Monday, September 10, 2012

All Summed Up - Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia

Every so often I have to sit down and sum up all the Wikipedia projects we have going right now.  So this is that blog, if you have been reading the blog from the beginning, you can skip this one.  If you are new to the project this will really help you catch up. 

Next week will be the 2 month anniversary of the Wikipedia World project and I will give you real numbers and show updates next week. 

The following will explain all the different projects, with lots of links to blogs and articles explaining what this Wikipedia thing is all about. 

Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (general)

This is the project I began with in 2011.  I first began editing WP by myself and quickly began picking up others who were like minded.  BTW there is nothing keeping non-English editors from doing this same kind of editing.  Ben Radford just sent me a link to Pensar magazine (Spanish language magazine owned by S.I.)

I advocate editing backwards.  This means first find an article that is from a noteworthy source, and then cite it on the appropriate page(s).

The most recent example I can think of that I personally edited began with an  email I received from the JREF.  It was a general email to the JREF mailing list.  I followed the link on that email to the Huffington Post article by JREF president D. J. Grothe.  (Both the Huff Post and D.J. Grothe can be cited as they both have WP pages, this makes them notable).

I was able to leave this on the Wikipedia page. 

JREF President DJ Grothe released a press release calling out for endorsing Caputo, stating, "It is difficult to watch the show and not feel heartbroken for those who are desperate to hear from the departed... and even more so if they are being manipulated by a charlatan." Grothe urges to "invite... your new representative" to take the James Randi Million Dollar challenge and prove her credentials.

As you can see I was able to hyperlink to JREF, DJ Grothe and to the James Randi Million Dollar challenge with this simple edit.  This is an example of getting skepticism, out past the skeptical choir and into the reading hands of people who may never have heard of the JREF or skepticism.  How many Priceline readers were reached with this one edit?  16,361 potential readers for August 2012 alone.  For September that page is trending 500+ readers each day.  Everytime is in the media, more traffic will be drawn to their WP page.

How many people would have read about the JREF challenge if I had simply reposted the JREF announcement if I had put it on my Facebook/Twitter/Google+ page?  About 1,900 people, all of whom are in the skeptical choir and they would be limited to viewing it just as long as it is in the "feed".    I don't know what the potential readers of the Huff post are, I'm sure it is sizable, as well as the amount of people who are on the JREF mailing list.  My point is, I do not have the ability to be DJ Grothe and write for Huff Post, we need that content written first.  But once written, those of us who are a part of the skeptical movement (a subset of the skeptical community) have many avenues to spread the message further and outside the choir.  We need to think outside the box.

I added this edit August 15, 2012 and no one has touched it, nor are there any grounds for its removal.  Now for the icing on the cake.  Why stop with  I went over to the Long Island Medium's WP page and placed nearly the same edit on that page.  Some other editor(s) had been there before me and left some great guerrilla skepticism edits.  (I left footnote 11 only)

In June 2012, Mrs. Caputo appeared in a commercial for, in which she portrayed herself "connecting" with the late Priceline Negotiator character previously played by William Shatner.(9)However, this commercial has sparked controversy, since the commercial appears to make light of the Native American belief of smudging.(10)JREF President DJ Grothe released a press release calling out, stating, "It is difficult to watch the show and not feel heartbroken for those who are desperate to hear from the departed... and even more so if they are being manipulated by a charlatan." Grothe urges to "invite... your new representative" to take the James Randi Million Dollar challenge and prove her credentials.(11)


On April 1, 2012, the James Randi Educational Foundation awarded Caputo a Pigasus Award for being the "psychic" performer who fooled the greatest number of people with the least effort in the preceding year. JREF founder James Randi stated "[the show] is utter nonsense and dangerous". A Pigasus award was also given to TLC for continuing to air the show.

These are all great examples of Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia.  I worked backwards by finding the notable citation first, I can assume the other editors did the same.  How many potential readers are reached with the Long Island edits?  21K in August 2012.  In September we can see one day alone that page had over 10K views.  Every mention of Long Island Medium in the media brings in more views to the WP page.  So over 37K WP readers can read about JREF calling out the Long Island Medium, remember this is EACH MONTH. 

My team of editors (along with the other editors on WP) have placed tons of these citations.  Yet, it remains that the potential is for thousands more.  Imagine how many backwards edits could be left with one single Skeptical Inquirer magazine?  Skeptic Magazine? Scientific American?  When you start with a source that is noteworthy  (in other words it has its own WP page) and if you quote someone who also is noteworthy (not always needed, but it is better) then the potential to affect hundreds of WP articles is amazing.

One more mention, this to Dustin Phillips whose first edits on this project were backwards edits to the Oscillococcinum and Bioron pages. 

Podcast Project

This is also an example of working backwards and guerrilla skepticism.  We are small fish in the big world.  Getting the message out that we have podcasts, blogs, magazines and such centered around a skeptical theme is difficult.  There are many ways of breaking out of the choir, my project is only one way.  Again, you have to start with a noteworthy podcast, and find quotes that are relevant to the WP articles.  My favorite is Skeptoid for many reasons.   How many podcasts have you heard discussing the Philadelphia Experiment or Ball lightening?  BTW I just picked these two pages off the top of my head, you might be interested in the amount of views these pages get.  PE got 89K for August 2012 and Ball got 156.  You just don't know sometimes what interests people which is why we have to be diverse. 

At this moment, one editor, Jim Preston has made the Skeptoid project his baby.  It is time consuming but he is making progress.  In time we will review the hit counts  to see if he has increased the hits to Skeptoid.  I love it when we get to see measurable results. 

Skeptoid isn't the only notable skeptical podcast out there.  Several others also exist, but most don't discuss a topic like Dunning does using citations and such.  It is more difficult to quote a hosts opinion of something in the news, not impossible, but leaving this citation might be problematic in the eyes of other WP editors.

Recorded Interviews

When a noteworthy person is interviewed on a podcast they can be quoted and cited on WP.  This means all interviews on podcasts (noteworthy or not) can be gleaned for great quotes, cited and left on WP articles.  If the podcast is noteworthy (i.e. they have their own WP page) then that just makes the citation stronger.

The same thing goes for recorded interviews on YouTube.  If the WP can follow the link and listen to the interview and find the quote then it is fair game.  This means that all the interviews I have of James Randi, Mark Edward, Ray Hyman and so on are potentially usable for cites on WP.  So please pull out your video camera and start recording.  If you have something sitting around on your computer, get it up on YouTube.  If you think it might be valuable to quote from, but you don't want to make the edit, please leave the URL on the talk page of the person, or bring it to my attention.

Captioning Videos

This is another new project that is so important to the movement, and does not require a WP account, or any editing.

All videos we use as citations should be captioned in English.  Not only for the benefit of  hearing impaired viewers, but because once translated into English, it makes it easier for the video to be translated into other languages, then cited into WP articles that are not English. 

The problem we have run into on the Wikipedia World project is that the captions have to be added by the owner of the video.  This really restricts us to a very small number of videos.  I have written to several video owners  and not heard a peep back.   Thankfully, because of social networking I am "friends" with several people that own some of these videos, they have been gracious enough to upload the captions when asked. 

This video owned by Rex Young has now been captioned into English, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and French (all within the last 5 weeks) More languages will follow.  (note: click on the little cc area to see all the translations)

Photographers Needed

Another area that we need a lot of help with are people willing to take and upload images that we can add to WP pages.  Most people do not understand that we can not add a picture to WP unless it has been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.  The easiest way is to have the photographer do this.  The image does not have to be perfect, amazing or anything of the sort.  Sometimes we add the picture then find something better and change them out, it isn't difficult if we have access to the image.

Here are two guest articles from Vera de Kok explaining in better detail this subject.   Flickr and OTRS.

Also Portuguese editor Filipe Russo is looking for some good Penn & Teller images that can be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.  Here is all we have to work with.  Remember we can't take anything off the Internet without the photographer's permission.   So we would prefer something shot at a skeptic or magic event, uploaded by the photographer.

We Got Your Wiki Back! project

One of the more popular of all the projects.  This one is a blast because the editors are usually creating pages for people they don't know, but by the time they are done they find they have become an expert.  I receive the most comments and thank you's for these, they are a lot more work than simple edits working backwards.

I've written about this project so many times that I'm just going to let Wendy Hughes explain it to you quickly.  (BTW this video has only been captioned in English so far, hint hint)

Now I'll just list a few of the people and groups we have added or re-written in the last few months.  I think you will get the idea.

Barry Beyerstein, James Alcock, Ray Hyman, Loren Pankratz, Skeptic's Toolbox and Jerry Andrus

Kiki Sanford

Mary Roach

Bryan & Baxter,  Jennifer Ouellette, Tim Farley and Alan Melikdjarlian

Kendrick Frazier

Robert Ingersoll

Tom Flynn

Alison Gopnik

Sikivu Hutchinson

Wikipedia World project

The world project has evolved over time.  I started by asking for people to translate two paragraphs into many non-English languages and find places to put up the paragraphs.  I was hoping to get people interested in editing in other languages.  My idea was to just introduce the idea then step back and hope they stuck with it.  I got no help from this shout-out.  

Next I tried to appeal to the 6th World Skeptic Congress for help, and then I made the case that we really need to branch out into other languages and used the page for Evolution as my reasoning.  Again no offers of help.  What I discovered was that people were reluctant to edit pages on Evolution because they felt they lacked the scientific background to do so.

So I regrouped and thought a lot about this, I wasn't giving up so easily.

I then decided that optical illusionist Jerry Andres would be the perfect page to write in all languages.  I wrote a blog introducing the idea, but still no one offered help.

Finally, I decided to have a long talk with the English editors that attended TAM 2012 (Brian Engler, Brian Hart, Tim Farley and Lei Pinter) I bounced off several ideas and they gave me great feedback.  We quickly put a plan into action, made some announcements and the next thing I know I was surrounded by people offering to help. 

We had great success using Facebook as a way to train and communicate when it came to the English group.  So why not try the same thing with a World group?  I wanted non-English editors to be able to participate, so we had to have a way for each language to have their own space for that specific language only. 

So what I did was to form a Wikipedia World FB group that only English is spoken in, here we can bond, share ideas, encourage, share links and just learn from each other.  Then each language group has its own FB group where I am the only English speaker.  In that group, editors can discuss specific issues to editing in that language.  They can also train each other on how to edit (most people come to this project never having edited WP before).  Inside these groups we can have people doing all the above projects that I mentioned earlier; captioning videos, photography, adding videos, We Got Your Wiki Back, guerrilla skepticism and so on. 

I will share a few blogs about this project here, but won't reveal what we have accomplished the first two months just yet (next week).

Overview of the World project

Overview of the Spanish and Portuguese WP pages by Nix Dorf

The first 3 weeks

Jerry Andrus in Portuguese

 And finally, thank you for bearing with me through this very long post.  Here is my first year in Review.

1 comment:

  1. Great work Susan, and so important. We are massively outnumbered by those believers in the woo World and this seems like a very effective way of getting the message out.