Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 11

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Archive 5 Archive 9 Archive 10 Archive 11 Archive 12 Archive 13 Archive 15


Massive archival done by me - page can be found here :-) --HappyCamper 21:57, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Taking a break

After working on archiving the reference desks since the end of June, I have now decided to take a break. If anyone wants to take over the transcluding and archiving, then you are welcome to do so. Otherwise I suggest that you may wish to go and recruit a bot. Good luck. :) Road Wizard 20:51, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Your work was really appreciated. Wikipedians, we really need a better solution than manual transclusions...who wants to code a bot? --HappyCamper 02:19, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

Archiving posts that are only a day old?

Don't you think you could wait at least 2 or 3 days before transcluding new questions? It looks like the transclusions are coming within a few hours of some of these questions.. I just responded to a question that was only about 12 hours old, and I find myself on a transclusion-- 23:51, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Questions are transcluded from the previous day when the new day has started. I am unsure how a 12 hour old question got transcluded as I was transcluding questions 20 hours into the new day. Can you point out where the 12 hour old question is located?
On a side issue, is there some problem with finding yourself on a transcluded page? Links are provided back to the main pages, so you are only one click away from where you want to be.
From the section header above, are you asking why we are archiving after one day? If so, then I am sorry that you appear to be misunderstanding the situation. We are transcluding pages after 1 day, but archiving after 1 week. Questions are still visible from each of the desks for a period of seven days. Road Wizard 06:21, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Warning about Edit Conflicts

Maybe we should warn people about the frequency of edit conflicts in the reference desks... a sole page being updated by lots of people that frequently can cause loss of data for the editor. What I do is: everytime before I edit I save my data in the Clipboard or the GNU/Linux equivalent, so that in case of edit conflict I have no problem. What do you think? GTubio 09:34, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Are the transclusions causing the conflicts? Does it happen pretty often? --HappyCamper 17:45, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
I think you're missing a trick, GTubio. The Back button normally works for me after an edit conflict; I can pick up my text, go back to the rticle and into edit and save it - the advantage being that I'm not saving each edit before I try to commit it. As to your idea: IMO between 1 and 5% of people will read the warning, and between 1 & 5% of them will grok its meaning. But put the noticew together by all means. --Tagishsimon (talk)
Actually, the transclusions reduce the conflicts as each day is treated as a separate page, thereby dividing the potential for edit conflicts by seven (assuming there are seven days of transcluded questions). The main conflict problems stem from several people trying to respond to a popular question all at once or an inexperienced editor trying to edit the whole page instead of an individual section. Road Wizard 18:02, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
And there's no need to use the Back button either - the edit conflict page has a second edit box with your version of the page, from which you can copy-paste your comment. -- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 19:23, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Deleted discussion

Im surprised that the discussion beteween my self AAAADDDDDAAAAAMM and others was deleted from the page rather than being moved here (which is where I should, of course, have put it in the first place) Now there is no record of what transpired and its as if nothing ever happened (except for my unwarrated loss of 3 days and my extreme disappointment with these proceeddings by certain ADMIN(S) ).

I know its easier to delete things that are unpleasant rather than try to deal with them. But isnt that what the Ministry of Truth did in Orwells 1984? Is WP turning into 1984? Could I ask User:Anchoress (whom I now realise is an ADMIN -- didnt then) to magic it back and put it here please (at least in the first instance). Destruction of information is not healthy-- however easy and convenient it is to do. --Light current 18:21, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

As was suggested by Anchoress, you can move those comments back to your user space if you want. Having read the discussion that was removed, [1] I can see no value for the reference desks in restoring it here. Road Wizard 18:51, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

THat would certainly be preferable to having it deleted.!--Light current 18:54, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Its a standard practice to remove personal attacks on sight here at wikipedia. If you don't like it, don't make personal attacks. Also, from WP:CIVIL - a suggestion to stop incvility: "Remove offensive comments on talk pages (since they remain in the page history, anyone can find them again or refer to them later on)" That was done and is endorsed by policy. pschemp | talk 19:17, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

So only admins can make what amouts to personal attacks on users and get away with it, and punish the user for responding in like fashion to boot. How very convenient!

There have been what I consider many personal attacks on me floating about WP ( Im not complaining about them, but neither did you!--Light current 19:21, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

My god, I missed all of this. I'm sorry if I offended you, I thought I was just giving a friendly heads up. Aaadddaaammm 08:14, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

I wasnt referring to AAADDDAAAMMM in my last post--Light current 09:03, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

To everyone, FWIW I am not an Admin and I really have no idea why Light current thinks I am. A) I thought I was doing Light current a favour by warning him that his remarks were getting out of hand, and B) I thought I was doing everybody a favour by removing comments that were at best irrelevant and at worst hurtful and inflammatory, both to protect the privacy of those involved and to minimise damage (in part, let it be known, to protect Light current from embarrassment since at the time s/he was blocked and therefore unable to remove his/her own rash words). To tell the truth I'm really hurt by Light current's attitude to this; I would never, ever purposely do something on this board or anywhere to thwart process, to hurt or embarrass someone, or to throw my weight around. I respectfully ask Light current to re-consider his/her judgement of why these things happened, and FWIW I am washing my hands of this user, s/he can romp around Wikipedia unhindered by any further cautionary remarks or damage mitigation by me. Anchoress 08:34, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

Im sorry you are upset Anchoress, and it certainly was not my intentition to upset you. I thought you were an Admin and had removed the posts to hide the evidence (as sometmes happens). Thats why I was miffed! But really its playing with fire to modify anyone elses posts as I have found out to my cost a few times. I know you were trying to help, and I thank you for that. I have replied to your other post on my talk page.--Light current 08:59, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

LinkFA-star.png Homework Template

I was just thinking (a rare, but welcome, occurance) that it would be helpful if we had a homework template. Instead of having to type the usual "do your own homework... read the instructions... wikipedia is for reference... use the search function... blah blah blah" everytime some lazy kid cuts and pastes his or her homework questions, we could just use the template. Thoughts? Rockpocket 18:34, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Good idea!
We have that. Dial {{dyoh}} for:
Do your own homework: if you need help with a specific part or concept of your homework, feel free to ask, but please do not post entire homework questions and expect us to give you the answers. Letting someone else do your homework makes you learn nothing in the process, nor does it allow us Wikipedians to fulfill our mission of ensuring that every person on Earth, such as you, has access to the total sum of human knowledge.
-- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 19:18, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
Ahhh! Thanks. Rockpocket 19:27, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
Don't forget to subst it though. -- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 21:25, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

New Reference Desk Bot?

In the latest archive of this talk page, it appears that the conversation about creating an archiving bot has been lost. Yesterday, I spent a fair amount of time adding dates, transcluding older posts and archiving things, but a bot is clearly needed to perform this task on a daily basis now that Crypticbot is obselete. Has any progress been made on this front? Should we post a request at Wikipedia:Bot requests?

As far as I can tell, the bot must be able to complete the following tasks for each of the six reference desks on a daily basis at approximately 00:00 UTC:

  1. Start the new date at the bottom of each page
  2. Archive oldest date
  3. Transclude questions and answers that are more than 24 hours old (include {{Reference desk navigation}})
  4. Add the newly transcluded page to the reference desk archives

Additionally, at the start of each month, the bot would need to create a new monthly reference desk archive page with {{Reference desk navigation}}.

Detailed Example of Bot's Function:

At 00:00 UTC on August 16, 2006, for the Miscellaneous reference desk the bot would:

{{subst:Reference desk navigation
|previous = Wikipedia:Reference desk archive/Miscellaneous/2006 August 13
|date1 = August 13
|next = Wikipedia:Reference desk archive/Miscellaneous/2006 August 15
|date2 = August 15
|type = Miscellaneous
= August 14 =
[[Wikipedia:Reference desk archive/Miscellaneous/2006 August 14]]
#A type of chair 
#Male Orgasm 
#World Trade Center Movie 
#Maps from 
#Clitoral Hood Piercing 
#Alexander Graham Bell 
#Cruise control on the 1998 ford windstar 
#Gangster Chronicles TV Series 
#Physics of a bullet 
#Who would be richest? 
#My surname is Bencko. 
#Top Hats 
#pounds to dollars 
#The New York Pass

-- C. S. Joiner (talk) 21:27, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

I think you have summed up most of it. However, if the bot programming can handle it, adding {{Reference desk navigation}} to transcluded and monthly archive pages would be useful. Road Wizard 21:40, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
Agreed. It was included in bullet point #4 in the detailed example, but not in the numbered list. I've now added it to the numbered description as well and I'll post to Wikipedia:Bot requests -- C. S. Joiner (talk) 22:44, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
I think I really need to get some sleep. My eyes just skipped right over that first box of code. o_O Road Wizard 23:05, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Signing postsLinkFA-star.png

I noticed that after Bengurion was asked to sign his posts with ~~~~, he started to type out his name instead. This made me realise that a lot of people (especially of the age group we seem to be largely dealing with) simply do not know what a tilde is. (And why should they?) And with a small screen font it is not even clear what characters ~~~~ actually represents. It would be cumbersome to try to explain what a tilde is to everyone, but at the very least, perhaps the instruction at the top of the page could be clarified somehow?--Shantavira 08:00, 18 August 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps add a link to the instruction "Sign your question. Type --~~~~ at its end." so that it looks like "Sign your question. Type --~~~~at its end."? -- C. S. Joiner (talk) 20:43, 18 August 2006 (UTC)
Something like that exists right below the edit box. Unfortunately, on a 1024x768 display, it seems to be just out of sight w/o scrolling. --LarryMac 21:04, 18 August 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps a link to tilde would help in terms of the character visibility, as that page now includes a large image of the character. Road Wizard 09:05, 19 August 2006 (UTC)
How about {{Signed}}, the only catch, is that it has to subst'd otherwise it doesn't work, which might actually make it less newbie friendly than either ~~~~ or {{unsigned}}, but it should be useful as a less hostile alternative to {{unsigned}} which might be a bit off putting for people who aren't familiar with the process-- 16:31, 20 August 2006 (UTC)
—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
—comment added by, 20 August 2006 (UTC)
Thoughts? If anyone knows of a way to get an accurate timestamp without all that subst'spill over, feel free to change it-- 16:32, 20 August 2006 (UTC)
Ok, better now, it doesn't need to be subt'd anymore, —Preceding unsigned comment added by [[User:{{{1}}}|{{{1}}}]] ([[User talk:{{{1}}}|talk]] • [[Special:Contributions/{{{1}}}|contribs]]) I just removed the time stamp-- 17:32, 20 August 2006 (UTC)

Archive Problem

For the last week or so whenever I've answered an existing question on the reference desk (even one from 15/08/2006) once I hit save it goes to the archive page & saves my change in the archive for that specific day. Is there a reason why its doing this as its quite annoying as I have to go back to the main ref desk page from the archive & try to find where I was. AllanHainey 11:51, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

Questions from other than the current day at the reference desks are moved to a subpage, but still appear on the main page by transclusion. When you click the "edit" link from the main page, you are (automatically) taken to the subpage for the heading you want to edit, but you're really editing the subpage, not the main page. When you submit your change, the software displays the subpage you've edited, not the main page you started from. You could report this as a bug (see wikipedia:bugzilla) or, as a workaround, do your edits in a different window. -- Rick Block (talk) 13:47, 17 August 2006 (UTC)
I find this practice quite annoying, myself. I finish editing an entry, then I have to find my way back to the main page. Basically, Wikipedia has moved me into an archive page without my knowledge or consent. Where is the discussion page for this "transclusion", so we can voice our dissatisfaction with this practice ? StuRat 16:04, 17 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Erm, it's pasted across the top of the page in big black letters. I don't see why you need to know or give your consent to it anyway. Does it really matter if you're editing the transcluded page? They're archived for easy reference and to stop the ref desk from bloating. A good thing, at least in my opinion. - Mgm|(talk) 09:55, 18 August 2006 (UTC)
Everybody should voice their opinion on this topic. What exactly is the advantage to doing it ? The disadvantage is as follows:
1) To see if anyone has responded to my numerous posts on each Ref Desk board, I go to the board, then do a search on my screen name, then look for responses.
2) When I find a response, and want to respond in turn ("I thank you for your comments, but wish to inform you that my parents, were, in fact married at the time of my birth, and alas, I must decline your invitation to partake in that suggested activity, and further consider it to be physiologically impossible"), I then click the edit button.
3) After I finish the edits, I am dumped on some damn archive page. Now I have to navigate my way back to the main page.
4) If I start searching for my screen name again, the screen find feature will start back at the top of the page. Now I have to go look through the huge page to try to figure out where I stopped the search, then continue from there. This takes a great deal of time.
So, again, what's so great about transcluded pages to make me want to endure this torture ? StuRat 17:58, 18 August 2006 (UTC)
As a separate issue, may I suggest right-clicking on "edit" and choosing "open link in new window" (or whatever the equivalent is for your operating system and browser choices). This will allow you to continue to respond to people without having to restart your search for your screenname or to navigate back and forth from the transcluded archive page. -- C. S. Joiner (talk) 00:52, 20 August 2006 (UTC)
The process of transcluding pages began because the size of the Science Reference Desk got to a point that it could no longer be archived by bot. For the last few weeks, I've been manually transcluding while we're trying to get a new bot to do this regularly. If the number of questions increases (as it has in recent times) and the page is not transcluded, then someone will have to do this manually indefinitely. The alternative is to arhive after 2-3 days and not allow people to continue to answer questions for the full seven days. Further discussion on the talk page. Join in! -- C. S. Joiner (talk) 01:24, 19 August 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the info. Which talk page ? The talk page for this page is empty. If the archive bot can't handle large pages, why don't we fix the archive bot, so that it can ? We could also have a different page for each Ref Desk Board day right from the beginning, to make each page small enough to handle. StuRat 06:05, 19 August 2006 (UTC)
I have copied this discussion from the Miscellaneous Reference Desk for discussion purposes -- C. S. Joiner (talk) 22:32, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

For background information, you may wish to read the earlier discussions:

Some of the advantages of transclusion are:

  1. Server storage space is reduced - each time you made an edit on the old page you saved 400Kb of code to the server, now when you save an edit on a transcluded page, you only save about 40Kb of code.
  2. Edit conflicts are reduced as editors are working on separate pages instead of a single one (Edit conflicts under the old system were especially problematic for archiving - I get a headache just thinking of them).
  3. It removes the archiving problems that have occurred on the Science, Humanities and Miscellaneous desks due to the archive pages exceeding the maximum page size.
  4. It allows the archive to be split up to prevent computer crashes for those who try to open archive pages.

Whilst I admit that working with transcluded pages can be a little annoying at times, I would ask you to consider whether the benefits outweigh the detriments. Road Wizard 23:12, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

StuRat's suggestion of having separate pages for each day may be worth consideration. For one thing, it would reduce page load time for computers with slow connections and we could still retain a page with seven transcluded days for those who like to view the page the old way. The only problem I can see is that we will need to have an automated system for creating and adding the new current day page and also updating any "ask questions here" links to point to the current day. The system will need to be designed for use by the least skilled of us as we get a lot of new people to these pages who are completely unfamiliar with even basic Wikipedia code. Road Wizard 23:25, 19 August 2006 (UTC)
I would disagree with this suggestion for the simple reason that, in order to make the Reference Desk as usuable as possible, I believe that questions should remain visible for a defined period (currently seven days) and then archived. Most people asking questions at the reference desk do not know how to navigate the archives and separate daily pages, so having daily pages will likely have the consequence of having the same question asked multiple times over a period of several days in rapid succession. Instead, having each reference desk appear to the casual user as a single page allows users to check back on discussions until they are satisfied with the answer provided, and discussions can easily take place for the inexperienced user by simply clicking the edit button (despite the fact that they are unknowingly on a different page).
Therefore, operating under the assumption that the public face of the Reference Desk should be a single page with ~seven days worth of questions and answers, it becomes difficult for inexperienced users and ask questions for the current day if the current day is a transcluded page because the "add new section" function only works for the current page. Transcluding the current date would require a fair amount of coding and updating to allow the "ask a new question" link to continue to function as it currently does.
So, operating under the assumption that we will not transclude the current day, the only remaining question (in my mind) is how long to wait before a day's worth of questions is transcluded. I think that 24 hours (the current solution) seems like a fair time, but I would also support 48 hours. Longer than that seems like an unnecessary risk that we will reach page limit and prevent someone from asking a question and also an unnecessary delay in shortening the length of the page (allowing for easier editing, faster page loads, and better server performance).
The final (and bigger) issue in my mind is one of usability. I think that what is throwing people off is the text "The page you are viewing is an archive page". I have put together a new suggested template which can be viewed here. The new template eliminates the phrase "archive" and encourages people to continue to answer questions. I think that this won't leave people with the same concern that seems to arise from being told that they are answering questions in an archive (implying that their answers will not be read or noticed). Thoughts? -- C. S. Joiner (talk) 00:06, 20 August 2006 (UTC)
Is there any way that the basic problem can be fixed directly ? That is, when you pick edit, make your changes, then pick Save, can you be placed back on your original page, in the exact location where you were, instead of being moved onto the transcluded archive page ? If this issue was addressed, I'd have no complaints about the current system. StuRat 01:29, 20 August 2006 (UTC)
Just open the section edit in a new tab/Window, using middle-click, or Ctrl-click, or right-click-Open in a new tab/window, as appropriate to your setup and browser.-gadfium 01:43, 20 August 2006 (UTC)
I suppose that's a reasonable workaround, once you know the problem exists, but people who don't know about transcluded pages won't know they need to do that. It also isn't apparent which questions are on transcluded pages, until I arrive at the transcluded page. Finally, the main page won't be updated with the changes made on the transcluded page, making a page reload necessary. StuRat 02:44, 20 August 2006 (UTC)
It may be quite easy to create a script to handle that, not unlike the vote script that I've used in the past over at AFD. All of the edit links on the reference desk would have a small extra appended link (e.g. answer) that would automatically handle the direction of the clicks. A most simple implementation of the script would simply open the edit window as normal, but would handle clicks of the "Save page" button by opening the original page at the question location, after reloading the new version. I don't have any experience with this kind of coding, but it functions almost exactly the same as the AFD script, so I don't see any reason why it would be difficult. Although, new users and users not/not able to use the script would still have the same problem.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  17:42, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
Sounds good, would it return you to the same place on the original page, or place you back at the top of the page ? Do you know anyone who could write such a script ? StuRat 20:07, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
The AfD script I was referring to is here, and I haven't fiddled around with AfDs for a while so I can't remember if it actually places you back at the same subsection. Compared to some of the other features of it I would assume that it would be very easy to add that functionality to it. Maybe Jnothman would be willing to modify his script to make it work for RD. The point of AfD helper was to eliminate the need to edit the Wikicode on the vote page, but an RD version would be much simpler in that there is no "submit form" to wade through, and the script simply sends you to the edit window for the page.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  06:40, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

Rodney Perry, Sr. and Rodney Perry, Jr.

Did you forget about Rodney Perry, Sr., ex-pro football player for the LA Rams, and other teams? His son, Rod Jr. also is a winner! Rodney was born in Fresno, and was one of the first famous people from Fresno, CA. As well as Earl Meyers, Jr., Baratone, 3 time Carnigie Hall performer. Then you have Patsy Perry, Vocalist in Fresno, CA. Even though she was not born in Fresno, she has given much of her time & talent to the community.

There are so many other folks that have helped Fresno!

You'd probably have better luck posting this to Talk:Fresno, California. Alternatively, you could be bold and post this info on the Fresno page yourself! Isopropyl 23:48, 21 August 2006 (UTC)

Expanding reference desk

I would like to bring up a topic a little bit before it becomes urgent, and it is somewhat related to the archive problems noted above. I don't think anybody sees RD getting any smaller than it is now, and I imagine some of the desks, especially Science, will become increasingly difficult to read in the near future. The main problem is that we are using a communications medium that was never intended for such high-volume discussion (something much more suitable for usenet I guess) but we have all (I presume) come to love this medium of communication because of it's excellent ability to create a smooth procession of interactive conversation flow.

I'm sure many of us would like to preseve this conversation flow, no matter how big RD gets (or rather, no matter how many people learn about the reference desk) and if not by simply dividing the individual desks into smaller and smaller pieces (another thing suitable for usenet) we must start thinking how. I personally don't believe that RD can function smoothly forever in its current, simple form. I believe the coding for the page has to be expanded somehow to allow browsing, editing, and finding questions and answers easier. Whether this should be done to the code of the page itself (by using layers, delaying downloads of full responses, etc) or possibly by a bot/script that tabulate everything into an easy to read table (along the lines of the bots used to collect votes for administrators), or maybe someone has some other suggestions? Maybe I'm being presumptuous in assuming that nobody likes to scroll through megabyte-long pages of questions.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  17:56, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

It would not be such an urgent problem if people would resist the temptation to use the RDs as a chat forum. It might be just me, but it seems to have increased significantly in the last few weeks. There have also been editors who are new to the RDs who seem to want to go for the "funny" response immediately, instead of actually trying to, oh, I don't know, answer the actual question, perhaps? I freely admit to posting an occasional attempt at humor, and sometimes I find myself being drawn into discussion when I shouldn't. I'd like to believe I'm good at policing myself, others may disagree. Of course the Science desk in particular has been hit with a whole series of nonsense questions about birds, baked goods and self-gratification that I'm sure must seem hilarious to the posters involved, but do nothing to present Wikipedia as a worthwhile resource.
I don't know what the solution is. Various discussions before have noted that the RDs are not well-defined within the overall WP project, and most seem to prefer it that way. I am afraid that will just lead to more chaos, however, so I think I will attempt to find other ways to contribute. </soapbox> --LarryMac 19:56, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

I'd prefer if the problem could be solved by breaking the "big" Ref desks up, say like this:

Science    -> Physics & Astronomy
              Health & Medical
              Other Science
Humanities -> History
              Movies & TV
              Music & Art
              Popular Culture
              Other Humanities
Misc.      => Food & Nutrition
              Sports & Hobbies
              Sea birds

StuRat 00:34, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

OK, who's the smart ass who inserted a "Sea birds" reference desk into my above suggestion ? :-) StuRat 21:24, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
Since nobody fessed up, I looked thru the history, and found the culprit was ... User:Freshgavin ! StuRat 03:32, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
I might even suggest moving some of the reference desk over to Wikiversity... --HappyCamper 14:54, 26 August 2006 (UTC)
Wikiversity isn't really fully functioning yet, and even worse very few people know about it. Splitting up the big subjects may be the only way, but as Larry said, they're not really well defined as it is, and until now it's kind of worked like that, so I don't know how smoothly we'd be able to split them up like that, never mind the fact that it would become more difficult to keep track of all the questions, or to browse generally.
I think splitting them up helps to define them. For example, having a "Health & Medical" RD would make it clear that questions about historical medical practices belong there. As is, a question like that might go to Science, Humanities, or Misc. StuRat 21:24, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
I don't think much can, or should be done about silly questions either, though I'd worry if it started getting much worse. I figure they're easy enough to ignore, and I don't think anybody is deliberately being an RF troll or anything. This is the internet, after all, filled with lots of strange people, Australians, edible rats, etc.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  09:18, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
I've thought about it and I'm pretty much sold. It's the best solution for now, and it should show immediate results. Wouldn't it make archiving into an even huger pain?  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  07:14, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
True, if we continue to do things as they are presently done. We could either try getting the bots to work again (since volume seemed to be the main problem), or we can archive less often, perhaps a week at a time, to reduce the workload. I prefer the bot solution. StuRat 07:22, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
What do you have against Australians, Freshgavin?!?!?! Anyway I do believe a bot is the better way to go, because autonomy would remove the chance of the pages getting too big if someone forgets to archive. Harryboyles 14:09, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

Accidentally deleted everything since Aug 19th or so! Can't revert.

Help! I wanted to add some info on the bell question. There was an edit conflict and I messed everything up! Now all the text since Aug 19th is gone. I can't revert from this computer/firefox because it wont give me the full text in the edit box. Please help out, someone! I wont have a chance to revert this until 4h from now. Thanks in advance. ---Sluzzelin 17:41, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

fixed Nowimnthing 18:16, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

Thank you. ---Sluzzelin 20:58, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

Archiving the desk

Ok guys, I decided I would put the headers up when it hits 24:00 UTC. Who is doing the archiving nowaydays if anybody? We need to get a bot to do it. — [Mac Davis] (talk)

  • Nobody is, the last archive was on August 13th-- 19:41, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
  • OK, I've just removed the transcluded pages for August 14-18. Can somebody else please take on archiving the days after that ? StuRat 11:00, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Archiving is the easy part, all you're doing is moving the transclusions, making the transclusion in the first place, now that, should probably be done by bot-- 13:52, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Especially considering all this that has to be done just to generate a header:
{{subst:Reference desk navigation
|previous = 
|date1 = 
|next = 
|date2 = 
|type = 

Seems like a bot would be better suited for repetitive, tedious, template subst'ing-- 14:42, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

  • I'm going to give it a shot now-- 16:21, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Ok, other issues, the header for August 21st was never added in the first place, so I'm skipping from the 20st to the 22nd-- 16:27, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Perfect, we also lost the 23rd-- 16:34, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Sections for the 22nd, and 23rd were created, as close as I could get them, but from now on always add the date headers, please-- 16:42, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

And now August 26th is MIA, not to mention August 25th only contains questions from the 26th, and the 27th, none from the 25th, whoever has been adding these date headers has been missing.-- 16:47, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

  • Once again, problem solved-- 16:51, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Done Now who is going to do the other 5 desks?-- 17:15, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

New template usage

{{subst:Reference desk navigation
|date1 = 
|date2 = 
|type = 
  • date1: the date of the previous page (e.g. July 21 or June)
  • date2: the date of the next page (e.g. July 23 or August)
  • type: the name of the reference desk being archived (e.g. Science, Language, Computing, etc.)
  • It's been reduced to only 3 variables-- 17:37, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Of course, it didn't occur to me that the same template is also used for the monthly archives, so these changes may not stay-- 18:02, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
  • I've now manually corrected all the dates, on all the desks, so we don't have anymore missing days. Someone else is going to have to transclude them though, I've already done the Science desk, but that's it for now-- 18:52, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

RD is tooo long

Even after splitting, the RD pages are toooo long to download. Is there a way to see only one day and not all all seven days? Thank you. CG 08:17, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

  • Only if someone else completes the other transclusions, right now, the science desk is the only one that isn't several days behind-- 12:20, 29 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Now I've also done the Humanities‎ desk-- 12:48, 29 August 2006 (UTC)
  • And one usernameblock later, I've also done the CS desk--Vector71.247.243.173 14:01, 29 August 2006 (UTC)
  • And now Mathematics, that's 4 down, 2 to go, then the transclusions will be all up to date--VectorPotential71.247.243.173 14:30, 29 August 2006 (UTC)
  • oK, only 1 left, then someone really needs to start archiving old questions--VectorPotential71.247.243.173 14:46, 29 August 2006 (UTC)


Ok, so now that all of the desks are properly transcluded, someone really should start archiving the older questions, starting with the 19th. That someone isn't me, btw, since I just racked up about 300 edits over the course of 2 days catching up the transclusions--VectorPotential71.247.243.173 15:11, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

  • Also, in about 10 hours, it's going to be 30 August 2006 (UTC), I hope that at that point, someone is going to be adding = August 30 = to all the desks. That really is the sort of thing that a bot should be doing--VectorPotential71.247.243.173 15:42, 29 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Just a point, but who ever archived the questions from the 19th to the 23rd, didn't actually add them to the archive, they just removed them, which is deleting, not archiving-- 14:39, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
  • I'm in the process of correcting the error now-- 14:51, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

August 31

Added the header, again.. someone else reeeeally needs to learn the entire process, otherwise this whole thing falls apart when I stop doing it-- 00:23, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

I did it before the bot, I'll start again. --hydnjo talk 23:29, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
OK Ill help if you need it!--Light current 23:34, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Feedback from questioners

Could we change the header to include a request for feedback from the original questioners? We answer many questions, but rarely hear anything back. We therefore dont know if were being helpful or not. Just a suggestion.--Light current 03:31, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

How about: Dont forget to give us some feed back when you feel your question has been responded to

or something.--Light current 03:44, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Do you mean Check back for updates. A complete answer to your question may be developed over a period of up to seven days. To help yourself find this page again, make a bookmark (in some common browsers you can press Ctrl+D or ⌘+D to do so), or add this page to your watchlist if you have an account. ? I don't think we should ask people to give feedback, it already says that a thankyou would be nice.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  09:53, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Yes it does-- in very small (almost invisible) letters. How many people actually read all that small print anyway?--Light current 11:22, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

  • Probably about as many people as there are who help with RD maintenance.. that would be no one-- 15:00, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

RD Help

Yeah OK I notice youve been complaining about the lack of help here. But Im new-- I dont know how to do anythin yet! Whats involved?--Light current 22:08, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

  • I haven't been complaining, in so much as I've been literally doing everything.. You don't happen to have a bot do you? We used to have Crypticbot (talk · contribs), so the system was designed to be operated via bot. Since we lost Cryptic, we lost our bot-- 22:42, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
  • If you really want to do something, how about adding date headers? We lost almost 5 days last week becuase people stopped adding the current date. Just make sure that at the end of every day, either you, or someone else, creates a currentdate header. For instance = August 31 =, and make sure it's after the last post of the previous day-- 22:46, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

I could do that! I have no bot Im afraid--Light current 23:11, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

  • Good then, just one minor observation, it's not tomorrow yet (: 23:25, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Yeah sorry it is tomorrow here! So I have to do it after 0100 BST. I just realised that. Ill move the hdg to correct place later (at 00.00 UTC )--Light current 23:33, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

  • Careful Lc, the pages are time-stamped UTC while Page history is your local time. Also, be sure to date header with the first question on the new date. I'll start doing it too. A few people looking in should help. --hydnjo talk 23:38, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Worst case scenario it's off by an hour or so, compared to last week, that's nothing, we were missing several days in a row, and it took almost 2 days to sort out the date headers. If they're only off by an hour, we can always move them foward a post or two, not the end of the world-- 00:15, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

Trolling policy in refdesk?

I saw a question posted to the miscellaneous reference desk today that seemed intentionally inflammatory, a poorly-disguised troll attempting only to elicit responses. I went looking for reference desk policy regarding trolling, but I couldn't find a source. Do we have a trolling policy for the reference desk? If not, where is the appropriate place to add one? dpotter 15:10, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

  • I suggested removing the word "politics" from the header once, for similar reasons, there doesn't seem to be any one policy though. Usually I just move those sorts of questions to where ever they're least likely to be seen--VectorPotential71.247.243.173 15:16, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
  • I don't think there is an 'official' trolling policy on the RD - and I don't think there needs to be one, either. Best defence against trolls: don't feed 'em. Or if you're feeling vindictive, ridicule them. Although the first is better. (I've also heard of some editors deleting blatantly pointless and inflammatory questions - also an option, but one to be used with great caution, IMO). — QuantumEleven 16:02, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

What happened to the 'dense material' thread? It's totally gone, and it was only a day or two old.

?? The one about ankle weights. I can't even find it in the edit history. Anchoress 19:06, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

  • Sorry about that, transclusion error, to my knowledge, it's the first such mix up since I've taken over the transcluding, and has now been corrected. The question should now be visible under the "August 30" header-- 21:03, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Template:Reference desk navigation

  • Even newer usage:
<noinclude>{{subst:Reference desk navigation|1|October|Science}}</noinclude>

With the date used, being the date of the archive, the template does the math--VectorPotential71.247.243.173 02:53, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

  • It still doesn't work for monthly archives, but we don't need to worry about that until October--VectorPotential71.247.243.173 02:55, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

Dividing the work load

Whoever wants to do something, just sign your name under the header.. can have more than one person doing one thing--VectorPotential71.247.243.173 12:38, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

Adding Date Headers

  1. --Light current 14:58, 1 September 2006 (UTC) Maybe I could concentrate on the Science desk
  2. I've been doing it for about a week now, but somebody beat me to it the last two days. ^^^ Grrrr. — [Mac Davis] (talk) (Desk|Help me improve)
  3. NP, I'll do it. --hydnjo talk 00:25, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

Removing Old Days from Ref Desk (Whether Transcluded or Not)

  1. I've been doing this for a bit now, but can't guarantee I will do it every day. StuRat 06:54, 2 September 2006 (UTC)
  2. StuRat, show me how and I'll do it on your days off. --hydnjo talk 00:33, 4 September 2006 (UTC) Sorry, I have to rescind my commitment at this time. hydnjo talk 23:42, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
Good, I might be gone for a week or so starting today ... it's simple enough to do:
  • First check to make sure that day is archived properly.
  • Then remove the line that looks like this (if it's transcluded) or just like a normal day (if not transcluded):

= August 29 =

{{Wikipedia:Reference desk archive/Humanities/2006 August 29}}

  • Repeat for each Ref Desk. StuRat 09:29, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
  • I hate to be a pest about this but I just want to make sure that I'm doing it right. So, how do I check to make sure that day is archived properly? And then, I think that I'm to remove both the date header and the template call. Right? --hydnjo talk 00:50, 5 September 2006 (UTC) Sorry, I have to rescind my commitment at this time. hydnjo talk 23:42, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
- Go to the "Archive" item in the page header and pick that link.
- Go down to the chart, find the proper month for the proper subject, then pick that link.
- Go down to the date in question. Make sure that the preview page list matches the table of contents you get when you pick the actual archive link.
- Page through the archive page and make sure there aren't any obvious problems, like large blank sections.
And yes, remove both the date and template. StuRat 06:45, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
  • I've done this thru Sept 9. StuRat

Creating New Transclusions

  • Put some concise instructions here and I'll look in each new UTC day. --hydnjo talk 00:38, 4 September 2006 (UTC) Sorry, I have to rescind my commitment at this time. hydnjo talk 23:42, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
I definitely don't want to screw anything up so, starting to do this on a party weekend makes no sense at all. Tomorrow for sure. ;-() --hydnjo talk 01:00, 5 September 2006 (UTC) Sorry, I have to rescind my commitment at this time. hydnjo talk 23:42, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
  • Remove everything from under the header, so it just leaves "= August 24 =", then add {{Wikipedia:Reference desk archive/Computing/2006 August 29}} directly under it
  • Then copy the content from that date header, to the new page.
  • Make sure the new page doesn't have a date header, and then place <noinclude>{{subst:Reference desk navigation|24|August|Computing}}</noinclude> at the top of the archive, where the date would be.
  • Make sure to replace 'Computing' with whatever the name of the desk is, and of course, replace the date, with whatever that actually is, then you're done-- 11:08, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
  • Note that this is somewhat time-critical operation, as you don't want there to be much time between deleting the questions from the Ref Desk page and creating the transclusion page, to minimize disruption to the users. So, try to do this late at night (which I suppose means late at night for Europe and North America, where the majority of English speakers live), and try to get it done quickly, don't stop to eat dinner between the steps. Also, be sure your computer is in good condition, as we don't want it going down in the middle of the process. If you are getting random "blue screen" errors, perhaps a reboot is in order before you attempt this operation. StuRat 06:57, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
  • This is going to be the last time I do this for a while--VectorPotential71.247.243.173 20:06, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

Adding Template:Reference desk navigationlite to New Daily Archive pages

  1. I did these for the rest of September. On the plus side, my edit count is now over 10 thousand: (Here's my edit count.) Do I get a cake ? StuRat 12:43, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Adding Old Days to Archive Page

  1. I've done this thru Sept 9. StuRat

List Table of Contents on Monthly Archive Pages Pointing to Daily Archive Pages

  1. I've done this thru Sept 9. StuRat

Creating Monthly Archive Headers

  • There is also the matter of creating monthly archives, but that won't come up again until October, and since Template:Reference desk navigation no longer works for that, you'll have to use User:71-247-243-173/RDmonthly--VectorPotential71.247.243.173 12:38, 1 September 2006 (UTC)
  • I'm not going to have internet access for several days, and can't guarantee that I'll have any after that, someone really needs to at least try to take over the transclusions/archives, because either way, I won't be here to do it--VectorPotential71.247.243.173 11:38, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

We're out of transcluded pages

So, what happens now? Do we just delete old posts?-- 13:55, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

Well, first you create an archive page and copy the contents over, then you delete the old day, yes. I did this for Sept 4-9, 2006. Did I do it right ? StuRat
Ah, hadn't noticed, looks good-- 12:47, 17 September 2006 (UTC)
Also I've worked your idea about linking to the monthly archives into the template directly, so it doesn't have to take up an extra line at the bottom, the point was to streamline the template, this way we can have the best of both versions-- 13:30, 17 September 2006 (UTC)

Non-answers to questions

There seems to be a trend among people who frequent the Reference Desk to engage in silly conversations with each other once they believe the question has been answered (or that the question is unanswerable). I am guilty of this myself on occasion, so I'm not blaming anyone in particular, but I think it would be more helpful if we just stick to answering questions. It would also save space if the Desk is not filled with unrelated comments, etc. Adam Bishop 14:44, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

But engaging in pointless chats is part of the fun! If you get rid of them people might stop helping so much here. They don't really do any harm. —Daniel (‽) 14:59, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
I agree with you Adam. I'm not perfect yet, but I'm trying to restrict myself to just answering questions I have an answer to and leaving it at that. I respect efforts to keep the RD more on topic and less crufty. Anchoress 15:25, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
OK it does get a bit out of hand at times with the converstation veering completely off topic. I think we should try to restrict this. However, the odd clever amusing remark would not go amiss. Aslo I think we have to look at the ratio of anwers to non answers given by any particular user.--Light current 15:49, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
Maybe 10 straight answers allows one funny/witty/sarcastic one?--Light current 20:50, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
If one must, at least aim it people asking you to do homework questions for them--VectorPotentialRD NEEDS A BOT (-: 21:28, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
Why particularly?--Light current 21:29, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
Becuause it's more fun than saying "please do not post entire homework questions and expect us to give you the answers"? Rather, just try not to scare away good users with bad seagull jokes--VectorPotentialRD NEEDS A BOT (-: 21:37, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
Yeah the seagull thing got a bit OTT. Once it got flying it was diffcult to stop (Sorry !!)--Light current 22:27, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
However, if we provide a sensible answer and then follow that with a silly pun or joke, I see no harm in that!--Light current 22:52, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

I do. People are looking for help, not to be entertained by you (and you also are not as funny as you think). The homework thing is a separate problem; Light current especially seems to think everyone is asking homework questions. How about if you think it's homework, just don't answer it? You don't have to be a smartass. Adam Bishop 15:17, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

I think you may be in the minority here Adam amongst those who actually do any work on the reference desks.. How funny do you think I think I am? And why just pick on me? Perhaps you just dont get the jokes!
I think you are being rather ungracious here after we have exhorted each other to try to keep the desk more serious (see above posts) in response to your original comments.
I do not think everyone is asking homework questions, but certainly some are. In these cases I may point it out but try to help the questioner without giving the actual answers. Have you noticed how I do that? If not, have look back over my recent replies and compare the page histories.--Light current 15:30, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
I don't know whether Adam is or is not in the minority, but I find your comments, Light Current, to be VERY ANNOYING indeed. For me, the reference desk would be a much better place without any of them. --Tagishsimon (talk)
Just what, exactly, annoys you most about my comments and does any other contributor to these pages annoy you to the same extent? And would the reference desk be a better place without my answers?--Light current 20:37, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
In the long time I've been here, I can remember no-one else being as garrulous as you, though that's probably because I'm a forgetful person. I'd advise that any posts that are not a direct contribution to answering the question are better avoided. The whole discursive / meta / attempts at humour, and the general chit-chat just gets in the way. I'd say (without lifting a finger to go back over your posts) that there's a 10:1 or 20:1 ratio of useless to useful stuff from you. Clearly we'd like to retain the useful stuff. --Tagishsimon (talk)
I invite you to prove that last statement (about the ratio) or retract it.--Light current 22:17, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
Can't be bothered. Don't ask for my opinion and then get pissy when I give it. --Tagishsimon (talk)
Since you cannot prove it, I take that as a retraction. In future I would be grateful if you kept inflammatory and aggressive statements to yourself. Thanks! --Light current 23:18, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

I myself have noticed that some of the medical questions which I attempt to answer have often already been answered in a whimsical way which does not seem as helpful as it could be. For most of these questions, someone knows the answer off the top of their head. If you don't and don't want to do research, it's probably best to just stay quiet. Anyway, that's just my opinion. InvictaHOG 20:47, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

I dont think thats me. But if it was at any point, sincere apologies!--Light current 23:35, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

While I would agree that the amount of humor needs to be kept in check (I'd limit it to about 50%, myself), I don't agree that the Ref Desks should be completely devoid of humor. That would make working the desk so dull that many who occasionally give good answers, including myself, would get bored and go elsewhere. I've also noticed that, since the amount of humor on the Ref Desk has increased, the amount of vicious attacks on questioners and other responders has reduced considerably (an interesting sociological correlation, isn't it ?). As I consider that unpleasantness to be far worse than humor, I'm glad if I've helped to foster this transition. StuRat 06:39, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

I am of the opinion that, if someone can be witty, pithy and informative in a single answer, then by all means entertain us. What is not helpful is a sarcastic, "funny", or simply garrulous response without any educational value whatsoever. Nor are meta jokes funny, really, enough of the seagulls already. Please. Yes, pretty much all of us are guilty of overstepping the mark at one time or another, but i also detect a steady increase recently, which i think we should all attempt to tone down. Rockpocket 07:40, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Actually I have detected a marked decrease lately (since the sealgull incidents). There will, of course be some editors who would like to see these pages maintain funereal seriousness at all times.--Light current 19:30, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
I have to say - this isn't addressed at any specific person by the way - when I first started posting to the help desks I was really put off by the cliquiness. Now I'm part of it I guess. Anchoress 08:25, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
I pretty much said my piece above in the "desks getting too long" section, but I'll repeat what I think was the most important bit here - the first response to a question should not be an attempt at humor. What does that say to somebody who has heard about this great Wikipedia thing, discovered the reference desk(s) and asked a valid question; only to find a reply that says "I don't know, but so's your mom!". And I guess I'll mention the secondary point - this is not a chat room or a bulletin board or an opinion forum. If you can answer a question, do so. If not, refrain. --LarryMac 14:28, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Of course any jokes or funnies should take second place in any replies, and should not be posted alone. THe primary purpose of any replies is to be informative. If you are funny whilst being informative, I cant see anything wrong in that.--Light current 17:39, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
You're persisting in pushing this "it's okay to be the class clown" approach. A number of people above do not agree with you. Clearly your view of humour and the appropriateness thereof, and others' views, does not coincide. Consider that people who ask the question (lacking the answer) may as easily think you are being sarcastic and belittling, as think you are being humourous. You, last night, interpreted robust criticism as "inflammatory and aggressive statements". How much more likely is it that people will get the wrong end of your jolly japes? What is wrong with the vast majority of the answers being as sober and straightforward as the wikipedia's articles? There are many other places you can go on the net if you want to exchange witty banter.--Tagishsimon (talk)
Show examples to prove your case or remain silent 8-((--Light current 19:09, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
I'm on Light's side here. Many potential answerers will refuse to read thru a Ref Desk that's about as entertaining as a phone book. That means fewer questions will receive correct answers, which is what really pisses people off. Wouldn't you rather have a correct answer and a joke than no answer at all ? StuRat 22:58, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
THanks Stu. Im getting a bit pissed off with all this whining by people whove never even answered a question here (never mind made a joke). Must have no sense of humor I suppose.
Do you think so, Stu? I think the opposite. I was really irritated and bored with a lot of the humour and jocularity on the pages when I first came there. Also I think casual, humourous answers encourage useless, insincere questions. Anchoress 00:57, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
I agree with Anchoress, when we start drawing questions based on stupid jokes, its gone too far. That said, i guess i sit somewhere in the middle, a level of wit is any text is a joy to read. Everyone can be genuinely witty sometimes; yes, even Light current (and that, folks, is a "joke"). Sadly, few of us are witty all of the time; yes, even me (another!). See what i mean?
Of course, to me, my comments are always funny, or else I wouldn't have written them. To everyone else its just another crap pun on bagels. The problem is that when every question draws 5 "funny" answers, the chances are that the majority of them are lame to the majority of people. Over time, that becomes plain irritating and distracts from the pupose of the desk. My solution is thus: if everytime one of us goes to write a "funny" comment, we remember how few of them are actually any good and how many of them makes the author look like a loser. Consider that there is no reason your comment should be any funnier than anyone elses (this takes a bit of humility and could be a problem for some Reference deskers, *cough* yournamehere *cough*, but give it a try anyway). Consider you will look like a dick in writing such a lame joke, then don't do it. Even if you can't resist one time in five (when your feel your wit is particularly inspired), then at least the amount of jokes will decrease significantly and the proportion of genuine wit and good answers will increase. Problem solved. Rockpocket 06:30, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
Im not sure what you mean by 'drawing ' questions. If you mean editors creating new questions from tangential replies to the original question, then I agree unless the new question is a serious one to which the editor would like a serious reply. In this case, the solution is simple: Ask the new question under a new heading to decouple it from the previous thresd! I dont think Im guilty of this particular misdemeanor (as far as I remember).--Light current 15:13, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
I meant less that serious questions that were "inspired" by jokes. I don't believe you are guilty of that, but the overall increase in flippant comments does add to the problem. Also, i'd urge you to please don't "punish" the desk for comments of a few individuals that offended you, but withdrawing your offer to archive. Rockpocket 01:17, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
My 2c: not naming any names or pointing any fingers, I think the fewer silly answers the better. It's a helpdesk, not an open mic at a comedy club. Aaadddaaammm 04:09, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

I find all this a little sickening, so please allow me only one comment. The Reference Desk was formed out of Wikidust one brisk autumn January in 2001 for the purpose of answering the following question (and you can check the history on this):

Why does my dog eat his own poo?

Just, think about it, and don't even bother replying.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  11:01, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

The RD is fine the way it is, and give light current a break geez --Froth 21:55, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

Agreed, fine the way it is, and I don't know why everyone is picking on lightcurrent at least he answers the questions, or at least provides more information. As for the others, I see this more as an Ask the Audience sort of problem solving rather than an academic sort. There is always someone who votes "carrots" as the capital of brazil. --Darkfred Talk to me 22:07, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

sociology experiment?

Is there some sort of procedure to follow when you suspect that someone is using the reference desk not for homework, or trolling, or as a soapbox, but rather as some sort of sociology experiment?--VectorPotentialRD NEEDS A BOT (-: 21:49, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

Its difficult to detect this abuse. All we can do is answer questions as if theyd been asked in good faith>--Light current 22:28, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
Any way, what sort of experiments do you think we are being subjected to?--Light current 22:34, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
I believe VectorPotential is doing research to see how we'll respond to the prospect that we're being researched, but without providing any details to the form of the research. Gosh, I'm already feeling all paranoid. Oop. Over it. -- Fuzzyeric 05:02, 22 September 2006 (UTC)

Unwarranted attacks

Owing to the numerous unwarranted attacks on me by editors who do not even contribute to the ref desk work in any way whatsoever, I have decided to withdraw my offer of helping in dating, archiving etc. Blame them--Light current 22:44, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Locus of control --Tagishsimon (talk)
Pardon me for further contributing to Light current's humiliation, but who are these supposed people who supposedly do not contribute to the reference desk? Adam Bishop 15:30, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
Oh yea, that's REAL mature, guys. Come on, all of you! Play nice! Aaadddaaammm 04:10, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

Link to bottom

Could we possibly get a link (at the top) to the bottom of every page? That would be simple right?  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  11:03, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

Won't the "End" key on your keyboard (right above the up arrow) do that already ? StuRat 11:23, 11 September 2006 (UTC)
Oh wow, goodie! Stop hax0ring my computer to make it do amazing things like that, you're freaking me out!  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  13:15, 11 September 2006 (UTC)
LOL. BTW, I've also hacked the "Home" key to go to the top of the page. :-) StuRat 13:37, 11 September 2006 (UTC)
And I have made the space bar function just like Page Down. Oh, and backspace is like clicking the Back button/arrow. Anything else you need while Stu and I are in here? --LarryMac 12:53, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Medical bickering

The medical bickering has irritated me for a long time, but this time it was so bad that I decided to remove part of it (including my own initial comment). Here it is:


I am 60 years old, I just had a new Cat scan done , I had a stroke in 1973 and my last Cat scan was done in 1973 but now my doctor says my cerebellum is getting smaller, I have been having balance problems and have been falling down alot lately and I cannot understand all the words in your articles and would just like to know in simple terms what is happening to me,I have been seizure free since 1980 but now my lip and tongue are going numb about everyday like they did just before I had a seizure years ago. I am on phenobarbitol and Dilantin.

If requesting medical, dental, or legal advice, please consider asking a doctor, dentist, or lawyer instead. 惑乱 分からん 19:25, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
Probably best to see the doctor first. If its a problem in your jaw etc, he may refer you to a [[2]] Maxillofacial_Surgeon. Or you could do it the other way round: get the dentist to check your jaw etc, then he may advise going to the doctor. Hope this helps.--Light current 22:10, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
Ah, common, leave it guys. Obviously, he has been to a doctor (and probably more than once to put it mildly). He just wants an explanation he can understand. If you can't give it, leave him alone. (or her) DirkvdM 05:51, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

The reason I removed the first comment is that the guy has just been to a doctor. So what advise does he get? "Go see a dentist". No, better still "Go see a lawyer" Wow, that helps! He has obviously tried to understand more through Wikipedia, but can't understand the articles, so asked here. I felt so sorry for this guy that I did the unthinkable - I removed someone else's comment. He really doesn't need people shouting pointless advise at him. I left Light Current's post because he put it more friendly and then came with an actual answer. I thought about referring him to the simple English Wikipedia, but that doesn't seem to be extensive enough to answer any of his questions. DirkvdM 06:10, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

Actually, what he needs to do is talk to a neurologist who can explain that strokes in the area of the cerebellum cause it to shrink, and that this causes balance problems. And he needs to discuss his circumoral numbness with that same doctor and see what needs to be done, because that can be a sign of an impending stroke. What he does not need is a suggestion to see a dentist! That's exactly the sort of medical advice that doesn't belong here. - Nunh-huh 06:22, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

I agree that we should remove bad advice from the Reference desk.-gadfium 08:49, 13 September 2006 (UTC) (sig font stolen from Nunh-huh)

I don't really think this is directly related to the medical questions we get. It is more evident to me that some question answering procedures, and liabilities should be better understood, or better defined, in order to make sure that the best advice is given in a proper manner. I have attempted to give extremely small amounts of advice concerning some very touchy legal and medical issues, and although I understand Dirk's reasoning in that these people generally deserve to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, the warnings are also equally relevant, when given in a correct manner. Wakaran's comment was definitely much too blunt, and find it hard to believe that he was fully aware of the situation before adding his rather harsh comment, but once in a while the contributors here need to be reminded, or remind themselves, that the people asking questions here are often not in the same frame of mind as we are, are much more susceptible to suggestion and insult, and are not familiar of the way things work around here.
That being said it is clear that proper warnings are necessary and should be required, but I believe only as a disclaimer to protect the innocent from what they don't know, and they shouldn't be used to deflect difficult questions. As long as people admit where they lack confidence, and don't attemt to offer suggestions in areas where they lack education (or at least explicitly admit it), RD can become a great place for people to begin informally collecting information on extremely difficult subjects -- the kind that most people won't talk to you about if you don't pay them huge sums up front -- that will hopefully eventually lead them in a good direction.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  05:33, 17 September 2006 (UTC)

size of the reference desk articles being *way* too big

One problem i find with the reference desk is that the articles are *WAY* too big. This causes major problems for people on a slow internet connection. Apart from the fact that it simply takes ages for the article to load, it makes editing an article really probmatic.

1. The buttons at the top of an article (project page, discussion, edit...etc) don't usually appear until the entire article loads. Which means to add a new topic is a pain because i have to wait for the whole thing to load. (i can't use section edit to add new topics).

2. When trying to add new topics, it's a pain because it takes so long for the entire article to load in the edit box. The article is more than 400kb in size! Which means a lot of waiting before i'm able to add a topic to the end of the article.

3. Often, questions here take a fair amount of time to answer (as in it's not just a one line response as in the help desk). So quite often, by the time the edit page has loaded and i've made my edit...someone else has made an edit and i'm in an edit conflict.

Now, this is all annoying, but tolerable. The biggest problem comes when an edit conflict happens.

Even if i use section edit buttons, when an edit conflict happens (as it often does on articles of this size since so many people are editing it), you get taken to a page where the top box shows the article in its most recent form. And the bottom box shows the edit you made on the older article version.

The problem is that the top box loads the entire article, not just the section i'm editing. I use section edit buttons to avoid the problem of having to wait for the whole article to load in the edit box, but that's all useless if an edit conflict happens.

So it works like this:

1. I try to edit the reference desk article.

2. I use section edit, and type out my edit.

3. while i'm typing out my edit, someone else has made an edit. Leading to an edit conflict.

4. i wait for the entire current page (all 400+kb) to load. This takes age. Once it has, i copy and past my edit into the correct edit box.

5. I click save page

6. The time it's taken for the entire page to load onto the edit box...guess what's happened? I'm in another edit conflict! Since people on faster connections can quite obviously edit the article much faster since they don't have to wait so long for the whole article to load onto their edit box.

7. so i start waiting again for the entire article to load into the edit box on the edit conflict page...

and so on. It gets even more annoying sometimes when i forget to leave an edit summary. Since i've set my preferences to notify me when i don't leave an edit summary. Sometimes, when i forget, the edit doesn't save and i get the warning message. During that time, someone else edits and i'm back into the edit conflict.

Is there anything that can be done to make these articles smaller? Like archiving more often. Or splitting the reference desks up further - so science can become several smaller reference desks. Not only will this make it easier for people who are only interested in one or a few areas of the general topic of science...but it'd make editing the page much easier for people on slow connections. Yaksha 07:33, 18 September 2006 (UTC)

I commiserate since I connect at 33 kbps. (My phone line won't support 56 kbps.)
Yes, it would be a small technical adjustment to make the page shorter, but the psychic adjustment by frequenters of the RD might be large. Currently the entries are on individual daily pages, but the main RD pages transclude them causing the large RD pages. However, the monthly archive does not transclude them (because it would be too long). The main RD pages could take the same approach for all but the current day's entries: list the headings present on each daily page (for the past 7 or 10 days) and a link to that page with the full questions and answers. I'd support such a reorg. I fear, though, that some might resist such an organization. -R. S. Shaw 00:17, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
"Currently the entries are on individual daily pages, but the main RD pages transclude them causing the large RD pages." <<what individual daily pages? Apart from the current RD pages (e.g. Wikipedia:Reference_desk/science) and the archieves (e.g. Wikipedia:Reference_desk_archive/Science/September_2006), what else is there?Yaksha 01:56, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
It doesn't seem to be working right now, but the pages are often arranged (while still active, i.e. not archived) so that each day has it's own page, and then all of those are simply combined to make the entire live page. You won't notice until after you've edited a section that has been already transcluded (usually a day or two back), but from those pages you can easily browse current questions by day, which greatly lowers the amount you have to download. It's a pain to do every single day, so we really need a bot... again.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  01:39, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
I don't suppose spitting the reference desks is an option that people are willing to consider? I.e. split the broad category of "science" into smaller categories. With wikipedia growing, the RDs are bound to get busier and busier in the future. Splitting will probably have to happen some day when the RDs get too big (i guess like the way the original single RD had to get split into the ones we have now), but sooner would be appreciated by those of us who have trouble with huge pages. Yaksha 02:59, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
It is being considered. I've been working on a new boiler plate for the reference desk, here, so check that out and let me know what you think. I've used StuRat's suggestion for the new page divisions, and I would like others' input on what they think of them, i.e. there's too many or not enough, or maybe you want to split it in a different manner. I also pretty much rewrote all of the rules, so I would appreciate input on those too. After the main elements have decided I'm going to rewrite the bot report (so that it applies to the new divisions) and try to get someone to make an archiving bot for us.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  05:02, 22 September 2006 (UTC)

I've had a look at it. I'd assume this is a design for the layout for the actual question pages? (i.e. not a design for the Wikipedia:Reference_desk page)

the search box at the top is defintely a good idea. I think the "ask a new question by clicking here" line should still be used. You'd be surprised at how confusing adding a new topic is to a new person. "wtf" is probably not too unusual a reaction when someone's clicking the "edit this page" button for the first few times =P

About the groups: i believe astronomy is apart of physics. The "health and medicine desk" should be named something like a "human biology" desk, or just "medicine". Because wikipedia isn't supposed to give out medical advice. So i fear "health and medicine" will give out the wrong impression. Other than that, the main page currently says the science desk is for "science, medicine, and technology". Looking at the technology questions on the science RD, it's all computer stuff. I'm thinking techn should be taken off the description for the science desk or we're just going to get lots of computer questions on the general science desk. Lastly, do we even need a "general sciences"? The only science questions that don't fall into the other four categories are technology questions and environment questions. So we could just have a "earth sciences" desk instead?

Can't say much for the other RDs since i don't look at them, but the science splits look good. Will look forward to having smaller RD pages. =) --Yaksha 13:19, 22 September 2006 (UTC)

It is actually meant to replace the main RD page, as well as the individual question pages (you can see how the layout would work for the general humanities desk by clicking on the link). I have kept the "add a new question by clicking here", though I'm not sure if it's visible enough. It's difficult to find a balance between a visually appealing and noob-liberating RD design. Astronomy could be merged with physics, I'll see if others feel the same way. I intend on putting a special warning under the "medical" area of the desk, which would be easiest to do if it was specifically made for that purpose, so I don't see why it can't be stated explicitly. We're not trying to stop people from asking medical questions, we're just trying to make sure that they understand who is liable.
I've made the general desks for a couple reasons. The main one being that I'm quite sure there will be a lot of questioners that can't figure out where their question goes, and it just makes it simpler for them. It's really just going to take the place of the present science desk, and I imagine that it should function fine with the majority of the questions being handled by the other science desks. I'll think about it though, it was just kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing anyways. Thanks for the input.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  15:24, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
"It's difficult to find a balance between a visually appealing and noob-liberating RD design." i think, since the RD does serve as one of the main places for questions by new users, having a 'noob-liberating' design is important. (unlike say, the actual articles, where looking neat and professional are a piority.) I guess the medicine thing is fine then, as long as the medicine disclaimer is clear on the medicine RD page.
With the general desk, i just fear too many people will go "nah...can't be bothered figuring out what science this is" and just dump it onto the general desk. Although i guess if the split happens, it'll become clear very quickly whether the general science desk is working as a general desk, or just a dumping group for people who can't be bothered deciding.
For the main main RD page, i think the links to the other wikipedia help stations are important. maybe a box at the bottom of the main RD page with the links to places like the help desk. Yaksha 02:31, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
Yes, I was planning on adding those in. I just got a bit lazy! What do you think about the general humanities desk then?  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ 
The layout looks fine. The only thing that's missing is the shortcut box (the ones that say WP:RD/H), which i think it's pretty standard for all WP namespace articles. And the medical disclaimer for the health/med page. (and I have to say i find it amusing that "do your own homework" has been moved up to second place on the "how to ask a question" guildlines =D) --Yaksha 07:27, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
I'm happy with it, too. However, since I presently seem to be the only person willing to do archiving manually (and even I don't always find the time), let me point out a problem. The time it takes to archive manually is proportional to the number of Ref Desks, and not the size of each, at least for those of us with a fast connection. Thus, if you go from 6 to 15 Ref Desks, it will take 2.5 times as long to archive everything manually. This means we really need to have the bots up and ready to go BEFORE we launch the new structure, or we risk falling behind on the archiving, at which point the bots will fail. One other thought, we need all the existing desks to be "continued" as some new desk, to simplify things. Otherwise, we could end up with 21 desks in the archives, the 6 old ones and the 15 new ones. This is part of my justification for having the "Other Humanities" and "Other Sciences" desks. StuRat 08:02, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
That's sounds fine then, we'll keep Other Humanities and Other Sciences. Hopefully they won't become a dumping ground for people who are too lazy to work other what specific category their questions belong to. --Yaksha 10:51, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
a) There's no shortcuts yet because it's in user space. Those will always exist and will be specified when/if this is moved to Wikipedia space. b) I have no intention of trying to force this on anyone before we get a bot. Once the edits to the layout are mostly finished, we can get a test bot running on it before it's moved to Wikipedia space, and that way it won't interfere with the desk as it is now. Only when we get the bot working am I planning on moving anything.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  16:15, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

Abuse on the reference desks

It seems like every time I look at a reference desk page there's someone abusing users for not spelling words correctly, or using incorrect grammar, or for the terrible sin of "dear sir". Can something be done to stop this? Isn't this biting new users? Luigi30 (Taλk) 14:46, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

I've just removed an unhelpful comment on the Computing desk that consisted of "e-machine, lawl", and I have to agree. There's plenty of examples of mocking the question askers for perceived dumbness which just isn't on. I think we should classify unhelpful and rude answers as vandalism, and deal with them accordingly.
(Incidentally, I find it annoying when someone says "What is the longest river in Minnesota?" and smartass responders reply with "Did you mean the region of Minnesota, Thailand, the town of Minnesota, France, or maybe perhaps did you mean the state of Minnesota in the US?" when it's all but clear they mean the US. Countering American-bias is one thing, being deliberately naive is another.)
(Incidentally, again, if people have a Windows/Mac/Linux problem, don't say "Install Linux/Windows/MacOS." That's not a useful answer.) Sum0 16:30, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for removing the e-machine comment; I was going to do so, but chickened out. You are correct though, it should be treated just like vandalism, and I will keep that in mind. There are certain editors who want the RD's to be "fun", but unfortunately the fun seems to be coming at the expense of helpfulness. --LarryMac 17:30, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
There is a difference between fun and insulting. Joking around is forgivable. Answering e-machine lawl, or pestering the user on grammar (and not even attempting to answer) should be reverted. --Darkfred Talk to me 18:06, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
I was about to chicken out, worried about angry messages on my talk page, but I realised that this sort of thing has no place on the reference desk. It's alright to joke around, especially if the question asker is "one of us" (i.e. a Reference Desk editor who is unlikely to take offense at a joke), and relevant lengthy discussions can be educational, but in the case of anonymous or Joe Q. Public users, we should think twice about whether our witty comment is really that helpful. Sum0 18:28, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
I note the latest abuse at Reference_desk/Miscellaneous#Life_Straw, in which the questioner feels he is being mocked by a pair of chumps wikipedians. We've discussed this at Non-answers_to_questions, above. I wonder if the perps will yet reconsider their approach and just plain take their "humour" elsewhere. For my part, I'm heartily sick of reading some of the drivel which passes for banter on the misc page --Tagishsimon (talk)
Yea, I tried to explain to the question asker that the other people's responses weren't meant to mock them, after I saw that they took it that way. I also try not to joke with question askers, especially if they are from another culture, making it unlikely they would get the joke. StuRat 12:44, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
That question/answer actually made me want to cry. Someone comes to the reference desk with a genuine, urgent query that we can really help with, and people joke around, hurt their feelings and generally dilute some real answers with a lot of chat, which will be hard to filter through if your English is not strong. Skittle 13:32, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
Here is another example of the "joking around" that really needs to find another home - [3]. I don't find this forgivable, because there is not even an attempt to answer the question. Granted it's not the most earth-shattering topic, but given some of the questions we've seen around here, it's not that bad. What it most certainly isn't is a cue for a couple of class clowns to exchange "witty" banter. --LarryMac 12:55, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
I'm assuming nobody knows the answer to "who's the hot blonde in the car ad". Therefore, the choice is between no answer or just jokes. I'm not sure that no answer would make the asker any happier. I suppose you might be saying that, based on the number of responses, someone who could potentially answer the Q might assume it's already been answered. This is true, but then again, many legitimate postings aren't answers either, like asking for clarifications of the question. It would be nice if we had a template we could place at the end which says "This questions has been answered". An answerer who thinks they gave a real answer could add the template, and the question asker could then remove it, if they aren't satisfied with the answer. Obviously we can't rely on question askers to add such a template. StuRat 13:15, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
I think that's a bit of a false dichotomy there, Stu. In this particular case, a pointer to one of the many websites that exist to discuss advertising, specifically television commercials, would be a choice. It might not be a complete answer, but assuming the question was asked in good faith, then it is a way for the questioner to perhaps find his information. As far as the rest of your reply, supposing what I might be saying, I don't have the foggiest idea where you came up with that. --LarryMac 13:38, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
Oh, and plenty of questions go unanswered. There's nothing wrong with leaving a question unanswered. --LarryMac 13:41, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
Well, I do that myself, and don't read through long replies, figuring the answer is likely in there somewhere, so I just go on to the next question. StuRat 14:00, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
Here's a fun one: This discussion on how long it takes to make a penny turns into 'pennies don't exist, cents exist'! thanks to User:Wakuran.
Just a comment. I haven't dropped by these pages in months and am not sure if I'm more embarrassed for the wiki or for myself for being associated with it as a Wikipedian. The amount of asinine banter and moralizing that is passing for responses makes the desk look like a messageboard inhabited by 13 year old evangelicals. If the quality does not improve, I sincerely suggest that you just close down the reference desk as you're probably annoying as many people as you're helping. And now I'm going to go away and try not to come back lest my temper get the better of me. - BT 05:10, 27 September 2006 (UTC)