Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Carl Sagan Day

How awesome is it that we are setting aside November 9th as Carl Sagan day.  This is a scientist that we can relate to, maybe you even remember watching Cosmos or Contact and thinking how brilliant this Sagan guy is.  I know skeptics are trying to popularize Darwin Day as a national movement, and that is really great too, but face it, the majority of us have a hard time relating to that black & white image of an old stuffy looking bearded man.

Sagan on the other hand we can relate to.  Just finished reading his Wikipedia page and thought WOW!  What a life.  He smoked pot, was raised poor, arrested twice and married 3 times, all new knowledge to me. 

Today the world (at least the thinking media) will be focusing on Sagan, stories will be released, and skeptical groups will be honoring his memory and works.  Tonight I meet with the Monterey County Skeptics for some great Mexican food and some talk about Sagan.  I'm going to see if I can gather some interesting personal stories from our members about their feelings/memories and produce a blog for the MCS site.

I want to remind everyone that the reason why I keep hammering away at editing WP for skeptical content is because we know that people wanting to know about Sagan, or remind themselves about Sagan are going to be going to his page today.  They are going to go to Wikipedia because they are going to search for his name in their favorite search engine and will click on WP because they are familiar with how WP works, there are no viruses, no pop-ups and they know they will be able to follow links to other topics from his page.

Personally I clicked on all the children and wife's names, and the illness myelodysplasia which I have never heard of before.  If I had more time I'm sure I would have done a lot more clicking.  Maybe following links into several generations of pages till I arrived somewhere that does not seem to have had anything to do with Sagan.  (I'm sure you have all played that game, right?)

So we know that people are going to end up on this page.  How does it look?  Does it represent Sagan well?  How about the skeptical community?  The Skeptics Society and CSICOP are all included in the external links.  I see an article by SI and even an award from the IIG (yep, I put that there months ago).  Lots of science links in there, great pictures too.  Personally I think it is a really well written page, and represents him well.

How many people are reading his page?  Well October 2011 had 133,085 hits.  That's 4.29K hits a day.  November 7 and 8th are hitting 5.1K and 5.5K respectively.  (remember the tool is off by a day or so)  So it looks like already there has been a boost of 28% over normal.  (did I do that right?)  In the next couple days I will post the number of hits he got after the media cools off him somewhat.  (I know I gave him a few hits on my own and from posting to Facebook and here, but I think we won't throw off the numbers too much).

In this case, Carl Sagan's WP page looks really good.  Can we say the same thing for pages that link off his? -- (30 minute delay) --  Wow that was dangerous.  I started clicking around on the page looking at other links and 30 minutes later I remembered I was writing this blog.  Yikes, Wikipedia Link Maddness (WLM, I'm coining the phrase right now).  Other than the children's pages which look like they were written and launched in about 10 minutes (total) everything seems to be in order.

So lets remind ourselves that editing Wikipedia for skeptical content should be something we are thinking about and working to improve.  We probably don't need to work on Sagan's page, but what about the lesser known?   How do those pages look?  We have Sagan's Wiki Back!  But there are many many more awaiting our help.  Can you please take a minute and help out?  If you don't want to actually edit the page, please write to me at or bring it to everyone's attention by leaving a comment.  I know someone will follow up on your post.


  1. Well said. If everyone in the skeptical universe had a writer like you helping them out, I'm pretty sure we would have a television program - or even a whole network.

  2. Results are in.

    Carl Sagan gets about 5,000 hits a day.

    On November 9th, 2011 he received 22.4 thousand hits.

    On November 10th, 2011 his WP page got 19.3 thousand hits.

    The next day he was back to normal with 6.3 thousand hits.

    We had his Wiki back! Now what about the rest of our skeptical spokespeople? Do we have their Wiki backs?