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Many times, when the editing is getting hot, and the fur really begins to fly on a talk page – especially if there are a bunch of mean-looking templates at the top of said talk page – you will see hats.

Not this kind, or this kind, or even this kind: I am talking about {{hat}}.

This template is used to maintain order in all sorts of on-wiki dicussions, from article deletion to source evaluation to noticeboards full of vigor and vim. It is helped along by its little sister {{hab}}: what these two do is enclose blocks of text in a JavaScript-collapsible box, with various effects. Like this:

This discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

Here is some really long block of text.

Wow, isn't this long?
I'll say.

{{hat}} and {{hab}} are helped along sometimes by their friend {{cot}} and its little brother {{cob}}. Let's see those two at work:

Extended content

Here is some really long block of text.

Wow, isn't this long?
I'll say.

Sometimes, when things are really serious, they will use their full names: {{hidden archive top}}, {{hidden archive bottom}}, {{collapse top}} and {{collapse bottom}}.

Anyway, these four templates show up on lots of discussion pages, especially when there is a lot of WikiDrama. They are typically used in long threads, when a side conversation gets too large (and too far from the main topic) as to be an inconvenience. They're also used to enclose entire threads sometimes, when those threads are particularly unproductive. One often sees {{hat}} and {{hab}} pitching in to cool things down when, say, two editors get into a drawn-out fight.

However, while they have the potential to defuse conflict and keep discussion on topic, they also have the potential to be used in an inflammatory way, and even as weapons. Here are some of the most common misuses of our friends {{hat}} and {{hab}}.

Types of superhats[edit]

The door-slam[edit]

Two editors have disagreed, and are becoming increasingly irate. One of them makes a mean comment (perhaps a sucker punch over a past topic ban, or a political insult), and the other responds in kind. Eventually, one or the other will decide they're fed up, and decide to {{hat}} the conversation with a final strike against their interlocutor wrapped up in the header of a collapse template:

Personal attacks and WP:ASPERSIONS by User:Example
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

Ha ha, made you click.

The nuclear dunk[edit]

Somebody will be scrolling through a talk page, and see a bunch of posts they think are stupid or pointless. What do they do? They don't comment in the thread to say it's stupid. Why, if they did that, someone would just call them stupid right back! Instead, they {{hat}} the whole section. This would almost be acceptable, except they top it off by putting a snide remark as a parameter to the hat, something like:

This has been brought up repeatedly; go whine somewhere else.
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

Ha ha, made you click.

Excuse me, I wasn't done eating[edit]

An editor is going through a talk page, and sees a discussion that they think is going to drag on: either someone has asked a question they find tedious, or it's similar to a discussion they remember seeing a while ago, or they just plain don't care. So they hat the entire section, without looking at the timestamps – even though several people are in the middle of a conversation. Afterwards, the participants have the unappetizing choice of reverting the hat (and causing drama) or trying to continue the conversation somewhere else (often in a section where it doesn't quite fit).

Why this is bad[edit]

It may seem, to the casual observer, that using collapse templates is a surefire way to win arguments. It may, in fact, seem to be the Magnum Opus: to lay a sick pwn on somebody, while simultaneously preventing them from expressing their (stupid) opinion. However, this is not a winning strategy.

First of all: think about what a nasty situation you have put this person in! Not only can they no longer respond without it being rude (the template does say not to edit inside of it), you've collapsed their entire argument, making it very unlikely for other people to see it. And then, on top of that, you replaced it with your own post calling them a moron.

Avoid making people angry[edit]

However, this comes with a substantial cost: you have caused people to be angry, which means you have caused Wikipedia to have angry people walking around in it. This causes the general atmosphere of the project to decline into mudslinging, even if you've cleverly used {{hat}}s to shield yourself from immediate blowback. You may think that you have "won" after doing this, because they can't pwn you back – but they're not going to vanish into thin air. You now have to navigate Wikipedia with the obstacle of someone who is likely unwilling to collaborate with you in future editing.

Moreover, you create a problem for everybody else: angry people will carry their irritation with them into other pages they edit, possibly causing other people to become angry as well. WP:CIVIL is one of the five pillars for a reason – the existence of our project is a delicate balancing act, that depends on people acting in good faith.

Hats are a type of closure, and should be done with the same caution as others[edit]

In general, archive templates are used to close discussions that are unambiguously not supposed to be modified. For example, a thread at AN/I where action has already been taken to block the user, or an WP:RfA that's gone past the runtime, or an AfD that's been closed. Using them on talk pages requires you to judge consensus, and evaluate a complex situation involving many people.

Hatting content is basically the same thing as performing a close (in fact, it literally is performing a close). It is an especially bold social maneuver because it's done completely at the whim of the person doing it: there aren't formal processes (like RfA or AfD) for talk sections that naturally end with them being closed with an archive template.

What is to be done?[edit]

First of all, a collapse template should never be used to win an argument by getting the last word. Some rules of thumb:

  • Imagine the thing you're writing in a {{hat}} template being placed at the bottom of the discussion: would people interpret it as a part of that discussion, and a response to previous comments? If so, you should not use it to close the discussion.
  • Would a reasonable person be able to tell which side of the argument you're on based on the note in the {{hat}}? If so, you should rephrase it.
  • Is it a long, ongoing discussion, directly related to the subject of the article/noticeboard/etc? If so, hatting it is probably a bad idea, even if there is something that directly implies it should be closed. One example is if there's a discussion over which picture to use in an article, somebody uploads one way better than any of the choices, and everyone agrees to use that one: the conversation will almost certainly die down naturally because there's nothing more to talk about. If there is something more to talk about, there's no need to prevent it from being discussed.
Bad Less bad Good
{{hat|[[WP:ASPERSIONS]] and [[WP:POVPUSH]]ing}} {{hat|Off-topic}} {{hat}}
{{hat|A bunch of irrelevant comments, why did you think we would care about this?}} {{hat|[[WP:NOTFORUM]]}} {{hat|Already answered, RfC at [[Talk:Dingus/Archive 14#Why don't we call them Dingapodes?]].}}
{{hat|Useless section created by [[WP:SPA|SPA]] to troll}} {{hat|Off-topic}} {{hat}}

For the reasons above, hats should be used sparingly, and even more sparingly (if at all) by users who are involved in the dicussions they're used in: when used, it should be with a solid understanding of WP:SUPERVOTE, WP:INVOLVED and WP:BADNAC.

One tip, if you are not completely sure about whether it's appropriate to use a {{hat}}, is to use {{cot}} instead: this is just a normal collapse template, without the sternly worded warning that nobody should edit inside of it. This will help cut down on the degree to which your hatting affects ongoing conversations. While a {{cot}} certainly discourages further commenting (and thus still requires you to be careful and diplomatic), it doesn't demand people stop commenting.