Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Did You Know... James Underdown?

Wow this was so fun!  I've been working on creating a Wikipedia page for James Underdown from CFI and IIG and I learned so much that I'm bursting to share my experience.  But I know I'll just bore you all to death.  Lets just say that I'm better able to answer questions you might have about editing that I didn't know a few weeks ago.  Please please please ask if you need help on anything.  Leave comments here on the blog and I'll answer as quickly as I can.  Or email me at

Did you know...?  Here is a blog I wrote about Karen Stollznow's 8 hour experience on the front page of Wikipedia.   Make sure you read the comments as well as I give the numbers for the 8 hours.

So I was able to manage through the crazy "paperwork" Wikipedia requires to nominate a page for the Did You Know... ? section and I persisted until it happened.  I think this had a lot to do with it.  Editors would leave a note saying...this needs to be fixed...or that sentence isn't cited correctly...  I would check back pretty regularly (by watching my Watchlist) I would fix everything they wanted fixed, added and removed anything that was a problem.  I felt that they finally approved it and put it up because I was so on them.  

Why is DYK important?  When you manage to get your page listed in this section you are exposing the Wiki page to an audience outside of skepticism that we are aiming for.  Thousands of people hit that page, and a lot of them scroll down to see the DYK section.  Maybe they like to see what is newly released?  Maybe they just have a "thing" for DYK?  Who knows, but they are going there and we should be aiming for the attention that DYK offers us.

Not only did Jim's name get hit on, but so does all the skeptical links that are included on his "hook" and on his main Wiki site.  The ripple effect.  When we are aware that this is going to happen, it forces us to really step things up and make sure that all the pages that are about to be hit are cleaned up.

Also Jim's page has now been checked over by some serious editors from Wikipedia looking at the writing, checking out the sources and so on.  His discussion page announced the DYK and the results.  I'm not going to link to the pages here because I really want you to go there and look for yourself.  That's what this blog is all about, doing things.

Here are some of the results from that 8 hour window.

Jim normally receives about 30 hits per day.  He received about 6,400 hits in that 8 hour time.  WOW!

Here is the hook ... Did you know... that James Underdown (pictured), an investigator of fringe science claims, once declared himself Poet Laureate of Calumet City, Illinois, and toured Midwest comedy clubs under the name Jim U-boat?"

I originally had submitted this......that James Underdown director of Center for Inquiry West CFI and founder of the Independent Investigations Group IIG, once declared himself Poet Laureate of Claumet City, IL and toured Midwest comedy clubs under the name Jim U-boat?

They shortened it and added fringe science and took out IIG and CFI.  But that's what Wikipedia is all about, you don't "own" anything.

Calumet City got an extra 200 hits.   Poet Laureate got about 300-400 more than normal.  The term fringe science (that I didn't even know was in Wikipedia) got an extra 4,400 hits.  These were all in the hook.

Once you are on his page, lets see how the things hyperlinked did.

Center for Inquiry got about 285 hits extra
Humanist about 60 extra
IIG got about 150 extra

So there was some activity with the hits.  I report these in numbers, but you have to remember that if I were talking about a percentage, then we would be seeing 500% increases and higher.

The IIG did see a small about of hit increase to its main page from people following the links from Wikipedia.  Barry Karr from CFI is having problems accessing his numbers today but will get back to me with them.

Here is a screen shot from that day.  



  1. Nicely done, Susan, good work!

  2. I've been working on updating the Vashti McCollum page and thought that I might submit it for Did you Know, but I think I may have missed the boat since the page is more than 5 days old.

    Anyway, I've made most of the updates that are obvious to me - will you check it and make suggestions based on what you've learned?

  3. Thank you for your hard work. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to you today. I'm trying to read through everything now. In May 2011 an editor put up a "flag" saying that there needed to be more in-line citations. That means every sentence should have a footnote.

    This is one area that isn't cited well. "At Halloween, a mob of trick-or-treaters pelted the McCollum family with rotten tomatoes and cabbages. The family cat was killed. Mrs. McCollum wrote a book on the case, One Woman's Fight, became a world traveler and served two terms as president of the American Humanist Association. "We don't bother ourselves with the question of whether there is or isn't a God", she said in a speech in 1948."

    This also needs to be cited. It sounds like an opinion which isn't okay coming from an editor. But if you can find someone important who is giving this opinion then quote that person and cite it.

    "The case was also important because it extended First Amendment protection to individual states by using the due process clause of the 14th Amendment as a justification. All other cases that have since tested and continue to test Jefferson's wall of "separation of church and state", including school prayer, aid to parochial schools and sectarian religious displays on public property, descend from this case."

    And also this line...

    "The language used by those who oppose(d) the Supreme Court's ruling in this case has continued for decades, sometimes in vitriolic terms. The Catholic bishops accused the court of making a religion of secularism."

    Noticed that there is a page devoted to the case.

    How is Vashti McCollum's page different? Is there more information about her after the case? Did she lecture or ?

    There is a category for Atheist Activists, is there also one for American Atheists? If so then add it.

    I noticed that her son Dannel McCollum served 12 years as mayor of the town, but he does not have a Wiki page. Interesting, also he is an author whose book was made into a PBS documentary.

    Is there something that can be said about the book "The Lord is not on Trial here" reviews/ect? Maybe that can go somewhere on her page.

    When the above areas are cited or removed as they aren't cited. The "flag" can be removed. Let me know and I'll remove it if no other editor does.

    I purposely did not look to see which edits were yours and what existed before. Just wanted to look at the page as a whole. What a interesting page you have selected to work on. Congrats!

    As far as DYK, they only select two types, brand new or complete rewrite. Maybe turning a stub into an awesome page?

    So just a little more to go Allecher. Either find cites or remove the verbiage. The writing looks great, is there no picture of her?

  4. Thanks for the encouragement, Susan!

    I think you may have looked at the public page instead of my working page - I have corrected a few of those problems on my version. It sounds like I am on the right track.

    I'm having problems finding a picture that I can use. The Champaign News Gazette owns most of the photos and when I contacted them and explained the intended use they sent me a form to purchase a copy of the photo with no reproduction rights. I've also tried to contact one of her sons for help with a photo but I have not heard back yet.

  5. Hum And there isn't anything on WikiCommons for you to use?

    Yes, I did just go to Wikipedia directly and didn't follow the link you gave. My bad.

    I would think that one of her sons would be cool with their mother's picture on wikipedia? Maybe a different generation could be approached? Ideas from others?

    The only other thing I want to remind people to do (I'm sure you have already done this Allecher) is to set up Google Alerts for your focus, in your case the person and also the books about her. You can + and - terms if you are receiving too many hits that aren't what you are looking for.

    When this is set up then you can stay on top of new releases and additions to the Internet about your focus. For example there might be a an anniversary of the event coming up that someone decided needs to be recognized and is writing an article on. You would be able to use that in your work.

    Do you have a cite for this? "During the court case, McCollum described herself as an atheist, and later in life used the term "humanist" to describe her beliefs."

    and this

    "Named after the Old Testament feminist Queen Vashti"

    and lastly this

    "She was also a signer of the Humanist Manifesto II in October 1973. "We don't bother ourselves with the question of whether there is or isn't a God", she said in a speech in 1948."

    Great improvement. Almost ready to take that citation flag off and release this to the public.

    Can't wait to see what you work on next?