Monday, October 31, 2011

Watchlists Again ~ Busy Busy Me

Are you checking your Watchlist

I sit down several times a day and try to make an edit somewhere so I can cross something off my ever-growing to-do list.  There is no end in sight of pages that need updating.  My email inbox overflows with conversations I'm having with people to improve WP pages.  (Don't let that discourage you, keep sending those emails) But I would LOVE to have some extra hands helping out.  The small group we have out there editing have more of a life than I do, and can't spend as much time as is needed.  This task is really big, but super important. 

As I was saying, are you checking your watchlist?  I mean to do a edit, then refresh the screen and notice someone has edited something onto a page incorrectly.  I guess they mean well, but usually it is from someone anonymous (just a ISP number) which tells me they aren't someone planning on sticking around long enough to get an account (Its free folks!).

Just reverted an edit for psychic Sally Morgan.  The person was quoting her personal website (incorrectly cited BTW) and spent more time talking about Gary Schwartz than Morgan.  They also tried to cite his WP page by doing this... [[|Gary E Schwartz]] instead of by doing this... [[Gary Schwartz]].  See the difference?  Well maybe not here on this page but anyway.

In this case I went to the discussion page and explained my reasons for reverting the edit.  I welcomed the person to WP and was totally polite.  I hope, but doubt that the person will read what I left.  They probably don't know about watchlists. 

Here is another revert I did.  I had left this quote from Ben Radford on the spontaneous human combustion page.   “If SHC is a real phenomenon (and not the result of an elderly or infirm person being too close to a flame source), why doesn't it happen more often? There are 5 billion people in the world, and yet we don't see reports of people bursting into flame while walking down the street, attending football games, or sipping a coffee at a local Starbucks.” 

Someone had changed the "5 billion" to "7 billion".  Ahhh no.  So I nicely responded by saying "yes, I know they are now saying that there are 7 billion people in the world, but I am QUOTING someone, and that is what he said".  (actually I responded nicer than this, due to limited space)

Don't know if this person just searched for the phrase "billion people" and changed it to "7 billion people" everywhere they found it.  Must be a lot of "reverting" going on today.

Checking my watchlist shows that there are a lot of other editors out there, reverting edits before I get to it.  Thank you people!  But we do need a lot more eyes out there.

We need to stay on this, because once the change is made, and no one notices, then it just tends to linger.  And we know we are changing these pages so that when the general public wanders over to have a look, they will find a well written WP page explaining it, and hopefully they will find some critical thinking link left behind as well. 

Today I re-listened to myself talk on the Rational Alchemy podcast (this was before I joined their cast) and I got the question from Brian Walsh "do you spend a lot of time reverting edits from paranormal people?"  My answer was, "no, I spend most of my time reverting edits from skeptics".  I don't think  he expected that answer at all.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Secularism help needed!

Calling all secularism experts.  As I've been working on the ISSSC Wikipedia page, I've discovered quite a few articles about the topic of secularism.  Frankly I am not an expert on the topic and really could use a hand.  This page on secularism is asking for a rewrite, and hoping to recruit an expert on the topic. 

I'm wary of someone who "works" for a secularism organization because of bias, but if there were several people from organizations?  Or some professors that specialize in the topic? 

The page is getting 30-40K hits each month and really needs help. 

Do I have any volunteers to help clean up this page? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

William B. Davis ~ We Got Your Wiki Back!

Hard to imagine anyone not following the X-Files series, and one of the creepiest characters we all loved to hate.  The Smoking Man (or in our household we called him The Cancer Man).  Well apparently he is William B. Davis and is a Canadian Skeptic.

I discovered this when I received a Google alert for Barry Beyerstein this week and it gave me this interview with Davis.  Its all about his acting career and then a couple questions about skepticism, then on again to acting.  The Got Your Wiki Back! project is all about improving the pages of our skeptical spokespeople and Davis's page badly needs it.

His page is considered a Stub which means we need someone to adopt it and improve it.  Davis states in his interview... " I ended up becoming a kind of spokesman for the skeptic community. Because of The X-Files, I had the notability, and now I had some knowledge. So I did some talks on the subject at various places, and then Discovery Channel grabbed me to host a couple different shows, where I’d look at paranormal events and see what the science behind them is."

I've updated his page with a link to this article, and added an category called "Skepticism".  Its just waiting for someone to start looking for these Discovery Channel shows and even some of these "talks... at various places".  Someone had already added him to the Canadian Skeptic category on Wikipedia, which is nice, but if nothing is mentioned on his page, then what good is that?

BTW Davis's WP page is getting about 4 - 5 thousand hits a month.   IF this page were to be awesomed up to a really nice full page we could apply for the Did You Know? front page of WP.  And really get the word out.

Just checked out his FB page and it looks like he has a new book out.  I think I'll write to him and see if he will send over some links to make finding the links quicker.  Remember when approaching the WP subject, we have to be firm about the decisions we put in the final edit.  We are trying to improve Wikipedia, and must see that as the bigger picture.  But we are also looking for the skeptical slant to improve our spokespeople's pages and bring awareness to the general public about this topic. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Anderson Cooper and John Edward ~ a new friendship

I'm just sick over this, well not sick but pretty close to it.  I've respected Anderson Cooper for years.  My avatar on the JREF forums is a picture of Cooper and Browne on CNN with the screen shot that says "Dead Wrong".  Cooper has always asked the hard questions and did his research, he never let anyone get away with vagueness, he slammed them to the floor.  Psychics were always handled firmly.

Now this.

Anderson allowed John Edward onto his show to give readings to his mother and himself.  Nothing skeptical mentioned from what I've heard.  This JREF SWIFT blog sums up how I feel.

Tim Farley on October 20th SWIFT blog talks about skeptical tools to measure how successful we are.  I concur we really need to be able to measure our impact.  We can't keep throwing darts into the forest if we never go and look to see if we hit anything.  When involved in any kind of event, there should be some discussion about how it went, what could we have done better and where did we go wrong.  We need to learn, and improve.

Tim asks the question.  Who of these psychics is more popular (Browne, Van Praagh or Edward)?  Interesting question.  Where do you concentrate your efforts if you have very limited time and resources?  I'm sure there are many ways of doing this, book sales on Amazon maybe?  Google search results?  Tim would probably have 34 different ideas if we asked him.

Here is a simple way.  Use the Wikipedia Article Statistics Tool.  It only takes 1.364 seconds and you will be amazed.   Keep in mind this tool has a bit of a delay.  So if we want to look to see if John Edward's Wikipedia page got any hits after his Oct 14th, 2011 debut on Anderson, we can just look it up.

Generally Edward has about 600 hits a day to his Wikipedia page.  On Oct 16th his page got 3.7K hits.  Then the next day 3.1K, then 2.7 and finally 1.6K  (maybe people were finally watching Anderson from their recording on Tivo?)

Wikipedia is a great way of judging popularity because it is accessed by the general public (believer, skeptic and fence sitter)  We can assume that Wikipedia users tend to be people who have access to the Internet, and I'm only looking at WP in English.

What kinds of things are people reading on his page?  There is quite a lot of skeptical content that I and other editors have left.  His page is patrolled quite carefully, I am one of them and have reverted edits from skeptics many times.  I've erased "he's the biggest douche in the Universe" at least 5 times this year alone, others have probably caught those edits before I got to it.  (BTW this isn't guerrilla skepticism)

I'm waiting for some other source (secondary) to pick up the JREF blog post so I can (or someone else can) put the article up on Edward's page.  We rather not put up primary sources if we can help it.

Lets just answer that question.  Which of these psychics is more popular?  Quick come up with your own guess before I reveal my answer.  Using Wikipedia as a resource we can come up with a few numbers.  I'm picking Sept 2011

Sylvia Browne - 14,003
John Edward - 16,244
James Van Praagh - 4,156

This just added Dec 25, 2011  

22K John Edward "fans" will read this quote from Michael Shermer this month "Pretending that the dead are gathering in a television studio in New York to talk twaddle with a former ballroom-dance instructor is an insult to the intelligence and humanity of the living".

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture

Quite a mouthful, further known on this page as ISSSC.  I received an email from CFI announcing a new Director, Barry Kosmin.  The email sat in my inbox for a week or so before I had time to read it over and see if I needed to update a WP page or two. 

I had not know of Kosmin or the ISSSC before, but I have known of the American Religious Identification Survey as I'm sure all you good skeptics have as well.  This is the group that every 20 years asks the question "When you die will you want a religious funeral?" and other questions in order to judge the religiously of Americas population.  Remember all the discussion of the new category "none"? Yep, that's the study that had us all talking.

Well I tried to look for Barry Kosmin's WP page as he is the author of 20 books on secularism and religion, and the founder of the ISSSC.  Seems like someone that should have his own page, guess not.  While searching for him on WP I found the page for the ISSSC and boy was that disappointing.  There were 4 flags on the page dating from 2008 for problems with formatting, notability , quoting primary sources and the like.  The two links to the ISSSC's own webpages were broken.  What a waste!

I ventured over to the ISSSC's web pages and followed the links they gave there to the media and so on and read a few articles about Kosmin.  Sounds like a pretty fascinating guy, too bad no one in our community has his Wiki back!  As I keep saying, it is extremely important that our spokespeople AND our organizations have well tended Wikipedia pages.  I know, I know these people/organizations have great websites.  Yes, that is true, but don't tell me.  The world is visiting these WP pages and are looking for answers to their questions.  Often times the WP page gets the same page rating on a search as the main website. Are we going to continue to allow the world to view these nasty WP pages, letting them think that they have so little importance and credibility that the community that should support them, doesn't? 

As I was saying, I spent about an hour reading over the articles on the ISSSC's page and cleaned up their WP page as best I could.  I removed one of the four flags at the top of the page.  There remains a lot to do.  They need more references to outside sources that mention their relevance.  The page needs an info box along with all the details.  I think it even needs a picture or two, if not of the building/office then maybe at one of their functions, even when they are at a lecture somewhere.  Does someone have a picture they can upload? 

Oodles remain to be done, but there is a big difference from what I found to what I left.  Here is a couple hours ago.  And here is the current page.  Maybe someone from the ISSSC could contact me at or leave a comment here pointing me in the direction of where I can find more citations. (WP does not want you to work on your own page)  And if there are problems with how the page currently looks then please also bring that to my attention. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Richard Dawkins and Wyndgate Country Club

I was forwarded a link to the Wyndgate Country Club vs Richard Dawkins and CFI-Michigan from Wikipedia editor Linda Long.  I had already seen this link and really didn't think much could be made of it. It isn't like Dawkins has never seen criticism, so I looked over his page and decided that it just wouldn't fit into his article.  Today I got another link from someone, this time with a YouTube video of Sean Faircloth and Dawkins on Fox news.

I decided that there is plenty of media focusing on this right now.  Protests at the Country Club (yeah team!) and possibly some legal action by CFI.  So I left mainly the same blurb on Richard Dawkins, Sean Faircloth, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True and CFI's Wikipedia pages.

Its current news right now, so this should go up.  I did a lot of linking between the 4 pages so they should be getting hits to each other.  I also didn't use just one citation, I listed 4 citations.  Check out these pages.

I'm really sad that the Wyndgate Country Club does not have its own page.  I know they are really hating all this publicity right at the moment, they refuse to comment according to the newspapers.  But I would have loved to have left the same blurb on their site.  

Hits wise we are talking quite a lot.  Between the four sites over 107K each month.  This controversy didn't hurt hits to Dawkins page.  Normally he gets 4-5K hits a day.  There is a big jump to 6.2K and 5.4K during this time.  A 38% jump.  Sean Faircloth's Wikipedia page had a 50% spike in hits for one day.   CFI didn't see a rise in numbers.  The book The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True saw a 65% increase in hits to his page.

On another note...  When I was looking over the books page trying to decide if I should include it in all the edits.  I noticed an editor leave a note on the discussion page, Sept 21, 2011 "Can we prepare for a WP:DYK for this article?"  Ahhh "no"  These have to be launched within days of the launching of the page. What a missed opportunity.  I left a snarky remark in response. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

JREF President issues challenge to psychics

If I might paraphrase Wikipedia editor Dustin Phillips who says he got into editing Wikipedia because he kept putting up great links on his Facebook page to share with his skeptic friends, after awhile it seemed to make more sense to put those same links up on Wikipedia so everyone could see them.  Exactly.

Posting links for your friends is a good idea.  A better idea is to get the links in a place that the world can enjoy.  A place that holds an encyclopedic hold on our hearts and knowledge.  Maybe a place like Wikipedia?

Found this link left on Mark Edward's Facebook page today and I knew exactly who needed to be reading it.  Yep you know where. 

So I read through all the links on the page (thank you DJ for including so many).  I went through every single link and made a nice paragraph that could be inserted on the pages of Van Praagh, Sylvia Browne, Carla Baron, John Edward and Alison DuBois.  I just changed a few words here and there to make it fit nicely into their pages.

On Van Praagh's page I went a bit farther.  Because of the links that DJ left in the Huffington Post I was able to add two awesome YouTube videos to his page.  I didn't label them as "failures" like the videos state, but just mentioned one as "Van Praagh often appears in the media to promote his group readings, seminars and workshops. One such appearance on the TV show "The Circle" shows Van Praagh giving a 5 minute reading to several audience members". The 5 minute reading is pretty horrible to watch BTW.  I didn't put these two sentences under criticism/skepticism but under the category of "Career as a Medium", mainly because I don't want to give my opinion that it is a failure of a reading, I'm just letting the viewer decide.  I'm sure true believers will think he did rather well (he did seem to get a few hits) and they might say that they know he is for real because sometimes he has a bad day. 

In another link I wrote a completely separate paragraph about a medical statement he made about Barbara Walters.  He told her that she had elevated white blood cells, she went to the doctor and found out that her blood was normal.  She states on the video that what he told her is harmful.  So I left that video for his fans as well.

I'm sure that the JREF's exposure on, ABC, Nightline, AOL, Huffington Post and on and on will get more readers than my few paragraphs on the psychics pages on Wikipedia.  But they work together, people go specifically to Wikipedia to learn about these people, and will look at the references left.

What kind of numbers are we talking about anyway?  Lets look at only Sept 2011 and see what kinds of hits we can expect Oct 2011 will get.

James Van Praagh - 4,156
Carla Baron - 718
John Edward - 16,244
Sylvia Browne - 14,003
Alison DuBois - 263

So about 35K people are looking at these pages each month.  That's quite a lot when you think it just took me about an hour to update these pages.  Almost a half a million will view these citations in a years time.  Also leaving these citations exposes readers to our skeptical spokespeople, publications and organizations, that is a win for Guerrilla Skepticism!  

So keep this in mind the next time you paste a link to your Facebook page or Twitter feed.  That's nice and keeping your friends informed is a good thing.  But if you aren't willing to take an hour once in awhile to edit that link into Wikipedia, then maybe you should bring it to the attention of someone who will.

Seriously think about this next statement of mine.  Are you a skeptic, part of the skeptical community?  Fine, hang out, share links, socialize and bitch about stuff.   Or are you a part of the skeptical movement?  If so, what are you doing? If you are in the movement then you need to start doing so. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Love Skype!  Just had my first Wikipedia centered Skype conversation with Dustin and Lei.  They were good sports being from Kentucky and Arkansas and I'm in California, a really late call for them.  John was unable to make the call due to illness but he gave us several questions to discuss, so he was with us in spirit.  I want to share some of the conversation with you. 

We talked about why we edit, and some of our projects.  Dustin said he feels like "a part of a team" and thinks that having a conversation once a month or so will keep him motivated to edit.  Lei started out editing Wikipedia after hearing Tim Farley talk about why it is so important. Tim had asked for help on researching obscure topics which Lei found interesting, eventually she felt she could start helping more by actually editing.

We discussed why more people in the skeptical movement don't edit, even though we keep hearing that this is a great project?  I think we decided that most people don't know where to begin, the project is really big and daunting.  Dustin said that some of his skeptic friends have given up editing Wikipedia because there is so much to do and it is never ending, which is what attracts Dustin.  

Both Dustin and Lei are involved in skeptic meetups, but felt that this project satisfied their love of research.  Dustin felt that he was already posting science links to Facebook, taking those same links and putting them into Wikipedia would reach a much larger audience than just his Facebook friends.

Having others to talk to was what was most important on this call, we discussed how we never get feedback from what we leave in these articles.  No one is going to write to us and say "thanks for that critical thinking link you left, really changed my mind" anymore than someone would write to a dictionary or a print encyclopedia.  But still this is how minds are changed, by allowing them to do their own research. 

Lei is all over the "We Got Your Wiki Back" project and reverts vandalism several times a week for our skeptical spokespeople's pages.  She just reverted one for George Hrab a couple days ago by viewing her watchlist.  When I noticed her revert and mentioned it to her, she wrote back "I've got his Wiki back!"  Too funny. 

She is also trying to clean-up the page for J. T. Eberhard who will be speaking at Skepticon in a few weeks.  She knows that his page will be getting a lot of hits when it gets close to the date.  She has emailed him asking for some info but he has not responded.  Very frustrating. 

While looking at these pages we noticed that the Flying Spaghetti Monster has his own page.  I had no idea.  Check out that page, really well cited.  Someone took some real care creating this page.  When you go there you might want to know that this is accessed over 100K times a month.  Amazing!  In fact in July it hit 291,747.   July 2011 "this article ranked 3,622 in traffic on".   You can see this here

Dustin and I both shared how awesome it feels when you leave a really good blurb, correctly cited in a place where their is little critical thinking.  He had been looking for a way to reference some of Ben Radford's work, and came across an article Radford had published on spontaneous human combustion.  I'm really proud that Dustin is helping out with this project, he really understands what I'm advocating.  Here is his reference, look under possible causes.  Awesome right?

As I said, John could not make our call.  But we talked about how we might help him on his Wikipedia project.  John is a professor in Washington and teaches a freshman class on critical thinking.   John is working as a Wikipedia Ambassador which tries to teach college students how to edit Wikipedia.  John has them pick skeptical topics like UFO's, mediums, lake monsters ect to either clean up the existing page or start a new page.  He has made all the students make user pages with a very short bio.  Dustin, Lei and I divided up the students and will contact them on their talk pages, welcoming them to Wikipedia editing and letting them know we will help them if they need it.  There are several I'm really interested in, one is writing on ectoplasm.  How can you not love this project!  Ectoplasm as a homework assignment?!?

The Ambassador project is sponsored by Wikipedia, it trains and supports the educators.  John said he got to spend a weekend at one of the nearby colleges with food and training.  He loved it and highly encourages others to volunteer. 

Soooo I'm always open to other editors (or wannabe editors) to write to me here or by email at  I'm willing to help you in anyway I can.  I would also love to have more of these Skype Wikipedia conversations if others are interested.  We can set it up by time zone to be more effective.  Just let me know if interested. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

UFO sighting pages ~ Investigation pages

Amazing what you can find on Wikipedia.  After having a conversation with UFO expert Robert Sheaffer I started browsing around at various UFO pages.  Easy to do when you find a category page.  You can usually find these at the very bottom of a page. Category UFO sightings  This is a easy to use way of browsing. 

I think these pages can be excellent example of how to write a Wikipedia page.  You have to be clear, just the facts.  You must have citations.  They must be noteworthy (not just something you saw out your bathroom window, but others need to have experienced it and it must have been something reported in the media).  These should be interesting to read, while still stating the facts.  There is nothing wrong with quoting people in the articles you read, there is something wrong with you drawing conclusions from the eye-witnesses that isn't stated in the citation.  You have to remain neutral in your writing.  You can not state your opinion, let the experts do that for you.

We can quote specific investigators that have published citations.  I'm looking forward to Sheaffer's new book Psychic Vibrations: Skeptical Giggles from the Skeptical Inquirer.  We should be able to find all kinds of references that we can add to these UFO pages in it. External links, quotes and so on.  My point being that you don't have to go out and find a ton of references to add to one page (yes if you are creating a page from scratch) but sometimes it is easier to find an article or book you are enjoying.  Then try and find ways of using that one reference in many different Wikipedia pages.  When I get Sheaffer's book I can look though it and see if he mentions specifically some of the UFO events that are reported on Wikipedia.  Then I can take the exact same citation and paste it in after whatever blurb I'm writing for that UFO page.  Use your time wisely, and more importantly enjoy what you are reading.

I just added "Psychic Vibrations" to the UFO skeptical books to read area.  At the moment there are only 4 books on the skeptical list.  There is a large list of "General" books, a couple by Sheaffer.  I left a note on the discussion/talk page asking how these books are categorized, who decides.  Maybe we should just make all the books general?

One of our very own editors John Farquhar created as his first ever Wikipedia page after reading a blog by Tim Farley.  Vancouver, Washington UFO Sighting - Lets take a quick look at it. 

Just the facts in the leed "The Vancouver, Washington UFO sighting occurred over two evenings in February 2011 as reported by many eyewitnesses in the Clear Meadows neighborhood of Vancouver",
complete with a citation to the newspaper article.

Description of Events: again really nice, to the point.  Quoting what is reported.  I think I like that John is not quoting the people.  I suppose it is a matter of opinion but having too many people saying "I have no idea what I saw!" and "it was just amazing, like nothing I've ever experienced!" might lead the reader on.   Love this line "Due to the hand-held motion of the camera and the absence of any background imagery, size and movements are very difficult to determine."  This is skepticism without being blatant about it.  I doubt it will be challenged but if it were, then simply find an expert to quote.  

Possible explanations follows.  Good job writing what could have been the answer, Sirius, then quoting the expert as saying, that can't be right because of ....  Again John is showing how there can be many explanations more likely than proof of aliens.  Skeptics can be wrong, we admit that.  Sometimes we make statements that when more evidence comes forward we acknowledge it and keep thinking.

John then follows up with what probably the UFO actually was (I'll let you read it yourself) he even presents citations showing how this has been the case in other UFO sightings.

Anyone not following how important editing Wikipedia for skeptical content is?  This is our chance to neutrally get the message out that investigation is fun.  Finding out how it was probably done is cool, way better than conspiracy stories of NASA and Martians implanting us with embryos.   To someone with their faculties still in place this is an example of a great UFO investigation, clearly written and now out there so the world can read it and learn.

Acetylcholine and our Academics an appeal to edit.

Interesting discussion this morning with an academic about improving scientific pages on Wikipedia.  This professor writes "I never met a single scientist who'd spent time on a wikipedia entry. They just don't have the time for that sort of thing (and having tried, I can tell then it isn't a job to be undertaken lightly!). For example, many of my colleagues have commented on how poor the entry on acetylcholine is. None has bothered to spend the week it would take to rewrite it properly (and then, it seems, go through interminable wrangles too)"

Interesting point!  But what I'm understanding here is that academics can not be bothered to improve the pages to educate the rest of us.  The hoop-jumping and "wrangles" that are needed on Wikipedia might be overwhelming indeed, but it is what it is.  Yes, it can be confusing.  Yes, it isn't probably what your used to in academia.  But it is important and it needs to be done.

I have been involved in the skeptical community since 2000.  The argument I keep hearing as to why our population is so scientifically illiterate is because scientists do not come out of their labs (and towers) long enough to explain to the rest of us what they are doing, in easy to understand words.  Science is awesome!  But non-scientists like myself don't always get that.  Yes, some scientists are not "people persons" and probably are best not lecturing in our children's classrooms.  We all have our skills.

I don't know how prevalent it is to respond to the above statement that scientists don't edit Wikipedia?  I'm hoping that isn't true.  Wikipedia readers are going to go to these scientific sites for information.  That is a fact.  What they find when they get there is probably all they are going to look at, if it is not correct (or incomplete) this is all the knowledge they are going to get.  Is that really in the best interest for our population?

I can spent two minutes on any psychic Wikipedia page and find the woo.  No problem.  I can spend two days looking over a page like Acetylcholine and not discover one problem.  We need our academics.  Please don't be frustrated with Wikipedia rules.  Ask someone for help.

Let me try one last appeal to our scientists... 

Acetylcholine - 63,750 hits in one month
Glutamic acid - 34,564 hits in one month
neuroscience - 36,151 hits in one month
stem cell -  89,676 hits in one month

Makes you really think doesn't it?  Usually when someone wants to make a difference they write a blog or a paper for publishing, that article is normally read only by like-minded people who are already on the bandwagon.  How often do we get to really speak to fence-sitters?  Think about it, 90K a month are going to the stem cell page hoping to understand what it is that their co-worker is going on and on about.  They aren't going to read an academic paper, they want to understand "does it work?" "can it harm me?" and they want to know quickly.  If they want further information THEN with some knowledge they can follow the links at the bottom of the page to the academic papers and blogs and so on.  That is how we change minds and make a difference in the world.

Do you really want non-academics editing these pages?  Please consider sharing your knowledge on Wikipedia.

One more thing... here is a blog written by female scientists who got together for a science editing session.  "... we discussed the experience of being a graduate student and how writing for Wikipedia compares to teaching undergraduates."


Our Spokespeople ~ Let them know you care!

Was referred to one of our skeptical spokespeople today, who in his frustration tried to edit his own Wikipedia page.  He used his own name and made it clear on the talk page that he was doing so to clear up problems associated with his page. Wikipedia considers this a no-no.

He writes, "I'd thought for ages that my wiki page was very unbalanced so I decided, at last, to do something about it.. What I don't understand is that, if I don't fill in the details, who will?"  And he is correct. 

We need to be out there looking out for these people, not everyone is aware of the We Got Your Wiki Back! project.  Please get the word out, we can't let them directly edit their own page, but we can help them by listening to their concerns, discussing the changes on the talk page and reading over all the links (ect...) that they can give us.  Everything has to be vetted, your reputation as a editor is also on the line.  You can't just put up whatever someone says, you need to go to the source and read it yourself.  When the citation says "accessed on date" that isn't only a check to make sure the link works, but a way of saying "I went here on this day..."

Do let the subject your working on know you are doing so.  It is important to them to know that someone cares and is watching their back.  Listen to them, they might be able to give you some great articles to read that you can cite.

They probably aren't aware of the rules to editing Wikipedia, they may not understand that you will have to really edit down their suggestions to just a sentence or two.  Reassure them that a well written blurb may lead the reader to check out the cite and follow it to the real article.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Many Languages ~ One Goal: Improve Critical Thinking on Wikipedia

New project for Guerrilla Skepticism

I've been thinking about this for some time and want to share my thought process with you.  In the town I live in, Salinas, nearly half of the population speaks Spanish.  I speak Spanish in the context of my work as a photographer, understanding or speaking outside work is not so great.  But the idea that there are other languages people communicate in is a constant reality. 

As some of you may know, I'm very active with the Independent Investigations Group (IIG).  I like to know if things we are doing work,  and love feedback and stats.  At the beginning on my involvement with the IIG and Wikipedia editing,  I kept analyzing the amount of hits generated directly from Wikipedia to the IIG website, and what pages/topics were sending us the hits.  Overwhelmingly every month it was (and still is) anything to do with UFOs and Billy Meyer.  I noted that a lot of  these hits are coming from Wikipedia Japan.

I must admit that I'm not the quickest thinker, it takes me awhile to get-it.  I asked Robert Sheaffer who writes the Psychic Vibrations column for SI (here is his new book) "why are the Japanese so fascinated by UFO's?"  His answer "I really don't know why the Japanese are hitting your links big-time. Yes,
they are UFO-crazy, but then so are the French, Belgians, Chinese, Brazilians, Mexicans, Americans, Brits, and practically any other country you care to mention."  That answer really got me thinking, why then were we getting so many hits to from Wikipedia in Japanese?  (I'm sure you are all already there with the correct answer, remember I'm slow about this)

Could it possibly be that the IIG does not have a reference on other language's UFO Wikipedia pages?  Do other languages have UFO Wikipedia pages?  If they do have a page, is critical thinking represented well?  What about all the other pseudoscience topics?  If the English version is in such dire need of help, I can only imagine what the non-English ones might be like.  I believe that the English speaking countries have more skeptical organizations hosting skeptical events.  This outlet allows us to socialize and network with like-minded thinkers thus creating tons of podcasts, blogs and media to other English speakers.  What must it be like to live in Uganda or Equator as a skeptic?  No TAM like events happening down there that I know of.  Maybe because they don't have the social distractions we have they are more likely to DO SOMETHING for the skeptical cause?  Maybe they have already picked up on editing Wikipedia for skeptical content and have been doing so aggressively prior to Tim Farley's call to edit ?    I just don't know.

So here is what I'm proposing.  We are a very talented bunch, I know we have access to lots of skeptics that can read/write in many languages.  Why not take a short "call to action" and translate it into as many languages we can, and then post it back on this blog for people to copy/paste and send to any non-English speaking skeptical blogs/podcasts/individuals/groups we can find?  It won't be something that can be managed by me, I won't be writing any blogs in Tagalog in the near future, and don't really care for the Babel Fish translations of pages.  But maybe someone in the Philippines or elsewhere will see the call-out and pick up from there?

People of the world deserve to have access to well written and correctly cited, skeptical articles just as much as the English speaking world.  Please help if you can.  The following is what should be translated (not verbatim but its context).  The two paragraphs below that probably do not need to be translated (but it could be summed up as instructions to pass on)

For fun I've included a few Wikipedia pages in different languages along with September 2011's stats for that page. 

A call out for skeptics/critical thinkers to edit Wikipedia for factual content. 

Guerrilla Skepticism is the act of inserting well written, carefully cited skeptical/scientific references into Wikipedia pages that need critical thinking, while still following the guidelines and rules to make it into everyone’s online encyclopedia. This grassroots method allows skeptics working at home the ability to contribute to the skeptical movement without personally confronting people.

Wikipedia users will find references to skeptical articles that they can follow or not. Changing a mind can be a slow process, facts stacked onto more facts. When they begin to question they will start to search the Internet for answers. Wikipedia will be there waiting for them with no eye-witness anecdotal opinions, and no one in your face telling you how stupid your beliefs are. We will go a lot farther changing minds when the person is doing their own research which will allow them to set aside their cognitive dissonance and celebrate critical thinking with a clearer mind.

For more information visit 
contact me at


As a English speaker I have been focusing just on the English version of Wikipedia. Now it is time to broaden our scope, Wikipedia readers in every language deserve to have only facts on the pages they are visiting. This means we need volunteers to translate the above two paragraphs into whatever languages we can and send to critical thinking groups for publication. This could be newsletters, blogs, podcasts whatever media that will get the attention of critical thinking editors willing to help edit Wikipedia for skeptical/scientific/critical thinking content.

If you can read/write in another language, and can translate the above two paragraphs into explaining the goal (not just a direct translation) please do so and email back to me at If you know of any non-English speaking places that the translated "call to action" can be sent, please also email names/links to me.


Chupacabra in English September 2011 results - 81,755

Chupacabra in Tagalog September 2011 results - 20

Chupacabras in Spanish September 2011 results - 19,243

Chupacabras in French September 2011 results - 6


Unidentified flying object in English September 2011 results - 50,650

objeto volador no identificado in Spanish September 2011 results - 26,293

In Korean September 2011 results -  369

In Japanese September 2011 results - 32,156