Wikipedia talk:Help desk

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Future of the help desk[edit]

We have now had Wikipedia:Teahouse for three years. It is quite active and in my opinion (take it or leave it) it does a much better job at serving as a Wikipedia help desk than this current page. (That's not a criticism of the volunteers who run this page, of course. I mean in terms of how the page is set up.) From the perspective of developing workflows to help new editors get acclimated to Wikipedia, I think it's confusing to say you can either go to the Help Desk or the Teahouse and get two totally different experiences for what's supposed to be the same purpose (getting help). It's unnecessary duplication that makes Wikipedia confusing for no good reason. Given this, what should be the future of the help desk? Do we shut it down and merge operations into the Teahouse? Do we make this page into something different, more specialized? Thoughts and comments are welcome. Harej (talk) 04:15, 8 February 2015 (UTC)

I think that the Help Desk does a better job than the Teahouse at answering non-newbie questions. I also oppose merging the Help Desk into the Teahouse because the Teahouse, with its top-posting, is wrong, and can give newbie editors the idea that top-posting is correct. I would suggest that, instead, the Teahouse be merged into the Help Desk. That is my opinion. Robert McClenon (talk) 04:22, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
In my humblest of opinions, it does not help a new user to present them with a talk space experience that is greatly different from any they will ever see anywhere else at Wikipedia (being upside-down is only part of it). Actually I've had similar thoughts, that the duplication doesn't make much sense for multiple reasons, but I was thinking about the future of Teahouse instead. If Flow ever arrives, and it is implemented in these spaces, this will become moot as the interface will be the same.
I wasn't here when Teahouse was born, but I assume it is younger than the Help Desk, and it was created because Help Desk had gained a reputation as an unfriendly place for new users. That would be the only reason to create it that I can think of. In my still-humble opinion, the folks here are friendly and helpful enough with new users and things have improved in that area. ―Mandruss  04:30, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
The Teahouse is younger. To the best of my knowledge (and I have read research literature on the Teahouse), the Teahouse was not created in response to the Help Desk specifically but in response to a more general concern with how Wikipedia treated newcomers. Harej (talk) 05:35, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
Actually it has been awhile since I visited Teahouse. On second thought, I guess they do go out of their way to be friendly there, more so than here; we're helpful, polite, and respectful, but fairly businesslike. You don't see any "Hi! Welcome to the Help Desk!". That's a matter of personality, not the venue, and there would be nothing to prevent those friendly people from being just as friendly at the Help Desk. It might even be contagious. ―Mandruss  09:29, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
I hope that both will be retained. They serve different purposes: the Teahouse welcomes and helps new editors, while the Help Desk handles difficult questions. It is the interests of everyone (new editors; experienced editors with questions; those good at welcoming new editors; those with answers to difficult questions) if there is some degree of self-sorting by those needing help. Admittedly this self-sorting is not perfect, and questions like "how can I create an article about ...?" are often asked on the Help Desk; but that is no reason to merge the two. Maproom (talk) 11:25, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
This is off topic I suppose but I've never understood why anyone would think "I need help with something. I'm going to look for something to do with tea." Dismas|(talk) 11:48, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
Keep both. I'm active at both and they each have their strengths. The Teahouse may be friendlier to newcomers but I think experienced users often get more useful answers at the help desk, and the answers are often easier to write because you can just give links where the Teahouse expects you to summarize the relevant parts. The Teahouse friendliness also becomes too much for me at times, like Wikipedia:Teahouse/Questions#I got a message about spamming, please help :/ where three posters before me wouldn't say that the user actually was spamming. Somebody even removed the spam warning. PrimeHunter (talk) 15:17, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
Keep both. I don't see, how the strengths of both approaches (Help Desk: short, "business-like" answers, quick smaller fixes and links to further info. Teahouse: Detailed, slightly more welcoming for the complete newbie editor, often offering more background and context) could be "merged" and preserved. Someone with a single, quick question is usually better served at the Help Desk; someone completely lost and/or inexperienced is often better off at the Teahouse (imo). GermanJoe (talk) 15:38, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
Arguments to keep both are compelling. They also suggest that intro information for new users should mention Teahouse but NOT help desk. By the time a new user learned that help desk exists, they might be in need of the kind of help that help desk specializes in. ―Mandruss  15:43, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
Look at the question I asked at Wikipedia:Help desk#Guidelines for the use of Template:Archive top and Template:Archive bottom. I doubt that I would have gotten a good answer to such a technical/policy question at the teahouse.
A: It is lost because you read the answer before reading the question.
Q: You mention lost context. How is context lost?
A: We read from top to bottom, left to right.
Q: How so?
A: It messes up the order in which people normally read text.
Q: Why is that such a bad thing?
A: The lost context.
Q: What makes top-posted replies harder to read than bottom-posted?
--Guy Macon (talk) 16:07, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
Having already said that the Help Desk should not be merged into the Teahouse, I will agree with a few statements. First, the Teahouse experience, as noted, is unlike that of Wikipedia talk pages, because the hosts go out of their way to be friendly. That isn't bad, but the new editors may then go to article talk pages and discover that NO ONE is like the Teahouse hosts. Most editors are businesslike on talk pages, and some are tendentious, and talk pages look upside down because the Teahouse is upside down. New editors will sooner or later encounter regular Wikipedia editors and a few flamers and trolls, but TH sets them up to be let down. This doesn't mean get rid of it, but it does mean that it is an anomaly, and we shouldn't model anything on it. I also agree that the Teahouse hosts were too indirect in the specific case of the editor who was inserting spam links, and he or she really just needed to be told, "Wikipedia doesn't work that way." So, I will restate the point that merging the Help Desk into the Teahouse is a sort of silly optimistic concept one would expect at the Teahouse. (After enough cups of tea, the caffeine makes one too perky.) Robert McClenon (talk) 16:14, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
The forced "friendliness" of the Teahouse gets on my nerves sometimes. Any newbie who really needs that level of cutesy syrupiness obviously doesn't have the emotional/intellectual maturity to survive for long as a WP editor anyway. When I do answer at the Teahouse I get a feeling I need to be extra careful not to step on any of the pink flowers or cute fluffy bunnies that infest the place. The difference between WP and the Teahouse is like the difference between an international tv news network studio and the set of Barney the purple dinosaur. I also do not like it's contrarian top posting, I have never seen a proper convincing argument why it is necessary for it to be different from the rest of the entire site. I also find quite often that Teahouse answerers are not technically as competent and correct as the Help desk answerers. Roger (Dodger67) (talk) 20:43, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
I think I just realized why I haven't visited Teahouse in awhile. Thanks. ―Mandruss  21:22, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
I think it's clear that many new editors have benefited from the more welcoming and lenient atmosphere at the Teahouse. Some of them have since become productive Wikipedians. Given that it has proven to be beneficial, it being different from the rest of Wikipedia--in format or in atmosphere--isn't a very strong argument for shutting it down, as the differences may very well be the reasons for its success. wctaiwan (talk) 02:02, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
And Guy Macon has a point, even though the Teahouse is only upside-down in the overall flow, not in individual threads (unlike Usernet top-posting, common and deprecated). Robert McClenon (talk) 16:14, 8 February 2015 (UTC)

Oppose any merger because of the two different atmospheres as noted above. And the editor who gave an "only warning" to the newbie in the case mentioned above should be trouted. Yes, the links were to his blog but new good-faith editors should be pointed to guidelines to see if they'll change their behavior before getting an only warning. --NeilN talk to me 21:31, 8 February 2015 (UTC)

Thank you everyone for your feedback. Do note that I didn't consider merging the two to be the only option; I simply raised it as one of multiple options. Given the clearly different use cases of the two, what can we do to more wisely direct traffic according to need? (As for the problems with Teahouse, that should be saved for WT:Teahouse.) Harej (talk) 01:55, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
Maybe we can look out for people asking questions politely, and show them the door. InedibleHulk (talk) 02:15, February 9, 2015 (UTC)
@InedibleHulk: That's a bit harsh, is it not? "Showing them the door", I mean. We could be a bit kinder if we were to redirect them. Tharthandorf Aquanashi (talk) 03:20, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
It was a bit of wordplay. Only harsh when you look at one way. If we could "open the door" for them, that'd be rhetorically nicer, but we can't do that, for technical reasons. Best we can do is show it to them, with good intentions. Don't boot them. Kickstart them. InedibleHulk (talk) 03:30, February 9, 2015 (UTC)
Ah, I see. Clever. Tharthandorf Aquanashi (talk) 03:46, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
what can we do to more wisely direct traffic according to need? Only what I said above; not sure you saw that. Identify all the places where new users are given introductory guidance, remove Help Desk links, add Teahouse links where appropriate. For example, Template:Welcomeg currently links to Help Desk but not to Teahouse!. It also contains a link, Where to ask questions or make comments (why the redundancy?), and that page contains links to both Teahouse and Help Desk, but Help Desk is described as "the main place to ask a question". As a new user I might well be inclined to choose the main place to ask a question. So you could include the phrase "Recommended for newer users" in the Teahouse description, and "Not recommended for newer users" for Help Desk. ―Mandruss  07:44, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
Belated ping for Harej. ―Mandruss  07:54, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
Echoing others, Keep both; two different forums, serving somewhat different purposes and having different cultures. If I had to choose one, though, I'd get rid of the Teahouse in a second and keep the helpdesk. Though I post there often, I have many problems with the Teahouse (in addition to the abomination of top posting), which I'll keep to myself as beyond this thread.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 04:25, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
Last time I looked, I was among the most active Teahouse hosts. I will agree that initial responses to the spammer the other day were too permissive, but I was firm and unambiguous when I looked at the situation. After acknowledging that, I find the notion that the Teahouse atmosphere is syrupy and full of flowers and bunnies to be hyperbolic. Yes, we encourage a friendly greeting, but I find little logic in the notion that because editors may encounter rudeness elsewhere, that we ought to be brusque in communicating with them from the get go. I have encountered internet rudeness countless times for decades and I have consistently tried to be polite the vast majority of the time. I find myself embroiled in far fewer disputes than my colleagues who approach things in another fashion. I have no strong opinion on the top post/bottom post issue, and defer to consensus. In conclusion, for those of you who dislike the Teahouse atmosphere, format or graphics, please continue working to improve the encyclopedia in other venues. If, on the other hand, you think the Teahouse adds value to this project, please stop by and help out as often as you wish. Thank you. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 04:50, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
It seems that this talk of "fluffy bunnies" has caused the Teahouse hosts to toughen up their attitudes. Yesterday someone asked what seemed to me a sensible question there, and got three unhelpful responses. I felt compelled to answer it myself, despite my being rubbish at the fluffy bunny business :-) Maproom (talk) 21:40, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
Have you seen all the attention seeking questions at Special:Contributions/Frogger48? That would cause a reaction at any other active page but the Teahouse gives the fluffy bunny treatment. PrimeHunter (talk) 13:02, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Cullen328 has finally stepped in at Wikipedia:Teahouse/Questions#Pedophile are not rapists, after an amazingly fluffy "nice to see you again on the Teahouse" from another host. PrimeHunter (talk) 12:36, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
@PrimeHunter: I had no idea what that user was up to. At the time of replying I didn't even see his comment at Wikipedia talk:Child protection. I was just upholding Teahouse standards by welcoming him that way. I better stay away from Child protection topics for a while. I honestly wasn't aware what he was trying to mean. I thought he had a confusion between those two words.--Chamith (talk) 12:53, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
OK. You have some Teahouse posts in the time the user has been active but maybe you haven't read the many other posts. I think the Teahouse posts alone should have caused a reaction some time ago. I'm an active Teahouse contributor myself but haven't officially signed up as host and sometimes refrain from posting after getting this reaction to [1]. PrimeHunter (talk) 13:16, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
I did see other posts of the user, but I didn't bother to read them as they were already answered. While looking into his contributions I noticed that he only made couple of article edits recently. Though it seems like he had time to ask irrelevant questions on the Teahouse. I believe that this user's is not here to build an encyclopedia.--Chamith (talk) 13:34, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

Signatures in Titles[edit]

Does anyone know why the last two questions had signatures in the title lines? It just seems odd. Robert McClenon (talk) 21:46, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

Two new threads have been started since then without the sig. I also tested the "Click here to ask a new question" method. I'm calling it a freak coincidence. ―Mandruss  01:47, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
Many new users have signed the section heading at the help desk. Two in a row just sounds like a non-freak coincidence to me. Template:Editnotices/Page/Wikipedia:Help desk says: "Finally, please 'sign' any statement you post here by placing ~~~~ at the end of your post." If you start a new section then there are two fields and if you don't know anything about signatures then signing the wrong one is not that odd. There are also users who write the whole post in the headline field. PrimeHunter (talk) 02:16, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
In the latter case, writing the whole post in the headline, the Help Desk regulars usually move the body of the post. In both of the non-freak coincidence cases, it wasn't important to remove the signature from the title, and the body of the post was signed also. I agree that odd but non-freak is an explanation. Robert McClenon (talk) 02:19, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
I think I have an explanation. When I comment somewhere where I haven't done so before, I tend to cut and paste the previous comment for formatting and then change the names, content etc., mimicking whatever the last person did as far as formatting goes. I am guessing that is what happened here. I wish I was better at writing clear user instructions, but I fear that spending too much time figuring out and doing what computers want has ruined me for that. :) --Guy Macon (talk) 02:42, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
Copying a rendered signature wouldn't produce a new signature, and it usually happens when the edit summary shows the New section feature was used, so the edit window wouldn't have a place to copy from. PrimeHunter (talk) 02:48, 15 February 2015 (UTC)

Are your ears burning?[edit]

Are your ears burning? Because someone is talking about you. See Wikipedia talk:Reference desk#Perhaps you are approaching this the wrong way. :) --Guy Macon (talk) 22:05, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Can we also have skip to table of contents?[edit]

Currently there is only a Skip to bottom displayed at the top of the page. Can we also have a Skip to TOC? Thanks in advance, Ottawahitech (talk) 03:18, 10 March 2015 (UTC)

Maybe it's something I have set in my preferences that provides it for me but I already have a little toolbox in the lower right of my browser window that provides that option. Plus a couple more. In all, it has "Top of page, TOC, Today's posts, and Bottom of page". Dismas|(talk) 03:43, 10 March 2015 (UTC)

Reference Desks, again[edit]

Two weeks ago a mention was made of controversy at the Reference Desks, and that the Help Desk does a better and more businesslike job of answering questions, including dealing with trolls and flamers, than the Reference Desks. A Request for Comments is in progress at the Reference Desk talk page. Your attention is welcome. Robert McClenon (talk) 19:01, 13 March 2015 (UTC)

Convenience link to the RfC. It seeks outside opinions on whether the guidelines for the Reference Desks should be decided by local consensus. I can't get my head round this combination of recursion and contradiction. Maproom (talk) 09:51, 14 March 2015 (UTC)

"Also" in the header[edit]

In WP:HD#New Article, Sandbox the OP explained having posted their question at both here and the Teahouse by having seen "New users: While this is a good place to ask questions, you may also ask your questions at the Teahouse, an area specifically for new users to get help with editing, article creation, and general Wikipedia use, in a friendly environment." in the header. I would like to change "also" to "alternatively" in the template. Comments? --ColinFine (talk) 21:30, 15 March 2015 (UTC)

Agreed. - David Biddulph (talk) 21:46, 15 March 2015 (UTC)
Or, "you may prefer the Teahouse..."? ―Mandruss  22:21, 15 March 2015 (UTC)
I tweaked it to read: new users may prefer to ask their questions at...--ukexpat (talk) 12:33, 16 March 2015 (UTC)

RfC about Referencing tutorial[edit]

Pls see Help talk:Referencing for beginners#RfC: What method first -- Moxy (talk) 15:46, 16 March 2015 (UTC)