Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 65

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Project Page

The relevant page is Wikipedia:Reference desk. Although this is not too big an issue, I feel that it is worthwhile to point out. The description given for the mathematics help desk is "Mathematics, geometry, probability and statistics". I do not think that this is either exhaustive or accurate; rather it is redundant and awkward. Is mathematics supposed to be different from "geometry, probability and statistics"? Are the fields of "geometry, probability and statistics" supposed to cover every branch of mathematics? Of course, this is not too big an issue, but I feel that if a summary is necessary, it would have to be quite long; in fact, no summary can actually cover (appropriately) mathematics. Succintly, I feel that there should be no summary at all (undesirable), or something more appropriate than the curent one. Any opinions? --PST 11:40, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

Hmm. None of those descriptions are exhaustive, but I think you're right, the one for Mathematics is even worse. I think I'd change it to, at the very least, "Algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics", and maybe throw Trigonometry, Calculus, and/or Number theory in there, too. (It's tempting to put an ", etc." at the end, but all six non-Misc desks could use that, and it'd look kinda stupid.) —Steve Summit (talk) 12:14, 1 November 2009 (UTC)
How about inserting "including" before "geometry"? I can see some value in listing fields that might otherwise be thought by some enquirers not to fall under the umbrella of Mathematics; whether the current three are the best choices, and whether there should be more, is not obvious. (talk) 01:21, 3 November 2009 (UTC)
In my view, the description should be "Algebra, Calculus, Analysis, Geometry, Number Theory, Set Theory, Probability and Statistics". Although this list is not exhaustive, it is possible to infer various other branches of mathematics which are not mentioned, but problems will still arise. For instance, although one may be able to infer "topology" from "set theory", one cannot infer "pointless topology" from "set theory". In the same vein, category theory remains unmentioned, but no (finite) list can be exhaustive so I think that this is the most appropriate finite list (just stating ZFC as the description would be nice and succint, but there are other models of set theory...). --PST 11:39, 3 November 2009 (UTC)
I feel that it should only list those things which average people might wonder "Does this go in Mathematics?" I feel most people place algebra, calculus, geometry, and number theory in mathematics - mainly because those all fall under the "Math Department" in school. So, it is rather redundant. Are there any topics normally covered on the math desk that the average person would wonder "Does this fall under math?" -- kainaw 21:28, 3 November 2009 (UTC)
Well, I can think of the list, "Category Theory, Homological Algebra, Differential Topology, Algebraic Geometry, Gröbner Basis, Algebraic Topology et cetera". The summary of the other areas listed in the project page cover the broad topics, and consequently, I feel "mathematics" should do the same. Succintly, I agree with your argument but I think that we should conform to that which is already present at the project page. I am tempted to mention subjects such as "Game theory", "Dynamical Systems" or "Measure Theory", but for "summary purposes", "Game Theory" falls under "Probability and Statistics", and the latter two fall under "Analysis" and "Geometry" (note that, of course, there are overlaps between the fields in the summary).
Are there any particular objections towards my list, or possible improvements? If not, and there is a consensus on the best possible summary, I think we should change the template as soon as possible. The page is protected, and consequently I cannot do so, so I shall request an admin to do so if people agree on a particular list. There already seems to be a consensus that the list can be improved, and since we can improve the list, we might as well do so if there are no further comments. Too often there is talk and no action. --PST 09:26, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
I object to "Category Theory, Homological Algebra, Differential Topology, Algebraic Geometry, Gröbner Basis, Algebraic Topology et cetera". IMHO, it just doesn't seem to characterize the spirit of the Math Desk. hydnjo (talk) 22:05, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
This was not the list I intended to support (I was merely answering the question posed by a user above). Perhaps I should have been more clear of this. --PST 14:13, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
I'm not sure the math desk requires so much specification (and while we're at it, by my count the computing desk description is roughly twice as redundant as the math desk description is...). Could you give an example of either a type of question or branch of study where the OP would reasonably be likely to be confused about which desk it went to? Is economics a science or a part of the humanities? It can be a little unclear, especially if you're not educated in the field, so we have a note under the humanities link to help point everyone in one direction. Fine, but is someone going to come to the RefDesk with a question about geometry or the Fibonacci sequence and not know that the math desk is the place to go? Frankly, I think the texts below the links to the computing, math, and miscellaneous desks are simply there for congruency with the desks that require a little elaboration; you could remove them altogether and not cause any confusion. Matt Deres (talk) 02:06, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
The questions asked at the reference desk usually do not exceed the comprehension of analysts, topologists or algebraists at the undergraduate level (the questions are nevertheless quite interesting). At times, more complex questions are asked to which no-one responds, or to which one person responds. Therefore, since most questions asked are basic, there should not be confusion as to whether a topic belongs to mathematics or some other field in the mind of the OP. That said, I agree with your point that the summary of the math desk is essentially pointless. However, as you suggest, to maintain some consistency, the summary "Algebra, Calculus, Analysis, Geometry, Number Theory, Set Theory, Probability and Statistics" is more appropriate than the current one (in my view). There appears to be a large number of questions on statistics at the reference desk, which may suggest that people interpret the current summary literally (the chance is low, but I think that a more comprehensive summary would produce a positive effect). --PST 14:13, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
But by that line of thinking, the best option is to not specify anything and leave the area blank. (That's the point I was leading up to above, but upon re-reading my text I can see I didn't get there). I don't use the math desk, so I'm ready and willing to reconsider, but it seems unlikely to me that someone coming here with a math question would be confused as to which desk they should direct their question if we label it simply as "Mathematics Desk". Remove the excess verbiage underneath (and below the IT desk). Matt Deres (talk) 20:30, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
Agree Rebele | Talk The only way to win the game is to not play the game. 13:12, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
One thing that might be worth disambiguating is theoretical computer science. -- BenRG (talk) 22:24, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
Have we, uh, had a rash of people posting those sorts of questions in the wrong place? I think our labels are just meant to be a rough indication as to which desk to use, not a comprehensive taxonomy. I agree that having "mathematics" listed under the "mathematics desk" is redundant. Otherwise, I don't think it matters too much—you don't need too much of an explanation for people to know that mathematics questions go there! If it were me I would just do "Algebra, Calculus, Geometry, Statistics, etc." If I had a math question, I would know where to go! I also think we need to keep in mind that most users with questions won't be mathematicians and we don't need to confuse or scare them off (Gröbner basis? I am pretty over-educated but have never heard that in my life. The explanation on the relevant article might as well be Chinese to me). Those who are mathematicians presumably know the Mathematics Desk is the most likely one for them and don't need hand-holding. --Mr.98 (talk) 18:19, 7 November 2009 (UTC)

Minor RD layout question

I just-now noticed that the blue navigation links to the individual desks (on the individual RDs and on the splash page) remain blue after I have visited them.

a) Is this just a quirk of my setup, or is this a general thing? (I ask because I have a visual memory of a previous version with some of the links purple)

b) Is this a conscious decision on someone's part, or just something that happened?

c) Is this desirable, given that not changing the colour of visited links is generally discouraged since it negatively impacts user navigation? [1] I'd say this is particularly important, given that we change format between the splash page and the individual desks.

I'm assuming that if it is true for everyone that the links remain blue, it would not be terribly difficult for one of the users who enjoys this sort of thing to tweak it. I could be wrong in this assumption. (talk) 23:31, 8 November 2009 (UTC)

It's been done like that deliberately, but I have no idea why. It is indeed bad practice. I'll change it if no one objects. --Sean 15:11, 10 November 2009 (UTC)
I fixed the RD splash page, but see some parts of the RD layout are semi-protected, while others are fully protected, which is silly. Could some kind admin please change the following down to semi-protected? Thanks. --Sean 15:32, 10 November 2009 (UTC)
Sorry if I am missing something, but shouldn't they stay perpetually blue because of the relatively high likelihood they have changed since they were last visited? Comet Tuttle (talk) 21:47, 10 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't see how that works. If someone's navigating without having visited here before, it is helpful to have the indication of which they have already visited. If they're trying to find the place they visited yesterday, seeing they've already visited the page that link will take them to is helpful. If anything, the page looking different to last time they visited makes it more important that the user can tell they've visited. People go in circles if they can't see where they've been. (talk) 22:02, 10 November 2009 (UTC)
It should be the same as every other link on the site: visited-color (purple) if visited, and not-visited color (blue) otherwise. Visited-color doesn't mean "the page has not changed since last visit", but "you've been there before". Same as the "Main page/Contents/Featured content" menu just below the globe on the upper left of the page. --Sean 12:34, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
You're both right. Comet Tuttle (talk) 00:29, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
It's not too likely they'll be un- or even semi-protected. Even though Avril Lavigne is only doing cellphone commercials now, her greatest fan ever is still lurking around here. If consensus is to make changes, you're best to leave some {{editprotected}} requests so an admin can make any required changes. Hey, I can even make the changes myself now. :) But do we have agreement on what the changes should be? Franamax (talk) 01:56, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
That's nonsensical considering that I can change the actual text of the splash page, but not its (inscrutable) structure. I don't see how full protection for anything on the low-traffic RD pages is warranted when much higher-visibility vandal-bait like Evolution, Barack Obama and George W. Bush don't have it. Anyway, if you can change it, great: all instances of "style='color: whatever'" should be removed. In most cases, there is a span tag whose only purpose is to add that style, so it can be removed, too.
  <a href="..."><span style="color: blue">Some Link</span></a>
  <a href="...">Some Link</a>
Thanks. --Sean 12:21, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
Well, we only protect pages when absolutely necesssary, Evolution has lots of eyeballs on it and vandalism gets reverted very quickly. In this case, this particular fan of Avril's is also a big fan of messing around with the desks and as you've discovered, the page structure is quite complicated. Tracking down their little games on anything but the front page has taken too long in the past, so that makes them "high-risk".
In any event, I don't see any objections here, so I'll start making the changes and we'll see what happens. 'Tis easily enough reverted by any other admin if it doesn't work out. Franamax (talk) 00:42, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
And of course, it turns out to be much more complicated. :) The link colours in all those sub-pages are set using the {{rdconfigarray}} template which reads the values set in /deskopts, looks like navlinks and highlightlink are the relevant option values. In a CSS sheet, the selectors a:link, a:active and especially a:visited would set the styles, but I'm not completely sure how to set them per-element, and I wouldn't want to risk 'asploding things by experimenting on them. Sean, if you want to do some messing around in your sandbox, maybe you can devise a solution. There are no color: blue's in any of those sub-pages. It's a dark enough forest that you might want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way back out. :) Franamax (talk) 01:28, 13 November 2009 (UTC)


I've removed a second question from the same IP range about the blog AnimeHarvester. First question here I believe that these are just attempts to popularize a new blog.

Of course, if anyone disagrees with me, don't hesitate to put it back. APL (talk) 19:47, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

The one you removed seemed spammy to me, but I was trying to AGF (for once?). However I didn't see the first question. I agree with your removal. --LarryMac | Talk 19:48, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
Good removal. Agree that this quacks like spam. --Scray (talk) 21:42, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

GM Crops heads up

This question is almost certainly being asked by this guy, who seems to enjoy ranting about GM crops. APL (talk) 04:28, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

Just came to say the same thing. See also Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Science/2009 November 2#subsequent natural GMO where (now banned) Biggerbannana mentions the same thing about phosporus and gall tumours on plants that the recent IP has. Nil Einne (talk) 15:54, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
I would consider [2] Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Science/2009 November 6#effeminacy (yes same person, see [3]) and particularly Wikipedia:Reference desk/Humanities#question about the law [4] to be of concern considering the post that got him/her banned Nil Einne (talk) 16:46, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
I should have looked at the archive earlier, thought the IP seemed familiar. It's fairly obvious who 71.100 aka BiggerBannana is. The range has a long history and has had many (now blocked) identities in the past and many discussions, e.g. User:Taxa (c.f. [5]) Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 63#User:Taxa (thought I remembered someone discussing unconventional / out of the box thinking) and Wikipedia:Requests for checkuser/Case/Julie Dancer (c.f. [6]). Seems one of the earliest identities is User:Barringa Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/IncidentArchive392#Determined trolling of Refdesks. I suggest questions from this user be ignored but leave it up to individual respondents of course Nil Einne (talk) 06:36, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Removal of responses to question regarding "illness"

Diff here. The question included the word "illness". Both of the two responses I removed offered diagnostic inference. -- Scray (talk) 16:04, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

Not realy a diagnostic inference. I made clear that she could not be diagnosed based on the OP description.--Gilisa (talk) 16:29, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
The first sentence of your reply was, "It doesn't sound like an illness, just a type of personality." That is a clear attempt at diagnostic inference. -- Scray (talk) 16:51, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
But the middle and the end of my response made it clear that I was not trying to give diagnostic inference (even if I count some options). Anyway, I can see the reason behind this removal and I just wanted to make my intentions clear. Cheers and keep with the good work, --Gilisa (talk) 17:09, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
I certainly did not mean to suggest you weren't acting in good faith. I was reacting to the edit (in spite of my high respect for the editor, actually). Thanks for understanding. -- Scray (talk) 17:20, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
Thx! --Gilisa (talk) 21:18, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

Vehicle registration plates

Where is the proper place to ask questions about vehicle registration plates? -- (talk) 21:53, 10 November 2009 (UTC)

Depends on what you ask about them, but if there is no clear choice, just post the question at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Miscellaneous. Abecedare (talk) 21:57, 10 November 2009 (UTC)
Legal questions about vehicle registration should probably go on Humanities. If you are asking about the recent court ruling about religious plates in the US, that would be the place. Anything else about them should probably go on Misc. --Tango (talk) 22:02, 10 November 2009 (UTC)
Now I need to google "court ruling about religious plates" :-) Abecedare (talk) 22:04, 10 November 2009 (UTC) --Tango (talk) 03:50, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
Wow! The lengths people will go to to have their message right there on the car - rather than on a bumper-sticker three inches to the left where there is no problem whatever with putting pretty much any message they want! <sigh> SteveBaker (talk) 04:49, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
The reason why is pretty obvious: they want a government imprimatur of approval for their beliefs. I note from here that they don't even do that in a bona fide theocracy like Iran. --Sean 17:58, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
I did not know that Iran even had vanity plates. (talk) 19:20, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
You should see their truck mud flaps with a silhouette of a reclining woman in a burqa. Hot stuff ! StuRat (talk) 00:14, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
Wikipedia has an article Vehicle registration plate that links to separate articles about the plates of Albania, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, China, U.K., Serbia, Bulgaria. Iran, Europe and more.Cuddlyable3 (talk) 21:43, 11 November 2009 (UTC)

Discoloration of Dizzle the shitzu.

"dizzle our 3 year old shitzu's hair is discolored around his mouth eyes and genitalia what is causing this?" Removed from the page as it sounds a lot like a request for vetinary advice, I hope I did the right thing. (talk) 23:52, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

Sounds like a stretch to me. Also, please provide the links between the Q and this discussion. I will do so this time. StuRat (talk) 23:41, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Q is here: [7]. StuRat (talk) 23:46, 17 November 2009 (UTC)


I removed this bit. If anyone objects, go ahead and restore it. Deor (talk) 19:23, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

I'm fine with your removal. It does look like trollery. Even if it wasn't, the OP got the answer he wanted before posting his outburst. Marco polo (talk) 21:45, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
At least it piqued my interest in the possibility of a rude German pun... Fribbler (talk) 21:53, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
The main purpose of the German IP editor in question—he's had other IP addresses as well—seems to be that of introducing rude German expressions into WP. See the multiple deletions and recreations of Talk:Kentucky schreit ficken (as a redirect to Talk:KFC), for instance. This was one of his more indirect efforts. Deor (talk) 00:24, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I've read their "contributions", deleted and otherwise. Fribbler (talk) 00:54, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

Flagstaff to Tuba City

Hello everybody!
I wanna travel from Flagstaff, AZ to Tuba City, AZ but I didn't found flights and (Greyhound) buses. Can you help me, how can I travel? Thanks, Keldvi (talk) 20:08, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

(Copied this to the Miscellaneous page. Marco polo (talk) 21:47, 17 November 2009 (UTC))

Career advice

The Welcome banner says "if you need advice or opinions, it's better to ask elsewhere". Recently there have been questions which amount to requests for advice on someone's career or personal economy. Examples are: "I need to make enough money to by[sic] a laptop", "Wazz up with market !!", "I need $400 ASAP", and latest "How to impress boss and colleagues at work?". Several responders gave well meant answers to these questions but should the Ref. Desk be handling them at all? Cuddlyable3 (talk) 14:04, 9 November 2009 (UTC)

As someone who rose to the bait & responded, I have to say, good question. I /think/ there's something a bit more focused or convergent in the likely answers to "How to impress boss and colleagues at work?" than there is in the other examples ... this is all I can come up with to justify answering to it; there's less speculation needed. But I grant that from a cold reading of the advice at the top of the page, it is an opinion question unless answered with references to RSs, which I omitted entirely. --Tagishsimon (talk) 14:09, 9 November 2009 (UTC)
Offering such advice is not our purpose, and the discussion following such questions often resembles talk at a web forum more than what a library refdesk would offer. That said, it would be counterproductive to police such discussion too strictly, beyond nudging the respondents politely. Hopefully, the ref desk regulars will lead by example. Abecedare (talk) 22:02, 10 November 2009 (UTC)
I'm kind of an inclusionist when it comes to RD content; I see nothing wrong with a question like "What are some ways a teenager can earn money during the school year?" or "What interesting offbeat tourist attractions are near Interstate 70 in Missouri?" Neither of these has a clear-cut answer like the answer to, "What is the capital of Alaska?" But we've been answering questions like those on the RDs since I first started using the RD four years ago, and it hasn't caused any problems that I can see. It's not like the RDs are getting deluged with questions, at least not the ones I frequent (Humanities, Miscellaneous, Language and Entertainment). If anything, I'd like to see more questions on the RDs, and we're not going to get more by narrowing our focus and snapping at users who break the bounds. That said, I do recognize the importance of ensuring that the RD doesn't turn into a forum for debate, so anything likely to spark a debate should be nipped in the bud. -- Mwalcoff (talk) 01:18, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
I'm both an inclusionist and a non-interventionist... if the question isn't causing trouble, then just let it be. It's easier than worrying over whether it is appropriate, then creating an appropriate rules page that clarifies the decision, then debating each borderline case, etc. Let's resist regulation unless there's a real problem involved. Or, put another way: there's always the ever-present threat of becoming Yahoo! Answers, but in my opinion, the worst part about Yahoo! Answers is that the answers suck (and are written by morons for the most part), not the questions. If we are still producing RD quality answers then there's really no harm, even if the questions are not strictly within our mission. --Mr.98 (talk) 01:25, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
A borderline question asked about the best type for a résumé, and we said you're not confined to Times Roman, Arial and Verdana. I think the OP decided to use Caslon, but we haven't heard how successful his application was. —— Shakescene (talk) 12:09, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
When I have hired people, the font was absolutely the least important factor. Education and relevant experience, along with good grammar and spelling, count for infinitely more. A weird font could impress someone looking for a new hire who marches to a different celestial drummer, but would generally move an application to the "reject" pile. Edison (talk) 20:42, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
We did say in jest that using Comic Sans, Algerian or Zapf Dingbats would make a distinct impression, but probably not the one he wanted to make. More seriously, we said that other things were obviously far more important, and that his résumé should match the job without looking as if it had either come thoughtlessly out of a kit or consumed too much of his busy time in trivial detail. —— Shakescene (talk) 21:06, 11 November 2009 (UTC) I fixed your link to Algerian typeface and hope you don't mind. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 21:19, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
See, when it comes to a question like that, I think we can point the questioner to "expert" resources that have "answers" to those questions, such as the websites of job centers or self-help books that have sold a lot of copies. Also, someone who has more than the average person to say -- an HR exec, for example -- could chime in with what he or she has learned from experience. I think that's a legitimate use of the RD. -- Mwalcoff (talk) 23:33, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
Exactly. We should move away from providing unqualified personal advice, and guide the questioner to available resources instead. That said, we should also avoid jumping down the backs of responders who do provide personal advice, since they are doing so with the best of intentions. I think this recent thread provides a good case study. Abecedare (talk) 20:01, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

Indenting of responses

I notice that most respondents indent their responses, often one level deeper each time (even when replying to the original question, rather than a previous response). However the guidelines don't mention indenting at all. I suggest that the guidelines should include a section on indenting responses, given some hints as to what protocol we should follow. (Possibly it should just say "Do not indent".) Mitch Ames (talk) 02:13, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

The relevant instructions are here: Help:Talk page#Indentation. While the ref desks aren't technically talk pages, we use the same system. Messages should always be indented one more level than what they are replying to, but sometimes people do get confused (although sometimes it is just hard to tell what they are replying to - often something is indented as a reply to a previous comment because it adds to that one rather than being directly in response to it, perhaps that should be discouraged - does it actually cause problems?). Not indenting at all would make it impossible to tell what we going on. --Tango (talk) 03:27, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
(ec) We don't include the rules in our guidelines because these rules apply to Wikipedia in general - not just the ref desk. Wikipedia:Talk_page#Indentation describes the general principles. SteveBaker (talk) 03:28, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
OK, thanks. I've added a paragraph to Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Guidelines#Page_protocols_and_layout to say that, with a link to Wikipedia:Talk_page#Indentation. Mitch Ames (talk) 05:43, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
There was quite a lengthy discussion on this topic here sometime ago. I can't seem to find it at the moment but it may be helpful. 10draftsdeep (talk) 17:06, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
I can't remember if I mentioned it there, but I routinely break the "don't edit other people's posts" rule to correct a thread's indentation, as I find wrong indentation to be as disruptive as when an unaware user types a long paragraph starting with a space character (which I also edit to correct). I wouldn't give this kind of wikignome activity a second thought if not for the freakout by a refdesk regular some time ago on the topic of editing other people's things, so I thought I'd mention it hear to give it an airing. --Sean 12:12, 19 November 2009 (UTC)
I occasionally alter the indentation of someone else's entry when I'm confident that my change reflects intent (i.e. preserves flow of the thread) and improves readability. When I do so, I know that I'm risking the alienation of the editor whose post I am editing, and that I may be flogged for it by others - so I do it only when I'm confident it's a good move. I think this is supported by IAR. -- Scray (talk) 14:02, 19 November 2009 (UTC)
You don't need IAR, the rules allow for minor formatting corrections, which I think fixing bad indentation counts as. --Tango (talk) 08:18, 22 November 2009 (UTC)

Last chance to vote in the Arbitration Committee Elections

This is a brief reminder to all interested editors that today is the final day to vote in the December 2009 elections to elect new members to the Arbitration Committee. The voting period opened at 00:01 on UTC 1 December 2009 and will close at 23:59 UTC on 14 December 2009 as initially planned. Updated 20:59, 13 December 2009 (UTC).

The voting this year is by secret ballot using the SecurePoll extension. All unblocked editors who had at least 150 mainspace edits on or before 1 November 2009 are eligible to vote (check your account). Prospective voters are invited to review the candidate statements and the candidates' individual questions pages. Although voting is by secret ballot, and only votes submitted in this way will be counted, you are invited to leave brief comments on the candidates' comment pages and discuss candidates at length on the attached talkpages. If you have any questions or difficulties with the voting setup, please ask at the election talkpage. For live discussion, join #wikipedia-en-ace on freenode.

Follow this link to cast your vote

For the coordinators,  Skomorokh  13:09, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

How is this relevant to the reference desk? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:29, 14 December 2009 (UTC)
The same way it is relevant to the other 11 places Skomorokh posted it to - no way at all. --Tango (talk) 16:02, 14 December 2009 (UTC)
While I agree this is OT, I'm of the opinion it's marginally okay as a short term message on a central issue affecting wikipedia (even if it will hopefully never affect the RD). While it is in the watchlist, some people don't use their watchlists (including me) and while I understand why it may be annoying to those who can't vote, have already voted or have no interest in voting it's always a bit of a tradeoff. While I did already vote after I came across mention of the election on a noticeboard (not spam mention in relation to an editor) and may have noticed it on Jimbo's page anyway which I happened to visit if not this may have been my only reminder of the elections. The fact it came from Skomorokh given his/her existing involvement in the elections and no involvement in the RD probably doesn't endear people to it but for the record, I would have posted this myself if I'd noticed the discussion on the election page and my only involvement in the election is voting, getting into a debate on Jimbo's page and spamming the message to a few other places I'm active in. Might as well archive or remove it as soon as the election is over of course Nil Einne (talk) 18:31, 14 December 2009 (UTC)
Skomorokh is one of the people administering the election, I think, so I can't think of anyone better to post this kind of spam if we have to have it. --Tango (talk) 19:04, 14 December 2009 (UTC)
Yes he/she is and that was one of my points, that I thought people might be more reluctant to accept spam coming from an involved party (even if their involvement is intended to be neutral) particularly one who isn't a regular participant in the project or area where the spam is being posted but more willing to accept it from someone who isn't involved at all but is involved in the project or area where the spam is being posted so it comes across as a person involved in the project or area posting someone they think will be of interest to the people involved in that project or area rather then external spam. At least that's how I would feel although as I said I don't care either way in this case. Anyway I'm boldly archiving this now, feel free to revert if you feel there's need for any discussion but I don't feel there is Nil Einne (talk) 04:18, 15 December 2009 (UTC)

Question Removed (another)

Question, "Is there anyway to permanently correct personality flaws?" removed as it appeared to be asking for medical advice. Link to Diff: [8]. Tuckerekcut (talk) 14:10, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

That's a stretch. They could read How to Win Friends and Influence People, which does not require a prescription. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:37, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
The way it is worded, it sounds to me like: "I have a psychiatric problem that is causing problems in my professional and personal life. Please prescribe treatment for me." -- kainaw 23:25, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't read it that way, as most everyone has personality flaws they would like to fix. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:43, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
Diagnosing antisocial behavior as a result of a childhood trauma as nothing more than a personality flaw is, in my opinion, a stretch. -- kainaw 00:39, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
Except he didn't call it "antisocial behavior as a result of a childhood trauma", he called it "personality flaws". Or at least that's what he said in the part you're quoting. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:05, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
Correct. The OP doesn't want to admit that it is a psychological problem and wants everyone here to comfort him/her by saying "It is just a personality thing. Wear a pink shirt once a week and you'll feel better." Isn't that the whole point of looking to strangers for assistance? You don't want a real answer from a real professional. You want to justify your avoidance of real help by having strangers say it is OK. -- kainaw 02:37, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
You're right. He's asking for med advice. We'd like to help but we can't. Dat's dat. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:06, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
I think it's a bit of a stretch to call this a medical-advice question. Personality issues and medical issues are not the same thing. The OP may have a medically definable psychiatric disorder or he/she may not. Ironically, for us to assume it's medical is to be making our own "diagnosis" of the situation. -- Mwalcoff (talk) 17:33, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
It isn't at all necessary to conclude that the person for sure has some diagnosable disorder, in order to appropriately remove the question as requesting medical advice. It's only necessary to conclude that the symptoms given might possibly indicate some diagnosable disorder. The difficulty the OP expresses with bonding and anger management might possibly be symptoms of a condition that requires professional help, so the appropriate thing to do is to delete the question, and refer the OP to a professional. Actually, in my opinion, even if the problems the OP is experiencing aren't severe enough to meet the diagnostic criteria for some psychological disorder, the OP would still be vastly better off discussing the problems with a psychologist who can take the time to understand the OP's specific situation thoroughly, rather than getting advice from a bunch of strangers over the internet. Red Act (talk) 21:36, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
I disagree that we should remove first and ask questions later. Remember the policy Wikipedia:Assume good faith? I think removal should be reserved for clear violations of RD policy, such as "I just had sex with a hooker in Mexico and now I have this big wart on my member. What does it mean?" In borderline cases, I think it's best to simply warn the questioner that we can't offer medical advice and then leave the question open to be answered in a way that does not constitute medical advice. I agree with you that the person should see a professional rather than ask advice of random people on the Internet, but perhaps it's best to actually tell the person that rather than to delete his/her question. -- Mwalcoff (talk) 22:13, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't see this as an WP:AGF issue. The large majority of time that an OP asks for medical advice, it's not because they're a troll that's intentionally trying to be disruptive or something, it's just because they aren't very familiar with the WP ref desks, and they didn't happen to read the blurb about medical advice at the top of the page. But the reason medical advice questions are removed isn't because the questions constitute vandalism or are intentionally disruptive, it's mainly in order to protect the questioners from receiving potentially harmful advice. When a question requesting medical advice is left in place, it tends to be too tempting for people who read the question to pitch in with their two cents, which all too often winds up crossing the line into giving medical advice. Red Act (talk) 18:40, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

In particular, don't poke fun at a poorly written question.

I removed some replies to "Meissner Effect" on the Science desk. Please don't dispute this without first locating the above sentence in our Guidelines and reciting it 20 times. SteveBaker (talk) 16:23, 22 November 2009 (UTC)

There is a big difference between a well meaning OP that makes a few mistakes and one that can't be bothered to ask a proper question and just makes fragmented demands. --Tango (talk) 16:32, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
Not according to our guidelines. But in any case, this OP missed a single character in one word - and clearly does know how to spell it because it's right in the title...and is treated to half a dozen comments about it and just one response that's of any use. That's NOT how we're supposed to work around here - it was WRONG. SteveBaker (talk) 17:30, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't care about the spelling. Even spelt correctly, "Explain Meissner Effect" is not a well-formed question. It's a demand. I don't respond well to demands that I do someone a favour. --Tango (talk) 17:35, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
Firstly, we're here to answer questions. If you don't want to answer a question, don't, no ones forcing you to. Regardless of how the OP worded their question, those replies were unhelpful jibes which don't belong on the reference desk. The correct thing to do was link to the relevant article, which SpinningSpark did. Anything else was unnecessary. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
Wow. That was probably a good removal ([9]), Steve. Tango, your comments were unhelpful and really, really rude. Your first comment was an implied insult for a poorly-constructed sentence; your second comment was an accusation of laziness and and assumption that the OP was being disrespectful. Yes, we're volunteers here. Yes, we sometimes get abuse that we don't deserve. But that doesn't mean that we can leave the assumption of good faith at the door. The IP from which the post arose geolocates to somewhere in India. English probably isn't the OP's first language. The next time you're travelling overseas and try to speak the local language, I'm sure you'd be pleased if the locals made fun of your poor Hindi instead of trying to help with your questions.
As well – and despite the instructions at the top of the page – there are still some people who don't quite get that we're not some sort of robotic search engine. They're used to using Google to search for information, and they phrase their questions here like a search engine query. It may demonstrate a lack of common sense, but it's not a deliberate insult, and we shouldn't take it as such. (Remember, we're dealing with people who haven't managed to find and figure out the 'Search' box in the left margin, which would answer their questions.) If you think that someone has posed a question poorly or rudely, then you can explain – politely – how we work around here, and how they should approach us, as volunteers, if they would like to receive help. What you shouldn't do is insult people about whom you know nothing, on the basis of a few words they've just posted on the Desks. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 17:58, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
You're interpreting the post as being a rude demand, rather than as being a polite request, because the OP failed to include the word "please" before the word "explain". But the rules for when it's necessary to insert the word "please" in order to sound sufficiently polite are not inherently obvious, and can be downright confusing, to someone whose first language isn't English. Different languages have widely differing rules about how to sound polite. For example, in German, you can accidentally be impolite by using the wrong form of the word for "you" for the situation. Or in Japanese, you can accidentally be impolite by using the wrong form of pretty much any verb for the situation. English does not have politeness features that correspond to those. Similarly, it's quite likely that in the OP's first language, it isn't necessary to insert some word that translates to "please" in a polite request for an explanation. Also, the OP has quite likely heard sentences that start with "Explain..." much more frequently than sentences that start with "Please explain...", because the "please" is not used when a teacher asks a student for an explanation, or when a test question asks for an explanation. It's best to just assume that the OP has no intention of sounding demanding, he just isn't yet well-versed in how to sound polite in English. Red Act (talk) 20:34, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
Tango I was confused by your post "try the one on sentences too" because I saw nothing amiss with the OP "Explain Meissner effet" except the misspelling of "effect". That is not a fault of sentence construction. From your explanation here I now know you complain about the OP's lack of formal politeness. That is not a fault of sentence construction either. So what were you talking about? I could imagine only that either A) you reacted to the lack of a period (Br. full stop) at the end of the post, or B) you did not understand that the 3-word command is a grammatically legitimate sentence. IMHO A) would be mere quibbling, while B) could be met by showing even shorter 2-word sentences. Having explained my reasoning I still offer an apology if my post (Tango quibbles. Ignore Tango) caused offence. I also say that you could have expressed your actual objection clearer. SteveBaker did right to remove the patronising dialog that contributed nothing to the OP. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 22:27, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
Well, I'd have liked a "the" in there somewhere, but really, the benefit to writing in full sentences rather than clipped imperatives is that they are easier to understand. If you make the effort to write a full sentence you are likely to actually explain what it is you want to know. There isn't really any good response to "Explain Meissner effet" other than a link to the article, which the OP could have found very easily by themselves. If you tried to write it as a full sentence you would hopefully end up with something like: "I've been having difficulty understanding why the Meissner effect is important, could someone explain it to me please?" That additional information would make it possible for us to actually give a useful response. --Tango (talk) 22:41, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
Wikipedia is a confusing place. The OP may have just stumbled in from google or have been recommended from elsewhere. I think it's wrong to assume that everyone asking questions here knows how wikipedia works or how to search for specific articles. And anyway, I don't see what more of an answer could have been given to your longer example question; it's exactly the same question just more verbose. Unless the OP needed help with a specific part of the Meissner effect, linking to the article seems like the only sensible answer sort of copypasting the entire article into the thread. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:10, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
A clipped imperative may seem annoying, but a good Reference Librarian rises above that, allowing for English possibly not being the questioner's native language, and links to an article, or a book, or a good website which provides the information requested, without scolding or belittling the questioner. Edison (talk) 04:24, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Tango what you call a clipped imperative was faultless grammatically. It was a full sentence. Apparently you refuse to accept that and so you confirm my suspicion B). Now I think you should read the article Sentence. A separate matter is your hope that OP's emulate the example you give. It is a pity that you put in an assumption that the OP doesn't understand why the Meissner effect is important. How can you know that? The case may be completely opposite, that the OP knows the Meissner effect is important and therefore wishes it explained. OTOH you are partly correct: there isn't any good response to the OP other than a link to the article. SteveBaker realised that while others should have. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 16:39, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
The lack of a "the" makes it questionable grammar. Sorry, that wasn't supposed to be an assumption, it was an example. I was showing how, by writing the question out in full, I automatically end up giving more information about what is actually wanted. --Tango (talk) 16:59, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Tango your grammar question is reasonable. I accept your apology about the side issue of your example. It looks like you tried to retaliate to an imagined offence by the OP in a clumsy way. That was ungood. AFAIAC this thread ends on WP:DBAD. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 16:33, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
I think in such cases (cases such as this) there are two considerations: overlooking fault, and providing feedback that might be helpful. Feedback can be both negative and constructive. I think Tango's response was helpful even if not 100% pleasant. The question was not posed in the most presentable way, and Tango let that person know that. It is not such a big deal. Bus stop (talk) 17:01, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

Joke deletion

What is the rationale for this deletion? Jokes are not out of bounds on the RD. By the way Tango, WP:BJAODN is not currently deleted. SpinningSpark 00:53, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

I think we can all agree that bogus questions featuring the seeing Uranus pun are not required on the RD. The question reoccurs, with variants, every six months or more frequently. --Tagishsimon (talk) 01:30, 25 November 2009 (UTC)
An entire question that is just a joke, and not even an original one, is a waste of space. The page currently at WP:BJAODN is just about how most of it was deleted with a few links to some "best of" pages. It's not accepting new jokes. --Tango (talk) 01:45, 25 November 2009 (UTC)
For the record, I removed a similar "question". Obvious troll is obvious. --LarryMac | Talk 01:47, 25 November 2009 (UTC)
Ah, I had not noticed it was actually posed as a question, I had assumed it was a comment on the black hole question above it. SpinningSpark 02:32, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Page length

The RefDesk pages are incredibly long and take a long time to load. If I am correct the oldest few days are actually transcluded from the archives (I make this assumption because sometimes when I answer an older post I find myself editing an archive page), with only the current few days "live" on the RefDesk pages themselves. It gets a bit convoluted so first question first: are posts archived by date posted or by date of last response? If the former, then it should DEFINITELY be changed to the latter. If it is the latter, then perhaps we shouldn't transclude archived posts at all? i.e. only keep current discussions displayed. Judging by a short one-week sample, posts 4 and 5 days old are generally dormant, whilst posts in the last few days are somewhat active. At the moment page load times take quite long at certain times of the day, and time-outs on such a large page are extremely annoying. Not to mention that bandwidth isn't cheap everywhere in the world, and not all people have broadband. Thoughts? (This is obviously a case we are using wiki software for something that is much better done by forums. Will LiquidThreads fix this?) Zunaid 15:58, 29 October 2009 (UTC)

Some raw (html) download sizes for comparison: RDs for computing, humanities, misc are ~350k, math and lang ~200k, entertainment 120k, science nearly 700k. The last few featured-FAs run at 120..200k. All of this neglecting images sizes. Perhaps a more aggressive archiving for the bigger pages is indicated (although this risks diminishing the utility of those pages that have shown themselves to be the most popular)? Or perhaps it's time to split science in two (med/bio/chem vs physics/astro/tech)? Or maybe farm the incessant "which race is the best" questions from RD/S and RD/H into RD/RACE (where it's easier for me to ignore them). -- Finlay McWalterTalk 16:22, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
Or it may be better to change from a post-hoc archiving process to a subpage-per-day format like AFD (so you'd have Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Computing/2009 October 25 immediately, rather than archiving to Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Archives/Computing/2009 October 25 later) and the bot would maintain the master page for each department and make each new subpage at midnight. This eases editing more than viewing, unless we accompany it by being more aggressive about suppressing older days sooner. -- Finlay McWalterTalk 16:43, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
The difference with FAs is that FAs are something that you'd NEED to read in full. As far as the RefDesk goes, you're generally only interested in the updated questions/answers since the last time you checked, thus the older posts become less and less useful. I don't think the AfD way would be suitable, it sorts posts by the date POSTED rather than by the date last ANSWERED. We should mimic the way forums behave by keeping current topics alive (i.e. not archiving them, similar to how forums sort topics by last post date), and by "closing for comments" the older topics (archiving them), where "old" = 3 days or more. Zunaid 17:17, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
Subpage-per-day format may make it more difficult for regular readers (and administrators) of the Desks to watchlist and monitor. An archive bot which removes quiescent threads might be a worthwhile change. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 18:03, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
We could shorten it by a couple days. Only have 4 or 5 days instead of the 7 we have now? Discussions lasting longer than 4 days are very rare. And it wouldn't be much of a problem to set the bots to archive a couple days earlier, I don't think. —Akrabbimtalk 18:14, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
(Remember though, the problem is NOT the archiving, it's the actual transclusion of the archives.) It's at SEVEN days?!?! Good grief, I thought it was at 5. Then I definitely second your idea, but I'd still combine it with my own...that is, shorten it to 3 days since the last post. If this can't be done then 4 days since the first post would be suitable and wouldn't require much tinkering. I'd also add that discussions lasting more than 4 days tend to branch off-topic, to the point that a follow-up question in its own section is usually warranted anyway. So, can we aim for consensus for shortening the number of days that are transcluded from 7 days to 4 please? Zunaid 20:13, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
3 or 4 days is probably good enough. If an answer is to be found, it's usually within a day or two. That would give an extra day for the OP to come back. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:42, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
I know that on the Science Desk the majority of questions get an answer within an hour, and virtually all of the discussions are complete inside of a day. I haven't done the analyses on the other Desks, and timelines might be somewhat longer on the lower-traffic pages. A three- or four-day expiry on the most-watched, highest-traffic Desks (Sci and Misc) would probably be just fine; I can't comment on the other Desks, but the problem may not be quite as pressing there. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 22:41, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
From my unscientific observations, the Entertainment page seems to be hit less often than the others. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:20, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
Some time ago, before the archiving process was as semi-automated as it now is, we kept the Science and Humanities (and Misc?) desks under control by archiving after only 4-5 days, as compared to 7 days for the slower desks. This was before Entertainment was split off from Humanities (and before languages?). I only relatively recently realised that they were all back on 7 days, although I assumed this was because when Steve was setting up scsbot to archive them with transclusion, this didn't have the same issues with editing large pages that plagued manual archiving.
I would support only showing 4-5 days of questions on the longer pages. The Reference Desk is one of the few places where it's okay to edit archived content, and people who've edited an archived (transcluded) page will have it on their watchlists. This means they can continue to work on a question, if necessary. Ideally, this would mean ensuring the OP has a link to the archived question, and possibly archiving them immediately and transcluding (as described by Finlay above). Otherwise, we could try to further subdivide: I'm not sure how smoothly that would go. (talk) 22:44, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
A logistical point: the existing archiving bot (Scsbot, operated by me) can be easily reconfigured to tweak (a) the number of days that go by for a desk before a day's worth of its content is archived and (b) the number of additional days that an archived day remains transcluded onto the main desk. Anything else (e.g. per-thread archiving) would require a total rewrite or a new bot. (Which, come to mention it, it might be time for anyway. But I'm not volunteering to write it.) —Steve Summit (talk) 23:34, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
MiszaBot among several others does the per-thread archiving thing, but that would mess up the per-day archive repository and the daily headings. I'd support 5 days for Science and Misc, maybe 4 but that would be pushing it. Steve, could you tweak scsbot to add a "maxsize" parameter so that it would trim an extra day from the main page when necessary? Maybe maxsize=500k? Franamax (talk) 05:02, 30 October 2009 (UTC)
If the specific reason for archiving is to keep the main page at a reasonable size, then that seems like a good solution. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:16, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

Can we push to implement this? Lots of good discussion and suggestions. I'm just hoping this thread doesn't die without anything being actioned. Can someone with the necessary know-how please tweak the relevant bots to implement this change? I would still push for 4 days instead of 5; just today our internet access was acting up and not a single RefDesk page would load completely. Zunaid 16:45, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

Please note the discussion at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2009 February 13#Words with exactly one rhyme. The first contribution was at 11:43, 13 February 2009 (UTC) and the last was at 11:43, 18 February 2009 (UTC). Useful contributions continued for five days. Sometimes several days are required for the necessary research to be done. -- Wavelength (talk) 17:23, 2 November 2009 (UTC)
This point is possibly now irrelevant to this discussion, but the contribution which I said was the last was the last in list order, whereas the last in chronological order was the one made at 22:43, 19 February 2009 (UTC). The resulting time span of discussion was 6 days 11 hours. -- Wavelength (talk) 16:37, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
That is an outlier, and might I add a very open-ended question which tends to lend itself to long-winded discussion and "hide-and-seek" searches for answers. The vast majority of posts are asked and answered within 2 days. I don't see a problem in not catering for the odd outlier if the overall RefDesk experience is improved for the majority of users. Not everyone has broadband. Zunaid 14:16, 3 November 2009 (UTC)
What's "this change"? I'm sorry, but I haven't seen any consensus yet. —Steve Summit (talk) 00:42, 3 November 2009 (UTC)
"This change" would be to reduce the number of days transcluded from 7 down to 4. Sure, most people haven't prefaced their comments with support, but reading the comments above I can see most editors implicitly show agreement to reduce the length. Discussion has ALREADY moved onto the best way to implement this, which is a clear (by implication) "support" for this idea. No-one has raised any substantive objections (Wavelength has raised one objection which I don't see as a deal breaker). Zunaid 14:16, 3 November 2009 (UTC)
Sorry to be nitpicky, but we currently transclude three days, not seven. Content is archived after 4 days, meaning that there is between 3 and 4 days' worth of unarchived content, making a total displayed size of between 6 and 7 days. —Steve Summit (talk) 01:09, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support There is hardly ever action on sections older than 4 days, and the huge size of the page is a major annoyance; in short, I agree with all the other comments. Looie496 (talk) 19:40, 3 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose four days. Cautious support for five days. I understand the problems with loading a large page, but I'm reluctant to foreclose on possibly valuable responses that happen to come a few days after the original queries, especially those that are offered by users who aren't sitting on top of the ref desks (like some of us). Deor (talk) 20:22, 3 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support 4 days per various points above. Zain Ebrahim (talk) 20:54, 3 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Point of order. It's still not 100% obvious what "four days" means. Archive after three days, transclude for one more? Archive after two, transclude for two (which is more or less how the Help Desk works today, I think)? Something else? (Perhaps this is a mere implementation detail, uninteresting to anyone except the bot maintainer.) —Steve Summit (talk) 01:09, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Comment I've actually be thinking of this for a while but never bothered to suggest it and it occured to me again when I read this but I was lazy to write it up. My suggestion is we reduce the time (whether to 4 or 5 days) but include alink at the top to a recent archives pages (e.g. Wikipedia:Reference desk/Science/Recent). Where we (well a bot hopefully) maintains transcluded copies of the last 3 or 4 days. Of course people can already check out Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Science/October 2009 etc but that's more set up for viewing all archives and isn't very accessible from each desk. An easily accessible page with the most recently archived pages would hopefully get more views then the archives so discussions are more likely to remain active if they need to. Obviously it won't get as many hits. Alternatively, we can maintain a list of recent questions for the 3 or so recently archives dates, something similar to Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Science/October 2009. (Of course we could even do both.) My idea here is that we maintain some way for people to easily see the recently archived questions, if they desire, from the main RD page for each subject as I suspect there's a very large drop off of once questions leave the main RD page as they're 'out of sight, out of mind' kind of thing. I appreciate any of these options will require more programming work from someone be it Steve Summit or someone else so will take longer, presuming someone is willing to do it. Nil Einne (talk) 01:42, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
For an example of what I'm talking about, I've produced User:Nil Einne/Sandbox/RDS, User:Nil Einne/Sandbox/RDS2, User:Nil Einne/Sandbox/RDS3 as mockups. In the RDS3 example, I would recommend what I did for October 27/October 30 over October 28/October 29 (although perhaps it will take a slight? amount of more work) Nil Einne (talk) 01:42, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
Now that is a really interesting idea! I like it! (And I wasn't sure what you meant by "maintain a list of recent questions for the 3 or so recently archived dates" until I looked at your "RDS2" mockup, and that's even more interesting!) —Steve Summit (talk) 03:33, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
  • I think per-thread archiving is the best option. Different questions take different lengths of time to answer, so why do we archive them all after the same length of time? We can index the archive pages by the day the question is archived rather than the day it was asked. --Tango (talk) 01:52, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support 5 days, Neutral 4 days, Strong Oppose 3 days. With different time-zones, 3 days isn't enough to span a weekend - and a lot of people don't contribute over the weekend. Comment: although 300kbytes sounds a lot - just one or two small-ish pictures could easily double that. People with broadband shouldn't have a moment's concern about 300kbytes - or even a megabyte or so (if you do - complain loudly to your ISP!). The only people who should be having trouble would be folks with dialup or cellular-modem connections. But most dialup/cellular ISP's these days have data compression on their ports - and 300kbytes of HTMLized text is probably more like 100kbytes of download bandwidth. However, 300kbytes of JPEG picture is 300kbytes of download bandwidth because you can't compress already compressed data. So unless we're prepared to ban the posting of photos (don't even THINK about it!) - this measure is likely to be of limited benefit. On balance, I don't think it's worth the effort.
IMHO, what we REALLY need (and have discussed in the past) is some means to direct each question/thread to it's own sub-page and to have the active discussions be transcluded into the main page. Archiving could then be on the basis of "it's been 3 days since the last change" rather than "3 days old". SteveBaker (talk) 02:32, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
We can archive on that basis without subpages. There are bots designed for archiving talk pages that do exactly what we need. Someone mentioned User:MiszaBot above - that's the one that springs to my mind too. --Tango (talk) 03:00, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support 4 or 5 days. Archive after three, transclude one or two. That's my !vote. —Akrabbimtalk 03:10, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support any period of at least four days. I know that on /Sci we usually have an answer within an hour or two. Let's be honest — usually the only thing going on after two or three days have passed (if anything is happening at all) is chatting far, far removed from the original question. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 03:14, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Comment I understand moving old questions and responses to an archive, but what exactly does it mean to "Transclude" a question 5 days old which is not yet archived? Edison (talk) 04:17, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
If you edit one of the desk pages (the whole page, not just a section), up at the top you'll see three lines like this:
{{Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Archives/Science/2009 October 29}}
{{Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Archives/Science/2009 October 30}}
{{Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Archives/Science/2009 October 31}}
That is, while each desk (as of the time I'm writing this) contains entries from October 29 to November 4, only the entries from November 1 to November 4 are "really" there; the oldest three days are transcluded from the archives. (In other words, we are not transcluding entries which have not yet been archived; we are transcluding entries which have been archived.) —Steve Summit (talk) 05:14, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support Nil's RDS2 suggestion, very clever. hydnjo (talk) 13:46, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
  • (OP here) Super-duper strong support Nil Einne's brilliant RDS2. It should hopefully satisfy everyone. Just in response to some comments regarding broadband, remember that even where broadband is available, it may not be CHEAP. Regards. Zunaid 21:09, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Limited support Changing to 5 days would be fine on the high turnover & quick response desks like Science. On other desks (eg humanities or language), research sometimes takes a little longer, and there are often good responses coming in four or five days later, especially if it falls over a weekend. Nil Einne's idea is worth considering. Gwinva (talk) 21:39, 4 November 2009 (UTC)

Page length contd.

So will anything being done about this? I don't see anyone disagreeing that 7 days is much too long. I also see a clear consensus for 4 days from the above discussions. I've also just noticed that there is no link to the RefDesk archives from e.g. RD/S, so what is the big concern about per thread vs per date posted archiving anyway? If readers can't access the archives via an easily available blue link then why worry? The search engine will pick up all relevant comments regardless of how they are archived. I think going the MiszaBot per-thread route is much better, but for the time being can we please truncate the transcluded days down to 4? Zunaid 14:02, 11 November 2009 (UTC)

I'll be taking care of this soon. —Steve Summit (talk) 02:07, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
Why does there need to be a time being? Getting MiszaBot implemented shouldn't take more than a few days (I think we will need the bot owner's assistance since the Wikipedia namespace doesn't seem to be on the list of namespaces it works on). I'll start a straw poll on it here now. --Tango (talk) 02:17, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
Time being would be for a consensus to develop. Also, doesn't one of the Miszabots archive the village pumps? Those are in WP namespace. Zain Ebrahim (talk) 13:11, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

Straw poll on per-thread archiving

It has been proposed that we get MiszaBot, or a similar bot, to archive the Ref Desk's on a per-thread basis. That would mean that threads get archives after they have had no activity for a certain amount of time rather than after they have been on the page for a certain amount of time. Please indicate your support or opposition, with a reason, below. Also, people give an indication of how long you think a thread should be inactive before being archived. --Tango (talk) 02:17, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

  • Support I think it is self-evident that this is a better system that the one we have now and it should be pretty easy to implement. I suggest the time be set at 3 days. If a thread hasn't received any attention after 3 days, it probably won't, but any less than 3 days may result in answerable questions being missed (due to weekends, for example). 3 days is certainly long enough that we shouldn't have many threads start developing an answer, stop, and then get archived before further comments would have been added. --Tango (talk) 02:17, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support If automated per-thread archiving suffices for every high-traffic talk page in the entire 'pedia, there's no reason it wouldn't work well on the RefDesk too. It is far better to archive posts by last post than by first post. I support archiving 3 days after the last reply. Zunaid 09:56, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support - Some questions are resolved in minutes and some continue on into the archives so archiving this way is appropriate. We may end up with some REALLY long threads, though. Zain Ebrahim (talk) 13:11, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
    Really long threads could be split onto subpages if necessary. --Tango (talk) 17:05, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support - If the mechanism can be made to work reliably - then for sure it's a good idea. SteveBaker (talk) 04:32, 14 November 2009 (UTC)
    "Made to work"? It already works reliably on loads of pages. There seems to have been some problems over the last few days, but I'm sure they'll be fixed soon - the occasional downtime is to be expected on any service like this. --Tango (talk) 02:26, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support - Three days sounds good. —Akrabbimtalk 04:37, 14 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support - Would result in a much more current RD, agree with 3 day threshold. -- Scray (talk) 04:39, 14 November 2009 (UTC)
Question: The questions would still be archived into the date originally asked, right? Just for consistency in the archives... —Akrabbimtalk 05:01, 14 November 2009 (UTC)
That could be done, I suppose, but I think the bot is currently programmed to archive them to pages based on archive date (I could be wrong). Is consistency that important? --Tango (talk) 02:26, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
Yes, it is. Otherwise searching the archives becomes difficult. StuRat (talk) 01:10, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support: but I'd want a longer lag, maybe even as long as a week. Some questions are best answered with some fairly specialised expertise, and may not see that for most of a week. But (for that very reason of variability), length on a page is rather arbitrary, and length unanswered a better criterion. —— Shakescene (talk) 06:18, 14 November 2009 (UTC)
    A week would result in even longer pages than we have now. This discussion started with people saying the pages are getting too long on the more popular desks, and I think they are right. --Tango (talk) 02:26, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
    If you're planning on going off and doing a many-day research effort in order to answer a question - then all you have to do (in this new scheme) to keep the discussion live is to drop in a message every few days saying "I'm actively researching this question - please check back in a couple of days". That's not a big deal if you really are actively researching it - and if you don't leave a message, the OP may give up and not come back to read the answer anyway. With the new scheme, the thread won't be archived until it's been IDLE for N days - with the present scheme, the thread will be archived after N days no matter how active it is. We may choose to make 'N' smaller in the new scheme - but that doesn't mean that threads will necessarily be archived sooner. SteveBaker (talk) 03:38, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support. In practice, any question that doesn't see a response in a couple of days is going to go unanswered here. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 03:43, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support. However, don't archive inactive threads too quickly, or OP will think their Q was just deleted. StuRat (talk) 00:30, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Support. Makes perfect sense. Also support the 3 day limit; we can reevaluate the period after a month or so; and different boards may need different limits. One caveat: MiszaBot can fail to archive threads that contain unsigned or undated posts, so we need to ensure that all posts are signed and dated properly through signbot and/or manually. Abecedare (talk) 20:10, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

Multiple separate one-day pages, active until a predetermined number of days after last comment

Here is my proposal: There can be a separate discussion page for each calendar day, according to the time of the original posting (UTC). They can be named Wikipedia:Reference desk/Language/2010 January 01, and so forth, until all discussions on each page are archived, after some predetermined interval of inactivity. Theoretically, a discussion (and, therefore, a discussion page) can remain active indefinitely. Wikipedia:Reference desk/Language can have a table of links to the active pages (and possibly also the archived pages), with a number beside each link, showing the number of discussions still active on that page, and the number of discussions already archived.

It can also show the discussion headings [and maybe subheadings and sub-subheadings], if there is enough space (those headings [and maybe subheadings and sub-subheadings] would be the only information transcluded). Dates of completely archived pages can still be shown, but with the number "0" for active discussions. Maybe a choice should be made between these two options, because of limited space. Maybe both options can be accommodated, especially if the table is expanded to show only the headings of active discussions.

Dates of completely unarchived pages can be shown, with the number "0" for archived discussions. Archiving can be organized according to the date and time of each original posting. Therefore, all discussions for any day are eventually together again on one page and in the same order. When all the discussions on Wikipedia:Reference desk/Language/2010 January 01 have been archived to Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2010 January 01, then the former can be deleted. This proposal allows for expansion for some time into the future. -- Wavelength (talk) 05:00, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

Yea, I had a similar idea. Instead of two distinct pages for active Q's and archived Q's, I'd rather see something like this:
      [+] 01 - (discussions=2)
      [+] 02 - (discussions=5)
      [+] 03 - (discussions=1)
      [+] 04 - (discussions=0)
      [+] 05 - (discussions=3)
      [+] 06 - (discussions=6)
      [+] 07 - (discussions=4)
      [+] 08 - (discussions=3)
      [+] 09 - (discussions=5)
      [+] 10 - (discussions=2)
      [+] 11 - (discussions=1)
      [+] 12 - (discussions=0)
      [+] 13 - (discussions=4)
      [+] 14 - (discussions=3)
      [+] 15 - (discussions=3)
      [+] 16 - (discussions=2)
      [-] 17 - (discussions=3)
         --- The threads opened on November 17th would be listed here ---
So, my concept is that all of the archives would be available on the active page, too. However, only the current year, month, and day would be open initially, then the user could open (or close) any years, months or days they wish beyond that. Opening up a year would give a list of months, all closed. Opening up a month would give a list of days, all closed. Opening up a day would list all discussions for that day. So, each of our archived days could be accessed in just 3 clicks, and it wouldn't be like we were sending them to Siberia when we archive them. This would also mean you could feel free to edit "the archives" inasmuch as there would be any, under this system. We could also add a 4th level to this structure, with the titles of each Q, and allow people to open and close each Q independently. This would be ideal for comparing answers to similar Q's asked months or years apart. StuRat (talk) 00:49, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
I like the style of that approach. However, there are some technical obstacles to that method. Two technical implementation options seem possible:
(1) The entire archive is downloaded, but hidden, when the page is loaded (which will draw a lot of criticism, because the download size will be huge, prohibitively huge for people with slow connections).
(2) An intelligent script, e.g. AJAX, would dynamically download the content on an as-needed basis. This will draw fire from people who don't want to be forced to use AJAX for getting their content.
Maybe somehow these technical obstacles can be overcome; I am inclined to say that Option 2 is a more flexible solution and could still possibly coexist with a more static retrieval method. It's also possible that some more sophisticated scheme can be contrived. In the mean time, I think our threads don't have enough metadata to really allow a lot of fancy display methodologies. Maybe the first step is inventing (or finding an existing project) a good markup for tagging threads with metadata - this will enable many different viewing options in the future. Nimur (talk) 01:10, 29 November 2009 (UTC)


You can read about a new discussion page system at Extension:LiquidThreads. -- Wavelength (talk) 16:07, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

Satellite receivers

Where is the proper place to ask questions about satellite receivers? -- (talk) 07:46, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

Probably the Science ref desk, or possibly Entertainment. But have you tried looking for any wikipedia articles on the subject? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:55, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

Deletion of my answer to a question

Someone called Ten of all trades deleted my perfectly reasonable answer to a question on power factor and blocked my address quoting abuse or somesuch. How is a proper answer given in good faith some sort of abuse. you need to get real here or no one will be answering questions. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:09, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Note: According to User:TenOfAllTrades, this IP is a block-evading sock [10]. Bielle (talk) 18:18, 25 November 2009 (UTC)
Note: (talk · contribs · deleted contribs · logs · edit filter log · block user · block log) (the blocked one) and (talk · contribs · deleted contribs · logs · edit filter log · block user · block log) (the one who started this section) both emanate from London. If 76 is also a sock, then Ten has some more work to do. :) Ten doesn't say who the puppetmaster is, but that's in accordance with WP:DENY. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:16, 25 November 2009 (UTC)
Yep, it's the usual. Sometimes we block his entire IP to stem the abuse, but we prefer not to do the collateral damage to innocent editors. As a rule, it's safe to roll back any edit made to the Reference Desks by any IP in Tiscali's DSL IP range; That's any IP address that starts with a 79.75.... Having checked the history, there have been no non-block evading edits made from those IPs to the Ref Desk in the past year. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 21:37, 25 November 2009 (UTC)
"it's safe to roll back any edit made to the Reference Desks by.. [HUGE IP RANGE, MOST LIKELY SHARED WITH THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE]" Frankly I find that offensive. You say that there have been no useful edits from that range, but that does not preclude the possibility of someone attempting to make helpful edits in the future. Either block the entire rage if the problem is that severe, or treat every edit with the good faith it deserves. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:01, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Do not pretend that blocking an IP range prohibits editing. It is very easy to create an anonymous account and edit using that account. Chances are, people in that range are already providing useful edits using an anonymous account. The only people affected are those who do not want to be anonymous and demand that they use their identifying IP address when making edits. -- kainaw 15:55, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
That's a completely unsatisfactory excuse. Firstly, blocking an ip range does prevent editing, otherwise what would be the point of it. But in the context of this situation, the ip range is not blocked, so that's irrelevant. Secondly, how is anyone on that range supposed to know that any edit they make is going to be reverted simply because of their ip? Saying that it's perfectly fine to revert any edit from that ip without even checking that edit's worth is outrageous and against Wikipedia policy. Thirdly, not everyone wants an account - in some cases it is even impossible to have an account - and your use of the word "demand" when referring to ip users is misplaced as it's a Wikipedia policy that people can edit from ip addresses; no one is demanding anything. My main point here is that editors on this page are making a little rule amongst themselves that any edit from a certain ip range can be reverted without cause, simply because it comes from that ip range. As I said above, if the problem from that ip range is severe enough that it warrants a range block, then block the range. Otherwise, every edit should be treated in good faith and only reverted if it breaks Wikipedia policy. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:06, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
I'm not disagreeing with your argument about blocking the range if it needs to be blocked. I disagree with the claim that blocking an IP range prevents editing. Creating an anonymous account is the accepted method for editing through a blocked IP address. As for my use of "demand", there are plenty of editors who have demanded (in every sense of the word) to use an identifying IP address and not an anonymous account. Their arguments make no sense, but that isn't the discussion here. -- kainaw 16:17, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
I agree with you that a soft block doesn't prevent someone from using an account to edit with, but that's not the issue here. The range isn't blocked, and I'm not talking about people being blocked by administrators. My issue here is the blanket statement by TenOfAllTrades that any edit from 79.75.xx.xx can be reverted just because it comes from that range, regardless of the edits actual content. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:24, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Pretend Ten had said "as a general rule". Yes, there is always a chance that one day a well-intentioned, constructive, anonymous editor from the 79.* block might appear, and vandal-fighters need to be (and I presume are) aware of that possibility. However, as it stands today, all anonymous edits to the reference desks from the range in question are (without exception) from a single, virulent troll, and can be reverted with relative impunity. —Steve Summit (talk) 17:34, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
(ec)Ten is not saying that any edit from that range would be automatically reverted or wouldn't be evaluated for usefulness. He's saying that experience shows there have been no useful allowable edits from that range so far. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:35, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Except that this contribution to the Science ref desk was an extremely useful edit from within that range. Check the history - it's a perfectly reasonable contribution. This shows that TOAT's "experience" is indeed flawed and that (therefore) these contributions need to be taken on a case-by-case basis. On that basis, this post should have been accepted. Having said all that - I strongly recommend that our OP create an account to edit from - it solves all of this nastiness. SteveBaker (talk) 17:59, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
That'd work in theory, but from personal experience I can tell you that Checkusers make a lot of mistakes (mistakes they almost never rectify or even acknowledge), and if there is a "block-evading sock" on that range any legit account is likely to be blocked along with the socks.
Edits by block-evading socks cannot be allowed, regardless of the allegedly good quality of their content, because they undermine wikipedia policies. I've changed the wording on my comment above to make that point more clearly. As far as creating a registered account, you may have seen that some editors absolutely refuse to do so, for reasons known only to themselves. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:03, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
TenOfAllTrades did not make a mistake. He rapidly and correctly identified the edit as being from the permanently banned user in question. The electronics knowledge displayed by the edit in question is actually an additional clue that helps confirm the identity of the user, since electronics is that banned user's primary area of expertise. But for better evidence, note for example that these two identical edits[11] [12] tie (the OP of this thread) to, who here[13] reverts back to making a typical childish Uranus joke. It's indeed the same guy.
Yes, the edit in question was actually helpful, but the banning policy says "Anyone is free to revert any edits made in defiance of a ban. By banning a user, the community has decided that their edits are prima facie unwanted and may be reverted without any further reason. This does not mean that obviously helpful edits (such as fixing typos or undoing vandalism) must be reverted just because they were made by a banned user, but the presumption in ambiguous cases should be to revert." And for full bans like the one that pertains here, "A banned user who evades a ban, may have all of their edits reverted without question...." The idea is that if a banned user finds it difficult enough to edit here, he will hopefully eventually get bored and leave. (Or start fresh by creating a new user account and only ever making productive edits with it, in which case we'd never really have a way of knowing it was the same person.) Enforcing a ban will occasionally result in the reversion of a few uncharacteristically productive edits the banned user makes, but that's deemed to be an acceptable cost of enforcing the ban. Red Act (talk) 07:27, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
Kainaw, just for clarification, there's an obvious an important difference between range block and simply reverting and blocking any problematic or suspicious behaviour that arises. A range block prevents any non-logged in editing (and may also prevent normal account creation) and if a large range, is generally strongly discouraged except perhaps for short time periods because of the large number of people likely to be affected. A fair number of constructive edits come from IPs making a few edits to articles they come across. (Also lots of vandalism.) Reverting suspicious behaviour could catch up an innocent user, but is a lot less likely and also allows completely problem free edits to continue. For example, if someone from the range was writing an excellent FA on an important topic, no one would care that its from an IP range with known sock/s. It's only when they start to show signs of being the banned user that they get themselves in trouble. While the RD is a big place, it's also somewhat obscure so in reality the number of innocent people likely to be called up is likely to be small. And perhaps a key point, in reality the vast majority of innocent users who are caught up are probably not even going to notice since they may just visit briefly and never notice their post disappeared (not saying that's a good thing). Besides, I don't think it's likely all edits from an IP range are actually going to be deleted either. Some may be deleted, some may be ignored, but particularly if they're completely innocent and the same IP never makes any posts people find 'odd' they'll likely just be left. To use a different example, I've recently been somewhat active in the discussion at Talk:Climatic Research Unit e-mail hacking incident and was reminded about a bunch of socks (albeit largely using accounts) that target global warming related articles (as with many hot button topics). I don't know the details about IP ranges and don't know if anyone besides CUs do, and of of course CUs use more then the IP anyway, but it's clear while it does mean new users who target global warming articles are generally caught up, innocent (or even the actual socks themselves) users who edit primarily other articles, no one cares about. And in fact, even new users who don't behave in problematic ways will probably be fine. Nil Einne (talk) 07:15, 29 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't care so much about the socks and trolls and all that. I'm just relieved that nobody's called me out on my like twenty consecutive edits fixing numerous typos in my original post and then fixng fixing the errors in the 19 followup corrections. Nimur (talk) 22:50, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Check your mailbox in the coming weeks, for an invoice for excessive corrections. They take up space and are crippling wikipedia's ability to deliver what the public wants. Did I tell you there's a new policy? For every article created, two must be deleted. This will continue until wikipedia is reduced to one, single, extremely notable article. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:55, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
And this article will be watched over by 20 registered users, who will each revert every edit by anyone other than themself or their 2 buddies, endlessly squabbling on the talk page over whether to write "Wikipedia's only article" or "the only article on Wikipedia", failing to notice that Wikipedia is spelt Wickipedia throughout. The article will be fully protected. (talk) 06:30, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
Joke and or unhelpful comment. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:06, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Hence the fine print, don'cha know. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:18, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Indeed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:19, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Regarding your unsigned comment putting down checkusers, in my experience they take a possibly too-cautious approach, but they nearly always get it right. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:22, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
That's how it appears on the outside, and I'm sure they believe that themselves too. But after having been blocked several times by checkusers for things you did not do, you start to doubt them. Further added to that is the frankly childish taunting you receive on the IRC channel when you attempt to appeal a checkuser block —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:49, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
When were you blocked, and which user did they think you were? Oh, and stay away from IRC. From what I've heard, it's the wikipedia equivalent of junior high school girls gossiping in the restroom between classes. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:59, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Anon's IP range has been the source one or perhaps two well known and active trolls (perhaps they're the same person we don't really know and I'm also a bit confused as to whether this IP range was ever used by the other troll, but frankly I don't really care about any of this) so it's unsurprising that checkusers are extreme paranoid. Also 'funnily' enough, one of the very trolls was making the same complaints about checkusers and IRC which doesn't exactly say much for this user. This troll claimed to be 'reformed' despite the fact they were editing under a username clearly associating them with their former trollish behaviour and operating sock puppets before they were banned (but initially claimed that was not the case). Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/IncidentArchive569#Checkusers keep blocking me has more (although I'd ignore Atama's comment, while the continually changing IP is quite suspicious there are cases when that can happen) Nil Einne (talk) 06:41, 29 November 2009 (UTC)
I have already been over this numerous times, but I'll say it again; I was the "avril person" from last year. I have NOT violated a single Wikipedia policy since last September, over a year ago, and have since edited constructively. I've spoken with several admins including KnightLago and Newyorkbrad (who's on the wp:arbitration committee) and they agree that I could have a "second chance". I created the account you speak of, and it was blocked THROUGH NO FAULT OF MY OWN. Look through it's contributions, I DID NOT troll or create any other accounts, but the checkusers do not believe me. This is why I have a very negative attitude towards them, because I was wrongfully blocked. I'd also like to point out that your reply to my question here was childish, unhelpful and verging on a personal attack, especially your disparaging comments towards my social situation which I provided to better help answering the question. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 06:11, 29 November 2009
I've never been invoiced despite my very frequent edits for corrections. Guess I got lucky Nil Einne (talk) 07:15, 29 November 2009 (UTC)
It's coming. The wikipedia accounts receivable department is a tad baglogged at present. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:21, 29 November 2009 (UTC)

We are not a legislative building

The RD/H page says at the bottom it's in the category "Legislative buildings". Interesting, but false. Could someone fix this? I couldn't find any such "Category" tag on the page. Tempshill (talk) 19:20, 28 November 2009 (UTC)

Fixed. -- kainaw 20:00, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
Well if we were a legislative building, I think we could fairly claim to be, hands-down, the one that covered the largest area. —— Shakescene (talk) 21:52, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
This happened, as it often does, because someone attempted a wikilink to the category but didn't add a colon (:). As a reminder then, you should always add a colon if linking to a category or linking to another wikipedia or if intending to link to an image rather then include an image too (a wise idea if the image is large and you aren't thumbnailing it, e.g. try previewing this page removing the colon from File:Amsterdam Centraal Station2.jpg). If in doubt, just add a colon. The reason you couldn't find it was likely because it was on a transcluded page so wasn't visible in the source of the main RD page [14]. If these aren't picked up before the archive leaves the main RD, they often stay around until someone notices either in the archive or category which can take a while. Nil Einne (talk) 06:15, 29 November 2009 (UTC)
Thanks. Insert mandatory recommendation for automated fixing of transcluded category inclusion, or something. Tempshill (talk) 17:08, 29 November 2009 (UTC)

Criticism of religion on Science desk

With this edit I was trying (with evidently poor results) to point out that I think it's inappropriate to bash religion on the Science refdesk. This came up, not surprisingly, during a discussion of creationist evolution. While I could have addressed a number of different edits on both sides of that exchange, I thought the discussion hit a new low with the last sentence of this one. I was comfortable taking this position because I am a strong proponent of teaching evolution as a scientific fact, and strongly feel that neither creation "science" nor "intelligent design" have a place in science classrooms except for brief rebuttal as not being science at all. In follow-up, I tried to explain what I was trying to say, but I think I failed.

I just wanted to point out that it's no more appropriate for an editor to ridicule religion on the Science Refdesk (which I've seen repeatedly, and generally is the last word) than it is for someone to proselytize there. My sense is that the former is tacitly endorsed (even though it's a religious, not scientific issue), while the latter gets attacked consistently. I understand that some believe that science excludes the possibility of religion being valid, but that's an opinion.

I brought this to Talk because I don't think it belongs on RD/S proper, and I did not take it to an individual user's Talk because I think it applies more broadly. -- Scray (talk) 17:45, 22 November 2009 (UTC)

There is a big difference between supporting Science on the Science desk and supporting Religion on the Science desk - spreading scientific knowledge is what the Science desk is all about, it certainly isn't about convincing people of religious beliefs. Very few people say that science excludes the possibility of religion being valid - we say that science excludes the possibility of certain religious beliefs being valid. That isn't opinion; that is fact. The two make contradictory claims, they cannot both be right. Would you be complaining like this if rather than a religious belief we have been talking about Flat Earth? Or 9/11 conspiracy theories? Or Geocentricism? Somehow, I doubt it. Why is religion different? --Tango (talk) 18:29, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
So people on the refdesk should refute those specific religious beliefs which are excluded by science. They should not attempt (as some seem to be doing in the linked thread) to refute religion in general, or say that it is nonsense in general. Staecker (talk) 18:37, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
@Tango, I agree that scientific answers are the heart of RD/S. I don't feel the same about ridiculing religion per se. I just want the discussion to stick to facts. Religion is inherently different from all of the examples you gave: the non-flat shape of the Earth is a fact, the events of 9/11 are inherently based on events that are factual, and Geocentricism is refuted by scientific fact. Religion is a belief system. I hope it's evident from my participation on RD/S that I support scientific discussion - I just think we should show respect for other editors and stick to discussions of science. -- Scray (talk) 18:46, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Many (perhaps most) religions make factual claims which are false, and have been shown to be false by science. We should not give these claims any more respect than we do to flagrantly false claims made on nonreligious grounds. Algebraist 19:08, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
I could not agree more. If we focus on the claim (which we can refute scientifically) rather than the religion (which by definition we cannot) then the refutation will be more credible. Mocking those who believe in religion reduces the likelihood the claimant will listen to the facts. -- Scray (talk) 19:15, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
But the individual claims aren't significant. It is the mindset which believes those claims despite all the evidence against them that is significant and that mindset is most easily described as "religion". I do agree, however, that mocking people is a bad idea. I'm not sure anything I would describe as mocking has taken place, but it is has it should stop. You can refute somebody's beliefs and make it very clear what you think about them without resorting to mockery. --Tango (talk) 20:04, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
We cannot know anything more miraculous than THE MIND. That applies whether one chooses to regard the mind of man or the mind of God. To disparage anyone as having a mindset is to mock them despite Tango's wish that it were otherwise. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 22:51, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
Disparaging and mocking are two different things. Mocking involves making somebody an object of humour. --Tango (talk) 12:19, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Tango that is not how I use the word mock. Here is its etymology <>
mock (v) c.1440, from M.Fr. mocquer "deride, jeer," from O.Fr., perhaps from V.L. *muccare "to blow the nose" (as a derisive gesture), from L. mucus; or possibly from M.Du. mocken "to mumble" or M.L.G. mucken "grumble." The sense of "imitating," as in mocking-bird (1676) and mock turtle (1763), is from the notion of derisive imitation.
The above is not a "funny" thing to do to a person. Mocking serves only to devalue someone that one despises. You are at least correct that to mock a person is to make them an object, but of sustained incivility not of humour. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 14:36, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
An etymology is not a definition. Wiktionary defines to mock as "to make fun of by mimicking" (there are other definitions, but that seems to be the relevant one). --Tango (talk) 16:05, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
(e/c) In case those edits are too mild for people to see what I mean, here's an amazing string of religion-bashing statements from SteveBaker, in particular the edits that begin with these sentences:
  • 'Actually, if you believe in god (or gods) I honestly don't respect you.'
  • 'Reluctantly, I'm increasingly agreeing with Richard Dawkins - atheists have to take off the kid gloves and stop treating religion and the religious with respect.'
  • 'To address your points one by one: Respect is indeed a bi-directional thing. It's not just that withhold my respect from people with crazy beliefs - I also don't give a damn whether they respect me or not.'
I don't want to suggest that SteveBaker is alone in this pattern, so I'm not singling him out as a target for any personal reasons (these were just easy to find, by searching "SteveBaker god"); in fact, he seems like a safe example because his participation on RD/S is generally exemplary. I also think that SteveBaker has some perfectly valid points about religion lacking internal consistency, verifiability, etc. However, it is important for discussions on the RD/S to focus on scientific topics (of which religion is not one), and to avoid criticism of religion per se and those who have religious beliefs. Of course, there are ardent soapboxers on both sides, but we have policies against that; my point is that religion-bashing is a form of unscientific soapboxing, and I think it has no place on RD/S. -- Scray (talk) 18:44, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
It seems evident that we should not attack anything on the science desk. We can refute things, but WP:CIVIL should be the guiding principle. Nimur (talk) 19:12, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
The problem with those comments by Steve is the "I"'s. The Science desk shouldn't care what Steve does and doesn't respect. The debate should focus on the facts, not on things personal to an individual. --Tango (talk) 20:04, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
Religion teaches to some, that they are the chosen ones, that they are better than the infidels, that they are God´s people. Science teaches to some, that their method is superior.
It is profoundly depressing, that a brilliant contributor has lost the ability to respect the culture of those fellow humans who think differently. --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 20:28, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
If someone asks a religious question on the Science desk (as opposed to the Humanities desk or even the Miscellaneous one), is it really possible to respond without some form of "that's entirely wrong"? If this were the first or even the tenth asking of the same "soapbox" question (because the soapboxing always begins with the questioner), then polite and non-judgemental is the reasonable response. However, after dozens of similar "arguments", many in the fake form of "inquiring minds want to know", it seems understandable that those whose whole training (and usefulness to WP) is in scientific analysis, and whose responses have been repeated at great length and with considerable erudition many times, are unable to be still and just watch the scientifically inept dither around with the scientifically ignorant. That "entirely wrong" becomes "complete twaddle" or variations on the theme is both understandable and, after umpteen examples where the questioners blindly ignore or misunderstand what is being said, the only human reaction. Those who come to science confusing it with religion cannot be left unchallenged or the Science Desk loses is credibility. The questions should not be ignored or moved to another Desk because any response requires a scientific perspective. In SteveBaker's case, he states his perspective up front, and except willfully, no one could think he would be anything except as straight and unsympathetic as he is with other topics about which he has considerable knowledge and little patience for the basic premises. (Try his responses on Homeopathy or Perpetual motion in case you think his dismissal of those who have the science all wrong is in any way specific to religion.) People who make illogical claims across the board of possible topics often have their claims ridiculed because, well, they are ridiculous. (Ridiculing the people, however, is not acceptable.) I would also agree that there is no special respect due to religiously-based errors about science. Before we turn or attention to those who, in good faith, respond, perhaps we should look at those who ask, often not in good faith, but looking for a soapbox.Bielle (talk) 20:48, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
If it's not a science question, we have direct methods available to us, which might avoid the frustration that can lead to incivility as you point out. Patterns of disruptive editing also have mechanisms of resolution (e.g. AN/I). Thus, we already have policy and guideline to address those who ask in bad faith; I just want to ensure that we answer scientifically, and in good faith. -- Scray (talk) 21:10, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
Nothing needs to be answered, and if you suspect it's a case of the National Enquirer, then just ignore it and get on with your day; saying that science has to challenge all unscientific questions is itself a personal belief, and arguably largely unscientific. In all honesty though, we've reached the point where most question can be answered more than sufficiently by searching the archives. For the recurring questions (especially threads like this that draw personal opinions into the fray) it's probably best to provide links to the previous discussions, and answer the minor specifics if it is a truly inquiring mind. I'd sooner save my energy for the important debates. ~ Amory (utc) 21:30, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
There are a few things we need to keep in mind (directed at no one in particular): first, soapboxing and attacking are not defensible regardless of factual accuracy. On the contrary, it is a sign of weakness of mind to resort to name-calling and insults. Further, it does nothing to help change anyone's position: nobody ever thinks philosophically with a fist in their face. Second, my experience is that reactions regarding religion are entirely different on the humanities desk, where even atheists like myself can at least answer questions from an "in universe" kind of perspective. I haven't yet read the thread in question (or the diffs) but I have also felt, as Scray apparently does, that some posts on the science desk cross the line from rebutting a non-scientific claim (which is good) to insulting the deeply held beliefs of billions of people. I say again: it doesn't matter if you're right or wrong, attacking things is not our business. Matt Deres (talk) 21:24, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
Here I have a problem. There seems to be a political correctness about religion, just because so many people in the world believe in it. Appealing to popularity is fallacious and not something the RD/S should be doing, yet it seems some posters are doing that, and hence why we have a "Criticism of religion on the science desk" talk discussion as opposed to a "Criticism of homeopathy/conspiracy theories/perpetual motion machines/<any other pseudoscience> on the science desk". The arguments in my head aren't well structured at the moment. I want to discuss qi, dianetics, transubstantiation, prayer, intelligent design, etc. and how they don't belong on the RD/S, but I imagine someone else will put it eloquently enough. Importantly we mustn't appeal to popularity, as we don't with astrology, and we mustn't be afraid to cause cognitive dissonance to others by stating that their afterlife is unfalsifiable, and thus isn't worth a shit.. --Mark PEA (talk) 09:27, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
I am not appealing to popularity or authority, I am mering saying that there is a difference between answering someone's question and attacking their beliefs. We're here to answer people's questions, not make up their minds for them regarding something that's entirely beside the point. We are not supposed to WP:BITE them or SOAPBOX about our beliefs. Matt Deres (talk) 11:39, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
"insulting the deeply held beliefs of billions of people" - this is the line you typed which effectively made me reply. I don't understand why you would point out that billions of people hold these beliefs if you weren't appealing to popularity. How does one tell which lines are superfluous and which are relevant to what your argument is? On a slightly unrelated point, I recommend that you do read the thread, as in my opinion and in some of the other's opinions, SteveBaker made fairly civil and helpful replies, although maybe he does have a past history of not doing so. --Mark PEA (talk) 17:17, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Something I wrote is obviously unclear and I apologize. It is not that every unscientific question has to be answered, but that every answer given based on a poor understanding of science needs to be corrected/clarified. I realize that is not what I said, but it is what I meant. Bielle (talk) 04:59, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
A religion is a set of beliefs. Sometimes these beliefs are linked to factual claims at odds with mainstream science (e.g. the belief that the Earth is 6000 years old). The idea that these kinds of beliefs can coexist with science is ridiculous. Also, SteveBaker didn't just make that claim - he spent time justifying it. Of course, it is possible to accept mainstream science and still adhere to some religious beliefs. Instead of accusing SteveBaker of soapboxing, you could have just pointed that out. Zain Ebrahim (talk) 07:57, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
The only consistent way to combine science and religion is with a "God of the Gaps", which means God is constantly shrinking and science grows. That's really no a convincing way to come up with a belief system. --Tango (talk) 12:23, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
I agree with that. I just thought it would be preferable to point out that god-of-the-gaps type belief does exist as opposed to accusing a regular of soapboxing, which is a pretty severe accusation. Zain Ebrahim (talk) 11:06, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
That is a very concrete position to take on an intangible subject like religion. What can we know about what others believe? I would suggest that religious beliefs and science CAN BE orthogonal and therefore not mutually exclusive. I absolutely agree that "Intelligent Design", for example, is a "God of the Gaps" situation where beliefs are meant to encroach on science. -- Scray (talk) 12:54, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
I think we're using the term "God of the Gaps" differently. I mean a God which only acts in areas that science doesn't explain (which could also be described as areas orthogonal to science, although making that metaphor precise would involve coming up with a very interesting geometry!). ID acts very much in an area that science explains - sciences explains the origin of species in terms of evolution. --Tango (talk) 12:59, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
We do (of course!) have an article: God of the gaps. --Tango (talk) 13:01, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Indeed, the god-of-the-gaps approach here is to accept evolution and move the role of one's god to abiogenesis, which is not yet well understood. Algebraist 13:03, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
It seems to be we could stand to take some part of our zeal about not answering medical advice questions, and apply that to debate questions.
If someone successfully trolls us into an uncivil debate on religion once, shame on them. But if it happens twice (or ten times)... —Steve Summit (talk) 13:14, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Specific facts, such as "the earth is 6,000 years old", can be demonstrated to be false. Science cannot possibly demonstrate the truth value of "Jesus is my Lord and Savior" (nor Muhammad nor Buddha nor any other religious figure). As far as science "shrinking" God, I like to think of science as slowly and painstakingly figuring out "how God works" - like a puzzle He gave us to solve in our copious free time. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:17, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
At the risk of pointing out the somewhat obvious, we cannot actually demonstrate that the statement "the earth is 6,000 years old" is false. All we can say is that it is inconsistent with known natural laws and phenomena and contradicts mainstream scientific opinion. The scientific world view has no better objective claim to absolute truth than any other world view. Gandalf61 (talk) 13:44, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Notice I didn't say "prove", I said "demonstrate". The known facts support the earth and the universe being billions of years old. What are considered "facts" in science are subject to change based on new information. And that is at the heart of the divide between religion and science. I've heard religionists ridicule science because "it's always changing". Never mind that the Bible itself indicates an evolution in the way man has viewed God over time. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:53, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
True. We can prove it "beyond reasonable doubt", we can't prove it absolutely. --Tango (talk) 13:51, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Science can't try and determine the truth about Jesus (various parts of his life story are claimed as miracles - by definition, that puts them outside of science). History can have a damn good stab at it, though - Historicity of Jesus (it's been a while science I read that article, but I think the conclusion was that there isn't an indisputable answer yet - there is a lack of evidence for his existence, but, as we all know, that isn't automatically evidence of his non-existence). The "figuring out how God works" argument only works if you don't assuming anything about the answer - Christianity doesn't meet that condition. --Tango (talk) 13:51, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

Anyone who believes that science and religious beliefs are utterly incompatible is as bad a bigot as the religious bigot who believes all science to be nonsense. There are countless outstanding scientists around the world making extraordinary contributions to all branches of science, who also happen to be devoted adherents of various religions. How they square their beliefs is not our concern, but the fact that intelligent people who understand both systems can manage to do so should be cause for thought and respect by both science and religion. And never mind all that, we have our own belief system here, we call it WP:CIVIL and breaches of it are not condoned, regardless of how idiotic you personally consider someone else's dearly-held beliefs to be. --Dweller (talk) 13:55, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

I don't quite follow what Tango is saying, but my friend who's both a Christian and a scientist, when I asked him how he reconciles the observable facts of evolution, answered me that, "Evolution is how God works." And that statement works for me. (Obviously, he is not a Biblical literalist.) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:57, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
So he believes that God created life and set it in motion so that evolution would bring us to where we are now? What will he do if science comes up with an explanation for abiogenesis? He'll have to move God back further. As science works out more and more things he'll have to move God further and further back. Eventually we may get to a point where science understands everything about how the universe came to exist in the way it does, where will that leave his religious beliefs? --Tango (talk) 15:08, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Also, the compatibility of science and religion is not only to be found among the scientists. There are numerous papal documents that talk about the compatibility of science and religion. Wikiant (talk) 14:00, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
I think it is a misunderstanding of religion to see it as a substitute for science. It is hard to find the words to express ineffable thoughts, and religion sometimes (often) makes incursions into the material world in order to express itself. But both the religious person and the science-oriented person are making mistakes in seeing the one really in clash with the other. When I hear that the world is 6,000 years old, I do not think it is literally 6,000 years old. Heck, cats have been domesticated for almost 10,000 years. According to my cat, anyway. Bus stop (talk) 14:45, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
You may not believe in Young-Earth Creationism, but others do. I don't really see anything to be gained by debating individual beliefs. Most religions do make claims about the material world and those claims usually are in conflict with science. --Tango (talk) 15:08, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
@Dweller, you are creating a red herring here. When science and religion are described as incompatible, it means that some of the dogma which religion forces upon its followers is in complete contradiction of science. I already mentioned transubstantiation earlier, which Catholics must believe to be true, but which has no evidence behind it. Just because a scientist is completely rational whilst working on a research project, it doesn't mean they can't be irrational outside of the lab (suppressing cognitive dissonance isn't hard). This doesn't just apply to religion either; Linus Pauling was a great scientist, but that doesn't mean that his orthomolecular medicine quackery and science are suddenly compatible.
"the fact that intelligent people who understand both systems can manage to do so should be cause for thought and respect by both science and religion" - So your argument is that because someone can be a religious scientist, we should show them respect for that? An analogy could be made that a paedophile scientist should be shown respect for their achievement too. I personally think I'll just show respect to the scientist who publishes great research, specifically for the research. Any other view they hold will have to earn respect in itself, whether it be in God(s), flying spaghetti monsters, paedophilia, or whatever. --Mark PEA (talk) 17:17, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Re incompatible, you're making the (extremely unscientific) mistake of assuming from the word go that they are incompatible and as such you're being just as dogmatic as the most religious of people. I have no idea how Catholic physicists square the two beliefs, yet many do. I don't care how they do it, I still respect them as scientists and as people of faith. And as people. And as Wikipedians, they're entitled to civility, even if they fervently believe in the deity that lives in my navel fluff, and they do not need to earn that civility, it is a basic mandate of Wikipedia - if you disagree with it you have the right not to edit here. Your comments about paedophile scientists is one of the worst (and most blatant) strawman arguments I've heard in some time and I won't dignify it with a proper response. --Dweller (talk) 22:31, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Having just looked up the Merriam-Webster definition of incompatible, I concede that parts of my original reply were false, however I was arguing under the premise that when I say incompatible I actually mean contradictory. For the rest of this reply I'll assume we are still debating, where the word incompatible is now replaced with contradictory (if you don't agree with this, then fine, argument over).
Re incompatible, you're making the (extremely unscientific) mistake of assuming from the word go that they are incompatible” - I'd like to see your evidence for this. I sincerely don't know when the word “go” starts from; my conception? My birth? Please expand. I personally thought that I assumed they were contradictory from the point when I read some religious claims which have no scientific evidence to back them up, and I already gave these examples in an earlier post (qi, dianetics, faith healing, transubstantiation). To believe in any of these, one has to deny science at some point. Also, James Randi is willing to give 1 million USD to anyone that can use the scientific method to prove any of these claims, so the incentive is definitely there.
and as such you're being just as dogmatic as the most religious of people.” - I'd be begging the question, but not dogmatic. I'm perfectly willing to change a view once I've seen evidence which contradicts it. As far as I can see I've falsified the hypothesis that religion and science are not contradictory, with the above examples. You keep saying that religion and science are not contradictory, yet the only evidence towards this view is that there are religious scientists - which is easily refuted: humans are irrational, cognitive dissonance is easy to suppress, etc. --Mark PEA (talk) 23:26, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
I have no problem with scientifically-based refutation if someone asks on RD/S about qi, dianetics, faith healing, or transubstantiation (as physical rather than spiritual phenomena). I would agree that each, for some adherents at least, makes claims that fall within the scientific domain and those aspects can be refuted directly. If some parts of a set (of beliefs) "A" are contradicted by factual evidence, does that mean that all members of set "A" are contradicted? Of course not: incompatibility of some religious beliefs with science does not entail incompatibility of all religious beliefs with science. -- Scray (talk) 03:20, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

Baseball Bugs mentioned Buddha above so it is apt to quote a Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama: "If science proves something wrong in Buddhist teaching then Buddhism must change." It is a mistake to categorise Buddhism with the Abrahamic religions Mohammedism and Christianity from which one would never hear such a statement. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 14:48, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

There are plenty of Christians who would agree with such a statement. Maybe not the ones who shout loudest in contemporary American Evangelicalism, but they don't represent the main stream of worldwide historical Christianity (if there even is a main stream). I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Pope has made statements more or less exactly like the Lama's. I assume such opinions exist within Islam too, (and they absolutely do in Judaism, the granddaddy Abrahamic religion) but I don't know as much about that. Staecker (talk) 15:02, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Christians don't usually change Christianity, they just fiddle around with their interpretation of it. They continue to claim their beliefs are sacred and refuse to admit that they have changed them, they just now claim that their beliefs mean something different to what they always used to claim they meant. --Tango (talk) 15:08, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Indeed, Buddhism is very different from other religions. In fact, many people don't categorise it as a religion at all. --Tango (talk) 15:08, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

I still don't get what's going on. Steve's reply seems perfectly reasonable to me. Were you, OP, offended by truth or something? --Belchman (talk) 15:15, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

OP here. What appears to be a thinly veiled insult (asking whether I'm simply "offended by truth") doesn't really move the conversation in a constructive direction, so I'll assume you're just being funny. Putting that aside, the "something" that I did find less than civil, and about which I was specific, was SteveBaker's characterization as "ridiculous" the notion that a person would take both science and religion seriously. The other thread I quoted (just below my original post at the top of this section) was more egregious, and is illustrative of a pattern I have observed over time, in which RefDesk editors go beyond refuting individual statements about phenomena that are based on non-scientific precepts (which refutation would certainly be within scope for RD/S) to engage in diatribes against religion globally. I brought it here to see whether I was alone in this impression, and it seems that I was not. I'm simply interested in steering the RD/S toward a more civil approach, that's all. -- Scray (talk) 19:37, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

About a month ago, I almost posted here on this very topic. Unfortunately, I didn't save the diffs that inspired my thoughts; but they were by no means all the work of SteveBaker, and some of them seemed wholly gratuitous, in that they were not particularly relevant to the original questions. They also tended to display a pretty fundamental ignorance of the history and content of theological thought in Christianity and other religions. All I can say at this point is that I share Scray's general concerns and largely agree with Dweller's comments several posts up. Deor (talk) 15:16, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

As I have argued before, there should be a "Religion reference desk." I still feel that is a good idea. Religion deserves a reference desk on which it can set its own terms concerning guidelines for use of such a space. It should not have to compromise, except insofar as to the accommodation of all other entities that are at all considered religions. It is my feeling that it is a blind spot of Wikipedia, and a prejudice, to not let religion have such a space of inquiry of its own. Bus stop (talk) 15:37, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Religion falls under humanities and gets dealt with very appropriately there. It is when religious points get brought up on the science desk that things get uncomfortable. --Tango (talk) 16:05, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
I understand that, Tango, concerning your point about the Humanities reference desk, etc. But religion cannot coexist within the environment of the general humanities reference desk. To foster religion, that is to use the reference desks to cover religion, it would be my contention that such a desk (a religion reference desk) would have to stand alone. Wikipedia is being underutilized. Passions run high concerning religion(s). I think there is no environment other than a religious environment in which discussion of religion can flourish. All other environments seem irreverent. (I realize this is off-topic. Sorry.) Bus stop (talk) 17:54, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
There might be enough questions to justify a religion ref desk. But what if the question is, "Are science and religion compatible?"? Which ref desk should that go to? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:34, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Do you have any evidence of problems with having religion-related questions asked and answered on the humanities desk? --Tango (talk) 18:36, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Baseball Bugs -- I would suggest an additional reference desk as a meeting place for religion and science. : )
Tango -- I don't think such evidence would likely be readily available. A question not asked leaves no trace. Religion resides in recesses of quietude. (I just made that up.) In the noise and fanfare and irreverence of the normal humanities discussions I think a person would be likely to be ridiculed (even if only inadvertently) for asking a sincerely reverent question. I think Wikipedia is being underutilized by not setting aside a space for religion, and only religion. Arguably, it is what the world acutely needs now. Bus stop (talk) 18:50, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
We aren't here to provide what the world needs. We're here to provide references. If somebody asks a religious question, we can direct them to various Wikipedia articles about various holy books, holy people, and so forth; or we can send them off to Project Gutenberg or WikiSource to read the original source texts; but we should not be fostering a community of original researchers - even if their "research" is philosophy or theology or eschatology. People who want to deliberate on religion can do so on religion forums; the reference desk can refer them to those locations. Nimur (talk) 20:19, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Not fostering a community of "original researchers." People tend to answer questions at particular reference desks. People have skills and familiarity with one general area of information more so than with another. References are provided by those who know where to look for them, or how to go about finding certain pieces of information. Religion is just such a sub- area of knowledge. I never suggested anything akin to deliberating on religion. No way am I suggesting waxing on spiritual matters. What I am talking about is the nuts and bolts of religion. Solid questions that have yes or no answers. If this, then that answers. Definitely not wishy-washy questions about vague spirituality, unless it is a legitimate part of an organized religion. But I already know that this is an absolutely hopeless cause. I believe a total of two other people agreed with this suggestion. Bus stop (talk) 20:41, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Religion is a humanity. Other humanities manage just fine with a shared desk, I'm not convinced religion is any different. Religion certainly doesn't "reside in recesses of quietude" - quite the opposite. Religious people are frequently very vocal on the subject. --Tango (talk) 22:07, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
I say again, what we have here is a debate. And while the guideline discouraging debate and opinionizing on the desks does not, I think, extend to this talk page, it's worth looking at why this question brings out such passions among people.
Once you do, at least if you look at it dispassionately, I think you'll find that the various guidelines and policies -- refdesk-specific, wikipedia-wide, and otherwise -- are pretty clear and pretty foresightful in saying that we need not and should not be getting our knickers in a twist over this. Answer the scientific questions scientifically, with civility and without too much original research; don't inject opinions or start debates or engage in personal attacks or answer questions that weren't asked. —Steve Summit (talk) 02:37, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
To expand on something I just alluded to -- there's a rather frequent complaint on this talk page that OS partisans over on the Computing desk have an allegedly bad habit of answering questions of the form "I'm having trouble with X on my computer running operating system Y" with somewhat incendiary rhetoric of the form "You should switch to operating system Z instead!" (There's a reason why debates over whether operating system Y or Z is better are often termed "religious wars".) Now if it's true (though I think we've concluded it is) that those "answers" are inappropriate -- that the OP didn't ask which OS to use, but rather, how to solve a particular problem under a certain one -- then I think we have to conclude that, by the same token, a questioner who asks about a religion should not be answered by bashing that religion in particular, or religion in general, or by exhorting the questioner to switch to a different religion (or to Science). —Steve Summit (talk) 02:48, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
Thanks so much for this. These are general principles: answer the question if you are inclined to do so; don't attack the questioner. -- Scray (talk) 03:08, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
(after e/c)Not knowing a lot about Operating Systems (except that I have the wrong one), perhaps I am misunderstanding. I agree with everything you have written, Steve Summit. There have been questions of exactly the sort you describe and, for the most part, they have been answered in the manner you suggest. And they usually present themselves on the Humanities Desk. The questions that create the difficulties are of the sort that present religious concepts as scientific ones, and then want the Science Desk to comment on what is either not science at all, or bad science. It would be as if someone with IE makes a claim that it's just the same as Linux, and then insists, without paying any attention to the answers, that the Computing Desk must agree because they are both operating systems, or they both have keyboards, or some other such superficial similarity. I am not supporting disparaging remarks made to the questionners, but I certainly understand why there would be disparaging remarks about this type of question. Bielle (talk) 03:31, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
"Presenting religious concepts as scientific ones." Yup, that tactic is a doozy, and it makes me want to scream, for all sorts of reasons. But the main ones are: (1) I'm the scientific person, you're the religious person, you don't like my science or my methods or my arguments, so why would you want to try to use my hated arguments to buttress your cherished beliefs? (Wouldn't it just sully them instead?) But more importantly (2) if you want to use science, you're going to have to do it right, and what you get if you do science right (and remember, thousands of very smart people have been working on this for hundreds of years) is (a) an ironclad proof of evolution and all sorts of other results you reject and (b) a disproof of creation and all sorts of beliefs you cherish. You can't have it both ways, and you don't even want it both ways. So please go back to your Book and your beliefs and your feel-good Sunday School sessions, and leave the science to us. (So I guess my answer to the question of whether science and religion are fundamentally incompatible is "yes".) —Steve Summit (talk) 04:42, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
There is a big difference between the two cases. The Computing desk is a general desk to talk about all computing issues, there is and should be no assumption that any particular aspect of that field is better than any other, although there could reasonably be an assumption that computers in general are good. If someone came to the Computing desk talking about how computers are evil (as some religious groups believe) we would expect the Computing desk regulars to come out in support of Computers (if they dignified the question with a response at all). Science is a method and it is reasonable, on the Science desk, to assume that that method is good. If you apply that method you almost invariably end up rejecting religious claims about the universe, so it is reasonable for Science desk regulars to come out against those claims. (While they could also take the position of not dignifying questions with responses, scientists generally don't like that approach - science has the view that nothing should be rejected out of hand and the evidence should always be considered and Science desk regulars often want to demonstrate that principle in order to give people a better understanding of how science works.) --Tango (talk) 10:34, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
I appreciate Steve Summit's analogy and suggestions for responding to questions such as "Creationist Evolution." There are many kinds of questions which betray dogmatic, fundamentally unscientific approaches to truth and inquiry-- pseudoscience, conspiracy theory, and many religious questions. It is fully appropriate to point out the unscientific approach and to refuse to endorse the question's premise. Questioners who respond with abuse and with a refusal to interact thoughtfully are trolling, regardless of their self-righteous certainty. However, it is wrong to identify religion with dogma ("an unwillingness to examine one's fundamental assumptions," to paraphrase John Dewey). Dogmatic thinking is in conflict with science, but it can be and has been displayed not just by religious questioners, but also by perpetual motion fanatics, racists, conspiracy theorists, proponents of medical scams, and more. It has been noted above that many religions include teachings that encourage rethinking doctrines and acknowledging human fallibility (though certainly many adherents fail to do so).
Questioners on the computing desk have practical or personal reasons (good or bad) for the OS or program they use, and these reasons need not be challenged or addressed to answer a simple procedural question. Similarly, religious questioners have reasons for their beliefs. They may (or may not) be perfectly willing to re-examine and discuss those reasons, but that is not (should not) be their purpose for coming to the science desk. The OP of "Creationist Evolution" had a question which could be (and was) addressed in many helpful ways. It could be pointed out that it is not a new idea, that it is more commonly known as "theistic evolution." It was explained that evolutionists in general do not find God necessary or helpful for explaining evolution or abiogenesis, and that the OP should learn more about evolution to understand why this is so. --The OP's enthusiasm for the idea of theistic evolution outpaced his understanding of evolution, but the OP did interact with the responses and certainly learned about how theistic evolution will be received. It could be explained that philosophy of science and philosophy/theology in general are where the argument for/against theistic evolution must take place. I do think the abuse of religion and the identification of religious belief with dogmatic thinking was uncalled for. In this case, the OP responded with patience to multiple (appropriate) objections, but did not return after the thread turned to religion-bashing. You may have every reason not to understand or agree with the questioner's religious beliefs, but you should not assume they are dogmatic or anti-science until the OP demonstrates that they are (and even then, a refutation is more appropriate than a rant). (talk) 05:20, 25 November 2009 (UTC)
Just another thought-- clearly, this doesn't require you to agree with the questioner's religious beliefs; but it actually doesn't require you to believe that religion is even potentially rationally consistent with an informed, scientific view of the world. As was mentioned above, people are certainly not always rationally consistent! You should still assume the OP is able and willing to think and interact with your answers until they demonstrate otherwise. (talk) 07:49, 25 November 2009 (UTC)
Something that wasn't covered above is the reason Creationism/ID questions generate so much heat on the Science desk: Americans of a scientific mind who believe that evolution occurs/occurred are in the minority and are outraged/scared that religion and religion-dressed-as-science will be successful in ousting evolution and other scientific facts from school curricula. It's still no excuse for being a WP:DICK, but it's perhaps understandable when you consider the reaction an OP would get for continually barging onto Bus Stop's "Religion Desk" and pointing out scientific absurdities in various holy books. --Sean 19:30, 3 December 2009 (UTC)
My "Religion desk" doesn't exist yet. My suggestion for a Religion reference desk has only met a lukewarm reception. But you correctly point out that science would basically be unwelcome at such a desk. Bus stop (talk) 19:47, 3 December 2009 (UTC)