Monday, August 3, 2015

The GSoW Vaccination Project - Feb - July 2015

From time to time GSoW likes to unite the entire team to focus on one subject. For 6 months we focused on all things concerning vaccinations. It took us a couple months to find our feet and actually get the ball rolling, once done the team was passionate about getting things done. (Not all work mentioned below was completed during the Vax focus months)

We take great pride in showcasing our work, these pages generate hundreds of thousands of page views each year, and will continue to do so year after year. All work is exponential as we can build off the pages created, as well as translate them into other languages.

Officially we finished the Vaccine project, but team members will continue to work in this area as there is much work left to be done. We will be moving on to a new focus Jan - June 2016 on a topic still undecided. If you have suggestions please comment here on our blog or write to us at



Charlie Sheen's Wikipedia page (thanks to Gene) and is getting about 4K views a day.

Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters (Brand New Page) - This page was written by one of the new English editors, James Williams, about a group of concerned citizens in the part of Australia with the lowest vaccination rate. The article was reviewed by Susan Gerbic, Janyce Boynton and Leon Korteweg.

Fun Fact - The NRVS people were unaware of the creation of their Wikipedia page, it was decided that as the Brisbane Skeptics were having a SkeptiCamp on Saturday July 4th and at least one member of the NRVS team would be in attendance, GSoW would delay announcement of the page.  Susan Gerbic and James Williams gave the skepticamp organizers a video where James surprised the audience with the page. Video here

Brian Deer - Updated by Jim Preston - Before & After - This is the Science reporter that exposed anti-vax Doctor Andrew Wakefield. 

Every Child by Two - Page rewritten by Janyce Boynton - Before & After Founded in 1991 by Rosalynn Carter and Betty Bumpers to "raise awareness of the critical need for timely immunizations and to foster a systematic way to immunize all of America's children by age two."

Sherri Tenpenny (before) & (after) - Susan Gerbic - with the assistance of Jo Alabaster & Phil Kent (non-GSoW)

Leon Jaroff - (Brand New Page) - Written by Janyce Boynton, this biography is about the founding editor of popular science magazine Discover, and co-founder of CSICOP, the first successful skeptical organisation in the United States. (reviewed by Leon Korteweg)

Stephanie Messenger (Brand New Page) - Susan Gerbic - This is the anti-vax author of Melanie's Marvelous Measles which encourages children to seek out and embrace measles in order to make themselves stronger. The Melanie's Marvelous Measles Wikipedia page was written by Susan Gerbic in May 2015.

Steven Novella - Page updated and rewritten by various GSoW editors

The Mark Crislip/QuackCast page was an embarrassment. It is what I call a "non-scroller" which means you don't have to scroll to see the whole page.  Our community really should be ashamed that we allow pages like this to exist on Wikipedia.   Sean Whitcomb got to work and turned out this amazing transformation.  We contacted Mark for audio and I think he wins for funniest Intro Audio.  After

Rachael Dunlop now has a brand new page (with audio) written by new editor Sean Whitcomb. Rachael has been sitting on our list since we started collecting people to put on our list. She kept getting passed over, not because we were worried that there wouldn't be enough information, but because creating a page from scratch is a lot of work. I think Sean and team did a terrific job. Rachael was also featured on the front page of English Wikipedia as a Did You Know... Here are the stat views during that day.

Michelle Bachman - page updated by Janyce Boynton with HPV statements.

Bill Maher - Quotes from scientific skepticism community added concerning Maher's anti-vax comments. "Tara Parker-Pope and former Senator Bill Frist have called his criticism of the H1N1 flu vaccinations unscientific. Infectious diseases expert Paul Offit has written that misinformation about vaccines from celebrities like Maher has put children at unnecessary risk. Offit says that celebrities like Maher are seen as "less credible" and would still be considered just "great entertainment" if they weren't joined by the former Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Bernadine Healy and influential pediatrician, Dr. Robert Sears.  OncologistDavid Gorski has also criticized Maher's beliefs about vaccines several times in ScienceBlogs, and when Maher received the Richard Dawkins Award in 2009, Gorski wrote it was inappropriate. Skeptics, including mathematician and science writer Martin Gardner, neurologist Steven Novella, and magician Jamy Ian Swiss have also strongly rebuked Maher, characterizing him as anti-science, uninformed and potentially endangering the health of fans who take his "non-medical" advice.  Maher responded to the criticism, saying, "What I've read about what they think I'm saying is not what I've said. I'm not a germ theory denier. I believe vaccinations can work. Polio is a good example. Do I think in certain situations that inoculating Third World children against malaria or diphtheria, or whatever, is right? Of course. In a situation like that, the benefits outweigh costs. But to me living in Los Angeles? To get a flu shot? No.'"
Maher's Wikipedia page receives ~50K views a month

David Gorski - Brand New Page created - Oncologist and editor of Science Based Medicine Website - critic of alt-med and anti-vax. 

Scott Lilienfeld - Brand New Page created - Janyce Boynton

Dorit Reiss - (Brand New Page) - Monica Quijano - Immunization advocate focuses on legal issues concerning vaccination.

Measles - András G. Pintér - Before After (Pseudoscientific claims added - Stefan Lanka and the €100 000 to be payed)

Wendy Sue Swanson - editor Janyce Boynton - Brand New Page created Wendy Sue Swanson (born 1974) is a pediatrician, educator and author best known for her Seattle Mama Doc blog. As a doctor and a mother, Swanson advocates the use of online tools, such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, to strengthen communication between healthcare providers and patients. Swanson asserts that online technologies can assist patients and families in becoming stewards of their own health. Swanson has dedicated her career to helping physicians learn to use online tools more effectively in helping patients make informed decisions based in science. "While we don't have the capability just yet," Swanson states, "my goal is to prove that an empowered and informed patient reduces health care costs and improves outcomes.

This Did You Know? Appeared on the front page of Wikipedia May 2, 2015


Kanyaró (huwiki) - András G. Pintér - Before After (Hungarian Measles page. Antivax movement section and pseudoscience section added)

HLakos András - András G. Pintér - Brand new page (well known infectologist, MD, specializing in Lyme and other diseases spread by ticks, often debates anti-vax activists)


Steven Novella - Nix Dorf - New Page Created


Steven Novella - Rian van Lierop - New Page Created

A lot remains to be done. We barely got a part of the way through all the ideas on our work list. Editors will continue to pluck away at the list, but we will be moving forward. Jan-June 2016 we will focus on a yet undecided area. If you have an opinion on the matter please contact us on our Facebook Page.

As usual if you would like to know more about the GSoW project, please check out our YouTube channel. There you will learn all about the project, what to expect when training and afterwards. This project is not for everyone, so please inform yourself before writing to us at


  1. How do you prevent Outrage v. Outrage warfare, or is that really what fuels participation? I watch another group trying to right itself in a sea of pseudoscience. Opposing groups are quite active and have a particularly pernicious habit. The "evidence" they cite are "woozles", articles whose support in data, evidence or conclusion is totally in contained cites which also pull that trick, and so recursively you are left with nothing but an endless evidence-free cite tree. Instead of getting any real data, the opponents put all their effort into edit wars. Pretty frustrating stuff and most fact-based people give up when they see they are up against blather-based hordes.

  2. Good question.

    In the last couple years we have had almost no push-back. The few times we might have had something, it was pretty general and probably a regular Wikipedia editor that didn't think the citation we used was noteworthy enough, or we were being more critical than they thought we should. The only page I can remember this happened on was Alicia Silverstone when we were trying to get more mention of her odd medical beliefs.

    Most people who push the paranormal are quickly shut down by normal editors if they are trying to use bad citations or no citations or pedal nonsense. Their edits are removed and they are cautioned. If they try to war, then they are banned. It happens once in awhile. I see blogs from the paranormal world saying that they "give up editing Wikipedia because there is this mean guerrilla group in town that will pick on them" which isn't even slightly true, but since when have they cared about evidence. :-)

    The most problem we have are from people who think they know what they are doing, but really don't. They don't have a serious agenda, but are trying to add an edit that isn't appropriate. Those people we try to talk to them using the talk page and explain why their edit isn't sticking.

    We don't go in for edit wars, just don't need that drama. So we have some unwritten rules we generally follow. Don't take it personally, don't have an agenda. If you can't get the edit to stick, then try to discover why, learn from your mistake and possibly you will need to move on, there are thousands of other edits waiting to be made. So don't stress over that one.

    Brand new GSoW editors are not "allowed" to edit contentious pages. They stick to easy edits on places that are mostly abandoned. Once their edit history is stronger (and they know what they are doing) then they venture to more difficult edits.

    If we know we might ruffle feathers, then we write first on the talk page and wait for discussion. Then we discuss with other normal Wikipedia editors and it gets done.

    We have a team of over 100 GSoW editors that are happy to discuss possible edits that are problems. We usually have decided before hand how to proceed if it is going to be something difficult.

    Mostly the reason we receive very little pushback is because we follow the rules, use good sources and try to remain neutral. There are a lot of us, and we don't ever gain up on a page or vote in unison (we have to be very careful not to have this happen) but because there are a lot of us, and because we have a private forum, we can discuss past experiences and learn from each other.

    We hear all the time that so-n-so is going to be a page that is attacked and changed all the time. Or we hear, "you can't make that stick, there is no way the paranormal community is going to allow that change" and we just say to each other "this isn't our first rodeo, we have thousands of edits under our belt".

    So in a nutshell - we haven't experienced many problems (in English) in a couple others we have had some problems, but they seem to have sorted themselves out, those people have left and are no longer editing Wikipedia.

    Wait... I do remember one story that might be relevant, it happened about 3 years ago. We created a brand new page for a very active skeptic and published it. Someone who didn't appear to like that skeptic tried to have it deleted saying he wasn't noteworthy enough. So we discussed it on the talk page and made that editor state what would make him/her happy. So we focused for a couple days and were able to find even more citations than the first time we looked, in the end the page became bullet proof and no one could be able to ever touch it. We learned a lot from that, and now before something goes live, we really make sure we have the evidence to prove it is noteworthy enough to exist on Wikipedia.

    Thank you for your question.

  3. Thanks for your great answer. The vaccination campaign seemed to be a great leap forward from the psychics, but there are so many subjects which hurt large parts of the public. How do you decide what to tackle?

  4. Wow you are asking some great questions.

    When we did the focus on all things Cosmos, it was partly because several of my editors were already interested in astronomy so it just felt natural to try to get a bunch of pages done in time for March 2013. Which is when Cosmos was going to be released. I've found that deadlines really help a lot when you are working with volunteers. :-)

    We focused on all speakers at QED because I was going to be lecturing there and wanted to surprise the audience with all the work we had done in time for the conference. So again it was another deadline.

    When in Jan I decided we were going to pick a topic and focus on it for 6 months we weren't really sure what to select. We almost went to $cientology as it is really in the news a lot and seemed that maybe our focus could tip the balance a bit and help send them over the cliff a bit quicker.

    What I decided was to pull a bunch of headlines all over the world and see if there were keywords that were being used more than other things. And I found that the word vaccines was being used a lot. This was about Dec 2014 so right after the Disneyland measles case. Everyone was talking about it. Also a year ago I had learned of Melanie's Marvelous Measles (the children's book) and I wanted to make the Amazon book reviews to be really low, but that wasn't going to happen as many many of their reviews were written by skeptic's pretending to be anti-vax and they gave the book 5 stars. There were so many reviews that we could not have moved the numbers, so I had to put that bit of activism on the back burner. But it remained in my mind.

    The Skeptic Zone podcast was talking every week about Sherri Tenpenny and Stephanie Messenger and this Australian tour. So that was also in my mind.

    I wanted to help, I wanted to do something more than just read about these anti-vaxers but really other than talk to your family and friends about it, and write to your congressperson, the average person can't do much.

    Enter GSoW We can do a lot more than the average person, because we are a team and can make a bigger difference.

    Now we are trying to choose another topic (we are still working on various projects, just not all focused on one topic) OMG that is such a hard decision. I'm trying to get people to weigh in on the topic on our Facebook GSoW page. Once people start giving us ideas then I'm going to have the GSoW forum vote. I really want it to be a topic that my team wants to do.

    I'm leaning towards skeptic books or lake monsters.

    Thank you for asking me this, I'd completely forgot until answering you that I had picked vaccines after looking through headlines. Funny that, it was only 8 months ago. :-)

  5. You know I should probably write or do a podcast on how we pick our topics. We spend weeks and sometimes months working on one page. And we really do fall in love with each one, you begin to understand the person or the topic in ways that others really can't. Its like doing a 20+ page research paper for school, but actually enjoying it. You want to like the topic you select.

    I have started to do several pages, and just dropped them as I lost interest, or couldn't find the citations needed. Now when we want to create a brand new page (much harder than rewriting a page) we try to find two very notable citations first so we know we will have no problem proving notoriety. I've seen some editors spend weeks on a page only to discover that they can't publish the page. We have several sitting in "storage" hoping to find something new, or the person will suddenly be in the news somehow.

  6. Yes, I think that would be a good podcast subject. I watched your youtube JREF presentation from a couple years ago and a few minutes of your TAM13 presentation (too tired to finish). You seem to be more detailed and hands on now. I wonder if you would if I show off your hand out or have an online version?

  7. Oh yes, a lot has changed since that JREF video. GSoW has done a lot of evolving the last couple years. From time to time I hear from paranormal groups that are crying about GSoW, but they keep quoting the same video, as if that is the only video I've done.

    I don't have the handout anywhere, but probably should. I'm away from the computer that has that form on it, I'll try to remember to upload it.

    I do have a video on authorlinks on the GSoW youtube channel.

  8. Thanks for the link to GSoW on Youtube. I like the Dry Run of the training which I found there. Misses the screens, but maybe with the handout...

    1. Here you go Unknown.

  9. "On Wikipedia, politically controversial science topics vulnerable to information sabotage" --Science Daily

    1. Interesting analysis. It seems that Wikipedia might need to lock down pages even tighter than the semi-edit lock on certain pages. The talk page should be the only way to get a agreement on what to add. But this would require more admins (a dwindling number already) to manage this.

      Also I would say that identifying the editors on WP is a very bad idea. What criteria would be used? How would they prove who the person is? What would be the reason, unless it is to ban someone or keep them from editing? Its a bad idea and again not enough staff to manage it.

      Wikipedia should stay open-source and editors can remain anon. (I edit under my name Sgerbic BTW)

      If there are issues they will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

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