(Apologies if I’ve broken protocol by starting a new topic, but I didn’t see this episode among existing topics.)
I can imagine plenty of reasons why this TruthMarket endeavor might fail, including potential users’ apathy, suboptimal website design (not that I could do better, but that’s not my area of expertise), and inadequate effort to publicize the website (http://www.truthmarket.com) or particular “campaigns” on it. That said, my initial reaction is that this could be a good (great?) way for capable skeptics to profit from their rational, empirical approach while accumulating a public record of their positions’ merit.
To illustrate my current understanding of the website and elicit corrective feedback, here’s an example based on a hypothetical CAM remedy:
0. Suppose that promoters of this CAM remedy have asserted that it has some demonstrable health benefit, or that they at least strongly suggest such a benefit.
1. I decide to make some money and make a point by publicly exposing these promoters’ assertion as a bogus statement (BS), in TruthMarket parlance.
2. I create a TruthMarket campaign that consists mainly of my claim that the CAM promoters’ assertion is BS, specific criteria for challenging my claim, a bounty amount for a successful challenger (e.g., $5000), and evidence to bolster my claim; creating this campaign costs me $75.
3. Other interested parties sponsor my claim by making contributions of varying amounts; if they contribute enough to reach the bounty amount before the campaign’s deadline, the campaign goes “live”; otherwise, all sponsors’ contributions are refunded to them.
4. If my campaign goes live, anyone can challenge my claim by paying a small fraction of the bounty amount and submitting their evidence (e.g., substantiating the CAM promoters’ assertion with credible evidence), which is presumably reviewed by TruthMarket personnel—how this works isn’t clear; if the challenge is successful, the challenger receives the bounty, in which case I lose $75 and the sponsors lose their contributions.
5. If no one successfully challenges my campaign’s claim within the allotted time, then I get 20% of the bounty (e.g., $1000 of a $5000 bounty) and the remaining 80% (e.g., $4000 of $5000) goes to the sponsors; so, in this case I could turn a nice profit by making a claim that holds up to challenges, and sponsors would lose only 20% of their contributions—essentially paid to me for creating the campaign.
Does that match your understanding of how TruthMarket works? If so, why aren’t skeptics flocking to this website to profit from exposing the masses of pseudoscientific claims that surround us? Seriously. It seems to me like a version of James Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge, with the twists that (a) the bounty is potentially raised by many sponsors’ small contributions, and (b) the campaign’s creator can profit financially if no one successfully challenges the claim.
I suspect a huge percentage of campaigns will fail in Step 3 above, largely because—like many crowdfunding newcomers—the campaign’s creators will naively assume they can accumulate support by simply creating the campaign and passively waiting for money to start pouring in from like-minded enthusiasts. The problem is that most people who might give a rat’s ass about the campaign have no idea that it (or TruthMarket) even exists. To prevent their campaign’s death by apathy, creators—and maybe the TruthMarket team—should probably take cues from various crowdfunding sites and gurus about actively building a network of supporters and shamelessly driving those people to their TruthMarket campaigns.