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Promoting Skepticism via Wikipedia by Tim Farley &

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1 Promoting Skepticism via Wikipedia by Tim Farley &

2 Introduction & Agenda Why is Wikipedia important? What can we contribute? What are the pitfalls? Tips for effective editing

3 Skeptical of Wikipedia? Editing is open to anyone Includes anonymous editing No significant central editing authority Yes, there is much junk We have to cooperate with non-skeptics in editing Recipe for disaster?

4 Search engine result pages are crucial Users rely on search engines 1 88% will start with a search engine when asked to do a random online task “Google Gullibility” - Users use only the top results 2 Therefore search engine results are important - hence the emergence of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 1 Jacob Neilsen’s Alertbox, 2 Jacob Neilsen’s Alertbox,

5 #1 hits in Google acupuncture, Adam Savage, AIDS denial, alien abduction, Andrew Wakefield, astral projection, attachment therapy, ayurveda, Ben Radford, bigfoot, Breatharian, Carl Sagan, Charles Darwin, chiropractic, Christian Science, clairvoyance, colloidal silver, craniosacral, creationism, critical thinking, cryptid, cupping, debunking, Derek Colanduno, detoxification, double blind, dowsing, Edzard Ernst, evolution, EVP, exorcism, facilitated communication, faith healer, feng shui, ganzfeld, ghosts, Harry Houdini, holistic health, Holocaust denial, homeopathy, hypnosis, Illuminati, intelligent design, iridology, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jenny McCarthy, Kevin Trudeau, Loch Ness monster, Martin Gardner, Matthias Rath, mediums, MMR, moxibustion, naturopathy, new world order, numerology, ozone therapy, parapsychology, Paul Kurtz, Peter Popoff, poltergeist, pseudoscience, psychic, psychic surgery, quackery, Ray Hyman, Rebecca Watson, reiki, reparative therapy, Sai Baba, Scientology, skepticism, Steven Novella, thimerosal, Uri Geller, witchcraft

6 Other high hits in Google Other terms are not #1 but the Wikipedia article still falls on the crucial first page of Google results: 9-11 truth, alternative medicine, applied kinesiology, astrology, Australian Skeptics, Ben Goldacre, Benny Hinn, Brian Dunning, Center for Inquiry, channeling, colon cleansing, conspiracy theory, creation science, cryptozoology, CSICOP, denialism, D.J. Grothe, ear candles, evidence based medicine, fan death, Harriet Hall, herbalism, James Oberg, James Randi, Joe Nickell, John Edward, JREF, levitation, Michael Shermer, paranormal, Penn & Teller, Phil Plait, placebo, quack, Richard Dawkins, Richard Saunders, rods, Simon Singh, skeptic, Skeptical Inquirer, Skepticality, skeptics, Skeptics' Guide, Skeptoid, Stephen Barrett, Suzanne Somers, Sylvia Browne, The Amazing Meeting, therapeutic touch, UFO, urban legend

7 SEO on our own websites Pros: More control Better specialization Can include topics “not notable enough” for Wikipedia Users come to us, not them Cons: Difficult Huge competition on certain keywords Must be done ad-hoc for each topic Hard to scale to cover many topics

8 SEO on our own websites Cons: Difficult Huge competition on certain keywords Must be done ad-hoc for each topic Hard to scale to cover many topics

9 The five pillars Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a website Wikipedia has a neutral point of view Wikipedia is free content Wikipedians should interact respectfully & civilly Wikipedia does not have firm rules - be bold! See more at WP:5P on Wikipedia

10 Wikipedia disadvantages Huge culture with its own lingo BLP, NPOV, 3RR, RS, PROD, SPA Many pages of guidelines and rules Easy to get lost Civility is a guideline but is often violated Ultimately we as skeptics do not have control over it

11 Civility + be bold = editing welcomed Wikipedia policy is designed to invite new editors Believers in pseudoscience and superstition certainly are taking advantage of this We owe it to the public to do it as well Don’t be afraid to edit

12 Wikipedia is easy Do not need to know HTML Create a hyperlink: [ My hyperlink] My hyperlink] Create a section heading: == My heading == Do not need to write entire articles - most edits are small edits If you make an error, another editor will usually clean it up for you

13 Wikipedia policies are pro- skepticism WP:RS - Must use reliable sources WP:NPOV - neutral point of view WP:NOTE - topics must meet a certain standard of notability WP:FRINGE - do not promote “fringe” theories beyond notability WP:NOR - no original research

14 Wikipedia UI New beta: Original user interface:

15 What is our role? Edit pseudoscience articles Include criticism, ensure NPOV Update to match latest science Monitor for abuse by the other side Create skepticism articles Biographies for major skeptics Use skeptic articles as sources elsewhere Cross-link to skeptic articles for discoverability

16 Tip: Create an account You can find your own edits (“my contributions”) You can create a watch list

17 Tip: Create a watch list Find articles you care about, mark them Periodically view “my watchlist” in the menu Look into edits and ensure they are true and follow the rules Revert or modify edits as needed

18 Tip: Start small Don’t create a new article, start with edits to existing Fix typos & grammar errors Add good reliable sources (footnotes) to existing articles Skeptic sources help draw people to our articles Revert vandalism you see on your watch list Add GPS coordinates to articles about places

19 Tip: Build up a history of good edits It helps other editors realize you are serious When articles are “protected” only editors with a history are allowed to work there

20 Tip: Don’t be a WP:SPA WP:SPA means a Single Purpose Account “Some editors are concerned that contributions by SPAs do not align with Wikipedia's neutrality or advocacy standards...”neutralityadvocacy If you are always editing a handful of skeptic articles, other editors may decide you are pushing an agenda Find other topics to contribute. Your home town? Your favorite music artist?

21 Tip: Avoid battlegrounds at first Don’t edit on contentious articles Does history have a huge amount of activities? Many mentions of “revert” or “undid”? Does talk page (“discussion”) contain much contentious recent text? Examples: 2012 articles are a current battleground. Stephen Barrett and James Randi

22 Tip: Do communicate The talk page on your user page is a place where other editors will occasionally contact you You get a notice at the top of Wikipedia pages when someone contacts you Use “:” to indent replies. Sign your replies with “~~~~”. Be civil

23 Tip: Imitate other pages Guidelines are voluminous and hard to navigate Copy tags, structure, footnote styles that you see there Be sure to use an article that is has a good rating (not “stub” or “unassessed”)

24 Tip: Don’t get possessive Your contributions belong to Wikipedia now, and they will get edited! Once you post it, it is CC licensed to the public (WP:OWN) Do defend Wikipedia policies Do not get drawn into pointless battles

25 Tip: Create articles about skepticism Insuring a NPOV on pseudoscience articles is only part of our role Document skepticism: Biographies of skeptics Articles about skeptic events Refer to skeptical activism in mainstream articles

26 Tip: Create links to skeptical articles Wikipedia’s power comes from heavy cross-linking which leads people to new topics Where appropriate, this can lead people to skepticism Where a link in the body of the article is not appropriate, be sure to create links in the footnotes: McCarthy, Robynn; Colanduno, Derek (January 16, 2007), "#044 - Interview: Michael A. Stackpole", Skepticality (Skeptic Magazine),, retrieved 2009-01-15 McCarthy, RobynnColanduno, Derek#044 - Interview: Michael A. Stackpole SkepticalitySkeptic Magazine Also helps establish reason for articles existence (but not a strong indicator of notability)

27 Tip: Use your user scratch space User:YourName is your “user page” Every user can create scratch articles here. Start URL to article with “User:YourName/” Example: Use these to work on edits without interruption

28 Tip: Watch WP:FRINGE notice board “Notice boards” are special pages used to discuss troublesome edits and so on Wikipedia:FRINGE (or WP:FRINGE) is the “Fringe theory” notice board is of particular interest to skeptics Monitor this for activity of interest Be sure to take what other editors are saying into account as you act

29 Tip: Join a WikiProject WikiProjects are groups of people who get together to coordinate on improving the articles on one topic Joining shows you are serious about Wikipedia, may help you find allies when editing trouble occurs “Rational Skepticism” is our WikiProject There are others for alternative medicine and paranormal, but mostly full of non-skeptics

30 Tip: Contribute photos to Wikimedia Photos really add to articles If you have photos that are relevant and are willing to CC license them to the public, contribute them Tag them appropriately Add them to relevant articles

31 Tip: Footnote like crazy Wikipedia is very insistent on citing reliable sources (WP:RS), so footnote any new material you add Do not go beyond what is said in the source (WP:NOR) Tag footnote with bibliographic footnote here Can reference more than once with (where “foo” matches name in original note) Helps draw attention to skeptic sources

32 Thank you! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook: I post skeptic new stories & a Skeptic History item every day. What’s The Harm is Skeptical Software Tools blog is

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