Thursday, June 30, 2011

Robert Jahn ~ I should have known better!

It was brought to my attention that this blog mentions Robert Jahn as a skeptic.  I had him on a list of people whose site needed a picture as well as a cleanup.  I gathered the names for that list from the Rational Skeptic Wiki Project that had a mix of skeptics and non-skeptics on it.  I went to Robert Jahn's Wikipedia page before he was brought to my attention and looked it over.  Not knowing who he is I thought he looked okay.  After I was told to look into his skeptical credentials further I looked at Google and really only found his academic webpage as well as the Wikipedia link.  Nothing enlightening.  Apparently there are several men named Robert Jahn so their pages were intermixed with the Jahn I am looking for.

So back to the Wikipedia page.  The person who asked me to look closer is someone who should know, Barry Karr, Executive Director of CSI.

Hopefully you are looking at Jahn's page right now, what you see here is badly referenced (see the flag at the top of the page asking for citations and cautioning viewers that the page has been written from a single source).  There is no picture, no personality, lots of red "dead links" this is what is called in Wiki language a "stub" page.  But skeptics also have badly maintained stub pages, and we have a whole list of people who need a picture.  So I'm learning nothing from just the quick glance.

Then I start reading his lead, the academics and prestigious schools just scream that this man is noteworthy.

Professor Robert G. Jahn is Dean Emeritus of the School of Engineering and Applied Science of Princeton University. He founded in 1961 the first American laboratory dedicated to the study of Electric propulsion for spacecraft and satellites, the Electric Propulsion and Plasma Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton University, and directed it for more than three decades. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and has been chairman of the AIAA Electric Propulsion Technical Committee, associate editor of the AIAA Journal, and a member of the NASA Space Science and Technology Advisory Committee. He is vice President of the Society for Scientific Exploration and Chairman of the Board of the International Consciousness Research Laboratories consortium. He has been a long-term member of the Board of Directors of Hercules, Inc. and chairman of its Technology Committee, and a member and chairman of the Board of Trustees of Associated Universities, Inc. He has received the Curtis W. McGraw Research Award of the American Society for Engineering Education and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Andrha University.

So if Mr and Mrs America sitting on their couch read what I read (just quickly) how can you sum this man up?  Is he a scientist worthy of being someone we need to have his Wiki back?  Or what?  What I said to myself was "damn, this man sounds awesome".

So I ask Barry, "what are you talking about, nothing on Google is coming up on this guy other than solid academic links or the Wikipedia page where he looks like a good solid scientist".  Barry's reply is "do a search for him on and see what you get.

Well that was an eye opener!  There I find that this man was involved in the Bem paranormal experiments, and not on the skeptical side.  I had just read Jame's Alcock's critique of Bem and friends, I had made a lot of notes of how I intend to post the write-up from SI into several Wikipedia pages.  In fact the March/April issue is sitting next to my laptop where I can glance down next to the bowl of cherry pits and see the title "Proof of ESP?  Not Quite." looking up at me.

Then taking a third look at Jahn's Wikipedia page, there is a lot of information that should have raised a flag, like the mention in the above paragraph that he is the Chairman of the Board of the International Consciousness Research Laboratories". Which I have never heard of (nor has Wikipedia as the link is a dead one) but that word Consciousness is just one of those "hum" kind of words.

Then later in the Wikipedia page we find this,
"With Brenda Dunne, Robert Jahn established the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab in 1979 following an undergraduate project to study the low-level psychokinetic effects on electronic random event generators. Over the last 25 years and more, Jahn and Dunne claim to have created a wealth of small-physical-scale, statistically significant results that suggest direct causal relationships between subjects' intention and otherwise random results."
Brenda Dunn goes to a dead page as well.   An eyebrow raiser to say the least.  They claim to have  found evidence that a subject can change a randomizing machine.  Just the word "psychokinetic" should have set off an alarm, but I didn't notice it. 

Then the clincher that I didn't notice until the third time reading the page. 
"Experiments under Jahn's purview also came to deal with Remote Viewing (RV) and other parapsychological matters. More than 30 papers were published in peer-reviewed journals. Statistical flaws were proposed by others in the parapsychological community regarding some results in a few specific experiments."
Well oh well oh.  

No hyperlinks to the paranormal words that might set off a light bulb and explain the terms.  Only one slight criticism from this source that does not have a URL link associated with it, from a paranormal journal. 

Critique of the Pear Remote-Viewing Experiments by George P. Hansen, Jessica Utts, and Betty Markwich, Journal of Parapsychology, Vol 56, No. 2, June 1992, pp 97-113.


Here are the links to CSI articles I found once I checked on their site.

Back to the Future: Parapsychology and the Bem Affair - Jan 2011

A Mind at Play: An Interview with Martin Gardner - April 1998

A Korean Skeptic’s Report: New Ager-Occupied Territory - March 2000

What’s Going On At Temple University? - Oct 1998

Anomalous Cognition? A Second Perspective - August 2008

Tachyons and Other Nonentities - September 1994

Scientific Remote Viewing - June 1996

An Alien Taxonomy - June 1997

PEAR Lab Closes, Ending Decades of Psychic Research - June 2007

Barry Karr is correct, this man isn't unknown to us.  There are many articles written by skeptics devoted to informing the public about this man and his psychic research.  Wonderful.  But what about the rest of the world, I'm not saying that a high percentage of the 411 million hits to Wikipedia in the last 10 years ended up on Robert Jahn's page, but there it is for whoever wants to read it.  

Shame on us.  Why did we allow this to happen? I know what to look for, and I still missed all the red-flags.  And yes, you can make fun of me all you want, but the end result is the same.  Robert Jahn's Wikipedia page is in desperate need of a make-over.  

I've given you just a few of the links.  I've cleaned up the dead hyperlinks on the page as I couldn't stand to look at them anymore.  The discussion page has nothing except this "This article falls under the scope of WikiProject Paranormal, which aims to build a comprehensive and detailed guide to the paranormal and related topics on Wikipedia.".  Please people, lets get this taken care of. 


Monday, June 27, 2011

Portraits on Wikipedia

Part of the "We got your Wiki Back" project.

A large part of what makes a Wiki page engaging is the use of pictures on the page.  By profession I am a portrait photographer (I specialize in people who don't want their pictures taken, usually the very young and the old and cranky).  Portraits on Wikipedia fits right into that skill set. 

Lets just go to the category American Skeptics for a quick look at how we are doing with photographing our spokes people.  Remember you can access this page by just going to a skeptic's page, scroll down to the bottom of the page and under Categories you should see this link.  If you don't see the link then it probably needs to be added and you can see my other blog on how to add that.  At the moment we only have 93 people listed on this page, something tells me we are a bit behind. See this blog about how to add a category.

Looking over this list I'm really surprised how many I've "tagged" with my pictures.  Some are the main image, others are somewhere else in the page like Hal Bidlack "relaxing" on the stage at TAM8 while some nameless "psychic" tries to discover who is missing a kidney.  (there is no accident that she is missing from this picture as well as her name in this blog) Same picture and reference is on Derek Colanduno's page. 

Brian Dunning, Harriett Hall and several others have pictures from the IIG 10th anniversary party up where they received awards for their contributions.  When I do this kind of post I'm able to link back to the IIG page for a bit more publicity.  They are also mentioned on the IIG page.  We are small fish in the ocean that is Wikipedia, we need to use our resources (each other) to become mainstream and linking to each other is a way to do that.

George Hrab has a great picture of him wearing a balloon hat.  Mark Edward took my camera away from me when we were at the Drinking Skeptically party at TAM7 and snapped it.  Tim Farley is the person who wrote this page and asked if I might have any images of Hrab, I searched my library and found this one.  In fact I think this was one of the first I've posted.  Again a plug for the JREF with this picture reference.

I've talked about Yau-Man Chan's picture in another blog, but want to mention it again.  This man is famous for his ping-pong skills and his two Survivor shows.  Only in our little world is he known as a skeptic. But now someone who might be looking him up for other reasons is going to come across this adorable picture with the JREF Pigasus.  Another hit for the JREF.  And someday when SkeptiCalCon gets enough notoriety this will link to their page with free publicity.

Here's an interesting image that I uploaded for Power Balance Bracelet, it was taken during the test done by Dominique Dawes and IIG.   I hyperlinked to the IIG under the picture and also in the article itself. I know people are clicking on the hyperlink because I am watching the IIG's "stats" page and can see where the hits come from.  You might notice on Dawes page that there is also a reference to the IIG and Power Balance that I left there some months ago.

Ray Hyman, Barry Beyerstein, James Alcock and Wallace Sampson all get linked together through this picture and it gets a quick mention of the Skeptic's Toolbox as well.  (The toolbox is in very bad need of a page, I just haven't managed to get to it yet). Most of these men are in bad need of a new picture for their site, so don't wait for me.  Barry's daughter is going to upload some images for me someday soon and I'll post them when she does. 

Several are missing pictures, Dr. Dean Edell and Elizabeth Loftus are just a couple.  Then again I'm sure Roger Ebert is wishing he didn't have a picture up, check this out?  Is there an award for worst Wiki portrait? 

The Robert Lancaster picture has a funny story behind it.  When I'm going out with my camera I usually have a picture goal I'm hoping to get.  At TAM6 I had heard that RSL was going to be attending, and I'm a big fan of his site.  My photo goal for TAM6 was to get a picture of me shaking his hand.  My friend Paulina Mejia took this image, you can't see me because when Tim Farley wrote Robert's page he asked me if I had a picture, I cropped out my mug and this is what we were left with.  The photo was taken pre-stroke.

Here's a great example of guerrilla skepticism on Harold Camping's page.  I managed to put up a picture of the IIG at the rapture party on May 21, 2011. (click on the image to read the signs) And a great quote from American Atheists while I was at it.  Use your resources.

Michael Stackpole's portrait is linked to the Dragon Con page more publicity for a skeptical event, good job.

Here is one that needs a new portrait, Greg Epstein 

And now a list of people who are missing their profile picture.
Claude Allegre, Farrell Till, George Abell, Isidor SauersRobert Sheaffer, Stanislaw Burzynski, Andrew Weil, Stephen Barrett, Bart Bok, Chris French, Drauzio Varella. Eddie Tabash, James Oberg, Jerome Clark, Kendrick Frazier, Linda Howe, Michael Goudeau, Sanal Edamaruku, Sherwin Nuland, Phillp Klass, Dean Radin, Robert Priddy, Victor Stenger, Curtis Peebles, Donna KossyGerald Glaskin, Terence Hines.

James Moseley Not sure about this guy, I found him on the Rational Skepticism Project Page, I'm sure someone will let me know. 

Really sad pages here, I had to take a look at them again as I linked them to Wikipedia, and we really have our work cut out for us.  This list is long, but the list of people missing are even longer.  Please, if you know of people to add to this list let me know here and then others can see and help out.

How to post a picture on a site.  It isn't as easy as you might think, you don't just upload it from somewhere on the Internet.

First you have to open an account on WikiCommons.  Then you go to the "upload" page.  Follow the instructions and hopefully you will be left with a .jpg file that can be stored for someone writing a page, or for you to upload that very minute.

It will ask you for categories, I'm not sure how to find these categories, so I just start typing in the word skeptic and it usually gives me several choices.  I "add" all that pertain to the person.

How to actually edit a picture onto a Wikipedia site.  Place your courser on the WP page you want the picture to appear.

Select the 5th image from the left side of this image.  (The rectangle photo)

A box will appear.  In the "Insert File" you are going to place the file name of the image that was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

In the lower box is where you write your caption.

When done the edit may look like this below.  You can see that the | is in-between each area.  You do not have to have the picture size in your edit.

If you want your image to appear on the left or center side of the WP page, you can add the word, "left" or "center" to this edit.  Make sure you have a | before and after the word.

[[Image:Four Founding IIG.jpg|thumb|250px|Four founding members of the IIG, James Underdown, Brian Hart, Milton Timmons & Sherri Andrews, celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the IIG, August 21, 2010]]

The 250px is where you change the size of the picture.  Play around with different numbers in here and keep hitting "preview" on the page you are inserting the picture in.  Look at what the result is and see if you should raise or lower that number.   This writing is the name of your uploaded picture. Four Founding IIG.jpg Do not change anything, otherwise your image will not load. 

This writing Four founding members of the IIG, James Underdown, Brian Hart, Milton Timmons & Sherri Andrews, celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the IIG, August 21, 2010 is what you want to appear under the image.  You can [[ hyperlink ]] to other Wiki pages even in this area.  Which is what I have done on several pictures I referenced above.  See Ya-Man's picture with Pigasus.

I have quite a few pictures just sitting in the Common's area waiting for a page to be made.  This TAM9 I'm photographing everybody separately for their future Wiki picture, you never know who will need it next.  

Get Shooting!

p.s. Here is my Wiki Commons page with all the pictures I've uploaded.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Meet the Skeptics! Podcast

Part of the "We Got your Wiki Back" project.

Podcasts that interview or feature our skeptical spokespeople are a wonderful citation.  (Actually I don't know what Wikipedia's policy is on podcasts and I'm not sure I want to know) I quote from them occasionally and cite them on websites.  I understand that podcasts aren't academic sources, but they are actual interviews, they are media and other people can follow the links and listen in so they can be cited.

I have stated before that we are a very small group of fish (us skeptics) in the big scary world.  We need to use the best resources we have, US.  Comment on blogs, share links with each other, support your skeptic meetups and listen to podcasts.  

I had never heard of podcasting until I was on the Amaz!ing Adventure: North to Alaska with some kind of Apple pod (can't remember which one) in 2007.  I met the Lacey's on that JREF cruise and Don Lacey told me all about these things.  What a life changer that was.

Now adays I have really limited my subscriptions, but I still frequent a select few.  One of the new ones that I have found is Christopher Brown's "Meet the Skeptics" where he selects a new person each week to interview, his format of about 30 minutes allows for quite a discussion.  I'm not here to plug just Chris's podcast, as there are a bunch of great ones out there. This shouldn't be a task, select a podcast you really enjoy. 

I think that we do have to be careful what is quoted, if the podcast is an interview then you should be okay.  But if the reference you want to quote is an opinion like you would read in a blog, then probably not good to quote.  I hope you understand the difference.

For example if Jay Novella from The Skeptics Guide to the Universe is talking about a news article he read and giving his opinion, then that is like quoting from a blog.  But if Matthew Baxter is interviewing Michael Shermer on Warning: Radio podcast and Dr. Shermer talks about his experiences as the editor of his magazine, then that is quotable.  Get it?

Anyway, if while you are listening to a podcast you hear an interesting quote come from the interviewee, jot it down.  That might make an excellent quote on their Wikipedia page.  The edit is really quick to do.

Here's what it looks like when it is in correct citation form.

[[The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe]] interviews Mark Edward about his career at TAM7 [[JREF]], Mark decides to hold an impromptu seance for [[Michael Jackson]]. <ref>{{cite web|url= |title=Skeptic's Guide to the Universe; Skeptic's Guide to the Universe #219 09/28/2009|publisher=SGU |date=2009-09-28 |accessdate=2011-2-07}}</ref> 
"At TAM7 June 2009,The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe interviews Mark Edward about his career, during which Mark holds an impromptu séance for Michael Jackson.[21]"
Interviewed on Christopher Brown's "Meet the Skeptics!" podcast, Mark Edward states "When people want answers, there's always someone willing to sell them one."<ref>{{cite web|url= |title=MTS: Meet Mark Edward|publisher=Christopher Brown |date=2011-06-22 |accessdate=2011-06-22}}</ref>
"Interviewed on Christopher Brown's "Meet the Skeptics!" podcast, Mark Edward states "When people want answers, there's always someone willing to sell them one."[10]

Maybe this looks intimidating to the newer editors.  I'll break this down somewhat for you.  

Lets use Chris's podcast as an example.  When you are going to be posting a citation like this, go to somewhere you know it is done correctly and copy the reference from the "edit" page.  Then paste the edit somewhere you can work on it.  I keep a word document that I use as a scratch page for just this purpose. 

The <ref> means that you are going to cite something that you want to appear as a reference at the bottom of the article (like a footnote).  You have to have the <ref> at the beginning and you have to finish the citation with </ref>  This is HTML and if you are missing any part of these symbols or letters, your citation won't work.  

The next part {{cite web|url=   Is where you paste in the URL for the podcast.

Next is the title of the podcast.   |title=MTS: Meet Mark Edward  Make sure you have that little line in the front.  

Next who is publishing the podcast |publisher=Christopher Brown  I suppose you could put the name of the podcast, like Skeptics Guide to the Universe or The New England Skeptical Society.  

Date |date=2011-06-22  I guess this is the date the show aired?  Or maybe when it was uploaded to the page you are referencing?  I'm not so sure and probably whatever is written on the page you are citing it from will tell you what is best.  The whole idea is that the reader will be able to find the podcast for themselves.  The date is in Year-Month-Day format. 

Then what day you accessed the URL page.  |accessdate=2011-06-22  Same date format.  Again this is showing the reader that on June 22, 2011 the URL was live and functioning.  

You have to tell the computer that you are done with the citation by using this close }}</ref>  Again if you are missing any of the symbols you will probably have a problem.  

When you are done pasting the link into the document you are editing then make sure you hit "preview" first and check it out the normal page.  If there is any red either in the blurb part or the reference area then something is wrong.  Check it over carefully and try and find the error.  

Remember you MUST put a reason for your edit, something like "added MTS podcast cite and quote" will do nicely.  Then add the page to your watchlist so you can see if someone changes your edit.  Then when you are sure it is correct, Publish.  

If you choose to just start with one podcast and work your way through the episodes one by one writing down quotes.  Then good job.  It would be easy to cite them quickly as you will have the citation saved and you just trade out the URL, title of the podcast and the dates.  This is a lot of work, but again it is work that needs to be done.   

Friday, June 24, 2011

We Got Your Wiki Back! ~ How To

So you've read my blog on why we need to have our spokespeople's backs.  Awesome, I hope you 'got it' and and wondering where to start.  As you can guess there is a ton of work to be done.  Throughout this blog you will see lots of ways you can help.

A visit to a site that is quickly growing to be one of my favorite resources on Wikipedia.  The page devoted to 93 American Skeptics.  There are pages for other countries too.  Now you and I know that 93 is an very low number.  We could probably just go through one of those Steve and Stephanie shirts that list 1,000 scientists named Steve or Stephanie who believe in Evolution and get a lot of  them on this page.  (seems like that would make an interesting blurb that could be copied/pasted on every one of those pages)  I've discussed a couple times how to add people to this list so I won't go into it again here.

The American Skeptics listed here may be a great starting point for anyone interested in the We Got Your Wiki Back! project.  Simply close your eyes and click and make that person your project for awhile until you feel it is better than what you started with.  I'm sure that many editors are going to need to collaborate to get these things right.

I also advocate that when you are editing a page you should approach that person and let them know you have updated that page.  I'm sure this isn't correct Wikipedia policy, but FaceBook and email make this so easy today that we should take advantage of it.

My reasons for doing so are these.

1.  They need to know we care.  They need to feel supported.  They need to know We Got Their Wiki Back!

2.  I approach nearly everyone (skeptical world) that I quote or edit.  I have never received a bad response, mostly it is just a thank you.  And several times they have been confused how they got a page in the first place, it just seemed to appear.  They don't know how to edit it (I explain they aren't allowed to edit their own page) or the power of having a Wiki page.

3. The best person to know if there is something incorrect on the page is The Person you are editing.  I'm not saying to hide unflattering things about the person, but many times there are errors with dates and names and are easily corrected.  Maybe they have some new research you can look into if they want to point you in that direction.

I hear this from time to time "So and so needs their own page" and they might be right.  There is a growing list of people who need their own pages.  I'm currently working on James Underdown (CFI West and IIG founder) followed by Barry Karr (CSICOP).  There is a lot of work involved when you start a page from the ground up.  I would not recommend it at all.  If you start it then you need to finish it.  It is heartbreaking and frustrating for the person who is getting the page if you just drop the ball and leave it unfinished.  The grief is not worth it unless you really are driven, have the necessary editing skills developed and can write the whole page from a neutral point of view.  These aren't Fan Pages we are making, but encyclopedia pages used for references.

Thought I would mention a comment from someone I know who recently discovered he had a really nice Wikipedia page.  This person had approached a group overseas about a project he wanted to do with them.  They wrote back and asked for more information about who he was.  This person told me that he said "check me out on Wikipedia" and when he said that he felt really good about it.  We have his Wiki Back!

We Got Your Wiki Back! Project

I'm proposing a sub-group of Guerrilla Skepticism activism.  I'm calling it the "We Got Your Wiki Back!" project.  I've written about this in this  blog about "having the backs" of our skeptical spokespeople.  I really think this is so important that I want to pitch this again to people.   It isn't exactly Guerrilla Skepticism, but it is an important part of the skeptical movement. Just hear me out. 

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!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

John Edward & Granite State Skeptics

Today I received a flurry of messages about the Guerrilla Skepticism (off of Wikipedia) done by the Granite State Skeptics this last Tuesday night.  Awesome work people!  Even more interesting is that they got quite a bit of press in the local paper.

Mark Edward called me to tell me he had just done a blog on the subject as he is so proud of the group.  I got all excited when he mentioned the newspaper article, because as you all know that is noteworthy for Wikipedia.  So I strolled over to John Edward's Wiki page and saw a few old edits in the criticism section that I had left a few months ago.  (the criticism section is growing fast)

I read through the newspaper article a few times trying to figure out what I wanted to say in the blurb. I have to stay neutral and only state facts but I want people to really think about how much money is involved, so I went with a nice long number $100,000 with lots of zeros.  The article says the same thing but with more math involved, "he filled the 840-seat Palace Theater on Tuesday at $125 a pop".   I went back and forth trying to glean a really great quote from Travis Roy (the spokesman for Granite State Skeptics) and finally decided to go with this

On June 21, 2011 Granite State Skeptics attended Edward's New Hampshire show handing out cold reading BINGO cards to the attendees. Spokesman Travis Roy states that Edward and psychics like him are "causing emotional damage by preventing people from properly dealing with their grief", the skeptics want to get people to "think critically" about the general terms Edward uses. The Nashua Telegraph reports Edward's ticket sales for that night were over $100,000.

I'm not the final word on all this.  Someone could come in and take this edit out, we will just have to see.  And there is no reason why someone else (hint hint) could go in and rewrite this blurb better.  Or in the comment section below leave me some ideas on improving it.

By the way, blogs aren't noteworthy for Wikipedia.  But I referenced Mark's blog all the same next to the citation for the newspaper.

On a small side note I would welcome some conversation about this.  Someone else left this sentence in the criticism section "John Edward claims he never uses cold-reading techniques" and the citation leads to a book written by John Edward.  At first thought, I just don't think this fits in the criticism section, nor anywhere on the site as it is straight out of Edward's book and clearly a "duh" kind of thing.  But I'm kinda torn, I almost like the sentence there as it just screams "what a liar he is".

Anyway, opinions please.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Editing Skeptical Content ~ Making it Stick!

Just encountered an blog that is sending "traffic" to this site.  Apparently "The Daily Grail" posted a blog a couple weeks ago about his frustration over editing Wikipedia on "TDG-related topics".  (which I hope someone will enlighten me about.)

I've reread his blog and the comments that follow.  I think that I'm understanding his frustration.

His point seems to be that Wikipedia needs to keep the "riff-raff" out but it is going too far, with "bias articles towards mainstream opinion without fair representation of alternative views." He seems to think that Wikipedia should be balanced.  He also states that "it was quite obvious that there was a fairly large, and loud, contingent of pseudo-skeptics in place there who would soon revert any open-minded content, no matter how well referenced and written the piece was."   He discovered the Guerrilla Skepticism blog and is pointing his finger at us for being the problem.  He even claims that we are astroturfing.

Well okay then.  I'm open to new ideas.

The example he gives concerns a trance medium called Leonora Piper, the blogger wrote an article about Piper and tried to quote it on Wikipedia as a reference. 

He seems a bit confused about the Wikipedia policy to favor a secondary source over the primary one, believing that when a reputable source reports on the original primary source it becomes more noteworthy and creditable.  Reading the blog again I'm understanding that he thinks his blog on Piper should be considered equal to a book review about Martin Gardner's assessment of Leonora Piper. 

The blogger feels that Martin Gardner should not be used as a reference on Leonora Piper because he (the blogger) found many factual errors in Gardner's research.

Now I'm not going to go into the background on all this, I'm simply bringing it up to you all intelligent people to kinda see the other sides point of view.

Here are a few samplings from the comment section.

"So, on Wikipedia, different people operate by different rules. It takes time and effort to understand those rules. Like learning how to deal with bureaucrats."

" find wikipedia attracts certain types that write their pages and edit their pages -- it seems geared toward the 'tiny detail' types, the OCD/asperger's types who are focused on details."

"When I was in high-school, my Psychology teacher used to call them 'anal retentives'"

"You have my sympathy: I once tried to correct a minor mistake about the history of the village I live in only for it to be re-edited within days. Some people get a fixation about certain things and nothing, but nothing, will shift their viewpoint."

"This explains why there are so many alternatives to Wikipedia, obviously you're not the first person to encounter a Wikitroll."

and lastly

"After a few years of following CISCOP, Penn and Teller, and other similar outfits I sometimes get the distinct feeling that the founding fathers of these groups are really all about supressing any and everything that might point to the wider powers of mind. It is not just that they are skeptical - they are outright hostile to the very idea of heightened mental and sensual faculties, and they assiduously stomp down even the slightest of glimmerings. It really feels to me like they have been "tasked" to stifle the human potential movement. There is a coordination among them if you happen to read them all at once. It was first obvious with 911 conspiracy theory which they endlessly and vociferously tried to quash, and they often had to abandon hard science to do so. Watching the Amazing Randi jettison his normally acute powers of observation to make allowances for the official government sanctioned 911 theory was the first real eye opener for me. These guys are not on the up and up at all.
Randi's adolescent rebuttal of quantum entanglement may be the most ludicrous assignment he ever gave himself or had given to him, but he has so boxed himself into a logical corner that he can't now really think very clearly. They really have the smell of hired whores to me, and the larger view might be that they have been tasked to keep as many people as possible dumb to a larger dimension. What really attracted Randi's attention about quantum entanglement was not the physics of it but that it implied an avenue from which things like ESP might find footing. The very idea of that immediately sets the works to grinding over there at CISCOP. They are like crazy fundamentalist preachers who must stick to their Good Book at all costs and no matter what."

I hope this gives all of us some pause.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Anna Gets it!

Wanted to share this email exchange I had with one of the IIG members.  I think if there is any confusion about what I'm advocating this might just clean it up.
Hi Susan,
I took a few days to really look over your suggestion a few times and I really like the idea. If I am understanding it right, it smacks of some real potential for impact from an educational point of view, my personally favorite tactic since I intend to teach one day ;-)
But let me verify with you that I have it right....
I read an article in say, Popular Science or any other solid source including books, related to something that wikipedia might have an entry on related to some sort of  false belief, I would then go to wikipedia and look up that topic, add a blip about the information in the article or book addressing the correct information from a scientific point of view if it's not already there, attach the reference, then add in discussion why it was added?
Is that it?


Without a specific example from you that sounds about right.

Let's try this example I'm making up. Science Weekly magazine has an article about what it would mean for science if ghosts and demons really existed. The article seems really interesting and you are almost late from your lunch because you read it over twice. When you get home from work that night you decide you want to try out this guerrilla skepticism someone named Susan in your IIG group keeps ranting on about.

You glean the main point of the article, and write a few sentences summing it up but in a way to be entertaining enough that people will want to read the actual article. You cite the magazine so it appears as a footnote under your blurb.

Then after signing into your Wikipedia account you go to the demon page and finding an apporate area for the blurb you edit it in. Double check everything and then leave a note on the edit area of what you did. Add the page to your watchlist so you will know if someone edited it.

It seems pretty straitforward but lots of people have difficulty doing all this. If you did it correctly then you should be able to leave the same blurb on the ghost page as well. Then someone looking at either page will hopefully be curious enough to read the science weekly article.

You might just have lit the flame under this person who until that moment never doubted the existence of ghosts or demons.



Outstanding! I'm all over it!

While I was on wiki exploring some woo topics to see how much scientific material was on the average page, I searched "spirit possession" and found *one* very anemic paragraph only a few lines long about how skeptics question the reality of this phenomenon and suffers may have epilepsy, etc...that was it....
I *totally* see a need for this, and the effectiveness of this technique.

 [Warning: Authorative Sounding Language to Follow! Beware! Continue at Your Own Risk!]

One benefit of being familiar with superstitious beliefs and paranormal phenomenon is I know right where to go to find both the topic and the appropriate scientific response...since answers to these beliefs is what I've been reading through for decades. The possession page was even *asking* for references regarding the dangers of spirit possession to the medium and their communities...can you imagine?

I already know where on my shelf to find Jung's opinions about this, AND what the DSM IV has to say about what might constitute a "spiritual emergency." I even have books specifically *about* spiritual emergencies..."possession" being one of several manifestations of this.   Both of these sources offer explanations that have perfectly organic origins.

This is going to be fun! I'll be rereading through this months ton of magazines to do it backward like you suggest too.

Thanks for the suggestion!

Monday, June 20, 2011

TAM9 ~ The Amaz!ing Meeting

Yours truly will be presenting Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia at TAM9 this July in Las Vegas for the JREF.  In this paper presentation I'm allowed only 10 minutes with 5 minutes of Q&A.  I have to do a powerpoint presentation and somehow will have to manage to get my message across in this short amount of time.  I welcome any feedback on how to get this done clearly and quickly. 

I'm presenting Sunday July 17th, 2011 between 8-10am.  Would really like to see some friendly smiling faces in the audience.  They are expecting 1,500 skeptics at TAM9 this year, at least 50% will show for the early morning Sunday lecture.  Thankfully I'm not the shy type.

If you have not heard of TAM I'm sorry.  It is THE biggest meetup of skeptical whose who.  But more than that everywhere you go everyone is a like-minded thinking and they are dying to meet you too.  Just an awesome place to be.  I know its July in Las Vegas, but we rarely venture outside.  There is way too much happening right there in the casino all day long.  This will be my 5th TAM and probably the best by far.  Just check out the list of speakers.

Dr Dean Edell and Criticism

One of the great skeptical heroes talk show host Dr. Dean Edell's Wikipedia page is in dire need of attention.  (and I'm sure there are others)

When I looked at the "discussion" area I was dismayed to read this under the heading of Anti-Catholic Bias?

Why is there a controversy about this? Two anonymous ip addresses seem to keep adding back blurbs about catholic beliefs. Don't you need some kind of source for something that is controversial or debatable like this? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ilikesalsa (talkcontribs) 20:34, 3 July 2009 (UTC)
I re-added this information because as a Catholic I have heard him on seven different occasions single out the Catholic Religion for the butt of his editorials. I am sick of this degrading of my faith. If he had talked so badly about the faith of Islam there would have been a holy war. I notice he doesn't have the courage to talk badly about religions whose members would actually fight back in anger against anyone who dares talk against them. My only weapon is forgiveness and bringing his religious hatred to the attention of audiences. The comment will be reinserted until he quits saying such terrible things about my religion. If you don't like the comments ask him to quit spewing such hatred for my religion.Silent. I Love my God I am sorry he doesn't have one to love. Silentsam242
"The only response many have taken has been to shun products of his sponsors." An interesting note is that since so many quack products advertise on the show Dr. Edell himself will criticize some of his own sponsors. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:47, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
I removed this section because it's unsourced and could get wikipedia sued. Here is the deleted text, but I warn you that it would be foolish to reinsert it without finding sourcing first. His programs are frequently extremely Anti-Catholic in nature and he frequently criticizes the Pope and the Catholic Religion in general. His criticisms go far beyond being just critical in nature and border on extreme Anti-Catholic Bias. A good number of Catholic listeners have complained about his offensive anti Catholic lectures but have been unable to get him to stop. The only response many have taken has been to shun products of his sponsors.Reverend Distopia 22:08, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
A further note: no one has re-added any of the information which was removed. I noticed Silentsam242's statement so I have to say, if you read this, please do not put that section back on unless you have some source materials. This is very serious. The fact that you yourself show very clear bias against Edel shows that you probably shouldn't be working on this page anyway. However, the least you can do is find some documentation to back up your claims. When you write potentially defamatory statements about an individual without proof, you can be sued in court. If you don't care about that, that's perfectly fine, but do us the favor and help us keep Wikipedia afloat by not placing it in the position where it might be sued. Non-profit organizations can't afford to be sued.Reverend Distopia 17:52, 4 September 2009 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Reverend Distopia (talkcontribs)
There is nothing on his page at all concerning his views on pseudoscience or him being a awesome advocate for skepticism.  Shame on us!  

This example is also a great example of how important it is to not edit without having a source for the edit.   Silentsam242 was just giving his/her opinion about a bias that Dr. Edell might have.  Without sources Silentsam242's rant is just that a rant.  Also Silentsam242 threatens the other editors by saying that he/she will continue pasting in the edit until Dr. Edell stops picking on Catholicism.  Like the editors have anything to do with what Edell says.  It has been a few years now and Silentsam242 seems to have moved on after making the threat.

When encountering this kind of intimidating behavior by an editor.  Remain professional and calm.  Try to sort our your argument in clear language.  Other editors will probably join in and advise.  If all else fails a arbitrator will be called in to advise further.  If someone is abusive or threatening their IP could be blocked, or the site could be semi-protected to keep people from vandalizing.  Usually people get all hot for a bit then fade away (maybe when they go back on their meds?) 

If you choose to work on this page, work backwards looking for skeptical (well sourced) articles in journals/magazines/newspapers, then write the blurb then the citation.   I'm totally up for you posting it here first if you are uncomfortable with any part of this.  

As you find more sites that are in bad need of updating please let everyone know.


What it is not.

The term Guerrilla Skepticism was coined by mentalist/skeptic Mark Edward who writes for Skepticblog about his adventures getting into the faces of con artists.  He advocates that skeptics should stop complaining about the woo and start DOING SOMETHING (yes, this is how he formats it). 

Tim Farley (now a Fellow with the JREF) is an advocate of getting skeptics involved by using the resources already existing on the Internet like Wikipedia.  He is the one that taught me to use Wikipedia for skeptical reasons.

What I wanted to write about on this blog is what Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia is NOT.

Very often sites are vandalized by skeptics and woo hoping to make a statement for their side.  I'm not sure what their motivation is, because in the end their edit is usually taken down quickly.  Maybe they think that by making the edit no one will notice and it will remain?  If so they are completely ignorant of the "watchlist" tool that all editors use (I check mine many times a day).

If they are trying to get attention like a graffiti artist well then that is a lost cause as again it is quickly taken down.

If making a point is what they are trying to do then their time would be better spent actually looking for some kind of citation to back up their claim.  Editing it correctly and then it should "stick".

Here is an example that popped up on my watchlist today.

Edward has denied ever using hot or cold reading techniques, because he is a liar. 

Really not helpful.  The red writing was what was added to a blurb on John Edward.

I remember one recently where a half-ass attempt was made at advertisement for a ghost hunting site.  They put their website in the article and said something like "...for example this group (name of group) charges reasonable rates and is available for investigations in the Los Angeles area."

I reverted the edit (this is a one-click action on the watchlist that reverts to the version right before the last edit).  And then made a note of it on the "discussion" page.  Then out of curiosity I went to the website (yes, I know that only gave them the attention they were seeking) and found out that it was a group of 15 year old boys who probably launched their group that day.  I emailed them and told them that if they really wanted to do real scientific investigations with the Big Guns they should attend an IIG meeting.  I gave them the IIG contact info and never heard from them again.  These boys may have grown up watching the ghost hunting shows and it never dawned on them that there is any other alternative or possibility of ghosts NOT existing.  If you don't get them when their young...

Beginning Editing ~ Step by Step

This blog entry is for Josh Hunt from Cleveland Skeptics who is asking where to start when you are a beginner.  I have no problem really getting into the meat of editing as I'm really a beginner myself (just been doing this a year and I have very few computer skills other than what I pick up here and there)  But this blog might just be a bit to detailed for some, so feel free to gloss over this blog if you feel you must.  But PLEASE write in the comment area places that others can go to on Wikipedia that are in dyer need of cleanup.  I hear it all the time that the entire Wikipedia site needs cleaning up, but that isn't exactly fair.  Start listing some real pages that need rewrites, grammar and spelling help and so on.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia.  When the writing flows and the page is neatly organized then the page is given more creds.

Josh already has a Wikipedia account, so anyone else following along needs to do the same.  The user name is going to be following you around for awhile so make sure you like it.

Lets take The Stanley Hotel page for our first example.  Read it through once or twice, look for any red writing before you start.   Maybe even read it out loud so you can see how it really flows.  I tend to just put blurbs into articles where ever I think they might fit, I'm not going for eloquence.  When I and other editors do things like this it can really make the article look like several different people wrote the piece and didn't talk to each other first.  (which is what happens).  Once all the information is in the article someone needs to clean it up and remove things that are repeated. Be careful removing quotes because footnotes kinda follow those quotes.

Reading the "Haunting" section over right now I can see that this really does not flow well, I can't tell exactly what the problem is but that it needs work.  Once you think you have some ideas about what needs to be changed go to the top of the page where you see the tab "edit".

The edit page is probably pretty intimidating to most, but take a deep breath and don't change anything right away.  Scroll through the page and you will see it is just the same as the "read" page but with citations and such.  Go to the "haunting" area and you will see this text...

The [[Syfy]] television show ''[[Ghost Hunters]]'' was invited to investigate the hotel.

Whenever you see a word with [['s around it that means it is a "hyperlink" to somewhere else on Wikipedia.  You want to use hyperlinks anytime you are using a word that might need explaining.  Don't use hyperlinks to common phrases/words and be careful not to overuse the hyperlinks.  If there is a hyperlink for the word/phrase within a few paragraphs of the last one, then don't use it again.  Just overkill and cluttered  looking.  This is why when you see the phrase Ghost Hunters in the next sentence it does not have the [['s used.  If you want to italicize a word like a TV show or a book then just highlight the word and click the I icon above in the toolbar.    This makes Ghost Hunters look like Ghost Hunters on the read page and something like ' ' Ghost Hunters ' ' on the edit page. 

This blurb that someone left does not fit into the paragraph that it was left in and needs to be moved or something.

The Stanley Hotel was also the lockdown site for the TV show ''[[Ghost Adventures]]'' on October 15, 2010.

If I were the one cleaning up this page I would add after the name of the organization this (RMPRS) so that when it is referred to again with those initials later in the article the reader has some kind of reference.

Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society conducted a investigation into the various claims made about the property...

This reference has already been used many times in the article.  The Stanley does focus on this Steven King book thing all over the hotel in order to drive tourists into the hotel.  But I think if you reread the entire Wikipedia page there is no reason to force it down people's throats.  I mean no one has claimed to see any ghosts from the book or movie.

[[Stephen King]] got the idea for ''[[The Shining (novel)|The Shining]]'' after staying in room 217 in the almost empty hotel on the night before it closed for an extended period. 

Be really careful not to touch anything that is has a <ref> before or after it because those are the "footnotes" that lead to the citation the reader can follow.  

Look this over a few times and then at the bottom of the "Editing The Stanley Hotel" page you are on you will see some boxes for "Edit Summary" which is where you now need to write what you did in general.  Do this now before you forget.  Say something like "cleaned up haunting article for grammar/spelling".  Then click the "watch this page" box.

Click the "show preview" button.  This will take you to a page where you will be able to see what your changes will look like if you were to have published it already.  Look it over again, read it out loud, how does it flow?  Would you be proud to show this to your High School English teacher?  Don't hit "publish" until you are sure you have finished all the changes you want.  There should be no red writing in the area you have changed.  If there is then you did something wrong (unless the red was there before which is why I said to read the page before you make any changes) You might have [Ghost Hunting]] which would cause an error or something like a [[Ghost Huntin]].  All kinds of things happen.  I have made hundreds of edits and I still am really really careful to hit preview and look everything over before publishing.

When you are confident that you like what you see then "publish" it.  Give yourself a "high-five" (guess that is just a bit odd, maybe a pat on the back then).  Go to the very very top of the page where you see your user name and the words "my watchlist" and click on that. 

You should see today's date along with the edit you just did.  Click on "diff" and you will see side by side the before and after of the changes.  I (and all the editors that have this page on their watch lists) will see the same edit when we look at our watchlist.  And hopefully we will want to see what you did and go in and make more changes (or not).  Don't take offense if someone changes your work, thats just how Wikipedia works.  I'm very pleased when someone cleans up my blurbs.  I like to know someone is reading my work and normally the changes they make are improvements.

Lets get bolder now that you have completed that edit.  Go back to The Stanley Hotel main page.  On the left top part of the page you will see the "discussion tab".  You can read through that page if you like which is where the editors (you are now one, welcome!) discuss the page.  I want you to go to the right upper side where it says "new section" click on that and you will be at a blank page.  Write in the "subject/headline" area something like "cleaned up the Haunting area" and then write one or more sentences of what you did.  Something like "I felt that there have been too many edits under haunting section that editors didn't read what the other editors wrote and the entire section didn't flow well, also removed the Steven King reference as it has been quoted in other places on the site and did not need to be repeated in the haunting section again".  Okay use your own words here but you understand my meaning.

When you are all done then you sign your post with 4 tidies all in a row.  ~~~~ (That's the button under the escape key on your keyboard)

Again you need to leave a reason for editing this "talk" page.  Click "watch this page" and preview what you just wrote.  When done then "publish" the page.  I would again go into your "watchlist" to see the two edits you have just completed.

You don't HAVE TO go into the "discussion page" and leave a message, in fact don't do it often unless you are making a good sized chunk of changes.  But I want you to gain confidence and experience with your edits, and a discussion page is really a great place to do so, plus you look like someone who is serious about doing good work and it gets your name about among the other editors.

This isn't exactly guerrilla skepticism so to speak.  But it is learning the tricks you will need later.   It is Very important work to improving these pages.  Good Job!

Now pick another ghost page and get to work. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Stanley Hotel & Rocky Mountain Paranormal

The Rocky Mountain Paranormal Society have been researching claims of the paranormal for many years, The Stanley Hotel located in Estes Park, CO is one of their bigger successful investigations.  There are thousands of "haunted" homes located across America that are struggling for tourist dollars.  Adding the haunted element to the hotel really gives them a edge, they can rent out haunted rooms, give haunted tours and sell all kinds of ghostly swag.  Ghosts are big business.

The Stanley Hotel is no exception, the tours are very lucrative.  I've been on two of the tours which sell for $10-15 per person, both tours have at least 20 people, last an hour and other than paying for a tour guide and some advertising there is little overhead.  Steven King supposedly got the idea for the book "The Shinning" when staying at the hotel one winter.  The guide even points outside to a flat area and states "that used to be a pet cemetery, Steven King could have seen that out of his window so maybe he got the idea for his book 'Pet Cemetery'?"  That's really reaching but times are tough.

Rocky Mountain Paranormal have conducted many investigations at the hotel and you can read all about their official report on their website.   Apparently the TAPS team has also investigated the hotel, so I decided to write all about the accounts on The Stanley Hotel's Wikipedia page.

Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society conducted a investigation into the various claims made about the property, they found nothing paranormal but many natural reasons for the claims, a raccoon climbed in a upper window during the night, loose window panes as well as many amateur "ghost-hunters" prowling around the property looking in windows during the wee hours of the morning. Page 23 of RMPRS's investigation into the Stanley Hotel shows the lightweight unstable table that the Ghost Hunters claim "jumped two feet in the air" during their investigation.
After hearing claims that paranormal activity at the hotel are due to the geological makeup of the property, Rocky Mountain Paranormal contacted the U.S.D.A. for information on the site. The scientists conclusion based on a satellite survey of Colorado showed "nothing unusual about the aeromagnetic data in the area of Estes Park as compared to that general area of the Rockies" After this request for geological information the Government sent soil scientists to do a thorough soil survey on the property. The results showed the soil is mainly "crumbled schist" nothing radioactive, no large deposits of quartz, limestone or magnetite.

In Skeptical Inquirer's “Naked Skeptic” column by Karen Stollznow she discusses RMPRS's investigation of The Stanley Hotel, “During the investigation, The Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society researched popular beliefs and claims; they solved some mysteries, they performed valuable outreach, and they maintained the historical integrity of the Stanley Hotel. However, they didn’t discover any anomalous phenomena. They found a leak in the ceiling but no ghosts. But this is no reason to give up the ghost (investigations). “

 Pretty interesting place.  I thought the history of the hotel was much more interesting than the lame ghost stories.  Two of the pictures on the page are mine that I took on my last visit.  (the snow ones)

Note:  Apparently there was some discussion in 2008 and 2009 about not having a "Haunted Section" on the page at all.  When I made my edits in Feb 2011 the Haunted section was there.  

From the "discussion page"...

why can't we add the things sceen on Ghost Hunters when they visited the Stanley both times? Tu-49 18:29, 15 October 2007 (UTC)
You can. (talk) 19:12, 22 May 2008 (UTC)
You could, but why? It's completely irrelevant information that doesn't relate to the purpose of this article except mar it with stupid ghost stories that links to those other sites can handle just fine. Saying it was on Ghost Hunters is fine in it self, we don't need room-by-room details. The show could have faked all that to begin with and you guys wanna state it as fact. None of that belongs here. Cyberia23 (talk) 16:36, 25 October 2008 (UTC)

The Pigasus Award

Every April 1st James Randi announces the "winners" of the Pigasus award.  I'm not going to go into great detail about the award as you can read all about it on the site.  But in general here are the categories that Randi awards to each year. 
  1. To the Scientist who said or did the silliest thing relating to parapsychology in the preceding twelve months.
  2. To the Funding Organization that supports the most useless parapsychological study during the year.
  3. To the Media outlet that reported as fact the most outrageous paranormal claim.
  4. To the "Psychic" performer who fools the greatest number of people with the least effort in that twelve-month period.
What most editors do when the Pigasus awards are announced is to go to the Pigasus site for the award and list the new winners.   This is wonderful, neat and organized but I doubt that any of the "winners" and their fans are going to see the award.

What I've done is to go to each of the winners Wiki pages and announce the award (plus the reason for the award) with links back to the Pigasus and the JREF site.

The 2011 winners:

Richard Hoover
On April 1 2011, the James Randi Educational Foundation awarded Hoover the Pigasus Award for claiming unfounded evidence for microscopic life found on meteorites.[33]

CVS Pharmacy
On April 1 2011, the James Randi Educational Foundation awarded CVS Pharmacy the Pigasus Award for selling homeopathic remedies alongside medicines recognized by science.[8]

Mehmet Oz
2011 James Randi Educational Foundation Media Pigasus Award, which the foundation states is for promoting "nonsense". The foundation complained about Oz's support of energy medicine, faith healing and psychic mediums, among other controversial practices. Oz is the first person to receive a Pigasus Award two years in a row.[26] 

Peter Popoff
Popoff was designated the 2011 JREF Performer Pigasus Award. Among his newer methods is relief for victims of the economic recession. In paid infomercials on BET, Popoff preaches “supernatural debt relief” and continues to write partners who request it donation or not. Recent IRS documents, Popoff took in $23.5 million and paid himself and his immediate family more than $1 million in one year alone.[26]

Andrew Wakefield
On April 1 2011, the James Randi Educational Foundation awarded Wakefield the Pigasus Award for "refusal to face reality".[99]

Still a lot to be done with the Pigasus award, we need to make sure that all the past Pigasus recipients have had their Wiki sites "tagged".  Also I think it would be interesting if each category had past winners listed as well.  For example Wakefield's blurb could say, "past recipients of this category have been The Scientologists, and Kevin Trudeau, this way you are associating one with another.  



James Van Praagh ~ How to Edit

With all the fame and fans supposedly licking the heels of grief vampires like Van Praagh you would think that their Wikipedia pages would be extra patrolled by the thousands that he has helped put in contact with their dead family and friends.  When in fact his page is rarely touched, and the criticism area has had very little action (just the one I will mention in a minute).  His page doesn't even have a picture, guess the paranormal community doesn't have Van Praagh's back, wonder why?

There already was a criticism area when I started editing his page, so I just added on the SI article by Joe Nickell.

Investigator Joe Nickell believes modern day self-proclaimed mediums like John Edward, Sylvia Browne, Rosemary Altea and James Van Praagh are avoiding the Victorian tradition of dark rooms, spirit handwriting and flying tambourines as these methods risk exposure. They instead use “mental mediumship” tactics like cold reading or gleaning information from sitters before hand (hot reading). Group readings also improve hits by making general statements with conviction, which will fit at least one person in the audience. Shows are carefully edited before airing to show only what appears to be hits and removing anything that does not reflect well on the medium. [9]
And the investigation by the IIG.  
In 2003 the IIG attended a taping of James Van Praagh's syndicated series “Beyond,” in order to document the difference between what actually occurred at the taping and how it appeared on TV after editing. As suspected, there were many significant differences, the IIG concluded that Van Praagh’s power emanates from the editing room. [10] [11]

While I had the Joe Nickell blurb and citation already completed I just mosied over to John Edward, Sylvia Browne and Rosemary Altea's pages and "tagged" their sites as well.

Caution Wiki Technology Below

When you do something like this you have to remember to "link" and "unlink" the Wikilinks to the apporate page.  Using the Joe Nickell example above, you have several names mentioned in your blurb.  Each person that is NOT ON THE PAGE you are editing needs to have [[ and ]] around the name.  If I am on Sylvia Browne's edit page then I remove the brackets from around her name.  [[Sylvia Browne]] and put them around the person whose page I'm not on.  

When you "preview changes" before you publish the article you will see that the names that have the [[ and ]] around them are in blue "hyperlink" color.  If you have red writing then you know something isn't linked right.  Misspelling or missing a middle initial ect.   That gets more complicated to sort out in this blog.  The easiest way to solve this problem is to open another "tab" on your browser and go to the Wikipedia page you are trying to link to.  Copy the name of the page and paste it into the page you are trying to edit.  

For example you might have problems linking to C Everett Koop's page unless you have a period after the C.  There are ways around this and it can get complicated but for now just copy from the page you are hoping to link to and paste it into the edit. 

Back to Van Praagh

Whenever you make an edit to any page (no matter how small) you need to write in the "Edit Summary" box a summary of whatever you just did.  And don't try to hide your edit by writing something other than what you did.  This is what someone who thought they were clever tried to do with Van Praagh.  On the watchlist (I explained on an earlier blog)whenever you refresh you will see all the pages that you have on your watchlist that have had any kind of change done to it.  The edit summary will tell you briefly what change was made, like "corrected misspelling of the word dozen" or maybe "revised comma use" or "added article by Joe Nickell".

Well someone named Booradley08 thought they would be clever and wrote "references removed" when what he/she did was remove the ENTIRE criticism section.  Not funny!  Editors might not think to check on something like a spelling error, but they would check in a flash if Booradley08 had written that they had removed the criticism section.

Thankfully I was in a curious mood that day and only 2 days passed before I noticed this edit.  You do not have to go through the entire page looking for what was changed.  You simply just click on "dif" and you can see "before and after" edits.

It is also possible for edits to be hidden by making a big change, correctly writing what you did, saving the page and then going back editing it again with a very small change, writing on the edit summary about the simple change and possibly the person watching the page will only notice the last change done (which was the small change).  I've done this by accident several times, and it is not ethical to hide your edits this way.  I'm only pointing this out in case if you are watching a page, you should look over changes carefully, maybe looking at the history of the page from time to time to see if someone is trying to hide the major edit.