Thursday, November 26, 2015

Vera de Kok - WikiMedia & GSoW

Vera de Kok - QED - 2014
In November 2015 The Wikipedia community was awarded the Erasmus Prize for "For "[promoting] the dissemination of knowledge through a comprehensive and universally accessible encyclopaedia. To achieve that, the initiators of Wikipedia have designed a new and effective democratic platform. The prize specifically recognises Wikipedia as a community — a shared project that involves tens of thousands of volunteers around the world.""
In this video the first person you see is GSoW member and WikiMedia admin Vera de Kok. I want you to know how proud we are of Vera, she has been a part of the GSoW project since March 2012, when she was deleting one of my images I was uploading because it did not have the correct licensing. Vera noticed the "theme" of many of my images and realized that we shared a lot in common, we both were critical thinkers out to improve Wikipedia for the betterment of everyone. And we both loved photography.
Vera has not only uploaded thousands of photos taken personally, but has been responsible for adding 11,552 images (so far) and audio to WikiMedia Commons in order for them to be used freely on the Internet and in Wikipedia projects.
There is no way to be able to show you a representative sample of her achievements as they are far too numerous. But if you are curious about what she has achieved take a look at her WikiMedia Contribution account.
To be clear, Vera did not win the Erasmus Prize, but she is one of many bright lights in the world of Wikipedia that is doing far more than her share of work. She is one of many amazing people who volunteer their time helping to educate the world.
We at GSoW are very proud of WikiMedia and very very proud that we count Vera de Kok as one of our own.
Thank you Vera for all that you do.

Leon, Jelena, Vera and Peter at QED recording podcast for Skepticality

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

September - October 2015 Updates

The GSoW tour of Australia, Hong Kong and Dongguan, China is all over. What a blast meeting people, so many of you have been following the project and are big fans of the work we are doing. Thank you for your kind words and support. If you are interested, I have managed to upload lots of video and photos from that trip.  I lectured about GSoW to eight different skeptic groups and have several of these also uploaded.  

We at GSoW are working on some changes for 2016, as we are a all-volunteer group these things take time and will eventually get done, just as time permits.  We hope to roll out a new project soon  called Stat Badger and is made possible by friend of GSoW, Kyle Polich. If you are a fan of statistics you should check out his podcast Data Skeptic

Also coming January 2016 the GSoW focus is going to be on creating/rewriting Wikipedia pages for skeptical books. We have a list with over 500 listed on it, only about 10 percent have Wikipedia pages and of those 50 most pages aren't in good condition. We are aiming for GSoW to complete 100 Wikipedia pages, 20 to become Did You Know's.

We are also looking into making GSoW into a non-profit.  This will make it easier for us to receive donations that we can use for outreach. Our audience is the skeptical community, so we need to be present at conferences.  Travel and expenses related to conference attendance can get expensive. 

There are lots of awesomeness below for you to enjoy, please check out the before and afters. Share this blog and leave us comments.  And thank you for being here for us.




Dutch Team
Stichting Skepsis updates. The Dutch skeptics foundation, Stichting Skepsis, has been revamping their website. Leon Korteweg checked and corrected whether URLs from Wikipedia to still worked. Some WP articles needed no update at all (yet), others just a better referencing format and/or a new URL here and there, and a few are in such a bad shape in general that he had to go and edit them properly. Although most link from the Dutch Wikipedia, some subjects are addressed on English                                                                       Wikipedia as well (see English Team).

Some basic macrobiotic ingredients. Nelissen and
others claimed simply eating 'right' could prevent or
cure any illness. Not so in at least 4 lethal cases.

Adelbert Nelissen
Before & After - A Dutch macrobiotics quack who was (partly) responsible for the death of at least 4 people. He recommended far-fetched pseudoscientific diets to 'get yin and yang balanced' or something, and vehemently dissuaded patients from seeking help from the "medical and nutritional establishment", because doctors will perform any surgery without permission if it makes them money (classic 'Big Pharma' conspiracy theories).

I read the really sad story about a man (formerly a well-known politician) whose wife became one of the victims, because she was too afraid to do simple surgery to prevent cervical cancer. Instead, she preferred all kinds of expensive woo woo diets and treatments on Nelissen's advice, wasting valuable time and money. The husband tried everything to persuade her, but didn't want to violate her free choice and physical integrity. They ended up divorced and she died. His story sent a shock through the country in 1998, and other victims came forward. Together they sued Nelissen, who was eventually convicted.

Most of Nelissen's WP page was rather promotional of him, almost hagiographic. It said stuff like 'Using cooking lessons and his inspiring lectures, he inspired many to [lead] a more healthy lifestyle. With his direct, intelligent and investigative approach, he challenged many dogmas of established medical and nutritional science'. I changed it to 'Using cooking lessons and his lectures, he encouraged many to [lead] a different lifestyle. With his direct and investigative approach, he challenged much of the knowledge of regular medical and nutritional science', which I think is much more neutral.
 Masaru Emoto - Before & After - The Japanese pseudoscientist who claims to have proven water has memory and has a healing effect on people. He was already categorised as a "pseudoscientist", but I added Rob Nanninga and Gerrie Croonen saying that as well in the 'skepticism' section. I added an extra Skepsis article, and asked for sources for several more claims, including an unsourced counter-claim by scientists.
Rob Nanninga demonstrates how Rostelli's 'telekinesis'
stunt is a simple physics trick (2001).

 Rasti Rostelli 
- Before & After - Improved the criticism section with an exposé and TV show episode (21:28) wherein Rob Nanninga exposes the tricks Rostelli used in his performances, which he dishonestly calls 'mere suggestion' when it's a real chemical reaction or 'telekinesis' when it's just a simple magician's physics trick. Also, Rostelli doesn't warn that some of his tricks are actually dangerous, nor does he take care of harm done to participants afterwards.

 Rob Nanninga 
- Before & After - Included the Rostelli exposure, see above.

 Alfred Vogel - Before & After - The Swiss homeopath whose 'flagship' product 'Echinaforce' appears to be completely ineffective. There was already a criticism section, but it was a bit out of order. Also added Arjen Lubach's satire.

 Echinaforce - Before & After - Basically the same addition as with Alfred Vogel under the 'Ontdekking' section.

Good Thinking Society investigates Peter Popoff: Michael Marshall and a colleague show how Popoff persuades people to send him money for empty promises and near-worthless trinkets in return, and how a stage 'healing' was probably faked.

– Good Thinking Society - Before & After.

– Peter Popoff - Before & After - There was barely any information on Dutch Wikipedia so far; we doubled the contents.

Al Seckel (1958–2015).
Joi Ito CC-BY-SA 2.0.
Al Seckel Before & After - Assessment of apparent date of death by Leon Korteweg. There is still much uncertainty on this point.

Paul VerhaegheBefore & After - Criticism against his psychoanalytical views were presented as a 'conspiracy' amongst a group of philosophers and journalists, as if he was being persecuted. In fact, just a handful of 
individual philosophers and one journalist criticised his views separately, there was no coordinated 'attack'. The skeptics were not properly mentioned by name, nor their critical articles referenced. (Ironically, the psychoanalysts later published a collective manifesto against the 'scientistic' skeptics themselves, doing exactly what Verhaeghe's page falsely accused their opponents of doing).

English Team

Australian Skeptics Inc. CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Parapsychology research at SRI - rewrite by April Poff - Before & After

Australian Skeptics - Grand rewrite by Michelle Franklin - Before & After. Michelle did major improvements to the article, which was then presented by Susan Gerbic at the Australian Skeptics National Convention in October 2015.

Louis Fles - rewrite by April Poff, reviewed by Leon Korteweg. Featured as a Did You Know? on 28 October 2015. - Before & After
Deborah Hyde at QED 2014.Andrew Merritt CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Franklin House (Launceston) page rewritten while at the Launceston Workshop - Before & After

Deborah Hyde - Brand New Page - created by András Pintér. She is the most prominent skeptical investigator of cryptozoology in the UK, and the editor of The Skeptic.

Launceston Skeptics - Brand New Page - created by Susan Gerbic.

Jon-Erik Beckjord - rewrite by Janyce Boynton - Before & After.
Arjen Lubach. Vera de Kok CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Arjen Lubach - Brand New PageA Dutch comedian, television presenter and writer, skeptical about religion, homeopathy, the monarchy etc. His Dutch page, earlier expanded by Emile Dingemans and provided a picture and voice intro by Vera de Kok, was translated to English by Leon Korteweg and reviewed by April Poff.

Al Seckel - Before & AfterAssessment of apparent date of death by Susan Gerbic, Jerod Lycett and others. There is still much uncertainty on this point. Also added an infobox.

Alfred Vogel - Before & After After the improvements on Dutch Wikipedia (see above) Leon Korteweg copypaste-translated the criticism section to English Wikipediaand debunked the whole Ben Black Elk story in the Travels section. He deleted the appeal to tradition claim that 'The Sioux had known of this plant for generations and used it as an all-round remedy: externally for snakebites, wounds and bruising and internally for strengthening the immune system', which had been challenged since October 2011.

Sue Ion. Rob McDermott CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Good Thinking Society investigates Peter Popoff: see above.
Good Thinking Society - Before & After - See above.
Michael Marshall (skeptic)Before & After - See above.
Peter PopoffBefore & After - See above.

Sue Ion - rewrite by Janyce Boyton - Before & After

Rob Nanninga - Before & AfterSee above.

Paul Verhaeghe - Before & After - See above.

Paul Cliteur. Vera de Kok CC-BY-SA 4.0.
Paul Cliteur - Brand New Page - A Dutch Professor of Jurisprudence and Philosophy, he is a well-known critic of religion in general and Islam in particular, and an advocate for atheism, secularism, free speech, animal rights etc. Leon Korteweg recorded his voice intro, improved, expanded and translated his biography, reviewed by April Poff and Janyce Boynton.

German Team

Paul Verhaeghe - Before & After - See above.

ECSO board meeting in London. András Pintér CC-BY-SA 4.0.

European Skeptics Congress photos and voice introsBrand New Category. Contributions by András Pintér and Leon Korteweg.
– Amardeo Sarma
– Tim Trachet
– Johan Braeckman
– Deborah Hyde

– Julia Offe
– Klaus Schmeh
– Martin Mahner
– Andrew Copson
– Ian Scott
– Paul De Belder
– Edzard Ernst
– Tomasz Witkowski

– Maciej Zatonski
– And more...
Karin Spaink. René van Elst CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Anton Constandse Lecture 

Photos of Karin Spaink (Freethinker of the Year 2015), Paul Scheffer and a voice intro of Karin Spaink. English before & English after – Dutch before & Dutch after.

Skepsis Congres photos and voice intros: Brand New Category. Contributions by Leon Korteweg.


We had three Did You Know? articles this time...
Louis Fles

Jim Baggott

Jon Palfreman


GSoW in the Media

Practical Skepticism Panel from TAM13 - Blog from The Thoughtful Conduit

Skeptic Zone - Maynard interviews Susan Gerbic at the Sydney SitP 28:33

Saltklypa - Norwegian podcast with a segment in English, interview with Mark Edward who talks about the GSoW project 30:00 +/-

Hopes&Fears Magazine - Hoax Busters Article

Reality Check Podcast - Interview with Susan Gerbic about GSoW

Skepticality - Interview with GSoW editor April Poff

Skepticality - Interview with GSoW Hungarian Team Leader  András Pintér

Susan and David Young are interviewed on a Hong Kong radio show about GSoW and more

Susan Gerbic's lecture on GSoW for Atheist United 

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