Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 18

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Opinion question

Here's an example of an opinion question that is perfectly appropriate (in my opinion):

outselling the bible

lets say i wrote a book that outsold the bible would that increase it`s chance of being made into a movie and how significant wouldit be. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Starwars10 (talk • contribs) 23:50, 9 December 2006 (UTC).

I'd say there is a good chance a fiction book that outsold the Bible would be made into a movie. If you compare a list of bestsellers with movies that an average cinema goer might be aware of, you see a pretty strong correlation, especially in the last 30 years. Infact, it seems that least 3 or 4 of the top 10 best selling books for every year in the 1990s has been made into a movie (mainly because there are books written by Steven King, Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton and John Grisham featured pretty much every year). If you consider the best selling books of all time, every single fictional book the he top 20 has been made into a movie.
As for how significant it would be. Well, if it was the best selling book in history, I's day that would make it very significant. Better start writing.... Rockpocket 00:34, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

-THB 00:53, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

I concur. The reason I responded is because I feel there is factual information available which the person asking the question can use to further their knowledge. Just because an editor does not formulate their question in the most objective manner, does not mean that we cannot interpret what they would like to know to the best of our ability and provide the appropriate information. True, I formulated my answer as an opinion (because it is not possible to give an definative answer), but in providing the rationale for that opinion, the questioner can draw their own conclusions from the objective information provided. Rockpocket 01:27, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree, good job. StuRat 09:39, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, sorry, I didn't mention the answer itself, both Q & A are appropriate, answer was very good, and the way I cut and paste left out the links becuase of the skin I use, which is misleading when seen here. -THB 10:39, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Excellent responses

Here is an example of excellent responses from the Ref Desk regulars: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Humanities#Anglo-Dutch_Wars.3F. I particularly like how everyone had a slightly different interpretation of the question, but we all worked in a collaborative way to provide better answers than any one of us could have provided alone. StuRat 11:44, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Next item for consensus: Is "original research" allowed ?

  • Support allowing OR here. An example was a question I had on the Computer Desk about a USB thumb drive which was losing it's connection. Having had the exact same problem and solved it by using a short extension cable to relieve strain on the connector, I was able to suggest the same and solve the user's problem immediately. I see no justification for refusing to provide that answer just because I discovered it myself, rather than reading about it at some web site. StuRat 11:00, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support allowing OR on the RDs, for a very simple reason. Some questions on the Mathematics RD do not have answers that can be found in an article or even in a texbook. Recent examples are unsolved problem on Dec 8th; Doodles, recursive curves? and Probability of article selection on Dec 9th. These questions require some degree of original work to give an answer - or even just to point the questioner in the direction of an answer. If we disallow OR on the RDs, the only answer we could give to such questions is "this is not a textbook problem - you will have to work it out for yourself" - which is no answer at all. Gandalf61 11:43, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support provided that the OR is not to support bigotry. In other words OR condemning ANY race, color, sex, sexual preference, religion, etc. So if you want to say that blacks are less intelligent than whites, gays are more promiscuous than straights, or that Scientology is a cult please do it by pointing at WP:RS not by supporting your own opinion with your own "logic". That is just invitation to argument. --Justanother 16:20, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Use good sense Keep WP:V, WP:NOR and WP:RS in mind while answering, provide references if available. If the question can be answered w/o original research, don't just speculate in order to get a response in. If the answer you provide is your own research or opinion then make sure that is made clear in your response.EricR 16:41, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Use great sense -- i.e. don't post smartass questions unless there's a clever smartass question asked first; don't give nonsense answers unless there's a silly question asked; don't give good answers unless there's a good question asked. :) Mathiemood
  • Support - a lot of questions can get answered sensibly because someone has had a similar experience, and so on. As long as people are not claiming their original research to be otherwise (i.e. people should make it clear that the OR is from experience, or speculation, or their own opinion. And not verificable 'fact'). --`/aksha 03:01, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support - keeping in mind all of the above. Cbrown1023 03:06, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support If some simple question about electricity does not appear to have an answer in Wikipedia or readily available published sources, I may dash to the lab and determine, say, how large a battery is required to heat a finishing nail to its Curie point. Edison 17:57, 11 December 2006 (UTC)


EricR has a good answer here. Also, I have to wonder if these repeated "votes" are just to make a "I can call for votes if I want to" point. Getting your friends to "vote" and declaring that the issue has been decided after a few hours is, well, silly. And, as has been pointed out ad nauseam, this isn't the right way to do things. I don't know if those repeatedly trying to pass "motions" via parliamentary procedure simply don't understand this, or if they're just willfully going against established practice. Why would you barge into someone's house and rearrange their furniture? Friday (talk) 17:49, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
EricR, you have a good point about making it clear when something is OR and when it comes from a reliable source. But, doesn't the presence or lack of a cited source pretty much make that distinction clear ? What do you think ? StuRat 20:13, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Parliamentary procedure fails here due to the lack of such basic requirements a quorum determination. Also, I have seen proposals posted and assumed to become consensus in a very few hours, with only a couple of persons posting comments. I would think 5 days is a minimum period for comments even on well viewd areas such as articles for deletion. Edison 18:00, 11 December 2006 (UTC)


There appears to be a consensus here that original research should be allowed on the Ref Desk. I have, therefore, updated Wikipedia:Reference_desk/guideline to reflect this:

  • Is original research allowed: Yes, but it should be clearly identified as such, i.e., "I've found that...".

StuRat 10:56, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Consensus that RD-specific rules aren't needed

Should I declare consensus on the #How is the ref desk any different than the help desk or village pump pages section above? I see general support for the notion that RD doesn't need its own rules. What does this mean for the rest of these "consensus decisions"? -- Rick Block (talk) 18:15, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

I see no such consensus. We've already reached consensus that the guidelines were a good idea. You're just trying to obstruct that consensus. If you insist, we can ask again, but the result will be the same. StuRat 18:22, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure no one's asking for another vote. If an idea has been brought up, but there are unanswered objections to it on the talk page, this is a good indicator that we don't yet have consensus. Friday (talk) 18:34, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
It means there's a bit of a disconnect between the discussions and the votes. This disconnect is in my opinion a great illustration of why we try to avoid voting. There's probably a tendency on both sides to look at the other and say, "Oh, they're doing it wrong, I don't need to listen to what they're saying." Such an attitude is counterproductive. Agree that there was general support for the RD not needing its own rules. Friday (talk) 18:25, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Fortunately, we have a page that tries to explain consensus. I highly recommend WP:CON as reading for anyone who wants to understand consensus on wikipedia. Key points from the top include "Wikipedia works by building consensus. This is done through polite discussion and negotiation, in an attempt to develop a consensus. If we find that a particular consensus happens often, we write it down as a guideline, to save people the time having to discuss the same principles over and over." This view of consensus looks to me to be at odds with what StuRat is calling "consensus" above. Friday (talk) 18:42, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

That sounds entirely like what we've done here, to me. The only real point of contention is with those who want to ensure that nothing gets accomplished here. The rest of us, who want to work together and are willing to compromise, have had no trouble reaching consensus. StuRat 19:09, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Are Ref Desk specific guidelines needed ?

  • Support the idea that RD-specific guidelines are needed. They most definitely are, as the many contradictory interpretations of how the general Wikipedia rules apply have caused a great deal of trouble here. StuRat 19:14, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
You don't need to ask- you can just start trying to construct a reference-desk specific guideline and see where it goes. In fact, isn't this already in progress? I have to wonder whether you're just "voting" to tweak those who've told you that voting isn't a good way to resolve issues. Friday (talk) 19:21, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I re-raised this issue precisely because I do not actually believe there is consensus on this issue, but no objections were raised above. -- Rick Block (talk) 19:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

I think we all know how this will go, so can we please skip the voting and go staight to the discussion? Why are RD-specific guidelines necessary? My reasoning for why they are not is in the above section. Please discuss this. -- Rick Block (talk) 19:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm really getting tired of repeating this over and over for each new Admin who wanders in, can't you please read through this page and the last archive page and come up to speed on the discussion before you start objecting ? StuRat 19:43, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
There's the rub. You want us to accept what you assert is accepted practice at the RD. I want you to accept what I assert is accepted practice at Wikipedia. Both sides see the other as having barged in and demanded their own way, without regard to accepted practice. With both sides seeing each other as the enemy, little progress is possible. What can be done about this? Friday (talk) 19:47, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
The difference is, I'm not trying to impose the Ref Desk's consensus on the rest of Wikipedia, but you are trying to impose your interpretation of general Wikipedia rules on the Ref Desk. StuRat 19:53, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
You might want to start with Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk#List_of_Ref_Desk_policy_issues_under_dispute, where you will see that some of the most fundamental rules for what the Ref Desk is and how it works were under dispute. We've now resolved most of them, and would like to finish, if we can ignore these constant challenges to the process. StuRat 19:50, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not newly wandering in. I've read through this page. You've consistently ignored suggestions that voting is NOT the way to do this. You're claiming consensus where there is none by counting votes and ignoring relevant comments (every single one of the "call for votes" should be considered to be contested by at least 4 users who've made comments on this page). The sections you're maintaining above of #List of Ref Desk policy issues under dispute and #Issues where consensus has already been reached are curious to say the least.
Can you please respond to the point the RD does not exist in isolation from the rest of the project, so any rules that are adopted here should equally apply to HD and VP? -- Rick Block (talk) 19:54, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
The purpose of those projects is not the same as the RD, so different policies may apply. However, I would be glad to present these guidelines, once completed, to the HD and VP and allow them to decide which are, and which are not, applicable to them. This is not "one size fits all", we should go with whatever works best for each project. StuRat 19:59, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
The purpose of these projects is the same, which is to provide an avenue for Wikipedia users to find things out. At HD it's about how to use Wikipedia. At VP it's about how Wikipedia's policies and procedures run. At RD it's about facts. Random people ask questions. Responses can be offered by anyone who knows the answer. It's fine to draft guidelines here, and it definitely makes sense to use the effort that's been put into these guidelines, but calling them "consensus guidelines" is not accurate and (IMO) they cannot have any "binding" force (anywhere) until there's a much broader set of folks who have seen them and agreed to them. Policies, and to a lesser extent guidelines, are extraodrinarily difficult to create here, see Wikipedia:How to create policy. At least part of the difficulty is that there are a large number of users who think we already have too many rules, and oppose anything new on general principles (believe it or not, that's NOT what's been going on here - and if you get to the point of soliciting broader community input you'll see what I mean). I know it's extremely frustrating, but there are a lot of people here with a lot of differing opinions. Achieving consensus about anything is tremendously difficult - it's even difficult to institute rules everyone agrees on. If you and some others want to work on a draft of guidelines that would pertain to HD, VP, and RD, I encourage you do so. If you do this, it would be best to make sure you have a reasonable mix of opinions among the editors working on the draft. Realize however that the result of this would be a draft, which would then be subject to community-wide discussion. The process is likely to take months, not hours. -- Rick Block (talk) 20:30, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
And all that can happen, once we have a set of guidelines to discuss. Incidentally, User:Friday has been arguing just the opposite thing, that all the rules for the RD were already decided when it was started. I find this even more difficult to believe, if it had to go through that community-wide, months long approval process you're talking about. StuRat 20:50, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
No no, that's not what I said. I was suggesting that the folks back then seemed to just sort of know what the RD was for, with no formal guideline at all. Doesn't look to me like they saw a need for "rules" in those days- normal adult judgment was apparently enough for them. Friday (talk) 21:03, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
There sure are a lot of rules at the top of each Ref Desk page, and there must have been some process to come up with them. StuRat 21:19, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Are you saying you're willing to treat Wikipedia:Reference desk/guideline as a collaborative draft and to stop calling votes here? One issue I suspect many people are feeling is that there are simply too many comments flying around here to get a word in edgewise. If the discussion on the guidelines were moved to, say Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/guideline, perhaps the volume of comments on this page would subside a more reasonable number. -- Rick Block (talk) 21:10, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't want to pollute the actual guideline page with all this discussion, but have no objection to us moving the discussion to a separate talk page. Although there is a transitional issue, how do we work with the first half of the discussion here and the last half there ? We'd have to go through and sift out all the discussions related to guidelines and move them to the new talk page. That kind of sounds like more trouble than it's worth. And, if we allow everyone to edit the guidelines without consensus, this will just spawn a useless edit war. The current process works just fine, we are making real progress. StuRat 21:19, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I'd suggest the talk page of the guideline page. I don't think there's any particular need to move the existing discussions, but I'd like to see new discussions about these guidelines there. -- Rick Block (talk) 21:39, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/guideline is the right place to discuss Wikipedia:Reference desk/guideline, by our normal conventions. I look forward to productive follow-up there. Friday (talk) 21:41, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
RD guidelines are necessary because at the moment asking a question on the RD in the wrong way can get you a 24 hour block with no warning. Individual editors have such widely differing views on what is and is not acceptable on the RDs, and on how inappropriate questions and answers should be handled, that we need a documented consensus on these issues. Without agreed guidelines we will continue to endlessly debate every single event. Gandalf61 22:02, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I would submit that reference desk guidelines are unlikely to influence when people are blocked. That's a matter for Wikipedia talk:Blocking policy. Objecting to this particular block can be done on my talk page or at AN/I. Friday (talk) 22:07, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  • It is probably not necessary to have specific rules that apply only to the reference desk. One reason is that they're not actually enforceable (since blocks are made according to blocking policy and discussed on WP:ANI); another is that WP:NOT a bureaucracy. I should also note that the parliamentary-style procedure used here to create rules contravenes Wikipedia:How to create policy as well as WP:NOT a democracy. (Radiant) 10:15, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • We're not creating policy, we're creating guidelines. StuRat 16:18, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
    • Well, Wikipedia:How to create policy has a section on that, too. Also, WP:NOT a bureaucracy and not a democracy apply equally (or possibly moreso) to guideline creation. (Radiant) 16:24, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Tendency to "not answer" the question??

What do we think about StuRats answer on the cow-eating question and the answers on the Sonic 2 question. StuRat, instead of answering the cow question, pointed at what would be a starting point for the OP to figure it out for himself. On that one I say better to answer the question as answers, not clues, are what we claim to provide. On the other I think Friday is gently pointing out that the question is inappropriate and the other editor is pointing at something that might itself point at an answer (or not). On that one, if it is an inappropriate question can we please say so clearly and if it is not then what is the point of Friday's answer? I have no problem with the question but can understand if others may think game-related questions of that sort are inappropriate. Oh, and with a nod to Clio, I felt free to name the editors that are participating here and that I imagine have no problem with being named (as I would have no problem). --Justanother 20:12, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Answering the question is useful- we all agree on this. I think that helping people understand what Wikipedia is or is not for is useful also, but I accept that not everyone may see it that way. Wikipedia is not google, and if questioners give no indication that they've reasonably tried to find the answer, they may find people suggesting very basic things, like "try googling". Part of the expectation of helping people is that they have to be able to reasonably help themselves too. Friday (talk) 20:18, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
There is subtlety in human communication that perhaps is being overlooked here. There's a big difference between saying "Wikipedia is not a game guide" and leaving a note on the user talk page saying "You're abusing the reference desk, stop it." I think perhaps the overlooking of such subtleties is why some people want a set of exact rules about what is or is not allowed. Friday (talk) 20:28, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
On the cow eating question, I was on the fence as to whether I should give an estimate myself. The site I referenced seemed to do an excellent job, so I decided to leave it at that. But, if somebody else wants to do the "original research" to give an actual number of days, I'd have no objection to that. Of course, if this was a homework question, a sort of test of the students' abilities to estimate things, then we definitely should leave it to the student to find the actual numeric solution. As for the Sonic 2 question, I don't recall that, is it at the Computer Desk ? StuRat 20:32, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Hi Stu. Sorry if I was ambiguous but the "other editor" was one that I have not seen over here on the talk page so I saw no point in naming him as one can just peek at the question to see what I mean. --Justanother 20:36, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Found it, here it is; Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Miscellaneous#Sonic_Adventure_2_chaos. StuRat 20:38, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, I forget that this talk page covers all the RDs. --Justanother 20:40, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
No prob. User:Skarioffszky's answer looked good to me. If somebody actually knew the answer, I wouldn't object to them giving it either, but this is likely the best answer we could give under the circumstances. StuRat 20:43, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Beg to differ but I think that answer was inappropriate and would not be considered appropriate if the question were a "serious" one on, say, quarks. Anyone that has kids knows that that question on Sonic might be as serious to him as any question on quarks might be to another. So yes, WP:AGF and either do the research and find the answer or leave it alone. The guideline to answering says "Please be thorough." --Justanother 20:58, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
OK, I see your point. But, what if nobody knows the actual answer ? In that case, isn't a link that could lead to the answer better than no answer at all ? That makes it look like we are ignoring them. StuRat 21:05, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
One thing I would say on this is that if a question is asked in the wrong place, we probably should not just say "Go ask over there instead" rather than answering it. There's no harm in answering it anyway, and expecting the questioner to ask it twice is undesirable, in my opinion. Friday (talk) 20:49, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Friday, I do not believe in being subtle on wikipedia. Subtlety leads to ambiguity. There is a difference between being non-subtle (clearly stating what you mean) and being rude. If a question is disallowed on the forum then say directly and respectfully "Sorry and with all due respect, we are not permitted to answer game-related questions of this sort because it have been determined to lead to excessive use of this tool as a gaming forum" or some such. And if you cannot say that then the question is NOT prohibited and there needs be nothing said at all. --Justanother 20:47, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

But Wikipedia does not have firm rules. It's not about what's "prohibited"- very little is prohibited here. Part of WP:AGF is assuming intelligence- we should assume that normal communication will be effective, until shown otherwise. Friday (talk) 20:50, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
It IS normal to be confused when someone you don't know and can't see and are just hearing one line out of is being "subtle". Please be obvious. So if the question is not prohibited then what is the point of discouraging it? --Justanother 20:54, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, I don't see that my answer was unclear. But, whoever does is welcome to improve upon it. There's nothing wrong with more than one person answering, if they think they can add something helpful to the response. Friday (talk) 20:58, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
All due respect Friday but your answer looks to me like a brush-off. The "Go Google it" response is never the correct one, IMO. They are here. --Justanother 21:01, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
In fact, I propose that "Go Google it" be outlawed as a response unless you yourself go google first, refine the search, and then link to a specific useful search. And in that case I still do not consider it an "answer" but at least an effort worth adding to the answer stream. --Justanother 21:05, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, that's what I try to do. StuRat 21:08, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
See above, where I said " if questioners give no indication that they've reasonably tried to find the answer, they may find people suggesting very basic things, like "try googling". Part of the expectation of helping people is that they have to be able to reasonably help themselves too." Friday (talk) 21:07, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Please see my response to the Sonic OP. I treated it as a question worthy of response and tried to answer it rather than tell them something very basic about how to find answers on the internet. What I did there is what I would do with any question though I must admit that I did not try to figure out the game to the extent necessary to really answer it. I think that if we are going to bother responding at all let's at least take a shot at answering it. I am not referring to Stu and the cow question as his link led directly to a simple way to answer the question and he simply left the arithmetic up to the OP. --Justanother 21:17, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Friday, based on your taking something to my talk page, I sincerely hope that you are not taking this personally. I just saw three examples of "not answering" and I wanted to discuss it. Re outlawing "Go Google", I am serious. If we can talk about outlawing certain questions then we can talk about outlawing certain answers. --Justanother 21:20, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Personal? No- it was a general comment about how Wikipedia works, and thus was off-topic for this page. Whoever's talking about outlawing anything is almost always missing the point. Friday (talk) 21:22, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Call it outlawed or call it inappropriate, same difference. We have no problem saying inappropriate, why the problem with blunter terminology? --Justanother 21:24, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
We can keep this here instead of my talk page. Many things are "outlawed" at wikipedia. Disruptive sockpuppetry. Original research (in articles). Personal attacks. It is totally OK for the community to decide that some questions and some answers have no place here, i.e. they are outlawed. We just don't use that term. --Justanother 21:35, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Justin, if you want to propose that "just Google it" not be allowed as an answer, under the Ref Desk Guidelines, go ahead. If the consensus is for it, I would be glad to add it. StuRat 22:01, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Please, call me Justa (laff). --Justanother 22:05, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
OK, done. Did I put it in the right place? --Justanother 22:12, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes. StuRat 11:28, 11 December 2006 (UTC)


I would like carefully-considered opinions on how the last few blocks placed on Reference Desk editors (such as Kjvenus and Light current) are supported by the letter and spirit of WP:BLOCK. (I understand that blocking may be used for reasons not listed there.) I am particularly interested in Friday's consideration of this. -THB 10:47, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

  • You mean these? [1], [2]? I'll look into it as well. (Radiant) 11:24, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
    • The block of Kjvenus seems appropriate; he hasn't edited beyond asking questions at the refdesk, has made several remarks that were inflammatory, leading questions or otherwise inappropriate, and was warned several times. (Radiant) 11:36, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • I certainly hope that "hasn't edited beyond asking questions at the refdesk" isn't being used as grounds for a block. StuRat 11:39, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
    • Obviously not. But an editor who only edits in one particular place and is disruptive in that particular place, can be blocked. (Radiant) 11:48, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Yes, but they can also be blocked if they are disruptive in one area and not in another, so I don't see the significance of that point. StuRat 11:54, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
    • It means there are no alleviating circumstances; being productive in another area can be a reason not to block someone. (Radiant) 12:46, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • But how does WP:BLOCK address Kjvenus' block? -THB
    • "Disruption ... their conduct is inconsistent with a civil, collegial atmosphere and interferes with the process of editors working together harmoniously to create an encyclopedia.". (Radiant) 11:48, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
The part of the sentence that you ellipsed specifically says "severely disrupts". -THB 11:54, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, WP:DIS sets a very high standard for what may be considered disruption, one which User:Friday constantly violates: "For instance, one user gratuitously insulting another user, while inappropriate, is not disruptive. Neither is simple small-scale vandalism.". StuRat 11:57, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
WP:BLOCK also says this: "Blocks for disruption should only be placed when a user is in some way making it difficult for others to contribute to Wikipedia." -THB 12:08, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • WP:DIS is not a consensual definition. One could argue that repeated racist/sexist/insulting remarks on a public page after being warned is indeed severe disruption, and may scare off users from contributing to Wikipedia. If you suggest the block is improper, you can ask on WP:ANI to have it overturned. (Radiant) 12:46, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
    • The block on Light Current was discussed at length on WP:ANI; a neutral admin decided to unblock and parole him, then based on later behavior decided the parole didn't help, and reblocked. (Radiant) 11:48, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

And this one: [3]. -THB 11:31, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

  • Soccerguy1039 has never edited the refdesk, so that seems irrelevant here. If you take issue with Friday's blocking behavior as a whole, I'd suggest you discuss it with him or open an RFC if discussion fails. (Radiant) 11:39, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • If that block supports proof of a "pattern of behavior" on Friday's part of excessive and unnecessary blocks, which also affects the Ref Desk, then that might be valid for discussion here. StuRat 11:45, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
    • No. This page is for discussing the refdesk. Friday's talk page and/or RFC are for discussing Friday's behavior. (Radiant) 11:48, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, I tried to remove it but you'd already responded. Sorry. -THB 11:54, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • They could be discussed there, as well, but any behavior which affects the Ref Desk can also be discussed here. StuRat 11:52, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
    • Of course they can be discussed here. However, they're distracting from the real issue here, and will not be resolved here. (Radiant) 12:46, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Hello all. If anyone feels my block of Light current was out of line, a good place to have that thread is WP:AN/I. It's really not a question about the Ref Desk page, and probably doesn't belong here. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 14:25, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

No, I was not questioning that. I was questioning the appropriateness of Friday's blocks per WP:BLOCK. -THB 16:08, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

The "real" issue

I'm not sure that everyone *is* aware of what the real issue is here: User:Friday/Misc#Reference desk. -THB 13:27, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

If the reference desk does not further the purpose of building an encyclopedia then these pages should just go away. I think we could convince Friday otherwise, that there are ways the desk helps out the project. However, so far, we haven't been making a very strong case.EricR 14:49, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I've already concluded that a well run reference desk is helpful. A chat room disguised as a reference desk is less helpful. Friday (talk) 14:57, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Here's an example of what's great about the Ref Desk: Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk#Excellent_responses. StuRat 15:15, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Since Friday has gone back and altered his Reference Desk comments, here's what they were this morning:

Reference desk

The various reference desk pages should probably just go away. Unless they serve some useful purpose I'm not aware of, they seem more trouble than they're worth. The few times I've looked at them, they appear to be a forum. Last I knew, we were trying to be an encyclopedia here.

Some people commented that the RD is the first thing of wikipedia that some newbies see. This might explain a hell of a lot- newbies don't generally get what we do here. If the first thing they saw was the RD, this is perfectly understandable.

Wikipedia is not:

  1. a forum
  2. a how-to guide
  3. a place for our own opinons and experiences

Yet, the reference desk is these things. Why are we intentionally giving people such wrong ideas about the project?

I invite anyone to watch the various reference desk pages for a few days. This should clearly illustrate why a lot of the crap posted there is irrelevant to the project. It's nothing more than a chat board in some cases. This is about the best example we could hope for of how the reference desk is harmful to newbies.

The RD has somehow acquired its own culture, very different from Wikipedia. At least, among a few of the people who are active there right now. This is bad- these folks have little or no idea how things get done at Wikipedia, and they're very resistant to those who do. Discussions have been extremely difficult, because we can't use standard wikipedia practices as a starting point- instead we're starting from scratch everywhere.

Reference Desk needs help

The concept is alright, but much of what actually happens there is crap. Relationship advice? Ideas for some school play? Please. Why are editors wasting their time on such rubbish? The RD could be conducted in a useful way that doesn't reflect poorly on the project, yet somehow in many cases this is not happening. A certain amount of irrelevant chatting might be unavoidable- as long as it doesn't hurt anything, it's not worth arguing over.

  • It's called the miscellaneous desk for a reason-- 20:00, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
No, that's from User:Friday's Misc page. -THB 20:05, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Y'know, back in the day, when I was actually an editor, the misc desk was the place to ask those sorts of questions. Cernen Xanthine Katrena 16:49, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Lovable idiots

I also wonder who he's calling idiots on that page. -THB 15:35, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Can you provide a link to that comment ? It's a huge page (he must have a lot to rant about, LOL). StuRat 16:13, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
It's right below the one I already posted, subtitled "Judgment". I tried to post a link but it's the second section with the same subtitle. The whole page is worth a read, anyhow. -THB 16:54, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't think he means us by "lovable idiots", I think he hates everyone here, and would block us all if he thought he could get away with it. StuRat 16:59, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
This one's good too: User:Friday/Misc#admins, and the one right below it. How ironic. -THB 17:03, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Here's one thing Friday and I agree on: User:Friday/Misc#Trolling. -THB 17:09, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Not sure how we got on this subject. For what it's worth, the relevant place to discuss User:Friday/Misc is User talk:Friday/Misc. Friday (talk) 17:19, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Actually, Friday, when your stated goal is to eliminate the Ref Desk as well as many of the editors who contribute to it, it belongs here. That page goes a long way to explaining your actions. -THB 17:41, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Your continued rubbing of this quote, now retracted, in Friday's face is not helping move consensus forward - it is divisive and in bad faith. Please stop. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:47, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
It's not retracted, it's still right there on his page, with no retraction offered. StuRat 17:55, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, he didn't retract it, but he changed it. I posted the text from this morning above. Along with some hidden. -THB 17:56, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Unless you two can stop sniping at Friday and start discussing the issues, the discussion is going to start moving forward without your input. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:59, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

If y'all continue in this vein things will end badly for all concerned. Certainly you are not helping your cause by seeking out conflict.EricR 17:18, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Can you be more specific about how "things will end badly for all concerned"? -THB 17:43, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
It is not helpful to consensus for you to continue sniping. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:47, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Here are some more interesting quotes by and about Friday. However, can we please get back to discussing the reference desk? (Radiant) 17:28, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • A joke, I see. Well, Friday was a cannibal, maybe we can get him to eat a few of the other Admins trying to block progress towards developing guidelines here ? Then, maybe if we put some BBQ sauce on his arm ... :-) StuRat 17:32, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

As a non-regular contributor to the sci ref desk I do wonder why the regulars are against Friday's input here. He seems to make a lot of sense. You ask: "how things will end badly?". Well one way is that that the weight of your own opinion is diluted the longer this sniping continues. Carry on and eventually no one will be listening to you. David D. (Talk) 21:10, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

The reason is that he said here that he saw no value in the Ref Desk, and wanted to delete it. Then he claimed to have changed his mind, but we found a very similar statement on one of his own pages. Thus, we suspect his true motivation is to destroy the Ref Desk. StuRat 11:43, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Next item for consensus: Is "just Google it" a valid answer ?

We've moved the discussion here: Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk/guideline#Discourage_.22Go_Google.22_as_an_answer. Your comments and opinions are welcomed there. StuRat 10:50, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

  • Well, it's not really an answer. However, it may be useful to provide a link to STFG at the top of the page. (Radiant) 11:25, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • What's STFG ? StuRat 11:26, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Search The F**king Google? -THB 11:33, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Hipocrite and "chat"

Hipocrite seems to be suggesting that the "answer stream" on this question ("medicine") has degraded into chat for chats sake. I disagree. While there may be a bit of banter, I do not see it as excessive and most of the other dialogue is in the interest of providing a more complete answer to an assumed question about non-illegal aphrodiacs.

Hipocrite is using hidden comments to tag the remarks that he objects to - good idea. See [4]

Here is the specific comment he uses:
<!-- A user has alledged that the comment directly below is not acceptable for the reference desk. Please consider removing it, and not making such comments again. -->

Comments? --Justanother 18:03, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Let me also preface this by noting that APHRODISIAC is a street name for a specific "brand" of MDMA. Hipocrite - «Talk» 18:07, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I understand that but we do not know what the asker had in mind and we were WP:AGF a legit question. --Justanother 18:10, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm 100% amenable to that kind of feedback. I'm going back to find that thread and if I have any tagged comments I'll remove them. Anchoress 18:12, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Well then I will remove those responses of mine that were answers to removed questions. This could get cumbersome. Don't you'all think that visible "Please stay on-topic" reminder would do better? --Justanother 18:19, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Looks fine to me, if he's asking about aphrodisiacs, we've answered, if he's asking about how to get an illegal drug, then we didn't answer, but that's OK. StuRat 18:22, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
If we can answer with good sources, we should do so. Keep in mind that Wikipedia is a worldwide resource- if a particular thing happens to be illegal in some particular place, this isn't that much of a concern to us. We can't assume the laws in our local corner of the world apply to everyone else. Friday (talk) 18:25, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Is that Wikipedia policy? Does it apply to copyright?????? -THB 18:46, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Pretty much, see WP:FAIR-- 19:51, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Good sources on where to find drugs? Let's not and say we did, as my dear old used to say. --Justanother 19:32, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Anchoress, your opinion & judgment are far above the average. You needn't second-guess yourself except for an oversight. -THB 20:08, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

RefDeskBot (talk · contribs)'s dead again.....

And still no one noticed due to the almost 400 KB of bickering, and it's been down since the 9th, so that's almost 3 days of downtime before anyone even noticed -- 19:47, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

  • All better now-- 19:58, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
    • It's down again, I'm afraid. I can't restart it right now, but I'll catch it up tomorrow. This internet is really annoying me! Martinp23 22:47, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

This talk page needs to be archived more often

Agree yes/no?-- 20:07, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Who ARE you??? -THB 20:09, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm me, who are you?-- 20:17, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Well I guess I'm not you, I'm me. -THB 20:22, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Why are you correcting everyone's spelling??? -THB 20:12, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
No particular reason-- 20:17, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Well you don't correct British spelling to American spelling on a talk page. That's rude. -THB 20:22, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
That was unintentional, firefox doesn't know the difference and I was going through a bit too quickly-- 20:23, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, perhaps you shouldn't be doing it at all, especially not in haste. You could at least go back and undo the American spellings from the British. -THB 20:25, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I did go back and fix it, and as far as I can tell it only happened in one section, and if you've noticed, I have stopped-- 20:33, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
It was a feasibility study in typo correction, and not so surprisingly, it turned out to be infeasible, as far as I can tell, any instances of changing British spellings to American have been reversed--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 20:36, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Part of the overly-dense discussion has been about editing others' comments. Please read the BS before you archive it! -THB 20:41, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
If we stay on topic, this may help cut down on the ridiculous size. Maybe there should be a reminder at the top or something. :) Friday (talk) 20:11, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support {{subst:affixJustification|32kb}} --Justanother 20:14, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Actually, right now, I think the conversation needs to be visible. It's only a few days' worth, there's just been a lot of activity. Also, I question's motives, not knowing who he or she is. -THB 20:17, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
That's exactly the point, it's only been a few days since the last archive, and already the page is so bogged down that it's getting in the way of the technical aspects of actually keeping the desks functioning. None of this discussion actually leads anywhere, it just accumulates until this page starts pushing WP:SIZE and someone comes along and archives it. I'm just suggesting that we start a program of regular archives like most other large talk pages on WP so that inactive discussions can be removed. Since most archive bots only remove discussions that have been inactive for XYZ number of days, only older content would be archived-- 20:21, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
If you're a sockpuppet, it would be helpful if you identified yourself. -THB 20:23, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
And see, this is turning into one of those discussions already, it's a simple question, archivebot, yes/no?-- 20:25, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
No, it's not that simple. If you're a sockpuppet, you should identify yourself. -THB 20:26, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I generally only log in when something I'm doing requires the ability to create a new page, or edit something that's sprotected, that having been said, I'm a student, so I don't really get much of a chance to edit these days anyway, not until the end of the semester really--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 20:55, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
While I would tend to agree with THB and strike my above support, I do not know enough about "technical aspects of actually keeping the desks functioning". Would Mr. 246 care to elaborate? --Justanother 20:27, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
He is an IP, not a sockpuppet. --Justanother 20:28, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, you're correct. But he appears to be a regular around here not signed in. There've been enough hidden agendas around here to do for a while. Perhaps all of the evil needs to be exposed to the daylight. -THB 20:30, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, not evil, just not big on logging in--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 20:34, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Thanks. I did see that you're AOL but that was useless because obviously you're American from your spelling edits. Please feel free to archive but leave the last few days even if it's too much. People tend not to read the archive and there have been some interesting things happening. -THB 20:36, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Is 7 days worth of inactivity a reasonable amount of time?--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 20:48, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Don't think it's even been that long yet. Things have been hoppin'. -THB 20:54, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Which is why I was tempted to set age=2 days, since werdnabot only archives sections that haven't been editing in X=days # of days, it would take an eternity to actually reduce the size of the page--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 20:58, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
7 days of inactivity sounds fine, but that's not what it says at the top, it says things 7 days old will be archived, (whether active or not). Also, sorry we jumped on you about not logging in, but we have recently been the victims of 2 Admin-sponored sockpuppet attacks, so are a bit wary of "strangers" with a keen interest in the Ref Desk. StuRat 21:00, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I re-wrote it to clear up confusion, also, I changed the date of inactivity from 7 to 2 days. At this rate if we waited for 7 days of inactivity per section the desk would grow by about 300 KB for every 20 or 30 KB removed. Also, Werdnabot is probably down for good, so it really doesn't matter much at the moment --VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 21:19, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Werdnabot (talk · contribs) for this talk page?

This talk page frequently pushes the boundaries of WP:SIZE, and this way inactive discussions only, could be cleared from this page after a specified amount of time--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 20:39, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

  • On a side note, Werdnabot is actually down pending a software patch, so this really doesn't matter (: VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 21:02, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

ref desk bot

he just trashed the page, substituting 2 days worth of posts for one red link to an archive that doesnt exist. Philc TECI 21:05, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

  • It did this twice last week, I corrected it by hand both times. The problem is the bot is dropping pages, linking to archives it doesn't seem to be making--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 21:22, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Need more input on: Is it OK to just say "Google it" as an answer ?

Please give your opinion here:

Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk/guideline#Discourage_.22Go_Google.22_as_an_answer. StuRat 21:22, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

I think it is both appropriate and educational, when someone asks "Did Thomas Edison ever develop something called a 'pyromagnetic motor'" and Wikipedia provides no answer,(actually it does) to say "If you Google Edison pyromagnetic you will find references such as the Edison Papers Project[5] at Rutgers University, where it says ...." This is along the lines of "If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach him to fish you feed him for life." This is like a real librarian telling a person what reference might be useful, such as a terminal connected to a database, then showing how to do an initial search, and is not being a dick [6] like if they just said "Why don't you go look it up?" Edison 00:04, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Point being that you actually did some work and got him started so fine. --Justanother 00:13, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Right, we aren't saying telling them to use Google is bad, but JUST doing that is. You should first establish that Google provides good results and then provide a link to those results, both of which you've done in your example. So, we appear to be in agreement. StuRat 11:35, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Assuming werdnabot ever starts working again..

How many days should we set it for? Keeping in mind that despite the header, it only archives pages that have been inactive for that long--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 21:47, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

At least four day's prior discussion should be visible. Frankly, things have not been moving too fast. -THB 21:50, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
The problem is that in the case of that last four days, that represents about 200 kB, or the equivalent of 3 or 4 normal talk pages, also, the various archive bots only remove discussions that have been inactive for X number of days. --VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 21:53, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

I think using EssjayBot II is definitely the way to go. I see you have already initated this process at User_talk:Essjay#User:EssjayBot_II. David D. (Talk) 22:03, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

I would certainly defer to your judgment as you seem to have experience with this. As long as the archiving process does not misrepresent the discussion it does not archive there should be no problem. -THB 23:23, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I use the EssjayBot III for my talk page and it works well. The EssjayBot II one is used on several wikipedia domain nitoceboards and talk pages; see User:EssjayBot_II for more info. In my experience it seems more reliable than werdnabot. David D. (Talk) 23:59, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Jumping in here, is the bot being asked to archive this talk page, or the RD itself? (Confused because I can't imagine this talk page getting 200KB worth of commentary in a four day period, but maybe I'm wrong.) It's no problem to set it up to do either, I just need a whole-day length after which to archive and a max archive size. The bot only archives full conversations, so there should be no problem with misrepresenting anything; as long as the discussion is contained within a single section, nothing will be left behind. The bot archives by the newest (not the last in the section, but the most recent in the section, regardless of placement in the top-to-bottom sense), so come up with a whole-day limit after which a discussion should be removed. If someone would be kind enough to drop a note on my talk page when that's settled, I'll set it up. Essjay (Talk) 00:34, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, we're talking about archiving this talk page. StuRat 00:45, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
As hard as it is to believe, this page has grown by over 100 KB since start of this discussion (2 days ago)--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 17:34, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

User:EssjayBot II

Meta-meta conversation

The meta-meta conversation should go on the talk page's talk page. -THB 23:25, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Masturbation joke

There's another masturbation joke on the Misc. Desk. -THB 23:43, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Are you talking about the meat joke? That was removed already. If not, could you supply a diff? Anchoress 23:48, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
It's still there. It's rather subtle, but unmistakeable. I would need guarantees that the editor will not be blocked or have other punitive actions taken against him in order to point it out. -03:04, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
If it's the most recent question answered about the urination after masturbation pun intended. I wouldn't be too surprised if I got banned from the RD anyway. Cernen Xanthine Katrena 16:51, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
No, it's still there. I just realized that only North Americans might understand it, it may be that Briish speakers aren't familiar with the particular way of referring to male masturbation. -THB 17:21, 12 December 2006 (UTC)


Trolling? Or a question that could be re-worded to make it actually answerable? Anchoress 02:00, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Trolling is a difficult word in many ways- it asks us to make assumptions about the mindset of the person making the edit. I think we should instead ask ourselves "Will this question and the subsequent answers serve any educational purpose?" My best guess is that someone is being silly and maybe even trying to promote the usage of a new word. But how do we know? In this case, I don't see the question going anywhere useful to the project, so I'd advise removing it. (Since I've been seen as being too heavy-handed with some of my removals, I'll not remove it myself, but that's my opinion on what should be done.) Friday (talk) 02:07, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
"Why is some flatulence accompanied by expulsion of fecal matter and other is not?" See, you can make almost any troll question sound legit. Problem with this one is it really is a "valid" question if worded like that and one that Anchoress could probably answer! What to do, what to do? --Justanother 02:15, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Indeed, taking it at face value and answering it like a straight question is an option. Friday (talk) 02:19, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
1. What are you talking about JA? and 2. That's the problem with that question, tho, it presupposes. It's like asking someone 'when did you start beating your wife?'. The way it's asked is assuming the louder they are, the messier they are. See, to me, the way it's worded right now is going to end up being a side discussion. Are the loud ones messier, or the SBDs? Anchoress 02:23, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Maybe we should point out the logical fallacy of the misplaced antecedent or some such (smile). --Justanother 02:29, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
In an effort to disprove the perception of me as a humorless robot, I will point out that Wikipedia policy says, in a nutshell, original research stinks. Friday (talk) 02:26, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
(EC) I almost want to say that the way you tell the difference between a troll and a question is that trolls say trollish things, like "big crumping farts". And askers ask and manage to do it without troll-speak. I think we can all tell the difference or at least in most cases. To be honest, this question is not asked in a manner that deserves an answer. I have a solution for that too. New Policy for Questions: "Be Respectful - Ask the question as if you were asking it of an elder person that you respect. You will get a better answer that way." --Justanother 02:27, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree with your intent, but in practice such a policy would do no good. We already know that people aren't paying good attention to the bits under "How to ask a question". No objection whatsoever to anyone adding it there, though, it's a good idea. Friday (talk) 02:30, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Well the OP hasn't gotten back to the respondent to clarify what 'crumper' means (to me it sounds like a portmanteau - either crap+rump or crap+thump), and nobody's chiming in with anything juvenile, so maybe this particular little bug will make its way through our system without any significant upsets. Anchoress 02:35, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Excellent observation. If folks don't respond in a juvenile way, my original suggestion to remove the question entirely becomes pretty irrelevant. Friday (talk) 02:48, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
"Big Muffins": I suggest that ignoring troll-speak questions be unofficial secret RD cabal policy and the codeword be "Muffins". --Justanother 03:13, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

The mischevious editors appear to be continuing with this. Does this change anyone's opinion on the education value of this thread or what should be done with it? Friday (talk) 03:29, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

I made it much less interesting by consolidating and removing redundant. --Justanother 03:42, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I saw that- seems like a reasonable thing to do, thank you. I notice it doesn't comply with the recent "rules for deletions" that have been proposed here. I think this is a good indication that the rules for deletions don't have good consensus. Friday (talk) 03:48, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
You really want to delete those rules any way you can, don't you ? We had a very strong consensus on those rules. StuRat 11:27, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

As for the topic of conversation here, poorly worded questions, especially those containing slang, commonly come from kids. If we were to require them to be written in a formal manner, we are excluding many people who just don't know how to speak formally. For example, the term "flatulence" probably isn't known by everyone, but "fart" is. StuRat 11:30, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Talk page discussion of "is this a legit question?" is good

I see a pattern emerging here where people are posting questionable questions here for group discussion of what to do with them. This can only be a good thing. If I see something questionable, I'll do that too, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. Friday (talk) 02:34, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree. It's a way for us to take collective ownership of the board without individuals feeling put-upon. Anchoress 02:35, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
No reason not to discuss questionable answers in a similar way. Friday (talk) 04:22, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Actually, discussing questionable answers here is part of the process, after you've discussed it with the author, gotten unsatisfactory results, and believe the problem to be severe enough to justify escalating further. StuRat 11:18, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, it's much preferred to unilaterally deleting the question or answer and blocking the editor without adequate warning. Much much. -THB 11:55, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

RefDeskBot and automatic archiving

I'd like to request some clearer documentation for how the automatic archiving process works. I recently went to make an edit to a thread on the Mathematics RD, Probability. When I saved the edit, I discovered I'd edited the section on this archive page instead. I reverted the edit, thinking I must have clicked something wrong and believing editing archives to be a bad idea, and went back to WP:RD/Math to try again. This time I was paid attention, but I still ended up at the edit page for the archive. When I gave up editing the section and tried to edit the whole page instead, I discovered the section was transcluded (which I then went to learn about) and it appears to be intentional.

Is this how things are supposed to work? Should I just edit this archive page and let my changes be transcluded onto the main Reference Desk? It doesn't appear to have registered on my watchlist for the RD/Math that I've edited & reverted the archive page, which suggests that if it is supposed to work like this, it's a flawed system.. Can anybody advise me as to what is going on? If it's misbehaviour on the part of RefDeskBot then that's fine, but if it's an intentional system we need to consider these issues and provide documentation for editing sections that are transcluded from archives. Maelin (Talk | Contribs) 02:36, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Maybe you should post this on the Computing/IT desk where it will be understood even though it's meta-discussion. They don't often stop by here. -THB 03:14, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

I've dealt with this issue myself, and it is confusing. I'd prefer to avoid transclusions, due to this confusion, but the consensus appeared to be against me on that item. You can go ahead and edit the archives, that's allowed. While they are still transcluded, I'd encourage you to do so. However, once the transclusions are dropped, changes to the archives aren't likely to be noticed by anyone. A change to the archive should show up on your watchlist, just like any other page, provided you have your preferences set to automatically watch pages you edit (or you manually select "Watch this page"). One problem is getting back to the Ref Desk after you finish your edit. The BACK arrow or button works, but doesn't put you back in the same place on the page in all browsers. You can typically use CONTROL or SHIFT when picking the EDIT button, to either open a new window or tab. This will leave the old window or tab still on the same page, in the same position, and open up the archive page in the new window or tab. StuRat 11:12, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Does all of this have something to do with why when you answer an old question on the ref desk and save it you end up in an archive? It is a bit aggravating. -THB 11:46, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, that's the cause. I think there was a need to do it this way, though, as there was a problem with the automatic archiving tool when we didn't use it. The prob was, the size of the page got to be too big for it to handle, once we did want to archive a page and completely remove it from the current Ref Desk. The solution was to "semi-archive" much earlier, so the page wouldn't get too large for the program to handle, and provide transclusions. There are some obvious downsides to this, however. I think a better solution would be to upgrade the automatic archival tool so that it can handle larger pages, and stop doing transclusions. StuRat 11:54, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
In that case we need to do it by hand until we can get an archiving bot that can handle the page. You shouldn't automate a system at the expense of crippling its usability. This automatic archiving seriously reduces the usefulness of the watchlist for tracking RDs and some of us rely heavily on the watchlist. At the very least, the bot should only archive sections that haven't had any changes for a period of time. It should not indiscriminately archive and transclude everything more than n days old. Maelin (Talk | Contribs) 21:28, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
As the writer and operator of RefDeskBot (talk · contribs), I feel I should defend it here :). As far as I know, the reason I was asked to transclude pages after two days was because the page was getting too large for a user to edit as a whole page - the bot can easily cope with it, I promise :D. Really, I'm happy to code the bot to archive with no tranclusion when a day section is 4 (or 7) days old. What I frankly will not do (sorry) is archive sections that haven't had any changes recently (as suggested above). The only way to do this and transclude would be to make an archive page for each question (or not archive them in an organised manner, of course). Perhaps some users aren't fully aware of what the bot actually does (which is "special") aside from annoying their watchlists - it creates monthly indicies of questions, which are really easy to skim down looking for the question you want in each month - this is the thing that the bot does which others (like werdnabot) can't, and which take shumans a long time to do. Should there be a consensus for change, I'm happy to make it (if feasible)! Thanks, Martinp23 21:46, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Why would a user ever need to edit a whole page? They can just edit the section they want to answer. I'm not disparaging your coding work here, Martinp23 (no need to "defend" it), but the current system honestly makes the RDs harder to use (breaks watchlists) and a lot more confusing when trying to answer. At the very, very least, we need to properly document what is going on with the transcluded archives so people don't get confused the way I did when they go to answer a question and get an archive page. Maelin (Talk | Contribs) 23:43, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Maelin, you have some valid points. If you would care to make specific suggestions, like "stop adding transclusions and leave the material directly on the Ref Desk until it is archived", we would be glad to discuss them and hopefully reach consensus on your proposal. I suggest adding a new section at the bottom (since that will get more people's attention) and then linking to this section for the background discussion. While your suggestion to only archive sections which haven't been modified for a certain amount of days also makes sense, I believe there are some technical limitations that prevent this approach from working, at present, with our current archive structure. Documenting how transclusions work is also a good idea, but I doubt if we could put the documentation anywhere that would get editors to actually read it before the confusion arises (we have so much text at the Ref Desk page tops already that the majority of editors ignore most of it). StuRat 16:18, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Maelin, I was defending the concepts, not the bot itself. The concepts which were coded came about from, as I understand it, a consensus here, and I'm fairly happy to change them if the consensus changes. Sorry if I sounded annyoed in my last post - people are saying the bot needs fixing, when there's absolutely nothing wrong with it (apart from internet connection problems)! The benefit with transclusions is that when one gets an edit conflict, you don't get a 100KB page to edit, but rather a 20-30K page (at least, this is as I understand it - I didn't make the rules!). So, basically, I'm open to ideas for change, if a consensus is reached first. Martinp23 17:47, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

"Sharing Weed pipes"

See Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Miscellaneous#Sharing_Weed_pipes. The first two answers look like good efforts at answering. The subsequent ones look like irrelevant chatting. Do people agree or disagree? Friday (talk) 03:35, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree. Particularly when the Oscar winners and supermodels got involved. Personally, I wouldn't want to share a toke or a lip lock with any of those women, and I think getting into that kind of personal preference discussion is pointless and exclusionary. Anchoress 04:18, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Anchoress, what if it were Rupert Graves and Jake Gyllenhall? Would you feel differently?-THB 04:25, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Nope. Partially because I don't dig either of those guys, but mostly because I think it's divisive to start to talk about that kind of stuff in that kind of thread. The person who posted it said 'you', as if he was talking to JustAnother or other readers, and said 'you'd feel differently (as in, not yuck).' IMO it's exclusionary, because it makes a divide between people who feel that way and people who don't. And it's completely unnecessary. BTW if you're curious, I'd lock lips with Jude Law, Alfred Molina, or Denzel Washington. But I'd still prefer the thread stay off the topic of exchanging saliva with celebrities. :-) Anchoress 04:35, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
PS I don't even know who Rupert Graves is lol. Anchoress 04:36, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
'e was the under gameskeeper in Maurice, 'e was, and 'e made me ears hurt. I am willing to bet you've seen some of the movies he was in. -THB 10:12, 12 December 2006 (UTC) (Image: Rupert Graves, left)
I've seen one, 20 years ago lol. Anchoress 21:10, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

External links

THB recently included an external link in a response. I think this link was a bad idea- aside from the popups, it had no educational value that I can see. I think we should be conservative in our use of external links and we should preferably include relevant, educational material from a reliable source. What do others think? Friday (talk) 03:52, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Personally, I think, who appointed User:Friday judge, jury and executioner??? Doesn't he have anything better to do with his time than act as hall monitor??? -THB 03:56, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Executioner?!? Huh? Not only did I not kill anyone, I didn't even remove anything. I'm only giving my opinion and asking for other people to give theirs. Friday (talk) 04:34, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
The question was about farting and used a funny term for it, so the answer seemed in the spirit of the question. Our standard seems to be to provide a serious answer before any levity. That should have been done first. Link to an article on farting ( I am not even going to look and see if there is one) or a medical article. Then some levity befits the troll.Edison 06:53, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
IMO, our job as refdesk editors isn't to say that "WIKI PWNZ ALL J00R KNOLEDG LOL." If we can't offer an appropriate response, or if, in the opinion of the editor, Wikipedia's response to the question at hand is lacking, we should give an external link. Our job is to hand out answers to questions via whatever means necessary. Cernen Xanthine Katrena 16:55, 12 December 2006 (UTC)


I don't understand this question- I don't see a painting at Susan Sarandon. Ned Wilbury 04:40, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

L'Origine du monde.jpeg
I see they've even removed the history. It was L'Origine du monde (see thumbnail at right) covering the width of the page in both instances. -THB 10:16, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Next item for consensus: Can Ref Desk volunteers ask Ref Desk questions ?

Please add your opinion to the discussion: Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk/guideline#Can_Ref_Desk_volunteers_ask_Ref_Desk_questions_.3F. StuRat 10:54, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

User:Radiant! running for Arbitration committee

Since Ref Desk questions may eventually come before the arbitration committee, and Radiant has been here long enough for us all to form well-informed opinions on his qualifications, I feel we should all vote in this election: Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee Elections December 2006/Vote/Radiant!. StuRat 14:38, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Do you mean, if we can't decide on the answer to a question, that eventually the question might be given to the Arbitration committee so they can answer it? Ned Wilbury 15:19, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
ArbCom might also be asked to rule on the behavior of ordinary editors or even Administrators. -THB 15:22, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
And on the issue of whether a project, like the Ref Desk, can decide how Wikipedia rules apply, or whether that interpretation should be left up to each individual. StuRat 15:25, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Individuals always interpret rules- the project could not function without this. Ned Wilbury 16:12, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
True, but some very basic questions, like whether opinions are allowed on the Ref Desk, should be decided by consensus, so we don't get one person giving his opinion, only to have it deleted by somebody else who thinks opinions are not allowed. Incidentally, your opinion on these rule interpretations is welcome. The item we are currently discussing is here: Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/rules#Next_question_for_consensus:_Avoid_using_abbreviations_like_"OP"_?. StuRat 16:16, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Reference desk/rules now contains consensus rules

We've had a problem with non-consensus deletions of rules agreed upon, by consensus, at: Wikipedia:Reference desk/guideline. I therefore suggest we leave that page to be edited by anyone, and make a new page which will only reflect consensus. I've created the new page at: Wikipedia:Reference desk/rules with discussion at Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/rules. Hopefully, once both are completed, we can decide which to link to from the Ref Desk page top templates. StuRat 15:31, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

A curious use of the word consensus, considering.EricR 15:38, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Yup. Obviously, a page containing only the users agreeing with a certain POV is by definition not consensual. Thus the decision which page to link should be obvious. (Radiant) 16:55, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
As I've said, everyone is welcome to discuss and vote on items for consensus there. They are not, however, welcomed to delete anything they don't personally like unilaterally, as you did on Wikipedia:Reference desk/guideline. And, since you have placed your opinion on the new page, Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/rules, you are fully aware that your opinion, as well as everybody else's opinion, is allowed there. StuRat 18:26, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Humanities desk biting of questioner removed to here pending discussion

  • Original Grant of Land from John Ingram dated 1416 A.D
  • Hello,

I am trying to find a document or more detailed information on a document that I currently own, which I believe to be a historical document. The document is in in its original state, well intact and has the original wax seal with it. The document appears to be written in latin and and the caption that is with the document states that it is an "original grant of land from John Ingram dated 1416 A.D. during the regin of King Henry V. Along with the document is a photograph of King Henry V, a photograph of the battle of shrewsbury 1485 a.d. and also a photograph of a judge in wardrobe form the 1400's. I am not sure the correlation of all the items that are containted in a picture frame for the preservation of them all.

I would like to see if I can find out any further information on these items, if at all possible. I would welcome any valid information or some guidance as to where i can do further research on them.

please if anyone can help me with my research on these items, please contact me at <email address removed>. Thank you in advance for any and all help in this. I look forward to hearing from someone soon in the near future.



:Er, photographs of the fifteenth century? Sam Clark 08:29, 12 December 2006 (UTC) ...(next response left on project page)

:Sounds to me like a troll. 3 photographs from the 15th century? Er, yeah right... IIRC & AFAIK, photography wasn't invented to the 19th century. Perhaps the 18th century. But I'm very sure there was no photography in the 15th century. If you really have a photograph of King Henry V, a photograph of the Battle of Shrewsbury and a photograph of a judge from the 15th century, well you need to hire a very high end security team ASAP since your collection must be worth a few billion dollars or more and is going to make reverbations throughout the world. If you're not a troll, and simply made a mistake and actually mean a painting or a photograph of a painting, of a photograph of a reconstruction then do try to be clear about what you are actually saying Nil Einne 13:35, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

LOOK! At King Henry V there is a DIGITAL PHOTO of him! It says it is a "Henry5.JPG‎ (14KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)." But they didn't even HAVE digital cameras in the 15th century! So how is that possible? Oh, right, it is a photograph of a PAINTING! People, do not BITE the questioner. Do not call the questioner a troll on a basis like this. The question clearly means there are photos of paintings. And as for looking at a digital image of the document, how could you tell whether it was a scan of an original or a scan of a good reproduction? Typeface analysis like the Dan Rather documents about George Bush's Texas Air National Guard service? I have seen much older documents in museums and cathedrals in England which still have their wax seals. All we can really do is what some have attempted, i.e. check for anachronisms, then perhaps check for what similar random legal documents of minor historical figures have sold for recently at auction, and perhaps look for any reports of similar fraudulent documents. Antiques Roadshow ran a segment where someone had found a genuine letter from George Washington in an old box of junk, and their kid took it to school for show and tell, and the teacher announced it was clearly a fake. That is what some of the uninformed responses sound like. The questioner probably should take it to someone qualified to examine and evaluate it, to make sure it is authentic, find out the value for insurance purposes, and make sure it is framed with archival materials, or whether it should be kept out of the light. Edison 15:48, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Looks like Clio's handled the question, Edison. Certainly that response is contrary to the spirit of WP:CIVIL. I wouldn't replace it. -THB 15:54, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree. I wouldn't accuse them of being a troll, but would ask for a clarification politely. I don't think it was such a serious violation of WP:BITE to demand immediate removal, either, however. StuRat 15:57, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Is there a template to post to the project page and the users' pages, so that they are informed? Edison 15:58, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Edison: I thought that the agreed procedure was that, in cases where a post might be inappropriate, the poster should be politely asked on his or her talk page to remove it, before any further action like moving the posts off the page was taken. I've been following this procedure myself, and I would have appreciated you doing so. In any case, my remark was not 'biting', not even slightly mocking. It was a friendly invitation to the questioner to reread what she'd written. I do agree with you about Nil Einne's post, but again, you should have asked on his/her talk page first. I'm not going to edit war over this, but I'd like you, please, to put my post back. Yours, Sam Clark 16:00, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree, this is not so severe of an issue to demand a "speedy delete" and ignore the formal procedure. StuRat 16:02, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
There is no procedure. Users should feel free to edit pages with the intent to improve the encyclopedia. Hipocrite - «Talk» 16:04, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Sorry, I've only just seen this thread. I have already posted an admonition on the biter's talk page. If anyone has a persuasive reason for this having been the wrong thing to do, please let me know and I'll revert myself. --Dweller 16:03, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

No, that was absolutely the proper thing to do, so long as you were polite about it. By "the biter", do you mean User:Nil Einne  ? StuRat 16:05, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes. ([7]) --Dweller 16:10, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree with Sam Clark that HIS remark should not have been deleted, I'm thinking maybe that was an oversight, I'll put it back, did anyone notice his comment above? -THB 16:15, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Thanks, THB. Sam Clark 16:29, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
(3 edit conflicts later) Sorry to have removed Sam Clark's post and I agree with putting it back. But as to the other reply, a troll accusation because of the wrong term used in a question by a probably sincere newbie seems to violate WP:no personal attacks, and I would rather move it here immediately for discussion rather than leave it on the project page for the questioner to come back and read it and possibly abandon Wikipedia in disgust, then later the accuser reads his talk page and comes back and modifies it or removes it too late. I sincerely doubt there were little oil paintings in the big frame, and I do believe they were photographs of paintings, which the questioner called "photos" rather than "photos of drawings." I would have used the longer phrase, but hey, I am pedantic. I agree it is always better to ask the accuser to remove/reword the post, but how long are we supposed to wait for a reply? 1 hour? 5 days? That is too long to leave a questionable troll accusation on the project page. Edison 16:43, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
First reply OK; second clearly a nip. IMO. --Justanother 16:45, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Hello again, i am the one that posted the question regarding the land grant. I would first like to apologize for any misunderstandings regarding my misuse of words, such as "photographs", as it is apparently clear that the documents that i possess, are not "photographs"... I am not sure what is meant by "trolling", but at the time I posted the question, which to me seemed to be a ligit question, has turned out not be such I legit question, according to some of the repsonses that I have just read. So, therefore, I would like to thank all of those that responed to my question, wheather to criticize my use of words or to defend. I wish to apologize for taking up anyones time, and I will continue my search for information elsewhere. thank you all of you!!!!Staceysangel 08:36, 22 December 2006 (UTC)== Next question for consensus: Avoid using abbreviations like "OP" ? ==

Please give your opinion here: Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/rules#Next_question_for_consensus:_Avoid_using_abbreviations_like_"OP"_?. StuRat 15:50, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Box on Misc Desk

There's a strange box around a question that User:Hipocrite apparently place there referring discussion here for ??? reason but he made no comment here. Is that box a usual tool here at the reference desk? I didn't want to get into a revert war with User:Hipocrite so am soliciting input from someone familiar with that type of box. -16:34, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

I am trying to stop you from rewarding trolls with extra attention. It is apparent that the "reference desk regulars" believe rewarding trolls with attention is worthwile. Please do not reward trolls with attention. Thanks. Hipocrite - «Talk» 16:35, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
If you think it would be appropriately deleted then just delete it, IMO. But it was worded like an AGF question. I, for one, would rather that no editor indicates that his is the final answer on any topic. --Justanother 16:39, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
It's not to you to unilaterally dictate what everyone else should do. If you think someone is doing something wrong, discuss it with them. Your methods are absolutely contrary to maintaining good relations with your fellow editors. -THB 16:54, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I suggest you review the contribution history of the troll. Hipocrite - «Talk» 16:39, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
How was this comment posted 15 minutes before its parent? ... --frothT C 22:02, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Even a troll can write a perfectly good reference desk question. WP:AGF and all all of that. It's quite a legitimate question. I firmly believe User:Hipocrite has gone overboard like User:Friday did. -THB 16:44, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
[8] is oftimes a vandal - this was the question asker. Review [9], among numerous others. Hipocrite - «Talk» 16:48, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree that rewarding trolls with attention is only asking for trouble. Hipocrite's box was intended to discourage further commentary on this question. It's unfortunate that people chose to continue responding anyway. If some people are experienced dealing with problem editors and others are not, I think we should leave it to those with the experience. Ned Wilbury 16:52, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Well then the inexperienced editors should watch how the rest of us handle things before they jump in and muck things up. -THB 16:57, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. Each question must be judged individually on its own merits. -THB 16:51, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Actually I like the way the box sets off the question from the answer. I propose that all questions get a box. -THB 16:51, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
WP:SPADE. Vandals vandalize. Trolls troll. Why would someone ask how they can make home narcotics in the midst of this? To troll you when I deleted his innapropriate question. You are being played for a fool. Hipocrite - «Talk» 16:52, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Good sir, perhaps you are mistaken, and you are being played for a fool instead. -THB 16:57, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
It's certainly possible, which is why I only removed the question once (once again by mistake, but you promptly corrected that). If people insist on answering things, they will do so. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:00, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
My interaction with the questioner was no different than my interaction with any other questioner except that he or she was nice enough to actually read the answer and post a follow-up. Perhaps you should review the definition of a troll. In my opinion, anyone who wastes my time with foolishness is a troll. -THB 17:02, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Froth comments here

A little friday-style metacomment here, I didn't make this heading separate someone else did --frothT C 20:07, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

*sigh* First off hipocrite, why did you mark it as an "archived" RD question? AFAIK that has no precedent whatsoever, not to mention that it's not even true. Also, we don't look at OPs contributions and judge their worth as an editor, and answer their question if we think they're OK. We answer questions. Period. THB, yes it was inappropriately unilateral but no need to go comparing it to friday's actions. Also it would be unreasonable to expect OPs to know how to put a box around their question, so that wouldn't work. Finally, what's up with you two? Cancel your vendetta THB and hold your horses Hipocrite. --frothT C 22:01, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

I think that those users who are more experienced in dealing with problem editors may be the ones who're more likely to check contributions. I think it's perfectly reasonable to check contributions when we see a questionable edit. Sometimes this helps tip the scale if we're trying to decide whether it was done in good faith or not. If other users don't believe in doing this, well, nobody's forcing them. I for one am glad to have people around who are doing this- if trolling questions are removed, this puts our emphasis where it should be, on helping good-faith questioners. Ned Wilbury 22:08, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Ned, when have you *ever* contributed an answer to the Reference Desk? Was it under another username? -THB 22:49, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I take actions that I believe are in the best interest of the encyclopedia, like marking trolling questions from obvious trolls as trolls. If what happened at the RD was "answering questions, period," then we would not be having this discussion. I do not intend to hold my horses. I will fix this reference desk. Hipocrite - «Talk» 22:05, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
froth is one of the more reasonable frequent editors on the Mis. Ref. Desk. Speaking that way to him is unecessary and unproductive. You would do well to heed his words. Statements like "I will fix this reference desk" are insulting to all. -THB 22:54, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Er, thanks. I agree that "I will fix..." is extremely unhelpful --frothT C 02:05, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree with Hipocrite, and I would suggest that those who haven't checked contributions ought not to generally second guess those who have- let's let whoever has the best information make these calls. If some people would rather not bother dealing with problem editors at all, that's perfectly fine. Not everyone has to do every job. Ned Wilbury 22:19, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Ned, I don't know if you've noticed, but you're practically *echoing* everything User:Hipocrite says. He doesn't need amplification. You're starting to come across as a sycophant. -THB 22:51, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
THB, this is not helping anything. Please knock off the personal bit. That is not what we are about here. --Justanother 22:53, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Justanother, you're correct. -THB 22:57, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Cool --Justanother 22:59, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

What the heck? I chime in here and there, often on AFDs. Never had anyone question or criticize me for agreeing with another editor before. At AFD if someone else made a good case we frequently say "keep per so-and-so" or whatever. I don't know Hipocrite so it's not like I'm his lackey or anything, but if someone has an idea I agree with, I'll say so. Ned Wilbury 23:08, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Even though we disagree on many of the issues, so long as you don't try to disrupt the work we've done to build consensus here, your opinion is welcome, Ned. And, I've seen no evidence so far that you are here to disrupt things. The reason others, like THB, may be a bit on edge, is that we've been the victim of a couple of sockpuppet attacks here in the last week, which has left us all a bit wary of new voices. StuRat 00:01, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

My point was that it wasn't an obvious troll (stranger questions have been legitimately asked in the past). It seems almost like hipocrite looked at his contribs and decided that any question posted by him must be a troll. I have no problem with checking contribs as further justification for a deletion, but it should never be the only reason --frothT C 02:04, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree, Froth. StuRat 16:08, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Meta comments

Meta comments, as experienced editors know, belong on the talk page. I moved some here, but left them as they were posted, hidden. If the poster replaces them I won't revert. I thought this was a wikipedia-wide consensus. -THB 17:13, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

I suggest that you review prior discussion regarding my hidden tags. If you insist that I criticize your innacurate, speculative answers where everyone can see it, I am happy to do so. Please don't write innacurate speculative answers. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:19, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
IMO, these hidden comments need to be neutral, polite and signed. Like "unsourced possible speculation - please provide source - signed" or "possible off-topic - please consider removal - signed".--Justanother 17:34, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Review - [10] Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:39, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
By the way, it's "inaccurate", not "innacurate". Just returning the favor. -THB 18:21, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Very brief hidden comments are fine, especially on the RD when it takes so well to the discussion format. The talk page right now pretty much belongs to policy making, not pedantry that will be irrelevant in a day or two. THB take a chill pill. --frothT C 21:51, 12 December 2006 (UTC)


Hipocrite, have you used another username? -THB 17:36, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Yup. I was JBKramer as the result of a permablocked vandal stalking me. As a result of a different permablocked vandal stalking me, I claimed JBKramer and returned to this username. I am in the process of getting the JBKramer edits moved to this account, though I believe that will probably not happen. Obviously, the accounts have never overlapped, and I had admitted the both of them to relevent parties at various times. You may wish to review my contribution history from before this debate - specifically those I made to User:JBKramer. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:39, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
On this desk may editors prefer that all editors are open about their username to avoid accusations of sockpuppetry. -THB 17:45, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for your concern. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:47, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
What aspects of your behavior do you believe make you the frequent target of permablocked vandals? -THB 18:07, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
This thread should go to a talk page. --Justanother 18:14, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I solve metaproblems, like the one here. Oftimes, metaproblems are caused by permablocked vandals. I do not suspect this is one of those times. I believe that everyone is acting with sometimes misguided good intentions. Hipocrite - «Talk» 18:15, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
And do you tend to find that the methods you employ are the most effective? -THB 18:19, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm happy to discuss this on my talk page, if you would like. Hipocrite - «Talk» 18:31, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
No need, it was purely rhetorical. -THB 18:36, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Hmmmm, your theory of "sometimes misguided good intentions" reminds me a bit of User:Friday's "lovable idiots" theory. -THB 18:40, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Would you rather that I say I think you are actively trying to make the encyclopedia worse? I don't believe that to be true. I believe you don't realize the damage you are causing. Hipocrite - «Talk» 18:42, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

This so should go on hipocrite's talk page... Also THB, no need to get so snappy he seems to have a legit reason for switching account names --frothT C 21:46, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

The Heart of the Matter

I should think that if someone had a problem with someone's behavior they would address it with them directly, much as I have done with you. What has happened on this board over the last week or so was perceived as a series of attacks on editors by administrators misusing their power. I have tried to assume good faith with everyone involved until they have slapped me in the face with their lack of it. I also do not believe that you are acting in bad faith but that you do not realize what has happened here recently and that heavy-handed tactics may not be the best to use right now. I think you will find that the intelligent, well-educated, experienced editors here are quite reasonable when treated with the respect that they deserve. And I daresay that many of them have had quite enough of people dropping in to explain how things are so godawful on the RD. A more effective technique would be to carefully observe and assess the situation before attempting to change it. -THB 18:49, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I am fully aware of the situation. You cannot have a walled garden here, where "outsiders" are required to conform before commenting. The walled garden that was here before is why the outsiders are here. The culture of the desk is broken, and needs fixing. I have treated every editor here with a good deal of respect - more, honestly, than they have treated me with - to wit, [11] within moments of my arrival on the scene. Hipocrite - «Talk» 19:06, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
The repeated bringing up of this misguided notion of "admins versus reference desk" is not helpful. Surely we all share the common goal of improving the encyclopedia. Trying to turn this into "us v. them" is needlessly divisive. I agree with Hipocrite above that he was treated poorly shortly after arriving here, so I hope that this does not continue. We're all volunteers and we're all trying to help- fighting amongst ourselves is not productive. Ned Wilbury 19:18, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Please see WP:TINC. No doubt the RD has more "outsiders" going through than anything but the front page. I chose my words quite carefully above and there has been a degree of unwarranted extrapolation and interpretation. I am quite sure that the editors at the RD have and will treat you as you treat them. -THB 20:43, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

I wouldn't think of it as a series of attacks and I very much appreciate the efforts of admins to try to improve the RD, but you're right I've pretty much had enough of the criticism. Come on people, we're no less dysfucntional than any controversial article on WP. --frothT C" 21:43, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Criticism that's constructive should be welcome, as in "here's something we need to do better". It's when criticism turns into bickering that it needs to stop. We all need to be able to disagree with other editors without demonizing them. We all need to be able to criticize each other's actions without anyone taking it personally. Ned Wilbury 22:33, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Suggested modification to instructions

What do y'all think of adding an item to the instructions to the effect of "If you've received an answer that helps, leave a note! The reference desk editors like to know when they've been of assistance, and it can also help us provide even better service going forward." - Right now, there doesn't seem to be any type of feedback requested, and it'd have the double benefit of both making the answerers feel warm and fuzzy in addition to closing the loop on feedback. If 3/4 of the people getting answers were walking away unsatisfied but not saying anything (for example) there would be no way to track that, even partially. - CHAIRBOY () 18:04, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Sounds good to me. It doesn't already say that somewhere in the instructions ? StuRat 18:18, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I might have missed it, but I didn't see anything. Specifically, I was looking at the instructions at the very top of the RD pages. - CHAIRBOY () 18:24, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Found it:

  • Be courteous. Questions are answered by humans, not computers. This is not a search engine. Leaving a quick "Thank you" note if you found an answer useful would be polite. StuRat 18:29, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Ah! I did indeed miss that. Consider my suggestion retracted, the matter is already well in hand. Regards, CHAIRBOY () 19:20, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Discussions about items on the ref desks

I logged on today to find a bunch of discussions about things happening on the ref desk, but there were no diffs provided, so I have no idea what was being discussed. Could folks who bring up things on is page please include a diff so those of us not immediately aware of what's happening can get caught up? Thanks in advance. Anchoress 23:00, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

That's a good idea. Are you all caught up now ? StuRat 23:22, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Mmm, there were several discussions that there were no diffs for when I read them, and I haven't looked back since. Anchoress 23:24, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Next question for consensus: Are responses which don't directly answer the question allowed ?

Please give your opinion on this issue here: [12]. StuRat 23:53, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

The page Wikipedia:Reference desk/guideline seems to be more active than Wikipedia:Reference desk/rules. I recommend discussing this at the other page. Ned Wilbury 01:27, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Per previous at agreement (#Are Ref Desk specific guidelines needed ?), please give opinions related to proposed rules at Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/guideline, and just so everyone knows, I've nominated Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/rules for deletion. We don't need the same discussion going on in three different places. -- Rick Block (talk) 01:32, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Any discussion there is liable to be immediately deleted by those who disagree with it. StuRat 01:43, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Then put that discussion back, and also note whoever deleted it --frothT C 01:57, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Have people really been deleting discussions they disagree with? This seems like a bad thing to do. Anyway, I agree that having the same conversation in multiple places is bad, so we should try to consolidate where ever we can. Ned Wilbury 02:22, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Seems like? If'n I remember correctly, that's a violation of some sort of Wikipedia guideline. I probably don't remember correctly, though. Cernen Xanthine Katrena 15:18, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
If there is a policy or guideline that prevents us from improving the encyclopedia, by, for instancce, preventing us from removing a question that is merely a giant picture of a penis with the question "What is this?" Then we should - actually, are required to ignore it, per WP:IAR. Hipocrite - «Talk» 15:20, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Regarding answers to questions

Can we please stop with the "The reference desk is not/We are not here to answer your questions about/Wikipedia is not" stuff? This technically isn't the pedia itself, it's the pedia reference desk (which is why we're allowed to pseudo-disregard things like WP:V and WP:NOR here). I can understand the whole "not a chat room" bit here, that's appropriate, yes. But biting posters with stuff like "Wikipedia is not a/an x" isn't exactly in line with WP:BITE, is it? I can understand redirecting stuff like video game questions to the misc. section from the science section or what not, but telling people outright that "this isn't the kind of question we answer, go look for it somewhere else" isn't what we're supposed to be doing. (Yes, I know it's confusing, no I don't really care.) Cernen Xanthine Katrena 12:25, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Example? Hipocrite - «Talk» 12:59, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
There was a question about chao breeding sometime...uh...lemme check here...[13]. And I probably should have mentioned that I was paraphrasing. @_X Cernen Xanthine Katrena 15:13, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
That's not a particularly strong example, but I take your point that telling people who come here for an answer that "we don't accept such questions" (paraphrased) has a definite WP:BITE to it. You might want to review the two sets of proposed rules under Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/guideline and Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/rules and comment on each associated talk page as to which rules will be more likely to bite the user. StuRat 15:48, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

A concern

I am concerned because User:Hipocrite has stated above "I will not hold my horses. I will fix this reference desk." It almost seems that he has taken on a crusade. This is not compatible with the purposes or spirit of Wikipedia in general or the Reference Desk in particular. It does not bode well for cooling down and moving forward. -THB 13:13, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Sounds to me like he's saying he will improve the reference desk. Isn't this what we ask of everyone? The idea of "just fix it" is absolutely compatible with the spirit of Wikipedia. Maybe you're reading things into his statement and assuming he's going to do bad things you'll disagree with? Maybe your objections should wait until someone ACTUALLY does something you disagree with. Ned Wilbury 13:22, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I believe the concern is over the use of the word "I" as opposed to "We should work together to improve the Ref Desk", thus implying unilateral action. Also, the word "fix" implies that it is now broken, which many dispute. StuRat 15:31, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I may make a few enemies by saying this, but yeah, there's something fundamentally wrong with the reference desk right now. And it's going to take all of us to fix it; we have to work together. Filing RFCs and beating people over the head with 2x4s is not going to solve anything. If anything, it'll make matters worse, because then, all this drama behind the scenes will spill out into open-ended flame wars at the reference desk itself, which is something we can't have. Cernen Xanthine Katrena 15:55, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Agreed on the part about working together and not being divisive. However, I feel the Ref Desk works fairly well as is, although slight improvements could be made, so long as we don't "throw the baby out with the bathwater". StuRat 15:57, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I think we just need to apply normal standards to solve this. In case anyone does NOT know, civility toward others and assuming good faith are standard expectations here. Also, a simple recognition that the reference desk is part of wikipedia would go far toward helping bring it back on track. Ned Wilbury 15:59, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Agree on being civil and assuming good faith, but the statement "the reference desk is part of wikipedia" could be misinterpreted as meaning "all Wikipedia policies which apply to articles also apply to the Ref Desk", such as the no original research policy. So, it's probably best to avoid saying that, as it confuses the issues. StuRat 16:04, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Cernan, what do you see as being fundamentally wrong with the RD? --Justanother 16:00, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I'll answer even though I'm not Cernan. The reference desk discourages new users who reach the reference desk from using the encyclopedia as it is designed for three reasons. Firstly, many responders fail to link to wikipedia articles when they could in their responses. Secondly, the repeated chat-room behavior leads new users to believe wikipedia is a chat-room - this is a regular and serious problem in article, user, user-talk and article-talk space. Thirdly, off-color humor (penis jokes, among others) drives users away. As a second issue, too many answers given are just plain wrong, or useless. Hipocrite - «Talk» 16:06, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Hipocrite explains it well. I have seen new users using Wikipedia as a chat room too, and if the reference desk is encouraging this misconception on their part, this needs to change. The reference desk needs to help SUPPORT the goals of the project, not work against them. Ned Wilbury 16:34, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I think this prevailing atmosphere of bureaucracy is what's dragging this whole thing down. We're so caught up in establishing rules and guidelines that we've forgotten the primary purpose of the reference desk. Keep in mind we're essentially ambassadors to the outside world here; if people come by the reference desk to ask a question, they may decide to stay and help the project. We don't need to be chatty per se, but we also don't need to be blunt, prostrate robots when it comes to doling out responses. This is a place for helping people, not angering other Wikipedians. It's like I've heard said before: you can't hug with nuclear arms, but it seems there are a select few of us with our fingers poised in Kim Jong Il fashion over big red buttons. If the reference desk editors can't get along, then -- excuse my language -- just how in the hell are we supposed to serve others? Cernen Xanthine Katrena 16:43, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Many us have been arguing all along that we should be less bureaucratic. There's no consensus that I can see that we NEED specific guidelines. Many of us think that using normal adult judgment is sufficient. However, there's been some disagreement- certain things were removed for obvious reasons, and a few people objected strenuously to this. I just want to remind everyone that the goal of making the reference desk a useful education resource is FAR more important than providing a forum for "free speech" to editors. Ned Wilbury 16:46, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree completly that there is no need for beurocratic guidelines. However, when users attempted to remove questions and answers that were not helpful to the project, a whole mess of such was thrown at them. I would be happy to go back in time to SCZens' ideas - just getting rid of eggregiously damaging questions and answers. Hipocrite - «Talk» 16:49, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Ned - until a couple of weeks ago I would have agreed with you. But recently I have seen a whole series of incidents where over-zealous editors have gone on a campaign to "clean up" the RDs and caused all sorts of disruption by doing so. I have seen at least two editors blocked for asking or answering questions in the "wrong" way; arbitrary deletion of questions and answers; revert warring; assumptions of bad faith; hidden comments and sarcastic answers. And the typical justifications for such behaviour are "I will do what I like if I think it improves the encyclopedia" and good ol' common sense. So, sadly, I came to the conclusion that we do need to codify good practice on the RDs - including guidelines on how to handle inappropriate questions and answers in a way that does not cause gratuitous offence to other editors. And then, just when I thought we were making some progress towards that objective, Hipocrite goes nuclear with his RfCs, which takes us right back to square one. Gandalf61 17:25, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Thank you, Gandalf, I agree. StuRat 17:53, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Blocking disruptive users is not, by itself, disruption. Excessive and unreasonable complaints about such may well be disruptive. So, let's seperate these issues. We have ways of discussing blocks- we do not need to keep doing it here. Ned Wilbury 18:32, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I believe that blocks resulting from Ref Desk behavior should be discussed here, as that effects us all. StuRat 00:33, 14 December 2006 (UTC)


I have filed an RFC regarding the behavior of StuRat and THB here. This is seperate from any discussion about the reference desk - it is only about the conduct. Those with input are invited to comment. Hipocrite - «Talk» 13:58, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Where I Stand

Everyone else seems to have their fingers in the fondue, and I'm out here with my little cheese on a toothpick trying to get a dip in, so lemme share with you just where I stand on the reference desk:

  1. It's not a hangout, but it's not a library, either. There needs to be a non-confrontational "ask and answer" atmosphere; people need to be aware that at the reference desk, they should be able to ask any question and get an answer, no matter how absurd or out-of kilter.
  2. We are the salesmen and saleswomen of the whole project. A lot of times, I'll recommend my friends and family ask questions of the reference desk. I don't know if any have done so, but I would hate to think that someone's impression of the Wikipedia editors comes off as stiff-necked accountants. We're real people, and we need to be able to demonstrate that. If people come to the reference desk and get a useful answer, they may notice how easy it is to contribute to the Wiki itself, thus adding yet another editor to this grand compendium of human knowledge.
  3. We cannot allow WP:V and WP:NOR to bias the reference desk. If we deny original research and make verifiability a requisite, we lose the ability to answer a very wide range of questions.
  4. WP:IAR has worked in the past. Common sense was what I remember the reference desk having before; since when did that change? Who decided that we needed rules to govern appropriate and inappropriate responses to questions? We should know our limits through common sense, not consensus.
  5. External links aren't a last line of defense. There's no reason to tout Wikipedia as a supreme end-all-be-all. Links to other websites may provide essential answers that Wikipedia cannot, just as Wikipedia may be able to provide answers that external websites don't have.

Cernen Xanthine Katrena 16:57, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

A few concerns with the above - I apologize for using off color remarks, but I must.

  1. Agreed, with the caveat that some questions should neither be asked or answered - to give you one all the way over the line "Here is a picture of my penis [[giantpenis.jpeg]]. Would you say it is average or above average sized? I will remove this on sight - I suspect you would as well.
  2. We can, however, request that answers point to sources, and not be origional research. We can request that answers not just make stuff up. We can demand accuracy, and we can allow just-plain-wrong answers to be removed.
  3. Common sense was tried - someone responded to "what's popping the collar" mean with "Isn't that when you pull the foreskin on your penis back?" This was removed, reinserted, removed, reinserted, removed, and the individual telling the penis joke was blocked, and stormed off in a huff.
  4. I have no problem with external links, as long as they are not absolute garbage. This is where guidelines hurt, not help. Use common sense. If you failed to use common sense, and someone realizes you just linked to a neo-nazi hate site and deletes your link, don't get all pissed off about your freedom of speech. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:03, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
The problem I have with this, though, is that we're human. Who determines if an answer is wrong? It's attitudes like that that put us in this position to begin with. We have disclaimers for things like offensive material. If that's what "popping the collar" is, then so be it; people can see that, accept or reject it as an answer as they see fit. It's not really our place to net-nanny the reference desk. Blatant vandalism should be shot on sight, but all questions should be given a chance. Cernen Xanthine Katrena 17:15, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Let's be clear, here, in case you're just not fully informed. Popping the collar is turning up the collar on your shirt. The individual who brought up his penis was a regular contributor here making a penis joke. Those had become common. That is a disfunctional sitaution. If common sence does not allow us to remove that response and block people for making it, common sense does not work. This is why we've been forced to demand reliable sources, and hop through these dumb hoops - common sense failed. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:22, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

I believe "popping the collar" has both meanings, so we should give both. StuRat 17:44, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Totally and completly false. Find a WP:RS for your absurd arguement. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:45, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
For crying out loud sturat! This is making your case indefensible. Even urban dictionary does not have your definition. Not to mention that a google search gives nothing except this discussion here. Are all your answers this reliable? David D. (Talk) 18:38, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

The fact that we have regulars, arguing with a straight face that off-topic penis jokes are acceptable, indicates that common sense has clearly failed us. Ned Wilbury 18:26, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

I could not agree more. David D. (Talk) 18:38, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Poorly played sturat. But I wholeheartedly agree Cernen, that's exactly how I feel. Ex-actly. --frothT C 19:12, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Well, I thought that was an alternate meaning, and I did put "I believe" in front, showing it was only my opinion. Since User:DirkvdM suggested that meaning, and he is Dutch, it may only have that meaning in Dutch. However, I now accept that it does not have that meaning in English, and have thus struck out my earlier comment. StuRat 00:31, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

A Useful Analogy?

This reminds me of that Star Trek episode, The Menagerie (TOS episode); based on the originally unused pilot The Cage (TOS episode). Remember these aliens saved a girl badly mangled in a crash but since they had no idea what a human was supposed to look like they made something quite unpleasant-appearing out of her. My point being that we really have no policy as to what the RD is "supposed to look like". That means that any efforts to fix it at this point are premature. Let's keep the "fixing" on the RD down to the barest, gentlest, kindest minimum until we hammer out some common ground between ourselves. Otherwise what you think is a perfect 10 might to others look like the Bride of Frankenstein. Carry on. --Justanother 17:18, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Agreed. StuRat 17:34, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
As long as it stays internal, I'm fine with change. But I don't want new users noticing any big changes until this is all "hammered out" and I definately don't want to deprive OPs of information they could have gotten from the RD before some users came along and decided that we can't share that info with them --frothT C 19:08, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Archive bot

Can we fix the archive bot first? Since when did we only have four days at a time? I always thought it was seven days. Cernen Xanthine Katrena 17:26, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

I thought so to. What's your suggestion as to how we fix the archive bot ? StuRat 17:34, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
That actually is how the bot is supposed to work, it keeps the desks dial-up-friendly by keeping the page size to around 60 or 70 KB per desk--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 17:32, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't quite understand how transclusions help dial-up users. Since the info is still displayed on the page, doesn't the same amount of info need to be sent over the dial-up connection ? And, since people should only edit one section at a time, that doesn't seem like an issue either. Oh, I think I may know the prob, if you get an edit conflict and it "escalates" to an edit of the whole page. I hate that behavior for other reasons, as well, and wish we could fix that. But, is that the reason why transclusions are needed ? StuRat 17:38, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, my comment was more directed at the number of days that stay on the desk at any given time, as I assumed that was what the original questioner had asked.--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 17:41, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
The reference desk was plenty dial-up friendly before. Cernen Xanthine Katrena 17:40, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Hardly, during the weeks immediately before the bot was brought online there were pages that were over 2.5 MB in size, assuming a 56 K modem, that's about 46 seconds to load a page, not counting edit conflicts--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 17:44, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Heh...maybe I was just a very patient man. It's been a while. I do remember having a discussion once before about turning the reference desk into something like that page where you vote for Featured Articles, where you have subpages...but...I don't recall what happened to that. Cernen Xanthine Katrena 17:53, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
When I first wrote the bot, it was about 7 days before archival, but for the busier desks, archival now takes place after four days (as you have no doubt noticed). The pages to get out of control with anything over that, so I doubt it's something that there'll be consensus to change. Martinp23 17:49, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

User:EssjayBot II - Continued

We just need to reach a consensus on the number of days old posts should remain on this talk page and everything will be ready to go?--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 17:39, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

New template at the top of the page

Think of it as a speed bump, if it gets anywhere near 300 KB take that as a sign that things need to slow down just a bit--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 18:03, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Next item for discussion: "Can we address another responder, or only the original poster ?"

Everyone's comments and opinions are welcomed here: Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk/rules#Next_item_for_discussion:_.2ACan_we_address_another_responder.2C_or_only_the_original_poster_.3F. StuRat 18:05, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Copied from Hipocrite's Talk page: Deleted RD question

Begin copied section. Edison 05:05, 14 December 2006 (UTC) Did you delete the following question, with a summary of cannonically unacceptable, and if so, why? Does the questioner have a history of trolling, or are there areas of history which are off limits to RD? The questioner stated that the ideas were lame and he/she was looking for suggestions, and I expect some good ones might have resulted. Thanks Edison 17:57, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

== HISTORY PROJECT == - - HELLO, I need help with my history homework. I have a project on the Salem Witch Trials and I have to come up with an idea for a project that is out of the ordinary. I had the idea for something like a broom or a shoebox with a witch's stake inside. I know the ideas suck though so please help me. Thanks - - -- 17:36, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

This question is not about history. It is about helping the questioner come up with an idea for his homework. This is not the purpose of a reference desk. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:59, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I see "Do your own homework. If you need help with a specific part or concept of your homework, feel free to ask, but please do not post entire homework questions and expect us to give you the answers. " This Q sounds like 'help with a specific part or concept of your homework.'" It looks like this is appropriate for the RD Discussion page. Edison 18:06, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
This is not a request for help with a part or concept of your homework, it's an entirely off topic request to help him brainstorm what kind of diarama he's supposed to make. Use some common sense, please. Hipocrite - «Talk» 18:07, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Retrieved from "" End copied section. Edison 05:05, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

  • Hipocriite courteously posted to the questioner "As a note, the reference desk isn't really the best place to ask for help on thinking up a project for your homework. While we'll be very helpful in getting you information on the Salem witch trials, actually guiding your creative efforts or writing isn't exactly what we're around for. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:38, 13 December 2006 (UTC)"
So my question is, how far does the questioner have to go before we are allowed to assist? For instance, if he had said "What should a Salem witch execution look like in a diarama? Hanging, shooting, dunking, stoning or burning?" would that be enough to allow the posting of the question? Or was the original question a legitimate one? I have seen other questions answered where they are "looking for ideas," which seems to be more legitimate than saying "Do my homework," because we can direct them to resources. A student might well place the identical question to a real life reference librarian and get assistance, since ideas are the fruit of collected knowledge. Edison 18:17, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

It's certainly not hurting anyone to leave the question there and post a polite apology for being unable to help. Deletion is unnecessary, and besides I'm sure at least a few interesting ideas for him would come out of the woodwork! have some RD spirit --frothT C 19:04, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

The goal is to try to get the Reference Desks focused on being Reference Desks, not help kids brainstorm for their diarama desks. I posted a polite apology to the user (twice). He readded his question to two refrence desks, a total of 4 times. The only way to stop getting questions that are not helpful to our goal of providing information is to stop answering questions that are not helpful to our goal of providing information. The only way to stop questions that are not helpful from being answered is to remove them. Hipocrite - «Talk» 19:10, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Frankly, User:Hipocrite, it seems that you are so caught up in your crusade that you have lost sight of the ultimate goal of Wikipedia: to make knowledge freely available. -THB 19:16, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Please review WP:NPA. Comment on the content, not the contributor. Thanks! Hipocrite - «Talk» 19:17, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Number of days that things should remain on this talk page

?--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 18:32, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Untill the last comment in the section is 4 days old seems that it would keep the active topics. Hipocrite - «Talk»
Sounds about right, or maybe 5 days. Edison 18:44, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
VectorPotential, it is best to leave as much as possible, but you can best judge that. -THB 19:08, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Whatever is decided, just make sure to relay it to Essjay so he can start running the bot on this talk page, and make sure it doesn't push the boundaries of WP:SIZE too far--VectorPotentialThe Reference Desk 19:10, 13 December 2006 (UTC)


You're being quite curt and perhaps even rude to question askers, in particular a child asking about the Salem Witch Trials. It's one thing to be rude to regular RD editors and quite another to be rude to children. -THB 18:43, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

I have not been rude to that individual. Hipocrite - «Talk» 18:46, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Communications directed at a specific editor don't belong here; they belong on that editor's talk page. It would be just peachy if you guys could take this discussion to where it belongs; if it's still here later today, I'll probably remove it myself. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 18:49, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
He asked me not to post on his talk page so I'm trying to honor that. -THB 18:58, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
He has no right to make such a request and you're certainly entitled to post on his talk page. Take it all the way through mediation to ArbCom if he continues. --frothT C 19:02, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
How civil we are in posting on the Questioner's page when we decide to delete their question is an important matter of Ref Desk policy, and can appropriately be discussed here, as an informal mediation process which might resolve disagreements without of RfC or Arbitration. I personally disagreed with the recent deletion of an apparently sincere and politely phrased question, but thought the language placed on the questioner's page was civil, and not curt or rude. Edison 19:08, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
You have to look at the edit summaries, too: [14]. -THB 19:10, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
This still isn't the right place for it. If you need to discuss civility and behaviour issues with a specific editor, the Ref Desk talk page isn't the place. If you're being ignored on the editor's talk page, then work through the steps of dispute resolution.
If you want to have a general discussion about the appropriate ways to deal with potentially inappropriate questions, then this may be the place—but you're making remarks directed at a single individual. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 19:23, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Since Hipocrite moved Edison's discussion of this same question from his talk page to here, it seems that he wants it to be discussed here. Anyway, let's turn it into a general discussion. What is the best way to respond to a possibly young and inexperienced questioner who asks for help with their homework ? Gandalf61 19:33, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I did no such thing. I suggest you delete the question and go to the users talk page, hit them with {{welcome}} or {{welcomeip}}, and then mention you deleted their do my homework question, and tell them how the reference desk can help them. If you MUST tell them how to do their homework, feel free to do it on their talk page - this will not cause others to believe we will do their homework for them. Hipocrite - «Talk» 19:36, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I believe that the process most of us have tried to follow here is to tell students how to do their homework, but not actually do it for them. StuRat 23:57, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Restoring trolling is totally unnaceptable unacceptable

User's first question is about hemhroids - [15]. Dissapointed he gets no answer, he goes for a dumb santa question [16], which I delete for being transparent trolling (see, cause I check those edit histories when I think something is transparent trolling, I find out it often is). The user responds with this bullshit diatribe [17]. I remove this nonsense trash, and, if the user trolls again, would promptly report them to AIV. However, Reference Desk "regular" Justanother, insists that I "Assume Good Faith" in the face of obvious bad actions, and RESTORES THE QUESTION.

You wonder why I think there need to be rules here? This is why. Hipocrite - «Talk» 19:42, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

I would suggest that those who are completely unable to recognize trolling should probably defer to the judgment of those who ARE able to recognize trolling. And I'm even saying we can be a bit lenient. But, when it's obvious, it's obvious. Ned Wilbury 19:46, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Legit question about piles (which Hypocrite sloughed off and gave a "no answer", BTW, and I gave the real answer to and, yes, there was a real answer) followed by the Santa question. OK, looks strange; delete. OK. IP comes back with a totally plausible explanation (I have kids). We blow him off. Please knock off the crusade. If this guy was trolling then he won that round. Big deal. If he trolls again we will have him. And I think my troll radar is just fine; I just don't judge with insufficient evidence. --Justanother 19:50, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, clearly not a troll. See recent "questions." Hipocrite - «Talk» 22:35, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Also, new users don't know how to read edit summaries. Hipocrite - «Talk» 22:37, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Re: edit summary, it says "history" right at the top of the page - its not rocket science to click there. And the fact that you were right does not change the fact that you were premature. I never really doubted that you were right. You gotta leave the slack there as the false positive is more damaging to the RD, IMO, than the false negative and I think you want to go in the direction of false positive. --Justanother 23:33, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Santa's slacks

While I can see hypocrite's reasoning in pulling the Santa question, the "parent" came back with a good explanation that we, under WP:AGF, must accept. Must. It is important to distinquish between askers and answerers when thinking about "cutting slack". We have to cut the askers all the slack they need. If, with that much rope, they show that they are trolling then fine. But not before. --Justanother 19:46, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

WP:AGF trumps WP:DFTT if there is doubt. -THB 19:55, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Removed answer?

Is this removal of an unsourced answer wholy based in personal experience without reference intentional or accidental? Hipocrite - «Talk» 20:28, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Accidental, of course. We would never knowingly remove something like that ;-) --Justanother 20:37, 13 December 2006 (UTC)


Moved: I think this is more on-target at Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/guideline since that page exists, so please see Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk/guideline#Disrepute. Ned Wilbury 23:49, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Good job, Ned. Much better there. -THB 23:53, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Responding in kind to trolling is not a good idea either

Just wanted to remind everyone that we probably shouldn't respond to trolls. Not much, anyway. I ask everyone to be very conservative in this regard. It IS possible to reply in a no-nonsense way that discourages further mischief though, so those that prefer that approach are welcome to use that instead, of course. Please excercise good judgment. Ned Wilbury 00:01, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Ned, could you please point out a few of the Reference Desk answers you've given so we can use them as a model? Thanks. -THB 00:03, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Delete WP:POINT troll threads

Anyone particulary object if I delete the WP:POINT troll threads from the two IPs? --Justanother 00:05, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Assuming you mean the ones I'm thinking of, I highly support their removal. Great idea. Ned Wilbury 00:06, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Which ones? The last one, asking about the trolling? -THB 00:10, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
THB, all the Santa stuff is trolling. It is all to prove a point. The point was made now it should go poof. --Justanother 00:12, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, if you're going to delete, the one asking about how long it takes to detect a troll should be deleted as well. You don't think the editor is planning to kill Santa Claus? -THB 00:14, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Radical suggestion - Move the Ref Desk outside of Wikipedia

This suggestion (my emphasis) was made by Admin User:MrDarcy on Wikipedia:Administrators'_noticeboard/Incidents#Vote_stacking_on_MFD:

And probably worth noting he's ignored your comments. Honestly, everything on the ref desk these days is being decided by a small group of editors who harass anyone with a different opinion. I've half a mind to make a nomination to delete the whole project, it has become quite disruptive to Wikipedia. pschemp | talk 18:55, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I'd support that. Seems like it's outside the scope of Wikipedia and if the users there want to continue providing the service, they should do so via a separate project. | Mr. Darcy talk 21:40, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
You have a good suggestion there, maybe the Ref Desk has somewhat outgrown Wikipedia. What steps should be taken to make this happen ? StuRat 22:21, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Nonsense. The RD has not become disruptive, those who do not particpate there and want to make it over into the way they think it should be are the ones who have become disruptive. User:Zoe|(talk) 22:28, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for your support, Zoe. Still, I hate to see such unnecessary conflict, no matter what the cause is, and, if moving the Ref Desk outside of Wikipedia into a separate project would accomplish that, I would be willing to do any work necessary to accomplish that goal. StuRat 22:49, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

This sounds like it's worth considering to me, what does everybody else think ? StuRat 00:47, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

What would it be, though? Cbrown1023 00:49, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
One of the only two rights on wikipedia is the right to fork. This means the data and the software are available. Anyone with a web server could make their own wiki-based reference desk, very easily. See also Wikipedia:Free_speech. Ned Wilbury 00:52, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
How about -THB 00:55, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
It seems it already exits. In German. :) Cbrown1023 00:57, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

I like, which is available. Also, should we approach the Wikimedia Foundation about allowing us to run it on one of their servers ? StuRat 01:01, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Not unless you want to deal with what you've been dealing with recently. -THB 01:05, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not so sure, I think some projects under Wikimedia are given some autonomy in how they run, like Wikiinfo. Oh, wait, they are hosted by ibiblio. StuRat 01:11, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I think you may want to check out Wikia. Ned Wilbury 01:06, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Also check out StuRat 01:08, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

What do you guys think of setting up a "Reference Desk project fork exploration committee", or something like that ? StuRat 01:16, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Note that what you are suggesting is not moving the ref desk, but opening a new ref desk outside wikipedia and moving yourself to it. Nothing about your proposal requires us to close this one or to move with you. This probably sounds unfriendly and I don't mean it that way, but people here come and go, and a new outside or independent ref desk will not prevent us from answering the questions we feel like answering right here. Best of luck on your new "Ansers 5¢" booth. alteripse 01:27, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Very well said, Alteripse! I could not agree more. Clio the Muse 01:32, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, I agree. Good luck guys, but I'm staying here. And if 'here' ceases to exist or radically changes, I'll just contribute more in the Mainspace. Anchoress 01:36, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

If you take a closer look at (the English one) and, they are not actually reference desks in the sense of people asking questions and getting answers. Personally, I don't think a fork would work. Best to try and work together here instead. Carcharoth 01:28, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree, Carcharoth. -THB 01:34, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I guess I can understand people being disturbed by the recent bickering about rules, but somehow Wikipedia has survived rabid bickering on articles about 9/11 conspiracies, George W. Bush,and middle East politics. Wikipedia has a reputation [18] for hating experts and expertise, so a dislike of people who have the ability to answer difficult questions and the willingness to help people find info they need would not be surprising. Not a great suggestion, in my view, but if it disturbs people to have a reference desk, put it up for a vote and let the consensus prevail. There are already other websites with a Q & A format. Providing a reference service is claimed to be outside the scope of Wikipedia? A high quality real life paper encyclopedia, Britannica at least used to have a reference service which would look up the answers to question from owners of the sets. Edison 04:54, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
It's a valuable service which, as far as I can tell, a self-motivated cabal are either trying to play politics with, or to destroy, for the very reasons you have identified, Edison. Clio the Muse 06:55, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Interesting analyses, Edison and Clio. Stu, maybe this is one of the hidden issues at the root of recent debates. Whether the RD is in- or "outside the scope of Wikipedia" cannot be answered by a few people at the admins' noticeboard, or here, or anywhere else. Of course it lies within the scope of WP, but this question keeps popping up, and frankly I'm tired of hearing it.
So what can we do? We could, for instance, think about how the Wikipedia project benefits from the reference desk, and how we could improve things and make it even more helpful. Here are three unbaked and incomplete thoughts on this:

  • The reference desk can help the project directly, by pointing questioners to the corresponding articles. Questioners (as well as a varying number of other interested readers) will read the article and might explore what links from there. They might also add information, copy-edit, post an observation on the article's talk-page and so forth. We can help out here, by trying to include relevant wiki-links as often as possible. We can also make sure the linked page actually contains the requested information by reading the article first.
  • The reference desk can help the project directly, when editors compare the wiki-linked pages with their expertise and the fruits of their researches, and improve the articles however they see fit. I know some editors at the reference desk do this regularly, but others (myself included) could help the project by doing it more often. A lot of valuable info is collecting dust in the archives and can't be found anywhere else on Wikipedia. That's a shame.
  • The reference desk can help indirectly by attracting more interested people to the project. Please re-iterate Cernen's thoughts above, with which I completely agree. Let's take our answers and responsibility toward the project seriously and try to provide the best information we can come up with (on that note, I wish even more editors helped out at the desks). Let's also not take ourselves too seriously and keep it fun and friendly (or dry and friendly, or dry and dry, but not negative, condescending, accusatory and offensive).

The RD really has enormous potential. Let's try to demonstrate its value to the community so we can spend our energy on trying to answer questions in peace, and perhaps even attract more contributors. There, I dumped my thoughts on you. Happy editing, everyone. ---Sluzzelin 07:53, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

I absolutely agree with Sluzzelin - the Ref Desk contributes a good deal to Wikipedia. In recent weeks I have seen the quality of answers go up markedly, contributors are making an effort to answer questions factually and well with little unneccessary chatter. An answer or a question on the Ref Desk led me to explore an article or two I had never seen before, make minor improvements, or add information which came out of the answer on the Ref Desk. The Ref Desk serves as an excellent way to point newcomers in the direction of articles they would be interested in. I see no reason why it should be moved out of Wikipedia, and I personally feel it would be better for contributors to focus their energy on providing better answers than changing the structure or workings of the Ref Desk. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to establish rules, purviews, areas of responsibility and delimitations that we forget the main purpose of it all. — QuantumEleven 12:36, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

I see the schism as follows:

  • One group who feels the primary purpose of the Ref Desk is to serve Wikipedia, with serving those who ask questions as a secondary goal.
  • The other group feels the primary purpose of the Ref Desk is to serve those who ask questions, with serving Wikipedia as a secondary goal. StuRat 14:34, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
StuRat, I agree with both purposes and see them as mutually inclusive, even mutually conditional. Helping the person who asks the question serves Wikipedia, and everyone (including the asker who is, after all, a user and editor) can benefit from improvements on Wikipedia. We can easily try to fulfill both purposes as often as possible. The schism is an artefact, time for de-construction. ---Sluzzelin 14:46, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
There appears to me to be at least one additional group: those that feel the primary purpose of the RD is to serve the people who hang out there chatting. I think we'll find there's not much disagreement between the two groups above, compared to the disagreement between either of them and that third group. Ned Wilbury 16:08, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I can't identify that third group, Ned Wilbury. Perhaps there are users who like to help out and spend time at the desks, and who have become familiar with each other and perhaps some of them have indulged in in-jokes and chatty comments. But I don't think they see serving themselves as the reference desk's primary purpose. ---Sluzzelin 16:21, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Stu, I see yours as a false dichotomy. There is no black/white dichotomy here (and any good Scientologist like myself will tell you that the concept that black/white dichotomies exist at all is an abberation - laff). What there is, is a gradient scale of opinion of how formal/informal the RD should look and how much chat/banter should be allowed with the extremes being "questions? What questions? Now about that penis) and the other extreme being a totally moderated desk (or elimination of the RD as incorrigible). Ned, there is no third group either. I myself consistently provide good, referenced answers yet I also like the banter and engage in it a bit myself. I *think* I use good sense but if allowing banter is degrading the desk I have no problem with eliminating banter not directly related to answering. --Justanother 16:26, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
There are two kinds of editors; those who divide editors into two groups, and those who don't. Edison 20:06, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
  • As an aside to the interesting points that support the Reference Desk above that Sluzzelin made, the thing I find most useful about the Reference Desk is the gaps it exposes in Wikipedia's content, whether it's something as simple as a redirect, or something that really should have an article, but doesn't. It's a handy dynamic counterpart to requested articles in that respect. I've started maybe twenty articles from spotting redlinks on the reference desk and creating stubs (or more), and probably a hundred helpful redirects. Proto:: 15:43, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
That is an excellent point. I find myself bouncing off the Reference Desk in this way as well, and getting ideas to expand and improve Wikipedia. Well, the ones I follow through on, that is. Carcharoth 17:32, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
The Powers That Be at Wikipedia like to keep lots of data highly secret, with the stated reason that page view stats would slow down the machinery, or seldom viewed pages would be vandal magnets. Now that some admins say they want to eliminate the project, which would certainly tend to drive some contributors away from Wikipedia, it is time to collect such data as part of the debate over keeping or banning Reference Desk. Clearly such data can be and are collected, because I have seen listings of the most often viewed pages, and if it does not slow down the machinery to keep stats for them, it would not slow it down to keep stats for seldom viewed pages. I expect there are lurkers far exceeding the questioners and answerers. What is the best way to get readership stats for Ref Desk? I know I for one read Reference Desk before I became an editor, because the questions and answers were often informative and thought provoking. I specificially exclude from those categories most in-jokes between editors, nudge-nudge-wink-wink juvenile masturbation jokes, and other unfunny repetitive seagull/mask/bagel memes, or religious/political/pseudoscience soapbox diatribes, or rude and curt directives that a questioner should "just look up the answer himself." Edison 15:55, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
  • I hope nobody is seriously suggesting banning the reference desk here? That would be a bad idea. (Radiant) 17:04, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
  • They are, and it's in response to constantly referring complaints to the Administrators' noticeboard which would be better handled internally, here. Your latest post there: Wikipedia:Administrators'_noticeboard/Incidents#Vote_stacking_on_MFD, for example, appears to have convinced pschemp and Mr. Darcy to take that position. StuRat 17:28, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
    • So you're saying that if somebody is vote stacking MFD, that issue should be handled on the reference desk? I'm afraid that doesn't make a lot of sense. (Radiant) 17:34, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Last question for discussion: Are poorly written questions allowed ?

This is the last item on my list of "disputed items". So, if we can decide on this, I can stop bothering everyone for their opinions (for a little while), LOL: Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk/rules#Next_item_for_discussion:_.2AAre_poorly_written_questions_allowed_.3F. StuRat 07:20, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Honestly, now.

Why would someone post this? Why would someone respond with this? Why not just post a picture of a giant penis on the reference desk for extra lolz? Use some common sense. Hipocrite - «Talk» 15:17, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Using my common sense, I don't understand why anyone would make such a fuss about those remarks, unless they were deliberately trying to provoke a reaction. Gandalf61 15:44, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
This page is the place to talk about RD questions and answers. Bringing this up here is "trying to provoke a reaction" exactly the same amount as making any other relevant comment on a talk page. In this case, I hope the reaction most people have is "Hmmm, Hipocrite is right, it looks like people are starting to just chat." Discussing it here isn't really "making a fuss"- that's what this page is for. I hope people continue to give their opinions on questionable remarks, it helps us keep the reference desks on topic. Ned Wilbury 16:06, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Adopting a shocked tone, asking rhetorical questions and mentioning a giant penis is, in my book, making a fuss. If Hipocrite was genuinely interested in feedback he would have calmly said "I have just removed these remarks. I think they are inappropriate. What does anyone else think ?". Gandalf61 16:45, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Now this, which insinuates child abuse. Stop it. Hipocrite - «Talk» 16:55, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

It means that mainly young boys like to discuss bodily functions, like farts. Your deliberate misinterpretation is a personal attack on me (WP:NPA). StuRat 17:17, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not sure it does insinuate child abuse. It could be interpreted other ways (eg. StuRat is less than 12 years old, or acts that way), but I agree that it is a jokey and not very helpful comment. Precisely the sort of thing that the latest round of discussions were trying to avoid. Carcharoth 17:07, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I am absolutely sure it does not insinuate child abuse. Hipocrite, you have gone way over the line. Gandalf61 17:14, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, Stu saying he wants to talk about bodily functions with 12- year old boys doesn't insinuate child abuse? Can I have some of what you're smoking? Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:15, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
As I'm well over 12, I wouldn't be in the room, so wouldn't be talking about anything with any of them. StuRat 17:18, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

If Stu's interpretation of his published comments is accurate, it demonstrates why irrelevent jokes for jokes sake are dangerous - humor does not translate well. Perhaps people should stop risking it by making lewd, off color jokes? Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:23, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

That's a better way to put it. Can we all agree on this and avoid the rumpled feathers a few lines up? If you must joke, do it on talk pages only. Carcharoth 17:27, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
If we reach a consensus that humor is not allowed, then yes, I will do just that. The only issue here is the intentional and absurd misinterpretation of a comment to try to make it into something offensive. StuRat 17:34, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I apologized if I misinterpreted your comment. I suggest you remain vigiliant in your attempts to remain clear on the reference desk, lest others misinterpret your comments in similar ways. I suspect they have, and I suspect they will, much as misinterpretation of Dirk's comment about his penis led to his depature, and misinterpreations about Light Currents' methods of arguing led to his extended block. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:44, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Hear the wolf pack baying in the forest, calling "Run little deer, as fast as you like, but we caught your brothers and we will catch you too". Gandalf61 20:43, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

From reading this thread, it seems that some editors should at least consider taking a Wiki-break for their own benefit. -THB 18:15, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Another example of topic drift

Here is another example of a question where the answers expanded beyond the strict remit of a Reference Desk. This might just be chit-chat, but it seems to be useful chit-chat. It is educational to read that thread, and suggestions have been made on how to improve Wikipedia. Strictly, those discussion should take place on article talk pages, but does it harm the Reference Desk to have these sorts of threads. I'd say not. Carcharoth 16:17, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

I think that, as soon as an article improvement idea emerges, it should either just get done, or if there's need for further input, it should be brought to the relevant talk page. I bet nobody would object to a pointer from the RD to the relevant discussion. There are so many people on Wikipedia with so many ideas on how to improve things, that it's REALLY in our best interests to keep pages on topic. People watching Scrip won't have an obvious way to know about the discussion here, whereas they would, if it were on Talk:Scrip. Ned Wilbury 16:24, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Someone said "idea factory". Lets AGF that one of us in that discussion will bring it up on the appropriate page. --Justanother 16:28, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree that moving stuff like this to some appropriate talk page is a good thing, and whoever wishes to do so should be encouraged. Ned Wilbury 16:36, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Heck, I would not even object if you or any other editor moved it for us and left a note in the void (not on the talk page please) that you had. This is a wiki, after all (laff). --Justanother 16:39, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I would think it would be better to copy than move, so the flow of the conversation is not disrupted. StuRat 17:23, 14 December 2006 (UTC)


Please note by the posting date that this is a re-posting of a previous comment --hydnjo talk 17:28, 14 December 2006 (UTC))

I'll admit that I'm tempted to archive this entire page so as to establish a new starting line for all and without concern for any prior statements by anyone. I feel that this would allow for a more concise set of positions from now rather than being encumbered by previous statements having been made within that prior context. I realize however, that there has been an immense expenditure of time dedicated to our own position, purpose, and pride in these matters so that the likelihood of a "do-over" is slim. If it were to be so though, wouldn't we all be in a better place? Or are we more like: "I've won that one so on to the next battle of the RD rules". I don't know about you folks but I feel that the complexity and nuances expressed above are well, complex and nuanced, so that is why I'm suggesting a "fresh start". I've also been around long enough to realize that my desire is far too idealistic to gain favor amongst the "fighters for WP freedom" or whatever so I'll just watch for a bit and hope for the best. --hydnjo talk 03:17, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

I welcome this experiment if you feel it would be helpful. Hipocrite - «Talk» 17:30, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I've just posted something - but feel free to delete it, as it follows on (branching) from many other previous discussions - archive away and make a new start83.100.174.70 17:34, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Whatever works is desirable. Sorry for being pessimistic, but I don't think "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" is going to work here.---Sluzzelin 18:11, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
It could work but only if there is a cessation to personal attacks, rude orders, and general nastiness. -THB 18:14, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree. And I was thinking more like bury the hatchet rather than "Out of sight, Out of mind". addendum: Or are some so invested at this point that there is no going back. By going back I mean to the RD as it had existed for so long without the codification of "common sense" rules, I'm pessimistic about that. The reason for my pessimism is a gut feel that some here have decided to make a point because of a feeling that their rights have been stepped upon or even more entrenched because they have taken that position based on someone else's rights needing defense. --hydnjo talk 21:24, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

split the desks

This has come up before and I would like to re-propose it. Reading the previous discussion it seems that there were no major objections to it but mostly differences on the exact nature of the division.

I'd suggest using the same divisions as suggested before with the inclusion of geology, geography, split of language into english/foreign. anything else I've forgotten - but in general a tree structure.

Also under the science section I'd suggest a homework questions section - I know we are not supposed to do homework - but people could still ask for hints if they are stuck - that's legitimate as far as I can see.

I'd also hope splitting it up into more specialised sections might encourage a general level of improvement in the standards of answers (I especially don't like to see people giving incorrect answers on the science desk). Maybe it will also discourage the 'off topic' chatter as well, who knows. Plus pages will be smaller, archiving can be less frequent. Can there be some agreement here? 17:31, 14 December 2006 (UTC) here is a modification od the original suggestion:

  Miscellaneous desk
  Sports and hobbies desk
   (The question bin and trivia desk) - possibly unnecessary
  Pure Mathematics
  Applied mathematics
  General humanities desk
  History desk
  Religion desk
  The modern world/current events
  Popular culture desk
  English Language and Literature desk
  Foreign Language, literarure and translations desk
  Ethics, morals and human relationships
Science and engineering
  Homework help   
  General science desk
  Medical desk
  Physics and astronomy desk
  Engineering desk
  Chemistry desk
  Biology desk
  Geology and geography desk
Computing / IT
  Computing and IT desk

I'd suggest making the misc. desk prominant and putting 'if you don't know where to ask, ask here!' note. Queries can then be shuffled down the tree. We could also use a very simplified version of Figurative system of human knowledge as a basis perhaps. 18:09, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Even better. Have a general noticeboard where people can stick questions. Then Wikipedia editors can do the work of moving questions to the right desk and leaving a link behind. Carcharoth 18:16, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes agree totally - on the first page of the reference desk - have links to the branches and a place for questions as well. We don't want to put people off by making it too difficult to ask a question. 19:08, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

That's quite an expansion on the previous proposal. Some comments:

  • I don't see why Science would get a "Homework help" section but no other topic does. StuRat 18:19, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Fair enough.. I just thought the science desk was getting more homework questions than the others. There's no real reason why the others shouldn't have one if needed - please suggest which ones. 19:00, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
  • I notice you've changed the "Sex and relationships" desk to exclude sex, why is that ? StuRat 18:19, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
human relationships include sex - so it's still in. If you want to include the word sex as well say so. 19:00, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
  • The language desk split has the problem that a great deal of the posts are on translations between English and a foreign language, so where would those questions go ? StuRat 18:19, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Foreign languages obviously? 19:00, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
The Language desk doesn't receive so many posts as to warrant a split, IMO. A lot of posters seem to have as much trouble with their native English language as others do who request translations from/to other languages. The proposed split would produce desks that receive no posts at all for days at a time. Also the proposal creates work as we'd spend a lot of time redirecting questions to the right desk. That could be obviated by not splitting the desk. JackofOz 01:51, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
  • "The modern world" and "Popular culture" seem to thoroughly overlap. Perhaps "Current events" instead of "The modern world" would limit the overlap ? StuRat 18:19, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes good point - I was thinking of 'modern world' for stuff about world affairs, very recent history etc, whereas 'popular culture' would be films, music etc. A current events section would be good though - maybe 'modern world/current events' - in fact I've changed that.
  • The "trivia desk" might violate rules we have on limiting chat. StuRat 18:19, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I was thinking of generic 'guiness book of records' type questions, it's probaly a redundant section. I've altered it - suggest it's optional.. 19:00, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for your feedback - I didn't expect it to be perfect first time. 19:01, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I do not see the benefit. Many editors look at several desks now. I look at humanities, science, and language. How would it help the questioner or answerers to have more desks to open and close? It would lessen the chance that someone able to answer a question would see it. It would make searching the archives for an old asked and answered question more tedious than it already is. This is a solution in search of a problem. Edison 19:56, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Splitting may reduce the need to often archive, and should increase the chances of getting and informed answer rather than some jokey quip/uninformed answer from one of the many regulars. that's my hope anyway. 19:59, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Philosophy of the desk

I've taken a shot at encapsulating the core philosophies of the Reference Desk – and the guidelines that I think flow from them, and my reasoning &dnash; over in my user space at User:TenOfAllTrades/RD thoughts. Comments are more than welcome at the talk page, and feel free to incorporate any good bits back here. What have I missed? Where have I overstepped? Note that I'm not trying to get into a discussion about enforcement mechanisms; I'm just trying to describe what the Ref Desk is and is not, so that we're all on the same page. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 18:20, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure that things of this nature will have the desired effect -- or any effect at all. It is simply getting things off your chest.
The reference desk is what it is.
There are dozens of editors who feel it should be removed entirely.
There are dozens who feel that it must be governed by a stricter set of rules than we have now.
Really, this is all inconsequential, ephemeral chatter, and does not have much effect at all on what actually is posted and replied to here. If you disagree -- it is just more ephemeral chatter. Just my opinion, of course. Vranak 18:51, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Well if we have a stricter set of rules governing it (and it is a bit wanky at the moment) maybe those who think it should be removed would see an improvement and change their minds. 19:04, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, that is a very good point actually!
Although, that said, I do not anticipate that the Ref. Desk will be removed ever. It is too valuable, even if a quarter of the submissions were useless. Vranak 00:10, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
There are dozens of editors who feel that the RD is just fine as is. --hydnjo talk 00:34, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
It is. Clio the Muse 00:55, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
It was! --Light current 16:48, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
It is fine. It will be much finer next year. But, let us not suppose that because it will be much finer next year, that this year it needs to be removed, or policed by a set of draconian rules. Vranak

Merge with Wikipedia:Reference desk/rules ?

Ten, is has been suggested in the section below that I merge Wikipedia:Reference desk/rules into yours. Some questions for you:

  • Do you agree to allow that ?
  • Where would we put the merged version ?
  • Where would we talk about the merged version ?

StuRat 10:20, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

StuRat, I respect the amount of work you've put into this, but using phrases like "yours" and asking permission of other people to edit "their" stuff is very much breaching the spirit and letter of WP:OWN. Users are welcome to write essays and develop guidelines in their userspaces, but if you want to work on something in the Wikipedia namespace, or move something from your userspace into the Wikipedia namespace, or the main article namespace, then the collaborative wiki-process takes over. Anyone can edit, and contested changes are discussed in the normal way. Once you (literally) release your edits under the GFDL, anyone can edit them. If you create something in the Wikipedia namespace, or move something there, it is implicit that anyone can edit it. This applies equally to you and to Ten. Carcharoth 10:35, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Further to this, a helpful rule of thumb is that if you wouldn't sign something, then anyone can edit it. I wouldn't change signed comments on a talk page like this, but I would change guidelines where needed. And not everything needs to be discussed first. See WP:BRD. Carcharoth 10:40, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I am responding to the statement in the section below by User:Justanother "take Ten's as a start and add what you think is missing and let's go from there". I realize that it's inappropriate to edit Ten's version, in his personal namespace, directly, without permission. I don't know if he wants to give me that permission or have me make a copy and edit that, this is exactly what I'm asking about. I am reluctant, though, to make yet another copy (that would be the 4th or 5th now, I think) of the proposed rules. StuRat 10:53, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Hi. 1) This is a wiki. We do not own our content. You can take it and use it as you please. I would not disturb his userspace. Just copy it to /Proposed. 2) Ten knows this and has already told us to use what we want of it. So have at it! --Justanother 13:54, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
But the last time I did that, they filed an AFD on Wikipedia:Reference desk/rules, so wouldn't they just do the same on Wikipedia:Reference desk/proposed ? StuRat 13:58, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I think there is more than sufficient momentum here to handle any AfD. Just be sure to comment on the /rules AfD that it should be deleted as consensus is to carry on with /Proposed and be sure to WP:PROD /guidance with the same reasoning. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Justanother (talkcontribs) StuRat 15:33, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I would agree with that, but we would need to remove both the Wikipedia:Reference desk/rules and Wikipedia:Reference desk/guideline pages (copy them to our userspaces, actually), to eliminate having a "content fork" or "POV fork" between either of those and the new Wikipedia:Reference desk/proposed page. Can we form a consensus to do this ? StuRat 15:36, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Stu, cover the existing /rules and /guidelines along with their talk pages (or archive all talk) with that archive box that hypocrite used on the RD page and note that further editing is to be done solely in /proposed and /proposed-talk. --Justanother 16:01, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

StuRat, this depends on what you want to do with it. If you want your own personal copy where you make the rules about how it gets edited, you should do this in your user space. If you want it to be edited, by anyone, in the normal wiki way, that's great but you shouldn't put notices on it like "Do not edit this without prior supermajority voting". The consensus seems to be that a set of very specific rules isn't going to fly as any kind of guideline or policy. So if you want your own personal copy that says "I think we need exact rules, and here's what I think they should be", this should go in your user space. Ned Wilbury 15:47, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

I don't agree with you that there is a consensus against having specific rules. There were many people who voiced their support for this approach. Also, you didn't address the question of having to also remove Wikipedia:Reference desk/guideline when I remove Wikipedia:Reference desk/rules, so that the new Wikipedia:Reference desk/proposed will not have an AFD filed against it as being a "content fork" and/or "POV fork" of Wikipedia:Reference desk/guideline. StuRat 15:57, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
We could avoid the whole issue. Wikipedia:Reference desk/guideline seems to have the most support and activity. If you think you can improve it by adding specific rules, why not try to? Keep in mind, people may well revert you, and you may have to make your case on the talk page. Or maybe I'm missing something- what would a new /proposed page do that /guideline isn't already doing? Ned Wilbury 16:00, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
As I mention below, there is a slot for those rules -- retitled as "interpretations" -- in a proposed outline of a restructured set of guidelines, suggested here. (That proposal has received a certain amount of support.) —Steve Summit (talk) 16:54, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I strongly disagree that Wikipedia:Reference desk/guideline has the most support. It does have the most activity, but this is mainly in the form of complaints about it. Ten's proposal is a far more reasonable starting point. StuRat 16:05, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Am i allowed to edit the proposed guidelines, or am I in danger of being blocked for doing so?--Light current 16:37, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Finalizing the rules proposal

I think we have the rough sketch done, now I'd like everyone to take a look here: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/rules and comment here Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk/rules#Finalizing_the_Wikipedia:Reference_desk.2Frules_proposal. After we have it all finalized we can discuss ways to merge the two versions together. StuRat 00:57, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Stu, I don't see the point of working on two docs at once and discussing in three places. Why not just do the best you can to cram everything in one doc or, easier, take Ten's as a start and add what you think is missing and let's go from there. --Justanother 01:33, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Many of us have spent days working on the original rules version, now at Wikipedia:Reference_desk/rules, so we don't just want to throw it all out. Have you looked at them ? They look pretty good to me. StuRat 01:38, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
They are detrimental to the reference desk and badly-focused. It's all about what's allowed rather than what we're actually trying to do! What TenOfAllTrades wrote is much better in this regard. -- SCZenz 02:28, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree. Anchoress 02:55, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
While I maintain the position that we should hit restart on this whole matter, I concur that if we need to have a written structure to codify common sense then Ten's thoughts make the most sense. --hydnjo talk 03:20, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Stu, you did a great job putting together the existing docs and also kept this process moving. Now it has gained considerable momentum. Let's take it to the next level. Use Ten's as a start and add a section for "consensus items" and add those that seem to have reached consensus. Also feel free to note the status of each of Ten's point as "contrary to consensus", "undecided, "consensus" or whatever system you like. Then dump the /Rules and /Guidance and make the new one /Proposed and let's discuss it HERE. Nowhere else. And let's push this through to something we can present to the community as a whole. --Justanother 03:39, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm fine with that plan except that I think the discussion should be held on the talk page for the /Proposed page, not here, as any discussion here gets lost in all the other discussions (splitting the Ref Desks into more, archive bot discussions, particular ref Desk question and answer discussions, user behavior discussions, etc.) and then it gets even more lost once it is archived off the page in only a few days. StuRat 10:59, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Ok, just so long as no-one starts or continues threads over here that belong over there. If someone starts a thread over here it needs to be moved. --Justanother 13:50, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Agreed. StuRat 13:56, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I should add that the consensus seems to be that we use Ten's as a starting rallying point (yours was the starting point). You always said that yours needed prettying up. Well, his is prettier so merge yours in, ect. --Justanother 04:05, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
There's a potential place for those rules -- retitled as "interpretations" -- under #4 of the outline at Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/guideline#Trying again. —Steve Summit (talk) 16:45, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I have to agree that User Ten's points are thoughtful, balanced and impressive. I do, however, have one small personal caveat to add to this desideratum: I really, really wish we would stop hitting young kids with 'do your own homework.' I know if I came back to find this attached to a question I had posted I would leave with a deep sense of grievance. As I have said elsewhere, even the fullest answer any of us gives can only be a general guidance to further research, and would never do as a homework answer in itself. I must confess when I see a D.Y.O.H. response now I go out of my way to supply a greatly expanded answer, possibly even more than I would have considered strictly necessary. Clio the Muse 06:00, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Both /guidelines and Ten's page are better written (and so is /purpose). Guidelines are supposed to be prose, not point-based lawbook text. The /rules page is based upon a supermajority of refdesk volunteers, but it would be preferable to have a consensus of Wikipedians. (Radiant) 08:53, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
The so-called 'supermajority' was artificially canvased. Clio the Muse 08:59, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
  • I actually believe that most of the /rules page (as well as /purpose) is already incorporated into the stuff on my 'thoughts' page, whether by explicit statement or implicitly as consequences of the guidelines I've suggested. I've deliberately avoided the inclusion of 'process' or 'enforcement'-type stuff—that sort of thing has been very contentious, and I suspect will always rely on good will, good faith, good judgement, and specific circumstances too much for us to ever write an etched-in-stone policy. Please, tell me if there's anything important I've missed. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 16:52, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Well, I feel avoiding it "because it's contentious" just leaves us with the same conflict every time one editor removes something somebody else said, just because they didn't like it. So, if we can't decide on a process for removing things, this conflict will continue indefinitely. StuRat 17:57, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
  • I think this problem is already solved... [comment continues in subsection below"deletion issues" thread, separately archived (and still active as of 2006-12-16) —scs] Ned Wilbury 17:59, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
  • I don't see how. StuRat 05:29, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Please don't split the desk except to add a HomeWork section

Please don't fragment the RD into more sections than we already have. It will serve no practical purpose and only add confusion for the newcomers who are already confused enough. The somewhat broad existing categories are still occasionally misinterpreted amongst each other as well as being confused with the HD and the VP venues. Sure, if we we were trying to field a hundred or so questions per day within one section then refining that section for the sheer sake of manageability would be a sensible approach but we're not even close to needing that sort of refined resolution. When and if we see overflow (too much activity to deal with) at any desk then by all means we should consider a more refined replacement having more than the single category with two or several more finely resolved sections. I find the proposal for splitting to be premature in the extreme. If the purpose is to befuddle the old-timers along with the newcomers then this proposal succeeds. Most will have little need to refine their question more precisely nor would the voluntary answerers need to narrow-in to such a precise category for responding. In fact, I feel that most of us would feel encumbered rather than feeling helped by such a refinement.

If an additional section would be pleading for its own identity its name would be the "Homework" section. As it now stands, each section is peppered with seemingly HW questions. It's like the elephant in the room, discouraged but not forbidden, disguised but not condemned, acknowledged but not directly answered, admonished but not really, all skirting the main point - to be helpful without actually doing one's homework for them. This is, I believe, a real service that we are capable of providing. A supplement to the awful teacher/student ratios in many communities or a helping hand to those who need extra help understanding unfamiliar concepts. A true mentoring arena where our expertise would not only satisfy someone's curiosity (as is often the case at the RD) but to really put some student on a road to understanding as though (s)he were our own kid. Now that's a contribution far richer than the usual Q&A. For openers, the OP comes to the HW desk without fear of ridicule (or disguise) about it being homework and knowing full well that we aren't about "doing" their homework for them. We in turn could either decline (especially if the HW question is posed verbatim) or respond appropriately when the OP has been stumped along the way.

I would only ask that you not dismiss this concept without at least sleeping on it and then providing us with your rationale for or against. My belief is obviously that WP is in a position to provide an important social contribution without exacting a layer of bureaucratic overhead. --hydnjo talk 06:38, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

I think it's worth a try. It might take some time to establish and I suspect people will still be posing homework questions on the other pages too, especially at the mathematics and science desks, but I like the concept of providing a homework service! ---Sluzzelin 07:21, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I suspect that you're right about HW questions sometimes showing up at other than the RD/HW section. The beauty of having such an explicit place for HW related questions however is that we can, in good concience, just move the question to that legitimate place without a lot of hand-wringing. At that HW section of the RD a mindset appropriate to the context of the question opens a vastly new venue liberated from the guiltiness of wanting to help but faced with the rule against helping. --hydnjo talk 08:28, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

I think this is all very well put, Hydnjo, but to be honest I do not see the need for yet another sub-division. I think people will still post questions without troubling themselves over much with the parameters. Look at the way the RD works at the moment: questions are lodged which seem to bear no relation at all to the department heading. The Humanities RD, where you will find most of my answers, often receives requests that have nothing at all to do with humanities, at least as I understand the term, some of which would be classified as 'agony aunt' pleas in England. These I ignore; but I will continue to answer 'homework questions' where I am competent to do so, and in the spirit I have outlined in the section immediately preceding this one. Clio the Muse 08:53, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Points taken, Hydnjo. I submit that what is needed for your purposes is not another desk but another program altogether. A HW desk is, IMO, unworkable as systems are abused by abusers. Abusers will not respect any system. We already say DYOH on top. If that needs to be more prominent then make it more prominent. I don't need to spell it out further. What we might want to look at is the same social controls that impact feeding trolls, i.e. detection, proper response, and proper action against out own members that answer "obvious" HW questions or feed "obvious" trolls. These are thorny questions and I am not proposing to answer them here. The new program I mention might be exactly what you hint at "The Wikipedia Mentoring Program". It could be like the WP:ADOPT program or some other format like an open forum. It would specifically NOT be an answer desk and would be set up to discourage someone getting a quick answer as that is the purpose here. It is an ambitious idea and, if you are interested in creating such, you should put the idea up for comment. --Justanother 14:13, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I've also worked on the AOL@School Homework Helper page, which was specifically for the purpose of asking homework questions. Yet, despite being apparently the opposite of our "no homework policy", both places, in reality, had the same goals, to provide hints and guide students in the right direction, without actually giving them the answers. So, having a designated "Homework Desk" doesn't mean we have to change the rules on what type of help we offer students. StuRat 14:22, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Questions ending up in the wrong place could be dealt with by having all questions posted in one place. And then RD regulars could move the questions to the right desk, tidy up the questions, remove inappropriate questions, and leave a link from the main noticeboard to the right section. To avoid questions getting lost, set up a numbering or ticket system, and then returning users, or editors wanting to follow a particular question, could follow that number. It all depends on whether this extra layer of bureaucracy is worth it for the solutions it provides to several long-standing problems. I remember the Reference Desk before it got split into sections, and splitting into sections was thought by some people to be unworkable. It actually worked rather well. So maybe it is time to move to the next stage? Carcharoth 14:29, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Maybe this was already said, but I wanted to chime in. A homework section is unneccessary and potetionally confusing (does science homework count as science or homework?) If we answer all questions in the right way- helping point people to resources that will explain the concepts - we don't care if it's homework or not. Our standard good answer will HELP but not do anyone's homework for them. Ned Wilbury 15:36, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Two points:
  1. I agree, no more topical sections, please. They're confusing to questioners, and a burden to those answerers who like to discuss questions on more than one topic. If the motivation to split topics is unmanageable load, we need to find other ways to manage that load. We can't ask questioners to do that work for us by asking questions in the correct narrowly-defined categories, because they won't.
  2. One intriguing aspect of an explicit "Homework" section is that it pretty effectively siphons off all the traffic you don't want. This sounds a bit Machiavellian, but it can work very well. I maintain the comp.lang.c FAQ list, and I used to get lots of homework questions. I added a feedback form where you have to choose between sending me feedback (which I want), versus asking me a question. If you ask a question, you get an autoresponse saying, I'm sorry, I can't answer individual questions, please ask those on the newsgroup instead. And the results were dramatic, people seem to get the message, I hardly ever get homework questions any more.
Steve Summit (talk) 16:39, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Conclusion from the responses above

There is no consensus that providing a HomeWork specific section to the RD would benefit the questioners requesting help with homework nor any benefit to the WP project itself. There would also be the added burden of perhaps needing to slice the RD:HW into multiple disciplines which would not be our initial intent but may grow to such proportions so as to require HW specialty sub-sections. I'll admit that I hadn't thought that far out and upon reflection, understand that the incumbent overhead would indeed be too burdensome for this voluntary project.

In the meantime, should we perhaps suggest to the questioners requesting HW help to disguise the source of the question and be admonished with the "Aha, seems like HW to me but I'll provide some guidance anyway" or should we suggest that they be up-front about it and avoid the embarrassment of exposure. --hydnjo talk 22:12, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Well of course most (if not all) RD editors can smell a HW Q at 1000yds even if it is heavily disguised. If the OP says its HW, fair enough. If the OP tries to hide the fact, we say: " Aha, seems like HW to me but I'll provide some guidance anyway". Simple! 8-)--Light current 22:27, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Sure is. --hydnjo talk 22:55, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Immediate transclusions ?

We could also go the other way on transclusions, and transclude every day, even the current day. The advantage is that the question would be directly posted to the archives, so wouldn't confuse people and break links by having to move it to the archives later. There might be some technical issues in getting questions to post directly to the archives, though, using the "+" button, particularly. StuRat 14:43, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Doesn't that break watchlisting, though? Edits to subpages won't show up as edits on the pages where they're transcluded. Someone who wanted to follow a Desk more closely would have to watchlist each new day's page as it was added; I'm not sure if we want to do that. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 15:01, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
That's a good point. I have my prefs set to watch any page I edit, so it's not an issue for me. Of course, the Ref Desk pages change so often the watchlist is almost useless, there is almost always a change since the last time I checked my watchlist. StuRat 15:27, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
We tried this at wikt:Wiktionary:Beer Parlour. The reaction was very negative. The problem is that you don't have one history page to scan for recent activity, which many users rely on. (On a busy page, a watchlist is pretty useless anyway, since there's always a recent change.) —Steve Summit (talk) 16:21, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't quite understand, why would you want one big history page with many unrelated questions' histories on it instead of many history pages, with just a few questions' histories on each ? StuRat 17:49, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Note that I didn't assert this as a reason not to use the technique here, just an issue to be aware of.
If you have a large page with many unrelated threads on it, and if you're interested in most of them, a good way to keep tabs on which ones are changing is to look at the history page. Then you can either (a) go to the page, and look just at the threads that the history page listed as having changed recently, or maybe (b) use the diff function. But if there are N pages (large or small) where there are topics you're interested in, you have to perform this process N times. So on WP (today), I might have to do this for the two or three Reference Desk subpages I'm interested in. On WT, I might do it for their Beer Parlour, Tea Room, and Grease Pit. And in either case, having the content go immediately to a transcluded per-day subpage multiplies the number of page histories I have to scan considerably.
(To answer your question directly: if you have many history pages, with just a few questions' histories on each, and if your strategy is to rely on histories to help you follow threads, you have to perform the process on each of those many pages, and that can be a much bigger nuisance. You only break free from the nuisance if you have many pages with exactly one question or issue on each, at which point you can effectively use watchlists instead of page history. Having a large number of separate threads on one page is in some ways a nuisance, but it can actually be quite handy to, yes, have one big history page with many unrelated threads on it, so you can scan them all at a glance.)
Now, of course, there are a whole bunch of other strategies one can use for trying to efficiently follow multiple threads on mediawiki talk pages, and a whole bunch of different issues. I haven't tried to cover them all here. None of the strategies (that I know of) is perfect; they all have various foibles and drawbacks. (The fundamental problem is of course that mediawiki does not have any mechanism for formally supporting threaded discussions: we're trying to cobble one together out of spare parts. Ideally, a threading mechanism whould highlight all the new content you're interested in since the last time you read, and help you easily navigate the new stuff, in context. But I haven't seen what I'd call "perfect" support for this even on websites and blogs that do formally support threaded discussions. I guess it's a hard problem.) —Steve Summit (talk) 18:53, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
OK, I see. So, while they still look at the same number of history entries, they have to spend more time switching pages to view multiple history files. StuRat 19:09, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

'Sharp' comment

Do people excise there in Japan? - Are you asking about an excise tax or exercise ? StuRat 04:29, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

I really do think we should cut this out! 8-)--Light current 04:42, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

LOL. StuRat 05:23, 16 December 2006 (UTC)