Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wikipedia Blackout


For 24-hours Wikipedia in English will shut-down.  How horrible and exciting.  Of course I am going to feel really at a loss as Wednesday I will have a lot of time that I would normally have contributed to the pages.  I'm trying now to get a blog done for She Thought Blog that will focus on Skeptical Women on Wikipedia.

If you haven't already heard about this shut-down of one of the most powerful sites on the Internet, here is a link to their rationale.  http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/English_Wikipedia_anti-SOPA_blackout

I'm not getting involved in the politics, but hope it brings awareness to the importance of Wikipedia and forces people to think about how often they refer to the site in a given 24-hours.  I'm looking forward to the follow-up in the media.   

Monday, January 9, 2012

Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia a year in review

Reading Tim Farley's blog Skeptical Software Tools (SST) this morning really has me thinking about how we can measure the impact we have on the skeptical movement.  His blog today is "My Top Posts of 2011" where he lists the various blogs he has written for SST and on SWIFT and compares the hits to the Wikipedia pages he has created.  His conclusion was that if you don't count the very popular Mabus blog he wrote, then all of the Wikipedia pages he has created have been more popular than the blog posts, by far.

Do I dare write a blog stating the numbers I have for this blog?  Tim's far outdistance mine. And not by just a little bit.  This isn't a competition, Susan, Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia is even more a specialty blog than SST is.   I love numbers also, I also need to know where I've been and where I'm going, numbers really help make things clearer.

So here goes... my year-end recap.

Okay actually it is on a 6-months recap as the blog began in June 2010 because I knew I would be doing a paper presentation at TAM9.  Previously to that I had spoken at SkepticCamp: Fort Collins, CO and then SkeptiCal 2010 in Berkeley, CA.

I have been on a few podcasts talking about this project as well as my other hobby The Independent Investigations GroupThe Pod Delusion, The Token Skeptic (which is the same interview but a different compilation of other interviews) and Rational Alchemy (where a became a host after my first interview).

I have also been fortunate enough to have a blog on SWIFT that generated 5,841 hits.  That link got picked up by the Richard Dawkins Foundation and they featured it on their news site.

Tim Farley has been kind enough to give me shout-outs from time to time that have brought in traffic as well.  Farley, JREF and Brian Dunning have tweeted about me several times also bringing in hits.  William B. Davis on the Good Atheist Podcast discussed with the host his experience of getting his Wikipedia page made over (they didn't mention me by name though).

I and this project have become known as a place to go to when asking "what do I do if I want a WP page of my own"? or "someone vandalized my page, what do I do"? and the popular "there are a lot of wrong things written on my WP page, how do I get that changed"?  I answer these questions usually privately but I suppose I should get a blog together I can just refer people to.  I hear from people forwarding me blogs and articles that are written about Wikipedia.  And I love all of this, keep sending me these questions and forwarding me the articles, I can't be everywhere at once and unless it is in my inbox, I'm probably going to miss it.

Now to Wikipedia itself.  I've only created a few pages from scratch, Mark Edward (which probably needs to be rewritten now that I've learned so much more, James Underdown and The Steve Allen Theater (which is located inside CFI West). 

Mark Edward launched May 10, 2011 has generated 5,788 hits
The Steve Allen Theater launched Sept 18th, 2011 has 882 hits
James Underdown Sept 1, 2011 has 8,371 hits.  5.6K from one day when it was a Did You Know? article.

Besides these I worked on several existing pages that needed re-writes.

Ben Radford's Playing Gods game
Sean Faircloth
William B. Davis
Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture
Brian Dunning

plus many more pages that I've worked on.  I'm very happy that nearly all of the pictures I've added to WP are still on the pages.  Over 40 images have been used on skeptical sites this year.  And at least 10 are up because I've asked the photographer to up load their images.  This will become a focus in 2012.

I had no idea how many edits would be a lot for 2011, so I kept track on a spread sheet every time I did something that had an impact for skepticism (not just corrected spelling or grammar).  I count 241 edits, 105 of those were to sites I considered "skepticial" like Kylie Sturgess, Barry Beyerstein, CFI, James Randi.  59 sites are "normal" pages that the general public wouldn't think skepticism when looking at the page, like Ya-Man Chan, Seth Shostak, J. Stewart Burns and The Stanley Hotel.  Then there are the "woo" sites that I hit 77 pages.  Examples are Haunting Evidence, Pet Psychics, Ghost Hunting, Power Balance and Sally Morgan pages.

Because of this blog I've been able to connect with several awesome editors that totally "get-it" thank you Dustin and Lei who continue to edit regularly.  Many others have made contributions irregularly but that is completely awesome as I know they have the skills and can pop in and work on projects as they feel the urge.  This project is perfect for people who can't completely dedicate themselves to writing a blog, or recording a podcast or anything that needs a commitment.  A no-guilt project!

Now for this blog.  What were the most popular posts?  The very first post I wrote has generated the most hits, 1,903.  Which seems odd because I wrote 10 blogs before announcing the blog to anyone, so when I started publicizing the blog people would have been directed to the most recent post, not the first post. 

Wikipedia and Sylvia Browne 
SGU-24hour show - What were their stats? - 582
We Got your Wiki Back! project - 286
Lamar Odom and Power Balance Bracelets - 267
We Got your Wiki Back! The Numbers from Nightline - 228

My blog hit 17K hits by the end of 2011, which is only a little bit more than the hits that were created from the 3 Wikipedia pages I created (which was about 14K). 

2012 should be an interesting year.  I have several Rational Alchemy podcasts coming out, and a SI article someday.  I have earned the nickname WikiPediatrician from IIG friend Brian Hart, which is pretty awesome just by itself.  I will be doing a lecture in late February at CFI West on how to edit (they already understand why we need to edit).

By the way, I'm really approachable and am willing to lecture at any skeptical meetup or event that I am invited to.  I will be at Dragon*Con this year, but not as a speaker (at least no one has asked yet).  Also I will be at TAM10 and SkeptiCal in Berekely April 21st. (not lecturing as I did last year). 

My goals for 2012 are to continue to push for exposure hoping to generate more editors.  Also increasing the hands-on training to anyone willing to learn the basics. 

I've become more organized with my to-do list and am still focusing on improving pages I feel inspired to fix and not just the ones that reach the most people.

I will be including more information about other WP languages throughout as we have to get the message out to non-English language sites.  As more and more people across the world gain Internet access so will their reliance on Wikipedia.

Photography is also a focus, we really need to improve these pages of our skeptical spokespeople, and getting photographers involved is a great way to do so.  Plus it gets people excited to contribute more. 

Sooo many pages still need work, Kylie Sturgess's page was almost deleted by someone Hell-Bent on removing it, it does need a major rewrite (I have a lot of the references but not the time to do so).  Would love to see a page for the Skeptic's Toolbox, again the problem is time.

What has been done already is mostly still up.  We are making improvements and making a difference to people who are not in the choir.  We have to keep the movement moving forward.  It is a big task, but it is an important task.  We need you!  

Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Homeopathy and Wikipedia

I'm going to want you to read this page in a minute.  Try to read it as if you know almost nothing about the topic.  Maybe pretend you just encountered someone at work that tried to give you homeopathic pills for some ailment you have been complaining about.  Or possibly you are just getting involved in a romantic relationship with someone who espouses the benefits of homeopathy to you.  The person now has you curious, they speak wonders about how wonderful their health is now, how inexpensive the treatments are, and want you to set up an apt with their practitioner. 

You know you aren't getting a unbiased description from this person, maybe you have heard that homeopathy isn't real medicine, or something about the English Royals being totally supportive of it.  Heck, you even heard that the British medical system will pay for homeopathy treatments, and why would they do that if it does not work?  So you turn to the Internet.  Where do you look if you are just looking for a description?  Maybe a search engine?

(23 million hits)

This is the order of links I received on Yahoo Search

Homeopathy on Wikipedia
ABCHomeopathy which is a pro-Homeopathy site
U.S. National Institutes of Health site
The National Center for Homeopathy
Quackwatch site
What's the Harm in Homepathy?  (Tim Farley's site)

Okay now read the first hit that the average person will also see.   

What do you think?  Does this page reflect a good definition of homeopathy?   If you didn't really understand the topic before hand, what would you think after reading it?  

Look at the external links.  Someone put the Merseyside Skeptics Society "Homeopathy, There is nothing in it" link as well as 14 minute video by James Randi.  Awesome!

Another cool link located near the external links is a box stating that there is a Wikipedia News Article related to homeopathy.  The headline... 

"Parents prosecuted after homeopathic treatment leads to daughter's death"

The homeopathy page didn't just happen with one editor working on it.  This took years and many many editors contributing to the page.  It is still evolving, with discussions all the time happening on the talk page.  

The reason why I'm pointing this out is to make you really understand why Wikipedia is so important to getting critical thinking to the people who need it.  I'm not advocating for people to start editing the homeopathy page, this is a recognized "natural science good article".  Please don't try to edit this page unless you discuss it on the talk page first.   

Now go to the talk page.  I want you to see what the editors see when they are thinking about changing the page.  Look at the FAQ section, these are decisions that have already been decided and letting everyone know that changes to the page aren't up for discussion.  

If you ever questioned whether or not Wikipedia is a skeptical site or not, this should leave no doubt in your mind that it is.  We might not be able to get people to read the skeptical blogs we keep releasing but we should recognize the importance of Wikipedia.  

Just in case you were wondering what kind of impact I am talking about, here are the stats for homeopathy for December 2011... 86,425.  For the 2011 year... 1,266,752 hits.  Name another single page website that generates those kind of numbers?

In this case the page for Homeopathy is really well written.  Not so for many other Wikipedia pages.  Won't you take a moment to help out with this project?  

further note - 

Homeopathy generally gets 2-5 thousand hits each day.  Once in a while there is a spike in the hit numbers, to me this is extremely intriguing as it shows how media attention (maybe something WE did?) sends people indirectly to Wikipedia.  (by indirectly I mean, the media didn't give them a URL to follow, but Homeopathy was in the news and people just sent to WP to learn more about the topic).

These spikes are usually off a couple days because of the way they are reported on http://stats.grok.se

A normal day is 2-5 thousand hits
Jan 4 -  32.4K
Jan 5 -  23.4K
Feb 7 - 6.4K
Feb 8 - 5.7K
June 5 - 6.5K
June 6 - 7.3K
Aug 13 - 11.5K
Oct 31 - 8.8K

It is quite possible that the surge in numbers for the early Feb was because of the 10:23 campaign.  

Lets not forget our non-English Wikipedia friends.  Personally I can't update other-language pages because I don't read/write in other languages.  This is where we have to get creative.  The project of improving Wikipedia pages for skeptical content is FAR to important to only focus on English.  If you can help in other languages please please contact me.  

Here are a few numbers for homeopathy in other languages...   All November 2011 (note: when the page has a ranking, that means the page was really popular, most terms are not ranked)

Homeopathy - English - 106,894 (ranked 4,498 most popular page on WP in English)
Homeopatia - Polish - 12,373 (ranked 1,156 most popular page on WP in Polish)

Omeopatia - Italian - 13,929 (ranked 1,873 most popular page on WP in Italian) 
Homeopatía - Spanish - 44,072 (ranked 1,794 most popular page on WP in Spanish)
   it reached 3,236 most popular page in Hebrew -  hits in Hebrew (it writes left to right)  1,231 הומאופתיה

I could go on and on but have no idea what language most of these are.  Hrvatski, Galego, Ελληνικά, Ido, 日本語, తెలుగు, and ייִדיש are just a few other Wikipedia languages that have homeopathy pages.  Wonder what their visitors will read?