Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 6

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Archive 1 Archive 4 Archive 5 Archive 6 Archive 7 Archive 8 Archive 10

A reference desk bot

Perhaps I should look into making a 'bot to automatically archive the reference desk. Good? Any ideas? --HappyCamper 19:03, 25 September 2005 (UTC)

Sounds good. Do you know PHP or Perl? If not, maybe you could use a modified version of the now-defunct VFD Bot. Superm401 | Talk 19:28, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
PHP will be new to me; Perl isn't exactly my forte, but I can pick it up again quite easily. Right now the RD has 700+ questions, and it's getting to be somewhat impractical to manually archive them. Where can I find this old VFD bot? --HappyCamper 00:20, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
I'm not sure. You'd have to ask around. They used to it to move around VFD nominations. Superm401 | Talk 00:41, 23 October 2005 (UTC)

Categorybrowsebar at top of page?

If "Ask Wikipedia a Question" on Template:Categorybrowsebar links here, shouldn't the browse bar be at the top of this page so that users can navigate back out? RDF talk 04:13, 27 September 2005 (UTC)

I don't think it directly links links to WP:ASK which then links here. I guess one reason why there isn't this reciprocal linking is that there is the big globe to the side which always links back to the front page. --HappyCamper 10:31, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
That (“The big globe maneuver” ;-) can be used to justify eliminating Categorybrowsebar everywhere!!!  ;-) Here's my counterproposal:

Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals)#Add Categorybrowsebar-like wikilinks to every wikipage RDF talk 16:43, 27 September 2005 (UTC)

Actually, right now, Template:Categorybrowsebar links here, while the Home Page links to WP:ASK. I guess that's why camels come with a variety of humps. ;-) RDF talk 16:51, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
It turns out I was the culprit for having the two different versions of "Ask (Wikipedia) a Question" out there! Sorry! >;-o) But it's fixed now. :-) 20:57, 27 September 2005 (UTC)

Since the split...

I've noticed that the quality of questions being asked and answered has decreased quite noticibly. Recently, the RD has been made quite a high profile page, with links from the main page pointing to the WP:ASK which then points to WP:RD. Any thoughts on this? --HappyCamper 10:27, 27 September 2005 (UTC)

That's like SAT average scores going down when states increase their participation rates. It's a "good thing" for the overall quality of Wikiparticipation. :-) RDF talk 16:55, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
No, I've noticed it too. I think the new format is more difficult to navigate, and that people are less inclined to answer questions as a result. Trollderella 00:05, 1 November 2005 (UTC)

John Tyler's middle name?

I have searched in many places, and cannot find former President of the United States John Tyler's middle name. Any help?

Maybe he didn't have a middle name. "JOHN TYLER is the only full name of a president of the United States which has no letter repeating."
- A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia, Page 4 RDF talk 02:36, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
That would still leave some possibilities for his middle name, though (pick from ABCDFGIJKMPQSUVWXZ). — mark 14:07, 3 October 2005 (UTC)

Stopped archiving unanswered questions

I have stopped looking for unanswered questions and editing e-mails out of the pages. They are far too long for me to do by myself now. I think I need more help :-) --HappyCamper 02:39, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

Now that I have been stupid enough NOT to follow that advice, and have had 2~3 emails a day, from... A ROBERT MABANADA... 419 Scammer extrondinare...I will help, and if not, then its trial by fire. Artoftransformation 11:51, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

"Is there any person named George Giri?"

Boy, that sure was a way to phrase a fake question. Who would ever ask such a thing for real? It would have been much more believeable if it had been phrased as "Who is George Giri?". It's such a shame the question was removed before I could see it, otherwise I would have answered "I sure hope not." JIP | Talk 13:10, 3 October 2005 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Guide to Asking Questions

Maybe we need one. Just a quick guide to tell newcomers:

  • What sort of question wikipedia is good for, and what sort should really just be googled.
  • How to phrase questions in a way that makes sense.
  • A list of things that should not be done. e.g. include emails, etc
  • What you should do first. i.e. go and read the article relating to whatever you are asking about.
  • What you, or someone else should do later. i.e. Add any new information to the actual article.
It's a nice idea, but most people simply won't read it... Shimgray | talk | 17:56, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
We have Wikipedia:Where to ask a question, which is kept brief deliberately, and should not become a guide. Superm401 | Talk 21:32, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
A) I agree that most won't read it.
B) Some of your examples are already in the instructions at the top of the page here
C) Brevity, like what is at Wikipedia:Where to ask a question, is better IMO. Dismas|(talk) 21:37, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

The question was removed by the person who asked it or not, but i read a book named 'Science, Technology and Human Rights' written by one George Giri.


Is there any way to track only one section of a page. If I post a question, and then watch it, everytime someone edits anything on the page, it appears in my watchlist, drowning out my question. If not, would it perhaps be possible to answer questions on a relevant subpage (say wikipedia:reference_desk/miscellaneous/how_is_cheese_made?) rather than searching through a 200+ table of contents for a section. Plus, it would shorten the very long page and might help prevent people from losing the first question and then asking it again and again and... smurrayinchester(User), (Talk) 20:24, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Watching sections was a very posted proposal, but, I don't know why, it was never implemented. As for your idea of creating a page for every questions, it would be cool, but not practicle. First, there's no conventions for choosing a title, and regarding the dozens of questions daily, there will be a lot of mix up. CG 11:22, 8 October 2005 (UTC)

Movies in Florida/Good Burger/&c

For those unaware, this guy's been posting to WP:RD/Misc in the last week or so, asking what town "Good Burger" was set in, for a list of fictional Florida locations used in films, or the like, and now we're on to "Which movies are set in Brierdale, Florida". There's four of these questions on there just now - added by (talk · contribs), (talk · contribs), and (talk · contribs) - the latter added two on the 6th, but also removed four of them, which had been answered by various degrees of "aaaaargh, this again?" - [1] (Note two of the three new questions were added as he edited.)

If we go back, guess who created those four? (talk · contribs), (talk · contribs), before that (talk · contribs) rephrased one originally posted by (talk · contribs), and guess who the fourth was? (talk · contribs) (This last also asked one unrelated question at the same time- the only uninvolved edit in the lot). All the same IP block, apparently somewhere in Texas.

So, that's eight questions over a week or so about this one film, by someone who deletes the answer and innocently re-asks the question. Any idea what we should do about this, or what they're trying to achieve? They're one person on a dynamic IP, I suspect, rather than a bunch of users with similar tastes - it's disruptive, it's annoying people, and by the looks of the most recent question I suspect they know what they wanted all along. We can't engage them on their userpage - they change. Responses on the RD seem useless - they deleted a set of comments which seemed pretty insistent we wanted no more. It's beginning to get on my tits, and I'm sure I'm not alone - but I'm loath to start just killing the questions, any responses, and any future queries without raising the issue first. Thoughts? Shimgray | talk | 01:26, 9 October 2005 (UTC)

I'd advocate removing the questions on sight. There are lots of active questions on the RD already, and it doesn't make sense to waste resources to maintain these things. However, I don't want to see a revert war happen on the RD though... :-) --HappyCamper 01:32, 9 October 2005 (UTC)
My speculation ... reason for deleting answer to a question, and reposting the question, is
  • to play games with Google search ... lots of activity on a subject;
  • use RD as a sandbox. AlMac|(talk) 03:08, 9 October 2005 (UTC)
Or better, astroturfing for unknown reasons. ☢ Kieff | Talk 03:18, 9 October 2005 (UTC)

Why call it "astroturfing"? I just wanted to know about fictional places. I just happen to like "Good Burger". So, I'm begging you, do not reject my questions about fictional cities or something like that. Please?

Oh, the solution is very simple: simply block all IPs in the range and the problem is gone. --User:Mdob | Talk 22:11, 16 October 2005 (UTC)

Some feedback please?

Now that the reference desk has been split up into 4 separate desks for about 2 months now, I just wanted to get an idea of what people think about the changes. I thought that by splitting up the desk, the number of active questions per page would be less...little did I know that we would have more than 100+ active questions on average every day! Some thoughts? Once I get the time to sit down and concentrate, I will start writing a bot to help with the archival...hmm... --HappyCamper 20:20, 9 October 2005 (UTC)

The new system is an improvement but I would still like to solve the problems of poorly titled questions, miscategorized questions, and difficult retrieval. The reference and help desk can be analyzed by type of question or by type of user. Here are the breakdowns:

  • Type of question
    1. About wikipedia (currently help desk type), How do I , why did this happen
    2. Physical science and math questions
    3. Life science questions (including biology, medicine, psych)
    4. Humanities (history, popular culture, literature, philosophy, religion)
    5. Social topics: law, current social issues and politics, personal social problems
    6. Language questions, English and foreign
    7. Practical technology, computer, internet, and gadget questions
    8. Homework questions (broad topic, “discuss”, where do I find…, like porn, you know it when you see it, and the best answers give links and hints, not answers) ( Also some very narrow and specific questions )Artoftransformation 12:11, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
  • Type of user
    • Inquirers
      • Poorly chosen headlines or phrasing, miss-spelled key words, no wiki links, all caps, minimal punctuation.
      • Many don’t ask at the right place and then don’t look for replies at right place
      • Will not read instructions. At all. Ever.
I would suggest, that if you look at it in this light, it will be clear. If someone asks a question, and there is no answer, then we can leave it as choppy as it came. Eventually it will find the bitbucket, and we have no concern. ( Question: Will this comment follow that path??)
If we answer it, we are contributing to the knowledge of the whole wikipedia, and we should feel free to make the question conform to standards of readibility, presentation, location and understanding: that way, your leveraging your answer and time so that you can refrence it again, or build on it, and we can link from the question base to an article. So that Inquirers questions are transformed to Wiki articles in the process. I am going to develop my style at this, by doing a lot of reading, and crafting answers. Artoftransformation 12:11, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
Also, It seems that very specific Chemistry and Mathematics questions come up. I can answer most of the Math questions, and I have a close friend who can answer almost any Chemistry question...( and give detailed information about both history and common usage..) Artoftransformation 12:11, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
    • Wiki Answerers (us)
      • Interested in browsing questions in several categories easily and quickly
      • Recognize instantly what category would be best but not willing to do anything that takes more effort than current system
      • Sometimes we would like to retrieve questions we remember seeing answered, for our own info, or because someone just asked the same question again, but we don’t want to spend much time searching and our current archiving system sucks for retrievals.

So here is a proposed system:

  1. ASK STEP. We have a single ASK A QUESTION DESK. One stop shopping for both help desk and ref desk type questions. That way public cannot make category mistakes. We don’t even want them to write a == headline, just write their question, a single word or a long paragraph, in the next open number. When they click enter, they get a message that says check back here for question number xxx for answers. That’s all. Question is now visible in a single list, tagged by date and number xxx.
  2. Reply by an Answerer who sees it in the list has 2 steps, made as simple as possible with a bot and links to click on.
    1. ASSIGN & TITLE STEP. Block select the question and assign category by clicking on one of 8 buttons labeled as the above categories. A bot copies the selected block (the question exactly as written and highlighted) to one of the 8 categorical answer pages, inserting the blocked question exactly as typed, and prompting the Answerer to describe the question. The Answerer provides the headline (either copying or rephrasing the question concisely). The bot makes this the headline and adds the date and question number tag xxx. The bot leaves the original blocked text at the question desk, and adds a pointer that says “click here for answers” and redirects to the rewritten, titled question on the appropriate category page.
    2. ANSWER STEP. The Answerer answers the question as usual, just below the block-copy of the newly titled original question. The Answerer could even just do the category & titling step without adding an answer. Other Answerers can add additional answers as we currently do. The original questioner can reply or add more.
  3. When the original inquirer looks back to the Question Desk, he now sees his question tagged by date and number xxx, with a pointer the redirects him to the answer page, where a copy of his question is accompanied by answers.
  4. MAINTENANCE & ARCHIVING is simple. Archive the HELP as currently done with a single archive of all questions asked with date and number. Archive the category answer pages as currently done, but with the advantage that the questions with their answers are correctly categorized and have meaningful headings. Much easier to browse for retrieval.

The advantages of the above system over our current system are several.

  1. We could shorten the instruction to about 2 sentences instead of all the unread screens.
  2. No more questions asked at the wrong place.
  3. No more stupid titles like “-?-” or “a question”
  4. It will be easier to browse the categories we like, seeing all the questions with answers, or on the Ask a Question page we can browse all the asked questions in all categories, clicking on the question to be directed to the category page with answers.
  5. It will be much easier to retrieve a question from the archives by subject matter because it will be correctly categorized and informatively titled.
  6. Compared to our current system, the only added step for us Answerers is clicking on the button to assign it to a category page and giving it an accurate title!

So if people like this idea, can you write the “Assign and title bot” ? alteripse 23:33, 9 October 2005 (UTC)

Overall this seems to be a good idea, as the submission/response style will really create better organization and hopefully speed response time. However, it seemed to be a bit counter-inuitive to leave the question asked on the orignal page where it was sent by the inquirer. Once the question has been moved, wouldn't it be simpler to leave nothing behind, resulting in a clean page with only response numbers, or better yet, only uncatagorized questions? The only problem I forsee with this is askers forgetting their questions, though the state of the unarchived page would such to be that they would be best to do so. Another thing that surprised me was that after the professional recatagorization by Ceder, archives were by topic then date, rather than vice versa. If we left the questions sorted by date first would this be any easier on the RD Brigade? The amount of growth in questions is amazing, a new clerical method will eventually be needed if we are to keep up.

--Dariusthegreat88 2:20, 10 October 2005 (EST)

  • Some really good things could be done with the new inputbox markup. There could be a box with a label saying "Enter a title for your question" and a button saying "Next"; pressing the button could take you to a version of the edit page with customised instructions. Something like this, except designed with more care:
buttonlabel=Go on to enter the body of your question

Enter a title for your question

Oh, wait, that doesn't work. The input box wants a page name, not a subject line. However, the inputbox syntax could potentially be extended. —AlanBarrett 08:12, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

I still consider myself a newbie here, although experienced in other places.

I mentioned in another thread I would like at time of original questioner posting their thing, some kind of page letting them know it has got posted, and here is a url for them to cut & paste that can take them back to this post to see the answers, that this url can be helprul because of the speed of new questions arriving that might make it difficult for them to get back to it.
If the system ends up moving their question, then that url needs to have redirect support built in.
in addition to providing this service to the person planting the question, there might also be a count for administrators ... of all the new sections added, how many got there thanks to people using the link up top?
I not know if it would be constructive, but perhaps add to the tool box (my contributions) (my watch list) a section of links to the answers to my questions.
If you do a tag index using date and number xxx also put user id (registered name or url) on the end, to make it easier for that individual to scan down the list and link to any answers, in case they did not jot down the xxx # at time of posting.
This also helps answers see if there is pattern of problem with a particular questioner.
I would like to see beside the Edit link to do just this section, a Print button to print just what has been posted so far to this section. Several reasons ... helps me be more productive in crafting a reply ... may help original questioner in having copy of reply after unable to find in archives.
Also a way to print just the TOC assuming my other TOC ideas practical.
Alongside the title, now in the TOC, add date-time of last post to that section, the user with last addition to section (excepting clean up like insertion of unsigned), and user who originally posted the question.
This would help answerers see ... someone has added something to this sub-topic since the last time I was in there ... here are questions with no answers yet.
If you go the route of accepting the question, that then gets rerouted to a topic area, you could then have a section just for what you think is Homework, because the questioners would never put it there.

AlMac|(talk) 08:29, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

I don't know, I liked the old system a lot better... Trollderella 00:07, 1 November 2005 (UTC)


As I see it, we have several options for this system:

  1. Infobox, to create a subpage for every question. This would make it hard to answer several questions at once, though.
  2. Infobox, to create a subheading for every question. Since the point of the infobox is that you can specify which article you'd like to add the subheading to, a link seems more logical.
  3. A link, along the lines of this. We can specify a page or template code to be loaded into the edit box, so we could possibly create a short form in the edit box for the asker. Disadvantage: the user is prompted for a subheader title, so it cannot be autogenerated.
  4. A template, as used at WP:AFD. Askers would be asked to add something like: {{Template:ReferenceDesk|Question="What is the colour of pain?"}} to the bottom of a page, manually. Less simple perhaps than the previous suggestions, but that could help to keep riff raff out, as it were.

All of these proposals can incorporate a system in which answerers put questions into specific categories. And they could be adjusted so that askers could do the same, themselves. In the third proposal we could have links for each category. In the last proposal, we could use specific templates or links to distinguish between categories; the template would become something like: {{Template:ReferenceDesk-Humanities|Question="What is the colour of pain?"}}. Both experienced wiki-users/askers and answerers could assign categories. In the last option, (I think its my favourite) all questions would be put on the same page again. -- Ec5618 15:54, 10 October 2005 (UTC)


Wow, I'm glad my little question stimulated a lot of discussion. Well, I have never actually written a bot for Wikipedia before, but I will definitely spend some time to figure out all the steps if this is the way to go. I have already talked a little bit with AllyUnion to get everything set up. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to look at the materials though due to Real Life :(

Initially, I was thinking of writing a simple bot that would archive the page every now and then. If we need to change the question-asking scheme again, I hope we can wrinkle out as many things first before we attempt an implementation. Ideally, it would be nice if the "new" reference desk (if that's where we're headed) doesn't require a bot so much. --HappyCamper 21:41, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

One way of keeping e-mail addresses off the RD page might be to offer to send the answers via e-mail only to those who sign in to Wikipedia and provide an e-mail address in their user information. If a bot could do it (send e-mail to a designated user each time their question is edited), it would get people to sign up for Wiki usernames, and keep their e-mail addresses safe. - Nunh-huh 18:13, 15 October 2005 (UTC)


Please add pl:Wikipedia:Pytania merytoryczne. Thanks, Googlpl 09:27, 15 October 2005 (UTC)

Introductory change

I added a note on how new questions are placed at the bottom of the page. People seem to keep missing that, and I figured it'd be a nice place for it. gkhan 23:24, 15 October 2005 (UTC)

Ah! I see. Very nice :-) --HappyCamper 01:57, 16 October 2005 (UTC)

P physics.pngIs the RD serving its purpose?

The Reference Desk is a place where people can ask questions they were unable to answer using Wikipedia's articles. It is a place where readers remind us of our function as editors, and where we are shown where Wikipedia is still lacking.

I've been watching this page for a while now, and I don't know why the people who answer questions keep doing so. Most questions are poorly defined, homework assignments, or are answered in an article already. They serve no purpose, and/or cannot contribute to the growth of Wikipedia.

And there is hardly ever an indication that people read the answers provided.

  1. We could remove all improperly posed questions on sight. Or at least a threatening "improperly worded questions will be removed".
  2. We could use a symbol or icon (preferably in the title), to distinguish between an actual question and a random jumble of words (and even assign a category to the questions). These would be added by people answering the question. We could also have an icon for questions whose purpose has been served (i.e. the answer has since been incorporated into an article). See the header of this section too see how it would look.
  3. We could create a technical hurdle or system that would make it harder for people to ask stupid questions. See #Some feedback please?. For example, we could put the header of the individual categories and the questions and answers on different pages, or create an input system with 16 input fields (of which only one would work, so people would have to read the instructions).

But I hope you'll all agree something should be done. -- Ec5618 15:32, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

So here's a question for you: if someone is clueless enough and can't find an article on Julius Caesar and ends up asking us here, do we want to simply ignore him or to point him to the article in question? Even if it is boring and trivial for us. Homework questions are annoying (although not always) and I suggest doing what people started doing recently: provide obvious non-answers. Perhaps a template would be useful, along the lines of
To the one who asked this: we don't answer hw questions. To those who would answer: Don't!, it encourages bad behaviour. Humourous replies encouraged.
I am against complex systems, beacuse clearly most users can't even figure out our current one. Ornil 18:02, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

  • I quite enjoy answering weird questions; it's a good bit of mental exercise. That said, I concur with you that most are probably never looked at again, and most parties involved are probably failing to find something productive. The understanding I originally had was that WP:HD was for questions about using Wikipedia, and WP:RD was for questions about the content of Wikipeida, with both aimed at active editors.
(So: "I'm redrafting Nancy Reagan and I can't get the templates working - any help?" for one; "I'm working on Nancy Reagan and various sources keep giving her different dates of birth - anyone know the correct date?" for the other)
  • This seems to have fallen by the wayside - indeed, we now have ASK A QUESTION blazoned on the main page - but I for one would be happy to see us go back to serving editors, at least on the Reference Desk. As it stands, we're trying to do a massive task - an open reference service - using a system not designed for it, in a confusing location, with an audience that doesn't know what it wants. I think we do an excellent job, here and at the Help Desk - but this really isn't our core strength, and much as I enjoy doing it, it is probably detrimental to the project as a whole as it currently stands. But even if we wanted to, I don't know if we could reverse the process... Shimgray | talk | 18:40, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

All right, action. Ornil, you oppose complex systems. I suggest that the currect system is too carefree and open. Basically, people are abusing it. Shimgray, I completely agree with you. While weird questions may be amusing, they are so to a very select group of people. I hope we can reverse 'the process'.

I have edited the Wikipedia:Where to ask a question-page to make it clear to readers that the RD should only be used when all else fails. As I said before, the Reference Desk is a place where people can ask questions they were unable to answer using Wikipedia's articles. This is a place where readers remind us of our function as editors, and where we are shown where Wikipedia is still lacking. In my mind, this is as close to a mission statement as the RD should have.

I still say we should do more, as editors.

  1. We should discourage frivolous use of the RD. First and foremost.
  2. We should rewrite questions, atleast in the header, into a somewhat standard format.
  3. We should post standard responses to stupid questions:
    1. Do not list your e-mail address
    2. Do your own homework, after which we could provide a hint, or reference
    3. Be specific
    4. Search first, after which we could add a reference.
    5. This is not a question for the Reference Desk, after which we could provide a link to a relevant page.
  4. We should manually assign questions to categories. Templates could be used to distinguish useful questions from useless questions, answered questions from new questions, .. But maybe I'm just a little too keen on the idea of pretty headers.
  5. A lot of answers are going unnoticed. We need to find a way to connect the asker to the answer. Sending mail via the 'mail this user' function seems a decent idea, which does however exclude unregistered users. Then again, couldn't that function be an advantage of being logged in?

-- Ec5618 21:10, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

Here's the thing - if we just go and slap templates on questions, it doesn't handle the fact that they're not read. It doesn't provide any useful feedback to the poster - they don't read it - or to later posters, most of whom I suspect just hit "ask a question" at the top and never see the rest of the page. So it just ends up cluttering up the desk.
By far my preferred option would be to just silently remove the question, unless it shows signs of being laid out (not a search engine query), actual enquiries (not "discuss ecomony of india in detail plz") & appropriate level (not "where is Paris?"), which are good indicators that someone understands what they're doing. (Signing with a username, also, pretty reliable indicator that They Get The Idea).
I can see why this would be unpopular, which is why I've shied away from doing it - and I'm not pressing for it to be done! - but I suspect it's one of the things that's going to keep the RD actually usable over time. We have an excellent resource here, and I suspect it can be a lot better if we stop it getting swamped. I love answering general reference enquiries, but I'm really beginning to think we just don't have the place for it here, not for something that isn't directly serving a core population of reasonably competent editors. I'm going to be travelling a bit over the next few days, so I'll see if I can sketch out some ideas whilst ABEND, but I'd be interested to know if I'm a lone voice from this end... Shimgray | talk | 22:24, 17 October 2005 (UTC)
Deleting questions
We could delete silly questions, if we wanted to, for several reasons:
  1. Silly questions don't help Wikipedia.
  2. Silly questions give users the wrong impression of this page, and make it look unprofessional.
  3. Removing horribly worded questions will force (encourage) users to properly formulate their questions.
We shouldn't, because:
  1. It is difficult to distinguish between actual questions, so some actual questions might be lost.
  2. It's disrespectful.
So, we can't just delete the questions? Couldn't we then use templates to distinguish between relevant questions and useless questions? I agree that wouldn't address the problem of answers being ignored, but one problem at a time.
Answers going ignored
I've seen several suggestions, and have thought of some myself:
  1. Provide the asker with a permanent link to their question.
  2. Mail registered users.
  3. Put the answer, or a reference to it, on the asker's talk page.
  4. Ignore (delete) silly questions. Many such questions are never looked at again.
In my opinion we should at least mark all invalid questions accordingly. A short link to the guidelines at the top should suffice. Notifying users is second priority, if we weed out useless questions.
How's this, to make it clear that silly questions should not be the norm:
Dead question Dead question.
Poster, please read the rules at the top of this page.
-- Ec5618 09:11, 18 October 2005 (UTC)
Okay, people have said a lot. I'll try to address everything. First of all, I agree that there are some pretty serious problems with how the reference desk is being used. People are obviously asking questions without reading the instructions, and people(especially anons) almost never respond to their answers. This could be because they're reading them and just neglecting to thank the answerer. However, I somehow get the idea they're not coming back at all. That is a waste of the time of everyone involved. I'll try to address your specific comments and suggestions.
  1. Removing bad questions on sight.
I already remove questions that don't have at least a section header and actual question, and encourage others to do so as well. I.E. if their section header is GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT but the section's empty, I just zap it. I put a warning to that effect at the top of the page, but no one reads that any way... Seriously, I would be fine with broadening the deletions a bit, preferably with a warning.
  1. Symbol or Icon for "good questions"
More work than actually answering the bad ones(especially the snide answers I give to the really stupid or "homeworky" ones, as you alluded to)
  1. Technical hurdle
I don't like the idea of just trying to scare people off.
I don't think your homework template is necessary. Just don't give legitimate answers(I do like the funny ones) and remind them, DYOH. As for the changing meaning of the reference desk, I can't really vouch for the "old" Reference Desk. However, I kind of like the reference desk as it is, despite the morons. I like our current mission statement: "The Reference Desk serves the same function as a library reference desk. It answers questions about the world around us". Yes, I would prefer those questions not be from people's HW, and that they not be easily answerable using a search. However, as a general mission, it fits. I also fail to see how it's detrimental to the project. No offense, but if you don't want to answer questions, don't. That applies to everyone. The RD doesn't take time you aren't willing to give. Moving on, I'm okay with the modified WP:AQ, despite its continually creeping size increases. As for "doing more as editors", I have problems with some of those points. I don't like rewriting questions for those too lazy to ask properly. That just encourages them not to do work. The standard response idea is pretty good. It could save time. I also don't want to do categorization. To me, the cats (done by questioners) are working out not great, but okay. I'm reluctant to add categorizing to the answerers' tasks. I would be okay with sending mail to registered users, but ONLY with the "E-mail a user" feature. However, it should NOT be mandatory for people to register before asking, or to specify an email in Wikipedia preferences. For those that do, a bot could send a "Your question has a comment!" mailing with every change to the relevant section. There could be a way to block that by including something like <!--NOMAIL--> in the section, which could be explained at the top of the page. A bot could easily handle that exception. As for whether to delete "silly questions" remorselessly, I'm not sure. I do think certain ones(including the scenario listed already) should be removed, and I don't have a problem with that as long as there's a warning. However, for marginal cases, I'd like to see either "Dead question" or one of the "Your question sucked: here's why" templates, and in some cases both. Superm401 | Talk 03:08, 19 October 2005 (UTC)

I don't know, I think even the silly questions can be useful, at least, they tell us something about how people are using Wikipedia. Trollderella 00:09, 1 November 2005 (UTC)

Separate project?

You know, RD has grown so much, and the current set-up has proved so inadequate, that one really wonders if this belongs on Wikipedia at all or on a new separate Wikimedia project with specialized software, a Wikioracle perhaps. I think specialized software could easily address all of the problems discussed above.--Pharos 09:28, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

Mmm, it's a thought. But I'm really not sure a pure wiki is the best system for it, generally. Shimgray | talk | 09:46, 18 October 2005 (UTC)
A separate project would give us greater power to control the way questions are asked, but it would not help Wikipedia, so I oppose the concept. -- Ec5618 11:05, 18 October 2005 (UTC)
And who's going to make said "specialized software"? Superm401 | Talk 02:20, 19 October 2005 (UTC)
I don't think it should be a pure wiki; I would think something with some more forumlike features would be called for. I don't see why it couldn't be configured (as an example) that answers would be automatically emailed to a questioner (without that email being public), solving our basic futility issue here. What would the benefit to Wikipedia be? Well, this would be a general free reference service, a part of Wikimedia but separate from Wikipedia. This job would leave Wikipedia, which perhaps can't quite handle it, and might grow better in a new conducive environment; if this were to evolve substantially beyond the Reference Desk, Wikioracle could be quite a boon to fact-checking Wikipedia editors. I can claim no credit to technical ability, but if there's someone out there who can, perhaps we should consider making a proposal at meta:Proposals for new projects.--Pharos 07:44, 25 October 2005 (UTC)

We don't need new software. What we DO need is a master archiving system with either more cats or an improved search function. As it is you can't find a previous answer for your question without digging, so the same questions keep getting answered. I'd expect we'd have a FAQ section too for things that come up really frequently.

The best part of having its own wiki would be space to grow. For example say someone wrote a decent answer to a question, but it's one that keeps coming up and the original answer wasn't thorough enough. Just like a WP article different people would work to revise it and answer everything, without it becoming encyclopedia-esque of course.

I think it's a project that has merit. However be sure to read the recommended proposal steps and carry them out before jumping in and adding the idea to the core proposals page where it will languish. Oh and maybe add the proposal link somewhere in the header or something so everyone who comes here to supply answers can find it and give their opinion. GarrettTalk 11:46, 25 October 2005 (UTC)

Odd questions?

There seems like a lot of these questions are posted by vandals/trolls just to start conversations that eventually get BJAODNified. Just my point of view. Frenchman113 22:00, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

That might be true. I'm not sure exactly which questions you're referring to. Maybe you can give examples. Some of the questions that seem odd to me are the most interesting ones. (Great example: Wikipedia:Reference desk/Science#Killing Me Softfruit : Which food would kill you first??)-Superm401 | Talk 02:19, 19 October 2005 (UTC)
Try Wikipedia:Reference desk/Humanities#how to get your girlfriend to act out her fantasy? --Frenchman113 22:02, 20 October 2005 (UTC)
Yeah, you're probably right about that one, at least. Superm401 | Talk 01:05, 22 October 2005 (UTC)

Doubled desk

I've just done a page repaire on Reference desk/Language. At some point, someone or something had posted a copy of the entire page at the bottom of the existing page. This made page loads very slow. It also made it difficult to find answers to questions, as people were posting in different versions of the question. I've done a not-very-clever repair job, but I fear that some text may have been left out. I'm trawling through the history to see where that might be, but I could easily miss something. This is just to let you know what's happened. --Gareth Hughes 14:46, 19 October 2005 (UTC)

Advice please

I'm trying to learn how to safeguard a page once it's finally entered. I know this is a 'user-editing' site, but I also know some pages can be safeguarded. I'd like to safeguard my own discussion page.

What particular code do I need to accomplish this please? Tach

Your user talk page is designed for other users to contact you, so baring persistant vandlism, an adminstrator will not protect your talk page for you. Hipocrite - «Talk» 20:31, 19 October 2005 (UTC)

Mission statement

If the goal of RD really becomes an attempt to answer all of the questions asked by the general population (the millions of them who use wikipedia), a completely different project would have to be set up, and a user base at least as large as the total amount of current wikipedia editors created. As things are, this is really not a very viable option though if RD gets enough editors to manage this, it would likely require such a move to continue operating. The real question that comes into play is "What is our mission statement?" RD needs a single direct statement that explains the purpose for its existence. It will provide direction for further improvement, and give users and idea of what they should really expect from us. Do we take the editor oriented approach suggested by Shimgray, or avoid this to be more open to one-time/infrequent users? I propose that we create a conclusive mission statement for all of the Wikipedia: Reference Desk, and its ancillaries to be voted on and officiated. Dariusthegreat88 00:58, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

Hm....I like it the way it is...The reference desk is fun because it's not bureaucratic I think. --HappyCamper 23:18, 19 October 2005 (UTC)
Agreed. However, the effective one is probably "The Reference Desk serves the same function as a library reference desk. It answers questions about the world around us", as I said in my post above. I don't think any mission statement needs to made official, though. Superm401 | Talk 01:07, 22 October 2005 (UTC)

Naming Conventions - Questions in Title

Hello, if I were to create an article that relates to a commonly debated subject, should I word the title in a way that it is not a question? An example being: Do Balrogs have wings? or Balrogs and wings. Thanks. --Hyarion 17:41, 21 October 2005 (UTC)

Probably just Balrogs, though it depends on the exact context; a real example would help. Superm401 | Talk 01:08, 22 October 2005 (UTC)
Well, its actually for another wiki and I was just curious what Wikipedia's stance would be so I could follow. Thanks.
Okay, well like I said, we would first just provide details in the Balrog article(not balrogs; that was a mistake). Then, if that became too large, we might move the specific issue to Balrog wing controversy or something similar. Superm401 | Talk 03:40, 22 October 2005 (UTC)

On the lookout

I am noticing an emergence of accounts which are only used to edit the reference desk. Hmm... --HappyCamper 16:10, 22 October 2005 (UTC)

Let's not be too hasty in condemning that. We currently answer anon questions, so it's unreasonable to say that the RD is only for contributors. Given that, it's easier to keep track of registered users, and their questions tend to be better formed (perhaps they feel they now have a reputation). Most importantly, even if these users start on the RD, I think many of them will become devoted contributors. Let's give them a little time. Superm401 | Talk 23:56, 22 October 2005 (UTC)
Alright, you're right. Is it just me, or are the answers somewhat improving in quality lately? It is as if after September, the questions in October are much better formed. Noticed how historically, the number of questions on the RD peaked around September and then declined afterwards. --HappyCamper 00:01, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
Do you mean both the questions and answers, or just questions? Superm401 | Talk 00:15, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
Well, maybe the answers. The questions seem to be getting a bit homework-like, but the occasonal eclectic ones are nice. --HappyCamper 00:45, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
I am "guilty" of not having much time to work on Wikipedia articles recently, so if I can spend an hour here or there, I try to make constructive answers on RD. Hopefully I will have more time in the future and use my account to improve other articles, like I was doing before I got more busy. AlMac|[[User talk:AlMac|<sup>(talk)</sup>]] 05:16, 29 November 2005 (UTC)

Protection of central page

Why was Wikipedia:Reference desk unprotected? There is no reason anyone would ever need to edit it. They should go to Template:RD header. If it remains unprotected, people will ask questions no matter what we say on the page. Can an admin please reprotect? Superm401 | Talk 00:07, 23 October 2005 (UTC)

Done. I don't know why it was unprotected though. And did you see this weird page blanking error? --HappyCamper 00:11, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
I'll 'fess up. I blanked the page(no wonder I keep getting blocked) I keep/pt trying to revert it and getting into edit conflicts with you. :) However, I thought I just edited a section. What seemed to happen is that I edited the section normally (with a preview I think) then upon save it replaced the page with that section. Do you know if this is a site-wide bug(or am I just going crazy?) ? Superm401 | Talk 00:15, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
I tested a section edit on my sandbox and it replaced the entire page with the section again. Also, I got an unprecented three previews when I clearly clicked save each time(I realized I hadn't let the page fully load each time; perhaps that was a factor...). Superm401 | Talk 00:25, 23 October 2005 (UTC)

Here is what the log has to say: --HappyCamper 00:16, 23 October 2005 (UTC)

  • 20:08, 22 October 2005 HappyCamper protected Wikipedia:Reference desk (this RD header page needs to be protected so that questions are not placed here)
  • 15:34, 18 October 2005 Ixfd64 unprotected Wikipedia:Reference desk (visibility should not be reason for protection (community portal, recent changes, Help:Contents, and Wikipedia:Contact us are unprotected); accidental posting of questions is not vandalism)
  • 16:39, 25 August 2005 Neutrality protected Wikipedia:Reference desk (Protect from vandalism)
  • 16:39, 25 August 2005 Neutrality protected Wikipedia:Reference desk (Protect from vandalism)
  • 10:43, 27 May 2005 Timwi unprotected Wikipedia:Reference desk (Talk page doesn't outline why this is protected)
  • 10:43, 27 May 2005 Timwi unprotected Wikipedia:Reference desk (Talk page doesn't outline why this is protected)
  • 16:31, 8 May 2005 ABCD protected Wikipedia:Reference desk (prevent page moves)
Well, it's not really protection (because of the template), so I don't think that logic applies. Ixfd64 probably assumed the template is protected; however, it never has been. Superm401 | Talk 00:25, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
Yeah, I was the one who last unprotected the page, and I was not aware that there was an unprotected template used specifically for editing the central page. I won't unprotect the page again. I apologize for any misunderstanding. --Ixfd64 03:05, 25 October 2005 (UTC)
Hey, no problem :-) --HappyCamper 00:22, 26 October 2005 (UTC)


Hi, I've recently started answering a few questions on the Science reference desk and I'm wondering about something. To what extent is it permissible and tactful to rearrange or reformat the comments of others?

There's always the occasional newbies who don't know any better who mess up the page with really long monospaced lines -- those are pretty obviously OK to fix. However, there are other cases where there are more substantial changes that could be made, but I'm worried about people getting annoyed. For example, is it acceptable to rearrange a discussion if it's gotten out of chronological order? Is it OK to change indentation (for example, if there's a weird mixture of : indents and bulleted lists)? Just wondering if there's any established etiquette for this sort of thing here. --David Wahler (talk) 02:10, 25 October 2005 (UTC)

I've been monitoring the reference desk for over half a year now, and it's perfectly reasonable to be bold on the page. Clarity is good :-) --> Did you factorize the science pages so that the questions are categorized by date? I'm wondering...will the users of the page maintain those dates? That idea is new, and I don't think it was attempted before. --HappyCamper 00:25, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

NPOV on the RD?

There seem to be a lot of times when WP:NPOV is violated on the Reference Desk. This seems to mostly happen with political and religious questions, though sometimes you see competing scientific theories bump heads and such as well. Now I'm not going to argue either for or against the presence of opinions on the RD (heck, sometimes question posters even explicitly request opinions), but seeing as how NPOV is an official Wikipedia policy, I think it would be best if either there were some sort of disclaimer on the desks stating that the text on this page may violate NPOV and comments are those of the individual posters and so on, or NPOV is enforced except for when an opinion is explicitly requested.

(My apologies if this topic has already been discussed somewhere -- I did some quick searching and couldn't find mention of it, though.) Garrett Albright 19:38, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

The great thing about WP:RD is that we sign our names, so our answers and opinions are clearly attributed to us right there. We don't enforce NPOV on talk pages, only the normal civility rules, so I'm not sure why it should be so different here.
As for your other solution, a disclaimer, I wouldn't be opposed — but I'm not sure how many people read the header as it is anyways. — Laura Scudder | Talk 19:49, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
I agree with Laura here. RD isn't an encyclopedia (see my proposal to spin it off above), and doesn't require consensus neutrality; it's just a place where people seek out opinions from individual Wikipedians. The standard should be conversational, like a talk page. Sometimes the talk can get a bit off topic, but that hasn't proven to be a problem so far.--Pharos 19:59, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
Ditto with the above. Overall, I feel that the RD is one of the few relatively relaxing places on Wikipedia to be a part of. --HappyCamper 22:44, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
On that note, I'd like to suggest a code of honour for editors here. Ok, maybe it's not 'on that note'. Nevertheless, something along the lines of: I will edit questions in such a way that they become useful, and informative to other readers. I will answer non-questions by directing the user to the rules, and possibly by quoting the article they need. I will answer homework questions with nothing more than a hint. In fact, hinting may be a good response to many simple questions. I feel it would benefit the reader to have a set of guidelines that determine markup of answers. -- Ec5618 23:47, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Thank you for understanding the difference between a signed answer and an article. I notified the person who censored me of my extreme displeasure and requested replacement of my answer and an apology for the attempted censorship. Many of the answers at all of the RDs represent a POV. Only the not very bright pretend otherwise. They are clearly labeled by author and anyone should be able to post a disagreement without fear of a reversion war. alteripse 23:42, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

I am frustrated at user:Lomn, who censored my answer to the draft question. I am not sure whether he is not bright enough to understand the difference between ref desk answers and articles, or simply too committed to censoring opinions he disagrees with. Either way, I am asking for some help in explaining this to him, because when I politely complained to him he threatened to continue to censor my answers. Thank you. alteripse 01:44, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

This has nothing to do with "censorship" or the rest of your vitriolic rhetoric. The RD clearly states at the top that it is not a soapbox. Discussing the draft in the context of the Vietnam leadup is entirely appropriate. Speculation / Original Research / Political rants about how Bush is presently attempting to ramp up for a draft is not. This has nothing to do with whether or not I agree with the assertion, it's a question of whether or not the answer is appropriate. While it's nice to be able to crack a joke or offer best guesses without being up to article standards, there's a world of difference in a speculative answer and one laden to the hilt with POV-pushing. Now, if this sort of answer is in fact supposed to be acceptable, then by all means, push for consensus to remove the soapbox constraint. Also, backhanded insults are not appreciated. I doubt they do much for your position, either. — Lomn | Talk / RfC 16:05, 28 October 2005 (UTC)
It's also worth pointing out I was not the first to cite "not a soapbox" in this case. — Lomn | Talk / RfC 16:09, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

Content policys are for content pages. The reference desk is like a talk page and content policies are not enforced on talk pages, though conduct ones (No personal attacks). Alteripse's comments were POV and were clearly stated as such. Moreover, the questions poster specifically asked for opinions. So censoring Alteripse's comments is exactly that and is innapropriate. Instead of censoring them, better would have been to make it even clearer you felt those are his opinions only and not representative of Wikipedia whatever that means. Removing them was innapropriate. I happen to disagree with some parts of his opinion, but again the poster of the question asked for opinions. - Taxman Talk 20:13, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

I am irked

Several editors have complained that pointing out to new users that they are not following the rules is biting newcomers. I see their point. Truly. To prove that I am not heartless, I've put something together:

After reading the above, you may
ask a new question by clicking here.

Your question will be added at the bottom of the page.
Questions that do not follow the rules may be deleted without warning.

Go ahead and try the link. Currently, it's set up to put questions at the bottom of the Science RD.

Perhaps something like this would help users follow the rules, without being too obtrusive. I'll agree this page needn't be too bureaucratic, but fun should never be the object. My philosophy: less dumb questions, more useful answers, more expertise. If we can improve the professionalism on this page, perhaps we can attract more editors, with varying interests and areas of expertise.

Thus endeth my tirade. What say you all? Can we put this question-thing to use? -- Ec5618 17:26, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

I like it. I thought of something like that a while back, but didn't know it was actually doable… Wow, MediaWiki is more flexible than I thought. Garrett Albright 18:14, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
I like it a lot. In fact, I think I'd like it better if it was at the very top of the header and said "after reading the instructions below". That way, no one will skim, get confused and click on the first "edit" thing they see. With instructions actually duplicated at the edit page, it's less important for them to read it before clicking anyways. — Laura Scudder | Talk 19:52, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
It seems an excellent idea - if you implement it, expanding it to WP:HD might also be helpful. It would also let us clear a lot of these instructions off the main RD page... Shimgray | talk | 19:58, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
I also like it. I'm thinking that Laura makes a good point. How about putting it above and below the instruction header? --hydnjo talk 20:12, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
After trying to scroll down these rather long sections I've noticed how easy it is to miss this new feature. Also, Science is now by date which seems a great idea. Is that going to happen to the other sections as well?
What does this mean: "Questions may be deleted due to limited volunteer resources."? The part that confuses me most is the "limited volunteer resources". Dismas|(talk) 00:17, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

I am planning on incorporating this link into the RD. This will entail:

  1. Creating Wikipedia:Reference desk/How to ask. Done
  2. Getting the link to work properly on all pages, via the Wikipedia:Reference desk/How to ask and answer template.
  3. Make everything visually pleasing.

I'm currently stuck on item 2, and I'm not quite sure what the problem is

  • {{localurl:Wikipedia:Reference_desk/science| seems to work, but is not useful as all questions would end up on Science
  • {{localurl:Wikipedia:Reference_desk/{{{2}}}| doesn't work. (2 is a variable I defined as Science in the Science article.)
  • {{localurl:Wikipedia:{{PAGENAME}}| doesn't work either. PAGENAME would be Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Science for example

Any help would be appreciated. -- Ec5618 00:45, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

I added the dates to the Science article, as well. They are added manually, though a bot could do the same. Alternatively, we could create pages for each day, and archive the questions without doing anything. -- Ec5618 00:45, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

Change in header

I think adding a reminder not to "bite" is an excellent idea. I've also reworded the text right by the "ask a question" link. --HappyCamper 23:37, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

GPS Protocols

(question moved to WP:RD/S#GPS Protocols) Garrett Albright 04:06, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

Ec5618's header addition

Ec5618, why did you add the following to the reference desk header even after your above comments? [2] ᓛᖁ♀ 13:40, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

<span class="plainlinksneverexpand" style="font-size: 50%">[{{SERVER}}{{localurl:{{{2}}}|action=edit&section=new&editintro=User_talk:Ec5618/Laboratory/Dog}} x]</span>

I'm afraid it was part of my experimentation. The link, added to the template, is now added to the subpages, including Science. Science includes a second parameter (Science), which I had hoped to use to uniquely identify each page. Unfortunately, it didn't have the desired effect. I neglected to revert the changes I had made, hoping that inspiration would strike me. It did not. Thank you for reverting. -- Ec5618 23:27, 28 October 2005 (UTC)
I don't think it's your fault. Try going to directly. Inexplicably, it doesn't work. However, if you change the URL to , it does. Also, it doesn't show the intro if the title's Wikipedia:Reference desk/Science , but it accepts Wikipedia:Reference desk/science or Wikipedia:Reference desk/Scienc. It seems like it never works for pages that exist, which is somewhat unhelpful. It's tempting to assume the converse, that it works for all non-existing pages, but I'm not sure that's the case. Superm401 | Talk 18:26, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
I've brought this problem up at the Village Pump (T), as I see you have. It was suggested to me that it might simply require that someone turn the option on, but how and who is still a mystery. It would be nice to have this option, though. -- Ec5618 21:55, 30 October 2005 (UTC)

When/who archive question

When do these pages get archived and who is responsible (geesh, I hope it's not me)? The Science category is running about two weeks old and takes forever to load. Isn't one week long enough for everyone to chime in? --hydnjo talk 23:22, 1 November 2005 (UTC)

A week sounds good to me, as long as the discussion is dead.--Commander Keane 11:10, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
That seems reasonable to me as well. I'm going to break the sections into dated supersections for a start (see progress below). Anyone know a bot that can add a supersection, =newdate=, to each RD category at midnight? Thanks, hydnjo talk 21:18, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
I've been doing most of the archiving. Interesting how before the page split, there would be suggestions to archive when we had 100+ questions on a single page. But now, at one point I think one of the subpages had almost 400+ questions and nobody said a word! --HappyCamper 01:11, 3 November 2005 (UTC)
Hey HC, does the dating supersectioning help or hurt with archiving? I'll keep it going for a while to get some reaction. If folks like it can I be replaced by bot (not entirely but just here)? --hydnjo talk 18:11, 3 November 2005 (UTC)
Well, technically speaking, doing anything will affect the archiving :-) - but for the moment, I haven't found the time to set up a bot to do this important task yet. I'm too busy in "Real Life" at the moment. Please continue to date the questions and be bold though - I think it makes the RD more readable anyway! --HappyCamper 01:49, 5 November 2005 (UTC)

and Math

What's with the "Science and Mathematics" and "Science and Math" headers. Ideally it should be "Science, mathematics, medicine, computing, and technology", I can't see why mathematics is getting special treatement.--Commander Keane 11:10, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

Technology, medicine and computing can easily fit under Science as a broad heading, while mathematics can't really. Science and math are almost always considered broader headings than the others. - Taxman Talk 13:55, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
My personal bias may be to blame here. I originally named the categories "Science & Mathematics", "Language & Grammar", "History & Humanities" and "Miscellaneous". Only the first seems to have stuck though. --R.Koot 14:17, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
I guess it must be a difference of opinion because I think that engineering questions struggle to fit under the Science bracket, but Math easily goes with science (mathematics graduates get a BS after all).--Commander Keane 06:46, 3 November 2005 (UTC)
Heh, that's funny. :) To me, engineering fits perfectly as an applied science, whereas math is more an extraordinarily precise language for expressing logic and concepts and manipulating them. And my degree is in applied math. - Taxman Talk 00:46, 8 November 2005 (UTC)
I haven't really seen to many "engineering" questions so far...Taxman, have you taken formal courses on real and complex analysis? --HappyCamper 01:42, 8 November 2005 (UTC)
Advanced calculus that I took is basically an intro to real analysis, but no complex analysis for sure. Finance math for everything I got into pretty much involved real numbers. And I haven't used any analysis since, so it's certainly not one of my strong areas. Curious why you ask. - Taxman Talk 14:07, 8 November 2005 (UTC)
It's just that I keep on running into your edits on my watchlist, that's all, and I had to wonder "hm...what is in common to all these pages?" :-) --HappyCamper 14:59, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

Dating supersections in progress

Finished RD/S and started work on RD/M. Gotta go for a while but will return. Pitch in if you want - tricky because most questions aren't dated. :-( --hydnjo talk 20:52, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

RD/M is done. Gonna bring RD/H up to date. Done. Gonna take a look at RD/L. All done up to November 2. Anyone know a bot that can archive anything earlier than 1 week ago? --hydnjo talk 00:07, 3 November 2005 (UTC)

Link to WP:HD

The header should include a link to the WP:HD for those who end up here but really have a question about how to use Wikipedia. I don't know how to do that so... thanks, --hydnjo talk 01:25, 7 November 2005 (UTC)

Be bold and fiddle with Template:RD header! --HappyCamper 01:51, 7 November 2005 (UTC)
Oh sure, easy for you to say. OK then I'll try tomorrow when my head is screwed on straight! --hydnjo talk 02:44, 7 November 2005 (UTC)


Recently, people started adding images together with their questions. Do people think it would be necessary to

  1. Use links to decrease the length of the page and improve the page loading times.
  2. Track the images, so they can be deleted when questions are archived.

--R.Koot 21:13, 13 November 2005 (UTC)

I don't think we need to use links (I like colours on the RD), but maybe just put the image in frames and shrink them to the size of a WikiThanks, and that should be sufficient? I don't really mind whichever thing we do. --HappyCamper 21:26, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
I messed around a bit and changed some of the image calls (4 of them) to links and the page did load faster. What I'm noticing is that the page text loads fast and then the progress bar (Safari) bogs down until the images are loaded. This talk page loads just fine. --hydnjo talk 21:32, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
Nah HC, that didn't help. To observe the diff ckeck out the load time at WP:RD/H, WP:RD/M or WP:RD/L compared to WP:RD/S (with images). hydnjo talk 21:40, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
What about now? I archived 50% of the questions, so it should be noticibly faster. --HappyCamper 21:48, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
Thumbnails seems to make it a lot worse. Firefox stalls with a 'Waiting for'. --R.Koot 21:52, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
Hmm...then we'll go with the links then. --HappyCamper 22:01, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
Oops, I screwed up. Check again: WP:RD/H, WP:RD/L and WP:RD/M as compared to WP:RD/S (with images). --hydnjo talk 22:03, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
Ckeck it out. /S takes forever compared to the other three. No? --hydnjo talk 22:19, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
  • OK, please check it out so I'll know or not if it's just me. --hydnjo talk 22:57, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
I'm in the Netherlands, so I'm using the Kennisnet cluster. All that I can say is that H, L and M load consistently fast, while S varies between fast and very slow. --R.Koot 23:13, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
I agree. /S is the only one with images right now and and it is very slow compared to the other RD divisions. As they all depend on the image server to complete a download, then the page is at the mercy of its slowest link and the image servers are very slow, call an image to see what I mean. hydnjo talk 23:49, 13 November 2005 (UTC)

Minor barnstar

Whoever came up with the original idea of inserting those date headers deserves a minor barstar from me. Those little dates make archiving so much easier to do! --HappyCamper 21:48, 13 November 2005 (UTC)

'twas I. -- Ec5618 21:01, 3 December 2005 (UTC)
Don't know who's idea it was but I'm maintaining at HD and the four sections of RD because I thought it was an excellent idea. Help --hydnjo talk 22:10, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
Hey HC, WTF is a minor barnstar? Is it of less or more significance than a minor/minor barnstar? HELP HC ...hydnjo talk 01:38, 14 November 2005 (UTC)
hydnjo, what's the policy about archiving discussions? Do you go for one week from creation? What if the last post was on the seventh day of the week - do you still archive?--Commander Keane 05:26, 14 November 2005 (UTC)
^HappyCamper, I believe this question is for you. --hydnjo talk 16:43, 14 November 2005 (UTC)
No policies really...I usually archive whenever I feel like it. I try to archive so that only a week's worth of questions is present, or just to keep the number of questions down to around 100. I wouldn't mind if I had an extra hand - sometimes I may forget to archive. Essentially, archive at your leisure, and do what you think is best! :-)
I used to sort the questions into "answered" and "unanswered", but now I don't distinguish them anymore simply because it would be too time consuming to do so. --HappyCamper 02:00, 15 November 2005 (UTC)

Archive deletion

Just noticed, by chance, that Wikipedia:Reference desk archive/2005 questions is up for deletion here; it's a low-traffic page, but I suspect the only people who ever look at it read this one, so thought it best to mention here. Shimgray | talk | 17:53, 14 November 2005 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Regional notice boards are here to help

Just a word of advice - a good answer to many country-specific questions maybe a referal to a regional noticeboard.--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 04:52, 26 November 2005 (UTC)

math reference desk

I (and I think several others at Wikipedia:WikiProject Mathematics; see talk) would like to see a help desk devoted solely to math. How do people feel about splitting math off from the science desk? -lethe talk 21:09, 26 November 2005 (UTC)

Well then, are you willing to behave responsibly when you get a question about GTA as to how to better one's score? ;-) hydnjo talk 00:56, 28 November 2005 (UTC)
What are you asking, what I will do if people post non math questions to the math reference desk? I suppose I would just move them to Miscellaneous or whatever other appropriate desk. I do occasionally find it necessary to make a snarky reply to an ill-formed question though. -lethe talk 01:46, 28 November 2005 (UTC)
As one of the orginal participants in helping to split the old reference desk, I don't see why we can't introduce a math desk as well. The only issue I have with the idea is the archival, and the maintenance of the date headers. The dates don't really have to be maintained, but when the page gets really long, it helps tremendously. Also, the archival needs to be done periodically so that the page is reasonably short. --HappyCamper 02:37, 29 November 2005 (UTC)

Well, I went ahead and did it. I created

  1. a redirect Wikipedia:Reference desk/Mathematics/How to ask and answerWikipedia:Reference desk/How to ask and answer
  2. the desk at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Mathematics
  3. redirects WP:RD/Maths and WP:RD/Math to the desk Wikipedia:Reference desk/Mathematics
  4. and I split the math and science headings at Wikipedia:Reference desk/How to ask and answer and Template:RD header

Regarding your concerns about archiving and organizing date headers, I guess I'll volunteer to do that for the math page. I suppose that math will have low traffic, so maybe its heading doesn't need to be sibling with the other headings. I dunno. Let's see what happens. -lethe talk 06:03, 29 November 2005 (UTC)

Oddly, I noticed that the link to Maths in How to ask and answer linked to science, so I tried to correct the link, but the desks still link to the Science desk rather than the maths desk, even though 'How to ask and answer' itself now links to the Maths desk. Why is this? smurrayinchester(User), (Talk) 10:09, 29 November 2005 (UTC)
We also need to fix the "list all" page so that the math desk shows up there. --HappyCamper 00:34, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
Someone will need to duplicate the Maths-icon, and make the description-page redirect to the Maths-RD. Currently, clicking the icon will lead to the image description page, which is boring. -- Ec5618 20:50, 3 December 2005 (UTC)

Another new reference desk: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/AOL

    • I just made one for AOL and General Tech support, does anyone mind?--Aolanonawanabe 00:08, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
As long as you clean up your own mess? —R. Koot 00:23, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
      • What exactly do you mean by 'clean up'?--Aolanonawanabe 00:29, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
I appreciate the thought, but I'm really against the idea of having an AOL/tech support page on Wikipedia. I think it's best that we stick to academic subjects. Also, let's emphasize that the creation of the math desk was not so much a suggestion that we should begin to split the RD into more subjects - there are plenty already. It just made sense to create a math desk because it was requested by a number of different Wikipedians, and also, I have a feeling it will help decrease the traffic on the science page the most. The science subpage is one of the most heavily edited RDs, and archiving that one is probably the more difficult of 4 that exist already. --HappyCamper 00:32, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
Yeah, I agree with you. In fact, I felt a little guilty doing the split that I did. Mostly, I don't want there to be a subsequent cascade into a new reference desk for 1000 different topics. I like the simplicity of the branching of topics. -01:10, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
Please don't feel that way...I appreciated it, and I'm sure others did too!! :-) Sometimes it's nice to see a healthy dose of wikiboldness. --HappyCamper 04:03, 3 December 2005 (UTC)
Hmm...I went a bit bold and deleted them...It seems somewhat out of place that those pages were created. --HappyCamper 00:57, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
Only somewhat? :) Superm401 | Talk 01:13, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
Euphemistically speaking of course. :-) --HappyCamper 01:17, 30 November 2005 (UTC)

Do your own homework.

"Do your own homework" is a hostile response to a question, and it's now being said with no semblance of wit or subtlety. If you don't want to answer a question, just don't. If you feel duty-bound to reveal to the world your suspicion that it's a homework question (the world isn't really wondering about your opinion, by the way....) try to do it politely. Pretend you didn't learn your manners on the Internet. "Rude to questioners" is exactly the wrong thing for a Reference Desk to be. - Nunh-huh 03:21, 3 December 2005 (UTC)

wisely put. -lethe talk 03:46, 3 December 2005 (UTC)
Ditto. --HappyCamper 04:04, 3 December 2005 (UTC)
Very well. I actually thought the wit and subtlety was more rude. I'll just ignore them from now on. Superm401 | Talk 20:27, 3 December 2005 (UTC)
Same here. If our audience is not literate enough to read the rules, perhaps they won't understand subtle wit. Quoting a clear rule is not more rude than poking fun. -- Ec5618 20:31, 3 December 2005 (UTC)
Quoting the clear rule just clutters up the page. If you don't feel moved to help someone with their homework, don't. Complaining that (you suspect) someone isn't following the rule is unnecessary. - Nunh-huh 21:14, 3 December 2005 (UTC)
Alternatively, just remove the question, to avoid clutter. If someone has difficulty following the rules, he should be quickly made aware of that. I don't think jest is the most efficient way to do that.
Not answering a question might lead people (editors and readers alike) to believe the question has not yet been addressed. -- Ec5618 09:28, 4 December 2005 (UTC)
I agree, and it could all be solved by saying "Please read the guidelines at the top of the page." 99% of askers never respond anyway, and those who ask homework questions due tomorrow/soon are even less likely to do so. So being polite, but still getting the point across and letting everyone else know it's homework covers all the bases I should think. - Taxman Talk 12:01, 4 December 2005 (UTC)

My preferred reponse is, I think, polite and helps the questioner without doing their homewrk: "Please do your own homework. Our articles on Something and Something else will get you started." Ground Zero | t 13:51, 4 December 2005 (UTC)

I agree with Ground Zero. Be helpful without actually answering the question. And, we could add a new section called HomeworkHelp.  ;-) --hydnjo talk 15:02, 4 December 2005 (UTC)
That's fine in most cases, but I'm not inclined to help them at all if they're just cut-and-pasting a question right from their homework with no intro or explanation. Superm401 | Talk 21:45, 4 December 2005 (UTC)

In math homework, it's almost always really easy (except perhaps for non-mathematicians and people without extensive teaching experience, maybe?) to recognize a cut-and-paste homework problem that the poster cannot ask specific questions about because he hasn't thought about it. Michael Hardy 22:16, 4 December 2005 (UTC)

Maybe we should rework our boilerplate? Instead of: "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," we might have something like "Please don't expect us to do your homework for you - we're happy to help with concepts and ideas on where to get the answers you're after, but the purpose of homework is for you to learn how to do things, and that won't happen if someone else does it." - Nunh-huh 03:06, 6 December 2005 (UTC)

I think this boilerplate should be in Template:Dyoh so homework questions could be answered with {{subst:dyoh}}. --David Iberri (talk) 13:21, 6 December 2005 (UTC)
I like that. Just like the vandalism template may, at times, seem a bit coarse, it should be clear to everyone that the template is just that, and not a personal beratement. It might even greatly facilitate bot-assisted archiving (Hal, don't archive questions that include the boiler) -- Ec5618 13:54, 6 December 2005 (UTC)
That would probably only work if you used {{dyoh}} instead of {{subst:dyoh}}, as the latter gets replaced with the text of the template (see Wikipedia:Template namespace#Dynamic or subst). As an aside, since it's possible for a student to redeem himself from a dyoh response and hence for the discussion to actually become valuable, I don't think homework questions should be excluded when archiving. --David Iberri (talk) 14:08, 6 December 2005 (UTC)