Sunday, October 9, 2011


Love Skype!  Just had my first Wikipedia centered Skype conversation with Dustin and Lei.  They were good sports being from Kentucky and Arkansas and I'm in California, a really late call for them.  John was unable to make the call due to illness but he gave us several questions to discuss, so he was with us in spirit.  I want to share some of the conversation with you. 

We talked about why we edit, and some of our projects.  Dustin said he feels like "a part of a team" and thinks that having a conversation once a month or so will keep him motivated to edit.  Lei started out editing Wikipedia after hearing Tim Farley talk about why it is so important. Tim had asked for help on researching obscure topics which Lei found interesting, eventually she felt she could start helping more by actually editing.

We discussed why more people in the skeptical movement don't edit, even though we keep hearing that this is a great project?  I think we decided that most people don't know where to begin, the project is really big and daunting.  Dustin said that some of his skeptic friends have given up editing Wikipedia because there is so much to do and it is never ending, which is what attracts Dustin.  

Both Dustin and Lei are involved in skeptic meetups, but felt that this project satisfied their love of research.  Dustin felt that he was already posting science links to Facebook, taking those same links and putting them into Wikipedia would reach a much larger audience than just his Facebook friends.

Having others to talk to was what was most important on this call, we discussed how we never get feedback from what we leave in these articles.  No one is going to write to us and say "thanks for that critical thinking link you left, really changed my mind" anymore than someone would write to a dictionary or a print encyclopedia.  But still this is how minds are changed, by allowing them to do their own research. 

Lei is all over the "We Got Your Wiki Back" project and reverts vandalism several times a week for our skeptical spokespeople's pages.  She just reverted one for George Hrab a couple days ago by viewing her watchlist.  When I noticed her revert and mentioned it to her, she wrote back "I've got his Wiki back!"  Too funny. 

She is also trying to clean-up the page for J. T. Eberhard who will be speaking at Skepticon in a few weeks.  She knows that his page will be getting a lot of hits when it gets close to the date.  She has emailed him asking for some info but he has not responded.  Very frustrating. 

While looking at these pages we noticed that the Flying Spaghetti Monster has his own page.  I had no idea.  Check out that page, really well cited.  Someone took some real care creating this page.  When you go there you might want to know that this is accessed over 100K times a month.  Amazing!  In fact in July it hit 291,747.   July 2011 "this article ranked 3,622 in traffic on".   You can see this here

Dustin and I both shared how awesome it feels when you leave a really good blurb, correctly cited in a place where their is little critical thinking.  He had been looking for a way to reference some of Ben Radford's work, and came across an article Radford had published on spontaneous human combustion.  I'm really proud that Dustin is helping out with this project, he really understands what I'm advocating.  Here is his reference, look under possible causes.  Awesome right?

As I said, John could not make our call.  But we talked about how we might help him on his Wikipedia project.  John is a professor in Washington and teaches a freshman class on critical thinking.   John is working as a Wikipedia Ambassador which tries to teach college students how to edit Wikipedia.  John has them pick skeptical topics like UFO's, mediums, lake monsters ect to either clean up the existing page or start a new page.  He has made all the students make user pages with a very short bio.  Dustin, Lei and I divided up the students and will contact them on their talk pages, welcoming them to Wikipedia editing and letting them know we will help them if they need it.  There are several I'm really interested in, one is writing on ectoplasm.  How can you not love this project!  Ectoplasm as a homework assignment?!?

The Ambassador project is sponsored by Wikipedia, it trains and supports the educators.  John said he got to spend a weekend at one of the nearby colleges with food and training.  He loved it and highly encourages others to volunteer. 

Soooo I'm always open to other editors (or wannabe editors) to write to me here or by email at  I'm willing to help you in anyway I can.  I would also love to have more of these Skype Wikipedia conversations if others are interested.  We can set it up by time zone to be more effective.  Just let me know if interested. 


  1. Hey! Great post... I think the Wikipedia project is one of the most important ideas in skeptical activism. The SHC reference is perfect.. I think sometimes I'm shy about some of the work I do, but I need to get over's ultimately not about me or Joe Nickell or Geo or any one skeptic, it's about getting the skeptical message and skeptical works out there. I did an interview with Susan that should be out in the next month, hopefully that will help get some interest, and John's plan with students is brilliant. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks Ben! I think I'm going to have excerpts of this tattooed on my belly. You truly "get it".