Monday, July 30, 2012

We got your Wiki Back! - Mary Roach

I noticed a post in the Bay Area Skeptic's Facebook group months ago by someone named Chris Parker.  She was looking for someone to give her "must read" material for a college research assignment on psychics she had to present in class.  I contacted her and gave her some ideas, and linked her with Mark Edward who is an expert on the psychic business (see Psychic Blues on Amazon).

Chris did her essay and wrote to tell me all about the professor and the other students reactions.  I thought she was a terrific writer and felt that a blog would be in order.  She worked it up and Mark decided that he wanted to post the story on his blog, and did so in July.

In the mean time Chris shared that she was not taking college classes this summer and liked to keep busy, wondered about this Wikipedia project she kept seeing me yammer on about all over Facebook.   We exchanged emails for awhile and I asked her if she could pick a Wikipedia project what would it be?  So she spent a day and wrote me back with the suggestion that Mary Roach's current Wikipedia page was a stub and how sad that was.  She had been to one of Mary's lectures being that they both live in the Bay Area, and thought that if I showed her how, she would work on that page.

So, Chris and I went back and forth for a couple weeks, and then a few other editors from the project helped with ideas and how to cite some sources when I was at TAM.  Chris asked really great questions which helped me learn a lot about the gaps in my blog instructions and the reality of what I actually mean.  When you live and breathe this Wikipedia project daily, you tend to forget that others aren't as "connected" to the project and not reading and memorizing every word I write.

Want to point out that until this re-write I don't think Chris had ever edited Wikipedia.  I also don't suggest brand new people start with re-writes, but in Chris's case she was so excited and motivated that I thought "why not?".  She communicated with me clearly, asked lots of questions and we sent emails many times a day.  We started with the very basics, and once I pointed her in the right direction, she just took off.  I'm totally self taught, and Chris seemed to be learning the same way with only a bit of guidance.  One reason why I felt that Mary's page would be okay for a beginner was because her current page had a lot of external links to interviews and videos that only needed to be watched and quoted to expand into the article.  I knew Chris wasn't going to be searching for months trying to turn up secondary sources. 

We made a brand new user page for Chris's rewrite and made it "un-searchable", and on that page we had constant conversations about what should go where, and what to expand on and so forth.

Only after Chris was almost done did I approach Mary to get further citations we were missing, and had her upload some personal pictures (which warm my photographer's heart) they really make the page extra special,  I'm reminded of Lei Pinters's re-write of Kendrick Frazier's WP page a couple months ago. 

There was so much info on Mary Roach out there and Chris watched every video and read every link she could find.  (and yes, she even had a Google alert on her for incoming items) Now if Chris ever gets on Jeopardy and the category is Mary Roach, Chris will clean up.  One comment I remember from Chris, was she was surprised that interviewers always asked Mary the same questions over and over again. I suppose, now that if they start by reading Mary's new Wikipedia page they will be able to have a much well rounded interview. 

Okay, I know you have waited long enough.  Time to show you the before and after.  Hold your breath.

Mary Roach before

Mary Roach after

So wondering, Chris what's next?

As usual, if you would like to help with this project, I will keep you more than busy.  You don't even need to do as much work as Chris did, I have many tasks that await you, I will train.  Just please contact me at and lets get to work. 


  1. For people who like numbers and results. Here is the URL for looking at how many hits Mary Roach's page gets on WP daily. It might take 24 hours for the hits to show up, so I'm predicting a surge on July 31st and Aug 1st.

  2. Thanks so much, Susan! When I signed up for this project I don't think I fully realized how much was going to be involved. I think for new people, it's really key to realize that you're basically signing up to be a human encyclopedia on who or what you chose to edit. Which is a fantastic thing!

    I remember Susan was very clear... that she really wanted me to find a topic for myself, rather than just handing me a list of pages that needed help. The idea of picking someone was difficult at first, but then I looked at my bookshelf for inspiration. I immediately googled Mary Roach and was so SAD to see that no one had taken the time to write about such a well-known and respected author, such as herself.

    I confessed to Susan at the start, that the coding and general layout of Wikipedia scared me, since I'd never gone "behind the scenes" before. But luckily, Susan is incredibly patient and loves getting long rambling emails! The intimidation factor faded pretty quickly, thanks to Susan and the other group members who guided me along the way (Dustin Phillips in particular!).

    I highly recommend joining this project. I spent many long nights sifting through all things Mary Roach, but it was fun and it's an amazing reward to see your page finally go live!

  3. Very awesome!!! The new page looks incredible!

  4. Outstanding work, Chris and Susan!

  5. Coming out party for Mary Roach's rewrite. Please join and support this project!