User:MER-C/SmartQuestions

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Here at Wikipedia, we endeavor to treat all newbies with courtesy and respect. Unfortunately, being on the internet, we have to deal with hordes of clueless users on a regular basis. Answering the same stupid questions over and over understandably tests our patience, especially as we are volunteering our free time to curate this encyclopedia.

Editing Wikipedia requires common sense and the ability to think critically. We are willing to assist you in making Wikipedia a credible, scholarly reference work if you are willing to put in the effort to make constructive contributions. Leaving an intelligent comment on a user's talk page goes a long way towards establishing your constructive intent and reaching a solution amicable to both parties. Consequently, there are certain things you can do when contacting established users to help avoid an unpleasant experience.

Use clear, precise and grammatically correct language[edit]

You're editing the English Wikipedia. It goes without saying that English language competency is a prerequisite for contributing effectively. Although we will forgive the occasional typo, spelling or grammatical mistake, we tend to get annoyed and may delete your post if we can't understand what you are saying. In particular:

  • Using text speak is inexcusable. Saving those few keystrokes comes at the cost of giving us the impression that you are a semi-literate bozo incapable of creating encyclopedic content.
  • Don't write in ALL-CAPS; this is called shouting. This makes you look like an attention seeker, so we will promptly ignore you.
  • Be concise; long walls of text will almost certainly be ignored.

You should express yourself such that we can understand your concern(s) with minimal effort. Effort expended deciphering your scrawl yields much less satisfaction than the same amount of effort spent on improving the encyclopedia.

Note: If English is not your first language, please let us know. We will cut a bit more slack and possibly direct you to an administrator who is fluent in both languages. This, however, is not an excuse for being lazy. We can tell the difference between the two. You should also consider contributing to the Wikipedia of your home language.

Demonstrate that you are here to build the encyclopedia[edit]

This also goes without saying. We've got plenty of things to do; it is irritating to deal with useless n00bs who cannot/refuse to tell the difference between an online encyclopedia and (say) a resume service. Note that we don't expect you to get the finer points of what belongs on Wikipedia, such as the distinction between an encyclopedia and a dictionary.

Being new is not an excuse for spewing unencyclopedic bullshit; after all, the prohibition against such crap is made obvious in the title bar of your browser, under the title of the page, under the Wikipedia logo, underneath the edit box and puts the "pedia" in Wikipedia. Quite frankly, if you can't be bothered to treat Wikipedia as an encyclopedia, we can't be bothered writing a useful, non-dismissive reply.

Use the correct terminology. Wiki and Wikipedia are not interchangeable terms -- a wiki is a piece of software that runs on a web server while Wikipedia is a project to build an encyclopedia using a wiki. Consequently, Wikipedia entries are referred to as articles. A profile is promotional and/or social garbage that belongs elsewhere on the internet. Wikipedia articles are created and edited -- a post, more often than not, contains only promotional and/or social garbage.

Demonstrate that you have attempted to solve your problem yourself[edit]

We hate answering stupid questions, especially questions whose answer takes longer to type up than to determine (especially when it comes to rephrasing our answer to not make you look like a doofus). Regarding reversions and deletions, try to find and understand any policy or common sense based reasoning behind them. Relevant information may be found in page histories, page logs and by searching the wiki, especially the "help and project pages". When asking, show us that you have attempted to do these beforehand.

Read the messages on your talk page. We left them there for a reason -- they usually contain information that we believe is useful and relevant to your current situation. If the message on your talk page asks you to cease doing something, it's a pretty good idea that you do exactly that. We also expect you to skim the pages linked to in said messages. We're here to build an encyclopedia, not to read stuff to/with you.

It is advantageous to attempt to resolve disputes before requesting admin attention. This does not apply for obviously disruptive conduct, e.g. vandalism.

Give each new discussion a relevant, unique subject heading[edit]

The subject heading is probably the first thing we will read when we come across your post. As you are a new user, it will help form our first impressions of you. Use the subject heading wisely -- it should provide a concise summary of your problem. Don't include stuff like "HELP ME" or "URGENT", as this is counterproductive and will increase the chance of your message being ignored.

Stupid: link removal help me

Smart: Your removal of the external link [domain name] on [article]

Make sure that people can link to your discussion easily -- don't include special characters such as |, [, ], < or > (unless they are part of wiki formatting) and don't include templates. Finally, be sure that nothing else on the page shares the same heading as yours. Clicking your subject header in the table of contents and ending up at some other discussion is kind of irritating.

Discuss, don't rant[edit]

Discussions involve two (or more) people talking to each other. Dumping your opinion on somebody's talk page in the hope that they'll accept it does not constitute a discussion.

Don't abuse wiki markup[edit]

Using wiki markup to draw undue attention to your post only makes you look pathetically desperate. You will be subsequently ignored and/or written off as hopelessly wrong. In particular, use boldface sparingly and never increase the font size or change the font color.

Provide links to articles and/or diffs when appropriate[edit]

Many editors make hundreds of edits or deletions in a single day. If you wish to discuss a user's edits/actions on a specific article, provide links to said articles or diffs so that we don't get annoyed wasting our time trying to track down which edits/actions you have a problem with. See Wikipedia:Simple diff and link guide on how to make diffs.

Acknowledge that editing Wikipedia is a privilege and not a right[edit]

The only rights you have on Wikipedia are to copy its articles pursuant to the appropriate license and to leave. You do not own the content you add to Wikipedia; it will be edited mercilessly or possibly removed entirely. We do not have the obligation to accept your contributions as not everything belongs in an encyclopedia.

Don't make unreasonable demands[edit]

Wikipedia editors are volunteers, therefore we are not under any obligation to do anything. Unreasonable demands will be ignored.

Be polite and courteous[edit]

In fact, this is Wikipedia policy. Abusing the person who deleted your article in the hope of getting it undeleted is counterproductive and only leads to you being blocked. Allegations of admin abuse are likely true -- it is you who is abusing administrators.

Don't grovel[edit]

Grovelling does nothing to enhance your situation; it only serves to draw attention to your desperate incompetence. This also extends to "I'm new, don't WP:BITE me", because admins already know that guideline and don't need to be reminded of it. Don't waste your time and ours on unnecessary appeals to our altruistic instincts. Describing your problem intelligently is a much better way of drawing our attention.

Use the preview button[edit]

You know, the one next to the "save page" button. Doing this allows you to proofread what you have written, check all the links work, look for obvious wiki markup errors (you should do this, of course) and prevent you from posting poorly formatted gunge. Don't forget to save your work -- only you can see the parsed copy of the discussion above the edit box.

Sign your comments[edit]

When you comment on a talk page, people will want to know who posted it. This information is available through the page history, but retrieving it requires unnecessary effort. And you don't particularly want a bot chasing you around. To sign a comment, type ~~~~, click or on the editing toolbar or click on the four helpfully labelled tildes below the edit box. Make sure the signature appears after your comment -- after all, you don't put your signature at the beginning of a letter.

Don't post the same complaint to multiple talk pages[edit]

Spamming the same rant to many talk pages and noticeboards to increase your chance of getting a successful outcome only alerts us to the realization that you are hopelessly wrong. In Wikipedia jargon, we call this "forum shopping". If multiple editors are undoing your edits, chances are that all of the reversions are for the same reason: what you are doing violates Wikipedia policy. You still only need to ask one editor for the reason behind the reversion.

Don't use the email this user feature unless necessary[edit]

At Wikipedia, we like to deal with things transparently. You are much more likely to get a faster response if you post on the talk page as not every Wikipedian checks his email on a regular basis. There's also the off chance that someone else reading your discussion may learn from it. The email this user feature is designed for stuff that is not for public consumption.

Stupid and intelligent questions: examples[edit]

Suppose I, an administrator, just deleted an article you created and that you want to contest this deletion on my talk page. Most of the time we will write a courteous response but on certain bad days we might accidentally reveal what we are actually thinking when we read:

Stupid: u deeleated my porfile

Go back to primary school and (re)learn to read and write coherent English.

Stupid: HELP ME MY PAGE WAS JUST DELETED. UNDELETE IT NOW

/me contemplates reverting this post, but ignores it instead

Stupid: WHY DID YOU DELETE MY ARTICLE ABOUT [person]????? HE IS TEH COOLEST!!!11!

1) Ow, my ears.
2) Stop shouting. You're speaking too loud for me to understand what you are saying.
3) Oh really?
4) Being unable to distinguish between an encyclopedia and a social networking site is very uncool.

Stupid: Why did you delete my page on wiki?

If you can't be bothered to get the name of the site correct, I can't be bothered responding to your question.

Stupid: Why did you delete my Wikipedia profile?

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Entries in an encyclopedia are called articles. You're probably thinking of Facebook, which is an appropriate dumping ground for the garbage that you just tried to pass off as an encyclopedia article.

Stupid: Why did you delete my Wikipedia article?

1) It's not your Wikipedia article.
2) What article? We delete hundreds of crappy "articles" each day.

Stupid: Why did you delete [resume]?

I wouldn't hire someone who neither reads his posts before submitting them (otherwise they would have noticed the ugly formatting) nor posts his resume on an online encyclopedia.

Stupid: Why did you delete [first person spam page]?

This user has just demonstrated both utter cluelessness and contempt for Wikipedia's goals; this just begs for the banhammer as a response.

Stupid: Why did you delete [article]?

That's what the deletion log is for.

Stupid: It is unfair that you deleted [article].

1) That's not a question.
2) So?
3) We delete all articles on garage bands that nobody's heard of. It is unfair to the millions of other unremarkable garage bands that you get an article on Wikipedia because we turn a blind eye toward our inclusion criteria especially for you.

Stupid: Why did you delete [Article] but not [Article2]?

Chances are that the person who created [Article2] is also a clueless n00b who is oblivious to the purpose of Wikipedia. If that is not the case, then maybe you should have a closer read of [Article2]. [Article2] may contain things you neglected to include in [Article], such as reliable sources, encyclopedic prose, a balanced discussion of the subject matter and reasons why readers should give a rat's arse.

Stupid: [Article] was deleted for being non-notable. What is notability?

Read The Freaking Message on your talk page and/or Search The Freaking Wiki.

Intelligent questions[edit]

Of course, don't just copy and paste these: that only serves to demonstrate how intellectually lazy you are.

Smart: I recently created the article [article], which you deleted because it is a "blatant copyright infringement (CSD G12)". I read the criteria for speedy deletion but I do not understand this criterion. What can I do to rectify this situation?

Now we're getting somewhere. This person may have found a good online resource and thought a copy would be useful in Wikipedia. He has read the deletion log and attempted to comprehend the deletion reason. We appreciate that not everyone understands that plagiarism undermines Wikipedia's scholarly credibility and copying text wholesale puts the project in legal jeopardy, so we will happily explain this.

Of course, if the article is a blatant paste from a company's "about us" page or a blog written in the first person, then we will not be so obliging.

Smart: You deleted an article I created about [person] for not asserting a basis for inclusion. However, I feel that [person] is worthy of inclusion on Wikipedia because [reason that addresses notability criteria]. Please reconsider the deletion.

Smarter: You deleted an article I created about [person] for not asserting a basis for inclusion. However, I have some independent sources about the subject: [1] [2]. Are these sufficient to demonstrate notability? Please reconsider the deletion.

Awesome. This user has understood the reasoning behind the deletion and has directly addressed it. This guy is on the right track to getting his article undeleted, at least for further community consideration at WP:AFD.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

This essay was inspired by Eric Raymond's "How to ask questions the smart way". All the examples in this essay are fictional but are based on prior experience.