Monday, July 18, 2011

TAM9 ~ The Amaz!ing Meeting

Wow!  Just getting in from The Amaz!ing Meeting (which it was) and the first thing I'm doing is uploading pictures so I can get started adding them to Wikipedia.

I did not attend any lectures accept 10 minutes of Richard Wiseman's awesome lecture.  And the two Sunday paper presenters who followed me.  Ashley F. Miller was very well received with her lecture on "Emotions Aren’t the Enemy".  I followed Michael Hartwell's polished lecture on "The Media Isn't Calling Your Skeptics Group, and It's Your Fault".  Michael at one point in his presentation talked about how ridiculous would it look if an Alt Med Wikipedia page had no skeptical criticism on it.  It was a perfect lead in for my talk. While I was in the room for the other papers I was focused on my notes and sadly didn't get to hear any of the other presentations.  Guess I will have to wait for the DVD's.

I spent an enormous amount of time in the hallway mostly at the IIG table, meeting people and snapping pictures.  It was such a blast.  Besides hanging out with friends and the "Hug Me I'm Vaccinated" campaign (which was so well done, important and FREE) the best part about TAM was meeting people interested in talking about Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (and the Got your Wiki Back project).   

Oh my gosh, what a blast it was to be up on stage and have all those people listening to me.  I could have gone on for hours giving examples and answering questions...but I only got 15 minutes.  I gave away maybe 200 business cards with the URL for here, so I can only hope.  If you are new to this blog, Welcome!  We really want you here, please look over the past posts, add us to your RSS feed and please, please, please comment.

About the presentation.  I really had to cut way back on everything, giving a general overview of a project this big is really difficult.  The examples I gave were Joe Nickell's article on Vassula Ryden (which Anna finished editing the same day I presented) and the JREF Pigasus Award to CVS Pharmacy.  I have the video of my lecture and will clean it up and load it to my YouTube site.  I'll let you know when that is finished but I suspect at least a week. 

So here is the Wikipedia lowdown, I'll try to keep it in some kind of chronological order.

Sean Faircloth & Secular Coalition for America:

Wednesday night Stirling and I arrive at South Park Casino in Las Vegas and head to the Del Mar Bar, that's where everyone hangs out.  I struck up a conversation with Sean Faircloth from the Secular Coalition for America, I have seen his lecture at least once before and I remember being very impressed.  He is a great speaker with a "go get em" kind of personality that I can relate to.  I had never visited his Wikipedia page nor the one for the SCA.  I told him about the "Got your Wiki Back" project and asked if he had a picture on his page already.

He said he hated having his picture taken because he rarely came out looking good in pictures.  So I sat him down and snapped one.  I think it turned out rather well, and just added it as the main picture to his page.  I moved the image that was already there to lower on the page (I thought it looked rather gray and dull, but it is one of those nice "action" shots that work well). 

Sean told me that he had heard that it was possible to somehow link the names on his page to other links.  He mentioned Richard Dawkins and several others.  I explained that this should be an easy change and I would look into it when I got home.  And this is exactly what I have done, if you look at the history of the page you will see the before and after. (click on the "view history" tab at the top of the page).  I also went through the page and added hyperlinks to all the proper nouns throughout.

To add hyperlinks go to "edit" at the top of the page next to "view history".  Then you will be looking at the HTML writing, every word or phrase that you want to hyperlink to you just put the [[ in front of the word, then ]] at the end of the word.  Write something in the "edit summary" like "added several hyperlinks".  Check the "watch this page" box so it can be added to your watchlist and you will know if someone has changed this page.  Then hit "preview changes" and look at what you changed.  If there is any red writing then something is wrong.  In the case of Faircloth I tried to hyperlink to name Woody Kaplin and it came out red.  Either Woody Kaplin does not have a Wikipedia page, or the name of his page is different than Woody Kaplin, maybe his real name is Robert Kaplin?  Anyway, I'll leave that for someone else.

I linked to all the names which should have been done when the page was created.  The page really needs a lot more work than I have time for.  Someone with more writing skill than I have needs to go into "edit" and rewrite the page.  This would take me hours to do correctly, but I'm sure one of you can finish it up in minutes.  For example nearly every paragraph starts with "Faircloth this..." or "In (insert year) Faircloth...that". 

Also if his page needs work I'm sure the SCA page needs the same kind of work.  I didn't really look at the page but someone please check into it.  (as usual if you are working on the page could you please comment).  Just checked out the "discussion" page for the SCA, totally funny. 

James McGaha:

I am shocked to discover that he does not have a Wiki page, only a mention.  I've got pictures waiting for a page to put them on...hint...hint...hint.  His TAM9 blurb looks pretty impressive, I've seen him lecture a few times at skeptical events and I would think he needs a page as a part of the "We Got your Wiki Back" project.

Richard Saunders

You don't know how bad I want to put this picture on Saunders Wikipedia page.  But I suppose I won't because he is really a good guy.  I think it would jazz up the page quite a bit and it is a tribute to Randi. 

Richard has one of those pages like Brian Dunnings that goes to a   disambiguation page.  Really would like to figure out how to fix this, but I don't have the skill.

While we are on the subject of changing pictures on sites that already have images, take a look at these two pictures I got.  Would love to hear some opinions if these images should go on their pages.


Brian Dunning

This next edit I did was completely the idea of Tim Farley.  I was invited to a speaker dinner on Saturday night and Tim pulled me aside and asked me to get a picture of the 4 latest JREF fellows.  Tim had already added a blurb on the JREF page in anticipation of getting an image to go there.

Here is the addition to the JREF page.  While I was in the adding picture mood I just copied the citation and added the image to Karen Stollznow and Steve Novella's pages.  Quick to do once you have it written correctly.  Its just a matter of knowing where to put the image in the page.  Here is what the reference looks like.  

[[Image:Four JREF fellows 2011.jpg|thumb|250px|Latest [[JREF]] fellows.  Tim Farley, Karen Stollznow, [[Steven Novella]] & Ray Hall.  Portrait taken at The Amaz!ng Meeting TAM9 from Outer Space July 16, 2011]]

The 250px that is listed here can be a larger or smaller number depending on how big you want the image to be when saved.  Play around with the number and keep hitting "preview" looking at what the page will look like.  When you have it correct then hit save.  

When Tim Farley's wiki page is launched (hopefully soon) we can add this exact same reference to his page.  Same for Ray Hall.

I had some really great conversations with some of the speakers that were kind enough to talk to me.  The questions I received were all pretty typical ones, "How do you get an edit to stay on the page?", "Can I edit my own page?" and so on.  They all sounded pretty excited about someone having their Wiki backs, even a little modest about having a page at all.  Most said they have seen their page and wish it could be updated. 

Carol Tavris asked if I could retake her picture when she was wearing something colorful. She was wearing a burgundy outfit at the time we were talking but she got scooted away too quickly.  Actually I really like the image I took of her that is on the page right now. 
I had so many things I wanted to get done those days, but really there was so much going on and by the third day I was exhausted. The same can be said for all the speakers that wanted help with their Wikipedia pages, they were overwhelmed and tired.

After I gave my paper presentation I had several people come up to me to talk about helping out.  This was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend.  Everyone of them were intelligent and pumped on wanting to help out.  Most asked "what do you want me to do?" as you remember I only had 15 minutes on stage to get the plea out for help as well as describe what the project is all about.  I usually asked each one about their interests and also tried to determine what was their Wiki editing skill level.  I had beginners as well as advanced, but all willing to help out.  

I really wish I had done a better job of getting names from those that approached me, I got a few business cards but only a few.  The things I heard from them were great, one woman (her name was Britney but I think it was spelled differently than normal) told me that as a whole the skeptic community has more intellectual ability than it knows what to do with, editing Wikipedia is an obvious outlet for that.  She said that she hangs out with some really smart people who love to complain, but when she asks what they plan on doing about it, she just hears crickets.  (I'm sure I misquoted you a bit Britney, but that was the general overview of our conversation?)

Linda was another one that Got It!  She said that she could spend as little or as much time working on this project.  Exactly correct.  You can work on these projects when you have the desire and time to do so.  I ask that you please write on the "discussion page" of the article you are working on telling other editors what you had planned to do next, and so on, giving them a guide of how to finish what you were doing. 

I explained that we need help with everything.  Grammar, photos, re-writes, adding citations, adding references, getting people into categories, and on and on.  Editing Wikipedia for skeptical content should be a joy, I don't want to assign anything to anyone.  I might make a few suggestions for people who are beginning, but really I want editing done in an area that is of interest. 

Tim Farley suggests that an editor should not stay only on one subject matter as it is possible that the other editors will feel there is a conflict of interest.  Yes, I know, I have a  conflict of interest as I'm editing with the clear goal of adding skepticism to the articles.  But unless someone looks really closely at my edits they won't see that pattern.  What would turn up would look more like a list of edits I've made.  It would look something like this, Steve Novella, Power Balance, John Edward, The See Clearly Method, The Simpsons, IIG and Sean Faircloth.  No clear pattern for someone outside the skeptic community to see.  Tim suggests that if you are worried about creating a pattern, you should edit something completely different like your hometown's page or maybe your school. 

All in all, I'm exhausted but super thrilled that I was able to meet like-minded people out there who understand how important this project is.  We are the front line people.  We have the ability to change minds and really impact the skeptical community.  Pick the area that is of interest to you and get to editing! 


  1. About Richard Saunders' disambiguation page: it isn't really something that needs to be fixed. When you have name conflicts you have to ask yourself: which of these people is by far the most famous? If there is a clear answer to that question, then that person gets to be the name, and you put a tag at the top of that article that redirects people to where to find other people with the same name.

    In Saunders' case, there's not a super clear answer. While Richard is well known in Australia, and is a rock star among skeptics, worldwide he's not super well known. So a special page is made for "Richard Saunders" that has links to him and the other uses.

    There's a whole set of rules on disambiguating people's names in the Wikipedia help pages.

  2. Thank you for this answer. How about in the case of Brian Dunning? The main person's page is this one, which is clearly a stub.

  3. Yet another person I missed meeting while at TAM9.

    I regret that I also missed your paper presentation, but I decided to sleep in on Sunday since I was in the bar with Kimball Atwood until 3AM, and the previous 4 days caught up with me.

  4. No problem Karl. I would have slept in also, I'm still way behind on sleep, but must go to work today.

    Really you didn't miss all that much, Everything and tons more you will find on this blog. Read and enjoy.

    As far as meeting me, I am right here! Nice to meet you.

  5. Brian Dunning is a hard one. I've done some Googling and the Irish flautist does get a number of hits kind of similar to our Brian Dunning.

    brian dunning nightnoise 51,700 results
    brian dunning skeptoid 63,400 results

    brian dunning irish 1,650,000 results
    brian dunning "united states" 1,940,000 results
    (But the latter search also includes a Brian C. Dunning who is a lawyer).

    brian dunning music 2,130,000 results
    brian dunning podcast 514,000 results

    Based on that, I'm not sure you could really convince other editors that our Brian should be "the" Brian Dunning. What you MIGHT be able to do is to rename the other Brian Dunning to "Brian Dunning (flautist)" and create a new disambiguation page for "Brian Dunning". But I think that would probably be a hard sell too since there are only two of them.

    Unless our Brian becomes significantly more famous, or a third Brian Dunning pops up, I think maybe it's best to leave it as is.

  6. Thanks Tim. I guess like you said we will just leave it alone. The only correct answer is that Our Brian Dunning needs to become more famous. Let's just have his back and keep a Skeptical Eye on it.

    Btw not hearing any comments on the other pictures. Having three images on a wiki page isn't unheard on, as a photographer I find the page far more appealing with images. Should we put up the Hrab and Dunning images?

    Would also like to hear comments about the changes made to Faircloth and the JREF pages.

  7. I really like that picture of George you have, it's probably a better choice than the one I put in there. But you know what George's page needs? A picture of him performing. I had a couple of snaps of him doing "Songs of the Periodic Table" at TAM8 that I was going to cobble together into a 3-up shot, but my photo editing skills are not great.

  8. I'm a professional portrait photographer but not an editor. My training is to get the shot quickly with very little cropping. I can barely use photoshop (and I mean barely)

    I actually don't know Hrab, and haven't seen him perform. I know, I know....

  9. Working on the Sean Faircloth page tonight, apparently this blurb was left on the page with no link to the video or quotes.

    "Majority Whip Faircloth in 2008 did the welcome speech when Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama first spoke in Maine. Faircloth's remarks are linked below."

    I've found the video the editor was referring to and added it with the wording changed.

    "As Majority Whip, Faircloth was selected to welcome Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama in this warm-up speech when the Senator visited Maine in 2008. Faircloth states "We want a candidate who goes beyond parties...thinks independently and seeks justice". [18]"

    I'm not happy with that blurb, but it is better than it was. Feel free to revise it. But the link is up to the video.

  10. Also the SCA's Wiki page lists a long list of executive board members. I went to each page (Dawkins was already done) but I added this edit to the following pages...

    "(insert name here) serves on the Advisory Board of Secular Coalition for America and offers advice to Executive Director Sean Faircloth and the entire coalition on the acceptance and inclusion of nontheism in American life.[2]"

    Bob Boston, Daniel Dennett was done, Bruce Flamm does not have a Wiki page, Sam Harris was done, Jeff Hawkins (inventor of the PalmPilot and there was nothing on his page that reflected that he might be on our side, until now), Christopher Hitchens whose site is massive, and no where does it show a list of boards he serves on, so I just kinda shoved in my edit to his recent career. Susan Jacoby was done, Wendy Kaminer is also done, Massimo Pigliucci was already done, Salman Rushdie's page already has a mention, Ellery Schempp who BTW is missing a picture on his page and LASTLY Julia Sweeney has the blurb.

    Wow! That took about an hour to edit it all in as well as write this comment, so not a lot of time spent. Remember we have to link to each other in order to improve hits.

    Very curious if SCA and Faircloth's page hits will improve with these hyperlinks in place? I know we all are going to venture over there and check them out. PLUS they both badly need rewrites so that will raise the hits as well.

    So lets just look at June 2011 hits and compare it to July and August.

    SCA - June - 798
    Faircloth - June - 339

    Someone remind me to check back in early September.

    Apparently Faircloth will be speaking at the Richard Dawkins tour in October and he has a book coming out as well. I think we really need to get both pages cleaned up and spiffy for all the people who are going to be checking him (and the SCA) out in October.

    Can we get their Wiki Backs!?!

  11. Did anyone saw this - ? It seems that the death of Wikipedia is very near!

  12. Wow! That was an insane blog post. I would LOVE to make money editing Wikipedia. But sadly I'm not even willing to click on any of the links that blogger left as I'm not that sure about my virus protection.

    Here are the last two paragraphs from this blogger...

    "These sorts of instances come up more and more with Wikipedia getting wildly popular nowadays. People who want to use it as a tool for propaganda dissemination will continue to hire paid editors like Sitush, who did a wonderful job within the last two months."

    "So what we should do in case we want to earn some money? You just should have the right contacts; you should advertise a bit about yourself in various forums and hope for the best. If you are willing to take the risk, this is going to be a gold mine, as I don’t know any other job which will pay you $400 for a single hour of work. "

    The only truth I can see in his article is that Wiki is becoming very popular these days... and that editing Wiki articles can influence others. DUH.

    Thanks for Sharing Erikrienstra!

  13. From Lei - Updated 9/24/11

    Vashti McCollum

    (before) (current)

  14. Changed George Hrab's profile picture to this one.