Friday, December 6, 2013

Egg Balancing and more (lots more)

Just so you know, all the conspiracy theories about GSoW you have been reading the last few months are true.  We are a bunch of mean skeptics that are doing everything we can to make sure every Wikipedia page is backed up with great noteworthy citations, proving all the claims made on the page.  Evidence rules!  We are always actively looking for more like-minded people to train in our guerrilla warfare.  I address the Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra drama near the bottom of this blog, as well as offer you a few videos, podcasts and blogs that have appeared about our project in the last month or so.

But before we get to all that nasty drama, I want you to see what we have really been doing with our time with a few of the more glamorous updates to Wikipedia.

One of my more devious editors, Nathan Miller just updated this page with an image.  I offer this as evidence of our nefarious conspiracy to improve Wikipedia.  EVIDENCE HERE  (insert evil laugh here while looking at this page)

From a brand new editor, CFI Fellow Andrew Skolnick's page was given a makeover.  Note: We are looking for a photo of Skolnick as well as a photo or two from his investigation with Ray Hyman of the Girl with the Normal eyes.  Before and After

From the Dutch team - Bart Ehrman's page received some improvements and updates on the English page first, then they translated it for Dutch readers.

UK Skeptic Chris French received a nice rewrite from the English team.  Before and After

Dan Ariely's page received a cleanup courtesy of our Lei Pinter.

You might want to sit down before looking at the before and after.  I met Eddie Tabash at CFI's Student Leadership conference in August.  When he learned that I am both a portrait photographer as well as a Wikipedia editor he asked if I could "someday" do something about the image on his WP page.  So I took him outside, snapped a couple shots and within 15 minutes he had a new image for his page.  That was that for a few months, but the page nagged at me, it badly needed a total re-write and I knew I would be seeing him in Oct at the CFI Summit.  So I put my nose to the grindstone and managed to get it re-written in time.   Before and After

Spontaneous Human Combustion was one of my biggest terrors as a child.  The idea that you could be walking down the street and suddenly burst into flames was horrifying.  I was told that even with STOP - DROP and ROLL you would not be able to put out the flames as they came from inside your body.  The thought still makes me shutter!  Why do we tell kids this kind of thing?  When I started editing WP this page was one of the first I visited and added a few citations from Ben Radford, Brian Dunning and Joe Nickell.  I also took out an entire section of examples of SHC that happened hundreds of years ago.  Regardless of all the edits I added and removed, this page needed more improvements, including a lot of organization.  This page has been a pet-peeve for Joe Nickell who tells everyone that it badly needs to be updated.  Just like with Tabash, I knew I would be seeing Nickell at the CFI Summit and wanted to surprise him with a newly rewritten page.  Editor Nathan Miller stepped up and pulled a few all-nighters (which is why we call him our vampire) and got it in shape just in time for the Summit.    Before and After   Guess how many people viewed the SHC page Nov 2013 before viewing this link.

Susan Blackmore received a makeover with a few new images, this page was improved by a member of GSoW along with the general WP editors.  Before and After

Burzynski Clinic page was updated with the FDA findings as well as the USA Today article. Then Portuguese editor Nix Dorf within a day came through with the newly created page translated into Portuguese.

Another brand new editor that found us from the Skeptic Zone podcast, Caitlin rewrote the Pet Psychic page.  Before and After  As you can see, sometimes this means that we remove most of the article, Caitlin removed dead links and unverified information, plus she cleaned up the grammar and made the article flow better.  In all she removed over 3,000 characters from the article.  We had a bit of a laugh during the discussions of this rewrite, I totally misunderstood what this page was about and kept suggesting that Caitlin look into Sheldrake and Wiseman's work with psychic dogs and not to forget Clever Hans and the investigation that the IIG did with Sparky the Wonder dog.  Finally someone explained that this is a WP page for PEOPLE who communicate with animals with their minds, not animals that communicate with people. Duh Susan.

This is our first news article.  Bill toiled over this page creation for quite some time.  Rose Marks and the family psychic fraud page is a bit different from a normal page, as it reads more as something that is updated as events unfold, and not something static.

Also from the Dutch team we see a rewrite of the Nederlandse Vereniging Kritisch Prikken  Dutch Association for Critical Shots page.  Apparently this is a anti-vac group formed by naturopaths.

Nix also finished improving the James Randi page in Portuguese.

Lei wanted to point out that we finally got a photo for the Vashti McCollum uploaded for her page. Thanks everyone that wrote to me giving suggestions on where to look.

****  The GSoW conspiracy  ****

The drama of Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra has almost been laughable.  Every morning for a few months I wondered "what is waiting for me in my inbox?"  Would you believe that there are more than 20 anti-GSoW blogs that have been written in the last few months.  Three came from a skeptic blogger who thinks we are making her job talking to the paranormal community more difficult. She thinks we should be working with their community to write WP pages.  My response is ... we already do this, its called being a Wikipedia editor. We might write an article, but once it is live, then it no longer belongs to us and we are at the mercy of all editors, paranormal believers and not.

I was attacked by all sorts, an astrologer wanted me to debate him.  Others made fun of my hats (can you imagine!) Rupert's latest blog misspelled my name, Susan Gerbik, so much for his investigative skills.  Tim Farley and I discuss the drama and what led up to it on this episode of Skepticality  Jerry Coyne jumps into the fray and defends us in a series of blogs.  This is the first one.  Here is a blog by an astrologer (not sure if it was the same one that challenged me) This is the first in a series by a person who tried to edit Sheldrakes page, got into arguments with just about everyone and ended up storming off complaining about my team. The really funny thing is that this person only made one tiny edit to the Sheldrake page and accused us of having an agenda, this person has only ever edited on the Sheldrake talk page and no where else on WP. Looking over my notes, this appears to be the very first blog from from all this drama and it dates back to 2012, and just tonight I discover that this person has written a book about this mess and I'm in it (with my name spelled correctly, Sheldrake are you listening?).  Amazing!

Must mention that Tim Farley did an awesome write-up investigation of the whole drama on his blog here.  They of course never read this.  Eyes - Wide - Shut

The stories and drama I'm sure will continue.  My team has been very open about what we edit.  In fact every single WP editor's edit history is available with a couple clicks. Its easy to find out who edited what, when and even the time they edited.  But they didn't care about that evidence stuff.  The only thing important is the conspiracy.  Its everywhere you know.  Well just read back a few months through my blogs and you can see the giant conspiracy we have been involved in.

Other mentions in the media recently...

This is a nice article written about us in Swedish for a blog called Borje Peratt explorer.

GSoW has joined the Candle in the Dark team - apparently

This is a very sweet blog by my friend Kitty all about my hats.  Its got lots of pretty photos too

Skeptic Blog - Mark Edward writes about GSoW and the Sheldrake/Chopra drama.

Susan Gerbic wondering if they can balance an egg on my head


  1. Well I, for one, like your hats.

  2. Excellent newsletter. I've been trying to work myself into the system bit by bit but there is still a daunting amount of homework to figure out the editing processes and WP rules. I know you folks are earnestly trying to keep us informed so keep up the good work. And keep the hats coming.

  3. I heard you on the SGU podcast, and I was thrilled to hear about this project! I'd love to help out, but I can't figure out how. What is the entry point for those of us who would like to get trained and start editing? I've seen mention of forums and a FB page, but I don't see links to them. Am I missing something?

    1. Sorry I thought I replied to this already. Write to us at and we can get you started.

  4. Here's one that's incorrect in the usual "historians agree" sort of way:

  5. Well, as a reader of Swedish, I would say that the article on Börje Paratts site (I guess its this one is not nice :-).

    Börje Paratt is a well known Swedish crank who is on a constant crusade against everything sceptical. The title translates to something like: "Wikipedia under enemy attack"