Sunday, March 18, 2012

Should Skeptics write pages for Paranormal People?

Really hoping for a great discussion on this topic.  You all know my motivation, I want to improve skeptical content on Wikipedia, but always by following the rules of Wikipedia.  I also want to hold all paranormal topics and people to those same rules.  They can't make a claim on their page unless it is completely backed up with correct citations.

But what about skeptics writing pages for topics and people that are clearly on the other side of skepticism?  Aren't we exposing readers to the opposition?  Maybe even giving them more notoriety than they deserve?  Shouldn't we concentrate on our own skeptical spokespeople?  I mean I'm forever going on and on about how badly our people's pages need help. 

Lets take a look at a few pages that already existed and we have spent quite a bit of time keeping up-to-date.  Sylvia Browne, Chip Coffey, John Edward and James Van Praagh. 

Sylvia received 11,454 hits in February 2012.  Her star is really fading as she is either being replaced by others or because she isn't in the news as much anymore, I seem to remember seeing numbers in the 30K area each month.  Looking over her page a reader will find that nearly the entire page is devoted to her downfalls.  Whenever someone has tried to post something positive about her it is ripped down.  Why?  Because the positive things can't be backed up by good citations, noteworthy sources aren't writing about her, and editors aren't allowed to put up excerpts from her books and her blog saying how "nice she is".  Sorry.  The only things allowed are the facts, which includes the court transcripts of her indictment of fraud

Chip Coffey is another story, the page as you can see is a mess.  There is at least a picture of him.  Where is the skeptical side of the story?  We can only add in edits if the story is already written.  Either the articles don't exist or we haven't added them in yet.  This page was once on the list for deletion but it was saved mainly because of uninterest by other editors.  In Feb 2012 it received 4,026 hits.  That's quite a lot for a stub.  I think this page needs quite a bit of attention. 

John Edward is the new hot psychic thing now that Sylvia isn't as active.  His page received 25,464 hits in Feb 2012.  This page is far from ignored by skeptics, several of my edits are on this page as well as from others.  At least once a week one of us has to revert vandalism of someone calling him the Biggest Douche in the Universe somewhere on the page.  The reference already exists in its correct place on the page. 

James Van Praagh is in the middle of Sylvia and John as far as attention.  With 4,598 hits, the page is an advertisement for a bad psychic.  The criticism section is longer than most Wikipedia pages in total. 

Now why are we maintaining these pages?  Because readers are visiting them and we want to make sure there is a neutral place to leave the articles written from the skeptic world. 

Here are a couple more examples I bet you have never heard of.  Newly joined to the Guerrilla Skepticism world is Rick Duffy from Colorado.  Rick wrote a couple pages for two men who are rising in prominence in Colorado.  Voters there will recognize Jeff Peckman and Stan Romanek.  Rick told me he wrote these pages because they have become noteworthy enough to warrant them, and this way readers can get the whole story and not just the bits and pieces from TV news clips. 

Peckman received 530 hits and Romanek 902. 

I'm all for Rick's work, the pages are neutral from the perspective of the reader.  I'm sure Romanek and Peckman would love to remove some of the edits, but we can only add in what is out there already.  If positive information hits the media, we will add it in also. 

To answer the last question, shouldn't we be working on pages for our skeptical spokespeople instead?  I would love to see more focus on the skeptical pages, but Duffy's work allowed citations from Bryan Bonner and Matthew Baxter's work in Rocky Mountain Paranormal.  I've already written about this group on the Stanley Hotel blog and Wikipedia page.  At the moment RMP is not noteworthy enough to have their own Wikipedia page, but that is quickly changing now that Rick has done his work.

Also, I think that it is really important to remember that we aren't getting paid for all this editing work.  This is a passion and a mission for me, it should be something you enjoy doing.  We should be working on the projects we enjoy, not crossing off items that Susan has assigned.  Find your passion.  I'll be happy to assist if you need some guidance but I think just spend some time on Wikipedia and start following the hyperlinks to other pages, in time you will be far away from your initial start and maybe you will bump into your mission. 

As always, if you want to become more involved in this project or need help learning how to edit please contact me at 


  1. Maybe I'm missing something here, but why is Chip Coffey's page so sad and empty? With all his followers out there...wouldn't someone have cared enough to add any information? Hell, that link with his press kit has a good chunk of a bio built right in there.

    I'm starting to really see the importance of making these pages look, for lack of a better word, more legit. Why would any "believer" take Coffey seriously with a page like that? Of course, not that I want to encourage people to jump on the his crazy wagon... But I just can't believe with a guy getting as much attention as he is, that no one from his side has tried to help the guy out!

    1. Exactly Miss Chris!

      You would think that if he has helped all those people, someone would care enough to fix up his page.

      I suppose Chip and his fans would just state that Wikipedia is not important. In turn if he had a beautiful page with all kinds of articles about him helping people they would state how important Wikipedia is.

      The facts are that over 3K people go to his WP page to find out who he is. If the page was expanded he would get even more traffic. Maybe that isn't a very impressive number, his personal website probably gets 30K or more hits a month.

      The difference is that his personal website viewers are probably fans. His WP page are probably fence-sitters.

      The reverse is true for what you state Miss Chris.

      If one of our people is in the news, and the viewer does a websearch for them and they find the WP page. What will they think? Are they legit?