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!


  1. It's been a blast learning the ropes! Congrats on a great year, Susan!

  2. It was a pretty useful piece of information! I'm just getting started with this, and I'm a Large air separation unit suppliers getting a lot more comfortable with it! Thank you, and keep up the fantastic work.