Sunday, November 13, 2011

Guerrilla Skeptism on Wikipedia ~ Podcast Outreach Project

Hello New Readers.  Welcome to Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia.  
This blog is designed for those of you who haven't been following this project since June 2011 when I went public.  I have stolen from several of my blog posts in order to make this intro to the project as simple as possible.  

Here's the pitch...

Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia is the act of inserting well written, carefully cited skeptical/scientific references into Wikipedia pages that need critical thinking, while still following the guidelines and rules to make it into everyone’s online encyclopedia. This grassroots method allows skeptics working at home the ability to contribute to the skeptical movement without personally confronting people.

Wikipedia users will find references to skeptical articles that they can follow or not. Changing a mind can be a slow process, facts stacked onto more facts. When they begin to question they will start to search the Internet for answers. Wikipedia will be there waiting for them with no eye-witness anecdotal opinions, and no one in your face telling you how stupid your beliefs are. We will go a lot farther changing minds when the person is doing their own research which will allow them to set aside their cognitive dissonance and celebrate critical thinking with a clearer mind.

We Got Your Wiki Back Project!  We need to think about what the "big picture" goal here is. When our skeptical "heroes" speak out for us in the "real world" they need the credibility of having a well maintained and cited page backing them up. Face it most people don't know who is who in the skeptical movement, Carl Sagan may be the exception but stop 10 people on the street today and ask them who James "The Amazing" Randi is and they will sadly shrug their shoulders. That's almost unfathomable to us skeptics. My point is, we don't live in the real world.  When someone turns on CNN and there is Randi talking about Sylvia Browne how many people are going to say "who is that?" a quick search on their favorite search engine and there they are on Wikipedia.  Shame on us if we don't have Randi's back. 

Working Backwards!  Often the majority of the time you spend working on an article is trying to find the references to edit into a page.  I advise to start with the article (must be reputable) read it several times, sum it up and go to a Wikipedia page that is associated with the topic and see if you will be improving the page with your edit.  Cite the article correctly and Your Done!

Podcast Outreach Project.  This is specifically aimed at you who are coming to this page today from a podcast announcement.  Some podcasts have a Wikipedia presence; SGU, Skeptoid, Skeptically, Monster Talk, Point of Inquiry and The Skeptic Zone (and others).  These podcasts need to systematically be "gleaned" through and all relevant material that can be cited from them, put on Wikipedia pages.  Other podcasts can also be used, but as they do not have a presence on WP the extra "punch" is missing. 

For example Skeptoid covers many paranormal topics that can be easily cited.  See these examples on Wikipedia;  Racetrack Playa, Joseph McMoneagle,  Remote Viewing, Dyatlov Pass incident and Betty and Barney Hill abduction.  Not only will this give the Skeptoid podcast a giant hit to the website and give a boost to the shows reputation.  This is serious outreach to a community of people interested in the paranormal, whom may never have heard of Skeptoid.

Other podcasts like The Skeptic Zone, SGU and Skeptically do a lot of interviews in the science/skeptic community.  If the person they are interviewing also has a Wikipedia page then it is possible to glean a quote or two from the interview and insert it on that person's WP page, and give the citation to the podcast.  For one example see Mark Edward ("find on page" Mark holds an impromptu séance for Michael Jackson).  The SGU has done hundreds of interviews and lists several of the more prominent people on their WP page.  But  these interviews are not all on that person's page giving reverse hits back to the SGU page.  Yet another example, Seth Shostak from SETI gets 1,000 hits a month to his WP page, those viewers may not know he is also associated with the skeptic community.  The SGU interview could be mentioned on his WP page, sending potentially 1,000 extra viewers to their WP page.  

Specific podcasts cannot directly appeal to you (listener and fan) to edit Wikipedia in their behalf.  They can appeal to you to edit Wikipedia for skeptical content, and also to get in touch with me personally at where I can help you learn how to edit and do so in an organized systematic way.   This project is very important to gaining more positive exposure to skepticism as a movement and community.  I only want you to edit topics that you are interested in and probably would be reading/listening to anyway.  I will direct you on how to do this the most efficient way possible.  I am offering to train you how to edit if you need that kind of help, even virtually hold your hand while you learn.   

If working on podcasts does not interest you, but editing Wikipedia for skeptical content does, this blog has hundreds of ideas for beginning to advanced editors to get started.  My offer of help is for anyone needing advice or training. 

Thank you for reading this far.  I hope you this will be a perfect fit for you as a way of becoming involved in the skeptical movement.  We so badly need your help.  You can work from home in your pajamas with a cat in your lap. You can edit like a crazy person for days, then drop off the Internet for months when you are busy IRL and then pick up editing again when you have time again.  This project is made for you. Welcome.

Thank you, 
Susan Gerbic


  1. A good way to drive traffic to articles about skeptic podcasts is to use them as references in other articles. For instance, if you are working on a biography of someone and they were interviewed on a podcast, that podcast episode can be used as a reference.

    The key to making this truly valuable is to tag up the podcast footnote so that it drives traffic back to the article(s) about the podcast itself. You can often generate clicks to the host of the podcast too if you include them (and they have an article).

    Since Skepticality has been doing interviews nearly every episode since 2005, I've done the work of creating references to all their episodes in Wiki format. You can find them here:

    Skepticality citations for Wikipedia

    Simply find the episode you want, hit the EDIT link right above it, and you can see the exact markup you need to get that bibliography style in some other article. The episode titles will also help you find things in many cases.

    I did this a while back for my own use, but just today I fixed up a bunch of broken links and updated it to include most of 2011.

  2. Wow Tim that is a lot of work. I just clicked around the page and it would really make it easy to copy/paste the citation for inserting into other WP articles.

    "The key to making this truly valuable is to tag up the podcast footnote so that it drives traffic back to the article(s) about the podcast itself."

    You lost me here? What do you mean by "tag up the podcast"

    This also is great "You can often generate clicks to the host of the podcast too if you include them (and they have an article)." It is always a good idea to include a hyperlink to the interviewer in the reference you leave if they have a WP page. Exposure of all kinds is a great thing. I do this often... "According to Brian Dunning... " this sends hits over to his WP page as well as people clicking on the article link so it goes to the actual Skeptoid article off Wikipedia.