As well as tracking developments on Salvia divinorum Scotland's pages I've also been monitoring and contributing to the open encyclopaedia at Wikipedia, in particular to the article about Salvia divinorum and the entry about Brett Chidester.
Even if it is somewhat prone to vandalism Wikipedia is a great concept. I've spent time on it in addition to (and to some extent at the expense of) my own site's development as I see it an excellent way of getting facts across to (and receiving responses from) a wider audience.
For example, although the 'Open Letter' to Brett's parents on my site received no reply, I did get some reaction via Wikipedia, particularly from a user identifying themselves as Brett's aunt, and claiming to represent Brett's family and close circle. - A user with the id of 'Britbarb'.
Britbarb's entries in Wikipedia - particularly in the discussion section of the Brett Chidester article - are quite revealing. However, the Wiki format does have some limitations which Brett's group have tried to exploit to conceal facts that do not suit their own preferred version of the story so I'd like to document some aspects of that further here.
In the first instance, following some initial points of contention, Britbarb's complaints spooked one of Wikipedia's moderators into completely deleting the Brett Chidester article.
Their principle gripe in this case was, seemingly, the inclusion of a discussion group remark that claimed Brett had also been experimenting with cocaine and Ecstasy. It was argued that the source here was not reliable - being simply a forum post that could have been made by anyone. Yet the supposedly offending comment had already been removed at the time of the article's deletion. Ironically, what the Wikipedia moderator ended up deleting was an article containing, indeed, far too many unreferenced points, but for the most part, ones which had been included by Britbarb herself.
I personally reinstated the whole article after retrieving the content from Google cache.
The second main point of contention came after a telling comment was found on the Brett Chidester memorial group pages. - A MySpace remembrance group set up by Brett's own friends.
In response to invitation for stories and reminiscences about Brett, one of his pals had posted...
"i remember at work he would steal unopened bottles of wine or liquor almost everytime he worked. ill never forget the night he gave me absinthe. and he drove home so fucked up he was puking out his window while he was driving. im really going to miss the crazy stuff he did. RIP Brett"
This message was originally put up only a few days after Brett's death, before any furore had kicked off about Salvia.
Britbarb made repeated deletions to any reference to this quote. There was no argument being made about the quote's validity. - No attempt to suggest it was a fake. - Just repeated deletions of reference to it in Wikipedia.
As I suspected would happen (and I would argue, further verifying the quote's original source as being substantially true), it was not long before the original MySpace group pages themselves were re-edited. Thus the Wikipedia article's main reference to it could no longer really be sustained.
Like I say, I did rather suspect Brett's circle would soon close ranks here, so I took the liberty of first copying the MySpace pages in their original uncensored form, before any alterations had taken place. You can see them via the following link.
Brett Chidester Memorial Group - postings prior to the group's convenient alteration
Your Wikipedia involvement
I would encourage anyone thinking of making their own Wikipedia contributions, but I must stress, especially for newbies, I've been making edits, mainly to the Salvia divinorum article, for a while now. It took me some time to get my head around Wikipedia's NPOV (neutral point of view) philosophy, which at first can seem rather constraining, but, after working with it, I now appreciate it and understand that it checks opposition arguments far more than our own.
I think overall the Salvia community should come out of careful and considered Wikipedia involvement better than some others do, as long as we keep it factual and cool.
Of course, you still get people coming along complaining on the discussion pages for example that the Salvia divinorum article is too pro-Salvia. But, when asked, they can't usually come up with a great deal to support their accusations. It's usually resolved with some minor rewording.
So feel free to make your own contributions. But please remember, very important, no ranting.
I know it's an emotive subject, but rants in a main article will only end up getting edited out by someone else (usually sooner rather than later) and, even if put on a discussion page, will only end up being counter-productive.
Even if you don't think you are really ranting, be careful not to appear biased in your choice of words. For example, in the Salvia article (under State legislation section) someone put "Senator Karen Peterson exploited the opportunity" [of Brett's death] "to pass Senate Bill 259 (aka "Brett's Law")". - Now, I think in a Wikipedia context the word 'exploited', though quite true, is better left as 'used' - that way it reads less as if it was written by someone with a particular agenda.
Also, remember that all prior edits are usually retrievable through the history pages, so bear in mind if you do write something hot-headed - or simply something that could be misconstrued, it could come back to haunt.
Think about it before you submit any edit.
Maybe have a read of some of the Wikipedia style and philosophy guides first Wikipedia: Policies_and_guidelines
I would also recommend you setting up a Wikipedia user account in favour of submitting anonymous edits. Anonymous edits (leaving I.P. address in the edit history) are allowed, but user signed in submissions are usually considered more favourably.
Stick with some other forum if you just want to let off steam. However, if you've come across a wee snippet of verifiable information or otherwise have something constructive to add then go ahead and make a contribution.