Wikipedia:Old IP talk pages

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Vandalism and other actions by anonymous users (IPs) that provoke a talk page warning are very common on the English Wikipedia. Eleven years after the start of Wikipedia, there are hundreds of thousands of old IP talk pages with warnings, some stale by several years. Unless we take action, the number will continue to increase and over the decades they will become staler and less relevant to the current users of those IP addresses.

There have been a number of discussions and debates over the years about what to do with these pages. Some see them as valuable tools in finding systemic problematic behavior, particularly tracking long-term spamming of the site. Others see them as shrines to long-gone vandals, database bloat, or even a deterrent to the new user of that IP (after three or four years the vast majority of IP warnings will be associated with a completely different human or group of humans).

If you come across an old IP talk page, no action is necessary. If you wish, you can replace the contents of the page with an {{OW}} template, use a welcome message or archive the page. The rest of this essay covers situations in which page preservation or page deletion may be appropriate.

Page preservation[edit]

If you have any reason to believe that the talk page will one day be valuable, err on the side of keeping the page (consider blanking the page, and replacing it with an appropriate 'welcome' message - referring that there may be important messages in the history of the page).

If any of the following applies, the page should not be deleted:

  • Talk pages with level 4 or 4im warnings of any type (except for {{uw-vandalism4}} or {{uw-vandalism4im}} regarding "petty vandalism")
  • Talk pages with communication regarding any form of "systematic" vandalism:
  • Talk pages with communication regarding pages which were (speedily) deleted, beyond nonsense, test pages and juvenile vandalism
  • Talk pages of IPs with a block log, or evidence of autoblocks or range blocks
  • Talk pages which contain any kind of human discussion or explanation
  • Talk pages which have incoming links from other Wikipedia pages/talkpages (suggesting the user participated in discussion on-wiki)
  • While the addition of a YouTube, Blogger, or Twitter link may be spamming, in most cases those warnings are just a reminder that such links generally fail our inclusion standards, and hence an IP adding them to an article is not necessarily a form of "systematic" vandalism
  • Users sometimes get "mis-warned"; e.g., a {{uw-vandalism1}} is left for what is basically a {{uw-spam1}} action or there are non-templated (final) warnings for such actions. Users can also get mis-warned by inexperienced editors for trivial tests or merely disagreeable edits
  • Blocks are not always recorded on the talk page
  • Users are allowed to remove warnings from their talkpage when they have read it. That means that important warnings may be visible in the history, but not on the current version. Please check the history of the talkpage for removed warnings regarding systematic vandalism, or blanked (human) discussions
  • IP addresses are sometimes linked only by their contributions or talk page history, resulting in no incoming links despite onwiki discussion.
  • Some IP talkpages do not have incoming links from local investigations, however, they may have been involved in cross-wiki actions, and their actions may have been noted on, e.g., meta. Although it is not necessary to check all 700+ other wikis, it may for certain actions be worth to check incoming links to the meta-equivalent talkpage.

Page deletion[edit]

If none of the above apply, and one of the following does apply, the pages can be nominated for deletion at Miscellany for deletion:

  • Stale IP talk pages where the IP has not edited or had any edits on their talk page in over a year
    • The editor started 'their' talk page with "Hi, I'm here!" and there are no further edits to the page
    • Another (IP) editor started a talk page with "Hi, I'm here!' and there are no further edits to the page
    • The editor was only performing petty vandalism, and was only warned for that
  • Pages which fall clearly under one of the CSD criteria
    • If the IP hasn't edited the talk page and it qualifies for deletion under G10 or G3, then there is no need to replace the talk page
    • If the IP has edited their talk page and it qualifies for deletion as a copyright violation or spam, then it is best practice to delete and re-create the talk page with an appropriate warning

Pages should only be deleted on a case-by-case basis, after evaluating the IP's contributions and the talk page itself. The following is a list of criteria that can be used to evaluate whether a page can be deleted:

  • The IP has never been blocked
  • the IP's talk page is not using any unsubstituted templates (e.g., {{SharedIPEDU}})
  • the IP has no edits within the past year
  • there has been no talk page activity within the past year
  • there are no incoming links to the page

See also[edit]