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

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