Wikipedia:Read the archives

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Many article talk pages contain links to archived earlier discussions. These discussions often contain relevant information related to commonly contested content and the resolutions to previous content disputes. New editors to a particular article are encouraged to read any archives before posting their questions so that the talk page maintains a good signal to noise ratio, as opposed to one that is filled with repetitive postings. Talk pages that have a good signal to noise ratio are more likely to attract continued participation. An additional benefit to reading the archives is avoiding resurrecting previously settled disputes prompted by commonly-made objections.

RTA is an initialism for the statement "Read The Archives". This instruction is often given editor new to an article in response to a question or objection that has been previously answered or resolved and easily found by reading the article's archived previous discussions, and suggests that the inquirer may be wasting people's time. Alternately, RTFA is an initialism for "Read The Fucking Archives" and is a play on the engineering/computer science slang term "RTFM". In an effort to make the admonition less offending to newcomers, the expletive "fucking" could be translated as "Fine" or "Friendly". "RTFA" is sometimes used as an escalation for those editors who continue to resist pleas to "RTA."

Critics might say that frequent editors who enjoin new editors to first read the archives or use the phrase RTA are simply expressing elitism, and that their attitude drives away newcomers without helping them. Yet many needless, heated debates could be avoided if newcomers availed themselves of the archived discussions prior to raising issues that are commonly seen and whose resolution is a matter of existing consensus. Resurrecting previously-settled issues can reopen past conflicts which in turn can lead to revert wars and ultimately the protection of the article.

Those long-term editors of a particular article or topic may consider adding to the article's talk page a FAQ, pointing new editors to a list of answers to common questions and resolutions to previous conflicts. This information would be culled from the archives, and provide newcomers with a sort of "quick reference guide" to getting started in the article.