Wikipedia talk:Reference desk

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The "personal attack" card[edit]

I ask User:Baseball Bugs to kindly desist from pulling out the "personal attack" card unless there is clear evidence of an actual personal attack. He does it far too often, and has been doing so for well over a decade. I've explained it to him more than once, but nothing ever seems to change.

The latest episode started here:

  • The definition posted by Dbfirs proves your personal attack to be incorrect.

The so-called "personal attack" that BB was objecting to was User:Fgf10's:

  • Rump is a perfectly normal term in English. The BBC writes in English, not American. (Even though it's a perfectly normal term in American as well). There is no lack of 'neutrality' or insult, apart from in your mind. This 'question' can be closed now.

How is this possibly a personal attack? There's nothing derogatory, pejorative or negative about saying that a certain idea exists only in a particular person's mind. It's another way of saying "you are the only person who thinks that", or "nobody agrees with you". So what! It's not a PERSONAL attack. If you must couch it in "attack" terms, then it's an attack on what you said. But YOU are not what you say or do. One can attack what you say or do without attacking you, personally. That was exactly what FgF10 did.

An attack on you, personally, would be something like "There is no lack of 'neutrality' or insult, apart from in your obviously diseased mind". But merely adverting to the fact that you have a mind is not any kind of personal attack.

The consequent palaver was very disrupting, and is exactly the sort of thing that we abhor. It's the sort of thing, inter alia, that has caused me to withdraw in large part from the ref desks and focus my energies elsewhere.

Can User:Baseball Bugs please come here and indicate, once and for all, that he understands the difference between a personal attack and an attack or commentary on, or rejection of, what someone has said?

And can he please, once and for all, undertake to mend his ways and stop calling "personal attack" except when this is actually justified?

Thank you. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:25, 8 March 2017 (UTC)

He's not the only one. Several people find the concept of "correct a mistake you made" or "justly note an incorrect thing you did" as definitions of "personal attack" as though, when people behave against expected norms, or continue to press forward with demonstratedly incorrect answers to questions, those corrections of fact and behavior represent personal attacks. There needs to be a reminder that telling people they are doing the wrong thing, when they are actively doing the wrong thing, is not a personal attack. --Jayron32 02:49, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
FGF is a sporadic editor whose main goal here seems to be to insult other users. How many references did he provide in his self-styled "corrections"? Or are we to assume that his personal opinion is gold? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:28, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Agreed with Jack. Too many editors are too loose with that term as well as others including "vandal" and "troll", and the result is counter-productive. ―Mandruss  03:31, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
There's a right and a wrong way to "correct" other users. FGF consistently goes the wrong way. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:34, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Even if true, that doesn't make the cited statement a "personal attack". ―Mandruss  03:35, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
The apart from in your mind is the main problem. Not only does he have his facts wrong on the question I raised, he also asserts that there is something wrong with my mind. It's hard to get more personal than that. And it's typical of his approach to other users. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:18, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Didn't even notice this bit. There were several posters before me already stating the correct answer, and my correction was correct as well. So lets start by saying I was correct, and you were incorrect. You keen insisting the usage of a term was a problem. Therefore it was an opinion, and it was only wrong in your mind. I am a sporadic editor because I only answer stuff I know about. More people should follow my example. Fgf10 (talk) 13:58, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
That is not what that phrase means to most people - as Jack said above. ―Mandruss  04:29, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
It was a personal attack in his mind. <ducks> --Jayron32 04:32, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
"There is no lack of 'neutrality' or insult [with that use of "rump"], apart from in your mind." That entire sentence is demonstrably incorrect... and personalized. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:36, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
First, WP:NPA says nothing about being incorrect, which clearly demonstrates your tendency to interpret the term too loosely. Second, if you're going to invoke the "Comment on content, not on the contributor" clause of NPA, you're going to have to explain how this, this, andthis are not personal attack. I have no doubt I could find more examples from the desks themselves. One needs to hold themselves to the same standard to which they hold others. ―Mandruss  04:49, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Jayron, I concede that it may well have been a personal attack in Fgf10's mind. But the only person who can know that is Fgf10 themself. If Baseball Bugs suspects this was the case, that's his call, but he cannot act as if it were established fact, without violating WP:AGF. So, in the very act of naming an editor for allegedly breaching one important rule, he must himself breach another important rule. Some would say that's the definition of hypocrisy. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 06:23, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
It was not a personal attack, it was merely a correction. People here have an annoying habit of posting things that are factually incorrect, without and supporting evidence, and then calling personal attack when they are corrected. BB is merely the most obvious example of this. If people can't stand being corrected, they shouldn't be on the refdesk. If I behaved like that in my day job (medical research), I'd probably have been fired by now. Fgf10 (talk) 09:08, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Thanks for clarifying, but who else is regularly guilty of the same behaviour we're discussing here? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 09:15, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
I'm not sure it's helpful to the general health of these desks to further the conversation in that direction. People who get reminded of these problems have every reason to know that they are causing them. Playing tattle-tale and dragging people through the mud because we want to make them feel bad isn't useful, and I'd have actually preferred if no individual was named, even the ones that have been already. A general reminder to not use a blanket "personal attack" defense when people point out your mistakes is sufficient. --Jayron32 11:32, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
See Richard Avery's response to Baseball Bugs on this criticism at Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Archives/Science/2016_December_5#Ginkgo_fruit_yield, when accused of a personal attack for saying "you are wrong". He brilliantly re-phrased his response, in line with the finest traditions of diplomacy. I felt duty-bound to award him a barnstar for his efforts. Eliyohub (talk) 13:41, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Yes, but in rephrasing his response, he ceded ground to BB which should never have been ceded. He didn't need to rephrase, and should have stood his ground. Rephrasing it as he did is as good as siding with the Bug. --Viennese Waltz 13:51, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
If people are wrong, they're wrong. Simple as. In that example, the original response was entirely appropriate. That is not even remotely a personal attack. Fgf10 (talk) 13:54, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Speaking personally, I don't see anything wrong with Richard Avery rewording his response on request. In fact I'd agree that people should generally be commended for trying to be more diplomatic. In the Richard Avery case, while this may not have been the intention, there is a risk the re-worded response could be intepreted as highly sarcastic and even more offensive than the original response so I do think there are risks there but this doesn't negate the general idea. I would particularly disagree it should be avoided because your ceeding ground to someone. I myself have a tendency to get heated when I see something that annoys me for some reason, and but I do sometimes reword my response later when I've calmed down a bit (often before anyone says anything). Other than hopefully helping the conversation, a good reason to be diplomatic is it avoids you looking like an idiot if you turn out to be wrong (so it does depend on how sure you are that it's the other party). However I'd never agree there's anything instricly wrong with saying someone is wrong and agree it's most definitely not a personal attack nor is the example highlighted by Jack. Nil Einne (talk) 14:30, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Given the stats I cited below, one could argue it's not really a "personal" attack, because he treats everyone this way. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:42, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Or you could, you know, just accept that it's not an attack at all and move on. --Viennese Waltz 15:32, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
So far in March, I count 19 edits by FGF. Only one of them has anything resembling a reference. The other 18 are uncited personal opinions delivered in a condescending way toward at least 5 different editors. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:28, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Even if true, that is not a description of personal attack in the Wikipedia sense, which is the topic of this thread. PA is blockable, and none of that is blockable. The corollary: If it isn't blockable, it can't be PA. You continue to miss the point, so I'll refer to what I said to you one year ago.[1]Mandruss  20:06, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
I had not been aware of the Science desk Gingko fruit discussion but it demonstrates a flaw in your thinking, Baseball Bugs. You find a position that suits you, and you stick to it against the weight of all evidence to the contrary. Stickability can be a very good quality - but not in these sorts of cases. When you assert that those who say "You are wrong" are making a moral judgment and a personal attack, and they reply that there is no judgment and no attack, you must rethink your opinion. How can you claim to know better what was in their minds than they themselves? You cannot. Nobody can. You must accept what people say about the intent behind their words - particularly in an environment like this where we're deprived of all the non-verbal parts of normal human communication, which make up the huge bulk of the meaning. You are entitled to suspect otherwise all you like, but, as I said above, you are not entitled to act as if your suspicions were established fact. Otherwise, it is tantamount to accusing them of lying. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 20:40, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
I'll disagree with the thrust of that. "You are wrong" may lack humility and tact ("You are wrong in my opinion" would be an improvement), but it is never a moral judgment nor personal attack and no defense should be necessary. You might say that "You are wrong" is the basis for all debate. In my opinion. Face-tongue.svgMandruss  21:05, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Is your disagreement with Bugs or with me? Your indentation says me but your words seem to refer to Bugs. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:11, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
My previous comment was my first disagreement with you. You said, When...they reply that there is no judgment and no attack, you must rethink your opinion. And I'm saying they shouldn't have to say that and the MJ/PA accusation should not be made in the first place. Referring specifically to "You are wrong."
If I don't feel somebody's wrong, there is no debate. That I feel they are wrong is implicit in the fact that we are engaged in the debate, and saying it is no more MJ/PA than the debate itself. Again, "in my opinion" helps, but I often omit it for brevity, and humility is fairly uncommon anywhere in life. Most folks are far more certain about things than they have any reason to be. ―Mandruss  21:15, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
I think we're in furious agreement. I agree that people shouldn't have to defend their words against baseless accusations of MJ/PA. In a perfect world, such charges would never be made in the first place. But we live in an imperfect world, where such charges are sometimes made, and we're discussing exactly such a case here. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 00:05, 10 March 2017 (UTC)
Ok. But wait, let's not miss an opportunity to wallow in semantics. Here's the dictionary entry for "wrong". Adjectival sense 1 is a synonym for sinful or immoral. In most contexts I think the far more common usage of the word is adjectival sense 3, which is a synonym for incorrect. If Bugs is applying sense 1 to this case, he's, well, wrong. If he's not, saying that someone is incorrect is hardly MJ or PA, per my previous comment. In my opinion. ―Mandruss  00:39, 10 March 2017 (UTC)

Without naming names (you know who you are) let me ask a simple question. If an individual has in the past received significant pushback regarding their behavior on the refdesks and has never changed their behavior in any way because of this social pressure, would it be fair to say that anyone who posts a brand new complaint about that individual is wasting our time? -Guy Macon (talk) 03:00, 10 March 2017 (UTC)

It serves our readers. If someone gives an answer that should not be heeded, then we should flag that answer with an explanation of why (usually because it's off the cuff and provides no useful sources to read). Readers should be told to ignore such answers. --Jayron32 03:53, 10 March 2017 (UTC)
The above seems to describe the benefits of criticizing an answer on one of the reference desks, which may very well serve our readers. How does criticizing the person who gave the answer on the reference desk talk page serve our readers? --Guy Macon (talk) 14:45, 10 March 2017 (UTC)
It doesn't. --Jayron32 14:52, 10 March 2017 (UTC)
Yet this thread is not at all about criticising someone who gave an answer. It is about asking someone who regularly engenders disruption by falsely accusing others of personal attack when there was none, to stop this practice, and to understand what "personal attack" means around here. So far he has not indicated he has such an understanding, and has not undertaken to cease being disruptive. See this short interchange as well. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 00:50, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
Guy, are you proposing an alternative solution, proposing a pragmatic surrender, or simply making a rhetorical statement of frustration? ―Mandruss  15:05, 10 March 2017 (UTC)
I would propose a pragmatic surrender to FGF, who treats most everyone with contempt, hence it's never a "personal" attack. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:06, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
Bugs, I rather like you and I don't consider you to be particularly disruptive, ,but you are one of the people who does not change their behavior when confronted with pushback and social pressure from other users. I apologize for writing "you know who you are". Apparently some of you don't. --Guy Macon (talk) 02:48, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
Mandruss, I do not consider not doing something again after doing that exact same again and again has never had any effect a "pragmatic surrender". I consider it being stupid. I consider it willfully ignoring the obvious fact that what we are doing is not working.
While I did not propose an alternative solution in my comment above, I have done so on multiple occasions, and have never been able to generate a consensus to try my solution, even as a limited-time experiment. My solution, once again, is:
  • Get rid of all of the special rules that only apply to the refdesks and which the admins refuse to enforce.
  • Apply the standard rules that apply to all talk pages. In particular, apply WP:DISRUPT and especially WP:TPOC.
  • Stop complaining about other editors on the refdesk or the refdesk talk pages. Instead, complain on the user's talk page, and if that doesn't work, file a report at WP:ANI.
  • Let the administrators do their job.
Why refuse to try the above, even as a limited-time experiment? Beats me. Nobody has ever bothered to explain why they refuse to try it.
--Guy Macon (talk) 02:48, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
Sounds good. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:35, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
I don't recall such a proposal, although it may have been lost in the noise. I know I've said in multiple contexts including RD that it costs very little to give something a try. If it fails, we gain tangible evidence to replace WP:CRYSTAL arguments. And then we try something else. Inertia sucks. But I also support a community-level discussion about the continued existence of the desks. ―Mandruss  05:08, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
That's a question for another place. But I support Guy's proposal. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 06:09, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
In general one should eschew terms that are overused. Since Wikipedia speaks of "personal attacks", one should couch that concept in other language—any other language. Bus stop (talk) 18:36, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
One should not eschew "personal attack" because it's overused. They should learn its definition and use it correctly and only where it applies. Accusing someone of blockable behavior is a serious matter. Bugs spends so much time at WP:ANI that he can't possibly be unaware of how Wikipedia applies WP:NPA in practice. ―Mandruss  00:36, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
You mean there are certain words people shouldn't use because policy uses those words? That is a debatable idea. Bus stop (talk) 11:15, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
If FGF could "correct" other users without resorting to condescension, it would be much more productive. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:58, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
Again, that has nothing to do with your misuse of the term "personal attack", which is the topic of this thread. I don't think anybody in this thread is defending FGF. Certainly not me, since (1) I don't know much about it, and (2) that's off topic. I fully understand that it's common practice to respond to crticism of one's behavior by diverting attention to someone else's behavior. As a former parent of small children, I have never bought that and I never will. ―Mandruss  01:14, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
There's something you don't understand: I LIKE being corrected - with actual facts, not with condescending personal opinions. What FGF calls "corrections" ARE ATTACKS - on 5 different editors just this month. Did you ridicule your own children? Or did you merely explain to them why they got something wrong? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:25, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
Diffs, please. "You are wrong" is not personal attack by any reasonable interpretation. The preceding statement is an actual fact, well supported by reason above, not a condescending personal opinion. If you like that so much, why are you doing everything in your power to resist hearing it? ―Mandruss  01:39, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
Where did I say you made a personal attack? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:45, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
Sigh. Let's review. FGF said, "apart from in your mind". You called that a personal attack. We have made a very strong case that "apart from in your mind" is a way of saying "you are wrong", which is not a personal attack, so your use of "personal attack" was not appropriate. We would like you to acknowledge that fact and say that you will make an effort to avoid false accusations of PA (and other blockable behavior, while we're at it) in the future. Are we on the same page now? ―Mandruss  01:51, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
FGF has attacked FIVE DIFFERENT EDITORS in March, and when I stood up to him about it, Jack brought a complaint here. You want diff's? Look at his grand total of 19 edits in March, and you'll see only one of them had any kind of reference, and the other 18 consisted of ridiculing condescension toward those FIVE DIFFERENT EDITORS. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:56, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
Ok, I've now looked at those 19 edits. The closest thing to PA is "If you're so thin skinned...". That's one occurrence, not a pattern, and it's very borderline. For the most part, I object to FGF's confrontational tone (I'd call it a sort of TRM Lite), and I agree that it's condescending. I personally find it offensive, but it's regrettably quite common at Wikipedia, and Wikipedia never blocks based solely on that kind of tone. If we did, half of our experienced editors would be temp-blocked at any given time. If it isn't blockable, it can't be PA and we simply ask that you be more careful with the application of that term. ―Mandruss  02:19, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
Bugs, there seems little point in raising the extent of FGF's behaviour only now. You didn't complain about it when it was happening - except for the specific case we're discussing here, and then you overreacted with your claim of personal attack. You can never use another editor's claimed inappropriate behaviour as a justification for your own inappropriate behaviour. Little kids have that defence in their armoury ("But s/he started it", "S/he made me do it"), however I suspect you're slightly more senior than that. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 06:45, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
Or as blocked users sometimes say in their unblock requests "You forced me to sock". (talk) 10:51, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
No one makes anyone do anything here. FGF chooses to attack other editors. And I chose to stand up to him. But since he does that with everyone, there's no further point in standing up to him. Instead, I'll say something like, "Per discussion on the ref desk talk page: If you've got a problem with someone else's editing, take it to their talk page." ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:58, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
You have a deal, sir. We'll all hold each other to that.
For future reference, as per WP:TPOC, a true personal attack can be simply removed by any editor without warning or any further ado. If a post does not qualify as a personal attack but still seems undesirable, it can be raised on the editor's talk page as per your suggestion. As can an apparent pattern of negative and/or aggressive posts. Or the WP:DISRUPT protocols can be invoked. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 19:20, 12 March 2017 (UTC)

User's many deletions and hats[edit]

She's deleting many Q's, responses, and hatting others, with no justification. See Special:Contributions/Medeis. She seems to try to misinterpret the Q in a way that can justify these actions. For example, a simple request for the name of a company, given it's abbreviation, and she deleted it as a request for "legal and personal advice": [2]. Or this scientific Q with scientific answers gets hatted by her as being a forum Q: [3]. StuRat (talk) 03:41, 11 March 2017 (UTC)

The responses kind of meandered away from the original question, but I don't see it as asking for legal advice, although there's certainly an "advice" aspect to it. It would be better just to return it to being boxed up, because there's really nothing more we can do for the OP, who will have to take some initiative in the matter. That second question kind of looked like trolling, but it's potentially answerable. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:43, 11 March 2017 (UTC)

If an individual has in the past received significant pushback regarding their behavior on the refdesks and on the refdesk talk page yet has never changed their behavior in any way because of this social pressure, would it be fair to say that anyone who posts a brand new complaint about that individual on the refdesk talk age is wasting our time? (See the section above this one for a proposed alternative). --Guy Macon (talk) 06:52, 11 March 2017 (UTC)

I think Medeis is far less hat-or-delete-happy than in the past. Though if there's a reversion, it would be best to bring it here, as with any "content dispute", rather than edit-warring. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:02, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
There seems to be ongoing attacks on established editors here. Any coincidence. Or is some sort of agenda at play here. Because that's how it looks to neutral observer. (talk) 11:58, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
It's all or mostly good-faith debate about how the ref desks should operate. No problem. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:52, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
74, Wikipedia is a community and we are all accountable to each other. If somebody criticizes my behavior in good faith, I will directly counter their criticism (no sidestepping), modify my behavior, or leave the premises. I will not use loaded words like "attack" and "agenda", or allow anyone else to do so (I'm not claiming that Bugs or Medeis did either). I expect the same from others. ―Mandruss  00:48, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
I have a concern about a wider question, which is hatting in general. Isn't this a tool for expressing an opinion, and isn't it non-verbal? I think it is akin to edit-warring. (And now comes the propaganda and editorializing.) We should aim for reliance on the verbal in everything we do. And we should eschew that which veers into the realm of the physical. Bus stop (talk) 18:12, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
That's far too tangential to the topic. It is not about Medeis, nor specific to the ref desks. Suggest raising that at the Village Pump. ―Mandruss  00:56, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
This topic has come up many times here, and the closest thing to agreement seems to come on very obvious trolling, like the neo-Nazi idiot. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:01, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
I don't agree with the hatting of "Health insurance". While the OP has some idiosyncratic opinions, that does not mean that there are not plenty of good sources on the benefits (and problems) of insurances in general and health insurance in particular. Sure, the current US political debate happens at least partially in a post-factual bubble. But the fact that parts of the US political caste ignore the existing research does not mean that there are not valuable references we can provide. --Stephan Schulz (talk) 14:22, 15 March 2017 (UTC)


What say y'all about the best way to handle the editorial-disguised-as-a-question on the language ref desk? Knowing that the OP has edit-warred on the Vegetable page over what the definition of a vegetable is. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:55, 12 March 2017 (UTC)

The best way to handle such questions is:
  • Get rid of all of the special rules that only apply to the refdesks and which the admins refuse to enforce.
  • Apply the standard rules that apply to all talk pages. In particular, apply WP:DISRUPT and especially WP:TPOC.
  • Stop complaining about other editors on the refdesk or the refdesk talk pages. Instead, complain on the user's talk page, and if that doesn't work, file a report at WP:ANI.
  • Let the administrators do their job.
I would really, really like to see someone -- anyone -- here try these steps in case we are discussing, then report back here telling us how well it worked. Perhaps my plan is unworkable. Perhaps it just needs a little tweaking. perhaps it is perfect and we will end up kicking ourselves for not trying it earlier. We will never know unless a few of the regulars try it.
(I would advise being specific at ANI that you are trying the above steps so that the administrators at ANI are clear that this isn't just one more attempt to get them to enforce our house rules.) --Guy Macon (talk) 19:01, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
Excellent answer! Thank you for your efforts in improving The Reference Desk. This is refreshing. 2600:8806:4807:E700:C46C:938B:1C34:F3CC (talk) 19:33, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
Fresh vegetables are indeed refreshing. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:49, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
You're worth your carat in carrots.--WaltCip (talk) 12:04, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
My first instinct was to take it to WP:AIV. I thought it would be better to ask about it here. Sorry I bothered. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:23, 12 March 2017 (UTC)
You don't have to agree with my advice, but if you do agree with my advice, "Stop complaining about other editors on the refdesk or the refdesk talk pages. Instead, complain on the user's talk page, and if that doesn't work, file a report at WP:ANI" is part of my advice. WP:AIV would also be a good choice for experienced users like you who know which board is best in a particular situation. --Guy Macon (talk) 23:49, 12 March 2017 (UTC)

Does this count as a request for prediction,opinion, or debate?[edit]

Nothing to see here. Fut.Perf. 07:19, 15 March 2017 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

See here: — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:33, 15 March 2017 (UTC)

[NB: I, something of a Ref desk regular, just undid my highly similar post.] Here this SPA-User's "query" is based on the (unsupported?) assertion that " Jewish leftists [allow] Muslim immigrants to impose sharia law on the West." What to do? - and does it take a confirmed-account user to take a particular action rather than risk feeding the troll? (I ask as I'm situated in GMT+2, so likely to be online earlier than the majority of Anglophone users.) --Deborahjay (talk) 07:06, 15 March 2017 (UTC)
This was just the usual nazi refdesk troll. Already reverted and blocked. Fut.Perf. 07:19, 15 March 2017 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Requests for Legal Advice[edit]

There seems to be a lot of uncertainty as to what constitutes a request for legal advice. Right now I see that the question WP:RD/H#Can you successfully sue an insurance company for breach of contract if they sell you an insurance contract which is contrary to public policy and then refuse to pay up? has been twice hatted, although it clearly is not a request for legal advice (this is clear from the text of the question, not the heading; the requestor wants to discuss insurable interest). Meanwhile, WP:RD/H#Visas eligibility to USA remains unhatted, although it's a clear request for legal advice. And this issue comes up frequently.

"Fundamentally, legal advice involves the interpretation and application of legal principles to guide future conduct or to assess past conduct." In re County of Erie, 473 F.3d 413, 419 (2d Cir. 2007). In other words, a request for legal advice is a question about past or future legal consequences that apply to the requestor, or to someone close to the requestor. Questions about laws, regulations, contracts, or government forms typically would be requests for legal advice, if the question has application to the requesting poster, or to a friend, family member, or controlled company of the requesting poster. On the other hand, general questions about legal principles are not requests for legal advice.

Currently we include the following in the Reference Desk Guidelines: "The reference desk is not a place to seek professional advice on medical or legal matters, nor analyses, diagnoses or solutions to questioners' health or legal problems, and responses that could be construed as such must not be given. However, general medical and legal questions ("What treatments are used for diabetes?", "Which countries recognize common law marriages?") are fine. Questions that ask for medical, legal or other professional advice may be removed and replaced with a message (such as {{RD-deleted}}) pointing to these guidelines. For further information, see Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines/Medical advice." I would suggest revising this as follows:

  • "The reference desk is not a place to seek professional advice on medical or legal matters, and responses that could be construed as such must not be given. Any question that solicits a diagnosis, a prognosis, or a suggested treatment, is a request for medical advice. Any question that solicits guidance on the application of legal principles, laws, regulations, or contracts to the requestor, or to a person or entity with whom the requestor has a personal relationship, is a request for legal advice. However, general medical and legal questions ("What is sleep apnea?", "What is the role of the U.S. President in making laws?") are fine. Questions that ask for medical, legal or other professional advice may be removed and replaced with a message (such as {{RD-deleted}}) pointing to these guidelines. For further information, see Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines/Medical advice." John M Baker (talk) 17:22, 15 March 2017 (UTC)
The best way to handle requests for legal advice is:
  • Get rid of all of the special rules that only apply to the refdesks and which the admins refuse to enforce.
  • Apply the standard rules that apply to all talk pages. In particular, apply WP:DISRUPT and especially WP:TPOC.
  • Stop complaining about other editors on the refdesk or the refdesk talk pages. Instead, complain on the user's talk page, and if that doesn't work, file a report at WP:ANI.
  • Let the administrators do their job.
Note that those reference desk guidelines are exactly what I am talking about when I say "Get rid of all of the special rules that only apply to the refdesks and which the admins refuse to enforce". What we are doing is not working. --Guy Macon (talk) 20:18, 15 March 2017 (UTC)
While there is much I agree with in Guy's comment, the implication is that we should not have guidelines for the Reference Desk and, I assume, should not refuse nondisruptive requests for medical and legal advice. My proposal instead is based on the assumption that we will continue to have guidelines and will continue to refuse requests for medical and legal advice. John M Baker (talk) 22:15, 15 March 2017 (UTC)
My comment is a bit more subtle than that. If indeed a comment (question or answer) is disruptive and you are confident that the community of administrators at WP:ANI will agree that it is disruptive, then ask the person -- on his or her talk page -- not to make such comments. If they do it again, report them at ANI where they will be blocked until they stop. What I am saying is that the "we" in your above comment was a basic error. You personally have the right to refuse requests for medical and legal advice, just as you have the right to not answer any other question, but you have zero ability to block a user or in any other way interfere with them posting whatever they choose to post, with the sole exception being if you can convince an administrator that they are being disruptive and have persisted after being warned. And the administrators have shown on multiple occasions that they have no interest in blocking anyone for not following the reference desk guidelines. I say we get rid of them or reword tham to make it clear that they are advice which anyone is free to ignore. --Guy Macon (talk) 23:55, 15 March 2017 (UTC)
To me, the only reason to say that the current approach isn't working is if Wikipedia is getting sued over Ref Desk answers that provide legal advice. StuRat (talk) 01:19, 16 March 2017 (UTC)
There is obvious editor uncertainty over what is or is not legal advice, and it results in some questions being hatted or otherwise shut down even though they are not requests for legal advice. I would say that is a reason for change. Guy Macon, of course, supports more extensive changes. John M Baker (talk) 01:28, 16 March 2017 (UTC)
I don't really understand why you dispute the hatting of Futurist110's question if you agree that "request for legal advice is a question about past or future legal consequences that apply to the requestor, or to someone close to the requestor" and "Questions about laws, regulations, contracts, or government forms typically would be requests for legal advice, if the question has application to the requesting poster, or to a friend, family member, or controlled company of the requesting poster". Futurist110 has asked time and time again about how they can get out of paying for any kids they may have if they somehow impregnate a woman probably after having a vasectomy and cutting their balls off. Looking at various legal avenues including the possibility of seeking insurance against being required to pay for their kids, and whether a court may reject such a policy as being contrary to public interest. It's clear that this is what they're referring to, I'm not even sure this is the first time they've asked whether they can sue if their insurance is rejected. It's possible that Futurist110 isn't actually going to have a vasectomy, cut their balls off, get an insurance policy or even have sex with a woman but I think most of us have given up on these borderline questions from Futurist110. Personally I mostly did so once they started talking about cutting their balls off. It seems clear Futurist110 isn't taking much on board since they're still worried about wacky possibilities even after several of us have pointed out there are plenty of things more likely to happen, including stuff which may be a significant financial expense than some of their extreme scenarios. Nil Einne (talk) 09:12, 17 March 2017 (UTC)
The OP may be unaware of the history. If so, he should look at the archive of a recent discussion about it. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 09:18, 17 March 2017 (UTC)
P.S. An example of some of Futurist110's borderline legal advice questions which seem to relate back to their issues with having a child, or at least paying for it
This list is probably incomplete since 1) Futurist110 doesn't use the new section option so their questions don't have subject headings when first asked but compiled this by looking through their contrib history for relevant subject headings; 2) I stopped after 1000 results. To be fair some of these seem to be more complaints about how unfair everything is rather than a serious request for legal advice but whatever. Note I didn't include the plenty of examples of borderline requests for medical advice.
Nil Einne (talk) 09:45, 17 March 2017 (UTC)
Admittedly I was unfamiliar with Futurist110's posts. Four points:
  • With regard to the particular question I referenced, my point was simply that the question, taken by itself, is not a request for legal advice, because it is a broad question about general principles and does not apply them to a particular individual's facts. This conclusion does not change simply because the requestor has initiated other topics that were requests for legal advice.
  • It may be that Futurist110 has been abusing the Reference Desk. If so, that may be a separate basis for deleting or hatting questions. My post was not intended to address such situations.
  • My point that further guidance is needed is not dependent on whatever confusion may come from this particular editor's posts. I think that there is widespread confusion and lack of understanding with respect to the ban on legal advice.
  • Some of the posts above raise the question whether we should have a comprehensive ban on legal advice. Certainly the Reference Desk's ban is more comprehensive than most other message boards. I'm prepared to discuss that, but my original post was only directed to clarifying the meaning of "legal advice." John M Baker (talk) 15:43, 17 March 2017 (UTC)
  • "We" cannot have a comprehensive ban on anything. The "Reference Desk's ban" does not exist. Only administrators can do that. Some of us fantasize that non-admins can somehow control the behavior of other users, but it is only a fantasy. The only way to control the behavior of another user on Wikipedia is to [A] politely ask them to stop or [B] get an admin to block them. I really wish that I didn't have to keep repeating this, but as long as I see posts that falsely claim that "we" can have a comprehensive ban on legal advice. I will have to reply that no, "we" can't.
As to the question you want an answer to (the meaning of "legal advice"), that is an unsolvable problem. There will always be some who identify things that are not requests for legal advice as being requests for legal advice. There will always be some who identify things that are requests for legal advice as not being requests for legal advice. That's a big part of why what we are doing isn't working. Why not try it my way as a limited-time experiment?
Here is some legal advice: Don't do crystal meth. It is likely to get you arrested. Don't bother asking a lawyer if crystal meth is illegal. It is. Here is some medical advice: Don't do crystal meth. It will screw up your health. Don't bother asking a doctor if crystal meth is good for you. It isn't. There. I just broke our unenforceable house rules again, and I did it without being disruptive. Is anyone here brave enough to attempt to enforce a "comprehensive ban on legal advice" against me? I didn't think so. --Guy Macon (talk) 18:13, 17 March 2017 (UTC)
<Runs to ANI and starts typing furiously> "==Guy Macon giving highly dubious legal/medical advice at Refdesk== Dear admins, user Guy Macon is slandering the good name of crystal meth with..." ᛗᛁᛟᛚᚾᛁᚱPants Tell me all about it. 18:20, 17 March 2017 (UTC)
To be fair, John Baker, you are a properly qualified lawyer, so I do rack my brains as to how far we should restrict you from providing answers which would otherwise be "legal advice". But as I myself raised, most of us have specifically given up on answering these sorts of questions from this particular user. The discussion on how to deal with him was very heated, but left us not very enlightened. So much so that I regretted raising the issue. Had it been a general information type question, I would probably not have cried "legal advice!". If you must see the full sordid details, it's in the refdesk talk archive 126 (the most recent one as I write this), but I'm guessing you've read it already. Eliyohub (talk) 17:32, 19 March 2017 (UTC)
Using one's real name along with dispensing professional advice could be an invitation to trouble. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:49, 19 March 2017 (UTC)

Fake russian science troll[edit]

I've hatted a discussion begun by a long-term troll. Please do not answer questions in broken English with pseudo-technical language. This is a many-years running troll who shows up from time to time. If anyone sees similar discussions started again, please close them down. Thank you. --Jayron32 02:26, 19 March 2017 (UTC)

Hat, rather than delete, yes? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:27, 19 March 2017 (UTC)
I personally see no reason why we should prevent anyone who wants from chatting with good ol' Alex. I don't think he's a vandal or troll in the common sense, WP:AGF, etc. I actually wonder if he may be a bot... Anyway, no need to delete in my opinion, hatting gets it out the the way. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:08, 19 March 2017 (UTC)
What would be mock Russian for "hat"? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:25, 19 March 2017 (UTC)
Slop. μηδείς (talk) 01:23, 20 March 2017 (UTC)
I believe that it is "please read and obey WP:TPOC"... Oh, wait, I studied Japanese and Chinese, not Russian. --Guy Macon (talk) 16:28, 19 March 2017 (UTC)
The user has been banned from russian wikipedia and his "contributions" should be erased with WP:DENY as the edit summary. In this case I won't erase him, since his BS should be made familiar to the newbies. Next time? No. μηδείς (talk) 17:14, 19 March 2017 (UTC)

Correcting other people's mess[edit]

I just want to raise a question what is wrong with correcting other people's mess, when they have no idea how to properly format links to Google Books. Do you, Baseball Bugs, think that this is more beautiful and appropriate? --Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 22:59, 19 March 2017 (UTC)

If someone makes a formatting error, post a correction below it. Or, first go to their talk page and ask them to correct it. Minus the attitude, though. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:47, 19 March 2017 (UTC)
Sorry, I have neither much time nor desire to explain every my smallest technical edit and discuss it on talkpages. Why should I teach everybody how to make proper links? If they don't know, I just correct and let them not to know further on.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 22:51, 20 March 2017 (UTC)

Well the simple explaination is that if you don't have time to ask first or at least note what you've done, you probably shouldn't be doing it anyway. Of course posting the link seperately will probably take less time anyway even if you have to add four tildes. Ultimately if you aren't willing to do things correctly, you simply shouldn't get involved. Let someone else deal with it.

Also provided something works, it being pretty is less important than ensuring your not misleadingly modifying a signed post. In this case I believe you have a point that the .ca local domain means it's less likely to work (I admit I never knew that about Google Books until I was testing it before my first reply below and seemed to observe that although testing again now I can't repeat it). But even if that is true, at most that's justification for changing the .ca to .com not for removing the highlighting without making it clear you'd done so based on a guess that the OP didn't want it. Practically, I personally wouldn't have complained if you'd kept the highlighting but otherwise simplified it, but there's always a risk others may want the other stuff in there for some weird intentional reason. And if that ever did happen I won't be coming to your defence.

Ultimately there's a good reason why editing a signed post by someone else without their permission is strongly discouraged except in very limited circumstances of which changing a link isn't generally one of them (unless it's blacklisted or harmful in some way e.g. copyvio, spam, BLPvio, malware rather than simply not functionining as intended). Since the link wasn't enclosed in tags, enclosing it in tags would have been acceptable if it was really so long as to be making something difficult but that's about it.

A functioning version of a non functioning or less functioning link can always be offered as a follow up, I've done it myself with other cases several times on the RD. I'd note if you get into the habit of modifying such stuff without comment you run the risk of doing so when someone has already commented on the problem somewhere and therefore causing even more problems. (Did you actually check the whole thread before doing so this time or were you again just guessing that no one had commented on it? Of course even if you did check the thread, I'm guessing you didn't check this talk page or the OP's talk page.) In other words, it may not just be the OP affected.

P.S. If you think people don't intentionally include local domains you're mistaken. I generally give clean Google books and other links. But I have always intentionally linked to local domains ( or .nz) for Google Books, Google Search, Blogspot etc. Since it seems you could have a point that local subdomains can cause weird issues with access/copyright on Google Books I'll probably refrain from doing so with Google Books. But I'll continue to do so with other such things and will be quite annoyed if someone changes them. Especially with stuff like Google Search where I do so partially because of the slight possibility the results the person sees might be a bit more like what I saw. Likewise I have sometimes in the past intentionally included a link with safesearch disabled albeit generally noting I did so to avoid any concerns. And where possible, with a defined number of results. Etc. And yes this means when I do include highlighting on Google Books, which isn't very often, it's nearly always intentional.

Nil Einne (talk) 05:42, 21 March 2017 (UTC)

You should always take care when "correcting" a signed post that you are not removing something which was intentional. In this particular case it looks to me like you simplified the link so much that you remove the highlighting. It may be the highlighting was an unintentional result of the Google search. It may be it was intentionally left there. The link could be simplified without removing the highlighting but you didn't do that. If in doubt you should always ask first. And if what you are doing will change the reply in any possible way you should at least make clear that you did it but it doesn't look like you either replied to the thread or informed the OP on their talk page. Nil Einne (talk) 01:29, 20 March 2017 (UTC)
In that particular case as in millions of such cases people simply have no idea that they post url garbage others don't need. If anything was intentional that was unawareness.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 22:51, 20 March 2017 (UTC)
The problem is you have no way to know whether the OP intentionally wanted to highlight that part of the book for whatever reason. You may be able to make a resonable guess based on the context of the conversation, but unless you've actually asked the OP you do not know. And if you had asked the OP first, this would not be an issue. Plenty of times people have thought they knew what the OP wanted to achieve but it turned out they were wrong. I myself have had it before mostly with indenting or locating my posts, although that at least is not technically part of the signed post. And let's not forget the awful mess a few years back when someone thought automagically was a typo and changed to to automatically. I'd note that as far as I can tell, the OP still hasn't commmented anywhere on this because no one really asked them so you still don't know if the OP really didn't want it. Nil Einne (talk) 05:14, 21 March 2017 (UTC)
Except when someone's edit breaks page formatting, it's not really a requirement that responses (or questions) be beautiful and elegant. In an article that's desirable, but in what is essentially a specialized talk page, it's not a priority. ApLundell (talk) 14:23, 20 March 2017 (UTC)
(edit conflict) The problem also is that such dummy google links work particularly for the user who posted it. People who do not live in .ca (or wherever) won't see it, they must change it manually to their locality. Only .com is safe. Not to mention a lot of simple url garbage which is of no use under any circumstances.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 22:51, 20 March 2017 (UTC)
In future, post a separate correction and sign it yourself. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:10, 21 March 2017 (UTC)
As someone who's been a hands off reader of the desks for some time, I have to say it's time to speak out. The attacks on contributors here has got to stop, period. I have no appetite for politics, scheming or play old skull duggery but this is just 'another' attack on BB and that says it all. I've no idea what people have against him but it's borderline madness. Just give him some minor respect for a change for goodness sake. (talk) 22:48, 20 March 2017 (UTC)
Yes, you've no, zero, null, nada idea what it is all about, so stop making such outrageous accusations against me, mister random anonymous, alright?--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 22:57, 20 March 2017 (UTC)