Sunday, December 29, 2013

Jerry Andrus Revisited

Back in May 2012 I asked the skeptical community to join me and write one Wikipedia page in every language as a training exercise for my newly formed World Wikipedia project.  The page I selected was the Jerry Andrus page.  My reasons were various, but the main reason was because Andrus was a expert with optical illusions, and he only preformed those that he invented himself.  I felt that someone reading the Arabic, Swedish, Russian Wikipedia pages for Andrus would be able to click on the many videos we used as citations and enjoy and understand the illusions without having to understand the language.  And it would be something that could be shared with children and safe for the workplace and grandparents and well, everyone.  No controversy - 100% win for us.  That's how I see it, Andrus is a great stepping stone for skepticism,  he shows you can not believe your eyes, these illusions are amazing and marvelous.

So we started.  I rewrote the English page and launched in August 2012, then my team got started on the translations.  First Portuguese, then closely followed by Arabic, French, Spanish, Dutch, Russian and Swedish.

That was all in 2012, yesterday I revisited the Andrus page as I was writing the Year in Review page for GSoW and wondered what Andrus's view stats looked like.  So I opened up the handy-dandy stat tool and was shocked to see that Andrus on Dec 23 received over 800 page views.  That is quite amazing as he normally gets about 10 views a day.  And the views didn't stop, they trickled down a bit 698 the next day, 440 the next and so on.  Then I looked at the stats for the other language pages, same thing.  A big spike around the 24th.  Only the Spanish and Swedish pages didn't show a spike.  Now what could have caused that kind of hit world-wide?  I have Andrus on Google Alert and occasionally I do get an email, but nothing at all that week.

It didn't even dawn on me till a few hours later.  Mark Edward had shown me a T-Rex illusion that morning that was on his Facebook feed.  "Did you see this?" After a couple seconds I said, yeah, that is a copy of Jerry Andrus's dinosaur illusion.  When it dawned on me later to have another look at that video,  it had over 3 million views and mentioned Andrus in the notes.  One of my GSoW editors mentioned that the video had been on Dig a few days before and I guess the video went viral.  Now it turns out that our own Phil Plait has written about the video on his blog over at Slate magazine.  Plait mentioned that he met Andrus at a conference and suggests that people "look him up" he even included a link to his WP page.  The beauty of the illusion is so wonderful that this could appear just about anywhere.  Fox News anyone?  So tomorrow should really be interesting to re-visit the Andrus WP views.

This is just another example of why we need to have the backs of our skeptical spokespeople.  Even a very quiet page like Jerry's might just spring into action with no notice, we have to be prepared.

Think of it this way, before GSoW got involved, this is what the Andrus page looked like.  Does this look like a respected man in our community?  Does this engage the reader and encourage them to click on the other hyperlinks to learn more about scientific skepticism?  Does this show any of this man's personality?

Now look at the current page, the one that thousands will be viewing the next few days. Click on the hyperlinks from this page, I hope you will be pleasantly surprised that those pages (created by GSoW) are also in excellent shape, engaging and reflect beautifully on our cause.

We have thousands more of these pages to do.  If you would like to help out we are always looking to mentor and train more editors.  Please write to us at

Saturday, December 28, 2013

GSoW Year End

I haven't done this before but thought before this becomes an overwhelming task I would release a list of articles GSoW has either rewritten or created from scratch.  Even though it has only been 2 and a half years, this took me several nights to put this list together.  I was pretty amazed to see everything in one place like this.  

Keep in mind GSoW is busy with all kinds of other edits as well as other support functions to train, mentor as well as keep the forum running.  These are just the more "glamorous" edits.

I'm so very proud of my people, these creations are no small task.  Keep watching through 2014, we have a lot planned.  Or better yet,  join the team.


Brian Dunning  - Before - After

Sean Faircloth - Before  - After

Jennifer McCreigh -  Before  -  After

Ben Radford  - Before  - After

James Underdown - New page

Playing Gods - Before - After

Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture - Before - After

William B Davis - Before - After


Alison Gopnik - Before - After 

Sikivu Hutchinson - Before - After

Tom Flynn - Before - After

Robert Ingersoll Birthplace - Before - After

Kendrick Frazier - Before - After

Bryan & Baxter - New Page

Jennifer Ouellette - New Page

Tim Farley - New Page

Mary Roach - Before - After

Kiki Sanford - Before - After

Barry Beyerstein - Before - After

Jerry Andrus - Before - After

Jerry Andrus - Portuguese (our very first World page)
Jerry Andrus - Arabic
Jerry Andrus - Russian
Jerry Andrus - Spanish

James Alcock - Before - After

Loren Pankratz - New Page

Ray Hyman - Before - After

Skeptic's Toolbox - New Page

Penn & Teller - Portuguese - Before - After

Bob Carroll - French - Before - After

Bob Carroll - Dutch - New page

Nina Burleigh - Before - After

Indre Viskontas - New page

Bell Witch - Before - After

Vashti McCollum - Before - After

SkeptiCamp -  New Page

Reason Rally - Before - After 

The Steve Allen Theater - New Page


Erich von Däniken - Portuguese - Before - After

Indigo Children - Portuguese - New page 

Power Balance - Portuguese - New page

Paul Kurtz - Russian - Before - After

Mark Boslough - Before - After

Stuart Firestein - New page

Danielle Egnew - Before - After

Sara Mayhew - New page

Kenneth Feder - Before - After

Paul Kurtz - Portuguese - Before - After

Martin Gardner - Portuguese - Before - After

Phil Plait - Portuguese - New page 

Jerry Andrus - Swedish - New page

Karl Shuker - Before - After

Point of Inquiry - Before - After

Our Lady of Warraq - Before - After

SkeptiCamp - Spanish - New Page

James Randi - Dutch - Before - After

James Randi - Portuguese - Before - After

Michael Shermer - Dutch - Before - After

Devraha Baba - Before - After

Leo Igwe - Before - After

Leo Igwe - German
Leo Igwe - Dutch
Leo Igwe - Russian

Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers - Before - After

Donald Prothero - New Page

Skeptical Inquirer Magazine - Portuguese - New Page

10:23 Campaign - Portuguese - New Page

Ruth Hurmence Green - Before - After

Skeptic's Guide to the Universe - Portuguese - New Page

One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge - New Page

Long Island Medium - Portuguese - New Page

Stan Romanek - New Page

Sharon Hill - New Page

Desiree Schell - Before - After

Deseret Travers (psychic) - Page Deleted for not being noteworthy

Skeptic Magazine - Portuguese - New Page

Jeff Peckman - New Page

Child's Healthcare is a Legal Duty (CHILD) - Before - After

James Alcock - French - New Page

Rationalism - Before - After

Bad Astronomy - Before - After

ADE - 651 - Dutch - New Page

Gore Orphanage - Before - After

Phillip Klass - Before - After

Eugenie Scott - Portuguese - New Page
Eugenie Scott - Spanish - New Page

Neil deGrausse Tyson - Portuguese - Before - After 
Neil deGrausse Tyson - German - New Page
Neil deGrausse Tyson - Dutch - New Page

David Gorski - Before - After

Tracking the Chupacabra - New Page

Ronald Bailey - Before - After

Merseyside Skeptics - Before - After

Pascal's Wager - Dutch - New Page

Archie Cochrane - Dutch - New Page

Lawerence Krauss - Dutch - Before - After

Andrew Skolnick - Before - After

Bart Ehrman - Dutch - New Page

Bart Ehrman - Before - After

Chris French - Before - After

Dan Ariely - Before - After

Eddie Tabash - Before - After

Spontaneous Human Combustion - Before - After

Susan Blackmore - Before - After

Burzynski Clinic - Portuguese - New Page

Pet Psychic - Before - After

Rose Marks - New Page

Dutch Association for Critical Shots - Dutch - New Page

Annie Laurie Gaylor -  Before & After 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Egg Balancing and more (lots more)

Just so you know, all the conspiracy theories about GSoW you have been reading the last few months are true.  We are a bunch of mean skeptics that are doing everything we can to make sure every Wikipedia page is backed up with great noteworthy citations, proving all the claims made on the page.  Evidence rules!  We are always actively looking for more like-minded people to train in our guerrilla warfare.  I address the Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra drama near the bottom of this blog, as well as offer you a few videos, podcasts and blogs that have appeared about our project in the last month or so.

But before we get to all that nasty drama, I want you to see what we have really been doing with our time with a few of the more glamorous updates to Wikipedia.

One of my more devious editors, Nathan Miller just updated this page with an image.  I offer this as evidence of our nefarious conspiracy to improve Wikipedia.  EVIDENCE HERE  (insert evil laugh here while looking at this page)

From a brand new editor, CFI Fellow Andrew Skolnick's page was given a makeover.  Note: We are looking for a photo of Skolnick as well as a photo or two from his investigation with Ray Hyman of the Girl with the Normal eyes.  Before and After

From the Dutch team - Bart Ehrman's page received some improvements and updates on the English page first, then they translated it for Dutch readers.

UK Skeptic Chris French received a nice rewrite from the English team.  Before and After

Dan Ariely's page received a cleanup courtesy of our Lei Pinter.

You might want to sit down before looking at the before and after.  I met Eddie Tabash at CFI's Student Leadership conference in August.  When he learned that I am both a portrait photographer as well as a Wikipedia editor he asked if I could "someday" do something about the image on his WP page.  So I took him outside, snapped a couple shots and within 15 minutes he had a new image for his page.  That was that for a few months, but the page nagged at me, it badly needed a total re-write and I knew I would be seeing him in Oct at the CFI Summit.  So I put my nose to the grindstone and managed to get it re-written in time.   Before and After

Spontaneous Human Combustion was one of my biggest terrors as a child.  The idea that you could be walking down the street and suddenly burst into flames was horrifying.  I was told that even with STOP - DROP and ROLL you would not be able to put out the flames as they came from inside your body.  The thought still makes me shutter!  Why do we tell kids this kind of thing?  When I started editing WP this page was one of the first I visited and added a few citations from Ben Radford, Brian Dunning and Joe Nickell.  I also took out an entire section of examples of SHC that happened hundreds of years ago.  Regardless of all the edits I added and removed, this page needed more improvements, including a lot of organization.  This page has been a pet-peeve for Joe Nickell who tells everyone that it badly needs to be updated.  Just like with Tabash, I knew I would be seeing Nickell at the CFI Summit and wanted to surprise him with a newly rewritten page.  Editor Nathan Miller stepped up and pulled a few all-nighters (which is why we call him our vampire) and got it in shape just in time for the Summit.    Before and After   Guess how many people viewed the SHC page Nov 2013 before viewing this link.

Susan Blackmore received a makeover with a few new images, this page was improved by a member of GSoW along with the general WP editors.  Before and After

Burzynski Clinic page was updated with the FDA findings as well as the USA Today article. Then Portuguese editor Nix Dorf within a day came through with the newly created page translated into Portuguese.

Another brand new editor that found us from the Skeptic Zone podcast, Caitlin rewrote the Pet Psychic page.  Before and After  As you can see, sometimes this means that we remove most of the article, Caitlin removed dead links and unverified information, plus she cleaned up the grammar and made the article flow better.  In all she removed over 3,000 characters from the article.  We had a bit of a laugh during the discussions of this rewrite, I totally misunderstood what this page was about and kept suggesting that Caitlin look into Sheldrake and Wiseman's work with psychic dogs and not to forget Clever Hans and the investigation that the IIG did with Sparky the Wonder dog.  Finally someone explained that this is a WP page for PEOPLE who communicate with animals with their minds, not animals that communicate with people. Duh Susan.

This is our first news article.  Bill toiled over this page creation for quite some time.  Rose Marks and the family psychic fraud page is a bit different from a normal page, as it reads more as something that is updated as events unfold, and not something static.

Also from the Dutch team we see a rewrite of the Nederlandse Vereniging Kritisch Prikken  Dutch Association for Critical Shots page.  Apparently this is a anti-vac group formed by naturopaths.

Nix also finished improving the James Randi page in Portuguese.

Lei wanted to point out that we finally got a photo for the Vashti McCollum uploaded for her page. Thanks everyone that wrote to me giving suggestions on where to look.

****  The GSoW conspiracy  ****

The drama of Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra has almost been laughable.  Every morning for a few months I wondered "what is waiting for me in my inbox?"  Would you believe that there are more than 20 anti-GSoW blogs that have been written in the last few months.  Three came from a skeptic blogger who thinks we are making her job talking to the paranormal community more difficult. She thinks we should be working with their community to write WP pages.  My response is ... we already do this, its called being a Wikipedia editor. We might write an article, but once it is live, then it no longer belongs to us and we are at the mercy of all editors, paranormal believers and not.

I was attacked by all sorts, an astrologer wanted me to debate him.  Others made fun of my hats (can you imagine!) Rupert's latest blog misspelled my name, Susan Gerbik, so much for his investigative skills.  Tim Farley and I discuss the drama and what led up to it on this episode of Skepticality  Jerry Coyne jumps into the fray and defends us in a series of blogs.  This is the first one.  Here is a blog by an astrologer (not sure if it was the same one that challenged me) This is the first in a series by a person who tried to edit Sheldrakes page, got into arguments with just about everyone and ended up storming off complaining about my team. The really funny thing is that this person only made one tiny edit to the Sheldrake page and accused us of having an agenda, this person has only ever edited on the Sheldrake talk page and no where else on WP. Looking over my notes, this appears to be the very first blog from from all this drama and it dates back to 2012, and just tonight I discover that this person has written a book about this mess and I'm in it (with my name spelled correctly, Sheldrake are you listening?).  Amazing!

Must mention that Tim Farley did an awesome write-up investigation of the whole drama on his blog here.  They of course never read this.  Eyes - Wide - Shut

The stories and drama I'm sure will continue.  My team has been very open about what we edit.  In fact every single WP editor's edit history is available with a couple clicks. Its easy to find out who edited what, when and even the time they edited.  But they didn't care about that evidence stuff.  The only thing important is the conspiracy.  Its everywhere you know.  Well just read back a few months through my blogs and you can see the giant conspiracy we have been involved in.

Other mentions in the media recently...

This is a nice article written about us in Swedish for a blog called Borje Peratt explorer.

GSoW has joined the Candle in the Dark team - apparently

This is a very sweet blog by my friend Kitty all about my hats.  Its got lots of pretty photos too

Skeptic Blog - Mark Edward writes about GSoW and the Sheldrake/Chopra drama.

Susan Gerbic wondering if they can balance an egg on my head