About a month ago I received an email from Susan Gerbic—who helps run Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia (GSoW)—telling me that they were revamping my Wikipedia page. I was surprised, as of course I hadn’t solicited this, and had no idea who started the page in the first place—nor who updates it. And I’d barely heard of the group (more in a second), though I knew that it was trying to enforce Wikipedia standards against unsubstantiated scientific claims (i.e., woo). A while back, I wrote about how Rupert Sheldrake had beefed loudly about how the GSoW had messed up his Wikipedia page, though it turned out that they’d never done that).
At any rate, I had no objection to what they were doing given that the final page was accurate (and that they kept my picture with Dusty the Cat). My assistance was limited to sending them my c.v. and providing a ten-second audio clip introducing myself, a new feature on Wikipedia.
The final result, produced by editor Kyle Hamar, was great—and let me emphasize that I am only one of many skeptics whose bios they’re improving on Wikipedia. (Click on these links to see the Before & After versions.) Since then I’ve learned that Gerbic runs a large and tightly-knit group (you can read interviews with her here and here), a group punctilious about accuracy and conformity to Wikipedia‘s standards (apparently my earlier bio had too much of the wrong kind of citation). Gerbic won the Randi Foundation’s “In the trenches” award in 2012 for services to skepticism. Her colleagues and editors, however, who do a lot of the spadework, are working largely without recognition, so let me give them, along with Gerbic, a shoutout here.
The group’s website is here, and contains their mission statement:
The mission of the Guerrilla Skepticism editing team is to improve skeptical content on Wikipedia. We do this by improving pages of our skeptic spokespeople, providing noteworthy citations, and removing the unsourced claims from paranormal and pseudoscientific pages. Why? Because evidence is cool. We train – We mentor – Join us.
That sounds good to me, and I endorse them for debunking woo and sticking to facts. Perhaps some of the Wiki editors who read this site would like to volunteer.
Their latest post, which went up Sunday, details the last two months of their activity, and gives a list of skeptics whose bios they’re working on—or have worked on. These include Pamela Gay, Phil Plait, Maryam Namazie, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Bill Nye, Eugenie Scott, and Sanal Edamaruku. They often use local talent when revising bios outside of the U.S. and the U.K.: for example, they just got 7 new editors in Hungary alone whose job is to deal with Hungarian scientists and skeptics).
Below is Gerbic’s talk at last year’s TAM, describing how her group works (the talk is really quite fascinating):
The group is seeking feedback (and assistance), and you can find their email address at the end of their latest website post.