Wikipedia talk:Reference desk

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To ask a question, use the relevant Reference Desk
The guidelines for the Reference desk are at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines.
For help using Wikipedia, please see Wikipedia:Help desk.
This page is for discussion of the Reference Desks only. Please don't post comments here that don't relate to the Reference Desks. Other material may be moved.


Proposal to close the Reference Desk[edit]

StackExchange is the place where people go if they have questions on some topic. While Wikipedia is a prominent Website, the Ref Desk is not. The Ref Desk compares to StackExchange as Wikiversity compares to Wikipedia, a totally irrelevant corner on the internet. Count Iblis (talk) 02:52, 17 August 2014 (UTC)

The cool people might go to StackExchange, but I'd never heard of it until now. I just tried it. It took 20 seconds to open. Unlikely to try it again. This is a silly idea. HiLo48 (talk) 03:17, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
I'd not heard of StackExchange either, although I stopped being a cool person approximately 3 years ago. It sounds like an awesome chaos experiment where you exchange the current processor stack of your own PC, with that of the owner of another PC somewhere in a distant part of the world. The refdesk is awesome, from my personal point of view. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 03:52, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
In otherwords the devil, Iblis, whose user page avows his disrespect for evereything, and everybody, wants us to abandon WP and go work as unpaid volunteers at Skynet? Vade retro, Satana. μηδείς (talk) 18:12, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Odd proposal, coming as it does from a fairly regular contributor to the Science desk here, et al. Do you often spend your valuable time in "totally irrelevant corners on the internet"? In any case, I hope your attitude to Stack Exchange is more collegiate and collaborative than that which you have espoused in relation to Wikipedia: Count Iblis rejects most of Wikipedia's policies and guidelines. He just edits in any way he sees fit to improve Wikipedia. Whether such edits violate Wikipedia's policies is neither here nor there. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 04:05, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
I got sanctioned by ArbCom some time ago which made me reflect on the way the policy making part of Wikipedia works. Things tend to go wrong when you are in a dark corner and there are too many regulars fighting out who is the boss. Count Iblis (talk) 15:00, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
The ref desk is listed on the Wikipedia "front page", and many first-time users seem to be able to find their way here. As regards StackExchange, it sounds like hacker heaven. And despite my protestations to the contrary, my wife considers Wikipedia itself to be "a totally irrelevant corner on the internet." ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:02, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
Relevance is a relative thing, of course. Nothing is inherently relevant, or irrelevant. It all depends on the context or the issue at hand. Count Iblis's premise is a false premise. I'm not given to naming people as trolls, but this episode must surely be sailing close to the wind. How about we hat this and quickly move on. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 07:35, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
No, just like in case of East Germany, the question of whether or not it is worthwhile to continue with a system that doesn't work, should be on the agenda. Count Iblis (talk) 15:00, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
Define "doesn't work", in reference to Wikipedia. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:06, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
If you compare this site to other prominent sites such as StackExchange or Quora mentioned by Looie, what you find is that here the regulars dominate the discussions; most questions are asked by the regulars. And that is an important factor in the disputes we've had here. Count Iblis (talk)
Did you not notice that several people here had never heard of what you regard as a prominent site? I've heard of Quora, a month ago. We don't all frequent the same worlds. HiLo48 (talk) 01:43, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Why does this have to be a binary question? If you identified "the best site on the internet" (btw, good luck with that), would that mean that ALL other websites should be closed down forthwith? Not bloody likely. So, despite your active involvement at the WP Ref Desk, you don't seem to like the WP Ref Desk. Apart from the psychiatric aspect of that issue, so what! If you want to go to Stack Exchange, nobody's stopping you. But please live and let live. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 01:32, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
  • StackExchange seems mainly oriented to programming. Quora is much more of a general-purpose question-and-answer site. Looie496 (talk) 15:31, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
Slighlty off topic but most questions here would be swiftly closed on StackExchange as too broad/narrow or for requiring subjective opinions or falling foul of some other rule.
The reference desk does help the wider encyclopaedia, I've seen a number of questions about something unclear in an article or with someone needing help writing an article. It may also help with recruiting more editors as its an easy way to start editing.--Salix alba (talk): 15:51, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
  • If I parse the rationale, it is 2-fold 1) The OP found other websites that get more traffic than the ref-desks and 2) the OP once got sanctioned by arbcom and is still bitter about it. I fail to understand how either is a justification for shutting down the ref desks. --Jayron32 01:41, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
I've spent a little time around SE (different name), I don't really see them as a replacement for here. More importantly, I don't see how their existence impacts our existence, the internet has room for two - dare I say, even three:p - sites that answer questions. I have a hard time thinking this can be a serious proposal, you're obviously not lacking in intelligence, yet the logic of your suggestion fails to make even basic sense. Unless you have some clever elaboration you plan on presenting, I'm assuming this is a less than funny jape that fell a little flat.Phoenixia1177 (talk) 15:33, 18 August 2014 (UTC)

Google searches sometimes yield links to Yahoo Answers, StackExchange, but I never found a link to the Ref Desk. A great answer to a question on the Ref Desk won't be noticed by anyone except the few regulars here. It would be great if this could be changed (I've raised this issue a few times before) but this is the ultimate cause of the problem that then leads to most of the other problems here. Count Iblis (talk) 16:18, 18 August 2014 (UTC)

A great answer on the ref desk should be integrated in to the relevant article. That's what the Ref Desk was built for, if I recall correctly. Mingmingla (talk) 16:45, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
I agree with your criticism, but I don't think that's a reason to close the refdesk; it is a reason to try and get build popularity for the desk. I seriously doubt, though, that closing the ref desk would move people to stack exchange, or elsewhere. I know I'm unlikely to move there, I'm sure others feel the same. Personally, I would like to see a refdek link in the left hand pane, I've mentioned it before too, but I'm not the person to campaign for it - though, I do think it would increase traffic.Phoenixia1177 (talk) 17:02, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Full Support - The reference desk has become a joke and has nothing at all to do with building an encyclopedia. The reference desk was created as a containment area but the justification for having a completely irrelevant side-project consuming Wikimedia resources - ie the problem of people asking dumb questions in article space - has long since ceased to exist with the advent of automated vandalism reverting tools, edit filters, ip range blocks, non-admin rollback, etc which did not exist in 2005. Added to that, a handful of "regulars" have decided to make the reference desks their personal playground for telling jokes and wasting other editors time. It detracts from the purpose of Wikipedia and it is time to take this old dog out back and shoot it. 190.202.217.6 (talk) 17:08, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
No, it is you, the Venezuelan troll, who are a joke and have nothing at all to do with building an encyclopedia, and who use Wikipedia as your personal playground for wasting other editors' time. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:36, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
There's a lot that could be improved; and I'm not so sure it is quite dire as you make it to be. Setting that aside, though, how does it waste other editors time? If you mean wastes their time in main space, I don't see how; if you mean wastes their time here, then if they are coming here and are not problematic, then I assume there is a decent reason, in which case I assume there would be something to improve towards.Phoenixia1177 (talk) 17:23, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
A lot of people here seem to be confusing "Stack Overflow" with "Stack Exchange". Stack Exchange is a general network of question/answer sites on virtually all topics. Stack Overflow is part of the stack exchange network for technical questions.
If the reference desk is to continue, it should try to learn from the Stack Exchange model. Stack Exchange is far more efficient at answering question. Much better at letting people find old questions/answers. And best of all, the software is designed (surprisingly well) to discourage discussion and joking. It's also reasonably good at avoiding the elitism that's been pretty strong on the RefDesk the last year or two.
The refdesk has always been a weird off-shoot of Wikipedia. It survived because the alternatives weren't suitable. Now they are.
Additionally, it's clear that most people don't even know the Reference Desks exist. Sites in the Stack Exchange network routinely come up near the top on Google Searches, it's rare to see the RefDesk in such searches.
The RefDesk is an old fashioned forum, hidden where nobody knows it exists, and contributing little to either the Internet as a whole or the Wikipedia project specifically.
APL (talk) 19:43, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Based on earlier posts in this thread, it's clear that most people don't even know StackExchange exists. HiLo48 (talk) 22:21, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
"If the reference desk is to continue ...". Man, you've got completely the wrong end of the stick. It's not like it's definitely going to be decommissioned (on Count Iblis's say so, apparently) unless we can come up with some compelling reasons to keep it. The truth is exactly the reverse of that. Count Iblis has proposed it be removed, that's all. Sure, he's not the first to threaten us with being closed down - but so what. This will go nowhere, just like all the other vacuous attempts. There have to be really compelling reasons to close down what has been an outstanding success that has lasted way longer than any number of fly-by-night websites that, truly, nobody has ever heard of. The people who hang around the refdesk while agitating for its removal ought to take a good hard look at themselves and their real motivations.
To those people: If you don't like the way a website or any feature thereof operates, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE and let those who want to stay here stay here. There is no shortage of alternatives on the interwebulator. If you want to agitate for a positive change here, then make some constructive suggestions for improvement. That would be the adult thing to do. If you can't think of any improvements, then (a) what are you whinging about?, or (b) maintain your silence until you can. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 20:24, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Sure. And If the reference desk is to continue it should try to learn from the Stack Exchange model, which is far superior for the reasons I mentioned and others.
APL (talk) 20:35, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Once again, there is no "If the reference desk is to continue". -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:57, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
There's always an "if". But yeah, only to that extent. InedibleHulk (talk) 22:10, August 18, 2014 (UTC)
There's no if. The world will always be filled with bitter, whiny people who would rather tear down the work of others than do something worthwhile themselves. This is no different. --Jayron32 01:27, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
Those sorts are the force behind two of these four "if"s. InedibleHulk (talk) 04:09, August 19, 2014 (UTC)
  • I agree that the ref desks have become a haven for obsessive regulars and IP trolls who object to the obsessive regular. Either way it's not fulfilling its original purpose, to provide reliably sourced answers to questions. There's far too much in-fighting, far too many obsessive editors claiming ownership over particular topics, far too many obsessive regulars providing opinion rather than fact. Sometimes it's worse, with the obsessed providing plainly erroneous information. You have to ask yourself one question: if the ref desk stopped existing, would anyone beside the obsessed who use it as a chat board really care? I doubt it. The Rambling Man (talk) 19:58, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
So, why do you care enough to even make that comment? What are you still doing here, if it's such a dysfunctional place? Seriously. What benefit do you get from coming to a website only to criticise its very existence? I really struggle to understand this. Apply this policy to the billions of other websites that really don't deserve to exist, and there's your next 50 lifetimes taken care of. Get started immediately, there's no time to waste. What are you waiting for? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 20:33, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
If your only argument is to berate people who disagree, it only bolsters their arguments that this has just become a club for the people who WP:OWN it.
I argue on principles. And I ask challenging questions. TRM can answer for himself as to why he'd bother spending even one second of his life being involved in what he considers to be a place that few would miss if it stopped existing. I await his answer with genuine interest. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:57, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Sorry Jack, I usually understand and respect most of what you say, but you've gone bonkers on this one. I didn't "come to a website only to criticise its very existence", far from it. I made my opinion clear that this Ref Desk sham is simply self-serving on the whole, i.e. the majority of it is overwhelmed by the handful of regulars who occasionally answer a question with referenced answers but generally just guess or provide OR or even worse, just provide plainly incorrect answers to questions. I don't believe I have any interest in the other "billions" of websites you mention. And how you think I could "criticise" them, I know not. As you know, none of us have 50 lifetimes to do anything. One of the biggest problems here is that the majority of contributors don't actually contribute positively to Wikipedia, they just lurk around these chat rooms pretending to know the answers to questions posed by other lurkers. I'm not wasting time here, they are. I actually help build the encyclopaedia, and when I do try to answer questions at this chatroom, I try to reference my answers. The Rambling Man (talk) 17:47, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
I think you exaggerate the situation - and main space has a large number of vandals, trolls, bad edits, lack of sources, etc. I've seen a lot of pages that suffered from such things. Why are all of these things an excuse to kill the ref desk, but not to kill Wikipedia? I've also seen pages "owned" by small cliques, or whole subjects - and if you look around a lot of the more advanced topics, you'll notice a lot of the same names popping up - so main space has "regulars" too, or at least subject matters, do. A lot of what you say about here can be converted to be about the project as a whole; but, in both cases, it misses the mark because the good is being forgotten. You also seem to be operating under the false premise that all of us misguided souls pissing away our time here are doing so when we would, otherwise, be contributing to articles - there is no clear reason to believe that to be true, I occasionally edit articles, when I do, it is not because I had nothing else to do on the refdesk, but for completely unrelated reasons; getting rid of this space would not increase my contributions to articles, it might actually lessen them since some of the articles I've edited have come up by doing research for here. And, even if you think this place is a waste, you are far from showing it harms the project, or that it is bad in general. --And, again, my answers are almost always sourced (often oversourced), and I'm certainly not the only one.Phoenixia1177 (talk) 18:54, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
@ The Rambling Man: Thanks for your considered response. All I can say is that I read what you wrote, and it seemed to be at best a statement of what's wrong with the ref desk and at worst (You have to ask yourself one question...) an argument for closing it down - but NOT an argument for making positive changes so that these issues wouldn't arise in the first place. Yes, it's good to identify problems so that they can then be addressed and corrected; but so much better to couch such statements in positive terms, including suggestions for improvement. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 23:26, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
Negative comments by non-contributors (e.g. the Venezuelan troll) remind me of something Lucy van Pelt once said: "I don't claim to have any solutions - I just point out trouble." ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 08:44, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
The RefDesk has always been a strange exception to WP policies on talk pages, and the project in general. It is completely valid to ask if that exception is still useful. APL (talk) 20:39, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
As someone who both asks and answers questions, I find the Reference Desk to be very useful. Often, I learn something from a discussion in which I am not even a participant. Closing it because of a few problems is like throwing out the baby with the bath water. Also, if steps are taken to increase awareness of it, what can be done to attract desirable posts while not attracting undesirable posts?
Wavelength (talk) 20:31, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
@RamblingMan: I would care if the refdesk went away, I get a lot of good answers here; and I've learned a lot here too (I explicitly thank Trovatore for his insight into Set Theory, and implicitly thank everyone). If you look through most of my answers, I provide a more than fair number of sources, and I am not the only one. If you count Wikipedia pages as sources, then a lot of people are providing something. And, yes, there are bad answers, unsourced answers, and trolls - on the other hand, Wikipedia pages suffer the same problem: ought we to shut down Wikipedia because there's a load of shoddy half sourced edits and trolls? Because you can't deny that there are. The desks could use a little tightening and a lot less bickering (and some more traffic), but this place isn't some half-rate hellhole, I think it is absurd to pretend it is. The problem cases are not the only cases, especially if you look over all of recent time - there's lots of foolery, but lots of good too, it's unreasonable to outright discount that. (I'm sleepy, ignore poor wording)Phoenixia1177 (talk) 21:38, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
I agree with Wavelength and Phoenixia1177. Despite their problems the ref desks are, on balance, an asset to Wikipedia. Gandalf61 (talk) 21:50, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
If editors such as Iblis and the Venezuelan troll don't like the Ref Desk, there is no anchor keeping them here. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:38, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, but to them it isn't just important to leave something they don't like, and forget about it. It's far more important to punish those people that do like it... --Jayron32 02:55, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Bingo. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:18, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Don't worry. When Flow comes in, all the editors who don't keep up with the main project will have a hissy fit and leave, hopefully leaving us with a workable desk for answering questions. Alternatively, I am fully in favour of killing the desks off for a few months, if it has a chance of reducing the more virulent strains of infection. Maybe then the many good editors who stopped coming here due to certain issues would come back, or we would retain the next generation of these. 86.164.73.169 (talk) 06:09, 9 September 2014 (UTC)
IF Flow comes in, it might drive everyone away. Read the recent comments about it on WP:ANI (possibly archived by now). ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 06:52, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Wow, did I miss some general announcement about Flow? I had never heard of it till now. Wikipedia:Flow is quite enlightening, but when were they planning to tell those not yet in the know? Is this the price one has to pay for hardly ever visiting ANI? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 08:30, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Precisely. The WMF programmers are infamous for keeping as low a profile as they can and then springing something new on the unsuspecting victims, a.k.a. the Wikipedia community. The file viewer, for example. Things may look all rosy in the Flow article. But for a reality check, read that heated discussion between a WMF guy or two and a regular admin or two, on a recent ANI archive. Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/IncidentArchive854. My takeaway from all that is simply this conclusion: If I were testing a buggy program in the production system, as the WMF guy is doing, I would likely be fired for it. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 08:53, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
I'm not such a cynic as that. Besides, you're on recent record as considering your Wikipedia experience a "colossal waste of time", so you're hardly objective. I have no problem with development and change per se, but Flow has been around since May 2013 - as I now latterly discover - and obviously a lot of users are now aware of it. So, it's hardly a case of anything being "sprung" on "unsuspecting victims". I have to believe that any system changes are made not to destroy the project but with the object of improving the project. At least that must be the intention, even if the execution sometimes falls short. So, there are no "victims" in this equation except in the minds of those who see themselves as that, or who transfer their mentality to others. No, my concern is one of communication. If those in the know are able to voice their concerns about any aspect of Flow, or any other proposed features, what about those not in the know? What is the strategy for introducing Flow to the wider WP community? Does such a strategy even exist? If not, why not? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 10:19, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
I reckon we'll just have to go with the Flow. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:39, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
It's been super-secretly announced in the same place all technical and similar stuff are always announced, and regular pleas for editors to test it have been posted everywhere. I rather like it, assuming the bits they acknowledge are problems and promise to change actually get changed. It's much more user-friendly for newbies, and might drive off a few unsavory types. That would be nice. 86.136.125.63 (talk) 16:57, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Meaning we have to go looking for it, as opposed to their usual spam begging for money, which they post where everyone knows about it. As for driving away unsavory types, that would indeed be nice, starting with the drive-bys. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:24, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, where is "everywhere"? Certainly no place I've ever visited, and I'm not exactly a casual visitor to this website. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 00:18, 18 September 2014 (UTC)
It's been on the village pump, which is the basic place to go to discuss upcoming changes and things. It's been brought up on the signpost, and on the tech news bulletin (which is written for non-technical users). It's been brought up on the main page talk page. It's been brought up on ani. Where would you expect to go to learn about upcoming technical changes? 86.136.125.63 (talk) 17:00, 18 September 2014 (UTC)
How about in the same place they beg for money? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:39, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

Formal action required?[edit]

Is it time to take some sort of formal action against User:Alex Sazonov? I think it's well-established that his contributions aren't just a product of mistranslation from the Russian, and, IMO, we should have some sort of official justification to delete his postings on sight. If so, what's the best course? RFC/U or ANI, or something else? Or should we just continue to let him amuse himself on RD/S? I'm not particularly concerned one way or the other, but other users have been banned for less egregious violations. Tevildo (talk) 21:56, 17 August 2014 (UTC)

I don't think they're that disruptive at the moment; I would suggest to simply ignore them. Although, I think if their number of posts escalates, then some form of action should be taken.Phoenixia1177 (talk) 15:29, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Agreed, he posts far too infrequently to be much of a problem, in my opinion. In light of the thread above and our previous discussions, I'm inclined to think attracting more users will help our desks more than pushing them away. SemanticMantis (talk) 17:36, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
I refer the committee to this, and would reiterate my suggestion a little more forcibly. Tevildo (talk) 22:50, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Hard to tell what to think of this one. "Preservative of the human genome" could mean a few things, or something else or nothing. Does it mean anything to any scientists on the committee (do I even work here)? Hard enough to mention black and white skin together in plain English, fake Russian's more open to interpretation. That part of him still isn't great (which is why I felt OK giving him a Skeletor answer today), but this might not be an "escalation" into hate speech or anything. InedibleHulk (talk) 08:02, August 28, 2014 (UTC)
I would say to discuss the issue with the user, if they give no response (or a ridiculous one), then we could start handling future questions a bit more aggressively - though, I don't think they've done anything to warrant deletion on sight, or anything along those lines.Phoenixia1177 (talk) 16:06, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
"Hard to tell"? I assure you it's not a language issue (I speak Russian), but a good faith issue (ie, it's a troll) or maybe even a personhood issue (ie it's a bot) Asmrulz (talk) 16:20, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
The issue isn't in translation. I think we generally accept this is an English speaker with a Russian gimmick. Given that, "preservative" is still a bit confusing. Is there a thing (in any human or animal) that actively prevents DNA from changing? InedibleHulk (talk) 22:13, August 28, 2014 (UTC)
I don't know, but "preservative" means "condom" in a number of languages (whereas preservatives proper are called "conservants" or some such word). So, yes, in a way preservatives do keep DNA from changing (bodies) Asmrulz (talk) 21:31, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

Intellect of human[edit]

A question about "intellect of human being a product of natural selection" was posed at WP/S. The question was answered by myself and by Dmcq, in both cases providing relevant references to Wikipedia articles. This is responsible dialog where Wikipedia expresses no view about alleged racial controversy but is not deterred from reporting that such controversies are documented. Baseball Bugs has intruded on the dialog 3 times with no other purpose than to disrupt it by heckling "Is this yet another white-supremacy argument?" and hatting "Race-baiting trolling"[1][2]. Just as responders at the reference desks are not so bigotted that they think any question about the Jap(anese) justifies bellicose heckling about Pearl Harbour, there are responders who should not be inhibited from giving referenced answers about human evolution. If Baseball Bugs will not keep his provocative interjections out of the ref. desks he must be forced to do so. 84.209.89.214 (talk) 14:56, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Feel free to raise the matter at WP:ANI - where the obvious links between the IP you have been using for some time and a blocked former contributor will no doubt be raised. AndyTheGrump (talk) 15:17, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Andy you are worth your salt. That I am self-declared is old news. I recommend the advantage of working as an IP: nobody gets frightened that one is an anagram of anything. 84.209.89.214 (talk) 15:47, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
You're funny, Mr. Anagram. It's nice to know you've found nothing useful to do since 2009. In this particular case, the OP admitted he was arguing for white supremacy. Maybe you're OK with supporting that argument. I'm not. But if consensus here is to restore yet another race-baiting question, then I won't stand in the way. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:30, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
On the contrary, nobody but you mentioned "white supremacy". You now shift blame on to a contributor who has inferior language skill for responding to the inflammatory question that you threw at him. He has decently apologised on his page. 84.209.89.214 (talk) 20:45, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
I asked the question, and his answer I interpreted as "Yes." ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:54, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
What you interpreted as a "Yes" to your white-supremacy question was actually a neutrally worded and probably naively put question that if answered would have exposed the knee-jerk thinking that generates racial tensions. 84.209.89.214 (talk) 21:30, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Maybe you haven't noticed the plethora of recent questions about race and genetics which are very thinly disguised attempts at justifying racism, specifically white supremacy. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:48, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
I notice that you degrade the Ref. desks with that type of question. Evolution of human intellect is a subject that has nothing to do with the skin colour obsessions of racial bigotry, and you will not make it so. The complaint is against you alone here. 84.209.89.214 (talk) 22:38, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
For a guy who's been here a long time, you're not very observant. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:29, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

This deletion by Baseball Bugs lacks a summary, but I shall comment on it. In my opinion a poster in a thread has no right to impose their views on the same thread by exploiting the hat function. Removing all hatting from the question about human intellect lets everyone see who started race baiting about "white supremacy", and it should stay that way. Of course that does not solve the problem of racial tension - some people cling to their illusion that thinking is done with the skin, and Baseball Bugs pretends to be solver of the problem that still haunts the country where he grew up. A form of "gun control" that the community should consider will be for Baseball Bugs to lose the right to hat on any ref. desk. 84.209.89.214 (talk) 10:26, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

That wouldn't be much of a punishment, as I almost never hat things anyway. But if you're going to let the original race-baiting question stand, you also must let my question and his revealing answer stand. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:39, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

archiving hiatus[edit]

I've been called away suddenly on a trip that will leave me without internet access for a week, so I won't be able to run scsbot to archive the desks. Hopefully with the lower volumes lately they won't grow unmanageably big. Sorry for the inconvenience. —Steve Summit (talk) 03:15, 5 September 2014 (UTC)

If anyone is interested in helping, but isn't sure how: User:Scray/Manually archiving the RefDesk. Matt Deres (talk) 16:46, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
I've archived a few of the larger desks, but didn't bother with the daily indices; I'll let the bot fix that up later. I also updated the instructions, in case anyone tried to help out and wondered why they didn't make much sense - the settings for archiving have changed since @Scray: (and I) made them up a few years ago. Matt Deres (talk) 20:16, 7 September 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, [MattBot]! ---Sluzzelin talk 00:11, 9 September 2014 (UTC)
I'm happy to help and more needs to be done, but I'm unsure of the template needed when starting a new month. If anyone has any bright ideas, I'm willing to do the grunt work. Matt Deres (talk) 23:16, 10 September 2014 (UTC)

Re: Are we still living in a world dominated by the western civilization?” on the ref desk[edit]

User:Ian.thompson and / or Jayron have closed the question “Are we still living in a world dominated by the western civilization?” on the ref desk. They considered the posting to invite debate and speculation, which clearly, is not the purpose of the ref desks.
It seems to me that (not so) current developments in the Near East are sufficient reason to consider this to be a valid and interesting question. Indeed, academics have attempted to analyse the emergence of alternatives (Islamism being one of these) in numerous papers and books, as is evidenced by the reference sections of some of our relevant articles.
Needless to say, editors supplying answers must refrain from polemics, soapboxing and prejudicial generalisations.
I do not singlehandedly want to reopen the thread as I am aware that multiculturalism (to start with the thin edge of the wedge) is not an unproblematic matter.

Huntington (1996)

Oops: --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 17:12, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

If you have a request for references, please post it on the appropriate ref desk. If you wish to ask people's opinion on something, the place to do that is a place called the rest of the internet. --Jayron32 17:21, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
The questioner's assumed premise is of the "Are you still beating your wife?" school. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:37, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
I think closing the question was the right move, and frankly the desk could do with a bit more judicious closing of such open-ended and vague discussion topics, which seem to have been eating more and more space on the Humanities page of late. - EronTalk 20:06, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
Agreed. Sadly too many ref desk regulars seem to think that it is put there for the sole purpose of allowing them to promote their favourite hobby horse, and to tell the world why they are personally right about anything and everything. AndyTheGrump (talk) 20:40, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
Sorry Andy, you "misunderstand". That's what most of the Ref Desk lurkers are here for, just to make themselves appear knowledgeable (or actually, mostly, and embarrassingly otherwise....! I seem to remember reading about someone who thought that passports were taken away and held in a safe on international flights..... these people need to stop answering questions on our Reference Desk...). We should operate some kind of feedback that allows those with genuine questions rate their actual answers. I suspect that we'd be shocked. Mainly that most of the questions and answers come from the same tiny set of editors. Also that most of the answers are purely based on personal experience, conjecture or guesswork, and don't relate to Wikipedia or reliable sources in any way. Simply substitute this URL with Google, the answers would be more accurate and have less bollocks personal research. The Rambling Man (talk) 22:26, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
Why do I see you comment on the talk page here to criticize us, but I hardly ever see you on the ref desks providing references? I might ask the same of Andy, but at least I see him occasionally drop in with some refs. One of the easiest ways to make the ref desks better: WP:SOFIXIT -- why don't you help us make the world ref desk a better place and lead by example? I honestly think your (polite) activity would improve it. I also agree with you that a few of our regulars could improve their behavior to make the ref desk a better place - and these talk pages have plenty of history of users chastising others for their behavior. But there are many editors who do it right. Off the top of my head, I would list Jayron, Looie, BenRG, Eron, Trovatore, and Nimur as people who almost always include references and do not come here to preen and speculate as you accuse "most" of us of doing. Anyway, when you go around accusing "most" of us of acting in bad faith, I fear it may cause some of our excellent contributors to drift away, and that would make the ref desks worse. So if you can't or won't help us, please don't come here to insult us. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:45, 30 September 2014 (UTC)


OP: I have read this question on a different level. To me, it was a superset of (inter alia) Catalonia vs Spain, Irish Catholics vs Irish Protestants, Ukraine vs Russia. Simultaneously, I read it as a query on Islamic Caliphate vs moderate theocracies, Chinese economy vs the rest, Star Trek vs the US Constitution (and the list goes on).
As to the point of soapboxing et al: Any respondent has the option to answer / to ignore a query or part thereof / to collapse a query. If regular editors in their response waffle on, they should be reprimanded / blocked. That nobody has the balls to kick out regular fuckwits is an administrative problem.
--Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 20:51, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

Some users do have the courage to do so, and then they get shredded on this page for having shown that courage. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:58, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
That "shredding" has been your saving grace more than once, Mr Bugs. Would you prefer that the moves to oust or silence you be resurrected? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 22:26, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
"Any respondent has the option to collapse a query." Do you agree with that statement? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:37, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
When I first read that question, I wondered who "we" referred to. HiLo48 (talk) 22:15, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
I assumed by "we" the OP meant all of humanity. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:19, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
On the Humanities desk, someone asked why America still supports Israel. Someone then complained that it should be boxed up because it's like the western civilization question. There's a crucial difference, though: America most definitely does support Israel, and the question can be factually answered. The question about western civilization is an inherently loaded question which cannot easily be answered, factually or otherwise. Hence it was appropriate to box it up, while it's reasonable to keep the US-Israel question open (unless consensus says otherwise). ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:13, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
The question about America's support of Israel could, theoretically, have been factually answered. However, what actually happened was a shitshow of POV and debate. It should have been closed as soon as it went off the rails - which was just about immediately. - EronTalk 06:10, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
What's stopping you? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 09:57, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
What is stopping me? Experience and an ability to read this very page. I like to provide factual answers to questions that interest me. I don't like dealing with the wikilawyering that results from all but the most uncontroversial closings/hattings/etcs. - EronTalk 19:02, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, what's stopping you is the likelihood of being savaged for boxing it up, as I said earlier. Cam't say as I blame you! ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:49, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
And the issue is moot now, as it's been archived. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:07, 30 September 2014 (UTC)
I would think this Q could be answered with reliable sources:
1) From a cultural POV, we could look at the percentage of TV programs, movies, music sales, etc., which are of Western versus non-Western origin.
2) From an economic POV we could list the economic output of Western versus non-Western nations.
3) From a military POV, we could compare the military strengths of Western versus non-Western nations.
4) From a linguistic POV, we could compare Western and non-Western languages, both in percentage of native speakers and second language speakers.
I didn't choose to look up any of this data, though, as it seemed like a lot of work with little benefit. StuRat (talk) 00:51, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
The first world is still mostly West by population, GDP, and area if that means anything. If you like 200 mph trains and 1,500 foot roofs and love the West though then you're out of luck. Sagittarian Milky Way (talk) 05:35, 28 September 2014 (UTC)

Passports, frogs, etc.[edit]

To anyone who might be wondering... Back on July 19th, I did in fact ask whether passports were kept in a safe on international flights. I made no claim that they actually are. (Maybe someone else did, I don't know.) The reason I asked is because it has been a long time since I have taken an international flight, and I don't recall all the details. So I thought it was a reasonable question to ask. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:45, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

Seems like a reasonable question to ask, and one that has a simple answer ("Yes" or "No") that can be provided with appropriate references. No wonder it was considered controversial. - EronTalk 20:58, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
Well, I thought it was a reasonable question. And it was answered at the time, although I don't recall if it was referenced or not. I might have been able to recall if it was referenced, but I can't, because I'm just a know-nothing idiot. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:53, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps it's the referencing thing that's not so straightforward. To anyone who uses a passport regularly, it's simply a blue sky thing that doesn't need references. Eron - where would one find sources? HiLo48 (talk) 22:20, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
That's actually an interesting point - the answer to the question is "No", but how does one reference the fact that one isn't required to do something? It's trying to prove a negative.
"Has it ever rained frogs on the fourth of July?"
"No."
"How do you know?"
"Well, I googled 'frog rain july 4' and got no results. It seems like the sort of thing that would have been recorded if it had happened, so I would say it didn't happen."
"So you don't know that it didn't! It could totally have happened"
"<head caves in>"
At which point someone will chime in and say that they extrapolated weather trends and frequency of amphibian precipitation and can say with certainty that frogs have in fact rained on the fourth of July. Somewhere. Somewhen.
For the passports, we could probably say it's a blue sky kind of thing; there are many people with direct experience of international travel who can answer. If pressed, I'd probably link to three or four airline sites and point to where they don't ever say, in their information for passengers, that passports will be locked up. - EronTalk 21:00, 29 September 2014 (UTC)
The way around the frog question is to say that raining frogs is a very rare event. Then if someone cliams it has never rained frogs, then you say, well, 0 occurrences qualifies as "rare". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:58, 29 September 2014 (UTC)
Except it has rained frogs. --Jayron32 01:47, 30 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes. Just not on July 4th, or at least not recorded. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:06, 30 September 2014 (UTC)
Do you have any idea how embarrassed I would have been if that link had been to a July 4 incident? - EronTalk 02:24, 30 September 2014 (UTC)
Better red-faced than green-faced. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:48, 30 September 2014 (UTC)
When a fact is generally considered to be "obvious", we don't need to provide references. If someone wishes to object that the answer is not in fact, obvious - then we may need to seek references. But remember, this isn't article space - we offer great latitude for WP:SYNTH and such like. To anyone who's flown recently, the answer to this one is pretty obvious, it's unlikely that anyone is going to pop up and proclaim that we're incorrect. SteveBaker (talk) 01:52, 30 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, for this simple question. But when it gets more complicated, people have different ideas of what is "obvious". They don't always respond to requests for references or support.
For example, the recent Hot vs. cold thread on the miscellaneous desk. There were some wild-assed guesses thrown out, and requests for references were met with replies like "I have no intention of wasting my time proving the obvious," and "No, I won't." These weren't blue-sky claims, either. - EronTalk 02:24, 30 September 2014 (UTC)