Thursday, October 23, 2014

A pair of facts beats a full house of myths - RIP Fred Green

It is with a very heavy heart that I need to share with you all the loss of one of my GSoW editors. I do not know the circumstances of his death, and how he died is not important to this story.

Fred friended me on Facebook Dec 24, 2012 with this message "I am completely new to WP, I have no account and no experience. I would love to help out in any way I can though, I suspect it will be more rewarding than commenting on facebook posts, lol." He was spot on with that. He invested his time on a project that really makes a difference, his contributions, lasting.

Fred was generous with his time, had a great positive attitude, and quickly became someone that took on responsibilities. GSoW thrived on Facebook groups for over a year, but we kept growing and we wanted to mingle the languages, so we built a forum. Fred was chosen to be the team leader of one of the English teams, Sagan. He remained an important part of our growth until a few months ago when he asked to step down for personal reasons.

During his tenure with GSoW he worked on some really great pages, Hemant Mehta, Ruth Hurmence Green, the Skeptic Booklist and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF). For someone with no experience he took on the challenge and made a difference. Fred also worked behind the scenes, training and supporting other GSoW editors. On our forum, he introduced himself and added " My experience with editing WP articles is limited but Susan keeps me around for her own amusement." And I would have too, he was that kind of person, you just wanted him on your team. I'm glad that even though it was a short time, I can say he was on my team.

I'm trying not to get all soppy, which is difficult during this emotional time. I think this is a great reminder that there are all kinds of special people out there, people who you haven't met yet, and maybe if your lucky, like I was, you will get a Facebook friend request from one of them and find out you have just met a very special person. The line "A pair of facts beats a full house of myths." was Fred's signature on our forum.

Fred we miss you.

Fred Green's Wikipedia User Page


The person on the forum that knew him the best was Lei Pinter who wanted to share her thoughts with you also...

I lost a friend today. We only met once in person but we had a special friendship nonetheless. We worked together on editing a couple of Wikipedia pages and trained other folks how to make the edits as well. It sounds kinda dry, I realize, but for a couple of IT geeks it was an oddly cathartic hobby.

 The one time we met he went out of his way to join my sons and me at dinner while I was near his hometown on a business trip.  We had talked online a few times, had some similar life experiences, but this was our one and only face to face meeting. As we all sat down over a full spread of Mexican food we felt like old friends. Talking about his experiences in the Air Force, comparing notes on current IT fads, and falling into an instant kinship over our shared hobbies. It meant a lot to me that he took the time out of his busy evening  to meet with us. But from what I have read online that was his personality all of the time - kind, gentle, and very family oriented.

I don't know the details of his passing, and may never know. But I know that he made an impact on the world. Writers like Jennifer Michael Hecht often talk about how hard it is to pay attention to life as we are living it. But just in the act of having made it this far our friends have "made it to the first reel". And a little piece of them sticks with us and makes us better people by association.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

July-August updates

Hello everyone, what a busy summer it was for GSoW.  Many of our team members were away from the project but we still managed to get a lot done as you are about to see.  

For those of you not familiar with this blog you will find below all the pages that we have either created brand new or completed major rewrites of.  I encourage you to click on the "before" and "after" for each of these rewrites.  When I see the differences I always get a thrill chill, even after seeing hundreds of these over the last 3 years.  Most of these "befores" have been in this horrible condition for years and if not for GSoW would have probably remained this way forever. 

There is an interview at the bottom of this blog that has this exchange between myself and Emery Emery.  He was thanking us for creating his Wikipedia page.  I answered that I was glad he liked it, but we didn't create it for him, it was created because we felt that it was warranted.  The work we do here is for YOU the reader and for all the Wikipedia readers out there.  I hope you learn something new.  


Susan Gerbic

A treat for all our readers... Listen to Wikipedia being edited

The Vaccination Chronicles
GSoW members and other skeptics are currently in the process of captioning Richard Saunders' documentary, that features interviews with people who have lived in the time before widespread immunization was introduced, and victims of vaccine-preventable diseases suffered tremendously, often leading to death. It is a pressing warning to everyone: please vaccinate your children.

Progress so far:
Danish subtitles - Claus Larsen (non-GSoW)
Dutch subtitles - Rik and Leon Korteweg (GSoW)
German subtitles - Steff (GSoW)
Italian subtitles - Raffaella Vitali (GSoW)
Portuguese subtitles - Nix Dorf (GSoW)
Russian subtitles - Svetlana Bavykina (GSoW)
Turkish subtitles - Isil Arican (non-GSoW)
Expected: Hungarian, Serbian, Slovak, possibly also Norwegian, Greek, Spanish and Finnish. If you don't see your language here, contact Richard Saunders to see if you can help! (GSoW membership not required)

Leon talks about the project here and here


Rob Nanninga - Leon, Emile - Before & After

Stichting Skepsis - Leon, Emile - Before & After

The Four Horsemen (atheïsme) - an edit war and intense discussion about possible deletion resulted in improvement by Leon, Emile and others; the page was kept in a much better condition. Before & After

Victor Stenger - Wim Vandenberghe


Alton Lemon - Brand new page

Astronomical Society of Victoria - Greg Neilson  

Bart Bok - Greg Neilson - Before & After

Bill Bradfield - Greg Neilson - Before & After

Brian Brushwood - Todd Dietrich - Before & After

Center for Inquiry - Chris Allen - Before & After

Chris Mooney - Kevin Elsken & Dustin Phillips - Before & After

Comité Para - Leon Korteweg

David Koepsell - Dave Trumbore & Christine Daley - Before and After

Daniele Bolelli - Greg Neilson - Before & After

Dickson Despommier - Kyle Hamar Before & After

Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions - Before & After

Friends Of Science In Medicine - Christine Daley - Before & After

Gesellschaft zur wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften (GWUP) - Michael Steinkellner, Leon Korteweg

Heather Dewey-Hagborg - Janyce Boynton - Before & After

Ian Patrick Harris - Erik Hess - Brand new page 

Joe Nickell - Sarah Gilbert - Before & After

L. Sprague de Camp - Before & After - Janyce Boynton

"List of skeptics and skeptical organizations" was renamed "List of notable skeptics",
List of skeptical organizations split off from it and expanded. - Leon Korteweg

List of skeptical conferences - Leon Korteweg

List of skeptical magazines - Leon Korteweg

List of skeptical podcasts - Leon (additions by András, Svetlana, Todd, Raffaella and Michelle)

Lists about skepticism ("One List To Rule Them All") - Leon Korteweg

Massimo Polidoro - Raffaella Vitali - Before & After 

Matt Dillahunty - Jay Young - Before & After

Vincent Racaniello - Before & After - Kyle Hamar 

Maynard - Greg Neilson - Before & After

Neil Gershenfeld - Jelena Levin - Before & After

Robert Ingersoll Birthplace Museum - new photos (thanks to Tom Flynn & Monica Harmsen)

Richard Wiseman - Walkiria Nubes Cordova & Dustin Phillips - Before & After

Rosemary Altea - Lee Christie - Before & After

Skepter - Leon Korteweg

Skeptics with a K podcast - Leon Korteweg - New page

Stichting Skepsis - Leon - Before & After

Template:Skeptical magazines - Leon Korteweg

Template:Skeptical podcasts - Leon Korteweg

Victor J. Stenger - Todd Dietrich - Before & After

Wonder en is gheen Wonder - Leon Korteweg


Christopher Hitchens - Peter Mogyoros, Attila Harta - Before & After (including June)

Hungarian Skeptic Society - Attila Harta, András Pintér - Before & After (including May and June)


Massimo Polidoro in Italian - Raffaella Vitali 


Steven Novella - Nix Dorf

Richard Wiseman - Valério Andrade Melo


Richard Wiseman - Svetlana Bavykina & Jelena Levin


Leo Igwe - Erik Hess


Just in case you have missed it, GSoW has had some great new interviews, be sure to check them out.

Skeptically Yours recorded at TAM 2014 - Emery Emery & Heather Henderson Interviewed Susan, Nix and Lei

Data Skeptic - lots of numbers in this interview - skeptics like stats don't they?

A Public Thank you from a Fan

Skepticule talks about the GSoW secret forum (at about 8:00)

Here is a dowser's site that is frustrated with Wikipedia editors you might enjoy


As usual if you want to join GSoW or have questions please contact us at

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Third Birthday GSoW!

Life is good.

Here is a birthday video courtesy of our Portuguese team leader Nix Dorf.  Make sure you continue reading after with the most recent May and June page improvements.  Thank you all for your support. 



Péter Érdi - now translated into Hungarian by Peter Mogyoros

Tudományos szkepticizmus (Scientific skepticism) - complete rewrite in Hungarian by Attila Hartai

Gábor Hraskó - new page created by the Hungarian team

Neil deGrasse Tyson - new Hungarian page for our favourite astrophysicist, by Laura Csécsi and Attila Hartai

Erich von Däniken - expanded in Hungarian by Attila Hartai

Chemtrail - expanded in Hungarian by Attila Hartai

Faye Flam - Richard 

Death from the Skies! - rewritten by Peter Trussell  Before and After

Narendra Dabholkar - Svetlana Bavykina translated to Russian

Anne Nicol Gaylor - brand new page created by Sean Whitcomb

Floris van den Berg - Leon Korteweg had written this page in Dutch years ago and now has translated it into English with the help of Luke.

Marci Hamilton - rewritten by Michael Bigelow - Before & After

Terry Smiljanich - rewritten by Bill - Before & After

Nathan Phelps - now translated to Russian by Svetlana Bavykina and Jelena Levin

The 10:23 Campaign page now has been translated into Dutch thanks to Wim Vandenberghe & Leon Korteweg

New Atheism page has gone through an edit war for several months over on the Dutch WP, but Leon and Emile Dingemans stuck it out and got their changes to stick.

Comité Para is now in Dutch thanks to Leon, Rik and Emile

De Kennis van Nu Radio - in Dutch - Leon Korteweg

Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science in Dutch - Leon Korteweg

Gerrit Hendrik van Leeuwen - In Dutch - Emile Dingemans

Jan Willem Nienhuys' stub was greatly expanded in Dutch by Emile: Before & After

Merseyside Skeptics Society - In Dutch - Leon and Wim

Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science - In Dutch - Tijmen, Leon

The history section of Scientific Skepticism has been expanded by Leon and Luke in English: Before & After. Thereafter the entire page was translated to Dutch by Leon and Rik

SGU - Skeptics Guide to the Universe - now in Dutch thanks to Vera and Leon

Skeptical Inquirer magazine is now in Dutch - Leon

Barry Karr - Susan Gerbic

Vasolastine received a rewrite in Dutch by Emile

What's the Harm? is now in Dutch - Leon and Emile

Wonder en is gheen wonder in Dutch by Leon and Emile

Steve Novella rewrite - Jim Preston & Kyle Hamar - Before & After

Astronomical Society of New South Wales - new page created by Greg Neilson


Just in case you have missed them here are some notable mentions GSoW has been involved in.  

Susan interviewed on Skeptically Challenged podcast 

Portuguese blog written by Nix Dorf

Susan on Skepticule Podcast with Paul, Paul and Paul

David Gorski Blog about Frustrated Paranormal People on Wikipedia


Conference season is upon us! Looking to show your support of the GSoW team? Wear one of these new T-shirts, available at, to show your support for our project.

Order here
(use coupon code "GSoW" for 10% off your order!)

Special thanks to Kyle Sanders of Carbon Dating for the design!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why we have a private forum. A response to Rebecca O'Neill

Yesterday, I was brought to the attention of an article titled Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia project – A discussion by Rebecca O'Neill from the Dublin Skeptics and host of The Skeprechauns podcast. As part of her study in online curation, a large part of her research in crowd-sourcing on the Internet focused on the Wikimedia project, which brought her attention to GSoW. She expressed concerns about the way GSoW operates (she did so before on her podcast, episode 57 around 1:02:15), mainly because of its private forum where articles are prepared before they are published, which allegedly isn't as transparent as Wikipedia itself.

I'm happy that GSoW receives some feedback/criticism from within the movement that I can address. As team leader of the Dutch language group of GSoW, I have been part of this great project (with about 150 skeptical editors from around the world!) for exactly 13 months. Consequently, I focus on the Dutch Wikipedia, that sometimes has different rules to the English Wikipedia, and we are mostly translating English or other language articles to Dutch, so my experience is less in creating new articles on the English Wikipedia (and providing pictures, for which we have a wonderful photographers team, but I digress), which appears to be the main subject of Rebecca's article, but I will nonetheless try to address it as best as I can.

Rebecca says that '[w]hilst we can all agree that improving and adding well researched content to Wikipedia is a worthwhile endeavour', her 'main unease' is the fact we have a private (or "secret") forum, "which I have no knowledge of the nature of the discussions on the forum as I have not approached the group to become a member." Well, you can always apply to join if you want to help improve Wikipedia, value the scientific method and the evidence it produces, use critical thinking and want to get instructions on how to write about it in an encyclopedic fashion, because we're always looking for new editors; insiders' knowledge would give you greater insight in what we are actually doing than any hypothesising about what we might be doing wrong from the outside. But we can't demand that of you, and we don't give access to people who are simply interested in 'keeping track of what GSoW does', even close friends – we have a fine blog and Facebook group page for that, both of which are public, which should suffice – we only let people join who want to participate actively, so I'll try to explain it with the insiders' knowledge I have.

Rebecca compared our forum to what Wikipedia describes as a "secret cabal" and the problems that may produce. If anyone wants to know (as can be expected of good skeptics, and Rebecca indeed indicated she is aware of it), we've had these kinds of criticism before from outside the skeptic movement by people like Rupert Sheldrake, Deepak Chopra (twice indirectly), Craig Weiler, Rome Viharo, Russell Targ (indirectly) and Brian Josephson; it turned out on every occasion that these individuals either didn't know or understand the rules of Wikipedia (some didn't even bother to check), or falsely applied them to GSoW when they did. By the way, all of them accused us of 'distorting' their biographies on Wikipedia (if they had one), but GSoW wasn't involved in the editing of any of those pages (you can check it yourself if you don't believe it simply by viewing the page histories, and falsifying this with our blog updates we do about every major edit we've been working on in the past two months). Nonetheless, our project leader Susan Gerbic (listen to almost any podcast interview or filmed lecture she's done since October 2013, for example the SGU interview and the QED lecture Rebecca referred to, or this QED panel discussion (I wave at the camera at 0:11)) and Tim Farley (Sheldrake/WeilerChopraNot Here), and others of us or not of us (for example, Jerry CoyneSteven NovellaSharon Hill and David Gamble), on or off Wikipedia, have rebutted all these straw man critiques, vindicating any suggestion that we don't take criticism seriously, let alone ignore it altogether. But since the criticism comes from within our movement this time, I'm happy to explain it again to fellow skeptics who may have missed it.

I'll address each possible concern:
1. Disruption of the project. Not at all, we're trying to expand and improve it for all of us and remove misleading information, and proudly so.
2. Promotion of its members to become Wikipedia functionaries. This is something we rarely do, there is no real need. One of our members was already an admin before joining, but she never uses admin powers to guard articles against edits of others; she's mostly concerned with guarding copyright laws on Commons, and also notifies us if we are violating it, offering alternatives. Another member has applied to become a patroller on the Hungarian Wikipedia (because new changes to a page must be patrolled there), so readers can immediately view our recent edits. We value discussion of content and jointly seeking a solution to a disagreement rather than imposing our point of view from positions of power (if you want an example of a Wikipedia that is taken over and controlled by people with a specific point of view that don't allow dissent, just look at the Croatian Wikipedia, where conservative revisionist Catholic nationalists rule). 
3. Canvassing. This means mass voting, for example on the (non)deletion of a page, to influence its outcome. We respect Wikipedia's rules and only editors that were involved in editing a specific page are allowed to cast a vote and explain their reasoning.
4. Meatpuppetry. GSoW is not meatpuppetry per WP:MEAT because we do not solicit other people in order to influence the editorial process or to sway consensus. In fact, Wikipedia even gives a list of examples of things we do which do not constitute meatpuppetry. The great irony of this argument is that our 6 critics from outside the skeptic movement mentioned have all tried to do exactly this, either themselves or recruiting others on their behalf to target a single page and change it in their favour. Tim Farley's 3rd article mentioned above, 'When you’re not here to create an encyclopedia, your Wikipedia statistics show it', describes exactly how they do it and why we don't. I myself write about lots of different subjects (history, geography, music, politics, linguistics, philosophy and culture) that have nothing or little to do with skepticism, as can be seen on my user page and checked in my user contributions list.
5. Conflicts of interest. See point C below.
6. Having an "agenda"The "agenda" argument doesn't hold water either: we have an interest in certain topics to be sure, but we are always trying to find RS to back up our claims. On The Skeprechauns, Rebecca even admitted it's an agenda they agree with, so I don't understand their problem with it.

But by far, Rebecca's main concern is that we have a "secret" forum. Rebecca argues that '[a]s a community our actions should be open for all to see, so that they are above reproach.' First of all, nowadays we prefer to call a "private" forum, which Susan explains as follows: 'Since QED I have been trying to use the phrase “private forum” instead of “secret forum”. Obviously it is not a secret, as we are discussing it here. It is a private forum. We built it and use it for training, bonding and organization.'

What the advantages of a private forum are:
A. Anonimity! Wikipedia is constructed so that anyone editing it can remain anonymous if they so choose by using nicknames instead of our real ones. The reason for this is that some of us don't want to be bothered outside of Wikipedia with what we write. An example could be that one wants to write about atheism while still being in the closet inside a very religious community, and have chosen not to come out yet for strategic purposes (anyone who follows atheist podcasts like The Thinking Atheist can relate to this). GSoW members can indicate to Susan that they do not wish to be named, so that their real-life identities won't be exposed when she posts a blog update or talks about GSoW during an interview or lecture. Some of us have decided to use our real name on Wikipedia (Susan is Sgerbic), or use a nickname but either mention their real name on our user page (Tim Farley is Krelnik, which btw is also his Twitter and YouTube name), or only outside of Wikipedia (I am Nederlandse Leeuw, but I don't say so on my user page and prefer to keep it that way for the foreseeable future; I do sometimes say directly or indirecly what my name is on the Internet (as Rebecca acknowledged, my Facebook profile states that I work for GSoW) or in real life conversations), others prefer not to reveal their identity to anyone publicly online, and it's very important that they have that option.
B. Privacy in personal matters. Closely related to anonimity. We can discuss our personal stories and experiences with certain subjects (either in the work threads or in the Tea Room) that we cannot share if we want to remain anonymous. The forum (and the Facebook groups) provides a space for private information that is not fit for WP talk pages where anyone can read them. Susan has stated many times that she would feel bad about publicly arguing in all honesty 'Person X or Y is not notable enough (yet) for his or her own Wikipedia page', especially when it's a close skeptical friend (which can be unintentionally taken as a lack of affection or even an insult), or when it's one of the people we regard as our opponents, who can then claim 'censorship!' and 'conspiracy!' when they read it on our forum. We don't want nor need that kind of drama.
I myself have previously given this fictional example: one of our editors comments inside our forum "Oh man this guy is a total fraud! When I still believed in him, it cost me so much money. I'm gonna write criticism about him on WP to warn others, who will help me?!" You're just not going to write something so personal openly on a talk page, or you'll be made fun of or accused of partiality (not having an NPOV or Neutral Point of View), while here on the forum you'll probably receive sympathy and motivate someone else to actually help you write a scathing piece. For this you need to trust the people you are talking to not to leak any data.
In some cases we do inform our scientific/skeptical spokespeople that we will write, are currently writing or have just written (or rewritten) their biographies on Wikipedia, depending on the situation; they may give us additional references, a voice introduction (new!), but most of all photos to use on the page. It is a common misconception that we can take images from anywhere. Only the person who owns it can upload it because of the strict copyright policy that Wikimedia Commons has. 
C. Preparing an article without interference. Rebecca argues that a secret cabal 'could spawn problems around conflict of interest (COI), especially if the initial conversations about the creation, editing or deletion of articles are not done out in the open'. But it remains unclear why these 'initial conversations' should be public; non-members would still not have a say in reaching that consensus if they may view but not comment. It's kind of true that we create our 'own consensus' on the forum when assessing the sources we want to use in a draft article (Are they relevant? Are they reliable? Are they internally consistent? How should we write about them while avoiding plagiarism (either by summarising, paraphrasing or directly quoting)? etc. or when translating carefully checking what the foreign words actually mean or how they were probably intended by the author of a source), but I don't see anything wrong with that. We publish an article when it is ready, if possible with one or more photos (here again our connections to skeptical spokespeople are important and some prefer them to be anonymous), which occasionally takes time. Sometimes a draft is written on the forum, but most of the time we use our user subpages (in this video – that Ryan Harding and I captioned in English and Dutch – Tim Farley eloquently explains at TAM 2012 why this is preferable).
As an example, just look at my draft of the Comité Para (one of, if not the oldest skeptical organisation in the world): User:Nederlandse_Leeuw/Comité_Para
In my own words, the forum makes it possible to deliver well-referenced, grammar-checked and imagine-loaded qualitative pages instead of unfinished stubs and edit conflicts and edit wars with non-skeptics along the way to good articles. It's much easier to translate eachother's articles etc. to different languages within our group, too. 
But here is the important part: once an article is published, criticism by and discussion with others on Wikipedia itself is welcomed. People can always challenge our text by challenging the accuracy of the sources we have provided and submitting better ones that correct them. Preferably they do this on that article's talk page with a justification why they think their refs are better than the current ones, but if it's just a minor edit, a simple reason in the Edit summary will do. The 'consensus' we reached on the forum is not infallible and we never claimed it was. We are skeptics and self-criticism is one of our core values. But we just think, arguing from our and others' experiences, that preparing it on or via the forum works better than doing it "live" on Wikipedia for the reasons I've stated.
D. Training to prevent "biting" (a.k.a. "throwing yourself to the wolves"). Rebecca explains correctly that '[b]iting is when a more experienced editor will be seen to “smack down” a more junior editor', but argues '[GSoW gives] the distinct impression that they are providing a support structure that is missing from Wikipedia and without it there is no way for editors to learn the ropes which is patently untrue,' which is unfortunately a straw man. There are indeed support structures (she mentioned the Teahouse – not to be confused with our Tea Room), though they can be hard to find, you need someone that has the patience to explain everything to you, you can get lost in their help files etc. and they don't necessarily provide information on how to find and use reliable sources. (When I joined the Dutch Wikipedia in 2008, there was no such thing – and as far as I'm aware there still isn't – but I was lucky to have a patient user explain the basics of referencing to me, and other kind users have helped me along the way and I taught myself a lot by imitating and experimenting). All of this happens in our training threads, where new editors are given tasks on how to do basic editing (by the Welcome Team, sometimes assisted by specific team leaders) and make sure their edits won't be removed right away. Sometimes an editor is so excited to go on to the real work or already has enough experience with editing Wikipedia, that they'll skip or drop out of the training; that's their choice, because GSoW is voluntary. Training is one of the support structures we provide, and if one doesn't need it, fine. Consequences could be that they end up actually not understanding how Wikipedia works, having their articles deleted for bad editing or get drawn into vicious edit wars and lots of name calling on the talk pages, ending in their decision to quit Wikipedia out of utter frustration. We've seen it happen before with members who didn't want to train and play by the rules of Wikipedia. Their efforts are wasted and they've done a disservice to contributing to a reliable online encyclopedia that serves as millions of people's first point of reference.
E. Better than WikiProjects / Motivating eachother. One of the alternatives Rebecca gave is collaboration within a WikiProject, like the WikiProject Skepticism. First of all I'd like to say that what they're doing is fine as far as I'm aware, but it's not my cup of tea (besides that fact that no such WikiProject exists on the Dutch WP, although I could initiate it of course). I've been involved with several WikiProjects, and very often there are individuals listing the topics of their personal interests, saying this or that needs an article, but they don't want to do it themselves or not by themselves. There is little effort to look for common ground with other editors and actually go write stuff. You end up with large indices of red links that almost nobody is interested in and that will scare newbies away with the feeling 'We'll never get this done!' This is different from when you actually can meet people who tell a bit about themselves and why they have a personal interest in a topic without appearing to be biased right off the bat about it or revealing their identity.

In the end, it's quite possible that even if we opened up our forum to be viewed by the public, somebody is going to claim we're not showing everything and still have other boards or threads 'that they don't want you to know about' in constructing yet another crazy conspiracy theory. In response to earlier criticism, Susan jokingly replied 'As far as having too much influence on WP and that we might do something bad in the future.  Well I broke my crystal ball, so we will just have to wait and see what the future has in store for us.' Really, we are open to discuss specific cases in which we may have done something wrong, especially on the talk pages where specific discussions belong, but will remind our critics of their burden of proof.
I'm glad that Rebecca has expressed she is 'not advocating for the GSoW to stop what they are doing', and hope to have sufficiently 'reflect[ed] on how and why [we] are doing it' here, being as open and honest as I could be. We're always discussing how to improve the way we work to get the best result we can get. So far we have received a lot of support and praise, and in addressing genuine and well-meant criticism, and perhaps changing our procedures as a consequence of good suggestions, I hope we can inform the outside world about what we're doing and why. Yes, we have a private forum, and we're fine with that.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sunglasses Needed: March - April GSoW updates!

GSoW continues to shine through 2014.  We have been so busy with training and updates I almost forgot that there is a world outside GSoW that enjoys reading about all the changes we are making. Look at what we have done to bring quality articles about scientific skepticism to Wikipedia. 


First thing I want to show off is our Voice Intro project run by Kyle Hamar and Ryan Harding.  It has been a struggle working on how to make this as efficient as possible, but we think we have it figured out.  All editors are now trying to collect audio from their "targets" to make this project grow.  Its slow going but we are making progress.  This week we just added our first non-English audio to the list, check out Peter Erdi's Hungarian audio.

If you know of someone that who has a Wikipedia page and needs audio, please contact us at for instructions.  We are also featured on the main page of the Russian Skeptic organization. 


GSoW made the short list for an Ockham this year.  Very exciting to get this kind of recognition. Hopefully we will be able to impress the judges for next year. 


I've just returned from speaking at QED in Manchester, England.  What a frickin blast!  Several of my editors descended on the venue where we bonded and plotted.  We also had many new editors join us along the way.  I'm looking forward to all the great talent we can add to our team.  Thank you to two of my team photographers Robert McDermott and Andrew Merritt for allowing me to put my camera down from time to time knowing they would be everywhere getting the photos we needed.  See their work on many of the pages we have released.  Watch our podcast recording here and here

I'm going to give you only one link to look at if you are interested in what went down at QED, and that is to the one-stop website of Lanyrd.  I can't encourage you enough to become familiar with this conference site, when people add content here, everyone wins.  Here is the QED area, but as you explore you will find that most conferences are located here.  Anyone can add content, so please take a minute and help fill in the gaps from past conferences.  


One more thing if you would like to keep up-to-date on all things GSoW, please "like" our Facebook page here.


I think you will notice a theme with a lot of these pages, lots of focus on anything connected with Cosmos and astronomy.  Our thought is that when Cosmos is on TV and in the news, people will be curious about the program and the people surrounding it, it is in our best interest to make sure those readers are getting the best information and we also want to show off our spokes people.  

So put on your sunglasses as these updates should dazzle you.  Turn on HatNote to set the mood and enjoy our March-April updates!


Climate Scientist Andrew Dessler's page received a rewrite from Bill, complete with audio.  Before and After

QED speaker Coralie Colmez received a brand new page from editor Richard who noticed that her mother was also due for her own Wikipedia page so he made that happen.    Leila Schneps not only received a brand new page, but she was featured on the front page of Wikipedia as a Did You Know.  Check out the view stats for that day, total outreach, total win for our community.

Hemant Mehta was long over due for a page - Fred Green & Tad Callin spent long hours making that happen.  We knew we were also going to try for a Did You Know, but before we could nominate it we wanted to make sure Mehta's "I Sold my Soul on Ebay" page was in order.  So everything stalled until Jairo Arce & Christine Daley were able to get that page rewritten.  Even the Secular Student Alliance WP page received a spike in views.

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.

Edinburgh Skeptics received a page rewrite from editor Julie.  This happened while I was at QED which was most exciting, loved bragging about it when I was traveling in Scotland.  Before & After

 Elizabeth Pisani another speaker at QED received a rewrite from editor Jay Young. Before & After

The Dutch category page for Cognitive Bias is now available for Dutch readers thanks to Emile Dingemans.

The MC of QED was Paul Zenon whose page also received a make-over.  Paul's page rewrite was something I attempted at the beginning of GSoW back in 2011 but just got to busy to finish.  Julie picked it up and finished just in time. Before & After

Angela Saini's page was one of those pages we kept thinking we were done with, but every time editor Christine Daley asked for feedback someone kept giving her more to add. Before & After  And then there is this sweet tweet...

Normally I don't assign work to be done.  Only in training, which is what happened in this case. GSoW was joined by a talented editor that wanted to join our team.  I had been thinking about the Audrey Santo page for some time and found that our new editor Andrea Crain was the perfect person to take it on.  And she sure did.  This will require some reading as the changes aren't as obvious as many of the above make-overs.  Before & After

A brand new page for Anne Nicol Gaylor was created by Sean Whitcomb. Keep an eye out for her page to be a DYK soon.

Brand new page for Emily Lakdawalla by Nathan Miller - And on April 1st the page was featured on the front page of Wikipedia as a Did You Know. And to keep up with the theme of the day, Nathan came up with a April Fools hook. See if you can spot it. Here are the view stats from the extra exposure she received that day.

Jennifer Michael Hecht received a rewrite by Jim Preston and this is Jim's first rewrite. Before & After

R. Joseph Hoffmann cleanup by Kevin Elsken. This is Kevin's first major improvement. Before & After

Not exactly one of our skeptical spokespeople, but Nellie Bly is someone you are going to enjoy reading about - Translated from English into Dutch by Vera de Kok & Leon Korteweg.

The Péter Érdi page had all kinds of citation problems and was an orphan (which means nothing links to it) before Peter Mogyoros got a hold of it and rewrote it.  This was Peter's first launched page.  It also has audio and once the page is launched in Hungarian (very soon) it will have our first non-English audio. Before & After 

Coen de Bruijn, Emile Dingemans and Leon Korteweg translated the Simon Singh page into Dutch.

Ray Hyman has been a focus of ours for almost two years, and has been translated into Portuguese and Dutch.  He now has a Wikipedia page in Spanish courtesy of Cristina.  

Brand New page in Dutch created for the series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey by Coen de Bruijn, Leon Korteweg and Wim Vandenberghe. And also Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey in Portuguese by Filipe Russo.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain now has a page in Dutch because of team leader Leon Korteweg .  

The Swedish Skeptic Society better known as Föreningen Vetenskap och Folkbildning now has a Dutch Wikipedia page thanks to Wim Vandenberghe and Leon Korteweg.

Here is an unusual one.  I lectured at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, NY summer 2013.  You might not realize it, but CFI has an amazing library full of donated personal libraries and just about everything in print that has anything to do with skepticism and the paranormal.  While there the librarian Tim Binga showed me Steve Allen collection.   Allen was interested in everything and collected information on many subjects.  This archive also has the original script for Allen's TV series Meeting of Minds and I snapped a few photos while browsing through the archive.  I uploaded the images and then assigned this page for a rewrite which Kevin Elsken took care of.  Before and After

A brand new page for the Oh, No Ross & Carrie Podcast by Sean Whitcomb. I had several editors that were hoping they would get to be the one that wrote this page. Sean was quickest on the draw.

Penny4NASA received a brand new page written by Nathan Miller.  This page sat for over a year incubating until it received enough notoriety for release.   Our plan was to add the mention of Penny4NASA to Neil deGrasse Tyson's WP page which we did months ago.  Only with Nathan's release of an actual page have we been able to really see the impact we have had.  With the popularity of Cosmos, Tyson's WP view stats have gone from 100,000 a month to 300,000+ a month.  In April 2014 his page was the 313 most viewed page in Wikipedia.  That is a unheard of number, a total win for science and scientific skepticism.  Possibly Penny4NASA has been fighting for media attention and some people may find them on Wikipedia totally independent from its mention on the Tyson page.  Nevertheless Penny4NASA's WP views are doing well, 1,445 in April 2014.   

And one more... this one has a bit of a story behind it, so bear with me. As you all know I was scheduled to appear at QED in Manchester, England. I asked my GSoW team to please help with the pages of all the speakers that would be at the conference. One of my new team members (who actually had been a WP editor for years but new to GSoW) Chris Allen was assigned the Nathan Phelps page rewrite. On our forum we discussed for over a month some of the changes Chris was making to the page, we went back and forth about all kinds of things. The page was nearly ready for release, but we had weeks left until QED, no real hurry.

One night I was scrolling through my Facebook feed I saw a post from Nathan Phelps saying that his father, Fred Phelps had just been taken to hospice. This is the kind of event that GSoW works so hard to be prepared for, one of our spokespeople making the news. Ok, Fred Phelps isn't one of our spokespeople.... but Nathan is. So I contacted one of my team leaders who would be the first one awake to get that page published. Ryan was in England (I'm in CA) and quickly proofread the page and managed to contact Chris and told him to publish it. The team worked wonderfully, and Chris was a trooper. He went to the Westboro Baptist and Fred Phelps pages and made sure that Nathan was mentioned on them. Nathan Phelps - Chris Allen Before & After

So then came Fred's death and the views to his Wikipedia page soared. Because of the ripple effect Nathan's page views also spiked. Here are the WBC views. This is a major win for Wikipedia and Scientific Skepticism.

Because the English page is in great shape, that means it is ready to be translated.  The Dutch team was quickest to respond and now Dutch Wikipedia readers can now read all about Nathan Phelps because of Leon Korteweg & Coen de Bruijn.


Here are a few recent interviews that explain GSoW and will keep you up-to-date on all things GSoW.  

In Portuguese - Nix Dorf explains GSoW to the Fronteiras da Ciencia podcast.

Susan after QED an interview by Eran Segev on Skeptic Zone.

QED attendee András Pintér's write-up on the conference in Hungarian

Susan being interviewed on Virtual Skeptics

Dave Gamble's blog responding to Rupert Sheldrakes accusations. (yes, this is still happening!)

Detailed blog by Tim Farley about the actual numbers concerning who is editing Wikipedia.

GSoW editor Peter Mogyoros is interviewed by a Slovakian podcast


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