Sunday, September 18, 2011

Welcome New Wikipedia Editor Dustin Phillips!

Mark Edward and I were recently on the Rational Alchemy podcast discussing Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia and elsewhere.  The podcast released on Sept 15, 2011 which caused a jump in my stats for this blog on that day. 

I received a really interesting email from Dustin Phillips who lives in Louisville, Kentucky.  I'm going to share some of the conversations I've had with Dustin (yes I have his permission to do so) because I think that the questions he asks and the things he learns are all relevant to others reading this blog and wanting to edit.  Also Dustin is really articulate and organized, both traits that make for excellent Wikipedia editors.  I'm really excited that Dustin is on board with this project. 

"I heard the Rational Alchemy podcast today that you and Mark Edward were interviewed on, and I found it very inspiring. I like the idea of a "skeptic army," and I'm eager to join. My research and writing skills are fairly good, and I would like to put them to use in the work you're doing on Wikipedia. I'm looking for something I could devote two or three hours per week to do--maybe more eventually. Would you say a good place for me to start is by picking a few topics I'm interested in, and tracking their respective pages on Wikipedia (monitoring for changes and editing as needed?) Or is there some other way I can put my skills and time to better use in helping the cause? I imagine you might be receiving a number of e-mails like this, in light of the Rational Alchemy interview, so if you can't respond right away, I'll certainly understand. And if you are unable to respond directly to me, that is ok. I'm following your Guerrilla Skepticism blog now, and look forward to reading about more of your ideas for the skeptic cause."

Dustin Phillips
...The first thing to do is to gauge your level of ability.  You probably already are comfortable using the computer, do you already have a Wikipedia account?  That is the first thing to do, make sure it is active.

Second thing is probably to start reading through my blog.  I know it is long, but have a ton of stuff in there, easy to advanced.  All kinds of ideas of things to do as well as not to do.  I want you to be happy with the area you pick.  I have a few people working on pages that they feel passionate about and are really getting into it, sites I have never heard of.

Something that really surprised me is that many people who are really comfortable using the computer and doing software things really aren't comfortable editing Wiki.  There are a lot of rules and it can be intimidating.  I am more than willing to walk you through whatever means needed to help you.  I am very friendly and approachable.  Yes, I am busy but this project is really important and I don't have a problem with even the little instructions.  So if you get lost on something just let me know.

If you have some real interest in a specific area, or maybe a specific talent then maybe I can steer you towards a specific blog or two?"
I live in Louisville, Kentucky. I recently joined the Louisville Area Skeptics, but I've been following the skeptic movement for many years.

In response your questions: I'm very comfortable with computers. I do Internet-based research on a daily basis as part of my job, so scouring the net for information is something I'm quite good at. I have some, limited experience with html.

I actually just opened a Wikipedia account today. I've anonymously edited a few pages on there in the past, so I at least know the basics.

As far as specific areas of interest, I'm particularly interested in keeping tabs on alternative medicine--especially herbs, homeopathic remedies and vitamin supplements (ie anything sold in stores.)

I will definitely start reading through your blog. I'm excited to read more about your ideas for cooperative skeptic work! 

...Alt med.  Good choice.  I admire someone wants to work on that area, VERY important but not my area of interest.  On my blog there is a list of "keywords" and you should maybe search for homeopathy as I have done a little work on the Normal pages of Walmart and CVS Pharmacy. 

Also with Power Balance bracelets, check that out. 

You have opened an account as a real person.  Excellent.  Now you need to make sure you follow all of the rules and we can get you started.  I'm on skype and if you need help doing edits just let me know and we can screen share so I can watch you or you can watch me edit. 

If you have a page you really want to work on, let me know in advance and I will suggest how to go about that.  The changes you should make for awhile should be small, learning ones so that you can make bigger changes later. 

Again there is so much you can do, and you can do them at your leisure.  Just stay organized so you don't spend a lot of time remembering where you were, or where the document you were using to edit. 

Dustin it is so difficult for me to tell you what to do, please read through as much of my blog as you can.  Ask me questions, I'll get back to you as quickly as I can.  Please avoid the main homeopathy page as well as the other really popular pages.  Those pages are patrolled by experienced editors and you shouldn't try changing anything unless you really know what you are doing.  Some editors aren't really excited about new editors messing with something that it has taken them months to get agreement with.  Read the discussion areas first. 

I don't want to scare you away from editing, as it is really important and a blast to do.  But start out simple, gain confidence.  If you don't see something obvious you want to start with, then try working backwards.  One of my early blogs I talk a lot about this.  Find an article in a reputable journal or newspaper ect that would make a great cite.  Read the article several times looking for a way to make two or three good sentences that kinda sum up the point of the article.  Then go to the site you want to leave it, then decide if it is something that should be there and where on the page.  Blaa Blaa Blaa ect...(I describe on the Pet Psychic blogs how to edit in detail)

Anyway, if you write comments on the blog I get an email directly.  I love that because the comments (and how I answer them) are where the best conversations happen, plus other people learn from the discussion. 
 From Dustin-
"Awesome! Thanks so much for your help. I'll catch up with your blog this weekend, and stick my toe in the wiki editing waters. I'll also browse through Wikipedia and see what specific topics I might be interested in. Power Balance bracelets are definitely of interest to me. Avoiding main topics is great advice--I hadn't thought about that. I also had never payed much attention to the discussion areas on Wikipedia. I'll catch up with your blog, and familiarize myself with Wikipedia better, and let you know when I need help with the next step.
Thanks again! I think this is really important work, and I'm so happy to be able to help out."
"Hi Susan! I just made my first major Wikipedia edit. I watched the film Contagion this weekend, and was pleased with its depiction of science, so I added a section to its wikipedia entry called "Scientific accuracy." Other wiki editors had been expressing interest in adding it, but they hadn't done anything in the past week, so I went ahead and added it. I added some references to a medscape article written by Paul Offit and a slate article by Carl Zimmer, so I got some skeptic folks in there."

"Hopefully you'll be able to see the edit I made before anyone takes it down. I hope I did everything right. I've never done a wikipedia edit beyond grammar corrections before this, so let me know if I messed up anything. :-)"
From Dustin-
" I read through your blog. It was very helpful! There are parts of Wikipedia (like the discussion page and view history) that I never knew existed. I have added "power balance" to my watch list as well as the dowsing wand "GT200." I'm creating some Google alerts to help me keep up to date on all these issues. I really like the idea of "working backward" that you mentioned on your blog. In some ways, that's how my edit of the Contagion page came about. I was pleased with the film's depiction of science and googled for articles regarding that. I found Paul Offit's review of the film, and realized that a mention of pro-vaccine crusader Paul Offit on the Contagion wiki-page would be fantastic. And now I can track the Offit page views and see if there's an increase in hits. Ben Radford wrote a review of the film on CFI's site, but unfortunately, I'm having troubles finding a line in it that would be suitable to quote in the "Scientific Accuracy" section I created.

Over time I will expand the number of topics I track. Let me know if there are any specific topics where my help is especially needed. And, of course, I'll continue to follow your blog. :-)"
Dustin.  Your edit and conversation on the discussion area is all picture perfect!  I can't see anything that might need to be changed.  Only thing I noticed and didn't check were if there were Wikipedia hyperlinks to Homeopathy and to some of the names where you left.  Maybe they were but just somewhere else I didn't read?  I would really like the homeopathy one hyperlinked (I read it in the plot summary) as it would bring people to that nasty bit of pseudoscience. 

I read the article by Ben Radford and agree, there isn't anything you can put in the article from him, sad as I would love to see even more skeptics quoted and linked.  You did wonderful with what you found. 

I read through the discussion area and you responded exactly as you should, and I love that they even responded with "It's great! Thanks for adding. Erik (talk | contribs) 16:28, 18 September 2011 (UTC)"
Thanks so much! I really appreciate your help and the jump-start your interview on Rational Alchemy gave me!

I put Wikipedia hyperlinks on the names (Paul Offit, Carl Zimmer, etc) but I hadn't thought to check the Plot section for potential work. Hyperlinking "homeopathy" is a great idea! I hadn't thought of that. I'll perform that edit right now.

Yeah, a quote from Ben Radford and link to CFI would have been perfect, but, oddly, his review doesn't really mention the science of the movie. However, I will continue to monitor the skeptic-sphere for any articles that I could use. It seems like the kind of thing that skeptic doctors like Steven Novella and Harriet Hall might write about in the coming weeks. I follow their writing closely, so if they say anything, I'll definitely catch it.

On a side note, I definitely recommend the film to skeptics. It's rare to find a film that gets the science so right. And the villain of the film is a alt med, conspiracy theorist who makes money promoting a homeopathic remedy. He's sorta' an amalgam of Mike Adams (aka "the Health Ranger"), Andrew Wakefield, and so forth. And the film even makes it clear that he's a fraud. It's satisfying to see some skepticism in major Hollywood film.

Next on my plate is to collect some info I can use on power balance and GT200. I'm usually pretty busy during the week, so I might not be able to do too many edits over the week, but I'd like to get into a rhythm of collecting data over the week, then aim to perform a couple major edits on the weekend, then gradually increase my work over time. I'm not exactly sure how the rhythm will work yet...I imagine I'll figure out what works best for my schedule as I do this more and more. Today was like me "testing the water," and I definitely like it and can't wait to do more! I'll definitely keep you updated on my progress.

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