Wikipedia talk:Reference desk

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Straw poll on primary goal in antivandalism efforts here

So as I mentioned above, different people have different things they're ultimately trying to uphold here, or at least, different costs they're willing to bear. And this may end up being sort of like the old "good, fast, cheap -- pick two" dilemma.

So, separate from all the debates on what to do, let's have a three-way rank-ordered straw poll on what people would like to achieve. You may agree with at most one of the following three statements, and for rank-ordering purposes you may weakly agree with a second. (No need for "disagree" or "oppose" !votes in this poll, I think.)

Although I certainly have my own (rather strong) opinions here, I have tried to word these three alternatives neutrally. I have probably not succeeded. Therefore, for the next four hours or so, until 16:00 UTC on 2016-01-06, the wording of the three alternatives is subject to good-faith alteration. If you !vote in the next four hours, you may need to check back later and possibly change your !vote if you agree differently with a possibly different final wording. (But I hope we can avoid getting into any huge debates about the wording, as that tends to very quickly drown out any actual results from the poll.) And remember, for the most part this is a poll about ultimate goals, not the mechanisms we use to get there. —Steve Summit (talk) 11:39, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

The most important thing is to minimize vandalism

Vandalism must not persist on the desks. Vandalism must be reverted as soon as possible after it is committed, or ideally prevented from occurring in the first place.

  • Weakly agree.Steve Summit (talk) 11:39, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Weakly agree with the provision that it refers to obvious vandalism under WP:AGF. --Stephan Schulz (talk) 11:50, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Agree with the same provisions as Stephan. However, I am opposed to any form of long-term semi-protection (short-term protections of at most a few days are acceptable for me if necessary, though). Pending changes isn't perfect but I would very much prefer it over semi. Narutolovehinata5 tccsdnew 12:12, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

The most important thing is that the desks continue to be openly usable by unregistered editors

The desks are a resource for all of Wikipedia's readers, not all of whom have registered yet. They must be able to freely ask questions and participate in discussions. (But at least for the purposes of this discussion, having to request an edit to a protected page does not constitute free, open access.)

  • Agree.Steve Summit (talk) 11:39, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Agree. --Stephan Schulz (talk) 11:49, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Agree - The reference desks have been affected by such trolls for a long time now, but locking it down just because of it, at the expense of good-faith editors, isn't doing favors. Doing so could potentially turn away potential editors, and while it could be argued that the same can be said of semi-protected articles, the reference desks are different in that they're (in theory) supposed to be pages open for asking questions. Narutolovehinata5 tccsdnew 12:12, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Agree. Deor (talk) 14:09, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Strongly Agree. These desks have absolutely served everyone well, so please keep up this good work and have a Happy New Year! -Modocc (talk) 16:22, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Agree. Hey Deor! Happy new year! Drmies (talk) 16:58, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Strongly Agree. As the first experience in Wikipedia for many people, as it was for me, it should be friendly. Between not being allowed to post and then getting slapped down for their post when they do get access, we may be scaring quite a few people away. StuRat (talk) 19:45, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
    • How many sincere users have been "slapped down" here? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:49, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
      • Quite a few, considering OP's even get slapped down for not including refs in their Q. StuRat (talk) 22:59, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
        • Do you have some examples? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:23, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
          • Not offhand, but if you keep watching, I'm sure there will be plenty more. The Q typically takes the form of "Is it true that..." and the snarky response says something like "What makes you think so ? I'd like to see a source that indicates this is so." StuRat (talk) 05:24, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
            • I wouldn't think your hypothesized example happens very often. What's more likely is a question like, "Why are all Scottish people misers?" ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:41, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Agree. All efforts to minimize disruption should always keep this in mind as a goal. --Jayron32 21:10, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Agree. By this I refer not only to avoiding long term semi-protection or Pending Changes, but also "filters" like the one mentioned a few topics below where some IP isn't allowed to ask a question about Judaism because it is "potentially unconstructive". I proposed an idea for an edit filter that isn't content-based, there was some small discussion of it, but if people don't think it's important enough to make that happen, it's not important enough to make some AI terminator drone happen either. Ultimately, establishing that Judaism is controversial on Wikipedia at the software-censorship level is a more meaningful triumph for anti-Semitism than any number of stupid not-really-a-questions by IP vandals. Wnt (talk) 23:58, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
    • Having to post the question here is not a horrible handicap. FYI, the one who posed that question in the first place is now blocked, though the responses continue. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:24, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
  • I am referring to the section below by User:, who is not blocked. And "having to post the question here" is moronic. I mean, we should have a special page set aside where users can ask these questions, what was it called ... oh, yeah. The Refdesk! Wnt (talk) 13:19, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment I don't feel I have the right to vote, since I'm not a regular editor, but as a reader of Wikipedia I really value these desks. There is a very helpful and welcoming community here. I was pretty astonished to see such a huge length of page protection, which has already gone unchallenged for over a month. Surely vandals should just be reverted, blocked, and ignored, whatever the nature of their edits. Troll questions are no more or less awful than someone randomly damaging articles, and myself as a sample size of one, I don't find either significant. It is usually obvious and fleeting. Keeping this page locked for months at a time stops me as a reader from ignoring the trolls, which continues their disruption of Wikipedia. My two cents anyway. (talk) 20:38, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
Further comment: couldn't the nazi troll be formally banned, and any questions that amount to nazi soapboxing deleted on sight even if someone has already replied? (talk) 20:44, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
We already do that. The troll is de facto banned; a formal ban decision won't change a thing. Fut.Perf. 22:26, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
Going by the comments here, some people object to removing a question that has received good faith answers, even if it was asked in bad faith. I just wondered if nailing down a ban might change that, and allow for the protection to be lifted on the understanding that the troll will get immediately shut down if they try again. (talk) 22:30, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

We should not allow trolling at the desks

  • Support Not sure why "vandalism" is being talked about, the problem here is trolling. The ref desks are already a hotbed of trolling, we need to continue to prevent it or we will alienate the new users who come here. Do people really think the desks will be more welcoming to new users if we don't prevent trolls from posting disgusting or racist questions? They will look at the place and think "Oh, this is a troll fest, lets go find a website that has some class". HighInBC 16:28, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

The most important thing is to minimize manual antivandalism work by volunteer editors

There is a strong preference for automated antivandalism mechanisms (including page protection and antivandalism bots); manual reversion is not generally adequate.

This poll presents a False dilemma

By picking three possible "most important things" and asking the reader to choose from that limited selection, this poll introduces a strong bias towards those three "most important things" and against more nuanced solutions.

Shouldn't that be a false trilemma? --Stephan Schulz (talk) 15:30, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
Pure genius.... :) --Guy Macon (talk) 13:00, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Support - I agree with User:Stephan Schulz, but the number of qualifying statements in supporting various choices indicates that it isn't time for a straw poll that excludes nuanced discussion. Robert McClenon (talk) 16:18, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Support The most important thing is that we make an encyclopedia. The whole ref desk thing is getting further and further from that. New users can work on building an encyclopedia. There is a huge difference between vandalism and trolling too, and an area being soft on trolling is hard on the whole project. This whole poll is framed in such a way as to gain a bias response. HighInBC 16:26, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Support of course we want both to make the desks accessible to newbies and to keep the trolling/vandalism down. The big thing is not really trolling except with the obsessive cases, but questions that fall afoul of the guidelines based on the wikimedia disclaimer. μηδείς (talk) 19:13, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • True - The missing choice is how to fend off trolls while still allowing sincere IP's and redlinks to use the ref desks. The core problem is a philosophical clash which shows no signs of finding a resolution. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:29, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment: This may well be a false dilemma, but, guys, unless you can offer those more nuanced solutions, for the purpose of this poll, you're begging the question! Of course we all want to minimize vandalism while maximizing open editing -- but this is a tradeoff. If we can't do both, if we can't have our cake and eat it, too, which way do we lean? Different people have very legitimately different opinions on that question, and that's what I was trying to gauge here. —Steve Summit (talk) 12:31, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
    • All kinds of solutions have been discussed, but talking about and doing are two different things. Instead of pre-empting something by saying "it won't work", how about trying something and seeing if it works (or not). Such as the flagged revisions or whatever it's called, as discussed farther up the page. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:12, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Pending changes was suggested above but was rejected by some users. Still worth giving a try, though. Well, I can't think of alternatives right now, all I know is that long-term protection isn't the answer. Narutolovehinata5 tccsdnew 18:04, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
You guys will be happy to know that I've withdrawn my objection to giving Pending changes a try. :-) --Modocc (talk) 02:54, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
  • The more nuanced solution is to use expiring semi-protection when it is really needed. Just like anywhere else on Wikipedia that has a troll problem. HighInBC 16:01, 7 January 2016 (UTC)

Two Related but Conflated Problems

The underlying issue that this straw poll is attempting to address is when and how long should the reference desks be semi-protected. I will observe that there are two related but different problems that need to be recognized as separate, but that are sometimes conflated. The two problems are trolling and vandalism. Trolling has been a problem longer than vandalism, but is a problem requiring a more nuanced response. Trolling, at the reference desks, usually consists of the posting of questions that a reasonable observer can see are intended to provoke anger, or angry exchanges, or hate speech. There have been in the past some editors who have themselves become controversial by being very quick to respond to trolling, either by deleting or by hatting the troll post, and often by deleting or hatting the responses. Reasonable responses to trolling include ignoring it, deleting the troll exchange, hatting the troll exchange, semi-protecting the desk, and blocking the troll. It isn't always obvious whether a post is trolling, or, if it is, whether to ignore it or to respond. Vandalism at the reference desk usually consists of mass blanking, sometimes replacing it with hate speech or obscenity, or the mere introduction of obscenity or hate speech. Vandalism is a more straightforward problem. It should almost always be reverted, and the desk may be semi-protected and the vandal blocked. (Removing a single question is almost never vandalism. It may be a wise or unwise response to a perceived troll.) In discussing responses to what I will call bad conduct, we need to maintain the distinction between vandalism (straightforward) and trolling (more subtle). Vandalism must be prevented. The question is how, not whether. Trolling is undesirable, but there is not always agreement on what it is. Let's not conflate them. Robert McClenon (talk) 17:13, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

I will add that some significant part of our response to trolling is driven not by the behavior of the trolls, but by our behavior in responding to them. We ban troll questions in part because we are collectively incapable of not responding to them (or, in a related way, because we sometimes respond in ways that others of us find objectionable, or because the arguments we get into over the appropriate response end up being even more disruptive than the original question). "We have met the enemy and he is us." —Steve Summit (talk) 17:28, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

As a side comment, another underlying issue is what rights unregistered editors should have anywhere in Wikipedia in the first place. That has never been satisfactorily addressed, and probably never will be. Robert McClenon (talk) 17:13, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

Amen, brother. When I think about all the serious problems that would vanish overnight if registration were required for editing ... I slap myself and try to think about something else. ―Mandruss  01:11, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
The reason some of us cling to unregistered editing so strongly is that it is one of the bedrock principles on which Wikipedia was founded. I firmly believe that Wikipedia would never have grown into what it is today without it. (Now, I concede, it could be argued that the principle, though once vital, has outlived its usefulness. However, as I say, some of us still cling to it.) —Steve Summit (talk) 11:16, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
Like a passenger on Titanic. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:25, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment: As too often happens here these days, one thread becomes many threads. How can we possibly hope to have a focused discussion and produce any worthwhile outcomes, while we constantly divide ourselves and in so doing conquer ourselves? I find myself less and less capable of even comprehending the issues, let alone participating in any resolution of them, when the discussions are spread among different threads all being carried on simultaneously. I find I come here, look, read, and go away dismayed, with nothing worthwhile to offer the many-threaded hydra. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 19:49, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
So what are you saying we should do differently in discussions? I introduce subheadings because I find it easier to read a series of paragraphs that way rather than introducing a series of paragraphs as threaded discussion, and because threaded discussion becomes hard to follow. Robert McClenon (talk) 18:31, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Seems we have diametrically opposed brain hemisphere functions, Robert. Variety is good. I don't want anyone to dance to my personal tune. I was merely introducing a new counterpoint to the Grand Eternal Fugue that is the Ref Desk talk page. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 01:02, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
Because there should not be needed to indentify oneself to edit a wikipedia which anyone can edit. (talk) 19:52, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
I'm not really sure why you're replying to JackofOz since your response seems unrelated to anything they said. However to be clear, there's never any requirement to identify yourself to edit pretty much all of wikipedia and few (if anyone) here is proposing you should be required to. The question here is over creating an account which doesn't require you to identify yourself. You're free to use a completely random username and password and not required to provide an email address when creating an account and if you do so, your IP address information which provides some level of identification has quite a high level of protection under our privacy policy. Editing wikipedia without creating account is also a lot in a lot of places, but not all (and as said is seperate to the issue of identifying yourself). Nil Einne (talk) 08:29, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Short term protection: Semi-protection vs Pending Changes protection

Given the results of this straw poll, there is certainly a strong consensus to maximize IPs' access to our desks, so in keeping with the above consensus the semi-protection on the Humanities desk should be lifted ASAP. In addition, in spite of the warning not to use Pending changes on frequently edited articles, I see pending changes as perhaps a plausible short-term alternative to semi-protection to be used for a few hours (and maybe days) that would certainly be kinder to IPs. Thus if you haven't yet, do log out and see the big mess you get when trying to ask a question on the Humanities desk as an IP which has been semi-protected for weeks and is not set to expire until MARCH (ouch). Although Pending changes will possibly be more cumbersome for registered users, I'll still support trying it at least, but only if its used sparingly and for a few hours or days at time. [I've withdrawn my previous opposition to switching to Pending Changes here ] --Modocc (talk) 21:29, 13 January 2016 (UTC)

Again with the short-term? How will that improve things when you're dealing with a troll who's been at it for like 4 years? You should set it up ongoing and see how it works. If it flops, we can always go back to reasonable-length semi's. (2 months seems excessive.) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:34, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
Good, we agree that two months is excessive and I did take a look at the Humanities log and saw that semi-protection has been applied frequently for about two years now. So I can understand the frustration and desire by some to lengthen protections, but our policy should be consistent and not over-reactive and for our desks to be considerably kinder to IPs is a right step it seems. -Modocc (talk) 21:51, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
Of the ones here who say we should be nicer to IP's, how many make an effort to defend the pages against the bad-faith IP's? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:17, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
  • I do. —Steve Summit (talk) 22:30, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Per WP:VOLUNTEER, "There is no minimum or maximum anyone can contribute". That includes anyone that is reverting and preventing either bad-faith or incompetent edits of course. And in most cases, reasonable incentives and hospitality can get better results than angry mobs wielding large sticks although some of us do have mops.. -Modocc (talk) 22:40, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
  • We want to avoid a situation where someone opens the door to the henhouse and expects others to shoot the foxes. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:31, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
  • I agree. Thus per Wikipedia:Rough_guide_to_semi-protection indefinite protections can be temporarily lifted by any administrator and reapplied of course. The present application of semi-protection policy is flexible on this. Specifically, "The only way to determine if ongoing semi-protection is still necessary is to remove the protection and see if the vandalism resumes at previous levels. For this reason, all pages that are indefinitely semi-protected can have their protection removed from time to time. The administrator should monitor the page after removing the protection." --Modocc (talk) 23:38, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
  • The key factor would be that if the troll waits it out and comes back, the next semi should be several days longer than the previous. The troll knows it can just wait it out for a few hours or a day. But at some point (we hope) the troll would get tired of waiting out increasingly long time periods. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:57, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Not really. Being flexible prevents rewarding the troll which will reason if they ramp up their game each time then we get months long page protections. Besides, none of the desks have required long term protection and there is no reason to start doing so per the consensus above. --Modocc (talk) 00:23, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
  • If I wasn't clear above, I am certain that protection (whether it be Pending changes or Semi) should be primarily used to stop any of their game(s) short term. It should not to be used for long term prevention, especially here. --Modocc (talk) 00:42, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
  • "Short term" won't stop it. The troll just waits until it expires, and starts again. It needs to be long enough that the troll's waiting period grows annoying to him. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:51, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Protection is not meant to annoy them, and any such annoyance won't likely apply to the known excommunicated banned users that are likely to come back anyway regardless of the time frame. Anyway, the reason I started this subthread is that I do think that for the benefit of good-faith IPs that have absolutely nothing to do with the bad-faith trolls, applying short term pending changes is an option we should try out when it is called for. --Modocc (talk) 01:05, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
I just took a brief look into the pending changes talkpage archive, not long enough to get a complete handle on what to expect, but I did read that when it was going through the trial stage that it often timed out with large articles, that there was an increase in BLP violations than if semi-protection was in place and some editors actually used it to censor legitimate content (yeh I know what you're thinking, the minders will still mind regardless). Not at all great, but not insufferable, so at this point I'm of two minds and am very ambivalent as to whether or not it could work for us.. I suppose this is an important/but-not-so-important IP editing issue. Either way, I think I'll just have a lie down and try to enjoy a really hot cup a tea... and hope that this alternate universe sorts itself out. --Modocc (talk) 03:35, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
I'll point out too that if administrative wheel-warring is discouraging administrators from lifting the current three months long page protection on the Humanities desk then maybe this requires more than just local consensus (if we have that and I think we do from various editors, except from the administrator that imposed it) but an administrative discussion at WP:AN? And would this step not be even necessary had an indefinite semi-protection been applied in the first place? I wonder too whether or not if the admins at AN for whatever reason overrides the local consensus (because of other precedents perhaps) then even an airing out at WP:ARBCOM would help? To be frank, given that this is the Reference Desk which is supposed to help answer questions by unregistered readers and our editors alike, I find it unfortunate that we may even have to ask the larger community to get this consensus rock-solid, so would a RFC do? Or if you are an administrator, discuss this through the appropriate channels (email or whatever as you wish) and simply dispense with this drama inducing nonsense by following the above consensus? And while I'm on this tear... I shouldn't dare leave out Jimbo's (Jimmy Wales) input as the ultimate arbitrator in all things Wikipedia. --Modocc (talk) 05:24, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
I don't think Pending Changes is useful and I don't want to see it on the Refdesk. It is a less than lethal weapon, which is to say, something that is marketed as an alternative to firing a gun at a criminal and used as a way to get people to shut up at political rallies. No, just no. Wnt (talk) 15:58, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Pending changes useless and combines worst of both worlds. A trolling IP still needs to be reverted and a high chance that IPs posting questions will lose interest. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 07:33, 12 February 2016 (UTC)

For native English speakers only: Would a native English speaker talk like this?

Chart system

Will we ever have a Pie/Bar/____ chart system "tab" next to "user page" and "talk page" for our user account, to notify us our activity(s) of requiring/providing assistance, the community(s) - such as WP community for science/religion... - that we are involved in and how much we've been useful/not useful, and so on? -- Mr. Zoot Cig Bunner (talk) 20:05, 29 January 2016 (UTC)

This question belongs at the Help Desk and under your actual user name. μηδείς (talk) 02:49, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Face-devil-grin.svg: Could you do the honours please? I believe, you are more admiring in WP than me. -- Apostle (talk) 18:48, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

Another straw poll?

Glutton for punishment that I am, I am wondering if a straw poll on the following narrow question would clarify anything:

In your opinion, is it appropriate to semi-protect the Reference Desks for more than one day at a time?

Of course I have my opinion, but what I would really be interested in is determining the consensus on this question. If a consensus could be shown that lengthier semiprotection is appropriate, that's fine, and I would be happy to stop arguing about it and move on.

(For the record, this is more or less the same question I was trying to indirectly get at earlier in the "Straw poll on primary goal in antivandalism efforts here" thread.)

This would be a strict support/oppose poll, with no further discussion. (Jimbo knows we've had more than enough of that already.) In fact, if I were to run such a poll, I would be strongly tempted to run it with the explicit proviso that "Any words beyond 'Support' or 'Oppose' will be summarily moved to a separate further-discussion section."

But for the moment (rather like SemanticMantis in his thread above), all I'm asking is, "Is this poll a good or bad idea, or how would you alter it?" (In particular, perhaps the useful appropriateness threshold should be two days.) —Steve Summit (talk) 15:46, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

  • Putting a strict limit on it would delight the trolls, as they would know exactly how long they have to wait to resume their foolishness. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:21, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
    • They can find that out now just by looking at the page history, so this probably isn't a major consideration. Tevildo (talk) 17:29, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
      • Certainly. And when it's only a few hours, it works out well for them. When it's a number of weeks, it puts their patience to the test. Restricting the length does nothing except feed the trolls. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:31, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I don't think the length of semi-protection is really the issue; imposing a maximum period will just result in semi-protection being lifted then re-applied very quickly when that period expires, if we maintain the de facto status quo on our response to "prohibited" (to use the term from WP:TPOC) postings. What we need to decide, or at least attempt to decide, is how to respond to such postings - if semi-protection isn't acceptable, what are the alternatives? Tevildo (talk) 17:28, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Some editors continue to bring up a Q&A site called "StackExchange". I don't know how it works or how to get to it. But if the ref desks were to consist solely of external links to that site, the trolls would become their problem. And it is claimed they have low tolerance for trolls or flaming. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:34, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I think, first, that yet an other straw poll on strict time limits for semi-protecting the Reference Desk is not a good idea, second, that any wording of a straw poll that starts off with a time limit is not a good idea, because it implies that keeping the Reference Desks free for unregistered editors is more important than keeping the desks from of trolling, and, third, long periods of semi-protection are likely to be necessary until the WMF can respond to the idea of User:Newyorkbrad and take legal action against the trolls rather than playing Whack-a-Mole with them. As I have said before, I understand that some editors have said that, because it is extremely important to keep the Reference Desks open to unregistered editors, we should follow a policy of prudently deleting or ignoring the troll posts. However, we have already seen repeatedly that we, the Help Desk regulars, are not capable of a prudent response to the trolls other than to lock them out, because we do not have a consensus on how to deal with them, and therefore we quarrel, which is exactly what the trolls want. I do not favor any straw poll of any sort, because a straw poll is not binding and just leads to arguments both during it and after it. I might be in favor of properly worded RFCs about dealing with the troll, even though such efforts have been inconclusive in the past, as long as the RFC were not on the length of the semi-protection but on how to deal with the troll posts, as long as the RFC doesn't infringe on extended semi-protection. That is my opinion. Robert McClenon (talk) 21:15, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I don't think StackExchange is a good, or even roughly analogous, model for the RefDesk. Firstly, they have 150 very narrow fields of enquiry. We have just eight - one of which is a "Miscellaneous" catch-all. What that means is that each of our desks has to accept a much wider, more diverse range of questions than StackExchange - which makes it harder to pin down a person as a troll. Secondly, StackExchange has a voting system and a "hold" system that's implemented formally and has teeth in the way the site is implemented. Another big thing that helps them is that there are no "anonymous" users - everyone has to sign up with a verified email address - which makes blocking the bad guys much easier. If Wikipedia banned write-access to anonymous users - and provided formal mechanisms for putting posts "on hold" - then we would be less at the mercy of the bad-guys.
Our problem is that we have to work within the infrastructure of Wikipedia - and that means being stuck with software that we can't easily change - and also forced to accept the rules, guidelines and culture of the web site we inhabit.
The big problem here is that with most Wikipedia pages, the vast number of users only need to be able to read them - a vanishingly small percentage ever edit them - so a block on anonymous users doesn't really impede the usefulness of the article. But a questions-and-answers page where a huge fraction of our readership can't ask questions is really a problem.
My biggest concern is with how a "troll" is identified here. It really pisses me off when I see a perfectly cromulant question - I spend 10 minutes researching an answering it - and then find that the whole thing has been hatted an hour later. When the question is not overtly trollish - do we have an actual troll in the first place? SteveBaker (talk) 18:51, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Regardless of the issue at hand, I will offer this advice. First, conduct a poll on whether the status quo is okay, or if a change needs to be made. Only then conduct a second poll, offering alternative changes, if the preliminary "a change needs to be made" faction wins in the first vote. If you offer 8 options up front, no option will win. For those old enough to remember, there was something like 80% support for rebuilding the Twin Towers after 9/11. It was pretty much a forgone conclusion, but various vested real-estate interests and office-holders beholden to their lobbyists didn't want so much real estate to go on the market so soon.
Hence the Port Authority, at the behest of one of its board members, held a contest between 8 different options, one of which was rebuilding, and the second of which was something like the current design. The other six options were all spoilers, meant to take votes away from the option to rebuild. Behind closed doors, it was decided that the predetermined "Freedom" tower would be built, because the "foot prints" of the North and South Towers was declared "sacred ground". The fact that they could simply built East and West Towers, caddy-corner to the former towers was ignored, and an "admin" decided for the current building even though 80% of the electorate voted otherwise.
So please, first ask if the system is broken, then offer a few simple alternatives to fix it. User:Medeis


User:Medeis - In my opinion, we nearly all agree that the system is broken. Maybe you disagree, because you may think that your policing of the Reference Desks keeps them working, but most of us disagree. We know that you are acting in good faith. You are probably doing the best that you can. I think that most of us agree that the system is broken, but we disagree so completely as to how it is broken that it is inconceivable that a poll will find how to fix it. It will be difficult enough to fix it with a true RFC. I think that the appropriate fix is one that is beyond our capabilities, and that is to ask the WMF to take action to suppress the troll. I think that the second-best action is long semi-protection, because that merely results in grumbling about the semi-protection, rather than the hostility resulting from efforts to fix the system. So in proposing the first RFC, on whether the system is broken (and, please, no straw polls), we need to be very careful how we define brokenness. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:44, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for signing the above for me, Robert. I wouldn't have bothered to add the advice on how to avoid logjam by dilution if I thought the system wasn't broken. I do neither the majority, nor the plurality of the troll-patrolling here, just as I don't find that I compulsively have to answer every question posted. Of course the problem with a self-appointed parliament of the whole is that no precedent stays in place. At one point removing material by a troll was supposed to be done with notice here, then it was decided that simply brought the troll more pleasure in the drama, and that material should just quietly be deleted. If the question is, are trolls a problem that require addressing, my answer is yes. Since I do not semiprotect, or have the ability to set up a pending-edit filter or so forth, that's not something I'll opine on now. μηδείς (talk) 01:12, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
I agree that the question "Is there a problem with ill-behaved OP's that needs fixing?" is separate from "How do we fix it?" - but I'm reasonably sure that a "Yes!" answer to the first question already has consensus. But if people here would like to ask it formally - then at least we could put that part to bed and move on by running a quick !vote. SteveBaker (talk) 18:57, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes, my point is that if we first establish that there is a problem that needs addressing we can simply omit the "there is no problem" option, and offer a few 2 or 3, solutions. At that p[oint a majority consensus can be found. Otherwise, vote dilution. μηδείς (talk) 02:53, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
I have no problem with doing a quick poll to establish whether there is a problem or not. If we're going to do that then there are really two problems to poll. I'd suggest:
  1. In your opinion, would the degree of trolling on the ref desks be unacceptable if we did nothing to control it?
  2. If "Yes": Do we need to reform the current efforts to control the problem?
I'm fairly sure that the consensus will be "yes" and "yes"...but neither question is entirely uncontroversial. SteveBaker (talk) 16:59, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Support narrower polls and discussions here, both in this case and in general. It's clear lots of us have lots of feelings, and this is all rather complicated. It can be very counterproductive to go off on huge (old, well-trodden) tangents in the middle of an otherwise simple thread. I have been guilty of that behavior too, but I've noticed it and I've been working on it :) SemanticMantis (talk) 15:25, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
Polling is a subtle art. For example, should we offer all possible remedies as alternatives or as a menu of options of which several might be adopted? Should we add ground rules that all of the options we poll on already pass muster as things that are implementable within the MediaWiki framework - and which are acceptable under existing Wikipedia rules and guidelines? (IMHO, yes - there is no point in complicating matters by getting agreement on something that we can't implement).
SteveBaker (talk) 19:28, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
This is, of course, a good point - before we try and decide what we _should_ do, we'll need to establish what we _can_ do, both technically and within Wikipedia rules. Putting together such a list might be something which has some hope of reaching a result here. Tevildo (talk) 21:07, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
IMHO, the problem here is not with what to do about trolls - I believe we could come to consensus on a course of action in such cases. The problem that most concerns me is how we're identifying the trolls in the first place. I'm a big fan of not feeding the troll - but very, very often - I'll see a reasonable question from an OP and answer it - only to find that this person has mysteriously been labelled as a troll. There never seems to be any backing evidence - and such accusations always seem to come WAY too late to prevent inadvertent troll nutrition cycles.
Perhaps we could hold up questions in some kind of an unprotected queue until they pass whatever magic troll-filter we might erect? That way, "bad" questions would never appear in the main feed and trolls that fail the filter would absolutely never get fed. That's a relatively easy thing to implement - all we need is a bot that moves questions from an unprotected feed into the main ref desk pages. The main desk page could then be left unprotected and we could easily check to see that the question has passed the filter before we answer it. There are enough concerned people here that questions added without filtering could simply be removed or pushed into the filter manually. Such a mechanism might only add a few hours of delay.
My problem remains though - what criterion are we using in that filter? SteveBaker (talk) 19:28, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
The criteria are subjective, and that's fine to a point. What bugs me is that when I've asked the removing editor how they know post X is from a specific banner user or why a post is considered trolling, I've been told that I just need to trust my betters, and that explaining the rationale is troll feeding! So I've just stopped asking. SemanticMantis (talk) 20:13, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
It's not just troll-feeding, it would be giving away the "tells" that identify the troll to those with experienced eyes. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:14, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
Obviously, the way to recognize a troll or banned user depends on the case. Why would anybody expect a single "criterion"? For example, the racism troll is dead easy to spot: brand-new account, generic username, one-sentence question dealing with nazis, black people or Jewish people, usually worded in such a way so as to presuppose the truth of some racist talking point. The "Ohio" troll is a bit less obvious, but if you see an IP asking a question that appears to be deliberately daft or provocative, check their past contribs or scan the page history for similar IPs to see if they have a pattern asking more questions of the same kind. If yes, use WHOIS; if it's Ohio State University, it's them. Similar for "WickWack". As for "Vote (X)", their posts are extremely easy to WP:DUCK-test on discussion pages (any IP that turns up posting unsolicit rants and incoherent jumbles of links to complain about how other Vote X socks have been blocked or prevented from editing by evil administrators, guess who it is?). On the Refdesk itself, it's not quite as easy, as their contributions will mostly appear harmless at first sight (apart from usually being vaguely off-topic), unless they are using the same IP for both kinds of postings or you just keep track of their typical IP ranges (there's a list at WP:Long-term abuse/Vote (X) for Change; the 86.150.*–86.160.* range is the safest giveaway). In any case, before you answer a posting from an IP user, the least thing you should do is to check their contrib history; in a lot of cases that will give you some hints. Fut.Perf. 10:03, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Do you have any idea how many people use Ohio State University IPs every day? I do [1], and it tells me that using an OSU IP is absolutely not a sane condition for naming someone a troll. And even if there is just one person from OSU who asks questions about human sexuality, what's the problem? You are the one making it a problem, the rest of us have learned to either give a brief informative answer or move on. If your criteria for trolling includes "this user may enjoy our answers", then again, that's not, in my opinion, a sane approach to running a public reference desk. If you don't want to volunteer at a public desk, there are other places you can spend your time. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:05, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Oh, and I see you now have closed off the math desk to IPs, and hatted a question based on the IP being in OHIO. Do you knot that OHIO is an entire state, with a population of ~11.5 million people? I'm sure lots of them have wondered about the history of math and computation. I've removed your hatting. If you want to follow the rules of WP:BRD, please feel free to start a new discussion on the topic below, and you can try to find WP:CONSENSUS instead of unilateral action. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:13, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Yeah - thanks Bugs - you've just confirmed my worst fears. Your argument is precisely the argument made by Medieval Witch-hunters...not just close...exactly that. This has to end.
If there are criteria - then lets expose them to the light where they can be debated, and we can check that there aren't rouge elements amongst us using an entirely incorrect set of criteria. If trolls learn of these criteria and stop exhibiting them, then we've successfully stopped them from doing the things we don't like. If they find new ways of being annoying, then add that to the list.
The argument "I know this person is a troll because I have years of experience and I'm not going to tell you why" is entirely bogus and 100% contrary to Wikipedia's modus operandii. Wikipedia operates by openness of process - except in very specific cases where people's personal information is at stake - we operate in public where our processes can be seen, documented and verified. Do you seriously believe that a system where a rogue cabal, using hidden sets of criteria to delete content and hound specific users without the right of appeal or even an explanation as to what they were accused of doing would pass muster at WP:ANI? If that's the way you (and the usual gang of self-proclaimed troll-hunters) want to play it - let's take it to ANI and see how many microseconds this witch-hunt can last without being flamed into oblivion!
I can come up with several people who started out by asking seemingly weird questions - often at high rates - and were widely suspected of being trolls - but who eventually turned out to be entirely reputable and are now ref desk regulars.
SteveBaker (talk) 16:28, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Trolls love it when you let their stuff stand and debate about it. "This has to end." Permanent semi-protection would pretty well end it. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:42, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
I disagree with User:Baseball Bugs about various things, but I agree here. The damage done by the troll or trolls and our inconsistent approach to dealing with the troll or trolls outweighs the need to keep the Reference Desks open to unregistered users. I know that this view is unpopular with some of the Reference Desk regulars, but I ask them to propose a strategy that we will all buy onto for consistently dealing with the trolls other than semi-protection. I think that semi-protection is the least undesirable approach, given that it doesn't result in the regulars quarreling with each other (which is what the troll wants), only in some of the regulars grumbling. If one thinks that semi-protection is really unacceptable, I suggest that they first propose a policy that we can apply consistently that won't result in our quarreling with each other. Robert McClenon (talk) 17:57, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
By the way, I also agree with User:SteveBaker that relying on unpublished knowledge to identify trolls is undesirable. I think that Bugs is saying that we have to do that if the trolls continue to post to the Reference Desks. Relying on unpublished knowledge to identify trolls is one of the possible strategies that will make things worse by making the regulars quarrel. Semi-protection merely makes some of them grumble. Robert McClenon (talk) 18:00, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Semi protection works well for regular articles (and I've advocated for that degree of protection many times in the past). It works because there is a natural distinction between "Editors" and "Readers" of our articles. When we semi-protect, we shut out IP Editors (which tend to be a relatively small proportion of committed editors - but a very large proportion of vandals) - but we still allow anyone to read the page. So the large numbers of innocent IP Readers don't suffer at all. If we substitute the word "User" for "Reader" - we're doing no damage whatever to the users - and small, but arguably acceptable, damage to the editors.
But here at the ref desks, our "Users" are also required to be "Editors" - that's the mechanism we have here - you ask questions by editing the page. So by semi-protecting, we cut off a huge number of perfectly innocent IP "Users" of the page - which sharply diminishes its usefulness and goes hard against Wikipedia's guiding principles of the free spread of knowledge and access to all.
Since semi-protection started, the numbers of questions has dropped precipitously. I think it may well be the eventual death-knell for WP:RD if we don't stop it.
So, what should we do?
It's extremely well-established that the only way to defeat a troll is to starve him/her of recognition. Without recognition, they do eventually get bored and move on.
IMHO, the way to solve this is to get rid of semi-protection - and to put a firm leash on the vigilante troll-hunters - who are stoking the fires of recognition to the max.
When you, personally, suspect someone of being a troll - or is just asking some stupid scatalogical (or whatever) question that you don't like, you should simply scroll past it. Do not answer it...not at all...not one posting here to ask...NOTHING. Then we need to instill a culture of responsibility amonst our editors. Rule #1: DO NOT ANSWER DUBIOUS QUESTIONS. Make that the responsibility of editors - mostly fairly smart people, mostly people we can converse with at a sane level.
Now: The recognition of trolls and the definition of what constitutes a troll becomes a shared responsibility - "crowd-sourcing" if you like. A matter of culture. We can write columns of advice for troll-spotting - but if an evil-doer violates the spirit of those rules - or simply finds a new way to be annoying - our culture says that we just ignore them.
With that done, we have a new problem. What about people who continually provide answers to clearly trollish questions? This is something that we can try to deal with without getting the trolls excited. Firstly, we shouldn't try to respond instantly on a case-by-case basis...if we establish a pattern of one editor answering inappropriate questions, then lets quietly talk to that editor...preferably out of WP:RD altogether - on their talk page maybe. Point out that this is not how our culture here works. Perhaps offer them mentorship - "If you're thinking of answering a question, maybe you should email your mentor first?"...that kind of educational approach.
If a question goes unanswered for a while - implying that we all agree that it's a troll - THEN we can consider quietly deleting it. But starving the trolls of recognition is the only thing that works.
Now, I know that a bunch of people are going to jump on this and ask "Would you allow XXX to be asked? Really?!? REALLY!?!" (where XXX is overtly racist, scatalogical, sexual, whatever) - and my answer is "Yes"...yes, the question sits out there. BUT NOBODY ANSWERS IT. Really - not at all. Make it your personal responsibility to simply scroll on past. You may be offended by the existence of the text embedded in our file - but Wikipedia isn't censored - so it can just sit there. It does no harm if it's not answered.
A culture of professionalism can be instilled in our editors by peer pressure alone - but we can't control our OP's, and we don't need to.
SteveBaker (talk) 19:14, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
What is your basis for your claim that use of the desk has "dropped precipitously"? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:26, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
This vision might work for the classic trolls asking troll questions. I strongly object to doing it in cases where the questions themselves are offensive, such as that of the nazi troll. I do not want genuine newcomers and passers-by to visit the refdesk and find it to be a place where it's considered normal to have nazi questions sitting around every day. The recipe also of course doesn't work for banned users who don't ask questions but disrupt the answer threads instead, so for the main problem we're dealing with it's quite irrelevant. Finally, as you yourself say, the recipe demands discipline on the part of our regulars. And this is where it fails. There are many admirable and hugely intelligent things that Wikipedians can achieve together. But fifteen years of Wikipedia should have taught us that there is one admirable thing, the most intelligent of all, that Wikipedians will never, ever achieve: to bloody shut the fuck up. Absolutely no hope. (And just today the nazi troll was again treated to an answer, and not even by one of our notorious chatterboxes but by somebody who really ought to have known better [2]. Fut.Perf. 19:40, 2 February 2016 (UTC)

Did you ever stop to think that permanent semi-protection is EXACTLY what the troll is aiming for - indefinite disruption to new users without having to lift a finger, meanwhile painting the regulars as assholes who slap down newbies at the first hurdle? Finding proxies takes effort. Thinking up stupid questions (or even just copy/pasting them from Yahoo Answers) takes effort. But semi-protection means the troll can go off and watch tv or whatever his actions continue to cause disruption in his absence. From the trolls perspective, short protection lengths or no protection at all are annoying because it means he has to keep 24/7 watch over the desks to keep up the disruption, and will eventually burn out. (talk) 19:00, 2 February 2016 (UTC)

Directly above me, folks, is what is called "the voice of reason." I've been trying to say the same thing for months, and that's why we SHOULDN'T be shutting down the desks. --Jayron32 19:05, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
This might be true for some of the classic trolls. I very much doubt it's true for banned users like the one we are primarily dealing here. This "Vote X" person doesn't want to provoke, they want to be heard. Desperately. The only perspective is to really shut the system off to them, for a time long enough that they get bored and find something else to do. This would work if people allowed it to work and made it clear to her that her path really is closed off and will remained closed off. But it won't work as long as people keep shouting and complaining and giving her fresh hope that somebody will be willing to listen after all, every day. The existence of all these protest threads here is what enables the trolling. Fut.Perf. 19:20, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
You've got it right. With the caveat that they want desperately to be heard, but not desperately enough to go through the steps it would take to be un-banned. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:58, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
I looked over several removals of this so-called 'Vote X' (mostly by User:Future Perfect at Sunrise a few days ago) and they all seemed harmless to me. Let's set aside the ID issue, and assume it is definitely the same person out there who has a desperate need to be heard. We are allowed to remove banned user posts, but we are not required to. A bystander might also conclude that a few users here have a desperate need to exert control. If a banned user posts material that follows our guidelines and is otherwise benign, then getting riled up about it to prove we can win at a game of cat and mouse seems like a bad way to achieve our goals. SemanticMantis (talk) 21:09, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
The problem is their posts are certainly NOT all harmless. [3] --Modocc (talk) 22:52, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Sorry, User:Modocc, I should clarify that the removals I saw looked harmless. I didn't look at all that many, maybe 5 or so. I don't deny that the user may have done harmful/disruptive things. I just don't see the value of removing a harmless post, and even FPAS seems to acknowledge that the edits "mostly appear harmless". Removal in that case just seems WP:POINTY to me. SemanticMantis (talk) 20:10, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
Semi-protection of the RD is evil...we definitely need to end it. The problem is that in order to do that, we need a solid story as to what we're going to do instead. You have my suggestion a couple of posts up there. The troll will have to spend effort typing questions - and getting past admin blocks - and the more effort we can put them too for the least possible recognition is the only way to exhaust them. SteveBaker (talk) 19:17, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
We have a solid story. It works everywhere else on Wikipedia. It's called WP:RBI. --Jayron32 19:32, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
User:SteveBaker writes: "Semi-protection of the RD is evil". Is it more evil than the constant disruption due to differing opinions on when and how to reply to the troll, delete the troll posts, collapse the troll posts, delete the responses? I submit that semi-protection of the RD is the least evil option that can work. Those who want the Reference Desk kept open agree that we need a solid story, but we can't agree on a single solid story, except that Jayron32 and FPAS can revert and block, but even then there are questions about the scope of the reversion. Robert McClenon (talk) 20:26, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Sure. I've blocked every one of these trolls that I have authority to block. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:55, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Steve, while generally agreeing with you on the principle of the thing, the suggestion above isn't going to work in practice with Vote X. They can, and do, just paste in their material as fast as we can delete it, and the board becomes unusable for everyone. This isn't to say that semi-protection is the only answer; I don't know what, as a matter of technical feasibility, alternatives there are. Pending changes might be a possibility, but I don't know how that would work. However, leaving their posts up, even if nobody replies to them, will (a) involve us being complicit in their ban evasion, and (b) allow their material to be read, which is what they want. Any solution we adopt has to deal with this one, particular, immediate problem, no matter how well it deals with generalized problems in theory. Tevildo (talk) 19:35, 2 February 2016 (UTC)

Perhaps there is another way to explain this concept that I have. The problem splits into two parts:

  1. Identify troll.
  2. Deny recognition.

If we communicate in any way with each other about the identification of the troll - then the troll is gaining recognition from the very discussion itself, which (per #2) we strongly do not desire to do. So the idea that some people have is to have autonomous troll-hunting 'experts' who judge who is a troll by unspoken rules and then denies recognition by erasing or hatting stuff. This goes against the grain for many of us here - because unspoken rules and secret cabals are entirely contrary to the WikiWay - and we work by consensus, not vigilante action.

So what is needed is a means to identify the troll with consensus and without communication. What I'm proposing (which is: "If you think you found a troll - leave the troll's question alone - don't answer it.") is a kind of consensus test. Those who suspect that this is a troll don't respond. Those who WP:AGF and assume it's not a troll get to answer the question. If the consensus is that we have a troll then denial is complete, automatic and hassle-free. If there is not consensus that this is a troll - then answering the question is not unreasonable. This system allows us to do an implicit consensus "poll" and to naturally accept the findings and impose the punishment of complete denial - all without communicating a single word between us. The troll is denied perfectly when all editors agree that this is indeed a troll. SteveBaker (talk) 19:35, 2 February 2016 (UTC)

This method has proven time and again to not work, most certainly in cases like the nazi troll. They always find some useful idiot who will reply to them. Fut.Perf. 20:14, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Before you can claim something does not work, you have to specify what your goal is. My goal here is to prevent disruption, and my position is that frequent removal and semi-protection is disruptive, because many of us disagree, and the ensuing discussion detracts from our main purpose at the ref desks. In case it's not clear, I posit that our goal at the ref desks is to give polite, informed and useful references to people who come seeking answers, and long-term semi-protection does not forward that goal. It turns away many good-faith users, and lets the trolls disrupt us with minimal effort, as described above. Maybe you are not familiar with common trolling behavior that happens in classrooms and school libraries around the world. I am, and if you'd like, I can explain to you how ignoring the disruption, or providing brief factual answers denies the troll of their fun. It's been proven to work, time and again. SemanticMantis (talk) 20:47, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
FPAS has recently been advised by Arbcom to tone down his behaviour, to stop the personal attacks, to stop assuming bad faith all over the encyclopedia etc etc etc. Unfortunately it seems that it has fallen of deaf ears. FPAS is protecting himself and no-one else. There's little damage done in 99% of the edits he reverts, and yet he makes some kind of crusade out of it, like he's making Wikipedia a better place. Which he is not. The ongoing reversion of anything FPAS unilaterally dictates as a banned user (without any evidence other than his own "experience") is actually becoming disruptive and encourages the troll to continue unabated and more determined. Interestingly, several of these reverts simply point to the previous bad faith behaviour of FPAS and his personal attacks on other editors. Other edits he reverts are just fine. Most of the time it seems that FPAS is acting like a lone warrior, shooting from the hip against anything he likes, and regular editors can be treated by him like crap all the way. The Rambling Man (talk) 21:02, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
No he is protecting others for admins are supposed to be shutting down trolls so they don't harass editors.[4] --Modocc (talk) 23:05, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
"They always find some useful idiot who will reply to them." - in my opinion, we stand a better chance of dealing with the 'useful idiots' than we do of dealing with the troll. The useful idiot is acting in good faith, is approachable, and is (in a sense) "one of us". So a little education, peer pressure and a culture of handling these things in the ways I propose - should allow us to educate the useful idiots to be wary of trolling and to avoid feeding them - and thereby add to the purpose of the group. This is an eminently fixable problem...given the right cultural shift among the majority of editors here. SteveBaker (talk) 18:27, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
No, it's not fixable. Not until the enablers start paying attention. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:56, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
The problem is that most often these "enablers" are just innocent bystanders who have no clue about the lengthy history of banned users nor their MO while hopping from IP to IP. We have dictatorial admins who sweep around telling us all that they are doing the most important job on Wikipedia and should be allowed to block editors who have made 70,000+ article edits because they are "proxying for sockpuppets". The actual point is that none of this actually benefits our readers. It's not going to stop, ever. I don't understand the current approach of continually destroying one of the main aims of Wikipedia, particularly at the Ref desks, of "anyone can edit". These "prefect" admins are doing a "job" but seriously, it's not like they're reverting anything damaging. Most of the time they're reverting things that relate directly to their previous poor behaviour, which, ironically, Arbcom has clearly overlooked. "I didn't see anything sir..." The Rambling Man (talk) 19:24, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
I'm referring to "regulars" who do that enabling. And allowing that troll's garbage about Nazis and Jews and Africans and other racist stuff to stand would be very harmful to Wikipedia. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:27, 4 February 2016 (UTC)
Not if we consistently give them the cold shoulder. If someone came to see how we behave here - and noticed that questions about racist stuff never get answered - how could we be criticized for racism? The problem is with racism on the ref desk is not when someone asks a racist question - it's when someone answer one inappropriately. But that's something we can (in principle) fix. The trolls are not reasonable people - but Ref Desk respondents usually are. We can approach them, carefully explain why one doesn't answer questions like that - and point out that it is contrary to our policy to do that. Peer pressure means something to people who come here to answer questions. SteveBaker (talk) 15:11, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
Good luck convincing the enablers that they should stop enabling. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:45, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
Does anyone have a simple clear concise definition of what is "enabling" and what the Reference Desk regulars are doing that constitutes "enabling" that should be stopped? Is there agreement as to what is "enabling"? If there isn't agreement as to what is "enabling", then we get back to quarreling about what is enabling, which plays right to the trolls. I have asked and will continue to ask for an editor to provide a clear concise policy as to how to respond to trolls and whether there is agreement. However, I would propose that anyone who has a clear policy proposal should propose it by RFC, not by straw poll. Otherwise, in my opinion, and you may disagree, if we don't agree, extended semi-protection is the least bad answer. Robert McClenon (talk) 17:52, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

What happens if the trolls bypass semiprotection? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:45, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

The only way that I know of that a troll can "bypass semi-protection" is to create an autoconfirmed account. That makes the job of dealing with them easier, because then they can be indeffed. Robert McClenon (talk) 23:37, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Just an observation, FPAS and his continual reversion of the "troll" who posts useful and interesting links back to poor behaviour, which is now considered "harassment", is not making a shred of difference. The IP postings continue unabated, the ref desks are arbitrarily protected so IPs can't edit, and yet the posts being reverted are generally of little interest or value beyond protecting the admin reverting them. It would be a useful exercise to just allow these posts to persist, to open the ref desks once again and see how we get on by managing a discussion with the perceived disruptive IP. After all, why should one admin unilaterally undermine the whole core principle of Wikipedia (an encyclopedia anyone can edit) just to protect his own ego? At least four or five times a day the IP changes and there is nothing we can do about that. It will carry on forever unless we engage and try to make things better rather than pretend all the poor behaviour of the IP and the admin go unaddressed. The Rambling Man (talk) 21:59, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 3 February 2016

the article about the Haber Process [1]: Under "The Process" is written: This conversion is typically conducted at [....] 150–250 bar and between 400–500 °C And a little further down: [...] the ammonia synthesis loop operates at pressures ranging from [....] 60–180 bar Unless I missed something there is a contradiction here. Could someone clarify? (talk) 08:30, 3 February 2016 (UTC)


Yes check.svg Done Placed on the science desk. --Modocc (talk) 09:13, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 3 February 2016

Please add this answer to the Humanities Desk, the Feb 2 question Dewey classification. Thank you. (talk) 21:31, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

This mock test and explanation written by a librarian may be helpful. (talk) 21:31, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done Tevildo (talk) 21:36, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

An observation on possible effects of long-term semi-protection

Since several of the ref desks have been semi-protected for longer periods, I think there has been an increase in newly autoconfirmed users posting inflammatory and disruptive material on the ref desks. Notably, the protection periods are public, and their duration is longer than it takes to autoconfirm a new users account. I wonder if the semi-protection has been seen as a challenge by some, and encourage them to increase their campaigns of disruption? I don't think the ref desk can ban the creation of new user accounts, nor can it overhaul the entire autoconfirmation process (Wikipedia:User_access_levels#Autoconfirmed_and_confirmed_users). Just some food for thought. SemanticMantis (talk) 22:07, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

Indeed. Although this is unlikely to be any more productive than the previous discussions, I can still repeat my question - what can we do as an alternative? Not "what should we do?", that question appears to be unanswerable at the moment. What can we do? Tevildo (talk) 22:11, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
Well, I for one was happier with the situation as it stood a few months ago, or whenever it last was that all desks were open for a whole week at a time. We could go back to that. That's something we could do, even if some of us don't think we should. I don't think the bad guys changed since then, I think we did. My aim was not to have any extended discussion, just to point out my observation. SemanticMantis (talk) 22:23, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
I Agree with the previous suggestion that another user stated a while back. (talk) 22:53, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
Any hint on which suggestion or which user? As an IP user, I think your feedback is important here, but I don't know what you're talking about. SemanticMantis (talk) 17:26, 4 February 2016 (UTC)
Well clearly things have changed. We had hardly any semiprotections until Vote X showed up a few months ago. I don't know if Vote X changed, they just showed up. Nil Einne (talk) 05:35, 4 February 2016 (UTC)
Shortly after he was indef'd, right? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:24, 4 February 2016 (UTC)
No, vote X was banned a long time before they showed up here. See Wikipedia:Long-term abuse/Vote (X) for Change [5]. However while X is a problem, perhaps there's another editor, I don't see much mention of the open proxies (e.g. random Korean and other IPs) that began significant attacks a few months ago. (But it sounds like X is using enough different IPs that a range block is considered unfeasible.) In truth partly because there's not that much I can do, I'm not that familiar with the details behind the recent attacks. (In fact as an aside, I wasn't even aware we had started to regularly delete stuff from the Ohio State IP.) Actually most of the problematic editors I'm familiar with have thankfully seemingly given up except for Bowei Huang and WickWack (and I guess the racist Toronto editor). Nil Einne (talk) 14:37, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
A wise admin once told me that it's easiest to think of these characters as being actually all the same guy. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:01, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Summary and discussion

I think that we can summarize the positions on trolling and semi-protection into three categories. First, there is the idealistic position. Second, there is the pragmatic position. Third, there is the despairing position. The idealistic position is that we should keep the Reference Desks open to unregistered editors, and that, due to trolling, we need to adopt a consistent sound approach to how to deal with trolling. The pragmatic position is that the idealistic position has been tried and has failed, and that extended semi-protection is sometimes necessary. The despairing position is that perhaps the Reference Desks are themselves a failed experiment and should be shut down, leaving users to go to other Reference Desks that perhaps do a better job of dealing with trolls. As a pragmatist, my question for the idealists is what should be the consistent sound approach to trolling, and also what evidence is there that any particular workable approach to trolling can be adopted that won't lead to quarreling. I would appreciate any comments, including any discussions by idealists of what the consistent sound approach to trolling should be and why they think it will work without being disruptive. Alternatively, if they think that disruption is better than extended semi-protection, can they just say that? Robert McClenon (talk) 18:46, 4 February 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for summary, it seems mostly fair and accurate to me. In brief, I'm what you'd call an Idealist. I challenge the notion that something "failed" in the past. I think things were fine last year at this time, or even a few months ago. I think think that there was occasional quarreling about trolls/methods/ID, but that was preferable long-term semi-protection. Actually it was my impression that most of 2015 was just dandy on the ref desks - sure, some trolls/vandals played games, but some patrollers removed/banned, lots of us gave lots of refs, lots of IP OPs left satisfied. I personally learned some things, taught some things, and overall had a nice time. SemanticMantis (talk) 19:04, 4 February 2016 (UTC)(P.S. I hope you don't mind the new heading I added, just trying to keep things organized in case this gets long. I hope responses can stay brief, and be about your summary/how people want to identify)
I have no objection to adding a heading. (At least one editor has complained vociferously about my adding of headings to my comments; I am not sure why.) I would ask any idealist to suggest what the consistent workable solution is to the problem of trolling that will not result in quarreling. I think that the difference between most of 2015 and the present is simply that the troll or trolls have become more stubborn and vicious, and that makes it harder. So my question for idealists is what is a consistent effective approach to trolling that will not result in disruption. Robert McClenon (talk) 19:17, 4 February 2016 (UTC)
I agree with SemanticMantis that the "previous" policy had not "failed", that semiprotection need not be a fait accompli, and that we don't necessarily need a new, mo' bettah solution. But Robert McClenon makes a very important point when he asks for a solution that additionally prevents quarreling, and I confess that on that score I for one utterly despair of finding one. —Steve Summit (talk) 03:42, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
I thought some quarreling was widely known to be an unavoidable consequent of running an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Of course I'd like less, but these spats go on all over WP, no? Of course arguments are much more tolerable if we can stay WP:CIVIL, and I'm working on that too. To me the disagreements are just part of the open nature that makes WP so great and yet also sometimes frustrating. In my opinion, the "anyone" in WP:5P3 is just as important as any other guiding principle we have. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:00, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
I'll say it: disruption is better than extended semi-protection. I would rather read racists arguing their point of view under pretense of asking questions than read edit requests, straw polls, filter proposals, protection debates, or ethics debates. I really don't mind - if there's something that looks like a question, I'm happy to see it get something that looks like an answer. And more to the point --- even if racists seem to ask stupid questions from a stupid point of view, so what? There's lots of stupidity to go around, and the efforts some make to make it sound like racism is a totally settled question is just whistling past the graveyard. Hell, just yesterday I found out that Jews are now officially second class citizens in Britain - because potentially they could get Israeli citizenship, the Home Secretary is free to revoke their citizenship for conduct "seriously prejudicial" to Britain's interests ... as defined by the Home Secretary. After that, who knows - deportation, internment? [6] Why the fuck are we pretending we're too virgin pristine and pure to hear anti-Semitic talk when the facts on the ground look a lot like pre-Nazi Germany? We might as well recognize that racists are people too and just wade into it. Wnt (talk) 02:51, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Allowing racist drivel to stand harms Wikipedia. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:01, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
How? This is a Reference Desk. You bring your ignorance, we bring our answers. That's the way it's supposed to work. I've seen this Internet thingy grow from before there was a World Wide Web, and there's always been racists on it, and they've never been anything but an indication that a mode of communication is free enough to be worth reading. Once it becomes some administrator's POV combination echo chamber and inquisition interrogation room, what's the point of looking at it? Wnt (talk) 17:40, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Racism is not tolerated on Wikipedia. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:05, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Tell us, oh defender of the faith, from what font do you draw these pronouncements? If some fundamentalist Muslim has an anti-gay perspective and someone disagrees, do you say that anti-gay Islamism isn't allowed on Wikipedia, or do you say that anti-Islamic fabulousness isn't allowed on Wikipedia? We never agreed on such censorship, and we don't need it. Even those foremost in the hunt for the "racist troll" usually try to justify themselves in terms of various other policies rather than admitting they are on a censorship crusade. I am not saying that I particularly like his content, nor even am I arguing right now sight unseen that you leave it alone, but right now I'm only making the more basic point that you shouldn't ruin the Q and A for everyone else who isn't signed up on the site out of intolerance for his point of view. Wnt (talk) 19:52, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
From the font of observation. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:11, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Well, there's the whole genesis of Wikipedia policy in a nutshell. A few people want to have control and start doing administrative things the rest of us don't agree with. Then they say "we've observed this is how things are done on Wikipedia", so that must be the real policy, and so policy has to be changed to match what is actually done. Wnt (talk) 21:21, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Countless editors have been indef'd for racist remarks. Got a problem with that? Talk to the admins about it. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:25, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
Countless editors have been indef'd for anti-racist remarks (well, alright, probably most have been indeffed for anti-transphobic, anti-anti-gay, anti-anti-religious remarks, but I think we're both generalizing). Even if there has been bias on the part of the admins against racists, that's not literally a point at law (much like even if there is a huge bias by American law enforcement, it isn't technically illegal to drive while black). If you think I'm going to accept that you can unilaterally come up with some new rule against racist sentiments, you're excessively optimistic. But you do reveal that your crusade against "trolls" isn't really a crusade against trolls at all -- it's a crusade to controll what everyone on the project is allowed to say or believe. The trolls are merely the trial balloons you use for target practice. Wnt (talk) 03:40, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
I follow the admins' lead on these things. If you've got a problem with the admins, make your complaints to them. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:53, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
I don't believe your summary of their actions is technically accurate. Despite some untoward indications to the contrary, they have generally resisted admitting to punishing people for thought crimes, however often they may do it, and so I take them at their word. Wnt (talk) 04:13, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
If you turn in someone at AIV for posting racist garbage, they will typically get blocked for it. Assuming they hadn't been blocked for it already. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:20, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
WP:AIV is for reports of "obvious vandalism". While many cases of vandalism use racist terms for shock value, and some are even targeted by racial animosity, there is no rule against asking honest questions that explore racist theories or question the evidence for racial equality.
It's important to remember that banning racist ideas would have a very severe negative consequence - it would mean that statements of racial equality are not falsifiable in this forum, and therefore lack scientific meaning. If a racist sees ten people pile on against his ideas, and an eleventh says "well he has a point here" and gets banned, the take-home message we send is that this is a propaganda forum and only people saying racism is wrong are allowed to speak ... so he ignores us. That's as bad a way to fail to answer the question as there is, and it would mean that the Refdesk fails to accomplish its purpose. Wnt (talk) 12:50, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
The troll in this case is not asking honest questions. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:21, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
My comments above were prompted by your insistence that "racism is not tolerated on Wikipedia". If you accept there is no blanket prohibition on that point of view, then we're back at a more mundane issue of whether a troll is messing with us, with more mundane objections like "how do you know this one (whichever one) is really the troll?" But that's better started as a different conversation. Wnt (talk) 14:05, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
In my experience here, racism is dealt with severely. Maybe your experience is different. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:44, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
I block for racism. Racism is not tolerated on Wikipedia. Thanks Bugs. Drmies (talk) 21:08, 11 February 2016 (UTC)


It seems to me that most (hopefully, all) banning and blockings for racism were actually on grounds of vandalism, violations of WP:NPA and so forth. It's very hard (but not impossible) to be a typical racist without violating lots of actual Wikipedia rules and guidelines. I don't think there are any rules that forbid people from actually being a racist...if they are careful not to insult people personally, not to put things into articles that they don't have solid references for, if they assume good faith and so forth.
A part of the problem here is that we live within the greater scope of Wikipedia. We really do have to adhere to the extant rules and guidelines - and making up our own rules that run contrary to the letter and the spirit of those rules isn't gonna work.
So, what does that leave us with?
  • Semi-protection: Just seeing the horrible decline in the number of somewhat reasonable questions should be enough to tell us that semi-protection is a failed technique - the 'treatment' is far worse than the 'disease'. Elsewhere in wikipedia, shutting of the ability to edit an article only damages the editors - and only marginally because they mostly create accounts. Users of wikipedia who come here to look up some piece of information are not harmed in the slightest. But here, on the reference desks, it's a total disaster because it impact our users...not just our respondents. So semi-protection is NOT a solution - it's a disaster.
  • Banning & Blocking: This can work very well for some classes of people - those who use the same IP address range...but some ISP's provide a wide range of addresses and cycle them rapidly - and that makes any kind of blocking and banning very painful. You can't block an overly-wide range of IP addresses because it'll start to negatively impact other users - and you have to be very light on your feet to ban each new IP address as it pops up. So while I don't think we should stop doing this - I think it's never going to be 100% effective.
  • Vigilantes: Deleting 'bad' questions without discussion or consensus (and often, counter to consensus). This is a favorite of at least a couple of RefDesk regulars - but it too comes with severe problems. If we just allow vigilantes to go out there and gun down the bad guys, we lose oversight and visibility into process. Who do we trust to do this? On what grounds are they deciding to delete? On who's authority are they acting? We've seen this go awry far too often, with these self-proclaimed "expert" troll-hunters deleting questions that they basically "just don't like" - that are actually quite acceptable - on grounds that they "know" the OP is a troll - using criteria for "knowing" and "troll" that are unspecified and not subject to community oversight or adjustment. Recently it was claimed that some of us had a "gut feel" for when someone is a troll and that the criteria had to be kept secret. This is a classic tactic of secret police forces everywhere - arrest people in secret on the grounds of wrong-doings that are never discussed or are not a part of public knowledge. This is most definitely not the Wikipedia way of doing things. If you want to be a lawman - you've got to go pass examination of your history here - go get your admin badge and be prepared to justify the actions you've taken and risk losing your badge if you overreach. The idea that we have roaming vigilantes following their own gut reactions is about as far from Wikipedia rules and policies as I could imagine. So, no - this isn't acceptable.
  • Deny Recognition: This is the way Wikipedians are supposed to handle this kind of thing. Don't answer questions you think are tollish (or questions you just don't like). Don't discuss whether you think someone is behaving trollish on any kind of public forum. This might work - but it requires some effort on our behalf. We really have to instill this approach into the hearts and minds of our editors - we need a culture of quiet professionalism. Bad questions have to go completely unanswered - unrecognized. You can't get into edit wars with deleting other people's answers. If we believe that a particular editor is answering questions that are clearly trollish - then let's have a quiet discussion on their usertalk page - and preferably take it completely offline to email if we can. Low key, quiet discussions are needed here. I believe that with a new spirit of professionalism and pride in our work here - we could deny recognition to trolls and the problem would largely go away. Simply refusing to answer bad questions can work...but we all need to be on board with it. There will be a problem with new editors arriving and not having that spirit - but it's easier to explain this quietly, and off-desk, to reasonable people than it is to fight trolls. But I recognize that this is a 'soft' answer - trolls will still be able to cause a certain degree of disruption. We may wish to impose additional rules (eg: Impose a "One question per day" limit - or "Questions that get no response within 24 hours are automatically removed - with a brief automated explanation being sent to the usertalk page of the OP") to allow us to purge floods of junk questions. But these need to be rules that do not entail discussion or any kind of judgement that will be arbitrarily ruled. Simple rules that are sufficiently obvious that we can impose them semi-automatically - or even completely automatically - so they don't result in vigilante-ism.
  • Kill the ref desk: Well, there is a case to be made for doing that. We are an odd corner of Wikipedia - but we do serve a purpose. Wikipedia article talk pages specifically do not allow questions about the subject matter of the article to be asked - they only exist to discuss the article. It's useful to be able to tell people who try to ask questions inappropriately: "You can ask this on the Wikipedia reference desk!" - and when they do, they generally get an intelligent answer. The world (and Wikipedia) would be a sadder, less rich place without us - but there are alternatives.
The options to firmly deny recognition and to end the ref desk are the two that have not yet been tried. Ending the ref desk isn't an experiment we can try - we know it would stop the trolls - but the consequences of it going away would be impossible to assess. So we're left with deny recognition. But doing it won't be a quick process - and it would require a good-faith effort on behalf of everyone to give it a fair trial. Sadly, there are enough vigilantes among us to make that a hard sell. Personally, I regard vigilante actions as "disruptive editing" - and that's sufficient grounds for an admin to kick those people out of the system for a while if we're really trying hard to deny recognition and they won't play ball. But I'd rather do this by getting everyone to understand the need to act as cool, calm professionals - to treat being an editor at the ref desks as a badge of honor - to raise our self-worth to a higher level.
15:01, 8 February 2016 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by SteveBaker (talkcontribs) 15:01, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
Again, while not disagreeing with the basic principle of the above, how do we deal with Vote X and similar banned users who post apparently reasonable material? Delete their postings? But that, as I interpret your statement, constitutes "vigilantism". Leave them up and allow them to be answered? But that's connivance in their ban evasion. Post messages along the lines of "The above comment is by a banned user - please do not reply to it"? Is that really better than deletion? If there is another workable method, I think it'll need to be explicitly spelt out in any proposal that's likely to be accepted. Tevildo (talk) 23:23, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
User:SteveBaker says that the one option, short of shutting down the Reference Desk, that hasn't been tried is to deny recognition. First, I would like a detailed clarification of what is meant by deny recognition. Does it mean to delete the troll posts, or to leave them standing unanswered? What should be done if the troll post is answered by someone who in good faith does not think that the post is trolling? Is there any reason to think that we as a class of regulars will be able to agree on what posts are troll posts? What evidence is there that we will all be able to agree on a single strategy? Robert McClenon (talk) 00:31, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
The comment has been made that we could redirect our Reference Desk to something like StackExchange, which deals effectively with trolls. Do they permit anonymous (unregistered) editing? If so, how do they deal with trolls? If they do not permit anonymous editing, and deal with trolls effectively, then how does that differ from semi-protection in its effect? Wikipedia deals effectively with registered trolls. We just don't deal effectively with unregistered trolls, a side effect of our permitting unregistered editing. Robert McClenon (talk) 00:31, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
Stack Exchange is not an option, IMO, although this isn't the thread to discuss why. —Steve Summit (talk) 14:30, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
I note that Steve has replied to WickWack's latest post on RD/S - I've not done anything with it, but I don't think this counts as "Denying Recognition". Tevildo (talk) 13:13, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
And which question would that be? I answered a bunch of reasonable questions - you say that one of them is a notorious troll - but I only have your word for it. On what basis do you make the assessment that this is a troll? I'm betting it's another one of those "gut feel" things - right? If trolls go to all the trouble to ask interesting and reasonable questions, then they aren't "trolling" - and they aren't doing damage to the ref opposed to the vigilante and semi-protection approaches. SteveBaker (talk) 13:24, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
"I only have your word for it." That's an assumption of bad faith against an established editor, which is what the enablers here do frequently. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:31, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
That's an assumption of bad faith - Only if said established editor was accused of deliberately lying, distorting, dissembling, etc., and that's not how I interpret the words. It's not unreasonable, let alone non-AGF, to ask for evidence to support one's claims (if it is, the scientific method is founded on AGF failure). None among us is infallible or above challenge. ―Mandruss  15:05, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
By saying too much, it can tip off the troll on how to better evade detection the next time. "I only have your word for it" implies an inherent distrust of the word of the other editor. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:45, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
I could be wrong, but I'm not aware of any policy that would preclude providing the evidence by email. If I then got the same answer from three experienced editors in good standing (including the originator), I could go on faith. ―Mandruss  15:52, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
Feel free to write to the user and ask how he knows. Just don't post such info here. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:21, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
I'm quite happy to post this, as I have before - WickWack is identifiable from the Telstra IP address, geolocation to Perth, lack of references, and, in this case, the misspelling ("binocculars"). My main point is that following Steve's process requires us to allow WickWack and Vote X and similar banned users - not trolls, I emphasize; as we can see, their contributions can be reasonable - but similar banned users to post despite their bans. Tevildo (talk) 16:37, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
OK - so everyone who uses Telstra in Perth and who makes an occasional typo is now automatically "A Troll". That's nonsense - completely unacceptable. Perth is a city of 2.2 million people. Telstra is the biggest cable company in Australia - with about 30% of the market. Nearly everyone misspells a word here and there - so there are probably around 700,000 people whom you'd label as "WickWack". In most English speaking world, 24% of people visit wikipedia frequently - so there are likely to be 170,000 Telestra users in Perth who misspell words occasionally visiting Wikipedia today. How many of those visit WP:RD? I don't know - but I'm sure it's a lot more than just one. So I can tell you with near certainty that if those are your criteria, you are mis-identifying innocent people as "WickWack" with alarmingly high frequency.
Now, if that person was posting something abusive or ridiculous, I might get suspicious. But that post (the one about "railroad perspective" with the misspelled "binocculars") wasn't even a question - it was a response to a question - and quite an interesting and on-topic response at that. I'm sorry - but if that's your definition of "A Troll" - you're showing us PRECISELY why your approach to troll identification is broken. This is abusive and a clear violation of WP:AGF - so let's stop that right now. SteveBaker (talk) 17:49, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
Steve, read my reply. I am not describing, and never have described, WickWack as a troll. You are deliberately misrepresenting my position by using that term. WickWack is a banned user, and I am entirely confident that the posting is by WickWack. I do not feel I can have any further useful discussions on this subject. If this ever comes to a formal proposal, your actions have convinced me that permanent semi-protection is the only reasonable option. Tevildo (talk) 18:36, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
Troll or banned user is beside the point. You gave your evidence that the user in question is this WickWack, SteveBaker applied reasoning and logic to very effectively pick it apart, and that is exactly why we can't blindly accept one person's judgment on these things. ―Mandruss  18:47, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
It's worth asking why Tevildo is still so sure that that respondant is WickWack. We asked how the identification had been performed - and we received an answer from Tevildo - and having (I think) quite effectively demolished it, we're still left with Tevildo being "entirely confident"?!? WTF? So, I have to ask: On what additional evidence is that confidence based? That this is a Telstra user, based in Perth who makes spelling mistakes isn't remotely proof enough to warrant me shunning an interesting and thought-provoking answer. Not even close! It maybe reduces this to a 1:100,000 chance that this is WickWack...that's an entirely useless confidence level. Now, had the answer been in any way derogatory, or goading people into a debate, or broaching unpleasant topics, or in violation of some guideline or other - I'd definitely increase that confidence level considerably. But no! This was an entirely appropriate, interesting, polite, on-topic response. Yeah - it doesn't have references - but that's true of a very large proportion of responses to very tricky questions like the one we were responding to. Yeah, the respondent can't spell "binocular" - but if we're banning people for making spelling mistakes, I'm sure quite a few of us are in deep trouble. Sure, this might have been WickWack - but unless you have some more evidence to present, what you have is a "gut feel" which stands very little chance of being correct.
So, Tevildo: Put up or shut up.
This is why the "shoot from the hip" vigilante approach to fighting trolls is so bad. It's just like the Salem witch trials - where people were tried and convicted without anything remotely resembling evidence. We cannot, and must not, condemn 100,000+ people to being blocked from the ref desks, wrongly accused and generally frustrated just because one person here has a "gut feel"! That's bullshit and it has to stop. SteveBaker (talk) 21:27, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
Spot on, even if a tad verbose. :D ―Mandruss  21:50, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
It's assuming bad faith on the part of regular editors, and assuming good faith on the part of drive-bys. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:53, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
(1) It is not assuming bad faith from anyone, as I said above. (2) We should assume good faith from everyone until bad faith is proven. 100% certainty is never possible, but we should get a lot closer than Tevildo did above, which you appear to be defending despite it being shredded by SB, and closer than I think you do a lot of time. I'm sorry you're that cynical, but that's not an issue for this page. ―Mandruss  00:03, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
He hasn't shredded anything. And kissing up to trolls while disparaging established editors is called a "double standard". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:01, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
OK, I'll just make this point, as regards "a lot closer". If SteveB's figure is meant literally, we should have about half a million posts from legitimate Telstra users on the desks. Even if it's exaggeration, we should have dozens of them. Can you find one of them? Show us just one legitimate post from an anonymous Telstra user. This is before we get into the other characteristics of WickWack. Tevildo (talk) 09:00, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
Oh good grief. Don't you see that I just did that?! If you believe that every post from telstra/perth is WickWack - then every post I find from that area MUST be WickWack...then you ask me to find one that isn't. Don't you see that you've blinded yourself to the possibility that you might ever be wrong? And I didn't say that all 100,000 telstra/Perth/anonIP/Wikipedia-users post to the ref desks...that's clearly stupid - most of them come here to read articles about Japanese Railway stations or something - but, out of 100,000 - it would be surprising if none of them came here to ask a question once in a while. What I am saying it that there is a high probability that a post from an anonIP user in that area ISN'T WickWack...and by automatically assuming that they are, you're potentially making a horrible, horrible mistake. Even if there is only a 50/50 chance - wrongly accusing that one innocent questioner is enough of a bad thing to invalidate utterly the supposed benefit of a valid WickWack identification. So unless you have some further degree of certainty that this is an evil-doer, then you're damaging the ref desk rather than helping it. IMHO, if the questions and answers posted by a telstra/Perth/AnonIP/Spelling-mistooker are not nasty - we should WP:AGF and handle them just as we do with TimeWarner/Austin/Registered/Apostrophe-abusers like me. The only sure way to know you have an evildoer in our midst is if they actually do evil. Put another way - if the only way for evil-doers to do evil is to post innocuous, innocent questions at a reasonable volume so that we can't be reasonably certain that they are doing evil - then what evil are they actually doing? SteveBaker (talk) 15:00, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
Steve, not that it's any skin off my big nose, but did you bother to search the archives for the repetition of the spelling error in question that Tevildo recognized before going on this march? It has been all too evident that Wickwack still likes to contribute here (there have been plenty of his postings which easily pass the wp:duck test) and given the context it is not likely a random error, but I won't edit war over this one. --Modocc (talk) 15:47, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
This thread illustrates limitations on a strategy of Deny Recognition. It either assumes that editors can recognize known trolls, or puts a burden on them to recognize known trolls. It is hostile to good-faith editors who would like to become Reference Desk regulars, because they will learn that they can be scolded if they reply in good faith to trolls. I will note that Bugs just said, in a thread at WP:ANI, that continuing to allow unregistered editors to edit is a mistake. I would at least say that tying ourselves in knots, e.g., by a Deny Recognition policy which provides the right to criticize failure to recognize trolls, in order to avoid semi-protection is silly. Deny Recognition is not effective unless the right to respond at the Reference Desk is limited to editors who have been trained in how to recognize trolls. I will again ask for a concise description of how any anti-troll strategy other than semi-protection can be consistent and avoid causing quarreling. Any anti-troll strategy that causes quarreling over how to implement it is playing into the hands of the trolls. In my own opinion, some of the editors here are trying themselves in knots to try to say that we can avoid semi-protection. Robert McClenon (talk) 17:25, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
If you can't tell that a post is from a troll - then is it really a troll? We see (above) a perfectly reasonable, interesting, on-topic response to a question being labelled as a "troll". But why? It's a perfectly ordinary day-to-day ref desk response. I don't particularly care to shut down those kinds of posts. Again, if I can't tell that it's a troll - why try to stop it? If a troll posts reasonable questions and responses as well as nasty ones - then I'm quite happy to deny recognition to the nasty ones and accept the reasonable ones. If the troll can thereby be trained to "play nice" in order to get recognition, then that's a good thing - right? SteveBaker (talk) 17:49, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
I agree that if a post isn't obviously a troll post, it may not really be a troll post. You, User;SteveBaker, said that what we hadn't tried yet was Deny Recognition. Since you think it is all right to respond to a reasonable question, without obsessing about whether it is from a banned user, can you please define concisely how Deny Recognition will work? What I see in Deny Recognition is a formula for allowing some regular editors to attack other reference desk editors for not obsessing about whether the post is from a troll. Can you please define concisely how Deny Recognition will work, and why it is better than semi-protection? Robert McClenon (talk) 17:56, 9 February 2016 (UTC)


It's hardly rocket science. If you don't like a post (rightly or wrongly - and for any reason whatever) - simply don't reply to it - and don't mention that you didn't reply to it - and don't mention if someone else replies to it. If everyone refuses to answer posts we don't like - then with luck, the poster will eventually give up typing junk that everyone ignores - and simply go away - or will be forced to ask interesting questions just to get a response...which is basically fine.

The only problem with that is with people who persistently answer questions that the rest of us think are inappropriate (persistently - not just once in a while). My opinion is that we quietly (and not anywhere on the RD itself), explain to them that this is probably a bad idea because it's feeding a probable troll. I'm not talking about "scolding" or "punishing" - just a quiet, gentle word in the person's ear. Maybe something like: "Hi! I noticed that you've been answering quite a few WP:RD questions that seem to be from people who are asking them just to cause a fuss and get everyone upset. Our policy is to try to ignore people like that rather than answering their questions. It would be helpful to everyone if you could do that too. If it's not obvious to you whether a question is dubious or not - feel free to ask any of the Ref Desk regulars - myself included."...Trying to get an overall feeling that RD editors are sane, rational, intelligent, professional, caring people - who would just like to explain the problem here.

Why it's better than semi-protection is twofold:

  1. Trolls can create multiple accounts very easily - and blocking them is just as hard as blocking IP addresses - so semi-protection won't stop them forever.
  2. It cuts out our legitimate IP users and drastically reduces the number of people who benefit from our service.

SteveBaker (talk) 18:51, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

The other thing people desperately need to remember is that we do not necessarily need an absolute, one-size-fits-all policy here. If we're trying to revert and/or deny recognition to trolls, but we don't manage to do it 100.00% of the time, that does not mean that we have failed. And if we're not trying to revert and/or deny recognition to trolls, but we do sometimes, that does not mean that we have failed, either. (I said something like this eariler.) —Steve Summit (talk) 19:45, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

Sure - there are definitely scenarios where I'd delete a question. For example, if some evil-doer decided to post 100 instances of the same exact question by doing a copy-paste...or if they were using an account that was definitely identified as a blocked or banned user (and by "definitely", I don't mean various gut feels and mysteriously ill-described methods). But doing that requires that the situation is sufficiently obvious that nobody is likely to disagree with it...because once we start arguing a particular case, we're feeding the troll again. To avoid that kind of discussion, we'd ideally want to enshrine the deletion policy in a formal WP:RD guideline or something. SteveBaker (talk) 21:42, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
As far as banned users are concerned, there is no need for such, because banned users are handled on the RD exactly like anywhere else: they get reverted, on sight, no matter what it is they post (question, answer, obviously disruptive, seemingly harmless – it doesn't matter a bit). They get reverted as soon as they are identified, and most of the time that happens through the WP:DUCK test. We do it everywhere on Wikipedia; there's nothing special about doing it here too. Now, for genuine trolling that happens not to be ban evasion (yet), we might talk about additional guidance, but that's a different matter. I really, really wish people would stop mixing these categories up all the time. Fut.Perf. 21:56, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
My point exactly. See WP:BMB. I've deleted WickWack's posting and its replies. If anyone wishes to restore it, I won't take any action. To Steve - show us _one_ anonymous posting from Telstra on the reference desks in the past four or five years that isn't from WickWack, and you might have a point. Tevildo (talk)
It's worth noting that there's a fundamental, base-postulates issue here. Suppose that:
  1. Anonymous user A makes a 100% innocuous, productive edit. (Mainspace, talk space, RD, doesn't matter.)
  2. Editor B knows -- just knows -- that anonymous user A is actually banned user Q. (Doesn't matter how editor B knows this, doesn't matter if editor B is right or wrong in this assessment.) Since banned users are not allowed to edit, editor B believes that the edit in (1) must be reverted.
  3. Editor C believes, since the edit in (1) was 100% innocuous and productive, that it (a) cannot with certainty be known to have been performed by banned user Q and (b) might as well be let to stand. (Editor C may believe this despite having read WP:BMB.)
Now, my point in posting this is that editors B and C will never, ever agree. Nothing will be gained by their arguing with each other any further, nothing will be gained by repeated appeals to WP:BMB. Editors B and C will have to agree to disagree on this point. (However, since policy favors editor B, once the problematic edit in (1) has been pointed out, it will typically have to be reverted, even if some other editor turns right around and makes it, since it was after all productive.) —Steve Summit (talk) 22:29, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
It's also worth noting that miscreant admin D blocks long-term editors E and F because he assumes and claims they are "proxying for a banned editor. In no sense at all has miscreant admin D made any difference to Wikipedia other than to falsely block long-term editors, protect ref desks so that legitimate IPs cannot edit and create a hostile environment by poor communication whereby only "those in the know" (i.e. the miscreant admin and his buddies) understand what the hell is going on. The Rambling Man (talk) 22:34, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
I disagree that B & C can't ever agree if they are rational people. If B can explain the grounds on which A was identified as Q, and if they are reasonable then (rationally), C should apply the same test, obtain the same result, agree whole-heartedly that A is Q and back down forthwith. On the other hand, if B fails to adequately explain grounds for accusing A of being Q then C should stand ground and defend A's right to the presumption of innocence. Everything depends on the reason that B identified A as Q. In our recent debacle, B provided an argument of sorts and C doesn't believe it's remotely convincing. How B can stand up and continue to proclaim A is Q without evidence is beyond C's ability to comprehend. In a similar situation in the past, a different B (B3, perhaps) claims to hold their reasons secret on grounds of tipping off Q. C thinks that B3's reasoning is unacceptable because it makes it impossible for others to verify that the test is valid and does indeed identify A as Q. SteveBaker (talk) 20:56, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
I wouldn't go so far as to include all Telstra but definitely Telstra that geolocate to WA. BTW, I saw this reply after Steve Baker had replied but I think before anyone else had (or maybe it was one more person can't remember) and immediately thought "this sounds like WickWack and the IP also looks like it) and quick geolocation confirmed it's WickWack's normal range. Seeing replies, I didn't do anything. I think a key point many editors are missing is that while to some extent recognition of the IP does come in to play, a lot of time it's fairly obvious from reading the response who it is. When you consider this combined with geolocation or WHOIS of the IP the chance of a false positive is not so high. Frankly with someone like Bowei Huang (who I think gave up editing from IPs) even a single question is normally enough for recognition although since SPI can be variable in what evidence they require, I normally wait a few posts before reporting (but not deleting if there are no replies). Although I think BWH often edits other stuff before coming here now anyway (perhaps partially because the desks they prefer are often semi-protected). P.S. Let's not forget that WickWack got in trouble not for asking questions but for their responses, in particular that they needed to be right so much that they invented other identities to affirm they were right. (And this discovery came after people were getting sick of them being excessively argumentative in their replies about being right, even when they had no sources.) Nil Einne (talk) 15:27, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
Since it has come up, I suggest you reacquaint yourself with some other material at WP:BMB It urges us balance ban enforcement with:
  • Avoiding inconvenience or aggravation to any victims of mistaken identity.
  • Maximizing the number of editors who can edit Wikipedia.
  • Avoiding conflict within the community over banned editors.
I suggest that the current state of affairs is not achieving any such balance. I think it is unarguable that long-term semiprotection fails to maximize the number of editors. I think it is unarguable that the previous several thousand words on this talk page constitute strong evidence for conflict within the community. So I ask, why are you behaving against our guidelines? SemanticMantis (talk) 16:17, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
Any sincere editor who wants to edit here can do so. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:24, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
Although Wickwack is banned [7] and he more or less gets removed on sight (unless we quarrel over it) he is not the cause of the trolling by Wikipedia:Long-term abuse/Vote (X) for Change that has led to the current semi-protection. Given the description of their behavior and their unprovoked disruption of the language desk with edits such as this and subsequently reverted [8] by an administrator, I've no doubt that this editor is keen on attempting to reap discord between the various administrators and contributors. And a quick check of these IPs' posts will bear this out. Thus given the severity of their past attacks and the current rough guide on semi-protection essay which says "If semi-protection is to be tried, its first application should be for a short duration, a few days or a week. If vandalism continues after the protection expires it can be added for a longer duration." it's not unsurprising that we have been in disagreement on the proper "balance" here, especially regarding "a longer duration". --Modocc (talk) 17:04, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
I'm sorry, I know there's lots of related issues floating around, and it gets confusing. I brought up the guidelines about balance above because they seem to be to be contraindicating our current situation. I don't care if it's Wickwack, bowei, light current, Vote X, or whoever. I don't care if they are banned users,trolls,vandals, or whatever. My point was that this semi-protection is not balancing anything. While I am open to other viewpoints, I don't understand how one admin gets to go against consensus (even Robert, who doesn't agree, admits below that the consensus seems to be against long-term semi-protection). The protection is disrupting many IP users and many frequent helpful contributors, all because what, FPAS doesn't want to remove Vote X's posts? If he doesn't want to, he doesn't have to, but that doesn't mean he gets to shut everyone else down. The long-term abuse profile you linked advises WP:RBI. I posit that Vote X is getting tons of recognition, right here, right now. So ironically, I guess we can thank the protecting admins for giving recognition attention to these bad faith users. Letting one jerk hold all of the ref desks (and now the talk page!) hostage is just a really sad state of affairs, especially when it seems to also be against our own guidelines. (PS to simplify these discussions, I propose the term "Witch" to be "any troll, vandal,spammer, banned user, or otherwise disruptive user who acts in bad faith". That way we won't have to argue about what category the ne'er do wells in question belong in ;) SemanticMantis (talk) 21:28, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
SM, that term might be construed as being offensive to practitioners of the Wiccan Rede. Shall we have an argument about this, as well? It seems to be our primary skill at the moment. Tevildo (talk) 22:01, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
Ha, so now we are too civilized to dunk test witches. :-) Since I'm certain that Telvido, whom you were addressing, and the administrator Fut.Perf. have been acting within the guidelines even when we disagree with them: then feeding the wretched ones becomes unavoidable if we demand arguments and/or every minute detail of the justification(s) for the semi-protections. On a related note, I discovered an essay the other day which advocates keeping a low profile and staying above the fray.. not that is likely, but its best we argue about appropriate policy and for us not tp throw around allegations of its abuse. -Modocc (talk) 22:36, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
If we do want an argument, may I suggest "miscreant"? Tevildo (talk) 23:07, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
Something that occured to me, is the premise at the beginning of this question even correct? I don't check out all the desks nor do I regularly check out the history to see what's happened recently, but a lot of the stuff I am seeing is stuff like Special:Contributions/Kevin.b32 coming from newly registered non autoconfirmed editors. The autoconfirmed editors I've seen tended to be Bowei Huang socks who's frequency doesn't seem to have been changed by protections. Are there examples of this increase in disruptive recently autoconfirmed editors (perhaps 2 or 3). Autoconfirmation isn't a particularly high threshold but it is a threshold many can't be bothered with.Nil Einne (talk) 07:53, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Semi-protection of this talk page

While I have been arguing, apparently in disagreement with a consensus of the other regular editors here, that long-term semi-protection of the Reference Desks themselves is the lesser evil compared to any other strategy for dealing with trolling at the Reference Desks, since we can't agree on the details of how such a strategy should be implemented, I see that this Reference Desk talk page has been semi-protected. Can the protecting admin, User:Ian.thomson, explain why that is thought to be necessary here? I think that semi-protecting a talk page is an extreme measure. (I do remember once when it was necessary, at a fringe science talk page that was subject to disruption by multiple IPs, but it is an extreme measure.) Robert McClenon (talk) 19:37, 10 February 2016 (UTC)

I too, await an explanation, thanks. SemanticMantis (talk) 21:28, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
It's simple. The ongoing IP edits are providing too much information on the misbehaviour of Arbcom-favoured admins who are compelled to block just about every IP wherever possible around here, and protect the Ref Desk from genuine usage. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, the blocking admins are actively destroying Wikipedia's core principles and they know it. The Rambling Man (talk) 21:33, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
(I couldn't resist, I made a new section about this below for increased visibility.) SemanticMantis (talk) 21:41, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
Although perhaps not wishing to endorse TRM's statement in its entirety, I still must agree that various admins have been rather too aggressive recently in their responses to Vote X. Manual reversion seems to work satisfactorily, on the talk page at least, and locking it for a week in response to eight Vote X postings in six hours does not appear to be a proportionate solution. Tevildo (talk) 21:45, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
These are the sockpuppets of Vote (X) for Change over the past ten days: Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/, Special:Contributions/
31 over 10 days, each making a few posts (so several a day). In that time, there were maybe a dozen semi-protected edit requests. Blocking wasn't working, because he was just hopping to a new IP. If someone disagrees with the protection, I don't mind if it's shortened or eliminated, but that seemed the most obvious solution to me.
And a further note in response to some of the stuff I'm seeing here: I don't know or care about any politics between that sock and arbcom or whatever, I just saw disruptive posts outnumbering useful anon edits by close to 10 to 1 for over a week. When that happens on other pages, we do the same thing, and no one seriously suggests that we delete that article or that it has anything to do with site politics. Same deal here. I suggest a few editors go re-read WP:AGF. Ian.thomson (talk) 01:44, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for the explanation. Are you saying that disruptive edits to this talk page substantially outnumbered good-faith IP edits? Robert McClenon (talk) 02:35, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes, many times over. If it was closer to equal, I'd've left it alone. Ian.thomson (talk) 03:04, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Without commenting on the merits of the semiprotection of this talk page, and at the risk of WP:Beans we do already have Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/unprotected talk page if editors need it. We could link to it from the top if needed.

From what I've seen, this is common with user talk pages that are semiprotected, but not with article talk pages. Partially this is because there are often BLP concerns, but I think also because editors can't be bothered dealing with reverting so many IP edits when so few are useful. Definitely with Talk:Poop and Talk:Forum but also I think in cases like Talk:Justin Bieber it gets boring reverting all the Justin Bieber rules/Justin Bieber sucks posts. From a look at Category:Semi-protected talk pages, it looks like the majority just have {{tl:pp-vandalism}} or {{tl:pp-semi-blp}} and one or two have links to WP:RFED (I couldn't actually find a semiprotected article talk page that was in use).

P.S. Some of those are a bit weird. E.g. File talk:Swift performs in St. Louis, Missouri in 2013.jpg. Perhaps it was used in her article, but it doesn't look like that talk page was ever protected so I'm not sure why they ended up on the file talk page.

The only comment I will say about the merits of the talk page semi-protection is I think whether we need to consider if the number of IP useful IP edits are high enough that we should accept the annoyance of reverting unwanted contribs despite the poor ratios. While I never checked, I presume in most of the pages I listed, the number of helpful IP edits is very small because while many of the articles aren't FA, it's still harder to make a useful contrib without careful reading and they're also less likely to bother anyway.

One possibility is to link to the unprotected talk page in the various headers so that IPs can easily find the unprotected talk page. Again at the risk of beans, it looks to me like most constructive IP edits here are edit requests which aren't going to be significantly affected by being on a different page and the unconstructive are attempted to participate in the ongoing discussions by banned editors.

Nil Einne (talk) 08:37, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Many years ago, I did a study by taking 200 randomly selected articles and figuring out the percentage of "good" vs "bad" edits over 12 months for IP versus named-account editors...and overwhelmingly, the good edits were by users with accounts and the bad ones were IP's - it wasn't by a small margin, it was overwhelmingly true. On that basis, I've generally supported semi-protection requests for articles that are actively being works, and it's not a terrible thing for the future of the encyclopedia (although some ardent anon-IP people might be scared off - it doesn't greatly impact the quality of our articles).
But here on the ref desks it's different. We might very well find that IP's who respond to questions aren't very important - but IP's who ask questions are pretty much our core demographic. Blocking them from asking questions easily is like telling IP users that they can't read Wikipedia articles anymore!
As a compromise, I wonder if semi-protection over just some limited IP address range is technologically feasible? That would go some way to solving the telstra/Perth issue. It would still make life harder (but not impossible) for hypothetical telstra/Perth innocents while shutting out telstra/Perth bad guy. I still don't like it - but it would be an improvement over blanket semi-protection.
SteveBaker (talk) 15:43, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
The effect would be achievable, though technically not through semi-protection proper but through an edit filter. I've been considering this myself. It would certainly be more effective than the content-based filters we've been trying so far, and it would lead to considerably less collateral damage than either full rangeblocks (affecting all pages), or semi-protection (affecting all IPs). Trouble is that at least in the Vote X case, the set of affected ranges is quite large, so the filter would be fairly complex. I was under the impression that filters consisting of a lot of complex pattern matching are computationally costly, so we'd have to check with the filter gurus to see if it's advisable. Don't know how big the affected ranges are for the Telstra guy. Fut.Perf. 15:58, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
It is technologically possible to block certain IP ranges from editing certain pages. Without divulging too much into detail per WP:BEANS, the consequences however would be blocking an entire city from editing said pages (for the refdesks, this would only apply to anon users editing from a specific area). However if this idea were to be implemented, protection would likely be unnecessary and would allow a greater number of editors to edit. If this is a solution that has consensus, I can try to implement it for you guys. Elockid Message me 15:55, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Steve, while I may regret posting this, I don't think that blocking Telstra would be of assistance. WickWack is not a prolific poster, and manual reversion is all that's needed to deal with him - and, as you point out most vocally above, there are many thousands of non-banned Telstra users who might want to post. Vote X is a different matter - they use a vast range of IP addresses, and a range block wouldn't be feasible, as far as I know - otherwise, I'd expect it to have been tried already. Tevildo (talk) 16:05, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
That's good information. So that brings us back to the previous issue - how do we know that a post is from Vote X? SteveBaker (talk) 18:31, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
It'll be interesting to see the answer to that question, it might help in resolving a small part of our current issues. I don't know it myself. Tevildo (talk) 19:34, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Yeah to be clear, Wickwack clearly isn't the reason the RD is semiprotected and aren't really that hard to deal with or identify. Identifying Vote X is a bit harder although from what I've seen they generally give it away in the end. (Actually I wrote a long comment where I partially address this in reply to the proposal below but I haven't decided whether to post yet.) I wouldn't completely rule out an edit filter based range block of Vote X. IMO the big issue here is complexity. I presume the reason a general range block hasn't been implemented is it's considered too disruptive to block such large ranges throughout the encyclopaedia despite the high level of disruption which isn't just to the RD (they've been around since 2012 or so). To give a random possibly WP:Beans example, I'm not sure if we have to worry about Vote X disruption Talk:My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and related articles any time soon. Since we're semi protecting the RD anyway, there would ultimately be less disruption here if it was possible and worked. (The ranges are large enough that we may stop a small number of non Vote X edits which is unfortunate, but I think it's difficult to argue that the majority of edits from these ranges here aren't coming from Vote X particularly when they often give it away.) The later may be the other issue, I asked this elsewhere and I don't think anyone answered. Is the editor who was using open proxies (or whatever) and was changing to South Korea and random other locations within minutes Vote X or someone else? Will they be back with a vengence in that form and do they have enough open proxies to cause significant disruption? I guess we won't know until we try. Nil Einne (talk) 07:31, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
That's not Vote X (the person using the proxies). I have been stepping up blocking anonymizing services, so that should be of some deterrent for them. Elockid Message me 13:06, 12 February 2016 (UTC)

Today's first semi-protected edit request

Please add under WP:RD/H#Thought experiments, ethics, and cause:

An interesting real-life example is the court case resulting from the death of Sammy Yatim in Toronto, where the man who undisputedly killed him was acquitted of murder, but convicted of attempted murder. -- (talk) 06:38, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done. Deor (talk) 07:45, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 7 February 2016

Please post this answer to the Humanities Desk, the question Any treaty against ballistic missiles. Thank you. (talk) 19:25, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

The category Treaties of North Korea may be help. The country is apparently been signatory to at least 90 international treaties. These are not always transparently named but at a glance, most of them are not weapons-related. According to our article, North Korea was a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, but withdrew in 2003. (talk) 19:25, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Done. Matt Deres (talk) 19:38, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Thank you Matt Deres. (talk) 23:13, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 7 February 2016

Bernie Sanders had a father from Poland, yet why does Sanders not have a Polish surname? --Figerio Addgaf (talk) 21:50, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Figerio Addgaf (talk) 21:50, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done. I wasn't quite sure where to add this, but since it's a politics-related query, I put it on the Humanities desk. Deor (talk) 21:58, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Semi-protected you-know-what

Please append to WP:RD/C#Is there any computational method that's neither a numerical method, nor a symbolic method?:

  • Standard digital computers can be understood as doing everything by symbolic methods, including numerical computation; and the way I see the word "computation", that's really the only kind there is. However, you may consider what an analog computer does to qualify as computation (rather than as an alternative method used instead of computation). In that case it would qualify as an answer. -- (talk) 23:13, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes check.svg DoneMandruss  06:45, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request

Please post the following at an appropriate location and indentation in WP:RD/M#Amount of dollar prizes in lottery ticket games:

In Canada's Lotto 6/49, the smaller prizes are flat amounts. So we can imagine a scenario where there are 10,000,000 tickets sold (at $3 each) and 40% of the people buying them all decide to choose the numbers 1, 2, 3, and three others. If 1, 2, and 3 did in fact turn out to be among the numbers drawn, then the lottery would be obligated to pay out $40,000,000 in $10 prizes (in addition to any major prizes), despite taking in only $30,000,000 on tickets. The official rules, at least in Ontario, make no exception for this situation. Of course, the probability of something like this happening by chance is ridiculously small, and it's not considered a concern worth worrying about. -- (talk) 21:55, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes check.svg DoneMandruss  22:07, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Mobile app

Hi am BOTFIGHTER, Can I login in Wikipedia official app(from playstore)?BOTFIGHTER (talk) 12:24, 10 February 2016 (UTC)

@BOTFIGHTER:. This question would be better on the Help Desk (WP:HD). Tevildo (talk) 13:12, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
I have asked it!BOTFIGHTER (talk) 12:24, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
You seem to have posted it to the help desk talk page, not to the help desk itself. However, I'm sure someone will pick it up. Tevildo (talk) 12:35, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
@BOTFIGHTER: Actually, you posted it to the talk page of our article, Help desk. No one is going to pick it up there. Post it at WP:HD. ―Mandruss  12:44, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
@BOTFIGHTER: Another editor has moved your question to WP:VPT#Mobile app. ―Mandruss  13:52, 10 February 2016 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request

This is for WP:RD/H#Did all slaves get American citizenship in 1865?:

As StuRat indicates, this was one of the important issues of Reconstruction. Here's a good article that goes into why it took several years to establish that the former slaves were citizens, and how it was done. -- (talk) 04:30, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done. Tevildo (talk) 08:53, 10 February 2016 (UTC)

The reference desks are now closed to the general public

No IP user may post on the Humanities Desk or at the Miscellaneous desk. This is because User:Future Perfect at Sunrise has semi-protected those desks for much longer than usual terms, and also because User:Ian.thomson has now semi-protected this talk page, preventing even edit requests. As should be clear to anyone who's read my comments above, I dislike this state of affairs, and believe it to be in direct conflict with many of our core guidelines. I post here simply so that everyone is aware of the situation. I think this situation can only improve with more admins involved. If you know an admin, consider asking them to weigh in. SemanticMantis (talk) 21:39, 10 February 2016 (UTC)

I agree. FPAS is protecting himself from items being posted about his previous misconduct, why Ian Thomson has got involved is beyond me. If we are going to protect the Ref Desk from IPs, we should now launch an RFC to remove the Ref Desk from Wikipedia. One of the core concepts of the RD is that IPs, passing visitors, can ask questions. Right now, and obviously for the foreseeable future, and because of those admins making poor value judgements to protect themselves, we have destroyed a pillar of Wikipedia. If this continues then there is no other option other than to seek the removal of the Ref Desk and look for a re-appraisal of Wikipedia's five pillars. For what it's worth, FPAS and Arbcom care little for those admins who are working to promote freedom to edit Wikipedia. They would rather protect themselves, each other and putatively strike out at the rest of the editing community who are seeking a common sense solution of dialogue and resolution. The Rambling Man (talk) 21:45, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
It looks you are enabling and encouraging long term abusers and trolling. Why on earth would you encourage people to post the kind of attacks at the reference desk that were being posted about any editor? And you think it's wrong to protect editors from internet trolls and abusers of the project? The reference desk isn't supposed to be used as an outlet for attacking people, it's for help. You are an admin? Dave Dial (talk) 03:49, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
I think you must be unfamiliar with problem-solving. The current approach is simply damaging Wikipedia. Protecting the pages that are most likely to be edited more by IPs than any other page, and then protecting the page they are directed to when other pages they wish to edit are protected is patently absurd. You're a Wikipedian? The Rambling Man (talk) 07:00, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Currently, if you log out and attempt to edit the humanities desk as an IP you will get directed to a page specifically for making edit requests, which, ironically, is what this talk page is not meant to do, so the IPs are getting better direction, even though it is more difficult for them but it doesn't prevent them either. It's best to keep these semi-protections short though.--Modocc (talk) 22:53, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
WP:RFED is the global edit request area, if anyone wants to keep an eye on it. Tevildo (talk) 22:59, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
Why on earth would any editor post comments about FPAS on a Reference Desk page? It's not a forum for discussing editor/admin conduct and I think the semi-protection was placed because of disruptive editing. I think the question should be not about which admin placed the protection but is it time to remove it? Liz Read! Talk! 23:03, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
I did not know that, or about the other venues for edit requests, thanks. SemanticMantis (talk) 23:47, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
It was politely pointed out to me that I am unfamiliar with the history of vandalism of the Reference Desks, especially harassing edit summaries. That makes the lengthy semi-protection more understandable but I still do not think it should be indefinite. Liz Read! Talk! 00:15, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
As I've pointed out above, I saw disruptive edits outnumber useful anon edits several times over for more than a week. In any other page, there'd be no qualms about protection.
Thank you @Liz:, for exemplifying WP:AGF, which I suggest that certain other users go re-read. Ian.thomson (talk) 01:48, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Seems to me that you've tried to do what's best for the project. Indefinite doesn't mean forever. And it prevents the troll from knowing the exact time the protection will expire. Dave Dial (talk) 03:49, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
And it's not protected indefinitely, I protected it for a week and pulled it down to three days. It is move protected indefinitely, but that's standard for a lot of business pages like this one.
"([Edit=Allow only autoconfirmed users] (expires 14:24, 13 February 2016 (UTC)) [Move=Allow only administrators] (indefinite))." Ian.thomson (talk) 04:10, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Of course it is move-protected indefinitely. Wikipedia space pages are usually move-protected indefinitely, because otherwise moving a highly visible page would be a form of vandalism. Robert McClenon (talk) 04:25, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
@Ian.thomson:, thank you for your explanation. If you look through my edit history, you will see me advocating AGF frequently, as well as providing polite service of scholarly references to all comers (in fact, I'm one of the too few active users who knows how to stay polite and civil and provide references on the ref desks, but that's another matter entirely).
I did not assume bad faith with your action; I saw the edit history and figured I knew your motive. I did not question your good faith, I said nothing about your motive, and nothing about your action other than you did it. I will clarify that I am questioning the usefulness of the protection status and the functionality of the ref desks when the talk page and the desks are closed to IP users. My complaint is more about the three month protection of the reference desk, your closure of this talk page for three days is much less of a concern. I was also unaware that there were other mechanisms than this talk page for making edit requests, so I truly apologize for jumping to the conclusion that IPs were left with no recourse. As for your analogy of semi-protecting other pages -- no article page on WP is designed as an interactive service to the public, so the comparison to article space is essentially inapt. IPs may or may not contribute much to articles, but they were until recently a plurality of our good-faith askers on the ref desks. While any member of the public can benefit from our mainspace articles while they are protected, these people cannot benefit from our reference desks while they are closed to IP users. If you want a closer analogy to the ref desks, look to the help desks, which are also different but much closer. I do not think hey have ever resorted to semi-protection for a three month period. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:11, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
I agree completely, this is absolutely a case where the "cure" is worse than the disease. FPAS is a particular problem Admin. He semi-protected my talk page, and refused to unprotect it, because a banned user had left comments there. He was recently brought up for review for some of his other more egregious behavior, but they left him with Admin powers, so I expect we will continue to have him causing problems here indefinitely. StuRat (talk) 17:23, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
He was fully justified in taking that action on your page. You were allowing personal attacks against other users to stand. That's not kosher. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:37, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
I don't think users are expected to police personal attacks on their talk pages. Wikipedia:User_pages#Removal_of_comments.2C_notices.2C_and_warnings says:
"Policy does not prohibit users, whether registered or unregistered, from removing comments from their own talk pages, although archiving is preferred. If a user removes material from their user page, it is normally taken to mean that the user has read and is aware of its contents. There is no need to keep them on display and usually users should not be forced to do so. It is often best to simply let the matter rest if the issues stop. If they do not, or they recur, then any record of past warnings and discussions can be found in the page history if ever needed, and these diffs are just as good evidence of previous matters if needed."
...which seems to say that you can remove it - but not that you must - or even that you should. SteveBaker (talk) 18:26, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes, I politely asked FPAS to not delete things from my page too, and he responded quoting the same thing you just did, but concluded that he could remove banned user content, at his sole discretion, wherever he wanted, bar none. I'd point to the diffs on his and my talk page, but he deleted all my comments soon after, and I really don't care about what FPAS dpes, just so long as he quits messing up our ref desk, and acting like he doesn't have to follow consensus. SemanticMantis (talk) 18:54, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Banned users are not allowed to edit. And leaving a personal attack on one's user page implies agreement with that attack. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:51, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Concrete proposal

OK. It's time for a concrete proposal here. Talking around each other has been solving nothing. We must come up with some way to reach an agreement on how to handle trolling. I'm going to put forth two proposals to an up-down vote. We need to have a clear path forward from the interminable conflict over protecting the ref desks. Please vote only in the voting sections, and leave the threaded discussion for the discussion section. I'd like to see just these three proposals voted upon before coming up with alternatives. If any of these fail, THEN we can move forward with alternate proposals.--Jayron32 20:33, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Proposal 1: length of protection

Proposal: The Reference Desks and Reference Desk talk page shall only be protected for a maximum of 48 hours at a time, and shorter protections should be tried first during periods of heavy abuse.

Rationale for proposal

It is clear that there is no strong support for long-term protections of the ref desks or this talk page. We should start with very short protections (a few hours at most), and we should never see the desks protected for longer than 48 hours, and they should spend more time open than closed.


  1. --Jayron32 20:33, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  2. -- SemanticMantis (talk) 20:37, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  3. Steve Summit (talk) 20:47, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  4. Per my opinion that virtually any consensus is better than none. ―Mandruss  20:53, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  5. —Especially the talk page. Deor (talk) 21:13, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  6. - Tevildo (talk) 21:22, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  7. - Partial agree, as to the talk page. Robert McClenon (talk) 21:23, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  8. Agree with the caveat that I read this to mean that this proposal is limiting protection lengths, but not authorizing protection in the first place. Protection has been pushed on us as a fait accompli, but I think we can do without it entirely, and this should not be taken as an authorization or acceptance of it in any way - we're just agreeing to limit it as a first step to action. Wnt (talk) 22:18, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  9. It's abundantly clear that the current "protection regime" is not working in way. The bizarre hope that the vandals will suddenly disappear after 72 hours or 168 hours has been already shown to be bullshit. By removing access to the areas of Wikipedia that IPs are most likely to access is like watching ISIS destroy historical architecture, and those that continue to advocate such a stupidly unimaginative and regimental approach to this are destroying Wikipedia more than the vandals. The blocking and protection that FPAS (for example) has indulged in has achieved nothing. The IP can continue to add comments at will. In fact, the results are negative, the IP continues to control the Ref Desks, good faith editors cannot because of the prefect admins, and FPAS continues to protect himself. It's a joke. The Rambling Man (talk) 23:05, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  10. Yes. A couple of hours means he might get bored and be elsewhere for a bit.Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 07:34, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
  11. Ched :  ?  13:44, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
  12. Support with caveats SteveBaker (talk) 15:32, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
  13. Support - Better still why not get rid of IP editing altogether ? .... It would probably solve 90% of all our problems!, Anyway a few hours is a start & at the moment is better than nothing, If the trolling continues by the same person then bump the hours up. –Davey2010Talk 23:29, 12 February 2016 (UTC)


  1. Oppose 48-hour rule on Reference Desk pages, but would support a limitation to 5 days. Robert McClenon (talk) 21:25, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  2. I concur that 5 days would be a better upper bound. You don't want to make things too easy for the trolls. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:38, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  3. Manifestly invalid proposal in principle. Protections on the Refdesk will continue to be handled according to the same principles as everywhere else on the project, following WP:Protection policy. No "consensus" here can restrict the application of that policy or exempt this page from it, per WP:LOCALCONSENSUS. Fut.Perf. 21:59, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  4. This RfC is invalid as it based on false premises. No local consensus among people who dedicate themselves to freely speaking at ref desks can limit admin discretion on handling disruption to the project. Further, proposing a limit completely misunderstands the nature of trolling and DENY. It's a bit BEANSy to spell out the details—suffice to say that the problem would be resolved soon if not for the actions of those ref desk contributors who amplify and enable the disruption. Johnuniq (talk) 23:28, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  5. Fut. Perf. and Johnuiq said it. --Akhilleus (talk) 01:13, 13 February 2016 (UTC)


I'd like to see just these three proposals voted upon - I appear to be missing one proposal. ―Mandruss  21:04, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

I have taken it on myself to put a formal RFC template on this proposal. I was about to prepare a similar but slightly different RFC, but am willing to just let this one run its course, because any reasonable RFC with formal closure, and this is a reasonable RFC, is better than either endless back-and-forth or straw polls that don't clearly result in consensus. Robert McClenon (talk) 21:27, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

In response to FPaS' comment, this proposal does not contradict or modify WP:SEMI in any way. All it does is to change the definition of "short period" in WP:ROUGH (which, I'm sure nobody needs to be reminded, is not official policy) from "a few days or a week" to "48 hours maximum". Tevildo (talk) 22:14, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

^^^^ This. Thank you for stating this clearly and succinctly. SemanticMantis (talk) 23:05, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

In response to FPaS' comment, an RfC is not a local consensus. Any reasonable reading of Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines suggests that a community consensus trumps policy for a specific case or situation. I also don't care for your overbearing tone. ―Mandruss  22:18, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

That's what FPAS does, like some kind of overlord, he knows best, and despite the fact that most of the IP traffic relates to his misbehaviour, he continues to call foul. The Rambling Man (talk) 22:53, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment - I agree with User:Tevildo and with User:SemanticMantis in respectfully disagreeing with User:Future Perfect at Sunrise. On re-reading of WP:Protection policy, about protection in general and semi-protection in particular, the policy states that admins may impose semi-protection when necessary. It does not specify the length. We may indeed be trying to establish a local consensus, but, if so, it is a local consensus to guide the global consensus as to the length of the semi-protection. What the policy cited by FPAS on local consensus is that local consensus may not override global consensus. The global consensus is a policy authorizing semi-protection. Stating that the Reference Desk and its talk page should never be semi-protected would be a local consensus to override global consensus. This is only an effort to guide the implementation of the global consensus. Robert McClenon (talk) 00:26, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment - I will note that this proposal was originally written by another admin, User:Jayron32, who is just as familiar with the protection policy as FPAS. I then put an RFC tag on it, because, as I said, any RFC is better than no RFC, or better than one of these empty straw polls. What I infer is that, in response to disruptive editing, FPAS decided to impose a very long period of semi-protection. Jayron32 appears to think that the semi-protection is too long, but he is constrained against shortening it unilaterally, because that would be wheel warring, so that he did the constructive thing to try to get local consensus defining reasonable periods for semi-protection for the Reference Desks. I respectfully disagree with FPAS, who states that any discussion that would restrict FPAS's judgment, with which others disagree, is improper. In other words, FPAS appears to be saying that the policy is simply that the first admin gets to specify the length, and there is no way to constrain that judgment. Maybe I misunderstand FPAS; if so, please clarify. I thank User:Ian.thomson for being willing to shorten the semi-protection here. Robert McClenon (talk) 00:36, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment - I thought, until now, that I was much closer to FPAS, in favoring semi-protection, than to most of the Help Desk regulars, some of whom think that semi-protection is never appropriate (but who can't agree on the alternative). I think that some of them are compromising in supporting a two-day limit (with which I disagree). However, it appears that I may be more nearly aligned with them, in merely thinking that there should be reasonable limits on semi-protection, than with FPAS, if I understand. Maybe I misunderstand FPAS. Robert McClenon (talk) 00:36, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment: We have to understand what there are two things that make places like this different from Article space:
    • In article space, shutting down edits - even with full protection - inconveniences hardly anyone. Sure, someone may want to fix something and can't - but the article may still be read by anyone - and serves it's purpose fully. In ref-desk space, shutting down edits with any protection level whatever, makes the page unusable to whomever the protection locks out. The analogy in article space was that if, in order to prevent trolling, we blanked out the page so it could no longer be read by IP users. If such protection levels existed for article, we'd be unbelievably cautious in applying them - even for one hour, yet here on the ref-desks, that's happening routinely.
    • In article space, most people who want to use Wikipedia - but who aren't interested in editing it don't create accounts - why would they? But in order to use the Ref Desks, they have to "edit" the page in order to ask their question and add followup information if they need to. That means that we get far more innocent IP "editors" than most other pages. So semi-protection impacts a larger slice of the population than in a regular article-space page.
    1. We should NEVER semi-protect both the content page(s) and the talk page simultaneous - because that amounts to shutting out innocent IP users entirely with no means to even ask why or to request a non-IP user to ask a question on their behalf.
    2. I don't believe that even a short span of semi-protection is useful because imposing it rewards the troll by disrupting the ref desks. We have to understand that the troll craves recognition - and allowing them to shut out 80% of our potential users is victory for the troll. Applying semi-protection is feeding the trolls.
    I supported this masure because I believe that limiting the period of time for which the troll is effective at disrupting us is better than letting them disrupt us for much longer periods - but zero would be a better limit for me. SteveBaker (talk) 15:47, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
meta: This last para is a display of two very important editor traits which are both in very short supply all over the project. First, that consensus requires give-and-take. Second, the understanding that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Thanks, Steve. ―Mandruss  15:58, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
It's true that these desks are by no means equivalent to article space, thus I recently logged out when this talkpage was not protected and did so again when it became semi-protected and the latter case appeared more intuitive since it directs to this page, thus I've thought of advocating the exact opposite: for admins to semi-protect this talkpage whenever any of the desk pages are protected. And with that, a few hours of inconvenience isn't shouldn't be a huge price to pay, but it needs to be a measure of last resort. And looking at that page again to follow through, I can't find the instructions for making a request: apparently they are supposed be somewhere at the top of that page I linked to, but if they there then they must be buried somewhere within the protection request instructions which is not helpful. So lets keep this page unprotected at least until these instructions are fixed. --Modocc (talk) 16:19, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Procedural Note: When the results of this !vote are tallied - everyone needs to remain clear that it is a consequence of the way that this question (and the subsequent question) were asked, that at no point was anyone asked "Would you like to be rid of semi-protection completely?" or "Are there better solutions we should consider instead?". Consequently, consensus on this question is entirely limited to asking what the span of semi-protection should be, if (hypothetically) we wanted semi-protection at all. Please let no-one consider EITHER outcome of this !vote as an endorsement of the policy of semi-protection in the first place. SteveBaker (talk) 02:33, 13 February 2016 (UTC)

Proposal 2: Reasons for protection

Proposal: The reference desks should only be protected for a) manifestly abusive, obscene, or disruptive attacks which are b) repeated and for which c) other methods such as reverting and blocking are not working. If the content of the posts are not objectionable, the desks should not be protected, even if the posts are made by banned users.

Rationale for the proposal

It is rarely contentious to remove posts or to protect the reference desks for posts which everyone recognizes as abusive or trolling. It is always contentious where the content of the posts is unobjectionable, but where it is found that some banned user has posted. There is little agreement that we need to lock down the desks just to make someone go away, where their posts to these desks wouldn't be recognizably wrong, except for that they are banned.


  1. --Jayron32 20:33, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  2. --SemanticMantis (talk) 20:38, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  3. Steve Summit (talk) 20:47, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  4. Mandruss  20:54, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  5. Deor (talk) 21:13, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  6. - With caveat. Tevildo (talk) 21:22, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  7. -Support Robert McClenon (talk) 21:24, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  8. Support with caveat - I am reading "only" to mean that this proposal bans other reasons for blocking. I do not want posts removed for "obscene" content, and I do not read this proposal as a specific authorization to do so; so for now I will support stopping the other removals, with intent also to stop removals of "obscene" questions. Wnt (talk) 22:18, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  9. Those acting as "prefect admins" are destroying the core principles of Wikipedia. It's absolutely clear that their approach is not working. Something new needs to happen here. The Rambling Man (talk) 22:49, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  10. Dbfirs 00:12, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
  11. Ched :  ?  13:45, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
  12. Support, again - with caveats SteveBaker (talk) 15:49, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
  13. Support. –Davey2010Talk 23:31, 12 February 2016 (UTC)


  1. Manifestly invalid proposal in principle. Protections on the Refdesk will continue to be handled according to the same principles as everywhere else on the project, following WP:Protection policy. No "consensus" here can restrict the application of that policy or exempt this page from it, per WP:LOCALCONSENSUS. Fut.Perf. 22:00, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  2. The false premise here is that disruption at the ref desks would not spread to other areas and cause wider disruption. Wikipedia is not the place to exercise free speech rights. Johnuniq (talk) 23:32, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  3. What they said. --Akhilleus (talk) 01:14, 13 February 2016 (UTC)


  • It should be noted that IP users cannot currently !vote on this proposal, and that IP users are still currently considered WP:HUMAN by WP and are considered by default to have full editing rights, including !voting. If any IP user is reading along and wants to !vote or discuss this proposal, please leave an edit request anywhere you can, including my talk page. SemanticMantis (talk) 20:43, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  • It would be good to more precisely characterize/quantify what we mean by "not working". (For example, a few days ago this talk page was protected after two (2) reversions failed to stop the troll.) —Steve Summit (talk) 20:47, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  • I do have a slight reservation on this proposal as stated, in that it might, if taken literally, mean that semi-protection was _never_ acceptable in the case of frequent repeat postings by identifiable banned users, if such postings aren't objectionable individually. I support the basic principle that semi-protection should not be the first response in this sort of case. Perhaps if we make it clear that "disruptive" can include re-postings of such frequency that the desks become effectively unusable? But I appreciate that the literal meaning may be the intended meaning, in which case I'll change my !vote to Oppose. Tevildo (talk) 21:22, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Suppose Wikipedia has one person who is dedicated to flooding us with nonsense nonstop. If we protect one location, why couldn't he go somewhere else, and somewhere else again, and cause greater disruption, because we don't know where he's going to strike next? Nay, if other methods of blocking fail, it's better to have some people watching and revert his edits at a fixed target page. Additionally, if people insist on these 48-hour semi-protections, there is no reason why a Wikipedia administrator can't let the semi-protection expire each 48 hours and wait a bit before deciding to renew it. Seriously, it's one action to put a new 48-hour semi-protection - we shouldn't act like admin time is so precious, and the value of our pages so small, that it is better for people to be driven off for weeks on end than to make them put in a couple of minutes every other day. Wnt (talk) 22:24, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
It might in fact be a good idea to quantify a minimum value for Wnt's "a bit" and put it explicitly into the rules if the basic proposal is accepted. Tevildo (talk) 22:32, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Well, it's hard to quantify. You would let the protection expire and see if the troll comes back. If he does, I doubt the administrator is going to wait for too many tries before acting, and I'm not really eager to argue otherwise. So the use of defining "a bit" is to say how long it takes with no vandalism before the admin treats the desk as fresh, and decides it will take more than one comparable vandal posting to create a pattern of abuse that requires new protection. Which depends to some degree on instinct whether it is the same troll checking in or a random passerby. In any case the existing proposals don't address the question of what pattern is needed in any specific way. All things equal, if we've specified the 48-hour limit as something we can at least agree on, then this small flexibility left to the admins is probably a minor issue. Our main problem right now is really long protections that maximize the collateral damage per troll served. Wnt (talk) 23:11, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
On the issue of "obscene", I would interpret it to mean something like "inappropriate use of bad language", rather than "sexually explicit". But this can be clarified if necessary. We, of course, are not permitted to allow legally obscene (Miller v. California) material to remain available. Tevildo (talk) 22:46, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
The thing is, when is it "inappropriate"? The way I see it, a poster can have a valid reason to use any word in Wiktionary. The time when we want to delete posts is when there isn't a question, just some abuse. If someone's cup is already full, how can we fill it? But if that's the case, it doesn't matter if it's not obscene. So the 'obscene' bit is two parts confusion, one part censorship, no part necessary to consider in this situation. And of course, the Miller test can be applied to images per se, not involving the Refdesk at all, so we don't have to worry about that in this conversation. Wnt (talk) 23:04, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Besides the possibly missing third proposal highlighted by Mandruss above, there seems to be an extra T at the end of this proposal. Is part of the proposal missing or is the T unintentional? Nil Einne (talk) 21:23, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
    • I have boldly removed the mystery T. Subject to BRD of course. ―Mandruss  21:43, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
  • As I explained in the discussion of the first question - if a troll wishes to disrupt the ref desks, for most of our users, all (s)he has to do is to trigger semi-protection. Since semi-protection locks out a bunch of people from using the reference desks to ask questions (it's raison d'etre), the troll gets their kicks from locking people out. This rule simply forces them into posting obscene questions in order to trigger the protection rather than something else. I supported this rule (with extreme reluctance) for the slightly arcane reason that I believe that forcing the troll into making more distinctively trollish edits makes it easier to recognize them than if they can cause grief with relatively innocuous questions. SteveBaker (talk) 15:56, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
I think you're on to something in your last sentence. And honestly I think if our admins will adhere to the forming consensus here, then the more obvious trolling will be less reason to close, since that is much easier to spot and deal with. The proposals clearly state that RBI is preferable to closing, and any admin who seeks to close too soon without much effort at using the normal tools will perhaps earn a trouting and revert for going against express consensus. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:10, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Procedural Note: When the results of this !vote are tallied - everyone needs to remain clear that it is a consequence of the way that this question (and the previous question) were asked, that at no point was anyone asked "Would you like to be rid of semi-protection completely?". Consequently, consensus on this question is entirely limited to narrowing the categories for which semi-protection is to be permitted - at no point does it ask whether semi-protection should be used even in these narrow cases. There was no option to !vote "None of the above". Please let no-one consider EITHER outcome of this !vote as an endorsement of the policy of semi-protection in the cases outlined here. SteveBaker (talk) 02:33, 13 February 2016 (UTC)

"Don't Ignore the Trolls. Feed Them Until They Explode."

This article by Lindy West is the best essay I have ever seen on trolling. It has received other news coverage like this. I think that too many people in the great troll debate are making a false assumption - that they cannot make an intellectual connection - which is quite similar to the troll mind-set itself. As for me, my response when I get the chance will be to take people at face value and not criminalize their beliefs. And I would respond better if I didn't know that someone would be coming along to destroy the conversation. Wnt (talk) 15:02, 12 February 2016 (UTC)

Good read, thanks for sharing. One opinion from me: the author correctly acknowledges 'the term "troll" is grossly overused and encompasses a million different species of special shitflakes' (great phrasing) and then mentions she is using the term as a catch-all for 'gratuitous incivility.'
I think in your linked example, the troll was basically civil in tone, and many of our trolls are. They are not entirely stupid, and they know that coming in with flaming incivility and aggression leads to simple removal and no disruption, but that a polite and seemingly honest naive interest in scientific racism is sure to split us roughly down the middle. In a sense it's ironically problematic that our community is so super anti-racist and anti-anti-semitic, etc. Of course we do not and should not even implicitly condone racism: it is stupid and harmful. But as it stands, asking racist questions with polite tone remains a glaringly obvious point of attack and way to get us to go ape shit on each other over clashes in ideals and values, and that isn't very good either. So I liked your response, and would have let the whole thing stand, but I'm also coming around to the notion that the eventual removal is probably not a big deal either. We can each play things our own ways, as long as we don't demonize and attack our fellow community members when they make a move we don't agree with. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:04, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
The Reference Desk used to deal with silly questions by answering them factually and providing references. The "troll" didn't succeed in causing any disruption because all they got was a neutral, deadpan response, and random observers saw Wikipedia being mature and informative in the face of even the silliest question. If you walked into a library and said something stupid and the librarians gasped in horror and fainted, it might prove to be entertaining to someone of that mindset. However, if the librarians just gave you several books about whatever subject you had talked about without any fuss or drama, how much fun would that be to a troll? None, I'd imagine. (talk) 16:12, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
Do you have any old examples from the archives? I've not seen it done, but I've only been active here for a few years and wouldn't know about the norms from ~2005 or whenever. I do like the approach of allowing deadpan, well-referenced and professional answers to potentially offensive questions though, but I also understand that this is not current consensus, and the material may well be later removed. SemanticMantis (talk) 17:44, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
I'm in this camp. Anything else is recognition (that they are trolling), which cannot be denial of recognition. It also avoids the risk of a false positive, which is very real despite certain editors' superior powers of troll detection and identification (TDI). ―Mandruss  17:57, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
It's pretty common to have questions that may have been intended to promote some point of view being answered with calm dispassionate disproof of the claim. In the case of racism, I think our stance is usually a good one. Anyone viewing our pages will see the question for what it is and we will come out as the good guys. The only concern I'd have is if significant numbers of our responses were also from racist nut-jobs, and that could become problematic. I think it's important that we're not seen as "A good place to promote racism" - and so long as our answers provide the scientific perspective, then we have nothing to fear. Personally, I prefer to simply not answer these kinds of junk question and simply deny an answer - but the other way is OK with me. SteveBaker (talk) 18:22, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
If it's not a single clear-cut situation (not "Where can I find X" or obvious vandalism), just emulate real librarians and do your best to engage in a limited reference interview. This will go a long way in helping to establish the context for the question, helping you to know how to answer, and helping to winnow out the good-faith question from the bad-faith question. A great treatment of this subject appears in Robert C. Dowd's article "I Want to Find Out How to Freebase Cocaine or Yet Another Unobtrusive Test of Reference Performance", published in The Reference Librarian in 1990. In particular, see his comments on page 487, talking about the lack of reference interviews when he "trolled" a bunch of library reference desks with a suspicious-seeming request for information. Just as the librarians in question would have done a lot better, and resolved the situation far more adeptly, had they conducted proper reference interviews, attempting to converse normally with the potential troll will weed out a lot of the problems while identifying the ones that really are good-faith questions. Nyttend (talk) 20:23, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
I regularly contribute to the comment threads in A.V. Club. On the occasion that people attempt to troll the community generally plays it straight with them. It's pretty funny to see since people take the trolling at face value. It tends not to last long as a result because the usual reaction is absent. No one gets incensed, no one gets angry. It just fades into the background. Very different kind of community, though. Mingmingla (talk) 22:18, 12 February 2016 (UTC)

New Idea...

OK - suppose we did this (I have no idea if it's technically and/or politically possible - but let's give it a shot):

The basic idea is to come up with a framework in which IP editors can still ask questions when the ref-desk is semi-protected against bad-guys.

  1. WP:RDx -- Block ALL edits to the WP:RDx will now be created and maintained by a bot of some kind. Nobody can edit it without admin privs.
  2. QUESTION FORM -- At the WP:RD main page, we create a form that would allow questions to be asked - and this form would NEVER be protected in any way. When someone fills out the form and hits "SEND" they are told that they'll get a response which will appear on the appropriate WP:RDx page sometime within the next 24 hours.
  3. QUESTION QUEUE -- A queue into which those questions would be dumped for ref desk 'experts' to peruse - each question starting out as a red-link to a sub-page into which answers can be added. This page is also fully protected and is populated only by a bot when a form is filled in. When one of us clicks on the redlink to create the page, we can start answering the question in that sub-page.
  4. QUESTION SUBPAGE - These pages might need to be created with semi-protection from time to time - but this is where we type our answers to people's questions.
  5. ANSWERBOT - The answer bot automatically transcludes the question-subpage answers from the queue to WP:RDx WHEN THAT PAGE EXISTS - and provides a handy link to add a new answer into the sub-page. So WP:RDx is now just a list of transcluded subpages...and...
  6. If no answer is provided within 24 hours, answerbot creates an entry on WP:RD/x that says something like: "Question from (username) has had no answers in the last 24 hours...sorry."...and removes the question from the queue page.

Net result is this:

  • Normal people ask the question on the form.
  • Some Ref Desker answers it (it's rare for a question to go beyond 24 hours without an answer - if it does, it's very unlikely to ever be answered).
  • Question pops up on WP:/RDx as usual for the questioner to read.
  • Followup responses are added into the question sub-page, and it's transcluded into WP:RDx.

The "user experience" for most people is little changed.

For bad guys:

  • Bad guy can only submit questions via the form.
  • We ignore questions from bad guys.
  • 24 hours later, a simple notice "Question from (BadGuy) has had no answers in the last 24 hours...sorry". Recognition is denied. The question never sees the (public) light of day.


  • Smarter bad guy submits question via the form.
  • Smarter bad guy goes to the question queue page and answers the question himself in order to get it onto WP:RDx.
  • Darn.


  • Smarter bad guy stops asking questions and instead starts putting crap into the answers.
  • Crap still appears on WP:RDx
  • Darn.

If either of the last two things happen - then we have remedies. We could, for example, apply longer term semi-protection to the question queue page. This would prevent IP editors from answering questions (which is not ideal) - but it WOULDN'T prevent them from asking questions...which is what we need here.

Note also, that only users with page-creation privilages can answer a question initially - but once the sub-page has been created, anyone else can chime in.

This gives us 100% of the benefits of semi-protection, but with only (say) 10% of the grief that it causes for us right now.

The only problem I see with it is whether the various mechanisms required to make it possible are feasible within the MediaWiki software.

There is one additional scenario to be concerned about:

  • Bad guy asks a question that seems kinda/sorta reasonable.
  • Innocent ref-desker naively answers it.
  • It appears on WP:RDx
  • ...well, is this all that terrible? If the question was kinda/sorta reasonable, maybe that's OK.

We can use normal means to ask the innocent-but-naive ref-desker to please try not to do that - but it's hardly a terrible thing. This isn't something the bad guy has control over - and we can apply peer-pressure and other more measured approaches to try to prevent it. But from public perception, it shouldn't be too obvious that there is a deep problem.

Comments please!

SteveBaker (talk) 18:07, 12 February 2016 (UTC)

  • My only comment at this time -- sorry if it seems negative or dismissive -- is, can we let the RFC above play out, before sidetracking ourselves with new proposals? —Steve Summit (talk) 18:25, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
Unfortunately, I am in fact trying very my best to sidetrack the RFC before it plays out!
My problem is that the RFC is asking "Do you want something horrible - or something MUCH more horrible?" - where is the option "Use our large brains to come up with something better?".
  • Trolls crave disruption.
  • Semi-protection is disruptive (as widely recognized in the RFC).
  • So semi-protection is feeding the trolls...and very likely makes matters worse.
I posted this because I don't like ANY of the outcomes of the RFC. One's options are limited to: (a) Abstain and let crap happen, (b) Support the measures and thereby endorse the claim "We have consensus for some kind of semi-protection!" (c) Oppose the measures and thereby allow unrestrained semi-protection. Where is the "No semi-protection at all" option?
What I propose here allows semi-protection to be applied where it's needed - and to become entirely unnecessary where it's at it's most dangerous.
We need some creative new plan. Nothing we've tried so far has come remotely close to being helpful - and no possible outcome of the RFC will be helpful either.
So, I'm presenting this proposal as a new idea - which I very much hope side-tracks the entirely useless/dangerous RFC result.
Let's all try to come up with cleverer solutions rather than just trying to choose between equally unacceptable alternatives...let's have more people come up with ways to sidetrack the RFC.
SteveBaker (talk) 18:45, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
Any consensus in the RfC will be a substantial improvement over what we've been living with as long as I can remember, probably longer than I've been around. As long as progress can be suspended when someone has a better idea, no progress will occur. There is literally no end to better ideas. Reap the less-than-ideal benefit, bank it, and then try for more. ―Mandruss  18:50, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
Nothing in the RFC is a new idea. In fact, throughout this entire discussion, I've yet to hear of a single new idea. Everything is a rehash of something we've already tried and failed with. Once a "consensus" has been achieved, it's a lot harder to introduce something new. So - I'm unapologetic about presenting a truly new idea. If you think it's bad, by all means poke holes in it - but running from the first truly new idea we've had on this topic is a response that disappoints me. SteveBaker (talk) 18:56, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
So the question queue is visible but has full protection? Isn't it difficult enough for admins to manage abuses of short edit summaries without having to wade through walls of trolling text? Moreover, since there are fewer administrators than us and they would be taking on more of the burden they are perhaps more likely to end up being targeted by the trolling more than they are now. --Modocc (talk) 18:53, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
As proposed, the question queue would be visible, yes - but not an obvious part of the public interface. Most people would have no need or inclination to go there unless they've decided to be become a question answerer (much as most people never read Talk: pages). But perhaps this is amenable to a tweak of some kind. Maybe only the subject line of the question goes into the queue page? I'm not presenting this as a "finished" idea - I recognize it may need a little work. SteveBaker (talk) 19:01, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
In retrospect, I suppose the question queue could have perpetual semi-protection rather than full protection...but my intent was that it would be maintained automatically - I'm not keen on the vigilante approach where people can start deleting questions on nebulous grounds. SteveBaker (talk) 19:04, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
I also don't think it's worth discussing this right now. I'd be much more interested in discussing this proposal in a few weeks. As I understand it, it looks like both of Jayron's proposals above have consensus at the moment. If we can get the desks unprotected, then we can hope and try to do better in the future with no new technology. As I understand it, nothing you propose now will be any less or any more more technologically or politically feasible in a few weeks. So while I can appreciate the notion of wanting to de-rail an RfC in favor of pursing other options that would otherwise be sealed off by said RfC, I don't think that's valid here, because those proposals won't prevent us from doing any of this in the future.SemanticMantis (talk) 20:02, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
As I have remarked, above (and I do hope people listen to those remarks) - neither of the two !votes above gave people the option to say "No" to routine semi-protection of WP:RD. They seek to limit the duration, and the categories for which it may be applied - but that's all. So no matter how that !vote turns out, there is absolutely no consensus that semi-protection is acceptable, or pragmatic as a solution to our problems.
Given that, I don't see why we can't go ahead and work on other possible avenues of attack while the RFC is in progress. I'd view the matter differently if the RFC had asked the actual important question - but it did not.
The reason I think the RFC is at best a waste of time - and at worst a colossal mistake, is that when you have consensus on those two questions, they will be waved around as evidence that we have consensus for semi-protection...and that we do not - no matter how the results turn out. So this RFC isn't going to help - not one jot. If we want to get this fixed, we need to focus our thoughts on finding better solutions. When we have a selection of possible solutions to choose from (one of which can be some form of semi-protection) then we can !vote between them - and if semi-protection turns out to have consensus - then it's worth using the RFC above to fine-tune the rules of engagement. What's happening now has the cart before the horse. SteveBaker (talk) 02:44, 13 February 2016 (UTC)
The RFC isn't about getting consensus for semi-protection. There already is policy for semi-protection. The RFC is about getting consensus to limit semi-protection. I respectfully therefore think that your dismissal of the RFC puts the cart before the horse. Robert McClenon (talk) 04:02, 13 February 2016 (UTC)

Problems & Solutions?

Face-devil-grin.svg: I can't see any "conclusions" and or "mitigated" solutions rather than the edit request posts; since 2014. Has Wikipedia[ns] been like this since 2000? -- Apostle (talk) 19:44, 12 February 2016 (UTC)

I will note that we have ref desk talk page archives going back quite a way, and also of course archives of the actual reference desks. So you can look yourself to see how WP was going in the past. Here [9] is the first talk page archive, for your convenience. I note there is a bit of likely trolling or at least heated dispute going on there too, a user has asked for others not to use the term "Native American", because it is offensive to people who were born in the USA but are not what we normally mean when we speak of Native Americans. Interestingly enough, that user User:Alteripse later became an admin, and seems to have some activity as recently as 30 June 2013. So maybe they weren't trolling. Part of the whole problem is that internet troll is usually about assessing a motive and intent, and we can't ever really know another person's motives, but some of us sure like to guess :) SemanticMantis (talk) 20:11, 12 February 2016 (UTC)