User talk:Teratornis/2009 January through June

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19th century pictures of windmills

I noted your interest in the wind turbine photos. Possibly you might have an opinion on Talk:Wind turbine#History photo- which is better for the article?. If not fine, I just wouldn't like the effort expended on retouching the 19th century photo go to waste if it is indeed the better choice I believe it is. Thanks. -J JMesserly (talk) 22:54, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

I may try to squeeze File:Wind turbine 1888 Charles Brush.jpg into Wind power in Ohio. --Teratornis (talk) 09:45, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

We're still in the Dark Ages when it comes to seeing who added text

Your contribution at WP:HD#Embedded lists sounds like a pet peeve of mine: That we have no feature to trace who entered a given text. In other words: We're in the Dark Ages regarding the simple question "who wrote this?". I don't fully understand why it is kept so obscure; particularly with copyright and BLP issues, one would assume that we would want this to be transparent. The only concern I have, which keeps me from promoting this, is that I'm afraid it would be often abused: Instead of, as you propose, using it to connect with a certain editor, people might use it to track down editors that added what they don't like. Especially in disputes, we may face a trade off between engaging people and focusing on content (per WP:FOC). — Sebastian 21:39, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

Does WikiBlame do what you want? See WP:EIW#HistTools. --Teratornis (talk) 05:26, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Cool! Yes, that does the trick. Implemented quite differently from what I had in mind, but with added benefits. — Sebastian 19:13, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

Happy Teratornis' Day!

Featured article star.svg

Teratornis has been identified as an Awesome Wikipedian,
and therefore, I've officially declared today as Teratornis's day!
For being a regular guiding voice at the help desk,
enjoy being the Star of the day, Teratornis!

00:12, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

I've added them to my secret list. Good picks. bibliomaniac15 00:42, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
Congratulations, Mr T, this is really quite an honor! Johnfos (talk) 06:16, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

Thank you

Thanks alot for your great replay on the helpdesk. --Deadly∀ssassin 09:31, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

re: I am wanting to view your database offline and cannot get a clear answer as to how to do it... I appreciate your help and will use your advise. I'm glad there are still people in this world who are happy to help :)

Another barnstar

Barnstar-abc.png The Helping Hand Barnstar
For your excellent reply at Wikipedia:Help desk#Terrible use of general questions or subject criteria.... and use of computer technology... - priceless! ukexpat (talk) 20:42, 8 January 2009 (UTC)


Hi T, thought this one was interesting... [1] Johnfos (talk) 23:07, 19 January 2009 (UTC)

That's interesting. It could be an additional reference for Wind power in Germany#Repowering. An example of where the old turbines end up, after being overhauled in a shop, is: Wind power in Ohio#Great Lakes Science Center. The Vestas V27-225kW wind turbine there was originally from a wind farm in Denmark, which repowered to newer wind turbines. The older turbines are smaller, and therefore more suitable to go on public display, and also for use at schools. See:
The older wind farms in California cry out for new wind turbines, as they have a very cluttered appearance with thousands of older, smaller units chockablock in valleys or on hillsides. Side note: I have not started on List of wind turbines on public display yet because I have gotten sidetracked with creating a page on Commons to be like the Editor's index to Wikipedia.
  • My interest in wind power led me to notice that we didn't have enough wind power photos.
  • I then inventoried what we have by: moving wind power photos from Wikipedia to Commons, uploading more photos from Flickr to Commons, and improving the categorization of these photos on Commons.
  • Figuring out how to use Commons was more difficult than necessary because Commons lacks an Editor's index page. The Editor's index to Wikipedia makes it far easier to look up guidelines, procedures, tools, etc.
I may need a few weeks to finish a first draft of an editor's index to Commons. Basically I'm copying the structure from the Editor's index to Wikipedia, and then adapting the parts that apply on Commons, for example where Commons has a policy or guideline page that corresponds to the page on Wikipedia. That way I can lazily re-use the complex existing structure of the Editor's index without having to re-think the whole thing. There are many correspondences between the internal documentation pages on Wikipedia and on Commons. The main difference seems to be that Wikipedia has a much larger set, so the Commons index will not have to be so large initially. Commons seems generally not as well-developed as the English Wikipedia, so I had to copy the latest {{Shortcut}} template over there to make it work. (The commons:Commons:Help desk is also kind of sad, with too many questions going completely unanswered, in contrast to the Help desk here which answers almost every question quickly. Having an index on Commons will make it easier to answer Help desk questions there.) --Teratornis (talk) 23:30, 19 January 2009 (UTC)

Glad to hear that you are creating a page on Commons to be like the Editor's index to Wikipedia. Am looking forward to List of wind turbines on public display. Johnfos (talk) 00:23, 24 January 2009 (UTC)

I keep finding more and more wind turbines on public display. For example:
From the first Time Factory image page:
  • The turbine also is turning out to be an attraction on its own, Purcell said. "Since we put it up, we've had about 50 people pull into our parking lot and just stare at it," he said.
Of course we need to do something about all that petroleum people are burning up when they drive around to look at wind turbines. Transport in the U.S. is still very, very brown. --Teratornis (talk) 00:34, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Pictures can improve articles. For example, Wind profile power law had no photo, but I realized File:NASA MOD-0 smoke test 1982 05937L.jpg illustrates it nicely. Wind resource assessment currently has no photo, but I have seen some photos of wind measurement towers on NREL and EERE sites; I may eventually upload one. Uploading photos is a lot more tedious than it needs to be. There are far too many steps, copies and pastes, switches between multiple browser tabs, etc. I've tried using a couple of the tools that purport to make it slightly easier, but they are unreliable and flaky. --Teratornis (talk) 01:41, 24 January 2009 (UTC)

Yes, I think a good photo or two can really add a lot to an article. I've also found the uploading process to be tedious, but would like to see this diagram (about combined output of wind and solar) uploaded one day.

I'm not so keen on large galleries of photos, and feel they will probably end up attracting {Too many photos} tags... Johnfos (talk) 23:10, 25 January 2009 (UTC)

Adding photos is harder than adding text, so I would be surprised to see the photo volume getting generally ahead of the text volume on Wikipedia. (For example, how many new articles have you created, and how many photos have you uploaded? There are more people adding text than photos in the topic area of energy, I think.) But if we get "too many" photos, Commons allows for creating an almost unlimited number of gallery pages and categories, which we can then link from Wikipedia articles with the {{Commons}} and {{Commonscat}} templates. For example, commons:Wind power could expand into more gallery pages for individual wind farms, countries, manufacturers, wind turbine types, etc. It's only a question of more users finding their way to Commons and figuring out what to do. I think the more (useful) wind power images we have, the more things people will find to do with them.
I agree that we need more diagrams, such as a diagram showing global oil discoveries and global oil extraction by year. I would also like to make a free version of a diagram like this:
Someday I should seriously try to learn Inkscape and some plotting tools on WP:HCGWA. Wikipedia is even shorter on diagrams than photos. --Teratornis (talk) 01:19, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

FAQ shortcuts

There is a discussion at Wikipedia talk:FAQ Index#SHortcut overload. PrimeHunter (talk) 00:35, 22 January 2009 (UTC)

work on help desk

Hey Teratornis, I appreciate your help on the sterile reverts - really nice of ya to take the time. Talked to a couple admins, most seem to think it's kind of an "in crowd" kind slang for reverting an edit without leaving an edit summary or follow up on talk page. No biggie, and I appreciate your efforts! — Ched (talk) 00:13, 1 February 2009 (UTC)

Another mystery solved but unfortunately not by your trusty HotForWords (she'd make the Help desk, or just about anything, a whole lot more interesting I think). Not really related, but check out the Editor's index which directly or indirectly answers almost every question about Wikipedia that has an answer in writing (but not for "sterile revert" it seems). I'm working on an Editor's index for Wikimedia Commons because they don't have one yet over there. --Teratornis (talk) 06:27, 1 February 2009 (UTC)


Hi Teratornis. I have been wondering about whether I should say something about this to you. I am worried that sometimes you are not civil on Wikipedia. There are the more obvious cases I have seen on the Help desk and other editors have pointed that out to you, but perhaps what bothers me most is your long rants. By this I mean long off-topic comments. The civility page "in a nutshell" mentions participating in a "considerate way", and I think long comments, and/or ranting comments are not considerate.

I can go through your contributions and provide diffs, but I am hesitant to do so unless you acknowledge there could be a problem and that you are willing to improve. And actually I am afraid (not a good thing surely) to post diffs because I think you may write a long comment concetrating on the specific diffs instead of engaging in conversation about the general problem I perceive.

I think if you want to express views over and over again, for example I see you mentioning the Turing test a lot, perhaps a way to deal with that is to create a userspace essay and link to it from your userpage (actually you already do this). Also, a way to control long comments is to commit to never having the longest comment in discussion thread thus far. For example if a discussion has 5 comments and longest comment in 4 lines long, then your comment should not exceed 4 lines. Obviously this is just a rule of thumb.--Commander Keane (talk) 05:32, 6 February 2009 (UTC)

Thank you for your comments. I welcome criticism, and I expect my critics can take as well as they give. Responding point by point, to the extent that I can given your puzzling vagueness:
  • I have read WP:CIVIL and WP:BITE. I think it is "civil" to tell people what they need to know, not just what they have thus far managed to become aware that they need to know. If someone were to ask how to build an improvised explosive device, should we stay on-topic and just tell them how to build it? Or might we want to digress a bit into some of the potential consequences of playing with bombs? On Wikipedia, any new user who wants to write a new article must know that Wikipedia deletes tens of thousands of articles by new users just like them. I think this is the most important thing a new user can know about Wikipedia. New users never ask for this information because they have no clue about it - most new users are probably not even aware that deletion is a possibility, because Wikipedia tries hard to hide this dirty big secret from new users. Do you think warning people about dangers they don't know about is "off-topic"? I don't. I'm reminded of a soliloquy from the movie Apocalypse Now, in which the protagonist muses about the military maintaining its rules of decorum while simultaneously burning people alive with napalm. I have never deleted anyone's article on Wikipedia. I hesitate even to remove minor contributions made by other editors in good faith. I feel sorry for new users who get suckered by Wikipedia's phony welcome into wasting hours of their time as they edit articles that violate unintuitive policies and guidelines they never heard of. Whenever I get a chance, I warn new users against creating new articles until they are sure their articles will have a chance to survive. I rank myself above all deletionists on the civility scale. Do you agree? If not, explain your reasoning.
    • If someone could feel bothered by something I write, how will that person react when their first article they spent hours laboring over comes up for deletion?
    • Wikipedia gravely insults one billion Muslims. Do you care about their feelings? Last I checked, nothing I have written caused angry mobs to burn down embassies. Many Muslims feel deeply insulted by Wikipedia's insistence on publishing depictions of Muhammad, especially these highly disparaging ones. Evidently this does not violate Wikipedia's definition of "civility." It's not only OK for Wikipedia to trample on the most sacred beliefs of one billion people, we are actually proud to do this. I see some irony here.
  • You don't like my "rants." I don't like pejorative labels substituting for logical analysis. If I made some factual error, or some invalid logical inference, point it out. What you call a "rant" I call expository writing. All my truth claims are amenable to refutation. I care about your feelings as much as Wikipedia cares about the feelings of one billion Muslims - not much. I only care about what is true. Show me where I wrote something which is not true.
  • Of course I am always interested in improving. My definition of "improve" means to make my truth claims closer to the real truth. The real truth really bothers lots of people, so that would make me less popular with people who oppose truth for one reason or another. As Robert Ringer wrote, if we ignore reality, it automatically works against us.
  • When I answer a question, I'm responding to the person who asked the question, not to someone else, although occasionally other people have told me they have learned from something I wrote. Thus I would be more interested in complaints from the people I was actually responding to. Do you have some evidence that something I wrote was counterproductive to the person I wrote it to? Bear in mind that I'm often trying to inform new users of how hostile and uncaring Wikipedia is, if they happen to fall into one of the groups of people we like to kick around (such as new users who create new articles before they have read all the manuals, and Muslims who don't want to see drawings of Muhammed, etc.).
  • It's not necessary for anyone to be perfect on the Help desk every time. In many cases, the questions are so vague that we are only guessing at what the questioners want. People are getting help for free, so if any fraction greater than zero of the questions get decent replies, that's great. The more people we have who are writing more replies, and longer and more detailed replies, the greater our chances of guessing what the questioners are really after. If people were paying $100/hour for their help, then they would have some grounds to complain about the quality. But I think the quality on Wikipedia's Help desk is better than any other technical support provider I have seen, professional or volunteer.
  • Length - I write a lot because there's a lot to say and I don't have time to write less. More specifically, there is lots of faulty thinking to address. Such as your apparent belief that meta-considerations of length matter more than content. If I write some truth that wasn't already obvious to the person I was addressing, then I think I accomplished something. I don't think we can ever have too much truth, any more than we can have too much money.
  • Your comment above is rather long. It's longer, for example, than the strange example you gave of four lines. How does the length of someone else's answer have any bearing on the number of facts I want to state? I don't limit myself according to anyone else's capability to think or write, and I don't expect anyone else to limit themselves according to what I do. Wikipedia is the largest encyclopedia ever written, and it doubles in size every two years or so. If people feel bothered by lots of writing, why are they here? Wikipedia is a paradise for literate people; why would any other kind of person be here? We might dumb down the Help desk, but we cannot dumb down Wikipedia. What the new user needs to learn about Wikipedia to have any chance of participating productively is vastly longer and more complex than anything I write. Wikipedia's manuals might outweigh everything I have written in my entire life.
    • To the extent I repeat myself, it is because the questions on the Help desk endlessly repeat. Wave after wave of new users ask variations on the same questions over and over. Almost none of them have read How to Ask Questions the Smart Way and they unknowingly violate its guidelines, quite possibly crippling their ability to get solutions to their problems. Thousands will continue to make the same mistakes and we will delete their articles with sadistic pleasure.
    • I fully agree that it's better to abstract out the repetition into essays and link them. You are correct that I have made some progress in that direction, but obviously not enough yet. You could help me with this - you could dredge through my collected works and summarize all my ideas for me. I'm serious here. You could write an outline of my "rants" and that might help me realize what I need to put into essays.
      • I really should get going on my counter-essay to WP:CREEP which I believe is possibly the most ill-conceived guideline on Wikipedia. Unlike WP:CIVIL and WP:BITE which mostly reflect a stunning lack of self-awareness and empathy as we delete articles, insult Muslims, and provide sexually explicit articles and images to children, WP:CREEP harms the project by discouraging people from codifying all the instructions they actually follow. Note for example the shortage of step-by-step tutorials for beginners. Instead we expect beginners to slog through the relatively compact general instructions and from them infer the exact procedures they should follow for every specific situation.
  • If you don't like reading my replies, why read them? Other users enjoy reading (some of) them; check out my barnstar page. I cannot please everybody; I'm like Wikipedia that way. Does Wikipedia make everybody happy? Lots of people hate our project (e.g., the folks who started Conservapedia think we are a leftist/British/gay conspiracy or something). I write the facts as I see them, because I enjoy writing. If you think I made a factual error somewhere, or I wrote something that was objectively irrelevant to some questioner's question, feel free to point it out and provide evidence to support your claim. I don't care about anyone's opinion, I care about the facts. I'm not running for office or trying to win a popularity contest, so I don't need to compromise any truth just because it bothers someone.
  • Many people who ask questions on the Help desk probably won't stay on Wikipedia long. Thus I don't sweat it too much when I see someone else answering a question in a way I consider rude. To survive on Wikipedia, a new user needs to be tough enough to take a little heat. What will happen to a hypersensitive individual when someone deletes or reverts their contributions? Wikipedia is not a support group. We are not singing Kum Ba Yah. We are not all things to all people. We don't have to be, because Wikipedia works extremely well for the editors it was designed to serve - people like you and me. Both of us figured out what we needed to do to get through our beginner difficulties. Everything a new user needs to know is in writing. It's all right there for anyone who cares to read it. Virtually every answer we provide on the Help desk is straight out of the manuals. If people could RTFM, we almost wouldn't need a Help desk (except to report server problems and bugs that aren't documented yet). I think the most important message we can get across to people is: Everything you need to know is in the manuals. Until a person grasps that, they aren't likely to succeed on Wikipedia. Reading the manuals is faster than asking 5000 questions on the Help desk to learn everything one question at a time. I had an advantage when I came to Wikipedia because I had previously learned many different computer systems by reading manuals, and Wikipedia has the best manuals I have seen in any computer system of any kind.
--Teratornis (talk) 10:35, 6 February 2009 (UTC)
You are capable of excellent Help desk answers, I should have mentioned that before. You often make excellent points in discussions, but I feel it would be better make those points more concisely. It is challenging to write a concise reply. You mentioned not getting complaints, would it be ok to set up a page, say User:Teratornis/Discussion complaints linked from your userpage, where I or anyone could list criticism in hope that it will be constructive? Certainly I can reciprocate this idea for my userspace if you wish. As a side note, I find your views, on new users' article deletions for example, cynical, negative, and not representing the common view. I personally am strongly for a flagged revisions implementation, but I don't push this view in every discussion I can, in fact this is the first time I have ever mentioned it - as an example of disruptive behaviour.--Commander Keane (talk) 11:41, 6 February 2009 (UTC)
I am not so sure about the User:Teratornis/Discussion complaints idea, but I just had another thought: since you welcome criticism how about you ask a couple of Help desk regulars "Is there anyway I could improve my responses?". You could also ask someone you regularly frequents your article talk page area (wind power for example) as my civility comments apply to all discussions.--Commander Keane (talk) 02:15, 7 February 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for your comments. I appreciate the feedback, even though I argue with most of it. User:Teratornis/Discussion complaints sounds like a great idea, although I'm not sure how the Help desk "regulars" would provide better feedback than the Help desk questioners - I'm not trying to help the Help desk regulars after all. Do the regulars know better than the questioners what's good for the questioners? If so, I think that smacks a bit of elitism, not that elitism is always bad. I'm all for criticism - the more the better. That doesn't mean I am any more likely to change my mind on something than anyone else is - how often does anyone change anyone else's mind on anything? How often do you change your mind? In my experience with online debate, which has been substantial, I haven't seen many people who can give their entrenched opponents much more than a slight nudge. But I will certainly listen, and evaluate according to the rules of logic and evidence. If nothing else, I need to know what effect my words are having on people, so I can be sure I am having the effect I want to have (bearing in mind the impossibility of pleasing everyone). The kind of complaint that I find least compelling is the purely feelings-based stuff, particularly when it smacks of wishful thinking. Notice that you haven't even tried to challenge my views on new article creation by new users on any sort of factual basis - do you have a concept of testing your beliefs against the facts? My position is simply that Wikipedia's treatment of new users who want to create new articles is as cynical and negative as I make it sound - and what I write about it is the common view of anyone who asks: Why was my article deleted? Like you, I wish that Wikipedia was nice and friendly and intuitive and welcoming and easy to figure out. For some people it is, and for some people it isn't. I don't think any reasonable person could deny that we have a serious problem. Look at the scale: Deletionpedia shows about 63,434 pages which have been deleted from the English-language Wikipedia. Deletionpedia is selective - it only shows a small sample of our carnage. If you think everything on Wikipedia is happy happy joy joy, I think you need to broaden your view a bit. Don't focus solely on the small fraction of users like you and me who figured out what to do, also look at the hordes who come here to crash and burn. That sample of 64,000+ articles represents a lot of good-faith effort by more people than I will ever personally meet and get to know - but I want to apologize to each and every one of them for Wikipedia's high-handed insensitivity to them. I think the scale of Wikipedia's ongoing deletion-fest is an unmitigated disaster, the very opposite of what a "charitable organization" should be about, and I find it offensive that much of the Wikipedia community seems to want to whitewash this mess rather than get serious about fixing it. To give a real world example, how about those horrible fires in Australia. What is the rational way to respond to such a disaster? Put on a happy face and try to squelch any warnings to the potential victims of the next disastrous fire? Or should we try to warn the people in harm's way? My inclination is to warn people, even if telling the truth makes me sound "cynical" and "negative" (yes, let's play shoot the messenger). If someone feels better getting angry at me, and I spare them the ordeal of wasting hours of their time on a futile exercise, and I motivate them to read a few more manuals to get some idea of what they are doing, I'd say I made a positive contribution. Are you familiar with the way the National Transportation Safety Board works? They have helped make commercial air travel almost unbelievably safe, because they relentlessly investigate and identify every factor that led to a crash, and then they change the system to make further crashes by the same mechanisms less likely. Wikipedia needs to regard article deletion like airplane crashes, something we cannot accept having any of. Every time an article "crashes," we should examine the reasons, and see if we can change our system to prevent further crashes, without reducing the ability of "passengers" to "travel" with reasonable convenience. We need to figure out what is giving tens of thousands of new users mistaken ideas about what sort of articles they should create here. If airplanes started dropping out of the sky, there would be a reason. People would try to discover the reason, and they wouldn't worry about sounding cynical or negative, and they wouldn't mind embarrassing those responsible.
I haven't looked into flagged revisions in detail yet, but it shouldn't be hard to improve on our current system of late intervention. For centuries people have known that an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. If Wikipedia is going to intervene in the editing attempts of new users (for example, by deleting their articles), then the sooner we intervene, the less harm will result for everyone. --Teratornis (talk) 22:18, 8 February 2009 (UTC)
In other words, when a brand-new user tries to create a new article for the first time, would it really be so horrible to require the new user to discuss what he or she wants to do with a more experienced user, who could provide some guidance? At a bare minimum, we should at least display a notice telling the new user the statistical odds of a first new article getting deleted as a function of the user's edit count at the time of new article creation. To do that, we would have to record the fate of articles as a function of their creators' experience. --Teratornis (talk) 20:44, 9 February 2009 (UTC)


You're not an admin, something that Wikipedia always needs more of. And it looks like you'd be interested. And that others have inquired, and not gotten around to nominating you. Anyway, I'd like to put this on my "to do" list (I've got a conference on Wednesday that I've got to prepare for, so next week at the earliest), if you're willing - maybe "third time is the charm"? -- John Broughton (♫♫) 16:56, 8 February 2009 (UTC)

I'm flattered that you'd like to join the list of people who think I should be an admin. As you can see from the user subpage you linked, I haven't exactly pursued it with burning ambition. A couple of users have said they'll nominate me, eventually. From what I gather, prospective administrators should not appear too eager. If Wikipedia needs me to be an admin, I'll be happy to let the community decide. But so far, I haven't run into many situations where not having the tools handicaps my editing much, so I haven't tried to hurry the process. If you want to give it a shove, I can't think of many users much better suited to make the shove convincing. --Teratornis (talk) 22:25, 8 February 2009 (UTC)
By the way, I made my first draft of the Editor's index to Commons live. It still needs further work and cleaning, but it's usable and better than nothing. It's interesting to see how the index changes when it goes over to Commons. --Teratornis (talk) 22:30, 8 February 2009 (UTC)::
I suspect I've participated more at Wikipedia talk:Requests for adminship than you have, which may account for my slightly different take on the matter. That you have a couple of places where you would use admin tools is - in my opinion - enough to justify giving you (if others agree) the mop. I'll talk to the others who mentioned the idea (if they're still active) about a co-nomination. One promise I'd like to get from you ahead of time, if I could: if for some reason the community decides not to approve adminship at your first nomination (which isn't conclusive; I've seen lots and lots of cases where a second or third nomination succeeds, provided some time - say, at least six months - has elapsed and whatever valid objections were raised have been addressed), I'd like you to commit to continuing the same level of participation here and at Commons (all other things being equal; I understand that real life can interfere). In other words, I don't want to risk losing you as a participant because you might feel that the community has misjudged you in your RfA.
Regarding the Editor's index to Commons, I saw that - nice job, I thought. I've taken the liberty of adding a link at commons:Help:Contents, so it gets some attention. (Too bad that Commons doesn't have the built-in link (on History pages) to the tool that lists page views for any given Wikipedia page; it would be nice to easily know how many views the new index is getting.) -- John Broughton (♫♫) 19:14, 9 February 2009 (UTC)
My level of participation depends on many variables, not the least of which is my personal interest, and that of course is subject to change at any time. Lately I've gotten interested in the topic of energy, and there is enough work to do on Wikipedia's energy articles to keep a small army of people busy for the rest of their lives, so I don't anticipate running out of interesting things I'd like to do here, but real life is always hanging out there trying to assert itself. (Another factor is whether I can contribute in some way that nobody else does. If I have nothing unique to contribute, then objectively it doesn't matter whether I contribute - my only contribution would be to make the inevitable arrive somewhat sooner.) So I really can't guarantee any level of future involvement. It's hard for me to predict how I might react to a failed RfA - my reaction would probably depend on the reasons people gave for opposing. If the opposition hinged on some narrow technical ground that doesn't affect my ongoing editing interests, then I imagine once I got over the stinging sensation I'd continue as before. On the other hand, if the nature of the opposition reveals something about Wikipedia I hadn't learned yet, and I find it seriously troubling, then I can't really predict how I would process it. How I would react to a failed RfA would depend on how surprising the result turns out to be. A surprise, by definition, is something we can't predict, so I can't really predict how I would react. I think I have a pretty thick skin, so I wouldn't be a drama queen about it. But if I see some deep philosophical disconnect between myself and Wikipedia, that would give me pause. This would be distinct from a question of thinking I had been "misjudged." I would actually feel less bothered if I thought people misjudged me, than if I thought they had accurately assessed what I'm about and decided Wikipedia is about something different. But this is all hypothetical so I'm not sure if we can write anything meaningful about the outcome before we see it. I'm just saying I can't promise any continued level of participation, whether or not we have an RfA, and I can't even predict the factors that might affect my participation. However, I think most of my motivation is internal. Garnering praise doesn't increase my motivation much, and attracting criticism doesn't reduce it much either. I've always been driven more by my own ideas than by the applause. Innovators and original thinkers always face opposition - if the day ever comes when nobody opposes me, I will know I am failing to innovate. Hasn't happened yet. --Teratornis (talk) 21:12, 9 February 2009 (UTC)
Okay, fair enough. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 14:49, 10 February 2009 (UTC)
The fact that you asked this question suggests you think it is possible I could fail an RfA. If you are aware of any vulnerabilities I should address, then I think I should address them before going further. Was your question purely hypothetical, or do you anticipate some problems? I don't think anyone is 100% ready to become an administrator, because only administrators have the tools to practice the things administrators need to know. But some people are in better position than others. If you can think of any glaring vulnerabilities before going in, we'd better have them out on the table. --Teratornis (talk) 22:00, 10 February 2009 (UTC)
Fortunately, the standard for admin isn't "perfection", or Wikipedia wouldn't have many admins; it's just hard to guess, sometimes, what will turn out to be an issue for those commenting at an RfA. So my question was mostly hypothetical; not 100%, because of the section of your user talk page immediately above this one. My strong inclination is to just go ahead with the RfA; that will provide new data, and then you can decide what to change, if anything, should (though I do think it unlikely) you not succeed on your first try. My bottom line - and I think it's what most editors are focused on - is whether a candidate is trustworthy; even any issue about lack of experience (I think you're fine) really comes down to not providing enough grist for editors to be able to judge trustworthyness. And I do trust you; I think you'd be a fine admin because you reason things through, don't take things personally, don't have an axe to grind, and do your best to figure out what other editors are really trying to say. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 22:12, 12 February 2009 (UTC)
Well, (like some others) I've taken liberties on the Help desk, but when I get the occasional objection, it doesn't usually seem to come equipped with facts. Rather, it seems that some fact I wrote made someone else uncomfortable, and we should instead let newbies learn such facts the hard way. It's easy to see why this occurs; if someone acknowledges some harsh reality about Wikipedia, it's out there in writing to provide a messenger for people to shoot; whereas if we simply delete the newbie's article, there is no highly visible expression of the newbie's anguish for others to contemplate. If I make a factual error, of course I acknowledge and correct it, but I'll never be comfortable with the idea that we should prevaricate, no matter how discomforting someone finds the truth. Wikipedia is robust enough to survive the disappointment we create in hundreds of thousands of users by deleting their articles; surely Wikipedia can handle having someone articulate facts about it. Prevaricating is pointless anyway because everybody who continues to edit here is going to discover what it feels like to have their work "mercilessly edited." I think part of being civil is giving people the most accurate information, rather than some sort of sanitized public relations spin. I also don't think we need to beg people to join Wikipedia - the size and popularity of Wikipedia guarantee plenty of motivated newcomers. It's like the way Simon Cowell can afford to be honest with all the contestants on American Idol - because he knows there are thousands more waiting in line behind them. Only a tiny fraction of people who make a few edits on Wikipedia go on to become substantial contributors, and those who stick around must have determination and a thick skin. --Teratornis (talk) 01:36, 13 February 2009 (UTC)

(undent) Speaking of imperfect admins, what do you make of WP:BITCH? --Teratornis (talk) 01:44, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

Sorry, missed it (it's gone now).
On a different subject, I've been ill (flu) for most of the past two weeks; didn't want you to think I'd forgotten the above discussion. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 00:39, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear about your illness. Which reminds me, I neglected to get a flu shot this year. In previous years, that has been the best $30 investment I've ever made. A negligible price for avoiding a week or two of misery, not to mention the possibility of death, as the flu kills 30,000 people per year in the U.S. But evidently as we get older the efficacy declines. Oh well, I guess nobody lives forever.
The page I tried to link to is still in Google's cache. The page was User:MZMcBride/Don't be a whiny bitch with the text:
  • You win some, you lose some. But there's no need to beat the dead horse and there's really no reason to be a whiny bitch. So please refrain from being one.
I don't find the message offensive, but it is not helpful because it doesn't teach the reader how to craft better arguments. The page should have directed the reader to: Critical thinking, List of fallacies, and List of cognitive biases, three pages that introduce the raw material of effective argument. --Teratornis (talk) 01:29, 5 March 2009 (UTC)
  • I wish to add that I'm ready to promptly move on the idea, in partnership with John Broughton -- Yellowdesk (talk) 21:44, 2 March 2009 (UTC)
OK then. I guess it's time for the drama to begin. Will I bias sentiment against myself if I point out that jargon terms like "the mop" (particularly when unlinked) are an undesirable instance of synonym creep, a phenomenon which increases the accidental complexity of Wikipedia, thus making the place unnecessarily harder for new users to learn? --Teratornis (talk) 01:29, 5 March 2009 (UTC)
I think anything you say is fine, since it ultimately represents your actual views. And I think it's fair to say the culture of the RFA page understands the term in its many conotations; I admit I think the term misdirects attention from the genuine authority that comes with administrator-ship. If it were not important, then why is there a review like the RFA? Anyhow, JB has put his draft nomination text beside mine. How about we all improve all of our texts through Sunday, March 15, and either I or JB start the RFA item, on Monday or so; you can at your leisure add your own contributions, I believe, pending the fated moment of arrival to the public RFA page. -- Yellowdesk (talk) 01:05, 12 March 2009 (UTC)
Sounds fine to me. I'll work on putting my parts in. I left a note for User:Tanthalas39 who also offered to nominate me. He may weigh in on User:Yellowdesk/rfa. I have also wondered about the attempt to downplay the status implications of adminship. Clearly the successful candidate has to have favorably impressed dozens of users by demonstrating competence and knowledge of Wikipedia's internal workings, and avoided cultivating too many enemies. I can't imagine there is an administrator who doesn't view it as an honor. But I can also see the need to downplay the position so as to (maybe) reduce the chance of naive young newbies developing target fixation. And incidentally, you mentioned that I have helped hundreds of users on the Help desk. I actually have over 4000 edits on the Help desk now, and while I sometimes make more than one edit to a given question, it is possible that I have helped over 1000 distinct users. I'm not sure if I have helped more than 2000 distinct users, so it might not be correct to say I have helped "thousands." Then again, the Help desk gets about 1000 views per day, so it's possible some of my edits have helped more than the person I was addressing. But on the other hand, some of my edits may not have helped anyone, so "hundreds" would be conservative. --Teratornis (talk) 08:58, 12 March 2009 (UTC)
  • Today I looked at the guidance for how to technically do the nomination, at Wikipedia:Requests_for_adminship/nominate. It appears that that the nominee is instructed to make the item public, once the nominators have gotten their part going. I have the impression, confirmed by inspection of several other RFAs, that the edit history comes with the transclusion. So it looks like a good idea to each individually add our contributions in order over at the official location. - Yellowdesk (talk) 12:40, 12 March 2009 (UTC)
I am glad I stumbled across this conversation. I just wanted to say that I look forward to your nomination going live and will be happy to add my support at that time. Your answers at the Help Desk are almost always the most thorough replies and you never fail to present a welcoming attitude. Best of luck. TNXMan 23:34, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
Also, your nominators may find this link of use. TNXMan 23:35, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the link. The other counter I was using before seems to have stopped working reliably, and when it did work, it only used the most recent 50,000 edits from the Help desk history, which doesn't go back very far in time. I appreciate the well wishes, but I hope luck plays no significant role in deciding who becomes an administrator, so I'll take that as being idiomatic. --Teratornis (talk) 06:59, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
Wikipedia:Requests for adminship/nominate#Warnings has the somewhat ambiguous sentence:
  • Make sure co-nominators are handled before transclusion.
I guess that means I must wait for John Broughton to add his co-nomination to Wikipedia:Requests for adminship/Teratornis before I do step 4 (the transclusion) in Wikipedia:Requests for adminship/nominate#What to do if you are nominated by someone else. But I can do everything up to that. --Teratornis (talk) 06:59, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
  • Your take on the guidance seems to be the same interpretation I have. -- Yellowdesk (talk) 12:13, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
So basically the Wikipedia:Requests for adminship/Teratornis subpage acts as our collective scratchpad for as long as we need, and when it is ready I will make it live. I suppose if any of us were familiar with this process, we would have started with that page rather than User:Yellowdesk/rfa, since there doesn't seem to be any penalty for having the proper Requests for adminship subpage around for a while before releasing it. --Teratornis (talk) 18:17, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
  • I guess we each will have the advantage of knowing what's possible for our next collective opportunity like this, now that the need to know has informed us a bit more fully. It shows us that JB is not an admin, a potential candidate if he's interested. -- Yellowdesk (talk) 01:11, 17 March 2009 (UTC)
He was not interested at this time:
Now that I've seen the process, which is a little bit of a hassle, I can understand John's reluctance. However, PrimeHunter's RfA indicates why all the serious Help desk helpers should probably try to become admins. --Teratornis (talk) 03:47, 17 March 2009 (UTC)
I've added my co-nomination; back to you.
And regarding my trying to become an admin - while I'd be honored to be one, and don't have any particular concerns about my past edits (well, there was the summer of 2006, when I used ALL CAPITALS plus words like STUPID, but I was actually trying to HELP the guy, and besides that was more than two years ago ...), the reason that I've declined being nominated is that I haven't yet become interested in doing anything that requires admin powers. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 15:03, 17 March 2009 (UTC)
Finally, regarding Tanthalas39, when I asked him in early March 2009 about being a co-nominator, he declined; my read is that his response wasn't about the nomination per se, but rather that he had decided to stop participating in the parts of Wikipedia that he found very irritating. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 15:15, 17 March 2009 (UTC)
I note with some puzzlement the less than ringing endorsement of administratorship from two out of the three people who urged me to pursue it. --Teratornis (talk) 15:22, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm not sure who the two are; in my opinion, neither the disgruntled admin who seems to find the RfA process irritating nor I (who isn't going to be a candidate because I don't need the tools) are saying anything negative about adminship per se. The candidacy process is another matter; there are a large number of people (myself included) who think that it is somewhat broken (I base that on the decrease in the number of candidates each year, as well as the worsening ratio of successful to unsuccessful candidates, among other things).
To summarize: (a) You're well qualified; (b) you have a much better than a 50% chance of succeeding (in my view); (c) going through the RfA process will give you some more insights into Wikipedia; (d) if by some small chance you don't succeed, you can decide whether any comments are worth addressing in the next four or five months; if you do address them, you're almost 100% guaranteed to be successful the second time; alternatively, you can decide that you don't want to be bothered again and can continue to do non-admin stuff; (e) you're more valuable to Wikipedia as an admin than as a non-admin; and (f) being an admin opens up some new opportunities for learning and for reducing some of the routine stuff you do (specifically, asking an admin to help). In short, I wouldn't be nominating you if I didn't think that it was a good idea. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 18:54, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
I agree with all you are saying. I just find it a little curious that you don't want to be an administrator. How many people have thought it would be a good idea for you to become one? Probably more people than have suggested the idea to me. Whatever arguments would apply to me, surely there are comparable arguments for you. I don't really have a huge need for the tools to meet my own needs, I'm more interested in helping the project, and as you say, Wikipedia needs more qualified administrators. When I move an image to Commons, I burden an administrator slightly, but I doubt it takes more than a few seconds to OK my move if they recognize me as a "trusted" user - if that were a tremendous burden for administrators, I suspect someone would think of a way to streamline the process. The biggest bottleneck seems to be grappling with CommonsHelper, which is better than nothing but not as efficient as it might be for bulk moves, made harder by the lack of a standard format for images pages on Wikipedia. Anyway, I'll get around to finishing up my application either tonight or tomorrow and throw it to the wolves. We're having some amazingly nice weather after what has been a rather dismal winter and I must go outside. --Teratornis (talk) 21:56, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

(undent) Good (that you're enjoying the weather, and that you're going to do this thing). And, really, I would nominate myself (or poke around for nominators; I've gotten a couple of emails over the years) if I had anything resembling a good answer to the "What administrative work do you intend to take part in" question. But I can't (honestly) offer anything, or even that I'd go looking for some (because I'm quite happy with the non-admin work that I'm doing). At most, I suppose that I could block people myself rather than going to WP:AIV the dozen or so times per year that I post there, which really isn't a good answer. (And no, I wouldn't have offered to nominate you if I wasn't satisfied that your answer to Q1 was acceptable; yes, being an admin at the Help desk is quite useful.) -- John Broughton (♫♫) 01:29, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

OK, I finally got around to submitting my request for adminship. I hope I did not screw anything up. --Teratornis (talk) 03:24, 26 March 2009 (UTC)


More about the Editor's index to Commons:

  • I plan to keep tweaking it as I use it to answer questions on Commons Help desk. After all, an index is a question-answering tool, so its effectiveness is in how well it answers the questions real users have. I use the Editor's index to Wikipedia to answer questions on Wikipedia's Help desk, and I've edited the index in the course of answering Help desk questions with it. Not the least of which was to add anchors and shortcuts to index entries that answer questions from real users. The Editor's index to Commons does not yet embed that kind of real-world usage (except to the extent that I copied parts of the structure from the Wikipedia version). But it will.
    • When I first looked at the Commons Help desk, I noticed a disturbingly large fraction of questions got no replies at all. The Help desk over there lacks the level of participation we enjoy on the Wikipedia Help desk, and lacks some of the tools:
  • I imagine interest in the index will build slowly on Commons. After all, Commons got along for years without such an index. If lots of people had felt a burning need for an index, they would have created one already. I think as more people see it, they will recognize its value, and usage will spread in an organic way.
  • I don't see an obvious tool to count the page views for the index (and even the tool you mention shows only the counts for the previous month), but we can count the backlinks (commons:Special:Whatlinkshere/Commons:Editor's index to Commons). When I people we haven't personally appealed to start linking to the index, we will know it is catching on.
  • If we wanted to push it harder, we might add a link to commons:Template:Welcome. I haven't been in a hurry to advertise, as I'm still polishing the index. There are still some areas where it is less than ideal for answering tough questions from the Help desk, such as copyright, licensing, and the mechanics of uploading. The basic links are there, but they aren't organized or annotated well enough, and I'm sure there are additional relevant documents on Commons I have not yet found. Also, I need to edit a version of the /About page.
  • Odd tidbit: while I was checking the shortcut links and anchors in the Commons index, I noticed some were broken. I had ported them in broken form from the index on Wikipedia, so I fixed them in both indices.

--Teratornis (talk) 23:11, 9 February 2009 (UTC)

Yes, I think Commons is much less well-developed than the English Wikipedia; I'm sure that the vast majority of editors there are solely interested in uploading files. And Commons is less collaborative than Wikipedia; editors only "work together" in a few circumstances: when they add categories to the files of others, when they work together on nominating things like featured pictures, and when they help clean up/improve a file uploaded by someone else. (If you will, a photographer is very different from a writer.)
If lots of people had felt a burning need for an index, they would have created one already. I'm not so sure that this follows; I was surprised to find that nothing similar to an index existed at Wikipedia before I started working on one (though, also surprising, a couple of other language Wikipedias did have indexes before I started on the English one). In any case, I think it was a great idea by you to jumpstart the process by porting over the index from Wikipedia, with a lot of cleanup by you.
If we wanted to push it harder, we might add a link to commons:Template:Welcome. I'd argue against this; the welcoming template is for new editors, while (I tend to see) the index as being for more experienced editors. It could be useful for new editors if the entries were much more annotated than they are now; as it is now (at least in the English Wikipedia), you often need to check a couple of places to find what you're looking for.
even the tool you mention shows only the counts for the previous month - that's the default, but you can change the month so that it shows counts for a different month. (In general, I wish that page counts and article assessments were integrated into Wikipedia reports - special pages - and category pages and software-generated details about pages. If we do care a lot that more viewed articles be of better quality - and I think we should, then we need information to act on that.) -- John Broughton (♫♫) 14:49, 10 February 2009 (UTC)
  • Graphic collaboration: it doesn't really exist yet, since the unit of information is the media file, unlike text where the unit of information is the character. SVG files might someday allow for collaborative graphics, but that would be a lot harder to implement than collaborative text editing, and that would probably be only a niche application anyway. However, there is scope for collaborative work in the area of collecting and organizing media files, for example uploading freely-licensed photos from Flickr and the German Federal Archives. And of course documenting the internal workings of Commons works the same as on Wikipedia, via collaborative text editing. But Commons is more specialized than Wikipedia and may never have the same scale of collaborative involvement.
  • Feeling a burning need for something that doesn't yet exist is distinct from being able to recognize the value of something, once having become sufficiently familiar with it. I'm sure lots of people can see the value in an Editor's index once they look at it, but far fewer people would articulate the clear need for an index before it exists. Commons is usable without an index, which means all the heavy users must have, by one way or another, managed to find the information they need. Whatever problem the index solves, there must be other existing ways to solve it. Commons users have adapted to not having an index, just as in the world before cellphones, everyone had adapted to not having cellphones. Before cellphones existed, how many people experienced a burning need for them? Probably fewer than the number of people who eventually bought cellphones after they became available and well-known. Even when people found themselves in a situation where a cellphone would have been handy, they might not have had any concept of "cellphone" about which to feel a need. Commons users would only need an index when they are trying to do something they haven't done before. Over time, as these situations come up, more users will probably stumble across the index and see value in it. But this process can be surprisingly slow, as I learned here:
  • In light of the above, I think a link to the index would add value to a welcome template. Those templates already link to far more information than any new user can immediately digest. When I was learning Wikipedia, I referred back to the welcome template on my user talk page periodically for weeks or maybe even months, as I gradually plowed through all the friendly manuals it linked to. I would have benefited from a link to the Editor's index, if the index had existed at the time.
    • Side thought: we have welcome templates for new users; how about follow-up templates to send to users who hit edit-count milestones? For example, when a user gets to 100 edits, 500 edits, etc., that would indicate serious interest in Wikipedia, and the ability to withstand some more advanced information. We could have a series of progressively more-advanced welcome templates to send to users as they accumulate more experience.
  • Probably everyone who is serious about Wikipedia wants more statistics about it. For example, I would like to know the percentage of articles that get deleted as a function of the edit counts of the article creators at the time when they created the articles. If it turns out, say, that Wikipedia eventually deletes 90% of articles by users who have 10 or fewer edits at the time of article creation, then Wikipedia might want to reconsider the amount of encouragement it (perhaps inadvertently) gives new users to create new articles. At a very minimum, when someone creates their first new article, we should insure they are aware of the statistical odds that their article will get deleted. The data might show that the rate of article deletion declines as a function of the creators' edit counts. Perhaps by the time a user reaches some fairly high number of edits, say 1000, the odds of their new articles getting deleted will have dropped to an "acceptable" level. I don't know what the exact numbers are, but I'm pretty sure we need to know them. If it turns out that below a certain edit count, creating a new article is a suicide mission for a new editor, we might want to rethink our currently permissive (and non-actively-informative) approach. Rather than prevent anyone from doing something, we might want to require at-risk editors to discuss their plans with an experienced user before plowing ahead. I don't think Wikipedia helps itself or anyone else by deleting so many articles, which results from treating all editors as if they are highly experienced.
--Teratornis (talk) 21:54, 10 February 2009 (UTC)
  • I think it's difficult to know how one would have felt encountering something earlier in life than actually occurred. I suspect that if I'd had EIW pointed out to me after my first dozen or so edits, I simply would have been overwhelmed by all the strangeness. You could well be different here; if so, I suspect I'm more the norm than you are.
  • Which is why I do agree that at some point in, be that 200 or 500 edits, it's worth a note on a user talk page that offers a new set of links. A couple that occur to me, in addition to EIW (though that might be best saved for the next level of experience) would be User:Suggestbot, WikiProjects, the village pump, the Singpost, and Wikipedia:Service awards.
    • In fact, the last of these could be the basis for a series of welcome templates.
    • It's not at all clear, however, how to find editors who have reached certain edit count thresholds. Once a list existed, it would be simple to get a bot to do the template posting, of course. The lists that have been published all have a threshold - several thousand edits - for the sake of shortness, but presumably the person who created the list could provide one with a cutoff of 100 or 200 or 500 edits.
  • Regarding Commons, you know a lot more about it than I do, so I'll defer to you with regards to linking to the index from the standard welcoming template. If this is done, however, I'd again suggest that more annotation of the entries would be a good thing. In EIW, I chose *not* to spend the time doing this, because of the large number of entries and because there are advantages in conciseness if one is generally familiar with a subject matter - an expert is mostly interested in something that helps with recall (or, in this case, the right link), while a novice needs enough context for recognition of relevancy.
  • Regarding statistics, yes, I think that these would be fascinating. (For registered editors with 10 or less edits, what percentage of articlespace edits are reverted, for example?) Or, to make this actionable: In an ideal world, an editor might be able to get a "recent edits" page that lists (say) the 100 edits that have existed (unreverted) for at least 5 minutes (and, say, less than 60 minutes) and have the highest probability of being bad, based solely on editor history, the type of article involved (e.g., bio of living person), and perhaps other article-related things such as page views, quality classification, age of the article, and recent editing intensity. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 22:47, 12 February 2009 (UTC)
  • It's hard for me to imagine exactly how I would have reacted to the Editor's index as a brand-new Wikipedia user. However, my background in writing and reading computer manuals has conditioned me to expect an index to accompany any sizable written work - a manual without an index is seriously deficient, in my opinion. I couldn't have digested the EIW on a first reading of course (indeed, I still haven't completely digested it, and it keeps growing), but I'm fairly sure I would have noted it for future reference. Whenever I tackle a new computer system, I first try to find the manuals, the FAQ, the index, and the search tools. Most Web sites tend to accumulate content before they accumulate tools to search and index the content. As far as my normality, I'm certainly not normal with respect to the general population, but the general population does not edit Wikipedia. Instead Wikipedia appeals to people who can self-educate. I suspect I'm not terribly unusual on Wikipedia. Who could get far on Wikipedia if they were frightened of very large manuals? We can't exactly look over the cubicle divider to see what the next guy is doing. But I suppose a lot would depend on a user's previous experience with other do it yourself computer systems that one has to learn by reading manuals in addition to trying things.
    • However, it might be a waste of time to tell every brand-new user about the index, when only some small percentage will stick around long enough to reach 100, 500, or 1000 edits. Someone who is only going to dabble briefly and lose interest (which would be a majority of new users on Wikipedia, but maybe Commons tends to attract users who already have Wikipedia experience) is unlikely to get much out of the index.
  • It hadn't occurred to me that triggering events by users' edit counts would be a problem. Commons has a bot that somehow knows when a user makes edit number one. I unconsciously assumed there was nothing special about the first edit, but I have no idea.
  • I'm not an expert on Commons yet, I just started playing with it in November, 2008, but that hasn't stopped me from attempting to answer questions on the Help desk, which was a bit forlorn when I first looked at it, with lots of questions getting no answers at all. (Other users have had to correct a few of my early mistakes.) I'm certainly learning more about copyright law than I ever wanted to - there are a lot more ways to break it than I realized. By the time I get the index in decent shape there, I should know my way around pretty well, at least in the English portion. I'm getting the idea that to truly become an expert on Commons, one would need to know at least three of the major languages.
  • On statistics: just to complicate things a bit, I think the proper unit of "time" on Wikipedia would actually be the "edit" or the "page view." If I edit some article that hardly anybody views, one year of clock time might be equal to only ten minutes of clock time on, say, the Barack Obama article. A proper measure of the durability of an edit would have to account not just for how long the edit survives in clock time, but how many subsequent viewers and editors it survives. --Teratornis (talk) 00:21, 13 February 2009 (UTC)
  • My guess on the Commons welcoming bot was that it simply read the recent edits feed, and for each user, checked whether there were any prior edits (on the Special:Contributions page); if not, it posted a welcome message. But I now suspect it uses Special:Contributions, with the URL including "&contribs=newbie" (there is a checkbox), rather than recent changes. (Still, it has to check if the edit was the first; "new contributor" does not mean "first edit".)
  • Using Special:Contributions to figure out if a template message is do might work at Wikipedia: for each recent edit, open the Special:Contributions page with the number of revisions set to a particular number (100, 200, 500) and see if the "older NN" link is functional or not. The problem, I'd guess, is doing this a couple hundred thousand times per day (wouldn't do it for IP addresses or bots, but there are still a lot of edits by registered editors) is a lot of CPU usage. Plus if the bot probes for different contribution levels, there could be two or more Special pages - essentially reports - being generated, on average, per edit. (Commons, by contrast, has less than a 1000 edits per day by "new contributors", so volume isn't a big deal.)
  • Alternatively, the bot could just call for the edit count, via the toolserver. Still, that's a couple hundred thousand toolserver calls per day.
  • Another approach is to be deliberately sloppy about this - say, check only every 20th recent edit, and keep a log (page) of who had gotten a bot posting. That way, if the bot finds (say) that something is the 112th edit of user XYZ, and has no entry for XYZ getting the standard "100th edit template", the bot would go ahead and post that, and record the posting in its log. That would reduce the volume by (in this example) 95%.
  • And I do agree that a better unit of "time" here at Wikipedia would be the page view, as in "vandalism lasts, on average, 1.4 page views"). -- John Broughton (♫♫) 16:38, 13 February 2009 (UTC)


Thanks for turning my attention (on HelpDesk) to your tips for teachers. AEG English4994 (talk) 12:48, 16 February 2009 (UTC)AEG English4994

You're welcome. If you have any comments or criticisms, please leave them on User talk:Teratornis/Tips for teachers. The essay will benefit with some feedback from teachers who have used Wikipedia or another wiki in school projects, or taught courses in wiki editing. My only experience with Wikipedia has been as a do it yourself system - I have only been a self-taught editor, and I have only interacted with other self-taught editors who managed to survive the sink-or-swim approach. (I did some extensive cleaning-up in the Panicum virgatum article after a class of students had gone through, but they were no longer around for me to interact with.) Wikipedia contains everything it needs to support people who are sufficiently motivated to self-educate. However, that approach would probably give uneven results, to say the least, if applied to an arbitrary group of students. The English Wikipedia currently has 26,411,634 registered user accounts, but probably fewer than 100,000 of them have gone on to attain the level of editing competence students would need to produce a worthwhile result. (I'm merely speculating here, and the required level of skill would depend on the goal you have in mind.) The English Wikipedia gets away with a low success rate because it recruits editors from the vast population of English speakers. Only a small percentage of the hordes of dabblers we attract have to get very far, and they are enough. However, in a class setting, you would want more than one or two students to make worthwhile edits, so that would require structuring the introduction and verifying the students had learned each lesson. It sounds like an interesting problem, one that hasn't gotten a lot of attention here. The Wikipedia community consists of do-it-yourselfers, so naturally they cater to others who are like themselves, and they may actually have some difficulty relating to people who can't just read the manuals and figure things out. --Teratornis (talk) 20:40, 16 February 2009 (UTC)


I just came across Oil_megaprojects#Application_to_oil_supply_forecasting. Seems it's actually being used by off-wiki websites! I'm going to try to improve it's poor/total-lack-of sourcing but was wondering if you would have a look when you get a chance. NJGW (talk) 06:22, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

I think a lot of people look to Wikipedia for information on the energy problem. The topic is so complex that it's hard to understand from the typical jumbled mess of Web sites out there. Nobody organizes complex information as well as Wikipedia does. I see people quoting from Wikipedia articles on energy topics all over the place. Occasionally I even recognize something I wrote. I don't have a lot of specific information handy about oil megaprojects, but I'll keep a look out. --Teratornis (talk) 23:25, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Thanks. My concern really came from this page, which underscores the OR nature of the WP Megaprojects Taskforce. I don't mind the good information on Wikipedia (as you well know), but I'm afraid that efforts like this can weaken WP's credibility (as does any OR). NJGW (talk) 23:34, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
At first glance I don't see any obvious problems. Is there some data which is not true, or not verifiable? As long as this "task force" (I prefer the term "committee" unless there really are capital ships and escort vessels involved) is following Wikipedia's rules, that's all that matters. That is, we can judge any edit on its own merits without respect to whatever off-wiki machinations may have led to it. This has to be the case because Wikipedia allows anyone to edit without even registering under a pseudonym. I don't see how a "task force" is inherently any more suspicious than an anonymous editor. If anything, a "task force" would be less suspicious than someone who hides their identity, because we have some idea who is involved and what their motives might be. Also, when it comes to Wikipedia's rules, The Constitution is not a suicide pact. When the world as a whole enters into oil depletion, we may long for the days when the credibility of Wikipedia seemed like a burning concern. --Teratornis (talk) 01:42, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

re: Help Desk

Oh I agree 100% on this secret/hidden page issue. I've posted several places in defense of their pages and such. I mean really, it's not like it's gonna chew up disk space or bandwidth. Especially if they're also contributing to mainspace. I know there's few admins too that have a "It's my wiki, and I am going to protect it" attitude. It takes the whole WP:OWN thing to a new level. Now I'll admit, for the most part, someone says ArbCom, and I'm outta here - but I will speak my mind, and say the pages should stay. Bad enough to post em for MfD, but when one or two individuals just go through with the admin delete button - it's pretty obvious they don't understand what the mop is for. I suspect this one's gonna get a lot messier before it gets resolved though. Just following a couple threads at the AN boards for the last couple days suggests that "It's ON". Honestly, these young editors who are starting out with their game pages, are getting a feel for the wiki-markup - and they are the future editors of Wikipedia.

I don't blame that one at the help desk for snapping at me, I understand he's upset - but if he would have just checked his talk page, he'd have seen he got a copy of the page back. I doubt he even bothered to read through the links and threads before he went off like that. But, the wiki will be here tomorrow and the next day - should be an interesting thread to follow. — Ched (talk) 22:58, 23 February 2009 (UTC)

I have nothing against having detailed rules for content (Instruction creep? We can never have too many instructions! As long as we distinguish between accidental and essential complexity). What irks me is the seeming mind-blindness of people who fail to grasp the important distinction between:
  • Having rules
  • Ensuring that people become aware of the rules before they waste hours of their time unwittingly violating them
That is, I'm dismayed by admins who think that when they know a rule, everybody else automatically knows it too. They don't seem to realize we have a rather important missing link: some mechanism to convey the rules to people before they violate them. Instead we have reactive rather than proactive enforcement, like surgeons who lack even the concept of preventive medicine and instead use amputation as the cure-all.
In other words, I don't think we can discuss the rules without simultaneously discussing how we are going to get the rules to the people who need to know about them, if we want to make any sense. Did you read the opening pages of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when the Vogon constructor fleet shows up to demolition planet Earth? That passage perfectly captures the deletionist philosophy when enforced reactively (as is now the standard procedure).
It would be interesting to do a study to determine how much Wikipedia users know about Wikipedia. That is, of the 26,411,634 registered users who are still alive and distinct, what percentage are aware of the various Wikipedia policies and guidelines? I wouldn't be surprised if the study results were even more appalling than those surveys to probe the general ignorance of geography, with questions such as "Name three countries in Africa" which only a tiny fraction of respondents can answer. In particular, we need to know the level of Wikipedia knowledge of the users who are creating new pages.
Before a person can (legally) operate a motor vehicle in any civilized country, that person must first pass a test to show that he or she is at least aware that there are traffic laws. On Wikipedia, in contrast, we don't require anybody to demonstrate any proficiency with our rules before opening an edit window and typing away. The initial feedback from the software is all positive - it faithfully renders your wikitext, just the way you typed it, and when you save, it dutifully logs your edits. Interacting with Wikipedia gives the new user the impression that all conditions are go. But then hours or days or weeks later, a human gets around to checking it, and pow! Then it's all about ignorance of the law is no excuse. --Teratornis (talk) 23:51, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Wow - you have an excellent command of the English language, and a true gift of communication! Mostly, I've seen your work on the help desk, and that venue doesn't do your abilities justice. I suspect you could convince me to change political affiliations .. lol. Anyway, yes, I agree with you - you've even mentioned some points I had not considered. I hope you don't mind, but I've bookmarked your space as a user who can improve things - I'm hoping that you might be receptive to reviewing some of my edits, and improving them, down the road. — Ched (talk) 02:40, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
Command of the English language - now that would be fun. I could walk into a room and every word would snap to attention! I'd say "At ease, men" and then launch into my George C. Scott soliloquy, sternly warning my words of how they can expect to see their faces turned into goo by the enemy, but then they'll know what to do. I'd be sure to work in the insightful bit about how no son of a bitch ever won a war by dying for his country; he won the war by making the enemy son of a bitch die for his country.
I can't recall convincing anyone of anything that they didn't already at least lean in the direction of believing before I weighed in. (Political affiliation? How about something with recognizable consequences: could I convince you to live car-free?) The human brain is an amazingly perverse filtering device. This is why we have war, by the way. The only way to resolve some disagreements is with high-velocity depleted uranium. (A YouTube video demonstrates a modern Gatling gun laying waste to some countryside; someone left the comment: "One of these could solve a lot of my problems.") In addition to being perverse, opinions are also diverse - see just above where I'm taken to task for writing too much on the Help desk. It's a good thing I basically ignore all feedback - imagine how insane a person could go by trying to take it all seriously.
But all seriousness aside, if you are actually asking for criticism, you came to the right place. Few things give me joy like finding fault. If more people sought criticism, the world might be less screwed up. Well, maybe not, but I would be more fulfilled.
You bookmarked my space - oh noes! I'm trying to imagine how someone could type a bunch of stuff on a highly visible public Web site, and then get upset when someone bookmarks it. Nope, just can't get my head around that. --Teratornis (talk) 05:40, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

List of statues.

Hello Teratornis, thank you for your answer. I will follow your suggestion of contacting the page uploader, though at the moment there's some sort of bug (also on it.wikipedia) and the page history function doesn't work. Will try later. The fact is that I'd like to make the italian page of "Spring Temple Buddha" and I want to give a correct location for it. Greetings, --Gabodon (talk) 22:31, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

OK. --Teratornis (talk) 07:22, 3 March 2009 (UTC)

Thank you!

Thank you for taking the time to address my question about modifying the Wikipedia:IPA table. You were, of course, correct, and I was able to complete the edit. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Minetruly (talkcontribs) 23:06, 1 March 2009 (UTC)

That's good to hear. I was about 99% sure my answer was right, but you never know until you try the actual edit. Wikipedia can be surprising now and then. --Teratornis (talk) 07:21, 3 March 2009 (UTC)

Worth saving

I know this is a lot of text. Perhaps there's a better way to do this.

In several cases some really worthwhile discussions on the Help Desk have been put where people can see them more easily.

Here's one that deserves such treatment. Sorry about the spacing problems. The text looks perfectly normal in the box and I don't know why it does that.Vchimpanzee · talk · contributions · 20:52, 9 March 2009 (UTC)

I agree that the whole business of deleting information from Wikipedia is

an ergonomic catastrophe for anyone who finds that information useful; this is just another manifestation of one of the [[World Wide Web]]'s most glaring flaws: link rot. I too have been victimized, repeatedly, by searching for useful information I was certain I had seen before on Wikipedia, only to find that it wasn't there when I looked for it later. (In some cases, I knew the information had been there at one time because I put it there.) However, a basic rule of life is that one gets (at most) what one pays for, and one is not paying for Wikipedia. (Even if you donate money to the Wikimedia Foundation, you are not purchasing a guarantee that you will receive any particular service, nor that Wikipedia will function according to any of your expectations, whether your expectations are naive or well-founded.)

In general, entrusting one's fate to distant strangers yields decidedly mixed

results, whether the distant stranger is named Bill Gates, Jimbo Wales, or any other survival machine for a bundle of selfish genes. The people who run Wikipedia cannot satisfy everyone. Indeed, judging from the endless edit wars around here, the people who run Wikipedia cannot always satisfy themselves. (Peruse the [[User:John Broughton/Editor's Index to Wikipedia|staggeringly complex policies and guidelines]] and ask yourself, what are the odds that any two people can read all that stuff and come to exactly the same conclusion about what is going on here? Wikipedia is probably beyond human comprehension at this point, and when humans cannot comprehend something that matters, plan B is generally to fight about it.) Therefore, if you need something that Wikipedia is not, for example if you need a reliable information appliance to augment your personal memory, you might get better results by building or buying your own.

For example, I would like to have a Web browser that automatically

archives a snapshot of everything I view, and indexes the snapshot copies for later searching. Merely archiving the list of URLs I have visited is insufficient, because content could change or vanish by the time I need to find it again (i.e., link rot). The latest version of Google Desktop might do something like what I want, but I cannot tell from the Wikipedia article whether Google Desktop indexes a snapshot of the actual content I view for later retrieval from my own local copy, or merely directs me later to URLs which might no longer exist. (I'm also a bit disappointed with the quality and depth of documentation that accompanies the Google products I have tried, especially now that I have seen the light of wikis and I expect to be able to correct and add to the documents I rely on. Every day I see more to persuade me that everything which is not a wiki is doomed to suck.)

Projects like the Internet Archive are another response to link rot.
Just to spice things up, here's a question to ponder: does Wikipedia's

current zeal for deleting articles (to the tune of some 2,000 articles per day) violate the DRM clause of the GFDL? According to [[GFDL#Overly broad DRM clause]], the GFDL (which governs Wikipedia's content) contains this interesting clause:

  • You may not use technical measures to obstruct or control the reading or

further copying of the copies you make or distribute.

When someone deletes a portion of an article, the content is still available

in the article history, so that would still satisfy the GFDL. Contemporary Search engines generally can no longer see it (article histories descend into the abyss called the Deep Web, which may be searchable in the future), but technically the content is still "there." However, when a Wikipedia administrator deletes an article altogether, whose content had been released under the GFDL by the original author(s), now the general public can no longer see the article history. Wikipedia administrators have arguably used "technical measures to obstruct" "the reading or further copying" of the article. Note: I'm not suggesting Richard Stallman would agree that his DRM clause to applies to Wikipedia's article deletions, merely that his wording raises the distinct possibility.

I don't have a quarrel with Wikipedia deleting whatever content it doesn't

want to host, but I would like to see Wikipedia behaving a bit more charitably about it. (After all, Wikipedia is a a US-registered 501(c)(3) [[wikimedia:Deductibility of donations|tax-deductible]] nonprofit charity, and charities don't normally go around destroying things that significant numbers of people value.) Specifically, I would like to see Wikipedia making good-faith efforts to outplace deleted articles with other wikis. Of course nothing happens on Wikipedia unless somebody volunteers to do it, and finding happy homes for deleted articles is more work than simply deleting them, so I'm not saying it would be easy for Wikipedia to show respect to its contributors who haven't read and understood all the rules. But it would be nice if we had some efficient mechanism to identify those deleted articles which would be welcome on other wikis, and outplace them there. And maybe someday I'll do something more than just whine about it (I've made a few outplacement recommendations for specific articles, but that's just a drop in the ocean of deletions). --Teratornis 14:06, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

@ Teratornis: My but indeed you do have views. Your essay is

exceptional, I'd urge you save it to your user space so others could link to it, but then there's no guarantee you'd choose to leave it there ;). In all seriousness though, I agree with most of your very cogent and compelling observations, but I do take exception: I'm not sure if you were being entirely facetious with your analysis of the DRM clause. It's questionable, since such an expansive interpretation of "technical measures" would preclude even the most obvious and necessary kinds of routine maintenance that just happened to cause, as a side effect, the inability to access content for even a millisecond.

Moreover, once WP deletes content, it is arguably no longer a "distributor"

of that content, and I am not aware of any clause in the license that requires a licensee to agree to play the role of "distributor" in perpetuity, nor any clause that prohibits a licensee from destroying "copies" that are under its exclusive lawful control and ownership. Additionally, as I am certain you realize, the clause is intended to preclude Copy protection schemes and the like, and it is difficult to imagine a practical scenario where a judge or attorney would consider it rational and strategically advantageous to forward the expanded "technical measures" definition as plausible and non-frivolous. Anyway, with that aside, great essay. dr.ef.tymac 14:48, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

Indeed I do have views, which I generously share with all who make the

mistake of listening, and I am steadfast in my views right up to the second that I delete them. While I am fairly sure, as I mentioned, that the original intent of the DRM clause was not meant to apply to Wikipedia's penchant for deleting articles, in the interest of further hairsplitting (a day without hairsplitting is like a day without sunshine) I should point out that when Wikipedia "deletes" an article, it still retains a copy of the article and its history for distribution to the administrators, which would seem to weaken your argument that Wikipedia is no longer a "distributor" of that content. The whole point of Digital Rights Management, in my imperfect notion of it, is to ration access to information. That is, DRM is a mechanism for allowing some people to see the information while preventing others from seeing it, and I don't see how else to characterize Wikipedia's current mechanism for article deletion (those with administrator rights can see it; everyone else cannot). Another point to consider is that Wikipedia per se is not the author of the content it deletes; Wikipedia is merely a distributor of that content. Perhaps the authors of deleted content ought to be entitled at least to some sort of notification, if not access to archival copies in case they want to recover their contributions and publish them elsewhere according to their GFDL rights. Do contributors actually have any GFDL rights? Was it Stallman's intent that the GFDL should favor a distributor over an author? I don't claim to know the answers, but I enjoy raising the questions. (What if Microsoft was encouraging people to contribute content, and then deleting it? Would we be so quick to excuse that?)

It may be difficult to imagine the various practical scenarios employed by

attorneys every business day, but even a superficial scan of some recent patents and court cases suggests that the legal system is under no obligation to restrict its activities to those imaginable by a rational person. What is possible via the legal system seems more a function of a litigant's budget than our common sense. (For example, it is possible for lawyers to create an illegal number. Or looking farther back in time, consider the history of slavery and the many court rulings upholding it.) Granted, I don't see anyone ponying up for a legal dream team to challenge Wikipedia under the DRM clause for deleting an article, but I think the prudent course would be to at least consider how much resentment may be building as a result of those 2000 article deletions per day (with not even a weak proactive attempt to insure the original contributors are aware of what can effectively become star chamber proceedings or have been given minimal advice about how to recover their work and publish it elsewhere). The real tragedy is that there are [[List of wikis|thousands of wikis]] begging for content and here is Wikipedia deleting any number of articles that could work on them. A possibly large fraction of deleted articles were contributed by users who are new to wiki editing; many may not even be aware that there are other wikis besides Wikipedia. I'd like to figure out some way to close that information gap. What fraction of WP:AFD proceedings contain even minimal attempts to search WikiIndex for alternative places to publish content up for deletion here? --Teratornis 16:26, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

I'm not sure why you are pasting this content into my talk page. The spacing is messed up because somehow all the lines have hard-returns at around 70 characters. I'm pretty sure I did not format the original text that way. If you want to create a page containing excerpts of my Help desk posts, you could make a user subpage. It could either be in my userspace or yours, I wouldn't have any preference. Naturally I tend to agree that my writing is brilliant, so I did enjoy reading it again, despite the line-wrap problem. --Teratornis (talk) 21:45, 9 March 2009 (UTC)

IP edits, a quick message of support

I just wanted to say, I was reading through the whole most recent discussion of allowing IP edits, and I read this:

"it's a "perennial issue" because anonymous vandals are a perennial problem. If the people who voted in favor of maintaining the current policy will take it upon themselves to manually edit out all the vandalism, then I will accept the policy. But I have seen lots of anonymous vandalism that had been sitting around for a while, waiting for someone like me to fix it. Evidently the proponents of the no-registration policy are unable or unwilling to handle all the unnecessary work their policy generates. The "perennial issue" keeps coming up because editor after editor wonders why they have to keep wasting their time editing out the anonymous vandalism. Basically these editors are asking, "Why do you have this policy that forces me to do unnecessary unpleasant work?" Of course an issue will keep coming up as long as one group of people is generating external costs for another group."

Absolutely spot on, I just wanted to show my complete support for such an accurate statement. The way things currently stand, in my opinion, is absurd: requiring registration would still allow -anyone- to edit wikipedia, but the vandalism would be cut massively. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of harmful edits are from IP users, and the vast majority of IP edits are harmful ones. Granted, they do sometimes contribute something worthwhile, but if they wish to do so they can simply register. Most vandal edits occur because someone looks something up on wikipedia and thinks "Hur hur, I can edit this myself!". Most of them wouldn't be bothered to register to do so, and I don't see that it would cut helpful changes one bit (especially since most of the good contribs from IP edits are things others would add soon enough anyway or, as I say, the IP users could add when they register). I do a lot of edits to band genres, trying to constructively improve things by using sources rather than relying on the constant POV bickering that goes on all the time, and I see -countless- frustrating examples of IP users looking up their favourite band, and instantly changing the genre to suit their POV. It's just annoying, and one of wikipedia's biggest flaws. Phew, anyway, thanks. Prophaniti (talk) 18:08, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

I have jotted some notes at User:Teratornis/Should editors be logged-in users? but they need updating, because both my thinking about the question and the "facts on the ground" are evolving.
Another annoyance with frequently-vandalized articles (such as Wind power, where I've fallen victim a few times): the MediaWiki sofware does not automatically remind you to check the article history for signs of vandalism before you start to edit. When an article is long, and you don't re-read the whole thing every time you want to edit a section, you might end up editing a section while uncorrected vandalism exists in another section. Having legitimate edits after vandal edits prevents efficient use of the rollback feature. It would be nice if the rollback feature could work on individual sections, as long as later edits to an article have not touched that section.
Think of how many experienced editors get tired of the vandalism and leave Wikipedia in disgust. That is another hidden cost of allowing unregistered edits, a cost that proponents of the policy studiously ignore. Then there is the question of credibility. Imagine someone who is genuinely expert and eminent in some field, a person who is seriously accomplished. What will that person think when he or she contributes some brilliant prose to Wikipedia, and upon showing it to his or her equally accomplished peers, has to explain why the page has suddenly been blanked and replaced with some typical juvenile nonsense involving bodily functions and gay incest? People who achieve something in life do so by finding some method to associate with other high achievers and screen out the mass of mediocrity. At some point in their climb to success, they had to realize they could only succeed by excluding people who do nothing more than waste their time - the type of people that Fred Brooks called "negatively productive". (Each hour of work put in by a negatively productive worker forces a productive worker to spend more than one hour cleaning up the mess. However, even if the productive workers can clean the mess in less than one hour of their time, negatively productive workers can undermine productive workers by sheer numbers. On Wikipedia there are tens of millions of total users, but perhaps fewer than 100,000 with a solid understanding of the site rules.) Wikipedia, at least in rhetoric, attempts to put all users on an equal footing, to flatten hierarchy or perhaps eliminate it altogether. It's a good thing this doesn't completely occur, or else it would doom the project. Wikipedia, like every successful social system, does in fact have ways to promote competence while sanctioning incompetence, and hierarchies inevitably form (because they must!), but the ease with which vandals can waste the time of competent users is extremely visible and (I am convinced) must surely make a bad early impression on many of the users who are highly successful in real life.
I've pointed out before that the "anyone can edit" rhetoric is progressively becoming an idealistic slogan rather than a true reflection, because Wikipedia steadily erodes the rights of unregistered users. In the early days of Wikipedia, unregistered users could do anything that registered users can do, but in response to vandalism attacks such as the Seigenthaler incident, unregistered users gradually lose their editing rights. The progression is monotone decreasing: as time goes on, unregistered editors only lose more of their original rights, they don't regain them. In addition, Wikipedia's substantial anti-vandalism industry keeps inventing ever-more clever and sensitive tools to identify and monitor vandals, which is effectively the same as reducing their freedom. When an instance of vandalism persists for only a few seconds, the vandal is effectively less free to edit Wikipedia (and see the edits stick) than he would be if the vandalism would hang around for days, long enough for the vandal to boast to his friends. If Wikipedia's technology evolves to the point where vandalism gets instantly identified and corrected, that will be effectively the same as requiring every user to register and prove their good faith before being allowed to edit. This raises the obvious question: why not just require every user to register and prove their good faith? Wouldn't that be more efficient than building a gigantic police-state apparatus for detecting and reverting vandalism?
I'm happy to report that sanity seems to be taking hold on the German Wikipedia, perhaps because the various language Wikipedias function with a degree of autonomy and are therefore less bound by the original wishful thinking. (I call it "wishful thinking" because it is not empirical thinking based on scientific data, and in fact seems to be opposed to testing.) The German Wikipedia either is, or will be, testing the new Flagged revisions extension (see WP:EIW#Stable). Although I have not studied the extension in detail yet, maybe it is another big reduction in the freedom of unregistered editors to damage the project, more or less the functional equivalent of simply requiring users to register and prove their good faith, while perhaps allowing Jimbo to believe he is still true to his core guiding principle of allowing anyone to edit without registering. (An amusing analogy to technical virginity comes to mind.) --Teratornis (talk) 20:18, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

missing manual

folks are gonna start thinking that John is paying you residuals on the book ... lol. just kidding with you - it really is a very good writing. — Ched ~ (yes?) 05:54, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

Disclosure: I was actually the technical reviewer for the book, and John incorporated some of my suggestions. I did get paid a small amount of cash money for reviewing it, which when divided by the number of hours I spent reading and commenting wouldn't have justified outsourcing the task to Bangalore. (But it was more than we get for answering questions on the Help desk.) I don't get anything for sales of the dead tree edition, and nobody gets anything when people look at the free online version. I agree it is a good book, because I got my chance to critique it. You can be sure I held nothing back. --Teratornis (talk) 08:07, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

Plant wiki and oldest animal

Hi Teratornis, thanks for the referral to Plants, hopefully a great switchgrass article is on the way. The Australia Zoo seems to have had some false advertising, stating that Harriet was the oldest living animal in the world. It looks like she passed away in '06. Still not bad, at 175 years old. --RaffiKojian (talk) 15:50, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

Help Desk question

I just ran into an example of the Toolserver error about which I asked on the Help Desk. Would you look there and revisit the question? Nyttend (talk) 04:48, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

I've told you everything I know. To figure out more, I would probably have to reverse-engineer what you are trying to do, which would probably take me hours. Your question is pretty informative, by the sketchy standard of questions on the Help desk, but the problem seems to be complex and will require more explanation from you, so someone else can repeat your exact sequence of steps and see exactly what you are seeing. You can see by the lack of replies from anyone else that you are leaving way too much of the work to the responder to figure out what you are doing. When you phrase a question so it can only be answered by someone who just happened to be working on exactly the same problem, your odds of getting a useful reply on the Help desk are very low. The Help desk only gets attention from a tiny subset of Wikipedia users, who don't know the answer to every problem. Rather we know the basic approach to problem solving. You will have to locate some other people (if they exist) who happen to be working on the same type of problem. Start by looking at everything you used to get into your current position. Every tool, Web page, etc., that you used had to be written by someone. Find out who those people are, and determine where they like to discuss their work. Googling for the exact text of your error message (or distinct phrases from it) can sometimes turn up a discussion of it somewhere. Search on all the sites I linked you to. You don't appear to have looked up the information I told you to look up (the date of the database replication you are probably using). --Teratornis (talk) 19:04, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm still confused, because I've told you everything: my process is (begin with unformatted list)(add table and geogrouptemplate)(click geogrouptemplate)(nyttend is confused), and that's it. I've googled the pieces; of course "Make sure the URL is spelled correctly" and "Make sure the file exists" get tons of results, but "File not found at" gets nothing. The only tool I've used is something that Elkman put together (here), not on the Toolserver; it generates the table with all the coords, but there's no geogrouptemplate added. Searching at the Toolserver for "GeoGroupTemplate" reveals nothing, and (please pardon) I don't know how to look up the date of the database replication. As for the replication: go to National Register of Historic Places listings in South Dakota, replace the list of places in Sully County with a table (go here and put in Sully County, SD), and add a geogrouptemplate to the top of the statewide list. Clicking the geogrouptemplate will complete the process with only a couple of minutes of work. I'm sorry to be so confusing; it's just that I wonder if I know enough to ask an intelligent question. Nyttend (talk) 05:03, 15 March 2009 (UTC)
Read How To Ask Questions The Smart Way. In particular, try to understand what might motivate someone to want to help you. I don't know what you are doing or why it would be relevant to anything I care about. You haven't given me any reason to want to spend however many hours it would take me to figure out what you are talking about. If you don't understand an error message, and you can't find any discussion about it, then you have to find the person who coded that error message and ask them to explain what it means. Very few programmers have much in the way of communication skills. Most don't understand the basic principle of writing error messages. An error message should (a) tell the user exactly what went wrong, and (b) what to do about it. Obviously you are getting screwed here by a programmer who doesn't understand how to write informative messages. So you have to find that programmer and ask him. If you don't know enough about computers and open-source software to track down the programmer whose work you are using, then you probably should not be using it. Asking me more questions will not help. I'm not the person who is creating your problem. I run into problems all the time with crappy free software tools that don't work and I don't know how to make them work. For a free tool to be any good, it must come with a clear explanation of how you can contact the person who wrote it, or some users who are knowledgeable with using it. If you can't get something to work, try working on some other task for which the tools do work. Wikipedia has an endless number of things you can improve right now, within the limitations of your analytical skills. --Teratornis (talk) 07:32, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

Wind generator comparison

Hi Teratornis, I was a little bored so I made one of the images you were talking about here. You can find it here. I left it all black and white like the original, but it shouldn't be much bother to colour it in. TastyCakes (talk) 16:26, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

Wow, that's great. I hope you won't mind if I move it to Commons. I would also like to make a similar diagram comparing the sizes of various modern wind turbines, from the little 10 kW Bergey Excel to the towering Enercon E-126. --Teratornis (talk) 16:35, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
It's in commons already. TastyCakes (talk) 16:46, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
That's why I wish people would not hide their links with meaningless nouns as the link text. That removes the important visual cue that what looks like a wikilink is really an interwiki link. If I had seen commons:File:Wind generator comparison.svg then I would have known where I was going when I clicked the link. Instead, I assumed without thinking that I was staying on the site I was on, and when I scrolled down quickly to find the usual note ("This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. The description on its description page there is shown below.") such as appears on File:Wind generator comparison.svg, I did not see it. --Teratornis (talk) 18:53, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
On re-reading that sounds a bit cranky. Obviously I should have noticed I was on Commons. My excuse is that I was doing too many other things at once. --Teratornis (talk) 19:32, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Hmm would you want it in the same diagram? Or a new diagram with just the new ones? I think I could make one if you could give me a list of the ones you want (and a picture/dimensions would be useful of course.. ;)) TastyCakes (talk) 16:50, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Unless you meant you wanted to do it yourself for the fun of it ;) TastyCakes (talk) 16:53, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Actually the image I think we need most is the graph showing annual petroleum extraction against annual petroleum discoveries. I'm not sure whether Inkscape would be the appropriate tool for generating the graph. --Teratornis (talk) 18:53, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Hmm if we had the actual numbers Excel would be by far the easiest I think, although it might not look super pretty. I guess I could trace over an image such as this one, or find some application to take a screenshot of the youtube video and trace the one from the video... There's also this image, but the version there is too small to trace or do anything particularly useful I think. TastyCakes (talk) 19:12, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
The small bitmap you linked to makes it painfully obvious why we want these images to be SVGs. Which reminds me of another bitmap example to add to my list (File:EERE illust large turbine.gif). Anyway, the shape of the oil discoveries graph implies different things depending on whether one backdates reserve additions. As you know, reserve estimates tend for a given field to climb in the years after its discovery, if the initial estimates were properly conservative. If we backdate the reserve additions for a given field to its initial date of discovery, that raises the question of whether we should jack up the new discoveries by some estimate of the reserve additions they (presumably) haven't gotten yet. In other words, maybe the new discoveries should look a little higher than they are. It might be nice if somehow we could separately plot discoveries and reserve additions. I'm pretty sure that even with the ultimate effect of reserve additions, the new discoveries will not retroactively climb to match the huge discoveries of the 1960s, but it would be nice if the graph could be more honest about the future reserve additions it is presumably not showing. --Teratornis (talk) 19:32, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Nonetheless, the trend is obvious and disquieting: oil consumption generally grows, while new oil discoveries generally decline. One way or another, future oil consumption must decline, since we cannot burn oil we have not discovered. That's why I think this graph is the most important graph in the whole discussion of peak oil. We can be very sure about the consumption numbers, and we can be pretty sure about the discovery numbers, so there isn't a lot left to argue about as far as the historical trend goes. The only argument is about what the decline of oil consumption will mean: a smooth transition to alternative fuels (especially for transportation where oil is singularly critical), or a bumpy descent into chaos. --Teratornis (talk) 19:38, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Hmm in theory we could use "Probable" or P50 values for the world's fields, assuming we could find the numbers. The idea behind assigning reserves (at least in Canada) is that as more information becomes available, your Proved (P90) will grow and your Possible (P10) will shrink, while (on average) your probable (P50) will stay the same. Of course this is highly idealized, but if it is not true overall it means that the reserves are not being assigned as they theoretically should be - which is often the case. TastyCakes (talk) 19:45, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Making that picture of the turbine might be a bit beyond my artistic/inkscape skills, but maybe I'll give it a try next week... TastyCakes (talk) 19:51, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Probably false modesty to dissuade me from heaping increasingly difficult requests on you. --Teratornis (talk) 20:02, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Haha, I'm afraid not ;) TastyCakes (talk) 20:18, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
It would be nice to have some error bars at least. The newer discoveries would presumably have larger error bars than the old discoveries which are by now mostly pumped out of the ground and accurately counted. If errors in reserve estimates are random, they should tend to cancel, but I'd imagine the errors are not entirely random as it is probably in everyone's short-term interest to overstate their reserves. We certainly know it is in OPEC's interest to overstate its reserves. I'm trying to think of who else would have an economic incentive to understate theirs.
Ideally, we would have the P90, P50 and P10 values, we could plot the P50 and have the other two as the error bars. Unfortunately, I highly doubt accurate numbers for all three of those are available. Publicly traded companies complying with the SEC or its equivalents only have to release their proved reserves (they have the option to release probable and possible, and even "resource" which is another category entirely, but many do not). National Oil Companies can effectively say whatever they want. So while I agree that would be the best possible graph, I'm not sure we coul
If we had a few more dimensions to work with, it would be nice to also show the average EROEI for each year's extraction. Or maybe that could be another line on the chart. It should generally decline.
Hmm I'm not sure if that data would be easily found either, and I'm not sure I agree with the EROEI necessarily dropping. The early oil industry was exceedingly inefficient, and great improvements have taken place. You wouldn't see a gong-show like spindle top any time after, well, spindle top. Further, I believe more and more of our oil is coming from fewer giant fields, rather than lots of smaller pockets, and the economy of scale should come into it. On the other hand, EROEI for oil sands and offshore are clearly lower than for conventional stuff. But in the grand scheme of things, most of the world's oil still comes from conventional onshore sources, we just forget that because in the West that is increasingly not the case. TastyCakes (talk) 20:16, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Spindletop was a long time ago, and its EROEI was probably high because the economy wasn't very energized at the time and thus humans had very little energy to invest. The EROEI of a given oil field generally declines with age, as secondary and tertiary recovery methods become necessary, each requiring an increase in energy input. The "water cut" increases in an aging field, so more energy goes to pumping out more water per barrel of oil, and then separating out the water and (hopefully) decontaminating it. Most of the world's oil comes from a relative handful of aging giant fields, and those with declining output (such as Cantarell) also have a declining EROEI (in the case of Cantarell, due to building and operating the world's largest nitrogen plant). But this is why we need to see a graph of EROEI, so we can see what the actual numbers are instead of guessing about them. --Teratornis (talk) 21:12, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
And of course when computing the EROEI of oil from the Middle East, one has to decide whether to include the energy cost of military activity. Ever since the U.S. adopted the Carter doctrine, the U.S. has been burning lots of energy to "guard" the oil fields. Saddam Hussein burned quite a bit too. The geopolitical cost of oil from unfriendly or unstable nations is very real. With enough analysis, a think tank might account for it with a "geopolitical EROEI". The energy cost of getting oil from the ground in places like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran might still be fairly low, but insuring a smooth flow of that oil to other countries seems to require a lot of energy. It's unfortunate that politicians and everyone else want to spin or ignore this reality, perhaps because "blood for oil" is too disturbing for most people to think honestly about. Not many mothers want to send their children to die for a commodity, but humans have a long history of this, having fought wars over salt and bird poop, among other resources. Anyway, humans will always pick the low-hanging fruit first. In the case of petroleum, this means first pumping dry the easy oil fields in nations which are friendly and politically stable, then moving on to the oil which is more difficult either for geological or geopolitical reasons, as the easy oil runs out. Unless there is a political transformation in the remaining countries that still have oil to export, we can expect the geopolitical cost of oil to continue increasing for the oil-importing nations. If there was a democratic political transformation in countries like Iran and Nigeria, it would probably both require and stimulate substantial increases in their own prosperity, which would reduce their oil exports. --Teratornis (talk) 22:19, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
While this is all interesting, I don't think there are any solid numbers about EROEI for the oil industry as a whole, so I'm afraid it's fairly moot as far as making a chart. Perhaps it would be possible to do a "$/bbl" calculation, but again you're going to get into tricky POV areas when people start asking for military expenditures to be included in the costs (which is not as separable as some people seem to think: how do you say how much aid Israel and Egypt receive because they are in an important part of the world energy-wise? How do you write without POV that the two gulf wars were all about oil, when the key instigators dispute that?). I also believe that EROEI is a far less critical concept to the oil industry than to renewables: oil is an extracted quantity, it does not have to worry about making a cycle with more energy out than you put in to make the cycle in the first place. Oil fields are also much further from a 1:1 ratio than almost any renewable other than hydro, to my knowledge. Even oilsands, the most energy intensive oil production in the world, is something like 1:4 I believe, although using gas to make oil is of course controversial. TastyCakes (talk) 22:39, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Obviously it would be difficult, which is why we haven't yet done it. When important people have different points of view, we present them with citations, including for example the conservative think tanks which believe we should be taxing imported oil to pay for Iraq II rather than subsidize the oil war by borrowing from China. We also know it costs the other side lots of money to tie down the most powerful military force in the world for years, and there is no secret as to where that money is coming from - ultimately, from oil consumers. When T. Boone Pickens says "We're paying for both sides of the war in Iraq", no politicians seem to be arguing against him now. If the key instigators still claim their oil wars weren't about oil, I've got a bridge to sell anyone who believes them.
I'm not sure I understand your thinking about EROEI and oil. The energy you put in is energy you have to come up with from somewhere. If that energy comes from the oil you lift, then obviously you have to get more out than you put in, or you have an oil sink rather than an oil well. Granted, you might use a poor-quality oil resource to convert nuclear power into liquid fuel, for example. If you could do that, it might be a profitable stopgap if consumers are willing to pay a premium for portable energy in liquid form. They might become less willing if someone builds enough plug-in hybrids to make it more efficient to power them directly. Of course if an oil well also provides natural gas that is otherwise stranded, and you can burn it to extract more oil, that changes the EROEI calculation (but not the carbon footprint calculation, which is less easily fooled). As far as the EROEI of renewables, the EROEI article cites a reference that gives a figure of 20 for wind farms in the U.S. and Europe. It's hard to imagine a young energy industry could get started with a much lower EROEI, because being young it is bound to be technically and administratively less efficient than a mature industry like oil. (Wind farmers in the 1970s were like those Spindletop guys you mentioned earlier, failing to capture as much of their resource as the later operators.) The fact that wind power costs have tended to come down since the 1970s suggests the underlying EROEI is favorable, and it only remains for humans to work out the technical and administrative details. There is, however, one considerable objection to EROEI for wind farms (and nuclear plants, and hydro plants): the fact that at the moment their payback is negative for portable energy. It takes portable energy (currently in the form of liquid fuels) to build and operate wind farms, but wind farms produce electricity, which for the most part does not yield portable energy. In the U.S., about 97% of energy for transportation comes from petroleum. Wind farms pay back their energy cost 20 times, but they never pay back their diesel cost, and they won't until someone invents a super-battery or ultracapacitor that competes with diesel in terms of energy storage. That isn't so important from a climate-change perspective, because wind power effectively cuts your carbon footprint by a factor of 20 if you assume all the input energy is fossil carbon (actually only some of it is, because wind turbine manufacture uses a lot of electricity which can itself be renewable), but from a peak oil perspective it's absolutely critical because it means you can't build wind farms (yet) (or nukes, or dams) without plenty of petroleum. --Teratornis (talk) 23:51, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
I should add that EROEI is not solely a function of efficiency, but also of thermodynamics and geology. If the early oil industry was inefficient, that would only have increased its incentive to go for the thermodynamically/geologically easiest oil first. Obviously an inefficient producer would have no hope of profitably extracting oil from the deep ocean, the Arctic, distant African jungles, etc. They had to start by extracting the oil that would give the highest EROEI today, even if at the time they managed to burn up a lot more energy to get it than we would, if the oil was still there. In some ways, of course, people were more efficient in 1905, because everybody wasn't driving single-passenger Hummers to work, even if their industrial processes tended to be inferior when they clocked in. --Teratornis (talk) 22:26, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
Speaking of alternative fuel, like Matthew Simmons, I consider telecommuting (tele-everything, really) to be effectively an alternative transportation fuel, in fact the alternative fuel with the lowest carbon footprint, and its relative advantage over physical travel increases with distance. Wikipedia does telecommuting better than any other system I have seen, and this has a lot to do with my interest in Wikipedia. I spend a lot of time answering questions on the Help desk (and trying to build tools to improve the efficiency of answering questions) because I want Wikipedia to succeed. I believe Wikipedia is a great model for the future of work in a world where the supply of liquid fuel seems likely to become increasingly constrained. If humans can build the largest encyclopedia in history without having to drag bodies around, what can't humans build this way? --Teratornis (talk) 20:02, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
I agree Wikipedia is an exceptional accomplishment, and I think dedicated editors like yourself have ensured its future success. I also agree that in the future oil will be used much less flippantly than it is today. TastyCakes (talk) 20:16, 13 March 2009 (UTC)
The Hummer would almost be efficient at maximum passenger load, but usually when I see one it has just the driver yakking on a cell phone. I should ask the next one I see how he or she copes with the overwhelming sense of shame. --Teratornis (talk) 20:32, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

(undent)How do you write without POV that the two gulf wars were all about oil, when the key instigators dispute that? That's easy, we just accurately report the reliably-sourced facts of experts like Michael Klare. Every U.S. President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has reiterated the "vital strategic importance" of Middle East oil to the U.S. and the rest of the world. See the Eisenhower Doctrine and Carter Doctrine. Check out Blood and Oil, a documentary featuring Michael Klare, complete with video clips of the "key instigators" spelling out oil as their casus belli before subsequently backpedaling and coming up with alternative pretexts after detecting the negative public reaction to the prospect of fighting a commodity war.

Every U.S. President in the living memory of most Americans has declared the vital importance of Middle East oil to U.S. interests, and pledged to intervene militarily against any threat to the free flow of oil therefrom. The only reason this is at all confusing is because most of the American public has not yet been willing to honestly face the consequences of America's own oil production peak and subsequent decline. Maintaining the temporary illusion of petroleum-fueled effortless mobility has required an increasingly muscular U.S. foreign policy, with the War on Terror as but one obvious example of blowback. Osama bin Laden has been explicit about the role oil has played in motivating him to declare war on the U.S. --Teratornis (talk) 17:53, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

I'm sorry but I think you're getting into tragically "bitter-and-pointless" territory here, territory that is a distraction from fruitful discourse. While I also believe oil was a key motivation behind the gulf wars, I do not think you can effectively prove that. The people that actually made the decisions pointed at two other convincing and believable motivations for going to war: weapons of mass destruction and human rights abuses by the Hussein regime. You can argue until you're blue in the face over how much of this was trumped up and how much was genuine, but the fact is you'll never be able to objectively separate out the motivations from each other because it is simply unknowable. Was it 10% concern over weapons of mass destruction or 50%? Would it have gone ahead if they knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction and wasn't horribly oppressing his people, but had all that oil? What if he had no oil but was trying to develop weapons of mass destruction and was oppressing his people? Who knows. And more to the point, who cares? These are hypotheticals and unusable for Wikipedia's purposes. And as for Michael Klare, his assessment that the US went to war to allow Republicans to distract public attention from domestic problems sounds shallow and partisan to me, and brings his credentials as "an expert" into question. TastyCakes (talk) 18:47, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
North Korea verifiably has weapons of mass destruction and horribly oppresses its people. Unlike Iraq, North Korea has no significant (known) oil resources, and by a remarkable coincidence the U.S. has not invaded North Korea since 1950. Did you watch the documentary? It's not just Michael Klare sharing his interpretation, it's also an amazing string of video excerpts from politicians and officials speaking for themselves. I liked Alan Greenspan's take on the subject, where he says he doesn't know whether Bush & Co. necessarily believed Iraq II was about oil, but he says oil is the only real reason the U.S. invaded. I don't think Greenspan is a pot-smoking leftist, but I could be wrong. I think he's a smart guy who can do the math, as in: (no foreign oil) = (no U.S. economy given the current mass preferences of Americans). And of course no politician can tell the grieving parents that they sacrificed their kid to put gas in somebody's Hummer. Even if it is true, no politician can possibly say that. It would probably be bad for a politician even to realize it.
I'm not sure how you think that understanding recent history is "pointless." The U.S. is more addicted to foreign oil today than it was in 2001, which suggests the risk of future oil-wars-that-aren't-officially-about-oil is increasing. Much has been made of the decrease in Iraqi oil extraction in the aftermath of the invasion, but the game is far from over yet, because the unextracted oil is still in the ground waiting to be pumped. If the world is experiencing an oil emergency in five years, the U.S. might be in an advantageous position if it turns out to have installed a friendly regime in Iraq. Having 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq as "advisors" along with extensive military and trade relations might be a handy way to keep the Chinese out.
I also don't see how you perceive "bitterness" or what that might have to do with anything. As individuals we have little say over what our governments do. The individual's vote is lost in the sea of votes, and as every U.S. President since Nixon has shown in speeches, there has been no way to vote against an aggressive U.S. military policy in the Middle East, since both major parties have seen the need to maintain it. The issue, to my mind, is how the individual will choose to respond to the actual cost of oil as geopolitical evolution has made it. If oil is even 50% responsible for U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and Central Asia, which might be a reasonable estimate, then anyone who enjoys burning oil for, say, personal entertainment should honestly face up to what they are doing. There are some people who choose to minimize their consumption of various products whose procurement causes harm they consider unacceptable. A few people even make real sacrifices for what they believe. I find it interesting that there hasn't been much of a groundswell against automobile dependency in the U.S. despite the fact that petroleum is objectively one of the most destructive products we consume. A few people such as T. Boone Pickens are hinting at it somewhat obliquely, and finding resonance with audiences who realize there is something wrong with depending on foreigners for 2/3 of U.S. oil while fighting two wars in the region that has most of the world's remaining oil, but the depth of American automobile addiction seems more than sufficient to keep the cognitive dissonance away for most people here. So far, anyway.
While I understand the perils of POV on Wikipedia, there is no POV involved with merely documenting what politicians and government officials have directly stated, such as the Carter Doctrine which every subsequent U.S. President has endorsed or expanded on. Note that an unwillingness to face the facts of history squarely is itself a POV. Whether a particular escalation in the endless petroleum war was directly about oil at the time in the opinion of one person or another, the fact that the U.S. has the military presence and infrastructure built up in the area to support such escalations is a direct and indisputable consequence of oil. There are many regions of the world where U.S. military operations on a similar scale are unthinkable, because it takes decades to build up the military presence that makes such operations possible. The U.S. has been girding for war in the Middle East since the 1970s, and every U.S. President has declared a willingness to fight for the free flow of oil. Even President Obama intends to escalate the war in Afghanistan, which is reasonable to view at least in part as some leftover blowback from the Carter/Reagan strategy of using Islamic proxies to impede Soviet expansion toward the Persian Gulf - which Carter explicitly stated was a threat to U.S. oil interests. The U.S. will not disengage militarily from the region until the U.S. and its allies have attained a measure of energy independence or at least some energy resiliency.
Individuals who want to help that day arrive sooner can do so by exploring every possible way to reduce their petroleum use. Since petroleum basically means transportation in the U.S., that leaves only two basic options:
  • Powering transportation with something else, perhaps biofuels, electricity, and human power.
  • Reducing the need for personal transportation by moving bits rather than bodies.
For some odd reason, the second option seems to be more or less generally ignored as a complete non-starter, even though the U.S. has perhaps the world's best technology to attack the problem, and telecommuting has steadily inched its way upward despite an almost complete lack of official support. In particular, I find it astonishing to read the various official projections of future transportation needs, which invariably predict massive expansion, as if Moore's law is simply going to stop and we won't have unimaginably wonderful computers in 20 or 30 years. --Teratornis (talk) 21:28, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
I think you're taking this conversation way off topic. I don't think we disagree in general. As I see it the discussion went like this: You say it would be nice to have an EROEI chart for the oil industry. I say that would be nearly impossible to do accurately but maybe a $/bbl chart would be easier and accomplish something similar but be subject to POV concerns over the inclusion of military spending. You say costs due to military action in Iraq etc is not subjective, I say (quantitatively at least) it is since separating out what percentage of costs should be "assigned to oil" is inherently subjective.
I also think you're tending to make the whole subject more dramatic than it actually is: numerous American presidents have made it clear that they seek to reduce dependence on foreign energy. None of them are particularly happy about the situation, and they're not really trying to cover that up in my opinion. It also bears mentioning that the US doesn't import all that much of its oil from the region. Your note about North Korea is interesting and well traveled, however an enemy capable of pounding an allied city of 10 million from thousands of artillery positions 50km away at a few minutes notice of course changes the situation. The US does maintain large military infrastructure in the region, and had more troops there than it had in the entire gulf before and between the gulf wars. At a guess I would hazard that America has spent more on its military in the Korean peninsula than it has in the gulf, it certainly has in lives. Perhaps a better example would be Iran: a much bigger oil producer than Iraq and one with more historic confrontation with the States. Also a lot of rumblings about weapons of mass destruction. But America has not taken action against Iran. If nothing else I think both of these examples illustrate that there is more to American foreign policy (and military intervention in particular) than installing friendly governments in oil rich countries.
I dispute what you say about America's military infrastructure in the region: what did it have in the area before the first Gulf War? Not much as far as I know. Also, I think the claim that the war in Afghanistan is blowback from previous policies intending to block Soviet expansion to the gulf (where there is actually oil and gas, unlike Afghanistan itself) is a bit of a stretch to blame on oil. As in "there wouldn't be terrorists there if the Taliban wasn't, there wouldn't be Taliban if the Soviets didn't and the Soviets wouldn't have if it weren't for oil!". It's just too many steps (all of which are suppositions or simplifications) for me to swallow. And a final observation: the US doesn't seem to be interfering with non-American companies efforts at signing oil concessions in Iraq (service contracts yes, but not the production contracts which is where the real money is). It is very possible, and I think highly probable, that the Chinese national companies will end up holding majour concessions in the country. That does not seem to jive with tin hatters that believe this is "all about oil". TastyCakes (talk) 23:11, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
  • The percentage of oil that the U.S. imports from the Middle East may look small, but the loss of an even tinier percentage was enough to cause gas lines and economic chaos in the 1970s. Of course the most important factor is not where we are, but where we are going. The U.S. consumes more oil than anybody else, and 2/3 of the remaining oil is in the Middle East. If nothing else changes, we can expect to keep needing more oil from the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, for example, has moved up to the #2 position among sources of U.S. oil imports as Mexico's output falls. Plus the U.S. has to care about what happens to Europe and Japan, which depend heavily on the Middle East. The interconnectedness of global markets would insure that if Japan's economy were to shut down, the impact on the U.S. economy would be devastating.
  • I should clarify my original claim about what Alan Greenspan said. See this interview transcript, beginning with:
    • AMY GOODMAN: "Alan Greenspan, let’s talk about the war in Iraq. You said what for many in your circles is the unspeakable, that the war in Iraq was for oil. Can you explain?"
    • ALAN GREENSPAN: "Yes. The point I was making was that if there were no oil under the sands of Iraq, Saddam Hussein would have never been able to accumulate the resources which enabled him to threaten his neighbors, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia. And having watched him for thirty years, I was very fearful that he, if he ever achieved—and I thought he might very well be able to buy one—an atomic device, he would have essentially endeavored and perhaps succeeded in controlling the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz, which is the channel through which eighteen or nineteen million barrels a day of the world eighty-five million barrel crude oil production flows. Had he decided to shut down, say, seven million barrels a day, which he could have done if he controlled, he could have essentially also shut down a significant part of economic activity throughout the world. ... it’s clear to me that were there not the oil resources in Iraq, the whole picture of how that part of the Middle East developed would have been different."
  • I don't know whether there was some conscious conspiracy to micromanage the oil market behind the invasion of Iraq; if there was, it hasn't worked entirely to the advantage of the U.S. I like Greenspan's take: it was more like an operation to clean up the effects of pouring petrodollars for decades into an unstable part of the world. Petroleum creates great concentrations of unearned wealth, which easily concentrate into few hands, thus creating a fertile environment for the most ruthless despot, and lots of spare cash to finance terrorism. The need to take out the garbage in Iraq was a downstream cost of other nations depending on the region for oil. It's not just that the U.S. is out to take over the world's oil, but to prevent other people from taking it over and using it as a weapon against us, whether that be outside forces like the Soviets in the 19780s, or home-grown dictators and religious extremists today. It's not so much invading other countries "for" their oil, but using our military to make sure the people in charge are people we can do reliable business with. If there wasn't any oil in the region, we might not care as much who is in charge.
  • I agree with all of this. I too am partial to the argument that the US was motivated to stop Saddam Hussein's Iraq having a stranglehold on much of the world's economy. I would also add, however, that it wanted to "finish the job" and end the sanctions which were crippling the Iraqi economy but having infuriatingly little effect on the regime. As I've said though, well informed as it is and from as respected a source as it comes from, there is no way to quantify causes for the war. Sure, the war wouldn't have happened as it did if Iraq didn't have any oil. But it also wouldn't have happened if Saddam hadn't been a tin pot dictator with little grasp of the importance of diplomacy or how vulnerable his regime was on the world stage. It would be an oversimplification to say the war was all about removing his brutal, aggressive, corrupt regime just as it would be to say it was all about oil. But both were critical to the war actually happening. Now I know you've said that it was the very nature of oil wealth that led to a man like Hussein coming to power. But out of all the oil rich gulf states, why is it only his government that has managed to piss people off enough to get invaded, twice? Because (in my opinion) he was a simple, old time party thug that didn't understand the subtleties of the new world order, as his more polished and tactful neighbours have (to, almost, everyone's benefit). TastyCakes (talk) 19:54, 19 March 2009 (UTC)
  • The U.S. waged war against Iraq from bases in Saudi Arabia, rather than from, say, Syria, because the U.S. had been building up an extensive military and political relationship with Saudi Arabia since the 1970s. The U.S. had built massive bases with the Saudis, and everything was ready for a rapid deployment of a huge U.S. force. Nothing like that would have been possible so quickly if the U.S. had to start from scratch. Contrast the intervention in Kuwait with the non-intervention in Rwanda. The U.S. couldn't do anything in Rwanda because there weren't any pre-arranged military agreements with the neighboring countries, no military bases with pre-positioned equipment ready to go, etc. It takes years of political commitment to build up that type of infrastructure. The U.S. made that commitment in the Middle East since the 1970s for the reasons that every President since then has reiterated: we're there to defend the flow of oil. Anything that looks like it might be a threat to the flow of oil, for example an overly-ambitious Saddam Hussein, is unacceptable.
  • That's true, in addition to the fact that the Syrian, Iranian and Turkish borders are nowhere near Kuwait and it's obvious you're going to use a friendly country over a hostile one to launch an attack from. In fact this article give the military relationship going back to 1951. But I do not believe existing defense agreements and infrastructure are required for such a large scale operation. It wasn't on numerous occasions during the world wars nor in Afghanistan (of course a smaller war, but likely as much due to political motivation rather than logistics, which were undeniably more challenging). As for Rwanda, the American military absolutely could have done something there, but didn't largely because of being burned in Somalia a few years before (another place with no existing infrastructure or defense agreements where the US military was operating). Again I don't think we fundamentally disagree here: the American military seeks to operate bases in strategically valuable locations, and the Persian Gulf is one of those locations due to oil, the Suez canal, the presumed location of Islamic terrorists and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I do think think it's oversimplification to boil it down to "all about oil". TastyCakes (talk) 19:54, 19 March 2009 (UTC)
  • Accounting for the petroleum portion of U.S. military spending may be subjective, but that doesn't stop people from trying. The National Defense Council Foundation, an allegedly conservative think tank, estimates $137 billion of U.S. defense spending in 2007 was oil-related. It might help to consider how much military spending would be necessary to defend oil fields in Texas or Canada. About what it costs to guard cattle ranches and pine forests in those places. Of course almost any sort of EROEI calculation is subjective; do we include in the energy cost of producing some product how far the workers choose to commute, and what vehicles, if any, they choose to drive? Hopefully we can at least agree that oil from Saudi Arabia really costs the U.S. a lot more than oil from Texas, both now and in the future, and the costs are not even predictable. Money we send to Saudi Arabia might, for example, be finding its way right now into a future nuclear terrorist attack. Oil from Texas is clearly cheaper, which is why we drained Texas first. Declaring a cost to be "subjective" doesn't make it go away. It doesn't mean 9/11 didn't happen. Obfuscate all you like, 9/11 wouldn't have happened if we hadn't pissed off Osama bin Laden by bringing infidels into the holy lands of Islam to kick Saddam out of Kuwait who was in turned armed and funded by petrodollars. Take away oil, and the U.S. wouldn't be in these wars. We might be in some other wars, but the wars we happen to be in involve oil as an essential ingredient.
  • I won't pretend to know what bin Laden would have done if there hadn't been a first gulf war. Note that there were some American troops in Saudi going back to the 50s, but perhaps this was sufficiently obscure until the war brought it to his attention. For all I know the Israeli issue along with his xenophobia in general would have been enough to have him do the things he did. This too is entirely hypothetical. TastyCakes (talk) 19:54, 19 March 2009 (UTC)
  • On the Taliban in Afghanistan: there is no doubt that the CIA helped to train and finance volunteers from Saudi Arabia led by Osama bin Laden, who later turned against the U.S. (according to his own writings) because he was enraged by the large number of infidel (U.S.) troops stationed indefinitely on the holy Muslim lands of Saudi Arabia. I'm just relaying what Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan said about the U.S. interest in stopping the Soviets in Afghanistan. They didn't want a Soviet client state to be sitting next to the oil lifeline of the West.
  • On Iran: America has taken action against Iran. Back when Saddam was something of a U.S. proxy, the U.S. backed his aggressive war against Iran which killed more than 100,000 people. And the game is far from over with Iran. Ask Iran how it feels to have the U.S. military in Iraq on its western border and in Afghanistan on its eastern border. The U.S. may not have to invade to apply pressure now. Iran's current oil extraction is higher than Iraq's, but its oil reserves are smaller. Iran peaked in 1974 whereas Iraq has yet to peak.
  • Yes, every U.S. President in living memory has spoken of the importance of energy independence, and most U.S. citizens seem uncomfortable facing up to the consequences of not being energy independent. It means having to go to war occasionally to safeguard the free flow of oil from the Middle East, and/or to deal with the results of pouring money into hostile countries.
The U.S. does have a President now who might be serious about pursuing energy independence, but the lack of acceptable alternatives to liquid fuel for transportation makes energy independence a harder problem for the U.S. than fighting wars, which we have spent trillions of dollars to get very good at. We've hardly spent anything on energy research by comparison, although I do believe our large investments in computers and networking are an under-appreciated tool for conserving oil, if we got serious about applying it that way. Instead of using computers to replace transportation, most people buy computers for work and computers for home, and drive cars back and forth between them. Duh. --Teratornis (talk) 04:54, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

(undent) I might add that the seemingly low percentage of oil that the U.S. imports from the Middle East is also a well-traveled and dangerously misleading observation. As we both know, oil is a fungible commodity, and supertankers are the most efficient motorized freight-haulers yet invented, which makes it fairly easy for the world oil market to rapidly shift oil around. Even though all the major oil-consuming nations have been stockpiling oil, they only have enough for one or two months at best. If any oil-consuming nation (e.g., Japan, China, Germany, etc.) loses its ability to get oil from one supplier, it will naturally try to switch to other suppliers. A nation like Mexico exports most of its surplus oil to the United States in the current well-supplied market, but if the market stops being well-supplied, that is likely to change. In the event of an oil cutoff from the Middle East, the market will distribute the shortfall among consumers in a game of musical chairs, according to their ability to pay for oil, or their ability to appropriate it by non-economic means (e.g. military action). Oil-consuming nations which are currently reliable allies or at least steady trading partners would find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to compete vigorously for the insufficient supply of oil. A sudden cutoff of oil from the Middle East would be a global catastrophe, and no oil-importing nation could insulate itself. According to Robert Hirsch, a shortfall of oil would reduce global economic activity by roughly the same proportion, most likely creating political turmoil in every oil-importing nation.

A nation's ability to pay for oil is a function of how much wealth it creates by burning oil. The U.S. is far less efficient than other modern nations which have historically maintained high fuel taxes. Accordingly, the U.S. has built its economy, infrastructure, social customs, etc., around the need for oil to be cheaper than nations such as Japan and Germany. Until recently, the U.S. has been able to mask its inefficiency by having a large domestic extraction of oil, but as U.S. oil extraction declines and consumption increases, the U.S. becomes more exposed to imports, and thus more interested in making sure that the world oil market stays well-supplied. The U.S. has thus far refused to bring its consumer price for fuel up to match the level of other modern oil-importing nations, and as a result the U.S. would lose in a bidding contest for oil against more-efficient consumers, but the U.S. does have something no other nation has: the most powerful military in the world. Thus it can hardly be surprising that as the U.S. has steadily increased its oil imports since the 1970s, it has built up its military forces in the Middle East. Obviously, the sensible strategy would be for the U.S. to start acting like an oil importer and phase in higher fuel taxes to bring its efficiency up to the level of other modern oil-importing nations. However, this seems to be politically impossible in a nation of voters who are almost all addicted to cheap fuel. This leaves U.S. politicians with fewer options. --Teratornis (talk) 18:21, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

I'm aware of how it doesn't really matter where the oil comes from as it's all in a common market, and I apologise for using the fact as I did (it was shallow and, to a degree, misleading). If anything, it should be used to demonstrate how this is as much a European or Asian problem as it is America's, yet America is the most common recipient of people's anger over the issue. TastyCakes (talk) 19:14, 19 March 2009 (UTC)
Apology accepted, but in your defense you had no idea whether I was aware of the import percentage breakdown since I had not mentioned it. Also I did not do enough to distinguish my position from the tinfoil hat theories you have heard before, whatever those may be. While I think oil plays an essential role in the U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, it's not a simplistic case of the U.S. invading nations "for" their oil. An equally important reason for U.S. military interest in the area is the vast transfer of wealth and modern weapons out of democratic stable nations into unstable medieval monarchies, dictatorships, theocracies, and warlord cultures, giving some of the world's least rational people a stranglehold on the economies of developed nations. (Which takes us back to the notion of geopolitical EROEI. To get oil from Texas, we only needed drilling rigs; to get oil from the Middle East, we also need Aircraft carriers. Edit: whether we actually need to use aircraft carriers, the fact remains that we have been using them for almost 40 years in the region. Recall that Iran did try to block the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz back when our proxy Saddam Hussein was attacking them.)
Europeans have every reason to be angry with the U.S. for refusing to bring its fuel taxes up to the standard for oil importing nations, but I'm not sure many Europeans are consciously aware that they should be angry about this, as cheap gasoline is (I believe) the root cause of most of what they think they are angry with the U.S. about. The proximal cause of the anger is of course the response of Bush & Co. to the 9/11 attacks, disregarding the urgent advice of allies and embarking on wider military adventures unilaterally. But even if Obama manages to patch things up, the structural problem will remain as long as cheap motor fuel prices keep the U.S. an inefficient consumer of petroleum. Of course not even the currently most-efficient petroleum consumers are efficient enough yet to survive a serious decline in world oil extraction, but with the U.S. being the world's largest oil importer and consumer, our inefficiency increases the danger for everyone else. The U.S. should be leading the world in energy efficiency in general and petroleum efficiency in particular (since petroleum is the most constrained and most critical form of energy), instead of lagging far behind nations such as Switzerland. But unfortunately this is unlikely to happen as long as the average U.S. voter remains unable to connect their own gaswasting habits with military action on the other side of the world. Most people would rather blame Bush or go into denial, rather than take responsibility for their own lifestyle choices. --Teratornis (talk) 19:51, 19 March 2009 (UTC)
I agree. But I think America is not so much "behind" on energy efficiency as they are faced with a much bigger problem than Europe's. Many of its cities were built with cars universally available, resulting in low density, sprawling infrastructure that is dependent on cars in a way older European cities are not. It seems to me should oil "run out" one of these things are going to happen:
  • American cities are going to collapse into themselves, in effect becoming large cities like Europe. The infrastructure costs of this could be staggering.
  • American cities decentralise into smaller, largely independent towns (probably cheaper, likely to result in less productive workforce due to a loss of economy of scale)
  • Some effective substitute for oil is found. Obviously the preferred solution as it allows Americans (and Canadians!) to continue driving an hour to work each way to get to their mcmansions and watch TV alone without knowing anyone around them in a 20 mile radius. Perhaps I overdramatise ;)
All three possibilities are modified drastically depending on when and how long it were to take for oil supply to taper off (a point I believe I argued on the peak oil article many months ago) TastyCakes (talk) 20:16, 19 March 2009 (UTC)
I think you are only overdramatizing if it turns out petroleum is infinite, or if some currently unimaginable liquid fuel substitute materializes by magic in time.
You seem to suggest that you view the spatial layout of U.S. cities as being somehow distinct from energy efficiency, whereas spatial layout is actually one of the most critical components. Just within the U.S., people who live in New York City consume far less petroleum per capita (and less electricity, too) than people who live in Dallas, Texas and other sprawling cities and towns. U.S. spatial inefficiency leads to energy inefficiency, and it resulted from decades of low fuel prices. Even though Europe is smaller than the U.S., the layout of cities in a country bears little relation to the size of the surrounding country, except for countries on small islands. European countries could have opted for sprawl and low-density housing just as Americans (and Canadians) did - there is plenty of possibility in Europe for people to live far from where they work and so on - but this development model did not take hold in Europe as much because fuel was historically much more expensive in real terms. This made it economically undesirable to accept a one-hour automobile commute in exchange for lower housing costs, as has been common in the U.S. For example, France is as large as Texas, but French people do not drive as much as Texans, and on average they drive much smaller cars. Because European settlements are denser, they are more easily served by mass transit, and high fuel prices for automobiles insure the mass transit is well-subscribed. Brazil is a huge country like the U.S., but per capita petroleum consumption is far lower (although so is GDP).
Obviously, the U.S. spent the past 60 years building itself into inefficiency and cannot instantly correct the problem. But the longer we wait, the more painful the ultimate correction must be. We can discount the future pain by increasing fuel taxes now.
As to the problem you mention: "less productive workforce due to a loss of economy of scale" - that is exactly the type of problem that wiki technology can address. On Wikipedia we enjoy economies of scale that are in some ways better than any bricks-and-mortar establishment. Economies of scale resulting from division of labor - these are instances of organizing humans to process information more effectively. Wikipedia's model for processing information is more effective than anything else I have seen. I think overreliance on physical transportation actually degrades productivity by encouraging people to rely on the short-term crutch of spoken communication. Wikipedia seems harder at first because we have to do everything by writing, but in the long run this leads to far more productivity and power because Wikipedia also provides clever tools for organizing, refactoring, and searching through our writing. Wikipedia lets any number of people participate in building up useful structures of information. This is, I believe (and unfortunately it seems to be original work because I haven't found anyone in print who has made the same connection) one way to substantially reduce petroleum consumption with no loss of productivity, and even substantial gains in productivity. The trick will be to:
  • Train as many people as possible to work the Wikipedia way.
  • Hope that lots of them can figure out how to redesign existing real-world workflows on this model.
Since the main barrier to redesigning existing workflows is to change the habits of people currently using the old methods, the first item is not only necessary but might almost be sufficient by itself. I.e., if everybody knew as much about using Wikipedia as, say, you and I know, then almost overnight we could probably just about empty the roads of motorized commuters. At least the ones who don't get dirty on the job. There is potential petroleum savings here to match what the Pickens Plan hopes to do with freight transport. --Teratornis (talk) 00:52, 20 March 2009 (UTC)

Tnxman's RfA

Hi there. Just a friendly note to let you know I've reverted this edit, as the discussion was closed and archived. Any further comments should go on the talk page. Regards, –Juliancolton Tropical Cyclone 04:37, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

Sorry, I must have been editing from an old version of the page which made it look like it was still open. --Teratornis (talk) 04:40, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

Inappropriate edit at Wikipedia:Help desk#Eternal Security in Jesus

I was really disappointed in you. Please refrain from this kind of cheap shot, as it is blatantly incivil and offensive to those of us here not of Dawkins' opinion. --Orange Mike | Talk 14:57, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

The questioner claimed to be upset by his or her religion (specifically the writings of Finis Jennings Dake - I've read my share of Dake, how about you?). The response previous to mine recommended that the questioner seek out more religion. If a drug addict claimed to be upset by his drug habit, I would not advise him to see his dealer to get more drugs, which he is presumably going to do anyway. Instead I would point out that lots of people have found a way to feel happy enough without drugs, and getting off drugs might be one option to consider. Not everyone would agree with my advice, of course, because recreational drugs of both the legal and illegal variety are widely popular and unlikely to go away soon. However, everyone who uses drugs should at least be aware that an alternative exists. Ditto for the thousands of mutually contradictory religions. If someone wants to take drugs, or believe in an arbitrary set of claims for which there is no conclusive evidence, that's their choice. But if someone complains about their choice and asks me for my advice, I'll give it to them. Note that the questioner asked the question on a forum open to anyone, rather than asking in some forum where the participants would all agree on the correctness of Dake's particular brand of Premillennial Dispensationalism. If you don't like Dawkins, that's your business, but I'm curious - have you looked at any of Dake's work, do you think Dake is any more likely than Dawkins to know what he's talking about, and if so, why? The evidence for Dake's eschatological charts (which are controversial even within Fundamentalist Christian circles, let alone to critical thinkers) is the same as the evidence for leprechauns: there isn't any. If someone is going to read Dake, why shouldn't they also read Dawkins, and then make up their own mind about what to believe? How can you take offense at, and attempt to censor, the suggestion to read more points of view? I'm not telling anyone to stop reading Dake or any other author of fiction. Rather, I think everyone should study as many religions as they have time for, not just the one particular religion they may have been born into. We saw the dangers of having a complete sense of certainty on September 11, 2001. Someone who can admit the possibility of being wrong might hesitate to perform irreversible acts such as suicide for his faith - and I'm happy to note that the vast majority of Muslims seem to have enough doubt to keep them out of the suicide cult faction. --Teratornis (talk) 17:31, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
I felt it was blatantly incivil; that's all. --Orange Mike | Talk 17:42, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry if you choose to feel offended, but I can't be responsible for your feelings any more than I can be responsible for the feelings of one billion Muslims who are deeply offended at our pictures of Muhammad, not to mention our failure to add the appropriate honorifics. Wikipedia has something to offend everyone. How do you respond to the Muslims who demand that Wikipedia remove its pictures of their Prophet? The usual response on the Help desk is to trample the feelings of Muslims by trotting out our Wikipedia is not censored guideline. Do you believe those replies are blatantly incivil? I can assure you Muslims do. And yet Wikipedia thumbs its nose at Muslims by asking them to tolerate this:
Of course Muslims generally do not complain much about what the Taliban did to the Buddhas of Bamyan. And on it goes - because the various religions indoctrinate their followers to defend their own religions and destroy the competition by any means. That is the opposite of civility. Civility means being open to a fair exchange of ideas, not a return to medieval intolerance and book-burning. If you have something resembling a rational argument against any claim by Richard Dawkins, let's see what you've got. I've read many critiques of Dawkins, and I've written some myself. (In particular, I object to Dawkins' indirect support for Islamic terrorism by his insistence on continuing to burn petroleum by jetting around the world to make public appearances, rather than use the more efficient non-petroleum-based technologies of videoconferencing - or better yet, wiki technology. For someone who claims to be against the rise of Fundamentalist Islam, Dawkins continues to consume a lot of the petroleum which has fueled that rise. This indulgence in unnecessary physical travel is also contrary to Dawkins' stated concerns about Global warming - I'd like to see Dawkins think that issue through at least as far as, say, George Monbiot who has concluded we must massively and rapidly scale back petroleum-fueled travel, before peak oil forces us to do this anyway.) Otherwise, if you're not interested in rational discussion, you might look at Conservapedia or CreationWiki where you will find many people who hate Dawkins but cannot refute him. I support the existence of many collaborative sites catering to every point of view so everyone can be happy - which is, after all, the whole point. --Teratornis (talk) 19:01, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

Regarding your RFA

What kind of experience do you have with XfD's? (AfD, MfD, etc)--Rockfang (talk) 04:19, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

Not a huge amount. I helped to save a template or two, and I learned from this deletion discussion:
how to help prevent several related templates from having the same type of discussion. Most of the articles I edit easily satisfy Wikipedia's content criteria, as they are generally easy to find reliable sources for, so I haven't had much occasion to worry about deletion debates. Early in my editing experience, I helped resolve a contentious dispute by suggesting a transwiki to a non-Wikimedia Foundation wiki:
and I documented it as an example for other editors:
I have some notes about this strategy:
--Teratornis (talk) 04:42, 26 March 2009 (UTC)
After going back through my contributions a bit, I recalled participating here:
Thank you for your interest in my request for adminship. Let me know if you need any more information. --Teratornis (talk) 04:54, 26 March 2009 (UTC)
I saved a template here:
--Teratornis (talk) 05:12, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for all the above info.--Rockfang (talk) 05:18, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

RfA Questions.

Along with the question on the RfA, I've added a question to the talk page of the RfA. Best of luck on the RfA. — Ched ~ (yes?)/© 02:24, 27 March 2009 (UTC)

Teratornis, Hi - I'm somewhat at a lack for words here. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions, no doubt. Perhaps I know you a little better since I spend a little time on the help desk, or perhaps because I took the time to come post to your talk page. It seems that some editors don't see a sense of humility in your postings. Perhaps I'm reading between the lines, or inferring a degree of humbleness that isn't there. Personally, while there are times I claim TLDR, I did feel that a RfA required me to spend the time to read. I got a sense of wanting to be accepted in much of what you write. I can certainly understand some of the diffs that are posted being construed as confrontational, and perhaps they are correct in their assumptions; but I don't think so. I'm sure (well, as sure as I'm capable of; being in my shoes rather than yours), that you've felt a twinge of hurt with some of the postings. I'm equally as sure that you will/would make a fine administrator. If any of my questions caused you discomfort, I apologize; but, I felt the need to vet the candidate as fully as I could before I !voted. I certainly hope that no matter the outcome, you will continue your writing here at wikipedia. I enjoy and appreciate your mastery of our language, and I'm driven to reflection on many of your writings - especially the ones you've been through a 2nd and 3rd draft of. (please no pointing out the ending of a sentence with a preposition - I'm improvising as I go along). Anyway, I did want to stop by, thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions, and to express my appreciation for your work here. I wish you all the best, and hope that you'll acquire the admin bit in the end. — Ched ~ (yes?)/© 20:18, 27 March 2009 (UTC)
Against ending in a preposition I would not object to. Try this experiment: pick something I wrote and read it out loud several times, in different voices. Try a happy voice, an angry voice, a sneering voice, a sad voice, a laughing voice, and the flattest possible monotone. Try to imagine Marina Orlova or Sam Kinison reading it. Notice how different the emotional loading comes out. It is dangerous to read any particular tone into written text. Even if it is laced with profanities and curses, which we don't do on Wikipedia, it's possible to make it sound like something nice, or nasty, or whatever. See what a text-to-speech converter does to it, in different accents and genders. Writing has no tone; the reader manufactures the tone according to his or her emotional reality. Maybe your perception of my tone is getting primed by someone else's characterization of it - and maybe that has something to do with the snowball effect of RfA votes, particularly those depending on an emotional interpretation of the candidate. If someone says I'm angry, or arrogant, or whatever, then by golly it starts sounding that way. As Daniel Dennett says, every time we hear or see something, our brains make a copy of it. It's also possible that I'm not that great of a writer. I write one thing, and various people understand it to mean different things than I intended. A truly great writer is hard for anyone to misunderstand. Most of us hack writers need help from the reader to get past their assumptions and try to see what we are really saying. Thanks for your message, and no I wasn't bothered by your questions. Who could feel bothered by questions? Someone wants to know what I think? Man, that's heaven. Much like the Help desk. If I don't pass my RfA it's not going to kill me. I had fun before, I will have fun after. Don't cry for me, Argentina. --Teratornis (talk) 21:56, 27 March 2009 (UTC)

Your RfA

I just closed your RfA as unsuccessful. Consensus was not reached. I imagine if you address the concerns of the opposition (among other things, that you work on your civility (esp. toward new users) and your communication, and that you work on more content) you will fair better next time.

I hope you continue to work hard on the Wikipedia project. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me on my talk page or via email. Sincerely, Kingturtle (talk) 11:42, 2 April 2009 (UTC)

I'm sorry to see that your RfA did not succeed. I had to take two runs at it before I passed. Keep up the good work and I'll see you at the help desk! TNXMan 14:50, 2 April 2009 (UTC)
Advice after close but failed RFAs. You're a quick learner. You didn't know what people were looking for at RFA, but now you've got a good sense. I'll be happy to give feedback if you'd like to run again, but probably you don't need much help aside from what you can find out at WP:ER. If I'm not paying attention for some reason, leave me a note when you visit WP:ER, and we'll see if the community is having a different reaction, and whether it might make sense to run again 3 months from now. - Dan Dank55 (push to talk) 16:09, 2 April 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the advice. You'll note by reading upwards on this talk page that the RfA was not my idea. Rather, I submitted it after repeated urging over an extended period from two other editors. Thus the productive place to direct your advice would be toward anyone who might try to persuade me to try again in the future. Now that I understand the RfA process is a football game without referees (for example, people are allowed to base their oppose votes on what a majority of participants are able to recognize as misquotations, and further opposes based on the misquotes are allowed to snowball), I realize that my initial reluctance to seek adminship was more justified than I imagined. Thus the next person who suggests I pursue adminship will have to be considerably more persuasive, because I do learn. In the meantime, I will continue my probably futile quest for an online community which does not automatically interpret reasoned disagreement as incivility, and which recognizes that any attempt to communicate with new users and help them is better than sitting back and fabricating reasons to complain about the few who do try to help. --Teratornis (talk) 20:28, 2 April 2009 (UTC)

I'm actually quite annoyed that your RFA failed. Somehow, explaining your viewpoint became synonymous with "incivil badgering". Hmm . . . Zain Ebrahim (talk) 11:15, 3 April 2009 (UTC)

The RfA process appears to fundamentally contradict my whole approach to everything, which is to explain what I think, based on citing evidence that everyone can check, and attempting to draw logically valid inferences from the evidence. Everyone who disagrees is then welcome to challenge my evidence, or my inferences from it. If this process itself is "incivil" then we seem to be regressing to the Middle Ages, where the emphasis is on feeling rather than fact. Has anyone here heard of the Age of Enlightenment? In any case, I agree with Jimbo Wales that the purpose of Wikipedia is to have fun, so I will stick with the parts that are fun. Our article on Flow (psychology) lists the necessary ingredients for fun, and chief among them in my mind is having clearly discernible rules. If RfA hinges on emotional arguments which cannot be challenged, then there are no clearly discernible rules, and thus the process can only be fun if everyone happens to share exactly the same emotions. This is extremely unlikely in a community as diverse as Wikipedia. Reason is our only tool for bridging such differences as we have, but reason appears to be considered bad form on an RfA. I have no interest in further involvement there until that fatal flaw gets fixed. That a problem exists seems to be more than just my opinion; see: Wikipedia talk:Requests for adminship#Some statistics. --Teratornis (talk) 18:11, 3 April 2009 (UTC)
This was the first RfA I have observed closely, and I too was interested to note that the process is somewhat more insane than I had previously believed. I had already been aware of several problems with RfA voting (including some of those mentioned in your last link) but I had not anticipated the (approximately twenty) oppose votes based largely or entirely on the candidate's tendency to reflect deeply on matters related to Wikipedia and his (I believe you to be male, but I've just realized I don't know why) actions on Wikipedia, and to happily provide the results of these reflections when questioned on said matters. I have yet to think of a sense in which this is a bad thing, and I'm normally a fairly competent Devil's advocate. Algebraist 22:26, 3 April 2009 (UTC)
It's hard for me to be perfectly objective, of course, but some of it looked to me like a simple case of religious bullying. I dared to recommend Richard Dawkins as a worthwhile opinion to balance the terrifying premillennial dispensationalist cult views of Finis Jennings Dake. How someone could be offended by this, I can't imagine. The whole history of theology is all about debate, and Dawkins has debated with numerous theologians without, as far as I can tell, shaking the faith of any religious professional. If Dawkins could convince someone to abandon faith, that person probably didn't have faith to begin with. Rather, the value of Dawkins is to show the extreme range of viewpoints held by intelligent people, which might be reassuring to someone who is terrified after having read one particular narrow view.
There seems to be a religious test for Wikipedia administrators. Evidently the admin candidate had better not write anything which could make any person of any faith feel uncomfortable, and the diversity of doctrinal beliefs makes this a challenge. For example, how does one show proper deference toward people who believe the literal truth of the Xenu story? Do I demonstrate an inability to use the admin tools if I admit the Xenu story seems like nonsense to me? I would not delete Wikipedia's article about Xenu, because I am an inclusionist, and because Wikipedia is pretty good about not taking an in-universe point of view when describing works of fiction. --Teratornis (talk) 00:41, 4 April 2009 (UTC)


Thanks very very much for sorting out my problem with the template :D Jamesbuc (talk) 19:01, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

You're welcome. That's one problem sorted out, leaving only about nine trillion to the googolplex power problems to go. --Teratornis (talk) 18:34, 13 April 2009 (UTC)


per your Help Desk posting that offered a much better image than Jimbo running around naked: Thank You!. Much Much better image. ;). Also, I was never really sure what your own personal belief are - but if it's appropriate "Happy Easter", if not - then Happy "just another day". ;) — Ched :  ?  21:20, 12 April 2009 (UTC)

I believe in facts. I am happy every day that I'm not dead yet. Photographs of Jimbo Wales are not exactly my cup of tea, but evidently opinions differ on that. --Teratornis (talk) 02:38, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
lol at the Monty Python reference. I remember seeing that my senior year of high school, absolutely fantastic stuff. I don't always appreciate some of the British humor (over my head I guess), but I did love Monty Python back in the day. I hope life is treating you well my friend, and I'm so glad that you continue to offer your wisdom and wit to our community. ;) — Ched :  ?  11:58, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
After watching Rachel Marsden debates feminist on YouTube I have to question our Dear Leader's taste in women, although to his credit he did break up with her promptly, and as a fitting touch he conveyed the breakup via Wikipedia. Ms. Marsden seems not to embrace traditional family values as fully as the other Ann Coulter clone, Michelle Malkin. --Teratornis (talk) 18:32, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

Thanks x2

Thanks for your advice, which I will work through. Thanks also for the compliment! (I suspect the brainiest babes are on bicycles.) It was interesting looking around your talkpage and essays, and I'm glad to have come across you. BrainyBabe (talk) 22:18, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

Brainy babes on bikes - now that's an exquisite thought on a gray rainy day. Tell me they also edit on Wikipedia and I'm in love. If you found it interesting to look at my essays, I've also taken to raving occasionally on Commons. --Teratornis (talk) 05:39, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
At least you rave logically! I liked that essay too: a vertiable list of deconstruction. As for the other, have you not come across any brainy babes on the bicycling pages? I added a little to Bicycle#Female_emancipation and History_of_the_bicycle#The_1880s_and_1890s some time ago. I am sure there must be others, active now. BrainyBabe (talk) 08:54, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
I guess I'll have to go look. Not everyone self-discloses much, and a lot of the usernames are somewhat ambiguous. --Teratornis (talk) 01:39, 15 April 2009 (UTC)
Self-disclosures are not always what they seem! Do you remember -- did you come across -- the late lamented User: Clio the Muse? There was a running joke that she was actually a 6ft builder named Dave from Croydon. BrainyBabe (talk) 07:42, 15 April 2009 (UTC)
I have enough prior experience on Usenet and elsewhere to be familiar with the hazards of taking a faith-based approach to personal disclosures online. Of course people lie routinely in real life too, but at least you have some idea of their general size, gender persuasion, and so on. I can't imagine what motivates some men to impersonate women online, which probably has something to do with the gullibility of most of the audience. On the other hand, I could understand why a woman would impersonate a man online - that would be an effective way to deter stalkers, weirdos, and giant extinct birds. --Teratornis (talk) 08:39, 15 April 2009 (UTC)
So that's the reason for the preponderence of male personae in cyberspace. Most are men, and the rest are women-disguised-as-men to avoid harassment from (some of) the former. I wonder if the same holds true under the burqa in Afghanistan: most are women, and some are men -- gay teenagers, foreign aid workers, employees sneaking out of work, whatever -- who don't want to be identified. Now it all makes sense. BrainyBabe (talk) 10:05, 16 April 2009 (UTC)
--Teratornis (talk) 18:08, 16 April 2009 (UTC)
My head hurts. Should I take girly aspirin, or butch ipufrofen? Oh, wait, asking for advice outs me in and of itself.... BrainyBabe (talk) 19:22, 16 April 2009 (UTC)
Strong enough for a man, but made for a female impersonator. --Teratornis (talk) 19:28, 16 April 2009 (UTC)


Hello. Our help desk post has been pushed [2] off the main page. (talk) 12:33, 16 April 2009 (UTC)


template into not-a-transclusion, Hey, that's a handy trick. Thanks. Ordinary Person (talk) 10:17, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

One sees many handy tricks on the Help desk, perhaps more quickly than one might run across them through normal article editing. I think the Help desk is where I first learned about the {{Tl}} template. And quite a number of other things. I recommend reading the Help desk every day for a few months. After that, it starts to get a bit repetitive, but even so it never runs completely out of "hey that's cool" new things. --Teratornis (talk) 18:25, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Thanks Teratornis

Thanks for helping me with that rational numbers problem again! (with \ne instead of ≠) (talk) 02:17, 23 April 2009 (UTC)

TfD nomination of Template:Energy films

Nuvola apps important.svgTemplate:Energy films has been nominated for deletion. You are invited to comment on the discussion at the template's entry on the Templates for Deletion page. Thank you. Rob (talk) 19:26, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

Virtual Manager

Did you have any suggestions for a virtual manager.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 07:00, 27 April 2009 (UTC)

No, I have not used one. If I did have any suggestions, I would first need to know what operating system you have in mind. You might try asking on Wikipedia:Reference desk/Computing. Generally when I need some new software, I start by finding a list of free software packages I can use. Read their Wikipedia articles, Google for more information, look for some reviews. Then just try them. If none of the free packages do what I want, then I look at packages that cost money. --Teratornis (talk) 08:17, 27 April 2009 (UTC)

Request for tagging WP:Energy categories

Hi. As a participant of the WP:Energy, I would like to ask you to comment the request for tagging WP:Energy articles by bot. The list of potential categories for tagging is located here and the discussion about which categories should be excluded from this list, is going on at the WP:Energy talkpage here. Your comments are welcome. Beagel (talk) 12:13, 16 May 2009 (UTC)

Editing images and other media

Good to chat with you again!

Well, in my defense, no one corrected my comments. But yes, it seems clear that it's possible (and has been for a while) to edit at least some non-text resources "on the fly". My sense is that there isn't a lot of emphasis on using external editors, however, and that most people do in fact just download a file, use their favorite editing tools, and upload the file. One reason is the lack of documentation, as in this bit of instruction:

In Internet Explorer you can try to associate helper application with .php file extension.

That's the total, complete advice, at mw:Manual:External editors, for a browser used by something like 70% of the English Wikipedia readers. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 13:17, 16 May 2009 (UTC)

Your opinion

I've done a little testing of User:Magnus Manske/less edit clutter.js (screenshot); it's seems worth switching to, so I'm going to. I'd like your opinion as to whether I should recommend this to new editors. I'm a bit concerned that if it becomes unstable/unusable, it will be a shock to change to the "classical" editing interface. Or maybe not; is this a good half-way step? Or the usability initiative might actual produce something useful, I suppose. Anyway, thoughts? -- John Broughton (♫♫) 01:53, 19 May 2009 (UTC)

New users need good manuals. Where is the documentation for this script? When I answer a question on the Help desk, I link to the Wikipedia internal documentation page(s) that answer the user's question. Essentially that means I am recommending the manual in addition to whatever technique or feature I recommend to solve a given problem. I see lots of gizmos on the screenshot that a new user isn't likely to understand. Granted, the new user won't understand the same gizmos when they appear in the standard undifferentiated edit box. As for my own personal use, I've never had a problem with the standard edit window, and nothing about the screenshot seems compelling enough to motivate me to try it. Something I did wish for when I was a new user was a "What's this?" command that would display a word balloon to document any chunk of wikitext I didn't understand. It's hard for a new user to look at a page full of templates, magic words, categories, etc., and decode all that stuff. It would be nice to have a simple way to get from a particular type of wikitext to the help page that documents it. The only way to do it now is to just read all the friendly manuals and memorize enough of them so your brain can classify the wikitext. That's a pity, because the MediaWiki parser must know what everything is. It shouldn't be any harder to write a wikitext annotator than it is to translate the wikitext into HTML. --Teratornis (talk) 02:21, 19 May 2009 (UTC)
Good points. I'll have to think about the lack of a manual, and how much this gizmo/gadget is likely to reduce new editor confusion. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 13:57, 19 May 2009 (UTC)
It would be nice to have some real usability studies which involve sitting people in front of computers while they try to figure out a new system, and analyzing everything they do, with eye trackers and video cameras etc. Otherwise we can only guess what is confusing people. Since Wikipedia runs on manuals, the most important thing for the new user is to have obvious help links on everything they won't automatically understand. Screencasts that demonstrate how to use features might also be nice. I like the idea of trying to build structured input forms for Wikipedia, but these are probably hard to retrofit onto a system that began with the flexibility of a markup language. I don't think learning the markup is the hardest job for the new user anyway - the hardest job is learning Wikipedia's policies and guidelines. Lots of people can figure out how to create a new article, but deletion-proofing it is at least an order of magnitude harder. Just look at the articles Wikipedia deletes - many of them have proper wikitext formatting. The markup is not what's killing people here, it seems to me. --Teratornis (talk) 05:57, 21 May 2009 (UTC)


I saw that you recently edited the page about Edit Summaries. I was wondering whether you can add to that page since its semi protected about the new automatic edit summaries that i have seen on some edits. I don't know whether you have but there's a couple more like "repeating characters" etc. I dont know when this info. was added but maybe you should add it to the page. Just scroll recent changes now and then and you will see this automatic summary. The major difference is that unlike other edit summaries that appear in italics, this one appears in normal font. Ta (talk) 03:17, 21 May 2009 (UTC)

Maybe a better place to discuss this would be on Wikipedia talk:Abuse filter, which is about the abuse filter feature which seems to be generating these automatic edit summaries. It looks like my edit to Help:Edit summary may not have been valid anyway, as that page might get bot-copied from m:Help:Edit summary and we're not really supposed to edit the copy here. I'm not sure. --Teratornis (talk) 05:47, 21 May 2009 (UTC)

A study on how to cover scientific uncertainties/controversies

Hi. I have emailed you to ask whether you would agree to participate in a short survey on how to cover scientific uncertainties/controversies in articles pertaining to global warming and climate change. If interested, please email me Encyclopaedia21 (talk) 19:13, 31 May 2009 (UTC)


The image I want to upload is fair use as there is no free equivalent (eg the Gatorade logo in Gatorade, the screenshot in Windows) I want to know if you can upload it for me:; XRDoDRX (talk) 22:32, 8 June 2009 (UTC)

You should be autoconfirmed by now. --Teratornis (talk) 17:56, 13 June 2009 (UTC)

Image Permission

You responded to my Help Desk question dated June 12 titled "Image Permission." I added additional information, per your request. If you can possibly provide an expert opinion at the Help Desk, it would be appreciated. Thank you very much. —Preceding unsigned comment added by LAlawMedMBA (talkcontribs) 13:40, 13 June 2009 (UTC)

I don't know about "expert" but I tried. --Teratornis (talk) 17:57, 13 June 2009 (UTC)