Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 68

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Where's the fine line here?

In this question, is it appropriate to start predicting doomsday scenarios on a reference desk? If the person asking the question were to panic, and, for example, invest all their money in gold, because the idea was brought up, it could very conceivably wreck them, which seems to be just as bad as legal advice to me. I'm not sure what's appropriate here, which is why I haven't removed the question. Falconusp t c 03:12, 1 February 2010 (UTC)

The question does not breach any of our core guidelines (medical or legal advice). Even so, your concerns may be legitimate, anyway. In such "gray areas" I think the safest thing is to remember the core reference desk principle: direct the user to a reference about the topic. This is the purpose of the reference desk. We have insights about Wikipedia articles and reliable off-site resources that the OP may not be aware of. Nimur (talk) 03:42, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
as a rule, you can never lead someone away from a belief, you can only lead them to information. The OP's question reeks of someone looking for a disaster to avoid so that he can feel like he's ahead of the game. If we could provide him with clear unassailable proof that nothing bad was ever going to happen again, he just simply wouldn't believe it. and that is entirely his right. we certainly have an obligation not to mislead him, but we have neither the right nor the ability to keep him from doing whatever he thinks is best, no matter how bizarre that might be to our eyes. I'm just saying... --Ludwigs2 06:39, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
I think if we cross the line into telling the poster's what stocks to invest in, we've probably gone over our mandate. But barring that, we can give information, poster's can act or not act on it depending on what they think is going to happen. The poster's question was pretty straightforward—if one thought/knew impending catastrophic economic collapse was coming, what would be the wisest investment strategy? That's pretty answerable in a factual way. How the poster acts on that will depend on other factors well outside our consideration. There's a difference between saying, "if this is going to happen, this would be a sensible strategy" and saying "GO BUY GOLD NOW OH MY GOD." MarcoPolo's response was definitely in the former category. I think if we start badgering, fearmongering, or doing any other kind of "hard sell" on a poster, we've crossed the line. But I haven't seen that. --Mr.98 (talk) 15:47, 2 February 2010 (UTC)
Okay, thanks guys. I'll keep this in mind. Falconusp t c 04:41, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

repetitive question (talk) has an obsession with interracial (white/asian) marriage, and has asked variations on the same question at least four separate times in the last couple of days. would it be appropriate to leave a talk page warning for behavior like that? it's not really a problem, just a bit of an irritating time-waste. --Ludwigs2 18:20, 1 February 2010 (UTC)

Some of the entries on 209's talk page are addressed to User:Freewayguy - who has been banned for exactly this kind of thing - I believe therefore that 209 is a sock of Freewayguy. I think it would be OK to delete further posts of this nature on sight. However, this is a shared IP address and I don't think we should be deleting non-controversial/non-trollish messages from there. SteveBaker (talk) 19:25, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
S/he's been doing this for years. I agree with Steve that enough is enough and they should be deleted on sight. --Sean 18:07, 2 February 2010 (UTC)
Our patient answering of 209's questions has been rewarded today with his announcement that he is an Asian male who plans to marry a white woman. At last is laid bare the rationale of all of his questions about interracial marriage. I have congratulated him in advance, accordingly. Comet Tuttle (talk) 22:30, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
From the most recent comments, it sounds like it's a fairly long term goal so I'm not sure if the questions are going to stop. And considering that and perhaps I'm going to get yelled at for saying this but given his history on the RD he's liable to have far bigger problems fulfilling this goal then getting a job and finishing college, whatever her race. Nil Einne (talk) 23:24, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Thank God! I would have been a little less civil, but in my case it's lack of sleep, which I was going to do about 6+ hours ago (4am local), plus THIS and here I am still! Do you think they'll want advice planning the wedding? ;-) -- (talk) 23:31, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
whatever. that just means more asian women for us white guys. joke... --Ludwigs2 00:00, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

How to create a new reference desk

Friends, I've just spent a couple of hours on this: Wikipedia:Reference desk/How to create a new reference desk. I hope that it will provide a summary of the consensus view and brief history of past gnashings which we can point to when new desk proposals come along, and help bring pro-status-quo and pro-new-desk editors towards mutual understanding.

Because I am a veteran of both sides of the debate -- having both argued against unnecessary new desks and having created an unnecessary new desk of my own -- I am now firmly in the status quo camp. Therefore, I would particularly enjoy the input of anyone who has recently proposed a new desk. Preferably after they've slogged through all the archives for their pet proposal. ;) --Sean 19:38, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

Good summary. Hopefully it will be effective. Our policy should be to direct proponents of new desks to that page first, and stem the flow of debate until the OP demonstrates that they are informed about the issue. I have made a minor clarification to your article regarding the fundamental purpose of the Ref Desk. Nimur (talk) 20:39, 2 February 2010 (UTC)
Great, thanks! --Sean 21:33, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

Missing one or two proposed desks, but a very good guide :) Also it's lovely to have the history of the desks all in one place like that for easy navigating.

Which did I miss? --Sean 22:17, 2 February 2010 (UTC)
Nicely written; well done. It's good to have the history all in one place. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 22:20, 2 February 2010 (UTC)
Yeah - good work! This is a great contribution. SteveBaker (talk) 03:35, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Nice. Out of curiosity, what was the created desk that was unneccessary? Perhaps a history tree of Reference Desks (when they were created and from what) would be interesting to have on that page. It would satisfy my (and hopefully someone else's) curiosity, show that things are stable, that the desks have been around in this format for some time, but that changes occasionally happen. Jørgen (talk) 12:48, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
I was trying to keep my message concise; there's clearly a need for a Seagull desk, but I was trying to keep things catholic. --Sean 04:14, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

Trolls? Competition?

On the Science desk, first we get question, "Putting a very small satellite into orbit in space", here then, 5 hours and 5 questions later "Really small space probes", here. Basically the same question, first IP Germany, second IP London. The German IP also asked about "Stopping nuclear reactions with a jamming field" only 15 minutes before (In fact 3 questions in 15 minutes). Is there another 'quiz' or something going on? -- (talk) 22:39, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

Addendum:Not exactly the same question, the second "Really small space probes", is the last of a 4 part question asked by the first IP. I spent too long giving a detailed answer, finding, and checking, relevant internal links etc. which is why I am more than a bit miffed at the second IP asking what was already covered. Online Quiz?-- (talk) 22:57, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

Most likely there was some scientific program or documentary or discussion somewhere else and two people wanted to know more about it. I don't see a problem. And I think you should rephrase your response to the second question to be more friendly —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:55, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Yeh, no excuse but I am really tired and was about to sleep (4am local !) when the second question appeared and I was silly enough to try to answer it. I still haven't got to bed 8 hours later! Wikiholism!-- (talk) 00:46, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
I bet it's people thinking up questions after reading today's front-page Slashdot article about trying to propel "picosatellites". Comet Tuttle (talk) 00:55, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Could be, but the first questions were wider ranging, ie asking about guns to put a bullet into orbit (spaceguns), whether "modern artillery shells have electronics in them" etc. May just be a fluke. Slashdot post time was 06:22PM vs 16:37 UTC, does that add up? And to 'IP 82' I have made my reply less bitey. I have to sleep. Bye!-- (talk) 01:29, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
I saw an article about a massive gun that would launch a payload into orbit in Popular Science last month. It would pull 5000 G's, so it can't transport humans (well it can, but...). The purpose is supposedly to resupply the ISS with various not living things, though I was baffled at how any fuel or food could still be useful after undergoing 5000 G's. That could be where that came from. Falconusp t c 02:58, 4 February 2010 (UTC), no one is forcing you to answer questions. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 03:05, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Whenever I find myself giving an unduly frustrated or irritated reply, I try to just close the browser window and go do something else... let someone else sort it out, if it needs to be sorted out at all! Only answer the things you really want to. --Mr.98 (talk) 14:28, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Thank you for your civil comment Mr.98. I appreciate your opinion. Looking back, I have been spending too much time on the Ref Desk. And staying up too late!-- (talk) 15:01, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

Once again (more medical advice stuff)...

In this question, an individual is seeking advice to whether an accident with UV exposure is something he should worry about. I hesitated to remove the question, as I've already been too quick to do that once today, but I stated that he should see a medical professional. Falconusp t c 19:57, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

Agreed, it's too close to a diagnosis he is looking for. Comet Tuttle (talk) 20:34, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

Moved Question

I moved this from Science to Computer desk, Okay?

"is steam (game) working right now for u guys? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:08, 5 February 2010 (UTC) "

-- (talk) 06:03, 5 February 2010 (UTC)

It's also on the Entertainment desk, is there a policy on multiple postings? -- (talk) 06:24, 5 February 2010 (UTC)

Yes, "please don't cross-post" is in the guidelines in some fashion. A link to the relevant location is preferable to removing the extra posts outright. — Lomn 14:50, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, Lomn! I did put a link in when I moved the RD/Science post, the other I left unsure of the protocol. Both have been answered now, so all seems good! :-) — (talk) 06:05, 6 February 2010 (UTC)

Deleted Lc's Latest

I've deleted this and this Lc's latest intrusions. hydnjo (talk) 23:35, 5 February 2010 (UTC)


Falconus just answered a question from someone who thought they were being poisoned via gases and via their prescriptions being tampered with; and then removed the question. I think I'm going to undo the removal and second the recommendation to call the doctor. Hopefully the doctor will immediately recognize that further types of help are required. In any case I don't think this is a medical advice question. Comet Tuttle (talk) 18:56, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

[edit (Comet Tuttle beat me to it, so I'm merging sections)] I removed a request for what I interpreted as medical (and maybe legal) advice [1]. The best I can tell, the individual thinks that she is being poisoned by a gas /or prescription meds, and wants to know what she can do to prove it. Falconusp t c 19:01, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Alright, maybe I was wrong, but it definitely rings of medical and legal advice to me. Falconusp t c 19:03, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Kainaw's pseudoephedrinexcellence says that it's not a medical advice question if we're not being asked to diagnose a condition, which in this case we're not. I'm uneasy with questions from people who are obviously disturbed, but I think trying to get such people to a doctor is probably the best line of answers we can give. Comet Tuttle (talk) 19:07, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Okay, makes sense. I'll keep an eye out, and make sure that no inappropriate advice is given. Falconusp t c 19:10, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
I removed advice from an IP which told the OP that he was going to die. I've never done anything like that before, so I thought I'd best mention it. <.< Vimescarrot (talk) 21:17, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Good call. In the future, you could leave a little note that you removed an inappropriate comment in its place, but since it was so ridiculous, I don't think it much matters in this case. You can also post a vandalism warning on the person's page if you want. I think I'm going to go ahead and do that, because he has vandalised at least two things today. Falconusp t c 23:06, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
That IPs reply to you was rather less than civil wasn't it? And from a University too! As a fixed IP I 'apologise' on behalf of the many responsible IP editors, we aren't all like that. -- (talk) 01:54, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
Yes, it was rather less than civil. I left another vandalism warning on the second guy's page, but if I catch either of them doing that again, I think I'll recommend them for a block, as for being colleges and businesses, they don't seem to have had a lot of contributions. Ah well... Falconusp t c 03:15, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
And no need to apologize for other IP's; you don't seem to have caused too much trouble :-). Falconusp t c 03:19, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
Admittedly I was being slightly... frivolous? And it was 'apologise ' . :-) Just have to watch my ' tongue' when it's late.
As per my previous 'Trolls ? Competition ? ' post! E pluribus unum!

-- (talk) 07:08, 5 February 2010 (UTC)

"Apologize" isn't wrong. It's just the American spelling. Falconusp t c 13:41, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
You needn't "apolog-ice" for how you spell "apolog-eyes." Two great countries divided by a common language. Edison (talk) 03:28, 6 February 2010 (UTC)
Britain is Great but what's the other one? Cuddlyable3 (talk) 16:14, 6 February 2010 (UTC)
Ireland, Brittany, or possibly both. --ColinFine (talk) 22:43, 7 February 2010 (UTC)

Yet more medical advice stuff

I've been seeing a lot of questions where the automatic answer is, "we can't answer that, please see a doctor". For the majority of them, in my opinion, seeing a doctor would be a waste of time or money, and the questioners could probably figure out the answers themselves by doing a little work. (For obvious reasons I don't want to give specific examples.) Can I suggest that we simply say "we can't answer that" and leave out the reflexive mention of doctors, at least unless there is some justification for it? Regards, Looie496 (talk) 23:50, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

Well, in my mind, if someone comes to us with medical advice, we should always say that they should see a medical professional, because we are not qualified and don't have the means to decide via the internet what is worth looking more into. Since this is a reference desk, we are supposed to refer people to sources. The only appropriate source we can give to people for personal medical questions is the medical doctor (or pharmacist, etc). Also, if someone does come to us, a group of very loosely associated anonymous people, with medical questions, it's probably best to tell them to go to a doctor, because they have already shown a lack of judgement just by asking us. Falconusp t c 00:22, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
Deleted some random garbage that my web browser threw in here. Sorry about that. Falconusp t c 00:34, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
My attempt at a compromise position is to go with "if you are concerned, consult a doctor." I'd be fine with "we can't answer that", but I think it's important that whatever is used be applied consistently. The problem with "at least unless there is some justification" is that you are, de facto, making a diagnosis -- at least on the broad spectrum of "serious enough to need a doctor." — Lomn 14:49, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
Precisely. If we make a determination between the two possible responses then we are making a judgement about what we think the problem is in order that we can decide which answers to give. I would be OK with "We're not allowed to answer that" - but what I'm not OK with is mixing that with "Go see a doctor". We should pick one or the other and stick with it. SteveBaker (talk) 20:11, 7 February 2010 (UTC)

Humor on the reference desk, or How to avoid confusion and not be too distracting

What does everyone else think of my suggestion that to avoid confusion and attenuate distraction from the original question that jokes be put small text, a smiley face, and an edit summary mentioning that it's a joke? Since I've started doing this, nobody has mistaken any of my jokes as something serious. Perhaps we can adopt this convention as a best practice for ref desk regulars? Obviously, newbies and editors who don't frequent the ref desks won't know to do this (and that's fine), but how about we adopt this a best practice for ref desk regulars? A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 04:45, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

Well, it would stop me from doing any humourous commenting just because there would way too much coding to do, By the time I finished typing, we would be three comments past the joke point. (That may be a good "unintended consequence".) You might also want to note that in my browser (IE7), "small" doesn't show up as small at all; "small small", works, however. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bielle (talkcontribs)
That's not a bad suggestion. Another notion that's a good idea would be to avoid laying in with the jokes until after the original poster has received a substantive answer to his or her question. It's just not nice for us to treat a question as a source of fun before we get core business of being helpful out of the way. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 05:33, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Jokes sometimes rely on the subtle distinction between humor and seriousness. Jokes that rely on the distinction between a comment that is not intended to be humorous and one that is said in jest would suffer terribly by smiley face that you suggest. I think the suggestion is too formulaic. If such measures are necessary, I think it is just better to not make the "joke." Exceptions to my analysis and counter-suggestions are to be expected. But this is my response. Bus stop (talk) 05:57, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
I find it strange that so soon after other users were chastised and threatened with being blocked for making jokes, other users are trying to formalize a format for making jokes. I believe that Ten's suggestion would be better summarized as, "A good idea would be to avoid jokes." Please remember that this is a Reference Desk, not a Message Board. If you go with the "absolutely no jokes" rule and break it now and then, I don't see a problem. If you go with the "I can add a joke to every question as long as I make it small" rule, you will likely get the same treatment that other users have had to endure. -- kainaw 06:21, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Agree 100%. --LarryMac | Talk 14:57, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
This is pretty much the exact technique I have always used, except I also double-indent my comment to make clear it's not part of the response stream. And I try to never let the "joke" get in the way of real answers or end up as a comment on the original poster. The nice thing about using a <small> tag is that I have to preview to be sure I did it right and I get one more chance to think about whether I'm really being all that funny. At least half of my delightful humour is lost to the world this way as it becomes apparent that closing the window is the better option. Franamax (talk) 13:27, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
common sense trumps a formal rule, every time. no accounting for people who lack common sense, though... Face-smile.svg (the preceding is intended in a humorous light; any resemblance to serious conversation is entirely coincidental). --Ludwigs2 18:29, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

I agree that putting jokes, etc., in small text so as they are not confused for serious answers is a great idea (I do it myself most of the time, and have been doing so for years, like most other people), but why this is suddenly being brought up now after we've been doing this for absolutely ages is completely beyond me. --KageTora - (影虎) (A word...?) 19:03, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

Instead of specifically targetting humor, which can have its place and can be good &ndash if used sensibly – for the atmophere of the refdesk, we focus on "wildly off-topic or thread-derailing" comments, which seem to be the real issue? – ClockworkSoul 19:33, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

someone got in trouble for it. --Ludwigs2 19:43, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
So? That doesn't mean we have to address humor specifically. If the purpose of the proposal is to "avoid confusion and attenuate distraction from the original question", then wouldn't it make sense to focus on, you know, confusing and distracting (that is wildly off-topic and/or thread-derailing) comments rather than focusing on humor? – ClockworkSoul 19:56, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
I agree with this. General derailing of threads is a big problem. I suggest more active use of the collapsible hide boxes; scrolling down the page and seeing a thread with loads of replies might make you scroll past it because you assume it's been sufficiently answered. It's only on closer inspection that you see it's just a load of jokes and sub-jokes or people debating something vaguely related to the original question but of no help to the OP. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:45, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
I like jokes being smalled, but I don't want a policy to exist that encourages the volume of jokes to increase. Sort of like abstinence-only sex education. Comet Tuttle (talk) 22:36, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
I think ideally jokes would not be in small font, nor would smileys be included, nor would an edit summary indicate that it's a joke. Ideally humor should simply be used in good taste and probably sparingly. Humor is a natural part of discourse. The reference desks are form of discourse. Therefore it would be artificial to ban humor. It would be formulaic and a forcing into an unnatural form to require the user of jokes and humor to somehow indicate that their post is funny. You can't legislate these things. All we can do is try as individuals to uphold the basic purposes of the reference desks. We are trying to provide useful responses for questions posed here. Bus stop (talk) 22:47, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

kainaw: "I find it strange that so soon after other users were chastised and threatened with being blocked for making jokes, other users are trying to formalize a format for making jokes." I guess I'm not enough of a ref desk regular to know about users being chastised other than a certain rabbit and I don't know if anything ever came of it.

Comet: "don't want a policy to exist that encourages the volume of jokes to increase" Humor is already part of the ref desk guidelines.[2]

Anyway, if there isn't enough support for my suggestion, that's fine. Just thought it might be helpful. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 23:22, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

Obviously some humor is OK, but as I was trying to say, I think the amount currently here is OK but I don't really want to encourage it to increase beyond the current level. For what it's worth, another reason to encourage a smalling of the jokes is to prevent more inevitable misunderstandings (by non-native-English-speakers) of Bugs, who simply cannot restrain himself. Comet Tuttle (talk) 00:44, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
"Non-native-English-speakers of Bugs?" I'm not sure if I comprehend that. But I wouldn't underestimate the ability of "non-native-English-speakers" to follow a conversation here without encountering misunderstandings. But I think it is the responsibility of those of us who speak English fluently to speak in a way that is comprehensible. Bus stop (talk) 15:20, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Parentheses added above to clarify my difficult-to-understand sentence. Comet Tuttle (talk) 17:31, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
If you find yourself speaking in Bugs, oh man, seek thee some medical advice! :) Franamax (talk) 20:27, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Is that what "What's up, doc?" was about? DMacks (talk) 18:41, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

2 Trolls

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Closing this discussion, because the argument not going anywhere and is not exactly on topic anyway. —Akrabbimtalk 12:14, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

1)Congratulations to Kainaw for handling a troll post about kangaroo pockets by giving a correct "No" response plus a note on the Editing page. Well done, a barnstar is on its way.
2)I have deleted the troll (racist) post about "foul smelling malenic[sic] stools". Cuddlyable3 (talk) 16:02, 8 February 2010 (UTC)

Could you post the diff links? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:08, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
I could but I won't. I deny the trolls publicity. They are dead to me. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 16:37, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
Good job on the WP:DENY, making this whole thread and all. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
Given that C3 just removed the post, it's easy to find in his contribs anyway Nil Einne (talk) 19:45, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
It's just easier if people link to what they are talking about than everyone having to go looking at their contributions page and guess which edits they mean. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
Just as it is easier if people sign their posts instead of filling up the page with tons of "Preceding unsigned comment added by..." messages. I know, everyone else needs to change to make Wikipedia better. -- kainaw 20:34, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
The unnecessary length of the autosigned messages is indeed annoying. Perhaps that's an issue you should raise with SineBots owner. However, my point still stands; people should provide diff links when talking about specific edits or removal of content, so that others may easily assess the situation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:34, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
And my point still stands. Demanding that others put more effort into Wikipedia just for you while you lazily refuse to type four ~'s is outright rude. -- kainaw 21:38, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
It's not just for me; providing diff links is helpful for everyone here and is standard wiki practice. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:42, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
And not cluttering the page with a bunch of unsigned messages because you are too lazy, too stupid, or too stubborn to type four ~'s is a benefit for everyone here, not just me. Your argument is relegated to trollish pointlessness because you are either too lazy, too stupid, or too stubborn to comprehend that you are berating someone else for doing exactly the same thing you are doing. -- kainaw 02:02, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
People should provide diff links when discussing removal of content. That has been well established for a long time here. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:45, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Dr hursday (talk · contribs)

In case no one's noticed, Dr hursday is having a bit o' fun on ref desk pages asking largely idiotic questions. answer if you like (it mostly seems inoffensive), but don't give the questions a whole lot of credibility. Face-smile.svg --Ludwigs2 20:03, 6 February 2010 (UTC)

Noted and noticed. First edit was to tag the article Thursday as a "Current Event". Which was true, as it was Thursday when tagged. Then they tagged Friday, then Saturday! (NOT Sunday, so far) px10220.101.28.25 (talk) 02:38, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
Tagging each day as a "current event" then asking nonsensical questions on Ref Desk with the "accidental" humorous misspellings are behaviors typical of a vandal/troll. When would warning/blocking be appropriate, as is readily done for posting by LC? Edison (talk) 03:02, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
Hmmm. Let's be careful not to over-generalise here. Some of his questions are odd, but his Science Desk questions - have scientists created life in the lab [3] and does sleep have an evolutionary advantage [4] - are intelligent questions. His questions should be approached on a case-by-case basis. Gandalf61 (talk) 09:25, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
Also "what would happen if Obabma was discovered to have been born outside the US?" Is a good question. (Hursday makes it clear that he's not a birther but just wondering what the constitutional mandates are for that situation.) Staecker (talk) 12:55, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
Agreed that he's not a dumbshit (which I'm sure he'll be pleased to hear), but he might be a poster boy for DENY. The problem I see is that questions of this sort are clearly not serious, and that has potential for being a low-grade irritant. even the 'sleep' and 'life' problems noted above fall into that category: they are semi-philosophical questions that he tries to warp into full-fledged philosophical debates (note his clarification of the 'life' question when he gets a simple, factual, scientific answer [5]) . I'm all for helping people out, but he seems to be intent on being an overt time waster - asking unanswerable questions for no other reason than to spur people into protracted debates. I mean, if we think he's cute and funny we could keep him around as a pet troll, but I'm not sure how wise that is. baby trolls are cute, yes, but they're not so cute when they grow up a bit. --Ludwigs2 17:37, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
Ludwigs2 - no, I still don't see how he is a troll - he has just asked some slightly odd questions. If his questions irritate you then best policy is to ignore them. Gandalf61 (talk) 18:07, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
I agree with this. A light-hearted, care-free attitude does not equal trolling. With regards to Ludwigs2 suggestion of keeping a low grade troll as a "pet"; I think this is a good idea but even if everyone agrees some dumb upstart admin (and I really do mean thick as a post because this is exactly how one certain "troll" started out) will block them anyway so it's rather pointless to even consider that. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:52, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure he's not just a very poor speller with an odd sense of curiosity. The questions asked at the science desk were pretty reasonable. The question at the math desk was crazy - but only because it was on the math desk. Had he asked it on the Misc desk, it would have seemed pretty reasonable. People post to the wrong desk all the time. I don't see any evidence of a problem here. Certainly nothing that rises to the level of something that demands action. SteveBaker (talk) 20:07, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
It's hard to believe he is such a really poor speller, when he can spell hypothetical, and requirement, or "correlation" and "politician" or "components" but serves up springboards to humor such "viture (for virtue), repeated so not just a mistyping, and "shellfish" for selfish. or "prophet margin," again repeated so not just a mistyping. I hope that he sticks to the part about asking meaningful questions and avoids the possibly intentionally "funny" misspellings" and the asking of math desk questions for the difference between a cupcake and a muffin. I liked that in the grand tradition that even a silly question can generate an encyclopedic response, they noted that a donut would be different from either a cupcake or a muffin, topologically speaking.Edison (talk) 21:24, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
Maybe he / she a uses a spellchecker for really complicated words, or already has their articles open and just copy pastes the word. It's not inconceivable that someone can spell long complicated words while failing at others. Hell, half the time I get confused with "which" "witch" and "weather" "whether". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:50, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
Maybe he is actually an astronaut on the Space station and a test monkey with one of those helmets that lets the monkey select pictures on a screen. They take turns adding words together to form a sentence that seems legible. There are many many many maybes. It is a monstrous waste of time to discuss them all. Instead, focus on the simplest explanation - someone is so self-absorbed that he or she feels it is proper to waste everyone else's time with stupid questions. Ha ha - so funny. Everyone will read that question and think it is stupid. Ha ha. Nothing could ever be funnier. I place the age at around 13 (or 30 with the heavy influence of drugs to create a functioning age of 13). -- kainaw 22:08, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
Assuming everyone who doesn't fit the pattern of "good wiki editor" is deliberately tying to troll you is a bad attitude, and frankly one I'm utterly sick of seeing at every turn on this website. "He asked an odd question. HE'S TROLLING!!" "He made some spelling mistakes. HE'S TROLLING!!!111" —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:22, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
In case you didn't know, "an" is used to refer to "one". He didn't ask "one" odd question. He asked many odd questions. Further, "some" is used to refer to "a small quantity". He didn't make "a small quantity" of spelling mistakes. He made many - and the discussion above indicates that some users do not believe them to be "mistakes". He many many spelling "on-purposes". What you are attempting to do is painfully obvious. Instead of posing an argument about the facts, you are attempting to make anyone reading this believe that the user made a couple spelling errors in one odd question. Nobody is ganging up on anyone else for making a couple spelling errors in one question. Implying that anyone is doing so is nothing short of a blatant lie. -- kainaw 22:29, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
look, no one with any common sense believes that any of his questions are driven by a sincere desire to know something. it's just tooooo painfully obvious that he's fucking around. the real question here is whether or not that's a problem. Personally I have no objection to it except that (1) it's a waste of time an resources, and (2) if we encourage him at it he may move on to fucking around in bigger, better ways. the first is iffy, the second is speculative - what do we make of it? --Ludwigs2 22:39, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
I say you ignore him. Some will answer him because there are always some people who are drawn in by trollish practices (otherwise, we wouldn't have trolls). There will also be those who defend them because there are always some people who refuse to believe that trolls exist. In the end, those that waste their time do so by either being innocent enough to be taken in by trolls or deluded enough to believe that they don't exist. Either way, they come away from the experience one step closer to learning to completely ignore the trolls. -- kainaw 22:45, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
Ludwigs2 - may I suggest that if your only response to reasoned and polite disagreement is to swear at and insult those who do not agree with you, then it would be better if you kept your opinions to yourself. Gandalf61 (talk) 09:52, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
you may certainly suggest anything you like. whether it has any basis in reality is a different matter. 'fucking around' is not a particularly bad form of swearing (though I'll change it to 'goofing around' if you like), and if you are insulted by my claim that you are not using common sense... sorry, that's the way I see it. I don't mind you supporting him, but trying to make the claim that his questions are earnest clearly lacks common sense. --Ludwigs2 17:56, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
I can assure you that I have abundant supplies of common sense, although my common sense is obviously a different brand from yours. And you might want to think about changing your brand, because the good doctor's latest questions on the Science and Humanities desks look fine to me. I see a curious and enquiring mind, but no sign of trolling. But perhaps you read hidden Freudian meanings into any and every question about black holes ? Gandalf61 (talk) 11:22, 10 February 2010 (UTC)

On redacting or striking through one's own comments

On User:Cuddlyable3's talkpage, I asked that editor to considering striking through a refdesk comment. Instead, the comment was redacted. This means that further comments from the OP ("This is not me trying to make a statement. <snip> I don't care about your opinion. If you don't wish to try to answer the question, don't disrupt it.") and myself ("I don't see your statement above as soapboxing.") sort of hang in mid-air. With reference to the talkpage guidelines, I suggested that Cuddlyable3 replace the empty space with a placeholder, to make it clear that there had been something there. The response to that was that no "relevant discussion flow needs mending". What are the refdesk volunteers' interpretations of the guidelines? Is it acceptable or helpful to remove one's comments entirely, when they have already been responded to? What would best serve our readers? BrainyBabe (talk) 23:11, 8 February 2010 (UTC)

It is considered polite to never remove your own comments when others have responded to them. Those that do so are rarely (and I believe "never") acting in good faith. Sometimes, an editor will remove someone else's comments, but should also remove all responses at the same time. -- kainaw 02:04, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
A responder could add the following comment.
User:Example has [__________ added] and later [__________ removed] the following comment.
I am showing [his/her] comment to explain my response(s).
Each of the first two blanks represents a differential link, and the third blank represents the comment that was removed.
-- Wavelength (talk) 17:24, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
Are you suggesting that it would be acceptable, or desirable, for me to insert those example comments above? Or would it be more appropriate for me to leave it to someone else to do? I appreciate guidance on these matters. BrainyBabe (talk) 18:51, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
When I commented here at 17:24, 9 February 2010 (UTC), I had not yet followed the link to where "the comment was redacted". Now I have followed it, and I realize that this instance involves another editor responding to a comment which was later removed. Therefore, the comment which I suggested can be revised so that "my response(s)" is changed to "another editors's response" or "User:Example2's response", substituting that editor's Wikipedia username for "User:Example2". (I read that editor's Wikipedia identity, but I have chosen not to be the one to publicize it here.) According to my understanding, it would be both acceptable and desirable (though not mandatory) for you to insert the comment as revised. -- Wavelength (talk) 20:47, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
Yes Brainy, if someone completely removes their comment from a thread where it has already been replied to, it is appropriate for you to insert a note with a diff link to the removal so that other readers can make sense of the thread. As kainaw said, it's not polite to remove a comment when striking through it indicates just as well that you no longer stand behind your words (unless you realize you made a mistake and get rid of it before anyone has a chance to respond). I would suggest a <small> "Post removed from thread ([link])". Franamax (talk) 22:23, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
Thanks all. I have taken the "post removed from thread" option. BrainyBabe (talk) 07:07, 10 February 2010 (UTC)
I am happy to provide the initial relevant diffs Feb. 7 to 10, 2010.

Deletion of a response

User:Cuddlyable3 made this highly dubious edit to a question about standard timetabling in British schools. I reverted it, they put it back, I reverted it again. I fail to see its relevance, especially since corporal punishment is now banned in British schools. --Richardrj talk email 16:54, 10 February 2010 (UTC)

School discipline by detention is in regular use in Britain and occurs by definition outside the regular timetable (usually after it). Detentions need supervision so they may be arranged on particular day(s) of the week, possibly shown on a formal timetable. Corporal punishment has a long tradition in British schools and, as the post Richardrj considers dubious stated, is supported by 22% of teachers. It is impolite to delete another editor's post on the subject of school timetables, especially when it correctly points out that school punishments may occur either ad hoc or at assigned periods. That is the relevance to the OP, not the legal status. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 17:13, 10 February 2010 (UTC)
What are you talking about? The OP's question was about the regular timetable. You're now moving onto detention, which by your own admission falls outside the regular timetable and is therefore irrelevant to the question. And corporal punishment is also irrelevant, since it no longer occurs[citation needed]. I find your intervention pretty distasteful, to tell you the truth. --Richardrj talk email 17:32, 10 February 2010 (UTC)
While I'm not sure I see the relevance of C3's post, a great many ref desk discussions are improved by side comments that are (1) only tangentially related to the original question and/or (2) not universally understood. On the other hand, I see no reason in this case to remove a post that isn't harmful, much less to edit war over it. If it's harmlessly irrelevant, particularly from a good contributor, then let it be. — Lomn 18:24, 10 February 2010 (UTC)
I make no comment on this particular case, but I would say that it is also true that some ref desk discussions are derailed by side comments that are only tangentially related to the original question, and that responses which are not universally understood (e.g. acronyms & jargon) can prove off-putting for the very people we are supposed to be here to serve. BrainyBabe (talk) 18:58, 10 February 2010 (UTC)
If I was posing a question and it got such an unrelated answered, I'd be disheartened by the thought that someone hadn't understood the intention of my question. I don't know if I support a removal, but I don't see how it was of any benefit to the question. Vimescarrot (talk) 19:15, 10 February 2010 (UTC)
Disciplinary detentions are imposed at the convenience of school authorities and intentionally at the inconvenience of the student. School personell are normally paid for their time at school and supervising detentions is one of those dull tasks that is very likely to be assigned by rota and a timetable. Of course detentions can not occupy a regular part of a single student's timetable for long; the school will conclude that the offender is incorrigible and choose a different reaction. School policies at that point vary greatly and will not follow a regular timetable. This reaches the limit of the scope of the OP's question. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 19:25, 10 February 2010 (UTC)
I think it's been mentioned recently that Template:hide (or other templates with similar effects) should see more use on the Ref Desk, in lieu of reverts/deletions. -- (talk) 05:32, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

Responses which are not universally understood

BrainyBabe commented[12] that acronyms & jargon can prove off-putting for the very people we serve. I see two examples that are challenging for different reasons.

  • A frequent questioner to the Science Ref. Desk is John Riemann Soong[13] who clearly has a high-level comprehension of chemistry. I think we do right to respond to such questioners at the same level of nomenclature, acronyms & jargon as used in each question. If our response links to relevant article(s) then so much the better because that is the mission of the Ref. Desk. Wikipedia articles often provide links for further study. I do not think responders need to write tutorial material material in an effort to help an outsider who does not understand the question. The priority is to help the OP whom we shall assume does understand their question.
  • Sometimes (no diffs!) we see a questioner who is clearly out of their depth submitting an ill-posed question. It would be unacceptable and rude to respond "Learn about XXXXX properly first!" though we may perceive that as necessary. We cannot respond "Wikipedia is not for children" even when the question looks like it came from a child. In these situations our responses have seemed to pretend that the question was a sensible one on the subject. Having liberated ourselves from any real expectation of helping the questioner, a thread of interesting dialog between regulars ensues. These dialogs need not be a waste if people can be persuaded to use the archive, both (hopefully) before asking a question and (where possible to save duplication) in answering questions. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 14:48, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
In the first example, editors often help out by appending a note with links, saying "Cuddlyable3 is referring to lipids and progesterone", or whatever — maybe we should encourage linking jargon words, and other editors' appended links if the jargon-user forgets. (I would have suggested just editing other editors' posts to change the jargon words into wikilinks, but I know some editors hate that because of a possible change of emphasis that might hypothetically result.) Comet Tuttle (talk) 19:51, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

Removed complaint

I was answering a poorly worded question about removing soda machines from schools, and in doing so I removed a response from ColinFine that was 100% complaint about the poster's incoherence, since it didn't add any light to the thread. Comet Tuttle (talk) 23:13, 12 February 2010 (UTC)

You see, I didn't think it was "complaint". I thought I was helpfully telling the poster that I couldn't make sense of the question, and inviting them to make it clearer. --ColinFine (talk) 07:58, 13 February 2010 (UTC)
Colin's response looked okay; it was on-topic and seems to be worded courteously. I don't think the removal was necessary. Nimur (talk) 08:20, 13 February 2010 (UTC)
I wouldn't say that Colin's response was necessarily rude, though there was a kind of "come back when you can ask a coherent question" feel to it, which I'm sure was unintended. At worst, I'd say there was a bit of ambiguity in the question about whether the OP wanted details about the removal of vending machines or why some particular machine couldn't be removed yet; there was no hint of requesting legal advice. I don't know what the situation is like elsewhere, but in Canada and the US there are a variety of measures being put in place (both legally mandatory and otherwise) to remove junk food from schools as a response to the various alarms raised regarding childhood obesity. As someone sitting on an elementary school parent council, perhaps the thrust of the question was simply more clear to me. In general, I'm not in favour of removing responses unless they're particularly egregious, but since CT was answering the question anyway, Colin's post no longer served any purpose. Matt Deres (talk) 15:24, 13 February 2010 (UTC)

Two previous discussions

I have just closed the above discussion because people were becoming uncivil. I have warned on their talk page, because this is the second time that they have been involved in a dispute like this (the first can be found in the collapsed content in #Mocking the OP). —Akrabbimtalk 12:34, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

As I said on your talk page in response to the message you left on mine (though not on kainaws, despite the fact that he was as much a part of that discussion as I was), every comment I have posted was civil and on topic. Kainaw was the one who called me "lazy" and "stupid". I was just making a valid point that people should supply diff links when talking about removed content. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:38, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
Your continued refusal to sign your posts has become disruptive. The fact that there was an arugment at all didn't merit a user talk message (hence why I didn't leave one for Kainaw), but your persistent refusal to conform to WP:SIGN does, since it has become a point of contention on more than one occasion. —Akrabbimtalk 13:05, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
Removed comments by troll/vandal. The user has replaced comments 3 times. Suggesting to block. -- kainaw 13:52, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
I keep re-posting my comment because you keep deleting it. My comment is civil and does not deserve to be removed. You keep removing it because of some meta-issue about teaching me behavior or something, that is not grounds for removal. You have removed it 4 times now —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:19, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
Your comment was not civil because it was not signed. ANY post you make that is not signed is not civil because you are abusing WP:SIGN to try and use it as a weapon to argue with other users. -- kainaw 14:27, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
(ec while writing below) Civility has nothing to do with signing posts. You're letting yourself get worked up over a very minor issue. -- Coneslayer (talk) 14:33, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
Mr. 82 raised a valid point that the purpose of this page is to discuss the RD, and that discussion is facilitated by including diffs to the deleted material. I agree with this position. Repeatedly ignoring his argument in favor of complaining about his signature strikes me as immature (akin to fingers in ears, singing "I can't hear you!" or "You didn't use the magic word!"), and I'm not surprised that this approach has failed to modify his signing behavior. -- Coneslayer (talk) 14:33, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
I do agree that diffs should be supplied, but I do not agree that refusing to sign posts should be considered an asset, something to aspire to, something to defend. This is not the first time this has come up. It will not be the last. This is a user who is refusing to sign posts in order to start an argument. -- kainaw 14:36, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
You're constructing a straw man. I didn't indicate that failing to sign posts was something to aspire to. Of course all participants should sign their posts. However, writing line after line about the signing issue, while utterly ignoring his point, and then archiving the discussion as if it had been resolved, strikes me as far more argumentative than what he's doing. -- Coneslayer (talk) 14:39, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
I did not archive the post. It was not resolved. I still believe that demanding another user to do something that should be done that will take 2-3 minutes to do is acceptable if and only if you are not refusing to do something that takes less than 1 second to do. -- kainaw 14:47, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
OK, you didn't do the archiving, you just derailed the discussion in the first place. This seems to me to be just like what's happened in the past with Bugs and some others here. Person A doesn't like something Person B does, so every time Person B opens his mouth, Person A has to steer the discussion to Person B's undesired behavior, regardless of the merits of Person B's current point. This pattern is not conducive to having fruitful discussions on the talk page, nor do I believe it's an effective way to improve Person B's behavior. Since you agree that posting diffs is good, would it have killed you to say so in the above discussion? Did it have to be entirely about the signing issue? -- Coneslayer (talk) 15:04, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
That is the first time that I told the user that he should sign his posts. The entire thing would have ended quickly if he repeated his complaint with a signed post. Comparing this to users who have always had it out for Bugs is, as you said, a straw man argument. This particular user has been told by other users to sign his posts. He refuses to do so because he knows it makes others upset. So, he uses it as an implicit FUCK YOU to everyone here. The way I read it, ending your posts with a big FUCK YOU makes them uncivil. -- kainaw 15:09, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
You got me there. If you're going to get that bent out of shape over people not signing their posts, I'm not sure what else I can say. There's a guy at work who never holds the door for people, violating a social norm of our office. I wish he would hold the door. But, you know, at the end of the day we just have to work together, so I listen to what he says, and go off and grumble to myself about him not holding the door. -- Coneslayer (talk) 15:17, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
To be equivalent, compare it to that guy raising a stink because someone else doesn't refill the coffee. You say that his complaint is tainted by his refusal to hold the door and he then decides to make it a point to make sure he is always there to not hold the door for you. -- kainaw 15:24, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

To Kainaw: I wanted to address this issue without it being mixed up with an actual argument that 82.43 had with someone, so that we could explain that it was incredibly rude for them to persistently post unsigned comments, so there was no way to read the criticism as an ad hominem rebuttal to their point. Since we were discussing their actions, they still have the right to respond (even if they were continuing to leave their response unsigned). Then, after we isolate the issue, if they were still unrepentant, we could take action. Now this discussion is has also been sidetracked. WP:3RR states that more than three edits constitutes edit warring, so it was actually you who violated WP:3RR ([14], [15], [16], [17]).

To 82.43.89: Kainaw's actions aside, your refusal to sign any of your comments is still rude, and your arguments with Bugs and Kainaw are simply indications of this. It is a pain for everyone to have SineBot continually update your posts because you are simply unwilling to type an extra four characters. Please read WP:CIV and WP:EQ. WP:SIGN should be understood in light of those two policies. —Akrabbimtalk 16:57, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

I agree - failure to sign because you don't know how - or because you forget - that's forgivable. Perhaps failing to sign even after you know you should is forgivable if you happen to do so someplace where nobody gives a damn. However, failing to do it every single time despite being told how and in a place where people find a failure to sign to be an inconvenience - that's just plain rude - and when it becomes a big issue with people, and you outright refuse to do so after being asked several times, that is downright disruptive. Disruptive people should not be allowed to get away with it - so I'd support a block of this user if it came to that. Kainaw perhaps overreacted by deleting those unsigned posts - but you can only push a person just so far - I place no blame there. SteveBaker (talk) 18:15, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure what the solution is. To use rather current examples, the GM guy has created a barely accepted policy that his posts should be deleted on sight. Some users disagree with that and argue that he may have some real posts mixed in with all the anti-GM posts. So, there is no real consensus. With Bugs, there was a suggestion to block him. That was shot down. There was a suggestion to delete his posts. That caused a huge argument. Eventually, for reasons I do not know, he stopped cracking silly jokes in every thread he could find. We know the GM guy is nowhere close to stopping his anti-GM rants and nothing done so far is slowing them down. So, what was different? What did Bugs become a normal user and the anti-GM guy continue to be a pest? Can that difference make the nosign pest turn into a normal user? I think that Bugs is an anomaly. The pests like the anti-GM guy and the nosign guy are the worst kind of vandals/trolls. They stay right at the border of being an official troll or vandal so they won't be blocked. In that position, they can create all the trouble they want without suffering any retribution of any kind. In my classes (I teach by the way) I do not allow this. I have one student this semester who has to be in class 5 minutes before class starts or he is marked as absent. That is the result of a month of working with him to get him to arrive on time. Now, he is usually 5-10 minutes late (instead of 30 minutes late). So, he is improving. I mention this to explain that I find punishment to be a case-by-case thing. If someone pushes the line over and over and over, I move the line. I don't care if it is unfair to the person. I don't care how others are treated. It is unfair to be right at the line over and over. I know that the consensus of Wikipedia is not with me in this opinion, but I hope it explains how I feel about it. -- kainaw 19:32, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
Gasp! He's not signing his posts! What are we going to do about this affront to our grand personal domain reference desk? Let's block him! That'll teach him to conform to our complex and often arbitrary standards. Never mind that his questions are valid and his concerns legitimate; he's not formating them right! It's bad enough when people like Dr Hursday don't use impeccable English here, but when they don't sign their posts, why, that's just unacceptable! Buddy431 (talk) 21:31, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
Failure to obey WP:SIG is not by itself blockable since any other editor is free to add an {{unsigned}} template to unsigned comments. Repeated failure to sign after reasonable reuests is cause for concern. Making requests of others to provide complex data while omittng to provide simpler information oneself is cause for concern, especially when one has already shown skill and ability in signing. Making a WP:POINT of not signing whilst arguing about the topic may be seen as disruptive and warranting a block if it continues. Edits such as this one which defeat the automatic signature mechanism and add material to another editor's comments (regardless of the indentation level) cause damage to the encyclopedia and are grounds for blocking if they are repeated after a warning (and this is the warning). Franamax (talk) 03:22, 10 February 2010 (UTC)
WP:AGF isn't a suicide pact. It's pretty obvious that 82.43 was deliberately tweaking Kainaw, and his approach to this talk page has been decidedly unconstructive. I endorse Franamax's warning. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 04:54, 10 February 2010 (UTC)

Question Am I reading the posts near the top of this thread correctly? It sounds as if Kainaw removed a series of posts by a user in this thread because they were unsigned. Since talk-page posts are signed by Sinebot anyway I can't imagine anyone would care, let alone take the drastic step of removing someone's posts. I'm at work now and don't really have time to go through the history diff by diff, especially as it seems so unlikely to me. Was this regarding actions somewhere else? And did anyone ever answer the guy's very valid point about providing diffs regarding the removal of posts, etc. Frankly, I can't imagine why anyone would care/notice that someone's sign/time stamp was in small text and yet not care about being provided diffs for a potentially contentious action. I can read a signature, even if it's small text, but I can't just guess about which edits someone's referring to if they don't provide diffs. How are they even remotely similar? What am I missing? Matt Deres (talk) 17:49, 10 February 2010 (UTC)

I did go through the edits, diff by painful diff. The IP editor was being POINTy by refusing to sign their posts, and by restoring only their unsigned original, which SineBot was then expected to sign again. Kainaw was also being pointy by not changing to a different mode of response to the reversions and by using "troll/vandal" as a characterization. Yes diffs are good, but someone who refuses to observe even the simplest of community norms (signing) has no special right to make requests of others. The willingness to engage in endless argument, as in the thread with Bugs above where I had to go into the kitchen to read the indented text, indicates a problem that can be corrected (with blocking if necessary to avoid disruption). Yes, Kainaw and Bugs were willing participants and this is where the difference between named and anonymous editors comes into play, named editors can be contacted directly to discuss problems with their editing. And Matt, you can use contrib and page history to find out exactly what edits someone is referring to. We just ask for diffs as a convenience here, same as we ask editors to sign their posts as a convenience, the two are identical. The difference is when disruption or damage occurs. Franamax (talk) 10:20, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
The diffs for Kainaw's reversions have already been posted if that helps you find your way through the page history. —Akrabbimtalk 12:17, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I am baffled by anyone becoming (apparently) enraged over a failure to sign Refdesk posts. It's not even annoying unless they're attempting sockpuppetry. Comet Tuttle (talk) 19:44, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
If you see it as just a user failing to sign, then you are missing the point and understandably should be baffled. If you are seeing it as a user who refuses to sign while ridiculing others for not doing things that are not required, then you should see why the user is being a bit of a pain. -- kainaw 20:00, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
I have to agree with Coneslayer above. Comet Tuttle (talk) 21:51, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
So long as the user is IP or new enough the sinebot hits him, it does seem like a strange thing to get upset over. But on the other hand, the user is (now) clearly doing it intentionally to piss people off. It's not too strange to be upset that someone is intentionally trying to piss you off. APL (talk) 02:50, 16 February 2010 (UTC)'s use of Ref Desk for anti GM-foods grandstanding.

I removed this remark from Science ref desk thread ""beanie" or "paint" taste of soy flour" following a warning to this user by Nil Einne that we would do so: SteveBaker (talk) 17:57, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

"I recall reading that the soy NOW adopted was not bread by conventional means to remove the "beany" flavor but a GM version developed at the University of Illinois specifically for that purpose. But even the article on the main ingredient of Roundup states that one company that did testing ended up being criminally charged and convicted for falsifying records. Cross contamination is the big issue with me since the plants we eat are also used to grow strains for plastics and pharmaceuticals and other non-food products as well as herbicides and herbicide resistance their genes carry to reduce their cost to grow. Take a look at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center and you will quickly see that making money is the primary objective of science when placed in the wrong hands. By calling my reaction to what I read a rant suggests you care neither about spreading false information or giving excess money making priority over morals. What else do you expect me to conclude except that if you have no morals when you dismiss my legitimate concerns as rant? History has proven the failure to uphold morals will result in holocaust. (talk) 13:30, 9 February 2010 (UTC)"
Of course we have morals - and I'm actually fairly concerned about the issues with GM foods too - but the Reference Desk is a place to ask questions, to legitimately seek answers to questions. What you are doing is promoting your own point of view and that's not allowed here. Only last week, a user who persisted in doing exactly what you're doing wound up with a lifetime ban from editing Wikipedia. You (just barely) asked a question with your first post to that thread - that question was answered (quite well, I thought) - and now you're upset that we didn't let it develop into a big debate about the horrors (or otherwise) of GM foods. Well, bad luck. That's what we do here - it's written into our guiding principles. If you don't like it - may I suggest you take your so-called "questions" to Yahoo Answers. SteveBaker (talk) 17:57, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
This removal seems compliant with our WP:SOAPBOX policy, I agree with the removal. Nimur (talk) 23:01, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
Since this became a discussion per your threat your true motives are suspect for this suppression of my response. (talk) 11:58, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Those who reach for hitler analogies so quickly, as you did in your first post in this thread, 71.100, are generally considered to have lost the argument (as you clearly have). See Godwin's law. In other news, you can suspect motive until you choke and die, for all I care. If you are unwilling to understand the literal reasons Steve and others have taken against your rants, then more fool you. Still. You wouldn't want reality to intrude on your paranoid thinking, would you? So everyone's happy. --Tagishsimon (talk) 12:04, 15 February 2010 (UTC)

The user has been asking a lot of questions again on the science desk recently. I believe that the user signed up as Killspammers after some anonymous editing but was subsequently blocked as being a vandalism-only account. If it's the same person (same editing style and kind of questions) then do we need to take any special action with regards to his questions, to which we never seem to provide an answer he's satisfied with? Ones I'm thinking of are his diethyl ether question, and the more odd ones about urine going stale and lethal injections, or the link to a shock video he posted. I've tried greeting him, both as Killspammers and through the IP talk page, but he does not respond (or blanks his talk page). Brammers (talk) 08:36, 12 February 2010 (UTC)

Actually I'm pretty sure the IP also has another account, User:Thekiller35789. The IP participated in questions by thekiller Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Science/2010 January 4#jap heating seemingly continuing the same discussion. (As has killspammers Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Science/2010 January 19#Woman sentenced to 4 years for torching boyfriend's penis although in this [18] they made it sound like they were someone else.) Both the IP and Thekiller have or had (don't seem to have done it since I warned them) the habit of deleting (often referenced) stuff they don't like in the encylopaedia with summaries that are misleading. Both seem to have somewhat of an interest in MMA or UFC fighters [19] [20] [21]. Both also seem to have a problem with ants. (There are other similarities, check out the contribs.) Perhaps the most significant factor for the RD is at least to me their question style can come across as rather demanding, particularly if they feel people haven't answered their question (which as you say seems to be quite often). I'm not really sure why Killspammers was banned, the limited contrib history doesn't seem that bad compared to what would normally be required for a ban, perhaps there are deleted contribs or perhaps it's the username. In any case, to answer the question, personally I'm sick of trying to deal with problematic users on the RD so can't be bothered to pursue this further provided they toe the line on not removing stuff from the mainspace they don't like I'll let them be but anyone else is free to look into this further Nil Einne (talk) 16:09, 13 February 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the full reply. Last month, I contacted the admin who had blocked Killspammers and said that the ban was a bit heavy-handed, and he agreed with me. I know what you mean about problematic RD users; for every one that's dealt with there'll be one to replace them. I guess so long as the mainspace isn't damaged then it's all fairly minor. Thanks again. Brammers (talk) 12:58, 14 February 2010 (UTC)

Removed ludicrous pencil troll

I've removed a question about the horrors of sharpening a pencil made of glass. It could only be a troll. No one with the skills and or resources to fabricate such an expensive pencil would be mad enough to put one into a sharpener.

Even if he wasn't insane, Question 1 would be a liability/legal question, Question 3 would be marketing research/discussion, and question 2 could be answered with a link to mechanical pencil. APL (talk) 16:18, 15 February 2010 (UTC)

APL, you might want to fix the first word in your second sentence ... --LarryMac | Talk 19:29, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
trolls are odd beasts... --Ludwigs2 17:14, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Said troll apparently created a now deleted article on this pencil and is pushing it into other articles along with a few apparently constructive edits in between I guess to try and throw people off the scent. I've given them a final warning Nil Einne (talk) 18:00, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
I've reported him to ANI; we'll see what happens. --Ludwigs2 18:32, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Now (surprise,surprise) they're asking about "what methods are used to remove the glass" re pieces of glass in their feet, how to know it's all gone etc. -- (talk) 18:39, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
I've blocked indef. He's been playing silly buggers with the Ref Desk and in article space; this isn't a playground. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 19:54, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Thank you. Comet Tuttle (talk) 22:54, 15 February 2010 (UTC)

Page length

Why do different desks go back different amounts? Right now, WP:RD/C, WP:RD/M, and WP:RD/H go back 5 days, WP:RD/S goes back 4, and WP:RD/Math, WP:RD/L, and WP:RD/E go back 6. —Akrabbimtalk 22:25, 13 February 2010 (UTC)

Check the talk archives here, this was changed a month or two ago to trim the load time for some pages. Franamax (talk) 12:16, 14 February 2010 (UTC)
And the likely answer is almost surely correlated with activity. Very active desks need to be trimmed faster than less active ones. --Mr.98 (talk) 13:56, 14 February 2010 (UTC)
I figured it had something to do with that, but I didn't remember it ever being spelled out like that. I guess it's probably simply Ummit making a reasonable decision with regards to Scsbot's operation. —Akrabbimtalk 18:56, 14 February 2010 (UTC)
We came down very firmly in favour of "this is something to talk about for a day or two". :) IMO Steve correctly interpreted the consensus in that discussion, which revolved around HTML page load times, especially at RD/S. We still need to watch the page load and nuke old day links if it gets too large. A 500K page takes 100 seconds to load on dialup if I've got my math right. Also, noting a SBaker comment from a while ago, any image usage should be put into "|thumb" format, which gets the byte-size to 10-15K. One alternative is to switch over to MuszaBot-style archiving, which would totally destroy our archiving system. Franamax (talk) 01:19, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Which is amusing, since a 500K science desk is probably 250K of SteveBaker... Matt Deres (talk) 02:14, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Here is the previous discussion on Page length (same title, even!). It looks like I never formally announced what I did (probably because I wanted to present it in a nice little table, but it always ends up being a terrible nuisance for me to rediscover what the wikimarkup table syntax is). Anyway, here's the current archiving scheme:
desk days to keep also transclude average length
Computing 2 3 5.5
Science 2 2 4.5
Mathematics 3 3 6.5
Humanities 2 3 5.5
Language 3 3 6.5
Entertainment 3 3 6.5
Miscellaneous 2 3 5.5
Help 2 1 3.5
This was a bit of a compromise between what the consensus seemed to be, and what I and the bot could reasonably do (given the bot in its current form). (Thanks for the endorsement, Franamax.) —Steve Summit (talk) 13:54, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Well I'm completely unrepentant about stealing someone else's work in creating a table for me to modify. :) Here are some numbers from Scsbot's latest run at 03:00 15 Feb and interesting current figures, since the bot is probably busy watching the snowboarding matches right now. (It's actually curling right ATM but that's a sport people either appreciate or don't. Shown below are wiki-text and generated HTML sizes, pre-bot, post-bot, and current, measured in thousand of bytes. The HTML sizes don't include the size of various other linked files, most of which will be cached locally after first use and will not have cache invalidated quickly. The notable exception is that images on first load can be onerous, hence my suggestion that "|thumb" should always be used.
Desk Avg Days WML-pre WML-post WML-cur HTML-pre HTML-post HTML-cur
Computing 5.5 94 62 77 316 259 292
Science 4.5 140 62 219 441 317 569
Mathematics 6.5 39 24 62 148 135 201
Humanities 5.5 98 54 142 327 286 434
Language 6.5 64 52 87 250 240 299
Entertainment 6.5 45 36 70 157 150 207
Miscellaneous 5.5 77 57 132 306 254 380
Help 3.5 120 91 145 269 208 314
Linear analysis would be interesting here, or perhaps just a look at what each empty desk looks like for size, to get the baseload of all the "stuff no-one ever reads". Franamax (talk) 23:59, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
I have a back-burner task slowly collecting page size trends going back about a year; some day I may have some pretty graphs to show for that.
(And yes, the stats today will be off, because the bot didn't run last night, not because it or I were distracted by the Olympics, but because the WMF volunteer sysop started unilaterally requiring the User-Agent string last night, and my bot infrastructure, for various reasons which I won't bother you all with, hadn't been supplying it.) —Steve Summit (talk) 02:41, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
I saw that discussion (a bit) yesterday and was confused because when I started writing raw sockets in late 2007, User-agent was mandatory, so I've never questioned its' obvious utility. All my own stuff still works fine using <beans>, though I don't edit back, it's query-only. And I wasn't implying there's something wrong with the bot not running, as I'm sure you know stuff happens. :) It was a good chance though to get a peek at what happens on a day-to-day basis and how quickly things could get pear-shaped on various desks. And I am watching Olympic sports, I can look out the window and see the fog and rain on the north shore mountains where the Cypress venue is. :) Franamax (talk) 03:19, 17 February 2010 (UTC)

Medical advice removed

DiffAkrabbimtalk 06:52, 16 February 2010 (UTC)

That was clearly a medical advice request. I agree with your removal. Nimur (talk) 15:59, 16 February 2010 (UTC)

Over Medicalizing?

Does the first response to Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Science#about_the_wounds needlessly bring up the medical disclaimer? I think the question, as worded, is clearly a request for medical information, not medical advice, and thus fully appropriate to answer, without having to jump to "see a doctor". Am I mistaken in this impression? -- (talk) 15:57, 16 February 2010 (UTC)

That one might have been a "gray area". I think the responses were both appropriate. The question was not removed. If it had been more explicit, we would have removed it (see above talk-section). But since the wound color question was ambiguous, we gave helpful links and made no attempt to diagnose any specific circumstances. Nimur (talk) 16:02, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
Nimur's response "Another cause for wound discoloration is..." would be better worded "Some possible causes for wound discoloration are..." because up to that point no cause had been posted. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 19:56, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
The IP address seems to originate from Cuba, has a recent interest in Pakistani topics, and is currently blocked for one month. I interpret their question as being pure curiosity and I thought the answer had something to do with oxidization of hemoglobin. I don't see that as being a "medical advice" question. If they'd included in the question "and it smells bad" - that would be a whole different story. I'd say this is a case of excessive but not heavy-handed caution. Franamax (talk) 00:23, 17 February 2010 (UTC)

Weight Gain Question

I don't see any way to answer this question that is not providing medical advice. Somebody already removed it, but the OP restored it. I think it falls firmly in the medical advice category. Comments? Nimur (talk) 05:33, 15 February 2010 (UTC)

I think we could probably squeeze some kind of partial answer that didn't include medical advice; y'know, something regarding possible levels of "water weight" gain. Unfortunately, the guy comes off as a completely shallow, self-centered prick and I'm about as apt to provide him with information of the type he's requesting as I am to take up stabbing myself with knitting needles as a hobby. So, I'm just as glad to see it removed. :-) Matt Deres (talk) 06:42, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Nice to see you all are talking about my question without even inviting me to contribute my thoughts on the subject. I cannot see how this question can be considered asking for medical advice anymore than asking about what medical issue Alexander the Great died of. Surely you should understand that questions that relate to medical issues are not necessarily asking for medical ADVICE. What if the girl told me she were 25 but she looks like she is 90 and blames it on a rare medical condition...would it be medical advice if I asked if that were possible (i think it is)? Also, I take offense at you calling me a shallow self-centered prick. Since when does having standards make someone a self-centered prick? If I am going to spend time with someone romantically, I want to know that I can trust them, and I want them to be at physically attractive to me. People make these type of decisions all the time and dont date people they find unattractive all the time, so what makes me a self-centered prick for having the same widely-held standards in dating?
I suppose someone could argue that withholding information that someone is honestly seeking just because you don't like their personality to be a bit condescending myself. On the few cases I have known the answer to a RD question, Ive tried my best to answer it even if I didn't like the person, but thats just me. Perhaps I should be more like you and only provide people with information they request if they have personality traits I deem acceptable. But seriously, calling me a shallow self-centered prick behind my back is way over the line. XM (talk) 08:11, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
You are invited to contribute your thoughts on the subject. That's what the talk page is for. As you've no doubt noticed, since you're using it as such. Vimescarrot (talk) 08:17, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
it's not a medical question - the guy is looking for an excuse to be pissed off without feeling bad about himself. He has the basic facts he needs; he'll work it out. --Ludwigs2 07:25, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Wikipedians abide by WP:AGF. I see consensus that we don't much care for the Ref. Desk to be used by this poster in contempt of another person's good faith. I shall hide the comments and would not object if others see fit to delete the question. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 17:18, 19 February 2010 (UTC)

Removed Freewayguy's post

I removed Freewayguy's post here. While there is nothing offensive here, I believe it is simply in everyone's best interest to reinforce the message to Freewayguy that none of his posts are acceptable. He is not banned from using his Freewayguy account. He is banned from using Wikipedia. -- kainaw 01:29, 19 February 2010 (UTC)

"Outgassing on Earth and Mars" and "Atmosphere to boil away on Earth" on the Science desk seem to be from him as well. Shall we remove them? --Tango (talk) 01:38, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Yes. By rule, he is banned from using Wikipedia. He isn't allowed to ask questions on the RD - even under an anonymous IP account. If am I wrong about what it means to be "banned", please let me know. -- kainaw 01:40, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
He has a lot of edits that are clearly from him (as he admits to being Freewayguy repeatedly). You can see his history here. There is a lot to delete if we are to do it correctly and remove all of his questions. I feel that leaving any of them gives him the idea that if he asks 10 questions, we'll only delete 2 or 3. So, ask 50 and we'll only delete 10 or so. -- kainaw 01:47, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
I would agree with this, in fact I've been tempted to delete comments from other persistent blocked users on occassion (like the GM guy) but have chickened out given the potential drama that may result. And yes, I agree for any banned user, editing the RD is offlimits. One trouble is Freewayguy uses multiple IPs. The Uni one appears consistent although it may be occasionally used by people other then Freewayguy to edit wikipedia (he denies he did the woman studies edit, it's possible he's telling the truth) although it's clear the vast majority of contribs particularly those coming to the RD are from him. However Freewayguy also uses another range of IPs which we presume are from home. Incidentally, I'm not really sure what to make of this [22]. It's possible his university may have gotten involved since he did get their IP blocked once, but it seems unlikely the police would have been and it's rather odd he would be allowed to continue editing wikipedia if the university did get involved. Nil Einne (talk) 11:31, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
I haven't really been paying much attention to the RefDesks recently, so I didn't realize that he was back (did he ever go away). Looking at the contribs for (talk · contribs) in the last six months or so, I'm struggling to think of a reason why I shouldn't just slap a long schoolblock on the IP and be done with it. Freewayguy is banned (or at least indef-blocked?), so he is therefore not permitted to edit WP. If he ever wants to be able to come back and edit, using IPs to get around his block as though nothing has happened will not work in his favour. --Kurt Shaped Box (talk) 11:50, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Looking at the IP for the last 6 months, it is obvious that he is making nearly every edit from that IP address. He denies one and only one of the many edits. I do not see why that IP shouldn't be blocked. Then, at least, it would hinder his ability to edit from work/school (I don't know if he is a student or employee). Further, blocking the school will force the administration of the school to step in and possibly take notice of his past death threats. I would want more consensus for that though. Personally, I'm rather surprised that the nosign-pest hasn't stepped in already to say that we are unjustly picking on an IP address. -- kainaw 14:50, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
I have no problem with blocking, though my involvement is such that I'm not going to advocate it. However, I will note the following with regards to contribs from this IP. While the majority are undoubtedly from Freewayguy, the majority (likely, the entirety) of mainspace contribs post-September are from other individuals. They're of a quality uniformly different from Freewayguy's, and I have no problem believing that they're not his edits. — Lomn 15:34, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Wouldn't it be nice if an IP could be blocked from editing only part of Wikipedia? -- kainaw 15:41, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
I've often thought the same thing. Conveniently, it's now technically possible, using the Wikipedia:Edit filter (AKA the 'abuse filter' in some documentation). Perhaps we could request the creation of a 'Ref Desk trolls' filter that would cover Freewayguy and the Tiscali DSL IP range? The simplest filter would block all edits to the Wikipedia and Wikipedia Talk namespaces from those IPs, and a quick survey suggests that such a restriction would incur very little collateral damage. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 17:32, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
I've actually been thinking of something like this for a while. In theory sounds like a good idea. But is there a precedent for this outside the RD? If not sounds like it'll be a whole load of 'discussion' before we get anywhere, one reason I've never pushed for it. Nil Einne (talk) 22:12, 19 February 2010 (UTC)

"Homework" Questions

I don't think people should be so quick to call out "homework" questions. I mean some questions may be written a unique style that suggest it is an assignment. But for the most part is is virtually impossible to tell the difference between a homework question and someone genuinely interested in a topic especially if it is esoteric or academic.

The rules state "If your question is homework, show that you have attempted an answer first, and we will try to help you past the stuck point."

So people should only be called out if they have obviously done no research. But that is the case whether it is "homework" or not.

--Gary123 (talk) 01:00, 16 February 2010 (UTC)

Also, I don't think helping with homework questions is necessarily outside of the ways in which the reference desks should be used. I don't think the work should be done for them. But if in lesser ways we can serve to direct the person to be able to do the work themselves, that should be acceptable. Bus stop (talk) 01:05, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
As far as I understand it, the disclaimer is there because we don't simply do other people's work for them when they have access to all the information they need. This almost always relates to it being a homework question. Certainly, I've seen plenty of people ask for, and receive, help with homework questions when they've demonstrated a lack of knowledge or understanding with which we can help. We just don't do the work. I can't say I've ever noticed people being called out just because it's homework - if someone's done the research and has perhaps missed a point, or doesn't get it, they'll normally be helped, from what I've seen. Perhaps you could provide examples?
I would also disagree with the statement "for the most part is is virtually impossible to tell the difference between a homework question and someone genuinely interested in a topic". If someone poses a question in short question format, outside of any clear context (as would normally be provided by having had lessons on the subject previously), it's a reliable bet that it's a homework question; why else would a questioner pose a question so inefficiently? Vimescarrot (talk) 01:11, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
I also think it's potentially a source of great satisfaction to those of us who respond to questions on the Reference desks to field questions from students. I think it holds all the potential for satisfaction that being a teacher in a classroom has. I almost think we should welcome and encourage "homework questions."
The key is of course what sort of help we provide. As in so many other teaching involvements, the key is in stimulating interest in the subject at hand. And we should hope to instill confidence in the person we are relating to. Bus stop (talk) 01:16, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
I prefer to think about homework questions in this way. I begin by stating what we do not do. We do not answer multiple-choice questions by simply stating "The answer is 'C'". We do not answer arithmetic questions by simply stating "The answer is 42." We do not answer history questions by simply stating "The answer is Thomas Jefferson." We don't answer such questions, because knowing those answers is entirely independent from having learned the material. What we do is provide references - we provide contextual information, guided by our experience with the subject matter and aided by our ability to find relevant links (both inside Wikipedia and in off-site reference material). This helps the student learn the material - possibly from an angle that their closed-form textbook education cannot - and whether they answer the multiple-choice questions correctly is irrelevant from our perspective. It's not that we want people to fail their quizzes - it's that here on Wikipedia, we have a much more open-ended definition of "learning." The burden is, and always will be, on the student to both learn the material and to demonstrate that learning to their own teacher in whatever way necessary to make their own grades - that part really isn't our problem - but we can help them by providing free access to knowledge and subject-matter experts. Nimur (talk) 04:18, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
And I do think it's okay to tell people who have just copied out questions from their book that we don't really consider that acceptable. We are not computers and should not be treated as such. If someone cannot bother to say, "oh, I'm having trouble with this" or "here's what I'm thinking, what do you think?", then I don't think we should bother to answer. I find it rather offensive and (in my experience as a teacher) do not see much reason to give such questions a benefit of the doubt. The student in most cases is almost surely not looking for an enriched learning experience—they are being lazy. The non-lazy student knows a bit better about how to ask a question, how to do some preliminary work themselves, and so forth, and I am more than happy to work with them. But the lazy student deserves nothing. And if the Ref Desk ever earns a reputation as being useful to the lazy student, things will get pretty unpleasant around here! --Mr.98 (talk) 13:56, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
I think it is necessary to read into these questions somewhat, and to sometimes require feedback in the form of clarification or some other type of dialogue. There is no formula for teaching, but students asking for help with homework questions seems to me to be the quintessential teaching situation. Teaching is of course not about providing "answers." Engagement in some kind of dialogue would seem to be an important key. But just showing a way of thinking can be helpful even if dialogue fails to materialize. Bus stop (talk) 17:44, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
-- Wavelength (talk) 20:42, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
But this is a Reference Desk, not a Teaching Desk. We are in the business of giving answers, not giving tutoring. There are, indeed, other sites for that. We are, indeed, a fish market. --Mr.98 (talk) 21:48, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
References are categorically not the same as answers. In fact, if we were only about giving references, our answers would be much shorter than they usually are... "See article." Search engines can do that better than we can. So, we provide references along with a value-add - we assist the OP in evaluating context, relevance, and pre-requisite knowledge. Nimur (talk) 23:06, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
I do think there can be "teachable moments" here and is part of our mission. But if someone comes here and copies the question right off their assignment sheet and expects someone else to answer for them, then I think the teachable item is "that's not how the world works". Franamax (talk) 22:14, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
See It says "At, we don't feed students the answers to homework questions. Instead, we show them how to learn." -- Wavelength (talk) 22:40, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
(unindented since this is a general comment) I think we all pretty much agree that we don't ever say "the answer is C", I think we all do agree that if we can help someone over a conceptual barrier to their understanding of a topic, that's a good day on the desks. Where we may disagree is how to respond to questions along the scale of tjhinking you copied this right off the sheet didn't you? and the Q being I've read six different things on this and I'm getting nowhere, plz help!!. One note I'll make is that I avoid templated or template-style responses wherever I can on Wikipedia. In the few times I've used a no-homework response, I've tried to use the standard phrasing followed by some hints on what to look at or how to come back with a followup question addressing the specific barrier to understanding. When it's a "I searched Google for this and got nothing" and I try the exact same bloody words and get dozens of hits, I'm less sympathetic. But schoolkids, I would prefer to help them in the process of learning. When they come back with "just answer the question" - I think we have a fairly unified response for that. :) Franamax (talk) 00:42, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Gary that sometimes RDers are too quick to attack a question as "homework." Sometimes I read the "We don't answer homework questions" response to a question and think, "What makes them think that's homework?" -- Mwalcoff (talk) 01:25, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
Yes for me thats the main problem. I wouldn't mind if the official policy at wiki refdesk was to simply not answer any questions that are obviously homework questions. But the problem is most homework questions are hard to tell from questions stemming from genuine interest. In cases where the questioner asks a question that shows he has done no independent research, then he should be called out on lack of research regardless if it is for homework or not. But that should be the grounds, NOT accusations of HW. Where it is a clear case of "the answer is C", then it should be treated as HW. --Gary123 (talk) 10:34, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
So how do y'all like this treatment of what I considered a reasonable question for WP:RD treatment, which after [my] rephrasing elicited relevant and informative responses (which I appreciated reading). As opposed to, for instance, this piece of non-work – which I'd considered rerouting to the Science RD but in the end preferred not to touch, deferring to how Kainaw handled it.-- Deborahjay (talk) 08:20, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

Quality of answers

Pnina Shachaf studied the quality of answers on the Reference Desk, and reported that "on all three SERVQUAL measures quality of answers produced by the Wikipedia Reference Desk is comparable with that of library reference services." You can read an abstract about it on this page. I have edited Academic studies about Wikipedia by adding an external link to the same page. -- Wavelength (talk) 01:58, 17 February 2010 (UTC)

I've bee looking and waiting for something like this for a long time (proof). Excellent find! Thank you, Wavelength! I'd love to read the results of her study in detail. ---Sluzzelin talk 12:15, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
Does "The generalizability of the findings to other similar sites is questionable." mean we're better than Yahoo Answers? ;o Vimescarrot (talk) 13:30, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
Finally! Recompense for all our collective efforts, in the form of anonymous recognition in an academic publication! The Reference Desk has made it to the big-leagues - we're playing by normal academia rules now! Nimur (talk) 14:06, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
It would be nice to see the actual article. Claiming to be just as good as a library reference desk is good, but I'd like to see where the RD didn't do well to see where improvements may be made. -- kainaw 14:19, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
I'm trying to get a full PDF. It costs $38, (we don't have a subscription to the Journal of Documentation), but I'll see if I can get a physical copy at the reference library by library-loan or some other means. Nimur (talk) 14:56, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
I got a electronic copy of the paper (haven't read it completely yet). Can send it to the first 5 RD regulars who email me their email ID (since wikipedia email doesn't allow attachments). Cheers. Abecedare (talk) 15:43, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, don't pay for the article. In a perfect world all journals would be open access, but until then you should be able to get it through interlibrary loan, and I also have access to the pdf and can e-mail copies. Wikipedia:WikiProject Resource Exchange/Resource Request can also help with stuff like that. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 16:08, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
More details are here. -- Wavelength (talk) 16:11, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
NB: That's just an abstract, not the actual paper. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 16:27, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
As a partial answer to Kainaw, in the brief look I had at the paper, one thing to stood out to me: of the questions they studied, a large percentage were answered with good online references; however the percentage of individual answers that contained references was abysmally small. e.g. A single question might attact five answers, but within that five answers there'd be only one that contained a good reference. The other four answers could be valid but non-referenced, attempts at jokes, arguments about the font used in an editor's sig, or just about anything. --LarryMac | Talk 17:20, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I think this is unacceptable. we're all going to have to put in some determined efforts to give crappier answers in the future, otherwise people will ask more and more questions, and we'll never be done with this. --Ludwigs2 17:49, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
I haven't used a library reference desk in many years, but, geez, they must suck, because offhand I'd say 50% of our answers on Humanities, Entertainment, and Miscellaneous are a link to one of the first 3 Google results from an acceptable list of keywords. I'd like to see a study whether Googling is as good as a library reference desk. Comet Tuttle (talk) 19:18, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
You underestimate the skill involved in Googling things. First you need to choose good keywords, then you need to find the useful results. Both of those require significant skill. Ref Deskers generally have a lot of experience with Google and are very skillful in that area. People asking questions often don't have that experience and skills. --Tango (talk) 19:41, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps a bigger issue is that it's easily possible the type of questions that go to a virtual reference desk are of different character to the ones here, quite a few of which are ones which even an idiot should be able to Google. Looking at [23] it appears most of them are IM, SMS or chat therefore comparing the types of questions is not easy. Perhaps someone can find reference which provide sample questions. Also it's possible virtual references services have a greater tendency to reject questions which violate their guidelines or which they feel are inappropriate, which may negatively affect their completion rate. (Particularly since we sometimes delete completely OT questions which given the methodology may not be picked up by the study although I can't recall what things were like in 2007.) Nil Einne (talk) 11:55, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Wait, I read the abstract, and I agree with myself that they must suck, because the abstract uses the word "dyadic". Library reference desks are clearly dead. Actually doesn't she miss the major benefit of social reference desks, that many questions here are answered by experts in the field? (I'm less sure about this being the case on Yahoo Answers.) Comet Tuttle (talk) 19:23, 17 February 2010 (UTC)

[24] 03:20, 18 February 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)


Not confident this is fair-use comment on a copyrighted work
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

The study is based on 77 reference desk questions receiving 354 responses in April 2007 (about a 4% sample of the questions asked that month).

I think the following sort of summarizes the bottom line, from page 987-988:

The Wikipedia Reference Desk provides answers that are as accurate as those that traditional (and digital) reference librarians provide. Both provide reference services at a 55 per cent accuracy level (for comparison see, for example, Hernon and McClure’s (1986) classic study). In reference research, “The 55% rule was established after a series of reference accuracy studies consistently indicated that just over half of the test questions were answered correctly” (Saxton and Richardson, 2002, p. 35), and studies of digital reference services reported similar results (for example, Kaske and Arnold,2002).

Answer completeness rate at the Wikipedia reference desk is better than library reference services’ completeness rate. Wikipedia volunteers provide complete answers for 63 per cent of transactions and librarians completeness rate in virtual reference services is lower; for example, Ward (2005) report 47 per cent completeness rate and Arnold and Kaske (2005) report that only 38 per cent were complete, accurate, and verifiable.

Further, the Wikipedia reference desk and library reference services receive the same amount of unsolicited thank you messages. Thank you messages were submitted on 19 per cent of the transactions at the Wikipedia reference desk. In libraries (including the virtual reference desk), the percentage of unsolicited thank you e-mails ranged from 16 per cent to 20 per cent (Carter and Janes, 2000; Janes and Mon, 2006; Mon and Janes, 2008).

The Wikipedia Reference Desk is somewhat quicker to respond to user requests than library (asynchronous) reference services[7]. Response time at the Wikipedia Reference Desk is four hours on average for the first response. E-mail requests are likely to be answered by Association for Research Libraries (ARL) libraries within two business days (Stacy-Bates, 2004), by academic libraries in 21 hours, and by public libraries 18 hours (Shachaf et al., 2008). Answers at the Wikipedia Reference Desk are posted quicker than libraries respond to e-mail requests.

Assurance measures (signature patterns and source usage) by Wikipedia volunteers are similar to those found in library reference services. For example, Signatures appeared in one third of the Wikipedia reference desk messages and on one third of the librarians’ responses to e-mail reference requests (Shachaf and Horowitz, 2008). The use of sources by Wikipedia volunteers and librarians follows a skewed bibliometric distribution with a few sources that are heavily cited and a long tail of other little cited sources. However, the distribution of sources from the Wikipedia Reference Desk is more skewed; only one source (Wikipedia) is heavily used, followed by sources that are rarely used. Given the fact that the Wikipedia Reference Desk guidelines recommend using Wikipedia pages to answer requests (“Guidelines,” 2007), the high use of Wikipedia (44 per cent of the sources mentioned) is not surprising. The major difference between librarians and Wikipedia volunteers is that 53 per cent of the librarians’ responses mentioned sources (Shachaf and Shaw, 2008), while Wikipedia volunteers mentioned them in only one out of ten messages.

As the comparison between library reference services and the Wikipedia Reference Desk shows, both provide the same level of answer quality with minor variations and except for use of sources, the Wikipedia Reference Desk outperforms librarians. The comparison between the two services is summarized in Table V. The similarity in outcome measures between the Wikipedia Reference Desk and libraries is striking, because unlike library reference services, the Wikipedia reference desk is run and staffed by volunteers who are amateur, do not hold a professional degree, and who are unremunerated for their work.

Dragons flight (talk) 19:30, 17 February 2010 (UTC)

How much have the desks changed since 2007? I suppose that signatures are much more common now, thanks to SineBot? —Akrabbimtalk 19:36, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
is there a copyright violation in reproducing so much information? -- Wavelength (talk) 19:52, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
This edit (later reverted by the poster) certainly was, and IMO should be oversighted. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:29, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
Uh yeah, drive-by-poster and refuse-to-signer, did you actually read that policy page? Is your opinion the "advice of Wikimedia Foundation counsel"? Our oversighters have lots to do as it is, please don't bother them with frivolous requests. Franamax (talk) 23:17, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
Please do not call people "drive-bys", it is offensive. And yes, I did read the page, specifically the part which states "and sometimes to remove serious copyright violations". By User:Rjanags own admission the material he posted is "copyrighted and shouldn't be reproduced anywhere". Hiding copyrighted works within the edit history with the intent to enable others to access the work without paying is clearly a massive copyright violation, akin to piracy. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:44, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
And please don't mischaracterize other users' edits. I did not intentionally "hide" the edit, I second-guessed myself and then undid myself. I would have deleted the revisions myself, but this page has a large edit history and can only be deleted and restored by stewards and I didn't think it was an urgent enough problem to bother asking one of them. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 23:47, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
You did intentionally hide the edit by using the <!-- --> tags, so that the material you posted would not be viewable on the actual page, and only viewable in the edit window and edit history (away from more public attention). I'm sorry if I'm misinterpreting this, but it really does seem like you were trying to hide the sharing of copyrighted material. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:52, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
If I were trying to hide my actions, then why would I have announced it in the exact same edit? rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 00:50, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
Ok, you weren't trying to hide it but still it's a massive copyright violation which is still available to everyone to view. No one here is going to go through the proper channels to access that paper now; you've deprived the author of income and recognition since there'll be no official record of the countless people who read the work. Anyway, I won't push this point further since I've been told off previously for arguing on this page. I'm sorry for any disruption I might have caused by bringing this up, I just felt it was an important point that needed to be raised. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:56, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
Do not lie. You have not been told off for arguing. You have been told off for stubbornly refusing to sign your posts just to be an asshole. Those are two completely different things. Many people here argue. They just sign their arguments. -- kainaw 13:20, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
Oh give it a rest. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:52, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
82, the author is not being deprived of income or recognition. The author doesn't get income from journal or database subscriptions (if anyone does, it's the journal itself), and the author gets more recognition the more people read her article. I have never met an author who would be upset for their journal articles to be freely available; authors are excited about getting read and getting citations, not about making money from journal articles (which they don't—in fact, they often have to pay a little, for things like figures and use of color). rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 17:12, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
Well, ok then. If everyone here is content with the copyright violation to remain and there's no damage being done to the author, I'll drop this. I admit I don't know much about how journals work, so I'm sorry I over reacted, my apologies. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:52, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
The author isn't going to be harmed, but the journal potentially is and, without journals, academia in general will be harmed. I would suggest it be oversighted or, at least, let an oversighter make the decision. --Tango (talk) 17:56, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
Ultimately it doesn't really matter who would be harmed. While ethical considerations do come in to it, we don't simply follow copyright because of concerns of who may be harmed. In any case, I have requested deletion of the diffs containing the copyvio. I don't know if oversight is needed but anyone is free to request it if necessary. Nil Einne (talk) 11:50, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Seriously, really? For the avoidance of doubt, I assert fair use in reproducing about 1 page of a 20 page academic paper for the purposes of our discussion of the results. Dragons flight (talk) 19:58, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
It would be more accurate to state that the RD is staffed by volunteers with unknown degrees and/or expertise. Some are experts. Some have degrees. Some claim to be experts - and are clearly not. Some claim to have degrees - and do not. -- kainaw 20:11, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
Of the participants who self-identified their educational status on their user page, the paper reported somewhat more than half claimed a Bachelors or higher. But only 20% made any claim about education at all, so it probably not a meaningful metric. Dragons flight (talk) 20:19, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
We give sources in 1 out of 10 responses? That is embarrassing. That figure seems low. Presumably she didn't filter out jokes. I wonder if she didn't count a link as a source. Actually, she might have been rigorous and said: If an answerer makes 5 claims in an answer and gives a source for one claim, then that answerer is giving sources for only 20% of the answer. I would support that view, I suppose. Comet Tuttle (talk) 21:23, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
For any given question, we give a sourced answer 75% of the time. It's the chatter that brings about the 10%. I'm not sure why she would filter out anything, although I still wish we would self-filter a lot more. I wonder if her sample included any questions like today's "how do I attract a girl?". I also wonder what an actual reference librarian would do with that. --LarryMac | Talk 00:12, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
For an example of the 10% phenomenon, just have a look at I admit to bias because of having given the first and only sourced answer (as of the time I'm writing this), but beyond that, at least a third of the other ten or more responses aren't even answering the question. Sadly, I believe this is exactly what the researcher saw. --LarryMac | Talk 00:01, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
Does she say what questions were used in the study? It'd be interesting to look at those threads and compare them to what's being posted today. Buddy431 (talk) 21:45, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
She looked at the first question of the day on each of the seven boards for each of 11 days in April 2007. It isn't entirely clear which 11 days in April she chose as far as I can tell. Dragons flight (talk) 21:55, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
I think the reference to RefDesk sourcing being heavily skewed towards Wikipedia itself (44% of all sourcing) needs a little unpacking. I assume we knowingly link to Wikipedia articles in part because the articles themselves are (hopefully adequately) sourced. (talk) 01:54, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
For the RD, linking to a Wikipedia article is usually much better than referencing the actual source material because each article (typically) contains many references. For us to link to 100 references instead of (maybe) 5 internal links would be painful. It would make responses hard to read and even harder to write. SteveBaker (talk) 04:27, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
A funny thing... well, not funny as in ha-ha, but funny as in a strange coincidence... well not a strange coincidence, but a coincidence nonetheless... I asked for a reference on the RD today. On the way home, I stopped by the library for an entirely different reason, but thought I'd ask the lady at the reference desk the same question. I still haven't received a hint of an answer here, but the lady at the library's reference desk told me that the reason I couldn't find a reference online was because "Raum und Zeit" is not currently being published in English, only in German. With the title, "Raum und Zeit", I found the entire German text online and Babelfish is more than capable of making the text clear enough for me to read. -- kainaw 04:56, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
Another interesting factoid is that we do sometimes get additional useful answers weeks after the question. I'm not sure if the article accounted for that. Not intending to boast, but nearly a month later I provided some IMHO useful refs (to wikipedia articles) for this Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Science/2010 January 19#EADS Astrium orbital power which while interesting had prior to that largely lacked any references discussing the general topic (it did have some supporting some of the points made). Nil Einne (talk) 00:42, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

Skip to the top

At the top of all the desks (and the top of this talk page), we have a little tag for people to click to zip down to the bottom of the page. I never use it myself, but I was thinking the other day that it would be handy to have a similar link at the bottom of the page to bring you back to the top. Normally, I navigate a desk by clicking in the TOC and then hitting "back" on my browser, but that doesn't work if I've edited a section (hitting back on the browser would re-open the editing window). Hardly a issue of epic proportions, but it's a nicety I would use. Any kind of support for this? Matt Deres (talk) 20:50, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

I press the "home" key and it jumps to the top of the page. To make a link jump to the top of the page should be trivial - just a link to the page without an anchor specified. However, Mediawiki disables links to the current page by default. So, there will have to be some trick to make it work. Further, it will have to be in a template that is forced to the bottom of the page so new sections don't appear below it. For me, pressing "Home" is much easier. -- kainaw 21:07, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
This idea might have some value for readers who aren't using a computer, such a smart phone or video game system. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 23:49, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
Well, I'll be damned! I never thought to try hitting the "home" key. Er, "Never mind." (ugh, speaking of non-notable article that need merging...) Thanks! Matt Deres (talk) 01:32, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
You don't use the end key either then? Anyway there's no need for special tricks. Just do something like we do for skip to the bottom, e.g. #top or Click me if you don't know how to use the keyboard or don't have a keyboard. Nil Einne (talk) 11:51, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
I can see the use for people using their phones and game systems. Personally, they'd be useless for me as I use the 'home' and 'end' keys quite a bit. Dismas|(talk) 11:59, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Question removed

I took this section out [25] as it became clear the OP was using it as a forum to foment an argument. If someone wants to restore it, they could do that. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:35, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

Yes, on review - good removal. If things get pear-shaped put them in a can. I see no need for a lingering removal notice either. Franamax (talk) 11:51, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
Remove the section, fine, but don't try and blame the OP for the mess. You, Ludwigs, and Kittybrewster were at fault there.—eric 12:33, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
Good removal, but the section deteriorated because of the RD's unhelpful response. We got one link that addressed the OP's question, followed by some smack talk about Fox News and GOP desperation, then somebody asking incredulously if the OP is thinking of voting for Sarah Palin (clearly from the post the OP is thinking of it in some future election).
Then the OP got upset (rightly) and unleashed a rant (unrightly). OP's O P was not trying to argue at all-- the rant was triggered by the unhelpful responses. How about we answer the questions and try to resist editorializing? The question was perfectly legitimate, and actually sought to expose some negative press about Palin. It is unhelpful and likely upsetting to answer decent questions with jabs at the poster's political views. (And please don't try to tell me that Palin is a ninny GOP tool- I know.) Staecker (talk) 12:50, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
Yes they all fell for it, but that rant was coming all along IMO. It may have taken more prodding if necessary but in the event the responders fell right into the tarpit trap. Is Sarah Palin associated with the conspiracist mafia? Of course, don't tell anyone I said though and no she's not. (This is a mix of sarcasm and ABF) Franamax (talk) 13:05, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
One question I was tempted to ask the OP is why Miss Shrink-the-Federal-Budget would be in favor of spending more tax money to redo an already-closed investigation with the expectation of getting the same result. Rather than heading off in that direction, I figured it was better to end it. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:33, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
Good call not to ask the question. Wouldn't it be nice if the poster asked questions and we answered them? Staecker (talk) 14:49, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
I'm inclined to agree with Franamax that the OP was intending all along to post his ridiculous rant. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:54, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
I strongly disagree with this removal. The question was perfectly legitimate, as were some of the responses (well, one anyway. Thank you Mr. Tuttle). If we must, we can collapse the off topic responses and rant, but I don't see any reason to remove them all together. Buddy431 (talk) 22:33, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
The OP said "goodbye", which meant he won't be back, so he certainly didn't need the section anymore. If you think you can trim away everything but the original question and anything resembling a factual answer, and leave everything else out, then give it a whirl. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:44, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
(e/c with that wascally wabbit) However I believe I spot a pattern here. It's tickling me brain that I've seen this tactic used before. "I'm sure this is unreliable but just wanted to check with you experts here". Unsourced but I've added it to my mental watchlist anyway. I suppose we might expect more penetration attempts, now that we're a subject of scholarly studies and all. :)
I personally wouldm't mind seeing more use of collapse boxes to close off unproductive discussions on the desks themselves but I certainly won't claim that's a majority view. Franamax (talk) 02:52, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
It's hard to get a majority on anything here, so these things seem to be dealt with case-by-case. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:57, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Franamax about collapse boxes being a useful resort sometimes. They can serve to restore focus on the OP when it is in danger of being swamped by OT indulgences that are swelling beyond the traditional few small quips. The title on the collapse box must be neutral so that this does not become a way for a debater to grab the last word. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 14:58, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
And I agree with both Franamax and Cuddyable, particularly about making sure that it's a neutral title to simply cordon off some extraneous stuff. The "archive and do not modify" thing isn't usually appropriate. The "I know this seems weird, but I just thought I'd check..." opening is very common and not necessarily indicative of troll behaviour. If you read enough of Snopes, you'll find examples of people emailing them all manner of items ranging from perfectly legitimate but peculiar to downright impossible, and they are often prefaced with a "This doesn't seem real. Is it?" that I assume is legitimate. Matt Deres (talk) 17:43, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
While I agree the responses weren't helpful, I have no sympathy for the OP. Anyone who uses such bigoted and offensive pejorative language clearly has a mentality that has no place on the RD. If BB et al weeded out someone of that sort who would have continued to contribute to the RD, then that's a good thing even if it doesn't excuse their behaviour. If they made something worse from someone who would have never been here for long then that's unfortunate. But ultimately we'll never know. And to be frank all this means there's little point getting too worked up over it. Good ridance to the OP either way Nil Einne (talk) 23:35, 24 February 2010 (UTC)

Correcting typos or grammar

I recently scolded Cuddlyable3 for writing[citation needed] two grammar-nagging posts (e.g. "Don't you mean "their" instead of "thier"?"), particularly because one was aimed at someone whose native language was obviously not English; but after some reflection, I wonder whether other Refdesk people think it's OK to edit other editors' questions and answers to fix obvious typos and grammar problems. I would venture that silently correcting "thier" to "their" is always OK, whereas rephrasing a problematic phrase — that is, actually moving around words — is never OK. Comet Tuttle (talk) 19:27, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

It has been discussed before, and some editors feel extremely strongly that nobody should edit another user's posts, ever. (Except for formatting when it disrupts the page.) -- Coneslayer (talk) 20:02, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
That stance is what I'm challenging for minor typo and grammar fixes; so if anyone actually has this extremely strong feeling, then I'd like to hear from them why it's important and why minor, single-word typo and grammar fixes harm them or the Refdesk. Comet Tuttle (talk) 20:18, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk/Archive_51#RD.2FComp_copy_edited, User_talk:SteveBaker/archive9#Comment_editing_at_the_RD -- Coneslayer (talk) 20:24, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
OK, SteveBaker from the past convinced me that it is a bad idea to allow most editing of other editors' Refdesk posts, for fear of inadvertently changing the meaning of the post. (I only say "most" because I suspect that allowing the changing of "thier" to "their", and apostrophe fixes, is harmless; but I don't like the path of creating a list of allowable word changes.) I remain in dislike of Refdesk posts that do nothing but point out grammar or spelling errors. Comet Tuttle (talk) 22:03, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
If you think SteveBaker of the Past is persuasive, you should see SteveBaker of the Future! (I share your opinion of posts that correct minor errors, BTW.) -- Coneslayer (talk) 23:00, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
I have been known to de-ALLCAPS posts on occasion and fix egregiously bad formatting (which I assume is just a factor of knowing how to use MediaWiki), but that's it. Grammar and spelling I would not edit, though I might edit the spelling of a header if it is distractingly off. --Mr.98 (talk) 22:55, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
See Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines#Editing comments. -- Wavelength (talk) 22:56, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Absolutely not. Even if posts are full of painfully obvious spelling errors and misplaced or missing apostrophes, changing any part of another person's post has changed what they've written and therefore it isn't truly their post anymore. I suggest people who want to nag others over spelling errors make an attempt to answer the question first, and tag the spelling issue towards the end of their post. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:00, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

What do you care about something being "your" post when you don't sign your comments? Matt Deres (talk) 23:43, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
I'm speaking generally. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:01, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
So, you're a hypocrite, then? Matt Deres (talk) 00:11, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
Matt Deres I see no reason not to Assume Good Faith on the part of unsigned contributor (and signing is not a litmus test of that). I also agree with what they said about never changing the words of another editor's post. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 00:33, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
I agree with the premise of not altering someone else's post. However, asking me to abide by rules while failing to do so himself is hypocritical. Hypocrites deserve no account of "good faith"; in fact, just the opposite. The fact that I happen to agree with this particular point in no way changes that. Matt Deres (talk) 02:10, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
Matt Deres you are required to abide by rules and advised to follow guidelines. Exactly the same applies to everyone here. This thread as its indents indicate responds to the particular post made by fellow editor I won't reiterate the premise on which there is such clear consensus. I do dissociate myself from the kind of name calling such as "hypocrite" in which you are indulging repeatedly. In your own words you have abandoned WP:AGF. In my opinion your post here was incivil. I offer to User my apology FWIW for that treatment having taken place on this page. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 12:26, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
The posts are signed by SineBot. I don't pay a whole lot of attention to SineBot's opinions myself, when they keep popping up over and over in the same threads. I offer no apology to editors exploiting a revolving IP scheme offered by their ISP so as to remain unidentified and uncontactable. What do you call something where the numbers change regularly? It's almost like driving by houses and reading the address numbers, like driving by... C3, you just keep on apologizing to whomever decides to adopt that particular exploit, sorry but I won't be with you on that. Franamax (talk) 12:43, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
The 82.43.* user has made it clear that he/she is not working "in good faith." The user only makes posts to disagree and purposely, rudely, and stubbornly refuse to sign his/her posts. The user is not actually presenting any sort of opinion. The user is only using this discussion as an excuse to not sign a post just to try and get others annoyed and pull them into an argument. I do not see any reason to apologize to such an asshole. In my opinion, the 82.43.* range should be banned from Wikipedia. I have no use for a user who gets his/her kicks off of trying to lure other users into an argument just for fun. -- kainaw 14:52, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
Bullshit. There's clearly an opinion being presented, but you refuse to see anything beyond the lack of signature. This incessant bitching about 82.43.* is far more disruptive to discussion here than his unsigned posts. Either try to get him blocked if you think it's so intolerable, or take it up on his talk page, but stop derailing thread after thread here. -- Coneslayer (talk) 14:58, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Coneslayer. The 82... IP has made several valid points in recent threads which went unaddressed while respondents focused on his non-signing instead, and even called him a "drive-by-poster". I too find this more disruptive than the unsigned posts. That being said, O IP-adress starting with 82..., please sign your posts for heaven's sake (you can even hit "~~~~" in the Wiki markup setting, if typing tildes is impossible on your keyboard), and we don't need to read these nasty exchanges following your valid points anymore. ---Sluzzelin talk 15:09, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
You agree with Coneslayer that I am the one who called 82.43.* a hypocrite and derailed the thread? You agree with Coneslayer that my response to Cuddlyable3 derailed the thread? I was stating that 82.43.* only disagrees. The user does not work in good faith. Regardless of the topic, the user only chimes in to disagree. The obvious goal is to see if anyone will ask the user to sign his/her posts. You fell for it and added another notch on the 82.43.* belt. -- kainaw 15:13, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
No, I specified which part I agreed with (the part where focusing on the non-signing has arguably become more disruptive than the non-signing itself). I don't care much about belts. ---Sluzzelin talk 15:17, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

2 posts by Matt Deres and Cuddlyable3 removed by agreement. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 17:19, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

I thought I had a good solution to all this, using SineBot, so I asked slakr about it, but I'm afraid that he has been pretty inactive here on the wiki (his last contrib was over a month ago). So I don't know if there is a similar solution we could enact with a different bot or what... —Akrabbimtalk 02:29, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
I thought about this last night. So many users fail to see the double standard: if you have an account and don't sign, you can be banned. If you are an IP and refuse to sign, you are accepted as always acting in good faith. Since so many users fail to see the double standard, I am employing civil disobedience to bring attention to the double-standard. Since 82.43.* is being praised for his absolute refusal to sign his posts, I will behave in the same manner. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Kainaw (talkcontribs) 14:53, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
Another day, another lie. Nobody is "praising" him for not signing his posts. We're just not going apeshit over it and (as you now admit) willfully disrupting this talk page. -- Coneslayer (talk) 14:57, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
Seriously: why would you ever think you had to edit someone else's post for spelling or grammar? If you could figure out what that poster meant, probably anyone else could too. So if you presume to edit, what you're really saying is, "Not only is my English better than this writer's, it's better than all you other readers, too." So it's pretty much doubly arrogant. Just leave the bad grammar alone, and spend your time answering the question or improving some other part of the encyclopedia. —Steve Summit (talk) 02:38, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
I will certainly stick to the don't-touch-my-posts rule, but I would like to point out that there are instances, where a typo or other error, if left uncorrected, could do a disservice to the querent. At the language desk, I have seen answers to foreign language questions including typos that render the answer grammatically or orthographically incorrect. Since language is the topic at hand, leaving these errors isn't helpful to the original poster. At the humanities desk, I have seen mangled keywords (particularly, again, when the keyword is in a foreign language) which, without correction, would have sent the original poster on a wild goose chase. Unlike the querents, I happened to speak the foreign languages in question and my being able to figure it out didn't mean that "anyone else could too". I used to correct this type of error directly, and never got any complaints from the posters. Now, I will point out these errors in a separate post, thus drawing an unnecessary amount of attention to a careless mistake in an otherwise excellent response. ---Sluzzelin talk 09:36, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
Is this thread about fixing OP-posts or fixing responder-posts? Both range from almost-never to never-ever-ever but have different considerations. Franamax (talk) 11:34, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
I think it's about both, and the original post referred to both. I can live with the almost-never to never-ever-ever. I merely wanted to answer Steve Summit's question ("Why...?") and give a rebuttal to his suggestion that correcting bad grammar was "doubly arrogant". On those rare occasions in the distant path where I did correct a respondent's typo, I did so in good faith, with good reason, without any complaints, and, as far as I remember, without arrogance. Two examples I remembered which illustrate what I am referring to above: language desk, humanities desk (both are from over two years ago; as indicated, I don't do this anymore). ---Sluzzelin talk 11:43, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
If the meaning of a post is unclear, then a respondent should ask the OP to clarify. One editor modifying the post, based on what that one editor thinks it means, is a risky business. Regarding signing, I would add that perpetual refusal to sign posts is basically an all-too-typical "up yours" attitude by an IP toward the other editors, followed by all-too-typical "poor little me" whining by the IP when they get criticized for it. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:10, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
Unnecessary amounts of attention to careless mistakes in an otherwise excellent response should be pointed out, yes. I don't re-read old posts to check if they've been edited! So if someone made a mistake, I won't know it unless it's pointed out - be them my own mistakes, or a mistake made by someone responding to a question I've posed. Having a mistake pointed out might be a little embarrassing, but it won't do any harm. On the point of signatures: take it out of the Ref Desk. It's not a Ref Desk issue, it's an issue with the user. Vimescarrot (talk) 19:01, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
There is no need for pedantic grammar correction, unless it's important to understanding either the question or the answer. Ribbing a regular for a misspelling is harmless, though. Regarding signatures, I've seen regulars taken to RFC's for improper signatures, while IP's are allowed to skate by - just another double-standard favoring IP's. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:17, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
-headdesk- Sorry, I just realised I left out the most important part of my response. Pointing it out is what should be done instead of editing an old post. The alternative is to ignore it, of course. Basically, if you feel it's important enough to make a change to, then point it out - or even better, ask - instead of just editing posts no-one may look at again. I think, in future, I'll stay out of this kind of thing. Vimescarrot (talk) 20:51, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
You're right. Although it's hard to resist snickering when a user says something about having larger "protests" than his other male classmates. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:24, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
I protest this statement. in the largest terms possible. :) Being Canadian, I'm rather used to people who have atrocious pronunciation, grammar and spelling in English but turn out to be pretty damn fine people anyway. When they don't understand me I try to talk slower and more clearly rather than louder. I definitely try not to make jokes about their use of English, unless I'm sure they'll be laughing too. Very definitely not. Language boners by someone I consider a childhood friend, otoh, that's just a race to see who gets there first. We're somewhere in-between, familiarity breeding contempt and all. For someone who's just walked into the schoolground though, please, no snickering and no pranks, funny though it may seem. Franamax (talk) 03:55, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
Nothing against the OP personally. I just thought he was maybe channeling Norm Crosby. Meanwhile, "boners" is a vaguely related topic, eh? :) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:02, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
What the heck was this edit for? - --LarryMac | Talk 19:33, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
I added a citation tag in the hope that Comet Tuttle will produce diffs. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 21:50, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
It's a bit beside the point, but here is the diff of the edit I scolded you for; and I am out of time searching for the nagging of the apparent non-English speaker. My apologies if it wasn't you who did the latter nagging. Comet Tuttle (talk) 22:20, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Thank you for providing the diff. Comet Tuttle when you set out to scold me (or anyone) first on a main page and then again on this page you had better use diffs to verify what you claim. Diffs are not as you think beside the point. Nil Einne to whom my allegedly nagging questions were directed has made corrections accordingly. The wording issues, your scolding and your bad idea of silently correcting others' posts were mentioned in an exchange with User:Onorem and you may see what I said here. Comet Tuttle I am not ready to accept your apology for this post. The reason is that the second of your two accusations is still unsubstantiated by any diff whatever. You are reckless when instead of a diff you proffer a strawman example (e.g. "Don't you mean "their" instead of "thier"?") that I have never posted. Show otherwise or retract it! Your claim that I have aimed nagging at "someone whose native language was obviously not English" is an odious accusation. An apology that is conditional on whether you find out later whom you should have accused (if anyone), but you can't or won't take the time to do that, is trite and valueless. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 23:13, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

I usually ask the editor, but I think in simple cases it may also make sense to just do the change and then alert the editor. I'll give it a try. — Sebastian 07:48, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

I've redacted one of my statements above. While my opinion regarding the non-signer has not changed, I made some unfortunate and improper remarks regarding the user Cuddlyable3. I have a great deal of respect for that user and wish to make it clear that any slight was unintentional. All I can say is that the phrasing sounded differently in my head than when it came out in black and white. Yet another instance of where my final click should have been at the top right corner instead of the "save" button. My apologies for lowering the level of discourse here and again to Cuddlyable for my rash statement. Matt Deres (talk) 04:06, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

Question removed 2

I removed this question (diff) because the OP has not responded to justify their request. Nimur (talk) 22:24, 24 February 2010 (UTC)

Should be removed in any case, I think. Comet Tuttle (talk) 22:50, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
Wikipedia has an article Jenkem. The banner at Talk:Jenkem says You may wish to ask factual questions about Jenkem at the Reference desk. Apart from their spelling "Jenkum" the OP is following that advice. I think our best response is to allow the question to stand, to answer it with a simple No and to hide a note on the question's edit page that advises users not to discuss further. (I congratulated Kainaw on showing this way of dealing with a troll question.) Cuddlyable3 (talk) 18:29, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Nimur before removing the question commented that it seemed to be an attempt to lead people to shock sites. I don't see that happening unless one calls Wikipedia a shock site.
Guidelines state: The reference desk is not censored. No subject per se is off limits. Responses are not deemed to be inappropriate as long as they are relevant to the question. The subject of the question is distasteful but our obligation is to answer it. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 23:29, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Can someone explain to me why this question was removed? This person has mentioned two topics with similar sounding names that are both closely related to reusing human waste, and asked if they were related to each other. A little odd, but people come to us entirely serious about sillier questions.
Why should someone be asked to "justify" their curiosity on this topic?
Unless I'm missing something I strongly disagree with this removal. APL (talk) 06:02, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Obvious trolling, and a weird one anyway - set up last May, 2 edits then, and then nothing more until December. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 06:10, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
I don't see how it's trolling, and I don't see how the user not editing between May and December is relevant. I agree with APL above, the question should not have been removed. --kv7sW9bIr8 (talk) 08:15, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
So what's the answer to the question? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:24, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Almost certainly "no". The word "Jenkem" seems to have originated in Zambia. Whereas the Joseph Jenkins of humanure fame is from USA.
It would be a really bizarre twist if Jenkem turned out to be not just urban legend, but complete hoax designed to parody Joseph Jenkins. A bit too obscure of a gag, though.APL (talk) 15:54, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Bugs, why is it 'obvious trolling'? That's what I'm asking. APL (talk) 15:57, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Here are diffs. OP posts question [26]. (A misunderstanding by the OP [27] is handled by Tango[28]). An unsigned refers to the OP as troll [29]. Nimur asks OP to elaborate [30]. OP responds [31]. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 16:31, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

I too don't think the question was trolling, though I can understand how it can seem that way. I'll restore it back since it can be addressed as APL did above (I would have consulted Nimur before restoration, but he hasn't edited in 2 days, and may not see my post in time). Abecedare (talk) 16:40, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

APL, I also copied your reply to the question thread. Hope that's ok. Abecedare (talk) 16:46, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

It's wonderful what we learn by answering what seemed an unlikely fertile question. Can Nimur (I mean the savvy internet-jockey Nimur) tell whether any jenkem (or jenkum or Jenkins) shock sites exist? Cuddlyable3 (talk) 23:29, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

Good questions!

Since this page (wp:rd/t) is generally for problems with questions and/or posters, I'd just like to put in a comment to the opposite effect: I think the quality of questions these days is very good. (The answers are brilliant as well, of course, but we knew that). Two random recent examples are the slavery economy discussion and the immigration form decipheration on the Humanities desk. I learn a lot from these things. The Reference Desk clearly has a bright future. Keep up the good work, both askers and answerers! Jørgen (talk) 18:34, 24 February 2010 (UTC)

Your post is appreciated. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 19:19, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
Jørgen, the reference desk is analogous to a large, continuous, multi-topic discussion room, in which many of the answerers are present much of the time, and most of the askers are infrequent visitors. On the other hand, an article is analogous to a lecture hall. A person can learn a lot from both.
-- Wavelength (talk) 15:38, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I'm constantly impressed with both the breadth and depth of answers the desks are capable of. The advanced chemistry and physics stuff that regularly gets done on the science desk is really great, for example. I've also wondered how many languages we have could potentially translate to on the Language desk; it seems that no matter what language someone needs translated, someone pops up within the first couple of days with at least a rough go at it. Matt Deres (talk) 14:18, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

Banned IP ranges

Just in the last couple days, I've found that two IP ranges are commonly used by well-known banned users, 79.76.* and 82.43.*. While I eventually recognized the behavior of the users as trollish (however you want to put it), I did not know immediately that these were well-known blocked users. I know we don't want a leaderboard where trolls can compete to see who's on top, but is there a list somewhere that shows which IP ranges are mainly just banned users avoiding the ban? It would be nice because some very good users initially defend the anon IP users only to be made a fool when it turns out that the IP user was just a troll trying to stir up trouble. -- kainaw 04:55, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

I actually started compiling a list of sorts a month or two ago to help recognise common problematic users, since I was annoyed by continually forgetting who was who and having to check the archives or wasting time trying to work out who a user was when it was already in the archives and also for other reasons. I've thought of offering the list but never did partially because I never got very far and it only has 2 people. However I'll send it if anyone wants it. Having said that, other then the two I already have and the above two there's only one or two other people I'm aware of that I'd bother to put in such a list. I've thought of such a list on wikipedia before but ultimately decided it would be a bad idea for the reasons you mention and I believe similar things elsewhere have tended to be deleted. My list would definitely not be allowed since for one of them, it contains personal real life information I collated from wikipedia and other websites. Nil Einne (talk) 17:32, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
I've been going back and tagging the ip accounts with ipsock templates. The think I don't like about that method is that it is VERY easy for one of them to remove the template. -- kainaw 16:22, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
My proposal[32] to semi-protect this page instead of imposing a limited IP range block came too late to change the resolution at AN/I. An advantage of what I proposed is that it would place a visible padlock icon at the top of this page. That would both 1) save time for newly registered and non-vandal IP users, and 2) serve as an impenetrable barrier to a determined IP troll who can change IP address. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 16:55, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
That would also lock out sincere IP's (they do exist) from editing here. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:08, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
Yes Baseball Bugs, that is the price of semi-protection. The range ban incurs a similar collateral effect, not necessarily a lesser one because we already know that the target IP range belongs to one or more potential users. It may be unwise to specify exactly what IP range is banned but if it is that means potentially 65534[33] hosts. BTW your term sincere IP is a better than my term non-vandal IP. They exist so let's do our best for them. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 18:13, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

Can someone create a list of IP ranges corresponding to banned users active at Ref Desks ? Such a list can be created in some user-subspace so that it can be consulted by interested regulars, without giving undue publicity to the trolls (which would happen if we added such a list to this page). Abecedare (talk) 17:20, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

Hopefully I can explain some things that can help people understand what happened in this situation. Firstly, the list of banned users you want is available at Wikipedia:List of banned users. Secondly, I would like to point out that I have never been banned (note the difference between a block and a ban), and since the last block on me expired over 2 years ago, I was hardly "ban evading" in our previous altercations. You can verify my claims by asking User:Thatcher, User:KnightLago or User:Newyorkbrad who I have spoken with about this in the past and been given a "fresh start". I would also like to point out that your labeling of several ips as "Freewayguy" is incorrect [34], [35], [36]. Thirdly, I have made every effort to be constructive on wikipedia in the last 2 years. Every edit I have made as been at least in my mind constructive; I never intended any harm or disruption. The signing issue was not the bullshit misunderstanding about "baiting" which you seem to think it was, it is brought about mainly by OCD on my part. Also, the fact that I have only ever been asked about the signing issue in the middle of unrelated discussions came across to me as a deliberate attempt to divert and side track the discussion and ignore the point I was making. If you had asked me on my talk page, or made a dedicated section for it here on this page and asked about it without throwing words like "hipocrite" and "asshole" around, I would have explained the issue to you, and if necessary refrained from posting on this talk page if you were likely to kick up a shitstorm over it. I am truly sorry that this situation escalated the way it did, and I extend my apology to everyone here at the reference desk for the disruption it and the reactions to it caused. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 17:39, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

Apologies are more convincing when linked to a change in behavior. If you'd signed your post it would have been more convincing. I say this as a previously uninvolved observer. -- Scray (talk) 17:44, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
When an apology[37] has been answered by an apology with a fair explanation[38] then it is mean spirited to continue carping. "Bullshit" seems a fair term for unending recriminations now after everyone involved has had their say.Cuddlyable3 (talk) 18:41, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
An honest apology would not contain blatant lies: "If you had asked me on my talk page". I personally brought it up on this user's talk page. The threw up the old AGF defense and made absolutely no attempt to claim "I have OCD. I am incapable of signing my post!" Further, trying to say "I'm not Freewayguy" is simply stupid. The same user who is refusing to sign has also had discussions claiming that he is/was the Avril troll. Such trollish misdirection indicates that this apology is not honest in any way. It is just a ruse to garner support ending with a big FUCK YOU ALL - I WON'T EVEN SIGN THIS BULLSHIT APOLOGY! -- kainaw 22:50, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
I should point out that 82.43's comment on not being FWG is almost definitely correct. FWG doesn't have such a good command of English (claims to be Asian), uses US IPs (a university one and what we think is a home range) and is interested in American highways, planet colours, and interacial relationships. 82.4x is the former Avril troll (with at least one account which was also blocked for being linked to that), nothing else that I'm aware of. P.S. I should also clarify I never intended to put 82.4x on my list. Nil Einne (talk) 20:18, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
Is it sad that this post brightened my entire day? "I like: American highways, planet colours, and interracial relationships." Comet Tuttle (talk) 01:48, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I like Avril Lavinge. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 09:40, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

speaking of troublesome anonymous-IP participants (talk · contribs · deleted contribs · logs · edit filter log · block user · block log)

Is a known troll? He's showing what's starting to seem like a willfully persistent failure to understand the points being made in the "Physical exercise vs. E=mc^2" thread on the Science desk. (But perhaps I'm overreacting.) —Steve Summit (talk) 17:10, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

After 11 posts on the subject he/she is still posting "I find it remarkable that turning 0.6 grams of matter into energy levels a city". Cuddlyable3 (talk) 17:25, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Well, it is remarkable.. but irrelevant. --Mr.98 (talk) 22:31, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm going to apply Hanlon's razor to this one. --Tango (talk) 21:11, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't recognise the IP or ISP and it appears to have been static for 3 months or so without any obvious signs of major problems (althought it does look to me like they're not new to wikipedia) so I'd agree with Tango. Nil Einne (talk) 00:58, 2 March 2010 (UTC)


Based on this delightful paper, I, Comet Tuttle, assert the notability of the Wikipedia Reference Desk, and I invite everyone to contribute to Wikipedia's newest article, Wikipedia Reference Desk. Especially those who have access to the paper and can add sourced data with inline citations. Comet Tuttle (talk) 21:35, 17 February 2010 (UTC)

hmm, one source doesn't make it very notable, I think this is a little premature. Other areas of Wikipedia like the admins noticeboard and checkuser pages have received significantly more third party coverage and still aren't really notable enough for their own articles. It's a nice idea though :) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:52, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
I have nominated it for deletion. WP:Articles for deletion/Wikipedia Reference Desk. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 22:24, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
Seconded. The article didn't mention my username, so it's obviously not notable. Plus the reasons I put on the AFD page... Franamax (talk) 23:06, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
A dedicated academic study is about as good a source as you can get, though. Multiple sources are preferable, but Wikipedia:Notability doesn't require it. --Tango (talk) 23:54, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
yes, but the article risks being a bit masturbatory, so I suggest we put a higher standard on sourcing. --Ludwigs2 02:58, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
I found the article that is currently cited as the only reference pretty useless, but this one sounds much more interesting, and I hadn't noticed it before. Seems like it would be part of any alleged Ref Desk article. Unfortunately the paywall on new articles defies even my institutional subscription. --Mr.98 (talk) 19:39, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
Unless I'm missing something, that's the article we've all been discussing. --LarryMac | Talk 19:53, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
Mr. 98, did you see this external link? -- Wavelength (talk) 20:21, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
Oh, see, I read the one cited in the External Links section (the one Wavelength cites), which doesn't have much of interest on the Ref Desk at all. I didn't realize they were using the other article as the main citation. Which I do find dubious if nobody has actually looked at it! --Mr.98 (talk) 21:36, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
For clarification there are at least 2 articles that mention the RD. [39] which is the one referred to at [40] and [41] which Wavelength linked to above (and cites the first article). The first article requires subscription but if anyone is interested in it, email me. It's possible this article may refer to the RD as well (since it's used as a reference), I've been unable to view it [42]. (Edit: Found it from a potential copyvio site, doesn't mention the RD.) [43] briefly mentions the RD as well. Also if you look at the references some of them may further refer to the RD, I haven't looked carefully and Wikipedia is a research interest of Pnina Shachaf so perhaps there's more from her (she's also written an article on trolls I think). I agree with the above though, I don't think this is enough to mention it in a seperate article although there may be merit to the main Wikipedia article. Edit:For further clarification this discussion started from the thread above. As a note to editors, it's helpful to ensure you either mention you are referring to an earlier thread or make your thread into a level 3 (or whatever) so it's clear what you're referring to since until I read the thread above, Comet Tuttle's post didn't make much sense. Nil Einne (talk) 10:56, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
The author can be contacted. -- Wavelength (talk) 15:31, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Surely she is reading all of this. And quite possibly contributing. (talk) 22:48, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Nah, if the articles are coming out now, that means she probably did the research at least a year ago (looking the extract above, finally, I see it was done three years ago, in fact!), and has moved on to bigger and better things! The academic publishing process is slooooow. --Mr.98 (talk) 16:07, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

Some people commenting both here and the AfD are really confusing what "significant coverage" is supposed to be about. Other than the new Shachaf article cited, the other articles people are looking about (like the older one Wavelength pointed out above) are not really about the Reference Desk. They are using it as a data point within a study, which is not at all the same. Trying to twist journal articles around to be something their authors never intended them to be is not a good way to argue for notability. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 16:25, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

See Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2010-03-01/Reference desk. -- Wavelength (talk) 01:06, 3 March 2010 (UTC)


Is this really the sort of thing we want to encourage? I note that Vranak has been the subject of an increasing amount of criticism for such replies recently (and not-so-recently, looking at the user's talk page); is it time to take more active steps to stop it? Or is the user's behaviour acceptable? Tevildo (talk) 19:56, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

What is your problem friend? This is honest advice. The cheapest place to sleep is outside. And I do not ignore local customs in my answer, as silly as they may be. I will admit a certain bias against the City of London, implicit in my answer. It seems the only way to have a good time there is to bring in loads of money. It is a sinful city, suffice to say. But let us hear your answer.Vranak (talk) 21:02, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
Coincidentally - I had been composing another complaint about this user at exactly the same time this was posted. So I backed off and did some research. I think I've been underestimating just what a force-for-ill User:Vranak has become. I'd seen a couple of complaints about his behavior before - but when I looked at all of his posts to the Science ref desk (there are others) and analysed them for quality - of the 24 un-archived posts on the Science desk at time of writing, only one of them contributed any value whatever to providing appropriate answers to our OP's question - and even that was a repeat of what a previous poster had said. Almost everything Vranak posts is either wrong or merely personal opinion. Three or four of the others were downright breaches of WP:AGF and WP:NPA as well as violating our Ref desk guidelines about no making fun of the OP. I won't bother everyone here with my findings - but I've posted them at length at Vranak's talk page. You'll note that this user has a history of this kind of thing dating back to last October: User_talk:Vranak#RefDesk.
IMHO, administrative intervention is only called for if Vranak doesn't listen to what we're saying. He should resist the temptation to post just because he thinks he knows something. Yes, we all do that from time to time (yes, I'm guilty too) - but 23 out of 24 posts suggests more than just an occasional lapse.
@Vranak: I recommend that you plan to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes doing research on your answers (either in books, within Wikipedia or on the web_ before you even start typing an answer to the question. If you can't spare that kind of commitment - then you shouldn't be posting answer to the reference desk. If you want to carry on doing what you're doing - then take it to someplace like Yahoo Answers where responses are peer-rated and the damage you can do is more limited. What you are doing here is more harmful to Wikipedia than it is helpful - and people who behave like that don't last long without getting kicked off the site. SteveBaker (talk) 21:22, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
Steve, I think it is perhaps you who would benefit from some time away from the RD. You are taking things dreadfully seriously. But even if you wish to do that, I will back up my logic time and time again, but I don't think you really want that. You want to be rid of me. Well, we'll see how that goes. Not incidentally, are you familiar with Nietzsche's concept of the Last Man? Vranak (talk) 21:43, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
I do indeed take the reference desk seriously. It's a serious matter so I make no apology for that. The precise problem here is that you aren't taking it seriously. We aren't asking you to back up your "logic" - because logic implies original research which is not what's needed here - what we need is for you to deal in fact and to back up the facts with references where appropriate. Given the extraordinarily poor quality of your responses to questions, I wouldn't be at all upset if you left - because if you did, then that would be a net gain in the quality of responses on the reference desk - which would be a good outcome. However, I would be even happier if you fixed up the quality of your responses such that they were a net positive and continued to contribute. What isn't at all acceptable is the way things are going right now. SteveBaker (talk) 01:41, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Vranak you are not being asked to back up your logic. You don't help yourself here by interrogating anyone about Nietsche. What is needed from you is reassurance about how you will treat Ref. Desk questions from now on. Having read on your page Steve Baker's post that I assume he can support by diffs, that reassurance should IMO come from you now. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 22:01, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
Vranak, we want you to stop making inaccurate, unresearched, subjective guesses at answers to legitimate questions on the Ref Desks. Your "logic", whatever that may be, is irrelevant - the factual content of your posts isn't. But, there's little point in continuing the discussion along these lines. Are we agreed that Vranak's behaviour is unacceptable? If so, he's been made aware of that fact - ANI and RFC await if he continues. Tevildo (talk) 22:02, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
I too was concerned by the tent-in-a-park posting. Would we accept, or tolerate, that from a library reference desk? Of course not. Vranak also appears not to know the difference between the City of London and Greater London. Ignorance and opinon, unbacked by any references, make us less likely to be taken seriously. We are judged on our record -- collectively, as well as individually. BrainyBabe (talk) 22:06, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
Frankly I do not see anything wrong in anything I have posted. If you have outstanding grievances about any particular issue, just raise them here, on the desk, or on my talk page. I will be happy to discuss any issue of contention exhaustively. So, what's the beef? What is the most egregious thing that I have said, and more importantly, why do you find it so intolerable? Vranak (talk) 22:37, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
If you check your talk page - you'll see that I did exactly that for your most recent 24 posts to the Science desk. SteveBaker (talk) 01:41, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I believe that the concern is not with any one particular post, and I'm sure that all of the editors here make the occasional boner. For that reason, I don't think that engaging in point-by-point discussion of individual posts is likely to be productive, and indeed misses the point that Steve (and others) have now raised. Discussing individual posts 'exhaustively' would be simply that — exhausting, and to no benefit. The issue here is a pattern of conduct. Your answers seem to offer a healthy dose of personal opinion and wild speculation, combined with some serious lapses in respect both for the individuals who come to us for assistance and for the other editors who volunteer here. We're trying to provide factual, detailed, referenced responses to readers wherever we possibly can, and your approach very frequently falls short of that aim.
While I have concerns about the manner in which SteveBaker wrote up his critique on your talk page – he would have done well to sit on a draft for a day or two so he could tone down his obvious anger – I find that his central point is well-founded. The vast majority of the posts he examined are decidedly unconstructive (and many are factually incorrect or abusive) and don't belong here. If you aren't prepare to cleave much more closely to the purpose and principles of the Reference Desk, then this might not be a good place for you to continue to direct your efforts. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 23:21, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
I see how it is. So it's a collection of issues, but trying to resolve any particular one is just not on, is it? I wonder why that would be -- perhaps because Steve et al know they don't have a leg to stand on. But please, tell me I'm wrong. Also, I should like to know just how it serves Steve et al's interests, to not engage in full and open discussion about these issues. It looks to me like people have some secrets to hide, and have not been leading entirely good and honest lives. But again, I shall delight in being proven wrong on all these counts. Vranak (talk) 23:24, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
OK. You are wrong. Finding faults in others does not make you right. You have been asked to put a little more effort into your fact-checking because you have made statements that were factually false. So, just put a little more effort into your fact checking and get on with contributing to Wikipedia. I don't understand what the problem is. -- kainaw 23:30, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
(ec) I and others have tried previously without apparent benefit. -- Scray (talk) 23:32, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
@Vranak - No, it's two particular issues. (a) Your replies very often are inaccurate and subjective. (b) Your replies - including this one - are often insulting (WP:NPA applies). Multiple attempts have been made to resolve these issues with you, without success to date. Per WP:RFC, we now have sufficient material to make this official. I'm sure nobody wants that to happen, but only you can prevent it. Tevildo (talk) 23:41, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
@Vranak could you agree to provide at least one relevant reference source that is either on or off Wikipedia in every response you make to a question on the Ref. Desk? Cuddlyable3 (talk) 00:47, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Great idea. I, too, have been thinking about complaining here about Vranak's unreferenced, inaccurate answers. I was going to suggest that Vranak, before clicking "Save Page" to post an answer here, take a moment to include reference links, and if there are none, don't post. I was hoping the research into the references would correct his or her incorrect assertions. Comet Tuttle (talk) 01:38, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I think what's missing is not the actual reference links (many of us do not make explicit links every single time) - but the lack of understanding that respondents here are not supposed to read a question and immediately fire up a response off the top of their heads. The idea is that you go off and find the answers online or in books and post the results of that investigation. That's why I recommend that Vranak undertake 10 to 15 minutes of research into the question before answering with whatever he finds. It would be nice if links to what he finds were included in the answer - but at the very least he should be ready to provide those links if his post turns out to be controversial. This kind of thing happens a lot - today I mentioned that pilots of the SR-71 spy plane had jet fuel pumped through their suits to keep them cool. This surprised another researcher and I was (very reasonably) called upon to back that up - which entailed me digging out the book I read it in from my personal stash and double-checking - then quoting the title. It would have been unnecessarily detailed to provide that information in the original reply because it wasn't really more than a tangential comment...but still, we value referencing and something you just thought up is at best "iffy". Posting an answer without a direct reference sometimes happens here - but it should be a rare thing - not something you do in 23 out of every 24 posts. SteveBaker (talk) 01:49, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Do you have a reference that the ratio is 23/24? Bus stop (talk) 02:00, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Steve's analysis at the foot of Vranak's talk page. OR, of course :) --Tagishsimon (talk) 02:02, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I hope to avoid the need for more long exchanges of our impressions. Look at the length of this section already! It is good for everyone Vranak included to give Vranak a probation based on a verifiable numeric threshold. That can be: at least one relevant reference source in every one of his posts during 2010 starting now. I suggest we can tolerate "3 outs is OUT". Baseballers understand this terminology.
  • Disagree - if providing references in every (or even a majority of) responses is a requirement, then several of the contributors to this thread would already be on double-secret probation. Has everybody already forgotten the discussion above about the academic paper published studying the RDs, and that only 10% of answers provide sources? Lead by example, not by fiat. --LarryMac | Talk 11:56, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Disagree - this would make some kinds of answer very difficult. For example, suppose someone misreads a source and you want to correct them, you shouldn't have to re-link to that source - or suppose someone looks up some numbers from sources, and you wish to merely point out something mathematical in nature from those numbers. On the Language ref desk, it's almost impossible to reference a translation you do for someone. On the computing desk, it's almost impossible to source advice like "You need to click on the such-and-such button in the so-and-so dialog box to fix your problem". There are just too many exceptions to make this a rule. SteveBaker (talk) 14:12, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

Break the first

Comment. I don't think that a hard-and-fast restriction (in the vein of 'you must have a source in every answer' — or every third post, or every post you make on a weekday, or what have you) is necessary a good step here. As SteveBaker notes, there are some pretty broad classes of constructive comments that aren't easily sourced and which may not require sources. While I understand – and agree – that in some cases it is worthwhile to restrict the conduct of an editor in order to discourage problematic behaviour, I don't think that the proposed remedy is sufficiently narrowly-crafted. It will suppress too much of the potentially-useful (and desirable, from the Desk's perspective) contribution that we hope to allow Vranak – or any volunteer – to make here.

However, continuing with the status quo obviously also isn't tenable. SteveBaker is not the only editor who has raised concerns with Vranak, and unfortunately Vranak has not been responsive to the requests and comments from the other Ref Desk volunteers. We cannot and should not be required to ignore harmful conduct indefinitely. Perhaps a framework like the following would be best?

Vranak is reminded:
  • to treat all editors at the Reference Desk – regulars, occasional volunteers, and questioners – with courtesy and respect;
  • our aim is to provide concise, factual responses to questions;
  • to that end, we strive to provide references wherever possible, and to limit guesswork or speculation to the minimum necessary; and
  • to review his/her responses in light of our guidelines before clicking 'Save page'.
Vranak is permitted to continue to edit the Reference Desk without explicit restrictions, but is expected to bear in mind the above points at all times. If editors find that s/he is offering responses which fall short of those standards, they may choose to politely raise those concerns on Vranak's talk page or open a discussion on this talk page. In any but the most serious cases, these discussions should not take the form of a 'request for sanctions', and their focus should be on remedying troubling conduct, not reaching for blocks.
One month(?) after the announcement of this framework, any editor may open a request for review of Vranak's conduct on this talk page. If the consensus of that discussion is that Vranak's pattern of contributions shows substantial adherence to the points above, this framework will have done its job. If there is improvement, but concerns remain, this 'probation period' can be extended and a subsequent review scheduled. If Vranak's contributions do not improve in overall quality (or worsen), then s/he will be asked to leave the Ref Desk for a period of time (one year minimum?)

Ultimately, we aim to provide a specific service here. If editors are interested in doing things that don't contribute to that aim, they should avail themselves of one of the many, many other ways to contribute to Wikipedia. Reference Desk duty may not be for everyone; there's no shame in that. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 15:51, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

Well, I have read your discussion, and it sounds quite reasonable. But Ten, I would advise you to be less of a pocket dictator and ruleslawyer. It's bad for the soul. But let's forget about that. I know that personal change doesn't come from being nagged. :) Vranak (talk) 17:24, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Will you come willingly on board the probation? It all depends on you. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 17:53, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Probation? Everyone is already on probation, all the time. Vranak (talk) 18:02, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I am disappointed that you continue to resort to namecalling, even though I'm trying to come up with a way for you to continue to participate here — despite your extremely unproductive history. I am the furthest possible thing from a Wikipedia "ruleslawyer", and calling me a "pocket dictator" is just a personal attack. Coupled with your weird and unsubstantiated "people have some secrets to hide, and have not been leading entirely good and honest lives" conspiracy accusation above I do wonder if the framework I've proposed (or any sort of parole that would let you continue to edit here) would be worth the effort.
As I say on my user page:
Wikipedia editors are generally generous and helpful people, as one would expect from a volunteer-driven project. The average Wikipedian will bend over backwards to help — until he gets the impression that you're asking him to bend over forwards.
You're getting well into the latter territory now, and it's not amusing. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 17:50, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
You have obviously had a great deal of success in coercing people into towing your line Ten. I am however, unmoved. Still, I have nothing else to add, in the interests of getting along. Were this a less formal setting though, rest assured I would be quite frank with you and your... questionable ethical practices. Vranak (talk) 17:52, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Vranak, I don't know who you are, and I hadn't noticed any of your posts before (so I have no particular axe to grind here). But it's my observation that when someone's behavior is questioned (as yours is being here), the someone's reaction tends to fall into one of two distinct patterns:
  1. "Gosh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize. I'll try to do better. Let me know how I can."
  2. "What are you guys talking about? I've followed all the rules. Show me where I've broken a rule. I haven't done anything lots of other people haven't done. Why are you picking on me?"
And, needless to say, when the pattern is the second one, things never seem to go well. —Steve Summit (talk) 18:32, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
You are quite right of course, and I appreciate your concern. Still, if Ten thinks it is acceptable behaviour to intimidate people, as sly as it may be, I would like to offer some helpful criticism on that unfortunate approach. You have to give up the sword if you wish to be at peace. Vranak (talk) 18:51, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
There is no occasion of Ten intimidating you at all. He merely made a proposal, based on his understanding of the consensus, and asked if everyone was okay with it. You then proceeded to say the proposal was fine while calling him a dictator. —Akrabbimtalk 19:39, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Riiiight. Of course. The truth will out, friend. Vranak (talk) 19:48, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Any more dishonest, immoral gambits? Anyone? For a place of learned men, there is a conspicuous absence of honesty around here. Vranak (talk) 19:51, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
No-one here is being dishonest or immoral. That's a personal attack. Vimescarrot (talk) 20:29, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Alright, I'm willing to leave it at that then. And citing regulations, come now Vimes, aren't you better than that? And besides, it is not a personal attack. I am critical of a few people's worse natures, but I know they are at heart good people. Vranak (talk) 20:34, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
"Better than that"? We've never interacted before. Why would you presume to know me? And why do you always say you're willing to leave something, and then sign off with a last word? And lastly; attacking the person instead of the content is the very definition of a personal attack...whether you think so or not. Vimescarrot (talk) 20:39, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
You have a cool name, so I presume you are capable of being cool. :) Vranak (talk) 20:47, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
(ec)Sorry, I shouldn't have left that sentence on its own. Do you believe that these people are "out to get you"? If so, why are you staying around? Assuming you don't change, they won't cease to "harass" you (from your point of view) until you leave. If you don't believe that, what do you think they're trying to do? I think if we find out exactly what you think the Ref Desk users are trying here, we may be able to draw a conclusion more quickly. Vimescarrot (talk) 20:39, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
No, no one is out to get me! I just want everybody to be happy. I guess I am trying to confront, and thereby disperse, some of the over-seriousness I know that can appear from time to time on Wikipedia. Vranak (talk) 20:47, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I think, then, that you want Wikipedia, or at least the Ref Desk, to be less serious than it is - while the other users disagree with you. Might I suggest, instead of trying to change us, you simply use something that is already the Ref Desk's less serious cousin? WikiAnswers and Yahoo Answers immediately spring to mind. Vimescarrot (talk) 20:58, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
It appears, after you've changed your point multiple times, that your point is now: "I don't take this seriously, so nobody else can take it seriously." Is that the final point or are you going to change it again in your next post? Please note that repeatedly changing your point to keep an argument going as long as possible is very trollish behavior. -- kainaw 21:06, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Again with the gruesome seriousness. I will happily change tone as I see fit. The demand for consistency is the hallmark of a shallow, inflexible mind. That said with the horrifically intolerant people I see all around me, perhaps it would be best if I took my leave for a time. You guys are real pieces of work, but I am sure you are well aware of your conditions. Vranak (talk) 21:11, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
We have a lot of fun on the ref desks. We frequently make jokes (often in small type) and we have running gags (search for "vagodynamics" sometime!). However, we recognise that all that is secondary to our primary purpose of providing useful answers and references for people's questions. --Tango (talk) 21:10, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Indeed! I have no quarrel with you Tango. :) Vranak (talk) 21:13, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
After reading the above, I move for a one-month block of Vranak from the Reference Desk. Comet Tuttle (talk) 21:00, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
And why on earth would you do that, praytell? Is your life so steeped in gruesome seriousness that you cannot handle any new questions or perspectives? Vranak (talk) 21:04, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Due to the lack of a viable alternative. We have considered your perspective and we respectfully disagree. You are apparently unwilling to abide by the consensus viewpoint, so you have to go. --Tango (talk) 21:10, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
If you read above I have reached the same conclusion. You lads are too simple to understand me. Vranak (talk) 21:16, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
So you are agreeing to leave voluntarily? --Tango (talk) 21:31, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I concur. Our attempt to convince him/her to change has clearly failed. I don't think we've ever actually blocked someone from the ref desk before, so there isn't really a process. I think we should establish a consensus here and then go to WP:AN/I to get it ratified. --Tango (talk) 21:10, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree. Vranak doesn't seem to understand that he can't just ignore the parts of the Ref Desk he dislikes. And he's not tried to convince anyone that he's going to change; I see no alternative. Vimescarrot (talk) 21:16, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I also agree. (and I didn't even pick a fight with this guy!) It is not (to my knowledge) possible to block a user from the reference desk. Only a Wikipedia block is possible. At this point, the psychology appears to be "I do what I want and you can't stop me." The realization that there is such a thing as a block often changes that psychology. In other cases (ie: The tree trolls that returned recently) it doesn't and you end up with permanently banned users. -- kainaw 21:21, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
There is no technical means by which to block someone from a subset of pages. It would involve Vranak being told "You are not allowed to edit the reference desk." and then being blocked from the whole site if he disobeys. This is analogous to a Wikipedia:Topic ban in the main namespace. --Tango (talk) 21:31, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Not to worry, I will still be here, you wicked souls. Vranak (talk) 21:14, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I want to state that I have found nothing problematic in Vranak's input. Bus stop (talk)

If, as it seems, we want to make this official, let's do it properly. User:Tevildo/VranakRFC is my first shot at a draft RFC, but this is not an area in which I'm experienced, and any assistance would be welcome before it goes live. Of course, if Vranak were to voluntarily withdraw, this won't be necessary. Tevildo (talk) 21:38, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

I improved one bullet point. Sorry you have had to put so much work into this. I am not seeking to derail this when I ask whether an AN/I post is a simpler path to a warning. Comet Tuttle (talk) 21:43, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Thanks very much, and it's not a problem - this is an issue that needs to be addressed, and I don't mind doing the donkey (gnome?) work. If ANI is an appropriate venue, then by all means raise the matter there - however, I don't think that this is an _incident_ that needs immediate admin intervention. We just need to ensure there's some sort of official basis for any action that may need to be taken if Vranak's behaviour persists. Tevildo (talk) 21:57, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
According to WP:BAN, topic bans go to AN rather than ANI. Count me in as an editor who would support this, although I hope it won't prove necessary. Tevildo (talk) 00:11, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Do you all consider this a bad contribution to a discussion? There are many more like it. But I just grabbed this one at random. Bus stop (talk) 21:58, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't think we need an RFC. Topic bans can be agreed just an AN/I, I think and, if we have a consensus here, I would expect AN/I to concur. --Tango (talk) 22:09, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I've "officially" asked Vranak to drop the denigration and innuendoes in this conversation, since I'm pretty much fed up watching this unfold. Tango is right about AN/I. I think Ten-o-trades has a pretty good suggestion above though, maybe that should be the focus of your discussion for now rather than an immediate topic ban? Franamax (talk) 22:14, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, what was TenOfAllTrades' suggestion? This section has become rather large and I can't find it... --Tango (talk) 23:43, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
To be honest, I now regret my suggestion. All I've gotten is abuse for trying to let the guy continue to edit here, and I no longer feel that it's worth extensive effort to bring him back into the fold.
His recent responses on his own talk page further worry me:
The Reference Desk just isn't the place for crusades. He's badly falling down on the very first (and possibly most important) point in my proposal, which emphasizes a basic respect and courtesy for his fellow editors. Unfortunately, I have to believe that a topic ban (perhaps with a three-month expiry to see if he can/will mellow) is a better way to go. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 23:57, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Extended content
Vranak, your input is not appreciated, your personality is generally disliked, and most everyone on here either thinks you are a troll or a fool. Surely you have better ways to spend your time than hang out with such ungrateful people? (Please?) --Mr.98 (talk) 22:44, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Personal attack stricken after wait for response from editor. Franamax (talk) 00:15, 2 March 2010 (UTC)>
Mr.98 — I don't get it. Are you actually calling someone a fool? How do you justify something like that? Are you trying to antagonize him? Bus stop (talk) 23:34, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
He refuses to take things seriously (by his own admission). That seems like a decent definition of "fool" to me. --Tango (talk) 23:41, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Tango — the word "fool" is a broad insult. It may have specific meanings. But it is also a term of disparagement. That is clearly unacceptable. This same person (Vranak) is also being told to "drop the denigration and innuendoes in this conversation." How should he "drop the denigration and innuendoes" when he is at the same time being called names? Bus stop (talk) 23:53, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
The whole point of this discussion is to tell someone their contributions aren't appreciated. That is disparagement. Disparagement is not automatically a bad thing. Ad hominem attacks are a bad thing when they used to discredit the person's arguments, but the problem here isn't Vranak's arguments, it is Vranak, so of course there are going to be personal attacks. They should, of course, be civil, but I don't think calling someone a fool, when it accurately describes them, is particularly uncivil. --Tango (talk) 01:23, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Listen, I'm just trying to summarize what has been said so far. People are in debate about whether he does it on purpose or whether he does it out of ignorance. People on here don't seem to appreciate him or his input. I think this is established as a fact by the lengthy preceding discussion. That's all I was trying to point out. I would hope that Vranak could see that and figure out that there was a better way for him to spend his time. That's all I was trying to communicate—admittedly bluntly. --Mr.98 (talk) 00:52, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't spend a lot of time trying to evaluate people but in the course of my casual participation here I have not noticed anything off-putting in the contributions of Vranak, and looking over the complaints — they seem mild or not what I consider problems at all. Bus stop (talk) 01:55, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I have boldly collapsed an unfortunate derailing of the thread, caused by a personal attack not initiated by Vranak. Sorry for stepping on anyone, but it was offtopic. Comet Tuttle (talk) 01:19, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Support TenOfAllTrades's last proposal of a topic ban for Vranak (the Reference Desk and its discussion page) with a three-month expiry. Comet Tuttle (talk) 01:19, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Dilute support 4 Weeks topic ban is enough to make Vranak take note. This topic ban should not seem to be driven by TenOfAllTrade's irritation arising from Vranak's rude reception of TenOfAllTrade's first proposal that was, depending on the viewer, either "a salutory reminder", "an unnecessary reformulation of existing guidelines" or "an excess of Instruction creep". Cuddlyable3 (talk) 02:21, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I can't tell where to add a comment here, so I'll just tack it on at the end. I usually don't notice names on the ref-desk unless there's some reason to, so I don't often notice this sort of pattern. But I just wanted to point out that I found his dismissal of the stirring salt question really irritating. I still don't really understand what vranak's problem with the question was, but he seemed quite angry about it. APL (talk) 16:12, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

I note that Vranak's replies (so far) today have been reasonable and (most importantly) adequately sourced. I hope he's taken our comments to heart. However, let's continue to monitor the situation. Tevildo (talk) 01:50, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Typically late NE reply

Wow, I saw this before any replies but didn't bother to reply and I come back less then a day later and (okay it's more then a day later now but wasn't earlier)... Anyway I'd been meaning to say that I don't consider the specific reply (about Hyde Park) that started this that bad. If it was serious, it was a dumb reply, but either way, it's not really that different IMHO for some of the joke replies that are typical and wasn't the first reply either. It's the sort of thing that may annoy the OP, but particularly since the OP is British, is unlikely to be taken seriously. Some people have pointed out bigger problems and in fact I noticed on the same desk Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Miscellaneous#Aloe Vera which is perhaps a better example Nil Einne (talk) 00:51, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

Hey, at least it wasn't a typically long NE reply! (/me ducks for cover) ---Sluzzelin talk 01:01, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Ironically I had thought of mentioning that... Nil Einne (talk) 01:22, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Hey Nil Einne. I replied on Vranak (talk) 19:51, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Ha ha! That's the same kind of nonsense post that started this whole debate! APL (talk) 22:11, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
I think I understand where you are coming from APL so I will leave well enough alone. You are a student of medicine though, perhaps? Vranak (talk) 22:48, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
I am not. I fully concede that I have no expertise in the subject. APL (talk) 23:14, 3 March 2010 (UTC)