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Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

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Kitkat
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Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 4th July 2013, 11:38

General
Wikipedia is hugely important as a means of documenting society and making that knowledge base available to anyone with access to the Internet. For the most part, it has been successful. The point of this article is that Wikipedia has the potential to enable special interest groups to exert undue influence on public opinion. This is most obvious in subjects that are not part of mainstream thought, what is referred to here as a Frontier Subject: The study, practice or experience of a phenomenon which has not been academically established as an accepted part of mainstream culture.
Place this link logo on your website and help others become informed about Wikipedia:
The reason this is important is that a search of the Internet for almost any subject presents a Wikipedia article as first or nearly first choice. Citizens, and especially children, will often learn about a subject from Wikipedia first, and that means they may be taught by special interests groups.
Treatment of subjects
Wikipedia rules governing content of articles are intended to assure a balanced disclosure of each subject in the detached style of traditional encyclopedias. Because the editors are seldom subject matter experts, everything in articles must be referenced. Consequently, the main rules used to control the tone of an article concerns the acceptability of the information source and neutral point of view of wording in the article. Original research is not allowed and journals for frontier subjects are virtually not acceptable. The problem is that it is the dominant group of editors that decides what is acceptable and who determine how a subject is characterized.
Virtually all material in Wikipedia articles is at least second hand, and often based on very outdated material. Because books are preferred over websites as being more academic, and it often takes years to publish a book, it is common to find book references that have long-since been outdated by new research published in journals and on websites. More importantly, references are often used that are unavailable to the reader, making it nearly impossible to verify that the included information is actually supported. Too often, it is not.
"Original research" means that what must be used is an article written by someone else about that research. Small and/or non-mainstream publications are considered "fringe," and are therefore easily discounted by an editor determined not to allow its use. In most frontier subjects, there are only small publications because of the immaturity of the field. Mainstream publications will not venture to publish a positive report about a nonmainstream subject. Also, book publishers will not invest the resources to publish a book intended as a serious research report unless there is a large audience. All of this means that collaboration in frontier subjects is accomplished via newsletters, self-published books and websites. The most current research information is too often on the same search engine page as hobbyists speculating about the subject from a point of view of "how it helped me today," rather than whether or not "it" has any validity in fact.
Wikipedia editing rules
Wikipedia has rules governing the interaction of editors such as the need to assume good faith and to be civil toward other editors. There are also procedural rules, such as how often and why an editor might change another person's edits. Perhaps most important are the rules governing what may be included in articles. For instance, Articles are required to be written from a neutral point of view and everything in articles must be based on verifiable references. The references themselves must not be out of the mainstream or self-serving to the author, and so there is also a conflict of interest rule.
An editor's failure to follow the rules is usually addressed by other editors, but if that does not work, then it is possible to bring an editor before a tribunal that has the power to ban an editor from making further contribution.
Who can edit articles
The policy of Wikipedia, or at least the dominant culture's policy, is that subject matter experts are discouraged from editing articles within their area of expertise. In fact, it is common for subject matter experts to be so abused that they soon stop attempting to contribute content. One of the Wikipedia founders, Larry Sanger, has even written the article, Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism, explaining the pitfalls of editors not using their real name (no accountability) and not being knowledgeable about the subjects they edit. His response was to begin Citizendium, which is a kinder and more dependable online encyclopedia which we urge you to support.
In fact, anyone can edit Wikipedia articles because anyone can register under an assumed name. However, if an editor is found out as a person who might in some way benefit from what is said in an article, that person is considered to have a conflict of interest and is strongly discouraged from editing associated articles. This is an important rule because in the case of frontier subjects, virtually all of the people who are knowledgeable about the subject are the same people who are leading study groups, have websites, have or might write a book or giver a talk on the subject.
The skeptical community
By "special interest groups," I am generally referring to the members of Wikiproject:Rational Skepticism and those who are sympathetic to them. Based on my encounters with this group, they appear to be James Randi and Robert Carroll adherents. People involved with frontier subjects often document their dismay at how unreasonably closed the skeptical community is to new thought and how ruthless its adherents are in their efforts to make sure the general public understands that the frontier subject is impossible, and therefore, cannot be. People believing such things are branded as delusional or possibly fraudulent.
This tradition of pathological skepticism is now an integral part of Wikipedia and the online encyclopedia has given this community inordinate access to students of the world looking for material to write a term paper. The skeptical theme is that anything that is not explicitly defined by mainstream science must not be shown in Wikipedia to have any form of possibility. Review of any article in Wikipedia will show that the subject is carefully characterized as fringe and/or pseudoscience.
It is essential to remember that the skeptical community believes that it is executing the will of mainstream science to protect the community from being deceived. They edit from this perspective even though they seldom actually know anything about the subject. But the irony is that people who research frontier subjects are necessarily very careful about their assumptions because they know that they are examining something that is not commonly accepted as reality. One might even argue that such researchers are super critical of their work, and from personal experience, it is easy for them to assume others are equally critical about what they believe. In fact, the skeptical viewpoint is based on assumption and seldom on empirical evidence. The inescapable conclusion is that the most aggressive skeptics have adopted a faith-based viewpoint and their argument is an emotional one cloaked with the authority of science. This is the same working one could use for religious belief.
Personal attacks
It is common for skeptical editors to denounce anyone who studies frontier subjects as morons, idiots, deluded, or even more libelous, charlatans and frauds. There are administrative-level editors and procedures to request help from such abuse, but in many instances, complaints are answered by a barrage of comments agreeing with the original insult and adding many more disparaging words to the list. In the end, it is an inescapable conclusion that Wikipedia intends to maintain a civil work environment, but is unable to apply existing rules to protect editors from other editors. The common term is "poisoned atmosphere."
Why this is important
You will notice that this article is on a website dedicated to Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), but is written to accommodate any subject that involves new ideas or interest in observed but unexplained experiences. It could be argued that EVP is the fringe of the fringe, and even the fringe shies away from it. The fact is though, our study of EVP is producing a fast growing database of empirical evidence. The AA-EVP is funding research by academically trained scientists, but funding is almost nonexistent compared to that available for mainstream subjects. An important reason funding is not available is that the popular wisdom of mainstream culture is shaped by mainstream science and opinion setters, such as the late Carl Sagan ... and authoritative sources of information such as Wikipedia. The money goes with the interest, and it was not until after the movie, White Noise introduced the world to EVP that research grants became available in our field.
Abdication of responsibility in the scientific community: In society, the responsibility of scientists is to explain the environment. If members of the scientific community ignore aspects of the environment being experienced by the citizens, then the scientific community is effectively abdicating its responsibility. Conversely, it is intellectually arrogant for scientists to ridicule laypeople who take it upon themselves to seek explanations for the experiences. It is also unethical for scientist to then comment on the work done by laypeople without becoming familiar with protocols used and what has been learned.
Another important factor is that scientists do not dare associate themselves with a subject that is characterized as a "fringe" subjects for fear of ruining their career. History will surely show that the skeptical community is delaying discovery of many new ideas because of the peer pressure they bring to mainstream science. Consequently, frontier subjects will not be studied by mainstream science until popular opinion becomes more accepting of new ideas. When the public demands to know more, funding will follow and scientists will follow the funding.
The Internet provides extraordinary access to the public making it possible for a determined, but very minority group of people to have extraordinary influence on what people believe. It is not realistic to think that private websites can be controlled, but Wikipedia is publically funded and affords public access to virtually everything that is written in its pages--as you will see, both administration pages and articles.
What can be done?
Whatever your subject, learn to talk about it in terms that a person new to the subject will understand. Giving talks, writing articles, being on talk shows all give opportunities to learn what works and what does not. People usually know what they mean, but often fail to communicate that meaning. Much of the criticism of the frontier subjects is due to the failure of people who study them to communicate what they are and why they are important.
Maintain the viewpoint that the subject is an observed phenomena and that there is a need to study what it is. Avoid a single conclusions by clearly explaining the working hypothesis that best explains the evidence at this time and always try to leave the discussion open for alternative explanations. Do not seem to be determined to prove anything. Let the evidence determine the next step.
Establish a presence on the Internet with an informative website. It need not be slick or even pretty so long as it looks professional, conveys a sense that you are level-headed and that you know what you are talking about. Keep it current. If there is empirical evidence for some parts of what you want to say, then clearly explain that. If parts of it are based on assumption or belief, then clearly explain those parts and clearly distinguish the two. A good indication that you may need to explain the difference is if you use an assumption in the same paragraph with empirically supported information. Make the difference clear to maintain your integrity. Probably most important is that the articles that others might link to for citations are stable. Credible articles that can be referenced in other work have become an important replacement for scholarly books in frontier subjects.
Seek critique and feedback from friends, or even better, from webmasters for other frontier subjects. Mainstream science has a system of societies, universities and publications that enables collaboration and archiving of the knowledge base. This is missing in for most frontier subjects, so it is important to establish a culture of cooperation amongst interested people. This article is about an issue that is common to all frontier subjects and it is not necessary for us to have common subject matter interests for this issue to be addressed.
Write an article about your subject that is suitable for an encyclopedia and include it on the website. For all of its faults, Wikipedia is a good place to see what formats works best. This article is not to prove your point in any way. It is intended to be a clear explanation of what your subject is without characterization as to its validity. Perhaps people outside your circle of experts should help draft the article because it needs to be a serious "What I would like to see in Wikipedia" article that is written from a neutral point of view with good, solid references. The good should be shown with the bad. Seek and include viable alternative explanations. This article may also make an excellent "white paper" to be used as a handout at conferences.
Put the "Concerns with Wikipedia" logo with a link to this article on your website (http://atransc.org/articles/articles_wikipedia.htm). Alternatively, write an article warning people about Wikipedia yourself and use this logo to link to that article. It is worth noting that the content of this web page is "copyright free" (Creative Commons) for you to us as you see fit; however, an important point to remember is that the more links there are to this page, the higher it will be in the search engines and the more people will read it. This is all about public education.
We do not recommend that anyone becomes an editor at Wikipedia. Until the environment has become more civil, we feel that the anger you will certainly come to know will do more harm than good. We recommend Citizendium if you want to contribute to an encyclopedia and Wikisynergy is especially good for frontier subjects. Wherever you edit online, always use your real name. Reading the essay about the Lord of the Flies will tell you why we feel Wikipedia is able to sustain such a gangland-like atmosphere amongst editors.
Navigation guide for Wikipedia
The most important thing anyone can do to help attract serious research is to become personally educated about the field of study and how people react to it. What are the arguments used to discount the work? Insight into this can be found by reading the Discussion page associated with Article pages in Wikipedia--in effect, by looking behind the curtain. Read the History of both pages. For instance for on the history page for the article on the Institute of Noetic Sciences, you can see (may be in the archive now) that on March 16, 2007, Dean Radin was in an edit war with skeptical editors over the opening phrase "The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) is a non-profit research institute that engages in scientific research ...", which the other editors wanted to have read as "...(IONS) is a group that attempts to use scientific research." By changing the perspective of "engages," which is fact and conveys intelligent action, to "attempts," which is not true but does indicate the probability that IONS is amateurish and does not succeed in applying the scientific method, editors hoped to cast doubt in the readers mind about the authenticity of IONS. This is an example of characterizing a subject to cast doubt, rather than simply reporting about what it is as a subject and without attributing truth or lie.
This is a very important point: the skeptical community has even managed to establish an article category of pseudoscience. The term is usually used to reduce the credibility of frontier subjects, and is generally considered a derogatory term. Likely your subject is on the list or will soon be added. Qualifying term or phrase that implies unscientific thinking or practices are routinely used to suggest through innuendo that the subject is not credible. Something as subtle as relating a subject to religious or spiritual subjects effectively changes a frontier subject from an effort to apply good science to understand something, to a belief system that is not to be taken seriously.
Editors are supposed to sign their posts in the discussion pages. By clicking on the editor's name at the end of the post, for instance Joshua Schroeder (talk), you will go to the editor's personal page. Every editor has one and it is considered off-limits for others to post anything there. You will first see that Joshua Schroeder (SA) does not much like what he prefers to characterize as fringe subject or "believers," and that he is dedicated to protecting the status quo as he understands it to be defined by mainstream science.
If you click on the "(talk)" after "Joshua Schroeder," you will go directly to his discussion page. It is there that Administrative-class editors (Admins) alert editors about formal complaints or issue warnings and advice. It is educational to see who is commenting there and why. For instance, SA has become one of the most forceful editors in the frontier subjects and it is common for other editors to first say how much they support his work and then to ask that he helps them in a subject matter dispute somewhere in Wikipedia. SA has had so many warnings, block notices and complaints about his incivility that he has begun deleting negative comments. He also does not keep an archive of old posts, but by finding an old post on the talk history page, and clicking on the "(last)", it is possible to get the flavor of what others are really saying to him. The subjects are usually listed at the right of who has made the post.
You can see what an editor has been doing in Wikipedia by clicking on "User Contribution" in the "Tool Box" at the left. This is a good way to assess what the editor is interested in, and in SA's case, you will see that just about every frontier subject is of interest to him. He is a student astronomer and is also interested in any article that addresses cosmologies and theories in physics that are not in agreement with his views.
There is a virtual labyrinth of administrative and policy pages in Wikipedia. One sure way to navigate the maze is to follow comments from interesting editors. For instance, an editor might make a complaint about incivility at Wikipedia:Wikiquette alerts. Someone will warn another about civility with, "You have violated WP:CIVIL," which is a link to the Wikipedia:Civility page containing the policy. (Please note that the policy is also edited and has been occasionally diluted by editors wanting to be allowed more leeway in how rude they are to others. You can see this attitude illustrated at the top of SA's talk page.
Another good place to look is the Request for Arbitration pages. Two important ones are Paranormal and Martinphi-ScienceApologist. [Science Apologist is now Joshua Schroeder] Both have several associated pages for evidence and such, and although painful to read, they offer an important lesson for all of us. There are others, such as the Incident notice board and the Arbitration enforcement board.
It is evident that there is a skeptics group and a "proponent" group in Wikipedia. The skeptics are very well organized and ruthless in their treatment of anyone with whom they disagree. They have driven off almost all of the "proponents," even though the people who oppose them mostly just want their subject honestly reported, rather than cast in the shadow of "it is not supported by mainstream science and is therefore impossible." This difference in tactics is well-illustrated by the interview between a person dedicated to balanced articles and ScienceApologist.
Conclusion
It is important to keep in mind that Wikipedia is not the evil empire, it is a very important tool that needs a few changes to keep it from being a platform for social engineering. It really is not realistic to say that one person is at fault. This is especially true with such a large enterprise involving so many independently thinking people, but it is evident that the skeptical community is out of control, and that as long as people can insult people with impunity and ignore consensus and balanced reporting, it is essential that the public be told that the online encyclopedia cannot be trusted as a knowledge base.
_________________________________________________________

This article is written by Tom Butler
Source:  http://atransc.org/articles/concerns_with_wikipedia.htm
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Kitkat
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Online "filter bubbles"

Post by Kitkat on 8th July 2013, 00:00

Thanks to Pebble on the Rational Inquiry forum for directing attention to a TED video made in March 2011, where Eli Pariser is talking about online "filter bubbles".

Conveying the same message as the OP here.

You can view the video here:  http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

Surprising to note from some of the comments to the video that lots of people are completely unaware that this type of filtering is commonplace (and always has been) in all areas of the media/publishing/marketing etc.
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 22nd October 2013, 11:36

Wikipedia, Rupert Sheldrake, Susan Gerbic and Guerrilla Skepticism: The online methods for Wikipedia control of pseudoskeptics and atheist ideologues.

...The Guerrilla Skeptics are well trained, highly motivated, have an ideological agenda, and operate in teams, contrary to Wikipedia rules... They have already seized control of many Wikipedia pages, deleted entries on subjects they disapprove of, and boosted the biographies of atheists.
http://subversivethinking.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/wikipedia-rupert-sheldrake-susan-gerbic.html
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 24th October 2013, 14:12

And so it goes on .........

The Guerrilla Skeptics apparently did not take kindly to being outed.  Since June, they have gone on the attack to seriously change Rupert’s Bio.  On June 14th, he had a relatively stable and neutral biography, which is documented from June 14th. Compare this to the pretty current September 28th version.  The changes are quite drastic and unfavorable to Sheldrake
These types of problems occur because anybody can edit Wikipedia.  In order for all of these people to edit this encyclopedia, Wikipedia has a rule that only secondary sources are allowed because primary sources need to be interpreted.  It’s more complicated than that, but what happens is that this opens the door for all sorts of gaming of Wikipedia by less than objective editors.  Especially in regards to controversial topics and people, there are often a number of conflicting opinions to choose from and it requires a bit of subject knowledge to sort them out.  If you’re an ideologue however, you merely choose the opinions that you agree with and ignore everything else while dismissing contrary sources as being biased.  That’s what’s happening on Rupert Sheldrake’s Wikipedia page.
Read more:  http://www.realitysandwich.com/wikipedia_battle_rupert_sheldrakes_biography


Submitted by Craig Weiler on Wed, 10/23/2013 - 19:05.

1. No one knows who the editors are for GS, so you can hardly say that they're out in the open. Feel free to direct me to a membership list. Real names and IP addresses please. I think it's ironic that you're posting anonymously.

2. See #1.

3. This would be the same Tim Farley who advocated abusing the Web of Trust? http://skeptools.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/web-of-trust-wot-tool-skeptics ... I don't consider him to be a reliable source of information.

4. I've had direct experience working with skeptical editors. They've tried to ban me, insulted me, tried to silence my protests at this outrage and attempted intimidation numerous times. Can't say I'm impressed.

As for the rest, congratulations anonymous poster on telling me how fair minded skeptics are. You certainly seem to be convinced of this. My own experiences tell a different story.

and on:  The Decline of Wikipedia
The main source of those problems is not mysterious. The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage.

When Wikipedians achieved their most impressive feat of leaderless collective organization, they unwittingly set in motion the decline in participation that troubles their project today.

A look at how the system operates:  Wikipedia: The Dirty Tricks Machine



(from Rupert Sheldrake's Blog):  Wikipedia Under Threat
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Juggling with the facts on Wikipedia

Post by Kitkat on 24th October 2013, 23:25

Psychic News - November 2013 edition, reports:

in an article headed Juggling with the Facts on Wikipedia

Censorship of the wrong kind has been a feature of Wikipedia for some time.
C.J. Romer and Tom Ruffles, for The Society of Psychical Research set out to improve its Wikipedia page, but every time they altered the content, it was changed back.  This happened so many times that they eventually gave up.
Wikipedia, the source of online information known as 'The People's Encyclopedia' has been hijacked by a group calling itself Guerrilla Skeptics, whose mission is to edit and alter information on the paranormal that does not conform to the group's points of view.
At the head of Guerrilla Skeptics is Susan Gerbik, an American who now commands a team of more than 90 guerrillas in 17 different countries.  They are coordinated through secret Facebook pages and aim to control information.  Already they are in control of many Wikipedia pages.

She has admitted that editing what she calls "the psychic stuff" gives her a really powerful feeling.
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 27th October 2013, 16:38

The debacle rages on.

This from 2010

Wikipedia Woes - Pending Crisis as Editors Leave in Droves

It should be made clear that whilst someone with a "free account" becomes a "logged editor" they still remain anonymous if they choose to, through the use of pseudonyms and Wikipedia rules about not "outing" editors. That is, not revealing their true identity even if this is known and pertinent to the discussion. This is a big problem when one considers another finding of the study, that:

   ... There was also a growing inequality in contributions becoming more biased towards a core of very active editors.


It is this bias which is a major concern, and could well account for editors leaving in droves. Quite simply, new editors are treated with contempt and discouraged from contributing if their edits are not consistent with the highly conventional beliefs of the editors who have seized control of particular topics.
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 1st November 2013, 12:33

From the Bolingbrook Babbler:

CSICOP teams up with Guerrilla Skeptics to form ‘Candle Tactical Teams’

CSICOP, a paramilitary skeptical group, announced they were forming “Candle Tactical Teams” with Guerrilla Skeptics, a group of Wikipedia editors.  “Thanks to the Tea Party and their woo filled allies, the world is on the verge of a new dark age!”  Read a statement from CSICOP.  “If this dark age happens, our response will be to light candles in the darkness by any means necessary!

and the [telling] denial from a spokesman for Guerrilla Skeptics:

“Your claim a demonstrably false!  If you publish this crap about us, we will create a Wikipedia entry about your newspaper, and you will not like it!”

Read in full:    http://www.bolingbrookbabbler.com/2013/10/csicop-teams-up-with-guerrilla-skeptics.html
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Guerrilla Skeptics Training College

Post by Kitkat on 25th November 2013, 13:39

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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 6th March 2014, 12:05

WIKIPEDIA, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
by Rome Viharo
Dec 21, 2013

http://wikipediawehaveaproblem.com/

(Quote Rome Viharo):
"I write this account both for selfish and unselfish reasons. My selfish reasons are to clear my name online and the attack on my reputation that was waged on me from editing on Wikipedia.

The unselfish reason is that this is simply ‘wrong’, both morally, ethically, and yes perhaps even legally. That Wikipedia is turning a blind eye to its own internal online harassment is troubling and I believe a genuine and reasonable  concern. What happens when the largest repository of knowledge becomes run amok with bands of activist editors who have bullied their way to the top of the food chain?

This case study shows this happening in one particular instance. It is the hope that seeing how this can happen in one instance may prevent it happening in another. I believe this study may be unique because the evidence shows where the flaws are in Wikipedia’s own internal process.

Admittedly, I may appear to bring a ‘idealistic enthusiasm’ to this project, but if I do I do so without apologies.

As a big supporter of collective editing platforms, even a developer of one myself, I believe we must not allow online bullying and harassment to ‘work’ on any consensus building platform, much less the worlds largest website and repository of knowledge.

Even Google and Apple assume the credibility of Wikipedia’s meta data and distribute it directly to their users, regardless if its corrupted meta data gamed by agitated editors.

So while my case study is about me – the problem on Wikipedia is not. And that is what my case study addresses."

Read in full here:  WIKIPEDIA, WE HAVE A PROBLEM


exposed tactics of activist editors in a wiki war- a case study

Contents

       
  1. Introduction
       
  2. Activist editors game Wikipedia, a case study
       
  3. Other points of view on the issue
       
  4. We simply can’t have bullying influence articles on Wikipedia
       
  5. A Biography of a Living Person poses a unique problem
       
  6. I was surprised to find detractors of a notable living person controlling his biography on Wikipedia
       
  7. Overview: Harassed in first three days of participating
       
  8. Overview: Hunted and hounded
       
  9. Overview: Five attempts to sanction me, one finally works
       
  10. Overview: Highly questionable sanction
       
  11. Overview: Tumbleman ban sets off ‘cultural’ war momentarily
       
  12. Don’t take my word for it, please check the evidence


Next read:  The Battle Begins

Rome Viharo BLOG
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Umberto Cocopop on 10th March 2014, 14:42

The biggest cause of filter bubbles is the social media phenomenon IMO.

Things such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc., create ways for people who share the same views and opinions to form 'blogoshperes' and similar. But what this also creates is a way for people who don't share your views to filter out what they don't want to see or hear.

This is why I was always opposed to so-called 'skeptical activists' whose approach was to create blogs, podcasts, SitP meetings etc. as a way of 'promoting skepticism'. The problem is that all it does is create a bubble that the actual people they want to influence can easily avoid.

I used to refer to it as 'insular skepticism' but I guess 'filter bubble' is the same thing.

As for the "Guerilla Skeptics" - I don't know whether they're filtering relevant content because of their ideology or doing a useful job of filtering out nonsense, but as a PR exercise, well, let's just say that a slightly more image-positive name could have been chosen!
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 2nd May 2014, 19:58

Wikipedia: where truth dies online

Run by cliquish, censorious editors and open to pranks and vandalism, Wikipedia is worthless and damaging.


(from Nigel Scott @ Spiked 29.04.14)  
http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/wikipedia-where-truth-dies-online/14963#.U2PpGSgvB64

A man knocks at your door. You answer and he tells you he is an encyclopaedia salesman.

‘I have the largest and most comprehensive encyclopaedia the world has ever seen’, he says.

‘Tell me about it!’

‘It has more editors and more entries than any other encyclopaedia ever. Most of the contributors are anonymous and no entry is ever finished. It is constantly changing. Any entry may be different each time you go back to it. Celebrities and companies pay PR agencies to edit entries. Controversial topics are often the subject of edit wars that can go on for years and involve scores of editors. Pranksters and jokers may change entries and insert bogus facts. Whole entries about events that never happened may be created. Other entries will disappear without notice. Experts may be banned from editing subjects that they are leading authorities on, because they are cited as primary sources. University academics and teachers warn their students to exercise extreme caution when using it. Nothing in it can be relied on. You will never know whether anything you read in it is true or not. Are you interested?’

‘I’ll think about it’, you say, and close the door.
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 26th May 2014, 13:41

If you thought the Wiki controversy circus had died a silent death and melted into the cyber background, think again.  Bobbing up and down in the rippling after-effects waves is one Tim Farley, still seething and ruminating on the recent subterranean revelations, he has been hard at work on the development of a rescue mission for the ailing Wiki Way.

which you can read about here:  http://skeptools.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/nothere-wikipedia-craig-weiler-rome-viharo-tumbleman-rupert-sheldrake/

Albeit in spite of this confused and rather naive statement from Mr Farley:
Finally, bravo again to the Guerrilla Skeptics, who have wisely stayed out of this imbroglio and focused on the important task of actually making Wikipedia better.  The stats show that quite clearly.
   Are you serious??!!!


"Skeptics know the world is a grey place, not black and white", he says.
Aye, there's the rub.  'Thinking people' know that far from being a "grey place", the world is one of ever-changing hue and colour.  If you are unable, or unwilling, to see and experience the wonders and powers of that colour,  then you can expect no more than a lifetime chained in that 'grey place'.

Ironically, one of the 'tools' suggested by Mr Farley to aid in the 'rescue' of the erring Wiki site - is a very colourful pie-chart 'User Analysis Tool'.   shrug    With that, I rest my case.  judge
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 28th May 2014, 11:59

From the BBC Health News:

Trust your doctor, not Wikipedia, say scientists

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-27586356

Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, contains errors in nine out of 10 of its health entries, and should be treated with caution, a study has said.

Scientists in the US compared entries about conditions such as heart disease, lung cancer, depression and diabetes with peer-reviewed medical research.

They said most articles in Wikipedia contained "many errors".
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 24th July 2014, 08:40

.

Dean Radin on Wikipedia (April 04, 2014)

<<.......
I used to wonder why those in charge of Wikipedia would allow such biases to persist. I imagined that they were simply uninformed at how a small group of enthusiastic fact-deniers had highjacked the system. But now something has happened that illuminates the problem.

On Change.org, the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology posted a petition to ask Jimmy Wales, one of the founders of Wikipedia, to "create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing." The ACEP posted this position because publications relevant to their interests have faced the same sort of systematic negative bias as articles on psi research. The response by Wales was as follows:

    "No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful. Wikipedia's policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals - that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately. What we won't do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of "true scientific discourse". It isn't."


Besides the snarky insult, this response reveals more than ignorance. It indicates that Wales has allowed his amygdala to trump his frontal lobes. He might benefit from re-reading his own guidelines on the "Five Pillars" of Wikipedia, especially the pillar recommending that articles are to be written from a neutral point of view.
.........>>

For the full article, read Dean Radin's blog:  http://deanradin.blogspot.co.uk/
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Umberto Cocopop on 24th July 2014, 14:45

Jimmy Wales' position is the correct one, even if his communication could have been more polite.

Allowing unaccepted or non-evidence-based claims to be posted as if they're factual would seriously damage the encyclopedia as a whole.

It doesn't matter how sincerely people such as Dean Radin believe that PSI (or whatever they believe) is real, the truth is that their claims are not accepted by the majority of other scientists.

There can only be a valid claim of an "anti-PSI bias" if PSI was actually proven to be real. As it never has been, despite what Radin may think, then keeping "pro-PSI bias" (it can just as easily be framed in this way) at bay is the sensible thing to do. The same goes for all non-proven claims and beliefs.
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 24th July 2014, 15:38

@Umberto Cocopop wrote:Jimmy Wales' position is the correct one, even if his communication could have been more polite.

Allowing unaccepted or non-evidence-based claims to be posted as if they're factual would seriously damage the encyclopedia as a whole.

It doesn't matter how sincerely people such as Dean Radin believe that PSI (or whatever they believe) is real, the truth is that their claims are not accepted by the majority of other scientists.

There can only be a valid claim of an "anti-PSI bias" if PSI was actually proven to be real. As it never has been, despite what Radin may think, then keeping "pro-PSI bias" (it can just as easily be framed in this way) at bay is the sensible thing to do. The same goes for all non-proven claims and beliefs.


Perhaps the bespoke second pillar in the Guidelines (about writing articles from a "neutral point of view") ought to be re-worded then.  
Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view: We strive for articles that document and explain the major points of view, giving due weight with respect to their prominence in an impartial tone. We avoid advocacy and we characterize information and issues rather than debate them. In some areas there may be just one well-recognized point of view; in others, we describe multiple points of view, presenting each accurately and in context rather than as "the truth" or "the best view". All articles must strive for verifiable accuracy, citing reliable, authoritative sources, especially when the topic is controversial or is on living persons. Editors' personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong.
Pre-judging and classifying a whole section of humanity as "lunatic charlatans" decries his own "neutral point of view" in a most transparent way (though I suspect he gets around that by the inclusion of "In some areas there may be just one well-recognized point of view").
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Umberto Cocopop on 24th July 2014, 22:03

Being completely neutral, or the concept of epoché, is never truly achievable. Their description of their approach looks reasonable to me though.

The concept of 'balance' in articles etc. is also heavily criticised as it often gives a distorted view of an issue. There may be 2 sides to an argument but both sides aren't necessarily equal. Think of how global warming skeptics get a lot of prominence yet are actually a tiny minority in reality.

In fact, the BBC has come under much fire because of its aim to be neutral and balanced as it's been one of the major offenders when it comes to overstating the relevance and importance of minority views.

There's also what's known as (something like) the Hostile Media Effect: a bias where people who hold a position on an issue are convinced that the media is biased towards their opponents' view. I wonder how much this bias feeds daft battles such as the stupidly named Guerilla Skeptics and their pro-PSI opponents?

And this is the problem with our biases. Even if Wikipedia was perfectly adhering to its ideals and every article was perfectly neutral and completely factual, there would still be people moaning about bias, prejudice, hidden agendas and so on when the content of articles doesn't match their worldview.

To get a handle on this issue (and I don't follow it at all myself BTW), it would be well worth considering the biases of those moaning about other people's biases!
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 29th July 2014, 12:34

Refreshingly exciting and promising to read in this article penned by Robert McLuhan * -
Psi Encyclopedias - about imminent plans in the offing for a rival to Wikipedia.

the WISE project conceived by John Reed and backed by the Society for Scientific Exploration (WISE stands for World Institute for Scientific Exploration). This is a giant wiki-database that will see thousands of entries loaded for journals, subjects and individuals who have figured in parapsychology, psychical research, survival research, Spiritualism, ufology, alternative medicine, and related fields. It’s open to anyone to submit content, but I gather most of the effort is being directed at collecting existing material from books and journals.

The SPR resource will be smaller, with perhaps up to 1000 entries over the course of three to four years, compared with the 4000 that WISE already plans. It will also be more narrowly focused on psi-related subjects. But a lot of this material will be newly-created in-depth summaries of the main topics and case studies of key investigations and experiments, linked directly where possible to the original reports. Being funded means we have control over the way the material is shaped and presented. Hopefully we can generate enough content to launch within a year, and carry on adding new items in the following two to three years.


Read full article here:  http://monkeywah.typepad.com/


* Robert McLuhan is the author of Randi's Prize - .  (Click image for details)
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Umberto Cocopop on 29th July 2014, 17:39

I think the problem it's going to have is a one of credibility.

If I wanted a quick read up on some paranormal topic I didn't know much about, and I wanted a factual account, I'd go to Wikipedia as I know they're strict about what they allow to be published.

I wouldn't trust the impartiality of articles on a site such as WISE nor would I take it as a source of authority on any issue. Of relevance may be points 3 and 4 here: http://www.critical-thinking.org.uk/critical-thinking/fallacies/appeal-to-authority.php

No one outside of their own belief domain is going to take it seriously.
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 30th July 2014, 00:56

@Umberto Cocopop wrote:I think the problem it's going to have is a one of credibility.

If I wanted a quick read up on some paranormal topic I didn't know much about, and I wanted a factual account, I'd go to Wikipedia as I know they're strict about what they allow to be published.

I wouldn't trust the impartiality of articles on a site such as WISE nor would I take it as a source of authority on any issue. Of relevance may be points 3 and 4 here: http://www.critical-thinking.org.uk/critical-thinking/fallacies/appeal-to-authority.php

No one outside of their own belief domain is going to take it seriously.

Well, that remains to be seen.  We can only wait and see how it takes off.  

A most important point (I think so anyway) has been raised in the Comments to that article, and will be interesting to see what transpires in that regard:

Rabbitdawg commented:
One issue I haven't seen addressed yet is a provocative dilemma that will ultimately present itself - where do the editors draw the line on the paranormal subjects and issues covered? Or is it all wide open?
OBE's, Reincarnation, NDE's, energy healing and other "mainstream" categories are obvious entries, but what about UFO's? Bigfoot? The Law of Attraction and all sorts of other New Age propositions?

Where does one draw the boggle threshold line? That enchanted boundary is such a personal and slippery thing.
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Umberto Cocopop on 30th July 2014, 09:34

@Kitkat wrote:Well, that remains to be seen.

Do you really think it stands a chance of being taken seriously by anyone who's not entrenched in paranormal beliefs?

Also...

Things such as a neutral point of view, impartiality, lack of bias and so on are bound to be compromised and I would wager that anyone who's considered a 'skeptic' (i.e. someone who doesn't share in their belief system) who posts or amends anything that's factual or critical of the paranormal will have their contributions edited or removed.

In other words, they'll end up as a more extreme version of all the things they think is wrong with Wikipedia now!

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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 31st July 2014, 20:50

@Umberto Cocopop wrote:
@Kitkat wrote:Well, that remains to be seen.

Do you really think it stands a chance of being taken seriously by anyone who's not entrenched in paranormal beliefs?

I do.  I think there's a chance.  This idea is not just a flash in the pan conjured up by a few idealistic new agers or skeptic-bashers.  I can see that some very serious, dedicated research and preparation has been put into this project, and over quite some time now.

@Umberto Cocopop wrote:Things such as a neutral point of view, impartiality, lack of bias and so on are bound to be compromised and I would wager that anyone who's considered a 'skeptic' (i.e. someone who doesn't share in their belief system) who posts or amends anything that's factual or critical of the paranormal will have their contributions edited or removed.

In other words, they'll end up as a more extreme version of all the things they think is wrong with Wikipedia now!

It doesn't have to be like that.  A lot of those critics of all things"paranormal" do so out of ignorance.  Some may know nothing about the subject other than what they have learned from magicians and mentalists and the sort of sensational stuff they read and hear about in the commercial media.  

If those individuals can show that they have at least taken the time to research and understand that which they are criticising (rather than just debunking "woo" for the sheer hell of it), then I think their contributions may be treated as useful and shown some respect.  There is plenty of seriously researched evidence around - they simply have not had access to it and wouldn't even know where to go to find it.

I welcome this project with optimism.  It may take some time getting off the ground, but I feel pretty confident that the people who are involved in this have the know-how and expertise to deal with the inevitable teething hurdles.

We shall see ...............
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Umberto Cocopop on 1st August 2014, 15:08

@Kitkat wrote:I do.  I think there's a chance.  This idea is not just a flash in the pan conjured up by a few idealistic new agers or skeptic-bashers.  I can see that some very serious, dedicated research and preparation has been put into this project, and over quite some time now.

The fundamental problem they face is that most people, particularly scientists, don't take the paranormal seriously at all. Even highly qualified scientists who start dabbling in the paranormal just end up being classed as crackpots.

It will be perceived as being a group of pro-paranormalists producing biased output which they have editorial control over.

@Kitkat wrote:It doesn't have to be like that.  A lot of those critics of all things"paranormal" do so out of ignorance.  Some may know nothing about the subject other than what they have learned from magicians and mentalists and the sort of sensational stuff they read and hear about in the commercial media.  

If those individuals can show that they have at least taken the time to research and understand that which they are criticising (rather than just debunking "woo" for the sheer hell of it), then I think their contributions may be treated as useful and shown some respect.  There is plenty of seriously researched evidence around - they simply have not had access to it and wouldn't even know where to go to find it.

I welcome this project with optimism.  It may take some time getting off the ground, but I feel pretty confident that the people who are involved in this have the know-how and expertise to deal with the inevitable teething hurdles.

While I agree about the general ignorance of so-called 'skeptics', they aren't really the problem. It's things such as these 'believers' publishing positive research studies that other people can't replicate, or their inability to actually demonstrate a single thing they believe in.

So...


  1. The subject itself has many problems and isn't taken seriously; and
  2. This set up will be seen as a self-serving, self-sealing, confirmatory environment.


@Kitkat wrote:We shall see ...............

We will. And I'll be right. yahboocat
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 7th August 2014, 16:12

Wikipedia: The book...

The man who wants to print Wikipedia

The Wikimania conference is taking place in London this week, attracting Wikipedia fanatics from around the world.

One publishing firm has ambitious plans to print the online encyclopaedia as a vast collection of physical books, to show how huge it has become.

Pedia Press has a partnership agreement with the Wikimedia Foundation, and already offers a facility to print certain articles from the encyclopaedia.

Originally Pedia Press tried to raise money through crowdfunding for the project, though now it is turning to private investors.

Christoph Kepper of Pedia Press spoke to BBC News by online video call from Germany, to explain the motivations that lie behind the project.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28583364
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Re: Concerns with Wikipedia (and "filter bubbles") - Guerrilla Skeptics at Large

Post by Kitkat on 18th August 2014, 22:47

Petitioning Wikipedia
Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia: Create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.


3,737 signatures still needed for the PETITION.
11,263 people have signed in support so far.

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the organization due to concerns about its integrity. He stated: "In some fields and some topics, there are groups who 'squat' on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles.”

These pages are controlled by a few self-appointed “skeptics” who serve as de facto censors for Wikipedia. They clothe their objections in the language of the narrowest possible understanding of science in order to inhibit open discussion of innovation in health care. As gatekeepers for the status quo, they refuse discourse with leading edge research scientists and clinicians or, for that matter, anyone with a different point of view. Fair-minded referees should be given the responsibility of monitoring these important areas.

Click arrow HERE for more information and to sign the PETITION

    Current date/time is 21st July 2018, 14:34