Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Year End GSoW updates (Nov-Dec, 2014)

What an amazing year! Really we have been busy. I look back on the last few blog updates and see some incredible work by our GSoW team. We are really making a difference and continuing to grow. The conference season is about to start and lets hope that you will see GSoW members at all the conferences (big and small) as you know we need the outreach in order to be able to recruit new members and gather more citations, audio and photographs of the people and projects from our community.  Yours Truly began the year with the first SkeptiCamp of 2015 in my local skeptic group (our first conference) it was a blast and am already planning the 2016 event. 

Check out this awesome cartoon Kyle Saunders drew for us and it tells the story better than I can. We have really frustrated a lot of paranormal people. I got a tweet last week from someone I don't know that said this...

Well I can only assume this is another person that is upset that we are asking for citations for claims made on Wikipedia. Sorry, but that is just how it works.  Fascinating mentality.  

We have had nine new members in the last two weeks. That is a very good sign, and three others are about to come out of training. I should be able to talk about their final projects next blog update.  

We have several pages that are only sentences away from being finished that are not included here on this update. We want to make sure everything is completed before we release them. So they will be waiting till the next update as well.  So in the meantime, enjoy what our team has created for you, and for the rest of the world. We are truly reaching beyond the choir!

Updates, Updates, Everywhere
GSoW has started to experiment with editing events loosely based around the Wikipedia This Weeks Article for Improvement effort. Many editors working on a single subject with many small improvements can make a huge difference.


Leon Korteweg continued his efforts to document all skeptical organisations in Europe by translating Gesellschaft zur wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften (GWUP) to Dutch. This organisation that unifies all German-speaking skeptics in Europe (essentially Germans, Austrians and Swiss), is among the most active and visual skeptical societies on the continent and works together closely with other groups in for example the Netherlands and Belgium. The article was reviewed by Rian van Lierop and Tijmen van Assen.
In the same category, Leon translated European Council of Skeptical Organisations and Association for Skeptical Enquiry that he first wrote in English (see below). Emile Dingemans reviewed the Dutch versions.

Although famous as "The Science Guy" in the United States, Bill Nye is not well-known in the Dutch-speaking world. Tijmen van Assen, assisted by Leon Korteweg, decided to make extensive biographical information about this science educator available in their language.

Coen de Bruijn, Emile Dingemans and Leon Korteweg greatly expanded Flemish philosopher Maarten Boudry's page (Before & After). A rising star within the skeptical movement, he repeated a Sokal-style hoax and succeeded in fooling two Christian philosophical conferences. His thesis on psychoanalysis (that was recently made into an audiobook by Jozef Van Giel), earned him the SKEPP prize for the best research into pseudoscience and the paranormal. He has since organised and spoke at many conferences about pseudoscience.

Catherine de Jong is arguably the most powerful woman in European skepticism. She led the 10:23 Campaign in the Netherlands, became chair of the Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (Dutch Society Against Quackery, the oldest skeptical organisation in the world), and in 2013 was elected board member of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations. Vera de Kok took her picture and recorded her voice intro, Leon Korteweg wrote her biography, our new member Raymond van Es reviewed it.

Emile Dingemans successfully managed to keep the page about "The Iceman" Wim Hof factually accurate, when Hof's son tried to insert extraordinary claims without any evidence to back it up. Although Hof claims to be able to cope with extreme cold through a mixture of Buddhist, Hindu and other Asian meditation techniques, scientific investigations from two universities provide some evidence suggesting that a particular breathing technique, that has nothing to do with the psyche, but also a genetic advantage, help Hof endure low temperatures rather than any psychological manipulation of the auto-immune system. Before & After

Comité Para was updated by Leon Korteweg after it adopted a new logo and changed its longer official name. Before & After

When the Lijst van skeptische tijdschriften (List of skeptical magazines) was challenged for a lack of reliable sources, Leon Korteweg took the criticism seriously and contacted the Archive for the Unexplained in Sweden, that holds one of the world's most extensive collections of skeptical and ufological magazines. With its database as reference, the page was revised and expanded in both Dutch and English (see below), and saved from deletion in Dutch, having been reviewed by several non-GSoW Wikipedians. Before & After


The European Council of Skeptical Organisations (ECSO) coordinates the work of many (trans)national and regional groups in Europe, hosting, organising or sponsoring conferences and symposia, exchanging information and supporting the setup of hew groups. Leon Korteweg collaborated with many others to complete this umbrella organisation's article, including ECSO chairman Gábor Hraskó, ECSO board member Catherine de Jong, former ECSO board member Michael Heap, András Pínter, Susan Gerbic, Vera de Kok (technical support) and Ryan Harding (reviewing). After publication, the page was translated to Dutch (see above) and Hungarian (see below).

While drafting the ECSO, Susan suggested we should contact the Association for Skeptical Enquiry as well. The ASKE is, amongst other things, known for organising skeptical conferences in Manchester a decade before QED originated, distributing the Skeptical Intelligencer and conducting dozens of paranormal investigations, mainly by Tony Youens. ASKE chairman Michael Heap soon aided Leon Korteweg in completing both pages, Vera de Kok helped with picture restoration, the draft was reviewed by Ryan Harding. After publication, the page was translated to Dutch (see above).

After the Dutch version of the List of skeptical magazines was challenged (see above), Leon Korteweg made sure reliable sources were also added in English, significantly expanding the list as well. Before & After

The Last Dragon (2004 film) has been thoroughly cleaned up by Leon Korteweg, after warnings by other Wikipedians that no (reliable) sources were provided had been ignored for more than a year. The text consisted almost entirely of a plot summary without any reference, and seemed to encourage an uncritical view of dragons as more than mythical creatures, and to portray cryptozoology as legitimate science, blurring the lines between fact and fiction, history and imagination, with suggestive categories such as "hypothetical life forms" (which dragons aren't in biology). Critical but honest reviews of the film have been added from reliable sources. Overly important that this page gets the GSoW treatment and has correct information on it.  December 2014 it received over 3 thousand views.  Before & After

Comité Para was updated by Leon Korteweg after it adopted a new logo and changed its longer official name. Before & After

Skepticality - Christine Daley has taken on a much needed update of the Skepticality podcast Wikipedia page. Before & After

Article Montel Williams has been updated with a criticism section by Chris Allen - Williams page now says "Controversial self-declared psychic Sylvia Browne featured frequently on The Montel Williams Show from 1991 until its finalé in 2008. Williams described Browne as "the most appearing guest on a talk show in the history of television" and "the longest running guest in daytime television",[18][19] and her appearances included particularly controversial incidents relating to kidnap victims Shawn Hornbeck and Amanda Berry. Williams has been criticized for allowing his high-profile show to serve as a channel for Browne, notably by fellow retired military officer Hal Bidlack, with Bidlack publicly asking "Commander Williams, have you lost your honor?". 

The Montauk Project (Chris Allen) rewrite and merge from Preston Nichols's page that was deleted. Before & After  I had not heard of the Montauk project before Chris had taken on updating this page. So I was pretty surprised to learn that it gets a lot of page views, December 2014 it got over 10,000 views. Amazing!

Jan Harold Brunvand This was a really fun and much needed rewrite by Janyce Boynton. I knew nothing about this man, but of course knew all about the term "Urban Legend" which he is famous for. Fascinating man, so happy to see his Wikipedia page go from 3 citations to 73 citations. Truly an amazing page. Before & After


CICAP, the Italian skeptical organisation, was recently completely rewritten and expanded by Raffaella Vitali. Before & After


European Council of Skeptical Organisations - translated by András G. Pintér from the English article by Leon Korteweg

Origin of Species - András G. Pintér extended the contents of the article and divided it into sections, along with providing more reference - Before & After

Paleoastronautics - An article by Attila Hartai on the theories of claimed historical visits by extraterrestrial intelligence

Hungarian Skeptic Society - (work still in progress) András G. Pintér added an info box along with additional information to the article, backed up by references - Before & After

Tényeket Tisztelők Társasága - A former, no longer existing, unofficial group of Hungarian skeptics (no photo yet, work still in progress). András G. Pintér added more information, backed by references, Attila Hartai made some structural corrections - Before & After


GWUP conference - May 2014 - lecture by Michael Steinkellner 

Carbon Dating blog

Leon Korteweg's interview with Dutch Kritisch Denken

Skepticality podcasts - Nov 20, Dec 3 & Dec 24th 

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