Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 16

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RefDeskBot (talk · contribs)

Putting aside all the squabbling for a second, has anyone else noticed that RefDeskBot (talk · contribs) has been down since December 2nd and no one even noticed? -- 16:05, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

It's not an emergency, I talked to Martin and the Bot will be back up tonight-- 16:45, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

It does seem to be getting a bit long, but that's only two days ago, not time to panic yet (when exactly is the proper time to panic, anyway ?). StuRat 16:51, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
I think the longest any one desk has ever gotten was about 3500 KB or 3.5 MB, so anything short of that probably isn't going to break wikipedia, at least going on past experiences-- 16:54, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm tearing my hair out here - my internet's being really unstable :(, but the bot is runnng now, slowly :). Thanks Martinp23 18:34, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

Cool, thanks. StuRat 19:25, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
Done :D. If it misses just one day, it would help hugely if you could tell me on my talk page, so I can run a job and start the bot up again, rather than waiting 'til I notice :) Martinp23 20:10, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
Will do. StuRat 20:52, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

I feel this comment is inappropriate

It's not funny, it's off-topic, it adds nothing to the RD or the project, and as a woman I'm offended by it. Anchoress 02:51, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree; gender-based generalizations are insulting to everyone, and certainly do not constitute facts. I'll ask the user to remove it, if you haven't already. -- SCZenz 02:57, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I already removed it. Perhaps this was too bold, but removing it seemed appropriate to me. Obviously irrelevant. Friday (talk) 02:58, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't believe it is irrelevant. The subject is the motivation for subjects to pose in certain ways. As such, the motivation of women who pose for pornographic photos is related. (Of course, the motivation is quite obvious if they are paid, but less so otherwise.) StuRat 05:06, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I was about to amend it. But obviously you couldnt wait.--Light current 03:29, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

THB comment

Assuming that it should have been removed, I strongly feel that Light current should have been given the chance to remove it himself, that it was not quite offensive enough to remove on sight, maybe because it was not intended to be nasty or trolling. I'm confused about the Ref Desk as far as the practice of editing others' comments as is done in articles. I was under the impression that it functioned more in the manner of a talk page (in the manner of, not as) in that it is considered rude to mess with other people's contributions. -THB 04:45, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
If we're bringing back the talk page analogy, see Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines: "Irrelevant discussions are subject to removal." It may be polite to give people a chance to remove inappropriate comments, but it is by no means required. When the remark is more impolite than the removal, well, Friday's decision was quite reasonable. -- SCZenz 04:49, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
This is also on the Talk page guidelines page:
Don't edit others' comments: Refrain from editing others' comments without their permission (with the exception of prohibited material such as libel and personal details). It is not necessary to bring talk pages to publishing standards, so there is no need to correct typing errors, grammar, etc. It tends to irritate the users whose comments you are correcting. Never edit someone's words to change their meaning.
-THB 04:56, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I've been through this at great length with StuRat; it's simply not true that "refrain from editing others' comments" contradicts the part of the guideline I cited. I would never dream of editing someone's comments to change their meaning, but I would in some cases remove off-topic comments, and that's allowed. -- SCZenz 05:06, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
In many circumstances, I'd agree that asking the author to edit their own comments might be a good thing. However I chose not to do that in this case- I have seen enough similarly inappropriate comments from Light current that I cannot trust his own judgment on what is or is not appropriate. Since he doesn't know how to make his own edits appropriate, I did it for him. Sorry to be so blunt about it, but that's the situation here. Friday (talk) 04:54, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
It was certainly not meant to be offensive to anyone, just an observation on what power photographers have over their subjects. Obviously some took it to be offensive. Offensiveness when not intended is not always obvious to the poster. 8-(--Light current 04:53, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

It wasn't completely off-topic, as the topic is various poses favored by photographers (specifically, smiling versus not smiling). As such, the Girls Gone Wild pose of lifting their shirts for the camera seems closely related, to me. StuRat 04:55, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Actually, StuRat, I was going to give the Girls Gone Wild thing as an example as well, but I don't feel comfortable actually supporting the comment that was removed. I did reflect on it when I first saw it but never thought about removing it or asking for it to be removed, it just wasn't at that level. -THB 04:59, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

It seems to me there is a wide gulf between supporting a post and calling for it's removal. There are many, many posts which I don't personally support, but whose removal I would nevertheless oppose. This reminds me of the quote: "I may not agree with what you said, but I will fight to the death your right to say it." This, apparently, is the diff between me and the numerous deletionists we have accumulated here, who often seem to want to delete anything they don't personally agree with. StuRat 05:10, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I support your right to say whatever you want on your own website. The servers our comments are hosted by belongs to the Wikimedia Foundation. -- SCZenz 05:13, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
That's rather rude, basically telling me to "get lost"/"shove off"/"clear off". Try to be more civil. Or, perhaps I should reply in kind, and suggest that you go create your own website, where you can be the absolute dictator and delete anything you don't like. StuRat 05:21, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
It's not rude. It's a basic statement that you don't seem to be grasping- free speech arguments are irrelevant to Wikipedia. This is essentially private property - the foundation owns it. They do get to decide how it's used, and the purpose of this website is to be an encyclopedia, not a forum for free speech. Friday (talk) 05:27, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
They get to decide, not you. StuRat 05:34, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
That's not at all what I intended; I didn't mean anything personal at all. I was rather using the impersonal "you," just as in the quote you gave. The point is, political free speech rights do not extend to websites owned by others. The Wikimedia Foundation has a fundamental principle of "the 'wiki process' as the final authority on content" and the community has agreed that "Wikipedia is not a forum for unregulated free speech". Thus your arguments and quotes from philosophers about political free speech are irrelevant. -- SCZenz 05:28, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
A certain degree of Free Speech is allowed on talk page, including the Ref Desk. StuRat 05:34, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
That "degree of Free Speech" should not include off-topic conterfactual sexist generalizations. -- SCZenz 05:38, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
It's not "off-topic", as the discussion is about the motivation of subjects to pose in "unnatural" ways. It's not "counterfactual sexual generalization", as some women are willing to pose in such ways. Had it claimed that ALL women are willing to do so, then you would be correct. "Disagreements should be resolved through consensual discussion, rather than through tightly sticking to rules and procedures." StuRat 05:40, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I want to point out (not assuming the comments above regard me), but I didn't call for the deletion of the entry. I was given to understand when we have a problem with an entry, posting concerns here is the best action, so that's what I did. Anchoress 05:25, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
It is, but only after you've discussed the issue in a civil manner with the author (on their talk page), and gotten no results in that manner. StuRat 05:31, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Oh, well I'm not going to do that with LC, so if I have a problem with his edits I'll be bringing them here. Anchoress 06:08, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
(Response to Anchoress after ed. conflict)
Yes, achieving consensus is the rule for the website hosted on the servers that belong to Wikimedia Foundation. -THB

05:30, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

How is that a response to me? Anchoress 05:32, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I was agreeing with your statement and expanding on it. Deletion is not the process, it's discussion and achieving census. -THB 05:36, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
The same page WP:NOT says this:
Wikipedia may contain content that some readers consider objectionable or offensive. Anyone reading Wikipedia can edit an article and the changes are displayed instantaneously without any checking to ensure appropriateness, so Wikipedia cannot guarantee that articles or images are tasteful to all users or adhere to specific social or religious norms or requirements. While obviously inappropriate content (such as an irrelevant link to a shock site) is usually removed immediately, some articles may include objectionable text, images, or links if they are relevant to the content (such as the article about pornography) and provided they do not violate any of our existing policies (especially Neutral point of view), nor the law of the U.S. state of Florida, where Wikipedia's servers are hosted.
Also, I do not believe that Light current is "testing the limits of anarchy". -THB 05:33, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
But Wikipedia is still not a forum for unregulated free speech. Pages have purposes. -- SCZenz 05:38, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
If I was an anarchist why would I have spent so much time contributing to articles over the past 16 months before coming here. I would have gone straight to the policy pages and tried to undermine them. Thats how to be an anarchist:destroy all the rules. I am actually pro rules. I just like to know what they are thats all.--Light current 05:40, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Agreement on removal

I agree that it should have been removed, but by Light current, and perhaps not at all if even after this discussion he had decided to leave it. It was not completely off-topic, nor blantantly offensive, to the degree that it needed to be censored by deletion on sight. -THB 05:42, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Agreed. StuRat 05:48, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

I think I finally figured out what bothers me about the removal: it implies that if asked, reasonably and with explanation, the presumption is that Light current would not have removed it himself. -THB

I would certainly have at least amended it to remove the emphasis on females since it apparently cuased offence to one of the RD editors.--Light current 06:03, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Agreed again. Unnecessary escalation is both rude and nonproductive. The proper procedure should be followed:
1) First, mention the post on the author's talk page, and politely list your objection, and request that they remove it.
2) If they refuse, and if the comment is so outrageous as to warrant further action, then bring it up here, again politely.
3) If a consensus is reached here to remove it, then the author can again be given the opportunity to remove the comment. At this, point, however, once community consensus exists that it should be removed, other members of the community may delete the comment, if the author refuses.
4) If, and only if, the author replaces the comment three times, should an Admin be summoned, via a 3RR violation complaint. StuRat 06:06, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
There are also grounds for a "speedy deletion" by anyone, such as death threats, etc., but only the most severe cases warrant such actions. And, even in these cases, the author should still be notified of the deletion (on their talk page) and the reason (policy violations) given. StuRat 06:06, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
HMM seems fair enough.--Light current 06:11, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps we should also discuss the reasons to do things according to the above procedure:

a) To be polite. Politeness goes a long way.

b) To avoid "revert wars". (If a comment is removed without consensus having been reached to do so, then the author is entirely justified to disagree with the opinion of the person who removed it and restore the comment.)

c) To avoid a POV bias in the removals. For example, a politically liberal editor might tend to delete any slightly off topic politically conservative comments, and vice-versa, even though they would leave such comments in if they were more in line with their political ideology. This could escalate to having all liberal statements removed by conservatives, and vice-versa, even if entirely on-topic.

d) To avoid personal vendettas in the removals. That is "you removed my post, so I'll remove yours". If a consensus is required for such removals, this type of petty behavior is unlikely.

StuRat 06:18, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Hmm seems eminently sensible so far. Are you feeling quite well Stu? 8-)--Light current 06:24, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes, sounds very well thought out and reasonable. That's the way I thought it worked already, anyway. -THB 06:36, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Ah theoretically maybe. But its just what we need to codify so that everyones singing from the same hymn sheet--Light current 06:38, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Agree on purpose

I also agree that pages have a purpose and the purpose is not unregulated free speech. I also believe that instead of strict rules, self-restraint and peer discussion are preferable and more in the spirit of Wikipedia. -THB 05:45, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Agreed, with the provision that the question asker can request "strict rules" by including the template. Otherwise, they should not apply. StuRat 05:49, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
You never know Stu, some people may actually prefer the strict regime!--Light current 06:06, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Sprechen ze Deutsche? Theavatar3


Somebody came over to my talk page and suggested I weigh in. The Reference desk isn't as encyclopedic as the rest of Wikipedia. It's a place where people feel free to come and ask questions, including questions they would feel kind of silly about asking in real life. Some of the posts don't qualify as real questions and get deleted or ignored, but something that's on topic - even if it's poorly worded and reads like it endorses a prejudice - is probably better left on the page. Post beneath it to your heart's content: skewer its ignorance and demonstrate how foolish it is. Be so witty that people laugh out loud when they read the page That idea is out there in the world and deletion won't challenge it, but real open discussion of why something isn't worth valuing might change some minds. So somebody wants to discuss Girls Gone Wild (I roll my eyes and groan as I type that), go ahead and ask that. The videos sell to the kind of mentality that gapes and mutters b - o - o - b - i - e - s and probably drools on the floor because they can't get close to a genuine woman. A fair number of women stay away from guys who go for that sort of thing, not because these women are prudes but because they think those guys are idiotic. Okay, 'nuff said. DurovaCharge! 15:16, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree, I support the idea of assuming good faith both from those who ask and those who answer questions. If something can be interpreted two ways, assume it was meant in the best way, not the worst. StuRat 10:32, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
You're missing the point entirely. The discussion here is habitual question-answers, who ought to know better, using the reference desk as a discussion forum. For example, in the case of the allusion to Girls Gone Wild and similar, a user had asked a simple question about smiling in photographs; there was no sexual content to the question whatsoever, but there was sexual content to the reply. I don't think people will feel "free to come and ask questions" if, no matter what they ask, they might be interrupted for a penis joke or a rant on an editor's personal views. Wikipedia does not host discussion forums, it is not a forum for unregulated free speech, and it does not allow biting new users (as you seem to suggest in the case of stupid questions). Can you do a more careful reading of the issues here and consider addressing them more directly? -- SCZenz 16:25, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
If someone asks a factual question about Girls Gone Wild, we should of course answer it. -- SCZenz 16:27, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I respect what you're saying. I've also read the thread at WP:AN/I. I responded to the post deletion without comment on the related WP:POINT question, which several administrators had already treated with due consideration. I don't think this editor is deliberately trolling (and I use that word seldom even in the negative sense). Poor judgement, yes. I have a reputation for being slow to abandon WP:AGF and so far I think this is someone who's trying to be a positive contributor but suffers from foot-in-mouth disease. I recommend he go down to the witchdoctor and holler oo-ee--oo--aa--aa--ping--ping--walla--walla--bing--bang to get himself cured. DurovaCharge! 17:12, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Hmm. Not a sure-fire winner in the "culturally sensitive" category of any RD talk postings award ceremony. --Tagishsimon (talk)
If that's in reference to my post, it's just a paraphrase of a 1960s nonsense song. I apologize if it comes across as un-PC by today's standards. DurovaCharge! 19:05, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Oops, Witch Doctor was originally released in 1958. Cover bands still record it because it's so catchy and silly - so I didn't it would earn a warning for insensitivity. The link to Wikipedia:Adopt-a-user was meant in good faith. DurovaCharge! 19:14, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
That was one incident among many. But hey, I'm in favor of being patient and understanding. That doesn't require me to give up on the idea that there are limits to what the ref desk can be used for. -- SCZenz 17:33, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
SCZenz, perhaps you could "adopt" Light current like in the "go down to the witch doctor" link. That would make everyone happy. You guys just cut & past the below. -THB 20:53, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Removed Adoption Templates see edit summary Lethaniol 18:41, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Doesn't esperanza do something like this? --frothT C 04:56, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
If he needs to be adopted, it's by a reasonable Admin, like User:Durova or User:Zoe, not any unreasonable Admin like SCZenz and certainly not by a hothead like User:Friday. StuRat 10:29, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Disrupting the reference desk to make a point

This edit is meta-comment about recent requests that LC keep his comments a bit more on topic. We need to keep meta-discussion on the ref desk talk page, please—when put on the reference desk itself, it gets in the way. -- SCZenz 03:24, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Whats good for the goose....So why isnt other peoples off topic posting remarked upon-- only mine?--Light current 03:30, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I suspect it is because you do it most often, and because you tend to add comments that are both entirely off-topic and entirely without useful content. This is something, it would appear, that various people would like you to work on. By the way, I appreciate your choice to remove the remark I mentioned above. -- SCZenz 03:40, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I would contend that non of my posts is entirely off topic. Its just that people may need to use a bit more lateral thinking to make the connection. There are many posts on WP that are entirely w/o useful content according to some. But I do not set myself to judge.8-)--Light current 04:00, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

"Disrupting... to make a point" is a serious accusation. I don't believe that that particular post could be classified as a disruption. -THB 04:53, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Agreed, the phrase "chit chat" is hardly a serious disruption worthy of complaining about here. StuRat 05:00, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I removed it anyway. Its not worth making a big deal out of it. THanks for your concern. My point has been made 8-)--Light current 05:03, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
And I removed at least part of the comment your comment was commenting on. I took your point to heart. -THB 05:26, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
THanks I wasnt actually getting at you personally on the desk-- I just saw some chat and well... the rest is in the history 8-)--Light current 05:30, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Oh, I understood, but I am trying to improve my behavior. -THB 05:38, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Nevertheless my original comment was, in case you guys have really forgotten, that meta-discussion (especially frustrated sarcastic meta-discussion) gets in the way of the main page, and should be placed on this talk page instead. -- SCZenz 05:48, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

I don't think you could reasonably ask for much more meta-discussion on this page at this hour than already exists! -THB 05:52, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Bear in mind that language is inherently point-making.

The only reason to use language, ever, is for its psychological effects (points). Even when speaking to oneself.

Running out the 'disruption to make a point' bugbear means you disapprove of what was said. Theavatar3 16:30, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Hmm I think that is generally correct.--Light current 16:49, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't, unless 'psychological effects' include 'giving and listening to reasons', in which case the claim makes no substantive point. There's a difference between merely expressing disapproval, and also giving reasons for disapproval. Sam Clark 21:28, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Right. One comes after the other. First, chastisement. Then, correction. If a child defecated on your best Persian rug, would you first inform him that you do indeed have a toilet for such purposes, and then thrash him soundly? Not in my colony. :) Theavatar3 01:18, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Ninety percent of all colonists live within 100 miles of the U.S. border, where we certainly do try to toilet-train children without thrashing them. -THB 01:39, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
'Not another fucking elf!'[1] Theavatar3 17:47, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Something Awful

Just out of curiosity, has anyone seen lately? --Shuttlebug 06:00, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Off topic!! 8-))--Light current 06:07, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I can't find the pages being discussed there here. Is that satire? It's quite effective if so. I can't tell the difference. -THB 06:10, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Who knows? Im past caring now!--Light current 06:12, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
It's definitely brilliant parody. -THB 06:41, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
It is, at bottom, mean-spirited. It hides it ever so well behind reasonableness, but at the end of the day, no one will be improved by going to SomethingAwful. At least the title is honest though. Theavatar3 16:25, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Posterity demands we provide a link --Tagishsimon (talk)

"This article is definitely not FA anymore and is going to lose its GA status soon. I have already revoked the suggestion for inclusion in Wikipedia 1.0 after a lengthy discussion with the top inner-circle of wikipedia editors. Most of you refuse to respect the other editors who are more versed in the quality demands of wikipedia. Stop adding new sections to Thunder Straps, stop moving paragraphs around, proof read your work before adding it to the article. These are really horrid and, frankly, I'm disgusted beyond words by the whole mess this once-useful article has become. Wikidkid 18:55, 1 December 2006 (UTC)" hahaha it's the wikipedia cabal! Brilliant --frothT C 18:30, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Something that annoys me

would it be at all possible to switch the order of the questions, such that the newest are at the top, and the oldest at the bottom? that would make my day, thnksIs it Steak?<Xiaden's Homepage> 14:44, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Probably not. The convention seems to be to add to the bottom of pages; and it can be quite a pain to edit in the pages of those contrarians who think it neat to seek to impose adding from the top: you always know where the bottom is, but the top is generally below a whole lot of descriptive text, which means you need to find it ... which is beyond some people & a waste of time. --Tagishsimon (talk)
I thought reversing the order would be a good idea too, until I got very good at grabbing the scroller and flicking it down to the bottom. Practice makes perfect. Theavatar3 17:33, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
And, just in case you don't already know, the "End" key, right above the up arrow on your keyboard, will take you to the bottom of the page (you do have to wait for the page to load before hitting it, though, or it will only take you to the bottom of the portion loaded so far). StuRat 17:36, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
snap, i tottally forgot about the end key. thanks for re-introducing us =) Xiaden 14:40, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
You're quite welcome. StuRat 16:06, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Just curious

How do people even find the reference desk? I don't know how I found it but right now I have no idea how to get to it without typing WP:RD in the search box. --frothT C 18:28, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

I found it on the main page - linked at the very bottom. RDWarrior 18:40, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I initially found it when reading through the Discussion page for the Main Page. Some time later, I noticed there's a direct link halfway down the Main Page. It's not something that catches the eye, though. Theavatar3 19:03, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I found it through the Reference desk page while looking for the guide on references (footnotes). -THB 20:48, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

I actually find it using my watchlist, since it's always near the top, being constantly modified. Of course, this didn't work the first time. StuRat 00:31, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

There's a link to it from the Wikipedia help portal (Help:Contents) and Wikipedia questions portal ((Wikipedia:Questions), both linked to from the Main Page (just underneath "Welcome to Wikipedia" in the default skin). Also, the Help desk links to it from time to time. — QuantumEleven 12:36, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Lame answers worse than no answer

I notice that many answers to questions here (including one I asked recently) are initially answered in less than helpful ways - often with no further clarification. I would request that question answerers please direct questioners to appropriate encyclopedia articles as opposed to just writing exposition that may or may not be accurate or relate at all to the question. Thanks. RDWarrior 18:37, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Can you provide a link to the post in question so we can check it out ? Note that referencing a Wikipedia article isn't always appropriate, as our article often doesn't address the question asked. StuRat 00:27, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I think the number of unhelpful responses is pretty clear to anyone who cares to look. I'd like to echo RDWarrior's call for better answers here. If you don't have a good answer, or if the question is already well answered, consider not adding any commentary. Not everyone needs to respond to every question. Friday (talk) 01:13, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree with RDWarrior and Friday. --hydnjo talk 01:33, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I must say I agree with RDWarrior in principle but when I went through the short list of contributions made as RDWarrior I couldn't find what he (or she???) is talking about. Looks like he (or she???) got good answers. I agree with StuRat, please provide a link to the question which is being referenced so that it can be analyzed. -THB 01:36, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
The short number of edits is because RDWarrior is a new sockpuppet. I don't know who the puppet-master is, although apparently User:Hydnjo does: [2]. How do we find this out ? StuRat 02:37, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
  • For Stu's benefit: In the comment from RDW's talk which you cite, I was merely expressing a feeling of kindredness. I have no clue as to "How do we find this out ?". --hydnjo talk 03:14, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
FWIW, Wikipedia:Requests for checkuser and of course WP:SOCK. This is simply to answer the question raised above, not a recommendation for any action of any sort. --Justanother 03:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
If an editor wishes to remain anonymous, let's not hassle them about it, eh? At any rate, such discussion is off topic for this page. If you have something substantial to add to the growing consensus that we should cut down on the unhelpful answers, let's hear it. Friday (talk) 02:42, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
And you also knew RDWarrior was a sockpuppet, apparently, based on this comment: "Seems clear that you're not really new, but welcome anyway. I suspect that, if this sockpuppet supported a POV opposed to yours, you would attack them viciously for being a sock: [3]. StuRat 10:02, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I'll second that. Oh, and StuRat... if you read Hydnjo's comment carefully, you'll see that they're not claiming to know the user at all. -- SCZenz 02:46, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I think that we should enforce the existing "How to answer" rules to the degree that banter and chat should be discouraged until there is at least a decent stab at a real answer. Otherwise I can see newbies going "WTF, I thought I would get an answer here." or some similar but more polite thought depending on their sensibilities ("My gracious, that doesn't help much at all!"). By discourage I mean comment removed and the poster warned. If we do not police our own house then we can't complain when another does it for us. --Justanother 02:57, 6 December 2006 (UTC).

See my answer at Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Computing#GFX_Card_Upgrade for a great counterexample. Exposition can be valuable. In fact I'd say that upwards of 1/3 of questions need exposition rather than links to articles to adequately answer them. --frothT C 04:53, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

The example you gave isn't harmful in any way I can see, but it's not relevant to the project, either. I'm not going to go around trying to remove that sort of thing, but I would not encourage it either. The problem as I see it, is that this kind of answer relies on editor expertise- we don't have good means of making sure people get good answers. If we stick to what can be answered by an article, they're at least (in theory) made up of information frmo reliable sources, so any misinformation came from somewhere other than here. Friday (talk) 05:27, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
If the only acceptable answer is to point to an article then the editors are not needed, just a better search engine and instructions on how to use it. -THB 06:31, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Helping people search for information that already exists is exactly what a real reference desk does. A lot of the good answers here prominently feature either links to articles, or assistance finding webpages; these are the answers that should be given whenever possible. -- SCZenz 07:31, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
The same type of collaborative effort that goes into writing an article should also go into providing RD answers. Thus, we aren't relying on the expertise of any one user, but rather the cumulative expertise of the entire Wikipedia community. StuRat 09:55, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Articles, in case you weren't aware, are also supposed to be based on sources rather than individual expertise. -- SCZenz 16:31, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Notice: the user who asked this question (User:RDWarrior) has been permanently blocked: [4], I assume for being a sockpuppet. Therefore, do not expect any further responses under that user name. StuRat 10:09, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes, it was a "long-time" user who didn't want to get "embroiled". I wasn't going to complain, people have a right to anonymity if they're not breaking the law, but it's better that it was banned. The whole idea behind a Wiki is open collaboration which is difficult if the information (as to the identity of the sockpuppet) is unbalanced in favor of administrators. Especially since RDWarrior couldn't cite examples without revealing his (her???) identity, the ban propels this discussion forward. -THB 16:10, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
As you say, people can be anonymous if they're not misusing their multiple accounts (e.g. to have both participate in a discussion or poll), per WP:SOCK. There's no evidence of that here, which is presumably that's why User:Friday has now unblocked the user. Do you really view this conflict as "reference desk regulars" versus administrators? That would be sad, not to mention inaccurate. -- SCZenz 16:31, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I suspected it was being used in just such a manner, to make it look like some poor innocent newbie was shocked by unhelpful answers (when this wasn't the case at all), thus increasing the deletionist pressure, in support of User:Friday's and your positions. Having this sockpuppet be unblocked by User:Friday, who appears to be on the same side as the sockpuppet, also is a severe conflict of interest. I will remain on the lookout for additional sockpuppets that show up here to support the deletionist Admin faction. StuRat 16:41, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Not if Friday was following the rules... which he was. And it's pretty weird to assume that a person wanting to be anonymous, and disagreeing with you, must be an account that's misused. WP:AGF indeed. In any case, it appears that it's a moot point and the user is giving up the account. -- SCZenz 16:45, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Oh, and WP:TINC. -- SCZenz 16:47, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Ouch! --frothT C 06:43, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
SCZenz, I wasn't meaning to imply that it was Administrators vs. non-Admins but just that in this situation Admins have access to see who the sockpuppet belongs to and non-admins. don't. Unfortunately this whole incident (?) is slightly tinged with an Admin vs. non-Admin characteristic, I'm not sure how that started. Maybe because Admins stepped in and took actions that only Admins could take? I'm not sure at this point. I just know that the whole thing is teetering on the edge of the medicine being worse than the disease or whatever the cliche is. -THB 17:14, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Admins don't have access to information on account IP's, or on which accounts have the same IP. There is a formal process to get that information, which only happens when there is a clear case for abuse, and only a few people have the technical ability. See WP:RFCU. -- SCZenz 17:23, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, Friday already cleared that up on my talk page. This diff is why I thought that to be the case but it was merely failing to read carefully and then assuming on my part. (Incidently it also reinforces the paranoid suspicions of those who believe there IS a cabal.)-THB 18:11, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

This has to stop

I blocked the acount, Friday unblocked, and I've reblocked again. I did not block for sockpuppetry - this was not the core issue, nor was it the principle to use to take action. The point has been made, and it's time to end the drama over it. If the account holder is as experienced as is consistent with their statements, it would be apparent why I have taken this position. During the block, I unchecked all the options, so that only the account name is banned - I did not want the underlying IP address to show up anywhere on Wikipedia, even implicitly.
I have become utterly disappointed at how reference desk has evolved over time. This talk page has been the place where the best and worst of process has appeared - it has become a polarizing focal point, where principles on all sides are at stake. This situation is unacceptable, and it needs to be alleviated today.
I cannot speak for everyone who frequents here, but this has been the silent voice that has not been heard: that there were things which were done here, which could have, and should have been done differently. This goes for all users, and I am deliberately not applying specifics, because in a sense, this is a collective failure that nobody has taken the responsibility to say that we need to do better, and we need to do it now.
A number of times in the archives, I have mentioned that the problems on the reference desk are systemic, and it cannot be solved by a single Wikipedian - this simply is impossible, and those that have pressed for it here ultimately see that this is true. Leadership by example is what works best on a Wiki, because the technology was designed to facilitate asynchronous observation and collaboration.
This cloud and rhetoric about what is an "appropriate" response, or whether "censorship" should take place is politicizing and obscuring the core issue of what this place is about - reciprocating questions and answers so that information becomes clear. The Wiki is not here to facilitate and enforce "proper" behaviour; no participant on Wikipedia comes to be lectured about how to behave. This is fundamentally not a babysitting service, and it will not work. Having said this, the Wiki is here to evaluate when things do not look professional nor measured - there is a public face to what we do here on this project, and this means that public consciousness needs to take more precedence over other priorities.
I do not like the fact that there are so many hurt feelings lingering about - and I write this from the perspective of numerous e-mails I have received on this issue - so much so, that I have had to turn my e-mail preferences off temporarily. Things that need to be fixed on the Wiki, need to be done on the Wiki. I wish there was such a thing as a magic wand, one that I could wave and remove the negativity that has accumulated here. However, there is no such facility. Be gracious, and move on from the past - and for the sake of this project, do not hold on to this baggage either - it is simply unhealthy, and it does not bring out any good. As I have said multiple times, if we seek to look for what we want to find, we will find it. We are smart, intelligent, mature people who know what we need to do. Codifying how to do this precisely is deferring responsibility to act in present.
To sum this up:
  • There were actions taken here which should have, and could have been done differently.
  • We need to move on from this now.
  • We each know what is being asked of us.
Now, what is stopping any of us to be a good Wikipedian? I will leave it at that. --HappyCamper 17:18, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Well said, HappyCamper. I completely agree. I'm also dismayed at the polarisation of "reference desk regulars" (as if having a comment to make on every question somehow confers "ownership" of the desk, over those that chime in only when they have something useful to say) and "deletionists". As it stands, the two groups appear to me to more interested in furthering their position by making WP:POINTs. I know there are plenty of individuals, like me, who believe a little more self-policing is required - from everyone - to make this place a pleasant and informative place to be. Isn't that the Wikipidia way? Lets move on, as at the moment it is, quite frankly, boring. Rockpocket 02:10, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
The way I see it is that each side is desperately trying to make as many concessions to the other as possible.. a strange situation but it seems healthy so far --frothT C 06:50, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
So what exactly are you proposing? --frothT C 06:49, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Suggestion for re-use of help answers

If a question could be answered by an article but isn't, consider fixing the article so it's more understandable and then referring the questioner to it. This puts the effort where it counts for the most- in the encyclopedia content. This will do more good for the project over the long run than putting your time into making an answer just for this page- that'll get archived soon and won't do any lasting good. Friday (talk) 05:36, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

There is no reason you can't do both. That is, answer the question as quickly and thoroughly as possible on the Ref Desk, then copy that answer, with suitable reformatting, to the article in question. StuRat 09:47, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I second that, as long as it isn't to specific(such as some of my questions about javascript ect. ect.)... Xiaden 14:53, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
That's a good point. Many questions like "what was JFK doing the day before he was assassinated", while valid and deserving of an answer, may not meet notability requirements of otherwise deserve a permanent entry in Wikipedia article. StuRat 16:05, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Friday's suggestion is already followed to some extent. Wikipedia articles are far from perfect, so if a misleading or incomplete section can be improved as a result of the research here, it is a win-win. But many questions are "how-to" which the articles are for some reason supposed to avoid. A question about what hacksaw blade could cut up a steel framed sofa so it would fit in the elevator comes to mind as an instance of "too specific how to." But info from the answer would improve Hacksaw, which does not note the referenced guidelines cited in the answer for teeth per inch versus thickness of metal. Edison 16:58, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
By the way, I cut the sofa frame into halves and then quarters and it's been out of my (small) apartment for a couple of weeks (after sitting there for at least a year) and I'd like to thank everyone for their help and opinions on that matter. -THB 17:10, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
My greatest dread is that we leave out some idiotic safety suggestion like "wear eye protection," or "make sure a responsible adult supervises" and someone puts out an eye, severs an artery, or burns down the house." Edison 05:46, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Good, I'm glad we could help. StuRat 17:40, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I checked what happens in the Real World of in-person or online reference desk librarians. In both cases, they have a card file for frequent questions, such as "What is the total number of human beings who have ever lived," and they use the file to answer recurring questions. The online RLRDLs also have templates to use when trolls ask inappropriate questions, and in extreme cases (such as harrassment) they have policies for tracking down the individual user and getting sanctions applied. RLRDLs have policies of answering questions within a set timeframe, such as 24 hours, and do some followup surveying to make sure the question was answered satisfactorily. They also ask followup questions to determine the age and sophistication of the questioner, and to better define the question. Edison 05:44, 8 December 2006 (UTC)


Per the request to keep meta-comments here and not on the project page, why is the long thread about a farmer storing peanuts in the forest (Peanuts, Dec. 5, Miscellaneous ) still on the main page? It smacks of masks and seagulls. I was not aware of the rule about no meta-comments on the project page at the time I questioned there the presence of the thread. Edison 17:07, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Which rule is this? --HappyCamper 17:28, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Because some people believe that removing a troll's questions is ineffective, as it was in this case, which was a repost of a "questin" that was "rubbed out" that was ostensibly posted by.....a squirrel. Yes, the whole thing was totally humorous, including the two spellings of "forest" as "forast" and "forsest". Who posted the questions? I have no idea. Some people couldn't even see that it was not a serious situation. Is this harmful to the reference desk? I don't believe so. At this point, however, I'm not sure if I should even comment on things like this because I really don't want to upset anyone. -THB 17:31, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I "assumed good faith", treated it as a serious question, and responded accordingly. StuRat 17:39, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Vis a vis a question I asked about the nature of Science: is not 'troll' synonymous with 'scientific heretic'? Theavatar3 17:43, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Unless you're a religious person, then a scientist is a troll. It's irrelevant in this situation, it was obviously trolling to post a silly question by a squirrel, nothing to do with heresy of any sort. Juvenile, non-disruptive trolling, but trolling nonetheless. -THB 17:55, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Another deletionist Ref Desk sockpuppet

An additional deletionist Ref Desk sockpuppet User:ToadStoolYem, has now been permanently blocked by User:Finlay McWalter, just as sockpuppet User:RDWarrior was permanently blocked by User:Happy Camper, unblocked by User:Friday, then reblocked permanently by User:Happy Camper. If the current sockpuppet is also unblocked by a deletionist Admin, just as the last one was, I will issue a formal complaint against that Admin. StuRat 17:36, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Is this an implicit reference to the Friday unblocking RDWarrior after I blocked it? It wasn't done from the perspective of supporting deletionist tendencies on the RD. Let's put this to rest. --HappyCamper 17:48, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
You may not see it that way, but User:Friday's behavior looks highly suspicious to me. StuRat 17:51, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Duly noted. --HappyCamper 18:10, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Funny, seems that was a Science Ref Desk deletionist. I wonder if there is any relation to the Misc Ref Desk deletionists? HappyCamper, there is a parallel and somewhat intertwined deletionist issue at play here. -THB 17:59, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
A sockpuppet check was on my mind, but in this case, I don't think it's necessary. This "experienced user" needs to know better, because these sockpuppets have no place here on the RD. Not only is this true, but there is also no need for sockpuppets that test the line of appropriateness. I will block these accounts if I see them. --HappyCamper 18:08, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Good, I agree. StuRat 18:13, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Do you believe that an established user should be allowed to have anonymity in a sensitive situation? What's the proper way to achieve that? Just log out? -THB 18:15, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
If by anonymity you mean us not knowing their real name, then absolutely. If you mean hiding their username, history, and motivations, then absolutely not. If they are so ashamed of their past behavior that they need a "fresh start", then they should abandon the old account, take a wikibreak, then get a new account. StuRat 18:26, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
StuRat, that was actually for HappyCamper but there was an edit conflict but I like your answer. -THB 18:36, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Well whoever the 'experienced user' is, it isn't me. :-) But I have seen such things used sometimes on RFAs, and I haven't ever seen people complain. But I guess if the editor in question is a regular RD user, it would be considered sockpuppeting. Anchoress 18:23, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
(Edit confict while answering THB above...) I'm risking WP:BEANS by doing this, but this is what I'd recommend. There's enough animosity built up here that there is good reason to create sockpuppet accounts. Create one, and just use that for the RD. No harm in doing that at all. I wouldn't recommend contributing with a bare IP address, because that gives away your geographical location.
To distinguish between doing this, and what those two sockpuppets were doing, consider the perspective that they were here advocating for a particular agenda. It's been duly noted, and the sockpuppets have served their purpose. About 100 posts have been made to address their actions, so you can see why these sorts of accounts are to be taken seriously when the surface. I don't recommend interpreting this little wheel war I had with Friday as being one, because it's not. It's a sign that accountability exists on Wikipedia with respect to administrative actions. It would be troubling had it not occurred, because it would suggest that unilateral action can be taken during controversial situations, which is not the case on Wikipedia. I hope this puts the issue to rest.
I wrote that suggestion above to give the sense that this place is being looked at in a measured way - I can't do this alone, so as I said earlier, hopefully we can police ourselves better after this long drama. For the record, I plan to "block if necessary but not necessarily". I tend to write a lot to justify my administrative actions, and that takes some time for me to do. It's a style that I'm confortable with. So, generally, these extra buttons are used sparingly and judiciously from my end. My hope is that it's seen this way too. --HappyCamper 18:37, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I suppose, if a sockpuppet comes along and just adds content to the Ref Desk, without doing anything controversial, advocating a particular position, deleting things right and left, etc., then nobody would have any cause to complain about them. StuRat 18:48, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
The name itself, RDWarrior, was designed to make a point and to indicate that it was an existing user with an agenda. -THB 19:07, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Let's stop talking about "deletionists"

This is unhelpful. As far as I know, nobody's suggesting we have a different standard here for removing content than we already have on any other page. Will people sometimes remove egregious content? Yes, they will, same as any other page. Should this be common? No. I think in the year and a half I've been editing here, I've only removed people's comments a handful of times. At first I thought it was a good idea to remove on sight off-topic questions, but this was a mistake. Since then I've decided (helped by people who've put them back and tried to answer them) that its more helpful and polite to respond to them. Let's remember what the reference desk is meant to be for- helping people find information. Friday (talk) 18:25, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

There are two standards for what can be deleted:
Article standard = Delete anything where you feel the deletion is an improvement.
Talk page standard = Only delete egregious violations of Wikipedia policy.
I believe most Editors believe that the talk page standard should be followed on the Ref Desk, but, apparently, not everyone agrees. I would define the diff between an inclusionist and a deletionist as the following:
Deletionists = Everything should be deleted unless there's a good reason to leave it in.
Inclusionists = Everything should be retained, unless there's a good reason to delete it.
StuRat 18:35, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Fact is, there's been a lot of deleting going on at the Ref Desk. It's just that unless you check the history, it's invisible. SCZenz in particular deletes things and doesn't consider that editing them if I understand his position. This whole situation started getting heated when someone removed something rather than allowing Light current to alter or remove it himself. -THB 18:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
And I admit to having deleted some seriously offensive racist ranting that I considered vandalism. -THB 18:34, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
If it really was "seriously offensive racist ranting", then I agree with that action. Can you provide a link so we can check it out ? StuRat 18:38, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
StuRat, I started looking for it was at least a week ago and I just realized I make way too many edits on Wikipedia, daily. It's a needle in a haystack. It was a couple of times within a fifteen minute period a week or two ago. -THB 18:45, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
That's OK, I trust your judgment. StuRat 19:33, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Editors do not own their edits. All editors are "allowed" to censor themselves and keep their comments appropriate and relevant. In fact, it's not merely allowed- it's expected. There seem to be a different set of cultural expectations among some regulars of this page- I encourage everyone to diversify, see more of the project, and understand Wikipedian culture and expectations. Removing offensive racist rants is expected - not just for admins, for all editors. Friday (talk) 18:36, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
On talk pages, they do indeed own them, unless they are an egregious violation of policy. StuRat 18:38, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I absolutely understand what you're saying, Friday, and agree with all of it except it needs StuRat's clarification. I was just being meticulous in pointing out that I've removed comments because I loathe hypocrisy. Also, I believe that's one of the very few times when things should be deleted on sight. -THB 18:40, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
There are too many edits and too many pages for my old fingers to keep up with right now, so excuse my tardiness. Deleting/moderating edits has been done since the dawn of time on the RD - the difference is that when this project was small, these deletions could occur in a very professional way without causing much contention. There was an implicit agreement among all the regulars that inappropriate content would be removed. Ages ago, behind the scenes, the regulars would actually remove content that was inappropriate, and stake a claim at how graceful they could do this without anyone noticing, and how it upheld the values of being a Wikipedian and such. Sort of done in a geeky, quirky, positive way. --HappyCamper 18:50, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
The old guard forgot to tell the new recruits what the rules were before they went off to fight. The new recruits settled in and made their own rules. Now the old guard is back from the Crusade, and want the old rules back. New recruits resent it. Old guard, having been off fighting, are mostly Admins now. Conflict ensues. -THB 19:26, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Then, if phrased like this, the conflict is not of the RD, but a fundamental misunderstanding of what an administrator is on the part of the administrators. The RD environment was just the unfortunate casualty of it all. It should be very clear whether a user is acting as a regular editor or an administrator, and unfortuantely this was not done in a consistent way here. Administrative actions taken in the name of a Better Wikipedia but one which precipitates an exceptional number of edits without accomplishing much is simply inappropriate and ineffective administration. Some of the initial threats of blocking and deleting were simply not right. This was sort of lingering about for a few months, and I regret not jumping in and stating something to the effect: "You know, we have a problem, we need a solution, but this isn't the way to go about it." Maybe, just maybe, this would have saved us all this negativity. --HappyCamper 19:43, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Jimbo said it best: 'Wikipedia is not a junk yard'. A junk yard is a junk yard, and Wikipedia is not filled with junk, ergo it cannot in any way be a junk yard. It may be crappy, but it may NOT be a junkyard.

See also you have two cows Theavatar3 22:03, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Theavatar3, please explain about the junk yard and the cows. I feel like I should understand what you are saying but I just don't and can't but I want to.. -THB 21:12, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Rules for deletions

There seems to be a disagreement between those who feel that anything on the Ref Desk can be deleted by anyone, for any reason, without notification to the author, and those which feel a more formal approach should be taken. Allow me to repost the rules I try to follow, and see if we can reach a consensus on which approach is best at the RD:

Unnecessary escalation is both rude and nonproductive. The proper procedure should be followed:

1) First, mention the post on the author's talk page, and politely list your objection, and request that they remove it.
2) If they refuse, and if the comment is so outrageous as to warrant further action, then bring it up here, again politely.
3) If a consensus is reached here to remove it, then the author can again be given the opportunity to remove the comment. At this, point, however, once community consensus exists that it should be removed, other members of the community may delete the comment, if the author refuses.
4) If, and only if, the author replaces the comment three times, should an Admin be summoned, via a 3RR violation complaint.

There are also grounds for a "speedy deletion" by anyone, such as death threats, etc., but only the most severe cases warrant such actions. And, even in these cases, the author should still be notified of the deletion (on their talk page) and the reason (policy violations) given.

Perhaps we should also discuss the reasons to do things according to the above procedure:

a) To be polite. Politeness goes a long way.
b) To avoid "revert wars". (If a comment is removed without consensus having been reached to do so, then the author is entirely justified to disagree with the opinion of the person who removed it and restore the comment.)
c) To avoid a POV bias in the removals. For example, a politically liberal editor might tend to delete any slightly off topic politically conservative comments, and vice-versa, even though they would leave such comments in if they were more in line with their political ideology. This could escalate to having all liberal statements removed by conservatives, and vice-versa, even if entirely on-topic.
d) To avoid personal vendettas in the removals. That is "you removed my post, so I'll remove yours". If a consensus is required for such removals, this type of petty behavior is unlikely.

StuRat 17:00, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

  • I, of course, support the above rules for deletion. StuRat 19:02, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Reiterate support. -THB 19:05, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
How do you think rules are made on Wikipedia? Right, by proposing them on the relevant talk page. Which is what is done here. DirkvdM 12:17, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
You can't overturn foundation issues, or rewrite existing policy for specific pages, without far, far more community input than you're getting. -- SCZenz 18:11, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Lack of community input? You've got to be joking. Just scroll up and down. DirkvdM 19:37, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support. These are reasonable and appropriate rules. SCZenz has the wrong interpretation of WP:NOT#Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy - it does not prohibit rules (how could it - Wiki has lots of rules and procedures). It does say that "disagreements should be resolved through consensual discussion, rather than through tightly sticking to rules and procedures". These proposed rules are designed to build and demonstrate consensus, which seems to be what the unliateral deletionists are keen to avoid. Gandalf61 09:11, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support with certain reserves. I strongly believe that following these rules in the past might have achieved the same effect in terms of questionable posts being removed, without unnecessarily offending the editors in question. That being said, I'd like to know more about how consensus is established (#3). Furthermore, though I'm a radical inclusionist and only delete e-mail addies, I completely understand (and even support) the immediate removal of offensive comments that are perhaps less offensive than death threats (e.g. personal attacks, racist and sexist remarks) in the interest of minimizing the damage. Maybe this needs to be specified. Finally, I'd like these rules to be seen as guidelines, not codified rules, because I'm genuinely worried about the creep effect. ---Sluzzelin 11:39, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • I would support if there were a way to make sure that people adhere to these rules. However, with a history of close to one thousand edits per day that is impossible (or at least unworkable) unless some alternative is devised like a separate history for changes to previous posts (by other editors). I don't know if this is possible, but until a solution to this problem is devised I suggest anyone who alters other people's postst should be severely punished (say a one week block unless they can come up with a good defense). The easier the crime, the more severe the punishment should be. This contrasts with the 'crime' of being funny when that is out in the open. So deletions should be punished much more severely than additions. DirkvdM 12:17, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support with a heavy heart: WP:AGF has been strained when we have to formalize this. DurovaCharge! 13:42, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support Wikipidia is not a bureaucracy, but neither should it be an autocracy. I could also live with a system where the person whose answer is deleted can reinstate it and if the deletor insists it shoud be removed, the deletor institutes the formal debate here. Sometimes we may accidentally stray off topic or insert too much whimsy, and might recognize that and agree with the deletion. I suppose in the proposed process, at that stage the offending poster could agree to the deletion. Edison 14:50, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support wholeheartedly Xiaden 15:03, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Partial support but I think 3 reverts is too much, one revert is enough to warrant action --frothT C 19:46, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support. It's a shame that we even have to be considering such measures, but since it seems to have become necessary, I support a process that is as far removed from the instant imposition of bureaucratic diktat as reasonably possible. People should at least be given opportunities to retreat from positions that are offensive, wittingly or otherwise, to others, before sterner measures are invoked. JackofOz 00:42, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support Sounds fair to me.--Light current 01:32, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Response to Sluzzelin

I'm fine with weakening it from "rules" to "guidelines". I see the process of developing consensus as very much like what we are doing here. That is, where the consensus is obvious (nearly everyone is on one side of the issue), after discussion, no further steps are needed. If it's close to an even split, though, a "support" and "oppose" list may be needed to break the tie. I only meant death threats as a single example, not that this is the only thing that justifies an out-of-process deletion. Do you agree that the authors of text which is deleted "out-of-process" still should be notified of that deletion and the reason for it ? StuRat 12:07, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the clarifications, Stu. My reserves persist regarding the consensus, because what you're describing sounds more like a majority vote to me, and this can't replace finding a consensus that works for everyone, which, I admit, would involve hard work and takes a lot of time. I don't think it will be easy to achieve consensus, but, for the moment, I have no alternative suggestion.
I do, however, certainly agree that registered users should be notified when their posts get deleted. I'm less sure whether it's worth the bother with anonymous users with sporadic contributions. ---Sluzzelin 16:17, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
OK, we can provide a notification exception for anon I/P's, but there are people who permanently stay with just an I/P to be as anonymous as possible. Perhaps we could still notify them if they took the time to create a home page (so their link is blue). This implies, to me, that they aren't a "fly by night vandal". StuRat 16:29, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

It's a nice thought, but it it won't work

The process, as outlined, is unworkable. It would in most cases take anywhere from several hours to days to run its course. If an editor – in an attempt to be 'clever' or 'witty' or to 'impress' his peers on the Ref Desk – bites a newbie (mocking a newbie for an obvious typo, bringing out whatever 2007's 'suitly emphazi' will be, etc.) starts wasting the Desk's time with bagel/seagull nonsense, or insists on inserting his penis into a discussion where it wasn't asked for, this process will take several days to remove a comment by an obstinate editor. (Some individuals seem to perceive a 'right' to make bad jokes here; I don't understand that attitude, but it persists.)

  • Step one, notification. Polite wait for discussion. How long? Eight hours? Twelve hours? Twenty-four hours?
  • You can assume the user is online, so one hour should be adequate for them to respond (we can add this to the guideline). If they aren't online, then they miss out on the first step. StuRat 16:43, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Steps two and three, talk page discussion here. At least another twenty-four hours. (Don't forget arguments amount whether or not consensus has been reached. Might take two days.)
  • Maybe four hours would be sufficient here, if all the opinions are for deletion. If there is a dispute it could take longer to settle, but, then it isn't likely to be a very severe problem, if we don't all agree to remove it, so the time delay isn't much of an issue. StuRat 16:43, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Step four, edit war and block. Call it twelve hours. Remember that single questions can't be watchlisted, so 3RR violations take much more effort to monitor. A smarter editor may also game 3RR, restoring a comment at longer intervals to avoid a technical 3RR violation and stretching this process even further.
  • This time would be part of the process, whether you deleted immediately or not, so there is no reason to add this to the total. Actually, though, once they see the consensus is against them, they are far less likely to engage in an edit war they are certain to lose, so will likely back off. Thus, we could actually save 12 hours from an unnecessary edit war, followed by a block. Also, you are assuming the worst of people here, that they won't listen to polite suggestions, will ignore the consensus, and will engage in an edit war. I expect the vast majority of people to behave reasonably, but only when they, in turn, are treated reasonably. StuRat 16:43, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

In other words, to remove a single unhelpful line or two added by a vexatious editor will take a three-day process, over the first two days of which there is no way to remove the insulting or inappropriate remark. It will require the involvement of many editors, many edits, and still leads to the very weak limit imposed by 3RR if an editor doesn't respect this lengthy process.

The Ref Desk is a much faster-turnover environment than most of the rest of Wikipedia. People come to us and often expect to see responses in hours (even minutes). If we leave rude remarks up for days, then frankly, those readers are never going to know that we eventually smartened up and recognized that one of our people was being a WP:DICK.

I appreciate the effort that went into creating this process proposal, but it just won't work. As written, it will have no effect whatsoever on what most visitors to the Ref Desk actually see. It will soak up the time of individuals who try to participate in it that could have been better applied elsewhere. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 15:14, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Such a bizarre, heavyweight process is utterly contrary to how we do things here. Friday (talk) 15:27, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
No, it's not. This is a misperception, Friday, which is simply not supported by the facts. Wiki has lots of complex processes and procedures - take a look at Wikipedia:Guide to deletion ... Wikipedia:Resolving disputes ... Wikipedia:Requests for adminship ... to name but three examples. There is obviously a need for checks and balances on RD deletions, and StuRat's proposed process meets the need very nicely. Gandalf61 15:51, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
These are all procedures for when the wiki process isn't working well in specific cases, not rules for what you do first. -- SCZenz 16:52, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
It is true that Wikipedia has lots of processes that take a substantial amount of time to carry out. Generally, we employ those heavyweight processes when we are discussing matters that can seriously, severely, detrimentally affect the project—we're very careful about who gets the block and protection buttons at WP:RfA, and we take a long time to consider the appropriateness of entire articles (the entire WP:AfD framework).
I don't think it's appropriate to draw parallels with those processes. They involve major changes that can affect Wikipedia as a whole. Also, neither process is typically associated with the compressed timelines we deal with at the Ref Desk. An article about a non-notable garage band doesn't do a great deal of harm if it sits around for a week on AfD (particularly if the nominator removes any spam links from the article); it's no big deal if an editor gets a sysop bit this week or next week.
On the other hand, on the Ref Desk we often deal with people who've never experienced any aspect of Wikipedia before. They may be ten years old, they may not speak English as a first (or even second) language. It's rude to them and embarrassing to us if their first exposure to Wikipedia involves mocking their typos or poor grasp of English. It's confusing and frustrating if they get inexplicable seagull nonsense. At its roots, the Ref Desk is here to benefit those people who come here to ask us for help; it's not a social club – or a comedy club – or a networking site for Wikipedia editors.
Removing replies that don't help the individual who posed the question doesn't harm that goal. Removing replies that (worse!) insult or denigrate the questioner or other participants improves the atmosphere here. I certainly support notifying editors when you remove their irrelevant or downright rude remarks. I think that sort of feedback is important, and I think that such cases should be discussed (at length, if necessary) on the talk page. I think that such discussion will help to clarify what standards of behaviour are acceptable here, and I believe that discussion after the removal will provide a sufficent check on overzealous trimming. However, I'm afraid that the pace of this page and the nature of the service it provides just aren't compatible with the slow, deliberative process that StuRat has proposed—leaving inappropriate remarks up for two or three days while we talk about it has the same effect as not removing them at all. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 17:17, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't know if you've read my comments (interspersed with your original post above), but I've shown that the time delay would be minimal, and quite possibly there would be a time improvement, by avoiding the adversarial process you prefer, which frequently leads to revert wars, 3RR rules invocations, and blocking (in cases where these could easily be avoided with a little civility on the part of the Admins). Both the recent cases of the blocks of User:DirkvdM and User:light current could have been avoided, along with all the haggling and unpleasantness that resulted, had a bit of civility and respect been shown to the users, as would occur if the guidelines I've suggested had been followed. StuRat 17:27, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Blocks for disruption are best avoided by editors not being disruptive. This applies to the RD as much as it does to any other page in the project. Friday (talk) 17:31, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Sounds a bit like "INNOCENT people generally don't mind having their homes searched and their phones tapped."Edison 06:00, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
TenOfAllTrades - if I understand you correctly, you seem to agree that there is a need for some process to control RD deletions - just not the process that StuRat has proposed (whereas Friday, on the other hand, seems to be set against the idea of having any process around RD deletions at all). So, why not propose an alternative process, and see if that achieves consensus ? Gandalf61 17:36, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Maybe this is just nitpicking over words, but we have a set of conventions for removing content. I'm suggesting that this already-in-use set of conventions will work here, and we need no formalized process. This is how the rest of Wikipedia works. All I'm saying is, let's conduct the RD pages like we do the rest of the project. Those that suggest treating it differently should say why they think standard procedure won't cut it. Friday (talk) 17:40, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
The Ref Desk is clearly a part of Wikipedia (and an important part, which is why many of us hang around here so much), but in a sense it's in a category of its own where not all the usual rules apply, or should apply. For example: factually inaccurate statements may be disputed, but they are not just edited out; general writing standards are not enforced; spelling and grammar peculiarities on the part of one poster are not edited by others (although comments are often made); the nature of any Ref Desk subject is much more like a discussion or a debate than an encyclopaedic article; discussions, once finished, are rarely revisited; discussions often include off-topic threads (some of which are useful additions to the sum of human knowledge, some not); etc. Thus, there have to be special rules for the Ref Desk, and a relaxation of many of the rules that make the rest of Wikipedia great. JackofOz 00:32, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Agreed. StuRat 00:48, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
If I make an egregiously inappropriately humorous or unintentionally off-topic reply, please delete it and inform me on my talk page. I will probably agree with a good-faith deletion by a responsible editor or admin. If I feel "Here I stand and I can do no other" and feel compelled to re-post the reply as an issue of faith or morals, I will do so and the editor who deleted it can then bring the issue to this talk page for an up or down vote to see what the consensus of editors is. Sound fair? Edison 05:53, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
If you personally want to let other editors slide on the guidelines for deletion, regarding your own posts, I'm fine with that. However, I, and many others, simply don't trust the judgment of some of the people who patrol the Ref Desk, to fairly decide what is "egregiously inappropriate", as they have shown an astonishing lack of judgment in many of their actions, thus far. Therefore, for our posts, we prefer that consensus be reached on what is inappropriate, before it's removed. StuRat 13:57, 8 December 2006 (UTC)


Some of this is instruction creep. Also, you're seriously misrepresenting the "deletionists" you keep talking about. Who's suggesting that anyone can delete anything for any reason? If you really think that's what people are suggesting, it's no wonder you disagree so strongly. Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy, I don't see why we need some formal process like this. How about we use our best judgment, and discuss specific cases on the talk page if there's disagreement? Friday (talk) 19:08, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Friday, this isn't a call for explicit codification, just a quick way to get some agreement to move things along. There hasn't been agreement on this desk for the past 8 months! --HappyCamper 19:13, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I believe this is the very core of all the trouble at the Ref Desk, a fundamental disagreement on the process for deleting both questions and answers. As such, I feel that any solution will require us to reach a consensus on the process to be used. Just saying "Standard Wikipedia rules apply" is too vague, there are many contradictory rules, so how are we to decide which rules apply here, if not by consensus ? StuRat 19:20, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Fair enough. Here's my opinion on this: The reference desk is part of Wikipedia. It is meant to be a useful resource to help people find the information they're looking for. If questions lead us to realize there's a deficiency in an article, and we can improve it- so much the better. The reference desk is meant to be primarily informative, not social. Excessive chatting is discouraged. Off-topic content can be removed at the discretion of an editor, but we should take a light hand in doing so. As for reverts- we should follow standard practice here. If someone makes an edit and you feel strongly enough that it's unhelpful as to want to revert it, do so, but do not do this lightly. If someone disagrees, let's discuss it on the talk page instead of edit warring. It is usually bad form to redo an edit someone else has undone- this is in contrast to "b" above. Users who regularly act in a way contrary to the goals of the reference desk will probably find people on their talk pages asking them to change their approach. The above are things I expect there should be wide agreement on. The other opinion I have, which may be more controversial, is my belief that original research does not belong on the reference desk any more than it belongs in other part of Wikipedia. Friday (talk) 19:34, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
There's the rub: Friday's opinion is fundamentally different. -THB 19:38, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Discounting the OR bit, where? I've tried to stick to opinions about the RD that come solely from an understanding of the goals, culture, and policies of Wikipedia. Friday (talk) 19:41, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
But, many editors here disagree with your interpretation of the implementation of those goals, culture, and policies at the RD, and we aren't just ignorant newbies, so there are multiple valid ways to read such things. This is why we need a consensus, as opposed to having each of us going off on our own interpretation and unilaterally doing things (this is what has caused all the recent trouble here). StuRat 20:00, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Please tell me what you disagree with in the above, and why. As I've said- I've tried to just talk about fundamentals- there should be wide agreement on these issues, and if there's not, I want to know why. Friday (talk) 20:02, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Well for one it leads to, as stu said, unilateral action. Some anon ip removed a very valid reply of sturat's earlier today and the only reason I caught it was because I was perusing the history (which is something that not a lot of RD contributors do). I'd rather see one of these epic, megabyte-sized arguments over a reponse than see it quietly deleted and lost. --frothT C 07:41, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree. BTW, which of my contributions was deleted anonymously? Did you restore it ? StuRat 08:00, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, this is why we need to hear the opinions of others, and determine which opinion the consensus says we should follow. StuRat 19:40, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I'd like to avoid getting into the whole discussion of what is appropriate at the Ref Desk, and limit this discussion solely to the process for removing something once we find it to be inappropriate. This is something we should actually be able to agree on, with a bit of compromise. StuRat 19:40, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Things that are inappropriate may be candidates for removal, so I don't see that there's a way to seperate the two issues. You seem to be wanting to vote on what's appropriate, and that's not how we do things here. Friday (talk) 19:41, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Establishing a process acceptable to all would allow for the determination of whether the material is appropriate for removal. Deleting things on sight is one person deciding for all what is appropriate. That's what people are upset about. -THB 19:47, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
(Go back and read at the top of the page the "I feel this comment is inappropriate" section.) -THB 19:50, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Agreed, this process for deletions could be used whatever the criteria for deletion are. For example, if we decide that any post containing the word "bagel" is a candidate for removal, then this process can be used for that. StuRat 19:54, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not sure you understand how things work here. Even if you get consensus that posts with "bagel" can be removed, this is not valid. Wikipedia is not a democracy- we have certain fundamental policies that consensus cannot override. Friday (talk) 19:57, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Wikipedia is governed by consensus, both in the interpretation/application of the rules and in the definition of the rules, themselves. So, I disagree that there are some rules "written in stone" that we are forced to follow. StuRat 20:08, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
WP:NPOV is non-negotiable per Jimbo. -THB 20:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Also IIRC is the rest of that "holy trinity" of WP:NPOV, WP:VERIFY, and WP:NOR. I can't find the link on meta that calls it that exactly but i believe those are the three. Anyway it's irrelevant to this topic --frothT C 07:47, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Where are those fundamental policies so I may review them? -THB 20:02, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Friday, yes, that's true, but the entire politics around that is not what is needed now. Something needs to be stated that so that there is a sense of security and stability. The ambiguity in that sort of unilateralism isn't what needs emphasis at the moment. Well, to answer THB, maybe Wikipedia:Ignore all rules, might be something, but then again, see also Wikipedia:Follow all rules. --HappyCamper 20:04, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
LOL, a perfect example of how the rules contradict one another, and we must decide which to apply to the RD. StuRat 20:08, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Finally I got someone to laugh around here. Now, we can get to work. :-) Stu and THB, let's try a little modest proposal ourselves, hm? The key is to see through the gossamer of rhetoric along that entire spectrum of thought. I'm going to risk leaving this talk page now, because I have one of those Wikipedian feelings that the problem knows how to fix itself already. --HappyCamper 20:16, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
The're not really contradictory- IAR says that if the rules prevent you from improving wikipedia, then ignore them. FAR says that the rules are beneficial to wikipedia so you rarely if ever have to worry about IAR. I'm not a big fan of IAR, however the RD definately seems to me like one of those cases where a lot of stuff just has got to slide --frothT C 07:54, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Other good ones are WP:ENC and WP:5P. Happycamper, I agree- this isn't the place to discuss esoteric aspects of Wikipedia policy, but I felt there are still some fundamental misunderstandings that are getting in the way. Wanting to have an exact, rigid process to follow is fundamentally misguided, and I don't feel any meaningful discussion of the issue can happen without pointing this out. This is why I suggested people get more experience with the project and come to their own understanding- the policy that is written is not the true policy. Friday (talk) 20:10, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Friday, we're not all complete n00bs. My first edit logged in was July 2005. Yours was June. -THB 20:15, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

And mine was August, 2005. I've also had experience writing articles, editing existing articles, reverting vandalism, and even working over at WikiNews, with some 15,000 edits in total (not all of them puns). So, we certainly all have enough collective experience here to "understand the wiki process". StuRat 20:23, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I used wikipedia as early as 2003, but this account was registered sometime in 2005 to be associated with my nintendo forums account at the time. Not as many edits as others, but I like to think that they're generally good quality :) Not to mention that i have almost no edits in the mainspace, where quick 1-character edits rack up oh so fast --frothT C 07:56, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Froth! Just because most of my edits are useless doesn't mean they all are!!!!-THB 21:19, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
You lucky duck, I wish I've edited the encyclopedia more. I admit that I just don't have much of a heart for it- the RD and various WP infrastructures are far more interesting to me --frothT C 18:47, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
  • I agree with the intent here, but the current wording is too bureaucratic and indicative of instruction creep. (Radiant) 13:58, 8 December 2006 (UTC)


Leftist. Reiterate that the RD is not an article and one should review WP:NOT to see how rules for articles differ from other areas. Moreover, RD is "its own beast". We get a whole lot of absolute newbies, many with only marginal ability to frame their question in English. It is RUDE to delete their posts, no matter how crappy they are in relation to the guidelines. I think what I did with Ethnic is a good model though perhaps for another question (I only put that there because Friday had already deleted the question but I really did not see much wrong with pointing the OP at articles on morals, ethics, etc without going into my opinion but after realizing that that was exactly what was asked for I decided the note was the best way). If the question cannot be easily reworded or is otherwise flawed then kindly let them know what is wrong and ask them to correct it. If the OP cannot be bothered to do that then why should we expend the considerable more effort that we, as a group, expend. Delete obvious trolls on sight; "Why are all niggers stupid" being an obvious troll and subject to instant deletion; "Is Scientology a cult" being a less-obvious troll but probably deserving of a discussion of the definition of a cult and whether Scientology meets that definition, but not of the merits of Scientology as that would be nothing but a discussion forum of opinions (and you don't want to get me started, trust me). Support the concept that we can police our own house.

1. Remove obvious trolls - any editor

2. Ask OP to reword questions that are too ambiguous to be reworded by an RD editor - any editor

3. Refactor posts that have formatting errors or include personal info - any editor

4. Ask OP for clarification as needed - any editor

5. Answer the question you think he would want to ask had he been able to word it better - any editor

6. Remove obvious unhelpful answers if an even partial on-point answer has not yet been posted (this one is my only real new idea) - any editor

7. Leave the banter alone once an even partial on-point answer has been posted - any editor

8. Delete hate-talk in responses on sight - any editor

9. Warn users that do not agree with our cabal when their actions violate the rules of the cabal - all cabal members

10. Warn users that abuse the RD on their talk page and escalate as needed (OK, the above one was a bit of a joke) - any editor

11. Use "common sense" - all editors

Amazingly, with the possible exception of # 6 and that not really, I think these rules are already in effect on wikipedia as a whole and we just need to do them. Did I leave any out? --Justanother 20:51, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Seems reasonable to me. These look to me mostly like issues on which there should be wide agreement. Friday (talk) 21:15, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
But someone deleted the ethics question? Not everyone agrees. -THB 21:20, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
It's ok to say "but you deleted the ethics question"- I won't be offended. Chalk it up to learning curve- I'm a reference desk newbie. IMO we should not attempt to answer opinion-only questions, but rather than removing them we should explain to the questioner that the question calls for opinion, and remind everyone that Wikipedia is not a forum. Hopefully, folks will get the hint and stay away from trying to answer such stuff, and we'll spend our time in more productive areas. Friday (talk) 21:24, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I didn't know it had been deleted and I didn't look to see who did it. I would have guessed someone else. Well, you shouldn't have deleted it. The consensus seemed to have been that such questions were okay until recently. I still think they're okay. What is the real purpose of knowledge anyway? -THB 21:28, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
What is the real purpose of knowledge? How about this one -- what is real knowledge? If we're drawing up dichotomies, let's start with reality - unreality. Or, more productively, and less productively, sanity, and insanity. See Paul the Baptist. Or not. Nietzsche called him a 'false coiner', which about sums up that miserable, clever fellow's affairs in life, as well as in death. And Paul the Baptist is the miserable, clever, fellow, not Fredreich Nietzsche. He, Nietzsche was, and still is, 'the first decent human being'.
"The only real Christian died on the cross." -- being highly equivocal with Nietzsche -- I believe he actually wrote 'true' instead of 'real', and he wrote in German, not English, and he wrote in Switzerland, not Canada, and he used a real pen, not a bloody computer.
Theavatar3 22:16, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
(ec) That's a question for a philosophy forum. [5] has one. Sitting around chatting about our opinions is not relevant to the purpose of Wikipedia and thus doesn't belong here. I'm not suggesting this means it's worth causing all kinds of trouble to remove such stuff, but it's not relevant and should be discouraged. Friday (talk) 21:39, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Please note that in my above guidelines there is little or nothing about judging questions to be appropriate or inappropriate. I considered that then rejected the idea. Ask for clarification if needed but it is up to the RD editors, not the poster, to know the rules and the RD editors should refrain from turning this into an opinion free-for-all. They refrain by answering the question, not offering their opinion, and the more the question asks for an opinion, the less opinion they offer. That should be our guideline, IMO. --Justanother 21:38, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Those seem like a fairly nice summary of what normal behaviour on the RD should be, IMHO. I'm generally opposed to guidelines for the RD, but as a description of ideal behaviour, these look good to me. Skittle 23:10, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

My comments:

1. Remove obvious trolls - any editor

Agreed. They have to be really blatant, though. There seems to be the tendency of editors to take any post in poorly written English to be a troll, for example. This is a bad thing. StuRat 23:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

2. Ask OP to reword questions that are too ambiguous to be reworded by an RD editor - any editor

Agreed. StuRat 23:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

3. Refactor posts that have formatting errors or include personal info - any editor

Agreed, but leave a copy of the original post, in case you misinterpreted it. StuRat 23:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

4. Ask OP for clarification as needed - any editor

Agreed, but we do seem to go overboard in this area. Like if somebody asks the mass of the Earth, we start asking "Do you include the mass of the oceans ? the air ? the animals ?". None of that would make much difference in the answer. StuRat 23:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

5. Answer the question you think he would want to ask had he been able to word it better - any editor

Yes, or answer the question we can answer, which is related to what they ask. For example, we can't answer "Why are men smarter than women", but can answer "In which ways are men and women smarter ?". StuRat 23:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

6. Remove obvious unhelpful answers if an even partial on-point answer has not yet been posted (this one is my only real new idea) - any editor

I'm against this. While we should discourage such posts, I don't like removing them, either. StuRat 23:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

7. Leave the banter alone once an even partial on-point answer has been posted - any editor

Agreed. StuRat 23:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

8. Delete hate-talk in responses on sight - any editor

Agreed, but it really has to be hate-speech, not just something somebody might possibly misconstrue as offensive. StuRat 23:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

9. Warn users that do not agree with our cabal when their actions violate the rules of the cabal - all cabal members

10. Warn users that abuse the RD on their talk page and escalate as needed (OK, the above one was a bit of a joke) - any editor

Agreed, following the escalation procedure I listed above. StuRat 23:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

11. Use "common sense" - all editors

Agreed. StuRat 23:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm agreed with sturat on basically everything, although I take a somewhat stronger stance on number 6- it would be great if there were far less unhelpful posts but at the same time mere unhelpfulness doesn't warrant deletion, that's the slippery slope of deletionism that us seemingly-escatological-prophets have been raving about recently :) By the way, I think it's exaggerated how bad non-answers are, if you give an answer and somebody corrects you, there's nothing wrong with a simple "Oh right sorry", it only takes up one more line and the OP won't be confused as to whether to believe you or the other person. Other completely unhelpful answers like, admittedly, my response to this question don't really interfere with the quality of the understanding the OP will come away with after reading with the responses, and like I said only take up one line. But if we start deleting things unilaterally and there's disagreements, and conflict, a hundred thousand lines of argument springs up (like what's happening right now) and there's a big mess. Whether it's wrong or not (it's clear what I think -"not"- but my point is that it's irrelevant), it just won't work with too loose a deletion policy. I don't really know how to defend that assertion other than actually try a free-for-all deletion policy, but I'd rather not see that happen, and a balance could be hard to strike experimentally. Argue on, I guess. It would be nice to get some extremely general deletion rules down and maybe it will become apparent that this is a non-problem --frothT C 08:07, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Purpose of RD

From Library reference desk: The reference desk or information desk of a library is a public service desk where professional librarians offer help to library users.

From Reference interview: A reference interview is structured (ideally) according to the following series of steps. First the library user states a question or describes a problem. The librarian then clarifies the user's information need, sometimes leading him or her back from a request for a specific resource (which may not be the best one for the problem at hand) to the actual information need as it manifests in the library user's life. Following that, the librarian suggests information resources that address the user's information need, explaining the nature and scope of information they contain and soliciting feedback. The reference interview closes when the librarian has provided the appropriate information or a referral to an outside resource where it can be found, and the user confirms that he or she has received the information needed.

Word soup! —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Theavatar3 (talkcontribs) 22:13, 6 December 2006 (UTC).

However, we need to keep in mind that Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia, not a library, so the Reference Desk cannot function solely within the limits of Wikipedia. If that were the case, no reference desk would be needed, just a better search engine and instructions on how to use it. -THB 21:54, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Great point. A librarian would/should never offer his/her opinion unless perhaps on a trivial subject but instead would direct the questioner to materials that present BOTH sides of the issue. Further, one librarian would handle the question, the entire library staff would not come over, ignoring their other work, and start a major BS session on the topic. That would be weird (imagine Johnny Depp as Willie Wonka saying that line). --Justanother 22:07, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Agree with the above. Particularly Justanother's point about opinions. Not entirely sure what's meant by "Reference Desk cannot function solely within the limits of Wikipedia" though- it is part of the project, and thus it shares the core goals and policies with the rest of the project. This is not article space, so some of the content policies are less important here. But we all need to remember that wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a chat room. Friday (talk) 22:15, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
If we follow Justanothers line of reasoning, it means the first answer, right or wrong, good or bad, silly or serious, from anyone who happens to be lurking (yes it might even be me!) would close off the question completely for replies. Is that what he intended?--Light current 22:19, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, it's not what he said. Friday (talk) 22:22, 6 December 2006 (UTC
Friday, the goal of Wikipedia is to make knowledge in the form of an encyclopaedia available at no cost. The goal of the Reference Desk is to offer help to users trying to find information. Some information is not in Wikipedia. Thus the Reference Desk has to go beyond Wikipedia in order to assist the users. Wikipedia is not an entire library. -THB 22:33, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Its goals go no further. The RD is part of Wikipedia. To me, this strongly suggests that pointing people to off-site information, for example, is irrelevant to the goals of the project. Again, I'm not suggesting it's worth causing trouble to enforce this, but irrelevant activities here should be discouraged. Also note that off-site information could easily be from a dubious source. I'm not against pointing people to google, or webmd for medical questions, or the like, but I think we should be conservative here. Friday (talk) 22:56, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
No, LC, that is not what I mean. I was just making the point that, since the analogy was made, a BS session does not ensue in a library. But in a library you have trained researchers; here we do not. So answers should/will continue until the question is adequately answered. That is not the same as a BS session. Though I think more BS is acceptable here than at a library since, as someone already pointed out, we are partially paid in BS (though I am not sure if they put it quite that way - laff). I just think the BS should hold off until the answering has at least begun. Otherwise it is rudeness to the questioner. --Justanother 23:02, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Hmmm. I thought actually that that had been agreed upon a couple of months ago by the RD community! 8-)--Light current 23:04, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Friday, the whole point of Wikipedia is to distribute information and maybe even knowledge. -THB
No, that's too broad a statement. What I ate for lunch today is information. But its got nothing to do with what Wikipedia is about. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia- this is the entire foundation. Friday (talk) 23:14, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Even that would be legit under the proper circumstances. For example, if you ate spinach for lunch and wanted to know if it's batch number was included in the recent recall, that would be a valid question, IMO. StuRat 10:29, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
In that case all answers on the RDs a should consist of no more than a simplelink to our page on the subject and should not include any extra info or guidance whatsoever. Everybody happy?--Light current 23:19, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
No, that doesn't make me happy. Wikipedia is incomplete. I'll say again, if the only purpose of the RD is to help people find the correct article in Wikipedia, replace it with a better search engine and instructions on how to use it. I believe that the RD should function not only on that level. -THB 02:01, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Friday says that we should restrict our answers to info inside Wikipedia, since info on outside sources might be "irrelevant" or "dubious." I reject this view completely. Much info INSIDE Wikipedia is dubious, as witnessed by frequent edit wars, and the many completely unreferenced articles, a hundred or so of which I may tag as such on a given day, not to mention the articles which have been vandalized. There are many good sources of information other than Wikipedia, including real life books and print periodicals. I have over the years purchased some good reference books on 19th century electrical technology, and I know where more are in a research library at a university, as well as paying for online access to some print publications and newspaper archives, and I have used them in answering RD questions as well as in writing and improving articles. Any source that would be adequate as a reference in a Wikipedia article is adequate for a Ref Desk answer. Also consider that if a questioner has done due diligence and looked at the relevant articles, and the info they need is not there, there is the opportunity to add to the article the desired info (if it is of general interest). Please do not even hint that punishments might be applicable for such work. A Real Life Reference Desk Librarian (RLRDL) is by no means restricted to referring an inquiring mind to materials in the library's collection. She can refer the patron to a research library, or she can refer the patron to material in many libraries nationwide through interlibrary loan, and can do that without fear of being punished by overzealous library police. Edison 04:42, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Agreed (although I do think Wikipedia is usually, but not always, a good source). Also, the opening quote did say a Ref Librarian will offer "a referral to an outside resource where it can be found", just as we should. Whether the source is internal to Wikipedia or external is irrelevant, the best source should always be used, whichever that is. Also, the library staff most definitely does give opinions, for example, in response to the question, "what's a good book for a 5 year old having to deal with the death of a grandparent ?". And, if the Ref Librarian is asked a simple factual question, where they know the answer, like "who was the US President during the Civil War", they may very well answer from "personal knowledge" rather than refer the customer to a reference where they can research it themselves. Of course, if asked for a ref, they would then provide one. StuRat 06:08, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Friday, the RD isn't a big brain-powered search engine. We make information available to people, we don't make wikipedia available to people. We share a common mission with wikipedia, but we don't necessarily have to use wikipedia in our answers. Like it or not wikipedia has only a tiny fraction of the info available on the internet, and an infintesimal fraction of all the info in the world; it's unreasonable to expect us to carry out our mission restricted to serving up wikipedian content. WP exists to serve not to be served. A twist on words, yes, and it's isn't exactly what you said but I think it's important to understanding the dynamic between wp and the rd. --frothT C 08:20, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Friday, have any of the above comments changed your thinking on this topic at all? There's a pretty good weight behind this subject but there needs to be consensus so that conflict can be avoided in the future. -THB 21:23, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Justanother wrote, Though I think more BS is acceptable here than at a library since, as someone already pointed out, we are partially paid in BS. I've heard this idea before, and I just don't think this makes any sense at all. Nobody else gets "paid in BS" on Wikipedia. If you want to help the project, you're free to do so. But nobody can demand the right to use project pages for functions other than their purpose as "payment" for their work. -- SCZenz 23:31, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Listen, we do what we do for the reasons we do it. It is really not up to anyone to judge our reasons, only our output and contributions. I like the BS and consider it part of the recompense for my efforts here; the other parts being satisfaction of "getting it right", the enjoyment of helping another and my "knowledge buff" tendency. No particular order there. So I, for one, get partially paid in BS. You get paid in what you get paid. The BS is normal banter that happens when people get together and have fun doing useful work. It should not be suppressed. If you don't like then don't read it. Or do you think that you should dictate the working conditions here? Is that what this is about? --Justanother 23:44, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Agree with Justanother. But Im wondering whether the disadvantages of contributing to WP are starting to outweigh the advantages. I came here to share my knowledge and experiece and to help people. But lately I find myself asking: Is all the ingratitude and downright offensive criticism really worth the paltry satisfaction I get from the odd good answer or merry innocent quip?--Light current 00:10, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, well, LC, just so long as you don't also get paid in pulling people's chains or torquing people off (smile) --Justanother 00:14, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry I dont get it 8-|--Light current 00:23, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
In case anyone somehow missed it, Wikipedia is specifically not a place to share your own knowledge and experience. Maybe Everything2 is closer to that. Friday (talk) 00:29, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
As another editor once said to me "Pull the other one, it has bells on." --Justanother 00:27, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Paraphrased from WP:IAR ... "what the **** are you talking about that rule can't possibly apply to the RD!" --frothT C 08:22, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Friday, once again from WP:NOT "The above guidelines apply to articles on Wikipedia." RD is not an article. --Justanother 00:33, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
If you're into the exact written words, you need to read the whole thing. It includes "Please do not use Wikipedia for any of the following" and one of the following is "Personal essays or Blogs that state your particular opinions about a topic." I'm not saying we need to be super strict about this outside of article space, but it's very clearly outside the purpose of the project to give our own opinions. Our own opinions about Wikipedia are relevant, of course, and are welcome in user or project space. This is a tremendously relevant point, and I think a lack of understanding of this is behind much of our disagreements here about the reference desk. All editors, working on any part of the project need to understand the goals and policies of the project. Friday (talk) 00:43, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
You should know that pulling legs too hard is not approved of! 8-|
I'm frankly amazed that you've taken all this BS light current. But surely you can find other projects on wikipedia that tilt that net loss into a gain; just drop RD for awhile --frothT C 08:26, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I would but I do feel its important to stand up against censor ship and burocracy 8-|--Light current 16:57, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Friday, just so you understand that 1) you are quoting from a bit that specifically does not apply to the RD and 2) it is not "lack of understanding", it is disagreement. I think that many of us believe that the RD, especially the Misc. desk, should allow some OR in answering questions. That issue being entirely separate from the BS or banter issue. They are two separate issues. Regarding WP:OR, I think that the OR should be supported so if someone asks "Do you think a potato cannon could kill someone" then, unless we can find studies to support, we are left with OR hopefully backed by some info about kinetic energy, etc. --Justanother 00:56, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm not saying OR is our worst problem here and I'm not saying we need to stamp it out with an iron fist- I just hope that the people doing it understand that it's actually outside the scope of the project. I don't see anything to support your assertion that what I'm saying specifically does not apply here, where do you? Yes, WP:NOT is primarily about article space, but it's also an explanation of the purpose and scope of the project- there are many things in there that very clearly apply outside of mainspace. But perhaps this is too fine a point for right now? Our bigger problems are things other than OR, I think we both agree on that. Friday (talk) 01:07, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Oh, I think we mostly agree on many things about these issues. Here is the point I make, see the line under the sub-heading WP:NOT#What the Wikipedia community is not. The RD is a community project, not an article. I agree that OR is a bit off-purpose and not in keeping with "The Wikipedia reference desk works like a library reference desk." However I do not think the library desk is a valid model for the RD. It is more like "Ask Mr. Wizard" or your knowledgable Uncle Mike. --Justanother 01:18, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Mr. Wizard is very high in my Pantheon. Do not mock Him!Edison 06:14, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
It is also like Yahoo Answers[6] or Experts-Exchange but those get props for best answers. We get yelled at (joke) --Justanother 01:38, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Experts-Exchange, at least, sounds quite different. They're both websites where people ask questions, but the devil is in the details. Friday (talk) 01:56, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Point being that all those sources, including my Uncle Mike, deal in OR. Point being that we only pay lip service here to the library model. A librarian refers you to the answer; we just answer and perhaps provide references and, know what, that seems to be what the intro blurb instructs us to do?--Justanother 02:01, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
You're talking about where it says we should link to Wikipedia articles? Friday (talk) 02:05, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

No, I had this part more in mind "Be thorough. Please provide as much of the answer as you are able to." I may well be able to provide more of an answer than just a link to a wikipedia article and I will also link as appropriate so I will take care of both instructions and still have room for opinion. Wikipedia is not a library. There are no recipe books here. If someone asks me how to prepare pecan pie I will tell them from my experience and direct them to what, in my opinion, is a decent recipe on the net. --Justanother 06:44, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Ref Desk volunteers fined in chastisements, removals, and blocks

The inverse of the above is that chastisements, removals, and blocks are like "fines", so should be used sparingly. If these fines exceed the "payments", then working the Ref Desk becomes a net negative, and we all leave. StuRat 06:34, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Everyone can make their own choices about whether to edit or not. -- SCZenz 08:16, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I have to agree with sczenz, we should make policy to get things right, not to pander to the editors (no matter how noble our work may be =) ) --frothT C 08:27, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I think the "customers" (question askers) and "employees" (Ref Desk volunteers) concerns should both be taken equally, neither should be ignored. StuRat 10:16, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
If we follow policies and guidelines everything should just work- IMO that's the idea behind Wikipedia:Follow all rules. I'm not so much concerned about the human aspect of the problem as I am about finding a reasonable application of the rules to the reference desk --frothT C 19:53, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Fie [7] to Luddites and authoritarians who seek to destroy the RD through Wikilawyering and penalties for good-faith efforts to answer questions. Edison 06:18, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Origins and purpose of RD

At some point in the dim and distant past some wikipedians must have decided that a 'library type' reference desk would be a good idea. THey would then have discussed it interminably putting arguments for against and sideways and sometimes tangentially or orthogonally (my favorite word), and finally, after a few years of bitter wrangling and beating about the bush started one.

Now, During these discussions, did any arguments as to the purpose of the RDs surface? I wasnt here so I dont know. I assume though that the consensis at the time was that it was a good idea. Has that consensus changed and if so, can a new consensus agree to dispense with the RDs.

I have elsewhere given my reasons in favor of keeping the RDs. (as a QC check on the articles).

The similarity of the RDs with a real library, are of course, minimal:

  • Desks in libraries know their books are ok (theye been published by reputable forms etc). All our stuff is suspect.
  • Libraries employ proessional librarians or information people to help; we use anyone who happens to be passing and volunteers
  • Libraries pay their staff.
  • Libraries are not encyclopedias.
  • Library staff get respect from the users (usually) RD volunteers get quite a lot of abuse and cricisism
  • Library staff do not go and get the book for you, open it, and start reading the contents to you like a bedtime story (you have to pay extra for that--- not a joke with any sexual or other implied meaning whatsoever!!). Yet this very thing is what we as RD staff are being asked to do more and more rather than merely referring a reader to the shelf on which his information may be found.

People here (WP) need to decide on the purpose of the RD and whilst they are deciding (which could take another copuple of years), we should go back to the original aims, which were....?? When the original aims have been rediscoverd, a simple set of guidelins for behaviour should be drawn up for editors and questioners alike as I have said and initialed about three times now, only to be interrupted by others (usually admins) who want no rules. --Light current 22:49, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

FWIW I never really took that idea seriously, and it seems like few other people did --frothT C 08:24, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Lollipop Guild

Whatever happened to the Lollipop Guild? -THB 19:36, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

It was set up just sort of as a fun thing if I remember correctly. For a while, that helped with the cohesiveness here a little. --HappyCamper 20:05, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I would probably join if we dumped the oh-so-funny elitist newbie-bashing crap and replaced it all with "Sometimes people unfamiliar with netiquette act in a manner that we might see as rude but we promise to continue to be tolerant and helpful". --Justanother 21:31, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Amen. I'd also like to kill-with-fire some of the in-jokes that crop up from time to time. I was embarrassed as hell every time I saw an oh-so-clever individual (by which I mean dumbass) trot out the words 'suitly emphazi' to mock another Ref Desk editor's (bad) or neophyte-possibly-with-English-as-a-second-language questioner's (worse) ineloquently phrased question or answer. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 23:56, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Ouch. I have to fess up to doing that. But in my defense, I saw it used by RD regulars all over the place when I first started posting, and at the time I didn't realise its offensiveness. Anchoress 23:59, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm sure we've all made mistakes at the Ref Desk (and/or elsewhere on Wikipedia) in our time here. I should have spoken up when I first saw it start to appear with regularity, rather than just rolling my eyes. I think the important thing is that people come away from the discussions here aware of two key points.
  1. Letting things fester until they explode isn't a good way to deal with our problems here. SCZenz, Light current, Friday, and all the others are good editors and (from what I can tell) good people. There's been a lot of unfortunate nastiness circulating these days, and I wish it would stop. We need to do a better job of providing feedback – positive and negative – to our fellow contributors.
  1. The level of decorum and courtesy should be higher on pages where there are likely to be a lot of newbies. It's one thing to share private jokes and some friendly ribbing on the talk pages of long-time users. It's another, rather unfortunate thing when a person's first experience with Wikipedia is derision ('suitly emphazi' etc.) and confusing references to seagulls and bagels. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 00:40, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Well TOAT, you may be surprised to learn that I tend to agree with your numbered points above. I'm a firm believer in gentle persuasion and reasoning (esp if its from 2 or more editors) than one big stick from one Admin with a zealous mission. I repeat again that the only way to make acceptable RD behaviour clear is to formulate guidelines.
Everyone will have a view of a comment or answer that necessarily depends upon his own particular judgement. In turn that judgement will have been learned or developed over a number of years at home, in school, in church, at college, in work etc. IOW peoples judgement is influenced (some may say tainted or programmed) by their surroundings and exposure to others to a large extent. What we must try to do here is not to supress peoples judgement (for that is what they truly believe) but to try to enlighten them and broaden their minds. Similarly what offends one person may go completely over the head of another. Im sure if I knew you well, I could find something that would offend you grossly, but would not matter in the slightest to your friend.
I personally find lots of material on WP either offensive, disgusting or just plian stupid. But I put that down to ME not to the originators. I realise that to be a true Wikipwedian (or indeed a developed human being) one has to take all that life throws at you either verbally or in written form. This does become easier the older you get.
It is not true that younger people are more open minded than thier elders-- quite the reverse (generally). Maturity leads to tolerance. Tolerance is in short supply in certain areas of WP 8-|--Light current 01:10, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

What kinds of questions are allowed on the Reference Desk?

I firmly believe that any question or comment posted by a user that can be answered in a way that increases the user's knowledge should be answered. Even trolling questions, like some we've had about race, can be a vehicle for learning. -THB 22:37, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

You think people who come here to troll want to learn? This is.. surprising to me. I'd suggest not wasting our time on trolls. Friday (talk) 22:39, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm generally not a deletionist, but the problem with trollish questions is a) when they're answered, the questioner frequently digs deeper with more (and worse) trollish questions (perhaps because of the encouragement), and b) they become a magnet for trollish answers. If every question, no matter how ignorant, stupid, or bad-faith, was answered factually, and not answered in the spirit in which it was asked, I wouldn't have a problem with any trollish questions. But unfortunately that doesn't happen very often. Anchoress 22:49, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Anchoress, fortunately, that's not *usually* the case on the RD. In fact, most questioners don't even seem to come back to get their answers-THB 22:57, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
It's true that most questioners don't even come back for their answers, but it's been my observation that the worst trolls post serially, and their contributions degenerate. And so do the answers. Anchoress 23:46, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Friday, you don't have to waste your time helping trolls learn. It's volunteer. -THB 22:58, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Feeding the trolls hurts us all. Friday (talk) 22:59, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
To look at the flip side: does any one think that trolls can in some cases actually contribute something positve to WP. THis is a serious Q not a troll. THe implied Q is of course: who and why are the trolls? --Light current 23:09, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
I think we should find a way to harness their energy! Like, build an anger cage that traps it all and converts it into electricity. Then we'd have a party or something. Hopefully I answered that question well. 00:09, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I find it hard to believe that most people don't come back for answers to their questions. What most people don't do is leave any evidence they've checked back, such as a query or an acknowledgement. JackofOz 01:15, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I thought thats what the RDs were!--Light current 01:32, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Really, trolls are only trolls if you let them be trolls. If you take a trolling question and treat it seriously and answer it, it's finished. You delete it, it just pops back up. There have been a few recurring trolls lately, but only a few. Trolls want attention but you can choose what, how and when you feed them. (Granted that there will always be some extreme exceptions.) -THB 01:54, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

And if you answer one question, and they ask a more offensive follow-up? -- SCZenz 01:55, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Of course there is a point where things should be deleted. I've done it myself. Offhand I can't recall a troll digging a hole deeper and deeper the more we've poured water into it. -THB 02:07, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Really, when I started this subtopic, the emphasis was on the first sentence. The troll sentence was 20% of my point. The first sentence was supposed to be the 80%. I was thinking more about opinion questions and race questions. -THB 02:09, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

A troll is very difficult to detect on the first Q. Ive been mistaken myself a few times. The follow up Q usually gives more of an indication, whilst the third Q usually confirms it. At that point (and at that point only) ALL postings and answers to the troll should be deleted. Thats my view anyway! 8-)--Light current 02:12, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, there are specific guidelines somewhere on Wikipedia, maybe even a policy, that says WP:AGF trumps WP:DFTT. -THB 02:14, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
LC, I am shocked that you've been mistaken for a Troll!!!! You didn't get blocked or anything, did you??? ;-) -THB 02:16, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Ive been called one a few times. Thats because I say things that others disagree with or becuase I sometimes make a merry quip on the RDs.--Light current 17:01, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Besides, everyone's forgetting, the trolls haven't been the problem, the problem has been the editors having conflict amongst themselves. -THB 02:27, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes! Good observation!--Light current 03:09, 7 December 2006 (UTC)


Anyone think maybe Wikipedia:Reference desk/purpose or something similiar could be used for a specific statement about the purpose of the RD? If we kept it strictly to things that were generally agreed upon, maybe having such a thing could prevent a similiar conversation from coming up again in a year's time. Friday (talk) 01:30, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

That is a good idea!--Light current 01:33, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I made a tiny little start, just using content that was already on the RD pages, so there shouldn't be anything there that anyone disagrees with. Friday (talk) 01:46, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
BTW Is it a talk page or a project page? ie can we post to it?--Light current 02:06, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I think Friday's saying it's for consensus statements only. -THB 02:08, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
(I'm suggesting this- I have no magical right to dictate.) Friday (talk) 02:10, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Thanks, that seems obvious but it isn't to some. -THB 02:19, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
(ec) It's in project space, and it has a talk page of course. I hope other people edit it, otherwise I'm just talking to myself. However I suggest that to avoid conflict, we should only put things in that page that we think there's general agreement on. Let's move slowly here, maybe we'll get some useful result. Friday (talk) 02:09, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
The second half of the last sentence is missing "if possible" somewhere in there. -THB 02:12, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Add it if you like- but I was just using language that already was written. To me, "should" covers "if possible"- there's a difference between "should" and "must". Friday (talk) 02:16, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
It's a Wikipedia project page, whose content is governed by the wiki process. That means that you can put anything you want there, or remove anything you want, but that it's probably best to limit things to consensus statements to avoid edit wars. -- SCZenz 02:15, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
No lets say 'hopefully' or by the 'Grace of God' or something--Light current 02:16, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
The consensus was that the page was for consensus. -THB 02:18, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
So lets get hammering it out on its talk page!--Light current 02:21, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
To be honest, even after taking a couple of hours to go out to eat, I'm exhausted! -THB 02:25, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Well have a little rest, a few beers etc. watch a bit of TV, get some sleep. Then we'll see you back!--Light current 02:48, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure what "it's a project space" means, but suspect it means the Ref Desk should be treated as an article rather than a talk page. If so, I strongly disagree. The form and function are both like that of a talk page (allow multiple voices, add signatures, don't just delete anything because you disagree, etc.), so it should be considered a talk page, not an article page. If nobody disagrees, I will change the statement accordingly. StuRat 06:57, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

It means it's a non-article page whose purpose is to serve the project, or technically simply that the name begins with "Wikipedia:". I'm not sure declaring the ref desk a talk page is really the right approach; it really doesn't fit with existing definitions. -- SCZenz 08:24, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
This page in itself Wikipedia:Reference desk/purpose is instruction creep. This is just another way to sanction ambiguous actions taken here. It fundamentally does not solve the problem. Why are we not listening? --HappyCamper 16:32, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I think we're mostly trying our best. Can you be more clear about what your suggestion is? Friday (talk) 16:34, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
As I pointed out at that /purpose talk page and somewhere else on this page, the RD shares a common purpose with WP (to make information more available) but shouldn't have to serve it. I guess everyone likes to think that their project is an exception to the definition but this really does seem like a valid case. --frothT C 20:11, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

The "real" dispute?

After discussion with SCzenz I think I figured something out. I am going to try to make these my final words. Feel free to use any of my comments anywhere you like. Part of the problem seems to be a disagreement in what the RD should look like; should it look like article-space or community-space. Some might think it is unprofessional that it looks like community-space since it might be the first place a newcomer spends time or posts. Community space is often characterized by the lighthearted irreverance that pervades the entire project outside of article-space and I can point at many many policies and advices that are written in a lighthearted irreverent vein ex. WP:BOLLOCKS, WP:SNOW, many more. This question of the nature of the RD is the elephant in the room here. I think we all agree that abuse of the RD is inappropriate. But we talk about that as if that were the dispute. I think the real dispute is article-space or community space? I think it is community-space. Other might think it should more resemble article-space. I think if someone is trying to make the RD all serious looking, if they are trying to make the RD look like article-space rather than community-space, then I think they are fighting a losing battle.The best it will be is effective. I think we all agree that actions which seriously reduce its effectiveness are inappropriate. --Justanother 02:19, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

I hadn't thought of it that way. Why are you bowing out of the dialogue? -THB 02:20, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I have other fish to fry and have said everything I have to say including my opinion on this "meta" topic. I will try to contribute if I have more to say later. --Justanother 02:33, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, when somebody looks something up in an encylopaedia, there's no conversation. When someone asks a question at a reference desk, there's a conversation. I think responses are usually tailored to the questioner, to the age, tone, nature of the question, although once I did accuse a 60-something year old woman of asking a homework question. -THB 02:24, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Ah yes I remember that one 8-) We all make mistkes! Oops--Light current 02:34, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I remember that too. Usually I just answer homework questions anyway, or at least provide perhaps too-useful links. Sorry! --frothT C 20:13, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
It's a page for the general public, not specifically for Wikipedians—or rather, a place where the former come to the latter for help. And it's linked from the main page. Ergo it is public space, although not an article, much as the main page itself is. Disagreements on this may be the core of the issue... but I don't know what arguments exist that justify calling it "community-space"... or for that matter, what is community space, and what are other examples? -- SCZenz 02:26, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
You make a very important point here- this needs to be more public-friendly than project space typically is, due to its nature as the reference desk- we all need to understand this well. Friday (talk) 02:32, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Mm yes very good point. It's definately not article space but it's not community space either. It's a delicate balance to strike. --frothT C 20:15, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I think it's clear from convention, usage, and (obviously) naming that the RD is project space, not article space. I've not heard of anythign called "community space" so I assume you mean project space. However we should keep in mind that the general expectation in project space is that you're discussing some aspect of the project, not just chatting. I don't think people are objecting to any and all humor- saying that we need some standards at the RD is not saying we need to be ultra-strict. Friday (talk) 02:29, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
By its very nature, it's a place where people interact, asking and answering questions. -THB 02:30, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Its community space. --Light current 02:32, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Everyone, please see Wikipedia:Namespace. This is, by definition, project space. There is nothing called "community space". Friday (talk) 02:36, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

No we've just invented a new space: Community space: like the foyer of the library where everyone mixes and chats.

--Light current 02:38, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Since this is an issue. The terms "community-space" and "article-space" are mine. I think we all know what they mean. See Wikipedia:Community Portal link right off the main navigation box on the left - the RD is there. Also see WP:NOT for the distinct difference in rules applicable to the two "spaces". --Justanother 02:39, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
The actual spaces that people agree exist are discussed at Wikipedia:Namespace. The spaces listed there will have an agreed-upon meaning. Newly-made-up ones will not. Friday (talk) 02:44, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
OK, REAL DISPUTE: Article Namespace vs. Project Namespace. Take a look then, it is project namespace (starts with "Wikipedia" prefix). So let's stop talking semantics and discuss what this aspect of the project namespace should look like. I think it should look like most other parts of project namespace, irreverent but effective. Others may think it should look like article namespace, encyclopedic. I think my view is more defensible since it is, after all, project namespace, not article namespace. --Justanother 02:51, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
It certainly cannnot be considered encyclopedic!--Light current 02:54, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
The important distinction from other project pages, as pointed out above, is that the RD by its nature needs to be more friendly and accessable to new users or the general public. I've added language to this effect to the purpose subpage. Friday (talk) 02:58, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
It looks more like portal namespace to me: "meant for both readers and editors of Wikipedia, and should promote content and encourage contribution", though which wiki prefix the desk is under should not matter all that much. Maybe "promote content" should go as the #1 item on Friday's purpose subpage?EricR 03:10, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
You may be onto something- I think the RD predates portals? If it's really more like a portal, maybe it should move. Friday (talk) 03:18, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Should this talk not now be moved to the relevant talk page?--Light current 03:07, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Portal namspace for the entire project? I don't think so. "Portals are pages intended to serve as "Main Pages" for specific topics or areas." We have a portal: Wikipedia:Reference desk but the real question is what should the RDs "look like"; informal forum for asking and answering questions or formal forum for asking and answering questions. If the latter, we may want to consider making it entirely moderated. All questions and answers submitted to a moderator that will vet them, edit them, and post them. Cause it is either that or keep it very light on the delete key, IMO. --Justanother 03:21, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

I believe it's a "talk namespace", due to the conversational nature (Socratic method) for answering questions. StuRat 07:07, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Ah, but talk pages have well-defined topics that they stick to, right? -- SCZenz 08:22, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
An article talk page is limited to discussion of the subject of that article. The subject of the Ref Desk is the sum of all human knowledge, however, so talk only needs to be limited to that. StuRat 08:42, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
A page whose only limitations are to discuss "the sum of all human knowledge" is a discussion forum. Wikipedia does not host discussion forums. -- SCZenz 08:44, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
What makes a page a discussion forum is not so much the topic as the method of discussion. For example, if I have a 3-legged cat, it's not appropriate for me to just announce that and list some pics so everybody can see. However, if a question was asked about 3-legged cats ("is it safe to let my 3-legged cat outside ?"), then, an answer in the form of "yes, I let mine out all the time, and it's done fine for 10 years now" is appropriate. StuRat 10:08, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

How about a "Desk" namespace? :-) Carcharoth 10:47, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

This is what I thought justanother was talking about.. Article space is obvious, Community space is primarily for editors; stuff like esperanza and all of the wikipedia policies, as well as internal affairs like admin noticeboard and ArbCom, Project space is for wiki projects that directly serve the mainspace like the featured picture candidates, articles for deletion, and I'd argue all of the talk pages. By these definintions the RD seems somewhat unique.. it certainly doesn't serve the mainspace directly, it's not "Community space" (really a kind of off-to-the-side subset of project space) since it's so open to newbies as SCZenz pointed out, and it's definately not article space. What we've got to decide is which aspects of each space we should adopt for the RD. I know some people want it to resemble the article space for formality, and others want it treated like a talk page.. why not talk page format while striving to provide article-space-quality responses? --frothT C 20:24, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes, that last sentence sounds right. -THB 21:29, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree. StuRat 00:21, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Process to clarify the Ref Desk rules

As there is considerable disagreement on which Wikipedia policies apply to the Ref Desk, and which do not, I feel we need to build a consensus, then write up the interpretation of those Wikipedia rules, as they apply to the RD, on a Ref Desk Policy Page. While there is a minority that feels no consensus is needed, and they may act alone based on their own interpretation of the rules, I feel the majority believes that consensus is needed. The problem we've had in building a consensus is that, as an issue is brought up, it's discussed, but we never "decide" anything, we just go on to debate the next issue. Instead, we need to take the issues on one at a time, build a consensus (and yes, that means saying we support or oppose each specific proposal), then document that consensus on a Ref Desk Policy Page, then move on to the next issue under dispute. As a first step, we need to identify the Ref Desk policy issues under dispute. StuRat 08:34, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Sounds like a plan, insofar as the decisions made are consistent with Wikipedia policy. It wouldn't have been my first choice—you're proposing a very bureaucratic procedure—but if a discussion of issues one at a time helps people figure this out, then so be it. Except that I don't really think a "support"/"oppose" structure is consistent with making good decisions or even helpful for determining consensus; I'd propose instead that we discuss until we have some sort of agreement. -- SCZenz 08:40, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I simply don't understand how you can ever form a consensus (or know what the consensus is) by viewing pages of discussions, with various opinions offered (except, perhaps, on easy issues, where 90% of the opinion is in one direction). How could that ever lead to a uniform set of rules if you never actually ask people specifically if they support or oppose those rules ? StuRat 08:56, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
It happens all over Wikipedia, all the time. One way would be to work on the purpose we could collectively use the wiki process to edit Wikipedia:Reference desk/purpose until we reached wording we all liked. Then, with an agreed-upon purpose in mind, we could perhaps make other pages to tackle other issues. -- SCZenz 09:00, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't believe Wikipedia encourages people to edit policy pages until after a consensus has been reached, to avoid constant rule changes and edit wars. StuRat 09:05, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Wikipedia encourages to be bold, but not reckless. That means you can edit pages without pre-established consensus, but that you shouldn't push things too hard or you'll just get reverted. Sometimes people do edit policy pages out of the blow, and this sometimes results in much changing-and-changing-back with simltaneous discussion; the result, sometimes at least, is that eventually someone introduces a compromise wording that everyone can accept. That is the wiki process. -- SCZenz 09:11, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Do you have a reference that says it's OK to directly change a policy page without consensus ? I don't think you're right, there. StuRat 09:16, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
There has been a movement towards stricter regulation of policy pages of late, as for example is reflected in the current wording of Template:Policy, but it remains the case that edits are made and reverted on policy pages all the time. It's certainly okay to change a policy page without a straw poll, if you believe it reflects consensus, and there are some users who still follow the school of thought that a bold edit to a page is an important starting point for discussion. In any case, it is a foundation issue that the wiki process is (with few exceptions) the final arbiter of content. Besides, Wikipedia:Reference desk/purpose is hardly a major policy page; it's just a useful page to edit and come up with something we can agree on. -- SCZenz 09:25, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Hmm. When does a draft policy page become a real active policy TITQ 8-(--Light current 09:19, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
When a wide variety of editors have looked at it, and there's consensus on its talk page. -- SCZenz 09:25, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I certainly agree that we need to build a consensus on what the RD function is an which policies should apply. Discussion is fine , but at some point, decisions need to be made 8-|--Light current 08:46, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes. Certain behaviors that have occurred are simply not acceptable to the majority of editors and consensus has to be reached on their acceptability. -THB 14:13, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Do people agree or disagree, that the starting point for the RD "rules" should be our standard Wikipedia rules? If we can agree to start there, this would save lots of time. Friday (talk) 15:45, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
PS. SCZenz is right- Wikipedia:Reference desk/purpose is meant to be edited. This is a page that was started yesterday, people- it's not like it has years of discussion already put into it. I've not worried about slapping a policy or guideline tag or anything on it- it's too immature right now. If it turns into something useful, we can label it later. But first it needs to turn into something useful. Friday (talk) 15:48, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes I don't think friday would confuse the pages of RD talk comments for consensus on /Purpose. --frothT C 20:27, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

List of Ref Desk policy issues under dispute

Here I wish to only build a list of Ref Desk policy issues under dispute. I don't wish to discuss them here, just build a list. That discussion can happen elsewhere. Please add any issues I missed to the list. Also, add a link after each item to where that discussion is or has occurred, if you have one:

  • Purpose of the Ref Desk [8]
  • Is the Ref Desk considered to be like an article or like a talk page ?
  • Rules for deletion [9]
  • Questions
  • Responses
  • Is opinion allowed
  • Questions which contain an opinion
  • Questions which solicit an opinion
  • Answers
  • Are references required for all statements of fact ?
  • Are answers containing original research allowed? [10]
  • Are answers with references outside of Wikipedia allowed ?
  • Are responses which don't directly answer the question allowed ?
  • If still related to the topic
  • If totally unrelated
  • Can we address another responder, or only the original poster ?
  • Is humor allowed ?
  • Is sexual content allowed ?
  • Are poorly written questions allowed ?
  • Should signatures be required ?
  • Question
  • Answer
  • May we edit the posts of others ? [11]
  • The title
  • The original question
  • The responses
  • Is "original research" allowed ?
  • Avoid using abbreviations like "OP" ?
  • Is "just Google it" a valid response ? [12].

StuRat 08:34, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

I added the question on whether original research is allowed, and referenced it to the discussion somewhere above, because at least one editor stated that OR should be avoided or disallowed at the RD. Since I disagree with that opinion, I would like clarification here. Following Stu's wish, I wont discuss the merits of OR at the RD here.---Sluzzelin 10:33, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the addition. StuRat 11:12, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

I've added "*May we edit the posts of others ?" to the list. StuRat 11:24, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

I've added "*Is "original research" allowed ?" to the list. StuRat 08:21, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

I've added "*Avoid using abbreviations like "OP" ?" to the list: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Miscellaneous#What_the_heck_is_an_OP.3F. StuRat 13:36, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

I've added '*Is "just Google it" a valid response ?' to the list. StuRat 11:25, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Issues where consensus has already been reached

Of the above, I believe the following have been decided by consensus:

  • Rules for deletion ? The guidelines are listed here: [13]
  • Are answers with references outside of Wikipedia allowed ? Yes.
  • Are references required for all statements of fact ? Required, no. Encouraged, yes.
  • Are opinions allowed ? See below:
  • Questions which contain an opinion ? Yes.
  • Questions which solicit an opinion ? Yes.
  • In responses to factual question ? Yes, but opinions should be identified as such, i.e., with "I think..." or "I believe...".
  • Is original research allowed: Yes, but it should be clearly identified as such, i.e., "I've found that...".
  • Is humor allowed ? Yes, in moderation, but only after one serious answer has been given.
  • Is sexual content allowed ? Yes, but not prurient sexual content, and only in response to a sexual question.
  • Should signatures be required ? Yes.
  • May we edit the posts of others ? See below.
  • The title ? Yes, but only add to the title, as the original title may be used as a search keyword.
  • The original question ? Yes, but for format only, not to add links or fix spelling.
  • The responses ? Yes, but for format only, not to add links or fix spelling.

StuRat 08:47, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

  • Should responses be edited for content? No, but they may be deleted.

frothT C 00:24, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

I've added "*Are answers with references outside of Wikipedia allowed ? Yes." to the list, as I believe there is a consensus on this. StuRat 11:15, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
The consensus on some of these are subject to caveats. Humor and sexual content are both allowed, but neither can be allowed to interfere with the functioning of the desk. -- SCZenz 08:49, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
And in my view, sexual answers (explicit or implied) to non-sexual questions essentially always interfere. -- SCZenz 08:52, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
That's a good point, and, although I personally disagree, I think the consensus is with you there, and have noted so above. StuRat 09:01, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Do you also mean any answer that could possibly be misconstrued into anything remotely related to sex by anyone at all reading RD? If so I think you are barking at the moon.--Light current 09:11, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Yeah I think that's the consensus that too many people are uncomforable with sexual humor for it to be allowed. Sorry anchoress I gotta agree with them on this one --frothT C 20:30, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry? I haven't commented here before, how is this in response to me? Anchoress 09:08, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree with the points of consensus and agree that gratuitous sexual content is inappropriate. It would offend my mother and we don't know if the questioner is 8 or 28. There iss a 13 or 14 year old running for ArbCom and you wouldn't have known the age if it hadn't been stated. It isn't appropriate to answer an 10 year old's non-sexual question with sexual innuendo. -THB 20:56, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
OK, I would have preferred that sexual humor be allowed, but the consensus is to ban it, so I have clarified above that sexual humor is not allowed. StuRat 00:15, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Why are we singling out sexual humor. What about:
  • racist humor,
  • ageist humor,
  • sexual orientaion humor,
  • anti admin humor,
  • anti newbie humor,
  • political humour,
  • humor about dead people,
  • humor about ill people,
  • humor about the homeless,
  • humor about men,
  • humor about women,
  • humor about children,
  • humor about toilets,
  • humor about disabilities,
  • humor about religion,
  • humor about toilet habits,
  • humor about other bodily functions.

Why the hell should SEX be singled out for gods sake!! If we ban sex humor all the above should also be banned. In fact everything should be banned. THat would solve the problem completely! No answers at all can be given in case they upset someone! 8-(--Light current 01:46, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

I added the thing about editing vs deleting. --frothT C 00:24, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

We appear to have an overwhelming consensus [14] on the rules for deletion, so I've included them above. StuRat 01:08, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

We also appear to have consensus on "*May we edit the posts of others ?", so it's been addded above. StuRat 01:19, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Clarified what I believe to be the consensus on humor, that no jokes are allowed until a serious answer is given. StuRat 01:31, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

This is not indicative of current practice, so I don't think there's consensus. See my effort to do just that here, and the subsequent revert. Friday (talk) 01:36, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
No, it's not current practice. In fact, I've included jokes before serious answers were given. However, there seems to be consensus that this should no longer be allowed, in the future. If you still disagree that a consensus has been reached, we can open that point back up for discussion. StuRat 02:02, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
I disagree on the banning (for no particular reason) of a particular class of jokes as I outlined above.--Light current 02:10, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
It is probably best not to single out a certain type of joke as inappropriate. There are several types that are inappropriate but only sexual jokes have been a problem and that's why they've been discussed. There are other guidelines like WP:CIVIL and don't bite the n00bs or whatever that could conceivably address the issue. -THB 06:28, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
OK, perhaps I read the consensus incorrectly on this item. I've removed it above and opened a new section [15] to call for people to say if they support or oppose allowing sexual humor. StuRat 08:29, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

As consensus has now been reached on opinion in Ref Desk questions and answers, I've added that above and on: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/guideline. StuRat 10:53, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Added clarification, per Gandalf, that opinions "In responses to factual questions" should be identified as such. StuRat 12:46, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

As consensus has now been reached on original research in Ref Desk questions and answers, I've added that above and on: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/guideline. StuRat 11:15, 11 December 2006 (UTC)


Naturally nothing must interfere with Rds or cause disruption there. Its the defn of interference with operation that is difficult. For instance, from our page:

Disruption is the art of asking better questions, challenging conventional wisdom and overturning assumptions and prejudices that get in the way of imagining new possibilities and visionary ideas.

--Light current 08:56, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

I think you're kind of muddying the waters here... Surely we can all agree that things which interfere with the purpose of the reference desk (whatever that is, exactly) are to be avoided? -- SCZenz 09:03, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Well I was just looking for a definition of this commonly used term on WP. I was surprised to find that one.--Light current 09:05, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Also, until we have defined the purpose of the RDS I dont see how we can agree on what interferes with that purpose 8-)--Light current 09:07, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Good point, that should be given a higher priority. StuRat 09:14, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Also, we don't all agree that "avoiding disruption" is a justification for ignoring the consensus and deleting anything we personally find to be "disruptive". For example, since we agree that non-prurient sexual questions are allowed, no editor is permitted to decide that such questions are disruptive and then delete them, unilaterally. For example, if the question was "what is the average age of onset of menstruation in Norwegian women", nobody can decide to delete that because such talk offends them. StuRat 09:14, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
You're generally correct, yes—I don't propose to remove questions unless they constitute clear trolling. But we're getting ahead of ourselves in any case. All I was saying (in response to LC's somewhat counterintuitive definition of "disruption") was that we can agree that things that interfere with the purpose of the desk ought to be avoided; if we're going ahead with your point-by-point discussion idea, we can get to what to do about such interference at a later step. -- SCZenz 09:30, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Its not my definition at all. Its from our page. I dont know if its someone trying to disrupt that page, or a proper defn . It looks like interference with the page so Ive disrupted (erased) it 8-(--Light current 09:32, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I would like to identify categories of behavior which constitute disruption, and write rules against them, once a consensus exists that such behavior is disruption, and disruption worthy of removal. Otherwise, there is bound to be disagreement over what is disruptive and what is not. After all, without such rules, every user will follow their own definition, with some thinking any humor is disruptive, some thinking any opinions are disruptive, and others thinking any facts they disagree with are disruptive. We can't just say "if you find something disruptive, then ignore all the rules and delete it", or we will end up with no rules at all, once again. StuRat 09:56, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

To my mind, the term 'disruption' implies quite a serious action that prevents or hinders other editors from using the page in question easaily. Examples might include:

  • serious acts of vandalism like blanking,
  • modifying/deleting others comments or hdgs to change their meaning
  • changing the apparent chronology of posts,
  • any modification to the page that makes it harder to read/understand.
  • usurping others posts (destroys the logical flow of page)
  • posting comment in the wrong places#

etc. Continued discussion on a relevant topic, whist undesirable, I do not consider disruption.--Light current 10:14, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Light current, towards the bottom of your list I think I'm guilty but with no intent of criminal behavior. Disruption must have ill intent. -THB 14:10, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Why on earth would we need rules about reference desk disruption?? This is really bizarre and only demonstrates that some of the people involved here don't understand how wikipedia works. Disruption of Wikipedia is already against the rules. What more do we need? Friday (talk) 15:23, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Yeah lots of people do this without thinking, but it reall does make the page hard top read and some comments are effectively buried, or atleast overshadowed by others.--Light current 15:56, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Because one persons view of disruption is not necessarily the same as others views.--Light current 16:39, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes. Light current was accused of disruption to make a point for making a post that said "chit chat" or something similar. He was making a point but that was hardly disruptive. The outcome of this whole discussion won't necessarily be rules or policies but obviously some discussion and consensus is needed. -THB 20:59, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
No amount of rule-making can replace human judgment about what is or is not disruption. This is why, when cases come up, we discuss them. Making rules for everything ahead of time is not how Wikipedia works. Friday (talk) 00:00, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
If your judgment was sound, we might trust you to decide for yourself what disruption is. However, you have demonstrated a singular lack of judgment that means we no longer trust you to decide what constitutes disruption. I suggest you read WP:DIS, and listen to what they say. Almost nothing which you call disruption actually qualifies. StuRat 00:08, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Must agree with StuRat, Friday. I know you mean well. It is possible to have "good sense" (thanks Clio) about some things but not others. Strengths and weaknesses, we all have them. -THB 05:39, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Agree with StuRat, Friday, as to your sense of disruption not tracking 100 % with mine. Edison 06:32, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

This all seems needlessly complicated. I think StuRat's attempts are a good try, but this whole process seems to be so much more detailed, and so much more picky, than it should be, no? I totally understand that one person's idea of humour is different from another, and I totally agree that racism, ageism, etc can be as offensive as sexism. I am also (as I have said before) not a deletionist, but when editors are so attached to our contributions it makes anything less unworkable. I think the simple rule should be, if it is a) off-topic, and b) offensive to someone, it should be subject to editing or removal. We should never, EVER be fighting to retain an off-topic comment that is offensive to someone. Not here. THAT goes against the purpose of the project. I think we can simplify this by saying, 'Off-topic contributions that are offensive or disruptive may be edited or removed.' Then we don't have to bicker about what constitutes humour, what constitutes off-colour humour, if it offends someone, it's offensive. But only if it's off-topic. That's my opinion. Anchoress 09:08, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

I strongly disagree with the idea that, if one person finds something offensive, then it is. There are people who would find any talk about sex to be offensive, others who find any discussion of evolution offensive, etc. Therefore, we can't let one individual dictate what is and is not offensive, this should be decided by consensus. StuRat 13:33, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
I strongly disagree with that. The ref desk isn't about freedom of speech, it's about answering questions. And if off-topic contributions offend people, even one person, then it's detracting from the quality of the ref desk. People shouldn't have to be offended by off-topic comments on a helpdesk. Even on LOTS of public bulletin boards, like IMDB, Yahoo answers, etc, contributions are deleted if they are offensive. Why would you want to have off-topic contributions up on the ref desk that offend people? That's the fundamental thing I don't understand. Is your freedom of expression in this particular way, on this particular board, so important to you that you don't care if it turns other people off reading or contributing? Or makes people uncomfortable? Anchoress 13:39, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
A Science answer about a fossil being 65 million years old may horribly offend a fundamentalist Christian who believes with all his heart that the earth was created in 4004 B.C. A discussion about the age of Mohammed's youngest wife, or the number of wives of Brigham Young, or the scientific truth of "clearing" may horribly offend Muslims, Mormons, or Scientologists. Discussion about the tenderest cuts of beef and how to cook them may offend vegans and Hindus. Discussion of the rights of Palestinians may offend Israelis. Discussions of 9/11 conspiracy theories or the problems of the Bush Iraq policies may offend supporters of the administration. What is offensive to one may be on-topic and encyclopedic to another. No one should get a veto because a question asked and answered from reliable sources offends them, if it is otherwise in compliance with Wikipedia policies. Edison 17:41, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Well put, Edison. StuRat 10:14, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Were you responding to me? Because none of the examples you gave would fit under my personal suggestion/assertion. Anchoress 17:43, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
There's a good answer to this issue IMO at Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk/purpose#.22must_offend_most_viewers_to_be_inappropriate.22. Friday (talk) 17:45, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Im Westen Nichts Neues

I dip into this page from time to time to see how matters stand. Well, it grows; my goodness how it grows.

I was trying to think of the most appropriate way of illustrating how I feel about coming here, and I imagined myself as a young subaltern who has been reassigned from the front line trenches, where a great offensive is in progress, back towards general staff headquarters, a comfortable French chateau, several miles to the rear. The guns are now no more than a distant grumble. Inside, the senior officers are arguing over maps, tactics and points of strategy, that bear no relationship at all to what is happening some distance to the north. Much of the discussion here, safe behind the lines, seems to proceed in the same fashion, argument about argument, theory about theory and rules about rules. Meanwhile, the RD proceeds with the offensive, ignorant of the debate. The point is there are seem to be two quite separate worlds, which some manage to cross, and others hardly at all. Despite the alleged faults the RD works, not in the same fashion as the desk at a library, which it can never do, for the simple reason that the talents and levels of competence of those who choose to participate vary too widely. It works rather like a Roman forum, where information is sought, given and exchanged; and it works in a reasonably effective manner. There is no need for more lists, and rules, and guides, and codes of conduct, which few, if any, will ever read. Quite frankly, I myself ignore some of the existing guidelines. I will always answer questions where I feel able, and I will never hit people over the head with 'do your own homework', which I am glad to see is appearing less and less as a response. Even the fullest answer I give will only ever be a sketch, a guide to greater research, which would not serve on its own as a completed assignment. I come back to a point I've made before: all that is really needed here is good sense, good faith and a reasonable level of knowledge, maturity and insight. Answer, where answer you can, and ignore the rest. I have no problems at all with debate and exchange which may arise from a question, where this is pertinent to the point under consideration. Dialectics, properly constructed, are, after all, the very basis of wisdom. I also have no problems with administrators removing offensive and impertinent remarks. I do not wish to be part of a 'gang' or a 'cabal', and I am also happy to see that this dimension, all too evident in the not so distant past, is also beginning to disappear. I have only one rule, the only one that is worth following, and the only one that I will ever obey: act always with sincerity.

Well, what have I achieved by setting all of this down? Probably nothing at all, other than making this page even longer than it was when I set out on this brief journey. Well, on you go, guys; more rules about rules, pages about pages. World without end. Amen Clio the Muse 09:27, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

While I generally agree with the above, I don't agree that "common good sense" is all that's needed, because "common good sense" can lead reasonable people in quite different, and contradictory, directions. After all, that "slaves are inferior and meant by God to serve their masters" was once "common good sense", at least to some. We do need to decide on what rules we should live by, to supplement "common good sense", but not replace it. StuRat 09:49, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Please have the goodness to read over again what I have written. I used the term 'good sense', a quite different and much rarer quality. Common sense is all too often common nonsense, something I would never commend. Clio the Muse 10:33, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I changed my post accordingly, but my opinion remain the same, only the terminology has changed. StuRat 10:56, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
My own sentiments are basically with you on this one, Clio. I would prefer having no rules beyond WP:CIVIL, WP:AFG, and WP:BITE, and I would prefer having no process enforcers patrolling the pages. But Wikipedia doesn't (and shouldn't) care about my preferences. The reality is that different understandings on what the RD should or could be exist in the community's multiple heads, and these differences have led to heated and not always rational discussions and actions in the recent past. Though I appreciated your trenches-vs-staff-HQ simile, I don't believe it's entirely accurate. Some of the anger and frustration has slopped over to the reference desk pages as well. I have now come to believe that the RD itself can benefit from a participatory rational discourse and a getting-to-yes approach regarding its purpose and rules (as much as I hate typing this).---Sluzzelin 10:52, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
AFAIK that slopping-over was an isolated incident. Anyway I think he's talking about whether some policy makers actually contribute to the RD. SCZenz has a couple hundred edits at the science desk. Friday has less than 20 but FWIW he said he's trying to get involved. The "ref desk regulars" of course by definition have hundreds (or thousands in LC and stu's cases) of edits on the RD. --frothT C 20:42, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't think it was just one isolated incident, Froth. There was a sock puppet qualifying other editors' answers, there were several comments at various RD pages alluding to the whole discussion on deleting posts, blocking editors, and guideline ambiguity, and, lately, the atmosphere has become frosty at times. ---Sluzzelin 01:04, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Excellent. -THB 14:07, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
It used to be common sense that the earth was flat and that the sun and stars revolved around it, (didnt it?)--Light current 18:03, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Clearly you have either not read or, more likely, you have not understood what I have written above. I did not use the expression 'common sense'. Do try to slow down and think a little more rationally. And I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain the difference between 'common sense' and 'good sense' to those who are misguided enough to believe the terms to be interchangeable. I'm quite sure there are enough people here who understand the difference. Clio the Muse 19:03, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Look at my indentation on that post. Do you know what indentation means?--Light current 00:56, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
That's right: you keep your eye on the 'big picture'; after all, it's what you are good at. Clio the Muse 02:23, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Also this isn't an argument of fact, "common" sense might work just fine as a policy, and in fact it does. --frothT C 20:44, 7 December 2006 (UTC)