Self-Referencing Woo

[BPSDB]Most people know that a lot of stuff on the internet, particularly in the fields of nutrition and health, should be taken with a truckload of salt. But what are sceptics to do when they find an unusual claim? Just because a claim is out on left-field does not mean it is wrong.

The reaction of most people would surely be to seek out corroborating evidence. Unfortunately, woosters can anticipate this move plant corrobrating evidence for the sceptic to find. Consider the case of Paul Gross aka the Berry Doctor. Gross is the founder of Berry Wise Inc which promotes exotic berries such as wolfberry (known to fans of the unaccredited Dr McKeith as goji) and sea buckthorn. He is also on the steering committee of the “International Berry Association” which appears to do little other than provide PR for the Berry Doctor.

Meanwhile, on Wikipedia a contributer using the by-line of Paul144 has been writing about berries – and attempting to get the book “Wolfberry: Nature’s Bounty of Nutrition and Health” onto Wikipedia as a reference. Paul144 has admitted to being “a contributor to a few of these (online publications), e.g., http://www.npicenter.com/news/DrPaulGross_articles.aspx “. Now being a contributer does not prove Paul144 is Paul Gross (Nor does the fact that a gross = 144, though if the names are coincidence, it’s a remarkably interesting one) but it does mean that there is a previously undeclared connection and Paul144’s contributions are not as neutral as one might hope.

If we look here and here, Paul144 claims that there is no conflict of interest because the book is “non-commercial” with “no promotional intentions”. Aye right. A man with an interest in pushing exotic berries co-authors a book on the subject and claims that there is “no promotional intentions”? Is this plausible? I don’t think so.

A search of his site finds gems such as “check out the complete nutrient description for goji on Wikipedia” and “See the Wikipedia articles on wolfberry (goji) and superfruits…check out the references in each article!” This neglects to mention the link between Gross and Paul144 and clearly gives the impression that there is support from a neutral third party for the assertions in his newsletter.

All goes to show, that while Wikipedia is a good place to begin ones research, it is not a good place to finish.

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23 Responses to “Self-Referencing Woo”

  1. pv Says:

    It shows that Wikipedia has a use in advertising and marketing, and the unscrupulous paul144 is doing just that. A cursory examination of the wiki/talk makes it abundantly clear.
    Gross references 144 is so pathetically lacking in imagination anyway.

  2. Dr* T Says:

    Good digging JDC.

    It is stories like this that demonstrate that pro-CAMmers are not always the “honest, but misguided” people that we like to perceive them as.

  3. apgaylard Says:

    Good post. Highlights one of the problems with Wikipedia: there is a lot of good stuff; but there are quite a lot of people peddling pet theories and their own interests.

    On some pages this leads to an unsatisfactory negotiated settlement, even in the absense of commercial interests: the section on aerodynamic lift is one example – the editors agreed after negotiation that two explanations had equal validity. The only problem is that one of themis wrong!

  4. jaycueaitch Says:

    Dr* T, I did have a lot of help with the digging by someone who currently wishes to remain nameless.

    I’m JQH btw

  5. jdc325 Says:

    I wish my digging was that good. Nice work JQH (and Mysterious Stranger).

  6. John The Geologist Says:

    Good post JQH.

    I got pointed here from the Quackometer and naturally added it to favourites in my burgeoning bad science folder.

    I detect “Gillian Mckeith Syndrome” at work here.

    A statement of the bleeding obvious somehow gets perverted into a commercial opportunity dressed up in mumbo-jumbo and quackery. In this case instead of the witch smelling your poo and telling you to eat properly and exercise more it is some hokum about berries. Sigh.

    Obviously eating (non-poisonous) berries is good for you and was probably a prime constituent of our forebears diet.

    What you have done here though is interesting and would be a good way of approaching many forms of mumbo jumbo. As they say in films “follow the money”.

  7. blackcurrant lover Says:

    What is more, Paul144 treats Wikipedia articles like his personal playground. He uses many nicknames to advertise “superfruits” and “superfruit” products.

    I’ve first stumbled upon him while editing an article on superfruits. Paul144 imposed his own discretionary and vague criteria on what a superfruit is and he has been constantly guarding it for many months, everyday from changes he wouldn’t accept. He never lets go.

  8. blackcurrant lover Says:

    I’ve noticed he especially doesn’t want a BLACKCURRANT berry to be mentioned in context of antioxidants and superfruits. He’s removed all words “antioxidant” from blackcurrant definition even though this berry has been proven to contain the highest amounts of it of all exotic superfruits he would like to advertise instead. He also disallows to mention a blackcurrant as a supefruit even though it’s regionally known as such (Japan, New Zealand).

  9. blackcurrant lover Says:

    I’ve sent him a message on his talkpage asking if he’s representing anybody’s interests on Wikipedia – he denied and deleted it. Now I’ve sent him another message about this website and we’ll se what’s going to happen.

    I think he’s alteregos are Mike Doughney and abd but of that I’m not sure. Mike Doughney is much more aggessive than Paul144. He patrols the article on Monavie drinks.

  10. jaycueaitch Says:

    blackcurrent lover, do you have any links to support what you say about his activities?

  11. blackcurrant lover Says:

    You’d probably have to read history and discussion panels on “superfruit”, “blackcurrant” and “Monavie” Wikipedia articles. That’s where I stumbled upon him but he’s active on many more articles – especially those conected with all types of “superfruits” and beverage industry. It seems like he’s using many nicknames so it’s not always easy to identify him.

    Why’re You asking?

  12. jaycueaitch Says:

    I am asking because:

    1) it is not really acceptable to make unsupported assertions.

    2) With an ID like yours I can’t help but wonder if you have your own nutritional enthusiasms. I have no wish to get caught up in a spat between two nutritionistas.

  13. Rayatseagal Says:

    You’d probably have to read history and discussion panels on “superfruit”, “blackcurrant” and “Monavie” Wikipedia articles

    Just did. Let’s look at MonaVie edits from 6th November back. Can we assume you’re 78.131.137.50? Assuming this is not just a troll, you’re making the fairly paranoid assumption that everyone who reverts your edits is the same person. If you look at the contribution histories for Mike Doughney and Abd, it can be seen that they’re extremely wide-ranging editors with long histories on other topics. My, he’s a cunning mastermind, to create two entirely different personas that lurk for years in varied non-fruit topics before decloaking just to thwart you…

  14. blackcurrant lover Says:

    My “assertions” are backed (if You only bother to look throu discussion and history panels)

    The difference between Paul144 and me is that:
    1) I don’t delete anybody’s informations (only revert back my own if they’re deleted without discussion despite being backed with sources)
    2)I took interest in the subject a few days ago, accidently – Paul have been patroling his branch-oriented scope of articles everyday since months if not years.

  15. jaycueaitch Says:

    Rayatseagal: He is posting from 78.131.137.50

    blackcurrent lover: It is not down to me to “bother to look throu discussion and history panels” to find the evidence to support your assertions, it is down to you to provide the evidence.

  16. pv Says:

    Can I just add at this point, for the benefit of the amante di ribes there is no such thing as a “superfruit”, OK? It’s a marketing term for a coglione who wants to feel exclusive and superior about what they eat. It’s all “fruit”.
    I note we don’t have “supervegetables” or “supermeat” yet, although I don’t doubt they’ll be along soon; I can feel it in my superwater.

  17. Mojo Says:

    “I note we don’t have … “supermeat” yet,”

    Well, we do, but the cat prefers chunks in jelly.

  18. blackcurrant lover Says:

    Jaycueaitch says:
    “it is down to you to provide the evidence” – Do You want me to dance the evidence? There’s no other way but reading:)

    Rayatseagal Says:
    “paranoid assumption” – I wrote “but of that I’m not sure”
    “Assuming this is not just a troll” – I indeed had emotional moment when Mike kept reverting and sending threats instead of discussing. I should have left that observation for myself.

    pv Says:
    “there is no such thing as a +superfruit+” – You’re right. “Supefruit” is a vague marketing term. That’s why the presence of this article on Wikipedia stired some controversies. Originally there was a dual definition according to which “superfruit” was a) nutritient- and antioxidant- rich fruit b)marketed specifically as “superfruit”. But over months Paul144 has added more of his own, unclear and discretionary criteria to narrow down the list to products he would like to advertise. For some reason he discriminates;) blackcurrant. BTW I was the one who’s recently included a statement that most common fruits have excellent nutritional properties but are not marketed specifically as superfruits.

  19. Mojo Says:

    “Jaycueaitch says:
    “it is down to you to provide the evidence” – Do You want me to dance the evidence? There’s no other way but reading:)”

    No, just provide links to the specific edits where you think he’s done what you’ve claimed, rather than expecting people to look through the whole lot and guess which parts you’re referring to. If you’re not up to copying and pasting a link, at least give the times and locations of the specific edits you mean.

  20. Dr* T Says:

    Apologies for confusion JQH! Fat fingers + medication = confused posts :)

  21. Rayatseagal Says:

    blackcurrant lover > “paranoid assumption” – I wrote “but of that I’m not sure”

    Well, I don’t know about you, but when I join somewhere new and a bunch of different posters tell me to sod off, I assume first that they’re different people and that I may be mistaken about my approach to discourse.

    If you want advice, my guess is that you failed to provide what Wikipedia requires: pertinent reliable secondary sources. Take the blackcurrant and your wish to bring it into superfruit context:

    Barack Obama, in his inaugural address, called for the “much-neglected blackcurrant” to be raised to superfruit status (ref. New York Times, BBC News) GOOD

    The World Health Organisation, in its 2008 review paper “Crappy berries marketed because the West can make a profit importing them from somewhere where they pay the pickers in beads and kumis”, called for the inclusion of blackcurrant in the list of superfruits GOOD

    Blackcurrants are just as nutritious as fruits classified as superfruits; they are so too, they really really are. (ref: a couple of obscure papers in Journal of the Albanian Blackcurrant Growers’ Association) BAD

  22. blackcurrant lover Says:

    Ray, I’m not sure if I should try to convince You as You’ve already ignored what the SOURCES I provided say. I understand Your prejudice though. Now excuse me as I’m going to have my life rather than banter with You :)

    Jay, how lazy You are kid? (rhetoric question)

  23. blackcurrant lover Says:

    *I ment Mojo

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