Increasing awareness of skepticism/critical thinking/science is good for society. A win-win for everyone!
There are many ways to achieve this goal, the SGU felt it could help out our cause by staying awake for 24 hours and letting the world watch them do it. Maybe it helped? There were thousands of views, and tons of tweets everywhere. It certainly made people talk and engage with each other, thats all a good thing strengthening our community. I managed to make it through about 4 hours on Friday night and about 3 hours before and after work on Saturday.
During the hours I watched I managed to get some quick Wikipedia editing done (as I noted in the comments of this blog) Dustin scored a couple great updates to Boiron and Oscillococcinum's pages. Lei finished up Vashti McCollum's page, and I'm hoping others were editing away while listening also. I tweeted the Wikipedia edits as they were being finished on the SGU24 tweet, the JREF and Tim Farley re-tweeted a few times. All good. I didn't get any comments from the watchers or the SGU (as far as I know) who were following the tweets. I'll try not to be cynical, but the chat room and the tweets seemed more concerned with the social aspect of the whole event (like how much bacon they could eat) and as I said, bringing us together is a good thing. Personally I would have liked to see them suggest things for the community to do...write letters, tutor a child, sponsor a classroom... edit Wikipedia for skeptical content... you know things that really improve critical thinking.
I believe that when someone is in the media's eye and the listener is not sure who they are, or wants to refresh their memory of the person, they are going to turn to the Internet to fill them in. When typing in that name, usually within the first few hits they will see a link to a Wikipedia page (if that person is noteworthy enough to have a page). For many reasons (people are familiar with Wikipedia, no popups, no virus, easy to use, neutral and usually sums up the person in a few paragraphs) most people will click on the Wikipedia link before they go to a "personal" website. Maybe after reading the Wikipedia page they will follow the links to other websites. I don't have access to their websites sats, but if they are curious about their hits from Wiki most webservices will tell them where they are receiving "referrals" from.
I thought it might be interesting to see what kind of hits came in to the "skeptical spokespeople"'s Wikipedia pages for 9/23. The site I'm using is something you can use also. http://stats.grok.se/ There is a delay in recording the numbers and I might be premature blogging too early. The delay might be as much as a day, depending on time zones and maybe other things. We can look at these same Wiki pages in a day or so and see that we can see.
I'm not going to give the real numbers (don't want to turn this into a popularity contest, if you want to know how many hits a site gets, you can plug them into the Wikipedia article traffic statistics tool. Everything is in percentage based on what is considered normal for Sept 2011.
SGU - +300%
Rebecca Watson - +216%
Steven Novella - +300%
Jamy Ian Swiss - +430%
Richard Saunders - +180%
George Hrab - +34%
Adam Savage - +152%
Tim Minchin - no increase (may be too early to look at his results)
Is this totally scientific? No. Lots of things might be affecting these numbers. But it is interesting.
I mention all this not just because I want more people to get involved in doing something to help out the skeptical cause by editing Wikipedia for skeptical content. But because we need to make sure we have the backs of our skeptical spokespeople. They represent us! When people go to their pages, they will be exposed to other skeptical/science/critical thinking hyperlinks that they may follow and read. They may also click on the links at the bottom of the Wikipedia page (the external links and further reading links).
This is a part of guerrilla skepticism and just plain common sense. We need to make sure these pages are in order, well written, current, engaging and so on. You can help, please help, there is so much that needs to be done. Open a Wikipedia account, ask for help, read this blog for ideas, whatever it takes. Just join the cause and help.
Our very own Karen Stollznow will be appearing on Anderson Cooper's talk show on October 10th. She says that she was only one of several people all talking about the harm that psychics cause. She didn't get to say a lot, but she is going to be our spokesperson for those few comments. And when people google her (and you know they will) they will find that we have her skeptic back!
FYI this blog discusses the stats after the NBC Nightline "Beyond Belief" show that the JREF recently did.