Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 12

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Archive 5 Archive 10 Archive 11 Archive 12 Archive 13 Archive 14 Archive 15

Proposed "Question Status" template

LinkFA-star.png Answered

We need a way to know when questions have been answered. Here is a "rough draft" of an idea:

Barnstar-atom3.png Question Status
From the Question Answerer: I believe I have fully answered this question. StuRat 14:00, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

From the Question Asker: I am satisfied with the answers I have received thus far, although any additional input would also be appreciated. 14:00, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

I just stole a Barnstar pic, we might want to find a better icon, or leave the pic out altogether. We might also want to make the template smaller. Any thoughts ? StuRat 14:00, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

I don;t agree that we need a way (other than reading the asnwers) and for 1,001 reasons I'm too lazy to think through, do not support the idea of cluttering up the board with your banner. Sorry. --Tagishsimon (talk)
It is a bit big...considering how long the RD pages already are. Just imagine having about 100 of them spread out on the page. It'd become a horror even for people with fast internet.
Although the idea is interesting. How about just a one line template basically marking the question as being "answered", (i'm talking about something the size of the spoiler tag, possibly smaller) and can be put on by either an answerer or the quesiton asker at the bottom (so sort of as a 'closure', or showing where the question finishes getting answered and additional discussion begins.) And just assume question-answerers can make good judgement of what constitutes an 'answered question'? Yaksha 14:40, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

Ok, here it is with no pic:

Question Status
From the Question Answerer: I believe I have fully answered this question. StuRat 14:00, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

From the Question Asker: I am satisfied with the answers I have received thus far, although any additional input would also be appreciated. 14:00, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

And here is the bare minimum:

Question Status: Answered

Which version does everyone prefer ? StuRat 16:31, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

Sigh. A bit of pre-emtive selling going on there, Stu. If we /have/ to have the thing, I'd like version C, which would be a small graphic, justified hard right. Something like an image, red questionmark for unanswered, blue tick for answered. Height not to be greater than 2 lines of text, width in proprtion. Do not think we should ask the user to get involved in feeding back their satisfaction as to the answer; only 2% will undertstand & take the trouble. --Tagishsimon (talk)
I'm not sure why a pic template is better than a word template, if they have the same height, but here are a couple pics we could use: [1] [2]. Is there any way we can force it to always display at the end of the question, or will it inevitably get displaced as people add comments below it ? I suppose we can put a divider above it, that might clue some people in not to write after it. StuRat 17:10, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

A completely different approach would be to just prepend ANSWERED to the question title. Would that be preferable ? StuRat 17:10, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

I think it's a bad idea, for the reasons already mentioned as well as the fact that very few questions are so straightforward that they have one definitive answer, and IMO a big 'answered' or a green tick, or a banner or whatever, is like red to a bull v/v a lot of the people on the RDs, and will just result in a lot of bickering along the lines of what we've seen above (that wasn't an answer : that was an incomplete answer : that was a misleading answer : WP could be sued for that answer : let the qualified people answer questions like this, etc.) and edit wars adding and removing the 'answered' tags. Anchoress 18:50, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
Well, OK then, unless a consensus develops, I will just mark questions I asked and answered in this way. StuRat 18:56, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
How do you know you are right? If you answer a question worngly, it is subsequently ignored by other users, and if it isnt ignored, what even is the point of this template? Philc TECI 22:44, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
In some cases it's quite apparent when you gave the correct answer, like Q: "What US President's middle name was Milhous ?" A: "Richard M Nixon". StuRat 02:45, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
i'm not sure why you are proposing this. I'm not really seeing any problems on the RD in regards to questions getting answered. If it's because you think people aren't recieving useful answers to their questions, then perhaps a line saying "this question needs attention" would work just as well.
So for example, on the science reference desk, someone could mark this question with the template saying the question needs attention. Because it's from 12 days back but no answer has been given. However, this question needs not to be marked since it's only been asked today. I suppose this would allow people to scroll down the page and immediately pick out the unanswered questions. Since the vast majority of questions do seem to get answered well Yaksha 02:03, 22 September 2006 (UTC)

The problem is this:

During the week or so a question is listed on the Ref Desk I will scroll past it many times, but I likely will only read it if I think it needs an answer. Unfortunately, I don't have an easy way to know if it needs an answer. I end up just judging that questions with lots of replies likely have answers. This isn't a very reliable method, however, as some with lots of replies are not sufficiently answered and others with only a single reply have been fully answered. So, this is a problem in two respects:
  • I don't answer questions I could answer, because I guessed that they were already answered.
  • I waste time reading questions and replies where the answer was already given. StuRat 02:38, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
Modify the section heading. From "Abstruse question" to "Abstruse question -- answered". Then you'll be able to tell by looking at the TOC page which questions are still open. -- Fuzzyeric 05:07, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
I wouldn't object to adding (answered) to the question title like StuRat said if it was pretty clear that the answer was found. Maybe we could test it out and see how it works. I'd worry, though, that people would start tagging it on themselves thinking that they've answered the question really smartly, and it could cause a lot of useless debating.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  05:10, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
Well, the marking "... -- Answered" notation is really only relevant for people who are looking for it and pay any attention to it. Anyone can continue to edit an "answered" question. Anyone could edit away the notation if they felt it was incorrect. I'm not entirely sure there's a semi-objective way to do this without voting, and that seems infeasible. It's also likely to proliferate into " -- partially answered", " -- answered?", " -- answered!", et al. -- Fuzzyeric 05:16, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
people should only mark questions if they are 100% you have fully answered it, and as 100% sure as they can possibly be that they have answered it correctly (unless they are the ones asking the question, in which case they could mark it answered as long as they felt satisfied with the answers). And no making "partially answered" or "almost answered". I suppose there's no harm in trying. As long as it doesn't involve fancy pictures of fancy text boxes. Because there are over 100 questions on the science reference desk, if 75% of them get marked as answered (and most do get answered), that's either loading a picture 75 times, or loading a fancy text box 75 times. Neither of which i'd particularly like to subject my computer to. And we do want things to look neat --Yaksha 12:07, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
I find the fat "ANSWERED -> " annotations annoying. If at all, this should be something less intrusive. I don't know why we should trust the annotator's judgment that the answer is indeed correct and complete. --LambiamTalk 15:53, 26 September 2006 (UTC)
You don't have to trust anyone. You can certainly read thru it and decide for yourself if it has been satisfactorily answered or not. StuRat 16:19, 26 September 2006 (UTC)
They're still annoying though. The minimum template I think was a much better alternative. - Rainwarrior 20:39, 26 September 2006 (UTC)
How about a subheading that says "Answered", instead ? I put one at the top of this section as a test. StuRat 22:19, 26 September 2006 (UTC)
That's a bit weird looking, but much preferrable to the all caps ANSWERED with an ->. (P.S. This solution also won't invalidate wikilinks to specific questions from elsewhere.) - Rainwarrior 00:32, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
The only problems i can see is that the two "edit" links on top of every topic, instead of one (the extra "edit" link being for the "answered" sub heading) is confusing), but it shouldn't be too big a deal.
This seems to be the most unobtrusive method, i'm going to go and mark answered questions in this way on the science desk, as a test to see whether it will work. I'm going to mark questions that have been given answers which are obviously complete, or questions where the question-asker has returned and thanked people and obviously is satisfied with the answers.
If anyone sees problems with it, do say so. And before anyone asks, yes, i'll volunteer to remove any 'answered' subheadings i edited on if this turns out to be a bad idea. (it looks like i'll probably flood the page history doing this. apologies in advance.) --Yaksha 00:37, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

I've marked the first three non-archieved days on the science RD. Take a look and what do you think? IMO, the marking is very inconspicious on the actual questions, but makes the content overly long. I'm still thinking that marking non-answered questions would be more efficient and neater than answered-questions --Yaksha 08:51, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

Looks good to me ! Marking unanswered questions would be problematic, because they would need to be labeled when asked, not when answered, which would mean the question asker would have the responsibility. Also, an "unanswered" mark is likely to become obsolete once the question is answered, whereas, if a question is correctly labeled as "answered", that mark should be correct forever. StuRat 11:13, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
Yes, but as Meni pointed out, it makes the TOC ugly. Marking unanswered questions would mean questions are marked unanswered by default...and when someone answers it, or when a person is happy with it, they unmark it. So after a few days, most questions should be unmarked. Although most question-askers will not know to mark their question unanswered by default. And the bottom of the TOC will still look messy. Let's wait and see what other RD users have to say about this. --Yaksha 11:59, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
I thinks the effects this has on the TOC is horrible. An alternative is instead of putting a header "Answered", just putting it bold and in a larger font - though this way, the status won't be visible in the TOC. Another alternative is, instead of prefixing the title with "ANSWERED ->", suffixing it with "(ANSWERED)". This is visible enough, much less intrusive, but still breaks links (which I'm not sure are necessary anyway). -- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 09:00, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
I, for one, still strongly oppose putting a header, and support any of my two suggestions. About marking unanswered questions, is there a programmatic way to have every new question marked as unanswered automatically? -- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 12:12, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
uhh...okay, now you're confusing me. Exactly which idea do you strongly oppose? The current one that i am trying (adding extra subheading)? Or the one were we edit the topic heading? And what are your two suggestions. It seems like the two edits you made above this one are the only edits you've made on the RD talk page.
About the question regarding marking unanswered questions --> yes, there would be a way for people who use the "click here to ask a new question" link to automatically mark the question as 'unanswered'. I'm not sure exactly how, but i'm quite certain it can be done. However, people who manually edit with the "edit this page" link will have to manually mark. --Yaksha 12:32, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
I fail to see how I was confusing, but I will try to clarify anyway:
  • I am okay with what StuRat has done for the last few days, changing the title of questions to have "ANSWERED ->" in the beginning.
  • I strongly oppose the current one that you are trying (adding extra subheading).
  • I support my suggestion of writing "Answered" in a bold and slightly larger font below the header of the question, in a way that looks like a subheader but does not mess up the TOC.
  • I support my suggestion of changing the title of questions to have "(ANSWERED)" in the end.
-- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 14:52, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
sorry, i didn't mean that offensively. I just thought those two ideas had already been suggested by other people. So i thought your two my two suggestions were referring to new suggestions from you. So i was confused about what you meant.
regarding your two suggestions, the first "adding (answered)" to the topic title is going to make the TOC messier, although not longer. And it breaks links.
addiing a "Answered" below the question topic would work fine i guess. It's not as obvious as this method, but it doesn't screw up the TOC. I'd like to suggest a variation on this idea. That is, to add a picture to the question topic. I think this would work well because it is obvious (pictures are easier to notice than a single word), and it doesn't affect the TOC or links.
I've demonstrated what i meant on this topic. If you look at the talk page TOC, it's unchanged. However, if you start scrolling down, you'll notice a small golden star next to the "Proposed "Question Status" template" header --Yaksha 05:16, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
No offense taken. I think the image will be much more visible, but not more intrusive, if placed to the left of the title, not to the right. Also, I think it will break links unless you place it outside the actual title (that is, not between the == signs). -- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 08:46, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

Okay, i've tested it. The picture defintely doesn't stuff up linking. Try: Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk#Homework_Template. It will take you to the HOmework Template topic of this page. And Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk#Signing_posts will take you to the Signing Posts topic.

Placing images outside the == signs doesn't work. It disrupts the coding for some reason and you don't get a title at all

LinkFA-star.png == see what i mean? ==

== again == LinkFA-star.png

--Yaksha 10:10, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

Okay. Well, one thing it does mess up (sort of) is the edit summary when you edit the section. Since we can't put it in the same line as the title, a better option would be to put it with an "Answered" caption on the next line, like I've demonstrated in this section. Perhaps also a different image should be chosen - I think this image was once meant to annotate specifically good responses (though I don't see anything happening with that idea). -- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 10:37, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
aye...i can't see anything wrong with this (the star and the "Ansered" caption). About the actual picture...yeah...i guess. Although i don't see this "marking good responses" ever happening on the RD as it is now. How about something like a plain green tick? --Yaksha 11:19, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Sounds good. -- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 13:33, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

Answered - light green.gif Answered-dark green.gif Needs Attention Cross.gif Needs Attention exclaimation mark.gif How about one of these? --Yaksha 04:00, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

I don't know if it's the (sub)section header or what, but this link - - just doesn't work. I use my watchlist to navigate around to new/modified entries on the various ref desk pages, the above link is what lies "underneath" the right-pointing arrow. In general, I have to register a strongly oppose to this whole idea. --LarryMac 16:30, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
I wouldn't expect such a link to work, what's with all the 27's ? StuRat 21:25, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
uhh....we have no subsection called ".27.27.27Answered.27.27.27" isn't it normal that your link doesn't work? --Yaksha 05:16, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
That is the link that showed up on my watchlist page for a section that somebody had edited by using the Edit button on the "Answered" line. What is not normal is the fact that adding "Answered" subsections which might subsequently be edited breaks links. --LarryMac 15:41, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
I see. Anyhow, i don't think we're going to go ahead with that idea since it is causing problems. I've already gone back and removed all the "answered" sub headings that i put onto the science RD. --Yaksha 04:00, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Stu, the whole "ANSWERED" thing has been PISSING ME OFF ever since it seems to have been introduced. I'm truly disappointed that it was you, of all people, one of the Wikipedians for which I have the most admiration and respect, who actually introduced it.

RefDesk questions are unique. There are no "answers". I wrote a whole little thing about it on the Village Pump just a couple of hours ago. All my reasoning is there. Please take a look, and please reconsider the whole "ANSWERED" thing. Loomis 23:16, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

Lack of feedback, and idea to fix it

I've noticed that the Reference Desk has a lack of feedback from the people who ask questions. I think one reason for this is the unfamiliar format - unlike a forum, where they can simply hit "Reply" and give an answer, they have to find the "edit" link and then add their answer to something that looks to them like a mess of code. This edit link is separate from the link they used to post the question in the first place, further confusing people who ask questions, many of whom are not good with computers. Would it be possible to make a "Reply" button to simplify the process for them? Maybe it could be automatically added to each response, or people could add it themselves like the four tildes. Gary 14:23, 22 September 2006 (UTC)

then add their answer to something that looks to them like a mess of code. <<the problem is, i don't see how that's avoidable. When you add a new question, you can start it on a black box. But when you are reply, how are we going to find a way for people to reply without having to deal with the mess of code?
Perhaps we should just change all the "edit" links on this page to visually display the word "reply" instead? Yaksha 01:55, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
That's a step in the right direction. I was thinking more along the lines of something that brings up a blank space for them to type in, kind of like the plus sign button at the top of the screen. Unlike that button, however, it shouldn't have a title bar and it should just add a reply, rather than a whole new question. This sounds like something that shouldn't be too hard for someone knowledgable to program, especially since it is similar to the Reply buttons on other forums. Gary 19:56, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

New ref desk division

It's becoming quite clear that some desks, especially the science desk, need to be divided to reduce the work load and download for each page. I'm currently trying to finish up a working copy of a new model for RD over here. I would like to get suggestions out in the open to see how people would like the desks to divide up. What I am hoping for now is a solution that could do us for at least a year, so let's be safe and assume at least twice is many questions as we get now.

What I've got coded now looks like this:

   General humanities desk
   History desk
   Religion desk
   Popular culture desk
   Language desk
   General science desk
   Physics and astronomy desk
   Chemistry desk
   Biology desk
   Health and medicine desk
Computing / IT
   Computing and IT desk
   Miscellaneous desk
   Sports and hobbies desk
   Sex and relationships desk

Only the indented lines are actual desks, the others are just to organize the list. The word "desk" isn't a part of the actual desk name. Do not vote or poll on this, just please give me input on ways that you think this could be organized better.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  14:19, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

Aren't you forgetting mathematics? How about:
Mathematics & Computers
   Mathematics and CS desk
   Computing and IT desk
-- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 14:42, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
He did forget the Math Desk, but I don't see any reason to divide math and computers up any differently than they are currently broken up. Neither of those desks gets an excessive number of questions. StuRat 15:27, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
Actually, my suggestion is basically a clarification of what we currently have (or are supposed to have). -- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 15:38, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
I would put Computer Science with the rest of Computing/IT. Otherwise, splitting computer stuff between two desks is bound to cause confusion. StuRat 15:59, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
I would keep (or put) CS with Maths. --LambiamTalk 12:33, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
You two aren't talking about the same thing. I forgot to include Mathematics in the desk header, but I didn't forget to put it into the main RD page. Fixed.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  16:02, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
Fixed? Where? Am I looking in the wrong place? It's still missing on the list a few lines above here. I'm late to this conversation and it's not easy picking it up! --Dweller 11:40, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
Yeah sorry! It's not easy for me to find everything either. This list is actually quite old, though you're right that I forgot to write Mathematics back then. Why the hell do I keep forgetting it. Anyways, here is where you'll see the list of desks that we've most recently thought up. Expect changes.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  11:51, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

Basically, no, this would require too vast a rewrite of an already code heavy navigation template, there's no way to make these kinds of changes work-- 19:02, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

What navigation template would you be referring to? The code for the page itself is already done, and the wikicode for the archive pages just has to be copied over. We're not debating whether it can be done, it has to be done, and it will be.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  04:48, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
I assume you'll be the one to comb through all this date math and "wiki code" to reflect your proposed changes? Template:Reference desk navigation -- 06:08, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for your advice. Pretend for a moment that I'm not a complete moron, then consider again how you can construct some sort of helpful manifestation of speech. Or perhaps make an attempt to smoothen the work load for all of the people who are working so hard to keep this place running yourself. Help me form a new bot request perhaps? I can't accuse you of doing nothing, because I have no idea who you are, and I'm sure with that attitude you must be one of the more helpful RD editors in IP-disguise. Next?  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  06:30, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
LOL well it's not me. :-) But maybe I'm not one of the more helpful RD editors lol. Anyways, I'm in favour of the move, I just don't have anything to contribute. Anchoress 07:18, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
I think it's well organized, Freshgavin. Additional thoughts: Humanities: Do you want to include a category 'Legal Desk'? Language: Does a distinction English Language Desk / Foreign Languages Desk make sense? Science: Should engineering and geology questions be asked at the General Science Desk or could they be included somewhere else? ---Sluzzelin 15:46, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
The Legal Desk makes sense. Splitting the Language Desk might be OK, but there are lots of cross language questions, like translations. Which desk would those go to ? StuRat 21:40, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestions, they help. Legal desk is a possibility; I presume it would operate similar to the "Heath and Medicine" desk, meaning it would have an extra, specific warning label somewhere, because of unique concerns with the subject matter. I'm not sure if we really get enough questions in that field to warrant a full desk, though.
I'm sure there will be a need to split the language desk into English + Other at some time, but since the number of edits on the current language is quite manageable I don't really think we have to split it yet. It should be much easier for continued separation of desk topics if a new system is started, mainly because all of the templates listing the desks have been changed from horizontal to vertical style.
About science, this is one of the issues I want to get cleared up. My logic was along the lines of what you said; scientific disiplines not easily categorized into the main three go on to the general desk. I can't be sure how well it will work until it's actually tried, but we're all hoping I guess. It is likely that the number of science desks will be further expanded in the near future.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  23:56, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
I think as long as the general sciences desk doesn't become too busy, there's no real need to further split the science desk into more displines. I say this because i fear that if we have too many categories, it will only invoke a "huh? i can't decide what category this question belongs to...i'll just put it into general sciences" or worse "i wonder what category my question belongs into, i'll just dump it into a random one, i'm sure the 'librarians' here can fix it if it's wrong". Yaksha 07:30, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
I appreciate the amount of effort you've put into this, freshgavin. However, I disagree with splitting the ref desk further - I don't see the need. We have been over this argument many, many times (see the archives of this page), and, IMO, splitting the ref desk further only needs to be done if a certain page becomes so overwhelmed with questions that 'older' questions move 'up' (ie more than about two screens) too quickly. I don't see this happening on any desks, especially not on Maths. Splitting the desk further doesn't help with either answering or asking questions - all it does is spread the questions and answers over more pages, so you have to look at twelve or fifteen pages instead of two to find out what the latest discussions in, say, science and maths are. Absolute no-no, in my opinion. If it aint broke, don't fix it. — QuantumEleven 09:33, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the input Quantum, it's good to have someone logical on the other side! I don't know about you (maybe you're on a dedicated T3 line, or a University connection), but I, and others (read all the complaints above) think that the desk is already broken. The reason that the bot stopped working in the first place is because it was too big to handle, and now it's getting too big for people's computers to handle (and a real pain on mine, and it's not a piece of junk either). The only pages that have been split are Science, Humanities, and Miscellaneous; the three busiest pages. Splitting science into four may be a bit much, just halving it would reduce the load on peoples computers for sure. On the other hand, I see no way to divide the science desk into two equal pieces; the only logical separation of science is into it's 3 or 4 main disiplines. I assume you spend most of your time on Maths, I haven't seen you much lately, but you'll notice that Mathematics won't go through any non-cosmetic changes.
I was originally against further separation of the desks for the reason you just gave me; that it will be more difficult to browse all the questions. Only recently I've noticed that I'm spending more time downloading the pages and struggling with memory than I would be if I was just desk hopping, and since it's only going to get worse (this desk has more than tripled in size in the last year), the only solution I can see is to evolve. Most of the users that spend a lot of time on multiple desks seem to support it, although I can understand your stance.
I really don't feel that I've done that much work yet, I'm pretty sure the bulk of the work is going to be done when we find someone to work on a bot. If some nice guy suddenly comes out of nowhere and provides us with one that works with the current system, then maybe we won't need to make any changes for a little while longer. I still believe it will have to be done eventually. USENET would have never survived if they hadn't had the great idea to split itself into a million little pieces.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  09:47, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
I must admit, that's an argument I hadn't thought about, freshgavin (<embarassed> yes, I have a very fast ADSL connection), and it's a good one. Taking that into consideration, I would cautiously welcome your proposed split. Your subdivisions look good to me (and I like the 'look' of your proposed RD header - very nice!), with one or two comments: I would be cautions about putting in a "health" and particularly a "legal" desk. I was under the impression that we wanted to discourage users from asking legal or medical questions, and putting these desks in specifically would seem to encourage them. I don't know how effective the "this is not legal advice, please ask your lawyer" warning in the header is; I can see the volunteers on those desks answering 70% of questions with "go see your doctor/dentist/lawyer/shrink". Is that such a good idea?
However, for the rest, I like the way you've done it. The Science split will always be difficult (where would I ask about geology, for instance? Meteorology?), but I think your suggestion is a good start and if it shows bugs in practice, we can always change it. And there is always the "general XXX desk" for all those questions which don't cleanly fall under a subcategory, so I think it will work.
My vote is "go for it"! :) — QuantumEleven 07:12, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
"If it aint broke, don't fix it." i only use the science RD, but i personally consider a article that's regularly more than 500kb in size a problem. Archieving will reduce this, but it's not a long-term solution because the RD will continue to grow, but we simply can't continue to archieve more and more. --Yaksha 07:20, 26 September 2006 (UTC)
What you've done looks good. I don't feel strongly either way about making the change, but I would hope that splitting it up might at least make questioners think a bit more clearly about what it is they're asking. I would suggest making the link to the Wikipedia Help Desk more prominent, as we're still getting lots of questions that ought to go there, and these sorts of questions can make the RD look more cliquely than it already is.--Shantavira 07:41, 26 September 2006 (UTC)
Good idea, will do.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  12:29, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

I like the idea, but it would be rather inconvienent for the people that work there. For me, I visit all desks but math, everyday, many times per day. I would hate to have to visit TEN desks. — X [Mac Davis] (SUPERDESK|Help me improve)19:04, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

Why ? It should be the same amount as material you look at now, only split into smaller chunks. What's your objection to that ? StuRat 19:10, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
That and the fact that the system seems to be going towards complete transclusion as it is right now, in which browsing involves the exact same number of steps as "clicking into the next desk". I also think adding individual pages to your watchlist will work much better, partly because the update rate will be much lower, and because you only have to add the type of questions (on your favourite desk) that you're most likely to care about.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  06:07, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Repeated from [User_talk:Freshgavin/Sandbox/Reference_desk#Don.27t_support_--_other_reasons] : What we have to change, gradually, is the spirit of our RDs.
  • We may not be able to format perfect questioners, event with plenty of don'ts and subsections.
So we have to change ourselves. Answer what has to be answered. Your question is not well-formed ? Okay, there's my (beginning of an) answer, polite, concise, not too smart : Search more. Improve your question! Please allow us to give you the desire of coming back. It works! -- DLL .. T 21:38, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

refrence desk

i dont get the whole point of this

how do u become a "librarian"?Jmclark911 21:36, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

  • You don't become a librarian, you just answer people's questions-- 22:53, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
People ask questions, other people answer them. It's pretty informal. If you're fairly sure you know the answer to a question, go ahead and answer it. Just try not to spread too much misinformation. —Keenan Pepper 22:55, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
The point is to try and answer questions editors have that aren't answered in Wikipedia's articles. EVOCATIVEINTRIGUE TALKTOME | EMAILME 22:56, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
I forgot the most important part, you can of course ask questions too (: -- 23:00, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
Also, part of the function of the RD is to show people how to use Wikipedia. Many of the questions can be answered simply by providing a link to an appropriate article.--Shantavira 07:37, 26 September 2006 (UTC)
In fact, further to that, I'd like to suggest the creation of a pretty template to politely inform the questioner that this is an encyclopedia and their question is answered at the relevant article, rather than a curt Q: "What is a dog?" A: "See dog." (That particular question really did come up a while back!).--Shantavira 13:02, 26 September 2006 (UTC)
Technically, we're not supposed to handle questions like that. It is repeatedly stated on the front page and at the top of each desk that you should search first before asking your question. Saying RTFMLOOKITUPBITCH would be rude, so most users just save keystrokes and forward them to the article instead.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  13:44, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

About the RD size problem

Well, the RD does anyway!

Imagine this loaf of bread called the Reference Desk that is becoming a bit unwieldy. One way to make it more manageable would be to slice it thinner and another would be to make the entire loaf smaller. By making it smaller I mean to reduce the number of days that are not archived. We used to have a bot that added new date headers (now me) and archived the eighth prior day's activity so that seven days of Q&As remained constant. The seven day page was arbitrary and could and should be shortened. If you really want to contribute to this "overload" then please look over any or all of the sections and take note of how many questions are active after their third day here. I think that the page size could and should be cut in half just by reducing the non-archived days by half.

Now, that brings up the other nagging problem: transcluding and archiving. There is a robust community of RDers that provide an excellent service and are good at keeping things interesting with their expertise, wit and humor. If we could get some of this energy directed towards a bit of housekeeping in an organized way (I'm trying to do my bit) and if we can agree that three or four days of exposure is adequate then I think that the frustration level would be significantly reduced. This is only a stop-gap until a real bot could come aboard to relieve us of these menial tasks.

I propose that we concerned RD housekeepers (I'd name the others but I'd rather they nominate themselves) collaborate on this right away as these things seem to take so damn long to congeal. Sign up below: The RD needs YOU! --hydnjo talk 01:02, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

Hopefully it wont be much longer until we get a bot running, which is the point of the edits that are discussed above, above above, and above above above.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  04:19, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
Oops! Sorry, I missed that at all of the aboves. --hydnjo talk 14:32, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
Most, but not all, questions do go cold after 3 days or so. I suppose I could therefore support going to archives with things older than 3 days. StuRat 21:28, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
I second that. I completely support archiving things much sooner. However, not being around at about midnight and not being confident with the process, I can't really volunteer to do this myself. So maybe I don't count. Skittle 21:35, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
Skittle, your comments are always welcomed.  :-) --hydnjo talk 22:37, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

I'm having a bit of a problem with the comparison (above) of this Desk to "USENET". WP is primarily an encyclopedia project which has a few diversions to add interest and provide an outlet for our POVs. Providing the fine divisions suggested above would indeed get us closer to the "USENET" model which is exactly why I disagree. Trying to organize the RD as if it were as discretely classifiable as the Wikipedia:Dewey Decimal System is certainly possible but I think unwise; that's not why we're here. A half dozen (plus or minus) buckets for RD questions seems about right for its intended use. Sure, we could make this The Reference Desk if we wanted to but I don't think that that (ooh, I always wanted to say that that) would add value to our main objective. I do however feel that the RD has become a bit nasty for folks with lower access speeds and I think that that (ooh, again) should be addressed. The obvious way to do that is to shorten the page size and the question here is how. Adding more slivers would be the right thing to do if WP were in the business of RDing but, we're not. This "side-show" is I believe as much a benefit to the Wikipedians who answer questions as it is to the questioners. So, lets make things easier all around by reducing the "page-time" to three or four days and get on with the business making an encyclopedia. --hydnjo talk 01:22, 26 September 2006 (UTC) addendum: Additionally, I feel very uncomfortable with us sponsoring a medical or a legal desk. Once we call it that then well, you know. hydnjo talk 01:34, 26 September 2006 (UTC) addendum 2: Regarding StuRat's idea of flagging a question as "answered" take a peek at Google's answer section. A heck of an overhead for us to take on and for what intended benefit? I think that we should kiss. --hydnjo talk 02:38, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

I figured my comment about USENET would cause some huffle-puffing, but I think it was appropriate. I don't want or intend to sit back and watch RD become another USENET or IRC client, because pretty much all of us will admit the benefits of MediaWiki, but I simply don't see how you can imagine such a simplified solution will serve any benifit in the long run. Were there not, when the reference desk was first split into four, many opposers to that idea? How much shorter are you willing to let the archive processes get; 3 days? 2 days?
Your point about RD being a "side-show" is correct, and warranted. I don't see any signs of RD starting to share any of the 'pedias dominance, though, and I think the level of operation that RD should be working at is still a bit ahead of us, and I believe we prepare. I only know of one user who has dedicated his Wikipedia life exclusively to RD, and while of course we don't want that to start happening, we should deal with that when it comes up. We will never need a "Relativity desk", though it is possible that there may be use for a "Physics of the small" and a "Physics of the big" desk in the future, and I'd put a cap of about 30 on the number of desks in case of a maniac splurge of activity, but I don't really think that's going to happen, and I don't think we'll ever have to worry about getting that spread out.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  03:00, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

How much shorter the exposure might become is suggested by observing the reality of the RD dynamics. If the tendency is that threads continue to be active for "many" days then we should recognize that reality and keep the active window open for that "many" days. Right now, that reality suggests three or four days. Should that dynamic change to three or four hours rather than days then we should adjust our page display accordingly. So, how much shorter am I willing to let this get to is not dictated so much by our own convenience but rather by observing the need. I just don't care right now what that dynamic might be a year from now - we're not committing to an asphalt highway here.

So, how many sections? Well, as many as we need. If we notice that there is ambiguity within the sections with regard to some heavily questioned genre then we should perhaps add a section to deal with that subject - that is pretty much what has gone on 'till now. We have not preemptively guessed about a future need but rather reacted to a manifest need when it became apparent. To predict a set of sections in anticipation of someone's guess as to the profile of questions a year from now is... well, presumptive. Again, we need not align the the category set to match our current predictions. We have the luxury of not having to predict at all, we can just sit back and react to future happenings, a luxury that is rare in today's world. Thirty desks? That seems dictatorial, perhaps ten or one hundred - who the hell knows. We're not framing a constitution here, we're just providing a window to our helpfulness, and even now we get screwed around with trolls, homework, entrapments and such. Let's keep this "window" to our intellect, wit and humor in perspective - it's at our discretion and not as our mission. --hydnjo talk 04:46, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

I really like your prose. You made me smile with your last comment : ). I didn't mean to imply that I was predicting future needs when organizing the desk divisions this time, I believe StuRat was merely dividing them according to what he considered was required at the moment to spread out the questions to a reasonable degree. I am, on the other hand, trying to smoothen out the RD code a little bit so that it would allow for easier "upgrades" in the future, mainly by adopting a vertical desk listing structure instead of a horizontal one. If you still think that a revised division of the desks isn't needed, and that all our problems would be solved by shortening the archiving time, well then I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  06:08, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

I don't think about a dozen desks is too many. Besides, splitting the reference desks is something that i see as inevitable - since the RD is growing and will continue to do so, and faster archieving is not a solution that can be used over and over again.

Another solution that may be worth considering is to turn the RD into more of a place where "Wikipedia editors who encounter factual problems on articles" can come for help, as oppossed to a "come here when you have a question and we'll answer it for free" type place. Not saying that such question won't be welcomed, but it wouldn't be too hard to shift the focus. The RD is meant to be helpful to wikipedia in general, and not just a free question-and-answer place. So i'm thinking things like when people ask questions that wikipedia does already answer, simply give a link to an article, instead of writing out long explainations. And maybe say straight out that the "RD isn't a homework-help station". Not saying that we're going to bite people who ask homework-ish questions, but simply encouraging the use of the RD for questions that wikipedia doesn't already answer in the articles, and discouraging ppl who are too lazy to do their own researching and know they can get answers here. --Yaksha 07:20, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

Sometimes, I think the reference desk is better off on Wikiversity than over here. --HappyCamper 16:11, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

A dozen desks IS too many. Any more and that will be too many. All we will do is say "Go to the computing desk for this question, not the history desk." We need to market the reference desk AWAY from homework questions and "we'll answer any question for free" questions. Not saying we shouldn't do these or people with these questions will leave, or we even want them to leave, but we need to help more editors, and get the word around to go to the Reference Desk for verifying, reference adding, etc. — X [Mac Davis] (SUPERDESK|Help me improve)18:17, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

That's a situation the Reference Desk was never intended to address to begin with, and I don't think it will shift towards that anytime soon. I don't know what a solution to this would be. --HappyCamper 18:36, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

Yaksha, about "... turn the RD into more of a place where "Wikipedia editors who encounter factual problems on articles" can come for help...", you're kidding right? As if the RDs were to be replacing the talk pages of how many articles? I don't think so.

If we were to expand "horizontally" I would propose a Homework help desk where we'all could provide helpful insight and direction without actually doing the homework. I really do think that that would provide a genuine opportunity for us to shine a bit and without some of the smarmy responses fom the desks when encountering "homework". This way, there would be no false expectations. Right up front, we would acknowledge the reality and limitations of the service and provide a learning path most often from within WP. It's not much different than what we would do as parents but with a vastly expanded set of resources. This proposal isn't being made in jest (even though I can "hear' some of the chuckles out there). If we were to expand then I see more of a need for this than subdividing into narrower specialties. --hydnjo talk 19:58, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

addendndum: Regarding the immediate problem, do I hear any volunteers for transcluding and/or archiving (I'm doing date headers)? The RD sections are now running at ten or eleven days so if you are interested in dealing with the immediate "fire" (as opposed to designing the next model) then please come forward. I admit to signing up to do all of the above and then rescinding in part. I'd like to see some commitment from some of the other interested parties to do some of the housekeeping right now (we all know how to vision the future). --hydnjo talk 21:00, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

A Homework Desk sounds good to me. I also man the AOL Homework Desk, pretty much single-handedly, so am used to that type of thing. I will try to archive the Math and Computer Desks tonight, as they are the most far behind. StuRat 21:40, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
Well StuRat, thank you very much for pitching in, that will be appreciated by all of the folks downloading the /M and /C pages. How about a link for your AOL Homework Desk so that we all can take a peek. --hydnjo talk 21:52, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
I think you may have to be an AOL member to go to that site, but here's the link: [3]. StuRat 21:58, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
OK cool. could observe just fine without logging-in but then logged in to see if there was a difference (there wasn't). Without prejudice, the WP:RD/HW could be far more robust just because of the legion of folks who would feel compelled to lend a hand. If this ever takes off be sure to leave a link from there to here so that you won't have to carry that weight alone.  ;-) --hydnjo talk 22:34, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
I just archived the Computer Desk, and will go on and do the Math Desk after this. I had the same thought of sending AOL people here for homework help, but a couple things had stopped me. The abuse some question askers get here is one issue. Another is that this desk, until now, has specifically NOT been for homework questions, while the AOL page was precisely for such questions. Although, even if they sound like opposites, they really weren't, because, in both places, the students are ideally helped to find the answers for themselves, not just given the answers. StuRat 13:35, 28 September 2006 (UTC)12:46, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
OK, I just finished archiving the Math Desk. Tonight I will do the Science Desk. StuRat 13:39, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
OK, I just finished archiving the Science Desk. Tonight I will do the Humanities Desk. StuRat 12:47, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Freshgavin, who is working on the bot that you mention above. Is it actually a work in progress at this time? I only ask as it may influence some of the goings on here and some here may wish to influence the goings on there (I mean with the programmer). --hydnjo talk 02:28, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

There is nobody working on a bot right now. A bot request has been made at least once (I believe twice) in the last few months, and nobody has picked it up. Since the bot request only recently fell off the bot request list, I was planning on finishing my design and then seeing how much support it got from everyone here. Once the decision has been made, I was planning on re-writing the bot request and pushing it as much as possible, which means I won't let it fall of the edge of the bot request list. The problem with the original bot was basically that it didn't have permission, or couldn't move pages of the size that we have to deal with on RD, though I don't know the exact details. I have also heard that the problem is different now after some minor MediaWiki updates, but again, I'm not sure of the details.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  03:47, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

@Hydnjo - "you're kidding right? As if the RDs were to be replacing the talk pages of how many articles? I don't think so." No, i'm not kidding. And no, that's not what i meant either.

Ask yourself this - "What is the purpose of the RD?" According to the RD main page, the RD works like a Library reference desk. A reference desk in a library is where you go for help when you need information (factual information) but you aren't sure where to look. It's not a place where people actually answer your factual questions with facts. They answer it with directions and advice.

Obviously, the Wikipedia RD is going to be a little different. Especially since it caters for wikipedia writers as well as wikipedia readers. But it's the same general idea.

The RD isn't going to replace talk pages, but it is convient. especially for new users. ANd it can help when talk pages fail. For articles that are small and rarely edited...leaving a note on the talk page isn't likely to bring any notice. No one is going to notice it, let alone someone who can help you. Or for new editors...or people who aren't editors but just passing through, they see a factual mistake on an article. The RD is a good place to come to ask about it. It can also be a good place to go for people who're feeling too lazy to research up a fact themselves, someone here who studies in that area may already know the fact and save them the trouble.

When you are new, you find factual errors on a page, but you aren't sure about them, where do you go to ask? The talk page is not at all an obvious place. Even if they do leave a note there, but don't get a reply for ages because the page is not a popular one...where are they supposed to go? the RD is always active, visited by lots of people, and most people know what a "Reference desk" is.

That's the point. It isn't going to replace talk pages. Just offer an extra line of help. help for editors, especially new ones, and help for people who actually are using wikipedia to find information.

sure, this is also a good place to ask factual questions for things that you are just "curious about" and isn't in the articles, and hope for a reply from someone. But the purpose of the RD shouldn't be simply a free quesiton-answering service.

If the purpose of the RD isn't to be helpful to people using wikipedia and people editing wikipedia, then why does it even exist? --Yaksha 05:57, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

hydnjo, and all you other elves out there, I would like to help with the archiving and transcluding, but I'm afraid I'm quite a dodo when it comes to doing this properly. My computer at home is also a dodo who can't handle editing long articles, and cuts off half the page in the edit box. I have already twice semi-blanked a page without being able to revert. I am able to revert vandalized pages on my office computer, so I could probably help from there, but time structure at work wont allow me to work on any particular edit for any longer than a couple of minutes without being interrupted and drawn away for long periods. I greatly appreciate and admire all the work that is being done in the background to keep the reference desk happy and working, so I'd love to help share the load. Please let me know if there are smaller tasks I could be of assistance with - for the time being I'm just not capable of handling the archiving and transclusion.---Sluzzelin 09:03, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for wanting to help. The way I do archiving, it only requires that you put one day's worth of edits into the edit box at once, can your computer handle that ? There is one exception, as there seems to be a bug that when you delete a section it leaves a blank line in it's place. Not too bad for a single archiving, but add a dozen archived days and now you have a dozen blank lines right above the TOC. I do have to edit the entire page to get rid of those blanks, periodically. There is a way to edit the "zeroth" section, but there's currently no link to do so, for some strange reason. Unfortunately, these blanks aren't in the 0th or 1st section, but rather between the two. StuRat 12:41, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

Refq template

Ok. I saw what Shantavira recommended as an idea and I created a template that can answer many of the "See Dog" questions for us.

{{Refq|42|Leave personal message or press the spacebar here.}}


Welcome to Wikipedia. You can easily look up this topic yourself. Please see 42. For future questions, try using the search box at the top left of the screen. It's much quicker, and you will probably find a clearer answer. If you still don't understand, add a further question below by clicking the "edit" button to the right of your question title. Leave personal message or press the spacebar here.

Look good? Alter it however is best, and I hope it will increase our productivity. — X [Mac Davis] (SUPERDESK|Help me improve)18:58, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

I wanted this to be on the Reference Desk talk page, but somebody moved it, and I am guessing it belongs here instead. — X [Mac Davis] (SUPERDESK|Help me improve)22:46, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
Well here it is again. Sorry about having moved it without discussion. --hydnjo talk 23:31, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
Good idea. Not sure if I'll use it, but it will help to eliminate super short comments that could be interpreted as "rude" to new users. Basically works along the same principles as an alternative to simply typing "nn" at AfD.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  00:59, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks Mac. It looks good, but I think the "please remember" is unnecessary and presumptive. The people this is aimed at quite possibly do not know that this is an encyclopedia. Where's the page to modify it?--Shantavira 07:50, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Found it. Discussion continued at Template talk:Refq.--Shantavira 12:11, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

TOC in archive pages

The table of contents is skipped for individual archive pages with less than 3 questions:

  • Should we add it back in ?
  • Is there a wiki format, like <TOC>, to force it to appear ?

StuRat 14:30, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

__TOC__ forces the TOC to appear. -- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 14:57, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks. StuRat 12:09, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Add shortcut

I created WP:REFDESK and suggest it be added to the shortcut box. WP:RD is shorter, but I think the other is memorable too, exemplified by there being a Wikipedia:Refdesk already. TransUtopian 14:29, 30 September 2006 (UTC)

That seems like a redirect rather than a shortcut. But then maybe I'm splitting short-hairs. --hydnjo talk 00:13, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

Archive dump

I've just dumped the WP:RD/M from September 17 through September 27 into the archives as one heap just to help us "feel" how 'breezy' the /M feels this way. If enough (or even a few) of us feel that this is a significant navigational improvement (for /M from September 28 forward) then this experiment may motivate some of you RDers to pitch in and lend a hand with transcluding and archiving. If you poke around in the archives a bit you'll see how much organizational effort has gone into making the RD archives more useful than you would've imagined (and better than any other archive that I've seen around here). Let's not allow that excellent structure to wither from lack of input just because we don't have a bot right now. Also, lets not depend on the "usual suspects" to do it all for the rest of us. I'm doing my bit right now (date headers) and may be able to commit to more when things settle down here at home. But in the meantime, the sections are getting embarrassingly long and we shouldn't feel complacent about this "almost" front page. --hydnjo talk 03:14, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

This page window (three days prior plus today) is the shortest that I think reasonable. I'm sure that some would want it to be longer and perhaps each section should have its own window size, this massive archiving was just to give all an opportunity to experience a "short" page and comment from there. All that I have done tonight is of course reversible and should be properly archived. This was a "quick and dirty" just so that we all could have a look at the shortest reasonable page window and to ask (OK,beg) for volunteers to help with the transcluding an archiving. The RD has a robust archiving structure that enables all to more easily research the history of this place and it shouldn't go unused just because we don't have a bot right now. --hydnjo talk 04:48, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

Hot damn! These pages do snap up purdy quick now.  :-) --hydnjo talk 04:54, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
So basically you're just deleting several days worth of questions and pasting them directly into the archive? Without any navigation templates and without and indexes? Leaving the older archive pages red linking to non-existant future archives?-- 12:35, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
I agree with the sentiment, and 4 or 5 days probably is better than 7 for page loading purposes, but as long as you're going to move them to the monthly archive pages, do you think you could at least move each day to its correct page? rather than just "dumping" them on the monthly pages? I've sorted one of the desks, but I really don't have the time to do the other five--VectorPotentialRD NEEDS A BOT (-: 12:56, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
Yes, I suppose I was making a point for illustration. I'll move it all back this morning usless somone else fixes it properly as VectorPotential has done for /H. --hydnjo talk 13:18, 1 October 2006 (UTC) addendum: restored (except for /H). --hydnjo talk 13:57, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
I'm not sure restoring them is such a good idea either, since it puts nine days worth of questions back on one page--VectorPotentialRD NEEDS A BOT (-: 14:08, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
I've just restored the RD sections to the way that they were. My reason for the temporary "archive dump" was to call more attention to the "long" page problem and to demonstrate that shortening the time window rather than expanding the number of sections does resolve the current problem. --hydnjo talk 14:32, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
I'm almost done with all the catchup archiving, would you mind doing the indexing for the pages that are already archived? So far only /H and /S are indexed, even though /H through /M are archived--VectorPotentialRD NEEDS A BOT (-: 14:35, 1 October 2006 (UTC)


I'm not sure if anyone noticed, but our old request got moved to archive months ago, so I made a new one (: VectorPotentialRD NEEDS A BOT (-: 13:02, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

If you'd take a look at three of the really long threads above... well a few of us noticed. I was planning on revising the bot request to have it streamlined for the new interface, which is just about looking good enough to move ahead with now. Would you mind if I revised the request that you've put up now? Actually, how do you feel about the new layout?  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  13:28, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
I don't have any problems with you revising the request. I would have read the talk a bit more carefully, but to be fair, this page could use an archive too probably (: VectorPotentialRD NEEDS A BOT (-: 14:05, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
I've appended a revised bot request for the vertical layout.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  07:05, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

Rolling along...

...this page is getting hard to follow. What is the status of the RD? Am I correct to say

  • We need a bot...
  • We are temporarily relying on the goodwill of volunteers to manage the archiving...
  • We can use more help?

--HappyCamper 02:04, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. and Yes Sir.
hydnjo talk 02:40, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

ref desk science oct 2005

where can i get the archived questions of science reference desk dated 31st october 2005. this link just has questions till about 10th oct.nids(♂) 03:41, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

Hm...I didn't notice we were missing those questions. They would be in the page history, but I don't know of any tricks to jump to the time right when the archivals took place. --HappyCamper 04:05, 5 October 2006 (UTC)
Ah, found it. See this. Something happened between the archival I did, and the edits afterwards. --HappyCamper 04:06, 5 October 2006 (UTC)
Thanks.--nids(♂) 04:16, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

Possible light at the end of the tunnel

Well, I have been asking around, and we might have a potential bot. Can we try and come up with a list of things which the bot needs to do? As simple as possible. Dedicated developers are rare and valuable on Wikipedia, so it pays for us to write out exactly what it is we need. --HappyCamper 04:16, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

See reference desk bot request, or this for the old one. Wnerdabot will need a lot of work to customize it for RD, but that's great if Wnerda is willing to help us get our feet off the ground.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  06:39, 5 October 2006 (UTC)
I'm not sure how much effort is involved. We might have a bot next month, but this is uncertain. --HappyCamper 16:40, 5 October 2006 (UTC)
I have just recieved a notice from Canadian User:Martinp23, creator of User:MartinBot (Tawkerbot), saying that he'll give the bot a try. I'll keep in touch with him and see how things go.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  03:41, 9 October 2006 (UTC)
Okay, good. Keep us posted please. --HappyCamper 03:31, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Wow! I just didcovered this page now! I'm not Canadian, but am English/British, and I only run MartinBot - didn't write it :) (but I do write and run User:AMABot) :) - with that out of the way, I'd like to say that I've been happy to help the RD with archiving, and to thank you all for giving me somethng to do (which broke two of my personal records: longest program and most quickly written :))(and I'll post in the section below from now ;)) Martinp23 18:27, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
I have no idea why I assumed you were Canadian. Sorry! I'm sure I saw something, but I can't find it now. Oh well, same difference. *cough*  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  23:17, 14 October 2006 (UTC)
Hehe - don't worry, I wasn't offended (actually... slightly bemused (based on my England infobox (User:Martinp23 :P)). Ah well, the Canadians were pobably more insulted than me ;S. Martinp23 23:28, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

Do your own homework

This strikes me as ageist in its inherent assumption that students, the majority of whom are children, will jump at the chance to push homework questions to Wikipedia volunteers. Personally, I think a less condescending and ageist phrasing would be something like "Assume responsibility", since not absolving responsibility is clearly the intent of the phrasing. 10:36, 6 October 2006 (UTC)

That's a good point, but the problem is that it's difficult to tell a 10 year old to "assume responsibility" and have them understand what the hell you're talking about. We generally don't get many questions from mathematicians and scientists asking us to do their "work" for them, as they're usually at the age to realize that a certain amount of effort is expected of them. I think the whole "do your own homework" thing is just an indirect way to let people know that they can come here for homework help, as long as they're willing to do it themselves. A lot of people probably assume that homework is much too trivial for something like Wikipedia.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  12:37, 6 October 2006 (UTC)
Although we do seem to get a disappointing number of secondary school and even tertiary education people asking for help with their homework without apparently doing any work for themselves. But in any case, I don't agree with the assumption. For me do your own homework is not so much assuming that students like to push homework questions BUT we are simply saying that we don't (and don't like) answering homework questions so don't bother to ask Nil Einne 11:01, 12 October 2006 (UTC)


Well, the RD looks like it needs a clean sweep. I'm going to wave my magical Wikipedian wand and archive at a slightly higher pace, perhaps leaving only 4 or 5 days of active questions. This is simply a band-aid solution of course. Please feel free to reinstate the questions if the thread is not closed, just like what we used to do. --HappyCamper 03:36, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Humanities desk done. Now, the wand needs to recharge, so hopefully, the clutter at the Science desk will be cleared by tomorrow. --HappyCamper 04:11, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Science desk done. The Mathematics desk is next. --HappyCamper 14:59, 10 October 2006 (UTC)


Martin has been hard at work, and apparently is close to finishing the bot already. I'm just looking over everything he's done now, but you can see the edits the bot made at User:Freshgavin/Sandbox/Reference desk/Mathematics, and look for the same in archives. I think it's about time we put up a message on all the desks to get everyones opinion on the final changes.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  12:39, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

This is his to-do list, and it doesn't look like there's much left to do.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  12:40, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

I think it's about time to let all the RD users who don't look at this talk page know that there is a conspiracy to expand, redesign, hack, and slash the RD. I don't want to have a hoarde of people coming in totally confused when and if anything happens, and thanks to Martin it looks like we're very close now.

I don't think anybody would mind if I post a bold notice on all of the desk pages?  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  13:44, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

A "finished" bot is not a "running" bot. I'd rather we wait until we have the bot up and running first with the existing RD. That would give me a sense of security that at least we have something stable to fall back on. --HappyCamper 13:54, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Well that's kind of the thing. He's already made the bot for the new system, and I'm more worried that people won't approve of it, and he'll be forced to rewrite a bunch of his code.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  13:57, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
What new system are we talking about? --HappyCamper 14:09, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Has there been a consensus reached regarding a proposal to expand the number of RD sections? --hydnjo talk 19:03, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
I wish I knew why people are so eager to axe the mathamatics desk-- 19:32, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

How come it doesn't add the header template to the top? or index the old questions onto the archive page?-- 19:30, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Who said we were axing the mathematics reference desk? That's Wikipedian news to me. --HappyCamper 20:56, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Nevermind, I was just thrown by the new interface, it moved, but still exists, for some reason there seem to be even smaller, nested desks under each topic, I'm not sure what they're supposed to be for-- 21:08, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
What new interface? What is all this new stuff?? As far as programming as concerned, Martin is a star. I'm sure it's pretty simple to just tweak things here and there to iron things out. I don't think we're getting a new reference desk for Christmas, just a new reference desk bot. --HappyCamper 21:53, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
This new interface, all the way on the right, 15 seperate subheadings, of course that's probably all just placeholder right now, so I guess as long as the bot works, which it seems to, that's all that matters-- 00:44, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
Happy Camper you're totally confusing me. Isn't that the interface we were talking about in talk space? Anyways, the current 15 desks was decided by about 6 or 7 users, and the way they're arranged under headings is simply to help organize them; it would be just as easy to put them in a single list. There have been a few users suggesting a Legal desk under humanities, not dissimilar to the health and medicine desk, which will eventually have a big warning at the top for questioners and answerers. A few desks like "Religion" and "Popular culture" might not be needed, but it's almost impossible to tell. This must be decided now, so I'm going to post a message across all of the desks to get everyone's attention and I hope I'm ready to handle the big swarm of negativity that I fear is inevitable.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  06:12, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
Okay, well, I haven't seen too much activity about that yet, so making the message more prominent might help. --HappyCamper 17:44, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the compliment HC *twinkles like a star* - but really, when I realised that anything could change at any time, I made the path to the archive and RD itself a variable, and the desk is already one. This just means that I need to, in the first case, change one line of code to make it edit elsewhere. In the latter case, I cans et it to edit any number of desks with any number of different names (hoepfully!). I notice above that User: has expressed some concerns about some earlier edits - I think I've ironed out those bugs now, but would invite you to take a look at [4] after 0:00 UTC, to see how the bot is working) please report any problems :). At the moment, the bot is taking pages from Freshgavin's user space, and putting them in the WP archive space (not the current one - its slightly different so no chance of a clash). The bot is going through WP:BRFA now - when that's finished, I'll take steps to make the bot live - in the meantime, I'll continue testing (there may be a problem with the server I'm running it on - waiting for confirmation on tonight's test). Martinp23 18:48, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
Great stuff - from what I can tell, I think the bot is archiving correctly. Can we try something in Freshgavin's sandbox? Let's try cutting and pasting an entire desk over, and see what happens perhaps? --HappyCamper 22:28, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
Good idea - gives the bot a chance to archive more than one topic. I'll copy/paste a different desk than the mathematics one, just for testing purposes (I'll do Miscellaneous). On the WP:BRFA front, the bot has been approved for trails now, so it'll be at least a week until full approval. Thanks - Martinp23 18:31, 13 October 2006 (UTC)
Changed my mind - now doing Computers and technology desk (on Freshgavin's space). See the bot contribs (after 00:00UTC tonight) for exactly what has happened Martinp23 18:49, 13 October 2006 (UTC)

(deindenting)Small problem with last night's test - is it standard to use =Title= or = title = on the RD's? Last night, the bot couldn't recognise the =title= form, so made nonsensical edits (fixed now). Martinp23 10:38, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

Ah, I see you were referring to the spaces. = Date = seems to be the standard across the board for dates, though there's an obvious tendancy for human editors to adopt the =Date= form. It would be best if the bot could recognize both, but since it will be adding all of the dates by itself, the only reason to do so would be to handle times when it isn't able to create the date correctly.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  21:43, 14 October 2006 (UTC)
Yep - the spaces. I'll look at getting the bot to recognise both forms before it goes into full-scale editting (for tonight, at least, it'll do with spaces, as I've changed your sandbox to contain). Martinp23 22:02, 14 October 2006 (UTC)
Feedback - hey! Take a look at this: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Archives/Mathematics/October_2006 - the date label on the 13th seems to be archived incorrectly. Was a carrage return missed? Yes, thanks for making it deal with both forms. It will make the bot more robust. --HappyCamper 14:31, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
Thanks! I noticed that yesterday, and I thought I'd fixed it, but obviously didn't use the right version of the program. Thanks for reminding me! Martinp23 14:56, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
Hi - just a progress report: The bot really messed up last night - in that it crashed. This was because of some of my code not being written in that version of it (again!) - namely the code to make it accept both =title= and = title =. I've fixed that now, but in the process of doing so, wiped the monthly archives. I've fixed the bug that caused that as well (seems to be a tempremental one - doens't happen on server, but does on this PC). To ensure some degree of continuity, I'm reverting the montly archives to yesterday, but don't be alarmed if you don't see last night's archive on them - it won't happen again! - I've implemented some fail-safes on it to prevent anything like that ever happening. Martinp23 20:20, 16 October 2006 (UTC)
I have a question...How does the bot edit the page? Does it edit the entire page, or just the sections one by one? Are you using some sort of regular expression to parse the text? --HappyCamper 00:57, 17 October 2006 (UTC)
OK - the bot edits the whole page at once, and parses it find the regex string "[[ ?" + month + date + " ?]]". The ?marks allow it to pick up the space, or lacktherof, in some headers. Tonight, I'll use the new build of RefDeskBot to get some (hopefully) good results. Martinp23 16:18, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

(deindenting) Hi - The bot is now ready to do its stuff, but is awaiting approval from the WP:BAG. When it is approved, would you like me to run a job for each of the days remaining on each desk until the proper level is reached? Martinp23 17:13, 21 October 2006 (UTC)

Since the archives go into a different subpage, it's not really a big problem, but we can manually archive what's left to get them all on the same day, which should only take about an hour (assuming at least one of the few people that know how to archive is online). Just leave a message and it will get done; the headers are already complete. Then there would be no problem running the bot normally, and we wouldn't have to worry about the old archives anymore.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  07:19, 22 October 2006 (UTC)
I've created the placeholder archives page in the Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives subpage, here, and so new archives will appear on the table from this template/page.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  07:36, 22 October 2006 (UTC)
OK - just give me the word when you're happy for the bot to start doing normal archives ;) Martinp23 08:36, 22 October 2006 (UTC)
OK, all pages archived up to October 16th; ready to go.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  03:31, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

That special template

I'm almost certain there is a template somewhere which helps with the dates. Um......where is it? :-) --HappyCamper 14:13, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

  • You don't mean this template do you? It does its own date math-- 19:28, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
<noinclude>{{subst:Reference desk navigation|1|October|Science}}</noinclude>
There's also Template:lmonth Template:nmonth. Check my contributions if you're having problems finding the new pages, and also check the talk page for the new layout because I linked most of the stuff there.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  05:01, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
Those are really just there to condense the date math, otherwise there'd be a page or so with of meta variables sprawled across the main template, there's also a dozen others that calculate the previous day, year, archive, etc.. I'm not sure how useful they are on their own-- 10:19, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
Are you VectorPotential?  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  11:55, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
I think VectorPotential is 71-247-243-173. --hydnjo talk 14:41, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
Yes, right. So this is just, anonymous guy. OK.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  23:39, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
Actually I am VectorPotential, this just isn't my computer-- 18:23, 13 October 2006 (UTC)


Every question about Nazis turns into the holocaust did not happen yes it did no it didn't shut up you Jew, every question about homosexuals turns into you said homosexual I'm offended I'm just like you it's not a disease straight people are not normal what is normal anyway! Isn't this supposed to be for answering questions, not a giant soapbox for your opinion and how everyone else is wrong wrong wrong? Luigi30 (Taλk) 16:27, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Yup, the RD is not a soapbox. Simple thing is to put *snip* as an edit summary, and simply remove the post if it gets really really bad. Just play it by ear. --HappyCamper 17:14, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
I support that, as I've removed "useless" and "offensive" off-topic comments on a few occasions in the past.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  11:25, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
As an aside, that's just one reason why the reference desk is such a nice place on Wikipedia. We simply let people act like responsible people, and they will behave just like that. Generally, what works for the desks is measured common sense. --HappyCamper 22:26, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
Indeed! --hydnjo talk 23:50, 13 October 2006 (UTC)
Whoa, that is not done. It's vandalism. Your offense is another's person's sharp insight. I would agree with marking off-topic, useless, offensive and joking answers as such, so people can choose to ignore them, but removing people's comments is just not done. Especially if the signature is removed, so the person who made the remark may never notice and can therefore not defend himself. By your own reasoning I should now remove your post, but by my own reasoning I shouldn't (alas :) ). DirkvdM 07:22, 18 October 2006 (UTC)
"Shut up you Jew" is not a sharp insight by any stretch of the English language, (we all understand what context it is being used in here), and I defend my right to remove comments that are easily classifiable as WP:PA or WP:Vandalism.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  09:17, 18 October 2006 (UTC)

Shouldn't the reference desk be in the Help namespace?

Well? It doesn't pertain to any policy or process on wikipedia, so why is it in the wikipedia namespace? The ikiroid (talk·desk·Advise me) 22:25, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

I think it used to be way back when it was started, but it was soon moved here. Help pages are usually taken as WP policy, and are written by admins and sysops. RD is different, so I guess they put it in here to give it a more ambiguous presence.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  22:28, 14 October 2006 (UTC)
So then why don't we move it? The ikiroid (talk·desk·Advise me) 23:04, 14 October 2006 (UTC)
For the same reasons I just stated.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  23:11, 14 October 2006 (UTC)
Oh. I don't think abiguity is a very good reason, it sounds like more of an excuse. But you are probably right about the reasoning behind the move. Aside from all of that, help pages don't explicity describe wikipedia, do they? They people. Like this one. That's my idea. The ikiroid (talk·desk·Advise me) 23:25, 14 October 2006 (UTC)
Meh, never mind, you are probably right. For some reason I'm writing like a total ass today. The ikiroid (talk·desk·Advise me) 23:26, 14 October 2006 (UTC)


... that WP is a physical building like a library. And then imagine that one of the departments within the WP building is a place called the "Reference Desk" (RD). Folks who visit the building are allowed (even encouraged) to visit the RD and ask questions at the appropriate section of the RD (there are six sections). They've been told that the RD is the place to ask "factual" questions and to be careful about things like:

  • Be specific,
  • Include both a title and a question,
  • Be courteous,
  • Don't write in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS,
  • Do your own homework,
  • Be patient,
  • Do not include your e-mail address,
  • Edit your question for more discussion,
  • Sign your question. Type --~~~~ at its end,
  • Check back for updates,
  • Do not double post,
  • If requesting medical or legal advice, please consider asking a doctor or lawyer instead (but come back in a couple of weeks and we may have a legal and medical desk),
  • Oh, and when you do come back in a couple of weeks there may be twelve to fifteen separate desks to choose from,
  • And woe upon you if you ask ask at the wrong desk,
  • and above all - DO NOT ASK A STUPID QUESTION.

All comfy now then, What is your question (and it better not be stupid)! Oh, and almost forgot, welcome to the Reference desk (unless of course you have a question which we deem to be stupid).
hydnjo talk 05:36, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

Catch up

Okay, so I've been archiving a bit of the RD lately...I need a little help with creating the index of questions. See Wikipedia:Reference desk archive/Mathematics/October 2006 for example. I haven't got to this yet. I felt it more important to shorten the active RD pages first, and then fiddle with the archives. --HappyCamper 20:13, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

If the bot still isn't ready I think it's time to call Werdnabot

At the very least we can use Werdnabot (talk · contribs) to remove posts by date, and dump them on the monthly archive pages. I realize there are several bots in progress right now, but there needs to be some way of keeping the page sizes down in the meantime. Other wise everything falls apart, for instance, the Humanities desk is currently 1.15 MegaBytes, not KB, but MB. Pages that can be measured in MB are in desperate need of temporary stop gap measures to keep them running-- 23:59, 22 October 2006 (UTC)

The bot is ready. As soon as I have time to manually fully archive every page one last time (I'm at work now) Martin said he can start running it.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  00:13, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
The point is that as of right now, it simply isn't being done, and the bot doesn't seem 100% yet. That means we could easily have another week of pages going over 1500 KB, which is really far too much, WP:SIZE puts the advised page size at no larger than 50 KB, compare that with 1.15 MB-- 00:15, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
Btw, thank you for tackling the Humanities desk tonight, it really needed it, and I just did the Science desk, so I wasn't looking foward to doing another one -- 00:19, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
  • PS, it seems Werdna is on a permanent wikibreak, so this actually isn't an option, although I think EssjayBot II works the same way as werdnabot so it might still be possible-- 00:58, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
Hi - the bot has been ready and woring for about a week now, but has been waiting on WP:BRFA (to get approved) and for the desks to be ready for archival. I'm preparing the bot to do an archival run tonight right now, seeing as everything is in place. Martinp23 09:03, 23 October 2006 (UTC)