You don’t even have to get out of bed to be involved with Susan’s concept. In fact, she spends most of her time in pajamas with her cats draped over her challenging and changing what people all over the world go to for their first taste of information on confusing subjects that claim to be paranormal. Wikipedia is huge. The potential for skepticism on Wikipedia is huge as well.
The thing is, everything at Wiki has to be “cited.” That means if there is no published information elsewhere to back up outrageous claims or that claim or information is edited by Wiki’s editors (one of which anyone can be… like YOU) as being “not noteworthy” such as proof that dead people can talk from a credible source, then guess what – it gets edited out by people like Susan who monitor people and incidents through Google Alerts on specific names. Read about James VanPraagh and Sylvia Browne at Wiki and you will see what I mean. They are dead meat and there’s nothing they or any of their fans can do about it. It’s almost like the world saying, “Hey, …prove it or we will hold you accountable!” There is not one single positive thing about Browne or VanPraagh at Wiki, simply because their isn’t any proof anywhere to substantiate their bogus claims there, thanks to bound and determined people like Susan Gerbic. How cool is that? If these cons pop up with some new piece of garbage, she goes to work to take out the trash and right the wrong information. It’s simple and easy to do once you get the hang of it.
Also in progress is Susan’s “Got Your Wiki Back” project. This is an attempt to make sure that if and when people go to Wiki to find out about someone in the skeptical universe, they are greeted with a decent write-up and good photographs. Susan gets a bug under her skin when she sees pitiful “stubs” or pages that should be representitive of our best skeptical minds casually put up at Wiki that are either weak in content, filled with spelling or grammatical errors, no pictures or woefully out of date information. Shame…
If you didn’t know anything about that bearded guy James Randi and went to Wikipedia to get your first bits of biographical information on him, would you want to find one or two poorly written sentences without any pictures or up-to-date creds? We don’t think so – and the skeptical community has no one else to blame but themselves if such a thing happens with new up-and-coming rational thinkers as well as a few who are already up on Wiki . Get busy and learn how to straighten out the most contemporary source of information on the planet! This is the kind of job that needs doing, and like weeding in a vast backyard garden, Susan has been crying out for help for the last year – unfortunately without much success. Only a few skeptics have actually started consistently working this fertile territory. She has found that initially, people are gung-ho to get involved, but the numbers begin to dwindle after some apparently feel that such work might be technologically challenging. Wrong. It isn’t any more challenging than Facebook or Youtube folks.
Susan has been a guest on several of the biggest skeptical podcasts, had a spread in Skeptical Inquirer and the paper she read at TAM9 last year started a firestorm of interest. But interest is not enough. In a recent Cafe Inquiry meeting at Hollywood’s CFI Headquarters, Susan shared her feelings on this dilemma and other issues close to her heart. There really is no excuse. Imagine: If ten or twenty people per week scoured Wikipedia for whatever brand of woo or pseudo-science they chose to explore and spent an hour or so a week tuning that page up, it would have a tremendous effect on skeptical thinking world-wide. Susan also has plans to also get her best shots translated into other languages so that more and more people will form their own groups and keep up the pressure on un-critical information.
So if you have been lurking in the background, wringing your hands and bemoaning the impossiblity of making a dent in the hard shell of stupendous foolery masquerading as fact that grows by leaps and bounds every day – it’s time to boot up your computer and get on board. Work from the inside out. Invalidate the woo with fact-based truth and you will feel much better!
We Got Your Wiki Back http://guerrillaskepticismonwikipedia.blogspot.com/2011/06/guerrilla-skepticsm-of-skeptical.html
General Overview and Plea for Help (from July 2011) http://guerrillaskepticismonwikipedia.blogspot.com/2011/06/guerrilla-skepticism-on-wikipedia.html
Page Makeovers http://guerrillaskepticismonwikipedia.blogspot.com/2011/07/we-got-your-wiki-back-page-makeovers.html
Wikipedia in other languages http://guerrillaskepticismonwikipedia.blogspot.com/2012/03/forget-english-what-does-rest-of-world.html