which were described on Cartoon Church ’till SSGT threatened Cartoon Church.

I would stick up some links on the background to this, but Cartoon Church has already been bullied into taking their stuff down, and they have provided the most through and detailed coverage so far. Anyway, have a look at this forum thread where several of those involved have posted.

As regular readers will know, I do not approve of using legal threats to shut down an argument, particularly as in this case when it’s just the fact of legal action rather than the merits of the case which appear to be deciding things. It’s a sign of a weak argument if you can’t defend it by arguing back better, and if SSGT would rather what they were doing wasn’t common knowledge then they shouldn’t have been doing it. Going for lawyers is just ducking the issue in a rather pathetic manner.

Jun
25

Just to let anyone who wants to know know, I’ll be offline for a couple of weeks – may occasionally pick up emails to brainquack at gmail dot com, but I won’t be on blogs & forums & stuff. I’ll be away completely for the next fortnight, probably not be online more than occasionally until September.

It’s the summer, I’m making the most of the last few months before I have to get a ‘proper job’, having adventures in places which still don’t have WiFi, graduating, Saving The World, working at festivals, doing more sport than can possibly be healthy for a person, getting into scrapes and back out of them, living out of bike panniers & tents & friend’s floors & hostels, risking life and limb just ‘cos it’s fun, and generally doing all the stuff my parents thought I’d never do when I was a Problem Duckling. I suppose it’s better that people worry for the things I do do now, rather than the things I don’t!

Hope you all have a good summer too, many thanks to everyone who has read or commented, hope to ‘see’ you again in September, & don’t forget the suncream.

Jun
20

The ‘Sun’ newspaper today claimed that Wynford Dore had brought the assets – but not the liabilities – of the Dore programme from the administrators, at least in the UK. The Dore treatment may keep going in some form, but staff & clients won’t get their money back.

This letter from Wynford (PDF) suggests Dore are expecting to come back.

‘So, just to summarise, we will not be re-opening the majority of the original Dore Centres, but we will be developing relationships with local partners who will focus on their community and provide the Dore technology.’

Thanks to Holfordwatch for the Sun article, more there.

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