Sunday, August 26, 2012

We Got Your Wiki Back in Portuguese - Jerry Andrus!

I received a lot of kudos over the six pages I just launched last week, that was a lot of work and took a ton of time.  I'm very proud of those pages, but I think this announcement tops that.  Our first World Wikipedia project is completed.! The editor is Nix Dorf who lives in Brazil and has never written a page before.  He contacted me a few days after TAM 2012 when he saw a 2 minute video of me talking about needing foreign language editors. 

Nix completely understood what the goal of the project was, and started right in.  He forged ahead and just started editing.  I wasn't quite sure how this all would happen, and thought it would move a lot slower, but guess that wasn't Nix's plan. 

Several of the videos we are using for references on this page are now captioned in Portuguese.  Other videos are pure Andrus's illusions and need no translating.  Which is one reason I decided to start with Jerry Andrus.  Optical Illusions are universal.

Now we have several other pages started and I'm really enjoying watching them learn.  Every question they have helps me improve how I explain things and train.  This is great fun and very exciting.  Browsing through pages in Portuguese I can't find anyone in the skeptic universe  that has a nicer more detailed page than Jerry Andrus has now.

The plan was to use Jerry Andrus as a starting point.  One page on skepticism that was well written that we could branch off of, hopefully, someday all the names and topics on Andrus's page will have a blue hyperlink to another Portuguese page.

Now the Portuguese editors can move on to other skeptical spokespeople and topics. I'm really hoping that we won't just concentrate on Americans, but try to focus on people that are relevant to that language's pages.  Skeptics that appear on TV, radio, print media in Portuguese.  I don't know who these people are, but hope that the team will identify them and get started. 

So here is the link to our first Wikipedia World new page.  Thank you again Nix!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest article - OTRS on Wikimedia

The following is from one of the Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia team, Vera de Kok, all the way from The Hague.  We are a team that has all different skill sets, which is why we need each other (and you).  Vera is the expert in all things Wikimedia Commons related.  She is very patient with us lowly text only editors (I'm #1 on the list) and helps explain licensing rules on Wikipedia, sometimes over and over (to me mainly).  Anyway, here she is explaining what OTRS is. 

Thank you Vera for all the work you do.


OTRS, no it’s not scary.
When you place media files on Wikipedia, they have to have a free license, because Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia . This is easy when you yourself have created the photograph, or when it has been published under the right CreativeCommons license on Flickr.
But sometimes images are send in by third parties, and that can raise some red flags; especially when those pictures have been published before on the web. For these kinds of situations we have the OTRS system. Which stands for Open-source Ticket Request System. This system processes e-mails that verify if the owner of the photographs really has agreed to the license agreement.
In order to process tickets quickly, the standard form should be used:
I hereby affirm that CHOOSE ONE: [I, (name here) am] OR [(copyright holder's name) is] the creator and/or sole owner of the exclusive copyright of [SPECIFY THE WORK HERE - describe the work to be released in detail, attach the work to the email, or give the URL of the work if online]
I agree to STANDARD CHOICE; SEE BELOW FOR MORE INFORMATION ON TYPE OF LICENSE: [publish that work under the free license "Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0" (unported) and the GNU Free Documentation License version 1.3 (with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts).]
I acknowledge that by doing so I grant anyone the right to use the work in a commercial product or otherwise, and to modify it according to their needs, provided that they abide by the terms of the license and any other applicable laws.
I am aware that this agreement is not limited to Wikipedia or related sites.
I am aware that I always retain copyright of my work, and retain the right to be attributed in accordance with the license chosen. Modifications others make to the work will not be claimed to have been made by me.
I am aware that the free license only concerns copyright, and I reserve the option to take action against anyone who uses this work in a libelous way, or in violation of personality rights, trademark restrictions, etc.
I acknowledge that I cannot withdraw this agreement, and that the work may or may not be kept permanently on a Wikimedia project.
[SENDER'S NAME AND DETAILS (to allow future verification of authenticity)]
[SENDER'S AUTHORITY (Are you the copyright-holder, director, appointed representative of, etc.)]

Translations of this form into other languages are also available here.
The standard license in a CreativeCommons-Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. But you can choose one that is also on the list. Be sure to not forget the version number of the license, because forgetting that makes it invalid.
This has to be send to If the author of the photograph has not send the permission directly to this e-mail address but to you, you have to forward it along with a link to where the file is posted on Commons and by include headers. This is a bit tricky the first time, here are instructions on how to do that in some of the more popular e-mail clients:
If you use another e-mail client, try googling “[client name] + include full headers” and you will very likely find instructions. Once you have send the e-mail to the OTRS system, you may want to include the otrs pending-template on the file page to let patrollers know it’s already coming.
That’s it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Half-Dozen New Releases - Skeptic's Toolbox Faculty

The day has finally arrived!  I'm super excited to launch two brand new pages and four rewrites to Wikipedia today.  I'm really hoping that everyone reading this will read through each page and follow the links.

If you thought you knew these people, you're about to get to know them better.  If you have never heard of these people, then frankly you need to brush up on the history of the modern scientific skeptical movement.  Get back to basics. 

The Skeptic's Toolbox is the longest running skeptic conference in our history, bet you never heard of it! 

Beyerstein and Andrus are no longer physically with us, but their memories and work continues.  I'm very proud to have met them both.  

When you meed Alcock, Hyman and Pankratz at a conference, make sure you introduce yourself, thank them for making the skeptical movement possible and then ask them what they got up their sleeves next.  Cause they aren't even slowing down. 

Before I get to the launchings, I might add that faculty member Harriet Hall already has a beautiful Wikipedia page that Tim Farley launched over a  year ago.  I have just been keeping it updated for this release.


Skeptic's Toolbox - brand new

Loren Pankratz - brand new

James Alcock - before

James Alcock - current

Ray Hyman - before

Ray Hyman - current

Jerry Andrus - before

Jerry Andrus - current

Barry Beyerstein - before

Barry Beyerstein - current

One more random thing I want to mention.  The Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia team has decided that moving forward when we link to the term skeptic we are going to start linking to the WP page for scientific skepticism. If you find pages where this has not happened, please make the change for us.  If you are not comfortable doing this,  and don't want to be trained, please just drop me a email.

Like what you see.  think you want to get involved?  Please contact me at and I will keep you busy. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Let them in on the Joke!

Just returned from the awesome Skeptic's Toolbox in Eugene, OR.  This skeptic conference is very different from most, in that the attendees are not allowed to just sit and listen to lectures.  They are assigned a "academic" paper to read in groups, research the topic with their fellow attendees (generally a group of 5-8 people) and then on the last day of the conference (Sunday) present their findings. 

On one of the days before breaking for dinner we tried to show a video that I had just uploaded 15 minutes prior.  The video is only one minute long and has Jim Underdown, Ray Hyman and Scott Nopp discussing Jim wrestling a bear.  That is all the group was told.  We didn't get the computer hooked up right and ended up trying to show it with a microphone held to the computer.  Lets just say that the audio was  bad and most people missed out on the joke.

The next morning I was thinking through the previous days events and suddenly realized that there is a world of people out there that can not get the joke, when it is presented as a video only. 

I'm going to ask you to watch this video without sound or captions.  So turn them off now.  (the video is only a minute long)

See what I'm saying?  This video makes no sense except that Jim is fairly animated, and Scott and Ray think something is funny. 

Now what can be done to allow others into the joke?

That's right, captions.  New to the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia project is Brad McDowell from Iowa.  Brad wanted to help out with the project but wasn't sure where to start.  I don't give assignments, as I want people to work on things they enjoy.  So after a bit of discussion, Brad decided he wanted to caption videos into English. 

And so he has.

Watch the video again, this time with the subtitles only on.  Make sure not to have audio on.

Now you can get it, by watching the faces and reading the text you can get the joke.  Okay, it isn't the best piece of comedy that exists on YouTube, but it does show off their personalities and how even the great skeptic Jim Underdown got scammed by the owner of this bear. 

Now watch the video one more time (I promise this is the last time).  Turn on captions and audio. 

The purpose of this blog isn't to tell you the story of Jim wrestling a bear (though it is a fun story) but to appeal to people to please get involved in the Wikipedia project.  Once these videos are captioned, not only does it allow someone who can't hear to be able to enjoy, but it makes it a lot easier for other people to caption into all kinds of languages.  Once that is done the video can be cited on Wikipedia in that language. 

I'm always desperate for editors, photographers and video people. I need content created, found, uploaded and so on in order to "prove" citations that we want to make.  I've asked you to look through your photos and videos, get them uploaded and correctly tagged so we can find them.  They aren't doing anyone any good sitting on your hard drive (besides, if something happens to that hard drive/memory card/DVD then a small piece of our history is gone, thanks a lot!)  It does not have to be high quality and professionally edited, just get the darn thing uploaded!

I've discovered that captioning videos is actually fun.  I'm watching videos in detail that I would normally have just glanced at.  It is really not that difficult to do once you get through a couple videos.

From what I understand, in order for the video to be captioned we have to have the owner of the video upload the captions.  We could "host" the video on a place like Amara (this is the company we are using to caption) but I'm not comfortable allowing this to happen, at least until I know more. 

I have over 200 videos (most concern skepticism in some way) waiting to be captioned.  I have other friends that would be willing to upload captions when they are ready (Kitty Mervine springs to mind).  And I'm sure lots of video owners would be willing to do so if asked.  BTW please share your passwords and permissions (with a close friend and/or family member) so that everyone else is not held hostage with the inability to move forward if needed. 

So if you have some history laying around someplace that you think should be brought to our attention, or want to help out and need training and what to caption first, please contact me at


About uploading images to the Internet.  Please consider uploading to WikiMedia Commons.  I believe Kitty Mervine was the photographer in the case of the below photograph.  This is my son, Stirling and we were on a JREF cruise "Chasing el Chupacabra" in Mexico.  Kitty had purchased this dried out skate and was telling everyone it was a chupacabra.  The picture was uploaded years ago to WikiMedia and just a week or so ago, Kitty got a message from one of her friends "Hey, isn't that Stirling?"  Sure enough Cracked Magazine used this image for an article on the chupacabra.  When the image is clicked on, you are taken to WikiMedia where the JREF is mentioned. (there are over 1,400 comments, so someone is reading this article) Pretty cool!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Kiki Sanford - We Got Your Wiki Back!

Dustin Phillips is at it again. 

Our very own "This Week in Science" podcaster Dr. Kiki Sanford's Wikipedia page has received a well needed re-write. 

Dustin has done a nice job bringing out her personality in this page, again showing that our skeptical spokespeople aren't just a bunch of dry, boring academics. 

Here is the Before Dustin got involved page

Here is the newly launched page.

Way to go Dustin!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Uploading Captions to existing videos

So you have been asked to upload captions to your video.  Thank you in advance.  Having captions not only allows hearing impaired people to be able to watch your video, it allows people to watch it in other languages.

With the Wikipedia World project we are working to caption tons of interviews and other subject matter so that we can turn around and use them for citations on Wikipedia pages.  This is much quicker and easier than translating entire notable documents that probably do need to be translated. 

The following is specific instructions on how to upload captions to YouTube if you are asked.  Below these instructions is a plea for you all picture and video holders to preserve the history you have created, and make available for future projects.


You should have received an email with a file attached, the extension will probably be .srt  You do not have to open this file. 

Next go to the video on YouTube. 

You see that little downward arrow next to the Annotations tab?  Click on that down arrow.

Click on Captions

Now click on upload caption file or transcript.  Your file screen should come up.  You need to find the file that was sent to you amongst all the other files.  Open that file.

 Change the tab to the language that it is translated into.  Click upload. 

You should be able to see the changes you have made by clicking on the "view on video page" tab.

Under the video there is a red CC If you click on that you will be able to click on the translation you want to see displayed on the video. 

If you click on the CC button you will see a "settings" feature.  If you play around with these you can make the captions appear better.  I haven't done this yet, but I suppose it can be very helpful for certain videos.

Please spread the video around in your social world.  Talk up this project.  We need tons of people to help out.  Once they realize they might be holding onto videos that may be useful to the Wikipedia World project they might just upload them, or bring them to our attention.  (contact me at

I'm not sure how an owner can make their account available for others to upload without having you do it for us.  If someone knows how this can be done I would love an answer.  If you are a video owner, remember you are in-trusted with a piece of history that may be needed for projects we can't even imagine how we will use in the future. 

Somehow you need to find a way to pass on permissions for these videos in case you are incapable or unavailable in the future.  I'm releasing permissions and passwords to some key people in my life with instructions on how the pictures and videos can be used.  Also I have made several people I trust admins on my blogs, projects and accounts so they can move right in and keep things on track if I'm unable to.  I'm trying to avoid the founders syndrome right up front. 

I'm looking at videos of Jerry Andrus that aren't perfect, not the most amazing quality, but they are available and the content is wonderful in my eyes.  If these videos and pictures didn't exist, then a piece of history would be completely lost.  See this blog about how you can help out with the Wikipedia projects without becoming an editor