An Introduction To Guerrilla Skepticism On Wikipedia

I’m about to introduce you to one of my passions. Getting things done. It does not matter if it is a little task or a big one, I just like crossing things off my list. I have many projects in the world of skepticism, but the one I’m about to tell you about is one that needs involvement by you. I’m not a computer person, I don’t have an advanced degree and my day job is photographing people who don’t want their photos taken. I’ve been interested in the skeptical world for about 13 years. I’ve attended lots of skeptic conferences, and read lots of literature. I’ve watched the videos and listened to the podcasts, and after awhile I realized, It’s my turn.

Finding out what that would be wasn’t easy. I stumbled on editing Wikipedia when I attended a lecture that Tim Farley gave on a JREF cruise. Even then I didn’t jump up and announce to the world “I’ve found my passion.” It started out with me editing by myself (I’m completely self-taught) and then others started to gather around and ask if they could help me out.

Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia is the project I’m talking about, maybe you have heard about us on a podcast, blog or even at a conference, we tend to get around. Here is our mission statement…

The mission of the Guerrilla Skepticism editing team is to improve skeptical content on Wikipedia. We do this by providing noteworthy citations, and removing unsourced claims from paranormal pages. It is also our mission to improve the pages of our skeptic spokespeople. Why? Because evidence is cool. We train – We mentor – Join us.

One question I get a lot is how come you call yourselves Guerrilla Skeptics when you follow all the rules of Wikipedia and do not advocate vandalism? Well the reason is because the title, The Mainstream, Responsible Wikipedia Editorial Project isn’t going to get a lot of attention. And we really need attention.

I’m going to give one example of a page that was rescued from stub status. This isn’t a popular page that gets a thousands of hits each month. In fact it receives under 200 views each month. This is the Robert Ingersoll Museum page. I was working on several projects with Tom Flynn when he mentioned how sad it was that this page was in such horrible shape. I don’t think he meant it in a way that he was trying to encourage me to work on it. Tom knows that the GSoW team has far more projects than it can handle in a normal year of everyday editing. He knows that we are juggling pages and begging for editors to join this project. He also knows that we have scored some excellent re-writes and left skeptical links on some of the big hitters (Bill Maher was the most recent). But I went to take a look anyway.

Here is what I found. Sad isn’t it? This lonely stub of a stub page was looking like someone had tied it to the top of the car and driven 12 hours across country. It didn’t take long, I went through the references and got photos uploaded and was able to clean up this page in a few days.

Here is the page as it exists now and these are the stats.

So this is my world. Our mission is to improve Wikipedia, promote critical thinking and support our spokespeople. All three of these things were accomplished with the Ingersoll rewrite. It isn’t my flashiest piece of work. I’m still unhappy with the arrangement of the photos, but don’t know what to do about it. That’s the wonderful thing about Wikipedia. Anyone can edit. And that “anyone” might just be you.

If you want to see flashy page makeovers and read about the Wikipedia World project where we are changing Wikipedia all over the world, then visit our blog. If you think you might have found your skeptical passion in this project. Welcome. Read through as much of the blog as you can, open a Wikipedia account, then friend me on Facebook. Let me know what you are interested in doing and I’ll get you busy. No experience required. We train, we mentor and we are people you won’t mind being seen hanging around the Internet with.

Links to blogs explaining this project.

All Summed Up – Overview of Project

SWIFT blog on JREF (March 2013)

Bratscal Blog

Young Australian Skeptics

Skeptic Ink interview