When Phil Plait or Brian Dunning are on TV, and Mr. and Mrs. America are flipping through TV channels, they might just pause long enough, put the remote down and listen to the show. When the commercial break happens they might say "Who does this wiseguy think he is?" Where do you think our TV viewers are going to go to for information?
When they arrive on the Wikipedia page (and face it, that is where they are going to go) what are they going to learn? Google your favorite skeptical spokesperson and what links will you find? For examples I chose Plait and Dunning, you can do the same with your person.
For Phil Plait, I checked Google, the first two hits were Discover Magazine which publishes his column. The third hit was Phil's Wikipedia page, the fourth link offered was for his actual blog "Bad Astronomy".
A search for Brian Dunning gives us the first two hits for his Skeptoid podcast site, then two links for his computer company (not likely Mr. & Mrs. are going to look at) and then his Wikipedia page.
Lets take Plaits page first. I'm going to get kind of critical of the way this is presented, remember we need to look at it from the eyes of someone not in the skeptical movement, maybe only a science enthusiast who only thinks bad thoughts when they hear the term skepticism.
I'm reading Phil's page through right now as I type out this blog. The 30 seconds it takes to read the beginning of his page sounds pretty impressive except I'm sure the TV viewers aren't going to have a clue what the "James Randi Educational Foundation" actually is and the page needs more "meat" right there in the beginning. Maybe it should mention that he is a PhD and not just "He formerly worked at the physics and astronomy department at Sonoma State University."
But overall it is a nice looking site, well organized and maintained. An okay looking portrait and even a humorous picture further down that sums up what Phil's personal philosophy is all about. (my picture and edit) That might grab Mr & Mrs A's attention?
Do we really need this "he resigned from his job to write Death from the Skies". Resigned? Can't we come up with a better way of saying this?
Remember our couple is looking to see who this guy is, they are trying to determine his credibility in science, is he a spokesman that they should respect? Is he someone that most people discredit? Is he on the fringe or mainstream? They aren't wanting to put a lot of time into reading this page, they just want to sum Plait up quickly and decide if they should switch over to America's Got Talent or something.
So generally not a bad site, I think he comes off pretty credible but not to the extent that he could. Someone needs to spend some time spiffing Phil up.
Now lets look at Brian Dunning's Wikipedia page. First big problem is a search on Wikipedia brings up this page. Not "our" Brian Dunning. Really confusing to our TV watchers, he is an Irish flautist (this BTW is a horribly written page, so look around at it a minute, the editor has not even linked the word "flautist" to a page so someone like me can know what that means)
Someone with more Wikipedia skill than I hold at the moment needs to work on the linking problem. If you noticed on the "other Dunning" page they do have a hyperlink for Brian Dunning (Skeptic) that you can click on. Here is the Real Brian Dunning.
The site is also clean and well organized. You can see his smiling face looking all friendly like. But it is missing a lot. In Feb 2011 an editor posted that this site needs citations for verifications. That usually means we need to find him mentioned in newspapers/magazines/journals things like that, and get them posted back on his site. We need to have his back! I posted on his Fan page on Facebook and his personal Facebook page that this needs to be done, but other than getting a few "likes" I haven't heard a thing. Crickets.
This is a serious problem. If Mr & Mrs A are checking out this Dunning fellow are they going to find a flautist and be completely confused? Probably. IF they manage to find his page the first thing they will notice is that "flag" stating that the page needs more sourcing. Maybe our couch potatoes will understand what that means, probably not. Its most likely that they will think that Dunning isn't very creditable and change the channel.
We are not preaching to the choir here folks. This is important work if we are to be taken seriously by the public. We know who these people are, we know what they are "famous" for, but shame on us for not having their backs. They are our spokespeople we are all on the same side. Whether or not if you always agree with these people, they are our representatives as seen from the public eye. We can't afford to be lazy about this, we need to pull out the dust rags and clean off the cobwebs. Just because you haven't been to these pages doesn't mean that The World isn't visiting them.
We Got Your Wiki Back!