Monday, September 19, 2011

Oscillococcinum, Boiron and CFI

So working backwards here is a project that someone might be interested in tackling.  Keeping in mind that Wikipedia Editors are a bit nervous about me sending a bunch of skeptics over to a page for some of this "guerrilla skepticism" stuff.  I think it is called "sandbagging".  Anyway, this arrived in my email a few weeks ago and I thought it might be useful but never got to it.

CFI and CSI Petition FDA to Take Action on Homeopathic Drugs

Apparently CFI and CSI have this going in a press release.  Here is the link to the article.  I haven't looked into it in great depth, so I'm not sure that a press release is a good citation.  There may be links to follow that will get you to something more noteworthy.  Remember a secondary cite is better.  Don't quote the person writing the blog/petition/press release but quote the newspaper/journal/TV news show that quotes the primary cite.

Anyway, I think a mention on the Boiron and the Oscillococcinum pages might be warranted.  Its not every day they get such attention from skeptical groups...or maybe they do?  If so why isn't there already a bunch of mentions on their pages?  We can't just assume that the public knows as much as we do about these products.

Bioron gets about 1,000 hits a month, and Oscillococcinum gets 7,000-8,000 hits a month.  I would avoid the homeopathy page unless you have a really awesome citation and blub.  That is a well-watched page and the editors have worked long and hard coming to some kind of agreement about what should be on the page.  Before editing homeopathy (which is semi-protected) discuss what you want to do on the discussion page, listen to the comments from the other editors.  BTW homeopathy gets about 90,000 hits a month, so people are clearly interested in this topic and coming to Wikipedia for answers.

And don't just stop there, I'm sure there are a lot more places the citation can be used, with slight modifications to the blurb left on the page.  There are a lot of "fringe" smaller pages that the public is reviewing and we need to make sure they are getting the entire picture. 

Remember editing on Wikipedia needs to be neutral, let the article speak for you.  Less is more sometimes and make sure the citation is really good.  Think about the importance of this, over 1 million people are reading the homeopathy page each year, do you think that a well-written blog/podcast on that subject would reach that many people? No pressure or anything.  


  1. Hi Susan! I'd be happy to make some edits regarding this petition. I just unlocked the full Pharmaletter article by creating a free trial account.(Unfortunately, I'm not seeing CFI's petition being mentioned anywhere else in the media yet.) I'll read through the article and see what I can use!

  2. Excellent! Report back with your process so others can learn.

  3. Sure thing! I just e-mailed you a few questions. (I probably should have put them on here for others to see.) I'll post on here a summary of what I end up doing, so everyone can see. :-)

  4. Hi Susan!

    I saw the article regarding Boiron that you posted on Facebook. I accessed the full article on The Pharmaletter, and I'm reading through it to find some quotes I could use.

    Regarding the Boiron page, do you think I should add a new section called "CFI and CSI Petition the FDA" with some quotes from the article, or do you think that adding a new section might be adding too much? I noted in the discussion page that this page appears to be monitored by the "Homeopathy WikiProject." I suppose the other option would be to add the article to the list of "External links."

    There are some great quotes from the article that would be perfect for the Oscillococcinum page. I was thinking about adding a new section called "Criticisms of Marketing." Do you think that sounds good? Here is some text from the article that I could use to flesh out the section:

    In separate petitions, the CFI and CSI have asked the FDA to issue warning letters to Boiron, a leading homeopathic manufacturer headquartered in France, over its marketing of Oscillococcinum, an alleged flu treatment. One petition complains that Boiron’s packaging for Oscillococcinum lists the alleged active ingredient-duck liver and heart-in Latin only. Another petition complains that Boiron’s web ad for this product implies that it has received FDA approval. “If Boiron is going to sell snake oil, the least they can do is use English on their labels,” observed Mr Lindsay.

    Sorry for all the questions haha I'm just a little nervous because the discussion sections of these pages are a little more intense than Contagion's haha!


  5. Boiron:
    The discussion page was last updated in 2006 and don't worry about the Homeopathy WikiProject, they look as dormant as the Rational Skeptic WikiProject. The last thing said on the discussion page was this... "All verifiable and neutral point of view. It is, of course, short. You may want to expand it. --BillC 01:49, 6 January 2006 (UTC)

    Perfect, Bill, you've just provided a great example of how a WP article should read and look like. I support your version wholeheartedly; and if no one complains, I'll replace the current text with your version. -- Phædriel *whistle* 11:58, 6 January 2006 (UTC) "

    So I guess your going to be doing some expanding! As the discussion is really old I don't think you need to write anything on that page, no one will probably notice.

    I don't think a section on CFI, maybe something more general? Like a criticism area. Hum I'm not looking at the CFI press release right now. Maybe something in between? If you could sum up the entire press release into two words what would it be? Start with that. There appears to be some criticism already about BlogZero. That looks interesting, maybe follow those links to expand what was left there. Bet that would be good.

    You know the idea you had first probably will work well, Petition to the FDA or something like that.

    The other O page:

    I see what you mean about this discussion page. Overwhelming and some current posts. I think that if you stick to the facts that CFI is petitioning the stuff (probably you are going to just cut/paste whatever you wrote on the B page and use the exact same cite) you are probably fine.

    Sum up the press release in your own neutral words and then try an add the Lindsey quote also. That is great stuff and you can hyperlink to Pat Lindsey's wiki page.

    Be confident with your edit and probably nothing will happen. The worse would be that they would take it down, then we can go from there.

    I wouldn't add it in the efficacy section but under it, probably with the same heading as you used on the B page.

    Write back if you are having problems. I'm sure you will find a clever way to say it. Remember you are just a editor stating the facts of the press release, with that in mind you are doing it correct. What makes it guerrilla skepticism is that you are using the article that is clearly not pro homeopathy.

  6. Thanks so much for your help, Susan! I finished making edits to Boiron and to Oscillococinum I put both edits under a new heading "Criticisms of Marketing." I figured I'd make the header broad enough that way if I can find any more criticisms online, beyond CFI's petition, I can add them there. But let me know if you think I should rename the header. :-)

  7. Oscillococcinum

    Awesome Dustin! You worded it waaaay better than I would have. I fixed a couple things, Ronald Lindsay does not appear to have a WP page (shock! We got your Wiki back!) You [[hyperlinked]] to the same term more than once in the article so I removed the [[ ]]'s.

    I didn't know this but you seem to have, [[The Pharma Letter]] has its own WP page? Its site is really awful, but it exists.

    Super happy that you managed to put in the quote by Lindsey, I hyperlinked to [[snake oil]] as I quickly checked and it also has a page. LOL

    I think the header is fine. If someone else has a better idea?

    So you managed to get this in there, "If Boiron is going to sell snake oil, the least they can do is use English on their labels"

  8. Thanks so much! I actually didn't know the multiple links per article was bad, but I'll know for next time! :-) Thanks for fixing them for me. Yeah, my first draft of the edit didn't have the "snake oil" quote in it, but I really wanted to get it in there, so I worked on the edit more to get it in there. Linking to "snake oil" was a great idea! I never would have guessed there'd be a Wiki page for it! haha

  9. The Boiron page looks fantastic as well. I just changed the same hyperlinks.

    Soooo Dustin. That was your first act of guerrilla skepticism. You have written something that about 9,000 people will read each month. Maybe more as this media campaign by CFI will only increase the attention by the public. They want to understand what these products are, they will go to WP to find it out.

    Dustin, leaving these edits may change many viewpoints, and encourage people to think critically about homeopathy. But you will never know if you influenced anyone, probably never get any feedback (other than skeptics that know what you did).

    I'm totally serious. Actions like this mean a lot more than you will ever know. And I mean that, you probably will never know.

    BTW just so everyone can get a gauge on how hard these two edits took, from the time you started researching to the finished edit, how much time, how difficult to figure it out?

  10. Oh yeah, did you ever find anything interesting about the Netzero comment? That looked promising. The edit that was left might be able to be expanded, and leave everything else there.

  11. I completely agree. The work we do on Wikipedia has the potential to reach so many people! I noticed, for example, when I was editing Contagion yesterday, that it's getting 25 thousand hits a day! Hopefully I'll be able to get some skeptic links into there, but a reference to Paul Offit was pretty satisfying. And I noticed the hits to his page have increased since my edit. Maybe, of all the people who click from Contagion to go read Paul Offit's page, there will be at least some who are influenced by the line about "the scientific consensus that vaccines have no association with autism." Heck, even if just *one* person is in some way influenced, it will have been totally worth my efforts.

    The edits I did today, referencing CFI's press release, probably took a couple hours or so, from start to finish. However, I'm still new at it, so I'm still learning as I work. Over time, it'll get faster and easier. A good 1/2 hr of that time was just me reading my edit over and over and over again to make sure it read well. As a newbie, learning to edit Wikipedia seems to be fairly easy. I have a tiny bit of experience with html, which probably helps. Probably the trickiest part is just learning about how, behind the articles, there's an entire community of editors. I have to keep in mind, with every edit, that my change is going to be viewed by many other editors who have been with Wikipedia longer than me. But reading through the History pages is really interesting, and probably the first step in any edit. I would advise newbies also, if they're trying to figure out how to format edits, to look at how other editors have formatted similar edits. Every time I have do a reference, I just copy and paste the "code" from another reference and change the details.

    It's really a lot of fun! And it's really satisfying to click that SAVE button and see all my work up there on Wikipedia. :-)

  12. Yeah, I've been looking for updates regarding the Blogzero case, but I havn't been able to find anything else yet. But I'll definitely keep looking! That case is of particular interest to me.

  13. Fantastic Dustin! Can't understand why others aren't doing it. I'm constantly getting people what a great project this is, and how it makes a real difference. But they don't want to participate.

    I know working on a computer (for fun) isn't the perfect solution for everyone, esp if they spend a lot of time on computers at work. But even ruling those people out, I'm not seeing a lot of feedback from people out there doing it.

    I suppose if there was some kind of deadline imposed on it? I think that editing WP pages being so open-ended might make people say, I'll get around to it, and then they don't.

  14. Yeah, I'm hoping more will join the cause! I think of it this way: I, like most skeptics, read articles about science and skepticism nearly every day. And, often, I share those articles on Facebook with a comment summing up the article. In essence, this is what I've been doing on Wikipedia. I'm reading articles that I already would have been reading, and I'm sharing them on the Internet. But rather than just my Facebook friends seeing them, the visitors of Wikipedia will see them.

    In some cases, I think deadlines are very important. For example, like with Wiki Back, if we find out a skeptic is going to be on an upcoming television show, we'd want to make sure her or his page is top notch before the show airs. Maybe there might be a way where we can coordinate together, and keep track of who is tracking what. Like a shared Google doc or something, where people can add pages that need potential work and then "assign" themselves the pages they feel they have the knowledge, interest and time to take charge of. I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud here haha But, I do agree with you that maybe people would stick with it more if there was a sense of deadline and ownership of their part of the project. Everyone's contribution would be different of course. Some people might only be able to give a few hours per week, and others might want to work every night. As a newbie, I would recommend to other new folks, to set goals for yourself that are realistic. It's probably better for someone to say "I don't think I'll have time to work on that page this week" than to say "Sure, no problem" and then a month later nothing's done.

  15. I like the way you put that Dustin. Skeptics are already reading the articles and posting them on FB. Why not just take the article and go edit WP? You will reach a lot more people than your FB friends. Also you will not be preaching to the choir as much.

    I love that you Have a excellent understanding of what I'm trying to do here. I like the google doc idea, but don't have enough editors contributing regularly to do so yet. At the moment I kind of know who is doing what, several people are concentrating on a single page. And they seem totally engulfed in that project.

    I think it would be to our advantage to fix the spokespeople's pages who are more likely to be doing something public soon. No idea who that might be unless they chime in asking for help. Most of them will email me, and I fix the page and thats the last of it. I don't know how to better handle it until word gets out more.

    I guess it is more important to just pick people you want to help. I really want the editors to enjoy themselves.

    There is a place on WP called Rational Skeptic Wiki Project (I think that is the name) and it ranks each article by importance. That's kind of what the Homeopathy tag you saw on the discussion page was for. It you read it carefully it probably has a low/high ranking on it somewhere.

    The problem with the skeptic one is that it is dormant. A whole bunch of people are listed as wanting to help out with skeptical edits, but you don't hear anything from them. I've tried approaching a few, but they usually have moved on, or don't return my discussion.

    I have learned a few WP editors that are skeptics but haven't really mentioned this blog.

    When it came out, a bunch got all worried and there was a lot of discussion to watch me and so on. You can read the blog on it somewhere. So I don't even mention this blog on my user page.

    Anyway Dustin (and anyone else reading this) lets create an army first. Then get them organized!

  16. Absolutely! I'm all for a skeptic army! :-)

    On a side note, related to the Boiron discussion, I found out Boiron has dropped its warnings against Blogzero. I'm going to clean up that section of the Boiron page, but I probably won't have time till tomorrow evening. It's kinda' frustrating because all the info I can find is in Italian or French. For example, the article below seems to be saying that Boiron has apologized to him (which would make a great quote in the WP page!), but I'm not 100% sure what it's saying because I can't read the original French text:

  17. Is there anyone out there reading this that can help? I'll ask on FB.