Wikipedia talk:Reference desk

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To ask a question, use the relevant Reference Desk
The guidelines for the Reference desk are at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines.
For help using Wikipedia, please see Wikipedia:Help desk.
This page is for discussion of the Reference Desks only. Please don't post comments here that don't relate to the Reference Desks. Other material may be moved.


I see that there is a semi-protected edit request for the Miscellaneous Desk. Does that mean that it has in fact been semi-protected? If so, that implies that semi-protection is a reasonable temporary measure for Reference Desks. Based on the assumption, I will request semi-protection for the Science Desk due to the troll. I hadn't thought that semi-protection was considered an acceptable option for the desks. Robert McClenon (talk) 20:17, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

Instead of SP for refdesk(s), isn't it possible to temp-block specific IPs from specific page(s)?  —Eric, aka: (talk) 20:25, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
IP addresses change. Most IP addresses (including yours) are dynamic rather than truly static. The Science Desk IP address has changed. Range-blocking is possible but is messy, and it is my understanding that most admins do not like to do range-blocks. That is one of the reasons why semi-protection is the usual way of dealing with disruptive or mildly disruptive editing from IP addresses. That is one of the reasons why we advise unregistered editors to register and create an account. Robert McClenon (talk) 20:37, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
Shouldn't semi-protected refdesks have some sort of notice at the top, something like...
"Sorry, IPs, you need to jump through hoops and wait for your response to become obsolete"  —E: (talk) 20:52, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
Typically a little silver lock will be posted at the top. And of course if the edit button is unavailable and only says "view source", then you know it's protected. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:40, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
And you don't have to jump through many hoops. The talk page is monitored pretty frequently. You can post your reasonable question here. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:42, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
"Typically", perhaps; in this case, no "little silver lock". At least as of 22:08, 14 February 2015 (UTC)  —E: (talk) 22:08, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
Someone forgot to post that. It's independent of the actual protection. But if there's no edit tab, then it's protected. And if you had a registered and confirmed account, you could edit it, and you would see this at the top: "Note: This page has been semi-protected so that only autoconfirmed users can edit it. If you need any help getting started with editing, see the New contributors' help page." ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:20, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
I put a lock there. Now someone will have to remember to remove it in a few days. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:58, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, after the aforementioned "fact". ~: (talk) 12:30, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
The admin forgot to put it there after semi-protecting the page. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:05, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Although I know about the lack of 'Edit' tab means a page is protected (thus my edit requests above), did not (see this Help desk post).  —E: (talk) 01:02, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, and that's the purpose of the help desk. To help people. The fact that someone has to ask a question there does not necessarily prove the need for a change. Far more often it simply means they don't know everything yet. That said, I wish admins would always add the lock with the protection, or, better yet, I wish that could be made automatic by the software. It would simplify our world just a little, and lord knows Wikipedia needs simplifying. ―Mandruss  01:16, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict) The "need for a change" comment should be directed to Robert McClenon; I have simply provided input from an IP's perspective (try it!).  —IP: (talk) 01:24, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
I think those of us with any experience have a pretty good understanding of the IP's perspective. ―Mandruss  01:29, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
If I were to edit logged out, it would be difficult to tell my edits from because we are using Verizon. However, it would be more useful for unregistered editors to create accounts and see it from the perspective of registered editors. Robert McClenon (talk) 02:00, 15 February 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Well, sometimes changes are made by "registered editors" either without an understanding of, appreciation for, or with unintended consequences to, the IP community.  —IP= (talk) 03:23, 15 February 2015 (UTC) —Edited:03:38, 15 February 2015 (UTC)

And what does fact that have to do with you? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:18, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
Huh? Is that an attempt at "intentional introduction of grammatical errors [...] intended as humor"?  ;)  — (talk) 05:46, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
No, that was a goof. Should be "What does that fact have to do with you?" ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:03, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
What does having only one of the reference desks missing an 'Edit' tab (and no lock icon), and seeing "Please do not ask knowledge questions on this page. This talk page is where the reference desk itself is discussed. To choose an appropriate reference desk to visit..." on the page notice, even though I was instructed to do so on the previous page notice, and was admonished for doing so, and then noticing that I was not the only IP affected, and ... yadda, yadda, yadda ... -- you mean, like that?  —E: (talk) 12:22, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
If you fail to see the connection between my experience and the topic of 'Semi-protection', then so-be-it.  —E71.20.250.51 (talk) 12:37, 15 February 2015 (UTC) --edit; grammar:12:43, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
I see that the topic of 'Semi-protection' is directly related to the IP's experience, because he has been impacted by semi-protection. However, I fail to see the relevance of the IP's experience to the Reference Desk in general, because the IP has never explained why he chooses not to create an account, and he certainly hasn't explained why he thinks that he then has a right to complain about being impacted by semi-protection, which he could work around. Robert McClenon (talk) 21:00, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
It was unknown that the IP needed to acquire a "right to complain", especially since the IP in question was simply attempting to provide a suggestion followed up by responses to what the IP perceived as condescending comments from "those of us with any experience".  —IP= (talk) 21:21, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
The issue comes down to "How badly do you want to edit?" prior to the impending expiration of the protection. And the answer apparently is "Not badly enough to create an account." ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:12, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
For the record, though, Bugs's implication that there might be something wrong with an editor who declines to register an account, or that such an editor is considered a second-class citizen for not doing so, is not shared by everyone here (and is, as far as I know, contrary to Wikipedia policy). —Steve Summit (talk) 18:41, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
By that reasoning, semi-protection would also be against policy. I say again, "How badly does the user want to edit?" during the semi time (which should be expired by now). ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:51, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
I don't expect to change your mind, but I've decided not to let your relentless prejudice against IP editors go unchallenged here. —Steve Summit (talk) 19:52, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
I am not prejudiced against IP editors in general. Your claim is a falsehood. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:56, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Treatment of IPs[edit]

There seems to be a massive issue here whereby anonymous editors, or IP editors, or "unregistered editors" are immediately treated suspiciously and like criminals or blocked former editors or banned users. The knee-jerk reaction should stop. There's no reason at all why an IP shouldn't be taken seriously. I would urge you all to try to remember that as a Reference Desk, it's paramount that you act in a friendly and helpful manner to the users who pass by and ask questions. Of all the places in Wikipedia, this is the most likely location that a newbie would appear, mostly without an account, to ask a question. To see the forensic analysis of their purported location and questioning their motives is really demoralising and undermines the purpose of the Ref Desk in its entirety. Let's do better and answer questions (with referenced answers, rather than WP:OR) regardless of whether they have a registered account or, more likely, they are an IP acting in good faith. The Rambling Man (talk) 20:22, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Hear, hear! I agree and support this sentiment. Mingmingla (talk) 01:51, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
The dilemma about IP's, as per discussion farther up the page, is that sometimes it's necessary to semi-protect one or more of the ref desk pages, due to persistent vandalism. This of course shuts out IP's and non-confirmed users. If the vandalism that triggered the semi is from an IP-hopper, it's more efficient to just semi the page than to play whack-a-mole -- albeit at the cost of annoying sincere IP's who would like to edit but can't do so until the semi expires. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:11, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
No, it really isn't necessary to semi-protect. It's been done, sure, but that's not necessity. Even if an IP user wants to troll or vandalize, we can just ignore it and move on, or delete/hat as appropriate. I have a feeling that some trolls probably like getting the page semi-protected. After all, semi-protection is very disruptive, and a concrete demonstration that the hypothetical troll has succeeded. SemanticMantis (talk) 18:34, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
It's not done very often. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:04, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
But they're different from us! Strange names, anyway. Isn't that enough reason to remain vigilant? No, I suppose it's not. We can't be too tolerant, but it wouldn't hurt to just censor the bad apples.
I see the question about autism being a drain on society is highlighted in exquisite archived blue, instead of standard hatted pink, to those without Javascript. Nice contrast, illuminates what we don't want. It's sort of like a deterrent, but also sort of like casting a fire spell on a fire monster and healing it. InedibleHulk (talk) 03:27, February 20, 2015 (UTC)
Maybe the hat template needs some additional options. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 09:28, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
The rare times I collapse, I use cot/cob [1]. It takes any bg color you want as a parameter, and it doesn't default to saying "do not modify", though you can also pass a warning parameter. The idea of hatting isn't always to prevent further comment, sometimes it's just to organize the thread. SemanticMantis (talk) 18:37, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Text black would be a great background colour, when the intention is to hide. InedibleHulk (talk) 22:16, February 20, 2015 (UTC)
I am in total agreement. There is nothing wrong with being new. Nor is there anything suspicious about using an IP. Everyone here was new at some point. Everyone here made a first edit, or posted a first question. There are myriad reasons that users might sign with IP. I think some people are just tilting at windmills, or perhaps just paranoid. As I said yesterday, discriminating against users based on IP status is akin to bigotry or racism, and we shouldn't tolerate any of those here. If I had my way, users who regularly violate WP:BITE, WP:AFG, WP:HUMAN, etc. should be warned and then blocked if the behavior does not change. SemanticMantis (talk) 18:39, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
There's nothing inherently or automatically suspicious about using an IP. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:04, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Certainly we can't be biassed against IP editors - that's 180 degrees away from Wikipedia policy and culture. What bothers me is someone with no admin qualifications and providing zero evidence pops up and says "xx.xx.xx.xx is the well-known evil doer known as xxxxxx"...and then takes some kind of action on the basis of that. This is a very large stretch past the bounds of what a regular editor here should do. At the very least, we need someone with Admin qualifications to do this kind of thing - and I'm sure they'd need more than a vague suspicion before doing it. Mere similarity to the posts of some known miscreant is not grounds for leaping to action. Fixing these cases what we have Admins for. We simply cannot have unqualified editors deciding to be judge, jury and executioner in these cases.
*AGAIN* I call for adoption of a solid set of carefully-documented, community-agreed, consensus-driven rules that cover what Wikipedia Ref Desk editors are expected to do under these kinds of situation - and to treat repeat-offenders against such rules as "Disruptive editors" and have appropriate action taken to remove them from here. SteveBaker (talk) 22:05, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
These kinds of situations are never exactly the same. To attack them all with a rigid gameplan will have different results, some of which piss off innocent people. Legit repeat IP offenders can't really be blocked; there are too many addresses and too many ways to use another. And when the enemy knows exactly how we'll respond (they can read whatever we plan, barring forming a secret cabal), they can tailor their attack accordingly.
I again call for being like water. When the troll expects you to zig with acknowledgment that they're disrupting Wikipedia and making you angry, zag with a referenced fact that corrects their premise. Use their angles against them, and turn what could be a bright pink rant about how Jews run the world into black and white proof that they don't. Then when someone stumbles across it, they learn something other than how brittle a target the Ref Desk is. InedibleHulk (talk) 22:33, February 20, 2015 (UTC)
I agree, providing sourced and non-original research answers to questions should be the one and the only pursuit here. Disarm any perceived trolling by using intelligence rather than bludgeoning and continual racing to this talk page to discuss the naughty IP. I don't see this kind of thing impacting the rest of Wikipedia, there it's just dealt with in a mature fashion, revert block ignore, or even just ignore. It's not "hat, unhat, hat, unhat, debate endlessly at talk page, resolve nothing" as it is here. The Rambling Man (talk) 09:37, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
And if they don't ask a question, disarm any perceived advertising. At least that's what I eventually realized I was doing to that IP from NBC. Or the NFL. Or Papa John's. Or wherever it came from.
Did you know melted cheese and chunks of meat kill babies? Or that irradiating half-informed prisoner's testicles prevents babies? Or that the Super Bowl causes pupation in a percentage of newborns? InedibleHulk (talk) 09:30, February 22, 2015 (UTC)
On the subject of hatting, it was never supposed to be the go-to solution for banned users or trolls. Hatting was for those occasions when the answers were getting disruptive, should probably be deleted, but deleting them would have caused drama from regular users who didn't want their words 'censored' or 'thrown away'. It mostly hides them from obvious sight, makes it plain that they're unacceptable, and is supposed to stop any further response from users who cannot help replying. My preferred option would be to delete these words, and I regret my support for hatting in the past, but that is why it is used.
If you have a post that you are very sure is from a banned user, you either ignore it and provide the most boring response, or you delete it with minimal comment and attention. These responses are to make the situation as uninteresting for them as possible, and minimise their impact. There has never been consensus for hatting these, because hatting draws attention to their words and preserves them on the desk, which is not the goal. And you certainly don't discuss how you have decided they are a particular banned user on the desks themselves. (talk) 10:03, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
No. It has to be deleted. Banned users are not allowed to edit. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:05, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
I think this thread is getting to the nub of the issue. Here are two sort of contradictory truths when it comes to dealing with vandalism:
  1. If our preferred "solution" inevitably involves lots of drama here, the trolls have "won".
  2. But on the other hand, we shouldn't be obsessed over whether some troll somewhere has scored a "win"; we should be seeking to maximize the quality of, and minimize disruption to, these desks.
If we're always afraid that some bored teenager somewhere might be chuckling "Lulz, I trolled Wikipedia again", if we're willing to do anything in a futile attempt to forestall every such chuckle, then whether or not we prevent the trolls from winning, we will unquestionably lose. We will destroy the desks in order to save them.
We should make sure the cure isn't worse than the disease. As the doctors say, "First, do no harm". —Steve Summit (talk) 14:28, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Random trolls are one thing. Banned users are another. They are not allowed to edit, and if they are enabled by someone else, it harms Wikipedia. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:37, 21 February 2015 (UTC)

You know what was funny about that question about autistic people. Well the I.P and dropped a ha-ha bomb was not even proven to be the original poster of the question. Other than the hear-say "I did it!!"the admins took that for face value and did it accordingly. What if the same I.P came a long and did that to baseball bugs, or some other saintly member of the gang here.

As for trolls. There's an old saying, if you can't beat em, join em. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:38, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

They already do it to "members of the gang here", frequently. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:31, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

To be clear, there's no question that banned editors are not allowed to edit, their edits should be reverted on sight, but we should then avoid this pathetic autopsy on the topic, like every time it happens someone has to start a thread here to discuss reverting a banned editor. That's feeding the troll. Also, to for the avoidance of doubt, there is absolutely no problem with IPs editing, posting questions, posting "dumb" questions, posting questions "in poor English" etc etc. This is a Reference Desk for one of the biggest websites in the known universe. Immediately assuming that IPs are up to no good and geolocating them is really poor form. Instead, work on answering the question with sourced answers and links to our own articnles rather than Sherlock Holmes-style queries and pseudo-pyschoanalysis of their motives. There really is no "them and us". If you believe there is, Wikipedia isn't the place for you, especially not the Reference Desk which is supposed to welcome all-comers. Which, right now, it really does not with its appalling treatment of IPs. We don't have two queues, one for registered users, one for IPs, although it seems that some here believe we do, or at least that we should..... The Rambling Man (talk) 23:10, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

Given I tidied up this mess, I'm really not amused by the "No, you're wrong, banned users aren't allowed to edit" on a loop. No editors are allowed to feed the trolls, and I'm very sure that as a community we have repeatedly explained exactly which behaviour feeds trolls, and yet not only did several editors discuss at length whether the question was a troll, on the desk itself, someone even brought up a specific named user whose reputation would have died long ago if it wasn't for certain editors repeatedly bringing their name up.
Banned users aren't banned because we're an exclusive club who must publically shun ex-members to solidify our sense of belonging: banned users are banned to reduce disruption. If they came back and nobody noticed because they don't do anything disruptive (including telling people who they are), then nobody would care. It doesn't matter at all whether you think a troll is a specific troll you've met before: who cares, unless they're threatening your safety? Trolling is trolling: we have guidelines to deal with it. (talk) 17:30, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
One of the "guidelines" discussed here has been to keep removal of banned users' edits as low-key as possible. That gets ruined by editors who insist that since they personally don't recognize the banned user's M.O., then nobody else does either. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:59, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
It doesn't matter at all whether you think a troll is a specific troll you've met before: who cares, unless they're threatening your safety? Trolling is trolling: we have guidelines to deal with it. (talk) 17:44, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, it does matter, because banned users are not allowed to edit. And what do you mean about "safety"? A threat to Wikipedia? Yes. Allowing banned users to edit threatens the integrity of Wikipedia. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:36, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

ANI regarding Medeis[edit]

See [2]. Thanks, IBE (talk) 09:23, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

Now available at [3]. Thanks, IBE (talk) 03:59, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

Not the first, won't be the last. The problem with ANI for this issue is that it only ever looks at the latest incident, not the years of disruption. SteveBaker's suggestion that we put together a set of rules that will stop it seems like the only workable approach - IF we can enforce a topic ban WHEN the rules are broken. It's this last point which seems to be the major obstacle from my point of view. Tevildo (talk) 23:07, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
Medeis herself has proposed a more drastic and effective remedy - "only an admin can hat or delete a discussion". This definitely gets my !vote. Shall we turn it into a formal proposal? If so, is RFC the way to go? Let's get this show on the road, folks! Tevildo (talk) 23:18, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
I think it's quite a reasonable idea, but be careful to specify that it is a separate issue. The debate at ANI there has been weirdly sidetracked into a lot of other issues. You'll have to fight to keep people on topic. So yes, please go ahead, not least because people can then find the appropriate place for that discussion, instead of including it in the ANI that I started. IBE (talk) 05:23, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
The ANI debate has been "weirdly sidetracked" because there are few clear, widely supported rules in this area. As is often the case, the community has tolerated shootdown artists who are skilled at killing any chance of consensus by attacking the imperfections of any proposed solution, while never bringing forth any viable, constructive solutions of their own. I support this RfC as such a constructive proposal, although I will oppose and I think it will fail on its merits. ―Mandruss  06:49, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Wow, that was really angry, and yet you have a very good point there, amidst the welter of strong feelings. Yes, you are right about people pointing out these imperfections, yet is there any chance you could express this more reasonably in the future? "Shootdown artists", "skilled at killing any chance" - this is what I call argument by characterisation. You characterise people in a certain way, which stands for any reasonable analysis. The only thing we can do, please, is to fight for the middle ground, as well as our own proposals/ opinions or whatever. I agree that you have highlighted a real problem, but you will lose me quickly if you express yourself in such a way as to suggest it is wilful behaviour. We have to preserve the middle ground so that people (like the ones you are referring to) have a chance to find it. If they find it and demonstrably reject it, we can expose their tendentious behaviour. IBE (talk) 14:55, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
I learned very early in my time here not to post when I'm angry. Being justifiably resentful is a different thing, and it's something that doesn't go away when you sleep on it. By blocking any progress on anything of significance, the pattern of behavior I described is destructive to the project (willful or not, it doesn't matter), and, yes, I have very strong feelings about that. I doubt I'm alone in that. ―Mandruss  16:30, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Are we entirely sure Medeis is even one person? What if (s)he's just a computer in a public cafe somewhere that never logs off? It would explain why it sometimes hats things and sometimes doesn't. Sometimes pleasant, sometimes un. I'm not trying to weirdly sidetrack anyone. Just something to think about. InedibleHulk (talk) 07:37, February 23, 2015 (UTC)
I think that's rather unlikely - Medeis' prose style is very consistent between postings. Tevildo (talk) 01:23, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Neat. Tevildo compares me to a mass murderer, InedibleHulk gratuitously insults me, and the above ANI fails with the opposition of more than half a dozen uninvolved admins. I have to say I am disappointed, but not pretending our perennial troll problem, especially violations of such policies as WP:BLP, etc., is one user's fault. μηδείς (talk) 04:17, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

Alternative Proposal[edit]

I would support the proposal by Medeis that only admins be allowed to hat or delete original questions or whole threads if it were formally made. It isn't the best of solutions, but it may be the simplest to state and enforce. We tried recently to discuss a flowchart for when and how to respond to Reference Desk threads. While I disagreed with the way that the flowchart was organized in two parts, it seemed better than no rules. Unfortunately, Medeis didn't offer any constructive comments, but didn't offer to stop acting as a part-time policewoman for the Reference Desk. A rule that only admins be allowed to hat or delete questions or threads would at least save Medeis from the burden of thinking that she has to police the Reference Desk, and the rest of the Reference Desk regulars from Medeis policing the Reference Desk unpredictably. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:21, 1 March 2015 (UTC)

Please don't presume to speak on my behalf, I don't speak on yours. Your patronizing remarks and sarcastic insults speak for themselves without you attributing them to me. μηδείς (talk) 04:05, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
I see no such presumption. The sarcasm expresses what many people think, although we recognise the need to treat some people with kid gloves. IBE (talk) 04:19, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
Great idea, and I would thoroughly support it, but we have to be careful about who has the authority to make such a rule (as someone said in the ANI). It would lead to the awkward circumstance that an editor who mainly makes contributions to mainspace could venture towards the ref desk, hat a silly reply, then get told off for the violation of procedure. We'd have to be careful about gaining the authority to make such a decision, and perhaps it would have to be bumped up a level. Otherwise, yes, great idea. IBE (talk) 04:19, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
There is plenty of precedent for WikiProjects (which is more or less what we are) establishing their own local rules and guidelines above and beyond those more widely used throughout Wikipedia. So long as there is a consensus to apply them and they don't outright contravene normal Wikipedia rules - it's acceptable, and even enforceable under the general principles of disruptive editing. If we make a rule, with good consensus support, document it carefully and apply it uniformly and fairly - then if someone repeatedly violates it, then they are clearly disrupting our work here - and even if they aren't breaking any other Wikipedia rule, they would be guilty of disruptive editing - and that's definitely a punishable offense that any decent Admin would be happy to deal with accordingly. SteveBaker (talk) 04:36, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

Hatting, deleting, and nicknames[edit]

"This glorification of vandalism through infamy encourages Internet memes through reinforcement, where users imitate notorious or unique vandalism methods for amusement, to share in the infamy, or for the thrill of defying authority and/or interfering in other users' work. Denying recognition and infamy neutralizes common primary motivators for vandalism and disruption." WP:DENY

Okay, I really thought there was clear community consensus on this, but I could be wrong. Could we have some comment, and maybe a !vote on this? I would prefer not to bring in specific cases, as I don't want it to become about discussing individuals or glorifying trolls. I have laid out what I consider the main points where we may diverge, to try to work out what the consensus is.

Thank you for your constructive comments. (talk) 18:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

Many of these questions seem to assume that there is an agreement about what constitutes trolling. The main problem, in my view, is the disagreement and discussions about whether particular questions and edits are trolling or not. --NorwegianBlue talk 19:16, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

The purpose of any action taken with respect to vandals and trolls is aimed at reducing disruption to the project.[edit]


  • I thought this was clearly agreed. (talk) 18:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Obviously. --NorwegianBlue talk 19:17, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agreed and I like that the OP is looking to set forward clear-cut definitions. When people write formal contracts one of the first things done is to create s definitions section so as to remove any possible ambiguity. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 5 Adar 5775 20:34, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree - although we do have to consider the wider Wikipedia. So if we did something that disrupted the rest of Wikipedia in order to create more calm here - that would be A Bad Thing(tm). SteveBaker (talk) 21:31, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Clearly. So obvious one would think it doesn't need saying -- except that so many of the actions we do seem to end up taking here are outrageously disruptive, so this is a point that does need highlighting and working on, after all. —Steve Summit (talk) 05:07, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Yes, clearly. Although I'd prefer to say "The purpose ... is to reduce disruption to the project". Actions may be aimed at something, but purposes are just something. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 05:08, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Of course any action about trolls should be aimed at minimizing disruption. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:23, 1 March 2015 (UTC)



Trolls are motivated by a desire for recognition and a visible impact.[edit]


  • Experience, and general discussions online including on Wikipedia, made me think this was universally agreed109.157.242.32 (talk) 18:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • To the extent that troll psychology is interesting, it is probably true that they want their disruption to be noticed, since ignoring trolls has proved to be the way to go. --NorwegianBlue talk 19:23, 24 February 2015 (UTC)


  • You're missing the critical part, that they want to cause disruption. Wanting recognition and to make a visible impact are not bad things. StuRat (talk) 19:18, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • StuRat is least for some subset of trolls.
  • We can't know what really motivates any given troll, nor make generalizations about all trolls. —Steve Summit (talk) 05:07, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
    • I would agree with you that based on human nature (we're all different) it doesn't make sense to stereotype save for one thing. Most trolls are carbon copies of others using tried and true methods guaranteed to offend (at least if done right). Most new memes and trolls (as in methods of trolling) are done to death soon after they come out and still copied for a long time afterwards. It's unusual to run into a truly original troll and unlikely they'd troll here as there's much bigger fish. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 6 Adar 5775 12:11, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Disagree as per above posters, but this is irrelevant. What trolls want is not important. What we want is to minimize disruption. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:24, 1 March 2015 (UTC)


Use of cute nicknames, insulting terms, and general recognition that a specific troll is remembered and talked about as an individual, encourages trolls[edit]


  • WP:Do not insult the vandals, and all that. (talk) 18:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC) To be clearer, I would consider calling a troll by a cute nickname on the desks a clear violation of WP:DENY. (talk) 19:03, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Yes, and I think that trying to associate particular edits with particular trolls to the extent that is done on this talk page, is counterproductive. --NorwegianBlue talk 19:32, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Yes, but unfortunately Baseball Bugs is one of our "best" "troll hunters," and he seems to really like giving them names. SemanticMantis (talk) 21:26, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
    • Well, instead of "Toron-troll", I could say "IP-hopping Toronto-based troll whose sole purpose is to foment debates" each time the subject comes up. Do you like that better? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:44, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Doing something to increase notoriety would be bad. Let's give them long, boring serial numbers instead of names. SteveBaker (talk) 21:34, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
    • Actually, what would be best is trusting the judgment of the regular editors who know a troll's M.O. when they see it. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:46, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
    • Careful with that joke, Steve, I don't care and found it funny, but it could very easily be interpreted as a Holocaust joke (for reasons I don't have to explain). Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 6 Adar 5775 01:44, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
      • And who will decide who is "trusted" and who not? We'd need a process...fortunately, we have such a process - it's called Admin-ship. If you're a wannabe troll hunter - head over to WP:RFA and get yourself qualified, with a bright shiney toolkit to handle this stuff properly. What ain't gonna work (and is demonstrably NOT working) is self-nominated troll hunters. SteveBaker (talk) 01:24, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
        • That's one of the silliest comments I've seen here. Us peons have always been assistants to the admins in alerting them to trolls. Which you would know, if you paid attention. And if you don't trust the regulars and do trust the trolls, you took a wrong turn somewhere. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:26, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree. This shows the troll that they've won. It can best be illustrated by this page on KnowYourMeme. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 6 Adar 5775 01:44, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree. We should deny trolls recognition wherever possible. (Although, inevitably, there are tradeoffs, because we have to be able to talk about what we're doing, because we don't all trust each other enough to act invisibly and unilaterally.) —Steve Summit (talk) 05:07, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Weak agree. Not sure why this matters. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:25, 1 March 2015 (UTC)



  • Yes, but we do need to say we think this is a troll, and link to the talk page where we list our evidence. StuRat (talk) 19:16, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

Obvious trolling, or known banned users, can be simply deleted with little notice given. The reason is that the trolling is obviously disruptive, or the user is surely known[edit]


  • This denies them what they want, but should only be used where there is no doubt. This is not the same as everyone having no doubt, but there may be a few reliable people who are trusted to know. This may involve checkuser. (talk) 18:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Surely, if the troll is truly well-knwn and recognizable, and if the editor doing the summary removal is trustworthy. —Steve Summit (talk) 05:07, 25 February 2015 (UTC)


  • Unfortunately, we have regulars here like Medeis who seem to be incapable of exercising good judgement, so we can't allow this. Of course, if a post isn't actually a Q, but just a rant, then we can remove it for not being a Q.StuRat (talk) 19:13, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • We have seen, again and again, that what is obvious trolling to one user, may be a reasonable question to others. --NorwegianBlue talk 19:38, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree with Norwegian Blue. I have noticed the same thing over a long time, and it would cause friction among us if implemented. This IMHO would feed the trolls. I thought the idea with known trolls was that they should be banned, and admins had responsibility for banned users. Identifying them from their MO alone sounds terribly suspect to me, and beyond our scope. IBE (talk) 03:33, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I would consider agreeing - but for three things:
    1. We first have to unambiguously determine that this is definitely a troll. If just one individual makes that decision (eg Medeis) then they'll very often be wrong - or at least others here may wish to debate the matter...which gives the troll the kick they need. So the criterion for deletion would have to be sufficiently mechanically determined to allow the action to be performed with minimal debate. That's tough to do....but having some guidelines here would help.
    2. In the event that there is cause for doubt, then deletion is problematic because it leaves room for deletion without oversight. If we can't see the original post - and if we're trying not to debate it, then a rogue editor can (and past history says, will) start deleting questions that they merely don't like. This is not acceptable.
    3. It is arguable, that the troll would see deletion as an active response from us - which may in itself encourage the troll to post over and over in a cascade of whack-a-mole deletions that would possibly constitute recognition.
    I would prefer to simply stop replying to them. Do **NOTHING** whatever. This denies recognition at least as effectively as deletion...and it allows each of us individually to make our own determination of whether the question was "real" or "trollish". That said, if an administrative decision elsewhere in Wikipedia has formally identified this username or IP address as an evil-doer - then I see no particular problem with that case, there ought to be no doubt. SteveBaker (talk) 04:42, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
    • Who are you? Please sign and date your posts. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 05:16, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
      • Sorry - it was me, I was answering many of these questions and missed a signature! SteveBaker (talk) 04:42, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Disagree as per Norwegian Blue and other posters, and because we cannot always be sure that a post is from a particular banned user. The proper means for identifying banned users normally is SPI. The ducks don't always quack as expected. Also, deleting a post that appears to one editor to be an obvious troll or a banned user may not be obvious to someone else, and the resulting argument is disruptive. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:31, 1 March 2015 (UTC)


A troll will generally be disappointed with a brief, boring, referenced answer, and this the best response to any borderline cases[edit]


  • I would consider this the ideal. (talk) 18:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agreed. StuRat (talk) 19:11, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agreed. --NorwegianBlue talk 19:39, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Strong agree. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 5 Adar 5775 19:54, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • YES SemanticMantis (talk) 21:22, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I agree with the sentiment, which I have usually called "playing a straight bat". Just answer the question literally, as asked, without getting into side issues such as our outrage. But such responses do not have to be brief to be effective; it depends on the context. Also, I have never been guilty of writing anything boring in my life, and don't intend to start now. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 05:24, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:32, 1 March 2015 (UTC)


  • Strong Disagree. I don't think we can create boring enough answers efficiently enough. The troll may take joy in causing us to waste countless hours researching dumb, stupid questions in order to come up with those answers. "Don't Feed The Trolls" is the correct thing to do. Simply do not answer at all. I appreciate that this may be difficult - but it's the only thing thats been proven to work. Just pretend that the question doesn't exist. No mention of it, no discussion of it, no reply to it. If someone does respond to an obvious troll, then maybe issue a short, standardized template warning to the responders' talk page. "I think you replied to a troll - you may wish to retract your response."...that's far enough away from the WP:RD page that the troll may not have the energy to go and look to see if (s)he caused disruption there...and if they do, a simple template with no additional commentary is the least interesting thing we can do. SteveBaker (talk) 21:53, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Note that the statement addressed borderline cases, i.e. cases where there you are in doubt whether the question was serious or not. If I considered the question interesting enough for me to spend time researching it, and had time available to do so, I wouldn't really care what the motivation of the questioner was, and I don't think I would create any disruption by providing a referenced answer. The answer would be boring to the OP if the question was an attempt at trolling, and hopefully interesting to the OP and others if the question was made in good faith. If the question was uninteresting and suspect, I would ignore it. --NorwegianBlue talk 23:04, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
If we make our referenced responses boring, the trolls win. Let's just not make them inflammatory. InedibleHulk (talk) 03:50, February 25, 2015 (UTC)
I think the the idea behind boring wasn't so much dry, but rather not expressing any strong negative emotions over the topic. The Israel Palestine topic from two days ago for instance as targeted to provoke strong reaction if it was a troll post. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 6 Adar 5775 04:43, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
It did sort of provoke me. But I refrained from mentioning specific unspeakable acts. And deflected the urge into improving the rocket article's accuracy and range a bit. Trolls can be used to support the bridges they live beneath. InedibleHulk (talk) 06:50, February 25, 2015 (UTC)
You saw though how there started to be back-and-forths over it though. The regulars started arguing over the nature of the Conflict because they feel strongly about it for one reason or another. Were it a troll post, the OP would have harvested the lulz from everyone getting so hot and bothered, and the ref desk regulars might not even realised they've been trolled. They'd just think about how horrible that other person on refdesk is for thinking they can honestly justify the actions of whichever side they support (as most foreigners are polarised on this particular issue).
Another example was the autism thread where even I lost my cool (I'd like to think I've a thick netskin, but clearly not always the case) because I find the level of ignorance that was displayed in the original question offensive (unapologetic ignorance is something that annoys me). Should have seen that as a red flag. We all had some nice arguments there and if the OP was trolling, they got ample lulz out of it. When people lose their composure, the troll wins. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 6 Adar 5775 14:41, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Weak disagree, because I don't think we can say anything general about the troll's psychology or satisfaction level, so I can't agree that this is the "best" response in every situation. (Though it can indeed be a perfectly fine response in some situations.) —Steve Summit (talk) 05:07, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Per what I said above, I would normally agree with you as people are different from person to person, but in the case of most trolls except for the really good ones, I must respectfully disagree. Your average troll is a copycat of other trolls mimicking older, more experienced, trolls and using tired old trolling methods. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 6 Adar 5775 14:41, 25 February 2015 (UTC)


  • A dispassionate reply to a troll post is very effective. It will either anger the troll and cause them to leave after a while or defuse them as they feel outgunned. Either way their confidence is bruised and they're gone (at least for a while). I used to do this with trolls on IRC who liked to use heavy-duty holocaust jokes on me and I always either talked about stuff calmly (or in certain cases one upped them) and this always defused them. I even managed to become friendly with an Austrian neo-Nazi who liked me because of archaeology. The other solution I found back then was to counter-troll a troll until they would beg for mercy, and then after it was granted, they'd be docile, but that only works on minor to moderate trolls and is thoroughly unacceptable behaviour on Wikipedia (and you feel bad about it after a while). So I feel the above approach is best. (It's known that the /lit/[erature]section of 4chan is impossible to troll because this is how they deal with trolls. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 5 Adar 5775 19:54, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Yep, we of course shouldn't troll the trolls here, but keeping our cool and ignoring or giving calm referenced answers is the best. SemanticMantis (talk) 21:22, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
I disagree. Many trolls would take great joy in asking which porn star has the biggest dick and watching us go off and carefully research the matter, providing copious carefully referenced answers. Having us run in circles trying to answer this kind of question is PRECISELY the kind of thing that trolls love to see. This is a really, REALLY terrible idea! SteveBaker (talk) 21:53, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Of course, SemanticMantis. Sorry, I should have specified that the dispassionate answers is what I was advocating. I was just putting it in context of other effective methods. It's also been quite some time since I wrecked a troll and it takes a lot of apathy and practice which none of us should engage in as our time is better spent helping people out (it also only works on lesser trolls). Ignoring is nice in theory, but practice has shown that someone will always answer (either out of anger at them question or pity because the post is being ignored). Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 6 Adar 5775 00:59, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
A terrible idea, says you. I think you just don't have the experience in teaching that some of us do. So let me tell you: calmly answering questions with facts is what works, not telling people they aren't allowed to ask. If someone asks us about pornstar penises and some of us want to provide references, I don't think that's feeding trolls. There's nothing wrong with asking about penises, WP:NOTCENSORED, so that's a non starter. So we're left with the your idea of "great joy" - you seem to be saying this would be troll feeding because the asker might like the fact that we did research for them? That's INSANE. That's tantamount to saying that we can only answer questions if we are pretty sure the OP won't like it or perhaps at best they have no feeling. But certainly not pleasure. That would be terrible. Do you see how crazy that sounds? Aren't we here to help people, and presumably give them the pleasure of answering their questions? That's what I'm here for anyway, though a lot of respondents just like to talk a lot and not give references... Us fighting about whether or not we can answer the question is feeding trolls, IMO.
In short, you're missing the point, and the beauty of this concept: your plan only works if we ALL agree on what is trolling. This way, giving referenced answers, means it doesn't matter if one user thinks it is a troll question and another doesn't. You are of course free to ignore something that you think is trolling, and I should be free to give AGF, referenced answers anywhere I want, even if it is about porn stars' penises. That really is a REALLY TERRIBLE example! SemanticMantis (talk) 22:41, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
I don't mean any offence by this, but I think you might be presenting an overly-simplistic view of what trolling is and what trolls are after, SteveBaker. I'm not saying I'm at all an expert, but I'll give my opinions on the matter. For one thing, trolls, just like regular people, really vary in complexity. You have garden variety obvious trolls (who run the gambit from pitiful to rage-inducing) who you can tell are trying to cause controversy or annoy people, but you also have opportunistic and concern trolls whose skills are much more developed. They're also very difficult to tell from a genuinely concerned individual (and the ensuing debate over whether or not they're a troll can be a pre-calculated form of trolling in and of itself).
Hypothetically, and I'm not saying this is at all the case, and so I hope the OP won't take offence, but hypothetically this entire topic could be one massive brilliant troll (the kind that honesty earns a beer IRL even if it's not cool overall) to cause disagreement and fighting amongst the users on this talk page. It would fuel itself and all the originator would have to do is gently guide it back towards fighting should it calm down, but we, ourselves, would fuel it for the most part. Trolls thrive on negativity above all else.
Again, not saying this is at all the case, but this is just one example and there is such trolling. If you have time, I recommend doing some background research on Encyclopædia Dramatica (sort of like /b/'s version of Wikipedia—do not view the Offended page under any circumstances). Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 6 Adar 5775 00:59, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Mantis. Defining trolling is incredibly tricky and oftentimes people will call valid arguments trolling just because they don't like it. (A terrible problem in the annoying realm of politics) It's a huge mess made even worse by placing constricting rules and standards on everything. The more rules you have, the more people will want to break them.
The most cool-headed place I've ever seen on the net is RoyalHookahForum. They have no real rules there save for not being a complete ass. There'll be light hearted insults, along with sage advice and everyone gets on really well. Now obviously we can't have an almost rules free environment here as this is first and foremost an encyclopedia, but making things very restrictive is not the way to go.
Also, there have been more than a few questions I've wanted to ask, but haven't because I feel like there might be backlash to what I, at least, consider perfectly reasonable questions, even if a bit tricky. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie | Say Shalom! 6 Adar 5775 00:59, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Discussing trolling on the desks themselves, rather than here, is unprofessional and encourages trolling[edit]


  • I thought this was clearly agreed, but maybe the desks are no longer considered 'customer facing'? (talk) 18:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agreed. --NorwegianBlue talk 19:41, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agreed. Though if someone else says "this is a troll" on the desk, I will still reply there if I reply at all. SemanticMantis (talk) 21:28, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Strongly agree. SteveBaker (talk) 21:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Clearly. Very bad form. Whether or not it encourages the troll, it maximizes the disruption. —Steve Summit (talk) 05:07, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 05:26, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree. Do not discuss trolls on the Reference Desks. Either reply to the trolls or ignore them. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:33, 1 March 2015 (UTC)



  • Yes, but we do need to give a statement that we believe it to be trolling, and a link to the talk page discussion. StuRat (talk) 19:10, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
    • If we do (and I'm not sure we do), it has to be UTTERLY minimal, boring formulaic, repetitive and not give any impression that we went to a lot of trouble to produce it. No response whatever is the best answer. SteveBaker (talk) 21:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Discussing it here is just as encouraging. Westboro Baptist Church didn't so much care about the immediate drama from angry funeral goers as it wanted the months of consequent long-winded opinion articles elsewhere on the planet. Can't look at this huge talk page and believe we haven't been trolled. InedibleHulk (talk) 03:56, February 25, 2015 (UTC)

Unprofessional comments that encourage trolling may be deleted from the desks[edit]


  • This is where I expect less consensus. (talk) 18:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)


  • We can't give editors with poor judgement the power to make such calls alone, or they are likely to decide that any answer which disagrees with them is "unprofessional" and delete it. StuRat (talk) 19:08, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • When we can't agree on whether a particular edit is trolling or not, we cannot possibly hope for agreement about whether a comment might encourage trolling. --NorwegianBlue talk 19:45, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I would like to agree - but then we're back to random editors choosing to be judge, jury and executioner. Only an admin should have the power to do this. If we had a set of clear guidelines that stated what kinds of thing were "unprofessional" in this context - then I might agree. But we'd need some kind of bright line criterion. SteveBaker (talk) 21:57, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I don't see Admins as being above making bad decisions (and removing their Admin status if they do make bad decisions seems almost impossible). This is why we need consensus to delete. StuRat (talk) 22:05, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • The rule that we don't edit each others' comments is pretty ironclad. (And breaking it inevitably leads to muchas drama, and drama = disruption.) —Steve Summit (talk) 05:07, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
  • No, as noted by previous posters. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:40, 1 March 2015 (UTC)


Hatting can be useful for collapsing long information, or preventing further comments in an unproductive conversation[edit]


  • I expect most agree with this now. (talk) 18:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Yes, but be careful not to hat actual answers. StuRat (talk) 19:07, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree with original statement. Also agree with StuRat that there may be cases when actual answers could be preserved. However, in the usual tangled mess of some information, some meta-discussion about whether the question is appropriate or not and some jokes, I wouldn't mind if the whole thing is hatted. --NorwegianBlue talk 20:06, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agreed, with a note for terminology - a hat [4] produces a message to "please do not modify" - so it shouldn't be used for organizational purposes. It also clearly states that it should only be applied by uninvolved editors. In contrast, the cot/cob template [5] also collapses, but does not say the thread is closed by default (though there is an option to do so). So cot/cob should be used to box up things like off-topic discussion or long examples. SemanticMantis (talk) 21:32, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Yup. —Steve Summit (talk) 05:07, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Weak agree as to threads that have become unproductive, but not as to questions. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:39, 1 March 2015 (UTC)


  • I disagree. Trolls know how to hit the "SHOW" button - and I'm fairly sure a lot of people are curious about WHY something was hatted - so it might even result in more people reading it than if it had just been left alone. it's just annoying...and it in no way solves the underlying problem of preventing people from arguing about whether the hat was appropriate or not. SteveBaker (talk) 22:00, 24 February 2015 (UTC)


Hatting is not an appropriate response to trolling, as it preserves the trolling and draws attention to it[edit]


  • This is where I now expect more discussion. (talk) 18:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I agree, for reasons explained earlier. SteveBaker (talk) 22:10, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree. —Steve Summit (talk) 05:07, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Strongly agree. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 05:28, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Strongly agree that troll questions should not be hatted. In certain cases, a response that is controversial may need hatting. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:35, 1 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree. If the trolling is worth hatting, it is worth deleting. There are reasons to hat a discussion or parts of it, but any bad-faith trolling should be deleted without comment. --Jayron32 00:41, 2 March 2015 (UTC)


  • The alternative, deletion, gives too much power to people who lack the judgement to make such calls without consensus. StuRat (talk) 19:06, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
    That's not true, we can always get deleted stuff back from the edit's not much harder than removing a hat. SteveBaker (talk) 22:10, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
  • It is often better to ignore trolling (this is especially effective when you want someone else to deal with it), delete it when appropriate, or to give poker-face responses (preferably with references). That said, in what ever way trolls happen to be dealt with (which is often a thankless job whether one has a mop or not), they often tend to trigger or engage in unproductive discussions which might get hatted per above. -Modocc (talk) 13:39, 26 February 2015 (UTC)


  • As others have said here previously, the real problem isn't the questions, it's the answers. If everyone could just refrain from responding to or policing questions they perceive as trolling, and refrain from starting meta-discussions when others have assumed good faith and given reasonable, referenced answers, the desks would be a better place. --NorwegianBlue talk 20:22, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
    I agree. It's long been known, since before the RD, before Wikipedia, indeed before the Internet all the way back to Usenet and news groups...that the only way to deal with a troll is to deny recognition. Any recognition. All recognition. Simply pretend they don't exist. It's hard to understand the motivation of trolls - so putting yourself into their position and trying to decide whether a hat or a delete or a serious telling off or a long, carefully researched and referenced answer will solve the problem doesn't work. They don't think like you or I. So do what people have been doing for the last 25 years...DON'T FEED THE TROLL - it's a technique that's long been known to work. The only problem is in getting everyone to do it - and THAT is what we need to do here. Educate each other. Quietly inform each other of who we think the trolls are - who not to answer...don't make a big show of it. Use back-channels, individual talk pages, email. Also, trolls need to be reported through the usual Wikipedia channels - ANI, etc. If there are admins here, then please use your powers and your best judgement where you can. SteveBaker (talk) 22:10, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
     Responding just 
     encourages them! 
             ( \ 
     --Guy Macon (talk) 14:54, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

BRD in practice[edit]

I undid Bug's hatting of this thread [6]. I don't care who asked the question, it is IMO a valid ref desk question "Is this a fair depiction of universities in the USA?" is the core question. Many of us have provided referenced responses, and not argued or debated anything. As I understand WP:BRD, Bugs was Bold, I Reverted, and now we Discuss before any further action is taken. SemanticMantis (talk) 21:21, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

(For the sake of clarity, the exact quote from the thread is "Is this article accurate in its portrayal of the state of American academia?") SemanticMantis (talk)

You are enabling the Toron-troll. Way to go. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:28, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
BRD, my old friend! Ah, what a relief it is! Oppose the hat per OP and (singular) their troll philosophy, which I interpret as judge the question not the questioner. ―Mandruss  21:35, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
You are clearly unaware of the Toron-troll's M.O. However, this is a good example of why I so seldom hat or delete stuff. You enablers will come along and trash any such efforts. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:37, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Judge the question, not the questioner or their M.O. SM has elaborated the reasoning multiple times elsewhere. Trolls want to be recognized and treated as trolls, so we'll deprive them of that satisfaction by treating them as good-faith questioners, provided the question is somewhat reasonable. We'll deflate their power and avoid unnecessary conflict at the same time. And we'll provide good responses for future searchers of the archives as well. Do I have that somewhat right, SM? ―Mandruss  21:48, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Banned users are not allowed to edit. And even if the Toron-troll is not a banned user, they are still violating the rules by constantly trying to provoke debates. But this is why I'm now proposing NO hats or deletes for the next week. According to the theories here, that should deprive them of a great deal of attention. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:51, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
This is the main issue, as I see it. Is the user in question actually banned? Is there an AN/I thread we can refer to where the ban was issued? If there is, your actions were correct. If there isn't, they weren't. Tevildo (talk) 22:00, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
They've been blocked often enough that they are defacto banned. It's frequently suggested there's no point having a ban discussion on someone who is already defacto banned. In this particular case, I think a request to ban the editor at ANI is likely to go down even more poorly, I suspect many there would ask why we even need to discuss whether an editor who goes asking contributors how it feels to be "negress" since their "race genetically has average 85 IQ" who has been blocked several times is defacto banned. Nil Einne (talk) 05:05, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
Agree with unhatting, and especially with getting rid of the attention-grabbing advertisment of a troll name/nickname that the banner created. I see this question as a rather obvious invitation to a forum-like diskussion. The main problem was that so many of us responded. The first response was reasonable, but then everybody wanted to take part in the discussion. An ideal early response would have been one that pointed out that this is not a forum, and discuraged further discussion. --NorwegianBlue talk 21:46, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Hence hatting rather than deleting. If you don't like "Toron-troll", I could post a long sentence explaining in more detail, to try to give the enablers a clue. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:49, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Well, not all that long: Discussion outside the scope of the reference desk closed. See "What the reference desk is not". would suffice. --NorwegianBlue talk 22:30, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Personally I disagree with the unhatting, particularly since when the unhatting happened, the IP had already asked that ridiculous Swedish question but I'm not going to bother to debate it. Particularly since I partially agree with NorwegianBlue here, namely that this question, and in fact most questions by this troll aren't really that suitable for the RD anyway. I'm not saying this alone justifies their removal or hatting, rather the fact they aren't RD questions means there's less imperative to hat them since if people answer them they should already know to some extent what they're getting in to. The other point, is that I'm not completely sure the editor is a troll, even if I've often used that term in reference to this specific editor myself. I suspect they are, the way they were praising μηδείς until they purportedly suddenly found out about μηδείς's heritage suggests to me a troll. However from the little I've seen (well that I recall I've seen), it's a bit difficult to rule out them simply being a racist who's attempts at debate and to prove the inferiority of whatever "race" are genuine. Of course them being a troll doesn't rule them out being genuinely racist either, but the point is if they are genuine in the questions, even if their questions are inappropriate and often flawed, editors aren't being fooled by the editor. (This compares to for example, the editor I mentioned below from Argentina who pretended to be from a lot of different countries, who from their questions was at least partially not being genuine.) Of course as I said above, either way the editor is still unwelcome on the RD, or anywhere on wikipedia. Being racist isn't in itself something sanctionable. Going around calling others offensive names and asking offensive stuff of them is. Nil Einne (talk) 06:14, 26 February 2015 (UTC)


How about declaring a moratorium on hatting and deleting? No hats or deletes at all for the next week, regardless of where the questions came from and what the content is. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:41, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

  • I fully support that as an interesting experiment. Maybe WP will fall and crumble to a wasteland of trolls and vandals, or maybe things will be just fine. Of course we still can't give medical advice etc. Maybe it would be better to try out a moratorium on hatting or deleting questions. Either way though, I'm all for it. SemanticMantis (talk) 21:49, 24 February 2015 (UTC) (But I really hope I can AGF that none of our regulars will get WP:POINTY and start trolling themselves in an attempt to prove that we need deletions.)
    • No. No exceptions. There are users here who don't recognize a request for medical advice when they see it, and others who don't believe in that rule. No hatting or deleting. Just factual responses, or ignoring, as so many reasonably argue here. With all the commentary above, it seems possible to starve the trolls by giving them too little attention. My real goal is to have the ref desk talk page go silent for a week, which would be a nice change. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:55, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
      • As I said, I'm fine either way, but I think phrasing it that broadly makes it less likely to gain consensus, especially from users who are afraid that we would be exposing WP to liability, along the lines of Tevildo's comment below. SemanticMantis (talk) 22:02, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
        • It has been stated countless times that WP can't be held liable for something that some individual editor has posted. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:13, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
          • I know, and I believe that. But not everybody does... Let's just wait and see if anyone else goes for it. SemanticMantis (talk) 22:16, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
With the caveat that anything coming under WP:LOP#Legal is still to be deleted, I would support this. But I doubt that this will be the majority viewpoint, or, indeed, that Bugs seriously means it. Tevildo (talk) 21:58, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
I'm happy to WP:AGF with Bugs. SemanticMantis (talk) 22:02, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
The problem with trying to allow exceptions is that we'll be right back at the talk page arguing over whether a question and/or a response violates the rules against asking for and/or giving professional advice. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:06, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Well, it's not a case of "allowing exceptions", it's a case of our not being able to prevent deletion of material which is actually illegal or which violates WP:TOS (_not_ merely the guidelines). I've never seen an example of this sort of thing on the reference desks, but saying "nothing is to be deleted" is not legally possible for us to implement. Tevildo (talk) 00:04, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Amazing Grace...[edit]

Do you guys realise how much energy and how many bytes have been expended on all this nonsense? If the Ref Desk spent as much time researching and answering questions as it did geolocating anon IPs and hatting so-called trolls, it could be a truly useful and usable resource. Stop all this right now, just answer questions that should be answered and ignore those which shouldn't. It's really simple. The Rambling Man (talk) 21:53, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

I dunno, I tend to react negatively to commands like "stop all this right now". I was discharged from the military in 1977 and haven't looked back. Wikipedia is not a military organization and you are not a commander here. Thanks. ―Mandruss  21:58, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
The command is usually issued for your own good. The advice is in good faith, expend energy here improving the place, not whining about the place, creating endless conspiracy theories about IPs using the "geolocate" function etc etc etc, just get on with being a Ref Desk, not a pretend detective agency. As a former military person you should understand that wasting time is wasting time and that's not good. This is an encyclopedia. If our edits don't make the place more encyclopaedic then we should question why we made the edits... PPPPPPP. The Rambling Man (talk) 22:03, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
I find it ironic that you invoke PPPPPPP here. What we need is precisely that - planning and preparation. Compiling a set of community-sanctioned guidelines that direct our future activities is planning and preparation - and it should indeed work toward preventing piss poor performance down the line. What you're advocating here is to curtail any planning and preparation and rush headlong over the trenches with fixed bayonets instead of thinking hard and designing some sort of tank. SteveBaker (talk) 22:24, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Nope, once again another who failed to read the opening post. We already have prior planning, it's BRD and RBI and right now all we see is a piss poor performance from many RD contributors who continually run to the talk page to whinge about so-called trolls etc. Stop doing that. It makes things worse. The Rambling Man (talk) 22:53, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
At least four editors here present don't feel we are wasting our time, and the thread is still young. It is not for you to declare that we are wasting time and order us to cease immediately. If you feel it's a waste of your time, then don't waste it. The door is that way. Sheesh! ―Mandruss  22:08, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
I think you have missed the point. And as a military man, I think you've epically failed to read your instructions. Go back to my original request. This is a plea to stop all the ongoing and continual running to the talk page to discuss each and every hatting/closure/deletion of every dubious/medical/trolling thread. You should know, by know, that it's a waste of community resources. Stop doing it, and do something useful, like improve the encyclopedia. Sheesh!!! (whatever that means) The Rambling Man (talk) 22:16, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Mocking users' comments, very impressive. For your edification: [7]. ―Mandruss  22:57, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
You're still not reading it, are you? Never mind. Focus on the sheesh, not the crux of the matter. Run toward the bright light because that what you've been told, etc. Time to wake up and realise that this is an encyclopaedia and we should be improving it. Are you doing that? Is this thread doing that? Are the various whinging threads continually created here every time a troll visits doing that? I read three fat NOs. The Rambling Man (talk) 23:12, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
I already stated that I have read it multiple times, so clearly I'm not the individual with WP:IDHT issues here. Apparently you feel that failure to see the obvious wisdom of your comments is evidence of willful failure to understand you. That is not the case. If you're here to collaborate, which is at the core of Wikipedia principles, welcome to the discussion. If you're here as the only smart person in the room, I have better things to do with my time, and I'm more than willing to ignore any further comments from you. ―Mandruss  23:26, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
As you like it. Failure to read properly seems a core issue with many people around these parts. The Rambling Man (talk) 05:44, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
Full support to the Rambling man's suggestion. @Mandruss: please re-read The Rambling man's post, which to me reads like an earnest request for better practices, not like a military order. --NorwegianBlue talk
I read it multiple times and I disagree with it. How I choose to spend my unpaid time at Wikipedia is my business, up to the point where someone can show that I am WP:NOTHERE (not even close). We all welcome TRM to make suggestions, which may or may not be followed, the same as the rest of us. Aggressive attempts to control what happens here are NOT welcome, at least by me, I don't claim to speak for anyone else. ―Mandruss  22:20, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

I agree that we should not be helping out the troll by arguing about them. I agree that time spend editing this page is time that's not being spend in helping people with their questions. BUT: I firmly believe that we DO need to set some policies in place for what we do with trolls, vandals, stupid kids, medical questions, annoying joke makers, judge-jury-and-executioner deletion/hatters and so forth. If we could just concentrate on getting consensus-driven policies in place effectively, then we'd spend less time doing this (ideally, no time at all doing it) - and we'd all have time for answering more questions. So while I agree with your sentiments, and I do try to stay out of these discussions, I believe that an investment in time for policy making will pay back in time down the road, and that's for the betterment of the RD's. SteveBaker (talk) 22:19, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
I'd be interested in which editors here actually spend more time researching IPs etc than answering questions. Definitely while I've spend a fair amount of time on this and in discussion here, it's nothing compared to the amount of time I spend answering questions. Whether that time spend is productive or not may be up for debate, but it's hardly uncommon I can spend 2 or 3 hours researching and answering a question. In fact, the last time I spent anything like that on something related to the RD talk or on researching something unrelated to a question on the RD was in reference to μηδείς no IPs). μηδείς seems to be the biggest hatter, but they don't seem to spend much time discussing their hats, or on researching IPs (from what I've seen anyway). Perhaps BB is the only one this could apply to, but even BB doesn't seem to spend that much time on it. Nil Einne (talk) 06:22, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
BTW, as an interesting aside, there are currently 112 archive pages. The bot is currently set to limit archive size to 200k. As I understand the way bots in the past and present works this means most archives will generally end up a bit under 200k as the bot will add threads until adding another thread would push it over the limit. Of course manual archiving may violate this, and the settings could have changed, but in the historic and current example I looked at, both were under 200k. Still if I take the average size as 250k you end up with 112*250k=~28M. However I'm missing the guidelines discussion pages as well as any discussion which happens on the RD. So let's say a round 30M. From February 15 to February 21, we have 35,617, 25,646, 33,153, 27,417, 78,742, 4,863, 32,208 on the science archive pages. That's 237646 bytes. But some of it is header and stuff and a small amount of discussion which should be on talk pages. The header is currently about 1646 per page depending on what you count *around 12k for a week), and I don't think there's that much offtopic discussion but let's be generous, say that's 210k bytes per week on the science desk. For Humanities which I think is the next biggest desk from February 14 to 20 (21 hasn't been archived yet), we have 30,843 + 28,205 + 42,234 + 23,391 + 64,721 + 7,792 + 20,473 or 217659. So let's say 190k per week. Computing appears to be the next biggest, again 14 to 20 14,936 + 10,034 + 29,901 + 35,366 + 9,535 + 5,846 + 7,052 i.e. 112670, so lets say 90k per week. I can't be bothered with the other desks, let's say combined they only equal 90k per week. So thats 580k per week. With about 52 weeks per year, that's about 30M per year. So thats 30M per year compared to the over 10 years on the archives (first is 2004). Of course this has changes over time, I believe it has been established before the desks used to be more active. Perhaps we've gotten worse and there has been more discussion? 111 is the least completed archive. The last discussion there started and end around the end of January 2015. The beginning of archive 105 has stuff from early to mid January 2014. So that's 7 pages. Or 1.750M. Wasted effort? Perhaps some may believe so. But is not doing that going to significantly changed the 30M we may have written in the same period on the RD proper in that same period and make it a lot better? Probably not. And while I can't speak for others, other than for a few specific posts like this one, the vast majority of mine on the RD proper have more effort per byte. (I can't of course rule out being very lucky and the amount of bytes on the RD is a lot lower than 30M on average, but even if it's only 15M, we're still talking more or less an order of magnitude difference.) Nil Einne (talk) 07:24, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
You're confusing volume of text with time spent. It takes a lot longer to come up with a decent two paragraph answer to a tricky question than it does to write a page about the problems of the Ref Desk. So comparing the number of keystrokes in this talk page to the number in the reference desks themselves is an entirely useless comparison that adds nothing to the discussion here. SteveBaker (talk) 04:52, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

Perhaps you are approaching this the wrong way[edit]

I would like to call to everyone's attention to Wikipedia:Help desk, where we manage to get by just fine without any self-appointed sheriffs deleting or collapsing questions that they don't like. these include:

What few content deletions we have are 100% uncontroversial and generate zero drama.[8] In all other cases, the question gets answered, even if the answer is "You are in the wrong place; the right place is X" or "That's not a question Wikipedia can answer".

Perhaps western civilization won't collapse if we all just stop deleting or collapsing questions/discussions that we don't like... I'm just saying. --Guy Macon (talk) 21:14, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

It won't be a surprise to many, but I agree completely. I edit all over Wikipedia and the Ref Desk is the only place where such events create so much drama on such a regular basis. The Rambling Man (talk) 21:18, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
Me too. I've been a long-time regular here, but have been becoming less and less regular (maybe I need more roughage in my diet) over the past couple of years. I take less and less interest in participating in these back-room debates, because they almost never get anywhere, and life is too short. The last time there was a significant collaborative achievement was the Ref Desk Guidelines, which were hammered out in 2006 and have undergone only minimal revision since. The same cadre of editors who are addicted to arguing, to getting their own way, to self-promotion, to having something important to say about every conceivable topic, to providing detailed opinions without even a suspicion of a reference, and the rest of it, are in full control as ever. (I mention no names, but if you wonder whether I'm talking about you specifically, I very possibly am.) Whatever approach the Help desk takes seems to work well. Let us emulate it. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:50, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
The ref desks began as a spinoff of the help desks. Maybe it's time to re-merge them. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:14, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
If that implies the ref desks adopting the "answer the question or ignore it" culture of the help desk, it could work, but if it meant the help desk adopting the "try to control what questions get asked and what answers are given" culture of the ref desks, it would be a disaster. We could try, as an experiment, not deleting or hatting anything where doing so is even slightly controversial (see my help desk example above for a deletion no sane person could possibly dispute), waiting until the trolls get the point that they will no longer be able to create infinite drama with a well-crafted troll, and see how that works for us. Then we could revisit your merge idea later. Remember, there is no Wikipedia policy that forces anyone to delete or collapse someone else's comment. Doing nothing is always an option on Wikipedia. --Guy Macon (talk) 23:43, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
Actually, I should have said that the help desk would resume control of the ref desks. And since I have already proposed a moratorium on hatting and deleting, obviously I concur with that part of your comment. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:48, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
These examples are interesting, but none of them are particularly similar to the trolling on the RD. In fact, the only one which is similar to anything which causes controversy on the RD, is the medical advice one, but even the example shown isn't likely to be something that would cause problems on the RD. Wrongly placed questions are normally dealt with without issue here. So are questions in another language. Well for all of these, except perhaps when User:μηδείς randomly goes off the deep end on question. If there's little trolling on the help desk (which isn't shown by these examples anyway), it's difficult to imagine this is entirely because of the help desk culture somehow discourages, more likely the nature of the type of stuff the help desk deals with isn't conducive to trolling (although there has definitely been trolling before, e.g. the person who came from many different countries often small island nations targeted both the help desk and RD). Actually, it seems to me there's a good chance someone who wants to ask about whether Sweden is dangerous linking to a racist image may sometimes be directed to the RD at the Help Desk. Although I don't think that particular closure was controversial (and I would hope the HD would simply ignore such a question rather than directing them to the RD), how to deal with less implicit trolling sometimes is. That IP also seems to target article talk pages with proposals for improvement, they could perhaps try taking some of these questions to the help desk, but the truth is it's fairly simple to tell someone to take it to the talk page so it's really no skin off anyones back doing so. Nil Einne (talk) 04:56, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
I should perhaps clarify that I don't want to come across as completely negative. In particular, it's possible more normal medical advice questions are handled better there than here. If anyone has better examples, these would be interesting. OTOH, I can't help thinking there may be two issues here. One is what I was getting at earlier namely for any parts of the question which could be dealt with they may be directed to the RD anyway. The other is whether you even have people who'd give comments people feel are inappropriate. If you do, how do you deal with them? Do you just leave them? If you don't receive any, then while it's possible things may be somewhat better there, it seems there's only a small amount we can learn from there as to how we can improve things here when it comes to medical advice questions. Two of the big linked problems we have here when it comes to medical advice questions are:
1) What level of commentary is allowed when there is a medical advice question, in other words how far is too far in providing answers to questions which appear to be medical advice. For example, if someone says they get headaches after whatever and these headaches feel like whatever with whatever frequency, if someone says these are due to stress and the person should try and destress but otherwise there's nothing to worry about with links to a few articles is this acceptable? Many on the RD feel it isn't, is this sort of thing allowed on the help desk?
2) How to we prevent such inappropriate advice, and how do we deal with cases when there is what some feel is a inappropriate advice. Deleting the answers which are inappropriate is a common suggestion, and I'm all for it, but of course that's still deletion and is often equally a source of controversy, even in cases when most feel the comment was inappropriate. (And of course getting back to what I said earlier, it's ultimately impossible to know for sure whether others are going to feel the same unless you seek feedback somehow. So even if you feel something is inappropriate you either need to discuss it here, delete the answer and bring it here, or delete it and see if there is any discussion.)
Nil Einne (talk) 05:51, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
There is a basic assumption in the above which is "we get undesirable questions and answers and thus must react by doing X" (followed by a discussion about whether to start doing Y as well or abandoning X and Y and doing Z). I am questioning that basic assumption. I believe based on what happens in dozens of other places on Wikipedia,that you have cause and effect reversed, and that the reason you have so many undesirable questions and answers is because you do X, Y, or Z. You are fighting fire with gasoline/petrol.
To answer your specific questions:
  • For example, if someone says they get headaches after whatever and these headaches feel like whatever with whatever frequency, if someone says these are due to stress and the person should try and destress but otherwise there's nothing to worry about with links to a few articles: Ignore the answer, or give what you think is a better answer, or simply reply by saying that Wikipedia does not give medical advice with a link to the policy that says that. If you believe that not giving medical advice on Wikipedia is forbidden, put a warning template on the user page of the person giving the medical advice (can't find warning template for that? Either you are wrong about what is forbidden or you need to create a new warning template) If the behavior repeats, report it at WP:ANI.
  • How to we prevent such inappropriate advice, and how do we deal with cases when there is what some feel is a inappropriate advice.: You don't prevent what you see as user misbehavior. That's not your job. Your job is to let the administrators deal with user misbehavior. Your role is posting warning templates and reporting behavior after being warned to the appropriate noticeboard.
The basic problem here is that everyone who deletes or hats a question or discussion that they don't like is trying to do the job of a Wikipedia Administrator (controlling the behavior of others here) without bothering to go through the admin election process and without the tools (page protection, blocking users, removing material from the page history) that we give admins so they can effectively control user behavior. So stop. Just stop. Let this be handled exactly the way user misbehavior (real or imagined) is handled everywhere else on Wikipedia. The deleting and hatting is clearly not working, and another million words on this talk page will not cause it to suddenly start working. --Guy Macon (talk) 07:15, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
I don't think the basic assumption is correct. It's definitely not an assumption I'm making. Who do you feel is making that assumption? Perhaps BB is making that assumption but I'm not sure of that. Nor μηδείς either (they just seem to do random stuff for random poorly thought out reasons). Nil Einne (talk) 07:29, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
As for the either only admins are supposed to deal with editor misbehaviour, that doesn't seem to be supported by any policy or guideline, and has been implicitly rejected by many discussions in many places. In fact, your own comment seemed to acknowledge this since you mentioned warning templates etc. It's true that admins are given a specific set of tools, and in some cases these tools are needed to deal with misbehaviour but in plenty of times they aren't. In some cases, it may not be clear what should be done in a specific situation, in that case there generally needs to be discussion at an appropriate place such as ANI or sometimes the page talk page. Any editor in good standing is welcome to participate in such a discussion, and someone, probably an admin, but it doesn't have to be, will close the discussion and take any action that discussion called for based on policy back consensus. In some cases, the misbehaviour is more complex, and the use of templates would generally be frowned upon as opposed to talking about the problems (probably directly with the editor, but not always depending on the situation). (In the past, in more complex cases even after plenty of discussion with the editor, you would sometimes be pointed to WP:RfC/U but that was abandoned as not working well.) As for the more general methods, definitely in many other places, threads are closed or removed by ordinary editors for various violations like WP:FORUM, WP:BLP, WP:DEADHORSE and sometimes even WP:NPA. How often this happens is quite variable, depending significantly on stuff like how frequent the problem is, how serious the problem is, and who encounters it. For example, in talk pages with little active discussion, most FORUM violations are ignored. For ones with very active discussion like a recent event, there tends to be far more control over the talk page due the problems excessive inappropriate discussion results in. WP:BLP is of course generally treated much more serious than the reason. And of course whatever reason, sometimes it also fails there, where you get editors complaining about censorship, or reversing deletions or hatting, and discussion therefore of. Sometimes it's simply a case of BR and no discussion since the person who did it doesn't feel strongly enough about it. Nil Einne (talk) 07:36, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
Finally, can you give an example where the behaviour you highlighted regarding medical advice was actually implemented on the Help Desk? Nil Einne (talk) 07:38, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
P.S. I should clarify that I was never intending to deny the possibility of cause and effect and the stuff we do sometimes making stuff worse. I just think the evidence for it being the primary cause of problems here is minimal, and comparing to other places where the stuff is dealt with differently because it's different is often not that illustrative. To give an example from elsewhere, I think the way some people have dealt with stuff at Gamergate related articles hasn't helped, but it's hard to believe that's the primary cause of problems there. Nil Einne (talk) 07:42, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
I think Guy has a point. Much of the drama here swirls around attempts to find, or disputes about the proper application of, some magic combination of responses which would somehow prevent any more bad behavior. But that's not how Wikipedia works. We are, for better or worse, reactive to bad behavior, not preventative of it. (And there's a good reason for this: the more rules and restrictions you put in place in an attempt to prevent bad behavior, the more restrictive the place feels and the more you deter good, productive, free-spirited positive contributors.)
There will always be vandalism on Wikipedia. We clean it up and move on. There will always be troll questions on an open question board. Let's deal with them and move on. —Steve Summit (talk) 11:11, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agreed This may be the best post I've seen on Wikipedia in a long time. --Dweller (talk) 11:29, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I have a huge issue with something Guy says above. The only jobs of a Wikipedia administrator is to use the specific tools they have activated for them: the job of deleting articles, the job of blocking accounts and IP addresses, the job of protecting pages, the job of handing out some user rights. If a person has the technical ability to do something at Wikipedia, it is not verboten to them. It is NOT forbidden for people who aren't administrators to do any task that doesn't require the admin tools to do. Period. Now, the discussion of whether any person should or shouldn't do one of those things because it is a) needed or b) the specific person in question has shown such poor judgement they shouldn't do it anymore is a different discussion. But our default should ALWAYS be "everyone is allowed to do it", and we should only remove those rights from people who have demonstrated poor judgement, and not the other way around, excepting those specific editing tools available to admins. That does NOT mean we shouldn't remove those rights from people who don't know how to exercise them with good judgement, but we should not be setting aside admins as a special class of Wikipedian with special social standing that makes them "better" than anyone else. --Jayron32 15:31, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I pretty much agree with the above. Perhaps we are saying the same thing using different words. You have the technical ability to remove my signature from this comment and replace it with yours, yet doing that is most definitely verboten to you. --Guy Macon (talk) 18:16, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I think, Jayron, you've forgotten that Wikipedia has loads of "special class" Wikipedians, like "pending changes reviewer", "auto checked user", "account creator", "rollbacker", "file mover", "template editor" etc etc etc. These people can do things others can't, they're not admins either. I don't believe you're right in your spartan definition of what admins do either. Admins are tasked with the job of using their intelligence and experience to judge consensus, for instance. Non admins aren't forbidden but are strongly discouraged from some tasks that don't require admin tools, see Wikipedia:Non-admin closure for more details on that. But in any case, abstracting this to a sensible level, I return to my original point, "the Ref Desk is the only place where such events create so much drama on such a regular basis". Continuing to allow it to do so is a drain on resources, as evidenced by this and many, many, many other discussions all along the same theme. The Rambling Man (talk) 19:40, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I've been struggling against that for years. Wikipedia shouldn't deny any editor the right to close any discussion, merely because they aren't an admin. The other tools are special tools, but do not grant those users special social rights as "more important" or "better" or "whose opinion counts more" than other users, and neither do admins. Admins shouldn't have any extra rights excepting those granted by the technical side of their job. If you have the technical ability to do it, do it. If you do it wrong, someone else will be along shortly to correct your wrongness. THAT'S how Wikipedia is supposed to work. --Jayron32 02:42, 28 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Jayron has it right. Any typical day at AIV or ANI illustrates that admins get lots of help from us worker bees. We bring issues to the admin pages, and they do something about it (or not, as they see fit.) The notion that only admins should be vigilant about trolls is silly. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:26, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
  • That actually isn't exactly what I meant. What I meant is, if we need to remove the ability, by consensus discussion, of some individual Wikipedians from hatting/refactoring/closing/deleting discussions here or anywhere else, lets do that then. However, the idea that only admins should, by default, only be able to do these things is abhorrant to the collaborative nature of Wikipedia. If you can do it, and you've not otherwise proven yourself a problem when doing it, then do it. No need to be an admin. --Jayron32 02:35, 27 February 2015 (UTC)
That's how I see it as well. Sorry if I was unclear previously. --Guy Macon (talk) 05:27, 27 February 2015 (UTC)

Continuation of Help Desk Comparison[edit]

Having read the above discussion, I strongly agree that the Help Desk illustrates that perhaps we at the Reference Desk have completely missed the mark in trying to formulate guidelines as to when we need to delete or hat inappropriate or troll questions. I never really wondered why the Help Desk and Reference Desk cultures were so different. More importantly perhaps, I never really asked whether they needed to be so different. Is there a reason why short businesslike answers are not appropriate responses to inappropriate questions? One inherent difference between HD and RD is that long threads are common at RD and are rare at HD, but that doesn't mean that we need to be hypervigilant here (when mere vigilance will suffice), let alone to hyperventilate about questionable posts. There are more trolls at RD than at HD, because some topics that are favorites for trolls, such as race, come up here more often, but there are trolls at HD also, and HD deals with them with less back-biting than RD. At the same time, what HD has more of than RD is flamers, posters who are angry about the editing of an article. The HD regulars typically look briefly at the article issue and advise the OP whether to try dispute resolution, AIV, or whatever, and often also advise the OP that being concise and civil is more likely to be productive. I agree with User:Guy Macon that perhaps we should follow the example of the Help Desk and provide short businesslike answers to difficult questions, rather than internally agonizing over how to deal with difficult questions. Is there any reason why dealing with RD trolls must be so much more complicated than dealing with HD flamers? Robert McClenon (talk) 16:18, 2 March 2015 (UTC)

To your last question - no. To "is there a reason...?" - also no. I suspect the cultures are different because there is a a notable difference in user bases. I agree with everything you say, and many of us do, but we can't mandate cultural change. The trolls vs. flamers comparison is very apt and interesting, and I also hadn't thought if it that way, so thanks for that. FWIW, I've been posting AGF, referenced answers to questionable posts for years now. Everything goes fine usually, but it's also hard for me to ignore other users interfering with my posts... but I'm working on ignoring that too ;) SemanticMantis (talk) 15:09, 3 March 2015 (UTC)
To continue the agreement, yes, there is a notable difference in user bases. The desks each actually have two main groups of users, questioners and regular answerers (regulars). The questioners are often one-time editors, and I think that both desks deal reasonably well with the one-time editors. Each desk has its "outlying" questioners. As I noted, the RD outlying questioners tend to go in the direction of being trolls, while the outlying questioners at the HD are more often flamers. (For the information of RD regulars who are not also HD regulars, one of the most recent posts at the Help Desk is by a flamer who doesn't seem to be able to say what is wrong except that he or she doesn't like it.) The HD does get trolls (at least one of whom is banned and uses sockpuppets), and the RD does get flamers. There does seem also to be a difference in the regulars in that the HD regulars all seem to agree on how to deal with unreasonable questioners (reasonably), while the RD regulars do not agree on how to deal with unreasonable questioners (reasonable terse answers? ignore them? hat them? delete them?). The Help Desk approach does seem to work, so maybe the RD regulars who think that a more complicated or more aggressive approach is needed could try following the Help Desk to see how it deals with flamers and trolls. Robert McClenon (talk) 19:33, 3 March 2015 (UTC)
What we are doing now isn't working very well. Perhaps we can talk the more aggressive Reference Desk Sherrifs into agreeing to a limited-time trial? --Guy Macon (talk) 11:38, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
Sure, and referring to people as "more aggressive Reference Desk Sheriffs" is a great way to begin talking them into something. ―Mandruss  11:55, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

volunteering here[edit]

Proper trolls never laugh. But you might consider a haircut? --Dweller (talk) 16:56, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

How can I volunteer at the reference desk? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Joey13952 alternate account (talkcontribs) 07:32, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

Visit the reference desk, choose a desk where you feel you can help, take a read of the questions. If these are any questions where you can provide useful answers, particularly answers which include references, feel free to do so. Note you don't necessarily have to provide a direct answer, if you can provide useful references that's good enough, actually usually better than providing a direct answer which isn't referenced. When you are answering, as when you are commenting here, remember to sign with four tildes ~~~~ so people are clear who wrote the comment and when. You may also wish to take a read of Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines before answering. There's no need to sign up or list yourself anywhere to volunteer. You don't even need an account, although having one like you do and using it does provide some advantages. Nil Einne (talk) 08:10, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

Wikipedia Corpus[edit]

For questions about language, Wikipedia Corpus is a new text corpus among the corpora at
Wavelength (talk) 01:50, 28 February 2015 (UTC)

Cool, thanks! SemanticMantis (talk) 15:56, 2 March 2015 (UTC)

Another take on tabulating posting guidelines[edit]

Following up on Steve Baker's earlier discussion attempting to more objectively encapsulate the precise guidelines for posting here, I'd like to offer a complementary approach. It's simply a table of things that might appear and how to respond to them appropriately. It should be pretty self-explanatory.

This is intended to represent what I think our pretty longstanding consensus on these issues is, but I've probably missed or let my own biases slip in once or twice, so we can iterate on this.

The third column is currently empty, but I'm pretty sure we've got a smattering of templates for expeditiously closing forbidden threads, so if anyone knows about those, please feel free to fill them in.

If people agree on the content and find this tabular presentation useful, we can add it to the Guidelines or something.

questionable content appropriate response template
request for medical advice
  • state that Wikipedia cannot give medical advice
request for medical information
  • provide relevant, referenced information
  • do not offer advice
  • do not ask clarifying questions about "the questioner's specific situation"
request which is borderline between medical advice and information
  • if you are comfortable, provide relevant, referenced information
  • remind the questioner that we cannot offer advice
  • do not ask clarifying questions about "the questioner's specific situation"
  • if you are not comfortable, ignore
request for legal advice
  • state that Wikipedia cannot give legal advice
request for legal information
  • provide relevant, referenced information
  • do not offer advice
  • do not ask clarifying questions about "the questioner's specific situation"
request for advice in other fields commonly practiced by licensed professionals (veterinary medicine, structural engineering, electrical wiring, etc.) [this is a gray area: the guidelines do not specifically forbid professional questions other than medical and legal, but many editors believe such questions are or should be similarly prohibited, by extension]
  • if you are comfortable, provide relevant, referenced information
  • please do do not offer advice or ask clarifying questions
  • if you are not comfortable, ignore
questions concerning illegal activities (not involving legal advice)
  • if you are comfortable, provide relevant information
  • if you are not comfortable, ignore
questions concerning topics that are distasteful or otherwise make you uncomfortable
  • ignore
homework questions
  • remind the poster that we cannot answer these
  • if you wish, ask clarifying questions or provide information to help questioner answer their own question
  • otherwise ignore
questions that seek opinions or predictions, or invite debate
  • remind the poster that we cannot answer these
  • refrain from rising to the bait
  • if opinionating, predicting, or debate has already begun, hat
  • if you simply must provide (what you feel to be) relevant information about the topic, beware that your response may be hatted
questions from known trolls or that are clearly trolling
  • delete question and answers
  • if you can't help answering, beware that your answer may be deleted
  • be very aware that your categorization of known trolls and your definition of "clear trolling" may not be shared by everyone
  • [mention on talk page?]
questions on the borderline between trolling and just odd
  • if you wish, provide sober answers which would be useful to someone asking the question in good faith
  • if you don't wish, ignore
  • if you do answer, beware that your answer may be deleted
  • you must AGF; do not publicly accuse the questioner of trolling
incoherent questions
  • if you are motivated, attempt to engage questioner to figure out and answer their actual question
  • otherwise ignore
questions that you don't believe can reasonably be answered
  • ignore
questions or answers that provoke metadiscussion about the operation of the Desks, the applicability of its guidelines, or the behavior of its contributors
  • start thread on talk page, perhaps with a note on the actual desk that you have done so
  • if significant on-desk metadiscussion ends up taking place, hat and/or move to talk page
wrong or otherwise imperfect answers
  • post a better answer. Please refrain from commenting on the poster of the answer you disagree with (that is, their motives, character, intelligence, etc.).

Many of the prescriptions above include the phrase "if you are comfortable". Additionally, it's important to note that all of the prescriptions contain an implicit qualifier, "if you want to help". And there are two key words there: if you want to help, and if you want to help. You don't have to do anything, so if you don't want to help, just ignore the question. And if you want to help, please make sure that what you want to do is truly helpful. If you want to complain, or make fun, or criticize, or if you're on a quest to find today's instance of the bad behavior that you know the Reference Desks are riddled with, please, just find something more constructive to do instead. —Steve Summit (talk) 04:09, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

As Marvin the Paranoid Android said, "I think ... I feel good about it". IBE (talk) 04:30, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
No, μηδείς (talk) 05:13, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
I'd add another row saying something like "questions that you don't know the answer to... don't post anything under them." --Viennese Waltz 10:13, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

Does this need to be said?[edit]

Does this need to be said by me?

Does this need to be said, by me, now? μηδείς (talk) 05:12, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

What needs to be said by you, now, is something to explain why you posted that video. I watched the first 5 minutes in good faith, but then gave up, having not seen anything of relevance to the Wikipedia Reference Desk. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 06:46, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
Yes, Medeis likes to post links while giving no hints as to what they are about. I don't waste my time clicking on a link unless a summary is provided for me, and I decide that's something I'm interested in. StuRat (talk) 07:20, 4 March 2015 (UTC)