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.
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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.

Proposals to modify refdesk guidelines on matters of removing and/or hatting controversial questions[edit]

This stems from the talk page guidelines vs. ref desk guidelines thread at the Village Pump which seems to be winding down (as well as from a number of other threads that went unresolved).

As far as I can tell, most people think it's less than ideal to have two guidelines that disagree explicitly claim applicability to the refdesk while disagreeing with each other (WP:TPG and WP:RDG). Since I haven't seen anybody call for the deletion of the refdesk guidelines, regardless of the extent to which TPG applies, I have to assume there is also a belief the refdesk guidelines are important guides for clarifying "what are considered appropriate responses" (quote taken from the guidelines). So let's address what seems to be the most controversial matter: what to do with inappropriate questions and/or answers.

These debates have been ongoing for quite a while. In an effort to make the consensus as crystal clear as possible, I've broken the issue down into 3 separate, simplified proposals. I hope others will have the patience for this. :)

Questions that are left open for another time/thread include any potential changes to how/when answers are removed or hatted, the definition of "professional advice" beyond legal and medical, and whether the medical advice guideline should be folded back into the guidelines. --— Rhododendrites talk |  15:23, 6 April 2014 (UTC)

Per Nil Einne below, wouldn't it be simpler just to WP:RFCU Medeis already? NE Ent 17:40, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
Personally I think considering the number of times they've been asked to stop a well craft AN would be work but I'm lazy to do one at the current time and may not be the best person for it anyway. I should BTW apologise. I actually opposed the topic ban for all 3 in the last major ANI. I don't regret it for TRM or BB but I do for Medeis. I thought they were finally showing signs of improvement but I was seriously wrong. (Or maybe they were and had a major relapse, I don't really know or care at this point.) Of course it's unlikely me supporting would have made a different but hey. Nil Einne (talk) 18:15, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
RFCU is worse than useless if you don't have clarity on what the guidelines are and should be. We should not have Talk page guidelines affecting the reference desk (except for this talk page). We just need to have good RD guidelines. Two sets of bad guidelines DO NOT add up to one good set. Wnt (talk) 21:59, 8 April 2014 (UTC)

Proposal concerning question deletion[edit]

Proposal: Change the reference desk guidelines to explicitly forbid the removal of any question without replacing it with a message of explanation on the reference desk page. For example, [Personal attack removed. ~~~~]. Explanations on the talk page or in edit summaries are appreciated, but not sufficient without a message in the place of the question.

  • Support, with modifications. We should be able to remove duplicate posts on the same desk, one right after the other, without notifying anyone. Same for obvious vandalism, like "Bob is a fag !". StuRat (talk) 17:24, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose sorry but this is just a bad idea as worded. I've removed several of User:μηδείς's dumb hats recently, but the fact one person is all too willing to randomly hat stuff but we haven't got round to topic banning them is no reason to have such a poor guideline. There needs to be the freedom to remove clearly unwanted crap (which is supported by several significant policies and priniciples like WP:DFTT and WP:EVASION depending on the specific case. Let's not forget the misc desk is currently semi protected because of some inane troll who keeps posting non question fantasy stories. (And if you're going to say your guideline doesn't apply because these aren't really questions, I hope you see the problem with that.) I've remove these 2 or 3 times myself, and I know from the history so have several other editors. There's been no discussion here, or no sign of these removals other than in the edit log (and perhaps some block requests, protection requests or whatever) and nor should there be. Yes WP:IAR and all that but we should also be careful not to craft guidelines which suggest a practice not supported by anything. Nil Einne (talk) 17:37, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose just a perfect opportunity for some editors to especially bite IP editors or those who aren't up to speed with "the rules", as we have all-to-often seen lately. We do not remove anything unless it constitutes a personal attack etc. The Rambling Man (talk) 17:43, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
    • Comment - @Nil Einne: @The Rambling Man: - I think my meaning didn't come across here. I didn't intend for this to be a proposal on whether or not it is OK to remove content SO LONG AS you leave a message. I wanted this to be indifferent to whether or not policy does or does not allow content removal for this or that purpose. The current guidelines permit removing content and it seems pretty certain that personal attacks will be subject to removal even if other aspects of the guidelines change. So, since some removal is unavoidable, let's make it clear that IF there is a situation that removal is allowed, you may not simply remove it without leaving a message in its place. That's all. --— Rhododendrites talk |  19:05, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
      • Comment @Rhododendrites: but that's precisely my point. It's exceptionally dumb that we would have to leave anything when removing certain stuff and this is not supported by any guideline or practice anywhere else. In fact, if we look at the recent RDM case, the troll posted the same nonsense many times before the page was semi protected. Although I can't recall if they used 'undo' or simply added the content afresh, a naïve intepretation would suggest we need to leave a comment on the RDM every time presuming they did add their comment afresh (which some people do) which is exceptionally silly.
    Even with a less naïve intepretation, it's still pointless to leave a comment and clutter up the desk every time the troll decides to post some new trolling. While you're not Guy Macon, since you also seem to be calling for us to be more consistent with practice elsewhere, I'm not sure why you're advocating something which is not done anywhere else (and for good reason). (Edit: Given the controversy I didn't bring up WP:TPOC before but remember what you're proposing is an additional requirement to that as well.)
    BTW to re-emphasise what Guy Macon, me and NE Ent have said, even if you think these guidelines are beneficial, there's no point introducing them just to deal with μηδείς. It's already clear many of μηδείς's actions are against community consensus and this has also been made clear to them time and time again.
    The reason why nothing has happened yet is because no proposal to restrict them because of their refusal to abide by community consensus has been successful yet. Pointing to a new set of guidelines is not necessarily and not likely to help achieve action against them. And the history makes it clear it's not likely to result in them changing their behaviour either.
    What is needed is for someone to find the diffs and evidence demonstration how they've acted against community consensus despite repeated requests not to. If you feel the evidence isn't strong enough, then I guess an RFC/U. Either way new guidelines aren't some magical cure all.
    And since μηδείς is the biggest problem by far in terms of this specific proposal (the med/legal advice is a bit more complicated and long running), there's little point trying to compose new guidelines when it's not clear how much a problem there really is and what we should do about it because the situation is confused by an editor who repeatedly acts against what community consensus does exist.
    Nil Einne (talk) 05:41, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
    @Nil Einne: - I agree with you and with StuRat above that duplicates could be specified as an exception. I disagree that trolling is bad enough to clutter up any of the desks. If that becomes the case, we can deal with it, but "trolling" is one of those terms that has been abused when removing things in the past. Though the problem is largely Medeis, the fact remains that the guidelines do allow for or lack specificity about some content removal behavior despite consensus, so why not change what the guidelines say to conform with consensus on how to treat these kinds of questions? But I agree that this one of the three proposals is the one probably best covered by existing precedent/guidelines such that dealing with one user's interpretation could be dealt with without codification. --— Rhododendrites talk |  15:26, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
    @Rhododendrites: I don't quite understand what you're saying. I don't think the guidelines say anything at the moment that disagrees with consensus. The fact that μηδείς thinks their behaviour is supported by the guidelines, when nearly everyone else disagrees doesn't change this fact. They do lack specificity, I would suggest this is partly my design since wikipedia guidelines and policies are never intended to be that specific. Whether they are specific enough or not, well I'm not going to comment. And to be blunt, I still don't see how you can say trolling doesn't clutter up the desk on occasion when we just got round with dealing with that copyvioing troll. Nil Einne (talk) 15:25, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
  • We need to fix our little problem first. On the face of it, this is a great addition. Alas, we have a problem with one user (and a couple of enablers) who will without a doubt interpret this to mean "I can delete anything I want as long as I leave a note" Yes, I know that it doesn't say that, but that won't stop the bad behavior. Obce we fix our problem with our self-appointed censor, I would favor this proposal. --Guy Macon (talk) 20:59, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose - There's already a template available for replacement of requests for professional advice. This proposal is redundant. Just use the template.Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:34, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Support -- Adds transparency and accountability to the ref desks. We usually don't get so much disruptive action here that too many removal notices would be a problem. SemanticMantis (talk) 15:37, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. Leaving a placeholder is just good sense. I'm not saying I want editors keelhauled if they toss out some trolling and forget to mention it, but the practice per policy should be to leave a note. Wnt (talk) 21:57, 8 April 2014 (UTC)

Proposal concerning removal of questions on the basis of asking for medical/legal advice[edit]

Proposal: Change the reference desk guidelines to explicitly forbid the removal of questions on the sole basis of asking for medical/legal advice. Inform the user of our policy of not providing medical/legal advice, suggest contacting a professional, and, if possible, respond with general, fact-based information as you would if the same question were not framed in terms of advice.

Rationale: The reference desk guidelines say they are for clarifying "what are considered appropriate responses." It furthermore explains that people asking questions at the reference desk may be new to Wikipedia. Currently the guidelines state that "I have a persistent cough. Can that be caused by heartburn?" and "Is heartburn a common cause of a persistent cough?" should be treated differently, with the latter answered factually, without giving advice, and the former simply removed. As these guidelines are to clarify responses, the burden should be on the answerer to refrain from providing advice. The questions above can be handled in much the same way, to the same benefit of he or she who asked it. Note that this proposal has no bearing on how answers which provide medical/legal advice are dealt with, which, if considered problematic can be the subject of a separate proposal--but not part of this one.

  • Support. We should hat them, not remove them. StuRat (talk) 17:24, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Mild support as much as I dislike hats, particularly from those who offer no rationale for doing so nor sign them, this is preferable. At least new and inexperienced visitors to the ref desks will get to see why their questions have been disregarded. It's worth noting that the traffic for new questions at the RDs is really low, something like three or four a day, so it's not like this sort of thing is happening dozens of times a day. I thought the RDs were designed to help those who visited, not just bite them, especially those editing from IPs who seem to be treated like dirt by some. The Rambling Man (talk) 17:45, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose Comment. This is trying to address the symptom, not the problem. The guidelines should only permit removal or modification of any posts by others under severely restricted circumstances, and no general category advice should be included. Rather address why the guidelines could be interpreted to be so anti advice-seeking questions; they should only address *guidelines* on responses. For clarity, the guidelines should forbid removal of questions on this basis, but there should not be any specific guideline as proposed here. —Quondum 18:02, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
    Having looked more closely at the guidelines on medical/legal advice, I am of the opinion that this disagreement about their application is a consequence of a senseless guideline. It is pointless for me to get involved in this debate when I consider the guideline to be fundamentally flawed. —Quondum 01:42, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Strong support. These questions tend to be from new editors, and seeing your question silently disappear while other people's questions get answered can be discouraging. Also, deletion removes a great opportunity to help the user without giving medical advice. for example, if someone asks
"I just found out that I have cancer of the ceruminous gland. what should I do?"
we can respond with
"We cannot offer medical advice, please consult with your doctor. You may be interested in Wikipedia's articles on cancer and Ceruminous adenocarcinoma."
This is a far more helpful than deletion (or hatting, for that matter), all without offering medical advice. --Guy Macon (talk) 18:17, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
I think that directing people with medical questions to Wikipedia articles is a terrible idea. (talk) 01:32, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Sending someone to an article equates to making a diagnosis, which we are forbidden to do. The answer to "What should I do?" is SEE A DOCTOR. And use the template, as I said in the previous section. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:37, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Support Compared to removal, this is the gentler and more delicate approach. Most editors are up to speed on what constitutes medical advice and what doesn't, and can easily avoid giving unprofessional advice. Editors disagree on details, but most have a moderate and reasonable approach as to what we can and cannot answer. It is not medical "advice" when you link to an article; it is merely information. There is no diagnosis, because we are not assuming they necessarily have that condition. Our advice, such as it is, is always to see a professional. A link gives them something to read so they can ask more informed questions of their doctor. It also shows them by example what we are about, that is, we show them the reference desk style directly. That seems better than hitting them with our rules, which can only serve to annoy. IBE (talk) 03:17, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Support -- this correctly puts the burden of "no medical advice" on our respondents, where it should be. I disagree entirely with Bugs above -- posting a link to a WP article is medical information, not medical advice. Anyone confused by the distinction should look at medical advice. If a respondent messes up and gives medical advice, we can remove that response. SemanticMantis (talk) 15:40, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
Generally speaking, vehemently agree that the burden is ideally on respondents. Slightly disagree with the specific point, on one count. If a medical question gets out of hand, people can start giving advice, and others have to delete it, wasting time. Therefore, a problem could emerge that we leave it to respondents, but they go a bit crazy, and others have to mop things up. We avoid giving medical advice to avoid causing harm, because we are not qualified or accountable for what we say. Leaving it to respondents to work this out can cause problems, and trying to remedy them causes at least as much friction among the different editors. However, in agreement with SemanticMantis, this doesn't seem to be a huge problem of late. So the conclusion seems good, but the reasoning needs to be taken with a note of caution. Just my 2 cents. IBE (talk) 16:09, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure I understand. It will inevitably lead to disagreements about what is/is not advice, yes, but that also happens with questions. But a question can yield all sorts of answers, some of which are advice and some of which are not. An answer, however, is a mistake regardless of the question being asked. Advice is a kind of answer, and it's advice that's disallowed Wikipedia-wide. Outside of the refdesk guidelines there exists no rule about "Wikipedia does not contain questions that may be construed as asking for medical advice." But I'm not so sure you're disagreeing with any of that. The issue is that we're trading one form of problem for another? I see two key differences: (1) Those responding are typically more experienced with Wikipedia than those asking the questions (taken as an average), and there are in fact a smaller group of people who contribute a disproportionate percentage of the answers (a power law expected in this kind of context). So putting the burden on the more experienced folk would likely result in fewer instances that need "mopping up." (2) It's better [in my opinion] for two experienced users to talk it out on the talk page than for a new user to have his/her question removed/hatted when they were confused about how it's supposed to work in the first place. We know that while there's gray area, there's also a pretty clear area considered "advice" and a pretty clear area considered "not advice" and how the two are to be handled. --— Rhododendrites talk |  18:21, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
The disagreement, such as it is, is slight. The problem I've seen in the past is that the situation simply escalates. It can go something like this. A question tends towards asking for advice, an answer tends towards giving it, and someone goes a tiny bit far in one direction, and someone hats/removes their specific answer, or some arbitrary portion of the thread. Then the hattee is irritated at the hatter, and may remove the hat or hat other stuff, and people get irritated. Experience doesn't help if the rules get ignored or exploited anyway. The "mopping up" bit comes from lots of these smaller problems causing friction. The ill-feeling and frustration are not smaller for the smallness of the disagreement. The level of feeling is possibly the same or higher, because people feel they are being treated inconsistently and hence unfairly. The frustrations may even be in proportion to the length of the discussion, not the size of the factual disagreement. Hatting the question in the first instance can be designed to stop things from getting out of hand. Nevertheless, the reverse has been more of a problem of late, individual editors overdoing things to assert themselves, and they become very irritating for all of us. Hence I strongly agree with these changes, and will try to make them work. IBE (talk) 03:47, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I do think there's a chance of replacing one problem (advice-seeking questions) with another (advice answers). But my perspective is that it's better to have the respondents take responsibility for their answers than to have questioners be blocked/removed/confused.
It is maddening to me that a question like "My mom has X disease, what should we do?" is removed, when we could easily say "Seek professional advice...(disclaimer boilerplate, whateve), and here is a page from the Mayo clinic on X, which is also known as Y." This is especially regressive and punitive against uninformed people (who we are supposedly here to help right?). Anyone who carefully reads our instructions would just post "can you show me some refs for disease X?" -- but that is cold comfort, as such people willing to play this game can probably find refs on their own, and we are only discriminating against those who need our help the most.
I think having a "we cannot give advice this is only information" template for responders to use on these advice-seeking questions would help keep our respondents away from the gray areas. Anyway, this straw poll seems to be showing some support, I look forward to participating if @It's Been Emotional:, @Rhododendrites:, or anyone else wants to move these ideas forward to actually change our policies. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:35, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I am willing, since I think the consensus is there. I agree it is maddening, and I have seen it done needlessly, even stupidly, many times. I suggest, given that there is some reasonable disagreement from various well-intentioned editors (not the few who continually push or exploit the rules), adopting a somewhat incremental approach. It might be good to allow full removal of questions if a large number of answers tends towards giving advice, and causing friction. Something like "Removal or hatting of questions on the sole basis of requesting professional advice is discouraged. It should only be used if the discussion involves several editors giving advice in reply, or if it produces excessive friction among editors over what is and is not (an attempt at) professional advice." IBE (talk) 10:03, 9 April 2014 (UTC)

  • Comment I think such questions should be hatted rather than replaced by a template so others can easily check the decision is correct but it is obvious that answers should not be given and won't be read. For medical questions in particular it is difficult to stop people giving 'helpful' answers. Yes of course we should say some boilerplate thing like see a professional. Dmcq (talk) 16:49, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Requests for medical advice need to be replaced with the {{rd-deleted}} template. It doesn't work to just hat those questions, because the questions then wind up getting responded to with medical advice inside the hat. And it doesn't work to just give links to articles in lieu of giving medical advice, because the OP rarely if ever has a condition that's already been diagnosed by a doctor, so it isn't possible to give a link to an article about the medical condition the OP has without making an educated guess as to which medical condition matches with the presented symptoms. Making that educated guess is exactly what making a diagnosis is. Making a diagnosis is giving medical advice. Red Act (talk) 03:59, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I believe your second-last statement is somewhat extreme, "making that educated guess is exactly what making a diagnosis is." It is not exactly the same. The diagnosis is the same educated guess by a professional who wants it to be taken as advice, or an amateur who wants it to sound authoritative. Providing a link does not say, "my educated guess is that you have this." It says "This may be consistent with this, and at any rate you will be better informed when you see your doctor." The reason for the policy on medical advice is to avoid causing harm, and we avoid this by offering links without making judgements like "I think you have this." This is easy to do. I have highlighted above the risk of escalation, with people spiralling into arguments, but this is a separate risk. IBE (talk) 09:46, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. It's not nice to deal with the posters this way. And if we legitimize "general" answers per below (i.e. hey yeah, we have an article on that) then our response is a lot better than nothing. Wnt (talk) 21:55, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose why has this not been listed as an RfC? It simply has no validity otherwise. We already have a template to post when such questions are removed. Is there an RfD for that? It's longstanding consensus that deletions require a posting here. They can be argued and reversed. Any decision based on a local discussion is simply revertible. Please post an RfC to get actual community opinion on this. μηδείς (talk) 22:28, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
Please feel free to post an RfC yourself, if you think it is needed on procedural grounds. Your statement "It simply has no validity otherwise" clearly implies that you have a procedural problem, so please feel free to fix it. IBE (talk) 10:05, 9 April 2014 (UTC)

Proposal concerning hatting of questions on the basis of asking for medical/legal advice[edit]

Proposal: Change the reference desk guidelines to explicitly forbid the hatting of questions on the sole basis of asking for medical/legal advice. Inform the user of our policy of not providing medical/legal advice, suggest contacting a professional, and, if possible, respond with general, fact-based information as you would if the same question were not framed in terms of advice.

Rationale: An extension of the previous proposal on removing questions asking for advice. Likewise, this proposal has no bearing on how answers which provide medical/legal advice are dealt with, which, if considered problematic can be the subject of a separate proposal--but not part of this one.

  • Oppose. Hatting is appropriate, but the hatter should be required to list their name and reason for hatting. If others disagree, we can ignore the hatting or unhat it. StuRat (talk) 17:26, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Support if those who continually seek to banish such discussions cannot be convinced one way or another to openly explain their rationale for closure and sign it in such a way that new editors or IPs can understand the sequence of events. The Rambling Man (talk) 17:46, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Strong support for the same reasons I gave in the question above. --Guy Macon (talk) 18:20, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Good idea, except that the "explicitly forbid" bit is too strong. I don't recommend trying for explicit or strict rules here, since they get applied indiscriminately, and a good faith error gives a stickler a chance to cause trouble. I've seen it too many times. A milder version would be ok. IBE (talk) 03:29, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose People can always see the question by clicking the hide/show on the right. If the question is shown people just start giving their answers. What's the point of displaying a question one shouldn't answer? At the moment all that can be done is tell them to go and see a professional. If more could be done then this question could be profitably revisited. Dmcq (talk) 16:38, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Support "Hatting" is a silly practice and we might as well get rid of it, though as said above a specific prohibition might be going too far - the point is, there shouldn't be a policy for doing so. Wnt (talk) 21:53, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose again, and RfC is needed. This discussiondirectly opposes years of Ref Desk standing policy. Hats can always be reverted hey are not rev deletes. μηδείς (talk) 22:30, 8 April 2014 (UTC)

General discussion[edit]

It appears that several editors have expressed concerns about specific incidents, not general trends. Is all of this necessary? The Rambling Man (talk) 16:17, 7 April 2014 (UTC)

You mean as in someone who reinstates their hatting and argues when others think the question is a perfectly ordinary one that can be answered okay and remove their hatting? Dmcq (talk) 16:54, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
I don't and can't pick out specific editors. It just seems clear from the various discussions that this appears to be a "sledgehammer to crack a walnut" approach. Deal with the problem, not the symptoms. The Rambling Man (talk) 18:30, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
I agree. The real problem here isn't going to be solved by multiplying rules.
It will just add an additional layer of complexity that the small number of problem editors will be able to hide behind next time their behavior comes up at ANI. APL (talk)
See Jonathan Wild and Brian Haw. Tevildo (talk) 07:35, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
Necessary, perhaps not. Valuable, I think so. Troublesome editors may be only a catalyst here. Discouraging hatting or deletion when there is another solution is worth a try. It is a solution I have been trying for a long time with medical questions, simply directing people to an article. I have almost never hatted or removed in the first instance, even if I have put the template on my user page (that was just in case I needed it). On the other hand, dealing with about 2 problem editors would be of inestimable value to the project, but the whole point with troublesome people is that they don't care who they annoy, and don't blush very easily. That's exactly what makes them troublesome. I am always happy to be involved in trying to handle them using more direct means. One of the said troublemakers recently caused me to take a 3 month wikibreak, because I was so sick of his skirmishing. Even so, I can't see a solution unless people are willing to admit to themselves that trying to deal with these few problem editors is not a personal attack, but a consensus that we are sick of certain people. Then they can be gradually rebuked, disciplined, sanctioned, shunned, and perhaps eventually removed. I still think the suggestion at hand is a very good one, and I have been following it informally for as long as I've been on Wikipedia. I don't think it gives problem editors more to hide behind, simply because there are a million rules already, and this adds just one. It is their attitude of hiding behind the rules that needs to be recognised for what it is, and systematically choked. IBE (talk) 12:50, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
Why don't you file an RFC and name names and diffs of behavioural shortcomings? There appear to be plenty. The Rambling Man (talk) 19:33, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
If you look at my talk page, you will see a link down the bottom that shows I have attempted in my own way to start a gentle push in this direction. The plan is to work slowly and incrementally, and rise like the tide against these people. Individual rushed actions become like the choppy sea, and only rock our own boats. Gradually rising and overwhelming them will work. I do have a file collecting diffs of behavioural shortcomings, but it is extremely short, because I mainly come here to contribute to the ref desk, and anything related to conflict is best kept as a marginal activity. IBE (talk) 03:23, 10 April 2014 (UTC)
  • I should note that this discussion seems relevant, and I'm not sure there is any follow-up discussion which has supplanted it, as yet. --Jayron32 22:36, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
More than relevant - I knew I wasn't exactly alone. The admin ruling was a warning, which is a good start. IBE (talk) 03:23, 10 April 2014 (UTC)


There's really no need for new rules. Just enforce the existing rules. Specifically, that requests for professional advice are subject to removal. It would be better to use the template than to just zap it. But the real problem is not the removal - the problem is a select few who don't like the rules and insist upon bending or breaking them, and continue to argue against the existing rules. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:05, 7 April 2014 (UTC)

Evolution is in the bible[edit]

I just completely deleted this rant,[1] mainly because it uses the reference desk purely as a soapbox, without even pretending to ask a question. I think just hatting the thing would inadequately deny the opportunity to soapbox. Red Act (talk) 21:40, 7 April 2014 (UTC)

Good deletion. But be prepared to have certain editors attack you for being so mean to poor little good-faith IP's. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:01, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
It really looks like you're trying to pick a fight here. But I'll AGF on your second sentence. Actually, I think I need to read up on WP:AGF, because when you use the term I often have no idea what you mean. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:20, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
No, I'm just making fun of the double-standard employed by some editors here, where drive-by IP's are kissed up to and registered users are treated like garbage. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:31, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
And it might surprise you to learn that I always assume good faith, until the given editor betrays that good faith. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:57, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I don't even think that's really a rant or soapbox. It looks to me a lot like the same nonsense we've been getting from an IP in the past few days, mostly in the RDM. See e.g. [2] which they tried to post lots of times. While that is another religion related one, they've posted other nonsense like the time one Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Science/2014 March 30#need help on this or stuff relating somehow to magic mushrooms (one of these was in an article and has now been deleted).
In fact even their spirituality ones don't seem to have a consistent philosphy other than abject nonsense, see [3] as another example. (Well I think they often claim to have been molested and seem to mention snakes a lot.) In [4] they seem to suggest they enjoy making up stories which is perhaps one of the few true things they've said. Although as I suggested before, from their posts, perhaps the magic mushrooms bit isn't either ;-).
While there's nothing wrong with posting here about removals, as I said in the discussion above, editors should feel free to remove this nonsense without any further comment if they desire. Unfortunately the editor does have a tendency to try and try again and they seem to have a ready supply of IP address (some US, some Korean and perhaps others) sometimes resulting in a desk being protected.
Since their posts are mostly much nonsense not to mention lacking in any question, it's unlikely anyone is going to waste much time trying to answer them (the time one seems to have been an exception) so we could just allow their nonsense to stay hoping they leave us alone. But I get the feeling we would end up with a lot of clutter.
Nil Einne (talk) 06:12, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I'd have thought removing the text of the question and replacing by a link to Wikipedia is not a soapbox would be better than completely deleting without any notice. Dmcq (talk) 08:33, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
  • It recently reappeared on science desk, I just closed it with a note. It is entirely possible the person was just confused and re-posting to overcome a presumed glitch. SemanticMantis (talk) 19:27, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
And another IP quickly reverted my edit. I will re-revert once, and them I'm out of this game. SemanticMantis (talk) 19:29, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
  • I've protected the page for a very short period of time in the hopes that they will get bored and go away. When they tell people to "fuq off" it means they have no desire to be cooperative. Any admin who thinks that this person is being appropriate can unprotect this. --Jayron32 19:42, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. I've been meditating on AGF. My assumption was wrong in this case, but all I lost was about two minutes of ref desking, which I would have been doing anyway :) SemanticMantis (talk) 19:47, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
AGF doesn't mean we allow disruption while maintaining the assumption of good faith. He may mean well. But it's still disruptive and must be stopped. The protection and assumption that the original poster had good faith in their posting are not mutually exclusive. Doing somthing in good faith doesn't mean what you are doing is good in outcome. --Jayron32 19:49, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
There's no harm in assuming good faith. Bad-faith editors will usually make their intentions known eventually. In this case, with some novel spelling. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:52, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
But there's no soapboxing. There's just some boring troll who as I said, doesn't even have a consistent philosphy. If you want to leave the 5-10 headers the boring troll has post to the various desks in the past 2 or 3 weeks then I'm not going to stop you but don't expect others to follow. I'm presuming you mean on a per non question basis and are not planning to leave a header for every time they repost their boring trolling until they either give up or the page is briefly protected. Nil Einne (talk) 01:28, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
  • In the interest of fairness, I have restored the original header and left a note to carry on discussion here regarding the thread. --Jayron32 19:54, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I'm not going to argue with the deletion of "questions" that don't have a question apparent. Archimedes Plutonium, or whoever this is, can post his model somewhere else. But let's not go overboard - it's better to lift the ban early and be unpleasantly surprised than to have it semi-protected for weeks and months at the cost of driving away new users. Wnt (talk) 20:14, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
It looks like it's expiring tomorrow. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:17, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I set it for six hours, which means it should be expiring at about 1:40ish UTC. --Jayron32 01:22, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
I just deleted it from Miscellaneous. If I should have hatted instead, sorry. InedibleHulk (talk) 23:25, April 8, 2014 (UTC)
I think rapid deletion without even commenting on it is the best approach. Don't feed the troll. HiLo48 (talk) 23:32, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I second that e-motion. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:05, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
Ditto; best response is zero acknowledgement. Snow (talk) 01:35, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
He's at it on the misc desk now. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:33, 9 April 2014 (UTC)

Possible copyvio[edit]

Since I first saw these over a week ago, I continually got the feeling that we were missing part of the story and the IP didn't make these up themselves (particularly since the formatting suggests it may have been written somewhere else perhaps with fixed lines) but somehow could never find it until now. [40] This was posted on 29 March 06:02PM CDT i.e. 11:02PM UTC. Note this also includes the time stuff.

Which leads to another problem since the first sign of this on wikipedia I'm aware of is [41] 30 March 00:21 UTC. From what I can tell, Pastebin has no clear contributor copyright policy, definitely I see no indication contributors release their work under a CC-BY-SA compatible licence. Nor is there any indication in the original work it was released under such a licence, which amongst other things, would require they consent to any form of redistribution even commercial and derivatives of their work, provided these comply with their licence. They didn't even ask people to share it that I saw

And we have no way of knowing that it's the same person as whoever is behind the IP. Personally I think there are good reasons to think that the person behind the IP saw the story on pastebin and thought they would have some fun with it. So for us to keep it here could easily be a copyvio. Note that even if the content has been released under such a licence, if it's one that requires attribution this clearly has not been followed. (Technically this even applies to the subject lines but they're perhaps too minor to worry about.)

While I can say for sure it's the same person (the magic mushroom link now seems spurious), I just noticed that this [42] was also deleted as a copyvio.

For this reason I've removed the time 'question', the only bit of this I believe has been preserved. [43] I have provided a link to the pastebin and kept all the replies.

So even if anyone really still thinks we should generally preserve stuff like this and hat it or whatever, there's a clear cut policy reason here not to do so. In other words, whatever people may think of the person who wrote the original pastebin, they still deserve to have their copyright respected. (Not to mention there are BLP problems for part of this story even more so if it's not posted here by the writer.)

Nil Einne (talk) 04:33, 9 April 2014 (UTC)

Hmm actually perhaps the magic mushroom link isn't as spurious as I thought [44]. While I'm not sure of the timezone used on that forum particularly since it does weird things depending on who's visiting, I can't help thinking that our IP friend is a regular in that forum and saw the link there then decided to bring it here. Nil Einne (talk) 04:50, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
Heh, I remember diagnosing shrooms some time back, in response to a post mentioning "the apple of knowledge". Alas, the redactions make it impossible for me to search in any easy way for which. Wnt (talk) 19:29, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
It seems unlikely the person's who's posting this's behaviour is caused primarily by the magic mushrooms cnsidering their coherent trolling behaviour, although they be active in the community (but I guess either they have better control or they have a different outlet). The person who actually wrote this crap our troll was copying, well no comment. Nil Einne (talk) 15:29, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

Excellent example of a good thread[edit]

I'd just like to note that this thread is a truly excellent example of what the desks should and can be.


  • did proper research, and provided a reference
  • were polite and supportive
  • added to the wikimedia project

Well done to all involved. (talk) 22:46, 10 April 2014 (UTC)

Right on. It's very refreshing to see positive feedback here. We should be talking about the good stuff just as much as the other stuff that gets most of the limelight. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 23:35, 10 April 2014 (UTC)

moving questions to wikivoyage[edit]

@Medeis: - I'm down with the idea of moving obviously misplaced questions to the appropriate refdesk, but does this not apply to the Wikivoyage:Tourist Office? I suppose it is a separate project so that might make sense, but this thread on the Humanities desk just seems to fall so squarely under the other heading. --— Rhododendrites talk |  03:41, 11 April 2014 (UTC)

Please go stalk someone else. The question I moved, according to longstanding practice, had nothing to do with language, everything to do with Humanities. I provided a link to the new location and I let the user know on his talk page in case he objected and wanted the question moved back. You come here to pointily suggest I remove a perfectly valid request for references and that I register for another project that doesn't even interest me? I have posted this question on behalf of a valued contributor well known to this board--at least to users who've been here since last year--but who asks not to be named for quite compelling reasons. For someone interested in conflict resolution you sure are provocative. μηδείς (talk) 04:25, 11 April 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps I should have asked on your user talk page. I wasn't being sarcastic. I'm not saying at all that you shouldn't have moved a particular thread. I wasn't keeping track and don't know which question was even moved. I'm ok with the idea of moving obviously misplaced questions. But I did see the message that you had moved it, and I feel like I've seen that before (and I've seen others do so), which is why I thought it odd that you would be posting something so clearly under the domain of another desk. My presumption, apparently correct, was that despite the Tourist Office being listed as under the refdesk umbrella at Wikipedia:Reference desk, its position on a sister site must mean it's not appropriate to move a question there. PS: You don't have to re-register to use sister sites thanks to unified login. --— Rhododendrites talk |  05:39, 11 April 2014 (UTC)
Yes the question would have been much more welcome on my talk page. Here, and couched in a tit for ta comparison with the lang > hum move, it smacks of inquistion, rather than either advice or a benign question. I may be an ornery broad, but I don't think you'll find I'm a Gorgon. μηδείς (talk) 20:10, 13 April 2014 (UTC)

Greetings from Wikivoyage! We often get questions that relate more closely to content on WP than VOY; I'm sure we'd be happy to move future ones across to here if you thought some reciprocal agreement might be useful? --Nicholasjf21 (talk) 11:03, 11 April 2014 (UTC)

Speaking only for myself, that sounds reasonable. But people can get picky about having their questions moved without explicit consent, so perhaps the best thing for a respondent to do is to just suggest the poster also ask at the ref desks or VOY, and include a link. We don't really care for posting the same question at multiple places within the ref desks, but I see no problem with having the same or similar questions at Wikivoyage and the ref desks. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:43, 11 April 2014 (UTC)
The obvious solution is to remove that separate voyage thing from the ref desk page altogether. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:21, 11 April 2014 (UTC)
Heaven forfend we actually direct people with questions to the place they are most likely to get answers. Powers T 17:38, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
Or that we stop hassling editors for posting to the "wrong" desk. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:19, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
Bugs has a point, though. To a random editor coming across the Ref Desk for the first time, it looks very much like Travel is just another of the various sub-desks we run here. Until they read the disclaimer underneath (Desk administered by Sister Project Wikivoyage (External Link)) . Which means it is not part of the Ref Desks after all, and is not even part of Wikipedia. We could also include Wiktionary and Wikiquote in that page, if helpfulness is our only concern here. So why is Travel the only special guest? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 00:02, 13 April 2014 (UTC)
If you look at the discussion that prompted the link to Wikivoyage, Wikiquote and Wiktionary were approached but no one from those projects' reference desks responded. If they wanted links, I can't imagine we'd say no, but we shouldn't force it on them either. Powers T 14:16, 13 April 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for that. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 11:09, 15 April 2014 (UTC)


The wildly-hopping IP vandal is back, dumping garbage at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Entertainment. This note is just an FYI that the IPs' posts are pure vandalism and thus are subject to repeated reversion without regard to the 3-revert rule. Or, a friendly admin could protect the page for another day or two. :) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:37, 11 April 2014 (UTC) (talk · contribs) (talk · contribs)
It looks like they had the same IP address for about two weeks, before their dynamic IP cycled on. That's hardly "wildly IP-hopping", and is pretty easy to cope with. It also looks, from the pattern, like they possibly are a named editor who logged out to make these comments: ironically, I doubt much would have come of the comments if they had remained logged in to make them. Sure, some of us would think a little less of them, whoever they are, but I doubt their comments would have been deleted. I guess it would have made any "feuds" that are going on more obvious, though?
The most interesting thing to do would probably be to put a two-week block on the most recent IP address, including blocking logged-in users on that IP address, and then see who vanishes for two weeks. (talk) 10:19, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
Well μηδείς was clearly saying they are entirely ignorant of a particularly subset of things unrelated to the behaviour many find troubling. The way the IP turned that around was mildly funny but it's the sort of comment which is IMO always unhelpful. To be fair, I partially agree with 86 that if they had an account, it may have been less likely their comment would have been removed but don't think that's intrinsicly wrong (possible evading scrutiny and all that). For that matter the editor shouldn't be suprised considering their target.
FWIW, I'm personally tolerant of editors commenting on other editors behaviour (even if others feel it's the sort of stuff best left for talk pages) provided it doesn't detract from the thread too much, but it also depends on the comment. I've defended and will continue to defend people pointing out an editor may not be sincere, or other stuff about an editor or their behaviour which may be directly relevant to the discussion but not obvious to participants.
Criticism of another editors behaviour as part of a wider reply is more questionable but I do it myself on occasion (including just recently). The 'wider reply' usually means people let it slide.
Replies which are solely criticism of another editor and which come across as personal attacks rather than criticism or behaviour, are taking it a bit too far and that's basically what this is.
Nil Einne (talk) 14:05, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
The IP which has been here for 2 weeks is assigned to Digital Ocean in Singapore but seems to be a server IP for who as per this page, appear to be some sort Singapore node for a Thai open proxy [45].
The other IP is a dialup internet connection in China (which has been reported as a spam source). It could be the second IP is also an open proxy of some sort but it seems a little odd for a dialup internet connection, the spam reports may just be someone using the connection spamming. So it could very well be that the dialup IP is the editors real IP.
In any event, it's clearly not a simple case of dynamic IPs. And for this and other reasons, I'm not convinced this is the same editor who was causing problems recently. That editor seems to be asking apparently legitimate questions about tanks and magnetism at the moment Special:Contributions/ and has hopefully at least temporarily given up on the trolling copyvio nonsense.
(I didn't mention this before but particularly with the discovery of the forum, I'm not even 100% sure it genuinely is open proxies or whatever. It could have been meatpuppets. Although some details like the VPN possibility and the fact that there seem to be similiarities in the edit summaries do seem to point to one editor.)
In addition it's worth remembering that while open proxies may be blocked at any time, using them isn't actually forbidden. In this particular case, based on the information available, it's easily possible the editor behind the open proxy uses it to get around government imposed firewall restriction a clearly legitimate use.
Although since this doesn't stop any open proxy they used being blocked, if they're going to use open proxy without an account, they would be advised to be on their best behaviour. Particularly since evidence of abuse may not be a requirement for a block on their open proxy.
BTW I concur with the removal although with only 2 IPs I don't see any reason for protection. And BB has been here for long enough that they should know this isn't really vandalism.
Nil Einne (talk) 14:06, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
Whether it's strictly "vandalism" or not, it's still a garbage edit. And since there was no recurrence, I concur that protection is probably not needed at this time. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:56, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
Although, note that another single-use IP saw fit to post his garbage entry here, just to get it posted someplace. Bye-bye, troll. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:01, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
This [46] and this [47] is blatant trolling, to be deleted on sight, but we could avoid feeding them per wp:deny like this in the future by not posting countermeasures here unless it becomes necessary because the regulars and administrators are either objecting for some valid reason to the deletions, or, which is even less likely, are simply not paying attention over the span of a few hours or days. -Modocc (talk) 18:24, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
Oh, I could delete it on sight without comment - and then someone would yell about it here. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:18, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
Most of us understand when it's in our best interest not to comment and would rebuke those that don't get it when it comes to reducing disruption caused by trolls. -Modocc (talk) 23:00, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
Ha. Would that that were true. But next time I'll just zap it without comment, and if somebody yelps about it, YOU can explain it. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:44, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
Modocc, There's a history of Bugs disagreeing with the majority here on what consists "obvious" trolling. (And vice-versa) There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that and being cautious with deletions. We can't get angry at Bugs when he boldly deletes stuff and when he exercises caution! (After all, Drama feeds trolls much more than a dry, boring mention.) (talk) 18:48, 15 April 2014 (UTC)
  • User:Jayron32, given the recent edit history, it might be time to put a temporary partial-restriction on this page. μηδείς (talk) 22:01, 13 April 2014 (UTC)

Drop off in questions[edit]

Just wondering if anyone else has noticed the precipitous drop off in the number of questions at the Misc. Desk? In January, we had an average of 3-4 questions a day (estimating, didn't actually do the maths) but lately we've had just a single question per day and there were no new questions at all on the 14th. Any idea what has caused this? Dismas|(talk) 00:26, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

Maybe Medeis just deleted them all ... (ducks...)--Jayron32 01:44, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
I've noticed the drop off too. Anecdotally, I remember being up near 5-6 questions at least per day on the busier pages. No real explanation for why or if this is a concern going forward. Calidum 02:14, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
I have noticed the general decline. Moreover, I have noticed the departure of many good editors, because we aren't "weeding our garden". Check out Mr.98's comment in this discussion, beginning with "The questions, and answers, on this desk have gotten increasingly less interesting over time." This is why we are losing people, especially several of the most educated contributors. IBE (talk) 02:58, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
Look at the recent edit history of the page. 80,000 bytes over 6 days have just been archived, a huge amount of text, 13,000 per day. And a huge swath of comments starting with IP 140 and ending with Alex Tiefling were rev deleted--take that up with the admin who did it if you have a problem. This is simply a statistical blip, one that happens every year at this time. It certainly has nothing to do with BLP violations being hatted. μηδείς (talk) 03:27, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
I actually noticed the revdeletion a few days ago and rechecking confirms my belief that a small amount (about -1100 bytes) were deleted in the revdeletion, and the only thing deleted was a question by 140 and followups by you to the question. While the edit history for a few other responses to other questions is hidden, I'm fairly sure the responses themselves were not. Also, if I'm not misunderstanding the logs, the revdeletion used suppression so I don't think further discussion on that issue is necessary. Nil Einne (talk) 15:43, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
It could be useful to run some kind of analysis of the number of questions on each ref desk per month over some extended period of time, say 3 years, to see whether there really is a significant change over time, and also to see if there is seasonal variation. For example, it's springtime in America, and after a rough winter it's time to relieve the "cabin fever", i.e. to spend more time outide and less time inside. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 09:04, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

A lot of this relates to the unhelpful manner in which many questions are "answered" (or removed etc) and/or how they quickly descend into banter and in-jokes. As IBE notes, the pages have really dropped in quality and are becoming a Wikipedia joke. The Rambling Man (talk) 06:27, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

Extinction_(psychology). (talk) 13:48, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
Understood, Rambling Man, but we also need to look at the positives. We have retained many highly qualified contributors, people like Adam Bishop and Marco polo, and these are just a couple whose replies I notice a lot for their erudition. There are many good contributors, so like I say, we can deal with this. IBE (talk) 15:18, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
This isn't the first lull I've noticed on the misc desk and I'm sure it won't be the last. So I do agree with μηδείς that this is likely partly a blip. If you don't believe me, a check of the archive pages will also show similar lulls. Consider March 19 to March 22 Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Miscellaneous/March 2014. Yet you also see many dates there with lots of questions.
I'm not saying there hasn't been a drop off in questions, I think there has but it's been a long term slide and is best represented by the average number of questions per day over a long period rather than the occasionally lull. (Although the lull does perhaps partially demonstrate the problem. I looked at several months in 2009 - 2011 and the best lull I could find was 3 days of 2 questions per day followed by lots of questions before and after.)
The drop off may be fairly acute in the misc desk but I think also the humanities and science desk have suffered. It will be very difficult to prove any particular reason and I strongly suspect multiple factors are at play. In other words, while we should deal with the problems we have, I don't think making the argument that we should deal with them because the drop of is an indication of the damage these problems are causing is a sound argument.
Still statistics would at least provide a starting point if we do want to discuss the drop. It shouldn't be that hard because of the helpful index pages that scsbot generates (although a small number of them may be broken) but my coding skills are very limited.
Nil Einne (talk) 16:16, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
Sure, probably random variation, with a dose of springtime in the USA as Bugs suggests. On the flip side, isn't final exam season quickly approaching in USA highschools and universities? I'd expect we'd get some boost from that... :Anyway, it never hurts to remind ourselves to be on our best behavior here, e.g. WP:AGF, WP:BITE, etc. People only come here if they expect to actually be helped, and I think there is some truth to TRM's comments above: people get put off if we just use their questions as a jumping-off point to try to show off, speculate, and bicker with each other. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:38, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

Subjectively, the desks seem more hostile and unfriendly than they used to be. It feels like a battleground rather than a learning environment. When I first came here the vibe was "Ask a question about anything! If you make a mistake we'll help you fix it". Now it's more like "Post a question I find interesting which is perfectly wiki-formatted or I'll assume you are a troll and make fun of you, then get you blocked." Obviously those are exaggerations and there are still lots of helpful people here giving great answers to the questions. It just feels to me like the vibe changed a lot and maybe others noticed it too and decided not to participate anymore. (talk) 17:23, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

According to this tool, edits are in minor decline (The tool only goes back 50,000 edits, and I don't feel like figuring out another way to do this. So no data before 2012.)

  • March 2012 - 1841
  • March 2013 - 1181
  • March 2014 - 1054

(As a point of interest, the top posters are StuRat, Medeis, Bugs, and SineBot.) APL (talk) 21:27, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

If Sinebot is a large contributor, that means there are still plenty of new users asking questions. Now, is that all desks, or just the Misc desk? If it's all, is there a way to separate them out by desk? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:47, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
That's just misc. Those are from stats starting 50,000 edits ago on 2011-06-09.
I don't know an easy way to do all the desks together. APL (talk) 21:55, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
I don't want to see all desks together anyway. I want to see them separately, to see if it's just misc or if it's a larger trend. Keep in mind, users might be getting smarter about categories, and might not be using misc as much. But we can't tell unless we can compare with the trends on the other desks. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:00, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
Aside from slaking one's curiosity, where would this research get us? Is there a concern that "they" might shut us down if they perceive we're not of much interest to the world anymore? If so, would we feel compelled to go out into the hyways and bighways and tout for new Ref Desk questions? Maybe pay people to ask questions? Seriously, our focus should not be on the fluctuations in questions, but on keeping the Ref Desk a welcoming and non-bitey place (remember, first impressions not only count, they last forever) where quality assistance is provided to all comers (with the usual caveats). As for the caveats, we seem to be much more caught up in the eternal arguments about medical/legal issues, trolling, hatting, deleting and so on, than on the meat of the questions and the rich gravy we can collectively pour on. Let us return to the feasting tables forthwith. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 22:25, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
We have some editors blaming a "hostile environment" for a reduction in questions. Should we let that accusation stand without any actual evidence, or should we ignore it and just continue to try to keep to the straight and narrow? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:43, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
Just let it go, Bugsy. Whether it can be backed up with evidence or not would make not a jot of difference to the number of questions we get. Unless the plan is to single out certain individuals. In which case, if serious infractions are indeed occurring, let those editors be named with evidence, and let us deal with specific matters. If you go to the police and say that there are too many murders happening these days, they're not going to give you the time of day. But tell them about a particular murder that's happened within their jurisdiction, and they'll sit up and take notice. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 23:43, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
Even forgetting the non-evidenced accusations, wouldn't it be interesting to see what the trends are in the various ref desks? We can't rule out that people are getting smarter about how to find things in Wikipedia and are less likely to ask. Or at least that they might be more inclined to ask at a more specific desk. For example, I can recall a time when the entertainment desk was little-used. It seems to have picked up over time. And it would also be interesting to see if there is, in fact, a seasonal trend. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:08, 17 April 2014 (UTC)
Jack, there's plenty of documentation both here and at various ANI postings that name names. You know that. Several regular contributors have become less active or left the ref desks as a result of the actions of a few other editors here. You can find their comments in the ANI archives too. The Rambling Man (talk) 19:49, 17 April 2014 (UTC)
Jack, it's worth pointing out that hostility on Wikipedia in general is why I don't do much article editing anymore; and hostility on the ref desks is one reason I've cut back on my work on the ref desks also (that, along with not having a lot of free time lately). ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:22, 17 April 2014 (UTC)
Well, that's a completely different matter. Not that it will change anything, but it might help to address the OP's question. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 04:56, 17 April 2014 (UTC)
Precisely. It's a question that, ironically enough, could have been posted on the Misc desk. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:08, 17 April 2014 (UTC)
No, then I would have moved it to the talk page. μηδείς (talk) 17:47, 17 April 2014 (UTC)
See, you can laugh at yourself. The first step to correct a problem is to recognize it. I feel we've had a breakthrough here! --Jayron32 18:53, 17 April 2014 (UTC)
No, I find this endless, evidentially unsupported bullshit tiresome, your present comments patronizing, and unworthy of an admin, and this entire thread a waste of time, except to point out, as Bugs has below, that the language desk is not suffering and that the Bitch... I mean the Talk Desk is a growth industry. I am simply surprised that we have no comments by IP 54 yet. Of course we do have a temporary block of proxies. Forgive me if I refuse to hold a grudge over any of this. μηδείς (talk) 21:46, 17 April 2014 (UTC)
That's ok. It's actually funnier if you weren't joking. APL (talk) 04:44, 18 April 2014 (UTC)
It's fun to laugh at yourself. It's the tonic tried and true. It's fun to look at yourself as other people do. How's your sense of humor? There's a rumor laughter's on its way. :) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:29, 17 April 2014 (UTC)
I ran the stats for the other desks. Math and Computing (which I almost never visit, FYI), as with Misc, are trending a decline in number of edits per month. Likewise with Humanities and Science. Entertainment has been fairly steady, just a slight decline over time. Language is trending upward. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:08, 17 April 2014 (UTC)
I should mention that Jack and I are in the top 5 of total edits on the Language desk, but Medeis is far and away the heaviest contributor to the Language desk... the one desk that's trending upward. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:15, 17 April 2014 (UTC)

Increases to the language desk have resulted from the foreign-language IP who asked four or five questions a day about the correct usage of English. Nothing more than that. The Rambling Man (talk) 07:15, 18 April 2014 (UTC)

Suggested changes for medical advice section[edit]

I've added some suggested changes for the medical advice stuff. People should probably comment there. Here is the link: Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Guidelines/Medical advice IBE (talk) 05:29, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

Tech News here?[edit]

Hi all. See User talk:JackofOz#Tech News and User talk:JackofOz#Tech News: 2014-16. I've been asked by IP if I'd be so kind as to post an edition of Tech News here on his behalf, as the page is temporarily protected and he wants the news to be timely.

Firstly, does anyone have a problem with me doing this as a one-off?

Secondly, the IP is suggesting that such bulletins be regularly posted here for the information of editors. Do we agree that this is a suitable place for them? This is a page for discussing the Reference Desks.

Rather than posting the full details, a link (e.g. [48]) would be more efficient, but may still be out of place.

Cheers. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 19:09, 17 April 2014 (UTC)

What is the justification of posting them here? Is there something on there specifically about the desks? If there is, I seem to have missed it. I have no problem with you posting a one-off question about it, but at first blush I don't really see the point of posting that stuff here. Matt Deres (talk) 03:21, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
Might it have something to do with the recent complaint, on a ref desk, about Wikipedia changing its layout without asking the general readership about it? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:57, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
Maybe but I sort of doubt it. The editor made no such reference when he approached me. I'm thinking it's well-intentioned but this isn't a bulletin board for all manner of news that may happen to interest individual ref deskers. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 05:14, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
In any case, I don't see the harm in posting them. Or is it possible to provide a link? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 10:04, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
See my original post, last sentence. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 23:09, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
OK, yes, but more specifically, I think there should be an icon for it on the ref desk main page - along with handy links to things that get cited frequently here, such as Wiktionary, Wikiquotes, Commons, etc. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:52, 19 April 2014 (UTC)

Refdesk stats[edit]

User:Rhododendrites/refdesk stats

After APL pointed to the Wikipedia Page History Statistics tool in the above thread about a "drop off in questions", I was curious. So I went through the data and compiled some tables in my userspace (they would be a bit much here):

  • Edits by month/year at each desk for 2013 and 2014
  • Total edits on each desk in January-April 2013 and 2014
  • Average monthly edits in 2014 (so far) vs. average monthly edits in 2013

Where applicable, I color-coded comparable figures for increases and decreases (e.g. 01/2014 vs. 01/2013, Jan-Apr total edits in 2014 vs. Jan-Apr total edits in 2013, and 2014 monthly average so far vs. 2013 monthly average).


  • Top 15 contributors for each desk
  • A list of the 19 contributors with 2000+ edits total across all desks

Conclusions: It does appear that there has been a drop in edits generally. Comparing January-April 2013 to January-April 2014, edits fell on all desks but Language, which saw a small increase. The Science and Humanities desks saw the biggest drops, at -39% and -34%, respectively, when comparing the first four months of 2014 and 2013. When comparing the average number of edits per month in 2014 (January-April) to the average number of edits per month in 2013 (January-December), the numbers are less dramatic but still noticeably less. However, regardless of whether or not people are posting more or less, it seems awfully difficult to draw from this data any kind of causal argument. I compiled it just out of curiosity and don't think anyone should use it for anything other than getting a better sense of the refdesk ecosystem. --— Rhododendrites talk |  21:47, 17 April 2014 (UTC)

Consider that the reference desk has existed for well over a decade at this point. As a result, it's a bit hard to project a trend of any kind from only two years worth of data. The original reference desk had an edit history going all the way back to 2002 (possibly 2001), but that page has essentially been lost to history, so it would really be impossible to obtain any meaningful statistics on the desks prior to about 2005. Also, the translcuded archives may have complicated things as well. I suspect that 2013 vs 2014 is just too small a sampling size to draw a statistically valid conclusion. Depending on how much data mining you feel like doing, perhaps 2005 to 2013 would be the most informative. (+)H3N-Protein\Chemist-CO2(-) 11:17, 18 April 2014 (UTC)
Historically, there have been a number of attempts at compiling this sort of data. See (WT:RD/Archive 3, WT:RD/Archive 5, WT:RD/Archive 34, WT:RD/Archive 35, WT:RD/Archive 80). I suspect all of these results could be consolidated onto a single master data set without too much difficultly. (+)H3N-Protein\Chemist-CO2(-) 11:35, 18 April 2014 (UTC)
Interesting, thanks! And to think I've at times considered posting less, lest I be seen as talking too much! A few years ago when I first became active here, there was a talk thread where someone compiled an average number of references per post, per user. Based off of memory, some of our top posters are also top citers, but some of our top posters rarely cite sources... not trying to single anyone out, just a reminder that we should strive for quality of responses, where "quality" on a ref desk is largely correlated with references provided. SemanticMantis (talk) 15:35, 18 April 2014 (UTC)

The self-answering user from Ohio[edit]

This evening has seen a curious thread [49] on the Humanities desk, from an IPv4 user who seems to be based in Columbus, Ohio. Although it's the first contribution from that particular address, a very similar pattern was followed by two threads last week - [50] one here on Language and one on Miscellaneous which has been revdel'ed - which followed the same pattern and related to users' usernames and identities. Those also came from an IPv4 address in Columbus. What exactly is going on here? AlexTiefling (talk) 21:50, 17 April 2014 (UTC)

Someone having a rant, essentially. I suggest one of two approaches: (a) place a Resolved sticker on it but do not otherwise engage him in any way whatsoever; or (b) delete it on the grounds of not being a good faith editor. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 23:26, 17 April 2014 (UTC)